For the past two years, one of my friends, Charlie Wilkinson, of Evanston, IL, has suffered the excruciating pain of his wife of 50 years, slowly slipping away into dementia. On this Mother’s Day, he and his children and grandchildren are facing the gut-wrenching pain of wishing a Happy Mother’s Day to a beautiful mother/grandmother who no longer recognizes them.
Charlie long ago introduced us to John O’Donohue, an Irish poet, who wrote “Anam Cara” which is Gaelic for “dear soul.” Charlie himself is a poet and a dear soul to all of us, and in his own inimitable voice he sends out a poem of grief and lament about Kathy, dear soul, his wife.
These Long, Sad Days
These long, sad days twist through the heart of me,
Endless, they seem, even early on.
My breathing measures minutes as I see
The embers of a mind that fade to gone.
Her eyes once bright with life are dull as mist,
Her memories elusive like her smile,
Her mouth a line of lips so often kissed
Holds tight to feelings, all the while
She sits in silence through each day
Reading, it seems; it’s difficult to know;
Her thoughts all inward and so far away
Unreachable, like stars that lost their glow.
There must be meaning somewhere in her dying.
But even while believing that, I’m still left crying.
Charlie’s favorite poet John O’Donohue once said that “poetry is a language against which there is no defense.” That is why my response may be a plea against which I have no defense:
Charlie, Your ‘cris de coeur’ is echoing in our hearts.
It is the language of languishing.
It is about birth and death
About knowing and not knowing
About remembering and forgetting
About Resurrection and Eternal Life
About always was, and forever will be.
O my God, our prayer can only be today
‘the lips we so often kissed in song,
We will forever kiss in silence.’
This Mother’s Day we kiss in silence the lips of mothers gone in dementia, and all mothers gone for many years into that silence of Eternal Life. May all of us rest in peace. Amen