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Since the dawn of time human beings have tried to convey their feelings to one another. Language, stories—it’s all to communicate. But often the most intense emotion, the deepest passion, emerges as poetry. In scripture, in song, this is where our hearts lie open, and where we hope to capture the hearts of others.
I’ve been honored to see my poetry published, and was especially delighted when Quietly, on Snowy Bank, a free-form poem about a pioneer woman, won a place in an Eliza R. Snow competition in the Ensign magazine.
One of my great loves is Visiting Teaching. I believe in it with all my heart, and penned this poem a few years ago, to convey how important it is for both the giver and for the receiver. I also have a soft spot for the elderly, and have woven both of these loves into one message I hope will resonate with many of you. Consider it my Mother’s Day gift to my sisters in the gospel:
By Joni Hilton
Driving by the home, I see
one thin blind is downward bent,
Crippled finger holds it there;
this is how her time is spent.
Rushing by with little ones,
buckled in and nearly late,
I can’t stop to visit now.
Certain things just have to wait.
Others say her mind is gone,
drifting back to old school days,
doesn’t seem to know you’re there,
looks at you with distant gaze.
Suddenly, the job is mine.
Regretful sigh: Alright, I’ll go.
Assigned, I park and hold my breath.
If I leave, no one would know.
Something guides my stiffened steps,
past the odor of stale sheets,
past the rooms of bodies frail,
past the hearts with weary beats.
There against the window, she’s
a wheelchair silhouette in gray.
Sunlight stretches shadows long,
hers just touches my doorway.
When she hears her name, she stares
as if hearing distant bells.
Does she know that I am here?
Nothing in her manner tells.
Wrapped in gentle mother skin,
Spirit whispers, and I know
tears of children bathed her skin,
but it was so long ago.
Holding hands, I say I care,
but words fall flat. This woman knows
that words breeze by like passing cars.
If it’s real, true caring shows.
From her tray I take a brush,
form silver threads into a bun,
lift a mirror and she says,
“That’s just how my hair was done
when my Franklin came to call.”
Maple candy in his hand,
wind chimes on a wooden porch,
nervous laughter, love was grand.
Four crisp petticoats beneath
gingham skirts to hold them round,
sitting was catastrophe:
How to hold her hemlines down?
Twins were born one stormy night,
Franklin was away at war,
just too small to fight for life.
See his medals in the drawer?
Cattle fever took the lot,
without rain they lost the wheat.
Still they kneeled to pray each night.
While she spoke, I washed her feet.
Here a sister’s heart beat young,
living in a time gone by,
She is just my age today.
Seeing me, she said, “Don’t cry.”
But I know your sorrows well.
We are bound by common tie.
My most unexpected friend,
you survived, and so shall I.
Waiting ‘til she fell asleep,
suddenly I felt ashamed,
for so long neglecting her—
busy schedules, family blamed.
Washing out her bowl and brush,
Forgive me, Lord, my whispered plea—
Then the still, small voice replied:
“Ye have done it unto me.”
Watch the music video of Hilton’s song, What Makes a Woman, from her new musical, The Best Medicine (with music by Jerry Williams). Her books and YouTube Mom videos are available on her website, here. Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.