One Sojourner

Many Roads

Coda: An Elegy

As you lay dying, you said,
“Let the Lord lead” and
Showed no fear
In the face of the
Malignancy devouring
The breath within you.

As some prayed, I wrestled with God,
Searching for justice
In the sentence you’d been given.

Others talked of Jesus
And salvation
— A triumph over death.

To me, it seemed
A narcotic chased with sand
To numb the pain
Of the finality in which
All will cease to exist.

God’s faithful servant, is this fair?

I prayed and trusted once
With all a boy’s sincerity
And innocence,
Fearing that my plea would be
Met with silence,
Angered by the helplessness
That drove me to my knees,
Sickly knowing they’d not return.

What time and industry hid
Was only resurrected
With a vengeance as I saw
The pain racking your body,
Nothing slowing the contagion’s course,
The venom winding its way
To still the beating of your heart.

A rap on the door brought
A late night visit —
A white Rasta in dreads,
The dark shaman called
Who taught us the
Science of transition,
And allowed us to
Give you permission
To let go.

As we listened in long vigil,
There sat on the wall,
Painted by the Moon’s pale glow,
A picture of Jesus.

Why does He laugh?

Death’s rattle grew louder,
Dancing double-time
To the pendulum’s cadence,
Life measured in minutes.
On the bed, curled as the unborn,
You lie in weezing moan and
Vacant stare.

Did you hear the Lord’s Prayer
As we surrounded you
In semi-circle, holding hands,
Touching you in your last moments,
Embracing as the staccato
Of your breathing
Ceased?

Your granddaughter hugged her father
As he mourned for you
On the front porch steps, saying,
“I love you, Daddy,”
On the cool and beautiful
Morning of your passing.

Child becoming parent,
The parent, the child.
Pain begat pain,
Weeping as one abandoned,
Realizing too late the love I felt,
Regret at the lack
Of its full expression
And sadness in the uncertainty
Of you not knowing,
Understanding with clarity:
Death’s sting is preserved
Not for those who die
But for those who remain.

Returning home,
Silence’s knell reverberated
From room to room,
Sounding an alarm of your absence.
Your wallet and money laid
On the dresser,
Surrounded by
A tapestry of pictures
A kaleidoscope of captured moments
— Relics of a life interrupted.

Did you hear the somber bugle
Of your funeral song
Or the blasting of a final salute
As you returned home?

Honored in dying
By the Agent of your death.
Decorated infantryman
In war’s foreign fields
— Far braver soldier in the soul’s campaign.

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