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Here Is Death

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Dear friends,

I will read all of what follows as part of the Kick-off Dinner Ceremony for the Greater Fall River Relay for Life Friday night.

This is why I walk in circles in June from sunrise to sunrise and beyond. It is why I hiked the 26.2 miles of the Marathon Walk. This is for all of you who have walked someone to the end of cancer's road.

Here is Death

Here is death--

Not sharp and sudden—

No bullets, knives,

No stroke or heart attack--

Not quick and clean—

The messy death

Of soiled sheets

And pumps and wires

And frustration—

The loss of every dignity—

The loss of every privacy—

The loss of every human thing.

Here is death

Built slowly day-by day—

The swollen feet, the lump,

The shortness of the breath—

The appetite that fades--

The world that shrinks

From town to home,

To a floor,

A pair of rooms,

A bed and chair.

The pain that grows

In mind and body both

Here is death--

Beggaring the body,

Beggaring the mind,

Beggaring the soul,

Consuming flesh,

Consuming sanity,

Consuming humanity,

Sucking the marrow

Of all that is joy.

Here is death--

I read to you,

I kiss your forehead,

Nose and lips—

The doctor comes

And listens, shakes his head--

I close your eyes--

I carry your coffin

And weep the silence

That remains.

copyright 2012 by Harry Proudfoot

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So touching. So sad. So real. So painful. I am sorry....endings like you and I have dealt with and which our beloveds struggled through are torture...you said it well.



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Thank you Mary. We may heal eventually, but those final images will shape so much of who we are and what we do.



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Harry, I agree. I am forever changed and those awful images sometimes waken me in the middle of the night making it impossible to go back to sleep. Sometimes I wake up sobbing as they come back to me...watching Bill die a slow and awful death....traumatic for me, for sure. I can't even begin to know what it was like for him. I know that the entire chapter is with me forever....and with you.

Peace to all of us somehow


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The antidote to this piece is Here is Life--which i wrote this morning and have posted as a separate topic.

Thanks Lance for letting me know this worked for you. I hope it's companion does the same--but in a better way.



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Here is Death, indeed. I've been sleeping with my husband's ashes for 9 months. I am wearing his clothes, shoes and watch. I am reading the books he read. I am chewing the unchewable past meal after meal. Like the lotus eaters, I am indulging myself in the past and refuse to go farther. Here is Death. Indeed. "Death may be the greatest of all human blessings", said Socrates, that can not be more true for me at this moment. I believe in Death more than I believe in any other gods. Here is death. Here. Now.

Each night I can hear Death's beckon, one way or another..."Come and put your head through the loop! Take the pills in the cabinet! Stick the knife in your heart! Jump off from the tallest building!".... I am not afraid to take the leap as I've done my "homework", and I am becoming more comfortable in embracing Death than Despair.

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I haven't posted in a long time. Harry, your poem is powerful and true. Sadloser, you are not a loser though you have lost. I hear and I have known utter despair.

My mother's death was an atomic bomb -- each family member's character revealed in the flash, each destiny determined by proximity to blast -- the actual caretaker is soaked with sweat and swims in "hot" rivers of radioactive tears with half-lives of 7 kazillyun dark-years. Harry, you got me started.

My family blew up after my mother's death. I didn't want to see what I saw in the flash. I was surprised. I felt sorry for her in a way I never did when she was with me. I felt ashamed of my sisters with good reason. At first I wore their shame. I don't don that shroud every day now, though I am no example of shining recovery. My mother died on a plane 17 November 1998 with me on the other side of the bathroom door. We were on a bereavement flight back home to Denver, having just buried Mom's brother and my closest, closest most beloved Uncle Bill. They died exactly one week apart, exactly at 9:15 at night, and boy-oh-boy did my more "fundamentally" religious family object to my impression that she was simply taken up to be with Bill and Daddy; Daddy, whom we had nursed for a long eight years at the farm.

I apologize for rambling, but I am beginning to realize that what I saw back then and what I felt back then, how my people behaved back then -- I have spent years and years wishing my sisters were different, and they, of course, are the same, as am I.

I've done amazing things in the intervening years. Despair propelled me into deeper study, travel, originality.

But every Christmas I am in the States, I am the little Matchstick Girl, my nose against the window. Truth demands, after so many years, admitting to myself that death is surrounded by such a great variety of losses and broken bits that I cannot and time did not mend my family.

Sadloser (just sad and [temporarily] lost) great flowers can grow from despair. The most beautiful flowers. I know all about the weeds ... but bit by bit ... your roots will hold and your blooms will thrive.

I am in a season of grief, and the weather forecast is shamefilled sleet and slippery perspective. I can't wait for sunshine and summer.

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These poems are very impacting, they capture the emotions we go through. Death seems a stark reality in contrast to life...in a way, it illuminates life all the more by it's contrast. It's ironic, when we're going through this, then, that it's harder to feel life. Maybe because we're the walking dead in a way...not completely, and maybe not forever, but it definitely feels that way as we go through life's motions and existence and grapple for any purpose or meaning. I know of nothing so encompassing as to lose your partner because it impacts every single aspect of your life and you've lost the one person you would turn to in grief, the one who could help you through it is the very one that is gone.

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Kay, I agree with you...we are walking dead....our focus is on death and at least early on (first whatever years) life is not something we focus on, enjoy, feel good about....Yes, losing Bill has impacted every crevice of my life...as this loss has for all of us...the one person I could absolutely count on when I hurt is gone...no longer first in anyone's life. Your post is a good reminder....Mary

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