Grief-stricken by the 23rd Psalm

The Lord is my shepherd
No! I am no sheep;
My family’s pain fills this room
And I want to roar like a wounded lion.

I shall not want
All our emotional trauma
Feels like a blazing desire for vengeance,
Who can I blame for indignity and suffering?

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures
The verdant and lush pastures of Grandma’s farm
No longer feel like home without her or Pa
I stand outraged and want retribution

He leadeth me beside the still waters
I cannot be led; nor calmed by rivers and oceans
I am agitated, anxious and appalled by platitudes.
Stillness speaks volumes, but I cannot rest on the shore.

He restoreth my soul
Empty promise of soul restoration.
Her soul was pure light which shined so bright
And in the end it felt meaningless next to atrophy

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
What is right about a kind Christian woman
Or a loving and playful father being so ill-treated
By a God I can no longer comprehend, nor care to?

For His name’s sake
Debbie, thy namesake is Despair,
As a child I believed so fervently,
Less so in my 20s, and not at all in my 30s.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I can walk easily through life and death
Feeling impervious and armoured in grief.
Shadows and darkness align with my black heart.

I will fear no evil for Thou art with me
Evil exists and I would love a chance to face it head-on,
To crash and collide into evil I can seek out and destroy.
But this is my solo quest – I feel removed from religion and god.

Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me
My feelings make me want to take that rod and staff
So you can body-beaten and bruised like my loved ones.
How’s that for comfort? Take that for suffering?

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies
I am grief-stricken. Grandma prepared so many loving meals on her farm
And if I must have enemies, then I imagine them to be hypocrites
Who know nothing of empathy and can ignore our anguish.

Thou anointest my head with oil
I feel slippery, but not from an oil-anointing;
I am lost to my liquefied angst and emotional torment.

My cup runneth over
I feel overcome, not abundantly blessed.
My outrage and pain cloud my confused mind.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
I have known goodness and mercy: from people, not religion,
Many of my kindest and best friends are atheists and humanists.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever
I will not.

And yet…
Barb’s softly spoken words moved me involuntarily
I knew Grandma would have loved seeing her daughters, grandchildren,
Great-grandchildren, friends and family listening to her favourite verses.
Grief finds strange ways to make us feel.

Grief-stricken by the 23rd Psalm


Joined March 2009

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Artist's Description

My beautiful sister Barbara has been tasked on at least two occasions with reading Psalm 23. I’ve heard it many many times, but when I am at an emotionally-charged funeral (such as my Dad’s on 4 November 1997, or my Grandma’s on 18 July 2009), I sometimes find myself with a disassociative thing happening. This poem represents my attempt to meld some of those thoughts which tumble through my grieving mind.

Artwork Comments

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