A Poem for Heidi

Nearly six months after the loss of our beloved dog, Heidi, I can finally string together a few coherent words about her.

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A Poem for Heidi

Lonely the yard where she once played

Cold the bed in which she laid

Silent the squeak of her favorite toy

Gone the source of our constant joy

Mournful the heart which continually weeps

 Our faithful companion now gently sleeps

We got our white schnauzer puppy 16 ½ years ago. She was supposed to be “my” dog – and she was – for about two weeks! Then a work conference required that I leave town for a few days, at which time she completely bonded with my husband, and he with her. They were the best of friends until the day she died. Don’t get me wrong, she loved me too, but I was clearly her second choice… except during a storm when she was all over me!

When Heidi was young, she would obsessively sit on her perch at the front window and guard the house while we were at work. She took her job very seriously, barking nonstop at the neighborhood children as they went to and from school or played outside during the summer.

Her favorite thing to do was play ball. She liked tennis balls with a squeaker inside because it was always such fun to be noisy. In the house she liked to stand at the top of the stairs and catch the ball we tossed up to her; then she would nod her head, release the ball and throw it back down. It’s a game she was very good at! Outside, she would fetch the ball from anywhere you threw it, then run like the wind to return it precisely at your feet.

By the time we retired, she began to slow down. I think she was happy to hand over the responsibility of protecting the house to us now that we were home more often. She got used to the routine of two walks a day. My husband would take her in the morning, and I would take her in the afternoon. She could get very demanding if she thought her walk might be delayed. Sometimes while running errands, I’d realize it was nearing 2:00. “I’ve got to get home”, I’d tell myself, “It’s almost time for Heidi’s walk!”

She began to have trouble keeping her footing on the hardwood floors inside our house, so we put down extra rugs here and there to help her walk. Eventually, nearly every square inch of slippery floor was covered with a rug. We carried her up and down the stairs for several years.

Arthritis and kidney problems plagued Heidi in her old age. She became intolerant of anyone touching her, so grooming was an issue. She looked like a homeless mutt at times, but you know what? If I was in pain, I wouldn’t want someone messing with me either!

We removed most of the rugs from the hardwood floors after Heidi was gone. I find the floors a little boring now; just like life is sometimes without her.

Mother’s Garden

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Last night steady rain fell here in the garden,

flooded now with memories of my mother.

The morning sky

still hangs low with heavy clouds

but leaks pale yellow light here and there.

“Sunshine is good for the Cannas,”

I hear her say.

I wonder if she ever knew how little I cared;

how unimpressed I was at the time

with her gardening wisdom?

Nurturing her garden was my mother’s gratification

… a diversion from the unfair hand

she was dealt.

I pull weeds from a patch of Begonias

and remember her happy.

I watch ants parade through the Peonies

and remember her healthy.

I prune the Roses, deadhead the Daisies,

and tie the Clematis a little bit higher for dramatic effect;

but my efforts don’t match the beauty

of Mother’s garden.

Sunlight fades; the air is still.

I realize I’ve tended the garden all day long.

I imitate the Lilies

which have folded themselves in prayer.

“God, grant me another day,” I ask

“filled with memories of Mother’s garden.”

“It Just Took a While,” she said . . .

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My latest hospice patient was full of stories. Millie started telling me stories the minute I sat down beside her. She grew up on a farm with three sisters, so there were numerous tales of chores, animals, strict parents, and of course boyfriends. The boys would come calling on her sisters, not her. She watched as her sisters dated and eventually married, but she was always more comfortable on her own. “I was sure I’d be an old maid”, she admitted, “It’s what I thought I wanted”… and then she met him.

Andy had returned from a two-year enlistment in the Navy. Back home with his parents in Pennsylvania, he felt lost and didn’t know what to do with his life. His uncle was a farmer in Kansas who needed help with the harvest, so he moved west. Andy and Millie met when they each drove truck-loads of wheat to the grain elevators in the middle of a long, hot summer.

Millie is proof that there’s always space inside us reserved for someone else and a new way of thinking. She had to adjust her heart and her mind to make room for Andy and for the family they might have someday. “It just took a while”, she said, but once she figured out love had finally come calling on HER, she changed her thinking from “me” to “us”. The life journal I wrote for Millie will be shared with 3 children, 6 great-grandchildren and 14 great-great grandchildren.

A Poem for Millie

Once

she lived inside herself

closed off to the world of affection.

Then

there was a tug at her heart

and a sense of approaching vulnerability.

She felt herself being opened somehow

and she

never found her way back to being closed.

Photo Credit:  Pinterest

Note: Names have been changed

See my other Hospice Stories Here

The Eve of Spring

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On the eve of Spring,

the earth is a dirty place!

A rowdy Fall seems to have

flung things here and there

and Winter stubbornly refused

to pick them up.

The result is a sad chaos

of decaying leaves, abandoned nests

and an impressive assortment of litter

from some drunken teenage party.

Twigs and broken branches

are strewn like tiny corpses

on the ground.

Emerging from the dead,

Spring instinctively will come

bringing with it

an elixir of cleansing rain.

Following the purge,

rejuvenation is conceived.

Every long-forgotten seed

soon starts to grow, and the

landscape will change

before our eyes.

But for now, trees bend

like little old men,

crippled by harsh winds

and the burden of snow.

From their stooped position,

they lift their weathered faces

toward the sun – as we all do,

on the eve of Spring.

 

Once There Was a Warrior

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His hut is the farthest from the fire.

It makes him feel brave and independent.

He built it out of timbers, straw and stone

with sticks for a door to impede intruders.

His people are hunters and gatherers,

reliant on wild game and edible plants.

His hunt takes him deep into the wilderness

where adventure stirs his spirit and enriches his soul.

Though he’s content to share the air with all living things,

he realizes sacrifices must be made.

When day is done, he brings his bounty to the fire

which burns in a circular pit lined with stone.

The aroma of roasting meat fills the air

and beckons those in their hut to share his food.

In praise, their gratitude becomes a song

composed and chanted in rhythm with the wind.

The fire that moments ago was a tool for cooking,

now bears a mocking resemblance to the sun

providing warmth and brightness to the night.

Around a smoky campfire the stories begin

bouncing back and forth across the flames.

Like kindling, words spark imagination.

Truths lead to legends and myths are born of lies.

Tall tales come to a halt when the embers die

and people wander quietly to their home.

His hut may be the farthest from the fire,

but stories fill his dreams and he is never cold.

Poem prompted by photo taken at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. The hut is a replica of one lived in 4,500 years ago by those who built Stonehenge.

Gone Astray . . .

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in a world of anonymous strangers

we surrender to the trendy lure

of being something we’re not

hoping integrity won’t seize our soul

and ruin our imperfect happiness

while blindly we sleepwalk like mindless zombies

crashing into this, tripping over that,

unable to rid ourselves of the

monotone voices that urge us

to touch, but not to feel,

to look, but not to see

our faceless selves

all going nowhere,

seeking nothing

We, as humans, are a mystery to me sometimes – for Ragtag Daily Prompt: Mystery