Sunday, May 09, 2010

A Day to Remember

May 10, 1970

Young mother of two
Age twenty-five
In perfect peace sleeps
While her child kicks inside

The day before
A rare treat
The Shoney’s parking lot
Lunch out to eat

A brakeman says
That he can’t work
The graveyard shift
Because of his daughter’s still birth

The “Extra” will fill
The slot that night
But first he waits
To kiss his wife

She watches his taillights
Fade from view
Then off to bed
For this mother soon due

Telephone rings
Dead of night
Shatters peace
Bringing fright

“There’s been an accident and you need to go to Petersburg General Hospital.”

Racing heart
Urgent desperation
Brings her brother-in-law
With swift transportation

Rushing through
The emergency room door
She asks to see him
As silence grips the floor

The doctor walks out
And looks at her
He only utters
These five words

“We did everything we could.”

Still hours from dawn
Cars gather about
The twin chinaberries
Of the little green house

The boy – age six
Wakes to bathroom lights
His cousin in PJs
A bewildering sight

Living room voices
Rouse him from bed
Abruptly sounds cease
As he faces their dread

His grandfather, Poppee,
To him cannot speak
Lifts him, tucks him,
Kisses his cheek

The boy returns
After more rest
“I want to see Mama.”
His insistent request

The relatives vainly
Try to dissuade him
She’s sleeping they tell him
He refuses to heed them

His mother is lying
Alone in the dark
He cuddles beside her
More cracks in the heart

“Mama, why is everyone in the house?”

“They’ve come over to help out, because Daddy was in a very bad accident at work.”

At first that appeases
But then he asks “When
Is Daddy coming
Back home again?”

“Daddy’s not coming back home. Your Daddy died.”


Broadway Railyard
Is the scene
Of the tragedy
By negligence unseen

N&W boxcar
He stands astride
At the brake wheel
As the diesel slowly glides

A wire hung low
Over the tracks
Hangs him up
Drags him back

Drops him on
The engine top
They see his legs
And quickly stop

His numbered days complete
At age thirty-one
His days without number
In Heaven begun


She calls to family
In Leavenworth
Her widowed mother
Answers first

Of course, they’ll come
No need to doubt
Pretty soon
They’ll be en route

Her mother mentions
In dismay
How the call began with
“Happy Mother’s Day”

Mother’s Day Mourning
The flowers today
Are for your husband
Who passed away

Mother’s Day Morning
Forty-years past
Remembering brings healing
To the family at last

His infant son
Eight days from birth
Then in the womb
Now pens this verse

Easter Sunday 2010

Easter Sunday 1970

For anyone who is interested in any more details (or explanations for a particular stanza), I'd be happy to respond to e-mails or comments. I don't want to add too much now as I want the piece to speak for itself. Special thanks to my mother, brother, and aunt who sent me their recollections. I regret that I was unable to work my sister (then almost five) into the poem more directly. I will say that the original intention was to focus on my Daddy, but it turned into a focus on my mother, which is appropriate given the day. One day I will get to meet him (1 Thess 4:13-18). Thanks for letting me share.


  1. Nicely done, Matthew. Time does have a way of healing wounds, but some things need to stay with us forever.

    I'm positive that you've done your father proud with the life you've lived.

  2. Very nice. Glad I switched days with you.

  3. Thomm, I super-appreciated that you switched with me. It was important to have this go out today. Thank you again.

    Ron, the healing was actually an unexpected benefit. I had been contemplating doing something to commemorate this day soon after I got this "gig". I began asking for my family to recall the day in detail (and there is a lot of ground I wasn't able to cover). They did it for me, even though it was painful for them, but in the process it actually helped them to deal with it better instead of locking it away.

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  5. Matthew - Heartfelt and sincere. A wonderful tribute and a great job.