Saturday, September 13, 2008

What's Left Behind

"The Ghost Birds Take Over," mixed media, 5" x 6"

I'm finding that experiencing the loss of my dad is triggering feelings of previous losses. I have lost four close family members in the last seven years, and I seem to be encountering the pain of these previous losses. One loss is enough to take; four is exhausting. I must say, though, that I am also remembering the inner strength I cultivated, too. I wrote this poem in 2002, the year my grandfather died. As I read it now, I think mostly of my mom as she deals with the "things" my father left behind.

for my grandmother

He will go first. And soon.
Your trips to the nursing home

become less frequent. To me,
you say, he is already gone.

You pick his plot and gravestone,
pay for cremation, work out

the banking details, clear his clothes
from your closet, toss empty vials of insulin

and stray napkins with his finger-prick
blood stains into the garbage

and empty his blood sugar tester
from your bathroom cabinet.

You remove the evidence—the soiled
washcloths, the filthy fingerprints,

the invisible lip marks on half-filled
water glasses, the hairs collecting in corners—

clear to the white space underneath
in preparation for the cleanliness of absence.


  1. Sending you lots of supportive vibes, Courtney. Been facilitating a grief session recently and sharing stories with other bereaved parents. I'm reminded how loss compounds. Reflects previous loss, brings it to the surface. Or seems to be a catalyst for other loss. It can seem so unfair. And yes, exhausting. My bed became a very good friend. A nest. A haven. Just lots of hugs to you!

  2. Steve: Yes, that's a crossword puzzle!

    Kara: Thank you for your words of support. I assure you that my bed has indeed become a good friend lately. My cats seem to be enjoying my sleepydom these days, too, and are more than happy to join me for naps.