Remembering those we love in art and words
… and how an everyday task can suddenly turn into something very special
Sharing grief can happen in unlikely places. Shortly after Wordsmith:The Gift of a Soul was published, I went to the local Post Office to send off some books which had been ordered. I consulted the lady behind the counter about the packaging and she asked me, as they do, what was in the parcel. Books, I replied. She was a friendly person, interested in her customers, interested in what sort of books they were. So I told her I had compiled a book of my daughter’s poetry following her death from cancer and that it was really a memoir of her life, told in her poetry and my prose.
I write poetry, she told me. My sister recently died from cancer.
Sharing Grief with Strangers
It was one of those unexpected happenings where, suddenly, you find that you have an enormous bond with a complete stranger. Over the Post Office counter, we talked about life and death and poetry. She said she would like to buy a copy of Wordsmith and I said I would like to read her poetry.
She sent me three poems. The first was written about the death of her sister. Here it is.
When Albert Came to Call
It was September 2005
When he first came to stay.
You phoned me as you always did,
I will never forget that day.
‘I’ve found a lump,’ you said to me.
I tried hard not to cry.
We called it Albert from that day on.
People may wonder why!
But that was our sense of humour,
Our way of trying to cope
And through the weeks that followed
We never gave up hope.
Together we went for tests and scans,
They ‘prodded’ Albert about.
You said you’d start some chemo
Then they’d try and ‘zap’ him out!
You were so sick and poorly,
You lost all of your hair
But your were strong – carried on –
To me it seemed so unfair.
Months went by – treatment finished
And soon before too long
We went back to the doctors
To be told Albert had gone.
We skipped out of that hospital
The world felt a happier place
And nobody could have missed
The smile upon my face.
‘Albert’s given up the fight’ I said,
I knew he wouldn’t cope
Cos you and me are a winning team.
He didn’t have a hope.
Your hair grew back – you grew strong,
God, I was so proud of you
You got back to living your life
Just like you used to do.
Months ‘flew’ by. You looked well
Then one day you said to me
‘I’m not feeling quite myself – I’m not sure what it can be’.
Back to the doctors once again
I prayed with all my might
Dear God – no, not again
Please let her be alright.
More tests, more scans
You looked in so much pain
Then the dreaded words were said
‘Albert’s back again’.
This time it was so different,
He came back with such a force
Your poor weakened body
Could stand just one chemo course.
You got sick – so so quick
Although you tried to be so tough
It seemed to be – as I could see
You’d nearly had enough.
You got more tired as days went by
And though you tried with all your might
On the 18th May 2008
Albert finally won the fight.
I will never forget the moment of meeting the writer of this poem – the lady behind the counter at the Post Office. It was such a reminder of how little we know about the people we meet in the course of our day to day lives, of the things we carry with us, the depths of our feelings, our hidden talents, the griefs that many of us share but which we rarely talk about.
I still see her occasionally when I pop into the Post Office and she always asks me about Megan and the book. Just the other day, she told me how she had lent it to a friend to read and that it had a huge impact on her.
This is a small tribute to the lady behind the counter at the Post Office and her sister.