On Writing · Publishing

Guest Writer November – Mary Ann Mulhern – Part II

Please enjoy Part II of Windsor poet Mary Ann Mulhern‘s guest post.

I think that a big part of grieving is ‘regret’. We are sorry that we left things undone and unsaid when it comes to loved ones who are now dead and buried deep in the cold womb of earth, never again to ‘speak to us’. As a child, I remember vividly my father digging a summer grave, sweat pouring down his face, his chest, his back. I saw naked layers of earth as his shovel pierced the ground- sod, clay, gravel, moist lumps of black, black dirt.

Sometimes a stranger would interrupt his work to ask questions, to seek answers about the dead. I really think that people believed my father had some connection with those he buried, those whose coffins felt the first sound of clay from his spade after the prayers, after the flowers and tears. The living wanted to know if there was ever any sign, any sound, any voice from the world beyond the last breath. I’m certain that there never was, and yet, people wanted desperately to believe they could somehow make amends, make requests, and hang on to hope. What I remember most is that my father always listened to the living, which he believed to be as much ‘a work of mercy’ as it was to bury the dead.

Now that it is November, we honour both ‘ghosts and saints’ with Hallowe’en and All Saints Day. The ghosts we fear the most may indeed come to ‘hunt us down’ as the poet Thomas Lynch says. We can only pray that the saints will intercede for us, bring us back into the ‘light of resurrection’ where we can have rest and peace.

Last year I walked through a Mennonite cemetery. Many of the tombstones were engraved with hands, clasped in one last ‘farewell’, as the beloved set out alone into an absence even cyberspace dare not enter, dare not break.

Don’t forget that at the end of Mary Ann’s last guest post, there will be a trivia question, and a chance for you to win a FREE signed copy of her book, Sleep With Satan.


10 thoughts on “Guest Writer November – Mary Ann Mulhern – Part II

  1. I always want more! The writing, so evocative, makes me cry. I think of my parents both dead and wish I could have said or done some things differently. Fortunately I do believe I can talk to them, ask their forgiveness when I was at the least thoughtless, at the most cruel. The wondrous thing is that I feel they have already forgiven me, just as God has.

    I look forward to next week’s instalment, Mary Ann.



    1. Hi Joanie,

      Thanks so much for your enthusiastic comments! I’m so glad you feel such a connection
      with your parents and that you have peace with your relationship with them! I know they
      would want this for you, their daughter! Forgiveness does indeed bring healing in so many
      situations! I’m so glad you’ve experienced this and that it enriches your life!


  2. I love how you write Mary Ann. Your reflections of your father and his interactions with mourners is a fascinating perspective I hadn’t thought about. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Thanks Vanessa! What a wonderful idea to profile these talented authors.
    :0) Karen


    1. Hi Karen,
      Thanks so much for your positive comments! I know that people often don’t reflect
      on those who’ve “passed on”. My father had such a close and intimate connection with
      both mourners and the deceased. He took his position very seriously and was highly respected
      for keeping careful maps of graves, and tending to grass and flowers so that the cemetery was
      always a place of beauty and respect.


  3. I’ve been to two funerals in as many days, and tomorrow will be filled with Remembrance Day rites. Reading this last post, Mary Ann, reminded me of the Buddist saying to carry death lightly upon one’s shoulders. Your father seems to have known this secret and I think it helped him to comfort the grieving family and friends. This, to my mind, was not only compassion, but ministry. Your parents were remarkable people.


    1. Hi Penny-Anne,
      To carry death “lightly on one’s shoulders” is a beautiful sentiment- thank you so much for
      your comments- I highly value your insights!


  4. Very beautifully written. The first sentence says so much, then the essay unfolds into a thought provoking reflection echoing may universal concerns about the ‘other side’ of life. By listening to the bereaved, your father comforted so many people. I’m really glad to have read this.


    1. Thanks Ellie,
      I think there are indeed universal sentiments about life on “the other side”- always such a
      profound mystery. And, my father did indeed minister to both the living and the dead- his
      was a very special place .


  5. To carry death ‘lightly upon one’s shoulder’ is something I’m going to remember. For me it makes life and death FEEL so much lighter, just when I think it.

    Thank you Penny-Anne & Mary Ann. I feel so blessed to have you both in my life.



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