In my mother-in-law’s and father-in-law’s hometown, Hogansville, Georgia, the McKibben Funeral Home

Walt Whitman - em Camden, 1891

Walt Whitman – Camden, 1891 (Photo credit: marcelo noah)

hangs a white wreath on the house outside the front door when there has been a death in the family.

Everyone in town then knows they can call on the family to pay their respects or attend an upcoming funeral service.

This Walt Whitman poem captures the sadness of this ritual, so close to the end of Whitman’s own life.

My father-in-law died November 19, 2009.

The town misses seeing him on his daily 2-mile walk, up until the day before he died at 94.

We miss his character, strength and love.


The Pallid Wreath


Somehow I cannot let it go yet, funeral though it is,

Let it remain back there on its nail suspended,

With pink, blue, yellow, all blanch’d, and the white now gray and ashy,

One wither’d rose put years ago for thee, dear friend;

But I do not forget thee. Hast thou then faded?

Is the odor exhaled? Are the colors, vitalities dead?

No, while memories subtly play – the past vivid as ever;

For but last night I woke, and in that spectral ring saw thee,

Thy smile, eyes, face, calm, silent, loving as ever;

So let the wreath hang still awhile within my eye-reach,

It is not yet dead to me, nor even pallid.

1891  1891-2


Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892)


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