Death in Winter

Last year, on January 31, my Mom went to the doctor.  She had come down with what she thought was the flu earlier in the month, but was never quite getting over it.  By February 2, after various tests, we learned she had a mass on her liver and would need to see an oncologist.  I flew back to Columbus the next week to help and be with her during what would turn out to be her last days.

These recent days have been especially difficult, remembering what was happening a year ago, and thinking about the one year anniversary of my mother’s death.  In addition, a week and a half ago, my mother’s father died.  There was some measure of grace in feeling that my grandfather chose to let go on January 18, eleven months to the day after my mother died.

I wrote the following poem when I was on the way from the Louisville airport to Lexington, for my grandfather’s memorial service.  I feel like I’ve been in a year of winter.  These days, I want hugs and I want to tell stories about my mother and grandfather.  Please don’t be afraid to ask.


Winter is the best time to die
Opaque waterfalls stilled on rocky face
Darkness stretches
Tamped ground silent infertile
Pure blanket stifling
Shocked torpor accepted
Falling through too-thin sheets

When we knew
And didn’t know
You were dying
I dragged a fallen branch across the snow
Searching for dormant plant miracles
About which I knew nothing
Now I have been thrust
Through the flames of hell
And now I know
That indifferent winter
Allows a searing apathy
And cool piercing rage
Before languidly limping
Toward Spring