Grief by Jane Cornwell
self–portrait as a daughter
piles of them already
packed up, thrown away
your razor, your brush,
on it now-ghostly hair
the fingerprint they took
without asking, the tea tin
with exactly 5 grams of
your ashes, that soon I
will carry to the sea
your otter postcards,
your books, your pipes,
the smell of your tobacco,
your unplayed records
the leather armchair
you loved to read in
your life, lived.
and i, still your daughter.
LIFE IS AN UNSCRIPTED JOURNEY
No bars, no jailer, no escape
through the door of the prison cell
Despair dances on shallow breath,
bitten nails digging deep into palms;
a chasm yawning between hope and despair
as the final countdown looms… tick tock…tick tock
Above the drone of hospice conversation
a radio is playing Rachmaninoff.
The aroma of freshly popped toast
buttered with grief wafts up from the kitchen
Everywhere the relentless trivia of life intrude,
as invisible blood drips from my wounds,
pooling into a lake of deep crimson, like the hips
on the winter rose bush beyond the window
Glioblastoma devours his brain –
grade four, no treatment, bad prognosis…
‘Take him home to die, enjoy
what time is left,’advises the specialist
His words trip far too lightly off his tongue,
as though he is dictating a memo,
his advice devoid of compassion
I struggle to find a morsel of forgiveness
Gritting my teeth, I steel myself
for the grim hours ahead, maybe just minutes?
He is drifting away from me second by second
One last heart-stopping time I stoop
and bathe his withered lips with my tears,
then, all too soon the last breath comes,
gently, like a dove settling on an olive branch.
Unexpectedly I feel a deep sense of relief.
People say to you, you’ve gotta move on,
You’re dwelling on this too much,
The show must go on.
You don’t answer them,
You don’t have the energy to argue,
You hardly hear them or see them.
Maybe you answer them in your head
Something like this:
You can’t just move on,
You’re leaving a part of you behind
That doesn’t want to be left behind,
The part that is your memory.
You move on without me if you want.
Me, I don’t have anywhere I want to go.
August 12, 2020
(c) Mike Stone 2020 (from “The Meandering”, a work-in-progress by Mike Stone)
“Meditation on Stone and Storm”
(Raanana , Israel, November 20 , 2009)
We are not fair
weather friends of death after all.
We stand before its closed mouth,
Engulfed in shards of rain and wind.
It’s almost twenty years now.
We stand around
Reading someone else’s grief and praises,
And weeping our own griefs.
There are those who lay down
Inside its open mouth
To taste the mustiness of eternity,
But we come for those it’s taken.
In death, the body is diminished
And the soul is, what?
What can anyone say about the soul
Except for precisely where it’s not?
(c) Mike Stone 2009 (from the “Uncollected Works of Mike Stone”)
I often find that writing down memories and family stories helps me to deal with grief and help my family. I appreciate how my family always talks to me about loved ones and family members that we remember.
My closest family members have always shared with me the many memories they have of family life with my great auntie Sadie Woodford. It is very heart-warming to hear how Sadie helped my nan to bring up both my mother and her twin sister Claire. My mother’s childhood and the childhood of her twin sister were very close to Sadie’s heart, and she was very committed to giving them a good start in life and a bright future. I often hear my mother and auntie say that Sadie was like a second mother to them when they were growing up. Sadie was very much a caring and kind daughter, wife, sister, auntie, and friend to all who knew her.
I sadly didn’t get to meet my great auntie because she passed away in 1979 at the age of 49 after battling breast cancer for many years. My family told me that my great auntie never really talked to anyone about her ill health at that time, even when she suffered greatly. My mother and auntie visited their auntie Sadie in the hospital. They were both dressed as nurses to see her for the hospital visit, and auntie Sadie asked the nurses in the hospital who were caring for her if the children could each have a real nurse’s cap to wear with their children’s play clothes. They both pretended that they were real nurses caring for their auntie.
My great auntie sadly passed away at Easter time in 1979, and my family keeps her chocolate Easter egg from that sad time as they couldn’t part with it. My nan told me that my great-grandma never fully recovered after her daughter Sadie died so young.
Sadie was the firstborn daughter to Clara and Joseph Jacobs and had five brothers and two sisters. My favourite photo is of my great auntie Sadie took on January 28th, 1946. During her life, my great auntie Sadie was in the Royal Air Force, and in her spare time, she was a keen tap dancer who also played the piano. My nan recalls how she would always tap dance so happily with her friends when she was babysitting her.
Memories of great auntie Sadie include the time she would buy everything in twos for my mother and auntie, including orange coats and matching hats, dolls’ houses, dolls’ cradles, toy prams, and also Chatty Cathy dolls. There are also loving memories of family holidays to Wales since my mother and auntie were three years of age and up until the age of eleven, which was how old my mother was when her auntie died. My great auntie Sadie would take my mum and her sister out almost every weekend, and they would spend time at her house and together in the garden. My great auntie often dreamed of moving to Brighton and Wales as she had visited the place with her family regularly.
I hear of such lovely times spent with my great auntie Sadie. Auntie Sadie truly is an inspiration to us all in my family when it comes to being such a caring person who always puts others first before herself. My family remembers her dearly and will continue to share the memories so that I can learn more about my great auntie and the life she lived.
White autumn mist hangs gently
in the valley as I walk
down the steep hill
a philip’s screwdriver
in my inside pocket
to open the casket.
I wish to recall every detail.
Carry Nana’s ashes in a pine casket,
secured by six philip screws
with four thin white strings attached,
held on by six gold pins
and this in a brown cardboard box
that has her name printed in black felt tip
on one of its leaves,
and this in a strong red paper
carrier with two gold rope like handles,
and I am surprised how heavy
it is in my hands and have to bend
my knees to pick it up. It squeaks
like new shoes when I walk.
Careful not to lose
the certificate of cremation,
I stand at the bus stop
opposite the half completed
new estate of houses built
on land I knew last year
as a cornfield where discarded
energy cans and crisp bags
lined the edge.
I walk up the hill
to the church to meet the vicar
dressed in white with gold detail.
He asks ” Do you want the casket
to be lowered in the grave
by the verger or yourself?”
I give my answer.
I lay the casket on the Lord’s table
as requested, the vicar speaks
of the resurrection and the life,
quotes revelation about the lamp
and the world without night.
I follow him and verger
down the hill of graves
past bushes full of bright red berries,
brown mushrooms flourishing
on rotten soaked wood,
kneel on the green rubber kneeler,
beside the prepared hole
under an oak tree in leaf fall
and lower the casket down
with the white string,
the gold of her nameplate
on top of the casket contrasts
with the dark clayey soil.
We say the Lord’s prayer.
Verger leaves the earth
on the grave slightly raised
so it may settle, agrees
to green bin my cardboard box
and paper carrier. I shake
his hand and say “Thankyou.”
Walk down the hill to the bus.
No screwdriver was needed.
Bios and Links
is a library assistant with great interest and a love for poetry and writing. In her spare time, she enjoys family history research and taking up creative hobbies.