Merle Hazard's touching poems about her husband carry us into All Saints Day. I draw comfort from quietly remembering the saints in my life. Not paragons of perfection, but persons of true goodness, who have been there for me and with me. I draw comfort from the lasting nature of that goodness, from remembering it and also continuing to feel it near in ways I can't explain.
by Merle Hazard
ALL SAINTS’ DAY SUNDAY
November 6, 2005
We confessed our sins,
we asked for forgiveness,
and then the bell tolled,
echoed through the silence.
The pastor read the names
of loved ones who died
since last All Saints’ Day.
Yours was read as Sherrill
Hazard, your baptismal name.
Last November, on the 5th
we sat together in the doctor’s
office after hours listening,
not hearing the death sentence,
inoperable lung cancer, too
advanced for radiation.
Icy numbness gripped
me then, I knew the stats.
After we called our boys
we just looked at each other
never having been here before.
We hugged, I cried and cried,
and I can smell still today,
the sweet scent of Hugo Boss
that permeated your embrace.
Then we did what
we always did when
no supper was ready.
We drove straight to
Perkins, ate, and
talked about everything
but what lay ahead.
I see the plants and trees
slowly transforming themselves,
and I recall last autumn.
Just last year you could
not breathe to lift the flower pots,
store them for the winter,
nor stack the wood for our fires
or wash our windows
to ready our home
for what was to come.
I knew, I knew before your final
tests were even done that it would be our last
autumn, even as you chatted about
next fall we will need to remember to do
this an easier way.
It is next fall, the gardens slip away.
I try to ready our house,
remembering things I saw you do.
Today I brought up the fall decorations
you had stored last year in the basement.
I found them so neatly placed,
so carefully labeled, as though
you were still here.
I washed your garden hat this week;
the silly, floppy brimmed
canvas topper you wore
to shade your chrome dome.
I found your lid on the gas grill
where you tossed it
that last Saturday.
I wore that hat all summer.
I suppose I thought
it might impart your green thumb
as I struggled with the weeds,
the acrid smelling spray,
hoping the poison was not killing
one of your prize plants.
I wore it when I mowed the lawn
and fought the prickly thistles,
when I picked the dead geranium heads.
It was grimy with a mix
of your sweat and mine. I soaked the it
as you once did, in bleach and hot water,
sudsed it, rinsed and blocked it dry.
I packed up some of your clothes
for Goodwill. I put the garden hat
in the bag, but it refused to go.
Poems copyright Merle Hazard, all rights reserved.
Merle and her husband Sherrill were living in Appleton, Wisconsin, when he died. Merle’s nursing career includes specialties in home health care and hospice. After living in Appleton for some 19 years, a place where she says she "found her voice," Merle now lives in Macon, Georgia, near one of her sons and his family. Mother of two and grandmother of five, Merle likes to walk, play bridge and rummikub, write, read, and spend time with family and friends.