For old times

For the dverse prompt, a haibun about kindness.

Kindness is giving when the giving costs something—time, when it is short, cash, when it is tight. What else is there? A smile, a soft word, a hand to cross the road, a seat on the bus cost nothing. It’s part of being human, neither noteworthy nor praiseworthy.

Kindness was in the scores of people who lined the streets when first my father and then my mother were carried from the church to the graveyard on the same November day, ten years apart. A working day, like any other, people I didn’t know, whose names I had never heard, were there, with tears and bowed heads. Just to be there, to stand in the cold wind and wait, because it mattered.


On the bough, a rose

blooms, a bird sings, neither asks

payment in return.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

38 thoughts on “For old times”

  1. When I was a lad of 12 my grandfather passed. We spent every Sunday there playing in his yard. He was a gruff but strong man. A fire fighter. He loved us, and shaped us in ways we did not understand at the time. I remember the honours in his passing from complete strangers. It is why I will always honour other firefighters. In our moment of greatest pain we can learn so much of giving through the acts of others.

  2. I know what you mean, Jane. There was only a handful of people at my mother’s funeral back in February. One of my sisters completely ignored me, the other one was kind of stuck in the middle, If it wasn’t for my husband and his two brothers, as well as my daughter, I might not have got through the day.

    1. I haven’t been to many funerals. My grandmother wouldn’t have any truck with priests and religion, so it was a five minute in and out at the crematorium. But my great-grandmother and both my parents brought out a huge crowd. I remember being stunned when we came out of the church (which was packed) with my dad and realising that the streets from the church to the graveyard were lined with even more people who couldn’t fit in the church. I bawled and bawled each time. It was all I could do. I’ll never forget those weeping rows of faces.

  3. That’s a moving and touching tribute to your parents ~ The presence of others, including those we hardly know, can comfort us in these times of grieving ~ Your haiku is a standout Jane ~

    1. My mother had taught in the school so the whole community (Irish Catholic) knew her and turned out for her. My dad was very retiring though and I was astonished and deeply moved by the hundreds who came out for him.

    1. Thank you, Pat. I have a problem with the notion of kindness. Most of the ordinary acts of ‘kindness’ are the things we should do anyway, just because they give a little help and they cost us nothing.

      1. That’s true. And that’s all well and good. But showing kindness all comes down to the individual and their experience in life. As in the end, that’s what shapes us all, isn’t it?

      2. It does to an extent, but we do have the capacity to change too. It’s also true, that we say for example, helping a blind person across the road is an act of kindness, but imagine if the same person, instead of helping the blind person across the road just ignored them? We’d say, what a b*****d! If it’s a gesture that we ‘ought’ to do, is it still ‘kindness’ to do it? There seems to be nothing in between, either getting a round of applause or a slap in the teeth 🙂

      3. You’re last comment just disappeared while I was replying. I think you’re right, it is all part of being human. We should just do what we know to be right and not expect to get praise for it, I suppose 🙂

  4. Love how you draw this Jane, the way you sacrifice something that matters, not least your time or attention – the funeral really touched me, and I wonder if it’s not more giving to everyone alive than to give it to the dead.

    1. There’s certainly and element of that. We are helpless in the face of death, but we can give comfort to those who are grieving simply by showing that we are grieving too. Taking time off work for a funeral is a big deal for ordinary working people and I appreciated the gesture, made the finality of the event easier to bear.

    1. Thank you. I was crying so much, the streets could have been lined with a regiment of Horse Guards and I wouldn’t have reacted, but the images have lasted and now I can appreciate the gesture in all its generosity.

      1. When my father-in-law died, one of our dear friends since college drove the distance to be at the memorial service. I thought that was so kind of her.

  5. I apologize for getting to your submission so late. I lost internet (!) yesterday during the prompt and just got it back sometime early this morning The haiku is amazing and sums it all up. I did not have a funeral for my mother as she did not want one. I had her cremated and then last week, took her ashes to insert into her mother’s grave. Just me. It was lonely but I honored her wishes. But I have had support from friends and from folks at dVerse. The haiku brought tears to my eyes, it was so…wonderfully beautiful.

    1. Don’t apologise! My grnadmother wanted nothing from the church either. She lost her faith when she lost two small children and then her husband. My dad wasn’t a believer either, but death took him by surprise and the reaction of the community was astonishing. I expected it for my mother who had taught in the primary school for a while. It did make it easier, having so many people around, coming to the house to pay their last respects all through the night before the funeral. It showed that they cared.

      1. So few people knew my mother anymore. And she ated funerals…not the blessings or the scriptures. She still kept her faith and that carried her through. I saing over her insertion point, Great is thy Faithfulness and quoted the scripture from Lamentations because she loved them so. It was a lonely 4 hour drive back home.

      2. In four hours you had time to let it all sink in. Irish Catholicism doesn’t have the scriptures. It’s all saints and the holy family and a lot of paganism. Even my mother, who was a believer, didn’t want any readings or ritual or a headstone for my dad. She just got him a tree to lie beneath. He’d have appreciated that a lot more, she said.

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