The Last Night

Hospice told my husband what to expect
as his father’s death approached,
skin mottled,
eyes open but unseeing.

Crush the morphine,
mix with water,
spoon into his gaping mouth
every two hours.

The death rattle started,
unmistakable,
though we had never
heard it before.

We did what we could,
smoothing his hair,
holding his hand,
another dose of morphine.

I prayed the rosary silently,
lacking beads,
counting the decades
with my fingers.

When he quieted,
breath slow, gentle,
we woke his wife
of fifty-one years.

She lay beside him that last hour.

Breaths shallower,
with pauses between,
longer –
longer still –
until, near dawn,
no next breath comes.

We switch off
the oxygen concentrator.
Silence heralds
his absence.

Joanne Corey lives and writes in Vestal, New York, where she is active with the Binghamton Poetry Project, Sappho’s Circle, and the Bunn Hill Poets. Recent publications include Candles of Hope anthology (GWL Publishing, UK), the anthologies of the Binghamton Poetry Project, Wilderness House Literary Review, and several online series with Silver Birch Press. She invites you to visit her eclectic blog, https://topofjcsmind.wordpress.com.

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15 Responses to The Last Night

  1. Pingback: “The Last Night” in Eunoia Review –

  2. robert okaji says:

    Well crafted, Joanne.

  3. Lori Carlson says:

    Powerful poem, Joanne. Stirred many emotions within me.

  4. Your words leave space for the dignity and honor our loved ones deserve. As miraculous our beginnings, even more sacred our end in death. Thanks for sharing Joanne.

    • Joanne Corey says:

      Thank you, Judy. I so appreciate your perspective. It took years before I could write about this experience and I am grateful that I was able to convey some of the spiritual aspect of death.

  5. Pingback: Getting back to work –

  6. JoAnna says:

    It was as if I was there in the room, in a corner near the door, watching, barely breathing.

  7. Pingback: First poetry submissions of the year – Top of JC's Mind

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