PUER NATUS EST
In Memory of my Mother
18 February 1916 - 25 December 2001
That rainy day, rushed into the confines of A & E,
not knowing then what we knew later,
except your collapse.
Brought round and surgically moulded into their bed
of electronics, tested, double tested and pulsed for figures.
A waiting game of knowledge, prized into a cubicle,
toileted and cleansed to ease the aching bowel,
Paternal carings administered by your spouse, three fold
Pacings about the corridors and into the ‘derbynfa’,
assuaged by sandwiches and cold drink.
The young Houseman, very suave, takes your pulse
and bloods you umpteen times as he concludes
A one-off reaction to all that had attacked,
aware of your dis-ease in one ear, whilst
tending to you in his other.
Teatime, heralds a dark December rush of cool air
as you safely return to your warm cocoon of home.
We all leave in single file.
now into action, as things take place,
as your body realises the textbook descriptions.
that consultation, now reveals of itself
the true picture of war.
day by day bulletins in the rush
of palliative work, swallow your
understanding of what has gone wrong.
seedlings, as if in a scenic garden,
that went awry through four years.
everything seems now in place
for the journey from here.
even the sturdy deathbed that haunted the
walls, front of house, stands coldly,
waiting to assist your weakness.
Visitors sat in their places, flock,
Hand holding for a warmth of living,
That calmed you for a while.
What game does this seem we are playing
With each other? A game of life and hereafter,
Petalled by concern and reverence.
Oh why do you lie there my mother,
When I always said this bed would be symbolic
Of what was to come?
Your ability to comprehend, fast slowing down
Into an eerie cry of silence.
Locked into a spasm, fallen by the
Wayside of effort and sickness.
As the days progress, you become as
One with your illness and breathing.
It controls you, it seems.
Things escalate from bad to worse,
Hurtling us down to the end of
Another bedpan, and bath week.
The fever grips now in its wake,
Into its fullest extreme.
Aroma of Rose and Forsythia
Penetrate the front room, as it casts its
Mortal shadow out onto the preparation street.
We are not part of that this year.
You lay there still on your medical catafalque,
As if waiting for the next entrance, or exit.
Doctoral chit-chat is a premium,
That in the end moves you on.
Forraging about for an ambulanced journey onward.
I go with you, although you sleep each
Bump and slowing-up, as we leave Cardiff.
Maybe your last look around the room, is
As the warmth of your frail body, decays from the
Loan bed, prepares you for the final journey onward.
They get you settled down into the cosy
Hospice atmosphere that is to be your backdrop
For the next few days.
I chat with the angels of the road before
They leave me and you, curtains around.
I beg them thank you and Merry Christmas
Out of courtesy, nothing else.
We wait a while, for the medical input
That will chat to you to see if you
Know why you are here.
Then comes the Doctor with his nurses
Enveloping us with a swish of the rail,
Cocooned like a training session at the Heath.
Accentuated questions follow:
‘What do you think is wrong with you?’
‘Cells in my liver’ you weakly reply.
All this, preamble to a new admission,
And a new relationship in five days, decked with holly.
More arrivals, but this time, the rest of
Your family under separate cover
In the dark and wet December night.
We chat and drink, anything we can find,
As you acclimatise to this light in the
Florence Nightingale lamp.
And with all this going on, still the TV
Can smile the face of Noel on an unsuspecting
Ward of the other three ladies you share with.
No conversation this time, visitors, but no talk.
Day by day you weaken. We all see it.
Even two visitors who you never saw in your sad slumber.
Around you many more flock as your wafer thin voice
Still tries to hold the connection with life.
The visitors TV still speaks out loud as you
Drift in and out of a peaceful sleep, your discomfort
Controlled by your personal angels.
I too think they are blessed with something
Not all of us have in this world.
I think you then realise that you are where you really wanted
To be, in a haven for your preparation, of warmth and kindness.
We see the beginning and the ending of life
Thrust before us as the children flock in and out
To see their loved ones too.
And so it came to pass on the last day
Of knowing, and awareness, you saw life in
Its mysterious ways, as your baby came to you,
And you pulled him towards you tightly.
No mention of death, although intimations
Of it in your ears, but not from your dry lips.
Your last treat of cooling ice cream that touched
Your mouth as refreshing as it may have been many
A year back or more, when you were thirty eight.
I hear a hint of mortality for the first time, I’m sorry.
Your hand still warm and grasping of me.
We bid our farewells, not really knowing
The next chapter of that night.
Drawing close as if already there,
We arrive at 4.30 Christmas morning
To see you in your new bed, your sad exterior on view
To us now, as we fear the end.
Replete in your departure room, all
Is under control we are told.
Prayers and tears come forward from
Father as he struggles to face your battle.
I wait for sunrise in this tucked away existence,
As Christmas Day dawns for another year.
In the distance, the Severn Bridges glow,
Caught momentarily in the sun of a new day.
People out even this early
With their dogs for another walk.
This will be our last one.
And the sea of Penarth still washes with
It’s usual swell and smell of ozone.
I see it in difficulty with my tears.
The day progresses into its middle
Still you struggle on your journey.
We sip our teas and wait for you.
Your nurses tend to you and us,
As their angelic shimmers, glow in
And out of this room of peace in its
Overhead bed lighting, illuminating your
Kind face, distorted at one with your soul.
The bizarreness of some spare dinners with the
Trimmings, deflects a little from your true predicament,
As we still have to tend to our earthly needs.
But I don’t hear you laugh this time.
And then a decision to leave you for awhile
To collect some neccesaries from home,
Which are of unimportance to you now,
Slowly I beg my leave of you telling you what I need to
In your small ear, quietened by your state but alive in your spirit.
I leave by road and collect the things and return to the Tower.
It is only by the tears shed at the entrance that I can confirm
You have left, gone five minutes after me.
I return to Connolly, and I see evidence of preparedness,
I see you lying there, turned, blue lips, gaped slightly
As you passed, I now know you have gone.
I see your spirit has
Left you shrivelled, but quietened.
‘A boy was born’ today, they said.
And an old lady died.
Rest in Peace my mother.