Words to describe the love

This summer, my father-in-law had a heart attack as he walked home from picking up a newspaper at a corner store. He and my mother-in-law were visiting family in Massachusetts, thousands of miles from their home in Arizona. By rights, Jim should have died. He literally collapsed on a neighborhood street.

But he didn’t die. Angels intervened. Neighbours sitting on a porch, enjoying the morning, saw him fall. An off-duty EMT was home and began effective CPR almost immediately. The ambulance that came for him was from a major trauma center.

For a few days, things were chaotic and unclear. Family drove in, flew in, called in and stayed close in every way that they could. And then, miraculously, Jim was ok. There were some cuts from the fall, some broken bones from the CPR and a defibrillator implanted for his heart, but in large part, he’s just fine. By the end of the summer, he was walking around, wondering when he’d be able to get back to his long hikes in the desert canyons of Arizona.

There are no words for this sort of miracle. I couldn’t write about this when it happened in July, and I can barely gather all the threads now: the wrenching loss; the nearly unbelievable salvation; the incredible rebirth; the emotions and experiences of so many people.

Today I received a beautiful letter from my mother-in-law, thanking her family for our support. My father-in-law wrote about his experience almost right afterwards,and I found his account equally moving. Each letter is haunting, so I’ve turned them into found poems. It’s the only way I can capture those few weeks in July.

My Strange Disappearance
I didn’t return in a reasonable time.
I have no memories
so I’m
from what people have told me.
I presumably stopped breathing,
my heart presumably stopped pumping.

Some force was certainly at work
to bring two strangers to my side
to bring me back from sudden death.

Unless I imagined this
family mysteriously appeared.

Do I believe in angels?
I sure believe in something.
I like the word angels.

-found in a letter from Jim Perry

Words to describe the love
I’ve been looking for words
But each time I thought or spoke
I felt raw and open.

I wake in the middle
of the night or
on my early morning walks.
I am swept away.
The heart-distance is non-existence.

How tender and fragile life is.

Please know that
if you need me,
I will come.

-found in a letter by Shirley Dunn Perry


14 thoughts on “Words to describe the love

  1. These poems are a powerful resonance. It sounds like a very chaotic time, indeed. I’m glad that writing has given you all some space to process it. Thanks for sharing.

    PS — I hope you don’t mind a poem as comment, back to you:

    Your letter of words
    on paper, sleeping
    as they were in the
    mailbox, danced with
    love as we woke
    this morning, and
    my eyes are turning
    phrases into lines,
    lines into poems,
    poems into remembering,
    two found notes
    of miracles and wonder

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The miracle of the event is captured in the miracle that is felt. Your words, the craft of creating poetry from the lived experience is the goal of every serious writer and you have done this masterfully with this post. The words exude the contained love, the measured expression of their magnitude. Thank you for sharing your talents.


  3. Such a torrent of emotion flows through your post … so well crafted, your words and the words of others… in prose and in a poem. Love these words: “The heart-distance is non-existence.” Thank you for sharing.


    1. That line of my mother-in-law’s really struck me, too. If I had to bet, I’d guess she meant to write “the heart-distance is non-existent” but I really love what actually came out on paper. The emotions in their letters were incredibly strong.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You know you’re a writer when you decide to process such an event through writing…and in an amazingly creative way. Thanks for sharing this thoughtful window into your family’s traumatic summer; I’m glad he is healing well!


  5. Wow! What an incredible event. You have found the emotion and love (an angels) in this miracle in your writing. Thanks for sharing.


  6. What an incredible story about the kindness of strangers and the miracles first responders can perform. Your found poems are beautiful and capture the raw emotion both of them felt when they wrote about their experience and to you, respectively.
    How lucky you all are that your father-in-law is pondering hikes again.


    1. He went for a short hike yesterday! The story of his heart attack is really something else – there are even a few more smaller miracles tucked in there. We’d probably call them coincidence if not for the rest of the story. I’ll tell you what, though, it made for a busy July.

      Liked by 1 person

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