Mary Can’t Sleep


The Teacher had spoken my name.

Only He, among all others,
had no fear of me that day.
Standing alongside those demons,
He was able to see my light.
His light.
The Light.

My tortured spirit wanted to be silent.
To simply stop screaming and die.
Hope was dead and dark as cave air.
In my heart, I cried out…
“Rabbouni, please help me!”

Then He called me. “Mary.”
The embittered one.
How had He known me?
I will never forget that voice.
It was completely still
yet stirred my soul to dancing.
And I made a vow to follow Him forever.

I saw many, many others, like me.
He fed, healed, forgave, and loved them.
They were poor, lost and unheard.
All of them were Mary to me.

He told us He would die. We didn’t understand.
His mother knew. Oh, the pain of her silence!

I stood beside her, beneath His cross.
My crushed heart could hardly offer support.
It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.
My God, His poor mother’s heart.

“It is finished,” He said, and He died.
We had His blood on our clothing.

I wanted to leave this heartless world
and go to Him again, wherever He had gone.

They took His body and anointed it,
laying it in a new tomb sealed with a boulder.
I knew this finality. I felt the stone-shut soul.

Wanting to die with Him and all my hopes,
I came back early and wept.
But the stone had been rolled away.
The tomb was empty. The soldiers…
They had taken the beloved body.
I ran to tell the brothers.
They came and saw it, left the last shards
of their peace and walked away.

I stayed and cried in the gardens outside the tomb.
He had wept in a garden, too. What had He known?
What had He felt? Had anyone spoken His name?
Oh, how I longed to tell Him,
“Teacher, you mean so much to me.
Thank you for loving me, for saving me,
for seeing me, for calling out my name.”

Drawn to the tomb, I saw something white.
Two strangers in gleaming robes
sat where the body had been.
One asked me why I was crying,
and I told them it was because
they had taken Him to another place.

Then I heard it, coming from the garden.
The only one there was a gardener.
I had not noticed Him before, in my grief.
Dawn’s first light was behind Him,
and I could not see His face.
But then He spoke.


How could I forget the sound that had saved me,
the only One who had known me for who I am?
How could I return a portion of the blessing
He had given to me the morning my life had begun?


I spoke His name.
My Lord and My God!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah.

I think I may never sleep again.

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I Will Love You

(For the care partners)

As we share this time together in the dark before the dawn, 
and I can’t but question whether I’ve got strength to carry on,
may I never stop believing I can hold a solemn vow
to keep dancing though I’m grieving, to be present in the Now.
And so help me, I will hear you if you don’t know what to say,
as my spirit lingers near you when your mind has walked away.
I’ll be singing to remind you of the promises we made;
when you’re lost, I’ll come to find you, calm your soul when you’re afraid.                 
Father God will not forsake me when my heart’s about to bleed;
should deep sorrow overtake me, grace will fly to meet my need.
Though dementia’s storm may shake me, it can’t touch the truth you’ve heard.
So, my darling, if you’ll take me, do it only at my word.

I will love you in the rising, I will love you in the sleep,

I will love you in the shallows, I will love you in the deep.

I will love you in the spirit, I will love you in the breath.

I will love you in the living, I will love you in the death.

Lester Potts 32

Watercolor art by Lester E. Potts, Jr., an artist who had Alzheimer’s.

To Keep The Vigil Through

(A poetic gift of hope for Sunday morning)

Set deeply in the kernel of this life
a solitary vesicle of death
lies silent as a Sabbath after strife,
as air beyond the body’s final breath.

Through loving, losing, letting go of fear
one may attain the courage and the sight
to face this darkened threshold and draw near,
to step inside this tomb and see the light.

Life’s final judgement or its greatest grace
thus hides within the windows of today:
to see the image of a dying face –
to stay and weep; to love, not turn away…

to find inside the ever-urgent now
a Presence much more powerful than death;
to draw as one with lungs of other lives
the sweet communal comforts of a Breath.

Now look upon the windows of the heart
and see not only other faces, hues,
but also one’s own colors in the art
that, undiscarded, God intends to use.

The brush must dip into a tear-gray well
to find its deeper sediments of blue…
if in the sunrise one would hope to dwell
one must find faith to keep the vigil through.

Photo Jun 03, 5 10 56 PM

Broken Pieces

Broken pieces of Somebodys fall in patterns on the ground,
shards of hope and scattered heartache for forgiveness, never found,
all that lingered of the image we had wanted folks to see,
much of which bears a resemblance to the broken parts of me.
Deep regrets for selfish actions that put others at a loss,
passing pain on to our neighbors, strapping someone to our cross,
letting much too large a distance grow between reality
and the best we have to offer of the ones we’re born to be.
But among life’s shattered sections lies a truth for troubled days:
broken pieces fit together in the most creative ways.
Mix some sorrow from a brother with the weeping of a sis’,
add the pierced heart of a mother and a father’s face you miss –
then before your eyes is made a new mosaic sure to bless,
drawing texture, line and color from the fruits of brokenness.

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Will Somebody Sing With Me?

When my heart seems full of sorrow

and there’s no more joy to borrow

from the promise of tomorrow,

will somebody sing with me?

When my memories are fading

and my inspiration jading

from the smile I’m masquerading,

will somebody sing with me?

When I feel the world has lost me

and I think what it may cost me

to rise up from where it tossed me,

will somebody sing with me?

Oh my friends, please gather ’round me!

I need voices to rebound me

through the melodies that found me

when somebody sang to me.

Once again my soul needs thrilling

and this empty heart is willing

to present itself for filling

with a draught of harmony.

Come, my children, make your choices

to join minds and hearts and voices

with each singer that rejoices

in a chance to let it be.

May the moments when we’re singing

make a sound that keeps on ringing

like a soaring eagle winging

over life’s unending sea.

Here’s a truth that bears repeating:

though the memory is fleeting,

there’s a grace in every greeting,

a connection born to be.

For the music always finds us

in whatever fog that blinds us,

singing lyrics to remind us

we are loved eternally.


I’m Glad You Cared Enough to Stay

I miss my mama.
She knows when I need her most
and comes before I can think how to call.
She holds me and speaks
the way I need her to. Her voice —
I know that voice — sings and prays.
All those nights she held me. It was so dark.
The heavy storm air held no breath for me.
She took to my heart and made me safe.
I do love her so.

The storm came back today.
I didn’t know where I was. Nothing felt familiar.
I needed to see her. Hear her voice.
Hold her while she held me.
And she came like I knew she would.
Then I saw you.

I didn’t know if I should tell you. But I did.
And you asked me about my mama.
Most people tell me she’s not here.
They tell me the date. Where I am.
They ask me to do something.
They want me to laugh.
You can’t always laugh.
But you listened.
Looked at me with kind eyes.
You must have seen her, too.
Maybe there is someone
who can see what I see.

I think she held us close together.
I’m glad you cared enough to stay.
I feel safe here, with Mama.
And with you.


Looking for the River

I love to go beside rivers.
Perhaps you do, too.
Perhaps we all do.
Maybe this explains river towns.
What’s the ceaseless draw?
Rivers say things I need to hear
in a language that will move me.
Rivers have a history and a future
connected by a present: A story.
They always are in a state of flow
being exactly what they are.
Rivers dance to their own song;
rather, the Earth song in liquid variations.
We’re not the only ones.
Young trees settle near them
to grow old in their gifts.
I think of that light gray ghost
the sycamore leaning like a prow
at water’s edge, the knock-kneed
cypress and beefy beech, the oaks of
of rocky ridges just up the bank.
Surely they know what we’re
most too heady to perceive.
Why, even God chooses
their still slick surface on which
to mix His sunset paints.
Of late, a river shared with me
her deepest secret:
“Silence yourself,” she said,
“and place a cap of stillness on your head
and all its anxious eddies.
Embody the sycamore at my edge
rooted both in land and water. Stay awhile.
Learn to find the river deep within yourself
and trust that it never will run dry.”

Living River

The Cahaba River at Living River Camp and Conference Center near West Blocton, AL