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Kathryn Stripling Byer

In Memoriam: Kathryn Stripling Byer

IN MEMORIAM

 

A poet who sang, who shared, but above all, who inspired.

 

I have a clear memory from the end of a British Lit course in college: we were packing up our things, and the professor called me to the podium¬†to hand back a poem I’d given him the week before. “It’s good,” he said. “And the poet of the house likes it, too.”

The professor was easily among my favorites, and as anyone knows by now a young writer handing his verse to an inspiring teacher needs only “good” to make his day. But the second part–the part about the poet of the house–meant even more.

That poet, Kathryn Stripling Byer, would later become the first female Poet Laureate of North Carolina and a member of our state’s Literary Hall of Fame. She passed away today after a brief illness.

Zoe in 2012

Good Dog.

FAMILY

Of life, and death, and a dog that was there for so much of it.

When I came downstairs last night to check on the dogs and lock up the basement, I had a sense that something wasn’t going to be right.

It had been a beautiful Saturday, warm and bright, and I’d spent the day working in the yard, putting out mulch and cleaning things up. The kids joined me at times, swinging and running around the yard, but most of the day it was just the dogs and me. Taylor, our youngest dog (although still coming up on her tenth birthday), followed me around. Zoe, our oldest, mostly slept in the sun.

Zoe, whom Kelly adopted in 2002, had had a rough go of it for the last six weeks. Just after the Christmas holiday, I’d come home to find her hobbling around on three legs, one of her back legs jutting out at an awkward angle. A trip to the vet confirmed only grim details: it would take surgery to fix the leg, and given that she was nearly 15 years of age and that she’d developed an obvious heart murmur, there wasn’t much point.

Afraid of a Different Darkness

Somewhere, somebody thought it was a good idea to write a prayer service for night. What I never understood until now is that it wasn’t just the literal darkness that occupied their most urgent words for God.


I’m sitting here trying to remember when I was first aware that I was afraid of the dark.

I’m not afraid of the dark anymore, of course, at least, not in any kind of paralyzing way. Occasionally I’ll be downstairs in our house, with all the lights off, and I’ll scoot up the steps with an extra boost of adrenaline with the notion that someone–something–was lurking in the shadows, waiting for me.

I know it’s silly. But such a feeling gave me a well of empathy for our daughter when she went through a spell demanding we leave her closet light on through the nighttime. And while we can at least extinguish that bulb these days, she still sleeps with a nightlight. A few, actually. Most nights, we say a little prayer that she sleeps through the night without bad dreams.

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