My mother lived alone after dad died even though she was the one who had been ill.
Looking back to when I was still living in the family home in Belfast and rebelling if not outwardly ...definitely inside...I'm thankful for this woman who was a rock formed in the fire of extremely difficult circumstances.
She never cried, she was as solid as a rock
Except on the days she remembered her sister
And the fun they had shared in the big house.
But apart from that she was a stoic and
I knew that the winds of life would not bend her.
Except on the days we made the beds together
And she sighed as quiet tears wet her marshmallow cheeks.
A memory of her mother tucking white crisp hospital corners
Around striped ticking mattresses.
But that was all there was to it then.
I could never hope to come up to that steely reserve
And be the unmoved.
Though there were occasions when the armchair in the corner
By the fireplace seemed too big for her.
Too big, and she filled the edges of the cushions
With lace edged hankies damp and tucked away and hidden.
Then her brother's name was whispered quietly
As if such a thing could never have happened.
Though it did, for those were the days before the miracles.
We call them antibiotics and warn our families against taking them.