Memories Arrive Unbidden

I spoke to my son today
and thought of you.

It was not so much increasing age, infirmity,
which diminished your later years,
rather the impact of two cancer operations:
you moved past the first well, I think,
but when they had to go in again
having botched some aspect of the first,
then, despite it being physically successful,
some inner part of you died in the process.

You never told us, your four sons,
what you were going through –
that would not have been your style:
and would we have been there had you asked?
I like to think so but Iโ€™m not sure;
we had all long since moved away,
built different lives in different places.

You told me once when I went back into a marriage
that you had hoped I would have more time for you.
I did not understand
the significance then.

There was only one man in your life – my father:
he was taken from you far too early
but a replacement was never an option.
He left you in straitened circumstances
and with four sons to bring up.
We never knew then either what you
had to go through โ€“ you protected us from that;
rebuilt your life, our lives,
and made yourself a new career.

You were an impressive woman;
brought up in rural Ireland,
forced to emigrate to Canada
by the religious bigots of your day.

You told us about
sitting on the stairs
reading a book
whilst people packed,
unpacked around you.

You must have inherited your
determination from your father
who took his family there,
then brought them back
and built a business
from scratch in a new location.

You went to university – ย got a degree
long before it was a norm for women to do that;
were clearly in love with my father;
I have seen photographs from early days;
some of them still hang on my walls.

Yet in the aftermath of that second operation
you retreated to a place
seemingly populated by voices
which said you were a failure.
You would not be told different.

We struggled to find you,
to draw you out;
but the only person who seemed
able to reach was my younger son;
you brightened up in his presence,
told him things the rest of us
had never been privileged to hear.

You have left us now and yet
your memory and my regret linger on.

But I have only to watch my son
engrossed in a book, even on Kindle,
to know your spirit lives on in him.


50 Responses to “Memories Arrive Unbidden”

  1. WOW, David. . . that is a powerful piece of work. . . hugs and love from across the pond.

  2. David,

    There is far too much in this for me to comment on it here.

    It is so very, very moving and full of so many different emotions and memories for you.

    I will talk to you about it when we meet tomorrow. I am so looking forward to that, to be able to be together now that I am feeling well again.

    My deepest love for you always



    • Thank you Christine,

      I am struck by some synchronicity – there seem to be a lot of poems about mothers around – there was another one at the Writers Circle on Monday.

      Take good care of yourself today. I hope all works out well

      Lots of love


  3. christine Lanham Says:

    Stunningly beautiful , it brought tears and a great swelling of love deep within

  4. peta straatman Says:

    My mother, being the person she still is, is busy organising her funeral. Not, you understand because she is planning to die any time soon but because it needs sorting properly. It has been a background coda running through other stuff and I have been thinking a lot about my father. He is very much in your poem.
    Take care

    • Peta,

      Your comment did make me smile – thank you for that.

      I hope your house is beginning to get back to some sort of normality again


      • peta straatman Says:


        When someone dies our view of them changes, almost like a curtain pulling back. I find this poem has added some clarity to a chaotic period of my life, perhaps dust is settling for you.

        My house! Depends on your definition of normality!


      • Hi Peta,

        I do find that writing this sort of poem provides a clarity that might well not have been there at the time.
        My experience tells me that the curtain pulls back in its own time when it and we are ready.

        Did I really use the word normal?? ๐Ÿ™‚

        I just hope the dust has settled for you by Christmas ๐Ÿ™‚


  5. David,
    Your poem tugs at my memories of my grandmother. Thank you for bringing her close to me through your words.

  6. Why do we plunge into the people we have loved with words and try to understand their glory/our glory, their loss/our loss, the magnificent strength and weakness of living? I do not really understand life, but good poetry digs down beneath the surface and tries to find soil that can raise up days and memories that mean at the deepest level possible. This is good, strong, meaningful poetry real at its core.

  7. Vera Hazelgrove Says:

    A wonderful tribute to your Mum,
    and in a way, – to you too!

    with Love
    Vera & Karley

  8. Vera Hazelgrove Says:

    PS: and there is something comforting in the continuity of family traits,
    definitely makes one smile! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Hi David,

    the family history, the love and difficulties of your mothers life, your poem makes sure her story is told to be remembered for ever. She must have been very special I think. Now we know where you got that from ๐Ÿ™‚

    Moving and amazing.

    Arohanui and a {{{{ big hug }}}}


  10. a strong tribute to a strong lady,… very well expressed

  11. David, this poem really touches something deep inside me. I haven’t lost anyone that close, thank God, but reading those verses gave me a chance to know how that will feel — truly terrific word choices.

  12. what a nice rendition of generation to generation. and by “nice” i mean superb.

    mostly i think respect is more important than understanding…? many become isolated when all and everything is hurt —

  13. Hi David,

    This is a most beautiful and moving tribute to your mother. I think she would be very proud of you.
    Through your touching words I feel I know her better and thus you.
    Such a strong woman! I can see where your strength and determination come from.
    The blessing of being able to look to your son and see reflections of your mother moved me to tears.
    It reminds me that while those we love may leave in a physical sense, they are always still with us in our memories and the bonds of family.

    Extra big (((BSH)))
    and K’sOTC ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you Tikarma,

      This was a poem which demanded to be written – it wouldn’t give me peace until I did write it.
      And I only really knew what it was saying when I had finished writing.

      She is still a powerful presence in my life – just as she was when she was alive.
      And to see her strength and determination in my son is something very special

      Thank you for the extra hug ๐Ÿ™‚

      and K’sOTC ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Beautiful! This was really wonderful. I was riveted. And, it made me cry, you bastard :).

  15. A rich and moving piece, David. I’m afraid I have the kind of relationship with my mother that means I’ll probably only appreciate her when she’s gone. Your poem actually put me in mind of my grandmother, who died last summer: she had a desperately unhappy childhood and spent her whole life in ‘a place populated by voices which said [she was] a failure’, so this line really rang true. A very brave and heartfelt tribute to someone unique and strong – thank you for sharing your innermost with us.

    • Thank you Nick,

      Sometimes I wonder about sharing publicly this sort of poem. But then I think why not?
      Poetry does, after all, allow us to explore things in a way no other form of writing does.


  16. A very touching & ABSORBING PERSONAL WRITE, DAVID. THANKS FOR SHARING WITH US. May lightness be with you all (:

  17. So, officially, you just made me misty-eyed, David. and you also made me send a text message to my mom right now. A simple “I love you” but I know it’ll go a long way.

    What a wonderful tribute to your mother. It’s not sappy at all — in fact, it is sharp and acrid in places — but the love is resonating all throughout.

    ~ L

    • L,

      If a poem of mine prompted you to send a text message to your mom telling her you loved her then I could not be more delighted.
      Sometimes we forget to do these simple things which mean so much


  18. Irish,

    Family–that place where only a glance at a familiar face can bring (unbidden) a lifetime of cherished memories, and other faces, into focus.

    There is so much love and yearning in this poem, but what impresses me most is the underlying thread of respect and admiration. Anyone reading this will come away with the certain knowledge that love, respect, and admiration were all well earned and deserved.

    I suspect Gareth sees something of her in you too.

    Much love,

    • Shirley,

      It is strange how those memories appear – most often catching us by surprise when they do.
      And they are, as you say, to be cherished – even if sometimes there is pain there too.

      And I would be delighted if Gareth sees something of my mother in me.
      That is a really lovely thing for you to say. Thank you

      Much love

  19. How wonderful, and completely absorbing from the first line to the last. Very moving and honest too. I’m not sure how you cover a whole life and such a range of emotions in this poem, but you have; and it is so real and truthful with all the contradictions and regrets that love brings as well as the consolations and comforts that can be found too. I can’t quite explain this, but your writing here has no ‘wall’ between you and the reader; we trace your memories with you, and you don’t filter them in any way. That’s what makes this poem so compelling.

    • Thank you BH,

      You are right – there is no ‘wall’ in this poem. I could not write it that way.
      It was written as much as anything I guess as therapy for me.


  20. Powerful and emotion-filled write!! Memories are strange things, the way they choose to manifest themselves!! Sad, but filled with love!! Hugs!!

  21. A beautiful, moving poem, David. This is my first venture onto your blog. I found you through the comments section of Elizabeth’s blog, and I’m glad I did.

    Sometimes I look at my wife and can see her father, gone now since 1983. Sometimes I look at my daughter and can see my mother, who died in 1957.

    Thank you for your poem. I’m looking forward to reading many more of them.

  22. Heartfelt beautiful and bittersweet poem about a remarkable woman. Ciao, Francina

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