Tuesday, October 24, 2017



The bitter cold night shows no pity,
Harsh winds surround me, howling,
Clutch my scarf oh-so-tightly to my neck,
Quicken my pace; my heart is pounding.

Up the steep steps and to the bleak entry,
I rattle the rusty keys in the lock,
Thankful for the mundane, the familiar,
The rhythmic ticking of the mantle clock.

Slowly, I ease into my old armchair,
And breathe a heavy sigh of relief,
My mind drifts into empty peace,
But, alas, my respite is brief.

For soon I feel the rising tension,
The nagging sense of dreadful doom,
The far-away growling presence,
Nearing from the tomb.

At first, his footsteps are faint,
But approaching ever more,
By his vision I have been haunted –
Gentle rapping at my door.

Panic grips my scattered mind,
Blood raging through my veins,
His knock at first seems gentle,
But his intentions have been preordained.

For he is what once was,
The specter of regret,
No mercy or kindness holds he,
And he has come to collect his debt.

His pounding never ceases,
And soon he breaks through the door,
Presents his macabre demands,
I must relive what has gone before.

Harsh words and love unspoken,
Pass before my tightly-closed eyes,
Missed chances and unfulfilled commitments,
The failed following of words so wise.

My tears now fall hot and heavy,
For a past that I cannot change,
I have done my best to make amends,
But good intentions are often in vain.

He laughs and dances and taunts me,
Till at last he has had his fill,
And then at once he leaves me,
Though his memory lingers still.

Perhaps my grievous trial has ended,
Perchance there will tonight be no more,
But as the possibilities consume me –
Another tapping at my door.

He, too, is not unexpected,
Though I had hoped to escape his wrath,
I had dreamed of a moment of peace,
But this is clearly not my destined path.

The door swings open widely, wildly,
And in bursts the ominous fiend,
Looming, towering, just above me,
The ghost of things which will never be.

I’m atop the social ladder,
Bright career and financial success,
Leisurely, lavish destinations,
In all my endeavors touched and blessed.

He flashes this future before me,
But it’s a future long buried and dead,
One no longer in my clever clenches,
Whose only existence is in my piteous head.

For my life is not what it once was,
My journey forevermore altered,
Shaped, forged, and molded by hardships,
Long to reach it, but I forever falter.

My hopes and dreams once so likely,
Have faded and dimmed through the years,
Now but mere distant, fleeting memories,
On a road marked with heartache and fears.

He boasts of my numerous failures,
Laughs with glee at my frivolous dreams,
For he knows as well as I do,
They are finished – or so it would seem.

I hang my head in sorrow,
Weep buckets of misery and shame,
Beg for an ounce of mercy,
And he relents, though my pain long remains.

Spent and feeling utterly broken,
I retire to my warm, soft, easy bed,
Seek to comfort my barren soul,
Long to soothe my poor aching head.

But just as I meet the covers,
As I sigh deeply into welcome rest,
I note the presence of one last visitor,
I feel his breath upon my neck.

Though His arrival is most unexpected,
And I am cautious of his genuine intent,
He seems to mean me no real harm,
No threat of malice or cruel torment.

He is soft and whispers quite gently,
Beckons me to glance once again,
At all the days which lie before me,
The possibilities which dwell within.

I am leery – shattered and broken,
But His words and manner draw me near,
The picture He paints is not frightening,
He calms my mind and my thoughts begin to clear.

He beseeches me to His plea to harken,
“It is not the past that you must fear,
Not the future never fulfilled,
Nor the frustrated fancies of younger years.”

As He draws me ever closer, speaks kindly,
And I listen as I never have before,
“You must find the blessings unseen…
And cling to what once was nevermore.”

His displays are not days I envisioned,
Not the journey I ever had in mind,
Not the accomplishments I once imagined,
But His vision is magnificent, sublime.

A life without envy or fierceness,
Where compassion and tenderness abound,
Days spent serving the forgotten ones,
No earthly indulgences or accolades to be found.

And for the first time in a very long time,
I am filled with wonderous expectation,
My soul holds new promise and hope,
At the thought of this glorious revelation.

He proposes a future uncertain but sure,
This Spirit of What May Yet Come,
A life unforeseen but always preordained,
By the One to whom I long to succumb.

So, my tears flow freely – unburdened,
My heart swells with gratitude and joy,
My living, breathing Redeemer,
Offers promise and restores my dead soul.

I awaken, the long day before me,
The winds blow, but not as bitter or cold,
I clutch my scarf and quicken my pace,
Eager, as my new future unfolds.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Saving Grace

I am reminded of a time when I was younger, when my heart was gentler and purer. Many years ago, my mother worked in a long-term care center, and because I was too young to stay alone during summer breaks from school, I tagged along with her to work, serving as a "volunteer." I will never forget those days or the residents who impacted my life and shaped my sense of compassion.

One man, in particular, touched me. He could hear but could not speak and, despite having been in the center for many years, had never received a visitor. I asked my mother if he had any family, and she replied he had two daughters who never came to see him because (according to them) he had been cold and cruel during his parenting days.

Now, I am not privy to what might have occurred during those years, but I do know the man I met and came to adore was far from monstrous. He was kind and generous, laughed and enjoyed life, despite his circumstances, and lit up exuberantly when we entered his room. He never failed to greet me with a cherished handmade craft, a thoughtful card, or a sweet treat he had saved from his latest meal or trip to the vending machine. I could not help but think that if his daughters would merely open their eyes to the man he had become, life would be better for all of them.

It is because of these past remembrances that stories such as those recounted in the article "Chasing Deadlines and Happiness, We Forget Our Lonely Elderly" (link below) never fail to bring me to tears. I have worked and volunteered in a number of long-term care facilities over the years, and the loneliness and sorrow of the nearly-invisible residents can be overwhelming to witness. There are scores of elderly and ill, silently wandering the halls like ghosts, hidden in the shadows of joyless, austere rooms, who have not a single soul to care for or about them.

We are busy and preoccupied with our own lives, for certain, but there lies a deeper explanation behind this horror than that which first meets the eye. Though pressures and demands on our time and sympathies do indeed abound, the secret truth lying just beneath the logical facade we create is that we have largely become cold and callous to the suffering of others. We are self-centered beings who have developed the ability to simply disconnect, to pretend the struggle of others is not our concern. At times, we ignore even our own loved ones. We tell ourselves soothingly that we live too far from our parents or siblings to help and that we have our own families to care for now, our own priorities to meet. Besides, there are other relatives who are better equipped emotionally, physically, and financially to bear the burden. And, after all, we assure ourselves, we were never really that close to the pitiful soul now desperately seeking help in the first place.

So, we become strangers who move on with our lives without so much as a second glance at the plight of the lessers. We repress the memories and banish the haunting images of our abandoned loved ones (and the twinges of guilt they bring) to the backs of our minds. We convince ourselves our fellow human beings are no longer our problem -- there are care facilities and organizations, volunteers, and distant relatives and friends who are more qualified to tend to that sort of suffering for us. Our lives are dedicated to our own goals and desires, which far outweigh the needs of the forgotten ones, and we cannot be bothered with the great demands of selflessness.

I am not familiar with the individual stories and past lives of all who find themselves alone, but I do know they once had families, neighbors, and friends who loved them. They had dreams and hopes for a fate far better than roaming sterile hospital halls alone, and they long to again engage with the loved ones who have abandoned them to this prison, this living Hell, to be once again appreciated, adored, and fondly remembered. They yearn to find meaning and purpose in their hopeless existence and connect with others who can spare them from the silence and isolation which marks their seemingly endless days.

I do not claim to have simple solutions, but I ask you to please remember these poor souls. Visit, call, write. Shower them with affection, and let them know someone cares, that they were thought of, that they matter. Though the truth may be buried deep down, somewhere in your heart and soul, you must feel the tugging to aid the forgotten ones. Every kind act shapes your path and theirs, so give freely of yourselves. You might find you are their saving grace -- and your own.

* Article Link: https://medium.com/the-guardian/chasing-deadlines-and-happiness-we-forget-our-lonely-elderly-e4268b8d7e1b