Reluctant Spirit, poetry written by Doug Stanfield at

Saying Goodbye


Reluctant Spirit

written by: Doug Stanfield (Hemmingplay)



A woman I know,
a believer, told me
she saw angels hovering
over our house.
I can’t see them, but
it wouldn’t surprise me.

Sitting by your bed
through the long nights,
feeling you slip away
a bit at a time as the cancer
races through you,
I like to think the
angels are gathering,
waiting to welcome
your remarkable spirit home,

A tear escaped your eye just now,
and you couldn’t speak.
Breathing is so hard.
When you manage,
words are just a whisper,
as though coming from
a terrible, long distance.

I don’t know why dying is this hard.
The spirit in us, our connection
to the Infinite, is
so reluctant to leave this life.

Shouldn’t it gladly
rejoin in its source,
walk free again in
the Ground of Being?

Instead, it holds hard to this body, this life
studying great suffering
like some macabre
graduate school
final exam.


Some sects believe this world is Hell;
suffering is proof
they’re right.
Others have no answer,
so fall back on
“it’s God’s will.”
Neither likes the word “Why?”
(The fear of that word is revealing.)

Watching you now, in my pain
at losing you,
the pain of watching your suffering;
seeing your sisters grieve,
watching friends weep knowing
a special light is passing…

I have an idea why we cling to this life.

Growth has no cost,
no purpose unless
there is something to
In this physical realm
loss is a daily reality.
Existence is without meaning
unless it can all be taken away.

Longing, pain, desire, hatred
jealousy, fear, greed and, yes, love,
are challenges to the spirit,
marinated in the body’s chemistries
and ancient roots.

It gets complicated,
but is a stew brewed patiently through five
billion years of solitude
on this curious living rock.

Ignited by the spirit’s quest
for meaning,
Incarnation offers
what is not available
without this blending of spirit and flesh.
Creation requires knowing,
and knowing requires
The Buddhists say all suffering
comes from illusion,
but shedding illusions also
requires the willingness
to suffer the loss
of that we hold most dear.

God is always learning.
We are always learning.
We spend our years here, learning,
and take it with us when we leave.

Time suddenly means something
when death imposes a deadline.
Two can become one, making
depth and meaning and sacrifice real.
It then all has meaning.

I listen to your breathing,
watch your spirit fight
to stay another day,
another hour. I pray the suffering
will end, but strangely would not shorten
your time by a tenth of a second.
That’s up to you. Only you know when
your task here is done.

I’m here, walking your last mile with you.
You are not alone.
Your life had meaning.
Being here made a difference.
You have blessed others with your spirit.
And when you are gone we will
only be sad for a little while.

We have more to learn, after all,
and time grows ever shorter,
here in the seductive land of deadlines.



Wilda Hope Farrell, my wife of 48 years, eleven months and twenty-eight days, died April 22 at 8:24 a.m., at home in our bed. We’d said goodbye several days earlier, when I wrote this standing watch by the bed. We both knew we had to. By the end, she was heavily sedated with morphine, and she couldn’t say goodbye, even when her heart stopped. In fact, she was already gone by then.

Latest posts by Doug Stanfield (Hemmingplay) (see all)

Series Navigation<< Whatever HappensSpring Was Late This Year >>
This publication is part 13 of 20 in the series Saying Goodbye