Here, for you

IMG_5663On the day my parents renewed their vows
I was empty and tired—all I could think of was,
now you know

Around and around it went, inside my head,
crowding out whatever the priest,
who hadn’t known them then, was saying.
Now you know what the reward is
the burden of new
is balanced by 
the weight of certitude:
how soft it is to fall in love,
how rough those years are to carry.
Now you know as I knew,
like I know now as you knew then.

I remember standing there,
looking down at my father’s casket
as it hovered over their double plot and thinking:
there’s not much, but there is this—I made it.


Even into the 1960’s, Newfoundland, my birthplace, was similar to the religious separation of Northern Ireland: Catholics and Protestants did not mix or socialize, and they certainly did not trust one another. Thus, my parents wedding in the late 1940’s (my mother was Protestant and my father Catholic) was a shock to the community in general and the two families in particular. It was made worse when, years later, so as to instruct her firstborn in Catholicism (a promise she had made when she married my father) my mother first took lessons in the church, and then to complete the unity of the family, converted to being Catholic.

And although with the years such religious ignorance faded and died, for much of their early marriage they both bore the brunt of religious prejudice—much from the Catholic Church itself and more from within their own families. I believe that the greater part of who I am and what I am is in honor to their decision and I am grateful that at their end I was able to stay faithful to their love and courage and bear witness to it.

This is (thus far at least) the last of a trilogy of poems about my father’s passing. I hope you have enjoyed them.

Thank you for reading Here, for you. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken last year in Newfoundland from my father’s hospital window. Sadly, it tells you what the weather in Newfoundland is usually like: dreary. Luckily, the kindness and generosity of the people there make up for it. 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, The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.


Filed under Poetry

10 responses to “Here, for you

  1. Barbara Minor

    Death looks empty from our angle, and so glorious on the other. Sometimes I see the light at funerals; other times I can feel the angels excitement of welcoming. It makes me smile and I have to be careful not to show this happiness at the wrong time. I am smiling now knowing where your father is, and you know too!

  2. My mother’s funeral was last week – we had waited a month to say our farewells to her. I am so glad that I was with her at the start of her new journey and your father also travelling to where our energy dances forever.

    • Chris, you and I, I believe share in common that amazingly complex duality of sadness and gladness at their passing, and further wrapped with acceptance and peace. It is good to love and to have loved well; but it is better to have been obedient and strong and learned some grace and patience for living, from their grace and patience at passing. ‘Where our energy dances forever.’ You need to start writing poetry! 🙂

  3. Pete Hulme

    I am really intrigued by how much resonance there is between us. My father’s family was what my mother disparagingly referred to as ‘low church.’ Her sourness was understandable given that half my father’s family had virtually disowned him for marrying a Roman Catholic. Two of his sister’s I had never met until they showed up for his funeral. This was one of the many influences that primed me to accept the Bahá’í Faith when I eventually found it, sadly only after both my parents had died. My mother’s sister, though a devout Catholic and approaching her nineties, was overjoyed that I had found my way back to God.

    • Life has a curious way of being complex when it should be simple, and simple when it should be complex. I hope to God we are both lights of spreading some simplicity in this sad world! 🙂

  4. Love your poetry John. The poem on this entry inspired by your dad’s passing is beautiful. The narration regarding your parents interfaith christian marriage is very deep. Thank you for sharing your creative spirit with us.
    w/ love, peace & healing,


  5. This is what I would describe as a powerful piece … and it is honorable, honoring your parents. What is a bonus to me … is what you often write about in the comments following your poetry. The background you offer means a great deal. Peace.

    • T, thank you, thank you, thank you! This was not an easy poem to write. I loved and love my father and mother very much and it is often hard to really get down and explore the complex emotions and swirls that make up that love. So, thank you my brother for being so attentive and supporting! 🙂