Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

I Held My Father’s Hand – Farewell to an Ex-lover

Elizabeth Colledge
Jacksonville, Florida, United States

Poet’s statement: These poems are about the experience of letting go of someone who is passing. The first poem is about my father’s death; the second is about the loss of a lover.


I held my father’s hand

I held my father’s hand in the dark hospital room,
The only light a green monitor that tracked his
Heartbeat. For hours I watched it numbly,
Its slow yet still steady pace. He had long since
Ceased to see or speak. Only his warm hand
Reassured me that he was still alive.

I stared out the window at the night lit by the
Lights of the parking lot. A security golf cart
Patrolled the aisles, the slowly revolving
Green light on its roof as steady as the
Heart monitor beside my father’s bed.

My mother sat silently, watching and waiting.
Occasionally a nurse came in,
Adjusted the IV, looked at the monitor as if
She might see something new, then quietly left.

The machine began, almost imperceptibly at first,
To slow. The time between the beats
Began to lengthen, though remaining steady and
Calm. Gradually I watched my father die,
Torn between staring at the screen and his
Still face, his mouth open so slightly one could
Scarcely perceive the intake or exhale of breath.

I closed my eyes and felt his hand in mine,
Warm, still pulsing, though more and more slowly.
It was a beautiful death, some might say.
He slowed and then he went away.
Gradually his hand began to cool. I did not want
To let it go. My mother laid her head upon his chest
And let out a sob so harsh and sudden it startled me.

And I let go.

parking lot

Photography by liikennevalo



dried chrysanthemum

Photography by Magda Wojtyra

Farewell to an ex-lover in the hospital

Through a kaleidoscope of tears I
See your still face blur and swirl then
Break into glistening shards,
Like the wine glass you threw when
We parted and you drove away.

Highway death seized and
Tried to swallow you, but you
Stuck in her throat, choking her,
As she coughed you back up with her
Toxic breath. Now she waits
For your return.

My own wounds do not shine in
Iridescent blues and greens as yours,
But they throb within. I
Ache for myself as well as for you.

Time rusts. I go on living my
Dull, blunted life.
You lie sharply white in a
Steel rimmed bed. Nailed on the wall
Above your head, Jesus nods
To the potted chrysanthemums.
Their petals fall around you,
Bone-dry flowers
Crumbling like your fragile frame.

Before they fall completely, I
Will speak. I cannot let my
Fear of your death
Hold back my farewell to our love.

But is it better that I say goodbye
Now and leave than
Helplessly watch your withering arms
Among all those tubes? I
Must go. I have lost you already.



ELIZABETH LOVETT COLLEDGE, PhD, holds a bachelor’s in English from Wellesley College and a doctorate in English from the University of Florida. Her dissertation was Wordsworth’s Challenges to Gender-Based Hierarchies. Her poetry has appeared in several literary journals, including “Time of Singing” and “Kaleidoscope.” In addition to readying a manuscript of poetry for publication, she writes and edits articles for non-profit organizations, including the Wolfson Children’s Hospital, where she serves on the Executive Committee of the Women’s Board. She is President of Commodores Point Terminal Corporation, a property management firm.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Winter 2013 – Volume 5, Issue 1
Winter 2013  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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