Not In Vain

There’s a meme going around Facebook. Basically, if you click like on a post talking about the meme, the person who posted gives you the name of a poet. You post a poem from them. When my dear friend, Angie, posted, I liked her post –  even though I’d already done it once.

When she gave me the name, I knew immediately the poem I’d use. You see, after my parents got broke up, life felt really chaotic. For quite a long time. But not time at Grandma Ellen and Grandpa Parley’s house. For some time, I went over there fairly often. Grandma had lung cancer and she had to spend quite a lot of time in bed or otherwise being “restful”. And being there was, indeed, a much needed rest.

I spent so much time at her house, in her room. I can see still a good amount of it clearly. Like I’m there. In my mind, I AM there. Want to join me?

Step into the room. Across the room is the desk and on the floor, a scale. Turn to the right. You’re facing the bed. I think there was a window above the bed, but that detail is fuzzy. On the right side of the room is… a dresser?

But on the floor was a carefully organized box, with cutouts from cards and magazine and calendars and who knows what else. She used them to make these amazing books. I remember one that was a brown photo album, with writings and pictures and some of these cutouts. Sadly, my sisters and I were not always gentle with things. I wish I still had that book.

Look up. There she is, on the left side of the bed (well… if you’re looking at the bed – she’d probably say it was the right side of the bed), lying down, smiling. She always suffered through with an amazing amount of calmness. And against the wall is a bookshelf, with only a narrow space separating it from the bed. In that bookshelf, is a book.

Pick up the book. “101 Famous Poems”. The cover is yellowed somewhat and the book smells slightly musty. But the pages are fairly pristine. Open it. The poem you’re looking for will be a small one, on the left side of the page. Page 30, I think. You’re looking for Emily Dickinson. The poem? “Not in Vain.”

Grandma always loved poetry and memorizing things. With her help, I practiced repeating this poem over and over and over… and I still know this poem by heart, twenty years later.

“Not in Vain”

If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.

– Emily Dickinson

I’m not sure if my grandmother knew how much that meant to me, that I would remember it into my adult days, or how much my time there meant to me. What I do know is that her efforts to help one little girl were not in vain.

I still remember, Grandma.

I still remember.

2 thoughts on “Not In Vain

  1. Angie

    Oh Misa, my friend. What a touching post. What beautiful memories you’ve shared here. I am so glad you were exposed to loving people, a cozy home, and poetry during a difficult part of your childhood. To have a poem that *sticks* as this one does, is such a treasure. I assigned you Emily because she is my beloved favorite, and I was curious to know what you’d choose. I had no idea your heart was already tied to this poet, and your response would lead to these memories, but I’m so glad it did. <3


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