As I worked on a book review for The Lost Spells that I wrote in the Spring of 2021 for The Cultivating Project, I came across a poem called “Thrift” which immediately made me think of Leslie. I called her and read it to her as a benediction, then wrote:
Immediately this poem described not just a plant with which I was unfamiliar, but became a metaphor for a friend who has lived for the past year with multiple forms of cancer in her body. She is choosing to bloom fiercely and honestly, to cling to the cliff of uncertainty, to bring beauty in the midst of her grief and pain. The poem ends:
Thrift blooms on spot-heap and tailing,
for Thrift knows hardship is a limit not
a failing; Thrift persists despite all odds,
and Thrift’s gift is—Thrift’s grace is—
to give a glimpse of hope in the tightest
of spots, the toughest of places.
This picture of hope and beauty in the middle of pain and limitation continues to lift my gaze.
Leslie is leaving a hole in the fabric of this world that will not be mended. She has taught me about finishing—not just her last days, but in the way she chose to live all the way to the end. When we spoke last, she was concerned that she wouldn’t have time to finish the letters of blessing she wanted to write to each of her daughters. She loved generously (and by her admission, imperfectly), and didn’t want that to go unsaid, especially to those she loves the very most. She lived as a poeima within the strict form of her cancers, and challenged me by her living, to live my life more singularly. Not to be more like Leslie, but to be more Amy.
This tribute by Amy Malskeit is part of an “In Memoriam” series we are running this week for our dear friend Leslie Anne Bustard.
The featured image, “Distant Drums Unfurling,” is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and used with her glad permission for Cultivating.
Amy Malskeit is a lover of words and stories and people. She holds an undergraduate degree in English and Spanish, a secondary English teaching credential, and an MA in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry from Lancaster University in Northwest England. Her years teaching middle and high school gave her a love for middle grade and young adult literature, and the awkward awesome that being a young adult means. She is a mother of two who plants her garden and makes her home in the foothills southwest of Denver with her best friend, Kevin. She loves the water, and feels most at home when she is near the Pacific Ocean. She reads broadly, and is passionate about exploring big questions and small moments through her poetry, essays, and stories.
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