DEATH, BE NOT PROUD… – PROMPT #73

And as we have discovered long ago, life is not all song and roses. There is a real, more permanent slice of life we have and will encounter in our time on earth. We will all pass on. What legacy we leave will be determined by others.

“HOW DO YOU VIEW your life? – POETIC BLOOMINGS MEMOIR PROJECT

Part 8: Death Be Not Proud – What was your first exposure to death? Was it a pet, neighbor, a close relative? Was there a long illness involved or was it sudden? Write it as honestly as possible. Say what you’ve always wanted to say. If that is too hard to tackle, write a poem about your view of death. (But, please remember this is a memoir project and we want your experiences. So if you can, please do!)

MARIE ELENA’S RECOLLECTION:

VISIONS OF HEALTH (a sonnet for Grandpa Dunn)

A “smoking man” before you were a man,
Reluctantly you quit in later years.
To sidestep cancer’s outbreak was your plan,
Which fell far short of halting cancer’s gears.

They said your health was very, very poor
And I knew there was nothing I could do.
No meals or hugs, nor simple visits, for
Twelve hundred miles distanced me from you.

The greater part of me must thank my God
For distancing me once you were beset
With toxic cells that ambushed, seized, and clawed –
No horrid recollections to forget.

I never saw you lying in repose,
Nor even in the midst of cancer’s throes.

© Marie Elena Good – 2012

WALT’S EXPERIENCE:

ALL IN PASSING

Gentle man, born in another land.
It was the land of your birth and
my rebirth through heritage.
You were a second father;
my grandfather. Your final days
stay with me long after you have gone.
You were my friend. You were my mentor.
You gave me more in my brief time with you
and it has blessed me a thousand-fold.
But you had gotten old. And arteries
were not meant to harden as you became frail.
And watching you sail off of the ladder
when you knew better than to  chance
the happenstance that befell you.
I can tell you, your death affected me greatly.
It is only lately that my mortality haunts me.
Your memory taunts me in a good way,
as they say, all in passing.

© Walter J. Wojtanik – 2012

259 thoughts on “DEATH, BE NOT PROUD… – PROMPT #73

  1. Hummm, Yes this will be challenging…in different ways to different people…. but a good thing to do too. Family members, aquaintences, friends, school mates, pets, a small bird on the sidewalk carried into mom. A pig, steer, rabbit or chicken on the farm, Hunting or fishing….(Let’s not include the evening NEWS Report!) … Oh, Marie and Walt, you do make me think, which is not a bad thing at all.

    • Yes… I must try to remember back to my first experience… no doubt it was one of our pets, tho which one: goldfish, turtle, bird, cat, dog…, I don’t know if I can recall.

  2. (Haibun)

    “Moving Beyond Death”

    I left him in a stupor; his mind paused. Later, the nurse calls: “He wants
    you to come”. It is 3:00 am. The snow is falling.
    Tears and snow; snow and tears. The twisting country road turns dangerously close to a precipice; its winding, slick blackness
    puts me in a trance. It snakes and invites. Meeting Death here would be so easy. “Just hold my hand; rub my back for a little while. That is all I want. Don’t know what I would have done without you.” Later, he
    says: “You are excused”, with a hint of a smile in his voice. He always loved a back rub. I walk out of the hospital at 6:00 am.
    on a frozen, February morning, not knowing it was our last time together.

    Winter’s left my soul;
    stripped its leaves to lie, bone-white
    in the solemn snow.

    On my way home, I stop at a roadside diner in our little mountain town. Out of character for me, but something he would love
    to do had I been the one dying. So, he said I was “Excused…”. Excused for sixty-three years of his company since age 12?
    That is a lot of forgiveness! Excused; forgiven; exhausted…Now I must put one foot in front of the other…
    I order breakfast. I never met a cop that did not love an all-night diner like this; I know he did. But the interior light is blinding;
    incandescent, cold and ugly like that of an interrogation room. I am scrutinized in the cafe’s harsh lineup.
    I cringe and squint and shade my eyes with both hands. Who is my accuser! I hear the charge: “Guilty!” I look guilty and
    forlorn. I must be guilty! I am sentenced to survival and the scrambled eggs turn to chalk and stick-in-my-throat.

  3. But, the jury comes back – NOT GUILTY – You have done your best. Go in peace. Go in peace.

  4. Meg and Walt: both so very sad. Meg, watching my husband’s body slowly fail him (for 3 years…) was the most painful thing that has ever happened to me… we both learned what true love, devotion, and compassion was then…

    • I’m so sorry, Hen. I know how that works. With my mother it was about as long, and always painful and disheartening.

      • Thank you, so much, Clauds, To this day, I cannot bear to step one foot into a medical institution because we spent so much time there; it’s like I have PTSD from that experience (and it’s been 2 years since he passed away).

        • I can well understand that feeling, Henrietta. Certain odors do that for me. As soon as I get a whiff of the odor, I’m right back in one of those rooms. And that’s been almost 30 years. It takes time but the harshness of the memory does fade. At least it did for me, finally. It took a great deal of attitude adjustment on my part, though. I had to get past the loss and onto the gratitude that the suffering was shortened. I was always grateful for that, but I had to cut the associations between that and the memories.

          • Ohh… thank you… I will try to formulate a new perspective, Clauds, rather than pushing things out of my mind! ❤

            • Sometimes it’s the only way to relieve that immediate distress response. It takes practice, but you should have no trouble learning to readjust it or minimize it. I’ll be sending strength to you, never fear.

  5. Robin red breast

    neck hanging limp
    when we lifted your body
    with a stick –
    ants scattering like a 5 year old’s
    thoughts –
    you, hop stopping worm hunter
    we constantly stalked,
    so strange what had left
    leaving it and us
    so frail
    and so easily
    caught.
    I immediately arranged a ceremony –
    burial, stick cross, impromptu
    eulogy – a bleak descending
    word sadness
    so different from play –
    I remember your wry, hands crossed,
    smiling acceptance
    but you were always the daredevil
    in the face of death –
    parachute, bungee, the ski jump
    accident – the one thing tripping you up.
    Strange, they all said, how once in a wheelchair
    you became the preacher teaching your flock
    the meaning of life.
    How strange, they said, the other one
    always going on and on
    about death.

    http://unevenstevencu.blogspot.com/

  6. (Prose poem)

    Our Pets

    Each time one died, we all cried… We had canaries, cats, one puppy. I kept a pet turtle, and an acquarium full of angel fish, goldfish with sweeping, fanning tails, and little, bitty guppies~~~all swimming through ceramic mermaids and dreamy seaweed, playing in the bubbles of the oxygen pump. When they died, the fish and my tears were flushed out to sea. Our birds, turtles, kitties, and puppy were given sad, tearful backyard burials with little, stick crosses, windy kisses, and sent up to Heaven…

  7. Pingback: Positive. « Metaphors and Smiles

    • Timely…oh, how timely and touching this prompt is.

      After being in a wordless rut because of this very topic I had written this and had not posted it but it fits this so well.

      My friend’s life lingers on…her doctor projected two days and it has been two weeks. This is my first “real,” exposure to death as an adult. I’ve known quite a few who’ve passed… acquaintances and family members when I was too young to understand.

      Any way….this is expressed straight from my heart and I believe it would make her happy to know it was shared with you guys…my friends. Thank you.

      Positive.

      Investing my breath
      in the beauty of passing,
      summer’s bursting breast:
      asters, snap-dragons and clover,
      thistle, goldenrod and ragweed.
      The smell of newly decaying leaves
      buzz of bees in their last pollen gathering efforts
      the dipping, dodging of dragonflies feeding
      while slipping like autumn’s early orange leaf
      a monarch butterfly floats on the breeze
      and all of this
      all of this while she waits
      each beat closer to the close
      every pulse nearing an end result
      but really, nearly a new beginning;
      merely a transition.
      I pray…
      she has the strength
      to let go,
      let her spirit be lifted,
      escape this painful waiting.
      Take flight with the majestic monarch
      her passage is pre-planned;
      she is hopeful,
      holds faith in her destination.
      And eerily,
      goodbye this time…
      It really was a farewell
      and a fondness in knowing…
      Believing…
      that my last words to her were true.
      “I love you…
      I will see you in heaven, my friend.”
      She nodded slightly and peered into my eyes,
      the brightness residing there…still permeated with life
      while her body battled an inevitable end.
      End?
      No, merely a transition,
      one last summer sipped breath.
      Aware of autumn…
      Sure of the fall…
      Certain that life cycles…
      Positive she’ll see her winged reflection
      again in the crisp cool collective pool of life.

      © Hannah Gosselin 9/16/12

  8. WORLDS COLLAPSING

    My left hand went for your
    stomach,
    inches above it,
    and
    so did my sister’s
    only we didn’t say a word
    when my sister and I hold our hands above you when
    you took your last breath or
    sort of blew it out.

    In that moment we knew that we would never be your
    little babies anymore and my sister whispered:
    “Mama?”

  9. Marie…

    “The greater part of me must thank my God
    For distancing me once you were beset
    With toxic cells that ambushed, seized, and clawed –
    No horrid recollections to forget.”

    Oh, this…wow….I was young enough not to have to witness the same of my grandmother.

    You’ve captured the person-hood of your grandfather and the unforgiving way of the disease so well, my friend.

    Walt..

    “Your final days
    stay with me long after you have gone.
    You were my friend. You were my mentor.
    You gave me more in my brief time with you
    and it has blessed me a thousand-fold.”

    I feel as if knowing you we know a portion of him as he meant so much to you. Such a beautiful way to honor his life and memory of it.

    Thank you to you guys for your gracious hosting in this gifted garden as we celebrate those who’ve gone before us.

    I’ll be gone for most of the day but I will return to read…

    Sunday smiles to ALL. 🙂

  10. GOOD-BYE (To my Father)

    There is no easy way to say good-bye.
    I want to hug and hold you, not to cry.
    But mixed with happy memories I had before
    I feel the fear that I can’t bear them anymore.

    Though friends and neighbors offer their support,
    my total grief does my faulty smile distort.
    For with you, something in us all will die—
    There is no easy way to say good-bye.

    And so together we should face our grief at home,
    For in the end our fear is being left alone.
    We will never heal our hearts, and yet we try—
    There is no easy way to say good-bye.

    I know that there were times we fought with rage.
    My memory scrapbook doesn’t seem to have that page.
    No consoling words erase the need to cry.
    There is no easy way to say good-bye.

    There is a part of you that lives on too—
    A treasure chest of memories that I shared with you.
    These loving thoughts will help me to get by.
    There is no easy way to say good-bye.

    So through my sorrow I must face another day.
    So soft shoulder serves to take the pain away.
    And though my heart is breaking, my eyes are dry—
    There is no easy way to say good-bye.

    If to us a thousand lifetimes more were left,
    The final end would leave me still bereft.
    So with prayer or song or quiet or tear-filled eye,
    There is no easy way to say good-bye.

  11. This is written to a relative who was recently diagnosed with ALS

    IF I WERE YOU

    If I were you
    I would write down how I am feeling today:
    The anger and fear of knowing that the end
    is so certain and near.

    If I were you
    I might keep writing every day
    So that others who must travel the same path
    will know that they do not walk alone.

    If I were you
    I would hold a magnifying glass to my faith
    Finding and taking every comfort
    that it was designed to give.

    If I were you
    I would find joy in each task I undertake,
    Because if I am taking the time to do it,
    it must be worthwhile.

    If I were you
    I would do the things I have always wanted to do.
    I would lunch with friends, sit in the park,
    read fabulous books, and take long fragrant baths.

    If I were you
    I would find something small to do that I know would make a difference,
    So I would be sure that the world is a better place
    because I was here than it would have been without me.

    If I were you
    I would burn the concept of a Bucket List.
    Joy is found, not in the huge events,
    but in the very small ones.

    If I were you
    I would go to sleep each night recalling my accomplishments,
    Since I have never had time to consider them
    as they occurred.

    If I were you
    I would remind my loved ones that I will always be with them.
    My actions, words, and thoughts will come back to them unbidden
    whenever they are needed.

    If I were you
    I would not spend one second thinking about what I will miss or regret,
    But instead spend every minute embracing
    the wonderful things I experienced and enjoyed.

    But I am you.
    My journey is growing shorter every day with certainty,
    Though I have not yet been notified
    of my final flight or destination.

    Because of you
    I am going to change the journey I take
    And do these things that I should have done my whole life.

  12. Tough prompt, still crying. But the responses are so beautiful and sincere. it has given me an awareness that we walk this path together, not alone. Beautiful and touching words Meg, Walt, Jacqueline, unevensteven, Roslyn, Henrietta, Hannah, and Andrea.

  13. Immunization and Cure

    I suppose I became somewhat immune to death as a child.

    Dad was a hunter
    Dead animals everywhere
    Their deaths helped us live

    My grandmother on my mother’s side was the first to go. I was only five. Mom would take me down to her house and I would play in my world while Grandma was in the adult world. Pappap and Mom must have worked hard taking care of her, but it was all in my peripheral. When she died I just thought that’s what old people do. It was a part of life to me, like dead fish in the frig.

    My red boots dangled
    When Dad lifted me to see
    Grandma’s still, white face

    In my teen years my grandfather on my dad’s side and my mom’s sister passed away. It was odd that the first time I saw my Dad cry was when my aunt died. I wasn’t all that sure he even liked her since Dad criticized a lot. That’s when death first touched my feelings, not because of my loss, but because it made my Dad cry.

    When my Aunt Marg died
    Dad sat hunched over and sobbed
    I stared in wonder

    When I was a young adult, death’s painful emotions caught up with me for the first time, when my friend’s baby died. We had prayed for little Bethany when she was born with a defective heart. She only lived a few weeks. Her parents’ grief saturated the air making it difficult to breathe.

    Baby doll in lace
    Sorrow and grief sting and claw
    We live on, with scars

    They say the care-giving spouse goes first, which was the case with my mom and dad. Alzheimer’s rendered Dad unaware when Mom died. He died two months later. I gain comfort knowing that neither one of them had to grieve each other’s death. I often picture Dad spying Mom at heaven’s gates and exclaiming, “What are you doing here?” My four sisters and I painfully plowed through each first holiday without them.

    Without Mom and Dad
    Mother’s Day and Father’s Day
    Celebrate with tears

    And now death has touched my generation. On a demolition job, tons of steel and concrete fell on my brother-in-law. Our last family reunion included a memorial.

    Husband died, sis crushed
    Said goodbyes through coffin lid
    Full reunion waits

    I am not immune to death. I feel it with all my senses. But I count on Christ, the one who rose from the dead, to be the cure. His death helps me live.

  14. I,
    the child,
    you bathed me.
    Helped me read.
    Taught me crocheting,
    berry picking, canning
    during those summers at your
    backwoods log cabin by a stream.
    Hardworking, poor, frail, malnourished,
    Grandma, you’re ever sixty-two to me.
    Not surprising, illness claimed you,
    tired body gradually failed.
    Hospital bed in our home.
    Our turn to help, to feed,
    My turn to bathe you.
    One day I turned,
    then looked back,
    you were
    gone.

    [She died of kidney failure when I was 21, I had turned to get her a drink…]

    • Marjory, the images you paint are of a loving and wonderfully simple relationship between you and your grandmother. I’m so glad that you had that to cushion the sorrow of the loss.And I’m glad that you had the chance to experience that caretaking role before the end, as well.

      Our lives twist as yarn weaving the tapestries that we experience. Yours wove in beauty and love, sharing and caring. This was wonderfully written and I can feel the love you had for her in each word and line. Thank you for sharing.

      • Thank You, Clauds, Linda and Marie –
        Shortly after grandma died, my mom told me, “A person never truely dies as long as they are remembered.” Based on the ages of her grandkids who know her – Grandma’s memory is good for another 40 to 50 years. 🙂

    • Oh, so heartbreaking Marjory! I am glad that you were there for her… they find such comfort in us being near to them in that last stage of life… ❤

  15. Young Boy

    I’d go to church on Sunday
    all dressed up in my best.
    But still it hurt so deeply
    and put me to the test.

    I was just a young boy
    and a young man of four years,
    with a dose of cruel reality
    and buckets full of tears.

    My mom said, “watch your brother,”
    It was me who kept an eye.
    I know she never said or meant
    watch your brother die.

    By Michael Grove

  16. Uncle Ben and the Barn

    I woke, shaking, knowing
    You were gone, but not why;
    How could this be that I,
    Only ten, could know such
    Things as death stalking so
    Far removed from my home?

    Was it your decision that
    Told me of the violence to come?
    Was it despair that triggered the
    Decision to use rope instead of
    Buckshot, or merely a desire not
    To wake the family with your act?

    None will ever know, though that
    Act had more consequences than
    You would ever have imagined.
    My acceptance of death came that
    Morning, without fanfare or tears,
    But in a dream of spirits passing,

    Raising the bar for the next encounter
    With Death’s visitation announcement.

    • It seems that you became wise beyond your years at age ten, Clauds.
      “None will ever know, though that
      Act had more consequences than
      You would ever have imagined.”
      So achingly true. Two suicides in my family had the ultimate effect of saving our children…we realized and acknowledged that depression is a family burden and got help when it was needed perhaps preventing additional tragedies.

      • Thank you, Linda. I learned quickly soon after that death comes in spurts sometimes. There were many around my life for the next few years to get me truly prepped for later life, but Ben’s was the first that I recall.

        Depression is definitely a family burden and intervention is the best preventative around for averting barn decisions.

    • My goodness, my good friend. Linda speaks the truth … you became wise beyond your years through this horrific life experience. Your natural intuitive nature can be both a blessing and a curse, I suppose. Such a wonderful and touching write, wise friend.

      Marie Elena

      • Oh, thank you, Marie. Though it happened long ago, it remains distinct in memory. And you’re right. It can difficult at times, but no more than the rest of life. I’m glad that you liked it.

    • I understand your ultra sensitivity/intuition… I have that ability also… how painful to KNOW what you knew back then… ❤

  17. I am so sorry that I cannot comment. I wrote a poem and it had me crying, but all the poems that I did not write also had me crying. So please forgive me but I am no good reader today at all.

  18. Pingback: Poetic Bloomings Tackles the Ultimate Subject | Two Voices, One Song

  19. The eyes of a Child

    When I was a child I looked at the world with the faith of a child.
    I Believed what I was told. Grandma and grandpa and aunt Edna were in a place called Heaven, we visited their graves in the cemetery, but it was only their bodies.
    Their souls were in Heaven where God sent the people who were good.

    Sometimes. The old people who lived on our street would disappear.
    They had died because they were old.
    Timmy Merckens died because he ran into the street without
    Looking and was hit by a car.
    Everything that happened, was for a reason. If we didn’t understand,
    It was because our minds were not big enough.
    The Germans invaded Poland and no one understood.

    At first, our teachers taught us about the war. Then they stopped
    Talking about it because things were not going so good.
    Pearl Harbor happened. Then the fall of the Philippines. The boys
    Spent their time drawing pictures of airplanes instead of their
    Arithmetic assignments. When a local boy was killed in the war,
    He was a hero. Heroes went to Heaven. The enemy went to Hell.

    Patsy McCormick caught polio and died. She was in our class.
    Everyone talked about it, but no one knew what to say. Our
    Parents all said she was in Heaven. Privately, my best friend and I
    Felt Patsy would not be happy in Heaven. Her Mom and Dad were
    Still in their home on E. 115th. St. Her little sisters missed her and
    Kept asking when would she come home. Her little dog missed her.

    Death was when you were separated from all the people you loved.
    Death was when no one would ever see you again.

    When I said my prayers, I prayed my mother would have her bad
    Heart healed. I did this for a long time.

  20. Buffy

    I sunk beneath the dashboard
    so my tears might go unseen
    that day you picked me up
    from school with dreaded news.

    My heart, I felt it stomped on,
    the pain a leaden horseshoe.
    I struggled to breathe,
    but the sobs I found more powerful
    than a nine-year-old could take.
    I didn’t like it, heavy grief
    that seemed an anchor drowning me.

    And the next day at school,
    I used my sniffles as a tool
    (I really was sick- heartsick)
    so the nurse might send me home
    to mourn the loss of my best friend

    who loved me unconditionally,
    offered comfort kisses when
    screams bounced through thin walls;
    my dear old French Poodle, Buffy-
    I miss you still.

  21. Pingback: PART 8: DEATH, BE NOT PROUD | Two Voices, One Song

  22. A hard prompt in so many ways. Thank you for helping me get closure with Peter’s passing – My best friend who had committed suicide a couple of years ago.

    I. Grandfather Moves On

    Baba, what’s wrong with Mama?
    She does not smile anymore and she always wears black.
    I ask with tear brimmed eyes full of concern.

    Meena, Jiddo is gone now and Mama misses him a lot.
    Baba, I miss Mama.
    Meena, I miss your Mama a lot too.

    II. Peter Checks Himself Out

    I could not believe the message I read;
    Peter committed suicide it said.

    I shook my head in disbelief
    As my heart overflowed with grief.

    How did it get to be so bad?
    How was it you could just let go of all you had?

    You and I guilty of being two peas in a pod;
    Does that mean it is my turn to go see God?

    It never worked out for you and I,
    I wonder now if you suffered and I just stood by.

    I wonder now if I had deafened myself to your cry
    That ghosts were troubling you and things had gone awry.

    What am I to do now Peter – Follow your lead?
    It sure would end the agony of watching my heart bleed.

    I am so sorry, Peter, I cannot do so;
    The beauty of life is amplified with these tears of sorrow.

    http://2voices1song.com/2012/09/16/part-8-death-be-not-proud/

  23. Last Things

    Death has never been in the room with me.
    Across the hall, yes; or gone before I arrived.

    The body of my grandfather lay in the front bedroom
    –away from the wood stove–a day and a night
    and part of a day, but he’d been gone for years.

    Dogs die. And kittens. Chickens get their necks wrung
    for dinner. Turkeys drown, looking up at the rain. I

    set a baby duck in a galvanized wash tub to swim
    and came back to find it drowned. My only death
    to mean more than loss.

  24. Grandmommy

    I remember little before the cancer. At first
    she lay on the couch after work. Later I learned
    the doctor was amazed she even got to work
    much less could accomplish anything.

    She then took to bed as my mother
    watched over her. She feared surgery
    and would not take any medicine.
    Grandaddy cooked and did what else he could.

    Toward the end they sent me to live
    with Uncle Oscar and Aunt Laurie.
    When Laurie left to help, Oscar cooked
    us hot dogs and baked beans in the can.

    I was surprised to see Mother’s tears
    as she told me grandmommy had died.
    After all, wasn’t she so happy her mom
    was now living with Jesus in Heaven?

  25. “Peace Lilies”

    One little girl in a blue homemade pinafore
    ducking elbows in the maze of a thousand patent
    leather shoes clicketey-clacking across the oak planking,

    The church is a tomb of tight pocket books, charcoal
    fedoras, lace hankies, and polite murmurings.

    One little girl sickened with pollen—how many
    lilies does it take to mourn a disguised grandma
    in a coffin, all the grandkids ask who is that lady?
    Who is that lady with the smooth neck?

    This is not our goiter Grandma who swallowed the
    baseball, this is a different grandma who doesn’t belong
    to us. A grandma with a scrambly mouth who raised
    twelve kids, a grandma with a quiet mouth now.

    Lilies don’t smell like peace; they smell like funerals.
    They smell like grandmas.

  26. I find it very difficult to read the poems. They are beautiful, but so raw, I have to stop, and do something else, then come back to read more. Find it hard to comment, too. A tough prompt.

  27. First Lessons in Death

    The key to longevity, they joke,
    is to pick your parents, and sure enough,
    I come from a long line of long life,
    counting on our fingers back through
    the line of greats and grands we knew
    and those I lost left before I arrived:
    Miss Etta, lost to cancer–the only one
    for years—just weeks before my birth–
    and young Jacobus, who didn’t live
    to see his own child, my mother’s mother.

    I first saw death, up close–the body, the box,
    breathed the cloying smell of chrysanthemums–
    when I was seven: Papa, the cab driver
    who drove Mama C, a young widow
    with small babies, to her work, then wed her.
    We knew him when he drove the laundry truck
    always a pocketful of Bazooka Joe for kids,
    not just for those of us who loved him.

    At the viewing, one peek told me all
    I wanted to know. His body may be here,
    but not his spirit. I jumped at the chance
    to run an errand with my mama,
    leaving my younger sister to look
    again and again at the sweet man
    she always thought loved her most.
    No tears, just a child’s curiosity.

    Now nearly fifty years later, I watch
    as my own grandchildren approach
    a casket for the first time. At four and six,
    they had the bonus of an extra generation
    of love, accustomed to crawling up
    into his lap, giggling at the funny faces
    he made at them through his Sherlock Holmes
    magnifying glass. They were prepared at home
    for what they’d see, what it meant;
    they talked about Grandaddy in heaven
    with Jesus, but lifted in his father’s arms,
    to see, Stuart says, “He looks real,”
    and reassured he is, he wants to touch,
    leaning forward for a less-than-gentle
    forehead poke. His only tears come
    by the open grave, launching then losing
    his Hot Wheels, watching it plummet,
    like Thelma and Louise or Steve McQueen
    in Vanishing Point into the six-foot hole.

  28. Death’s Silhouette

    I have walked with you
    More times than I can count
    or keep track of, and I believe
    You have coloured my life
    since before I knew
    How to articulate the sensuous
    feelings you managed
    To insinuate between
    Breaths and beats
    and bombastic bleatings
    Of my young soul …

    Alliteration aside –
    It did not take a poet
    or a lyricist to recognize
    you for who you are
    But of course, in silence,
    the artist in me rejoiced

    For without so much
    as lifting your veil
    I would catch you peering
    through Medusa-like tresses
    Your face, as always, a mask
    concealing your true intent
    But as surely as a magnet
    draws iron filings, I could not
    resist your pull, might have
    seemed nonchalant
    as I sauntered in your direction

    Seemingly sane, life-loving
    My exterior a facade as rich
    in deception as yours could be
    But always bent on knowing
    you as intimately as we both
    would ultimately insist.

  29. Heart wrenching emotion, or as Henrietta as said on occasion, Compassionate and Empathetic. We all share the fate and its consequences. The community has risen to new heights with this challenge. I hope you are all getting as much out of it as Marie and I have. OUTSTANDING!

  30. The first time I saw
    my stoic mother
    sob,
    was when our Basset hound,
    Hermione, died.
    The dog was tri-colored:
    dark chocolate, semi-sweet,
    and coconut white.
    Her ears were chocolate ganache;
    crusty at the ends,
    where she dragged them
    through her food bowl.
    She traveled with us
    from California to Tanzania
    and back.
    The night she died,
    I laid in my bed
    listening to my memory
    play the soundtrack
    of my mother
    calling for her;
    out the back door
    and up the street;
    until her stumpy hound legs
    brought her bright eyes home.

  31. Exposure to Death

    Aunt Ida gave life, life.
    Her aura of lustrous red, brushed
    her lips and ours. My mother’s
    older sister swept through doorways,
    lifted laughter from dark places,
    and died at fifty-nine. She suffered
    a heart attack on an icy December
    afternoon while holiday gift shopping.

    I did not see her in death,
    as Jewish law required
    next day burial, closed coffin.
    My sense of devastation was
    felt vicariously through the form
    of my mother, screaming and crying
    for days on the sofa, relatives filling
    the house with food, sweets,
    and endless conversations.
    My sister and I spent a large
    portion of that time across the hall
    in a neighbor’s apartment, safe
    from death.

    Later, stung by the bee of reality–
    Aunt Ida would not take me to
    the village with its cool bistros,
    or ice skating in Flushing Meadow
    Park, or sweep through the door
    in clouds of perfume–I knew
    death’s meaning.

  32. Lucille

    Pet cemetery had nothing on me
    Spot, the rat
    Then the robe-eating hamster
    (the flannel must have done him in)
    Three little Guinea pigs
    Redwood, Claude and Pigger
    The turtle that escaped
    The finch the cat ate
    Each a tear, a rising fear
    Of that unknown
    But the one that brought it home
    Full sobbing, snotty-nosed grief
    Was Lucy, the Siamese
    Who slept at the foot of my
    Bed–Every night for fifteen years
    The day she passed
    I cried, a few tears
    Still in shock
    That night, eyes drifting close
    Waiting for the soft thump
    The little weight, and warmth
    On my feet
    Instead chilled
    Reality hit—sucker punch to the heart
    Cried her an ocean
    Alone in the dark

  33. Ice-bound

    The blizzard of ‘78
    started with a thunderclap
    family gathered at the bedside
    while the heavy-laden sky closed in

    Through the misted kitchen window
    I urged the mercury south
    while the snow piled up in great
    levees against the coming flood

    My mother wore her dark overcoat
    with long-practiced poise
    I watched her through the window
    and knew before a word was said.

    They walked over buildings
    to reach the low brick funeral home
    where I stared at the Sunday best and satin
    and wondered at the catch in my throat.

    He lay in state for two months
    until they found the ground again.
    The ice melted at last, but I
    never learned how to cry.

    • Oh my! The icey blast of this piece pierces through and chills to the bone. This is something we read in the newspaper … not something we experience. So sad, Andrew, and richly captured.

      I remember the Blizzard of ’78 here in NW Ohio. We (my then-husband, first-born daughter and I) were driving home from visiting my parents in Naples, Florida. We got 45 minutes from home, and had to pull off to spend the night in a hotel, as I-75 was completely shut down. Cars and trucks littered the highway like confetti, and we were so thankful to be safe.

      Marie Elena

      • I thnk that storm lives in the memory of everyone here in the midwest. My grandfather loved to watch the weather, and it was somehow perfect that his death should come on the day that storm started. Great to hear your memories of that time, too.

    • Oh, Andrew! There is much here. Even if the tears can not flow, so glad the words can.

      Living in western pennsylvania at the time, I, too remember the blizzard of 1978.

  34. Death on the Farm

    Farms deal in cycles,
    birth opposite deaths,
    seed becomes stubble,
    green becomes brown,
    a grazing animal becomes
    a meal itself, as harvested
    as wheat, lumber, vegetables.

    Old dogs, like ancient elephants,
    wander into woods alone
    to breathe their last; old cats
    climb into haystacks or beneath
    shed floors to settle into darkness;
    kamikaze bees sacrifice themselves
    to protect their golden honey;

    cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys,
    rabbits, squirrels, turtles, fish,
    and game birds, alive and beloved
    today, named, petted, beloved,
    mourned and remembered
    are garnished on a platter
    disconnected from their living selves,
    each absence felt like a scar.

    We trade meat with neighbors
    to be assured that we do not consume
    our friends, even that reverence
    too close to our consciences.
    We counsel ourselves that each
    had a good life, was loved, wondering
    if love could heal us of loving.

    I gather crayfish and lizards from a creek,
    small green snakes loved to death
    in my pockets, a turtle’s heart mourned
    as it beat long after the butchered body
    became stew, keeping its thump alive
    for days beyond what was reasonable,
    and weep when it is at last still.

    I weep for a baby rabbit whose ears
    are shorn by a mower, knowing
    my healing him won’t last, as he
    himself becomes part of that food chain,
    of hunters, hawks, foxes, dogs.

    Working pets—herding and hunting dogs,
    mousing cats, parakeets, goldfish,
    miniature turtles, ant farms, sea
    monkeys, tadpoles, lightning bugs, ground
    snakes, lizards, goats, a ram,
    a pig named George—live and die,
    each building a room in our hearts
    each buried with a good view of the pond
    and the woods beyond, each with a marker
    and a simple funeral and words of gratitude.

    I want to say that all this death prepared us
    for human loss, for grandparents, cousins,
    aunts and uncles, for beloved neighbors,
    for finally parents, siblings, children.
    I want to say that falling leaves do not
    hurt a little every year, another cycle
    fulfilled, that pets and sunsets and
    the falling petals of flowers don’t touch me,
    but that would not be true.

    Surrounded by the vibrancy of life and death,
    I am still perpetually unready for loss,
    perpetually tussling with ends of days,
    always and forever unprepared,
    even with the best of philosophies,
    even with hereafters blossoming
    in my hopes, even with homecomings
    looming, I still mourn the stillness
    of a beating heart and still wonder
    with all my being,
    Why?

  35. This was hard for me. This past Friday marked five years since our 20 year old niece was killed in a car accident. Her death is still hard to come to terms with.

    Lindsay Rose

    Ever since you were just a little girl
    I felt a connection to you.
    When I didn’t have children, I’d
    pay for your meal when the “girls”
    of the family got together.

    We had a wonderful conversation
    at the family reunion.
    All grown up and on your own,
    you didn’t always make them,
    nor did I always attend.

    I am certain now why we both were there.

    You were struggling with decisions.
    I was confident God was leading.
    We talked openly about family and
    people and jobs and choices.
    The hug lingered.

    Just a few weeks later, my phone rang
    with the saddest news I’ve ever heard.

    Can it be five years?
    I still hurt deeply for your dad, your mom
    your sisters, your grandma; for me.
    I see your humor and hear your laugh
    in my children. They miss you, too.

    I know you are singing and laughing
    in God’s presence,
    and for that I am thankful.
    But, the lack of your presence here
    is a void that runs deep.

    © Kelly E. Donadio 2012

    • Oh, Kelly … Yes, my heart aches for all of you. For all of us. I was super ill, and could not attend her funeral. I still regret that deeply. It’s a strange thing, but for the last 4 years, orange crayons, stuffed animals, or butterflies have made their way into our lives on the anniversary of her homecoming. This is the first year I did not receive an orange reminder of our sweet Lindsay Rose … but Michaela did. Last year, I wrote a haiku in her honor: http://aleerily.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/haiku-for-lindsay-rose/#comments.

      It still amazes me that her mom and dad nearly lost her when she was such a teensy little thing, struggling with spinal meningitis. It was not her time, yet her time still came too soon for all of us.

      Hugs to you, Kelly. Your poem has me in tears.

      I’m so thankful you and Linds had that amazing time together before she left this world.

      Marie Elena

      • Yes, I remember your haiku in her honor, so lovely. She lives on in our home in many, many ways. Orange is Claire’s favorite color and so often I catch glimpses of Linds in her. Joy and sadness mixed! K~

    • Yes… when someone’s “presence” so enriches your life, it is deeply painful to have them go away… I don’t know if we can ever get over the loss…

  36. I love the idea of this memoir project and am woefully late to the game. But jumping in for this week’s prompt. Pic of me and Great-Grandpa Jack is on my blog.

    Back to Jack

    The way my father tells
    it, Great-Grandpa Jack
    was a lawyer in L.A.

    back in the days when
    the city was
    really beginning to take shape.

    He walked out of the
    courthouse one day,
    fed up with the system,

    and across the street to
    a construction site
    and asked for a job.

    He never looked back.

    The way I remember it,
    it was hot
    where he lived. He was

    frail and his head shook,
    a subtle nodding,
    as he smiled at me

    and my little baby sister.
    I squirmed, not
    understanding why we were smiling

    and sweating at this house.
    Perhaps they knew
    that death wasn’t far off.

    We drove away and never looked back.

    I was 6 or so
    when Dad whispered
    to my mother in the

    upstairs hallway that Great-Grandpa Jack
    had passed. “What
    does that mean?” I asked.

    “He died. Funeral is Thursday,”
    Dad said. I
    wanted to go with him.

    He couldn’t understand why I’d
    want to mourn
    a man I barely knew.

    Perhaps, I just wanted to look back.

  37. 12.6.12, 6AM *

    Girls and fathers, a connection
    elemental, basic,
    building instincts for her future,
    cherisnourishedished, filled with love
    that quite unlike a spouse
    death shall we never part.

    He is gone
    But blood run deeper
    Than my tears

    *the date and time when my father passed away.

  38. The first one was messed up. Sorry.

    12.6.12, 6AM *

    Girls and fathers, a connection
    elemental, basic,
    building instincts for her future,
    cherished, nourished, filled with love
    that quite unlike a spouse
    death shall we never part.

    He is gone
    But blood run deeper
    Than my tears

    *the date and time when my father passed away.

  39. This is an old one. I believe it was my first encounter with death, at least the one that I registered, because someone my age was gone, just like that: one day there, the next day gone.

    We are thirteen? Fourteen?
    It’s early autumn,
    A bunch of girls,
    We’re here on a mission:
    To see our friend who had appendicitis.

    A nervous woman cheerfully says,
    “We are like mothers to them, they’re our babies,
    Your friend, and look, just had another daughter,
    Arrived today.”

    I turn my head and see
    A girl our age
    Who’s standing in the doorway,
    About to leave.

    We visit, gossip, giggle,
    And say goodbye,
    And soon our friend is back,
    All fit and happy, and one day we meet,
    And someone asks about that other patient,
    That girl I saw.

    “That girl?” she shrugs, then says matter-of-factly,
    “That girl, she died. They brought her in too late.”
    And then moves on, and talks of something else.
    And I feel numb, and cold, and bewildered.

  40. Dear Friends,

    This was a difficult but important subject for us to address, but I’m just amazed by the delicacy, honesty, and bravery these poems reveal, the hardhship and heartbreak each one addresses. I’ve cried my way along from poem to poem, but now I’ll stop. I just wanted to tell you all how very moving your work is, how very important it is for me to be among you. Thanks, Marie and Walt, for a tough but healing assignment.

    • Jane, your words are loving and compassionate. Thank you so much.

      Truly, Robert and Walt did not conspire to present terribly somber prompts this week. Both Poetic Asides and here in our “garden,” we are blessed to have such strong, brave, talented souls who are sharing deeply personal, brutal life experiences. I do agree with you, Jane, that it is so important to be among all of you. I’m deeply grateful.

      Marie Elena

  41. A Fear of Nines

    The year from hell began in April.
    Grandpa died at age seventy-nine,
    a heart-attack.
    My first funeral.
    I was fifteen.

    Dad was just recently diagnosed
    with cancer and was in the hospital
    after a collapse and was not able
    to come home for his father’s funeral.

    Dad eventually came home,
    he was given three to five years –
    of life.
    Dad told me the men in his family
    all died at age seventy-nine.

    Life went on for this teenager,
    but with some new routines –
    Dad had doctor appointments
    but they involved chemo,
    radiation and experimental treatments.

    Little did I know
    before the year was up
    Dad would be gone too.
    Cancer infiltrating his body
    until he looked like a little old man,
    passing away at the age of thirty-nine.

    I figured it was the nine’s that were bad luck.

    Every birthday I’ve had that ends with nine
    is a year of holding my breathe
    to see if I make it to the next year,
    but thirty-nine was the hardest.
    There was enormous relief
    at reaching forty,
    quite a celebration.
    I was so relieved, I decided my fear of nines
    was done.
    But I’m only forty-four.

    • Michelle, your poem is so touching. How sad to have lost your dad at such a young age. I can’t even imagine. I’m glad you were able to get beyond your fear. Bless your heart.

      Marie Elena

  42. The Skies Cried

    She is a person.
    A girl I see sometimes.
    A girl my friends know.
    But one June day
    She became a past tense.
    She was a person.
    A girl I saw sometimes.
    A girl my friends knew.
    Tears permeated through the whole school,
    Suffocating the whole day
    Raining in the skies and from eyes
    Because she wasn’t here
    And never would be
    Ever again.

  43. The Fingers of Death

    Death first brushed
    His bony fingers
    Through my world
    When I was a child,
    Leaving a vague sense of sadness
    In a girl too young
    to comprehend such finality.
    As I grew older,
    Those bony fingers
    Touched my life again,
    My grief intermingling
    With teenage angst.
    These days the fingers of death
    Have me firmly in their grasp,
    Plucking away loved ones
    With unrelenting impunity,
    An insidious caress
    That continues to tighten
    And one day will reduce me
    To little more than dust.

  44. Pingback: Life And Death | echoes from the silence

  45. Number Five

    Almost sixty years old
    Just a month shy
    Old by bygone standards
    Young by today’s
    Nevertheless

    He had survived four heart attacks
    Each one knocked him down a notch
    Made him a little slower
    A little weaker
    And a little less optimistic

    But he tried his best to hide
    The downhill slide he was on
    His pride just wouldn’t let him
    But we all knew
    And we all prayed for him

    That night in early August
    Nineteen hundred and seventy one
    Nothing out of the ordinary
    Bedtime rolled around
    My brother and I went upstairs

    He and Grandma went to bed
    Door open as usual
    We heard the same thing we always heard
    Night after night as he told Grandma
    “I love you”

    Several minutes later
    Grandma began to scream
    We came running as she
    Beat on his chest
    With no response from him

    Number five took him from us
    Just a month shy of sixty
    Far too young for God to take
    The greatest man I ever knew
    But He did

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