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Last Supper

My dad died a year ago today. I wrote this poem about a moment during his last days that has stuck with me over the past year.

Last Supper

You said you looked forward to a new body,
one incorruptible and free of disease,
light without the weight of waiting.
Much of your world was sleep by then
and the dreams you had were evident in your eyes;
but this declaration came from a clear mind,
even though the words you said later
showed you were slipping away.
You said you looked forward to death
and I marveled.

Out of a plastic bag came a broken body,
from a plastic bottle a thimble-full of blood;
plastic tubing had sent chemicals into your body,
causing numbness in your fingers,
but you did not note the similarity.
Your bed was matted in the same way that Grandpa’s was;
a sick body is a heavy one.
You sat on that bed and listened to words you’d heard
spoken many times from a pulpit.
I held the bread and the cup and knew
that I was being given a gift,
far more than a collection of images to scrawl down a year later,
but a moment to hide in my heart forever.
In remembering, we were hoping for a miracle,
but, remembering now, I realize that miracle was given long ago:
a figure on a cross and an empty tomb.

Death did come for you soon after,
not in triumph, but only as a guide.
When I got that call, my last words to you echoed in my head,
saturating me like wine soaking into a loaf of bread,
life blood beating in my ears.
“I love you.”
Deposited in the air, whispered daily in every breath,
back to me, again and again and again:

I dream of you sometimes.
They are visions that you fit into so easily;
there’s no shock, no fear.
They are premonitions of a kind that I cannot shake,
like the hue of that last supper with you added
to the tapestry of unresolving colors that springs up
each time I take the bread and cup
and hear His words whispered in my ears:
“I love you.”

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