The old lion left his pride behind and went out
into the night. It’s a hard life on the high plains:
it takes courage, strength and endurance,
a belief longer than the day and a love as deep
as the hunt is hot.
Yet, now readied, this last time he went,
not rustling the grass, not raising the dust,
not even stirring the air, lighter then light.
And while he should have ranted at it,
chased after it, torn into it and bought it down,
it was he who fell instead, going quiet and still
at the last. What a terrible silence that was
and still is. It was only later, under the sun,
as we lowered him into his grave, I realized
that I—if no one else—could still hear him.
Jack Etheridge, my father, passed away recently. You may have recalled that last year, about this time, he experienced a heart attack and the family feared losing him them, an event I captured in the poem Free to Fly. And while, since then, we had the bounty of his presence, at the end he was failing fast and we were glad to let him go; he was just one month shy of his 90th birthday. But do not grieve for the family, please, as we do not grieve for him. His was a life to be celebrated, not a death to be mourned.
While flying to be with my father before he died, I decided that when the time came I was going to text the message, “The old lion has fallen,” to my family and friends, as it seemed to me this would sum up the greatest part of the truth of his passing. The idea stuck with me and en route I started this poem, finishing the first draft on the flight home afterwards.
This is the first of (at least) a trilogy of poems about my father’s passing that I will be releasing over the next little while. I hope you enjoy them.
The photograph was taken at Newport, RI at one of the once stately homes of the rich, and now the gawking place of us merely ordinary people. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.
Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.