Ann Keiffer

White Paper Boats

Written for and read at the traditional memorial service closing a day of celebration and festivities at the biennial Fluke family reunion on the family farm—Labor Day Weekend, 2019

On this evening between
Ohio’s blue-gold summer
and orange-crimson autumn
we gather at the pond
to honor loved ones
who have passed on.
We remember the first time
we gathered in the darkness
like this to light our candles
and launch boats of white paper
on the dark, silken water—
at a family memorial
held here for Frank.
Our family tradition
was born on that night.
Now each time we gather
at the farm to celebrate
another family reunion
with joyful games and festivities,
renewed connections,
corn roasts and hayrides…
we include a memorial service
at the pond and pause in memory
for all those whom
we have held dear,
all those who have helped
make us who we are.
By the waterside,
we listen to soft music,
light the torches
that edge the pond,
one for each named soul
now passed on.
In whispered quiet
we light the tea lights
cradled in their vessels,
then at the water’s edge,
launch our boats
of white paper,
boats as fragile as life itself.
Look deep on this night
and see what the boats carry:
our vision of inner light,
our memories of loved ones,
our prayers,
our sense of the Sacred
present with us here.
We are, each one of us, witnesses,
to the glowing white boats
setting off in the dark
bobbing peacefully on the water,
making a little armada of souls
crossing to the far shore, the other side.
Dark and light.
Death and life.
Love, grief, memories and more love.
We honor each of our dear ones
in remembering them…
blessing them…
releasing them to the Infinite…
and watching them so beautifully go.

Ann Keiffer
August, 2019

Image Credit: John Keiffer


About Ann

I am interested in the strange beauty of brokenness, in transforming possibility in difficult times, in how we heal even when we can’t get better, in the alchemy of surrender, in the interplay of light and shadow, in the bounty of everyday wonders, in the gift of laughter…and writing about it, all and everything.

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