Like dreams, poems have a certain mystery to them for me. My Dad loved poems. He felt the mystery of them too. A couple of years ago, I was looking for ways to connect with Dad so I took a poetry class. One day, I invited him along and that opened up something new between us. I loved that connection we had developed. But as my Dad progressed with his illness, I felt more unsure of how to “be” with him. His disease was an awful one (Pulmonary Fibrosis), slowly taking away his ability to breathe and to function. It was very hard to see him suffer. I wanted to let him know I loved him but I didn’t know how. We didn’t have the kind of relationship where we would openly express love for each other.

During this time period, I had a dream.

There is a little holding place across the street from my parents’ house. People are there, waiting to go see Dad. The mood is somber because we all know he will die soon. I realize that it is time for me to face the fact that he really is going to die. We are sitting there in the room and I feel my face contorting as I begin to cry. I realize that the others can see me crying but I don’t go to cover up my face. I just cry there in front of them with the sadness of it.

The dream clearly pointed out my predicament. I was in a “holding place,” feeling deep sadness but unsure of what to do next. Rodger helped me see that it was time to leave the “holding place” and just go be with my Dad. I am grateful for that encouragement because that is what I did. Instead of staying in the “holding place”, waiting for holidays or family get-togethers, I just went to sit and be with my Dad. One day I hugged him good-bye and “I love you” just slipped out. Although in some families, it is normal to exchange these words, it was not something that we did. And so it surprised and delighted me when I said it. It was a tender moment. A new one that had come from a deep place from inside of both of us. From that moment on, I was able to openly tell Dad I loved him and he was able to say it to me as well. It is something I will always be grateful for.

Even so, there was more that I wanted to say to Dad. Last February, he and Mom traveled to Florida. As Valentine’s Day approached I had a sweet memory of how special I felt as a girl when he would make me a home-made valentine; a construction paper heart with a little rhyme written in it. And then it hit me – I would write a Valentine’s poem to Dad and send it to him in Florida.

I am a complete novice when it comes to writing poetry. Even so, somehow I knew that I would be able to do it. As I sat down to write, I felt tears come to my eyes as I thought of how much Dad’s illness had taken from him but I also felt the joy of what he had given to me. As I wrote, the words just seemed to come. They spilled out of me, in the same way that “I love you” had spilled out on that day a few months before.

On Valentines Day

When I was a girl

You’d write me a rhyme


Now that I’m grown

It’s my time


What I have to share

Is more than just words


It feels like wonder

Like the singing of birds


Although we’ve lived years

We are never all grown


Without knowing it

On the way you have shown


There is so much to treasure

So much beauty to seek


Right under our nose

A minnow in the creek


A fox in the wild

A shore bird in flight


Sweet summer corn

Stars in the night


The world is so full

There’s much to discover


Books are doors

That help us uncover


Life is a mystery

I know we agree


Its answers go deep

More than we can see


In so many ways

Life can feel like a foe


Still we move through

And we learn how to grow


Life throws us a curve

That we just can’t believe


What has been lost

Is something we grieve


Your hurt is my hurt

Though it may not always show


It’s hard to find the words

That, I want you to know


But there is something you have

That can cut through the pain


A Love so deep and wide

Is for us to gain


We are given this Gift

Just for existing


Our only job

Is to stop resisting


So as I sit here

On this Valentine’s Day


I send my love

And to God I do pray

I sent the poem to Dad and I waited. We had never shared like this with each other before and I felt vulnerable. What if it was too much? How would he respond?

Mom and Dad returned from Florida in time to celebrate what would be Dad’s last birthday. Over the past year, Dad had initiated a new tradition at family gatherings. Poetry reading. He would bring a poem to read and other family members shared poems as well. It was uncharacteristic for our family to share in this new way, but everyone seemed to embrace and look forward to this new activity. On this day, Dad took out his poem to share. It was the one I had sent him. It touched me to hear him read what I had written for him. Later on he told me how much the poem meant to him and that he would read it over and over again.

Poems still feel mysterious to me, including the one I wrote for Dad. I read it again now and I wonder exactly how it came to be. Like dreams, perhaps poems can be thought of as vehicles to help take us out of that “holding place” and into a place of deeper connection.