Briana: In Memoriam

The rhythms of death and life were on my mind, too, this weekend—though not for the symbolic reasons that Brad referenced in his prior post.  Yesterday my dear friend Briana Blackwelder was killed in a car accident, and so this Easter Sunday, for the many people who loved and admired her, has been a day of shock and mourning.  Briana was a 28-year-old midwife, passionately devoted to her craft and to the natural rhythms of Life and Earth, which makes her passing even more poignant and, for me, harder to understand.

Briana, I know you loved poetry and had started writing it in secret.  This is for you:

Believer in Ferns

come back
believer in shade
believer in silence and elegance
believer in ferns
believer in patience
believer in the rain
–W.S. Merwin

This is what you did:
You palpated pregnant bellies.
Sliding your fingers gently, capably,
you circled the bloom of the belly
seeking spine, skull, foot,
upside down, rightside up, sideways, left, right.
Here she is, you would say, smiling. Here he is.

And when it was time,
you held hands, stroked hair, pressed knees, spoke softly.
(Birthing women are plants in the moonlight,
shadowy and mysterious and primal;
they furl and unfurl, they open profoundly,
and their eyes are pools of white light.)
You knew how to be patient with the blossoming.

And when it was time,
you extended your hands
and –calm—ushered in
You caught gasping babies, their starry eyes wide,
and placed them into their mothers’ and fathers’ arms.
You held shining cords pulsating with first blood.
You pointed out the veiny trees painted on placentas.
Your hands were marked with red blood, pale milk, cloudy vernix.

Babies met the world by meeting you first,
and I have seen photographs of how you cradled them in those moments:
You are gentle and triumphant; you are fierce and you are still;
you are strength and you are softness.

You moved from place to place smelling of newness,
dispensing healing –peppermint, sage, a tincture for any ill.
You glowed, a woman-witness:
A greeter, a goddess, an agent of creation.
You trailed your own clouds of glory.

And now… and now.

If a Mother in Heaven has a recipe for joy,
I know you will learn to make it.
If a Mother in Heaven knows a tincture for grief,
send it to us soon.

You have been gone one day (not three), but
today is Easter, Bri, and I wish
you would rise up; come back.


21 responses to “Briana: In Memoriam

  1. Winterbuzz April 24, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Oh Missy. This was absolutely beautiful. I only met Briana the one time, but her calm presence and lovely spirit have stuck with me. Your poem is a wonderful tribute and my family’s thoughts and prayers are with you and her family.

  2. nat kelly April 25, 2011 at 12:36 am

    Wow. Missy, this is haunting and beautiful. I am so sorry for your loss. I imagine your inspired tribute here will bring comfort and sorrow and peace to many of those mourning her.

  3. Janet April 25, 2011 at 4:39 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Missy, and for the loss felt by the World when we lose such a person. Your memoriam haunts a day like today (now officially yesterday, I suppose) because yes, April should be the month of open tombs and new life, new starts in the ground and not the planting of coffins. I am truly truly sorry, though your beautiful poem honors her well.

  4. Ann Whittaker April 25, 2011 at 8:24 am

    Beautiful poem. Will truly miss Bri. Thank you for this.

  5. kayte brown April 25, 2011 at 9:52 am

    It’s been such a shock to have Briana gone. She is a huge inspiration to me. Thank you for this poem.

  6. Angela April 25, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    I only knew of Briana…she was the current midwife for a dear friend’s daughter. I was told of her values and mission for women and looked forward to meeting her because I know in some way she is a soul sister, taking a committed stand for women…what a beautiful tribute to a beautiful mother to many.

  7. Juliane April 25, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    I can feel the grief in your words, and I’m so sorry for your loss. Today is the one month anniversary of the death of one of my loved ones. The circumstances are not the same, and the grief is not the same for two people, but some things are….the shock, the emptiness, the black black sadness, but then the gratitude, and love, too. The hope that there truly is new life on the third day. Feel hugged 🙂
    Thank you for sharing.


  8. missy. April 26, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Thank you, everyone, for your kind words and well wishes. It has been amazing to me to see how many people knew and loved Briana. She really was a beautiful bright spot on this planet and will be greatly missed.

    David, your video is absolutely breathtaking. I don’t even have words to tell you how deeply it touched me. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  9. Marilyn April 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm


    I have read and re-read your poem to Briana a couple of times each day. I still have a hard time believing that the new reality is without Briana in the world. You captured the essence of who she was and her calling in life beautifully. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  10. Pamela Robbins April 26, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Beautiful words and spirit Missy.

  11. Kate April 27, 2011 at 3:39 am

    This is a video Neil & I made dedicated to Bri.

  12. Amy Kyle April 27, 2011 at 8:52 am

    What a beautiful poem. I am so sorry for your loss.

  13. missy. April 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Kate, I love the video you and Neil made. It feels so surreal to listen to Bri talk and then remember what has happened. I think we are all still in shock in some ways, no?

  14. michelle April 28, 2011 at 2:49 am

    I knew Bri as well. This has been a difficult week. It’s hard not to have answers to the questions of why. I take comfort in the reality that God knows the whys, and for now, I can try to let that be enough.

  15. Kaye Jarrett April 28, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Thank you so much, I met Briana early in her midwifery training, and even then she was a kind and capable young woman. Clearly, she matured into a fine midwife. Her passing is a terrible loss, not just to her loving friends and family, but to midwifery as a whole.

  16. Tatiana April 30, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Beautiful and sad!

  17. Pingback: Peace & Comfort « The Sycamore

  18. Sycamore Girl May 1, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Thank you for your beautiful poem. I hope it is okay that I have used an excerpt in post I wrote, linking back here, of course.

    We’ll miss Bri, your words captured her essence so perfectly.

  19. Corktree May 2, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    This was harrowingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

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