Sonnet Sunday 38: Hospice

One of last November’s Poem a Day prompts was “Whosoever…”

The obvious response was “Whosoever calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” but I didn’t feel like going that route. I was in Ohio at the time, scribbling down something at a group dinner at a restaurant, and asked others for suggestions.

“Whoever lies down with dogs will wake up with fleas?” one friend suggested.

I liked it. I wrote:

Lo, whosoever lieth down with dogs
Shall be accursed to wake up with fleas

…and was stuck.

Then my mom called. I picked up just to do our weekly check-in to say we were both alive (it’s a thing), and she told me that the head pastor at their church, who had been fighting cancer for approximately a decade, was actively dying (he passed away within hours of her calling, I think).

He was the pastor of the church we joined after our previous church split; while I had only visited that church a handful of times since moving out in 2006, he was still my pastor during an important time in my faith, when I was starting to make it my own.

I don’t know if my friends particularly noticed me getting quiet. They knew I was trying to get some writing done anyway, so maybe they attributed it to that.

But given the news, I knew I was back to writing a sonnet on the “Whosoever calleth” theme after all.


Originally written November 4, 2017

He lay there, resting, dizzy, very ill,
The IV dripping vital nutrients
Into his weakened arm. A colored pill
Sat by his water. Nurses came and went.
The shadows shifted up and down the walls.
He faded in and out of lucidness
He vaguely heard the voices in the hall:
“Please keep him comfortable.” And then—”Hospice.”
The minutes passed like hours, but a blink
Would make the days and nights pass in a blur.
He clutched his Bible like a cosmic link
To all the saints who had gone on before.
“For whosoever calls—” Was this death’s sting?
He thought he heard the sound of angels’ wings.

Photo by Lorenzo Lanni on Unsplash