English · Opinion

POST #20: Grief’s Remedy

nature-field-flowers-grass-largePost twenty – it’s taken me a while, but at least I’ve got this far! For this post, I would like to offer something personal, something hard for me to write.

This time last year, my Grandfather, who we affectionately called ‘Pots’, was in hospital. He spent two months there, battling an aggressive cancer in the Churchill hospital in Oxford, before he died, days before his 79th birthday.

He was an amazing person. The extraordinary thing is, if you look deeply into ordinary lives, you will eventually find someone who is that wonderful step up; the prefix ‘extra-‘ to the rest of us. And that was Pots.

But my post is not about him. Perhaps it should be, perhaps it will seem to be to any skimming reader. But its not – his life is not defined by the tiny fraction of it I’d like to write about today, and even then, the emotion I’m defining was felt by me, not my wonderful grandfather.

I went to visit him about a week before he died, and afterwards I wrote this poem. That day had been a completely new experience for me; I saw for the first time an important aspect of life – the leaving of it.

The End

Crying,
Salty tears
Flood from
My eyes.

He can’t move,
By himself,
Doesn’t eat –
Bleeds.

Can I touch him?
Will he break,
At my touch?
Shatter?

What is life?
For him;
Sleep.
So tired…

A tear stained
Kiss and,
A murmur:
‘I love you’

He knows
It’s over,
And isn’t scared.
Ready.

Can’t hold it in,
A huge sob
Wells up inside.
Why, oh why?

Whispers out
Of one side of a
Toothless mouth,
‘I’ve had enough, kid’

The serenity and peace of my Grandfather as he lay on the hospital bed shocked and amazed me. I felt like battling two emotions – wanting desperately, desperately for him to live just a bit longer; and knowing that he knew it was time for him to go. So it was inevitable that I was drawn to this Dylan Thomas poem. He expresses these same feelings for his father with words that just blow me away every time:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

My favourite line is ‘Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears I pray.’ To me it seems to highlight the essential conflict of the poem – why else would you find two such strong antonyms as ‘curse’ and ‘bless’ sandwiched right next to each other? There is no middle ground here; through death, and only death, the two extremes coexist.

Later last year, I still could not get this intensified bittersweet feeling from my head, and so I wrote another poem. This one was also influenced by an amazing Ted Talk on a hospitals’ role in life and death. The insight gained by me from that talk was the simple statement that ‘hospitals are designed for diseases, not people.’ I will provide the link at the bottom.

Sweet Darkness

Beeping, clinking, whirring,
Rolling, squeaking, murm’ring
Touching, clutching, crying,
Quiet whisper one word; dying.

Cleansing, spraying, scrubbing,
Crusty, eyes are throbbing,
Sleeping, nightmares, screaming,
Return, soft mem’ries, dreaming.

Darkness calls; soft, inky black,
Swirling, whirling, calmly
Reaching to enfold me
In warm, eternal peace.

But NO!
Not yet! They say,
You will live one more day!

Another day, another
Aching, dragging, effort.

Bustling, muttering, cluttering,
No words left for uttering,
Tossing, turning, squinting,
Body desperately hinting.

Beeping, clinking, whirring,
Rolling, squeaking, murm’ring,
I hate it, with feeble might,
This endless, painful light.

*Please excuse the pretentious apostrophes – they were necessary to keep the beat of the poem.

So that was my journey through this emotion I found. I think the real message of the post, the real thing I would like any readers to take away from this, is that for me (and many people I know), poetry is a medicine. Both the writing, however bad the end product, and the reading of it is extremely therapeutic. Because for me, if you get right down to it, all poetry is just the regulation, the formation, of our thoughts into coherent words – the stripping away of all but the bare, minimal essence beneath and the discovery of that essence through the process.

FURTHER READING:

https://www.ted.com/talks/bj_miller_what_really_matters_at_the_end_of_life?language=en

 

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5 thoughts on “POST #20: Grief’s Remedy

  1. The first captures the moment and the second poem is the more reflective reaction. I found both moved me greatly.

    Like

  2. Wow! This post really touched me as I have been in that place too with quite a few relatives. I think you are so right too, poetry is medicine. For those of us that feel words, written or spoken, are our best and truest form of expression there simply is no better way to express the pain and the complexity of letting someone we care for go. Thank you for sharing this personal journey with us. =) Your poem and those you reference in this post are absolutely spot on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for such a lovely comment! I agree – the sheer complexity of these huge amounts of conflicting emotions really surprised me. I found it incredibly difficult, as others have before me and will do forever. But we survive, we write, we talk and eventually; we accept our grief and live on.

      Liked by 1 person

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