Archive for February, 2017

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

amywink February 5th, 2017

On my mother’s 77th birthday, I posted to Facebook a list of things to do in honor of her for friends and family remembering her. And in the writing, the list became a poem.

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

Be kind to a child.
Tell a helpful story.
Send a clipping.

Play the piano. Bach, Joplin, Guthrie, Wesley
Sing. Loud. Shrill if you need to.
Don’t shush.

Spend time in your garden, tending memories.
Write a letter to a friend or cousin.
Plant an heirloom rose.
Stomp your feet at a women’s basketball game.

Pet a dog.
Stroke a cat, if she will come close enough.
Hold a baby goat.
Marvel at horses.

Stand on the beach.
Hike in the mountains.
Look for birds and seashells.
Drive down a country road to see what’s there.

Donate to the very left-est wing organization of your choice.

Make a good trouble.

Eat chicken enchiladas and guacamole.
Drink a good dark German beer.
Buy wine for the shape of the bottle.

Laugh hard at something silly.
Try to stifle a laugh in church.
Make wisecracks under your breath.
Raise your eyebrows.

Play with clay.
Make art.

Thank a teacher.

Start researching your genealogy.
Walk through an old cemetery.
Lose track in the story you are telling.

Do the best you can.
Make peace with your mistakes.
Recognize what wasn’t.

Love deep and fierce.

One Traveler

amywink February 3rd, 2017

My last words to my mother were “I love you and remember we know how to do hard things.” 6 hours later, in the wee hours of the morning, I was sitting in the Cardiac ICU waiting room, searching for the right words that would allow the doctors to let go of her heart and end their attempts to resuscitate her.

I had spent the time between the hospital phone call at 11:30 pm –when the nurse told me my mother had lost her pulse and had received CPR and her heartbeat had returned–and the moment of decision alone but not isolated, texting my dearest friends as the moments crawled by.

When I had first arrived back at the hospital, blurred by my interrupted sleep, unable to focus clearly except on each moment as it happened, the weekend cardiologist had come in to explain what had happened in what seemed clear terms but my mind was slow, grappling back into wakeful consciousness. Something larger was happening. I had felt it at home when I got ready for bed, like the brush of a light breeze, the slight scent not yet identifiable. Something is ending, I had thought. Something is ending.

My mother had her heart attack in February 21, 2016. She had been experiencing shortness of breath, chalked up to asthma, and episodes of “panic” at night for a long time, during which she felt she suddenly couldn’t breathe. She had a complete cardiac assessment just 4 years earlier when she told me about her chest pains after a shower. The chemical stress test showed nothing and we were under considerable stress because of my father’s Parkinson’s disease so that seemed a likely culprit. Her kidney failure kept everyone distracted and so did her bi-polar disorder: Stress, anxiety, “panic attacks”, asthma, acid indigestion.

All distractions from the actual problem: blocked arteries and a failing heart.

Actual symptoms of a larger problem with her heart.

When we arrived at the hospital, the cardiologist put the pieces together. The next morning, an angiogram revealed the extent of the problem. She was put on a heart pump to prepare for quadruple bypass surgery when she was strong enough. My brother and I spent traded the hours in the hospital, him driving from Houston every day. Friends came to be with me when they could. I was never lonely.

It was a lesson in living in the moment. No plans could be made except in the vaguest way because we were not sure of what we might be facing. Too many “if’s” existed, too many paths diverged from that decision point and like Robert Frost knew, in the moment of looking in both directions, each way “leads on to way.” Though my brother and I talked about what we might do, we didn’t know what we would be doing.

The only thing clear was she might live. She might die.

I could not be “one traveler and travel both.”

My mother died.

In the very early hours of March 7th.

She had survived the surgery and had just been moved out of ICU into “Acute Care” where her heart and lungs suddenly stopped working. The care team resuscitated her and called me out of an exhausted sleep to the hospital. I saw the cardiologist who seemed to think her heart was strong enough. We’d have to wait to see. Hours passed. Friends kept texting. I was not lonely.

When the another doctor arrived to sit and tell me “things were dire.” I asked him what were the words I needed to say to allow them to stop working on her. Was it “no heroic measures”? He thought that was as start and yet clearly, not the right words.

There is lightening in the right words, as Mark Twain knew.

“I love you and I know how to do hard things.”

I slowed myself to think and breathe.

May she be happy.
May she be well.
May she be free from suffering.

May she be free from suffering.

I turned to the doctor, “Let her go.”

Out of Storage

amywink February 2nd, 2017


I wrote this poem between the deaths of my mother and my writing partner, Stacey. Stacey was so happy to know I was writing again, so happy to read my creative work again after years of heavy care-giving had kept me from it. But I had not been silent in the 3 years since my last post on my blog. I had been writing a long, thoughtful daily correspondence to my friend as she lived and died with cancer. I had not lost writing; I had simply changed audiences. I had not lost myself; I had simply put a few things in storage.

~For Stacey 1964-2016

My mother died and I
am bringing out
things I stored
in the years of giving care.

A house closed and waiting,
furnishings covered, draped
against the dust
and missing presence
of the living.

Piece by piece
the shrouds removed,
the bright essentials
returning to light

burnished soft
smoothed to glowing
sublime with remembrance

My things
by silence
and solitude,
for return
to use.

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