Friday, September 25, 2009

The Dragonfly

….it is the moment that lends significance to things.” A.J. Heschel
by John E. Erb

On a sunny, warm summer morning, dressed in conservative semi formal and mostly dark clothing, we as family and friends stood on the freshly-mowed grass under a well-used green canopy to shelter us from the sun. I stood close to my parents catching the eye of my nearby cousins who were also dressed in uncomfortable shoes and dress. A day like this I would almost rather be anywhere than in this cemetery, surrounded by rolling lawn, seasoned with granite and an occasional small American flag fluttering in the warm breeze. My grandmother - the reason we were all here; might have wished to be elsewhere as well. But she was here, at least in one physical sense, unable to hear the sniffle of a close friend, the sob of the daughter who had become her care-giver in recent years or the words of the minister reading from her notes and alternately from a black bound book with prayers and scripture. She couldn’t see the small flag near a large stone monument. My last name was on that monument in large letters. The full name of my grandfather (her husband) was engraved below with a date on both ends of his name. She couldn’t see her name below his with a date eighty-five years ago to the left of her name and no date to the right like her husband above. The occasional warm breeze brought to our nostrils the fragrance of the several floral arrangements carefully placed around a wooden rectangular box with long wooden handles held on by small metal brackets. A matte finish was on the wooden box that kind of matched her rather simple life, void of glitter and gloss.

Distracted by these sensory inputs, I was only partially listening to the words of the minister until I realized she was telling the story of a dragon fly. She informed us that the dragon fly begins its life underwater. All its needs were satisfied, an abundant food supply, the correct temperature for growth in this early stage of life and the company of many friends or “siblings” who were born to the same pond full of lily pads providing the underwater stems to which these early-stage dragonflies adhere. The minister went on to explain that eventually one of the more mature dragon fly larvae breaks loose of the stem floats to the surface of the water; the boundary of its world as they knew it and crosses over to the surface of the lily pad. At first the dragon fly wants to return to its siblings still clinging on below and the security of its lily pad stem, but soon it sees the sun, feels its body begin to dry, sees its wings unfurling and realizes it can fly off to explore and experience this new, magnificent and larger world. As I realized the minister was talking about my grandmother; a red dragonfly landed on my grandmother’s casket. The minister went on reading the story and then continued reading aloud from her black-bound book never seeing the looks on my cousin’s faces, the smiles on my aunts’, uncles’ and parent’s faces or realizing the significance of what just occurred at this moment.

John E.Erb ©2009


  1. What a beautiful description of the place, the people, the sounds and the monent of hope that there is more. Such heartfelt writing. Thanks. Sharon Chiasson

  2. John,

    Thanks so much for sharing this and what a wonderful story!
    I am so glad you all noticed the red dragonfly on your grandmother's casket and smiled!
    Why, your sentence could be a winning story in a single sentence, easy! You know, like the Ernest Hemmingway one posted earlier in Word Collage.

  3. Glad to see that you posted something. Nice that this was based on a true story.

    I won't waste time complimenting--you know it's a nice story. Let me get down to business in my limited time...

    I'd use a word other than "nostrils"--it doesn't fit well. "Nose" would be better.

    I'd tidy up the language around the description of the head stone--a little too wordy.

    Keep writing.

  4. I like the description of the head stone—especially the dates. Whenever I see a headstone with only the date of birth listed I wonder if the person isn't worried about plunging headlong into death to complete the engraving.

    Try rewriting the sentence that contains the word nostrils without alluding to nostrils or nose.

    This is a piece that evokes the scene— and invites the reader to move closer and listen to the minister.