Do not stand at my grace 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 sun 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 circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grace and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
- Mary Elizabeth Frye 1905-2004.
This poem was written on a brown paper bag in 1932. Inspired by a young German Jewish woman, Margaret Schwarzkopf, who was staying with her and her husband in Baltimore at the time. Schwarzkopf was concerned about her very ill mother in Germany, but was warned not to return home because of increasing anti-Semitic unrest. When her mother died, the heartbroken young woman told Frye she never had a chance to “stand by my mother’s grave and shed a tear.” Later that day, Frye found herself composing a piece of the verse on that brown paper bag.
The poem itself, brings shivers down my spine. Along with the reason it was inspired, I am reminded that life can be both beautiful and tragic, sometimes at the same time. That being said, all of us hold the power to take our pain, let the creative juices flow, and turn that heartache into something else; something exquisite and inspiring, that connects us with our fellow human being. It is this truth that connects me with this poem.