Someone I never knew died today and I am sad.  A few hours ago he simply took his last breath.  His children will never hear him laugh again.  His wife, a friend of mine, will never see him sip his morning coffee or put on his jacket.  Gone.  He is just gone.

      This EXIT door on the wall of all of our lives has bothered me my whole life.  It first hit me hard at the age of six while looking at the stars.  ‘Someday,’ I thought, ‘I will NOT be here but the stars WILL!’  Last week, I bought a leather chair and as I arranged it in the living room, realized that it will be around longer than I will.

      I don’t like the fact that chairs last longer than people.  I don’t like that we labor to become somebody only to end up as no one at all; merely a name on a headstone over bone and dust.  I don’t like knowing that I can’t present Granny with a ripe lemon off my newly planted tree.  She isn’t here to enjoy it anymore.

      What keeps me going is Love; love for the people in my life who really matter.  But I don’t just mean my husband and children.  I mean the people, living and dead, whose books inspire me, whose music moves me.  I am talking about complete and utter strangers whom I will never meet; the impoverished woman in Africa who has started a school for young girls; the men who lie in agonizing wait under the rock of that Chilean mine.  I mean that father; the one I’ve never met. 

      I am not writing a will.  No possession I own will mean near as much to my children as the time that I spent with them.  Things don’t make memories.  People do.  When I’m gone, they may take my degrees off the wall and trash them.  (Save the frames!)  And whatever can be of use, may they USE IT.  What I hope they carry away with them always, though, are the songs* they inspired in me; the ones I sang for them and all those strangers I never met.  Then my labors of love will not be lost and the stars can shine on.  (*You can listen to Helen’s songs at .) 




7 thoughts on “LOVE’S ‘LABOR’ NOT LOST

  1. Helen, this is very thought provoking and relevant to my experiences of today–the gateway into life, and the gateway to the Great Beyond. Our grandson and his wife called to say that their first child is on the way. He announced it by saying, “You’ve always been great grandparents, and now you’re really going to be great-grandparents.” We called our daughter to tell her about it and her husband told us his youngest sister is now in hospice, due to inoperable liver cancer. Wow, a day of joy and sadness all wrapped into one. Your thoughts are right on. Things have not a thing to do with happiness. It’s our relationships–with God and with other people that bring joy to our hearts. Enuff a’ready. Thanks for sharing your thoughts today.



  2. Helen…thank you for provoking some special thoughts and memories for me.

    Someone wisely said “Don’t love things that can’t love you back!” But using the frames is good advice!

    We all need to hold on to the memories of the people we’ve loved and have lost.



  3. Helen,
    “Only that which is invisible is important,” says the Fox in, “The Little Prince.”
    Holding my wife in my arms as she breathed her last breath here on earth was a cold steel spike in my heart to anchor the true frailty of our time here on earth. I was not there for the death of my grandmother years ago, nor my father as I was caring for my bride and could not go.
    I have little things from my grandmother here, and a few things of my father’s here too. They are no real value other than the sentimental object to touch and smile with good memories. My dad’s baseball glove, his war medals, his old wallet do bring odd comfort sometimes to run my fingers over.
    My wife’s things are a different story altogether. Alot I have passed to the nieces and her sister, but some things I am not ready to do so- a pair of garden gloves, her scarf and sweatshirt she wore while sitting in her greenhouse, among the fruit tree blossoms, hibiscus blooms during her last winter here, talking into the night when her pain could not let her sleep. You are right, they are just things that will rot and fade, but a tactile bridge for my hands to hold once and a while.
    I suspect that your children will want a few of those for your memory too.


    • “Perhaps my children will want a few of those, too. One never knows just what the treasured object might be–like your wife’s gardening gloves. You write with such poignancy that all who read what you have shared here will sense her presence, I know.”


  4. My treasures? A sweater that hangs in my closet, that in moments of tears I wrap my face in it and remember my mom. It’s not the things I ever wish were still here: It’s the people….. thanks Helen, you have given me many things to be thankful for….they don’t hang on my walls, they hang in my heart.


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