Sunday, September 23, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #18

Garden of Promise by Thomas Kinkade
art print for sale at

The Prize On the Other Side

The bars, the rail that divide
Here from there.
The prize on the other side.

To climb, to reach, to grasp,
Willing it mine.
To have until eternity lapse.

The fumble, the tumble into loss.
A long falling
Towards pain, separation, life’s cost.

The arms, the rescue, tears dried.
Belonging to Love--
The prize on the other side.


Two years ago this night my Dad was drawing his final breaths. He died in the wee hours of September 24th. It was the silence that woke me from the doze I'd fallen into sitting in his office chair over my brand new laptop on which I had been attempting to record that days events in my daily journal.

I heard my Mom's voice so I stepped into the hall where I could see into my parent's room. Mom was leaning over Daddy and telling him what a good husband and father he was. Asking him to tell her Mama and Daddy hello for her.

She looked up and saw me and said, "He's gone I think. Just now."

I walked over and laid my hand on his chest. There was only stillness. No rise and fall. And the heart which had beat faster than a frightened kittens for the last three days had stopped. To be certain, I lay my head on his chest. Silence. I shook my head at Mom. Then I whispered, "Good-bye Daddy."

"I better go tell Rob," I said and headed to the living room where my brother had just got settled. He had walked into the office less than half an hour before, startling me awake; suggesting in a whisper I could barely hear over the sound of Dad's breathing in the next room (a sound that was like a mixture of marbles and marshmallows in a blender) that I should go to bed before I fell out of the chair.

Rob responded so quickly when I said his name, I could tell he hadn't dozed off yet. I told him that Dad had just stopped breathing a couple minutes ago. He followed me back down the hall. But as soon as we were in the bedroom I let him pass me and then stood in the doorway for a few seconds before I said, "I should go wake Carri."

My sister had headed to bed only a couple hours before this. She and her son had been living with my parents for the past fifteen or so months as she became their chauffeur and errand runner and nurse and housekeeper. All while homeschooling her eleven-year old ADHD son.

I had to go downstairs to the room she and I were sharing once again. She was sleeping so soundly, I had to say her name repeatedly. After we got back upstairs, I once more stood in the bedroom doorway. There was only a narrow isle around the bed and no place to sit except on the bed.

Mom noticed me standing there a few minutes later and said, "Joy," in a Mom tone. "you shouldn't be just standing like that. Get over here and get your feet up." Her concern was with my blood pressure which they had taken with Dad's pressure cuff several times since I arrived Tuesday evening. It had ranged between 180/100 and 220/120.

I expected to sit on the foot of the bed by her feet but she was getting up as I made my way around the bed and she made me lay down as she used the remote to adjust the head and foot of the bed until I was half sitting but my feet were above my heart. It was a most surrealistic moment. I remember thinking so at the time and wondering how I would relate all this in my journal.

Meanwhile, my sister had gone to wake her son and give him the option of joining us. Someone called Dad's hospice nurse. Carri returned with her son who was crying and she had gotten a little weepy in sympathy with him. This made the rest of us weepy too. Until Mom chimed in with some amusing anecdote about Dad. Something that began with "Remember when..." And that reminded somebody else of another incident. And so on--as the sun rose and brightened the sky, the birds woke up and began singing and the sounds of traffic increased.

At eight o'clock they called the mortuary and one by one we all wandered out of the room. I headed back to my journal but could only sit and stare at the screen. I needed more privacy and probably more time to process. I never did relate those events in my journal. This is the first time I have written about those three hours. And I didn't set out to do so.

About nine that morning, I had to call my husband with the news. I was in the middle of dialing when I realized that he was going to think I was calling to wish him Happy Birthday. Before I'd hung up the phone, I'd also realized that Ed's birthday was forever tied to the anniversary of Dad's passing. Life and Death in a Gordian Knot.

Later that week when we went as a family to the mortuary to make the arrangements, we had narrowed down our choices for the memorial service program to three. Two of which had Thomas Kinkade pictures on the front because Dad loved his paintings so much his computer's screen saver was nothing but a queue of them. When I pointed to the one with the gate opening into the garden and mentioned that my poem, Prize On the Other Side, would fit with it, Mom's face lit up.

This poem was written about ten years before Dad's passing and was not written with death in mind. Can you tell from the images in the first line what I was alluding to?

8 tell me a story:

Rhian 9/24/2007 4:46 AM  

that as beautiful and made me cry. sitting here with my cup of coffee, laptop and tears falling from my eyes.

Lisa Andel 9/24/2007 6:30 AM  

I lost my father almost nine years ago. While the end was in a different location, the entire family was gathered around his bed when he went.

The saddest day in my life so far.

Anonymous,  9/24/2007 8:15 AM  

My dad passed away in May 2002. The whole family was there. Your poetry reminded me of my dad and recalle that day vividly.

That poem of your makes so much sense. Thanks for sharing the poem and those three hours.

Julia Phillips Smith 9/24/2007 10:16 AM  

I love your poem and really resonated with it today. I did some major personal work and really made some headway - I feel like I touched the prize on the other side, and then I read your poem. Synchronicity!

I wonder if you were writing about your childhood lessons about heaven?

Your description of your dad's final hours is beautiful, Joy Renee. My dad passed away six months ago and we surrounded him as your family did. For me that day was an awesome event that felt as special as a birth. Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us.

Dewey 9/24/2007 4:43 PM  

Ah! That baby in that youtube! I hope she's ok!

I'm sorry about the loss of your dad. Sounds like he was surrounded by a lot of love at the end of his life.

Jamie 9/24/2007 5:05 PM  

I remember to my sister. It is hard to believe that it has been two years since his passing. I feel blessed that I was able to get off the boat in time to hear him say my name one last time. Love ya...

Ann 9/24/2007 5:32 PM  

I loved the poem, especially when I saw the images and realized it was escaping from a crib. Your description of your father's death is beautiful, so calm and peaceful. My father died, over 20 years ago next month, without giving us a chance to say goodbye.

Vicki 9/24/2007 7:06 PM  

What a beautiful memory. Thank you for sharing it with us. I sat at the computer with tears not quite shed wondering if they were tears of saddness for your loss or tears of joy for the love of your family.

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