Thursday, August 28, 2014


Aspects of mortality follow us like thunder trailing after a lightning strike low in the clouds too close to our window. Or the remembered scent of facial powder on a special Aunt’s soft cheeks.

I was stepping down into the garage from the kitchen when I heard my Grandmother’s voice, “Use your head to save your heels.” 

Grandma O lived on the first floor of a house with fruit cellar in the basement. So if she was going to make her way down to the fruit cellar, she reminded herself to mentally list what needed to go down and once down what would need to come up.

Today I was halfway to the pantry in the garage leaving behind the Tupperware container of brown rice on the kitchen counter. If I was using my head I would look around and see what else needed to be removed to the area where I was going. Once in the garage with milk in one hand and a can of chicken broth in the other, if I was using my head I would mentally review the menu and remember to bring in the bag of chocolate chips from the pantry for making cookies after supper.

“Use your head to save your heels.” I also should have checked the kitchen refrigerator for butter and now needed to trip back to the refrig in the garage. But I remember you, Grandma. Tea served in real china cups and saucers. The oil cloth covering the kitchen table. African violets on the window sill. A fuzzy bear stored in a basket of toys waiting for grandchildren to tumble out of the car and race each other to reach it. She probably didn’t understand the competitive urgency that dictated we give her a greeting kiss after we gripped the bear. For my part, I attempted to casually claim the back seat behind my Father because it would place me closest to Grandma’s door.

Grandma undoubtedly would not have picked this adage as our lasting remembrance but it has stuck, at least in my mind. A few years ago my Mother and I told stories about Grandma and she also remembered Grandma’s advice.

Mom laughed when I told her I remembered her frequent admonishment. I remember walking slowly home from third grade because I had been told a phone call from teacher to my mother preceded me. “Be sure your sins will find you out.” I found my Mother’s oft repeated warning curious and failed to understand for twenty years. Simply, recognize and clean up after your failures or you will continue to make the same mistakes. In my eight-year-old, uncomprehending mind, Mother’s adage was interpreted “be more careful not to get caught.”

And what mortal words have I left in my wake?  And you….

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Immeasurable Mortality

One of my favorite poems is by W. B. Yeats, 1865 – 1939. I include his life span because the dates place him in a historic time of particular culture, poetic form, with specific advances in medical practice.  Three score and ten was a hoped for age not often achieved.

We regret Yeats’ completed longevity bracket as it means he is no longer writing his wonderful poetry and essays. He undoubtedly would have had more to say. But we do not expect anyone born in 1865 to survive well over 100 years.  So from the perspective of 2014, his anthology was complete.

Because my longevity bracket is not completed, today I can read Yeats to my love and pass it on to my children who can read it to theirs. And to you.

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

When You Are Old is read with contemporary commentary in the following video. Interesting to me is the reader’s connection with the Ukraine, a site of so much bad death.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014


A Prompt may be a sticky note on the refrig as reminder to pick up milk, or the computer reminding me of a new password. Meditation uses the prompt of breathing, mindfulness the prompt of chewing food slowly.

I broadcast to writing groups a writing prompt suggesting the topic Mortality and received the following poems. They present two all too common platforms. I use the poems with the authors’ permission.

Of the Fall   2013 Mike Medler

Tell me where the laceration runs
in final hours, in dust where
you have poured it all
and sutures live a long way
off. Tell me of the marksman
and the empty field beyond
and your tactical advantage.
Tell me if you can
see pain, taste anger,
wrap your arms around
the pervasive and all-consuming
loneliness that leads
you by the hand now. Tell me
if you remember kinder
moments, as if to make it
all worth something, or
if it is all worthy of nothing.
Tell me why your seams
have split and spilt you
into shaking hands, a final
gesture, a fall from which
I cannot lift you, from which
none will rise. Tell me
of the fall, or nothing.



The Waiting Room

I hate the waiting room,
the comfortable chairs and polished tables.
The complementary coffee and tea.
The big screen quietly scrolling the
ephemeral patient status,
attaching numbers to

I hate the waiting room.
It’s like Russian roulette
when the surgeons walk in, fresh from the OR
battle, bloodshed and carnage carefully cleaned away.
We all hold our breath.
I’m sorry.
And then nothing is ever right with the
world again.
Quiet keening fills the air as
spirits transcend.
Spirits going on to better, we hope—
oh we hope, to a better place.
But leaving just the same.

And we are left with our grief.
And we know our joy is but temporary.
And who knows the what or the when or the how about tomorrow.
Or about any tomorrow.

I hate the waiting room.

2014  Sharon Anderson