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.

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