We Are All Haiku

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We are all haiku—

Only here for seventeen

Syllables, three lines.

Sweeping Changes, Gary Thorp


I attended a memorial service for a friend this week. It was held at a Friends’ Meeting House and followed the Quaker model. There was no formal service; those present spoke when the spirit moved them.

At first, I found the lack of ceremony vaguely dissatisfying, as I have found Quaker and Unitarian services. Most likely my Roman Catholic and Episcopalian experience has infused in me an unsubstantiated conviction that it really doesn’t count if ritual is missing. But as I sat there in silence, I came to appreciate this outwardly simple form, that it can lead, if you allow it, to an inner exploration that can sometimes be obstructed by organs, trumpets and incense.

My friend was not religious, so references to God and “in a better place” were missing. I found this consoling, those present respecting, and perhaps sharing, her philosophy. I liked that.

She and I were relatively new friends; we met about five years ago. I knew her only after tragedy had visited her, and found her stoic, accepting, brave in carrying on a life with a major void in it. She smiled often, but I never saw her laugh, not really. So I was gratified to see pictures of her in an earlier time, arms around her daughter, both wearing wide grins. I looked hard at that picture, and saw my friend, before.

Old friends spoke of her enthusiasm, her risk-taking, her love of fun. What a gift that was to me, to know that she had experienced joy. I will remember her with different eyes now.

In her life, she showed me courage, stoicism, a wry wit, laced with truth and a profound personal honesty. And it is these characteristics that I will model. She faced death with that same honesty, and knew when to say goodbye.

The world has lost a gifted poet, and an old soul. But we are better for her years with us.

On Father’s Day

glass baltimore

I had many topics cover this week, but somehow, this poem, written several years ago, on this Father’s Day, seemed to call to me.


Dumas, pere

Cognac brown, soft, consoling.

I tilt the decanter to the glass,

the heavy one with the scene

 of downtown Baltimore

etched in black and real gold,

probably 24 carat.

Not to be put into the dishwasher,

though I do.

A golden bourbon in an exquisite glass.

And behind glass, leather-bound books,

a special occasion to touch.

Before I even know the title

I open, smell and riffle the pages,

A sound like bourbon, poured from the decanter.

Alexander Dumas, one of my dad’s favorites,

The Three Musketeers,

Athos, Porthos, not D’Artagnan.

Who is the third?

He would be disappointed

 that I could name

only two.

I return to my chair,

book and bourbon in hand,

to find the third musketeer’s


And remember Fa sitting in our library,

bourbon in hand, reading,

perhaps The Three Musketeers.




On Hospitals, Patients, and Patience

On Hospitals, Patients, and Patience

Ouch, ouch, ouch. Okay, that’s over with.

I am now on post-operative day 18 – Total Knee Replacement, and no one said it would be a piece of cake. But at least by now, I have some perspective – I am using a cane relatively effectively, and am off all pain medication, still a bit fuzzy headed, but able to concentrate for at least two consecutive minutes.

And I wanted to write a bit about my hospital experience. I’ve seen several rants recently by those who were disappointed (that is an understatement) with their or a relative’s hospital stay. And I can appreciate that. But I want this post to show that there is another side –and there is such a thing as a well-run, finely-tuned organization that is staffed with competent, caring staff. For that is exactly what I experienced.

From my pre-op morning, which took 64 minutes from the time I left my car with the valet park until I was back behind the wheel, to the day of my surgery and those post-op days, I felt that I was genuinely cared for.

Now I have worked in hospitals, so I do know the other side, and I must say that I was prepared with realistic expectations. That always helps.

For instance, I know that I am not the only patient on the floor. There are others, just as in need, and perhaps more so, that I. So when I needed help, I called the nursing assistant right away – I didn’t wait until it was urgent. I could call the nurse, the nursing assistant assigned to me directly. They always answered, told me where they were, and how long it would be before I could expect them. What a great idea – for isn’t it the unknowing that makes waiting all the more distressing? In one instance where I needed help quicker than my assigned staff could get to me, she sent someone else in. So it really is a combination of technology and touch that can make a difference.

I am ever grateful for the help I received, from the nurses who brought me my medication, sometimes even before I realized that I needed it, to the nursing assistants, who were always there, and especially the one who called me “darlin’,” to the dining service worker who brought me a cold cloth for my migraine, while trying to figure out the best thing she could offer to get me to eat, to the housekeeper, who slipped in so gently and patted me on the shoulder as she left. And that, of course, says nothing of the physical therapists who forced an unwilling, but necessary, walk down the hall and up a flight of stairs, naturally, for my own good.

I actually stayed an additional day to what was expected, and never had a sense that I was being discharged too early.

So, thought I’d relay some good news about hospitals. Thanks, Moses Cone Hospital. Great job!