I walk at evening all alone
Remembering days and years long gone
And the shapes of darkness brush my soul
Like pages from an open scroll.
In memory, then, I return
Foraging hungrily to discern
Elusive sensations once so real
Which now escape my need to feel.
A misty light plays hide-and-seek
Crisscrossing my path in soft mystique.
Like blurred images, the past, long gone
Whispers softly, ‘not alone’.
(Marie Hunter Atwood – 1989)
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING LEGACY
Memories of home and family come more easily for me now than they did when I wrote this poem in the 1980s. It seemed at times that my family left me, not singly, but in a group, and not from choice, but because they had terrible illnesses. For two sisters there was only a span of three weeks between their deaths, and those dates were December 1 and December 24. My third sister was too ill to come to the ceremonies of saying good-bye, and she was gone very quickly. Our parents had already made this journey and it was at my mother’s funeral that my only brother began to slide into his protective remorse. Whether his pain was eased by the bottle he used I don’t know, but it was his escape.
I was the youngest, thirteen years younger than our oldest sister who was the first to go, and when my brother, too, passed, it dawned on me that they had left from the oldest to the youngest, falling like a row of dominoes, sequentially. I was sure I would be gone within a year, but here I am at eighty plus still seeking what is left for me to do before my day comes. Why do I share this with you? There are many who suffer at the passing of loved ones and many of their stories are so sad it is beyond comparison. It isn’t comparison that I seek but the understanding that one doesn’t give up when sorrow comes. I have lived to enjoy a wonderful marriage for sixty years and to raise five daughters and be blessed with sons-in-law who have been a joy in my life. They have given us twelve grandchildren and six great grandchildren who are pure joy. My husband died of cancer a year ago and I found that I am able once again to make the adjustments that are necessary.
Writing about my family has brought me comfort as has writing in general. I can do without many things, but I can’t do without sitting before the computer and saying what I find in my heart. What I am going to share now is in many ways an extremely sad poem, but for me it is a poem of victory, because from it I learned finally to to put away my grief, bring back the wonderful memories and learn, perhaps for the first time, how to live.
Please let me hear your reactions to this long post. I really do hope to hear if it has been helpful to you in any way.
He was a brother like no other
A genius without a cause
An intellectual who scorned
Such sensibilities, and who
Despised its pretense and guile.
Fiercely conflicted with his real
Sensitivities, he assumed
His own disguise. A tough veneer
Served his purpose well, except for
His tears hidden inside.
I weep for the loss of who he was,
And all that he could have been;
For the joy he missed and the anger
He spent, against those he loved and friends.
He alienated almost all,
But I remember him as he was,
My very own brother
My tender compassionate friend
Who wiped my tears and mended my knees
And smiled when I took his hand.
It ended for him when the bottle
He used, no longer eased his pain
And his body quit in so many ways
Death’s cause unknown remains.
Of course I know the bottle was there
Regularly emptied each day,
But I’m certain, still, the real cause of death
Lay deep within his frame.
Only God knows for sure how much he endured
And if he welcomed the release that came.
For me, my love is testimony
Of the gentle sweetness one small boy proclaimed.
(Marie Hunter Atwood – 2006)