Seattle, December 5, 2018

Coming Back

I find the Uber before midnight in the too-bright layers of cement and air parking garage.
I am plane-squeezed empty, underslept, zapped in from other coast.
Driver slides us down the highway current.
City approaches. We enter in.

Nearly fourteen years since I’ve been here
where my son was sick before he died,
Where his younger brother, healthy, was born.

It was so long ago that I am not who I was then,
but when the driver carries me up and down these dark streets, light-punched awake,
Bits of that life swim up to greet me:
That small store where their father didn’t speak
while we searched for snacks for cranky boys one sunny afternoon.
The corner at the end of 15th where I walked the stroller
when I needed to get that far from home.
24th where I remember the exact words that took the tension from a certain conversation.

Are memories when they surface still memories or something real?

And that strange ache of how hard it all was and how much we loved each other
the tired now.

Screenshot 2018-12-05 09.58.59

Podcast for Healthcare Educators

I’m delighted to share that my friend, classmate and colleague, Dr. Anne Hallward of Safe Space Radio is providing a podcast for the education of health care providers. Her 22-minute interview with me will be featured in the Death and Dying section of the course. To check out the podcast go to To listen to the original interviews with me, click: and


Nine years after Chan’s death, it was still sometimes hard to remember what I needed.

Bearings, November 2013
This morning when I went into the woods, I didn’t know what I needed.

It wasn’t until I’d turned my steps from pavement to sink the uneven crust of snow
that I looked up and saw pink and blue of early morning winter light
behind thin black lines of endless boughs,
and I said aloud, the world is good and this will be ok and finally began to weep.

Oh yes, this sadness. I had forgotten. And on I walked, my body remembering this home
of wide horizons and a clearer sense of East and West.
The grief at my center wedged in against my gut at last found room to
grunt and gasp, and sob its way out as I walked on toward the sea.

There, always sudden in its arrival upon my anxious mind, the ocean,
vast bowl of cold seething shadows
glow of morning light breaking over sharp horizon’s edge.

I spend so much time boxed in small spaces that I forget the natural scale of things.

I love the ocean. Today for its careless abundance, tossing treasures at my feet
trinkets of stone and bone and succulent living matter.
Kelp in bundles of glossy strands
Glassy stones lunar white, length of rope thick as my arm,
tiny beards of lavender lace clinging to night-blue mussels,
wood polished pink by scrubbing sand and sea
tucked in beds of mouth-watering seaweed.
So much to delight in as I trudge along
that were I to stop and cling to one precious thing
I would miss the rest
so I keep on
sometimes sinking in the sand-spattered snow
sometimes my good rubber boots awash in the pleasure of cold waves.

Sea bubbles over flat shore and recedes
disappearing water leaving skin of pale iridescence
where sky and sea mix like gasoline on water
and an impossible view of pastel warmth in this almost frozen place
glitters before the next wave washes over once more.
And I know that I needed this
this way to get my bearings again
returning to waves and water and sky
and I know again that water shapes the shore even as
she is shaped by it.


Catharine H. Murray, Author of Now You See the Sky

Yellow Cloak

This poem came to me on a November afternoon eight years ago, six years after Chan’s death. Grief is a slow process. Don’t let anyone rush you.


Yellow Cloak

The other day I was driving down
a little street in the neighborhood,
a shortcut, I thought, in my endless quest
to save a minute or two for something.
I don’t know what.

And I saw a tree standing
branches upraised, entirely bare.
At its base in a spreading circle lay its cloak of yellow
like a woman’s garment dropped suddenly
that floated too fast to the floor.
The leaves, bright and soft,
were hopelessly disconnected from their
mother, now naked, bereft.

In the rushing frantic kids-to-pick-up moment
when I saw that tree
I thought
That’s how I felt when my son died.
Arms lifted

What happened?
Where is the warmth and beauty that I always had
where the wind whispered and the light shimmered
where the tiny infinite movements against my
skin interpreted the air and darkness?

now I am only bare and bony
bark wet and cold
in the wind and rain
Why am I still standing with
all of me exposed
and winter coming?


Catharine H. Murray, Author of  Now You See the Sky


Goodbye Mei Ya

Oonjit Leela Tiparos, the woman who helped me raise my children, who gave everything of herself to her family, who wasn’t afraid of anything, who made me laugh when mothering made me want to cry has died after too many years living with dementia. Sharing a home with her for so many years, watching her be a devoted mother and grandmother and daughter, I learned more from her than I know. Thank you, Mei Ya.


Fingertips that always tended,
before her mind began looping back
to time before children,
now nearly touch as if to kiss
five and five gather together
clutch at blanket’s edge as if a hem
with stitches to pull
and re-set.

Holding invisible needle, she cocks her head
shrunken on stem of narrow neck
twisted on hard pillow
working arm’s length thread
through eye
and begins to sew.

We, sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, grown
gather around her gurney
in this room of
atrophied limbs and television’s drone
pairs of vacant eyes
gazing from each bed.

We wait
unsure that we exist
when she no longer knows our names.

Her eldest son smiles and
calls into her wilted ear

Do you have children?
How many?
What are their names?

Each demand a
grenade lobbed behind kitchen curtains
where she lives
without us.

A laugh sputters from him as if
he doesn’t feel his own heart ache
every time he asks her if she knows his name.

But nothing shakes the fortress where she wanders now
her heavy-lidded gaze roves past our wanting faces
now no more to her than interruption.

She mutters with so little concern
we know that we are only errant threads.
and she returns to the work at hand,
gathering bits of illusion like cloth
stitches that are hers alone
she pulls at endless hems
to unstitch, unbind, release.

All this unravels only us.
Our dear mother is content.

We wait
to be embroidered into her work
lifted to the light where she can see and make
our shape and color.