Burdens and Blessings of Living and Dying

Sober, I’ve felt the pain of dying and death of those I love. Before I got sober, I avoided much of the pain associated with loved ones dying by numbing my feelings as much as I possibly could.

I got sober three years before my parents became chronically ill. For that, I am most grateful. They both died slowly, becoming sicker and sicker, outliving their bodies and sometimes it seemed, their joy. It was painful to watch and sometimes painful still to remember – their slow, inexorable decline physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I wanted to create excuses to avoid visits, but knew that I could not. I wanted to leave the minute that I arrived, but I did not. I don’t know if I was ‘showing up for them or showing up for me’. Every visit exposed scars unhealed, theirs and mine. For me, death of those I love sometimes feels a harsh reality. A finality. Maybe that ultimate reality was part of what I drank alcohol to avoid. Today, I do not.

I

You watched me born
Emerging from the womb
And there I was brand new
Pink wrinkled and screaming
As air first filled my lungs
Full of life possibility unbound
Your dreams and mine
And then one day I never imagined
I watched you die
Slowly at first
Your body grown tired
Betraying you more and more
Day by day by day
Until one day your chest
It no longer did rise
Such is the burden
And the blessing
You watched me born
And I watched you die

II

I watch the forgetting begin
And it fills me with such fear
To watch you lose yourself
Little by little each day
I see the fear in your eyes
And I try to hide mine with a laugh
Is this how despair begins
I struggle to find the words
Calm your fears give you hope
But can only hold you with my heart
Is this how hope begins
Letting go I fall with you
Though you may forget
I’ll remember for you
Until I begin to forget too
Is this how we learn to live

About the Author

Robert B. is a sober alcoholic in Madison, WI participating in AA and AlAnon at Fitchburg Serenity Club. He has been sober since April 21, 2007. He also began writing and sharing poetry on Facebook during his first year sober as part of his recovery from alcohol dependency, acute anxiety and chronic depression. He has found that creativity expressed primarily through writing poetry and playing various stringed instruments helped him heal and thrive.

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