To see all the better

As you go, raise up, old friend,
your lamp higher. And if in so doing
the shadows cast darkest at your feet,
well is that not but the way of the world?
You said yourself that we are meant to stumble
the many noble paths as we walk them.
Now is just the time to laugh about it.

This poem was written for a dear friend, Carl Russo, just after his passing. I met Carl and his wife Jane when they came to our home some years before to repair our piano.

A Vietnam veteran, Carl had, like so many before him, suffered emotionally after his tour of duty; his post war years were marred by excessive drinking and drugs. He fought his way out of this morass with hard work and a deep probing questioning of God in general and Carl’s place in the spiritual world in particular. He was a great reader of Buddhism and we often discussed spiritual matters late into the night.

Just before Carl passed away (from pancreatic cancer, probably developed from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam) he was able to re-discover his Jewish faith and to be re-enrolled in his birth religion. It brought him a calmness and serenity as the time for his leaving this world came closer.

Whenever I think of Carl I see him as the Happy Buddha, content at the end, knowing the door was opening, not closing, and not at all regretful of going through it. I clearly remember him in our last meeting a few hours before he passed away; he smiled deeply and warmly and thanked me profusely for our friendship. The cares and woes were gone and a new adventure was beckoning. No wonder I felt his laughter as he went.

Thank you for reading To see all the better. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.


© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge,


Filed under Poetry

4 responses to “To see all the better

  1. This poem conjures such fascinating pictures of walking in lamplight – a great read!


  2. Elizabeth,

    Thank you! I would like to claim the image of the lamp and the shadow as my own but it is, I think, an Iranian saying but used in that culture to mean that “nothing ever good can come from here.” I loved making it into its current context, that even though you may make the path clear for others, that same path can be hard for you.
    Do I know that one for a truth!

  3. Pingback: What a Difference a Life Makes | the Book of Pain