Free to Fly

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops daylilies and hosta plants, and birds flying free in a garden of grief.“You should write some final wishes. Just in case,” I’d told my daughter, like I was asking her to make a shopping list. It was back in November 2010, before her stem cell transplant. She was going to kick cancer. So, except for handing me her healthcare proxy, “Here. You can have this,” we weren’t discussing death or dying. In fact, I’d often scolded her for living her life like it was an endless party, like it could never end.

Marika’s final wishes were found the day after they pulled the plug on her life support. I was the one who’d had to sign the papers. That night, alone in her room, hugging her belongings, I found her poems. And now I have to wonder: did she have any idea what a gift this poem would be?

FREE ME by Marika Joy Warden

Free me.
Let me be.
Spread my wings for me, for all to see.
You hold me, you’re holding me
Back too tight, I can’t break free.
The cells, the cells of red and white,
They’ve given flight to my family,
But not to me, because I’m free.
Free, up above the world I know,
Away I’ll go, don’t hold me so,
Don’t hold me back. I’m stuck in black
And darkness here. The light’s so near!
Just do not fear. I can go now.
Some way, somehow, I’ll learn to fly
I’ll reach the sky, float over you,
Look up, it’s true. You’ll see me there
With regrown hair and regrown hope,
Surpassed the slope that I slid down,
Down to the ground, but now, no more.
For now I soar above the sea,
No catching me ‘cause now I’m free.
You have freed me.

Leaves of daylilies grow skyward like wings lifting in the wind. Hostas raise hundreds of leaf-hands in search of the sun. It’s June, five years later, and I’m whirling in a sea of fragrant honeysuckle. Singing as I pull weeds and water new plantings, I watch every bird and butterfly, each duck and goose that flies over the pond. Fireflies. Damselflies. Moths. Which one will linger, circling over me? Which one will land and look my way?

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10 thoughts on “Free to Fly

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    What a gift–both Marika’s poem and your blog. Underneath her pushing away of death was a young woman grappling with death and the freedom she would gain from cancer, hospitals, and suffering.

    How do you answer the last question you asked? Did she know what a gift she was leaving you?

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Oh Elaine, I wonder about that sometimes. I believe she planted things she knew would be found and loved. She knew I would likely be the one to discover and hold tight to her words. She did not leave me a letter though. She’d left her last boyfriend a letter. But the poem she left in an otherwise empty journal, sticking out an inch from the other books on her shelf, where she says “So now I’ll stay up in the clear, Untouchable beyond my fear, For all my life I’ll fly up here,” was meant to be found by me. And since it was the only entry in that journal, I believe she knew it was a gift.

      Reply
  2. Monica

    Thank you for sharing this, Robin. You and Marika are such gifts. “Which one will linger? Which one will look my way?” I love this and have experienced it also. Much love to you.

    Reply

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