Donations are essential to keep Write Out Loud going    

The Colour of Death Is Gold

The Colour of Death is Gold



Mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September.

I returned to live with her.

She received the bulbs for her eighty-fifth birthday,

In November, from one of my sisters.

‘Happy Birthday, Mum!  Look, we brought you flowers,

Or the promise of flowers,’ she laughed.

‘They’ll come out in bunches, like our families.

You can think of everybody while you watch them grow.’

Mum looked at the wizened bulbs, and said softly,

‘Daffodils! What a good present. I hope I see them bloom.’

When the party was over my mother put her bulbs in the pantry,

Reminding  me,  ‘Remember to plant them in a couple of days.’

She sighed wearily and closed the door.

Immediately I helped her prepare for bed.


Two weeks later I needed something –

A jar of jam – a can of soup – a piece of string - - -

And there were the bulbs on the pantry floor.

Four sickly shoots had sprouted – dwarfed, contorted.

I was awed, and stricken.

Look  how I had forced this new life to feed on itself,

With no hope for the flower.

I felt like a murderer.

But when these ashen spears snuggled into damp peat

And drank winter sunlight from a southern window

They greened and grew – and grew and grew.

Hourly, it seemed, we could mark their progress.

We had to resist stroking their glossy leaves.

Soon the buds were plump with hidden petals.

Late one sunny morning they unfurled in clarion gold.

We cupped the fragrant blossoms to our faces,

And smiled at each other: Mmmm. Aren’t they heavenly!




Now, hourly, my mother collapses in upon herself

As the fearful cancer eats her up from the inside out.

I feel every helpless minute:

She lifts up and puts down her precious ornaments, just so.

She pushes her carrots skittishly aside saying, ‘They’re too sweet.’

She sits precisely beneath her lamp reading the newspaper upside down.

She defecates neatly into her potty with drugged effort and appalling odour.

And all the interminable while, with their aching golden trumpets,

The resurrected daffodils emblazon the room,

And my mother’s wasting, beautiful face.

Suddenly, I can bear their flaunting vivacity no more,

 And I cry, muffled,

Curled up in the hallway outside her door.

Through the days that follow Mum and I share little loving things.

On a warm towel I bathe her gently and oil her delicate feet.

Her favourite stories are near the cassette by her bed.

When morphine drives her mind crazy I hold her close.

When her fingers beg peace I sit very still.

I am so glad that she is at home, in her own bed,

Under the hand-knitted coverlet she made for Dad.

Family, friends, and caregivers come and go

With endless medical charts, useless  gossip and green tea.

But we are often alone.

On her deathbed my mother teaches me still –

Compassion – constancy – discernment.

In her faltering eyes I can see her soul strengthen

As she reaches deeply within herself for nourishment –

For light – for growth.

And again, I am in awe of the life force.

There are no selfish tears now,

Only joy for new beginnings.

While the golden daffodils slowly wither away

The bud of Mother’s spirit swells with secret petals.

My heart thrills, and I wonder –

Who will cup in loving hands her promised flower?

Cynthia Buell Thomas

◄ Communion

The Argument ►


Profile image


Sat 27th Mar 2010 22:54

This is a very beautiful piece Cynthia and has got me very emotional. Who couldn't be touched by it? It goes right to the heart of humanity, our own mortality - yet offers hope with such a delightful ending.
I am encouraged by Hatta's experience of losing someone - though I am not sure if encouraged is the right choice of word. Very many people speak of smelling something connected to their loved one in the days following death. It is easy to put this down to extreme grief, lack of sleep, psychological disturbment. When you are not close to the deceased but still sense them, it does make you wonder...
To get back to the poem. I love the way you expressed the whole experience. Like a narrative but with such lightness of touch and such humanity.
Isobel x

Profile image

Dave Carr

Fri 19th Mar 2010 17:18

This is such a lovely poem and so moving. Brings back some sad memories for me too of the pain my dad went through but also some good ones. It really is excellent the way you have gone about this.

<Deleted User> (7841)

Fri 12th Mar 2010 16:32

I feel bad even commenting on this because it's such a personal poem but i was reduced to sadness and love it.

Profile image

David Cooke

Tue 9th Mar 2010 22:44

Hi again Cynthia Thanks for the comment on mine. I've just read the poem on your mother and like everyone else I find it very powerful and moving. The title is intriguing and brilliant and immediately draws you into the poem.

<Deleted User> (7164)

Tue 9th Mar 2010 17:58

Well, it's all been said really.
Beautiful and yet heartbreakingly sad.
Very well put together and the narcissus makes it circular. Lovely.


Profile image

Andy N

Tue 9th Mar 2010 08:17

beauitful stuff, cynthia. bet this took you a while to write! x

Profile image

Greg Freeman

Mon 8th Mar 2010 10:38

The strength and beauty of these lines must resonate with so many people, Cynthia. Clear-eyed and loving; writing them must have helped you say farewell. Greg

Profile image

Dave Bradley

Mon 8th Mar 2010 00:01

Hi Cynthia

My father died of pancreatic cancer. This well-crafted, sensitive, heart-wrenching poem has therefore really connected with me. I've just posted a poem of my own relating to my father's death. I hadn't intended posting it, but it feels like the right response to your own - one way of saying I have some idea of how you and your family felt (and feel) and what you went through.

Best wishes

<Deleted User> (7073)

Sun 7th Mar 2010 22:52

I have difficulty commenting on this, but I will, it is a very beautifull poem, gently crafted, and anybody who has lost someone close to them with cancer, will resonate most sypathetically to the spiritually uplifting words contained herein.TC XX

Profile image

Ann Foxglove

Sun 7th Mar 2010 21:33

What can I say? It's all, and I mean all, in the poem. Very beautiful and all about love.

<Deleted User> (7790)

Sun 7th Mar 2010 20:34

Thank you for posting this very special poem, Cynthia. My mother also died from pancreatic cancer, although the specialist (sic) misdiagnosed her, saying she had osteoporosis and was 'malingering' in hospital. The correct diagnosis came 5 days before she died and from a junior doctor. I wasn't close to her (as you so obviously were to your mother), she didn't want me to be. Her death, though, was terrible. I was alone at her bedside when she passed, and knew she had wanted someone else by her side instead. Then I began to smell lavender -- very distinctly -- out in the deserted street as I walked, or in a bookshop, or as I stood at the window. Odd places. Her favourite scent.

Profile image

Steven Kenny

Sun 7th Mar 2010 17:52

A lovely, heartfelt poem Cynthia. In my opinion, beautifully written. Well done.

Profile image

kath hewitt

Sun 7th Mar 2010 17:49

Cynthia, i really do mean this when i say that you have touched my heart with this. I thought it heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. To see such unconditional love and respect in your words for ( your? ) mother and to feel as ( you? ) did. Absoulutely fantastic! x

Profile image

Cynthia Buell Thomas

Sun 7th Mar 2010 17:46

I wrote this some time ago, long before 'daffodils' and 'cancer' became almost synonymous. I know it's long, but it may resonate with someone. There are many kinds of narcissus types; this one was strongly perfumed.

If you wish to post a comment you must login.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more Hide this message