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Mom's Passing
by C.E. Chaffin


Two months ago she did
the Sunday crossword with a pen.
Now she cannot tease the rubber band
from my gift of roses.
Distantly she smiles.
She is in no pain.
She knows her diagnosis
as you might a brand of toothpaste,
a detail too irrelevant to ponder.

At dinner tonight she ate
her salad with a spoon.
She was not embarrassed.
For the first time I see
her face without worry.
It is not her face.
I might have noticed sooner
if she called at times other than cocktail hour
when I expected her speech to slur.
It wasn't until she wrapped the potatoes
in newspaper for baking
that we suspected.

After a brain scan and biopsy
the doctors said radiation might extend her life
by temporarily shrinking the tumor
but it wouldn't restore her mind,
so we passed. She always said
she didn't want to linger.

We chose to care for her at home.
My youngest brother took the last watch.
I remember when he lumbered down
the Spanish stairs to say,
"She's passed." None of us cried.
Death can be so impersonal.
How could we mourn a mute
and waxen body in blue diapers
as if it were our mother?


Three legal miles from landfall
I felt her ashes between my palms,
silky as talcum powder and odorless.
I sprinkled them on the sea
where they sank underwater
like snow in a snow globe.

Funeral flowers followed:
leopard lilies, white carnations,
scarlet roses, birds-of-paradise--
and her beloved pink antheriums,
strange flowers without scent
from her bedside, outlasting her.

We circled twice and headed home.
I watched the flowers rock
in our widening wake
like the paper boats
she taught me how to make.
She folded them so perfectly.
She could fold a fitted sheet
so you couldn't tell it
from a flat one.

(Previously published in Poetry Café and The Melic Review)


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