A Gentle Leaving

“You are on your way out, my friend.”
Easier to hear than the nurse’s stark words.

Lying on a bed in a private room, tucked
away behind the packed morning clinic,
my weakened husband was ready.

Certainty at last, the task now clear.
He handed himself in and was beautifully
cared for, a ward, then the hospice.

Friday to Tuesday morning, precious time
for goodbyes, a family party round his bed,
his modest last wishes fulfilled.

Then the waiting, no more talk,
as he breathed his way to death.

Kind, alert nurses tended his body.

Close friends and family flowed
and settled round his quietness,
holding his warm hands.



He breathed again,
eventually again,
and again.

We waited, poised,
nothing happened.


They tidied him,
removed tubes,
straightened the bed.

We found him
lying peacefully,
so very, very still,
and solid.

None of us went to the
undertakers to see him.


Shiny Shoes

Afterwards we collected his shoes,
a good strong brown laced pair,
his favourite style, bought to last,
only just broken in, we chose them together.
Our daughter had cleaned them for him.

And his ashes. In a small but heavy box.
They were happy to burn the clothes
he was wearing, his comfy jeans,
a pink shirt, but not the shoes.

His son wears them now.


Going Solo

I could have done with him
after he died.
That was when I really needed him.

We did all the big things together,
falling in love, childbirth, twice,
my father’s sudden death and funeral,
the girls learning to walk,
starting school,
leaving home.

Side by side, sharing experiences,
mutual support, deepening,
deepening what we had.

This time I had to do it

And for ever after.


My Not Man

Not in the garden,
not in the kitchen,
not in his shed,
not at the piano,
not in the bathroom,
not on the stairs,
not in our bed.

Not out, but coming home later.
Not away, but coming home on Tuesday.


He is not.





My Air Man

The rest of the room looks fine.
I have filled up the void,
my clothes spread along the hanging rail,
in every drawer.
Even two dressing gowns
on the back of the door,
both mine.

The bed though
is something else,
the empty space
where you should be.

I stick to my side,
sleeping, and slipping
in and out,
never crossing
onto yours,
where you still are,

my air man.



Idle chat on coming home,
“How was it”?
Your friend?

As we cooked together,
laid the table,
put the bin out.

Ordinary, everyday.

Thirty-six years.


He Wasn’t There

He wasn’t there:
singing in the basses,
his bright white hair making him easy to spot,
absorbed and glowing with his pleasure in the music.

He wasn’t there:
milling afterwards, bumping into old friends,
wine and mince pies, sharing a joke,
catching up on news,
easily, side by side.

He wasn’t there:
walking to the bus in the sharp cold night,
arm in warm arm, enjoying a gossip,
delighting in a job well done.

He wasn’t there:
as I made a drink,
locked up for the night,
hearing the silence of solitude.



On my allotment
there’s a round, deep hole
down in the orchard,
a veritable mantrap,
a firepit.

In it are the ashes of my husband.

And he’s spread across the bed
next the water tank,
where last year we grew potatoes.
He’d have liked that.

Closer to home some of him
is in my flowerbed
opposite his shed window,
helping to feed my plants
he loved so much.

But he is in none of those places.

He is always with me,
tightly held.

This time
I will not let him go.

1 Comment

  1. Hannah

    So moving Alison ♡


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