How We Say Goodbye
–for Susan Whearat
Your voice on the phone
is quick with love and reckoning.
I close the office door
to enter your world.
Your voice fills my small office
with the scent of flowers.
You tell me you are writing notes
for your memorial,
trying to remember words to a song
we heard not so long ago:
whereas hope seems small sometimes….
I find the rest for you:
and peaceful words the work
of my remaining days.
You tell me you are not in pain.
Your daughter is with you.
When you say goodbye,
I set my phone gently on the table,
my hands dusted with rose pollen,
my body flushed with sweet perfume.
Italicized lines are from Kim Stafford’s poem “Be It Therefore Resolved,” commissioned in 2011 by The Congressional Chorus (Washington DC), set to music by Joan Szymko. Susan and I heard this piece together performed by Aurora Chorus in December 2014. Susan died from ovarian cancer on January 31, 2016 at age 76. She was a teacher and a poet, a parent and a grandparent. Kim Stafford’s poem and the memory of Aurora’s performance gave her great peace of mind in her last days.
Suzy Harris is a retired attorney who lives in Portland, OR. Her work has appeared most recently in Timberline Review.