WHEN I AM DEAD

When I am dead, if some chastened one,
    Seeing the "item," or hearing it said
That my play is over, and my part done,
    And I lie asleep in my narrow bed--
If I could know that some soul would say,
    Speaking aloud or silently,
"In the heat and the burden of the day
    She gave a refreshing draught to me;"

Or, "when I was lying nigh unto death
    She nursed me to life and to strength again,
And when I labored and struggled for breath
    She soothed and quieted down my pain;"
Or, "When I was groping in grief and doubt,
    Lost, and turned from the light o' the day,
Her hand reached me and helped me out
    And led me up to the better way;"

Or, "When I was hated and shunned by all,
    Bowing under my sin and my shame,
She, once in passing me by, let fall
    Words of pity and hope, that came
Into my heart, like a blessed calm
    Over the waves of the stormy sea,
Words of comfort, like oil and balm,
    She spake, and the desert blossomed for me;"

Better, by far, than a marble tomb--
    Than a monument towering over my head
(What shall I care, in my quiet room,
    For headboard or footboard when I am dead?);
Better than glory, or honors, or fame
    (Though I am striving for those to-day),
To know that some heart will cherish my name
    And think of me kindly, with blessings, alway.

Poems of reflection. By Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
Chicago, M.A. Donohue & company, [c1905].


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