A Tiny Piece of Night Sky

Right now I don’t wear mourning black

because as I told the kids before the funeral,

Grandpa loved the bright colours of gardens

and flowers in the sunshine,

so dress for him.

But I do wear around my neck

a black necklace studded with tiny stars

—piece of night sky stolen by faeries—

to remind myself in all dark moments

to seek the sparkle.

It’s not a bright, dawn-rosy piece of Heaven

but a scrap of far-off night sky,

piercingly cold and beautiful,

the kind you look up at in silence

longing for the things that do not perish.

My heart thumps near my necklace,

aching to burst forth from my chest

and reach this forever with you,

beating its warm little drum

to the echoes of eternity.

Executor

Executor,

someone you love has just died

but there is no time for tears.

You ought to be eating ice cream on the kitchen floor,

surrounded by crunched up Kleenex,

but you’re swimming in a sea of papers instead.

Executor,

someone you love has just died—

now call strangers, the government, charities

and tell them so.

Accept scores of condolences

from people with calm voices.

Thank them politely

and get on with business.

Executor,

someone you love has just died.

Pay the bills,

plan the funeral

plan the burial

plan the epitaph.

Capture in two lines

the life of someone you love

who has just died.

Executor,

where are your tears?

Just When

Just when the weight

became crushing

and I no longer knew what to do

to make anything better at all,

and the pain was becoming too much

for you to bear

and me to see,

it lifted.

Just when words failed me

and I was running out of songs to sing you

while I massaged your aching back

or gently washed your face,

a comforter came

who spoke such words of consolation

that he drew from your own aching heart

words of hope.

Just when I cried out that I could not carry on,

could no longer bear

these birth pangs of your transition

into a new and deeper life,

the pain ceased—

a gentle day came

and you slipped out of this world

sweetly, like a baby in sleep.

Just when I felt so inadequate

to bring you any closer to peace,

everyone’s prayers kicked in

and suddenly lifted you,

as I’d promised,

straight up to Heaven

in a hot air balloon

filled with love.

The Pain that Waits in Quiet Corners

The hospice room is quiet

I can hear my dad breathing steadily in his sleep.

Not wanting to disturb him

I sit there in the half light coming from the bathroom door

clutch my hot tea

and try not to flee the stillness—

the pain that waits in quiet corners

to roll in hot tears down my cheeks.

After I eat the cookies that the sweet care attendant gave me

there’s nothing to do but sit and listen to him sleep

the way he must have so often listened to me sleep

when I was a blond and rosy baby.

Back then, all he had to do was hold me

and I was safe.

Now, all I have to do is let him go

and he is safe, too.

Both times

both hearts

aching with love.

Axe

Sometimes in the busyness of the day

I forget for a few minutes

and don’t feel the ache,

but when I first wake up

from the dream of sleep

to the nightmare of real life,

it is there

—the axe in my chest—

the cleaving pain

of remembering

my beloved father is dying

and all I can do is sing to him,

mother him,

tenderly stroke his head,

pray and cry,

and hold his sweet hands

still warm.

Molasses Bear

Evening has fallen.

The once brightly coloured stained glass windows

of the chapel are now dark as molasses.

They are so dark they almost look sticky and sweet.

What if they are, and this is actually a giant gingerbread house?

I ponder breaking off a piece to taste it,

the sugarcane windowpane…

but then the cold night air would come rushing in,

smelling of starlight and snow

and possibly followed by the large nose of a black bear,

snuffling about and eager to lick the molasses windows

with his long, wet tongue.

Even if we all rushed off to bed,

the bear could eat his way in,

then wander about the place,

leaving a trail of muddy paw prints

and crushed leaves and little bits of cedar

and a scent like the memory of late summer blackberries

coming from this large furry living thing

prowling about indoors,

who is not normally meant to be there…

On second thought,

I suppose I won’t try tasting the windows, after all.

(PS Thanks for the great bear pic, Four States News!)

Cloudscapes

I am a cloud

lying exhausted on the mountain’s shoulders

heavy with tears

I am a cloud

leaving behind a faint trail of snow

an imprint of my embrace

I am a cloud

my misty fingers clinging to the treetops

as I drift along

longing for their steadfast patience

I am a cloud

floating about

moved by wind and water

a constant living painting

unfolding across the sky

By various miracles, including a generous friend who gave me her spot, and a generous husband who agreed to work from home while watching our 7 kids, I’ve been able to go on a much desired silent retreat this weekend. It is amazing to have this restful time to myself to ponder such things as the quiet movement of clouds across the sky, in between naps and beautiful meditations in the chapel. Praying for you all as I recharge my batteries and fill up my bucket with beauty.

Church

Church attendance is up—

the parking lot is packed.

People wait with anxious faces,

day-worn and dreary in the early evening cold,

eager to receive the warm comfort

of a meal they didn’t make,

a bit of tender nourishment

amidst the hectic rush

and flow of pandemic worries…

I watch them as I walk by to pick up my daughter from ballet,

these people united though apart,

their cars waiting in line

at Church’s Chicken.

Once upon a pregnancy…an old poem unearthed

Earlier this week, while trying to recover my homeschool room from the storm that was unsupervised making of thanksgiving posters and crafts, and involved strewing crayons and paper all over the floor, I discovered an old poem I had written years ago, in a beat up spiral notebook. I thought it had been lost forever, and regretted it as I could only remember the first metaphor in it, and wanted to know the rest.

The poem was written early my fourth pregnancy, which followed rapidly on the heels of my third, and writing this poem was part of my trying to wrestle through my mixed emotions I had at the time. Funny how blessings come in disguise…despite my misgivings, this little baby girl turned out to be my most gentle, sweet, affectionate and undemanding child. Her siblings have said this themselves, in all honesty. We are all blessed by her quiet kindness. Here she is a toddler…now she is 9!

Without further ado, here is the old poem from my notebook, long before my blogging days began. I’ll transcribe it above the photos, so you don’t have to try to decipher my scrawl.

Winter Tree

I am like a winter tree

laid bare, stripped, naked,

exhausted—

yet secretly bursting with spring,

life swelling through my bare windswept skin.

I feel at once empty and ravenous

as a winter wolf or a nursing bear

emerging after a winter of sleep…

Yet inside me is a miniature universe,

a tiny piece of the puzzle of humanity,

forming rapidly in the dark warmth

of my womb.

I feel like a shipwrecked treasure chest

washed up on shore,

a waterlogged vessel filled with diamonds,

waiting to sparkle for the first time in the sun.

Inside me, a heart the size of a pea

is beating its way toward laughter, sorrow and love.

A matter of months,

and beauty will be born again.