Psalm 61

‘you must get lost quite often’ my mother comments matter-of-factly
as we pass the tiny creek winding to the rear of the dementia ward…
‘yes, all the time’ i reply… it’s as if we’re rehearsing basics…
day one, year one: sky is blue, sun is yellow… travel is lost…

it’s what they don’t teach… (you must discover it for yourself)…
the familiar road kills… (only in death you comprehend)…
post-death, it’s instinct… up the signless road: amazing grace…
i once was found, but now i’m lost… could see, but now I’m blind…

and it is truly amazing… shockingly, wondrously, amazing…
and it is grace… one final letting go… (especially of letting go)
&, there you are, stumbling into your one, ordinary, everyday life…
& of course it’s hard to explain… & of course it’s nothing special…

it’s the kindergarten of human presence… nothing to prove…
nothing to defend… just a dawning freedom to feel, love, question,
hope, act, believe… it’s the first day… the river of our common life…
the golden filament… the singular lamp in which we join the Maker…

this afternoon my mother and i plant tomatoes… she sits in a borrowed
wheelchair, under the shade of the plum tree, smoking cigarettes…
while i kneel, depositing beefsteaks, money-makers, Kakanui’s,
Russian reds, sweet 100’s… each to their allotted place…

my mother grows increasingly precious… i am angry when people
refer to her as ‘they’… i repudiate every act, word, sign, system, which
distances her from her personhood: ‘Alzheimer’s’, ‘atrophy’, ‘disorder’…
i join her; in departing the familiar… holes appear… signs vanish…

i want to embrace the unknown… & i want it to stay unknown…
i want to stand with the little people (who have always been great to me)
& offer my mother dignity, respect, kindness, gratitude, reverence…
to smuggle her extra cigarettes… to see her as gift till the day i die…

& i want (perhaps most of all) to always, always, remember… it’s the
unknown which saves… the hard-won aptitude to dance in the unfamiliar…
to live beyond formulas… to kneel reverently in the unexpected…
to ‘get lost quite often’… to say ‘i don’t know’… &, truly believe…


Kevin Moran 2/12/07

Whakapapa: As my mother’s dementia developed, she increasingly became a teacher & guide to me. We had such great times! This psalm is born out of some of the learning’s our journey brought me. Learning’s like: it’s ok to be lost, to learn to love the unknown & to be happy to live within it. The psalm speaks of the ‘little people’ of this world. The ‘little people are the ordinary folk who love & care for those in need about them.’ When I wrote this line I was particularly mindful of the carers in the Bush Wing Dementia Unit. They were on such a low wage, yet did such wonderful heart-full work in caring for my mother & the other dementia patients in Bush Wing. I deeply admire them.

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