paintings 058From what is so small,
so much is revealed,
as here,
in your room
20 by 20,
yes, that must be all it is,
on the ground floor of assisted living
the single room with brown walls
and a kitchenette,
the bookshelf
and family portrait from sometime in the 70’s,
suits and ties, and frilly blouses,
coiffed hair,
Hank, Ruthie and Doris smiling
as you do now remembering,
the Audubon book there
on the little table by the blue
chair where you spend most of your days
the beige phone and the
books of poetry
including that one with the poems
you wrote when the kids were young,
the small porcelain birds on the shelf
you collected all those years,
the picture of the cottage on the lake
where you spent summers
and that plant in the window,
the bright red bloom of it,
whose name you no longer remember,
that revives and reminds you that
you can as well,
and life, yes,
you might as well enjoy it,
never expecting to be 99,
can you imagine?

paintings 062

I remember,
sitting with you
that last day
in the old apartment
packed full of memories,
the home that you and Bob made
those many years,
and now, only a few small things,
that you could take –
some bright porcelain birds,
and a few assorted books,
the plant whose name you now forget.

Death, you tell me,
is a letting go,
what happened that night
when you held
Bob’s hand,
there in the hospital bed,
that last night,
what has it been,
twelve years ago?

paintings 064

I wish
I could gather your spirit,
dole it out in small spoonful’s
to those whose spirits have contracted
into bitterness, regret, and despair
when life became smaller,
came down to just this.

paintings 060

You tell me,
it doesn’t work like that,
you know,
but that it has been a good life
and you realized it,
better yet,
appreciated it,
and are grateful.

As the evening palette descends,
I rise,
heart full,
into a brilliant bloom
of beckoning light.

Peter Ilgenfritz
December 21, 2014

paintings 057

6 thoughts on “Solstice”

  1. Rae was one of my Mom’s best friends. They played Upwords together all the time. Doris and I went to school together. Thank you for this beautiful expression about Rae.


    1. Thank you Esther – this season may our hearts be met with the Christmas’ surprising grace of presence, healing, hope and care.



  2. Peter – What a blessing this poem is and the pictures add to the richness. I cannot believe Rae is that old now. I’m so glad you can be with her. The metaphor of solstice for the gradual decline of memory as we age is a powerful one.


    1. Thanks so much Carol. These visits and marking the transitions, turning of life are one of the great privileges of being a pastor. An honor to get to sit and learn so much from such wise elders like Rae,



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