Sunday Rest

The sun yawned it’s roundness.

The cardinals sung unto the Lord,

and the stars faded into the brighter blues.

Another dark night of the soul receded.

 

She lies sipping on air

and rolls ice chips with her tongue.

A foot tapping and arm twitch

under linen veneer.

 

She, in her bed,

can’t even get up on the wrong side.

But she whispers sweet everythings

in our ears.

 

She sleeps in pieces

and heavenly peace will come.

Time stutters and mumbles

while we circle her.

 

The waiting room cools

as the mourning star moves over.

Evening vespers settle in

and we tuck her in again.

 

 

For My Mother.

 

© Gerald Allen Barrett and parentheticallyspeakingin3d, 2012.

“I feel so selfish.” A mother post.

“I feel so selfish.” I said it to two of my sisters outside of the assisted living home where my mother is spending her last few days of life.  I was so glad to hear my oldest sister say, “Me too.”

I remembered back to when my younger brother Peter was saying a very long goodbye to his first wife.  He had spent 20 years of his marriage going out on dates and such with a third wheel; cancer.  They were never alone.  She carried in her body an alien which reminded them constantly of the gift of life.  Near the final days he said to me, “It seems like the world should be stopping.”  Now I understand just a bit better what he meant.  I want to pick up a New York accent and yell at all the busy people, “Hey! Stop! Can’t you see my motha is dyin’ over heeah?”

My older brother John lost his first wife years back and I remember his words at a family reunion.  “Jerry, I am just so lonely.”  The Bible says that because of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ death has lost its sting (1Corinthians chapter 15).  I get that, and yet that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt like a bugger.   Those who hold faith in these verses and the work of Jesus will mourn, but not without hope.

So I say again, “I feel so selfish.”

There is a tree on my delivery route whose wound is slowly healing up.  In the first few days of being a senior in high school, her car veered off the road and struck a tree not a quarter mile from her house.  That was several years ago.  The ribbons and teddy bears and flowers are long gone.  Soon the bark will seal up with only a linear scar left.  I see her father once in a great while with a package in hand.  He looks all healed up too and yet…

“I feel so selfish.”

Within a year I watched two mothers care for their medically fragile boys.  One was seven, the other younger still.  The devotion of a mother is like no other on earth.  Near the end of each of these short lives the mother’s exhaustion was evident.  Their love was not exhausted though.  Hearts were broken open and spilling all over the boys they loved.

“I feel…”

Sixty two years ago, Marilee Barrett, daughter, sister, and wife added on another essence of womanhood…mother.  She never looked back.  Mothers usually don’t.  Ten children later she hung her heart out on the line like cloth diapers.  Again and again her love ruffled in the wind of time like white linen under cobalt skies.  Then, yesterday all of her children, whether there in spirit or in time and space, gathered.  We all stood, kneeled, and sat around her basinet beholding her as she beheld us.  My older sister wrote an e-mail that describes it so well.

“About 3 p.m., Carol (my mother’s youngest child) was with Mom, and asked to hold Mom’s hand. Mom smiled and said yes, and they both agreed that it was comforting.  Carol then told her that she would be going home (to S. Carolina) tomorrow, and Carol started crying. Mom then said to her “Then we should probably get this show on the road” – which led to more tears, and then Mom started praying. “Lord, take me” – several times.  At that point, several of the sibs came into the room, and we gathered around her.  It was a “God-blessed” awesome moment.  Here are Barb, Rob, Pat, Mary, Margaret, Jerry, and Carol (seven of my mother’s ten children) all surrounding her with love, and tears, and she says “I’m just ready for it to be done.  But I don’t know how!”  And she was crying.  Jerry read from John 14, and then prayed with everything in his heart to God to give her mercy, to give her comfort, to give us comfort, and to help her through this transition. John, Ellen, and Pete, (my mother’s other 3 children, who were unable to be there) we know that your hearts were there with us, but oh, how I wish you could have seen the power of love happening in that moment.  Not just our love for her, and her love for us, but God’s love working all the way through that room.  We shared memories then, and just little tidbits of our relationship with her, and there was some levity in our conversation.  But most of all, I think God worked His peace into all our hearts – which we all hope that you feel as well.”

Just before that blessed time I had finished a poem. It was for my siblings that had been gestating in my heart over the past few weeks.  I was going to read it to them at a family meeting last night (which I ended up doing).  The words I had written were underlined around that bed before I uttered one of them.  God hovered over all of us.  Every kind of tear was shed.  Bitter-sweet ones, joy filled ones, sad ones, happy ones, silly ones, and pear shaped ones of love were falling like rain.  Even Jesus wept.  I couldn’t help but think we were in a birthing room.

 

Our cries separate us

as broken water.

So we draw closer,

like contractions.

 

We bear down in grief

and our labor pains

begin to push her

toward the light.

 

As she endured the pains

of childbirth, we will too.

All ten of us have come

to breathe a rhythm over her.

 

Oh, time will dilate

for her safe passage,

and our prayers

will carry her.

 

God knows when she

will birth from our womb.

For now, she floats in our love.

Suspended but for a moment.

 

 

“I feel so selfish, but not guilty.”

 

 

© Gerald Allen Barrett and parentheticallyspeakingin3d, 2012.

Touch

I held the Kleenex and she blew.

The temptation was to command, “again.”

She always said “again”

when I was runny-nosed boy.

 

I put a dot of balm on my pinky

and glided it onto her mouth.

She used to orbit her lips

with a red stick while I stared.

 

I touched her toes,

one little piggy at a time.

She counted all mine

when I arrived fifty years ago.

 

I held her hand and counted freckles.

Some were age spots now.

My finger touched the giraffe spots.

There is one on my arm too.

 

I combed her hair with my fingers

and she calmed down,

down like her eyelid’s slow descent.

Tears descended as I closed mine.

 

 

For my mother.

 

© Gerald Allen Barrett and parentheticallyspeakingin3d, 2012.

 

 

Hall Light

 

She dozed off in a Stryker bed.

Her head tilted and cricked.

She mumbled and snored a bit.

It was an afternoon nap

and we just were.

 

Might I stay until bedtime

to tuck her in and say a prayer?

I’ll leave the light on and the door cracked.

I could be just down the hall

beneath that same light.

 

“Oh Father,

Come to her in her dreams like the daddy

she once adored.

 

Oh Jesus, take her hand,

like the big brother she once looked up to.

 

Oh Comforter,

Lay the baby Jesus in her dreams to hold

as she did each of us in a room such as this.

 

Oh come and be the light in the hall.

Come and be the opened door.”

 

“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.”  Psalm 4:8  King James Version

 

As you have wished to us many times over;  Sweet dreams, mom, sweet dreams.

 

 

© Gerald Allen Barrett and parentheticallyspeakingin3d, 2012.

Round Words

It was such a big room for a little old lady.   She had her glasses off and oxygen on.  Her eye color was hardly distinguishable from her pupils.   They were two special dark chocolates, with little distinction between the pupils and brown rings.  She almost smiled at me.  I asked her if she was feeling better today.  She said she wasn’t, but had no reference point to how she might have felt.  She rolled her eyes at her wayward memory.

Breathing therapy wasn’t something my mom liked to do, so I brought bubbles. Maybe recreational therapy would appeal to her childlike heart.  It was as if she was already blowing every time she exhaled.  Her lips would slightly part and purse as air gushed out like she was hanging with Virginia Slim.  It was the opposite of coming up for air, and instead of gathering square feet of oxygen, she dispersed it.  Maybe she was pushing the bad air out.  I thought of Lamaze training and how important breathing was in the natural birth process.  Maybe it was the same in the natural death process.  It had become a cadence, a conscious rhythm which supplanted her innate flow of air.  At any rate, her breathing was labor and delivery.  I opened the bubbles and started dipping and blowing.  My lack of skill brought cat calls from my geriatric audience of one, and after a minute or two I put a lid on it.

Our seven year old Zoe came with me the next day.  She gave my mother her happy-meal pink polka-dot bear.  A question followed a thank you.  “Zoe, what should I name her, Hmmm?  Pinky?  Polka Dot?”  Zoe smiled and shrugged.  Zoe was offered the bubbles, the only seven-year-old activity in the room.  Her skill was steady and true.  Her small mouth was a perfect circle which would focus air through the plastic ring.  The film of soap would stretch again and again and break free.  Little spheres would hit the warm air current from the register and rise to adolescent orbits over my mom’s bed.  Moments were strung together like bubble constellations and suspended above her discomfort.  And small round words would escape my mother’s mouth…”Oh!…Wow!…Pop!…Look!”

One settled on her bed and reminded me of how Glinda, the good witch of the north, landed in Munchkinland.  I asked my mom if she remembered that scene and she could not.  If only she had.  Maybe Glinda could have taught her how to close her eyes and click her heels together.  In the quiet I almost heard my mom whisper to herself,”There’s no place like home.”

I pursed my lips and began whistling “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

“For what is your life?  It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”  James 4:14,15  King James Version

The name Zoe means “life”.  Life as a principle, life in the absolute sense, life as God has it.

Oh how much has been contained in the soap bubble that is her life!

© Gerald Allen Barrett and parentheticallyspeakingin3d, 2012.

 

Cracks

When I was young, I had your back

by uneven steps on the sidewalk.

I stopped paying attention.

I had destinations.

Oh, your broken back.

 

The dandelions pushed through

to see if I would look down.

I kicked the buds off their bases.

The cement was mine and I

didn’t notice the shin splints.

 

The wheels turned.

Skateboards and bicycles

sent bumps up my discs.

I got off the walk

by borrowing your car.

 

I left you by the side of the road.

I was center lined and selfish.

Things were said, better off dead.

Your broken back.

Your broken heart.

 

I’ve seen my kids stutter step

down the walk protecting

a spine of a mother kind.

They look down

while clasping her hand.

 

Their mom wants them to look up…

to watch were they are going.

But I hope their hindsight

serves to see the curved

back they once protected.

 

 

Written for my mother, who stuck with me even when I stepped on cracks.

 

© Gerald Allen Barrett and parentheticallyspeakingin3d, 2012.

Moved

Salt water was on tap.  That was yesterday.  I dragged a trailer around town transferring the material world of my mother and daughter.  My mother is about to move into assisted living.  My oldest daughter moved out, again.  For my mother it will be the final assist before she goes on to a more permanent place where no assistance will be needed.  Dependence in the freedom of perfect Love will be her stay.

I saw a lot of my siblings as we moved stuff.  One sister underlined, with a slight shake in her voice, “How does one measure a life…really?”  She is the one who has been compiling information about our family tree.  She has been finding branches and leaves and bits of bark of family that have been long forgotten (or never known).  Her question probably was in the glove compartment of all our minds as we all pitched in.

I thought (no offense to my siblings), who are all these aged people helping move toiletries and chairs and giraffe figurines?  I noticed for the first time just last week skin dangling underneath my chin.  It was as if we were loading time into a cargo trailer only to find dust on it when we emptied it.

The departure, if God graces one with long life, is so much like the arrival in reverse…Obviously.  Friends and family shower a baby and gather things for arrival.  Friends and family dry off a life by dispersal.  Estate sales pop up everywhere. It is our turn yet we would rather give up our place in line and move to the back.

The tears came at an odd time (I thought anyway).  I dropped off my mother’s table and chairs at my daughter’s new apartment.  As I said goodbye and kissed her neck all the movement moved me.  I apologized to her.  “It’s just that there is a lot of movement going on lately.”

My eyes felt the after burn all day as I drove from one place to another and another.  The cargo trailer ended up at church chained and locked.  Yeah, that would be a good place for stuff  to be parked.

Hall Light

I sat and watched my mother doze off in a Stryker bed.

Her head tilted and cricked to one side.

She mumbled a little and snored a bit.

It was an afternoon nap

and we just were.

 

I wondered if I might stay until bedtime

so I could tuck her in and say a prayer

and leave the light on and the door cracked.

Then maybe I could be just down the hall

with the same light resting on my bed.

 

I wondered if I might just say a little something to God

while my mom listened.

 

“Oh Father,

Come to her in her dreams like the daddy

she once adored.

 

Oh God,

Sent the baby Jesus in her dreams for her to hold

as she did each of her kids in a room such as this.

 

Oh come visit her in her dreams Jesus,

like the big brother she once looked up to.

 

Oh come and show her around your assisted living place

where there is always room for a visit.

 

Oh come and be the light in the hall.

Oh come and be the door opened.”