Breaking form here for a collaborated poem with my dear friend Ankit. But first I’d like to share why this is happening:
On New Year’s Eve, at 2 20 in the morning, surrounded by her much beloved children, my Wonderful Man’s sister (my sister-in-love as she would say) died after fighting cancer for about a year and a half. At one point she had been clear. It came back swiftly and with an absolute vengeance. Terry returned to the hospital on November 11. We got a call that she had 48 hours to a week or perhaps a little bit more to live….to get our goodbyes in order. Steps were taken to try and ease her pain and buy more time. Nothing worked and Thanksgiving Day found Terry in hospice.
Although Bill and I have dated for 6 1/2 years, I didn’t really know Terry very well. We all live in a small town, saw one another at family get-togethers a few times a year and ran into one another here and there but Terry and I didn’t hang out. She was a few years older than me and we didn’t gravitate towards one another. I always loved seeing her at the gatherings though. She was a joyful presence. I’d gone with Bill to the hospital every time he went to visit her during this whole thing and went the first couple of times to hospice. But hospice felt soooo very personal and her remaining time was extremely precious. I didn’t want to intrude on the time she had left with her 3 grown kids, her grandchildren, family and close friends. I told Bill my concerns and told him I would love to go with him if he wanted me there and thought it was alright, but that I wouldn’t be hurt if he thought I were in intruding in any way. He said he wanted me there and thought I was good to have in the room. I was honored and saw this as a very sweet gift.
We went to see Terry often over those few weeks. Although it was heartbreaking to see her pain…and sad…we were completely blown away. Terry had more Grace, humor, kindness, ease and candor than I’d ever imagined could exist in such a situation. In that sweet little room, we witnessed so many wonders. Terry had taught dance for most of her life and was a lifelong very active church-goer. She was also one of the most social people I’ve ever seen and literal rivers of friends/family poured through…each with the sweetest gifts of themselves and their hearts in many different forms. Tremendous amounts of love, joy, kindness, friendship, storytellings, singing, hand-holding prayers, flowers flowers flowers, wonderful Christmas decorations complete with a large Christmas tree festooned by her AMAZING kids and grandchildren, her grandchildren playing, frank discussions about what was going on, silly brilliantly fanciful discussions about whatever, puzzle putting togethers, Terry recording stories so all her grandchildren (both born and that will come after she’d gone) could hear her read to them, castings were made of her holding hands with her kids that they will have for the rest of their lives…
She even planned her funeral, which she insisted calling a celebration of her life and God, with us right there in the room. It was to have (and did!!!) singing, a few ballet dances done to spiritual songs, those closest to her speaking, and a final dance that was an invitation to anyone and everyone to come up and dance in celebration. The service was wrapped up with a recording of Terry saying a mindblowingly sweet prayer for all of us she was leaving behind and her just Thanking God for all the wonderful gifts and beauty he had allowed her in this life time. She had said that prayer in hospice one day when about 20 or her friends from church came to sing Christmas carols. We all (Terry included) sang and sang. Then they read her a poem they’d written her and capped it off with a lovely Bible verse. We all held hands and prayed together. Terry was given an invitation to say a prayer and that’s what she did. I have no idea who recorded it….but it was such an incredible (and VERY Terry Jane!) way to end her celebration.
God. I could write pages. Up until the last week or so of her life Terry was surprisingly aware and awake. When the genuine end was near…..the room quieted. Family only. And still the storytelling continued. We would just sit around talking about when they were all little kids, etc. with Terry laying there peacefully. Once in a while she acknowledged what was being said….
The strength, generosity and amazing hearts of her children, who were always by her side in turn, was astounding. The 3 of them all have such different personalities/rhythms…..they blended together perfectly to make Terry’s days so very sweet. And they shared their mother so openly.
I continued my blog throughout. Each post I do is created around whatever I’m feeling at the time. My art is me just trying to understand the world…life. I process inside it. Whatever’s going on. My haiku is the same. I wrote about Terry and the experience we were all going through a few times. You can see them here. At one point Ankit, an AMAZING poet, musician and artist asked me about one of the Terry posts and I told him what was going on and how deeply touched I was. Ankit (like most everyone, I know) has experienced loss of dear ones. I told him although I’ve been around death before…I’d never seen anything like what Terry’s hospice room/passage was like. He agreed. We had lovely conversations. He said he was moved to write about her….that she inspired him. I relayed that to Terry during one visit when an old friend of hers and I were in the room. She was having a moment where she apologized for how awkward it must be for us all sitting around waiting for her to die. This wasn’t self pity. It was just frank. We assured her that although everyone was devastated that she was having to go through all of this, she had made the experience anything BUT awkward. She was so lovely and giving. She engaged each visitor joyfully to talk about their lives. Their hopes, their dreams, their families. If a friend came in and was crying, she took time alone with them to comfort them. I seriously could go on and on. When I was assuring Terry that everything was okay I told her she was such an inspiration to me, that I was learning so much and that she had even inspired a friend of mine who lived in Napal. This gave her much joy. I told her I’d been blogging about her and had painted her and pictures about the experience of what she was going through. Later I showed her the posts I had at that point and she really liked them. She even took time going through my fine art on my website and was wildly encouraging. She was wildly encouraging to everyone about any matter of their heart/soul.
Ankit wrote me recently that he’d like to collaborate on a poem for Terry. He sent me 2 stanzas. I wrote 2 back. He felt it was complete and after thinking on it, I agreed…..so……I painted this picture to accompany our words. It’s called ‘blowing kisses’. She is the star in the sky and that is the golden street she dances upon…..
And here is our poem (titled by Ankit):
The Journey of Living Inspiration and dedication – TJ
So fragile, so thin
wrapped in a bubble
This journey of living
On this moment, let go of sorrow.
This journey of living
Who knows of tomorrow.
Thank You, Ankit!
All artwork, haiku, etc. (unless otherwise noted) are by/Katy Boyer & Blissbait Art. All rights reserved.