Tag Archives: loss

Purpose

Sometimes it hurts,
and you see no purpose,
no need for the needles of pain.
No reason to search for why it occurred,
or to learn the lessons tucked deep in your brain.
You yearn for a way to rearrange history,
return to yesterday,
change its shape.

You weep and you rage,
you try meditation,
but the answer keeps slipping away.

So you weep and rage,
you rage and you weep,
pain fills your your dreams whenever you sleep
and increases when you awake.

You see no reason,
but you search for a purpose,
if only to soothe the hurt.

Grief heaps up, seemingly endless.
Death is around you, shrouded and soundless,
it threatens your loved ones and rattles the door.

In the still of the morning,
you pick at slim thoughts as you try to assuage the pain.
They dispel like salt in simmering water
and the suffering returns again.

Nobody tells you you’re trying too hard,
and the healing is contained in your subconscious brain.
The only way to access the reason
is to cease entertaining your own narrow theories,
stop looking for answers to your thin queries.

You need to keep active, deal with each day,
make peace with the pain and breathe it in.
Open to the gentlest faith you have hidden
no matter what shape that faith may take.
Whether you connect with the collective consciousness
or follow the lead of a sacred deity
or trust in planet or your brothers and sisters,
hold it within; don’t leave it to stray.

Live life, and love in the best way you’re able,
yet store some spare conscious space in your soul –
but don’t stand waiting for something to fill it,
it is up to the purpose to wait,

it will come to you when you are ready,
and on the highest level,
you will be well.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Dry-eyed Teardrops

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Used to wonder why the snowdrops
hung their heads as if in sorrow,
then a young man died and I watched my child
grieve the loss.

When they showed their pale faces again,
I understood.

These early harbingers of spring ease us
towards blossom and bursting buds,
ever obedient to the laws of time –
yet the residue of wintry death hangs behind them,
thinning down optimism.

Twenty-one years have been swept aside
yet each January they gaze mournfully at my feet
to remind me of his smile the day he hugged the shawl
I crocheted
for my unborn grandson.

Nobody saw it coming.
Two months later, the baby
took the name of his late father.

Some say it’s PTSD, but whatever the reason,
while my children grieve their dad’s sudden death,
it’s another face I see.

Soon, there will be a new family in this house
that lies beside my beloved wood.
We will be banished from our place of history.

I’ll whisper goodbye
to the walls that Paul and I wrote on,
laughing in the face of his father’s enraged disapproval
as we made ready to conceal them beneath two coats of paint.
Maybe some day the emulsion will peel away
and folks will see the wild, mild,
childishly anarchic scribbles of a mother and her son:
goolies, boobies, poo and do-do.

I’ll say goodbye to the rooms I repaired and painted,
the kitchen and bathroom I designed and created,
breaking down walls and building new, mixing plaster, sawing wood,
drilling, fixing, making,
working through the night to keep sleepless thoughts at bay
until the day I found the courage to walk away
from the home I loved
with such passion.

I’ll turn away from the garden I worked so hard on,
shaping flowerbeds and terracing,
sowing seeds and watching perennials grow,
only to see it wrecked when I left.

I’ll shout goodbye to memories of misery
and hope that the happy times
might be restored in my mind.

I’ll wave a regretful farewell to the trees
and to my dry-eyed,
virgin teardrops with their frill of new-born green.
Goodbye, goodbye.
I will think of you at this time of year
forever more,
and always recall a young man’s warm smile
as he contemplated the birth of his child,
never suspecting it may be
his final
perfect
moment
in time.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Goodbye, Mike

When Paul rang me from the ambulance that was rushing his dad to hospital, I knew I had to be with him. I phoned his sister in Bristol, to let her know, then phoned my son-in-law. He jumped in the car, picked me up, and we were there within twelve minutes of getting Paul’s news.

The ambulance hadn’t arrived, so I announced myself and waited outside. A policeman was standing nearby when a nurse came out to show me to the visitors room. She took me through the “Ambulances Only” doors. I turned to the policeman, gave him the thumbs up, and flippantly said “Hey – I’m going through the restricted doors – it’s anarchy in the UK.” The nurse and the policeman laughed with me.

I haven’t laughed much since that moment. I hadn’t known that “Visitors Room” is a euphemism for “Bad News Room”.

She brought me up to date. The words “cardiac arrest in the back of the ambulance” dropped me into an abyss. The paramedics got his heart going again, and were doing all that they could for him. Deep down I knew it was over, but I said,

“He must get through the next year. He has to.”

She asked me if there was some particular reason, but I just repeated my demand. I didn’t want to talk about how vulnerable our children are right now.

I rang Laura’s fiance, Dave – told him that Mike had had a massive heart attack. Dave accelerated.. Nobody can drive like Dave, in an emergency.

I lost track of the time. I didn’t know whether Paul had called in the early evening or the middle of the night. Everything in me was focused on Mike’s survival, and on Paul’s strength.

The door opened. Paul and his partner, Krusti, were ushered in, both weeping, leaning on each other, hardly able to stand, through shock and grief. Krusti’s eye make-up was smeared over both of their faces.

I’d been asked if I wanted to be with Mike while they were working on him. I’d replied that I needed to be wherever Paul chose to be. When asked, Paul said he couldn’t watch it any more.

He kept repeating that he’d seen it when Mike’s heart stopped, seen him cease breathing.

“I thought he was dead. I thought we’d lost him.”

He went through the events of the day; how he’d been worried about Mike, but he and Krusti had needed to come into town to collect his daily meds, so he rang for an ambulance while he was on the bus, but was told that an ambulance couldn’t come unless the caller was with the patient. He’d gone home to find his dad sitting downstairs, apparently well and cheerful. They’d sat together for a while, talking and joking, then Mike said he wanted to go to bed. He didn’t have the strength it make it up the stairs, only getting as far as the landing. Paul knew there was something terribly wrong. He said he’d call an ambulance. Mike protested, but Paul phoned the emergency services, and they came.

Someone came in and gave ups an update about Mike. It wasn’t positive. They questioned us about details of his state of health. There was something missing from the puzzle. They didn’t know what he had suffered the cardiac arrest.

The visitors room door opened again. Krusti’s dad came in.

A doctor showed up. Mike was on life-support. The doctor gently explained that he had no chance of survival. I finally allowed the truth to surface.

Stephen, the younger of Mike’s two sons from his first marriage, turned up with his girlfriend. Stephen’s pupils were huge. He was sagging, but he put up a brave front. We waited.

Out in the world, clocks ticked, informing the general public of the speed of time, while in that room, time got lost in the agonised air.

A charge nurse came and told us that we could be with Mike. Everyone filed into a room that was partitioned off with blue, wipe-down curtains. Mike was unconscious. A respirator tube protruded from his mouth.

I looked around, pleased to see that my family were supporting each other, and I could feel Laura and Dave approaching in the car. I wanted to get them to Mike as quickly as possible, so I ran outside just as their car screeched to a halt. I opened the passenger door and took Laura’s hand, trusting that Dave had prepared her for the worst. He had. I led her to Mike’s bedside.

I watched this little group of people; my two younger children, my stepson, his girlfriend – who I had never met – Krusti, Dave, Krusti’s Dad. Paul was locked into his own emotions, but embarrassed by his extreme grief. Krusti was grieving; at the same time supporting Paul. Laura’s shock was already dipping her in and out of reality. Stephen’s girlfriend was doing all she could to fill in the cracks that he couldn’t hide. Stephen was amazing in his own indefinable way, hugging Paul, hugging Laura, then going back to his girlfriend for an injection of strength. Dave was standing by for whatever might happen, and Krusti’s dad was unreadable. I later learned that he was devastated.

I tried to be with the right person at the right time, but I kept looking at Mike, my estranged partner of over twenty years, and I realised that I wasn’t only there to support my children.

I bent over him, and spoke words that were for him alone to hear. I wanted him to move on in peace.

Mike’s arms were twitching involuntarily. We were told that it was because his blood pressure was dropping.

I went over to Stephen, and asked him how he felt about the ventilator. We agreed that it was time to let Mike go. The charge nurse had told him that Mike’s that “Mike’s body was “unhappy”. Mike had been showered with love and kisses. There was no more to be done. The agony of waiting was stretching out.

With Stephen’s blessing, I asked the charge nurse to request that the doctor switch off the respirator. He showed up soon after.

What followed was horrendous. I expect it always is, but then Mike’s body calmed down. His breathing slowed. He became peaceful.

Breathing ceased within a few minutes, at 12.24 am on Sunday morning.

Goodbye Mike. I know that you tried to be a better person, and I appreciate it. Maybe at some point in the next few days I’ll get a bit of time to myself, to analyse my feelings.

Meanwhile, our beautiful children need me. Rest assured that I’m here for them, and for Stephen, should he wish it.

©Jane Paterson Basil.

In the Street

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Saw him in the street today.
I could say we passed like strangers,
but it wouldn’t be true.

Years of  abuse
curled like vapour
in the grey space between us.
I caught the rueful look on his face,
maybe shame, maybe regret at having lost
his power to use me.
He limply lifted his hand in vague salute,
and my view willingly slid from his face.

He didn’t slow his pace –
neither did I.

After we’d passed each other by,
I felt chilled relief;
throughout the vacant years of addiction,
I have clung on to a fake picture of a wonderful son.

I don’t know when he went, or understand why,
but he died, leaving but a shallow crust,
to be squatted by the horror I saw
in the street today.

Maybe I need to grieve,
but it feels like I’ve been grieving forever.

Please don’t criticise,
nor empathise or sympathise.
Don’t tell me he’s still there, or that he cares;
don’t treat me like an innocent,
or like a green beginner ~
I may be too brittle to take it;
I may break.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Autumn’s cruel joke

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Beyond my window,
Autumn beckons with false promise.
Bare branches bend their beckoning fingers
before the blue beyond where cottonwool clouds meander.
Baby breeze murmers at fall’s command;
“See the beauty,” it seems to say,
“I’ve mended the weather.
Come to me and I will fill your dreams;
Let you live one remembered childhood Sunday.
Come outside, come outside, and breathe my carefree air;
run with me, prance with me,
spin and dip and dance with me.
Be a child again.”

But I hide behind my door where I am safe
from those autumnal lies which taunt me so cruelly;
I know if I trust them, the spell will evade me.

A trick of the light will lead me to wander
in search of the joy of yesteryear’s freedom.

The brow of the hill will pull me toward it,
and when I arrive the goal will be yonder,
down in the valley, then on to the river,
and still my yearned-for destination;
those faraway trees and lush green meadows,
will be around many corners,
long miles beyond me.

A storm will steal up.
Thunder will crack,
and darkness will cover
the land all around me.
Rain will pelt me,
and flood will drown me.

©Jane Paterson Basil

For Laura

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I’m seated by the window, watching boredom unfurl,
when you walk down the street, my dear depleted girl.
I focus my eyes on your wasted little frame;
hunt for a clue that something is the same;
a hint of that innocence I used to see;
the essence of your childhood personality;
something I can recognise that hasn’t changed;
a spark within your heart that’s not been rearranged;
a clue that you still attached to this family
in whatever odd way you may wish to be.

your unreachable proximity is baffling to me,
I watch you closely though I know you can’t see.
I’m unsure if in my absence you feel like my daughter;
it pricks me with guilt, makes me feel like a voyeur;
I’m spying like a stranger, an agenda in mind;
to steal away the limited freedom of your kind;
to lock you in my love or in a barred up cage;
ignore your screaming agony, your frothing rage;
strangle all the dealers who knock on the door,
until you finally appreciate what life is for;
when you rediscover a child’s sense of mystery,
and your hunger for drugs recedes into history.

You’ve passed the houses and you’re out of view;
I wish I’d left my flat and caught up with you,
but I know you’re needing something as you’re in a hurry,
and your answers to my questions would make me worry;
I shouldn’t inquire but there’s a limitation
on how many ways to have open conversation,
since you fell into a hole full of chemical highs,
while to everyone’s surprise, your body survived.
There’s so little of you left, but whatever you do
and whatever more you lose, I will always love you.

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©Jane Paterson Basil