She reads a poem
A mother bathing her three year old son
Fun filled baths before leukaemia (JMML)
Become a loving ritual of hospital bed baths
As he battles the illness that eventually
Ends his precious young life

As she reads she remembers
Bathing her own son
Timing the bath so that his Dad
Was there for the hair washing
Her son hated the water on his face
But Dad knew how to turn fear into fun

She remembers the last time
She bathed her son
He was twenty six years old
Battling depression and drug withdrawal
She’d poured soothing oils into the water
Massaged them into his aching trembling body

This time she washed his hair
While his dad changed
The perspiration soaked sheets
On the makeshift bed in the study
Then together they lifted their broken boy
Out of the bath and laid him on the bed

One either side they dried him
Gently because his skin screamed
As the poison seeped from his frail body
He wept and told them how much he loved them
How sorry he was for the pain he could see
In their loving eyes

It was a pain filled precious month
They spoke to no one except doctors
Told family and friends they were away
Pared down to their essence
Bonded by shared suffering
And bottomless love

Reliving lifetimes
In four weeks
Sharing frustration fears
Guilt and gratitude
Each finding forgiveness
For mistakes and misunderstandings

Six months later her son was dead
Ended his life
Because he couldn’t bear the pain
There wasn’t enough love in the world
To make him want to live
That’s the horror of depression and addiction

She’s so glad they had that month
Although they didn’t realise
They were saying their goodbyes
A lifetime was lived
In four short weeks
She’s grateful for the bathing of him

Tricia 11/2013

Inspired by a poem on cisforcrocodile

About triciabertram

I have written all my life. Writing helps me to make sense of a world I often don’t understand. Poetry is my supreme solace, closely followed by literature and music. When my son ended his life in 1999 I embarked on the most difficult journey of my life, my grief journey. To survive in this unknown, harsh landscape I had to write. It was for me, the only way I could even begin to move forward. Then in 2009 my darling husband died suddenly and so my journey continues. I write about other issues but because of my life experience, grief and death are continuing themes in my writing life. In our culture I believe there is a fear of death, an inability to accept the inevitability of our mortality, and this creates enormous difficulties for the bereaved and those around them. I have begun this blog in the hope I will create a small ripple in the pond of fear that is currently drowning the reality of death and grief. I will continue to skim the stones of my truth, watch them bounce, and see how many ripples I can make.

Posted on November 15, 2013, in Poems. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Tricia, I may or may not come back to this to say more but I so needed to acknowledge right now that I have read it and also read the poem that inspired you to write this. I say I may not come back because all I want to do is sit and hold your hand and the hands of the family from the other poem. Sometimes it isnt that words arent enough; its simply that they just wont do. This has moved me through tears and beyond them.

    I am about to go out and meet a friend for coffee. She has MS too, and lives near to me but we have never met, only on facebook. But I chose to read this first, before I go out and not sure if it was right to do so; I feel nauseous, holding your and their grief close to me.

    I am so nervous about getting a taxi and meeting her and I think this is another reaon Im feeling sick; going out should be such fun but its not. i want to be grateful for the fact that I still can just manage to go out on my own and when I read this that gratitude is shouting at me but I still dont feel it and absolutely nothing seems fair, not for me,not for you, not for them and lots of others.

    Love you

    • My dear Christine,
      Yes it was a sad, painful time, but we also shared joy and laughter and a closeness that is indescribable. Sadly we live in a society where many judge and want to apportion blame. Sometimes awful things happen and it’s no ones fault. I see Ken’s suffering and death as no different to someone who had a terminal illness. He first contemplated suicide at 11 years of age, when I found the poison and asked him why he was carrying it around, he told me “mummy sometimes I just get so sad.” He was referred to a psychiatrist who was a moron and who has since lost his licence. This experience took away Ken’s trust in the psychiatric profession. He did find a wonderful psychologist in the last year of his life. This man did all he could to help Ken, and Ken had great admiration and respect for him, as did Rod and I.

      I do understand your feelings of frustration and confusion, feeling one should be grateful. I had to go to the doctors yesterday, and Christine I wept with the effort. I tried to get just a couple of food items when I finished and was fighting so hard to breathe that strangers kept coming to check if I was OK. You and I do our best on any given day and that’s all we can do. I believe there’s nothing wrong with being pi**ed off with life every now and then, even every other day. 🙂 I’ve reached a point when I’ll be pleased when my days are done. I know a lot of people don’t understand this but they don’t live my life. I’m not one of life’s accepting stoics i feel I’ve done rather well all things considered, and I’m now tired to the marrow of my bones. Just because we or others have known past suffering that doesn’t negate our current suffering.

      Love you to bits
      Tricia xoxo

  2. A beautiful piece. Very well written.

  3. Oh, Tricia, this is heartbreaking and stunning. Jodi and I sat with it for some time last night, just sat in your words and the agony of it all. The love you have for your son, and the ache for him one feels through your words is positively visceral. Thank you for writing this, for sharing these memories, for sharing that lifetime lived in four short weeks. xoxo

    • Timaree, your comment means so much to me. Jodi’s words reached inside to that place of precious remembering, and the words just wrote themselves. I just had to allow them to come.
      You, Jodi and precious Caemon are never far from my mind.
      Love Tricia xx

  4. Such a beautiful poem Tricia, thankyou for sharing your personal connection with the original poem. I connected with the vulnerable side of this as well as the gracefulness it contained.
    Love, Peter

  5. Tricia. You feel so far away. I want to reach out and hold your hand. This is beautiful but it talks of pain I hope I’ll never have to feel… xxx

  6. Wow (yet again)! So descriptive, evocative, full of joy and pain. Thank you.

    • Dear Nathan,
      This one really did write itself. I read a poem by the mom of a precious 3 year old boy who died in February this year. I sat with her words for a couple of days and was taken on this journey.
      Take care my friend
      Tricia x

  7. I actually read this the other evening, Tricia, but before I could comment I “closed up shop” for a couple of days with the flu. I had a lot of time to think about what I had read!

    There are so many ways that I could respond and react to the poem, but beyond anything else there was something that really hit me about the relationship you had, and still have, with your wonderful son. It’s been clear from the beginning that you had a special bond, but in this reading about THE month, although it had to be painful in ways no one else could begin to understand, you also describe such love not just coming from parents to son, but your son to his parents. I find that extraordinary. That’s not the typical image that comes to mind when I think of an addict coming down. I’ve been influenced by images from the media, which usually includes anger and vitriol and blaming and sometimes hate. The three of you shared an incredibly loving relationship that stayed true no matter what else was going on.

    “There wasn’t enough love in the world
    To make him want to live
    That’s the horror of depression and addiction”

    These are the lines that just tear at my heart, dear Tricia. This is truly extraordinary. You really speak to the power of a mother’s love, because I don’t know how else anyone could explain surviving that one month, yet alone what came next. This is one powerful piece!
    oxo D

    • Debra, I hope you are recovering from your flu.

      How to find the words to say how much your comment means to me. I cried when I read it, and I’ve re-read it several times. Debra, Ken was a very loving and caring young man. A few weeks before he died there was a program on TV about Rapid Opiate Detox, this was part of what Ken went through in that month. I was having dinner with a friend when Ken rang my mobile. He was in tears and said “Mum I just had to ring you to tell you that I love you, and how grateful I am for all that you and Dad have done for me.” After his death, whenever the ‘why’ ‘what if’ and ‘guilt’ began to torment me, those precious words were like a soothing salve on a raw wound.

      Ken’s detox was particularly difficult because he had an allergic reaction to one of the drugs he was given as part of the detox. He vomited so much his body lost almost all its electrolytes and he had to be hospitalised for 12 hours to have them intravenously replaced. The casualty (ER) doctor said another couple of hours and he would have died. They wanted to keep him longer, but he just wanted to come home with his Dad and me. I’ll always remember how wonderful the hospital staff were. They praised Ken for what he was doing, and told us he must have suffered intolerably for his blood results to be what they were. One of the nurses gave him a hug as she helped him into the car. On the way home Ken joked “It’s a hard way to pick up a cute girl, but I’ll take it’.

      I didn’t always do the right thing, Debra, but I did my best. There are things I regret, but knowing how much Ken loved his Dad and me, well that helps me to accept that none of us are perfect and ultimately Ken’s death was his choice. Although I miss him every day I respect his right to make that choice.

      Thank you my dear Debra

      • I feel really honored to know more of the story, Tricia. I just shake my head at the power of addiction. He was truly tortured. And I don’t think any of us can be at all secure in what we think we’d do were we in his position. But the power of that love is also unmistakeable. Thank you so much for sharing. Your resilience in the face of all this is pretty powerful, too, my friend. I send a big hug from me to you! oxo

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