My grandfather, Grandpa Bob, passed away on September 23, 2014. Born on the eve of the Great Depression and raised Bahá’í, he joined the US military toward the close of World War II, served for a year, then returned home. He married my grandmother, Bernita, and studied accounting through correspondence courses, which led to him starting his own accounting business, Amerson Tax Service, which is still in the family. With Grandma Bea, he raised five children, including my father, his namesake and youngest son. Grandpa was a staunch Bahá’í who served on the Local Spiritual Assembly for 40 years, using his accounting skills as treasurer. To his last days, although physically weak, he found the spiritual energy to teach the Faith.
I picture Grandpa standing outside his apartment at the end of the long, red-carpeted hall, waiting for my family. When we visited Grandpa and Grandma at their home in Waukesha, we would buzz up to them to unlock the front door, and then he would come out to wait, smiling at us as we approached. We would be greeted with one of Grandpa’s dependable remarks, something like, “Look who it is!” or “Hey, kiddo!” and then take turns hugging before going inside the apartment.
Well, poetry gives me a way to express my love for a man who was a constant in my life for over 23 years–and who will continue to be, only in a different realm. Reading this prayer of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá might help clarify some of the allusions. I find the evocative mystical landscapes rendered in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s prayers for the departed comforting, as they help me to imagine the unimaginable next world, the Abhá Kingdom.
Elegy for Grandpa
For Robert B. Amerson (1929-2014)
It is strange to mourn when a loved one
takes joyous sail on the boat of eternity
bound for that sea of light.
But still I do.
What better to remind me
of my own humanity
than the throb of grief
I feel for you?
I know not what seas and rivers
lie before your prow,
through which valleys they flow,
waiting for your journeying,
so for the mystery of what’s to come
and for my constraints of time and space
I trace a map of the mystic rivers
with these rivulets down my face.
To release with grace,
to suffer a temporary separation
and trust in an immortal elation:
these lessons form your final legacy.
Remember my parting words:
“We will see each other again”—
not among the ashes and clay,
but immersed in brilliant rivers and seas
when I join you on my fated day.