The day I became an orphan

Today is the anniversary of my mother’s birth. Last night was the anniversary of her death. Four days before was the anniversary of my father’s death. in three days we will remember them all and wish these were the old days when believing would bring them close again, just for a few hours.

The day I became an orphan

On the bed, a woman sleeping,
a face familiar in all its lines,
unlined not old, smooth-skinned,
unfamiliar in its distance.

Eyes so blue, closed.

In the bed, a warmth, a body, a casing,
and beating still, beat, beat, beating,
a heart.

On the sheet, a hand, still,
the shape of the nails familiar,
the ring I look at for the first time since childhood,
amethyst winks in the hospital brightness.

In the hand, a trace,
a link to the heart, beat, beat, beating still,
and when I take the hand in mine,
at the end of the long last tearful journey,
the steady breathing catches,
heart clenches,

and the fingers press mine with all the gentleness,
the ancient abiding with me tenderness,
of a blackbird, enfolding her chicks
beneath her spread wing.

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.

72 thoughts on “The day I became an orphan”

    1. I had to travel from northeast France to northeast England when she was rushed to hospital and she hung on until I arrived. Just her lungs and heart still functioning, but it’s the heart that counts.

  1. This is so beautiful Jane. I am so sorry for your loss. I was with my Dad when he passed away the day after my 40th birthday in 1996. I was blessed to be there, not just for him, but for my Mum who was holding his other hand when he left us. A very special moment. Mum died in January 2018, but I was nearly 300 miles away. I miss them both.

    1. My dad had a massive heart attack and died in the ambulance. I’d just had a baby and the Irish embassy rushed her out a passport to get us to the funeral. My mum lasted another ten years and died very suddenly too. Just hung on until I got to the hospital. She was in a coma, but when I took her hand she returned the pressure. They were lovely human beings.

  2. This is beautiful, and it made me cry. Well, you know. . .
    I thought of how your beautiful last stanza links to your book of bird poems–you and your chicks.

    It’s funny both my parents were born in the same month, and they both died in the spring–my mom in April and my dad in May.

    1. I think all mothers are motivated by the same instincts, birds, badgers, people, not much difference.
      Our parents were sort of mirror images too. Fathers both in the antiques business though mine was in a pretty amateurish way, he didn’t like parting with his collections. Both mothers artists.

      1. I think you’re right about mothers.
        And I’m glad you understood what I was saying about our parents. ๐Ÿ˜€ I didn’t remember about your father’s antiques.

    1. I do make myself cry. The words make the grieving more solid and real. I’ve been writing her (and my dad) a poem for years now, but there’ll always be something more to say. Parents’ love is infinite.

      1. We’re taught, not in so many words, to keep emotions under control. Even at funerals we’re supposed to remain calm and collected enough to do readings with a firm voice. Parents give interviews to journalists when the body of their murdered child is discovered. I don’t understand how anyone can dominate their distress like that.

    1. It’s a comforting idea that they might just do that, despite the distance, and being in several places at once, but when you don’t have a physical body to worry about, I imagine that’s perfectly possible.

    1. My mum used to say she wished we’d known her dad and her grandad. I wish my children had known their grandparents and great-grandparents. They’ll look at photos and know nothing about them. It’s sad.

    1. It’s been 19 years and I haven’t stopped writing thoughts about her. This time of year is a sad one, when we remember all the dead, of course, but both my parents died end of October, it was my mother’s birthday and this year we’re living through the slow slipping away of our lovely dog. Putting things down in words is a way of exteriorising grief without being in permanent floods of tears.

      1. We also need some help please for these orphans to archive their goals in clothes, shelter, food and a better education connect with us via WhatsApp number+256752391873.thanks and your good heart will make us moving

      2. You have my heart and my admiration. Sorry, I don’t have WhatsApp. One of my sisters though has set up a similar organisation in Ethiopia so I can help there.

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