What can we give them – who are old and failing
And sometimes weary of the passing years?
Only our tears and sorrow, unavailing.
With memories of past hopes and present fears.
While these our sons go gaily into the battle
We, who so love them, sit and wait in dread-
Of shreiking shell and the machine guns rattle,
All tense with hope – or fear that they be dead.
Our souls, sore wounded, when our loved one dies
Take comfort from the splendour of the skies.
For there, clear eyed, they look serenely down,
From their high vantage ground beyond the stars.
And having borne the Cross may wear the Crown,
And heal them of their travail and their scars.
They’ll tread again the pleasant paths of Heaven,
For Sacrifice is but its widest gate,
And Mercy is the soul of what was given,
Their gallant souls, whose love will vanquish hate.
Bright gifts we bring to England of our pain,
Oh England – England – take them not in vain.
* Charles Corner was my maternal Great Grandfather and this poem was written for an anthology put together by my Grandmother, Eleanor Harper (nee Corner) and my father as a memorial to Uncle Teddy (Edward) who was a Lancaster bomber pilot who died in WW2.
This is my Dad.
We had our differences when I was growing up and they were pretty full on at times. I left home at 19, but returned annually to catch up with Mum for many years and there was much left unspoken.
Mum died in 1999 and from that year on, Dad travelled over to spend Christmas with my family as my brother went to New Zealand to celebrate the holiday season with his wife’s family.
A bout of bowel cancer slowed him down a little …. and his increasing age, so he decided to sell up his unit in Perth and move to a retirement complex in the outer Melbourne suburbs to be closer to my family.
A difficult decision at 85.
Still a little wary of him, I visited weekly, taking him shopping on a Sunday and we slipped into a routine.
If he needed to go to the doctor, I took him.
The kids liked playing Ludo with him and we shared meals for significant occasions.
Heart attacks, one for him, one for me….
…we muddled along and along the way we became friends… finding that we had similar interests in religion, meditation, reincarnation…..
The kids promised to visit ….and did on occasions, stepping up nobly when we were travelling and taking him out for a special birthday lunch one year.
He turned 90… then 91… it seemed like he was going on forever… then earlier this year, his older brother died, then his sister’s husband. Suddenly he began to talk of the completing this life cycle….he became a little breathless… he fervently completed jumbo crosswords to prove that he wasn’t going senile.. and the chest pains began.
At first I thought it to be a result of greiving for the men he used to know, but the emergency department x-rays showed up what was thought to be pneumonia.
Stubbornly, he insisted he would be alright at home and I assured the doctor I would follow up with the GP.
The tests showed that he had lung cancer.
That was a Thursday. Ever independent, he caught the retirement village bus that afternoon to go and get a haircut and do his shopping.
My brother visited on the Monday, taking some time out from a conference that he was attending, to spend an hour or so with him.
On Tuesday, the pain intensified and an ambulance was called. He spent the afternoon in Emergency and was sent home that evening as he said he didn’t want any intervention.
By the Friday evening of that same week he had been admitted to a hospice for pain management as he was finding it difficult to move from the bed to the bathroom. Still independent, he fell from his bed as he tried to get to the bathroom…
A few days of care and the pain intensified… he hovered between here and the nether worlds….aware of what was happening and telling me about the experience…and on the sixth morning he slipped over to the other side and died peacefully in his sleep……