Today is heavy with gratitude. My eyes won’t stop flushing the feelings, the feeling, that maybe it wasn’t my faith in God being tested all along, but rather my faith in his people.

December 2009, The world lost the most loving man I (and many) had ever known. Seddie VanWinkle a.k.a. “Poppy.” The world simply could not exist without a Poppy, hence my daughter’s (perfect) name. I wrote this poem when he passed away, never knowing that someday soon I would speak his name again – and feel just as much pure love as before. 

Pop’s shop

my baby boy speaks quietly from the back seat,
“i am glad i got to see him again.”
we were nine days soon, removed
from the death and the too quiet and
the moment he slipped away without word.

at seven, i too was glad to see him.
i stood wide-eyed in his shop as sawdust flew
clinging to my eyelashes and nostrils
choking me by the mouthful, how i loved
the scent of sanded pine as he whittled and grinned.

sunday mornings i wipe the grime of night-life
from my hands and face and soul, i fold
my baby’s hand in mine and we walk to church
to be home, to be held that way, the way
only a pew and hymn can hold, entirely.

“Oh come all ye faithful, joyful…” and we are
two slender blonde beings heart to heart
holding one another up against the word “death.”
the walk home silent but for the sound
of tears falling and a table-saw in the distance.

my Poppy, he could make a beautiful chain
from a single length of wood, he could
paint roses with his eyes closed, he could 
recite the Word as if it were written on 
the soft back sides of each eyelid, he could.

this is our first Christmas without, with only 
wooden hearts to hang on our tree, with only
memories of tuna-can teeth, and yellow kitchens 
and only photos to hold of what was ten days ago,
a five generation family in the flesh.

i am choosing to be glad, to wear grief red
and smooth on winter cheeks, i am 
choosing to let go of the free-willed mourning
to be glad in him, to be glad with him, and to
raise my voice to be heard in his home on high.

i close my eyes and remember the man
who never spoke an ill word of another
who loved wide open and through that love alone
set roots deep enough to pull hope from tragedy
in the lives of all the little children.

i am blessed to have the name of Jesus 
tattooed across my chest, to have a portion
of the joy of the Lord to call my own
and to be able to say without doubtful hesitation
that i am a descendant of a righteous man.

i will hold my baby closer today, i will speak
in a soft voice when he asks about his Poppy’s hands
and how they became so stiff and calloused in the end
and i will answer with a true heart, that he was a man 
who shaped everything he touched, to full-bloomed beauty.

4 responses to “the namesake”

  1. Kathie Avatar

    And once again I am left in that puddle of tears that only your words can bring me to. Our family is double blessed with Poppys! I can see Poppy with his hands clasped smiling down and saying…. Well for goodness sakes, you mean she is named after me??? as his head shakes back and forth and he grins.


  2. Lori Gillingham Avatar
    Lori Gillingham

    Simply beautiful


  3. Renee Naslund Avatar
    Renee Naslund

    I am blessed to have read this…it makes me wish I had known your first Poppy. Thank-you so much for sharing. Your love for him grips my heart, and to see your love for little Poppy is such a beautiful reflection of what you saw in him. My love to you!


  4. Carol Henley Avatar

    Beaytifully expressed Noelle!


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