I read this poem at Lorraine’s funeral. Her imagined voice speaks to us, reflecting on her life as a polio survivor and disability activist. When I turned sixty, I felt distinctly mortal, realising I’d left the immortality of youth far behind. But death is never far away; really, it is part of life, and in that spirit, I wrote about my friend whose death cast a reminding shadow over my partner’s death twenty years previously. Both had polio as a child, and both were formidable campaigners.
Lesson from Lorraine
Tribute to Lorraine Gradwell 1953 - 2017
Prepare for death by living life, I say.
Make every exhale return a breath each day;
Let painful tumbles presage a rise again.
While days will buffet, weeks will yawn and years will crumble,
Suck life-juice from puddles of despair.
It's yours. It's there. Prepare by living.
Prepare by giving succour to hope's flicker
And find a hairs-breadth crack of light
To guide the little paths that make the whole
Endeavour valued, precious; only yours to hold.
In darkness feel a hint of dawning day,
Where lost gets found, and fears will founder.
One day it ends. But only when the life
Was had, the breaths were drawn, the mark you made
Never to be erased.