Thursday, April 11, 2024

Poetry Friday: "My Mother's Shoes" by Frannie Lindsay (on my mother's passing)

I can't remember how I found Frannie Lindsay but I'm grateful I did. She is known for her work in the intersections of poetry, grief, and trauma. This particular poem hit home in ways untold.  

No poem, of course,  is a perfect parallel to one's life, but parts of this poem were close to perfect. My mother's shoes — the ones my mother wore in her last weeks of life — were brown. (You can see them above.) They had zippers, not velcro, but they were a favorite, as were Lindsay's mother's. My mom wore her brown shoes the day I took her to the ER in December. They went with her to the nursing home a week later. They sat in her room, next to her dresser, in February and March, when she would put nothing on her feet but the delightfully cute cat slippers that everyone complimented her on, or the warm cozy socks that I'd packed in her suitcase. 

And months ago, when my dad was still alive — although, again this poem is not a perfect parallel, because what is perfect? Nothing I've encountered — he cared for my mom in ways that I couldn't fully appreciate until I was the one caring for her, the one tending the details, watching for the signs of need, ministering to another with careful and gentle attention. 

The beauty of this poem needs no explanation. It simply is. This is the story of millions of couples, millions of families, millions of caregivers. And it is the story of one couple, one family, one caregiver, and their daughter. 

Rest in peace, my dear, sweet, strong, stoic mother. 

My Mother’s Shoes
by Frannie Lindsay

Toward the end she only wore
her brown ones, the Velcro not quite
holding anymore; toes scuffed

[I hate to violate copyright and couldn't find a good way to contact the poet for permission to share in entirety, so I'll skip ahead here. The poem continues]: 


but her husband always fetched
the brown ones, helped her
to the armchair, eased the crew socks
past her bunions, rubbed
her vein-mapped calves, slipped
the left one then the right one on
the way a kindergarten teacher helps
a scared new pupil into her galoshes; then
he placed each foot, each gorgeous foot,
against the wheelchair’s rests, and
wheeled her deferentially
to the dining hall for breakfast.

(Read the whole poem here.) 

Read more about Frannie Lindsay here, at the Poetry Foundation


The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted this week by Jone Rush MacCulloch


Sally Murphy said...

What a hauntingly poignant poem, Karen, and a wonderful tribute to the love of those who care for the elderly. My sympathy for your loss xx

Linda Mitchell said...

Oh, my goodnes, what you've been through these last years of pandemic and the loss of your parents. I'm sorry for the tidal wave of emotion you must surf right now. Losing one parent is tough. Losing both in a short time is unimaginable. I'm sorry. This poem does carry details that are specific and yet we can see them as our own. That is good poem-ing. "The intersection of poetry, grief and trauma." I need to know more about this poet. Every day I learn of another person who is suffering more than it appears. Take care of yourself in this time.

Rose Cappelli said...

A beautiful tribute and a lovely poem. Thank you.

Linda B said...

The wonder of a poem is all we need are the poignant details of living, just as this poem gave to us, Karen, and your own loving connection. I remember those small things when caring for my husband; what made him smile topped the list. As for shoes, several times through the years, I had my students write with the prompt, "shoes". The connections were always powerful stories, like the poem you shared today. Hugs for this post!

Janice Scully said...

I think many of us will relate to this, having had parents who were ill and who left behind items and so many memories. Thanks for sharing this. My Mom left velcro sandals and she always struggled to find any shoe that fit.

elli said...

Dearest, thank you for sharing this poem. I am so sorry for your accumulated losses … praying for peace and joy to cradle your heart as the days and months unfold before you as your life, ever altered by absence, is now growing into something new and as yet unknowable.


Denise Krebs said...

Karen, what a beautiful poem she wrote that brings you peace. The gentleness in the poem about the care the husband takes with the shoes is so lovely and shows the long-term love that sustains us at the end. That you did that for your mom at the end of her life makes it all the more poignant. My condolences to you.

jama said...

Thank you for sharing this moving, poignant poem -- not only a tribute to loved ones lost, but to the caregivers who are there at the end. So often it's the small details that have the most emotional impact, sparking cherished memories. Just as you are remembering your mom, this past Tuesday I thought of mine, who died 10 years ago (already!). Any discussion of shoes made us laugh, since we both wore the same size. She couldn't believe it, since she was 4 inches taller. How could someone so small have such big feet? :)

Sending you special hugs. We never get over our grief, we just learn how to live with it. xo

Jane @ said...

My mother nursed her parents, sister, and husband through their final days, and it will be my honour to hopefully one day care for her the way she's always cared for everyone around her. <3

Tabatha said...

Oh, Karen, you found a wonderful poem about how love gets the job done, makes life possible. Thanks goodness for poets who can help make the grief more manageable to carry. xo

tanita✿davis said...

Ach, my heart. Love makes so much possible. Thank you for sharing this tender and exquisite poem, and the honor we have of having the gift of marriage that is a living gift, that we can give and receive, over and over and over.

May your memories of your parents be a true blessing, friend. ♥

Sarah Grace Tuttle said...

The tenderness of this poem resonates deeply. I am grateful to you for sharing it. May memories of your mother be sweet.

TraceyKJ said...

Karen, I am so sorry for your loss. Your mother’s shoes represent so much: sturdy, comfortable, and packaged with a cute little zipper. What a lovely tribute. It is clear that she was deeply loved.

Anonymous said...


Mary Lee said...

Though it's been seven years, this poem is pure onion juice -- my mom, her feet, her shoes, her strength, her wheelchair...all come back in a rush.

Condolences to you. May poetry continue to offer you solace.

Marcie Flinchum Atkins said...

I'm so sorry about your mom. It is such a connection we have through the things they leave behind.

Karen Edmisten said...

Sally, Linda M., Rose, Linda B., Janice, elli, Denise, Jama, Jane, Tabatha, Tanita, Sarah Grace, Tracey, Anon, Mary Lee, and Marcie —

Thank you so much, to each and every one of you, for taking the time to share such kind words. So much understanding, love, and empathy here in your responses! ❤️❤️ This community is such a gift to me. Thank you all so much.