Many of you already know but for those just now joining us, I lost both my mother and father this past winter. Routine smoothed over the grief, as well as just being with people, but I knew sooner or later I would have to go through a process, a time of examining and reexamining.
I’ve been going through a book I bought at this year’s AWP called God in the House: Poets Talk about Faith. I brought it with me on the retreat and have been spending time with it each morning. The book encompasses all beliefs—even one I’ve never heard of before Quaganism, which is about pagan Quakers. It is amazing what I can lift off the page. After the chapter on Wicca and Zen, I fell into thinking about Dad. The two are not related. And wrote this in my morning journal.
Between Wednesday and Fridaythere was Thursday.
On Wednesday I found you alertjovial even, you knew who I was
--yet you didn’t know me.
The preacher came to chat,
he read scriptures with you
and then prayed, then goodbye,
though he didn’t say goodbye
just, Next week, Harold.
On Friday you were in and out,mostly out. You never opened your eyes.
My sister administered the morphine
in dosages meant to keep you under.
Your heart was wheezing
and your breath came in sputters.
The only moments of near consciousness
were when we turned you
and you cried out No!
By Saturday you were hanging on,the breathing irregular, yet measured.
People came and went from your bedside.
I doubt you knew they were there
Or if you did you didn’t wake up.
Your life was now inside you,
and even that was ebbing away.
By Sunday there was no pulling you back.You were slowly slipping
even though we spoke to you,
whispered your name,
you were gone. Waiting
until the last . . . heart . . . beat.
Then you exhaled a long, slow puff of air
and it was over.
But what about Thursday?You had a terrible night.
You started out in bed,
only sleeping a few hours,
and then demanded to go out to the living room.
We got you up and transferred to the wheelchair.
The TV on, you said.
So there we were at 2 a.m. scanning the channels for golf or basketball.
I warmed up blankets in the dryer and draped
them over you. Yet there was nothing
we could do to make you comfortable.
I was so tired I couldn’t stay awake. I told them
I was only going to nap, but I did not get up when you called.
I pretended to sleep, all the while wondering,
How much longer can this go on?
By Friday I had my answer.
Only a matter of time.
* * *
And now to those waiting for me on the opposite shore (Mike and Grace)I float my message across to you,