March 27th, 2020

Dear Mom,

A poem by Amy Carmichael seems fitting for today. So many of the wonderful nurses down in memory care and in assisted living are working longer shifts and filling in for people who are sick to help you stay healthy. Please be kind to them, always. 

A Nurse’s Prayer

Let not routine make dull my quickened sense

Of Thee, Lord Jesus; give me reverence,

That in each wounded one I may see Thee,

My Lord, my Love, Savior of Calvary.

In dusty foot thorn-pierced, I would see Thine

Pierced by a nail for love of me and mine;

In each sore hand held out so piteously

I would see Thine, Redeemer, bruised for me.

For me be hallowed every common bed

Because Thou hadst not where to lay Thy head;

In common flesh, Lord Jesus, I would see

Thy sacred body laid upon the tree.

Should some I serve, unruly toss and fret,

And tire my patience, then, lest I forget

All that I owe to Thy agony,

Show me once more, my Lord, Thy Calvary.

You gave me the collection of her poems, Mountain Breezes back when our children were young. On the inside cover you wrote, “I hope you enjoy this amazing collection of poems by Amy Carmichael as I did her biography, A Chance to Die.” Love, Mother x Mother’s Day, 2001.

I just cracked open this collection last year, sorry it took me so long. I was leading a creative writing workshop around the theme of RELEASE and her poem, “To Higher Things” has a line, “Oh, lift our souls to higher things.” What is it that you would want to release to God today? (Caregivers, please write down her answer.)

Thank you forever for teaching me to love poetry! My bookshelves are filled with books by poets you taught us to memorize on our endless summer vacation car trips to the Olney, IL Holiday Inn and the ElDorado, AK Holiday Inn. Know that we didn’t care what motel we stayed in as long as it had a pool and if it had a pool with a slide we never wanted to leave.

Many of these poems you called out to us over the front seat while we played “car mountain” with our Hot Wheels. You’d say a line and we’d repeat it back and then you’d add on. I still know them. Once, I recited “Little Orphan Annie” by James Whitcomb Riley to my classes and terrified them to the point of almost tears so I had to apologize! I loved the scary mystery of his poem, “There were two big black things standing by her side.” What did those black things look like? Riley left it to our imagination, I’ve always pictured them as giant black hoods. 

We’d sit with Goggie and Jessie and Grandma Lehwald at our fancy Mother’s Day table and you’d recite “Somebody’s Mother” by Mary Dow Brine. This poem still makes me cry. How many little old ladies have I walked by and not helped across the street? Your oldest grandson Caleb, does the sweet things this poem talks about. On his birthday this year (March 15th), he bought breakfast at Suzettes Creperie for a homeless person. Your youngest grandson Nathaniel goes into memory care facilities in Nashville and leads worship and he says some people sing with him from their beds. He can hear them because the piano is in the center and the beds are arranged around it in a circle. Your granddaughter Jessie is part of a program in St. Louis called “Senior Embrace” where her dance company goes into retirement homes and care facilities and dances with the residents. Without knowing it, the legacy of this poem, caring for the elderly, is alive in your grandchildren.

One of my favorites by Emily Dickinson, “There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away, nor any coursers like a page of prancing poetry—This traverse even may the poorest take without oppress of toll—How frugal is the chariot that bears the human soul.”

This little gem demonstrates what you know and value, what you taught us. No matter how poor, our souls are carried, even buoyed by books and lines of poetry. Thank you. Thank you for reading to us, even when you were sad and didn’t want to…

“Caps for sale, 50 cents a cap, who will buy my caps?”

“The woman was old and ragged and grey, bent with the chill of a winters day.”

“We hear of the Easter bunny who comes each Easter Day before sunrise to bring eggs for boys and girls, so we think there is only one.”

“Baby’s boat’s a silver moon, sailing in the sky.”

“There was a crooked man and he went a crooked mile, he found a crooked sixpence against a crooked style.” 

“In Dublin’s fair city where the girls are so pretty…cockles and mussels, alive, alive oh.”

I know one line is enough to jog your memory and get you singing that last one. I miss Ireland. I miss you.

Much love to you today,