Loss and mourning

Shaun’s birthday
Another birthday gone, and with the years
Your brothers catch you up and pass you by.
The pain and sorrow stay, as do the tears.
The day’s remembered well - with your first cry,
You staked your claim, and then you built a life
Of strength and trust and joy – a gift for all.
You had so many friends, avoided strife.
Looked smiling down on things– you were so tall.
Do you see how big a gap you left?
Do you sense your brothers overtake?
Do you know your mother stays bereft?
She thinks of you at night and lies awake.
If you do, don’t let it make you sad,
For they’re all thankful now for what they had.

This virile branch, so early smashed to ground,
Torn by a terrible tornado of hateful bad luck.
Rent from a tree whose support and love
Was just too far away to protect it from the night’s storm.

Your first branch, it gave so much joy as it grew,
Dwarfing the slender, supple trunk from which it sprang.

All around marvelled at its strength and beauty.
And when it fell, they came to you, to comfort you,
To remember it, to tell you what it meant to them,
A future’s promise denied, a bleeding gap
Untimely ripped in your side.

Your sap flowed, then dried as the wound closed.
But the jagged scar will always show,
However smooth the bark around,
However strong the tree.

And strong you must be, for there’s another branch,
Wounded by the same storm it still draws its sap,
That rises so fully from you, to mend its damaged spirit.

Meanwhile, your youngest branch
That, steady, grows from you,
Gives hope for future strength, so safe and sturdy,
But still it needs your vital sap.

So I shall water you. You are my tree.
’ll tend you, I’ll defend you.
I’ll support you and the branches
That are left to you.

So as your branches grow and as we age,
We shall look back and see
That, in this blackest hour,
A spirit seed was sown
That grew eternal strength.

Silver lining
I cannot tell why fate ordained it so.
One week, so long in love, in time so brief!
What made me want to change the status quo?
My life, so steady, shakes now like a leaf.

One day so high, and then in dark despair.
How did you cope with what life threw at you?
With all you know - to love, to warm, to care.
Self-sacrifice, to see the others through.

But your time’s now, the corner’s just been turned.
A bright beam chases out the darkest night.
Reborn, a future’s joy that’s been well earned.
With sons and lover close, you’ll bathe in light.

Do celebrate his life, for ever more.
But on a darker past, just close the door.

Black and white,
Bulky boy,
Long-ago kitten,
Kathryn’s comfort,
Sister’s solace
Fraternal Freeze,
Grew gracefully old,
Too slow for the road,
Now curled up and cold,
Farewell Kit-Kat

The call
Late at night it came. You’re hurt.
We’d know one day it would happen.
In hospital, legs smashed, teeth broken, body bruised.
I collapse, can’t take it. Recover, we drive to hospital.
You’re propped up, conscious, a painful smile.
“Sorry”, you say. We sit with you, Christmas in hospital,
Mending your legs, then years of pain, operations,
Dentistry, until you’re whole and ready for new stresses.

To Mike (A sonnet in honour of Mike Wallbridge, which I read out at his funeral in March 2013)

I met you in another life, at Xerox,
Where selling hard was seen as the sole solution.
Surrounded by smart and shiny salesmen, you strove
To keep the light of marketing shining bright.

What relief to move to a brave new world
Where you could show your mettle, in tough battle
With the dark forces of primeval product managers,
And hold high the idea of the customer.

While we worked with you, we younger marketers
Cut our teeth and grew a little wiser.
We learnt to build on what you taught us then.
Now, as our careers come to a close,
With time at last to pause and view our past,
We give thanks for a friend’s life that changed ours.

Nunc dimittis
Her hip is broken, shoulder smashed
A fall that nearly ended all,
But somehow sadly she survived
At eighty nine, no way to end

Infirm and old are all around
There's some that sleep incessantly
While others are awake, alert.
At least the air is urine-free!

She made it clear, she wants to go
Her husband waits for her, she says.
His body long survived his mind,
A cut of the unkindest kind.

Her children try to find a way.
The law blocks every exit now.
The Swiss solution gives them hope,
While they await another fall.

Aunt Monica - funeral sonnet
I know that she would want to see us here
To celebrate her life, all dressed in red.
She’d ask us not to shed a mournful tear,
But rather think again of things she said.
For me, the words that always come to view
Are ones that make me feel a special man.
Of her most favourite men, just one of two.
How nice to have her such an ardent fan!
This title - one that Michael gladly shares -
Will never fade, but keep her image bright
And always brought to mind in deepest prayers,
Though please, let’s keep our memories full of light!
So Monica, we give thanks for your time,
But..... please forgive me for this awful rhyme.

Clear out
The flat was full, of
Woodwormed chairs and tables,
Pictures hanging as
They had for years,
Lightening the paper behind,
Books and clothes and cards,
Bought years ago, in
Bags, unopened since the shop,
Receipts intact,
Randomly filled
Boxes and drawers, and
Piles of magazines
For women, in which she wrote
How to cope with worry and
Lead a good life,
Shelves that bore
An extra weight of dust
With droppings from a
Hundred happy mice that
Waltzed along the walls, beside
Skirting boards, beneath
Crumbling plaster, in beds,
Up grimy curtains,
Round rotting window frames,
Under rusting radiators, dripping red
Onto crumbling carpets.
For every bulb that failed, she
Bought a bedside lamp,
Which clustered with its
Brothers by the power points.
But still the flat was
Dark and damp,
Knee deep in
An accumulated life,
Nothing disposed.

And then men came,
All in white
To protect them from the
Germs, and fourteen tons of
Layered grief were swallowed
By the truck.

The One Part Missing Club
In agony, my father joined the club.
His desert tank brewed up,
one leg shrapnel-filled, the other
shredded, then severed.

The mole started then, stayed
burnt fiercely in sunbathed summers.
Surrounded by ruby skin, it spread
and killed him.

I told Aunt Monica, “It’s a good club,
with special members.
We learn to laugh at our loss
 a private secret.”

The unkindest cut took her breast,
but still, she laughed, until the
 cancer crept into her brain
and killed her.

I joined early. From tonsils,
to appendix, I graduated
to higher degrees, by losing
half my gut.

And now each year
they chop away at
small skin growths.
I hope to
outlive my father and count
the survival years.

They change but somehow stay the same,
survivors of my parent’s generation,
somehow shielding us from
our mortality.

Copper Cliff (In memory of mum - Copper Cliff was the hospice where she died)
Merlikins you called me, and so I always was.
With warmth and love
You mothered me through tough times.
Your pride in me gave me strength.

You produced a happy brood.
We still remember how it was
to return to the warmth
of your heart and hearth.

Your sister dear tells of your youth,
a happy, bright star with shining light,
always at the edge of experience,
always challenging the world’s ways.

Then you too went through the hell
of lost love and health.
I saw you one more time, to say farewell,
A few words, a kiss, a hug, then silence.

Roy Griffin In Memoriam Stockport 1973
Bright white smile, clean cream crepe
round your chest hides a slashing wound.
You walk the ward, smile, joke, improve.
We talk. You vow to go straight, no drugs.

And you do go straight, but not as you hope.
Dirty knife polluted marrow. You spiral down.
You father's called, sits by bedside,
cannot fathom this evil turn.

Your rapid breaths echo in the ward,
accelerate, then halt. Your father runs, vomits.
You leave, lying straight, under green canvas.
We are shocked, silent.

We knew he'd go, say the nurses.