Dear Jane Hirshfield,

My aunt is dying. She has battled with cancer for quite some time now, and her life is finally coming to a close. After spending my spring break with her, I came back to school and was handed your poem, “It Was Like This: You Were Happy” in Senior English. I have never connected with something so much.

Within this small poem, you miraculously summarized everyone’s life. You covered the paradox of life itself, played around with destiny, and outlined the path that most people take. For example, “you were happy, then you were sad, then happy again, then not” was a perfect choice of words to represent the inconsistencies in life. When I read this, I could not help but think of my aunt. She traveled the world, went blind, took on new adventures with her family, got cancer, and is now in the position that all people will be in one day. This position is what I could call the inevitable. I believe you address it in an incredibly accurate way in the line “Mostly, it seems you were silent—what could you say?” What do you have to say about the inevitable? Do you believe in something afterwards?

One line that I truly connected with, and thoroughly enjoyed, was “Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.” When you are close to the end, all of your loved ones come running and shower you with love. Two days before I was handed your poem, I was doing the exact same thing with my aunt. It was a very surreal moment reading those words because they had perfectly described what was happening in my life. In fact, this is a poem that can connect to many people because it is about something that many people go through. Did you intend for this poem to be one that many can relate with, or did you have a specific audience in mind that you wanted it to reach?

Furthermore, what influenced you to write this poem? Because whatever it was, I am so grateful for it. Soon, my aunt Estelle will be gone, and I will have your writing to look to when I want to commemorate her.

Thank you so much.


Grade 12
Berthoud, CO

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