Sunday, November 8, 2015

2015.11.08 Tender Scene Remembered

There is no birthday or anniversary of Dad's death right now, but this poem emerged. I suppose I have not quite moved off the mood of death remembrances: Halloween/All Saints/All Souls—aka The Dark Triduum. And I suppose too that this arose out of spending the day yesterday as facilitator of a retreat day focused on grief. I offered a bit of education and some suggestions and then people dispersed to be in silence and solitude. At the end of the day we gathered as a group. I invited people to share anything they wished. The mood wasn't grim or gloomy,  just vulnerable, hushed. My heart was swollen—not inflamed or painful, simply enlarged as we sat together under the valley of the shadow of death, not overshadowed.

Tender Scene
    by the Rev. Lyn G. Brakeman

I knew my father was dead.
The 6 a.m. call told me so, but
surely he wasn’t dead. Like a detective
I needed a body. Some crime had been
committed, a crime against my heart. All
crimes need proof, don’t they?

I rushed to the scene and saw Mom
making Dad’s bed, neatening, purging the
death-bed of death. This bed where my father
had lain dying for a week, groan by
groan, wrestling his demons, like Jacob, to the pillow—six days exactly—
and on the seventh he rested from all the work he had done.

Dying with purpose is no easy work.
What was Dad creating? A life better than one with no esophagus?
From what did he rest on this cold Sunday in January, 1983?  

There remained
not a shred of evidence of his presence—not even the bedpan, I looked.
Where’s Daddy? The funeral director took him, said Mom.

Cry thief.

I turned and saw proof: Dad, cradled in the arms of Mr. Ahern,
the burly undertaker, his limp body draped across Mr. Ahern’s upper body. 
Dad’s bare legs dangled over the undertaker’s right arm; one of his arms hung loose,
the other tucked neatly against his bearer’s chest.
Dad’s head did not hang loose. Mr. Ahern made sure of that— as you would
carrying a young child off to bed—sound asleep after swearing
he could stay wide awake for “just this one more show”—dead weight.

Or a Pieta.

I’d never seen my father’s body so unclothed—
not quite naked but bare enough.
Doesn’t death deserve clothed dignity just like life?

How in the world did those spindly legs play golf? 
Honestly, you think the damnedest things sometimes. 

My Daddy, Dad, father chose death on the seventh day
in the barely-risen morning. I saw him leave
 on Mr. Ahern’s arm—soon to be ash and bone chips.

I was grateful for the raw viewing, yet . . .what?
I rummaged through Dad’s drawers, found an old golf sweater,
took it, scowled at my mother,

I wore the sweater on and off for
two years—caught the scent of Dad’s soul.