For the last month or so I kept noticing that the first two lines of Emily Dickinson’s poem “Death” were occasionally passing through my mind, like the crawl on CNN. I am very fond of Emily so I was simultaneously intrigued and curious. Last Friday evening I received a phone call that began with the words, “Are you sitting down?” One knows from experience that nothing really fabulous is going to follow that introduction, right? And so my father left the planet Earth. I was immediately filled with an immense and expanded sense of gratitude that this man had been my father. He was a writer. He had been an advertising executive. And I fell very close to that magnificent tree. Most of my posts were read to him over the phone before posting. He was a big fan. When I called him he would notice the phone ID and answer, “Is this the author, Kathryn Hall?” Very endearing as you can imagine, my dears.

This Sunday I had planned to celebrate my next birthday. I had already decided and advised old, close, dear friends that I would share my birthday with my daughter, having just returned to Northern California, as my readers know, after a ten year absence. I had planned to order our traditional Princess cake and ask the bakers to put across the top “FULL CIRCLE CELEBRATION.” We are proceeding with this celebration. But now there will be three candles, not two. And the candles will now honor three generations of writers, completing our various circles simultaneously: I for having gone around the sun one more time; Antonia for returning to her roots; and my beloved father for having finished his time on our precious planet Earth. We will be blessed to be surrounded by the dearest of women who have witnessed with us all the stages and acts life has to offer: great comings, great returnings, births, deaths, marriages, and the growing up of our children together, and not so together. The full gestalt.

I have been working nearly compulsively in my large garden almost since hearing of this passing. You can imagine. I know in my heart of hearts and give the deepest thanks that our Earth always stands beckoning us with her bounteous gifts and unconditional love and healing. She is our ultimate Mother. We sing of her blessings. Yes, we sing of her blessings. And we reap them each time we choose to turn to her. She wraps us in her Earthy arms and protects and advises and nurtures us. And we are so blessed.

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.
We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then ’tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.

–Emily Dickinson

In honor of Nelson Wesley Hall (1921-2009)

Tend your hearts.

Love and many blessings,
Kathryn xoxoox

63 Responses to “Passing”

  1. Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body, answer that the flower withers, but the seed remains. ~Kahlil Gibran

    My sympathies, Kathryn, on the loss of your dad; and Happy Birthday as well. Your blog post was beautifully written.

  2. Valerie, what a beautiful quote from Gibran. Thank you for your kindness. Kathryn xoxo

  3. Very sorry for your loss. Sounds like your dad was a great guy and an inspiration. Hope you have a wonderful reunion with your daughter and are able to enjoy your birthday with loved ones. Life is transition, something gardeners understand almost better than anyone.

  4. Kathryn, What a wonderful tribute to your dad. My thoughts are with you.

  5. Karen, I believe you are right, that those of us working in the Earth have the advantage of watching life in microcosm repeatedly. Sinks in. :) Thanks for the kind thoughts. Kathryn xoxo

  6. Deb, many thanks for your well wishes. Kathryn xoxo

  7. Dear Kathryn,

    Thank you for sharing the thoughts you’ve been able to have thus far. Best wishes for your birthday — when more thoughts will come about. I’m glad you’ll have your daughter with you . . . and your beautiful garden. Best, Pati

  8. I’m sorry to hear of your loss – you must be glad you have so many wonderful memories.

  9. Kathryn, I know that phone call – for me it is usually can I speak to … And each time I have known! I am sorry for the loss of your father, it is always sad. I also understand the compulsion to garden, in times of stress I dig up bits of the lawn! The garden reminds us of the cycles of life and that life goes on.

    Best of luck Sylvia (England)

  10. Kathryn, my thoughts are with you as you come to terms with the sad loss of your dad. He sounded so loving, wonderful, warm and supportive.

    Just remember that no matter how painful his passing is now, this too will pass and you will be able to remember him with joy.

    (selfishly, I hope that, when my time comes, someone will write such a beautiful eulogy about me!)

  11. Kathryn, what a beautiful tribute to your father. It’s proof that he lives on through you. That perhaps may be the most valuable gift our parents give us – a part of them that becomes a part of us – and so on and so on, down through the generations. What a wonderful meld of humanity.

    My thoughts are with you.

  12. I am imagining the excitement of those who went before your father that he was on the way to join them. What a celebration !! Your loss is their gain, Kathryn. Thank you for sharing your beautiful tribute to him.

  13. I’m sorry for your loss, Kathryn. But it sounds like he will always be with you in some very precious memories.

  14. Pati, this is very perceptive of you that these are the thoughts I’ve had thus far. So true that it’s a process that has its own wisdom and timing. We are in it! And it is in us. The overriding sentiment is love, thank goodness. Thanks for sharing. Kathryn xoxo

  15. Hi, Helen, yes, eternally grateful for good memories! Hugs. Kathryn xoxo

  16. Hi, Sylvia, As I am attacking the next round of wayward leaves stacked up in some remote corner of the garden I’m going to be laughing as I think of you having correspondingly dug up “bits of lawn” there in the UK. Lovely. :) Kathryn xoxo

  17. Good morning, Liz, Yes my father was a very special man. I really am so very lucky in this regard. And, yes, being the family historian and having researched the Hall family for a decade and a half I have an advantage of the big picture in this family going back to the mid-1600’s in Massachusetts, all the way to now, in me, in my daughter, in California, and pretty much everything in between. And this shall pass.
    Kathryn xoxo

  18. Hi, Patsy, Thank you for bringing up those on the other side. I walked around my house on Friday night talking to my father for I guess hours. (I was still talking to him in the dark lying in bed, saying, “Now I know why the Irish call it a ‘wake.’ Because you can’t sleep!”) And I had a big smile on my face as I asked him if he’d seen (all the ones on the other side). And, of course, I’m sure they were waiting for him to embrace him in his new liberated dimension. :) Kathryn xoxo

  19. Hi, Pam, Near as I can tell he will always be with me, period! :) Thank you. Love, Kathryn xoxo

  20. Oh Kathryn, I am so sorry for your loss. It is never time, so hard to let go.
    The Gilbran quote is so perfect. Nelson Wesley Hall does indeed live on through his daughter and granddaughter.
    Take care the garden awaits.

  21. Hi, Marjorie, Yes, thank God for the garden! Thank you for your kind thoughts. Love, Kathryn xoxo

  22. Dear Kathryn, I’m so sorry for your loss. Your post was beautifully written, as always. Celebrate LIFE — another trip around the sun, as you said :) — this weekend. And, dear one, tend YOUR heart. x/o

  23. Thanks, Nancy. Yes, a celebration of life is in order. I am doing my best to tend my heart. Thanks for the encouragement. Love, Kathryn xoxo

  24. There are no words, mom~ Beautiful~ Heart to heart~
    I Love you and shall see you later today~


  25. Kathryn, this is an eloquent tribute to a loving man. My thoughts and sympathy are with you.

  26. Hi, Baby Girl–Big hugs. Light around you as you travel. Kisses. Much love, Mommie D.

  27. Thank you, Commonweeder, for your kind words. Kathryn xoxo

  28. Kathryn, I am so sorry. We are getting to the age when we lose the generation above us. It is always so hard. When my Dad died, too soon in April 1997, I dug up part of the back yard and planted a rose garden of old roses and bordered it with big rocks that he had collected or that I had collected for him. The bed is now well established and will brim with blossoms early June and then beyond. I go sit next to it and talk to him and he’s still there sharing his love of science and his love of nature. I found it helped me to plant his favorite plants and the rose family, from fruit trees to brambles, has always been important to our common family. Make sure that you plant something that was special to your Dad. It helps. All our love, Julie and family

  29. What a beautifuly wirtten tribute to a wonderful gifted man It was always a joy to speak with him, not only is he a very intelligent articulate man, (I believe that intelligence remains with him) but he had a wonderful rich quality to sound of his voice. (If I remember correctly, he spent some time working for a radio station.) He will certainly be missed. My mother is the only surviving sibling, she loved your father very much.

    My love, my thoughts and my prayers are with you Kathryn,

    Love, Susan

  30. Dear Kathryn,

    My thoughts are with you. Your father sounds like a fine man. What a gift to have been able to share your writing with him and have his love and support.
    After being in the garden and working through things less tangible than brush and branches, what I eventually hear is that everything will be ok; it is a process, the circle of one’s life and of life itself. Nataraj‘s dance of destruction and creation is not without the deep feelings that you have shared with us always.

    My thoughts for you and Antonia, with the comfort of those around you, of those you have loved and the joy of family traditions: the love inside Princess Cake.


  31. I did not read blogs yesterday, so only found your piece about your father today. When I have experienced losses (my mother, my father, my step-son, a beloved dog) I have found poetry to be healing. Words of sympathy help in that they let us know that others care, but the real grieving always remains to be done alone. I hope you will find the way that helps you most. Mine has always been to hole up and become still. Not sure why. Maybe my Quaker background is showing. And I do know that princess cake helps – it’s always my birthday cake too! My thoughts are with you.

  32. Kathryn,

    My heart goes out to you as you reap beautiful memories of your father.

    A friend sent me this lovely thought after my loss:
    “You’ve lost a loved one who has meant so much and touched so many people’s lives. Your grief can’t take away the happiness I know you shared. Your sorrow will fade in time, but the love will remain forever.”

    And you know, she was right; the love does remain.


  33. Hi Kathryn,

    What you said about Uncle Nels was so touching. It brought back many fond memories of him and my dad talking to each other. I remember staying in a cabin with my family and Nels and Wanda up in South Dakota when I was about 19 years old. We were staying in a cabin, and your dad started yelling out in his sleep; “Ellis get the girls out of here there’s a bear in here! Ellis get them out!”

    He woke us all up while he was kicking the covers off of the bed trying to get us all out of harm’s way. He was a true gentleman.

    I’m so glad that you got to know him so very well. I will be thinking of you on Saturday. Have a lovely day, it will be a very special one for you.


  34. Dear cousin Julie, what a lovely way to honor your father’s life, with roses. I think if I finally got us all in the DAR that would count! :) Kathryn xoxo

  35. Dear Susan, thank you for your kind words. I’m so glad you loved him, too. And, yes, now we just have your mother of the siblings. Let us treasure her while we may. And, yes, Dad was a DJ! He used to play songs dedicated to my mother! Love, Kathryn xoxo

  36. Oh, Philip, you are so dear. “The love inside Princess Cake,” indeed! I will mention this on Sunday with a big smile on my face! Thank you, dear blogging friend. Kathryn xoxo

  37. Hi, Nancy, and welcome. Another vote for the beloved Princess Cake! So glad to have found another fan. Lots of quiet alone time, Nancy, if the garden counts. The blue jays are in full swing and I love their company. And butterflies and bees are returning. Just in time. Kathryn xoxo

  38. Dear Loma, thank you for your kind words. Yes, very aware of the love at the moment, only to increase, no doubt. Love, Kathryn xoxo

  39. Dear Lori, loving having the cousins leaving comments today. I’d never heard the Bear Story before. :) So glad you got to go camping with him and your family. Thanks for being there in these days. Love, Kathryn xoxo

  40. Kathryn, My heart goes out to you and your daughter. It sounds as if you and your Dad had a great relationship and lots of love between you. That is such a precious thing. Time will help to heal the wounds. I have the feeling that in your heart, you will be sharing many things with him. The circle of life goes on and on. Love Mary

  41. Good morning, dear Mary, thank you so much for your loving thoughts. Yes, I find myself sharing so many things with my father in these days and he is right there. Love, Kathryn xoxo

  42. Aloha, Dear Friend,
    Ah, what a tender time, and as Life would have it, your precious daughter comes closer as precious dad moves just a little farther away. How sweet of you to share it all with your blog community, and for them to reach back with their caring thoughts. You are “awake”, so there‘s not that much that need be said now, but I will share one story. After getting through the initial “jolt” of losing my mom, I started noticing more and more how she was/is “in me”. So many of my younger years were spent trying desperately to “not be like my mom”, but here I am in my mid 60‘s getting more like her every minute, and no longer resisting it. You have spent so much time on your genealogy, I think you will really enjoy experiencing it come alive within you.
    Dad is still there to read your posts to. He‘s in you, and through you. Much love and happy dancing one more circle round the sun. Pamela

  43. I had lost track of you. Linked from somewhere else, and you know how it goes: found you again. And finding you today was very bittersweet because of your loss. Yes, you write beautifully. You had a wonderful father. I never knew mine, so I fully realize the magnitude of this statement. May you have peace and serenity. I shall visit again quite soon.

  44. How beautifully you share this time here. I am so sorry for your loss.

  45. HI, Pamela, I appreciate your reflections. We have shared so much of this kind of thing in our lives as longtime friends. Thanks for being there through it all. Love, Kathryn xoxo

  46. Welcome, Brenda Kula, thank you for your visit today and for your kind words. Warmly, Kathryn xoxo

  47. Good afternoon, GreenishLady. Thank you so much for your kind wishes. Kathryn xoxo

  48. A beautiful post. Im sorry about the passing of your father. It sounds that you have only wonderful memories of him. I can’t think of better ways to honor him than to continue gardening and writing.

  49. Welcome, Michelle. I loved what you just said–to continue writing and gardening to honor my father. I think the writing best honors him; I think the gardening I may have gotten from his father, though I never knew him. Thank you. Honoring the ancestors is a good thing. Blessings. Kathryn xoxo

  50. What a beautiful legacy your father left you and your daughter. The gift of writing is so much more than the artistic use of words, it is the ability to “see” deeper, “feel” deeper and unify people by articulating what others can not.

    You are blessed Kathryn to have been your father’s daughter. I’m moved by the fact that he enjoyed your work so much that you regularly shared your writings with him. I’m sorry for your loss.

  51. Good morning, Shirley. I am moved to tears by this comment. Thank you so very much for this reflecting. Deeply appreciated. Hugs. Kathryn xoxo

  52. Please know my heart is with yours, dear Kathryn. Fathers and daughters share a special a bond as the first man that we love, a tie that binds forever. As a child, my father gave me the gift of the moon … wondering at 4 how it followed me wherever I went, my wise father explained, “It’s because I tied a string aroung the moon and your finger ,so that wherever you go, it will always be with you.!” I will lovingly share this gift of my moon with you, dear Kathryn. Warm hugs and belated ‘Happy Birthday’ wishes.

  53. Joey, good evening. This is such a sweet comment. I feel embraced by the warmth of your heart. Thank you so much, dear. Kathryn xoxo

  54. What a beautiful expression of your feelings for your father. It is wonderful that you are able to feel a bit of joy along with the feelings of grief. We need those special times to lift us when we are feeling down. My thoughts are with you as you are manuvering through some of the harder days. I found that the first few days after my dad’s passing were easier than the days that came a week or so ater. I’m not sure why. Please know that others are thinking of you even if those thoughts are not expressed in the long days following the whirlwind of visists and sympathy.

  55. Dear Cinj–Thank you for this insight. I will keep it in mind as I traverse this new territory. I appreciate your kind thoughts. Warmly, Kathryn xoxo

  56. Dearest One – just dropped by for a mini visit and read “Passing”. You are both beautiful and courageous and what you wrote reminded me of one of my favorite lines of poetry.
    “All of the good the past hath had, remains, to make our own time glad” (Wordsworth, perhaps)
    Your sharing has blessed us and we all thank you for it.
    With tender thoughts and deep gratitude , Pat :-)

  57. Good evening, Pat. Many many thanks for your kind thoughts and for the lovely line of poetry! I will cherish it! Kathryn xoxo

  58. Kathryn,

    What a beautiful tribute to your Dad! I know he’s beaming and surely right there with you as he will always be. All the best to you in your journey.


  59. Hi, Maureen, Welcome and thank you very much for your kind good wishes. We will take to heart. Love, Kathryn xoxo

  60. Dear Kathryn, I’m so sorry for the loss of your father. What a grand, new adventure he must be having now.

  61. Hi, Linda, this comment really brought a smile to my face. Yes, Dad, is having a very grand adventure now and meanwhile keeping his eye on all of us still working out our planet Earth lives. What a guy! Kathryn xoxo

  62. My Grandmother passed away in August, and my Grandma in January. I’m helping to take care of Grandpa, the only one left of that generation. Life is so busy, and I’ve found a lot of my mourning has happened as I am potting, planing, thinking, and planning my garden. The cyclical thoughts of life find space there, it seems.

    I just found your blog today and am enjoying it. Seeing as how I am by the rockies our weather is a little more tenuous at the moment, but it should break one more freak frost and we should be good to go~!

    My maiden name was Hall, too. Maybe we are distant cousins :) (Thomas Hall came from England in the mid 1800’s.) Smiles.

  63. Good morning, Red Clover, I’m sorry for you to have lost two grandmothers in such a short span of time, particularly. A wave of sadness. Yes, the garden is enormously restorative and allows healing time for sure. I agree. I’m glad you are enjoying the blog. My Halls came mid-1600’s. Good you know your family history! Kathryn xoox

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