Body Language

Alan Harris

after my father had his stroke
we never spoke again
but that didn’t stop us
from reading each other’s faces

recognizing the punctuated pauses
periods and question marks
etched in eyes, sighs and sad smiles

It took both hands to hold one of his
that first day in the hospital
as my eyes whispered how much I cared
and his smile replied, Thank you

but before I left his side that night
our sighs acknowledged
the painful truth
that despite how well
we finally understood each other
it was regrettably apparent
how little time we had left to talk

About the poet:

Alan Harris is a sixty-one-year-old hospice volunteer who helps patients write short stories, letters and poetry. “I’m what’s called a ‘Tuesday story’ writer, as in Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. I’m called in when a hospice patient would like help writing a short memoir, letter or poem. It’s a fantastic experience to be the last person to listen to an important story straight from the source. And then I get to help mold it into a cherished, hard-copy family legacy.” Harris is working on his MSW degree at Wayne State University, Detroit.

About the poem:

“This poem is a cathartic recreation of the day I was summoned to the hospital to be with my father, right after a major stroke had stolen from him the ability to talk. Without words, we still engaged in the most important conversation we would ever have with each other.”

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer

About the Poem

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email


10 thoughts on “Body Language”

  1. Your words speak eloquently of the sadness and joy at having this moment. I too had a last week in a hospital with my dad. Thanks, Alan.

  2. Ronna L. Edelstein

    Mr. Harris, your beautiful poem resonated with me. My dad and I spent his last week in silent communication–but we still found a way to express our love for each other. Having spent 29 years in the suburbs of Detroit as a teacher (I got my middle school endorsement at Wayne State), I feel a geographic connection with you. I used to faithfully read all of Mitch Albom’s columns, and I try to keep up with his books.

    Finally, that you are a hospice volunteer says so much about you and your heart of gold.

  3. Henry Schneiderman

    Mr Harris, you have captured something so perfectly, with a crystalline clarity. Clearly those for whom you speak in your Tuesday stories are doubly fortunate, for your own voice carries such power. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Poems

Popular Tags
addiction alcohol addiction allergies anatomy lab bedside manner bigotry breast cancer cancer caregiver stories caregiving chemotherapy child abuse childbirth children chronic illness complementary therapies connecting with patients coping with death coping with illness coping with patient death cross-cultural health care cultural competence death and dying death of a parent dementia depression diabetes disability doctor-patient communication doctor-patient relationship doctor as patient doctor poems doctor stories drug addiction end of life end of life decision making faith family medicine forgiveness frustration with healthcare system genetic disorders geriatrics getting the news healing health care policy health care politics health insurance HIV humor ill parent immigration inequality international health labor and delivery leukemia medical errors medical student stories medical training medicine memorable patients mental health mental health professional stories mental illness military medicine miracles miscarriage mistakes neuroscience nurse poems nurse stories ob/gyn palliative care parent stories Parkinson's disease patient-centered care patient poems patient stories pediatrics personal remembrance physician assistant stories poem poems/poetry pregnancy PTSD race realizing human mortality resident stories role modeling self care social determinants of health social issues social worker stories spirituality stress and burnout suicide surgery thanksgiving the bad doctor visuals war veteran
Scroll to Top