How do they know
to gather at the gate?
How does the word
“Prepare yourself! She’s coming!”
Watchers on this side wonder,
“Why is she waiting?
What else needs to happen?
Is there a face she longs to see —
a voice once more to hear?”
Maybe the delay is on that other side.
The word has gone out.
The committee gathers.
“Look! She’s reaching for us!
We are almost in her sight!
Is everybody here?
By Cherry Winkle Moore, Jan. 1, 2009
I woke up in the new year of 2009 with this poem in my head.
When a hospice patient seems close to dying but doesn’t seem able to let go, it is not unusual for hospice staff to talk with families about what might be causing the patient to hang on. Sometimes it seems that there is one last piece of business waiting to be done: a grandson is arriving home from Iraq or someone is expected to call; perhaps they’re waiting for an anniversary or other significant date.
I’ve been present at times when the family could think of nothing or no one for whom the patient might be waiting. That’s when the idea behind this poem began to form. Maybe the people who need to be at the gate aren’t there yet. Maybe they are busy doing whatever work they do in heaven. They haven’t gotten the message yet. They aren’t gathered.
I expressed this idea to a hospice nurse and said, “I wonder what kind of communication device we’ll have in heaven? Beepers, maybe?”
She looked shocked, “Oh, no! Not beepers! Surely beepers will all be in the other place!”
So I imagine there is some other celestial device that will summon our loved ones to gather when we come near. I wonder what it is like?