What Do I Think Heaven Will Be Like?

What do I think Heaven will be like?

I’m not worthy even to make answer.

“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.”

Words fail. That said, let me paint an image.

The city is soaked in a slow, cold rain.

I am driving to work. Distracted. Disconnected.

Passing the interaction of 3rd and Riverside,

I briefly notice a light in the single upstairs window

of a green paneled house, itself in disrepair.

Barely taking note, I continue my mindless drive.

Meanwhile, behind that window, a little girl

with a withered leg lies in bed, crying softly,

while her brother, barely a year older than she,

enters the room, turning on the light.

She is frightened, having seen and heard

in her life pains no child should ever have known.

Brother brings her a blanket, telling her

all will be well. He says he knows this

because he dreamed last night that God,

up in Heaven, had heard her crying,

and reached down with a warm robe

and wrapped her inside it. And he sang to her

and told her he would protect and comfort her

all her live-long life because he loves her so.

And is proud of her because she is His child.

He tells her that he knows her faults and fears,

and he has sent a slow, cold rain to wash them away

so that he can hold her more warmly in the robe and blanket.

Then brother sat beside her and dried her tears

with the blanket and sang her a song he knew she loved.

And there, as raindrops streaked the window

of the tiny upstairs room, by the soft glow of lamplight

a little girl and her brother held each other

safely, completely, lovingly…and the little girl said

“God sent you to make me feel better.”

And brother said, “You make me feel better, too.

And I’ll be here for you forever because that’s

what God promised He would do. Just then,

God smiled and turned down the covers

in the mansion’s upstairs bedroom

and tucked the two children safely to sleep.

What do I think Heaven will be like?

I think it may be, in small ways, something like that.

Can God Cry?

“Yes, dear.”
“Mama. Can God cry?”
“Yes, I believe God can cry.
Why do you ask?”
“Because today, on the playground…
Well, somebody pushed me down.
And, you know, it takes me a while
to get up. I was almost standing
and my crutch slipped and I fell again.
And they laughed at me.”
“Oh, my dear, I’m so sorry they did this.
Who was it? Did you tell your teacher?”
“No matter who it was, Mama. I’m OK.
But it’s just that, after everyone else
had gone back in, I stayed
there for a minute where I fell.
And I prayed, Mama.
I asked God to help me
not get picked on anymore.
Mama, I felt like someone
was there holding me.
Then I thought I heard, well, crying.
And deep down I felt the crying
was for me, and for the bullies-
the ones that pushed me
and the ones that laughed.
The crying was for all of us, Mama.
Was that God?”
“Yes, my precious child.
Yes, I believe it was.”
“Yes, dear.”
“Why are you crying?”

Just This Once

Just this once. Just now. Just for a moment…
can we forget about everything but
you and me and all else
who have ever looked out from
a place of loneliness and grief and fear
and believed with an ounce of faith
that there is someone in the universe
who could make them sing again,
who could make them cry
tears of joy and trust and gladness
to finally be heard and held,
who once for all could understand
what they’ve always needed
and what everyone reaches for
from the same dark space in the soul
is to be known and to be loved
for who they are when the room is still
and dark and the day’s gone quiet
and there’s not one thing left to defend
and no need to hide and nothing to confess
and everything to celebrate
and welcome and hold and forgive.
Just this once. Just now. Just for a moment…
can we forget ourselves
and remember?

–D. Potts

Mama, Why Do You Sing?

“Mama, why do you sing
when you wash these jars?”

“Oh my dear, thank you for asking
such grown – up questions!
I sing while I’m washing the jars
because I believe in my heart
that I can hear God’s voice singing
while washing me.
I’m one of God’s jars,
and so are you, my child.

Can you hear God singing
over you?
Why not join in?”

Where the Forest Meets the Sky

For care partners and their loved ones who are living with dementia in the reality of COVID-19:

Where the Forest Meets the Sky

Part the curtains, dear. I see you.
Put your hand up to the pane.
I am with you, standing out here in the rain.

Please don’t worry. My heart hears you
through this window. I’ll explain
when the axis of the earth aligns again.

I am praying you’ll believe me
though you can’t hear what I say.
It’s for your own good that I must stay away.

But the situation grieves me,
and I’m living for the day
I can hold your hand and sing our blues away.

So just look into my spirit
through the window of my eye…
we can see that distant sunset, if we try.

Listen closely. Do you hear it?
When I asked if we could fly
in our hearts to where the forest meets the sky?

Thoughts on Writing Poetry

I started writing poetry in 2005 in response to my father’s artistic creativity discovered in the throes of Alzheimer’s disease. Since then I have written over 600 poems. I don’t consider myself a poet. That term is for the likes of Frost, Oliver, Angelou and others. Simply, I write poetry.

Some of the poems are pretty good. Many are not. None are great. None terrible. But all of them are alive with thought, emotion and spiritual energy. Like snapshots of special moments in the timeline of life, each one of them is precious, and I have thrown out none of them. Not one in 15 years.

With a collection of that many, I often experience the joy of re-discovery…I will run across one that I had forgotten, and am taken back to what I was thinking, feeling and experiencing when I wrote it. What were the struggles and triumphs with which I was dealing? What relationships were being remembered or celebrated? Why was gratitude expressed? What were reasons for the sharing of laughter or tears?

Writing poetry centers me in the present moment and requires that I focus intently and mindfully on words, thoughts and emotions. The object of one’s writing has to be something about which one cares deeply. During the course of a day I am struck several times by moments of connection, beautiful scenes, the poignancy of faces, the interplay between light and shadow, the gratitude inherently expressed in the many giftings of life, and the pang of sorrow or pain. I try to record as many of these impressions as I can when they happen. I make a mental note; or better yet, jot down a word or phrase that will remind me of why I was moved at the time. Then, I try to come back and write.

Writing poetry over this period of time has made me think poetically. For instance, when a scene captures my attention, often I begin to think of poetic phrases which would describe that scene. Many times, I pair a short verse with a photograph in this way. Learning to think poetically has been a blessing to me over the years, and adds a certain grace and exuberance to life. And of course I give credit to the indwelling Holy Spirit as the true author of everything of value that I write, giving credit where it is due.

Poetry also has granted me courage to give voice to the darkness that lies within and around us all, and has accompanied me on journeys into the dark and unknown turns and passageways of my own, and others’ hearts. Scripture says things that are brought into God’s light become light. And I have found that to be true, in part, because of being able to suspend them on the lines of a poem. This has offered an immensely powerful source of healing in my own life, and I hope others have experienced that, as well, in reading some of the poems I have written.

I have often said that Danny starting to write poetry was as amazing as Lester, my father, starting to paint! But as my mother, an English teacher, has reminded me, as a lifelong singer I had sung and read much lyrical poetry over the years. And an inclination to music certainly has helped me in poetic composition. Within the past few years, I have turned to song-writing, and I always start with the lyric, then try to find a melody and harmony that fit. Again, we are not talking about high quality work. But my goal is to move somebody in the soul, not woo their intellect. That is the same hope I have for my poetry. I want it to be a true and authentic expression of the energy of my soul, and I hope and pray it will connect deeply with others, and move them in ways that are healing, life-giving, and comforting.

I pray that something I write would give someone the blessing of diminishing their shame, of causing them to feel gratitude instead of resentment, of creating empathy for someone who may be in danger of being forgotten, or of bringing to light something beautiful that may hitherto have been unseen.

Lastly, I believe the writing of poetry calls me to a higher plane of life, and makes me aspire to something finer, purer and more authentic; something imbued with truth and integrity, and a deep and sacred simplicity that speaks like a prayer or a sunset or a river or silence or a song. It helps me to feed those mouths of humility and compassion inside myself, and offers nothing for the rabid throats of selfishness and arrogance. It calls forth my best. And it is good to think on the finer things. And of course, I read as much great poetry as I can get my hands on (My bookshelves are full and my Kindle app is in danger of shutting down!)

Now, I try to write a poem a day, and realistically get out about four per week. Each one packages up a part of my soul that has been poured over, polished, and placed in the river of time to be found like a message in a bottle. And I hope it touches the ones who chance upon it as they wade.

The Old Man in the Mirror

There’s an old man in the mirror
and his eyes of bluish gray
send a message I’d receive no other way.

And their sadness somehow sparkles
like a raindrop when a ray
strikes its center as the storm clouds clear away.

With a clarity of vision
unpredicted at his age
and the parchment-painted wisdom of a sage

he then offers great provision,
having turned the final page
of his storybook, and exited life’s stage.

Gazing earnestly into them,
I begin to see the light
of a distant fire dancing in the night,

like a cold and wounded warrior
warms his spirit by the sight
of hope set aflame to calm his deathly fright.

And my heart sits strangely warming
though my body is afraid
of the weeping woe of which this world is made.

Yet I’m moved with deep compassion
that has grown as I have stayed
in the silent space his loving look has made.

So I feel I can return now
to the story of today
with a word of hope that came from far away:

Face the struggle with compassion;
in the sorrow, sit and stay.
And your loving gaze will clear the clouds away.

Meeting God Anew

Those who are in relationships with persons living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias know that sometimes there is a lack of recognition in successive meetings that may mitigate over time (a person may not remember me from one meeting to the next, or that a meeting occurred). Yet even with this aura of unfamiliarity, there is the potential for friendship, since, at a deeper than surface level, there is reciprocity of fellowship.

I feel that persons living with dementia may be more adept at recognizing authentic intention to develop friendship than those of us who are living without dementia. Thus, I’ve tried to learn not to be disappointed if a person living with dementia does not recognize me, or remember that we may have met yesterday, instead simply enjoying present moment interaction.

I humbly suggest that there is a spiritual lesson contained within this example of finding the heart of relationship in each new meeting of the unfamiliar. Faith traditions teach us to search for God in others, to look for the divine countenance in the faces of other humans, even and most especially the struggling, the stranger or the enemy. It seems the more this is practiced, the more apt one would be to recognize God in the other, even though the other him/herself may be unfamiliar in each meeting. In such a way, friendship with the divine, including that part of the divine residing within ourselves, would be fostered, and we would be thus transformed along our paths of spiritual growth.

I hope and pray that we may more clearly see the face of God in the faces of others, including those who are living with dementia, and that we may more clearly show forth the face of God in each interaction we are fortunate enough to have with others, even and most especially if we’ve been forgotten from one visit to the next.