Tree of Strength (a poem about resilience)

Tree of Strength (a poem about resilience).

This powerful poem was written by my dear friend, Pooky. It touched me so deeply I felt compelled to share it.

You Don’t Know

If you’ve never lived the reality
Of no longer being able to wash your body
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never been the person
Who washes a stranger’s body with kindness and compassion
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never been the person
Who helps to maintain the dignity of those who are ill or disabled
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never wept in frustration
Because you can no longer manage the simplest of tasks
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never experienced relief in a carer’s empathy
When you’re having a bad day
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never had a carer gently coax you
To allow them to put cream on your thin bruised broken skin
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never had a carer match their steps to yours
Because you struggle to breathe and walk at the same time
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never had a carer do your shopping for you
Because they can see ‘today’ you have no energy
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never experienced a carer’s ability
To help while giving you a sense of independence
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never had a carer clean your home
Respectfully moving your husband’s ashes
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never seen that same carer
Intuitively do something you wanted doing but hadn’t wanted to ask
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never experienced terrifying flashbacks because of a change in routine
Been calmed and comforted by the nurse who knows your history
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never experienced a momentary ‘my life is not worth living’
Yet moved back from the abyss because you have the support of carers
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never experienced the laughter a carer brings
Known the comfort of being wrapped in a towel on a cool morning
Sat and wept while a carer runs warm water on your back
Because the day is the anniversary of your son’s death
If you’ve never been a carer
Looked after people in the most intimate of ways
At the same time enabling them to experience a sense of independence
Never complained to your client when they’re having a ‘bad day’
Then
You don’t know

You might think you know
But trust me
If you’ve not lived it
From either side of the spectrum
Then
You don’t know

I know my carers are friendly but not my friends
I know there are rules to protect both client and carer
I know there will always be a few who’ll break the rules
I know the majority are good and caring people
I know I’m not allowed to give gifts to my carers
I didn’t realise this applied to Christmas

After all I give a gift to my gardener my postie
My doctors
Their receptionists
Just small things to acknowledge their kindness
These people are not my friends either
But they are friendly and I’m grateful

To refuse to allow me to give a small gift of gratitude
After all I receive at the gentle hands of my carers
Takes away the sense of independence
They spend the year imbuing me with
Do you know how hard it is to constantly accept help
Without being able to give anything in return

When you refuse to allow me to give
An end of year gift of gratitude to my regular carers
And the support staff
Then
I know
You don’t know

Tricia 11/2014

Voluntary Euthanasia

Why is it impossible in Australia
To have the peace of mind
Legalised Voluntary Euthanasia
Would bring
Preachers and politicians
Puritans and pseudo carers
Believe they know what is right
For a person they’ve never met
Where were these paragons of public good
When the small child was being
Beaten
Belittled
Broken
That child through
Courage
Determination
Shear force of will
Survived
Grew to adulthood
Found precious unconditional love
Learnt she was worthy
Entitled to make choices
Grew to love fiercely
Protectively
Joyfully
Unconditionally
Compassionately
Kindly
Survived the not wanting to survive
After the death of her husband and son
Worked to help others
Who were broken by bereavement
Seared by suicide
She now lives alone in her sanctuary home
Traversing the steep learning curve
That comes with
Chronic
Life limiting illness
Trying to find her new normal
Amidst the relentless slipping away of
Mobility
Privacy
Independence
Dignity
With age and growing disability
And the absence of her husband’s loving support
Her childhood vulnerability
Re-emerges
Fears and flashbacks sporadically assail her
She still has a wicked sense of humour
Finds joy in small things
Plays in her fashion
Listens with empathy
To friends and family
Writes to reach out
Shares her thoughts and feelings
Hopefully helping herself and others
In the process
Yet she knows
In the depth of her being
There is one thing she will never again do
Submit herself to the vagaries and vulnerability
Of institutional life
No more hospitals
Her last two hospital stays
Were punctuated by unnecessary suffering
Lack of empathy
Attempted religious manipulation
No care facility for her
Just the thought of them
Brings back her boarding school terrors
She loves her home carers
Occasionally
On bad days
She panics
Fears losing these wonderful empathetic women
For she knows
Without their help
She’d have to leave her home
That’s why she wants
The right to voluntary euthanasia
Not for right now
No
It’s the peace it would bring
Knowing
She’d never again have to fear
Being at the mercy of the merciless

Tricia 2014

Running Repairs

She knows she has been broken,
patched,
stitched,
partially repaired,
and yet
still the stuffing oozes.
A quick oversew here,
trimming excess stuffing there
but…
what to do
with the cutoff pieces?

Tricia 11/2014

breathe deeply…

The following is a link to a poem by, Charles, at slpmartin.wordpress.com

Don’t forget to touch the arrow that will enable you to hear Charles speak these powerful words.

http://slpmartin.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/breathe-deeply/#comment-29133

Empty Spaces

Last week I let go of my husband’s car
This week my son’s piano
My niece offered to move furniture
So the absence of the piano
Would not be obvious
I said no
Eventually I may put something there
However
Nothing will ever fill that space
For me
There’s a sense of validation
In the visual emptiness
I positioned myself in the lounge-room
So I could see both spaces
In them I saw my heart
My essence
Able to love
Laugh
See the beauty that surrounds me
Nonetheless
Hollowed by death and disability
I want to get my calligraphy paint
Scrawl across the blank wall
The empty car space
This is me!
This is me!

Tricia 9/2014

For My Son

Today is the 21st anniversary
Of your 21st birthday
You didn’t want a party
You wanted dinner at home
“Just us three”
Oysters
With French Champagne
Beef Wellington
With a 21 year old bottle of Cab Sav
Home made sorbet with raspberries
And to finish
Cheese and muscatels
With a 21 year old Vintage Port
You played Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
While dad decanted the red and the port
He poured them through a coffee filter
Because they’d thrown a sediment
You and dad stood behind me with a blanket
While I flambéed the eye fillet
Because I once set fire to the cafe curtains…

We’d just finished our oysters
When there was a knock at the door
Dad answered it to be greeted by
A Giant Chicken
Heidi had organised a singing telegram for you
I don’t know who was more surprised
Us or the chicken
He was expecting a larger gathering
But we got into the spirit of the thing
By the end my tummy was aching with laughter
I’ll never forget you sitting on the dining room floor
Singing with your very own Giant Chicken
As he was leaving he told us
Ours was the smallest gathering he’d attended
But one of the most fun
It was a wonderful evening
Lots of laughter
Loving reminiscence
And music
Beautiful music
You took requests between courses
After dinner you sipped your port
And improvised
I love how you could lose yourself
Once your fingers touched the keyboard

Tomorrow I’m letting go of your piano
It’s going to your cousin Molly
You never got to meet Molly
But you’d love her
She was born 40 years old
You’d love each of the next generation
Byron draws
Loves music
I gave him your cashmere jacket
I thought he’d wear it but
He hung it like a piece of art
That was when I knew
I’d found a home for your Doski blazer
He also has your drawing equipment
Young Quinn loves sport and computers
He’s also a quiet sensitive boy
I’m getting him an iPad
Because your computer equipment
Is so outdated
You’d be amazed by the strides in technology
In the 15 years since your death
And wee Thomas
Ellen’s little chap
Ah you’d love him so
Each time I look at his photo
I want to show you
I’m giving Thomas your stuffed Digbee
It’s 40 years old and well loved
But I want him to have something that was yours
We’ll also get him something new
Something a 2 year old would love

Dad died 10 years after you
Suddenly
Quietly
Holding my hand
I wish I could have held your hand
I miss you every day
Happy Birthday my darling son

Tricia 18/9/2014

The Car Battery is Dead

The car battery is dead.
So what?
But it’s much more
than a dead battery.
The battery is dead because
the car has only been driven
once in 9 months.
Driving has become too difficult.
She can no longer manage
the getting of the walking frame
in and out of the car.
And then there’s the oxygen,
the slow growing cataracts,
the balance issue.

“Get rid of the car”
you might say
but
it was His car…

There’s also her sense of
while it sits in the driveway
she still has a choice.
Maybe one day she’ll feel well enough
to drive to the beach,
it’s only 10 minutes down the road.
Oh how she misses
the sound of the waves,
the scent of the sea,
the feeling of sand underfoot,
the cooling ripple of salt water
ebbing and flowing over her toes.
And what if she runs out of milk one day?
With the car there’s the possibility
she can make it to the local shop.

She would let it sit there
but
on Thursday they’re coming
for her son’s piano.
She told them they could have it,
wants it to be played again,
nonetheless
it’s going to hurt to watch it go.
No more Memories of Green,
the theme from St Elmo’s Fire,
no more family rounds of Fur Elise.
No “Bottle of white, bottle of red,
perhaps a bottle of rose instead…”
They won’t be able to get the piano out
with the car in the driveway.
She knows it’s pointless
to put another new battery in
if the car’s not going to be driven.

Why must she contemplate
letting go of
her husband’s car,
her son’s piano,
her illusion of independence,
all in one week?
It’s all because
the car battery is dead.

Tricia 9/2014

My New Pendant

I don’t know why I hate it
I wept when the technician left
It’s very light
And yet
It feels like a brick
A constant reminder
I want to smash it against the wall
But I won’t
Not yet…

Tricia 3/9/2014

Once More Unto The Maze

Punching, sobbing,
smiling for friends and family
until,
behind closed doors
the torment continued.
Sent away to boarding school
to protect my sister
and myself.
Only there a few days when
that woman
sent me to the bathroom.
Eventually she came,
closed the door
then took off
the thick black belt,
the one that held
the rosary beads…

We met at a dance,
one I’d not wanted to attend.
You were so gentle,
kind,
interesting.
Slowly trust grew.
You shared your stories,
encouraged me to share mine.
You told me
I didn’t have to be funny
all the time,
you loved my silence
as much as my joy.
One day you said
I love you…

The sea was so salty
I could float.
For the first time in my life
I was buoyant,
free,
taken by the sea
body and mind
drifting,
finally experiencing…

“I can’t find a heartbeat”,
the room became silent.
Two quick cuts,
forceps pull you from me,
nurses doing CPR
on your tiny body.
Tears stream silently
down your father’s cheeks
as I cry, “No, no, please no”
Then you cried…

Years later
your father weeps, I howl,
a wild thing caught
in a bone crunching trap.
I wrap your cold,
rigid body
in the lovingly made quilt;
carefully tucking the edges
into the sides of the casket.
We three shared so much
in your 26 years,
love, laughter,
and pain.
Yes there was a lot of pain,
but the love and laughter,
ah, they were grand.
Ten years after your death
I was tucking another quilt
around a precious body.
Broken, bereft,
my love, my family, my life…

I’ve lived alone for 5 years,
some days are good,
some not.
I savour the riches of memory,
live joyful gratitude
for the love I’ve known.
One day
as a carer showered me
I asked
“When will it be my turn to die?”
She wrapped me in a thick towel,
held me and said,
“It’s okay to cry, Tricia, it’s okay to cry.”
I’m so grateful for my kind,
gentle carers.
I miss my husband and son
every day,
and every day I wonder when…

I’ll continue wandering my life’s maze,
pathways strewn with sorrow and joy,
forever clasping unconditional love
my precious husband, my darling boy.

Tricia 8/2014

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