Raspberries and Cream
By Marie Jones
I once worked in a hospice, giving comfort to the dying.
Although I loved the work I did, I often found it trying.
The people that I cared for became like family,
And when they died my heart would break just as easily.
One woman in particular became a dear, close friend.
Her children rarely visited her, especially near the end.
Mrs. Wiggins was quite frail, her body wrought with illness.
At first, she barely spoke to me, content to lie in stillness.
Eventually, we became pals, as I learned more about her.
She had three kids and one great love, who passed on long before her.
Her children had no time for her, and she felt so alone.
I tried to make her feel loved, as if this were her home.
She'd tell me stories of her past until my shift would end.
And then the next time 'round she'd tell them all again.
One night I took an early shift and came to sit beside her.
She whispered that her time was close and asked if I would guide her.
Her fragile body looked so still, her breath was weak and shallow.
I felt the coldness of her hands, her skin was dulled and sallow.
I left to call her children, so they'd know the time was near,
And that I'd spend the night with her to guide her through her fear.
When I came back into her room, I saw that she'd been sleeping.
And from the moistness in her eyes, I knew that she'd been weeping.
I leaned close to her face and asked her if she'd had a dream.
She gently smiled and said she'd dreamt of raspberries and cream.
I guess I must have looked surprised at such a strange reply.
But Mrs. Wiggins softly laughed and said she'd tell me why.
"When I was just a little girl I had a favorite aunt,
Who'd spoil and treat me like a queen and give me what I'd want.
"My aunt would take me out to lunch and order anything I dreamed,
And for dessert we'd share a bowl of raspberries and cream.
Oh, how I loved the special taste so smooth and rich and pure.
And how I'd so look forward to the times I'd spend with her.
"But soon she passed away and I got older with the years.
So busy with my schoolwork and my teenage hopes and fears.
And since my parents worked so hard to fund my college dream,
We never had the luxury of raspberries and cream.
"The time flew by and I matured and soon was college-bound,
Living in a tiny dorm, my freedom I had found!
What little money that I had went towards my books, it seems,
So never once did I indulge in raspberries and cream.
"Soon I graduated and took on a full-time job
Working for the minimum for some obnoxious slob.
I met a man who stole my heart and married right away,
And two years later had a child, with one more on the way.
"All through the early wedded years of family love and bliss,
Our finances were way too tight to think of things I missed.
And as the children grew and went off to pursue their dreams,
How then could I afford to buy my raspberries and cream?
"Then my husband became ill and soon my love was gone.
The kids went off to college and I was once again alone.
His pension barely covered the expenses week to week,
So I went back to work again to try and make ends meet.
"And as the lonely years went by I managed to survive,
But never had enough to spare to truly feel alive.
I'd had a check-up for some pain and went in for an answer.
That's when my doctor told me I would lose my life to cancer.
"The medicine and treatment cost more than I was insured for,
And soon I'd cashed my savings out and spent all I had worked for.
So how could I have possibly indulged in such a scheme
As spending money on a bowl of raspberries and cream?
"And now my hour of death is near and all that I can see
Is how my heart breaks with regret for what will never be.
Why do we wait to do the things that make us feel alive?
Why do we give our life away in order to survive?
"And all the times I wanted to I really had the means.
I just didn't think that I deserved my raspberries and cream.
Oh, promise me you'll never wait too long to find your dream.
Promise me you'll fill your life with raspberries and cream!"
I smiled and wept and held her hand so tightly in my own,
And then I kissed her on the cheek and begged her to hold on.
I ran as fast as I could run to the nearest corner store,
And stocked up on the very things I knew she'd hold on for.
When I returned into her room she watched my little scheme,
And giggled as I fixed two bowls of raspberries and cream.
We sat and ate together until every bit was gone,
And then I kissed her hand and held it tight as she passed on.
Upon her face there was a glow that showed no pain or fear,
As she went to that place of peace where God was waiting there.
Her children came the next day to discuss the final plans.
Her daughter saw the empty bowls upon the bedside stand.
I told her, "Seems your mother adored raspberries and cream.
But rarely could she buy them for she never had the means."
And as her daughter held the bowl her tears fell to the ground,
"If I'd have known I would have bought her berries by the pound.
"If I'd have known her time was short I would have come to see her.
But I was just too self-involved, and now she's gone forever.
Why do we wait to do the things that really mean the most?
Why do we wait to love someone until their memory's a ghost?"
The children left and I went home and wept myself to sleep,
And dreamed of Mrs. Wiggins and the promise I must keep.
I woke up to a brand-new day and grabbed the telephone
To call a friend I knew was feeling sad and so alone.
I told her I was on my way, but first must make a stop,
And at the store picked up some things I knew would cheer her up.
And when I got there she was glad to sit and talk and dream
As we indulged in two big bowls of raspberries and cream.
Current mood: joyful