Some of you may remember that last fall I took a Creative Writing course – just because I had always wanted to, but never had. I ended up with one tough-cookie, no bullshit teacher… no, she is more than that.

She is an artist. Words are her medium.
And she believes deeply that there is great beauty, healing, nonsense and insight in the Act of Writing.
She teaches because that belief is her passion, her juice.
She recognizes the significant insignificance of every choice an artist makes when creating
– that we create how we live and we live how we create.

Many people take Creative Writing thinking it will be a cake-walk elective.
Not with this woman.
She knows the kind of work it takes to evolve and transform and fall in love
with the gifts that writing has to offer.
She knows that art has to be a daily practice, a way of life, even when it’s not easy.
And she challenges each student to step up and give that an honest, accountable taste.

I’ve always been drawn to wordplay.
Writing has always been a practice for me on some level, in varying degrees.
But for this class I took, and for myself – because of the insistence of my teacher – I met her challenge and wrote about some things from my experience that had touched me deeply over the years.

I found that certain experiences and people I have witnessed as a hospice nurse
were sitting inside of me waiting to be shared, their truth waiting to be told.

Like in this poem I wrote that was just accepted for a local literary arts journal publication, Rhapsodist.

Testimony

He had a look to his eye like he’d seen an other side
Blue glazed bloodshot, bulging from his shrinking skull
nestled in feather cotton plume
Fluffed and primped like the lilac fresh linens
Softly covering the hole leaking purulent stench in his gut
Held hostage to a makeshift bed in his livingroom
ten feet from the front door that would not rest.
Centerstage, he waited with his eyes.

Seven years, six surgeries later,
the doctors had signed off
Sent him home with dry well-wishes
A script for morphine prayer.
His family obliged, rightfully so,
and took him home to “get” well.

He watched them all swarm and fuss
To the tick-tock servitude of the family heirloom
Keeping time to tedious treatments
to ease his body’s oozing degradation
with a mix of loyal, muffled disgust
In full-on-faith southern hospitality.

His uncles shouted to rising sounds of Nascar TV
His wife, their son to hip,
Declared this day better than the last
His mother’s perfumed lotion spread through the room
to speak her silence
A dozen kin silhouetted the window from the porch.
They wanted to feed him a folk-tea miracle remedy
with their chatter of children and God.
Everything but what lie before them

The ceiling fan alone gave testimony
oscillating siren shadows across his form
A rhythmic lure beyond time
Calling him to their slumbering embrace

He was thirty four with less than a day
No miracle to be had but merciful design
He wanted to tell them,
He tried to tell them
with his eyes.
But no one was listening.

~

Testimony is a glimpse of a sad story that is commonplace when people are faced with their own sense of helplessness and loss – when healing is forsaken for the often empty promise of curing.

It’s my personal plea to whoever reads it
to be brave in the face of heartbreaking loss and bodily mess,
to commit to witnessing pain when others need it most,
to *listen* to what isn’t being said,
and to simply not fear death – your own or anyone else’s.

Or, at least, to not let that fear keep you from bearing witness to the inevitable
with the integrity, love, acceptance and honor that is so often needed.


We have a tendency to confuse our emotions of loss during the death of a loved one
with the idea that death means someone lost a battle.
I encourage you to reframe that – death is every bit as much a part of life and nature as being born.
It is another mysterious part of our spirit’s cycle.

I have seen a lot of people die, held their hands, heard their last words, cried with their families.
Beyond the details of the body changing, it can be quite beautiful.
It is always transformative.

We get to choose how we hold space for this transformation in our life.

In hospice, we are said to work in “end-of-life care”.
I have come to not like that phrase.
Dying is simply a part of living. Not an end.
As simple as that.

Perhaps, by starting there,
we can mend our relationship with dying
before we are called to witness it in our loved ones or ourselves.

~

Shine On,

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