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The power of a poem when words fail you

When I was 18, my friend lost her mum to a long-standing battle with cancer. I had not experienced loss at that time in my life. Although I suspect I did the best I could with the resources I had back then, I've struggled from that moment to this finding the right words at times of significant loss.

My friend was incredible. Her wisdom and resilience shone through even at a young age. She went on to become a doctor and we remain friends to this day.

At the time she gave me a copy of a beautifully hand-written poem that I still own, 30 years later.

I've called on it when experiencing my own personal grief, and I re-read it recently when another close friend also lost her mum to cancer.

Why is poetry so powerful?

It teaches us things. It helps us remember. It helps us make sense of and express what we are thinking and feeling.

My friend's poem has an interesting background and slightly unclear history according to number of web sources. Several people have claimed to be the author, yet it may have existed in Spanish in the 1800s, attributed to a Argentian poet and writer.

Whoever wrote it, thank you. I share it below for the benefit of others with the invitation to remember that poetry can be a powerful way to capture and communicate messages of loss, love and everything in between.

Comes The Dawn

After a while you learn the subtle difference,

Between holding a hand and chaining a soul.

And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning,

And company doesn’t mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts,

And presents aren’t promises.

And you begin to accept your defeats,

With your head up and your eyes open,

With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.

And you learn to build all your roads on today,

Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans,

And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn,

That even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,

Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure…

That you really are strong,

And you really do have worth,

And you learn and learn,

With every goodbye you learn.

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