The elephant was named too late

The fading started years ago, your wit
that withered and in search for words.
We were frustrated, but you travelled
and made friends, you saw China and
Galapagos, you came and went, and
called us when our time was scarce.

We should have named the elephant
but never dared, until it was too late.
Then the calls that came, police, or
neighbors, all. They said you left and
couldn’t find your way. There were
stories you invented of a life we knew
you never had, of siblings, houses,
invented men. You wondered when
your parents died, that’s when we
named the elephant: dementia.

It’s strange how long we let it slip
and never mourned; the tears that
hasn’t trickled yet. Acceptance is like
boiling frogs, it’s sighs at night, too late.
A sadness more like fog than rain.

Once your strength was infinite, you
handled axes, chainsaws and your
hands created pottery and weaved
the comfort of my youth. It wasn’t
easy, with all the houses and our
things and I can see myself in your
disgust for cleaning.

The elephant has not yet claimed you
but your fading comes in noiseless
steps, There is acceptance that you’ve
left and we your children have prepared
a life, you almost left. We will walk ahead
and I can always touch your hands
that stays in pottery you left behind.

Elephant by Martin Schongauer

Elephant by Martin Schongauer

Today Gayle tells us how to write an elegy at dVerse MTB. Sorrow, Admiration and Acceptance should be clear parts of an elegy. My mother has faded and just recently her illness has taken a turn for the worse. I feel this gradual fading being very strenuous, and I feel that I should have treasured moments gone much more. Come and share your elegy when we open at 3PM EST.

June 2, 2016

36 responses to “The elephant was named too late

  1. Dementia is so cruel. My grandmother spent the last number of years of her life not knowing those around her. It’s hard, especially for the loved ones that are no longer known by the one afflicted.

  2. This breaks my heart. My mother is getting worse as well. I am grieving her going every day. We do not know when it is happening to treasure the moments. We realize it only when it is past and all we have left is the fading.

  3. We don’t want to acknowledge the truth that we know inside because it’s too painful to accept. It takes real courage to come to grips with this insidious disease. Your words pull at my heart…

  4. Ah, the elephant. Bjorn, you express this so very well. It must be so hard. I’ve not yet had to address this kind of loss, and I hope I never will. Wishing you and yours strength and enjoyment of the good memories you share.

  5. Like stroke, heart attack, or cancer, we seniors fear dementia; but when/if it descends, we will not be aware; only our family suffers; sadly ironic. I like the lines /acceptance is like/boiling frogs, its sighs at night, too late./A sadness more like fog than rain/.

  6. In my own piece, I was thinking how it is, or almost seems, I will look back and there you will be….a wonderful write indeed!

  7. The elephant that is the dementia is very difficult and challenging to handle ~ I am glad there is acceptance of the situation but the sorrow is palpable with the touching of the pottery ~ A moving write Bjorn ~

  8. Bjorn, you write about the hardest form of death, known to humanity, the lost of one’s mind, to dementia. May I give you, and your siblings, a hug, of compassion and healing, on this journey of yours?

  9. That third stanza is a stunner, Sir. And OH, this:
    “your fading comes in noiseless
    steps”

    Whew. This is a beautiful depiction of losing someone way to soon, before they have even left the earth.

  10. This is so heartbreaking Bjorn, Rain is much better than fog. To remain in this white darkness, this slow fading is extremely tragic. The elephant imagery really speaks of the magnitude of grief.

  11. I am often teased for I tend to remember anything and everything. I don’t have the heart to tell people that it is not that I don’t want to remember all those memories, it is so that I don’t forget. Especially when I am old and grey and alone. Dementia is soul-gutting and so so scary. The whole poem has a painful tug on my heart.

  12. “Your fading comes in noiseless steps.” So very very true. This is painfully poignant, Bjorn. Really one of your best in recent times… This expresses feeling so well:
    “We will walk ahead
    and I can always touch your hands
    that stays in pottery you left behind.”
    At least there is that…at least there is that!
    Peace!

  13. One of the issues plaguing my mother-in-law is exactly that. The dementia has sent whatever was left of her mind, packing. She is lacking recognition and the comfort that brings. Your poem is a tremendous piece, Bjorn.

  14. …your fading comes in noiseless steps…How we wish we could say, Dimentia, tread lightly on this person I love — she is fragile enough.
    A beautiful heartfelt poem.

  15. “A sadness more like fog than rain.” Wow, Bjorn, this is such a moving tribute. So hard, the path of dementia, for the person and for loved ones. It takes so long to recognize what is going on, one doesnt want it to be happening. So poignant, “your fading comes in noiseless steps”, and the memory that will remain in the pottery left behind. One of my favourites of yours, my friend, beautifully executed, with such heart.

  16. Oh Bjorn, I love this poem. The title is apt and you have described the effects of dementia so well, especially the way it creeps up on us ‘in noiseless steps’. As you know, my mother has dementia, as did her father and two of her grandparents before her, and it made me so sad that she couldn’t see her only granddaughter get married.

  17. This truly pulls at my heart strings having lost both parents and in laws to dementia before losing their bodies. Living bodies with nothing of the person left….

  18. This elegy is so heart-felt, and heartbreaking to think it is written when the beloved parent is still alive, but claimed by dementia. Your comparison to an elephant – so cumbersome and unavoidable – is very apt. I believe that this malady of old age is more painful for the relatives than the person who has succumbed, since they are none the wiser for what they have lost.

  19. The elephant in the room–there is no more perfect metaphor. I am quite familiar with what you are dealing with on a personal level, having recently lost an old friend to this disease. It is just as devastating to the caregivers, in a way, as it is to the victim. Make sure to take care of YOU as well.

  20. This broke my heart a bit. The analogies, metaphors and words were well chosen, but the alchemy from the emotion in this elevated further.

  21. I know the cruelty of dementia too well. My mother had Alzheimer’s. There weren’t any gentle, fading memories. The loss raged in her as she searched for family disappearing down the rabbit hole of forgetting. I am so sorry you are facing the pain now.

  22. This is so tenderly written – and conveys a very real sense that you have walked for miles in those moccasins (to quote the popular American poem). ” Acceptance is like boiling frogs” – a prickly truth: jaw-droppingly expressed.

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