Living with Dying

For Ann who died of a rare cancer of the bone and for Mary Kate who chose the day and the way.



A Hunger for Bone

we scattered your relics, charred bone
blithe spirit, to be rocked by waves,
to be rocked into yourself, the rhythm
enchanting you with sapphire spume,
sighs merging your poetry with the ether,
rending our hearts of their shivered memories,
shattering the ocean floor with your dreams
lost in lapping lazuli tides, dependable ~
relief perhaps after pain-swollen years of
suckle on the shards of a capricious grace

those last weeks ...
your restless sleeps disrupted by
medical monitors, their metallic pings
not unlike meditation bells calling to you,
bringing you to presence and contemplation,
while bags hung as prayer-flags on a zephyr,
fusing blood, salt, water
into collapsing veins, bleeding-out
under skin, yellowing and puce-stained,
fetid air filled, we came not with chant,
but the breath of love, we tumbled in
one-by-one to stand by you

to stand by you
when death arrived

and it arrived in sound, not in stealth,
broadcasting its jaundiced entrance
i am here, death bellowed on morphine
in slow drip, i am here death shouted,
offering tape to secure tubing, handing
you a standard-issue gown, oversized -
in washed-out blue, for your last journey
under the cold pale of fluorescent light

far from the evergreen life of your redwood forest,
eager and greedy, death snatched
your jazzy PJs, your bling and pedicures,
your journals and pens, your computer and
cat, death tried your dignity and identity
not quickly, no ... in a tedious hospital bed,
extending torment, its rough tongue salting
your wounds, death’s hungering, a hunger
for bones, your frail white bones -
but you, in your last exercise of will, thwarted death,
bequeathing your bones to the living sea

 - for Ann Emerson, treasured friend and San Francisco Bay Area poet

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved 

A Tiny Froth of Smile and Grumble

You floated into our lives ~

an autumn leaf
edged in gold,
a tiny froth
of smile and grumble,
a lifetime
of grit and grizzle

Your mind over-larded
lost
……in the never-land
……of ninety years

such a small body
……such pain

So bravely, little autumn leaf
….you chose
………the wind
…………….on which to slip away,
…..leaving us
the emptiness of your chair
and our wistful hearts

- for Mary Kate, elderly friend and treasured role model

© 2017, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved


“There is only one law in the universe that never changes– that all things change, and that all things are impermanent.” Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Sometimes we deny the truth that we are all living with dying. The reality may hit us with the death of a friend, a sibling, a parent, a school mate. The more fortunate, like my elderly friend Mary Kate who faced death head on and chose to stop eating, go peacefully, but for others like my painfully ill friend Ann, my sister who committed suicide, and my mother who feared God's judgement, that final peace is hard-earned. If we are to have a peaceful death and a joyful birth into whatever comes next, it is up to us to come to terms and prepare as my inspirational friend, Mary Kate, did. We need to face up to the shedding of the body before before crisis, before the moment, when it is more difficult.

Thich Nhat Hanh has often reminded us that this why way a daily practice - whatever practice your faith encourages - is important. He is often my stalwart friend and traveler as I continue the path of living from a time long forgotten and into a time that time will forget.

Since Mary Kate was Buddhist and my own practice is Buddhist, I share this perspective with you. Having said that, I really don't think it conflicts with anyone's belief system.

“This body is not me; I am not caught in this body, I am life without boundaries, I have never been born and I have never died. Over there the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies All manifests from the basis of consciousness. Since beginningless time I have always been free. Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out. Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek. So smile to me and take my hand and wave good-bye. Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before. We shall always be meeting again at the true source, Always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.” Thich Nhat Hanh, No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life

© 2018, poems/words and illustration, Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day and The BeZine), All rights reserved

Categories: death

One comment

  1. jrcowles said on May 30, 2018
    Jamie ... I simply have no other words than “Thank you”. J.

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