Abou Ben Adhem
James Henry Leigh Hunt
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still, and said “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.
This is my grandfather’s favorite poem. He would recite it to my sister and I when we were younger. The message, the divinity of loving your fellow man, was always what he stressed to us. My grandparents’ door was always open. Show up at 2AM and they would welcome you in, fix you a meal, talk a while and make sure you had someplace to sleep. My grandfather is very sick tonight and is not expected to be here much longer. As I try to cope with this I find myself sucked into this all encompassing greed. I want more time with him. More years. In spite of the valuable lessons the man has taught me over the last 28 years I want to demand more time. Being the overly emotional one in the family, every time I have seen him has resulted in me collapsing later in a pile of tears. I can’t find the words I want, I need, to tell him good bye. I don’t want to tell him good bye even though I am fortunate to have that opportunity. All I want is to beg him to hold on despite the pain I can see he is in. That only leaves me with one unpleasant choice: grit and bare it.
As a writer, I have an opportunity to write out whatever emotion I am feeling and see if that jumbled mess of unpleasant thoughts can become my own way of telling such an instrumental figure in my life good bye. No, he will never read this. I know that he knows exactly how I feel. Sitting in his hospital room earlier in the week, I apologized because it had taken me a few days to manage to get to the hospital to visit him. He smiled and told me, “Danny, it’s came, it went and it’s gone. We’ll just wait for tomorrow and hope it’s a better day.” It was his way of telling me that he understood. He then told me stories about his brother Jay who died long before I ever had a chance to know him. He smiled and laughed and hugged me before I left. The days that followed were rough and, today, in his house, watching him lying in bed as family surrounded him, he hugged me and smiled and, as I looked in his eyes I saw that same twinkle of life and love that had always been there. In a way, maybe we said our good byes already? When I read that poem, I hear it in his voice. I hear those words and the lesson there and I know that he will never really be gone as long as I remember. It doesn’t make it any easier, but it does help in a way.
I’m tired and the days ahead are going to be hard for us all. My parents, my son, my sister and especially for my grandparents. All I know is that family endures any hardship and does it with love and laughter.
The blog will be on an indefinite hiatus until everything is concluded. I will still be writing but there will be nothing here for a while.