I wrote this poem a short time after my 16-year-old stepdaughter Summer died of cancer on November, 11, 2012. It is one of the most honest things I have ever written. It whispers of my little sister who died of cancer at 3 when I was 7, and of my little brother who died suddenly at 38 when I was 48. I turn 60 in a couple of weeks and I feel a need to use such loss to embrace living. If I don't chicken out. Here's the poem:
By Cynthia Gentry
Way too young to understand each tipped a candle to the flame.
Stories of Summer poured from their hearts and the room began to glow.
As tears streamed down their cheeks they searched the bowl of sand for one last square inch to hold their taper.
A sister to so many gone,
But a raging flickering sea of candles shot out memories of love and laughter in every direction.
Old enough to understand, they gazed into the roaring fire.
The brand new fire pit now christened, scorched and scratched.
A story whispered. A hidden tear. The wine flowed and food mounted.
Sadness unsaid, but understood. Love everywhere. Laughter to distract.
Warm, deep hugs for their beloved friend, the father. Her father.
"Just" the step-mother, but her mother none-the-less.
They know me well. They know my pain, too.
A complicated girl. Exhausting. Exhilarating. Evil and ethereal.
A stepmother probably brings out the worst in a teenager.
I lay beside her in her bed.
"What are the three most beautiful things about you?
You can't leave until you tell me."
I didn't say that to encourage her as she lay in bed unable to play.
She said that to me.
Such a rotten stepdaughter. What did I do to deserve this?
The fireplace in our bedroom glows from the small log.
I, the one so practiced in having love stolen away by death, mourn.
I didn't want to do this again.
I wasn't going to do this again.
So, I wasted many hours and days cut off from her.
Worrying that she hated me, when instead, we could have been playing.
Instead, I could have been loving.
I throw old parts of me into the flame.
All I want to do is love. All I want inside is peace.
That moody, sneaky, funny, wicked, compassionate, hilarious girl.
No one ever had wit like that. Where is it? If it floats around the room I want to catch it.
I ache for her to piss me off just one more time.
If only I could pull a long, long brown hair from my brush and wonder what makeup had been tampered with, too.
Don't make her into a saint. She was too authentic and alive for that.
Just one more time let me turn onto our street against oncoming traffic,
and give the admonition to the oncoming cars, "Precious cargo!"
Then I could look over and see the little ends of her lips curl up in a contented smile.
Her smile always came with a flicker of a flame in her eyes.