The Poet's Mother’s Death-Bed Conversion

Jeffrey Ethan Lee

My mom was in her hospital bed, smiling with rare warmth. The whiteness of the room was intense under the fluorescent lights. Maybe she was glad because I was the only one in our family to go to see her.

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Without me saying anything, she said, “Go ahead, be happy.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“I want you to just be happy.”

Seeing my puzzled expression, she finally said, “You can write poetry.”

I was shocked, and she kept smiling. This was the same person who was so hell bent on me being in science, math, or law. The same person who had said, “Poetry is GARBAGE. Why do you want to add more GARBAGE to the GARBAGE of all the LOUSY people of the world?”

Yes, I was shocked, but hoping to believe it. After all, this time she could be dead in the near future. Maybe this was her death-bed conversion into a supportive mom.

She didn’t have much else to say, and neither did I.

I felt like a terrible dark cloud had been lifted off my head.

I wondered as I drove away if I hadn’t misjudged her all my life.

But then a few weeks later the specialists sorted it out, and it wasn’t advanced liver cancer. It wasn’t any kind of cancer. It was just an anomaly.

So she was out and feeling strong again like her old self at home, in her kitchen.

Then she told me, “You know what I said in the hospital?”

“Yes,” I smiled. This was one of the few truly happy memories I had of her.

“Well, forget it. I only said that because I thought I was dying.”

Jeffry Ethan Lee

Jeffrey Ethan Lee is a poet, writer, director and senior poetry editor for Many Mountains Moving, Inc. Blog on themes of interest to poets & writers.

Photo taken by: Ethan James Lucas Lee

Blog originally posted elsewhere on Jun. 4th, 2008 {updated 07/03/2014}

Portrait of Suzanne Manet and her son Léon Leenhoff, titled La lecture (French translated into English, The lecture/The Reading, an oil painting by French painter Édouard Manetcirca 1865 - 1873.)