Different Now

Sadness is different now.
I woke up sad yesterday
not knowing why, or why not.
The breath was heavy, the soul still.
People were crying. That, I knew.
Some sang a lament to themselves.
Others stood alone searching for a star.
There were those draped in mourning
for lost years looking homeward.
All of them were with me, somehow,
gathered in the space around my core.
A leaning tower of the wounded
posted in the deep soil of this valley.
I stood there among them, empty,
yet looking upward, thinking back.
Remembering a time when Another
felt my pain, held my hand and cried.
I started to chant…an ancient melody
of a once-dead, now living company,
witnesses all to the thrice-lit
fires of a Love that cannot die.

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Relationships and Personhood

Of all the losses associated with dementia, I believe the greatest loss is that of relationships, fueled in part by stigmatization. Yet a sense of relationship is vital to the integrity of the self.

What fuels the toxicity of this stigma, of this pulling away from those who are living with dementia? I believe it is our failure to recognize and honor the inherent personhood of every human being, regardless of conditions or circumstances. The loss of personhood does not follow from the loss of cognitive abilities. I strongly understand personhood as being imparted, and therefore inviolate, unfading, even unending. And certainly not lessened by any disease.

If I do not hold such a view of personhood, then I am apt to regard those who experience cognitive loss as “less than,” negatively biasing my treatment of them, and my expectations of being able to form or maintain relationships with them. This amounts to a judgement…a judgement in favor of dementia, and against the human spirit.

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Unmasked

I was there when day dyed dark at noon

in hiding; alone, too spent to feel the heat of fear.

Perhaps a moment seen from Olympian heights,

but all the world’s remaining time when viewed

from this tapped-out well of selfhood.

Darkness fell without words, damp, yet unassuaging,

where I lay dry in open-mouthed defeat,

agonal, near breathless, in some salty shallows

that remained unlit by any moon.

I felt no movement but the muscle’s failing

struggle in its tug of war with air,

with no one to record my last words.

In youth I’d always fled the fading sun

fearing what might mount on

the winged winds of night.

No strength to run, much less, to fly,

my life hung like a particle suspended

on some full and final exhalation,

launched from tiny alveoli of hope

trapped in a black lung of despair.

Yet something within this cavernous space

seemed to stir the wrinkled tissues of my life-

a brushing presence, faintly blowing,

hovering over the hole where I lay hidden.

What could I have done but look up?

How could I have foreknown the life

that would begin in the moment of turning,

that death unmasked is Love forevermore?

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Right Now (The Moment of Surrender)

Right now there’s a closet corner nearby
with somebody in it
crumpled like a soiled shirt in a pile of shame.
Blame is a cop out, a cheap cab ride to the park.
An abdication.
“She did it to herself,” some smugly say,
flagging down a ride as she flat lines.
Others look away as her soul floats out like a bottle
bobbing in the water of her eyes
and leave too soon to see the turning –
finally, the turning toward a Face and not away.
The Dove is descending. Does anyone notice?
Does anybody even know her name?

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At Hospice

She knelt by the bed of the one
whose last words were lines
of the prayer her life had been
and now its benediction on a breath
ever softly singing to sleep
the little girl who wanted nothing more
than to be like her, to make her proud–
the breath at last became hers
and her life became the prayer.

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Do You Believe?

Do you believe that love, alive, will always live,
that gifts received from soul space, given, always give?
Do you believe that kindness, shared, and passed along
can lift a sister’s spirit on the wings of song?
Do you believe that eyes, so caring, in a glance
can call and quicken, healed, the feeble feet to dance?
Do you believe a brother, pardoned, then can be
a tree of blessing, planted, for the world to see?
If so, then you and I are of the same accord,
and both can bow our heads and hearts before the Lord
so grateful to acknowledge, humbly, grace received,
and walk this path, rejoicing, just to have believed.
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There’s a Glory

There’s a glory in the struggle,
There’s a triumph in the toil,
There’s a blessing in the trouble,
There’s a treasure in the spoil.
There’s an angel in the darkness.
There’s a devil in the dawn.
There’s a deep peace like a river.
There’s a song when hope is gone.
There’s a Face that says, “Forgiven.”
There’s a Person in the pain.
There’s a Hand stretched out from Heaven.
There’s a Heart that knows your name.

 

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