I am currently in England at my parents’ house, where on Friday we flew in to surprise my mum for her 70th birthday, with further surprises including a massive party in a beautiful walled garden with more than 60 guests. I gave my mum a copy of my poetry collection, together with some Czech crystal imitation flowers that my boys bought for her. My dad privately joked to me that he should have hired me to write a poem for the main event. These sorts of jokes are dangerous, because it got me thinking and I didn’t sleep well, with lines occurring to me in between the bouts of sleep. For the first time in my life, I gave in to the muse completely and got up in the middle of the night, sneaking into the lounge to scribble down those lines and add to them, then filled out the rest and polished it in the morning.
This is the result, which I recited as the finale of the event, after at least twenty people had stood up to talk about the wonderful ways in which my mum had helped them and been there for them in their hour of need. It went down very well, lots of people asked for a copy of the poem and a number told me they were going to buy a copy of Selected Verse: Friends and Family later. I hope you all like it just as much.
When Seventy Has Called Upon
When seventy has called upon us to commemorate,
Lie in wait with piled-high plate, surprise and celebrate
A life that’s given so much more than it can ever know;
So many wounds she’s helped to heal, so many lives to grow.
When seventy has called upon our minds to be revised,
We see so many of life’s treasures to be grasped and prized;
So many moments of pure fun, so many lessons learned,
And many talks and punishments that we so sorely earned.
When seventy has called upon our bones to be denied,
Will we still have such energy when we get in our stride?
So many projects worked on, gardens dug and sown,
And so much bounty harvested when all those plants have grown.
When seventy has called upon our eyes to be admired,
We see so much to emulate, so much to be desired;
So many lonely stomachs filled and broken hearts made whole
Through simple acts of kindness from this ever-loving soul.
When seventy has called upon our souls to be inspired,
How will our eyes be opened, our imaginations fired?
We’ll see the needs around us that we ourselves can meet,
Sadness we can turn to joy when broken souls we treat.
When heaven’s glee has called upon our souls to be revived,
Will we have won so many over to the angel’s side?
Will our wakes abound with those so full of gratitude
For a life so generous with such great attitude?
Will the Good Shepherd welcome us and shout aloud, “Well done!”
As heartily as he will do for my amazing mum?