In Memoriam – a living/dying wish

I have a good friend who worked for years in a hospice. Her work was valuable and profound, comforting people at the very ends of their lives. The subject came up about the inordinate number of people who came to the hospice and had no family or friends – who spent these last days entirely alone, often in pain, grief and desperation.

This poem is a challenge to me, because I feel that once you look into something, to a degree, you become responsible to do what you are able.

In Memoriam

There are echoes in these silent rooms,

Of lives half-lived, of days half-spent

Second-guessing, or waiting

For someone who won’t show.


Even now, opposite the woman who,

Surrounded by grandchildren weeping

Goodbyes, the wizened man

In desperate silence hopes

That his estranged son may


Learn to forgive, that the grandchild

He has never met may hear

And want to come, that the man

At the club may wonder

At his absence, that one other than


The nurses, who have just learned

His name, may come because they

Have no agenda other than him.


Being made “comfortable”

Merely forestalls the moment that

He hopes is the end, for the greater

Terror looms as desperation

For eternity.


Curtains drawn create the image

Of his world, his withered cheek

Cradling a tear as a clinical touch

Adjusts his drip and brushes his arm.


Her distant-but-kindly look

Screams at his desolation;

He squeezes his eyes shut tight

And whimpers for release, for love,

For oneness with someone, for hope.


Moist eyes look up at her, her touch

Now resting on his arm,

As her welling eyes speak pity

And, wretchedly grateful,

He again receives second best.

The problem with history is our imagination

I am a student of history, particularly Ancient History. A lot of people don’t understand that, or think it boring. Yet many of the same people, when I read them a poem or monologue which delves into the historical character will say, “Wow, that comes alive. I never realised that.”

History speaks to us when we allow ourselves to consider that the people who made history, were just like us, many with the same fears, self-doubt, arrogance, bravado, whatever….


It’s the same as the rest of our lives: when we look at the facts, we make judgements through our own filters. When we consider the motives of an individual, or more to the point, the factors that might influence someone to do what they do, then not only do we become more tolerant and caring, but their journey has the opportunity of meaning something to us.


Here is a poem about Abraham, the “father of the Jews”, who was also, of course, the “father of the Arabs”. Be that as it may, he was a man whose journey is chronicled because he happened to believe a promise from God, that God would bless him and make him a blessing, that his descendants would outnumber the grains of sand, the stars in the sky.


The poem is set at the end of his life and there are references to events that, if you wish to explore, you can find in the book of Genesis, Chapters 12 – 25. It is full of the mysterious, bizarre and difficult to believe – like many of our lives.


Abraham at Sunset

Mt Moriah


On this mount

I sacrificed my will

Yet fought to subdue it

Al my life since.


Through these branches.

Rays pierce my eye’s colour,

Depth and purpose, pure and unfettered

Where once struggled God’s provision.

And this broken altar’s long shadow

Separates me from the fractures

Of my past:

Vague pillars and rash, rogue words

In the deepening twilight behind.


Though ancient by any reckoning but his,

I feel my youth here,

This air, driven by his breath: my lungs

Fill with promise afresh,

And that which I believe –

My credit, my glory –

Is dwarfed by he who is faithful.


The golden light scans

And finds me flawed but looking

Full-face into its beauty,

For I do not know see life as

A struggle for superlatives by which

I may be known,


But it is to serve well,

Walk in peace,

Strive for fidelity of heart,

Doubt with integrity,

Think no other beneath you,

Cling to the one

Who calls you to greatness,

Yet never think yourself great.


But a maxim without a heartbeat

Is a sword without a champion.


So I would that those who follow

Not just be my flesh, my blood,

For generations hence, in name,

In tribe and in nation;


But spirit, wisdom, grace

And power incarnate that would grow

Beyond what I have learned and lived,

And so, make the promise a blessing unending.


Stars renew his vow

As this day’s last light drains

And i, with upturned face

Will close my eyes without fear.