Cancer Poem

Hospital With Mother’s Body

You can't prepare for the harshness and reality of the sickness and death of your Mother.

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Dear Mary - your poem resonated with my experience of losing my mum (Sept 11) hugely. I'm so sorry we and others have gone through this. I was looking today for something to comfort me as I...

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Good Mommy


Published by Family Friend Poems August 2006 with permission of the Author.

You can't prepare for this:
the DNR in red letters,
last rites over,
the monitors off,
the harsh fluorescent lights,
the curtains drawn,
and the bed rail down
because there is no place left
for your mother to fall.

And then you see her,
one eye half open,
her hands clawed like eagle talons,
her dry lips form an O of surprise,
and the tangled blue diamonds
of her hospital gown.

You reach for her,
bury your face
in the wing of her collarbone,
caress her cool cheeks,
then run your hands
down the rough cotton blanket,
feel how small she is.

Your chest is tight and aches;
this is what heart break
feels like, and now
you know.

You hear a rustle,
a young nurse presses
tissues and a phone
into your shaking hands,
ring ring ring ring,
but it's rush hour
and no one's home, yet.

You sit down so the nurse
can close your mother's eyes
and fold her hands on her chest,
while you stare at the table,
her dentures, her silver eyeglasses,
and the thick novel you brought
because she was supposed to live
through this night,
and the next.

You have some time
to straighten her matted wig,
brush some pink blush
on her waxy cheeks,
rub vanilla gloss
on her chapped lips,
spray her wrists
with sweet lavender cologne.

You remember
how much she liked cheap beer,
long cigarettes, and television,
how she knit you a white sweater
with three black kittens
for the first day of school,
how she got drunk one night
and called you a tramp.

You regret telling her
to go straight to hell,
because you know
she had a hard time
raising three kids alone,
Besides, fourteen years
of bone cancer
was hell enough.

You drag your chair to the bed,
wipe the hot tears from your face,
rub her stick thin legs,
and whisper,
'You were a good mommy,'
the same words
you will write on a slip of paper
and tuck behind the crepe pillow,
just before they close her casket.


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Has this poem touched you? Share your story!
  • Debs by Debs
  • 12 years ago

Dear Mary - your poem resonated with my experience of losing my mum (Sept 11) hugely. I'm so sorry we and others have gone through this. I was looking today for something to comfort me as I find it so hard to deal with how long it took for mum to pass - I watcher her for 3 days and 3 nights in the end.. so tragically hard on her poor little body, after such a hard life. And then when she finally went, her hands like claws, her mouth that had been open to so long in that 'o' shape, the breaths that had been struggling harshly out of her body for what seemed forever now silent. She looked like a skeleton, so frail. The nurses had ushered us out to change her nightie only 30 mins before... my brother and I (never close) came back just minutes before her body finally let her leave this world... and I regret not holding her for her final moments..but she saw Mike and I holding each other saying goodbye.. So hard Mary.. I hope you are more at peace.. and don't mind my sharing with you.. D

  • Stephanie by Stephanie
  • 14 years ago

This poem touched my heart..
I feel so lucky to have both of my parents next to me..
I can't imagine my life without them..
Your story is so sad..

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