Where, O death is your victory?
Where, O death is your sting?
The sting is in the dying:
in stolen mobility
and robbed speech;
in the multiplication of wires and tubes
and the reduction of dignity;
in words not said
and sentiments unheard;
in unrealised hopes, unrealised.
The victory is in relationships
strained and unfulfilled;
in sage advice that could not be heeded
because it was never given;
in jokes not told and laughter not shared.
The victory is in the loss
of a father, a brother, a husband, a friend.
And it may be that we have the last laugh
for Death has been swallowed up in victory,
And there is confidence to say you are going Home,
and you will be free of pain and hurt,
Free to live utterly complete,
Totally fulfilling your designed purpose.
But for now we face dying, not death,
And the sting is in the skin.
It’s poison in our veins,
Slowing movements, clouding perspectives
Filling the internal pool
so it overflows in tears.
[This was written a few weeks ago after visiting my Father-in-law in a palliative care unit, and later in a hospital ward. On the 5th December 2016, he went to his eternal Home.]
[Poetry is an unusual form for me to write, but inspiration came for this while sitting in the cloisters of Durham Cathedral at the end of a retreat day last autumn spent largely in the Galilee Chapel the cathedral (which is stunning)]
I sit inside this house of stone
Listening to talk of creation;
And I want to get outside:
To see the trees in their traffic light autumnal splendour,
To hear the river and smell the leaves underfoot.
Outside to the greenery, and nature. That’s creation.
Not cooped up here in this man-made edifice.
Then I look, and my eyes are opened
To see that the stones, that seemed so dead
Are alive with colour.
Swirls of orange and ochre, browns and creams
Dance across their faces.
Faces once uniform, now weathered
By rain and wind and cold.
Created stone, altered by creation’s power.
Or these vast doors;
Dark ancient planks, hewn, joined and adorned.
By man, yes, but man is but creation too.
Created in the Creator’s image,
To mould and shape, adorn and build.
So far from being merely ‘man-made’
This cathedral is thrice created;
Creation’s elements, stone and wood
Raised up by created beings
And weathered, given character, by creation’s power.
All to the Creator’s glory.