Grief: Healing Through Poetry

By Barbara Leonhard, Featured Contributor


[Part 2 – Alzheimer’s: Grieving the Loss of My Mother]

I processed grief over Mom’s struggle with Alzheimer’s through poetry writing. The fact that caregivers—such as myself and many other poets—can relieve grief through poetry supports my belief that poetry is both the memoir of and the medicine for the soul. Poetry is a means to storytelling, witnessing the human condition in a personal way. What am I thinking, praying, hoping for? How am I hurting? What has happened to me? How can I understand it? How can I share it? Who will witness my pain?

Poetry provides a creative outlet for the release of pain, for healing. It explores the soul. Reading the poems of others who have gone through similar experiences as mine is reassuring because I realize that I am not alone. I could also share my experiences of loss and grief.

Continue reading “Grief: Healing Through Poetry”

Alzheimer’s: Grieving the Loss of My Mother

By Barbara Leonhard, Featured Contributor


[Part 1 – Fire & Ice: The Faces of Grief]

As a way to examine grief and loss, I will share my story of the loss of my mother to Alzheimer’s, one of the most devastating forms of dementia.

What is Alzheimer’s?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Disease is a dementia caused by the building up of plaques—deposits of protein fragments that create spaces between neurons (nerve cells)—as well as tau tangles inside the cells of the brain itself.

Continue reading “Alzheimer’s: Grieving the Loss of My Mother”

A Walk With Time

 

Laughter.
Galloping between warming rays
it echoes through the still
of a quiet afternoon.
Child unburdened, mind untamed,
curiosity insatiable that feeds
her wandering thoughts.

Spring arrives,
ripened with verdant green,

like blossoms unfurling with the breeze
she spreads her timid wings.
Each hour reveals, each day a new age,
boundless fields before her,
pirouettes on a promised stage.

Then you hasten,
remain ahead of her strides.

She pleas for you to turn for her
as she chases each moment elusive.
Years rush like seconds,
seasons shrink to days,

what once sprightly pranced upon tender leaves
now slow to a staggering gait.

Standing alone under winter sun
where golden days fade to rust,
she reminisces of ages past
and of lives come and gone.
Through aches of tears nostalgic
she sees you turn for her.
You take her hand, “It’s alright” you say,
“for a new season now has come.”

Then you guide her tenderly
one final time down the road.
Out of the frost, away from the cold,
and into the mists
of tomorrow.

Lines penned two decades ago never felt more true.
May we treasure every day.

 

Fire & Ice: The Faces of Grief

By Barbara Leonhard, Featured Contributor


Robert Frost once wrote:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Online, one can find many poets who sing about their grief. In this lyrical piece, Frost tells us that we face changes all the time. Eden, our paradise, has been lost. Life is temporary, terminal, and short lived. The sun both rises and falls; the seasons change, and we grieve.

Continue reading “Fire & Ice: The Faces of Grief”

To Let Go.

Despair.

Asphyxiated by the device
meant to grant you life

you pleaded to be released.

Lines running
through your veins
fighting to give you strength-

they only imprisoned you.

You-
always present
aware of the
commotion about you.

Bustling nurses
weeping children

through it all
your eyes were
locked onto mine.

“Help me let go” was your plea.

You grabbed my hand
shook your head

as if you knew this act
had been playing
long enough.

As if someone had
interrupted your journey
toward the place

you were meant to go.

So we released you.
Withdrew your tube
diminished your drips.

Severed the chains that bound you.

We comforted you.

You turned
toward your children.

Through a surge of strength
you assured them

it would be okay-
that through your going on
they would go on.

Then you turned back to me.

Though undeserving
of your last moments

you entrusted them to me.
You held my hand
held my gaze.

“Thank you,” was what you said.

And then you took your last breath.

And let us go.

 •       •       •

This patient has been in my heart lately. This post is a re-sharing of an account of our last encounter. A gentle reminder to treasure each moment given. 

 •       •       •

The Background Story

A Memory of Ground Beef.

Once when I was on a specialized heart failure service, I took care of a teenage boy. He had a form of idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy (a weak, enlarged heart), and he had a huge heart…in more ways than one.

He loved baseball, pumpkin pie, and horses. His family owned a farm, so before he got sick, he would often go horseback riding. He also loved to draw.

We—a team of five physicians—took care of him for a month while he was waiting for a heart transplant. He liked us. We liked him. So he drew us as well.

I thought he was clever. But he thought I was even more so. All because he liked my joke:

“What do you call a cow with no legs?”

“Ground beef.”

That was it. He was just a great kid, trying his best to live the life given to him.

It used to be, that at the end of our visits, we would both say to each other, “Ground beef!” with a wink and a huge smile. It perplexed the other physicians, but we knew exactly what we were talking about.

It was just a silly joke. But for the two of us, it somehow meant something more. 

I found out recently that he passed away. And today I found the drawing he gave me. And I wept.

So here’s to you, dear buddy…

Ground beef 😉

Tomorrow.

Cheer that blossomed within our hearts,
stirred by your presence at each day’s start,
yearns to wilt when you depart.
But our song will sing again, tomorrow.

The smiles that pierced through saddened guise,
the rays which conquered thundered skies,
they ache to dim neath heaven’s cries.
But the sun will rise again, tomorrow.

For many years our lives you blessed,
but the hour has come for you to rest,
to soar upon hills on golden crest.
So have no fear, tomorrow.

For on that day, I know we shall meet again.

Dedicated to Pam, in memory of Sammy ♥

Melancholia.

Heed the echos of a heartache,
anguished sear of reverie.
Feel its scalp bleed down her face,
scathing tears of memories.
See the eyes that once freely smiled
fading with defeat.
As silent fields in which she lies
drift away with night’s conceit.

A New Day.


What do we do, come that day,

when walk we must through vacant streets,
when frore and tremulous become the nights,
and windowpanes with autumn’s dew weep?

What do we do, come that day,
when summertide flees from bitter air’s chase,
when even the trees forsake their leaves,
And swallows depart to a fitter place?

For that day has come,

and now we weep,

as the earth reclaims another,

their souls now sleep.

But come winter’s call new snow will fall,
then
autumn’s death will be entombed.

And as morning rays gleam through curtain seams,
New seedlings in our hearts will bloom.

Then we will know that a new day has come. 

This Poem is Dedicated to the Memory of Rhonda Elkins and her daughter, Kaitlyn.

To Say Goodbye.

Moisture burning her vision.
In the dark, it hides her eyes.
Teardrops.
Clinging onto her, one falls onto her lap
and stains her skirt.
She mourns.

Comfort her.
Tell her it will be okay.
That the shadow of a moment
may not stretch into tomorrow’s light.
That the ocean,
at its blackest
is still a reflection of the sky,
and she will not drown.

But the tide has come to take you home.
To her smile and her strength
she bids farewell.
Her heart, a piece borrowed and now returned,
departs with you.
She says goodbye.

phoebe-chi-grandpa

 

The Tragedy Behind a Poem.

We did it. We took it out.

Slowly, the oxygen saturation dropped.
Gradually, the alarms sounded.
Insisting. Imploring us to do something.
We turned them off.
Made him comfortable.
But we knew we couldn’t hide the truth.

We were letting him suffocate.

~     ~     ~

A lucid man.
A failing lung. A decision made.
A breathing tube placed—just temporarily—
until the lungs healed.
Until they got stronger. Until he got stronger.
But I saw the regret the moment it was inserted.
Nevertheless. We agreed to give it a chance.

But days passed. Then weeks.
No improvement.
Being alert, he communicated with us well.
Through his writing, I got to know him well.
His adventures. His best memory. His regrets in life.
He was a good man.

But a man who never desired to live like this.

While the family disputed on what course of action to take next,
he remained calm and unwavering.

“Please let me go.” was what he would say.

Then finally the moment came.

The time to say goodbye.

~     ~     ~

That day, I let myself weep during rounds.
In front of a crowd of stoic faces.
To weep over a friend.
To weep over a human being.
Over his courage.
An impossible decision.
The loss of a life.
Everything.

Because I didn’t want to do it. But I did.

I let go.

•      •      •

“To Let Go” – the poem

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