On this day

I haven’t done this before, and it’s still hard, but this is a few words in remembrance of this day fourteen years ago when my mother died.


This day was dark

That saw me fly to my mother’s side,

To hold a hand that did not know mine.

So quick her bird flew,

So hard to find the thoughts among the tears.

She had already gone,

Retreated to the place of half-being,

One foot in the doorway,

One hand reaching out to those beyond.

In her steady heartbeat

I heard the whispered words,

All the words left unsaid,

That would never now be spoken.

Tears could not open those lips,

Loosen that garrulous tongue.

The clock ticked but time had fled.

Were you there, Dad, to take her hand

And lead her through to the other side?

Did you give her that lop-sided smile and ask,

‘What kept you?’

I like to think you were,

She could never find her way without you,



Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

53 thoughts on “On this day”

  1. Dearest One, few can make you tear over their work. I teared over this. I am proud of you because you wrote this and I know it cannot have come from an easy place, the courage and honesty of your words shines through, the pain of loving someone who is no more there, and slipping away, and the final perfect imagining that your father helped her through the very last part as she crossed the vale. I have a lump in my throat, it is a reminder of love and bonds, that outlast death, that is what your beautiful eulogy to your mother has given us all fortunate enough to read your words. (big big big hug)

    1. Thank you, especially for the hugs. It’s still very hard to come to terms with my parents being dead. Both times it was a shock, so sudden, though I’m glad neither of them suffered a lingering illness or even got old. The things that were never said, maybe it doesn’t matter, but words have always meant so much to us in my family, the surplus is difficult to carry.

    1. I loved both my parents very much, but they died while I was in the grips of having a family, small children, babies, sleepless nights and all that. There’s always the thought that what I showed them most was irritation. If only we could turn the clock back…

  2. This made me tear up, Jane. I agree with Ken that your love for your mother shines through in your words here. I don’t know that we’re ever prepared for the death of someone we love. Even though I don’t necessarily believe, I don’t exactly not believe either, and so I hope your dad did your mother’s hand. A hug from me, as well.

    1. Thanks Merril. They died on the same day exactly ten years apart. Both deaths were sudden and unexpected. At least there was no long illness and suffering. I didn’t even see them get old.

      1. Wow–how strange they died on the same date! It’s sad that they did not live to be old, but I’m glad they didn’t suffer. I fear that for my mom, who is 94 now.

      2. My mother’s mother lost two children when they were small, a year apart, both at Easter. Her third child, little boy died on his third birthday. Then my grandad died at Easter. My third child, a boy, was also born on Easter Sunday and my mother would secretly worry about that fateful third birthday coming round. For Catholics they were very fatalistic. I hope your mother leaves peacefully. It’s a gift these days of long lives.

  3. Reading this poem brought back many memories that was suppressed for last twenty five years ( when my mother passed away). After coming to US for studies, first time I went back was after nearly six years. As if she was waiting to see me before she left. Three and half months after I left, she passed away. I had written a poem in my mother tongue on 25th anniversary of her death, but did not get to translate it to English. The memory is too painful still.

    1. I know exactly how you feel. I left home to study too and never went back to live. Once the children started to arrive and I got harassed and tired, I often found my mother irritating. Not because she was over-bearing or always planning to visit, because she wasn’t. It was her deference to me in everything that got to me. As if she didn’t know anything about anything and I had all the answers. The guilt that she maybe understood all of that and forgave me my short temper won’t ever go away.

      1. Same experience. Never went to see the doctor because she suspected it was serious. Didn’t want to worry anybody. I don’t think I am going to be so brave.

  4. Brené Brown’s, The Power of Vulnerability comes to mind. Thanks for sharing this part of yourself, Jane

      1. I think you’ll enjoy this then.

        I lost my parents when I was 7 & 10 to abandonment, and at 56 still have my moments.

      2. She speaks very well. Your governing class could take a few lessons from her.
        We seem programmed to feel guilt about our relationship with our parents, even when, like you, we were too young to have been anything but dependent on them.

      3. More than a few. Socialization is so powerful in its subtlety. Only an introspective mind would consider such a thing, but I agree. Guilt plays a huge part for me as well.

      4. It’s the burden of children. My mother felt the same way about her mother, and my dad regretted things about his father who died when he was five years old!

  5. A beautiful, loving tribute to both your parents Jane. One day they’ll be waiting, hands stretched out to greet you but not for many years yet I hope.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

  6. What was great way to think of parents when they are no longer a part of this world …very touching Jane ..they’ll definitely be proud of you, seeing that they are still alive and fresh in your words…

  7. Good lord, that is beautiful, Jane. I especially loved the bit about your father being there to take her hand as she crossed. Completely lovely and poignant, a gorgeous tribute.

    1. My dad wasn’t a believer, not in God anyway, but he liked the idea of there being a continuation of our existence after death. My mother became more religious after he died, but I’m hoping my dad’s idea of the afterlife is the one that they’re in now. Harps and angels certainly wouldn’t be my dad’s thing.

  8. I wrote a lot when my dad was dying. Quite vivid descriptions of the physical process, of the moment his body stopped. Never used the notes for a piece – that was never the intention – and I can’t read them now. But it helped at the time.
    You writing is very honest, very real. How people are gone so quckly, even if they’ve been ill for a long time. Thanks for letting us all read your words on such a tough day.
    All best wishes to you Jane x

    1. Thanks Lynn. I never had time to get used to the idea that they were ill. My dad just keeled over one day with a massive heart attack. My mother died before she’d even had her appointment for a biopsy, less than three weeks from suspicion of a cancer to her dying. I still feel shocked, but glad in many ways, because they never got old and sick and dependent.

      1. It is a horrible way to go, being ill for a long time. But then a terrible shock for you, them both dying so quickly. I’m sure they both knew already everything you might have wanted to say to them, how much you loved them.

      2. In the end, I think parents overlook their children’s faults. It needs very little to be forgiven. When we say there are so many questions we wish we’d asked, I think it’s the recognition that we are all links in a chain going back forever, and we crave the security of knowing that the link is there.

      3. Maybe we always think there should have been more said, more done, because before it happens it seems inconceivable that at some they won’t be there to talk to. And thank goodness they forgive us for our teens if nothing else.

      4. You, you’re right. We always think there’ll be tomorrow. When parents get old and infirm, I imagine they start to close in on themselves and are less open to the leading questions about what Uncle Fred did to piss off Aunty Alice so much, or whatever happened to cousin Bernie. Or they’ve forgotten. Maybe it’s a fallacy to think that if only there’d been a little more time, we’d have understood everything.

      5. That’s the thing about life though isn’t it? You never get all the answers, no matter how lng you live. Perhaps that’s what keeps some of us going so long. It is a shame we don’t ask more questions when they’re young enough to recall all the answers. But then we’re too young and self absorbed at that time. The generations don’t synch up.

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