Corn stalks at evening. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Corn stalks at evening. (All photos by Marylin Warner)





Snowy Pikes Peak.  These two photos were chosen to fit with Mary Shepherd's Haikus below.

Snowy Pikes Peak. These two photos were chosen to fit with Mary Shepherd’s Haikus below.

Dear Mom,

Last week’s post—“Dancing In The Dark”—received many comments and emails about sleepwalkers who were understood or misunderstood, who were glad they had sleepwalked or wished they hadn’t.

Several years after I fell and cut my leg while sleepwalking, I asked if you were going to write about it in a poem or a story.  When I asked, I don’t know if I hoped you would write about it…or hoped you wouldn’t.

You were sitting at the table, typing and retyping some of the stories and articles you’d written in long hand in your notebook.  You looked at me, smiled and shook your head. “No,” you said. “You should be the one to write about it. It’s your story.”

It took me many years to finally write about that night of dancing in the dark, and you were right. It was my story to tell, in my own time and my own words.

This week, because you can no longer write—nor even remember—your poems, I’ll post them here for you.  I’m just the typist, copying them from pages in your writing folders. The words are yours.

Two Haikus, Two Seasons    (Mary Shepherd, circa 1980)

Little black birds swoop,

Flitting and dancing near earth,

Swarming on corn stalks.

                                                    Whiter than lamb’s wool

                                                     Snow shimmers on mountain peaks

                                                     Buffeted by winds.


The next poem is one of my favorites.  Six lines show your love and appreciation of all children.  In your opinion, the common ground among all people is their children. This poem later grew into more writing about children you had met in China.

Common Ground       (Mary Shepherd, circa 1990)

There is common ground among people,

Wherever they are in this big world,

Who gaze into eyes of the children,

No matter the culture or color,

And see there the love of the parents

Who know that their children are priceless. 

November 10 is Forget-Me-Not Day, Mom.  It was originally set up as a special day to remember family and friends who had grown apart or died during the previous year.  On this day and every day, although you have forgotten much of your life and your writing, your family has not forgotten you.

Mary's great-grandson "planting."

Mary’s great-grandson “planting.”


Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, writing

71 responses to “WRITING OUR OWN WORDS

  1. Beautiful, Marylin. Thank you. I most keenly felt that message about children everywhere when we were in Jerusalem in 1998 and I saw the little dark-eyed children playing in the streets, mothers watching from doorways. So universal and so precious.

    • Like you, Nancy, everywhere my mother traveled she saw the mothers watching over their precious children, caring for them.
      When she found an abandoned child in her own home town, that was when she volunteered with CASA.

  2. your mother said: ” the common ground among all people is their children. ”
    you know, I never really thought of it that way but your mother was dead-on right about this!
    Reading her haiku and other poetry I’m struck by what an awesome teacher she must’ve been and how she probably affected more students than she realized.

    • I think you’re right. She taught kindergarten for only a few years before she had children, but her calm, quiet and loving care of her school children had to be exceptional.
      Thanks for your amazing post on mazes. Mom would love a corn maze walk; I’m sure of it!

  3. juliabarrett

    Such beautiful poetry! Your mother was so insightful and ahead of her time.

  4. I like the idea of a forget-me-not day.
    I wish we that here.

  5. Beautiful photos, Marylin…it was nice seeing Pikes Peak.:)
    And beautiful words from your mom…we are all grateful you are the keeper of her wisdom and are sharing it with us.:)

  6. Don

    No truer word, Marylin. When you look in the eyes of a child all humanity’s barriers dissolve and we find a oneness words cannot describe. beautiful post.

    • You’re so right, Don. If we put aside all other considerations that separate nations, and children are the jewels of all the families. Poverty, wars, disease, relocations–if we just look into the eyes of the children involved, we might rethink our responses.

  7. Marylin, your special days are all special!

  8. “Common Ground” is a beautiful poem. Thank-you Marylin for sharing it here with us. x

  9. molly

    Yes, we all have to write our own story. Unfortunately, the ability and the passion for writing went from grandma to you, skipped me and continued on to Grace and Gannon…

    I will just have to find some other way to get my story out!

    I am so glad that you are passionate and super skilled at writing so that we will have Grandma’s story!

    • Thanks, Mookie. Grace and Gannon really are story tellers–especially Gannon, who doesn’t always make it clear what is real and what is pretend–your grandmother would be so proud of them, she really would!

      I have no doubt you are getting your own story out already, and as life goes on and the story changes, you’ll find a way to change with it!

  10. I really love your Mum’s haikus – especially the ‘buffeted by winds’ – which I think all of us experience from time to time. Also, the picture of your Grandson planting is just lovely – he looks so intent on his task!

    • Ah, Jenny, there are many time we’ve all been buffeted by winds…
      The picture of Gannon is 4 1/2 years ago, after the tornado destroyed most of their town. He was one serious little farmer, busy at replanting what had been destroyed. This is one of my favorite pictures!

  11. What a beautiful poet your mother was, Marylin. You’re so fortunate to have these treasures to cherish. The little farmer is looking awfully dapper…too cute!

    • Thanks, Jill. I know I’m fortunate to have my mother’s big box of writing exercises, notes, submissions and final products. Each month when I visit her I try to read one or two aloud to her, but she doesn’t recognize them.
      Sometimes she’ll smile and ask, “Do we know them?” I answer yes, and let it go at that. If I try too much to remind her that these are HER writings, she gets confused and upset.

  12. These are wonderful heirlooms to share with us. The art of letter writing seems to have all but died nowadays, certainly on paper. However some of the things I treasure most are scraps of paper, written by grandparents and parents, decades old. Writing these open letters to your mother must be heartwarming in the wonderful memories brought back. Fitting photos to the poems connects across the generations, her words, your images. They are all beautiful.

    • Oh, Andrew, I’ve kept the messages on little note cards and scraps of paper, and it’s so much fun each time I find another one tucked in a book or inside a drawer. You’re right, we are losing the art of writing letters.
      It’s easier to write my thoughts in letter form to my mother, even though she’ll never read them and if someone reads them to her, she won’t understand. But when I’m writing these “letters” to her, it feels like I’m communicating with her.
      I’m glad you like the photographs I put with the words of her poems.

  13. Love the way that the thoughts and feelings and flighty things are ‘grounded’ in the earth, and mountains and the seeds that Mary’s great grandson is planting.

  14. Jim

    Grandma Mary’s poem “Common Ground” speaks a profound truth on so many levels.

    With Veterans’ Day tomorrow, the poem reminds me of memoirs, poems, and stories by and about soldiers who find a picture on the body of a dead enemy on the battlefield. The wrinkled and soiled picture is usually found in a pocket where the dead soldier was accustomed to pulling it out and looking at it frequently. While looking at the picture he has found, the surviving soldier kneels reverently over the body of his enemy and then whispers something like, “He has a wife and children. Just like me. All he wanted was to hold his children again. Just like me.”

    Our families will forever be the ‘common ground’ of humanity. Thanks, Marylin for sharing this wonderful poem.

    • That’s a perfect example, one I think Mom would agree with. Travel in other countries or at war on battle fields, the sense of family and children is the common ground. Mom would be pleased to read this comment by her son-in-law, Jim. She might not realize you’d written it about her poem, but I think she’d be pleased.

  15. Amy

    Thank you so much for sharing your mother’s beautiful poems and her wisdom, Marylin! I agree, you mother was ahead of time…

  16. Another lovely post Marylin. I particularly appreciate your mother’s wisdom in telling you it was your story to write about the sleepwalk dancing.

    • The sleepwalking summarizes so much about my mom, Rod. Her calm wisdom and patience–and watchful protectiveness–when she saw me sleepwalk my way out the door, and her belief in me and support of my early writing efforts when she relinquished the story to me to tell in my own way.

  17. Diana Stevan

    So so beautiful, Marylin. I love how you continue to honor your mother with memories and share what she can longer share. That’s priceless. She taught you well.

    • Sometimes the memories come through so vividly and clearly, Diana. Other times I want to sit by Mom and plead for her to please, please come back to me and share more details from such and such time.
      The dementia has robbed her of so much, but at least it keeps me on task as I try to capture as many memories as possible.

  18. I esp. love the snow haiku….’whiter than lamb’s wool’ snaps a vivid image for the reader to “see”. I think of snow on mountain tops…cleanish but can be soiled in spots….also ‘buffed by winds’, the reader feels that tug and pull!

    • It reminds me of lambs in the spring, on the very farm where my mother had grown up, and she often included the white, fluffy lambs jumping around in the fields in her descriptions of happy days. I’m like you in the feeling of being tugged and pulled by the buffeting winds.

  19. Marylin, both poems were beautiful. So glad you shared them. 🙂

  20. Remarkable poems , and eye opener post.Thank you for visiting my site.Have a delightful week.JMS

  21. Gwen Stephens

    Thank you for sharing. They are lovely poems.

  22. So beautiful Marylin, thank you for sharing this with us.

    Sharing your mom’s poems really give more insight into the wonderfully gentle and caring person she is, and her deep love of all children.

    The Haikus too are a delight and shows her delight in the beauty of nature and life all around her. So lovely.

    • You really can get good insights into a person by reading her poems, Sherri. My mom is still gentle and caring, with a deep love of children, but now the dementia has her confused about who the children are, even when they’re her own great-grandchildren.

      • Ahh, what a sweet, lovely lady (I see where you get it from Marylin 😉 )

        It is so sad watching dementia take its toll. I remember when my dear Granny became confused in her last few years because of it (she lived to be 94) and would do just the same as your mom. She kept calling me ‘Anne’ which is the name of my cousin’s wife!!

      • At least you have a name, Sherri. When I’m with my mother, her common show of affection is to smile and pat my hand and say, “You’re just the nicest girl.” Which is really sweet, and she does this after I’ve done her nails or gotten her an extra blanket or something to eat, so I’m sure she thinks I’m one of her many caregivers. But it’s still nice and polite and grateful–it’s my mom–and I’m glad to be “just the nicest girl.”

  23. Hudson Howl

    I read this the other day, when you first published. Due to the warmth it evoked, it seemed smart to carry it around with me given the downward direction of the temperature. It encourages, an inspires me and best of all it gives me hope. Thank you

  24. Beautiful poems. Thanks for sharing, Marilyn. Thru her writing, your Mom gives a new appreciation of life around us.

  25. Those poems were both lovely and perfect. Can’t wait to hear more. All the best.

  26. dianabletter

    Mother’s lamp gone out
    Her words do not come easy
    Love is what remains…
    That’s the haiku I wrote for you and your mother after reading your post. The poems and art and love remain behind! Marylin, thanks for sharing this! It is a great reminder for me after the loss of my own mother. Thank you, diana

    • Diana, I am truly touched by the haiku you wrote for us. It perfectly expresses the love that remains after “the lamp goes out.”
      It’s especially meaningful to me that you could write this for us so soon after losing your own mother, bless your heart.

  27. Love, love, love the poems Marylin! Thank you for sharing! Blessings, Robyn

  28. Gede Prama

    Amazing and Thank you very much, for sharing and Greetings

  29. I was surprised to know that Haiku poems were something known to your mother’s and grandmother’s generations. They were bright and unusual women for their times…

    • Welcome, Ronnie. I’m glad you liked the Haikus, but they were my mother’s, and not my grandmother’s, and my mother didn’t add Haikus to her poetry writing until the early 1980s. (All the references to mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers are confusing sometimes…)
      But yes, both my mother and her mother were bright and exceptional and unusual women for their times. My mother is 95 now and suffers with advanced dementia, so I write these memories and share her stories and poetry in her honor.

  30. First time visiting — Darla sent me here because she loves how touching and inspiring your posts are. My mother is going to be 84 in January, and although she doesn’t suffer from dementia, she does have serious health issues. I can only imagine what you (and your mom) go through. I think your mother is very lucky to have such a supportive and loving family.

    Great poetry, too. Those were delightful to read.

    • Welcome, 4amWriter! And thanks to Darla for sending you this way.
      My dad died of Alzheimers, and now my mother has advanced dementia, so we do go through a lot when I visit her each month. But since I drive from Colorado to Kansas, I spend the night at her apartment with her and try to read to her, play beauty shop and do her nails, fix foods she likes, take walks (with her in my dad’s wheelchair) etc., she doesn’t recognize me, but she pats my hand and says I’m just the nicest girl.
      So we do the best we can, as I’m sure you already do with your mother, too.
      Please join us again!

    • Thank you so much.
      I’m still emotional about your post with the police searching for the kidnapped child. You tell it so well, reminding us that we’re all in this together–parents, grandparents, neighbors, teachers, friends and definitely the police–to keep children safe.

      • Thank you so much. Yes the post has made people very sad and emotional. Even I cry every time I read it. You are so right we all need to come together to protect our children. Most thanks to the Police officers who selflessly share our burdens in protecting our children. God bless them and keep them safe always. amen.

  31. God bless them all, my son-in-law and all police officers…and the teachers and family, friends, neighbors and good Samaritan strangers who reach out and help and protect children!

  32. This was a lovely way you remind us to look at where our “roots” are and your mother was a wonderful writer! I now know where you had that ‘writing talent seed’ planted from! You had a warm and loving mother to tell you that you should be the one to write about the sleepwalking. I can feel your being calm with her, respecting her in reciprocation for all those times she did the same for you!

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