The elders pass and leave us changed,
Elders ourselves now, willing or not,
Memories remain: love and strength and grace,
Life lessons offered, sometimes learned:
How to roll out a pie crust,
How to throw a baseball,
How to hold a baby,
How to make a family.
The elders pass and leave us here,
Gathered in memory, family and community,
Church and school and 4-H club
First communions and Memorial Day picnics and garden tours,
Sunday afternoon baseball every summer,
Touch football games behind the house in the fall.
The elders leave their stories with us.
The Great War, the Great Depression, the great people:
The mail train Howard rode, sorting the mail between towns,
So that a letter mailed in Darwin
Might be delivered to Grove City an hour later.
The one-room school where Lena visited with her dogs,
And no one dared tell her not to.
One more tall oak gone today from Forest City.
When elders pass, they leave
a space among the trees
And only us to grow into that space,
Elders ourselves now, willing or not.