Dorothy’s Grave

“They haven’t dug the grave yet.”

Mom insisted on coming to the cemetery
after her best friend Dorothy’s viewing.
“The funeral’s not ’til 2 tomorrow,” I said.
“They’ll dig it in the morning.”

“They should have it dug,” she fussed.

Mom is a farm woman, used to death.
She turned ninety in the fall,
and Dorothy was her last good friend
in the tiny delta town where children leave
for jobs or school or just to escape the soy
and cotton. Her church has only twenty members
now — old women who show off corsages
on Mother’s Day and sometimes cajole their men
to come in overalls and slicked-back hair.

Dorothy and Mom taught Bible study, went to Eastern Star
and bingo, traded recipes and gossip.
Mom killed a rabid skunk in Dorothy’s yard
with the double barrel she keeps under the bed,
and Dorothy came to quilt on Wednesdays –
just the two of them since the other three passed on.

“Why’s it important to see the empty grave?” I asked.

“I need to know she’ll be comfortable,” Mom said.
“I know she’d do the same for me.”

– Sarah Russell
First published in On the Veranda
For Poetry Pantry on Poets United
Photo courtesy of Paul Marshuk

56 thoughts on “Dorothy’s Grave

  1. A touching piece offering an insight into how our elders lived and with the last two lines showing true friendship. I felt as though this was written from the heart. Thank you for sharing this enjoyable read.


  2. A gripping poem, Sarah. Thank you for sharing. The rabid skunk showed Mom’s determination and resourcefulness even before we got to the last line. Alarie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Alarie. She’s 94 now and still lives alone, much to our ongoing distress. When she got the call from Dorothy that the rabid skunk was in the front yard, she said she’d come over, but that she couldn’t stay because she had a cake in the oven…


  3. Oh my! A cake in the oven and a shotgun to kill skunks…she sounds a lot like my mom and grandmother were. Isn’t it good that we inherit those traits, even if we never let them out? I admire your mother for living alone. Let her keep her independence as long as you can. I ended up having to put my mother into a skilled nursing facility the last six months of her life. I often wonder if I made the right decision.


  4. Thanks, Toni. My next door neighbor’s kids are going through the nursing home move with their mom right now, and it’s hand-wringing time. I’ve vowed that “I’ll go quietly” when the time comes.


      1. I think it was Dylan Thomas who wrote that. Nevertheless, there are many ways of checking out. I refuse to impede the next generation with my tantrums. I’ve had a wonderful life. I’ll let them have theirs without guilt.


  5. I really liked reading of the relationship of “Mom” and “Dorothy.” This poem speaks of a wonderful, enduring, caring friendship. The details you included shows this friendship in life….and in death. It gave me a lump in my throat – REALLY good poetry!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Mary. Mom (actually my mother-in-law but very much like a mother to me) has lived in the same farmhouse in the same tiny town for over 70 years, so her friends really are lifelong friends. She is so reluctant to move for the care we all think she needs.


  6. I appreciated seeing these scenes. Small towns are hard to leave.
    I’m not sure my mum will end up leaving, but the comfort in the end is always cherished. Changes are often fearful.


    1. In honesty, Sumana, I think her “keeping busy” was a way of dealing with Dorothy’s death, but this was certainly an unexpected way for it to happen. She knew there would be plenty of time for mourning. She’s a “first things first” kind of person.


  7. This is so beautiful as I am sure so many of us have had similar experiences or stories to tell of older relations and friends. What an outstanding poem this is.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s