Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
– Mary Elizabeth Frye
“They are such warm-hearted people. They’re good. But they are also cruel in their neglect and don’t know it.” This came with tears from a colleague who was deeply affected by the thoughtlessness of some of her co-workers regarding the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens with which they work. The school in which she teaches seems like it provides quality education; its reputation for high educational standards and percent of students getting into college is well-deserved. But there are regular suicide attempts by their LGBT students.
Her co-workers do not seem to understand that their laser focus on grades requires them to overlook bullying by students and fellow teachers. The targets of the bullying are LGBT students. They are shoved, punched, kicked. They are called fags in the hallways. Secretarial staff ask them quite innocently if they know they are going to hell. The laser focus requires her colleagues to not see or hear these incidents. After all, they know themselves to be warm-hearted people on a mission of excellence. In this way high school violence is normalized.
Ignoring the realities of the other end of the age spectrum – people over 60 – is also toxic, also perpetrated by warm-hearted people. I had the lovely opportunity to take a really brisk four-mile walk with a dear friend on Friday. She was visiting for the holiday meals and took time from matzo ball soup preparation to dive into the strong winds with me. Our lively exchange and enthusiasm for life stood in such contrast to a week in which people stood over my grave, asking how it was in there for me.
This past weekend I gardened for a couple of hours on Saturday and Sunday, took a three-mile walk with my dog, and followed it with a 5K run-walk the next day. I read a book, did some home repairs, visited the Art Museum in preparation for volunteering as a docent, and made three great meals. I consulted with a couple of dear friends and prepared for a training I delivered on Monday.
Standing over my grave seems a misguided activity. Warm-hearted people, I am not there.