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Letting Go

Letting go

You lie, dying

Inch by inch.

While I am brightly, tightly alive

In my rainbow summer clothes,

Smelling of outdoors and real life.


Your fingers fumble, like Falstaff’s

With the soft, white hospital sheet.

Your lower lip trembles as you breathe softly in your deep, ever deeper, sleep.


And the gaping gulf between us continues to widen.

The ship you’re aboard is  sliding slowly away from the quayside,

Leaving me on dry land, alone.


I kiss you.

I murmur “I love you”

I stroke your head, hands and arms.

I try to rouse you.


You slumber on, oblivious.

Never have I felt so close to you.

Never have I felt so far from you.


Once you could make me laugh

Or arch in ecstasy.

Now a massive hole yawns

Where communication once was.


I sit, queasy, uneasy

Watching, waiting.

Or I chat cheerfully to other patients and staff

Because they have a future

And my professional manner is a useful mask.


And then back to your bedside

For a quiet, private tear.


Don’t linger, my love.

It’s time to go.

Your job here is done.

I’ll manage without you.



@Susan Elkin 04 August 2019

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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