End and Beginning
October sun streamed across your face
As you took your last breath
Trapped in a hospital bed, surrounded by rails, unable to walk--
You were free at last,
And I was left behind.
When I shuffled toward the exit, the nurses barely glanced at me.
The room where you fought your last battle needed cleaning,
The ground prepared for another fight for life.
Patients are interchangeable.
I trudged into the sunlight,
Into the dark,
Along the rocky path of widowhood,
Ringed by ghosts,
Pierced by memories.
Five years now I've walked alone,
Maneuvered twists and turns,
Learned to stand upright.
Sturdier now, muscles forged in fire
And in ice.
I wrote this poem five years ago, entered it in the New Hampshire Poetry Contest and won first place. It was also published in On Our Own: Widowhood for Smarties. I still feel the emotion of the lines I wrote, wonder how ten whole years have passed. Sometimes our years together seem a dream, Ralph's illness a nightmare.
He was an easy going man. Nothing seemed to faze him, not even leukemia. He supported me in everything I did, teased me endlessly, canceled out my vote in every election, local or national. We raised out kids together,
(survived three teenagers, traveled as a ménage a trois (Ralph, his laptop and me)and made thirty-five years of memories. I'll always treasure them...and him.
Ralph Zirkelbach 1940-2005