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Poetry

‘For Katrina’s Sundial’ by Henry Van Dyke

By HEESUN KOH - November 27 2023
Henry Jackson van Dyke Jr.(November 10, 1852 –
April 10, 1933) 

Hours fly

Flowers die

New days

New ways

Pass by:

Love stays

.

.

.

Time Is

Too Slow for those who Wait,

Too Swift for those who Fear,

Too Long for those who Grieve,

Too Short for those who Rejoice;

But for those who Love,

Time is not.

I stumbled upon this noble poem adorning the serene landscape of St. James Cemetery, where my dear friend Jill is remembered. On the 24th of October, I commemorated the 3rd anniversary of her passing.          

Jill Marilyn Le Clair(1947~2020)

Jill Le Clair holds a special place in my heart as my marvelous Canadian friend. I first met her in the autumn of 2012, during a breakfast seminar in Montreal, a part of my daughter’s University orientation. There, at the same table, sat Jill, Kathy, Irene and myself. At the time, I resided in Paris and was a guest in this foreign land. Yet, Jill, with her boundless generosity, extended an invitation to stay in her Toronto home should I ever find myself in the area. Taking her words quite literally, I soon found myself in Toronto with her. She took me to the CN Tower, treating me a wonderful dinner, etching a vivid memory of the enchanting views of sunset. Thanks to Jill, my time in Toronto became an indelible chapter in my life, and I often wonder who else would welcome a stranger into their home with such warmth and kindness. She possessed a heart brimming with compassion, the spirit of a true humanist, and an infective sense of humor.

I remember the last day I met Jill; it remained as a winter’s grace in 2019. She wore her mother’s mink coat with a pearl necklace, an aura of elegance emanating from her, and her smile, ever brilliant, illuminating the moment.

Jill, an accomplished anthropologist, a gifted professor, and a passionate advocate for those with disabilities, was an extraordinary friend.

Spring of 2021, over Easter, I attempted to reach out to Jill from South Korea. When my calls went unanswered, I resorted to sending an email and relayed to Kathy. The shock that swept over me was overwhelming when I received an email from Kathy. It bore the tragic news of Jill’s sudden death. She had left us on the 24th of October, 2020, in a heart-wrenching accident.

In February of this year (2023), I visited St. James Cemetery with flowers, only to be greeted by the somber sight of her nameless grave tucked away in a shadowy corner. This treatment of her remarkable life filled me with sadness and a deep resolve. I believed Jill deserved to be relocated to a sunnier, more befitting place, with a monument in her honor. I met with Jill’s cousin, asking them to make this vision a reality.

Upon my return to Toronto this summer, I revisited the grave with Julia, my daughter, but to my dismay, nothing had changed.

On the 24th of October, commemorating the 3rd anniversary of Jill’s passing, I brought bouquets of flowers to her grave. On that day, I came to realize that the marker had been mistakenly placed on another person’s grave. Eventually, a marker bearing the names of Jill and her mother, Lilian, was rightfully placed at the site where they were buried together.    

*“Le Clair died after a driver jumped the curb and slammed his minivan into a coffee shop at Christie and Dupont Streets where she had gone to meet a friend. Police say she was sitting on her walker on the sidewalk when she was hit. She was 73.”

**Toronto star- By Ben Spurr Transportation Reporter

    “Look for Angels in your Life they are everywhere.”

As spring blesses us once more,

My prayer is heartfelt, strong, and true.

For Jill and her cherished mother, Lilian,

To find their eternal rest beneath the maple tree.

With the sun’s warm and gentle embrace,

Beside the picturesque Gothic chapel-

A poignant homage to a wonderous friend,

And her dearly loved mother.

The Chapel of St. James-the-Less

Henry van Dyke (born November 10, 1852, Germantown, Pennsylvania – died April 10, 1933, Princeton, New Jersey) was an American author, poet, educator, diplomat, Presbyterian clergyman and essayist popular in the early decades of the 20th century.

This poem titled “For Katrina’s Sundial” also known as “Time Is” (Music and Other Poems, 1904), is one of van Dyke’s best-known poems. It was composed to be an inscription on a sundial in the garden of an estate owned by his friends Spencer and Katrina Trask. The second section of the poem, which was read at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

One of his friends, Helen Keller wrote: “Dr. van Dyke is the kind of a friend to have when one is up against a difficult problem. He will take trouble, days and nights of trouble, if it is for somebody else or for some because he is interested in. ‘I’m not an optimist,’ says Dr. van Dyke, ‘there’s too much evil in the world and in me. Nor am I a pessimist; there is too much good in the world and in God.

So, I am just a meliorist, believing that he wills to make the world better, and trying to do my bit to help and wishing that it were more.” Yet, the man Helen Keller called “an architect of happiness” accomplished much; he was an influential and powerful speaker and writer who tried to bridge the gap created by World War I and contend positively with a world of growing skepticism and despair.

Educated at Princeton, Van Dyke graduated from its theological seminary in 1877 and became a Presbyterian minister. His early works, “The Story of the Other Wise Man” (1896) and “The First Christmas Tree” (1897), were first read aloud to his congregation in New York as sermons. These quickly brought him recognition. Other stories and anecdotal tales were gathered at regular intervals into volumes. Among these collections were The Ruling Passion (1901), The Blue Flower (1902), The Unknown Quantity (1912), The Valley of Vision (1919), and The Golden Key (1926). He served as a professor of English literature at Princeton between 1899 and 1923. Van Dyke chaired the committee that wrote the first Presbyterian printed liturgy, The Book of Common Worship of 1906. In 1908–09 Dr. van Dyke was a lecturer at the University of Paris. In 1913, President Wilson appointed van Dyke to be the ambassador to the Netherlands and Luxembourg. He served in that capacity until 1917. His served in the position for four years, a fairly lengthy period for a foreign diplomatic appointment.

– Britannica & New Netherland Institute

written by HeeSun

HeeSun is a poet and storybook writer who belongs to the University in the Community. She brings hope to people and brightens the world with beautiful poems, songs, and stories. She is a member of the Pen International.


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