I said in part 1 that I took Shelly Miller’s new book Searching for Certainty with me to the beach.
I had lost my father only a month before and was worn out from caregiving. I don’t often write in books, but I couldn’t stop writing in Shelly’s. About halfway through, I flipped to the Acknowledgments and read this:
“Mom, even though we haven’t talked in more than twenty years, I’m thankful that you raised me to love beauty, express creativity, and be resilient despite adversity. Our shared struggles in the early years made me who I am today.” Acknowledgments, Searching for Certainty
I was stunned. The book had already covered some painful memories, but I assumed there would be some reconciliation between Shelly and her mother before the last page. But no.
Shelly is the best person I’ve ever known — period. I believe she was in the center of God’s will. Yet, there was this broken relationship. And that gave me hope.
I have broken relationships in my family too. I have grieved and prayed and schemed and questioned. Maybe all will not be repaired before my last day. Maybe God already knows this.
If I had gotten the chance to interview Shelly about her new book, I would have asked her how she ever managed to get through my book, which is all about my mostly-good-but-sometimes-hard relationship with my mother. How did she not throw the book across the room? I’m ashamed to admit I might have done exactly that.
I suspect Shelly had dealt with her pain. I suspect friendship and a desire to learn more about poetry overcame any parts of my book that might have stung.
As open and teachable as Shelly was to my poetry feedback, I want to be open and teachable to her book’s challenging lessons.
In chapter 3 of Searching for Certainty, she explores still life photography and invites us to “allow God to reframe what you are currently experiencing with the lens of Truth and being known by him. That same chapter includes my favorite sentence from the book: “Resurrection is free and it costs you something.”
When I read those words, I thought about a teapot I brought along on my beach trip. It was my mom’s, and it looks like Drummond plaid (my maiden name). I used to have my own teapot just like it, but it broke. My dad let me have this one when he moved next door, since he mostly drank coffee.
Reframing looked like this: Some things break; new things come.
The teapot was free to me. It cost breaking the other to receive a new one — one that is not just a cute vessel but a reminder of the last three years with my dad. I’m certain my mother would be very happy to know about the teapot’s new life.
I only wish Shelly were still here too, so I could tell her.
Marilyn Yocum says
Loved reading this, Megan. I, too, got a lot out of Shelley’s book – a LOT of memory triggers in it. Paths worth going down. Thank you for this teapot story. It’s truly lovely.
Megan Willome says
Marilyn, I found her book triggering memories for me as well. Even though much of our lives was different, she writes so well that it felt like we were the same.
Like memories, my recollection of books isn’t what they said or the details of the stories they tell, but how they made me feel. If they cause me to reframe how I think and what I do, then I put them on my life-changers list. Your book did that for me. For a couple of years I kept a poetry journal because your book challenged me to add poetry to my life rhythm. I got away from it when my own father’s need for care overwhelmed my practice. Thanks for reminding me again. You have honored our friend and fellow poetry lover with your words.
Megan Willome says
Oh, thank you, Dea. This means so much.
Caregiving can definitely nudge us away from what’s important (one reason why I am so late to respond to your comment). The good thing is that poetry is always waiting for us when we return to it.
P.S. I sure miss Shelly.