Martha’s poem

“I watch you and your mother,” my friend Martha said, “and I woke up one day and had to write you this poem. I hope that’s all right. I mean, I’m not a writer.”

Writers are meant to see and feel what’s going on and write it down so other people can see and feel what matters too. That’s what I sweat over when I write, anyway.

I’m in awe of Martha’s poem. Reading it left me in tears of surprise and gratitude to be so well understood. I’m doing no saintly chores. I’m getting lessons every day in grace and what matters in life, helping my mother through the last days of hers. I’m in awe of Martha’s compassion and insight. 


She was Mom’s friend first, but I horned in to get to know her. She’s dark-haired, bright-eyed, with a dry wit and an authentic laugh. Some of her jokes are over my head. She works with engineers so everybody’s doing it together in the best way possible. She wanted to have a house in the country with chickens and rabbits and now she does. She writes poetry, too.

I am my Mother’s Voice

Mom wanted to help me, so let me rent one of the four-plexes.
She is strong and independent and
I could lean on her optimism and enthusiasm.

Soon she wasn’t cleaning and upkeep became a chore.
We agreed it better to simplify, sell, and
move in together in condos nearby.
She was still independent and on familiar turf
where she knew her way around.

She struggled to find a word or remember a name
when I started to help.
The embarrassed look forced my quick response.
She is strong and independent and
I lean on her optimism and enthusiasm.

I showed her the bus routes and
persuaded her to quit driving and
Arranged for friends to take her to church
before I helped to find a buyer for her car.

She forgot the way home from one of her loved walks
And lost her footing in the store and became friends with EMT.
She did not ask for help but I did. I arranged more friends
to visit or take her to appointments and social events.

Mom is the outgoing one with a smile and kind word for everyone.
I learned to tap those friends with parties and meals to make her smile.
She pretends to remember names and I help to keep conversations going.

I am a writer and storyteller. I am my mother’s voice.
Helping her to remember, we watch old movies and
I record her fleeting thoughts.
Pictures of times past surrounded us
And provide subject topics for conversations with friends.
She is strong and independent and
I lean on her optimism and enthusiasm.

When she fell I thought the nursing home appropriate
Until I saw her in clothes that did not match
or resemble her style.
I spoke up and brought her home.

Now I am speaking with doctors and hospice
Allowing, no insisting, her to be heard.
She is strong and independent and
I lean on her optimism and enthusiasm.

She will be home and occupy the living room
with all the windows and light and
pictures and memories and be surrounded by friends.
She is optimistic and strong with a smile and kind word for everyone.
I lean on her optimism and enthusiasm.
I speak for her, I remember for her, I tell her story.
I am my mother’s voice.

~Martha, 4/12/14