what do you say to someone who is dying?

11 Dec

Not more than you should;
Not less than is needed.

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Sometimes there’s nothing to be said at all.
Tears will do nicely.
A quiet sitting by can be the best medicine of all.
Especially for those who doubt their own grasp of wisdom
in knowing the difference.

Sometimes black humor will do wonders.
Laughter – to tears, through tears – can provide precisely
the hand-hold needed
to climb the sheer face of terror
and assault dark uncertainties.

Sometimes it’s the foothold
of a poem,
a song,
a reading.

Sometimes it’s a prayer.
Not performed,
but felt

Midwives for the dying, we are,
for what is death but

To avert our eyes
to fidget
to nervously shift one foot to the other
to pretend that we’re not staring at death
is like pretending a woman is not really in labor as she screams.

Midwives for the dying, we are.
Helping them breathe through the contractions,
freeing them to find the most comfortable position
to find their own way
rather than shackling them with ours.

But we are midwives inside the womb;
we don’t see the head crowned;
new life isn’t released into our hands;
it is a birth away from us
not towards us,
a birth into other waiting Hands
to receive
to swaddle
to name
to nurse
to bring home
to release into a new world bursting with unimaginable possibilities.

No tears on that side
that side we cannot see
at least no tears like these.

Only here
on this side
this dark womb-y side
as we are left holding a bloody severed cord
cut by other Hands
we judge cruel
as we wail at these dark, confining


for our own birth.

War Drums_Marten

or, as suggested by my friend Lisa’s work, sometimes war drums will do nicely too…and paint


Posted by on December 11, 2014 in haverings, Poetry


Tags: , , ,

8 responses to “what do you say to someone who is dying?

  1. Justin Boggs

    December 11, 2014 at 2:05 am

    As a man rarely at loss for words, I find myself at a loss for words.
    Almost as if the words themselves just fill that sacred, intimate space with harsh clanging.
    Yet, some things need to be said to the dying, while they are yet living.
    Inside, I am weeping.

  2. thegreatfish

    December 11, 2014 at 4:57 am

    Wow. Just wow.

  3. ericstollerdonahue

    December 11, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    Great wisdom! Just what I needed.

  4. Nedra W.

    December 13, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Reblogged this on Living with the Dying and commented:
    Midwife for the Dying. Amazing post. I am a midwife by profession, and have often made this correlation. We need help coming in, and help going out.

  5. wordhaver

    December 13, 2014 at 12:42 am

    Thanks, Nedra. And thank you for what you do. Each of our five kids were brought into this world with the help of a midwife. Irreplaceable.

  6. Ellie

    December 13, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    This is really beautiful Nedra ! Have loved your posts and remind me of my mom’s & MILs deaths and other yet to come. Thanks so much for sharing – Be blessed – Ellie

  7. Chad Estes

    December 15, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    Love this gift, Mike. Thank you.

  8. wordhaver

    December 15, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    May all our posts be gifts that keep on giving! 🙂


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