Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Poem: How to speak to the dying

Do not tell them, "You will live."

They have already seen utter darkness or glorious light

and they will despair and fall inside themselves

because they are not believed.

People don't like being disbelieved.



So you must acknowledge that they are ending

and put aside your own comfort and your need to comfort

and hear them out.



But you must not sit there like a log either.

You have a heart; engage.

You must talk as well.



This is important whether or not the dying is able to speak.

If they are awake or in a coma.

At all times you must make your presence known.

Your full presence, I mean.



You must not be absorbed in the television show

hanging atop their hospital bed.

Even if it's the last of the ninth in the world series.



Except of course, if they are absorbed.

And then, if they are watching the game,

You must gauge yourself

match lightness to lightness, frivolity to frivolity, emotional heft.



If they attempt to resolve some hurt between you

be brave and honest and resolve it.

There is not much use holding a grudge against the dead

but be aware sometimes the dying are still selfish



Although they know they should not be

Although they know they are quite wrong

And have perhaps lived cruel lives.



If they continue to do harm

even on their death bed

challenge them;

why should the weak, frail, and dying

still have power to harm you?



But you must not be the one

to dig up old bones

or to remove skeletons from closets;

I see no point in being cruel.

Particularly if the dying are old and set in their ways.

Why do you think your words will enlighten them now

when words have been useless for so many years?

But you must speak of other things,

the good things in your heart

the loss you will feel when they are gone.



And when the dying goes silent,

And the monitors proclaim death's power

you must continue speaking.

For the soul does not immediately leave the body

synapses do not immediately stop firing.



Tell them you will see them again. . .soon.

Tell them to visit you in dreams. . .



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