Prose and poem by Lynda Bowman Innes


                                                     End of Life

 


As a Hospice RN I had the rare privilege to share the path towards death with many wonderful people; my hospice patient’s in Louisiana. It really does not matter where end of life patients may live, however, because they all are vividly aware of the limited time they have left on this planet. For the most part I found my patients both willing and eager to talk. They would divulge and teach even if their words were weak; sometimes I would have to put my ear to their lips in order to hear their life lessons. 

The end of one’s life is seldom like the movies would have you believe. Yes, families do gather and grieve and support one another. The patient however is already beginning their journey and has withdrawn in to a place that none of us can know. Before that occurs is when the learning is happening both for the patient and whoever is fortunate to sit and listen. Over and over my very sick patients would do their life review, which included acts they were ashamed of, and those beautiful stories of good deeds, births, growing up in the swamp, playing in the Cane fields and seafood. All the stories were different and yet the same as the thread of each was laced with how important each day is. We are all heard to say how important each day is but I do not think anyone can know that, truly, until a diagnosis that clearly spells out the end is received. 

At any rate, three years ago I was asked to plan, organize and speak at the first Memorial service that our company would host. We were a young Hospice so we had never had such a service before. The planning etc was easy; as I had a great staff and we all made it happen. The speech part was my gift and I would agonize for nights as I attempted to write words that would make every person in the church feel like I was talking about their loved one. 

The following words are what I wrote and spoke. It is a composite of each one of those remarkable teachers.

 

 

 

 

Please do not look for me
Where I am not
I am not in the tomb
Or in a grave plot
I am not in that photo
Or in my old worn out clothes
But here’s where you’ll find me
Now everyone knows
Look for a smile on my daughter or son
You’ll see me in them
As they get their lives done
Watch for birds soaring so high above
And remember the outdoors that I once did love
When you look at the Cane
As it dances and sways
Remember me working on those very long days
Watch as the rains fall and gardens turn green
I will be there beside you
As you fiddle and preen                                                                                                                     
Listen for wildlife as they too have their say
The Coyote’s howls and Otters at play
I will be there with them
In the woods and the bay
When the buds bloom in springtime
I’ll be right there too
In the redness of roses
And the pansies so blue
When you walk at the seashore
And feel the cold spray
Well I am there too
On that cool summer day
When our Grandkids and theirs
Stop by for a kiss
I will not be there
And that’s what I’ll miss
So remember I am here
In the warmth and the cold
I am watching you closely
As you now grow old
I am waiting with patience
To hold your old hand
As you join me forever
In this perfect land

 

Lynda Bowman Innes
2008


Lynda's poem is so beautiful...it expands on a letter written during the Civil War...I have often wondered how to express the thought...the idea...in today's terms...Lynda has captured that beautiful moment of eternity...how life...our spirit...goes on into tomorrow...where hope lives.

Here's the letter written during the Civil War, from Major Sullivan Ballou, 2nd Rhode Island, to his wife Sarah that captures what Lynda is saying.  Major Ballou was killed in battle a few days after writing this love letter…

 

            “But O Sarah!  If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen

around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days

and in the darkest nights…always, always, and if there be a soft breeze

upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your 

throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.  Sarah do not morn me

dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again…”