Poetry: Grief Writings
by Deborah Whelan-Miller

Memories of my Mother

Watching her get ready to go


Where did she go?

The smell of her make up

The smell of her cigarettes

Forever Burning

Where did she go?

To the Elks club?

To an AA meeting?
The smell of her hairspray

Was it aqua net?
The smell of her latest perfume,

Something I had recently bought her at

Sprouse Ritz more than likely.

Emeraude…that was it.

Where did she go?
Where has she gone?

She's not here,

I am not sure she ever was

Except for the smells that haunt me

Through the day

That remind me.

What Do They/I Know

They say that 76 is not young to die.

Why does it seem so young to me now?

Is it because I am now 45 years old?
It seems that she died too soon.
They say that she would soon not know me.

It would have been so hard on my son and myself to see her deteriorate before our very eyes.
I see others continue the struggle, watching their mothers, grandmothers loose their minds , their bodies withering away, struggling to live, struggling to die. Their children wishing it were over. Did I wish it? Did I wish she would soon die? Did I wish it because it would be easier on me? On her?

Is it easier now?
Yes, I guess it is.

Do I miss her?
I don't know.

I cannot think clearly enough to know.

The fact is,

Mom is gone. Mom is dead. I will never see her again.
Does it matter whether I believe I will see her again? Will that thought whether it be fact or not, comfort me, does it?

I don't think it does.

Nothing seems “for sure” anymore.

No absolutes.

I seem to know nothing.

Only that we are born and then we die.

Will I ever believe anything else again?
I don't know.
I really don't know.


Did You do Those Things to Please Yourself? Or Others?

You baked cookies.

You baked pies.

You worked into the wee hours of the morning banging bowls, utensils and baking pans.

I can still hear the whir from the mixer.

I can smell the delicious aromas coming up through the stairwell.

I can hear the open and close of the oven door, the running of the water through the pipes.

I can hear your voice. Were you yelling at Barney our Bassett thinking he would wake us up?

I even can hear the front door open and close as you rushed out to the all night grocery store to pick up that one baking item you forgot.

Why did you do it? Bake for others? Did you do it because you wanted to please others? Did you bake because it gave you pleasure just to bake?
Did you do these things to make up for all you could never be?

As if to complete some part of you that just never seemed to be complete?
It's as if through baking you yourself finally became whole.
The mother you never were.

The wife you were not capable of being.

The friend you never new how to be.

You could be beautiful.

You could be wity.

You new how to make them laugh didn't you?

Maybe through the preparing, mixing, baking and cleaning you could control some part of you.

Did it get you any closer to who you wanted to be?

Am I repeating your history?


I Think I miss you

What will Christmas day be like without you mom? How can I go another day without you? I cannot even think about turning on the cd player, the carols. I only lit one advent candle this season mom. How can I light another? I feel a burning racing up through every part of me, is that what grief feels like? With every carol. With every Christmas cookie, bought present with every department store I want to run, hide…somewhere…where? I can not even comprehend going “overtown” only because the sound of the bell the salvation armyworker rings would be torment for me. I see the child like glee on your face as you spot every light on every house. Every one better that the last. I remember the rides home from our house last year. The moon light…I remember the time we stopped on the side of the road. We turned the car off. I remember. It was silent. The smell of the wood stoves, the fir trees, I can smell them. You can't remember, but I can. We would always try and spot the angel you had in the window of your apartment as we approached on Vashon hwy from the south. I wonder if we ever spotted it.

Do you remember how we inserted the words to Yankee Doodle Dandy to Old King Wincelas…we couldn't remember them so we sang Yankee Doodle Dandy to the tune of it.

Do you remember mom? Do you remember. I do.

I do.


I am “not” demented

But I am.

Or so it seems.

You see, her life is my nightmare.

So is his, my fathers life that is.

Am I loosing it now, my mind that is?

Is it too late?
Is there something I can do?

Can I stop fate?

Or is it fate at all?

So many questions.

Am I crazy?

Am I depressed?
Manically depressed,

Or just depressed?

Dad had dementia with a nice helping of bi-polar heaped on top. Don't forget the alcoholism.

Mom, well, she was a mess. Dementia and bi-polar and who knows what else.

She would say “I am NOT demented”.

“Yes, I know you are NOT demented mom”.

Yes, she was.

Am I?
If not, will I be?

Is it too late.

If it is, what can I do with my life.

Where is the hope?
I want to see “hope” again.

With a capital H. As if it were something tangible. You know like chocolate.

I sure feel demented.

I sure feel crazy.


About the Author
My name is Deborah Whelan-Miller.  We have lived on Vashon since April 2000, although I have lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1976 living in central Los Angeles and Palm Desert CA until I was 17. I like to read fiction, religion, history, or biographies...and I love maps and geography, tea/coffee/lattes, nature walks around Fisher Pond, birding, researching any subject, water walking and I am learning Yoga.  I also like painting...walls not pictures...and dreaming about which room I will redecorate next.  In the spring I like to garden (actually I prefer a somewhat wild look) and hope to have chickens this year. 

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