Friday, October 29, 2010


It's been difficult lately to find the time...or the inclination... to write. I write oodles of essays in my head, as I go about the daily chores, but so far, none of them have been written on paper...or, I guess, these days on the computer.

I'm not sure if the Muse is taking a break, or if I'm just too busy these days to find the time to sit and listen to her, writing all the while.  Then, again, much of what I experience during the day I am unable to write about, at least publicly, because of confidentiality rules with regards to Hospice. But there is one place where she will visit, disregarding all the rules...

As I sit with patients, the ones who are unconscious or in a coma, I write what might be called poetry. The atmosphere in a dying person's room...the strong, like a powerful light. It's all-encompassing. I am completely present with the patient, then, completely focused. If the family is in agreement, I will give Reiki. I find it enhances the Light. The difference in the patient's well-being is palpable.

The Muse creeps in quietly, with great respect, during these times. She nudges my arm. My fingers begin to tingle, wanting to curl around my favourite pen. It is not long before I rummage through my tote for my moleskine, hoping all the while that there are enough empty pages left in it for me to fill. Once again, I have forgotten to change the notebook for a new, untouched one.

I rub my hand over the crenellated, worn leather of my moleskine, given to me so many years ago by Graham.  It's pages are filled with observations, sketches, reminders, essays...and suddenly, poetry.

Now, poetry and I have never gotten along. I admire others' poetry I read, wondering how so much emotion, discovery, and beauty can find their way onto the page, and still make sense.

And so, it is strange that I should now write very bad poetry in the rooms of the dying. But the urge to do so is really strong.

Before I write anything...even bad poetry...on the days when I'm sitting quietly with someone who is not lucid, I sketch a very quick drawing of the person. The drawing is only for will never see the light of day...but sketches like these remind me the personality in the bed is still alive, still with us, still here. His dignity is supremely important.

Dying people have a special glow, a wondrous beauty about them. Faces seem to relax, once the diagnosis is made, the skin becoming clear and smooth. Most are pain-free at this point, sometimes for the first time in a very long time, if the patient has been ill over a lengthy period.

My drawings, then, are simple ones, shadings and lines and criss crosses. Sometimes, the lines are jagged, torn. I will draw their hands...I love to draw the hand. Most people, by the time I see them, will have relaxed the tight fists so apparent when there is still hope left within.

Faces become a mixture of mostly lines, shadings, sharp angles and planes. I draw where the sharp, black pen leads. It is peaceful...the room takes on a certain hush when a vigil is begun. The sounds of modern living in a care home are muted, far away...I am present only with the client and my pen.

When I am finished, I feel so much more comfortable with the client. The itch to know, the itch in my fingers has been appeased.

But only for a moment. Only long enough to check my patient, who by now...has become a friend.

And then. Then I want to write poetry, of all things. It is not exactly as if I want to write it. It is what comes out. And it is quite startling to me.

Words appear in my handwriting, words that are, at times, soft and gentle. At other moments, they become lethal and angry. And there are the grey ones, the ones that hush and moderate, the ones that seek balance and patience.

It only takes moments. And during the minutes I am in the zone, during the time it takes to write, I am fighting off an onslaught of emotional energy. I am well protected; I sense it is only a little more of the knowing of my friend.

I feel at peace, then. I hold my patient's hand, rub his chest, place my palm on her shoulder...with each touch, there is more calming, soothing energy imparted and I notice, as a result, an easing of lines in the brow and forehead.

And when I leave, when my shift has ended, I don't feel hypocritical when I say to my client I am glad to know him...because I do. I know him well. 

There is a downside...isn't there always? It is difficult to say goodbye with finality, when I leave. Sometimes I want more than just a few hours with a particular client. Rarely do I get what I want, in this is out of my hands.

But. I have received a great gift. I have written long-forgotten words, I have drawn an image...a thought...of a life, the lessons, the gifts the dying person experienced.

And, never to be forgotten, I have made a friend.

It seems the Muse has not been ignoring me, after all. She comes when it is necessary.

She comes when I need her abilities to see me through the strange places I find myself exploring, these days.

The strange...and quite wondrous...World of Poetry.


  1. Love this entry, Marion. So interesting to read how someone else feels in the company of a dying person. I am not a poet but find when I am really upset or even numb from emotion, my words will come out in a sort of poetic rhythm instead of the usual prose.

  2. I too have seen people die. My parents died well with me at their sides, but I watched a great many others be subjected to attempts to resuscitate them despite the fact that they were without hope of recovery, and those deaths were nothing that I would choose for myself or anyone close to me.

  3. Marion, you LIVE poetry!! Also, there is no bad poetry, girl. It's all good. You have a holy profession and are a true bodhisattva. What a privilege to be with someone when they leave this earth or are preparing to. To me, it's as miraculous as birth, death is. Thanks for sharing this amazing write. It really touched me. Love & Blessings!

  4. I do think that intense times, such as when death is present, or other intense times, poetry is a natural way to express ourselves and/ or speaking for myself, to read. As opposed to the language of prose. Because it tends to be short, succinct often, it mirrors the intensity of the situation.

    What wonderful work you are doing here, sitting with the dying. I hope I will be blessed with someone like you when it is my turn.

  5. Your words really moved me and brought a lump to my throat. My previous visit I left thinking what an amazing thing it is you do in helping the dying do so with dignity. When the urge to put your words and thoughts down on to paper I can only imagine it is with a sense of release for you to.

  6. I am happy that you have discovered poetry. Sometimes that form of expression is the only apt way to describe. I was tasked by another blogger a few years ago to express by poetry and found that the giddy feeling in finding the right words, the right metaphor, the right simile to put words in their place was a feeling I wanted to repeat.
    There is no good or bad poetry: others' have no say in the matter and once the words are expressed, you have little say in the matter; the thought is expressed, is released, and free to inspire.

    Your description of the dying is true to my experience. I shaved my father when hospice and the nursing facility people let it go. He awoke from whereever he was and tried to say something. I like to think he knew I was there and was happy at the thought. And being shaved was an extra expression of my love. It was.

  7. Marion, This is such a beautiful post. Very thought provoking and moving. I have only been with one being while it died and that was my cat Mr.B and it was very peaceful. You are so brave to do this work. I bet your poetry is beautiful just like you. xoxo

  8. Marion, whether you know it or not, ALL the words you write are poetic, as are the photos you choose to share with us. I suspect there's poetry in your very soul, and you bless us all -- the living and the dying -- with the gentleness of your spirit.

  9. All I do is string words together on a page, send them on their way to some far-off editor or publisher, then repeat the process.

    You, on the other hand, impact lives. How wonderfully significant and profound. My muse isn't half as vibrant as yours.

  10. Katrinka,

    I think you must be right. I try and write prose, but it becomes shortened...two or three word sentences that can stab and wound or gently fix. I'm not sure where the words come from...I mean, they must come from me, but some words are really archaic...not words I use much, for sure. It's very different writing.


    People I see (so far, at any rate) have DNR (do no resuscitate) on their charts.Families and patients have usually discussed this and come to an agreement long before I see them.

    I remember years ago a lady I knew attempted suicide. The family kept her alive for a long time, as they considered all options. It was not a good time, but I was very young and thought there was no other way. It wasn't until I was in the same position with my daughter where my family had a decision to make to not resuscitate. It was heart-rending; I can certainly relate to people who want their loved ones to live, after that experience. But it really is not good, if circumstances are that bad.

  11. Marion,

    "To me, it's as miraculous as birth, death is."

    To me, as well. There is a kind of joy that occurs as people finally take the leap to the other side. I have stories that are unbelievable about that journey. Some folks take their time, lingering in kind of a half-awake state, clenching onto life. Others', once their mind is made up, freely embrace the new journey they are to take and go quickly. And others can be quite stubborn, with insistence death will come on their terms.

    If the client has taken care of any fear of the unknown they might have, death becomes far easier. If they are frightened, death will still come, but not without that fearful energy, so different from the warm anticipation some folks have.

    Quite like childbirth.


    "Because it tends to be short, succinct often, it mirrors the intensity of the situation." It certainly does. I write words down quickly...there is no time for long essays, since my main focus is the client.

    One day, I shall take these strings of words and write something that makes sense. I think it's somewhat like having pieces of material and then finally making a quilt out of them.


    It is SUCH a release. You've hit the nail on the head! I hadn't thought of it quite like that. After I write, I am able to settle down with the client rapidly, and do what I am there to do. If I don't, words and emotions that go nowhere come flooding in.

    Thank you, Bimbimbie!!

  12. Goatman,

    I remember when you began to write poetry. I was in awe! I believe that was when I began to read poetry with enjoyment, actually. So I owe you a thank you!

    I once knew a man who loved to be shaved and have his lotion applied. The strange thing was his family did not want to shave the man; they left it to the nurses and care aides. And they are always, always, very busy at any time. So the man died with three days worth of stubble on his face, since nobody realized how much it meant to him. I found it very sad. But the family was afraid...afraid to touch their dear old uncle as he lay dying, let alone shave him.

    So I find it very loving...the height of love...when you took it upon yourself and shaved your Dad. I realize how difficult things like these are. But your Dad knew and tried to express his gratitude and love. For some, at this time in their lives, being clean-shaven means so much.

    Thank you for your email, Lyle. You are an inspiration. Your ability to face each day with anticipation, even through chemo and such, is awesome!


    Annie Coe,

    For some of us, pet deaths are the only deaths that have been experienced. But you know what? A death is a death, no matter if it is a pet or a human. The intense emotions are the same, although far more long-lasting with a human than with a pet.

    I'm so glad Mr B died with you by his side. I think the presence of a loved one makes all the difference, when the time arrives. xoxo

  13. Velvet,

    Thank you so much! You're a pretty terrific writer yourself...I'm so glad you've decided to write and post again. I'm on my way over to read your Hallowe'en post with great anticipation...


    You write far more than I and much more consistently. And your photography is unbelievable...When I visit your blog sometimes I sit and stare for a long time at the superb images on your site. I love it when you photograph your kids...the love you feel for them comes through each and every time!

    So nice to see you!

  14. Wonderful post, Marion, you left me speechless, which hardly ever happens.

  15. Dear Marion,

    For one who is having "difficulty" writing or not being inclined to do so at the moment, you have certainly gifted us with another treasure and a peek into the emotions bound to end of life experience. I remember when my father died and hospice was with us, time slowed down but it's passage was so loud in my ears.


  16. Dear Marion, yours is the last blog I visit tonight before bed. I didn't plan it that way. But I listened to every word you said and re-lived my mother's dying, those long nights and exhausting days. I'm thankful you're there for your people, and I'm thankful I was there for my mom. Poetry, yes, makes perfect sense to me, especially since I wrote poetry in the night as she lay dying. Poetry is an effort to capture a moment of great significance, like a snapshot of a turning point. Poetry is telling people something that they can't say for themselves. It's a blessing.
    Good night, my friend. Thank you for the good words you wrote.

  17. What a wonderful thing you are doing for your fellow human. I am really in awe that someone has the strength to deal with death. But i'm sure that you get strength from them.

  18. Poetry is prose written more succinctly, more rhythmically, more metaphorically. Death is a stripping away of excess, too, in a way, isn't it? To write poetry in the face of death does not seem strange to me. When you lose yourself in your focus on the dying, when life focuses itself on the moment, I think poetry becomes a natural way to express what's happening.

    I am in awe of your ability too work with those leaving here. I am sure your poetry is part of the blessing you impart.

  19. Hi, I think your article its very important and interesting,good work, thanks for sharing!!

  20. my dear friend,

    what would i say if i were kneeling in church? because that is how reading this has made me feel.

    i want to hear some of this poetry.
    i want to see some of your drawings.

    i want you to show not tell.
    i want this because it's all good enough.
    all of it.

    about confidentiality, of course if sharing your words or sketches feels like a violation, of course you can't and won't. but please ask the muse if it might be okay to share the rhythm of your words and fingers. (if only a special email to ms kj) :)

    do you meet these patients before they begin their journey inward, marion? i can only imagine the comfort you bring.

    love always

  21. Marion,
    What a beautiful insightful and powerful post. The words you have chosen to put here has an energy of compassion and dignity. I know what you judge yourself on about your poetry is coming from a fear that your deepest feelings expressed in this manner will expose you somewhat. Yet, there is no bad way to write poetry. Let it flow and if you ever feel the need for some others to read your magic then put it here and I am confident that your capacity for love life and lavender will find its way into all of our hearts.
    I know what mean when you talk about giving some stress reduction and loving comfort in the healing energy of Reiki. I too have been witness to this first hand. I am always in awe when the energy of the universe and God combine with the intention of love and is sent to the soul who is willing to receive it.
    Again, thank sweet and gentle lady.

  22. Daisy,

    Heh! I'm really glad you're still not speechless...I would miss your lovely, irreverent voice!


    You're right...time does seem to slow down. I find myself holding my breath quite often...mirror breathing turned against me!

    Enchanted Oak,

    Chris, I hope you had a good night's sleep; re-visiting moments like you've described can be anxiety producing. I love the poem you wrote when your mother died...I actually have read it out to clients once or twice. Quite possibly, it was what inspired me to attempt poetry. So here's a big hug and a thank you!!

  23. Jan,

    I receive strength from my guides. Each time I visit a client, I ask for help...each time, I get it. I am not always sure of what I face when I visit someone; I may not have laid eyes on the client before this visit. So I feel tension and after I've asked for aid, that anxiety dissipates and I am free to feel the intense peace most deaths and near-deaths impart to the people lucky enough to play a part.


    You're absolutely right. This is why I have had trouble in the past with poetry...I am simply too long-winded. I have discovered poetry can be so much more poignant and lyrical, with the use of the more succinct words. Which arrive, to my complete astonishment!!

    Buy Kamgra Online,

    Thank YOU for visiting!


    Sometimes, if a person has been palliative for a long time, I will have time to build a relationship before the active dying phase. Most of the time, however, death arrives fairly quickly when hospice is called in, in my experience.

    Ah, kj, give me a little time to hone what I'm makes little sense right now. When I re-read it, I remember the emotion, but I have not fleshed it out enough for someone else to know what I'm saying. But then, maybe I don't need to. Confusion reigns, heh! But I will try to scan one or two of the sketches and send them to you.

    Love right back at ya!


    You hit the nail on the head, I think. Exposing that deep, inner part leaves me open and really vulnerable and I am not familiar enough with the writing of poetry to attempt this.

    I know you also work with palliative patients, Dave, and a comment like this from you is so treasured. The overwhelming, joyful emotions that emerge from an ending amaze and inspire and energize me...and an energy like this fills me with gratitude that I have played a very tiny part in the client's life.

    I hope your health is good right now, Dave, I remember your heart surgery. A big hug sent your way!

  24. this is a wonderful post Marion - it reminds me to slow down a bit.
    thanks for that reminder

  25. Marion, thank you so much for sharing your experience. My muse, too, has taken a break ... perhaps a short sabbatical before the long, introverted and busy time of Winter. We know the muse always comes during long silences. Your ability to describe the energy in the room of the dying is ... beautiful, and you are so courageous to face it, to name it and to embrace it... so many others are afraid of death, but not you, Marion.

    Reading your words, I feel calmer, soothed somehow. Thank you for this gift ~ Nicole

  26. Marion, I am "White-Rabbit" late again...
    but perhaps just as well as your post would have been too intense for me to read on my birthday.

    I did not know your profession.... and I hug you for your finding just what you should do.
    I lost both my parents at a young age - many years ago - and how I wish someone like you would have been there to help bring them some comfort and courage. I believe that the dying (even if in a coma, like my Father was for his last 8 days, DO hear and feel and understand...
    I tried my best to be there for both of them....but I know having a "Marion" there would have helped me too. (I'm an only child.)

    Death is not to be feared...after all, it is going to happen to all of us....but, to be able to bring some measure of peace and comfort is an enormous gift. You, dear Marion, have an enormous heart and a great capacity to love. I feel so honoured to know you. Today (November 6th) was a perfect day for me to read this.

    Many, many hugs,

    ♥ Robin ♥

  27. That must be very hard as well as rewarding. I am trying very hard to make my mom's life with leg paralysis easier. I am living with her and find each day is filled with highs and lows. She is such a strong person to try so hard to get her mobility back at 94. I can only hope I can have similar strength in my later years. - Margy

  28. What a wonderful post Marion about the work you are doing. I know I couldn't do it.

    It will be interesting to see if your poetry develops with you doing it during these times and maybe we can get you to share some of it one day. I am sure it is as wonderful as your normal writings already.

  29. i am at lost with words with my blog posts recently too. i have also been trying to find balance amidst all the chaos outside. i used to write poetry when i was much younger, but i never pursue as i think my english is not good enough.

  30. Mim,

    You have a lot on your plate right now, Mim, but you must take care of yourself, as well. I see many caregivers break only because they have given so much of themselves to their loved one. That's where Hospice comes give everyone involved a bit of time to themselves...time for quiet reflection, or even just a shower or a bath. xo


    "We know the muse always comes during long silences."....Ahhhh! There ya go. It can certainly be very warmly silent when I sit with a client. A perfect moment for the muse to arrive.

    There are times, I believe, when it is good for me to take a bit of a break with my writing. And I find it usually happens during the Autumn...almost as if I am gathering my words for the long Winter ahead.

    And we both know just how long our Winter can be, right, Nicole? I hope your bakery is doing very well...with Christmas coming up, I can't wait to see what's on the menu! xoxo to you!!


    I'd do a heart back at you, if I knew how to do those, heh,heh! How's this...:)?...the extent of of my knowledge! xoxo


    Happy Birthday to you, Robin! I hope you had a wonderful day!!

    It must have been so difficult for you when your parents died. Hospice also works with the family left behind, and I hope they were of use to you. And you are so right when you say people hear in a's been proven often. Hearing is the last sense to go, which is why I often ask for quiet when I sit with clients. People don't realize the loved one can still hear and may be in the process of active dying, and they can become quite loud, as they discuss arrangements, etc., with each other. It can be disruptive to the client...much better to talk quietly TO the loved one, rather than ignoring the body in the bed and conversing with others in the room.


  31. Powell River Books,

    Margy, what an inspiration your mother is! I am so sorry she's not well right now. I know your mom visited your cabin not long ago, and I marvelled at how well she was doing at her age.

    It is when I see people like your mother try so hard to continue to be mobile or aware that I am swamped with is difficult at times like these to hold back the tears. I wish with every part of my being, then, that I could help to make it easier. I imagine it's how you feel with your mother. And once you've experienced the kind of strength your mother is exhibiting, you'll not forget it...the strength will be available to you as well.

    Take good care of yourself, as well, Margy. Don't forget to do that. xoxo


    Oh, well, Jackie, I don't know that you couldn't do've done some pretty amazing things yourself!

    I'm not sure the word poetry describes what I'm doing, heh! But really great words come out...words I haven't thought of for awhile. And words like that are useful in other areas...



    You've got so much going on, taking your mind away from writing. I think of you often, as time passes and your move to New Zealand comes closer. I'm not sure I could write a thing if such a momentous thing was happening in my life.

    One of these days, you will write poetry to go with some of your astounding photos...some of your posts describing the images read like poetry already. I don't think you have far to go in writing poetry, my dear!

    Take care of yourself and hubby during this extremely stressful time, sweetie...xoxo

  32. I love this post. It's made me quite teary. I 'write' so much poetry in my head, and even essays, and should they ever make it to paper I don't publish them online. I really don't know why.Maybe they're just for me. You are so creative and must be such a boon to the people who lie there and their families. Should I ever end up in their place I would be lucky to have one such as you nearby methinks. xxx

  33. Like at least one of your other readers, I revisited my mother's deathbed while reading this post. In this calling, you are a guide yourself and I am confident you are a damn fine one at that.

    And like another reader, I too think your writing is poetic. I hope to visit a little more often.

  34. impressive article

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