The Collapse of the Towers


O God! O God! that it were possible
To undo things done; to call back yesterday
That Time could turn up his swift sandy glass,
To untell the days, and to redeem these hours.

— Thomas Heywood (1574?-1641), A Woman Killed with Kindness (Act 4, Sc. 6)

Photograph courtesy of Wally Gobetz under CC BY 2.0 license.

In the Room

Here in the room the breaths come
maybe every ten seconds apart,
snoring sounds from a mouth agape,
now voiceless, beneath eyes mostly closed,
but probably unseeing.
She doesn’t hear the talk in the room.
We think. We hope.

Above the bed, a little plastic bag
of morphine perches like blessed fruit
from a swirly silver branch atop
the six-wheeled tree they’ll roll
out of the room whenever her spirit does.

Here in the room we watch, we wait,
hearing only the sounds of the family,
of the bubbling O2 humidifier,
the beeps of monitors and machines,
the murmurs and shoe-squeaks from staff
in the hallway on the fifth floor
as the hospital awakens this morning.

And punctuating it all come
the snorting gasps of a life dwindling away
every ten–no, fifteen–seconds.
We think. God help her, we hope.

– Joseph Hesch
© 2014, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Rules of the Game

The rules of the game
are set in stone.
You can read them
written on each slab
out there on the field.
The great game is summed up
in four numbers on one side,
and four on the other,
of a grooved hyphen.
Funny how those hyphens,
from end to end,
are the width of an N or M,
but a life may be wider
than a thousand thousand alphabets
or as narrow as an I.

You think of these things,
the unwritten,
the randomly ordered
string of letters,
of words, of stories,
of a life lived in
what seems like a hyphen,
a momentary there to here,
then to now,
once to once,
when you sit by a deathbed,
in front of a casket, or
at a graveside.
That’s where they post
the rules for all to see
and no one’s ever broken.

– Joseph Hesch
© 2014, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

A Hunger for Bone

800px-Big_Sur_Coast_California…….For Ann who died a year ago of a rare cancer of the bone

we scattered your relics, charred bone
blithe spirit, to be rocked by waves,
to be rocked into yourself, the rhythm
enchanting you with sapphire spume,
sighs merging your poetry with the ether,
rending our hearts of their shivered memories,
shattering the ocean floor with your dreams
lost in lapping lazuli tides, dependable ~
relief perhaps after pain-swollen years of
suckle on the shards of a capricious grace

those last weeks …
your restless sleeps disrupted by
medical monitors, their metallic pings
not unlike meditation bells calling to you,
bringing you to presence and contemplation,
while bags hung as prayer-flags on a zephyr,
fusing blood, salt, water
into collapsing veins, bleeding-out
under skin, yellowing and puce-stained,
fetid air filled, we came not with chant,
but the breath of love, we tumbled in
one-by-one to stand by you

to stand by you
when death arrived

and it arrived in sound, not in stealth,
broadcasting its jaundiced entrance
i am here, death bellowed on morphine
in slow drip, i am here death shouted,
offering tape to secure tubing, handing
you a standard-issue gown, oversized –
in washed-out blue, for your last journey
under the cold pale of fluorescent light

far from the evergreen life of your redwood forest,
eager and greedy, death snatched
your jazzy PJs, your bling and pedicures,
your journals and pens, your computer and
cat, death tried your dignity and identity
not quickly, no … in a tedious hospital bed,
extending torment, its rough tongue salting
your wounds, death’s hungering, a hunger
for bones, your frail white bones –
but you in your last exercise of will, thwarted death,
bequeathing your bones to the living sea

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved * Photo ~ Big Sur in Central California looking south near the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park by Joseph Plotz under CC A-SA 3.0 unported license

photo-on-2012-09-19-at-19-541JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~ I am a mother and a medically retired (disabled) elder. The graces of poetry, art, music, writing and reading continue to evolve as a sources of wonder and solace, as a creative outlet, and as a part of my spiritual practice.

Affairs of the Heart

“Sudden massive coronary events” are dominating my thinking lately.  I am reading Joan Didion’s account of her husband’s death in The Year of Magical Thinking and recently browsed the pertinent pages of Ekaterina Gordeeva’s book My Sergei while waiting for Steve to glean salable items from Good Will on Tuesday.   I am also writing my own memoirs of my husband Jim in a Continuing Ed course.  What struck me this morning was the role of the grieving person’s best friend as hero.  Not the knight-in-shining-armor type hero, but the simple, calming presence modelling a way to be.  In a moment when shock obscures all notions of how to act, having a trusted person exhibit some caring, helpful behavior is a distinct grace.

My mother was that hero to me when my sister was killed in a car crash.  Alice and I were traveling across country together, enjoying the freedom of being 20 and (almost) 17 when it happened.  My mother cobbled together connecting flights from San Jose to reach me in Nebraska the next morning.   She got me discharged from the hospital and set us up in a hotel while she went through all the details of bringing Alice’s ashes back to California.  We went to the mortuary the next day.  I was still rather zombie-like while my mother handled the business.  Then the director asked us if we would like to see the body.  “Absolutely,” was my mother’s reply.  For some reason, I hadn’t realized that was why we were there.  I hesitated.  Mom led me into the room while the director closed the door.  “Oh, honey,” she sighed as she approached the table.  “No, she’s not there.  She’s gone.  Look here…” she began to comment on Alice’s wounds, on her swollen face and how old she looked, as if she were a battered wife decades in the future.  My mom said something about all the suffering her daughter had been spared.  Then she tenderly bend down and kissed that pale, waxy forehead.  My mother has never looked more beautiful to me in all my life than she did at that moment.  Strong, compassionate, wise and incredibly beautiful.  I wanted to be like her, so I kissed my sister’s forehead, too.

photo credit: Dharam Kaur Khalsa
photo credit: Dharam Kaur Khalsa

Gordeeva writes about her coach, Marina, prompting her to go into the ICU room where her husband lay.  “Don’t be afraid.  Go talk to him.  He can still hear you.”  She goes in and begins to unlace his skates, a normal gesture that helps loosen her words, her tears, her emotions.  I remember our priest asking me and two of my daughters if we’d like to anoint Jim with some olive oil, bathe his face, and prepare his body to be taken away.  It was a relief to excuse ourselves from the people downstairs in the living room and go up to him together, to say our goodbyes together, to touch him one more time.  I am so grateful someone thought of allowing us that right then.  We had another opportunity to say goodbye to his body at the funeral home later when my two other children came home.  By then, I could take the lead with them and encourage them to approach.  I can’t remember who started humming “Amazing Grace”, but we all joined in, musical family that we are, and swayed together, arms and bodies entwined.

In the aftermath of Jim’s death, my youngest daughter and I fought frequently.  I didn’t know how to talk to her, to listen to her anger directed at me and recognize that she wasn’t hateful, only grieving.  Steve was the one who suggested that she was hurt, not hurtful and agreed to sit by me while we attempted an honest conversation.  My instinct was to run away.  I was grateful to observe someone who could be calm and present, reasonable and compassionate in the face of powerful emotions that frightened me.  He is adamant about not rescuing me, but equally determined to be the best friend he can be.

I hope that I will have opportunities to be a great friend to someone in grief.  I would like to be a conduit of such grace.

– Priscilla Galasso

© 2013, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~  started her blog at to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

“My courage is in the affirmation of my part in co-creation”, she wrote in her first published poem, composed on her thirtieth birthday and submitted alongside her seven-year-old daughter’s poem to Cricket magazine. Her spiritual evolution began in an Episcopal environment and changed in pivotal moments: as a teenager, her twenty-year-old sister died next to her in a car crash and, decades later, Priscilla’s husband and the father of her four children died of coronary artery disease and diabetes in his sleep at the age of forty-seven  Awakening to mindfulness and reconsidering established thought patterns continues to be an important part of her life work.

Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Living Hugely, Dying Gracefully

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I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

—T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

Living Hugely, Dying Gracefully



Jamie Dedes

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS died yesterday of esophageal cancer at the age of sixty-two. Famous or infamous – depending on your view – for his atheism among other things, he is an example of one who lived hugely, was unapologetic, and died gracefully.

I don’t agree with a lot of what he wrote and said, but how dull when there are no differences. Life would be an intellectual wasteland. As long as we take our differences to the debate halls, the blogs, and the voting booth and not to the killing fields, it’s okay.

I admired his sharp mind and wit. Nonsmoking teetotaler I am, yet I appreciate the spirit in this – quoted from his New York Times obituary – “He also professed to have no regrets for a lifetime of heavy smoking and drinking. ‘Writing is what’s important to me, and anything that helps me do that…'” He honored himself right to the end even as he admitted that his lifestyle contributed to his illness. Hitchen’s attacked our sacred cows and some of them deserved attacking. He made us examine our dusty old assumptions in the privacy of our minds and indeed some came up lacking. I admire him enormously.

Perhaps more than anything, I admire the grace with which he lived with dying. He did a more honest and dignified job of it than many of us in our faith communities. He was diagnosed in June of 2010 and wrote about this journey in his Vanity Fair columns. The “cynical contrarian” had heart, perhaps even a kinder more generous heart than many an avowed theist.

I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient.”

He wrote that the

Prospect of death makes me sober, objective.”

He pursued his craft right to the end.

Cancer victimhood contains a permanent temptation to be self-centered and even solipsistic,” Hitchens wrote nearly a year ago in Vanity Fair, but his own final labors were anything but: in the last 12 months, he produced for this magazine a piece on U.S.-Pakistani relations in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, a portrait of Joan Didion, an essay on the Private Eyeretrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a prediction about the future of democracy in Egypt, a meditation on the legacy of progressivism in Wisconsin, and a series of frankgraceful, and exquisitely written essays in which he chronicled the physical and spiritual effects of his disease. At the end, Hitchens was more engaged, relentless, hilarious, observant, and intelligent than just about everyone else—just as he had been for the last four decades.” Vanity Fair

He wrote with excruciating honesty.

Like so many of life’s varieties of experience, the novelty of a diagnosis of malignant cancer has a tendency to wear off. The thing begins to pall, even to become banal. One can become quite used to the specter of the eternal Footman, like some lethal old bore lurking in the hallway at the end of the evening, hoping for the chance to have a word. And I don’t so much object to his holding my coat in that marked manner, as if mutely reminding me that it’s time to be on my way. No, it’s the snickering that gets me down.

On a much-too-regular basis, the disease serves me up with a teasing special of the day, or a flavor of the month. It might be random sores and ulcers, on the tongue or in the mouth. Or why not a touch of peripheral neuropathy, involving numb and chilly feet? Daily existence becomes a babyish thing, measured out not in Prufrock’s coffee spoons but in tiny doses of nourishment, accompanied by heartening noises from onlookers, or solemn discussions of the operations of the digestive system, conducted with motherly strangers. On the less good days, I feel like that wooden-legged piglet belonging to a sadistically sentimental family that could bear to eat him only a chunk at a time. Except that cancer isn’t so … considerate.” MORE [Vanity Fair]

Thank you, Mr. Hitchens, for making me think and rethink.

Thank you, Vanity Fair, for hosting his work so regularly.

© 2011, Jamie Dedes All rights reserve

Photo credits ~ all the book covers are courtesy of Barnes & Noble. Hitchens at the podium at Portsmouth, England courtesy of ensceptico via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0Generic license. Hitchens at third party protest at the Presidentical Debates Commission, Washington, D.C. September 28, 2000 via Wikipedia courtesy of Carolmooredc under the Creative Commons Attritubtion-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Hitchens in debate “Is God Great” with John Lennox at Samford University in Bermingham, Alambama March 3, 2009 via Wikpedia courtesy of stepher via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHINS: Life, Death, and Deathbed Conversions


English-American journalist and author

In the course of a forty-year career, Christopher Hitchins, famous (or notorious, depending on your view) for his atheism has dismayed a lot of believers of one persuasion or another. Last year he was diagnosed with a terminal cancer. Many have wondered if on his deathbed he would become an eleventh-hour convert. Here in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Hitchens discusses his thoughts and feelings about life and death. It’s an interesting addition to the on-again off-again discussions on this blog of illness, dying, and death. I found two things particularly striking: 1.) Hitchins willingness to accept culpability for his illness as a result of his chosen life-style, which included cigarettes and alcohol. 2.) Hitchins’ mother committed suicide and Cooper’s brother did. The two men agreed that there’s no closure. Having had a suicide in own family, I find I agree with them.  Jamie Dedes

If you click on the video, it will take you to YouTube where you can view it.

Photo credit ~ Christopher Hitchens by Omaraty009 via Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attritution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Video uploaded to YouTube by 


CECIL DAY-LEWIS (1904-1972)



This well-received post is re-blogged today:



Jamie Dedes

I discovered the Anglo-Irish poet Cecil Day-Lewis (C Day-Lewis) quite by accident the one day some time ago when I was preparing my Sunday news feature for the main site of an online poetry community with which I am involved. On the basis that we all benefit from knowing our roots and connections – no matter our occupation – I always start off with a snippet about a poet who either was born or died on the day of the posting. Cecil  Day-Lewis died on May 22 in 1972 of pancreatic cancer. He was the British Poet Laureate from 1968 until his death. There’s lots about him and his work that nags for my attention, but one poem really struck home.

At Lemmons (1972), according to the C Day Lewis website (HERE), was written by Day-Lewis on his deathbed at the home of Sir Kingsley William Amis (1922-1995), the English poet, novelist, critic, and educator. Amis is quoted as saying that, “At no time did Cecil mention death. My own strong feeling is that he came to draw his own conclusions from his physical decline and increasingly severe – though happily intermittent – bouts of pain, but, out of kindness and abnegation of self, chose not to discuss the matter.” This last poem, which demonstrates a wonderful grace and acceptance, was published posthumously.



C Day Lewis

Above my table three magnolia flowers

Utter their silent requiems.

Through the window I see your elms

In labour with the racking storm

Giving it shape in April’s shifty airs.


Up there sky boils from a brew of cloud

To blue gleam, sunblast, then darkens again.

No respite is allowed

The watching eye, the natural agony.


Below is the calm a loved house breeds

Where four have come together to dwell

–            Two write, one paints, the fourth invents –

Each pursuing a natural bent

But less through nature’s formative travail

Than each in his own humour finding the self he needs.


Round me all is amenity, a bloom of

Magnolia uttering its requiems,

A climate of acceptance.  Very well

I accept my weakness with my friends’

Good natures sweetening each day my sick room.


Photo credit ~ Copyrighted cover art (fair use) for Peter Stanford’s biography of Day-Lewis,C Day-Lewis, a Life. Definitely on my reading list.




Jamie Dedes


no buddha, no bodhi tree

no earth upon which to sit

in silent meditation

no suffering, no not suffering


rest assured


© poem, Jamie Dedes, 2011 all right reserved

Photo credit ~ Photo credit ~ A small temple beneath the Bodhi treeBodh Gaya, built in 7th century, after the original built by King Ashoka in 3rd century BCE, ca. 1810, British Library, public domain photograph via Wikipedia

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Jamie Dedes ~ is a former freelance feature writer and columnist whose topic specialties were employment, vocational training, and business. She finds the blessing of medical retirement to be more time to indulge in her poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction. She has two novels in progress, one in final edits, and is pulling together a poetry collection. Her primary playground is Musing by Moonlight. She is the founder and editor/administrator of Into the Bardo. Jamie’s mother was diagnosed with cancer the first time at thirty-six. She went three rounds with breast cancer, one with thyroid cancer, and died at seventy-six of breast and colon cancer.




Gayle Walters Rose

 When my mother’s best friend, Katherine, became ill with stomach cancer, her daughter enlisted Katherine’s friends to be of support as she went through her chemotherapy treatment and subsequent recuperation.  Her daughter lived out-of-state and had a medical practice and could not be with her day-to-day.

I had known Katherine my entire life.   She was one of the most positive, bright lights I had ever known.  Her daughter and I had spent much time together as children, which included many hours swimming in the beautiful lake that they lived on.  Katherine’s husband had died many years prior.

Her daughter was very organized and efficient with setting up people in shifts to take turns staying with Katherine during her illness.  Sometimes this included remaining overnight with her.  But Katherine had a very independent nature, even at age 87, and at times would insist that she was OK and send us home.  Her daughter had tried her best to convince Katherine to move to North Carolina and stay with her family, but Katherine always refused.  She had been there for over 50 years.  During one afternoon, she confided in me that she would never leave her beloved home on the lake.   The house had an enclosed porch that overlooked the water and we would sit out there for hours as we talked and relaxed.  Her eyes would occasionally scan the lake and she would comment on a bird that had caught her eye or an activity by a neighbor around the water’s edge.

We were able to share ourselves like never before.  She regaled me with all kinds of stories from her past and shared intimate feelings.  She told me she was totally at peace and was not fearful of death.  I felt somehow as if I were a vessel for her to pour her heart into and was so grateful that I could be of service to her in this way.

I marveled at her serenity during this difficult time.  There was no “battle”, just gentle, quiet acceptance and the allowing of what was.  She illustrated to me what it meant to live in the moment.  Her ease and even emotions were a gift to me as well.

One day she tired as we had been sitting on the porch for quite some time and so we retired to her bedroom.  Climbing into her bed, I propped myself next to her as we watched television.  A short time later, as I noticed her eyes getting heavy, I told her I would leave and let her sleep.  Lowering myself down on the bed so I could look into her eyes, I held her hands in mine and told her how much I loved her.  She smiled at me with beaming love in her clear, sweet, blue eyes and told me how beautiful I was.  Tears pooled in my eyes as I realized, in that moment, what grace she possessed.

Katherine died quietly in her sleep with hospice in attendance several months after her diagnosis.  Her bedroom window was open to the lake.

© photograph and essay, Gayle Walters Rose, 2011. All rights reserved. No re-blogging or publishing without the permission of the author.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Gayle Walters Rose ~ lives in Winter Park, Florida and has been blogging since August of 2010. She is an adventurous writer, experimenting with various forms of poetry and with fiction and creative nonfiction.Gayle comes from a large family, and she is the mother of grown daughters. Much of her writing is about nature or things of the spirit. Early in life, she lived in an ashram and often shares that experience and its lessons.

Gayle’s favorite quote is “Never think there is anything impossible for the soul. It is the greatest heresy to think so. If there is sin, this is the only sin; to say that you are weak, or others are weak.” (Swami Vivekananda)  You’ll find Gayle blogging at Bodhirose’s Blog, where she is much appreciated by the online poetry community for her fine work and because she is genuine.

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #24: More Than Love At First Sight



Dan Roberson

I said, “I
fell in love with you at first sight,”

You said, “Oh,
it was a crazy night,”

I said, “The
moon was beautiful and bright,

But I couldn’t see anything but you,”


You said, “I
don’t think that was true,

You came in with
someone dressed in blue,”

I said, “I’ll
have to admit once more you’re right,

Let’s just
forget about love at first sight,”


It was not
as important as I thought it would be,

It was a
step in the right direction, don’t you agree?

We were
newlyweds ready to begin,

Confident we
could change the world, again and again,


But it was the
second step, or maybe it was three or four,

When we
connected deeply, right at heart’s door,

Steps five
or six, we really began to communicate,

Every day I
grew more in love, it was such a happy state,


Knowing your
love for me was also deep,

Made it so
easy to have a restful sleep,

Love at
first sight seemed unreal and so long ago,

As life
expanded our love continued to grow,


We were stepping
into our future, two of a kind,

I was so
crazy about you as if I’d lost my mind,

Years went
by so quickly with you at my side,

And I still
thought of you as my beautiful bride,


When you
were stricken with that terrible disease,

I had to
tell you “I love you” to put your mind at ease,

I still
loved you when your hair began to fall,

It didn’t
change the way I felt, no, not at all,


The moon outside
is breathtaking and luminous tonight,

But you’re
lying here cold in the middle of the night,

Your frail
body is still beautiful to my sight,

I’ll lie
beside you until morning’s early light,


tears and laughter we shared,

The ways we showed
each other we cared,

How we
worked through our problems every day,

Learned to
forgive and to often pray,


We didn’t
let disagreements go on long,

As we trusted
each other we were twice as strong,

I didn’t
really understand love at first sight,

We took our
turns at being wrong and right,


Now you’ve
left this earth on your final flight,

And my heart
is filled with love at last sight.


@ poem and artist’s rendering of Dan, Dan Roberson, all rights reserved. No reblogging or pinting without the permission of the author.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Dan Roberson ~ lives in Kansas City, Missouri.  He says, ” I celebrate life. I retired from teaching and now I’m looking for new parades to lead, or to follow. I’m alone, still hoping to be a published author, and trying to stay on my chosen path. I have no anchor to hold me down and I’m ready to rid myself of possessions that impede progress. I want my imagination to soar. I’m open to learning about new worlds, new countries and languages, and different ways to look at things I thought I knew. Every day is a bonus day and I look forward to the challenges it brings. I’m finding out that technology is fast and getting faster and there is much information that I need to learn.”  You’ll find Dan at My Blog.

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #23: Steve Jobs “Death is life’s change agent.”

STEVE JOBS (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011)

American entrepreneur, inventor, and founder, chairman and CEO of Apple, Inc.

Drawing from some of the most pivotal points in his life, Steve Jobs, chief executive officer and co-founder of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, urged graduates to pursue their dreams and see the opportunities in life’s setbacks — including death itself — at the university’s 114th Commencement on June 12, 2005. Stanford University

I am late putting our post up for today and this is not what I had planned to put up for you. It certainly is not something I wished for Mr. Jobs, who died today – much too young at fifty-six – of  a rare pancreatic cancer.  At this Stanford College commencement in 2005, he tells three stories. They are about living fully, while factoring in the reality of death. “Stay foolish,” he says. “Stay hungry.” It is entirely appropriate to our series I think to post this video. It is presented here in gratitude. I am writing this on my AppleMac and have enjoyed using Apple computers for about twenty-years, thanks to the largess of my son. One man’s vision: Apple, Inc. has employed members of my family and provided jobs for countless people in the community in which I live and around the world. Jamie Dedes

The transcript for this speech is HERE for those in areas that cannot access YouTube.

Photo credit ~ Steve Jobs shows off the white iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worldwide Developers Conference courtesy of Matt Yohe, his original work licensed under the Creative Commons Atribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Video upload to YouTube by Stanford University and copyrighted by it.

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #14: With Heart Divided


Excerpt from With Heart Divided



Donna Swanson

What do you say about dying?  Holding a hand that is already like a skeleton with skin stretched over it?  Standing in back of his lounge chair and putting your hands gently on his shoulders for fear of hurting him?  Kissing the top of his head where only a few strands of those once thick curls remain?  Saying, “I love you.” trying to make up for all those times you did not say it before?

On the night before our son, Mac, died, Jacob stopped by his daddy’s chair on his way to bed and said, “Goodnight, Dad” Mac answered “Goodnight, Jake.” John and I and Dennie had been there all day and about 10:00 I went home to get some sleep.  John stayed because Mac had begun to get really agitated in his hallucinations and he was afraid Mac, though weak, could throw himself out of his chair or hurt Shelby.

At 5:30 the next morning the phone rang and Dennie said I’d better come quickly.  By the time I arrived Mac had just won his war.  Satan had played his last card, death, and though he won a battle, he lost the war.  Mac died with his father’s arms around his shoulders and his wife’s arms holding him.  Shelby let the boys sleep until the undertaker had gone, then she sat in her chair with a child held close under each arm and told them their Daddy had gone to Heaven.

When we went with Shelby to make arrangements, the first thing she said was, “I never expected to be doing this at 33.”  Both the visitation and funeral service were held in our Church for there was not enough room in the funeral home.  The Director said he had never held a service with so many people in attendance.  Shelby and John decided to bury Mac in the little cemetery about a quarter-mile from our home.  Arrangements were made and now Mac’s grave is close by.

Of course Mac is not there.  He has changed the landscape of Heaven for us. No longer is it a place just to be talked about in sermons or read about in the Bible.  Now it is where Mac is.  And we wonder what he’s doing today.  We see Heaven through the eyes of sorrow and joy.  And death has truly lost its sting.

My family has lost many members to cancer; two sisters, a brother, my mother and several cousins.  When the battle is done and the tears have dried, the heart regains its equilibrium and life goes on.  But for the poet, part of the healing process is putting into words our thoughts and the thoughts we see reflected in the eyes of our loved ones.  These are written for my son, Mac, and my sister Jackie who died of ovarian cancer.


I step back into the shadow,

beyond the light of my family’s


Storing memories

that must last through eternity.

I watch for the last time

each milestone celebration;

each small moment.

I take in the wonder

of the ordinary:

The smile of the morning,

The uncertain rest of the night

and the miracle of a day renewed.

As eternity beckons

I reach for the temporal,

for one last touch of mortality.

But I watch from the shadows.

© cover art, narrative, and poem 2011, Donna Swanson, all rights reserved

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Donna Swanson was born during the Great Depression in 1938 to an Indiana farm family.Youngest of eight children and a twin, she has lived her entire life in Warren County, Indiana.  A high school graduate, she chose to marry and raise a family rather than attend college; although she took classes in art, Koine’ Greek and psychology after marriage.  She has written nine books: Mind Song, published by The Upper Room in Nashville, TN; Rachel’s Daughters, The Windfallow Chronicles (a double trilogy), self-published; Splinters of Light, yet to be published, and the present autobiography.  A poem, Minnie Remembers, has become a standard tool in the study of gerontology, made into a documentary film by United Methodist Communications, and given the Golden Eagle Film Award.  It has been reprinted in most denominational publications and over twenty-five books. Mrs. Swanson is a Bible scholar and taught adult Bible classes for over forty years.  She began prayer and share groups for women in two area Churches and hosted a teenage “rap” group in her home for four years.  She counts among her mentors college professors, authors and ministers. Donna blogs at Mindsinger.


Dilys Wood




Dilys Wood

Some friends of mine who suffered cancer and did not survive in the longer term were, as it happens, exceptional people with a special gift for sharing. That’s how I come to know that there can be shared happiness even when a friend is diagnosed with a serious illness. When time is short, inhibition may fly out of the window. You may feel ‘licensed’ to talk freely about every aspect of both your lives.There are no excuses for not doing the things you meant to do together. Boring daily chores just have to give way to what, at normal times, might seem a whim.

In fact, the more ‘whims’ your friend has the more delighted you feel to be able to help, even though, when someone is getting weak, there can be problems. If not used to being a caretaker, you sometimes feel stupid, inadequate and guilty. A few weeks before her death, I took a friend abroad and was in tears of despair at Heathrow airport because I hadn’t allowed for her slow walking and general debility. Why hadn’t I booked help? When we reached our hotel in Amsterdam, I was tired and she was ready for an enjoyable evening. I’d learnt the lesson that energy levels in a cancer patient can be unpredictable: a remarkable will-power may come into play, with a passionate desire to do new things, go places, indulge a little lavish spending, even when out of character.

Within a week or so of her own death, a friend learnt that an aunt was housebound and set off to see her. It should not have been possible for her to take that journey by car, train, tube and bus, but she did it on her own. When she told me the details it was obvious she had had one of the happiest days of her life. This friend was one who talked about everything under the sun, including questioning everyone, from priests to shop-assistants, about their idea of eternity.

Another friend greeted everyone on the street with, “I’ve got terminal cancer”. Far from resenting this – and despite the fact that she had just moved house – her neighbours were soon actively helping in every possible way, visits, shopping, lifts in their cars, re-plumbing her washing-machine. By contrast, I was unhappy when the close family of a dying friend banned visitors from the house in her last fortnight. Did she feel that “closing out” was harsh, as I did, or was it the right decision?

For another friend, dying in a Hospice, things were different. Lying in the bay-window of a large sunny room she was dying in a combined greenhouse and luxury hotel. Surrounded by a mass of cut-flowers and house-plants, her bedside table groaning with fruit and chocolate, she was eager for visitors, warm, loving even while hallucinating. I will never forget her friendly indignation as she pointed to the vision we couldn’t see, “Look a tiger, apricot stripes!”

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Dilys Wood ~ Dilys is poet, editor and founder of Second Light Network of Women Poets. She has edited four anthologies of women’s poetry, mainly with Myra Schneider and has published two collections of poetry, Women Come to a Death and Antarctica. She is a great advocate for women poets, especially those who come to the art and craft of it late in life. Dilys mother died of cancer.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


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PERSPECTIVE ON CANCER #5: Done and Not Done Yet



Jamie Dedes


Click on the post title for the poem to lay out properly.


I watched it all over my friend’s dear shoulder,

that day of living and dying and celebrating

like a garden snake the shedding of the skin,

the detritus of material man with its hunger and

wild, woody creative soul, sketching ruby-jeweled

memories in sand to be blown like a Tibetan mandala

across Timelessness while he, lone monk, gripped

by systems on systems of hospital wiring, billing,

approvals, and laws around funerals and burials,

estates, plans, and proposals for headstones and

the where, when, and how of a memorial service,

the left-overs of his life to be sorted, stashed, stored

or sent  to the right people in the right places. Done!

… as though there had been nothing. No one.



* Dedicated to my Group for People With Life-Threatening Illness*

A Chinese advertisement based on a true story . . . Sounds strange, but go ahead and give it a chance …

Thanks Laurel! 🙂

Posted to YouTube by .

Photo credit – flowers at Filoli Garden by Parvathy

Jamie Dedes ~ Jamie is a former freelance feature writer and columnist whose topic specialties were employment, vocational training, and business. She finds the blessing of medical retirement to be more time to indulge in her poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction. She has two novels in progress, one in final edits, and is pulling together a poetry collection. Her primary playground is Musing by Moonlight. She is the founder and editor/administrator of Into the Bardo. Jamie’s mother, Zbaida, was diagnosed with cancer the first time at thirty-six. Zabida went three rounds with breast cancer, one with thyroid cancer, and died at seventy-six of breast and colon cancer.



is out today.

The theme is Buddhism.

You’ll find some interesting pieces there including a

short piece that I wrote on Buddhist poets in the West. Jamie



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Jamie Dedes

And far into the night he crooned that tune

The stars went out and so did the moon.

The singer stopped playing and went to bed.

While the weary blues echoed through his head.

The Weary Blueby Langston Hughes


If you are reading this post on the home page, you will need to click on the post title for the poem to lay out properly.


Suddenly conscious, remembering, dread.

Before dawn the worst blues of the day,

those dismal black-blues of a battered heart

Gummy, gloomy blues, tangled in cobwebs

Blues – dispirited as a fatherless girl,

a widower man, a betrayed lover

Blues bereft as the loss of an old friend

Bitter-acid blues that rise in the throat of

a wage-slave, dying by slow suffocation


Early Morning Blues . . .

The heavy-hearted blue sludge

that weighs upon the mother with her pink slip

the father with his account overdrawn

The deep, murky sea of blue that swallows up

the homeless man begging, living on the margin

Or the homeless woman sleeping on the street,

crying her cancer pain deep into the night

The sword-in-the-heart blues

of  a family living on trash-bin dinners

The dark, churning brackish blue

of a child’s empty stomach, no food in sight


Early Morning Blues . . .

The helpless, hopeless, remorse-filled blues

that come as Time runs out and Eternity beckons

That darkest of hues with shivering slivers

of pewter blue, muting to grey, muting to black

Muting to light fractures in a surface

permeable and permissible, heavenly light

Or so “they” tell me . . .


But lost in a sea of light

will “I’ still be?

will “you” still be?

Answer me that.

What is the character of this light?

Matter or myth?

Ah, then, after all, pondering further

I find I really don’t care

I’ll poem the blues and poem my light

until all that’s left of me is what

I’ve left behind . . .

and you?

Will you leave your unwritten

blue poem hanging in the air to be

heard by those few who can?

Or, will you, like Africans of old, paint

yourself blue and boiling tears

dance around the fire and give

birth to the soul of a new art


Photo credit ~ Wilfredo R. Rodriguez H. via Wikipedia

♥ ♥ ♥


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Jamie Dedes

If you are viewing this poem on the home page, you will have to click with your mouse on the subject line of the post for the poem to lay-out properly.

No illusions, no illusions, no lies, no softening of the truth,

no tears, no bargains, though sun shines and birds sing,

Winter is here, I know.

Winter is too crisp and sharp to invite either love or lechery,

and those men, husbands and lovers, see through it to seasons

young and not so inclined to ponder as one man complained,

while I watched the grass die, the leaves dry, the earth harden,

cold winds blowing over the graves that house our bodies.

And I being me was always asking


Once Spring danced like wild flowers in the wind,

held dew and promise and smiled like a well-fed babe.

It hadn’t heard the word defeat and didn’t know hate or anger.

Spring liked to play, to romp, to sing and

she hung her question on a tree to ripen –


Summer took itself seriously, was wide-eyed with longing, sizzling in the sun.

It wore a red dress and the champagne happiness of a husband and baby

and bravado because Summer is young and youth is bold,

a silver bell that rings and rings and never stops.

Too much is not enough and yet – a tremulous


Autumn gently smiled, like Da Vinci’s lady, and danced old dances,

reminisced Begin the Beguine, stepping lightly on brown leaves.

It was lined with gold and muted silks, remembered is manners,

nodded wisely, spoke sagaciously , and was a might too profound.

Haughty with itself, it just knew it knew


Winter…Winter is content, sees itself in Time displaced and learned

laughter has meaning and fleshy bonds and boundaries dissolve.

A bit stiff, cold, and slow now, slowing to honor the sacred,

to say “i love you,” to say “it was good,” to say “thank you.”

Sun rise, sun set, and once dormant trees burst forth with green,

sanguine and serene, just a habit now that question





Jamie Dedes

I watched it all over my friend’s dear shoulder,

that day of living and dying and celebrating

like a garden snake the shedding of the skin,

the detritus of material man with its hunger and

wild, woody creative soul, sketching ruby-jeweled

memories in sand to be blown like a Tibetan mandala

across Timelessness while he, lone monk, gripped

by systems on systems of hospital wiring, billing,

approvals, and laws around funerals and burials,

estates, plans, and proposals for headstones and

the where, when, and how of a memorial service,

the left-overs of his life to be sorted, stashed, stored

or sent  to the right people in the right places. Done!

… as though there had been nothing. No one.



* Dedicated to Group *

A Chinese advertisement based on a true story.

Inspiring. Give it a chance. I don’t think you’ll regret the time.

Thanks Laurel! 🙂

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