As Common As Grief, poetry written by Doug Stanfield at

Saying Goodbye


As Common As Grief

written by: Doug Stanfield (Hemmingplay)



A local story tells
of a dam that blocked a creek in late ’60.
The water rose, year by year,
seeped over a poor family’s
rocky homestead,
the one that was supposed
to be an assured future.
58 years under
the dark, cool waves,
bass and perch swimming past
foundation stones covered in mud and algae.

The loss of a dream
is a reason
the family gives
for failures.
They might be right. But…
If only they’d found another dream.

A WWII bomber is hoisted from the
mud of a bay in New Guinea, and
the pilot’s name,
thought lost to an era before
plastic is reclaimed.
A niece, nearly 60, gets the call and walks into
the street, cries openly.
“I don’t know where that comes from,”
she tells a reporter through sobs. “I never knew my

A neighbor in his late 80s,
back from the grocery
feeds my dog another biscuit,
leans on a cane, his back twisted. He told
me without prompting
of a son’s suicide 15 years before.
Over a woman.

He shakes his head.
His beautiful boy,
Lost over a woman.
It wasn’t a fair trade.
His wife died 12 years before now,
He talks about them both
quietly, all alone now, still
coaches little league,
loves dogs,
but the losses stand by
his shoulders,
bending them down.

“She likes her biscuits,” he says
looking at my dog’s bright eyes,
gives her another and laughs.

A few doors further,
on the other side of the street, dark-haired
Michelle puts down a rake and
comes to pet my dog.
She’d lost her black Lab
two weeks before, and
was quiet, remembering.
She glanced through the dark
rectangle of their screen door,
source of the sounds of TV,
said her children were still sad, too.
She just wanted to
touch what she’d lost, resting her hand
in the warm fur and energy
for a moment.

Things that never used to reach me,
all the pains and burdens that ordinary people
carry with such quiet dignity,
Well…I just didn’t want to see.
They’re all with me now,
and it’s both comfort and rebuke:
there but for the grace of God…
And I consider my sins anew.
Everyone has a story.
Be easy on them, the stories say.
Be easy on them.



I’ve met many in the last few months who have suffered similar loss. Some were of parents, some spouses and, the most heartbreaking of all, those who lost a child. We seem to be able to spot fellow travelers on this road of sorrows. It’s so common that we don’t see it in others. Well, I didn’t. This experience peeled me open like a tin can and I began to see that most people are carrying their own cross, most with a quiet dignity that shamed me. But this was perhaps, the most valuable lesson of the many I’ve learned. Everyone is suffering in some way. Be easy with them.

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This publication is part 17 of 20 in the series Saying Goodbye