When Poetry Speaks What I Cannot Say     

When Poetry Speaks What I Cannot Say                                               by Henry Regehr

“And the stately ships go on

To their haven under the hill,

But O for the touch of the vanished hand,

And the sound of a voice that is still”.

Alfred Lord Tennyson said it well. He understood the emptiness, the loneliness, the longing for Lillian’s voice and the touch that is gone. The cooking smells from the kitchen are missing, the bed feels cold and lonely, and the back seat of the Uber seems empty. There is no hand to hold, no warm embrace, no one to tell of the book I’m reading, or of the people we met on our walk. No one to wake me early to share the brilliant sunrise or the gathering storm.

Eating alone at the glass table in the kitchen does not feel right without conversation, or smile, or “thank you for a delicious dinner”, or shared cleaning up duties.

When dear friend Rudy Wiebe heard of Lillian’s passing, he responded with a personal message he entitled “Soon”.

“Your waiting with her, for her, is over

Your Beloved has passed away,

beyond you, and now you can

remember her unhindered by that

torture of breathing and impossible silences.

Remember, re-member the days

and years and instants of delight and sorrow, of misery

and laughter and comfort and always, always love.

No need to ever again wait for your Beloved, now.

Now in the endless anticipation of remembering,

you can delight yourself in memory, and wait

wait for yourself. For soon…yes, of course,

Soon you will….”

Often, yes, there are the thoughts of my own “crossing of the bar”.

“For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place

The tide may bear me far

I hope to see my Pilot face to face

When I have crost the bar”.


The day before Lillian passed quietly away, I spent long hours, waiting. There was no movement, no response to my touch, no response to my voice, just quick, shallow breathing.

At the end of the day, I spoke to her of our children, of the happy times when they were growing up, of their wonderful lives. To my surprise, tears came and rolled down her unmoving face. I changed the subject, not believing that she was hearing anything. And the tears stopped. I spoke of our love and the shared experiences of a lifetime together, and the tears came again.

We were having our last conversation.

“Break, break, break,

On thy cold grey stones, O sea!

And I would that my tongue could utter

The thoughts that arise in me.”

I am grateful to poets who have said it well.

  1. Elaine Childs

    This was so beautifully and poignantly written as you interwove your own deep thoughts and longings with those of the poets. You made me weep as I imagined your grief. The love you and Aunt Lillian shared was very evident to me. Elaine

  2. Maribeth Curry

    How moving. Thanks for sharing, Henry. Sending blessings and love, M

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