I found this poem my wife wrote around the time of her first major neurological event caused by her Arnold Chiari malformation, the condition that killed her, and it made me weep. Wail. Cry.
But also its image of Kat leaving behind the wounds and scars of this world into new life so reflects the language of 2 Corinthians 4 & 5 —
“7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
“13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”[b] Since we have that same spirit of[c] faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
“6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. ”
I find in my work as a pastor and hospice chaplain, that before people die so often they write, paint, or say things which, on looking back, seem to prefigure their passing. There is no real this-worldly explanation I have heard that to me compellingly explains this. My own belief is that God places in people’s unconscious a sense beyond words of what is happening and, though they may not know consciously they will pass, enough of this grace hits them to reach out in subtle ways to prepare us for their going. I see this in Kat in the poem I will share, but also in subtle ways her last weeks she reached out to be close to me. I even see it in how she won Panthers tickets insisting I should go in a year in which they are worth watching, and introduced me to all her friends she walked dogs with whom now are part of my support system. This spark of insight that inspired her poem also inspired her to do subtle things like these which helped prepare me to have resources that help me be ready to re-enter life without her physical presence. I thank the Spirit for her working in such ways, even if I would rather have had Kat stayed with us.
Here is the poem–
by Katharine Royal
I’ve just returned from a wake, a funeral and a burial…my own
I felt the pains of the me I’d come to know…and hate…dying
The wounds I’d thought had healed re-opened and bled me dry
Staring at myself I came to realize how much I didn’t understand
How much I’d missed and how much time I’d wasted
And then I realized I was staring at myself
I was lying there, stiff and cold
Yet here I was standing by and looking
A feeling swept over me, then another, and another still
Confusion, disbelief, realization, remorse, awe, joy
I was alive! Me! The real me.
Before me lay only a shell – the me I’d thought I was for so long
I walked a short distance and stood before a mirror, eyes closed
How I had once hated mirrors
But could it be, was I now to realize
The me I’d seen all those years wasn’t me, but a reflection of all the things I hated
I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or skinny enough
I opened my eyes, first a narrow crack
Then a bit more
Blinking, I stood in awe of what was before me
Scales fell from my eyes as I realized
Who I truly was
Perfection? What was that really?
Flaws? Just cracks in the diamond of my soul
Cracks forming a beautiful tapestry
Fat, lazy, coward, cripple
I could no longer see except in shadows
Fading in the background
Courageous, loving, creative, strong
Who I really was, who I’d been all along
Years of pain, guilt, and trying to be good enough
Began to melt away
I gazed at my arms, peppered in the scars of self-hatred
Hoping those marks too were gone
But it was not to be
Someone beside me took my hand
“Remember how you got here. Remember who you are and Whose you are.”
A glance, a smile, a tear
My son stood before me, radiant smile and sunlight in his hair
“You wondered who I’d be today. This is who you are today.”
A warm embrace, a fading light of dream’s haze collided with the morning sky
I awoke beside my once in a lifetime and knew
I’d been re-born