sharing a poetic LIFELINE with the world

Archive for the ‘Dealing with Grief’ Category

On Friendship, Loss, and Love

Harlee - Marit 3

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 To Friendship

An unraveling thread
suspends my heart
in the Universe.

One push can crush it,
one word
destroy it.

One or two at a time
hands appear
and hold me,

each touch leaves
its fingerprints
of compassion.

Surrounding my life
comes the vibration
of voices,

within each note
a rhythm
of healing whispers.

A patchwork quilt
of love
covers my soul.

Each square
a hand or voice
that shares its spirit.

They protect
and cradle
my aching memories

of joy and gratitude
and do not
let me fall.

mg, April 2016

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Less than two months ago, I had to make one of those heart-wrenching decisions, one that truly has only a single option that is fair, humane, respects quality of life, and is a gift when a kindred soul is suffering.

Almost eight years ago, we adopted Harlee, an amazing almost-three-year-old Standard Poodle. We were her third permanent home. While we knew almost nothing about her history, she told us her story over the years. We saw how she reacted to sounds and movements, people, and — especially — other dogs.

With our love and support, she learned to trust us, and realize that she was finally safe. At times when she didn’t get the attention she needed, she was able to communicate her fear that she was going to be abandoned again.

Those times became fewer and further apart because she learned to not be afraid to let us know she was worried. At first, she tried to hide her aging issues, and it took a while to realize why she was reluctant to run down the stairs to go for a walk.

A leap of trust and faith was when she let us in on her problem. She couldn’t get into the car, and allowed us help her with a boost, and later, by finally agreeing to use “stairs” we got for her to walk up into it.

An easy jump onto our bed morphed to a running start to make it, then a boost of her back end, and, near the end, letting us pick her up and get her situated.

When she could no longer support herself to maintain her dignity when outside, she let me know she was ready to let go. We were very fortunate to have a wonderful veterinary clinic that had treated her throughout her time with us. They loved her, and she adored them, regardless of what she had done.

At the end, they were there for and with us, truly surrounded us with love and compassion, tears and shared sorrow. We received a sympathy card after, with notes from each of the staff. We will never forget the care and kindness of Dr. Sheila Johnson and her staff at Animal Health Associates.

Another major part of Harlee’s life was spend in grooming, which, like all dogs that have hair instead of fur, needs attention. At least monthly, she was excited to spend time with her friends there. I called it her Poodle Parlor spa day.

The picture of Harlee above was taken by Marit Vike, owner of Send Rover Over, last fall. I played with the background, wanting to feel her float in the clouds, but Marit captured her inquisitive look beautifully.

Perhaps people who don’t have pets, or never had the chance or courage to form the bond, don’t understand what I’m writing about. I knew walking into the relationship that I’d have to say goodbye to Harlee long before I was ready to do it.

I knew my heart would break. Part of the life cycle — the part I rage against and never want to accept. I’d been through this before, with Madame Wa, our other Standard Poodle we’d raised from a pup, nursed through all kinds of maladies, traveled thousands of miles with after we retired. She was almost fifteen when we had to let her go in peace.

I learned so much from these two friends, companions, kindred spirits; they looked out for me as much as I did for them. I experienced what unconditional love means and feels like. My life is empty from loss, but full with memories, and support.

This poem is my thank you to my human friends who have been there for me, including my family. I love and cherish you. it’s also a reminder to myself to work hard to be in the present, where life is happening with each breath.

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Facing Mortality

NOTE: This post previously appeared on my blog, http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/

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It happened many years ago. We had just learned  I was pregnant with our second son when I got a call from my mother, with the words no daughter wants to hear: It’s cancer. My mother had cancer of the colon.  She

had had a sigmoidoscopy instead of a colonoscopy. The lesion was fairly high up in the colon, and the procedure had missed it. Hthen-doctor, not the brilliant diagnostician his dead partner, my mother’s former doctor, had been, had been slow to put together the symptoms. By the time he did, the cancer had spread to the liver. It was October, and by June she was dead.

At about the same time, I was offered some freelance work that would have brought in a significant amount of money, money we could have used. But I had a full-time job, a small son, a pregnancy, and a sick mother. I turned the work down, instead passing on the name of a friend — he later joked that I’d payed for the addition on his house. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Instead of spending my weekends working, I spent them traveling back and forth from Boston to New York.

Here is a poem inspired by this experience:

 

Mother’s Day, Margaret Fieland

He died
the white-haired doctor
with smiling eyes,

leaving you
to the quick-voiced young one,
who called your cramps indigestion.

Your hair became
sparse as grass during a dry August,

your walk
creaky as the old pasture gate,

your frame as thin
and brittle as the bare branches
of the old oak.

until finally
you lay in bed, smelling
of old guts, too weak
to lift your head.

We named
the baby
after you

You cam find it and other poems in the collection Lifelines.

 

 

 

Going Deep

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Today I wrestled and won a round with the mind-messing monkey that clings to me, snickering about all the things I should do, know I should do, intend to do, but never quite get around to doing.

You know the one — we all have them. Usually nags with “someone’s voice of reason”, at a time we’re feeling vulnerable. I hate this voice because it sings off-key, with nasty words that are too true.

In just over a week, I’m going semi-bionic, as I literally leap for that moment when my new left knee replaces the constant pain I’ve been in for a long time. Rehab will hurt like hell, I know, but, at the other side . . .

. . . assuming I make it to the other side. What if I don’t? What if something goes wacky? Expert worriers like me have long lists in our heads, and perhaps on paper. I trust my doctor, rehab team, hubby, hospital, and my own desire to experience some of the good life I’ve eliminated as pain and meds have limited me.

Enough of this! Today, I finally attacked and updated our wills. Nothing fancy, but they now reflect our intentions when it’s “time”. I raged at my mother for several years prior to her last illness and subsequent death, fifteen months later.

“Please!” I begged her. “I don’t care who you leave anything to, but DO SOMETHING. Don’t leave me with a mess to handle when you’re gone.”

“I’m taking care of it,” she kept reassuring me. “I’ll get it done when I’m ready. Dammit, Michele, stop bugging me!”

So she died at 2:00 a.m., on a Sunday morning, in a nursing facility, nothing updated, never told me her wishes, or anything of consequence. The result, as I probated an almost-twenty year old will, fractured the family almost beyond repair.

Fast forward a dozen or so years. Our lives are radically different than even three years ago, when I last updated our wills. Major changes to make so we don’t repeat our dysfunctional history. By the end of Monday, the new wills “should be” witnessed and complete. Then I can breathe, sleep, stop stuffing my face with ice cream (my drug of choice when stressed), and prepare for surgery with a clear and healthy mind.

In honor of my big step, I’m sharing one of my poems from LIFFELINES. May all of this help you make a good choice to finish something very important for your peace of mind.

Restless Peace

I remember…

…How excited you were
to start college at fifty-three,
wanted me to be part of it,
but how nervous I made you.

…Your camel ride,
and how you danced the Hora
without your cane
the last night in Israel.

…Your glitter days of decorating,
the treasures you collected
— herd of elephants,
music boxes, clowns,
gypsy violins,
Lladro figurines.
And flowers—
velvet red roses, especially.

Raw, returning reminder
of sorrow’s bloom.

…You were loyal to your friends,
ecstatic with their triumphs,
anguished in their agony,
fiercely protective of those in need.

…You felt whole when you gave
beyond your limits
of time and energy and hope
then crashed. Again.

And I remember…

…All the times we dealt
in guilt and blame,
held onto hurts and slights,
refused to let them heal.

…Your choices tore us apart,
those left behind.
Impossible to make peace
with your unfinished business.

…You told me, even at the end,
we were supposed to keep arguing.
When you stopped fighting,
I’d know you’d given up.

…We swapped mother-daughter roles
several lifetimes earlier.
I couldn’t parent you any better
than you tried to do with me.

…You had the last word
when you died.
Why do I
keep arguing with you still?

Michele M. Graf

Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon turned tragic this past Monday when two bombs went off near the finish line of the race. Two of our kids were downtown when it happened. Both are, thank God, safe, but others were not so lucky. Our hearts go out to all.

Boston Marathon

Boston_Marathon_2010_in_Wellesley

Participants in the 2010 Boston Marathon in Wellesley, just after the halfway mark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blank page accuses me

but I’m wordless,
my mind stuck in the moment
I heard the explosion,

the second glass shattered,

viewing stands collapsed,
runners crashed to the street
from the bomb’s blast

A pressure cooker,
a timer,
nails and such

from the hardware store

Anyone could buy
at the Ace on the corner

put together in the garage.
No one would suspect a thing.

We have the method,
but not the motive:
neither who nor why,
and it leaves us wrecked.

We toss and turn,
wake at 2 AM,
imagined footsteps
clomp by our door.

Only a dream,

a stand-in for the worry
we are vulnerable,
fragile,

and anyone
with a few dollars,
a little know-how,
a stain on their soul,

could, in a moment,
change our lives forever.

 

 

 

The Mystery- Dealing with Grief

The  Mystery

By Lin Neiswender

You were the cutest thing
So happy with a simple toy like green grass
A carpet to comfort your feet
Leaves blowing down sidewalks

Yours to track  by scratchy sound
When  wind blew stone-cold
Sharing a snack with the rest of the pack

Barking fiercely while picking goodies
from kitchen trash bin with no one home
Quick to guard me like a Rottweiler

But actually just a Shetland Sheep dog
Who then dashes behind me for protection
Mysterious fur shiny white, gray, black and silver

White lion’s mane, stripes  on face, back, chest, feathers on legs
He could have been a show dog if he was a little shorter
You are a shy but beautiful boy

But I know that someday
We will meet again, all of us,
Humans and dogs and cats  and everyone

As we dance our way

 

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I had to put my sweet Sheltie Smokey to sleep last Saturday.When I saw the suffering in his eyes and it seemed to say Mom, please do something for me. So I did the right thing and had him put to sleep. Cancer has taken another of my sweet dogs. I’m across the Rainbow Bridge still expecting to see him when I first come in. When thoughts come like that, I know I can find comfort about my decision. He is out of pain. What a good dog he was. So now life goes on with me and the cat.

 

 

 

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