Ushering the last of the condolences out,
she turns and slowly shuffles her way back
down the grayed barren, institutional halls –
a shock of white hair bent over metal legs.
She pauses at the doorway – hesitates, feels
weight descending – the finality of her loss –
recalling the years of companionship, how
they were the Ma and Pa for staff and alike.
Wondering who she is now, willing herself
to pass, once occupied, now stripped bed,
the abruptness of silence accosting frailty –
at 88 she’s survived three husbands. Alone.
Laboriously, disrobing, hangs her mourning
dress, unrolls stockings past swollen calves,
winces at the pain of bloated feet, stiffens –
wills past the stark emptiness once more.
Routine carries her through nightly rituals,
and numbed with weariness, she slumps –
a bed-for-one poor remedy for what ails –
she turns to the wall – shunning harshness.
Tomorrow, reassurances and guilt-ridden
faces will hover over the arrival of another,
erasing memories, eradicating familiarity –
Too soon! she cries to unheeding darkness.
Take me too, she pleas to her unseen God.
I’ve had enough! But like the dawn she’ll rise,
comply with changes, adapt to new tides –
find her compassion, forgo self-indulgence.
She is awe-inspiring, this mother of mine,
a tireless sentinel of peace, selfless crusader
for love – acceptance her chosen weapon –
having navigated unimaginable adversities.
The buoyancy of her steps, now subdued,
the flames that framed her face – symbiotic
with passion – now extinguished, age spots
disguising freckles – yet her smile remains.
Do not mourn my passing, she instructs,
know that I have lived fully. I do, I respond,
wishing her an effortless transition, silently
commanding courage, offering up a prayer:
May the angels that receive her wear red shoes,
and may they whisk her away in the flourish of
a big band chorus, inviting her to join the dance –
sprinkling the essence of her beauty as they go.
May she behold – clarity of ecstatic revelation –
the light that she has spread in this lifetime,
witnessing the masterpiece of her existence,
understanding for eternity, that she is love.