No, I shall never forget

Putting a Face on Suicide

Just because I haven’t mentioned it all month, just because I’ve been busy posting about my European trip and September 11, just because I’m working like a fiend on book marketing doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten. No, there is no way that would happen. The anniversary of my son Paul’s death day (did I make up that term?) is looming and it is constantly on my mind. September for me is that dreaded month. First because of Paul’s death and two years later the September 11 disasters. I’ve never been able to make sense of either one.

I wrote this poem (really just a musing) in October, 2001 at an Esalen, Big Sur CA workshop.

Tragedy in Perspective

They say the poets need to retell the story
to find meaning in the devastation, the incineration
of over 3,000 people. We are
the ones who can make the world feel better
with the beauty of our words.

But, I can’t find the meaning.
All I can see is the grief,
the disbelief, the yearning,
searching looks on the relatives,
friends, colleagues wanting to know
why their loved ones
vanished so quickly,
just like they were sucked up by a UFO
a tornado, an avalanche
never to be heard from or seen again.

Perhaps if I compare this devastation
to the one in my life
I can find the right words
The day Paul took his life,
September 23, 1999,
my life, the lives of my family,
were never the same again.
But, is it too selfish, too petty
to look at September 11, 2001 that way?

So, let me simply say,
I can relate to those left behind
I can feel their pain
I want to tell them I’ve been there too.
I know what it feels like to have a beautiful
living, breathing human being reduced to
a bag of ashes.

Yet, maybe I’m lucky.
At least I had the ashes
at least I could bury them so when I miss him
I can visit and cry at his grave
and soothe away the dust from his gravestone.
The others have nothing
only the horrific memory
of watching the collapse
of two massive structures
and the disintegration of thousands
of people still inside.

I feel for them all
the grievers, the mourners, the lovers,
the children, the mothers
all those left behind.
They are all me
married to me by their grief.
And I know as they know
we will all never be whole again.


  1. Hello Madeline, Always in September, I remember our young friend, Chad, who died on the Pentagon plane. He was our sons’ college buddy and helped them build our house. I sometimes think part of his spirit lives in these beams as well as in our hearts. He was from Manhattan Beach – I see on one of your former posts that a Memorial has been constructed in Manhattan Beach. Your poem reaches out to all who have tragically lost their loved ones. I cannot imagine your own grief – I’m sure I would continually try and fail to make sense out of the senseless. Thankfully, your words flow from your heart and memory outward to offer healing to the rest of us.

  2. Hi Madeline. Your words so poignantly describe the multitude of emotions experienced by all of us who have lost a love one – particularly under tragic and unexpected circumstances. No words can ever describe that weight in the pit of your stomach or waking each morning with a sense of overwhelming sadness. To feel like you may never laugh again, never have another joyful experience, and to wonder if it was possible for the future to bring any happiness and meaning. I’m sure each one of us would trade the character building, empathy and insight we have gained – for one more moment with those who left us – and yet, how important it is that we honour their memory and all that they gave us by reaching out to others in need and simply channelling the pain we feel into something worthwhile. Sometimes the only thing that provided me with any comfort at all was the knowledge that although every experience is different, the fact that someone had an understanding of what I was going through was the best I could hope for – for a long time. Neither distance nor circumstance can take away the intangible connection between those who must continue this life journey.

  3. Dear Barb and Accidentalwriter,
    I so much appreciate your comments. I suspect Chad lives on in the beams that make up our memorial in Manhattan Beach. I am so sorry for the loss of your young friend.
    Yes, making sense of it all is impossible. All we are left with are our loving memories and our pain.

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