All These Years

For Samantha
by Daron Larson

As with everyone I have ever loved,
I have imagined your death too many times to count,
yet what a gulf remains between my imagination and reality.

Who would have thought to imagine such heat,
the persistent threat of rain, the pink blanket,
or the completeness of your naive trust in us.

One of the things you have taught me
is how easily and willingly I’m able to create
stories of danger and loss in the absence of either.

Let’s not pretend that you were ever a gifted meditator.
Such frequent restlessness and distraction,
even in the absence of verbal thoughts!

But you were a brilliant meditation teacher,
helping me to see that not all of nature’s sounds are pleasant,
and the danger in needing them to be.

You were able to embody focus — demonstrating how
one hundred percent of one’s attention can be trained
on eating, on greeting, on scanning the world through the glass in the door —

and joy,
multiplied by how many of us
returned home to you: 1, 2, 3.

It’s been so long since you could hear
the sound of food hitting your bowl,
or feel the thrill of the flight down the stairs to devour it.

You gave us a glimpse at the origins of language
by demanding — in pained, near-human vowels — permission
to clear the yard of harmless invaders.

We won’t ever be able to forget
how you became each day
the full expression of yearning, of savoring, of exhaustion.

The only thing you loved more than
eating and smelling and chasing
was to shadow us as often and as closely as possible.

All these years,
and leaving you has never gotten
the slightest bit easier —  

not today most of all.

Samantha White (November 11, 1996 - July 5, 2012)We can never express enough gratitude to you
for giving us more reasons to care about this world
apart from our own needs.

Thank you for living with us all these years,
for helping to make a home out of our creaky house,
for never turning down a nap,
and for insisting that it was time for life to begin again every day.

You are alive forever
in the story of our family
and in our hearts.