Agony of The Leaf – Tea and Grief

Love is stronger than the grave. – Theodore Marshall Carter


My heart hurts. It’s time to write.

This morning I learned that one of my childhood friends died.

(Taking a long, slow sip to steady my hands and to calm myself.)

It seems so odd to see this in writing and to watch my fingers record what my mind is attempting to digest.

(Special thanks and greetings to all of the new good tea people following @VLHamilton, @TeaPhilosophy, IG @msvlh, and Straight From The Leaf subscribers!

I’ve already started steeping a very large pot of strong and hot black tea. What’s that? No, this is Straight From The Leaf, no alcohol in the tea cup. Please feel free to join us with a cuppa as you read.)

Why write a post instead of finding a secluded corner to keen and wail? Don’t be so premature. Grief is intensely personal: a decidedly private keen yet may occur.

In the meantime, I write and I pour. I pour and I write. Repeat as necessary.


​Creativity is my release valve. Whether through words, dance, song, or other artistic expression, I’m thankful for art that heals, restores and replenishes what life (and death) routinely drains.
For example, I remember feeling deeply honored and humbled to read my poem “Even If I Fall, I Know I Will Stand” to my beloved Gram at her 70th birthday celebration…

As a little girl, /you held my hand when I tried to keep up/ with your lightning stride/and you crooned away those invisible beings/that wouldn’t let me sleep at night/Teaching me to walk fast and sing loud:/I someday would have great things to do/and I couldn’t let anything slow down my pace/or get in the way… – Verna L. Hamilton, excerpt from Poems For Life’s Puzzle‘s “Even If I Fall, I Know I Will Stand”

My literally traveling the thousand miles from Tallahassee, FL to Philadelphia, PA to deliver these words in-person and to receive her smiling approval was worth the considerable time and effort. However, the memory of how fiercely she loved all of us travels beyond the grave and the day her life on this planet ended. Indeed, it stirs me into action daily.

Love is stronger than the grave.


When the tea leaf begins to dance in hot water, it starts high and shallow. The tea leaf then swirls and the water temperature’s heat is the catalyst for what is known as “the agony of the leaf”, the point when the tea leaf opens and releases its essence as it descends to rest.

The tea leaf is at rest because there is nothing left to give.

So be it.

I’m thankful for the rich aroma my friend’s life represents and that memories of loved ones last longer than an oolong’s aroma.

Love is stronger than the grave. So when the memories of loved ones make your heart hurt, make the tea a little stronger.

Sip as long and as slow as necessary.

Here’s to watching the tea leaves dance! Cups up!

Let there be TEA. #DrinkTea

3 responses to “Agony of The Leaf – Tea and Grief”

  1. northernteaist Avatar

    It’s an interesting cultural difference – in the West we do indeed talk of the agony of the leaves, and infuse once, perhaps twice, while in China they talk about the stretching of the leaves, and gently coax the flavour out over as many as 15+ steepings with a good Pu-erh…

    1. Verna L. Hamilton Avatar

      Uncertain as to what ‘cultural difference’ implied and/or assumed since we do not know each other. The fact remains an oolong tea leaf (Taiwanese or otherwise) steeps multiple infusions whether it’s in West Philadelphia, West Memphis, AR, or the Upper West Side.
      Since the comment mentioned no specific Chinese province and referenced aged tea rather than Big Red Robe or other Chinese oolongs, I missed your point.

      1. northernteaist Avatar

        The point of my comment was that the phrase “agony of the leaves” highlights an interesting difference between the Western and Asian tea cultures, when compared to the Asian notion of “the stretching and breathing of the leaves”, which depicts the steeping of tea as a much more gentle, benign action.

        It’s an interesting concept, one I first came across in Mary Lou Heiss & Robert J. Heiss’ excellent “The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook”. They expand the idea to include amongst other things the number and duration of infusions performed in the two traditions, and I referenced the great number of infusions I usually get out of my Pu-erhs as an example of this.

        Apologies for any confusion caused!

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