I assemble the notebook
of my mother’s dying:
the specialists’ names,
numbers, addresses.

Diagnoses, prognoses,
prescriptions. Explanations
of every benefit
we do not feel.

We decline patient
portals. For our convenience,
they say, but we are
not yet fools.  We

recognize the human hand
washed by technology
of our sticky anxiety, the
obdurate, unanswerable question:

How to sail off the edge of the world?

I draw alongside,
relatively essential,
absolutely unnecessary.

No one needs anyone to die.

Did we die into
our mothers’ wombs,
advance scouts who never
sent back word?

What should we have said?

That every moment,
a door closed,
another opened,
that we did not

know enough
to walk through,
until we did?



  1. “We recognize the human hand washed by technology of our sticky anxiety, …” So well said, Cate. I fear the impersonalness of technology is taking a terrible toll on us all. Though it’s likely futile, resist we must, at times. -Russ


    1. I agree, Russ. What happens, though, eventually, is that more human, less technical options disappear. So you use what’s offered or you’re out of luck. This is especially hard on older folks who disproportionately use the health care system, as they are also, as a group, the most stressed by technology and the most helped by simple human communication.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So true. I saw it with my father, who passed last year at 96. He tried as hard as he could but just couldn’t ‘get it’, getting more and more frustrated as he aged. Then he would feel like a burden every time he had to ask for help. :-/


        1. I think my mom feels the same. The daunting technology makes her feel stupid as well as a burden, and she is neither. Dang machines!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. This took my breath away on first read – plunging me back into the weeks watching my son succumb to glioblastoma – recording EVERYthing for fear I’d forget the one essential bit of information needed later. I keep still the 3-ring binder of all those online notes, the daily-updated timeline, a few well-wishes that arrived via mail. Indeed a synopsis of a crisis … but as your poem portrays, not necessarily negative … he went through an unexpected door, but he DID do it without hesitation … he chose to forego a year plus of radiation and chemo that would’ve warped his brain to extend life a few months … took his full self through the door. I have no regrets about his choice – only gratitude that I could witness his wisdom, his graceful departure. Thank you for sharing this poem!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Jazz: Thank you for the openness and generosity it took to share this experience. I understand why you still have the binder, the notes — those artifacts of accompanying him to the threshold. I cannot speak to losing a child; I cannot imagine. But knowing your courage and hearing you describe his courage, well — the apple fell not far from the tree. I love what you say — that he “took his full self through the door.” So grief, yes, and sometimes depthless. But no regrets, and I am gladder than I can say that you feel a sense of gratitude for having been with him, for having borne witness.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sorry, Cate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Leah. It’s OK, really. Just that time of life, for her in her experience, and for me in mine.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Gratitude for your sharing this life passage. It gives words and feelings to many of my familiar experiences. Somehow a salve to acknowledge and hear another acknowledge with their own version. Thank you for your poetry Cate!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome, and I thank you in return. Your response is affirming, as one of my hopes for such poems is that others relate, and that thereby we feel more connected to each other and less alone in this human experience.


  5. I’m so sorry😞

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kind of you; thank you. It’s wholly OK, actually, just part of living and dying for elderly parents and the adult children entrusted with their care. Most of that sticky anxiety is actually mine, though I’m getting better with it. I’m lucky to have an accepting mother who is also my friend as we move through this together.


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