A son dies and a friend agrees to take a breath for a father suffocating with grief. Tissue warning.

Guest blogger Scott Newport is visiting Different Dream today with the poem Take a Breath, which he wrote for a grieving father. Grab a tissue now. You’ll need it.

On a Sunday afternoon I met with Pierre, for the second time, at the children’s hospital. “My first son died after one day of life,” he said. When we met, his other son was hanging on at the age of two. In our time together he spoke about his love for sailing on Lake Huron. After I left he wrote me this text.

Thanks for the visit.
I feel like everything is going to work out for some reason.
Take a deep breath of fresh air for me today!

In the early hours of the next morning, after I finished my run and the sun was about to rise, in the tiny moment, just before I was to take a breath, I decided to write from his perspective. I sat at my computer and I took that breath.

Take a Breath for Me

If only I could sail again
over the deep blue depths of
Lake Huron–Just off my hometown of Tawas–
I would, my main sail and jib perfectly trimmed.

I would listen to the soothing breath of the off shore breeze
flapping the canvas sails
like a family of geese taking off for the first time
migrating to a new land.

I would watch the midnight sky rotate
while lying on my back.
I would remember the lighting bugs
wisping by my childhood dreams like tiny, slow-bending, shooting stars.

With Au Sable Point jutting out on the horizon
and waves gently kissing against her bow, I would feel like home was close.
The familiar landmark off the leeward shaped like a coaxing curled finger
when we passed her on the thirty-footer racing from Port Huron to Mackinaw.

Today though, I sail on a different sort of blue–
from the often lonely hospital helm, I set my course for true north
not knowing where I’ll land
or when the next storm will be announced on the ship to shore radio.

My wooden rudder a bit loose, I grip onto each day knowing
if it does rain, the scent of the oils before a downpour will be denied passage,
the feel of the drops when they bounce off the quarter deck
will now pitter patter silently off the limestone window sill in our I.C.U. room.

With my dead reckoning a bit off, I will inhale
the breath of my wife and ill child.
I pray that as their faint, warm air billows my sail
it will harness the energy I need to creep along to my next port, my next mooring
where maybe, just maybe, I can take a deep breath of fresh air again.

Author’s Note: Pierre’s son, Christian, did die. Pierre asked me to speak at the funeral, and I read this poem. I would love to hear your thoughts or a favorite line from the poem Take a Breath. You can leave your comment in the box below.

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A son dies and a friend agrees to take a breath for a father suffocating with grief. Tissue warning.


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