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  • Writer's pictureStacie Eirich

To Whatever Comes Next

Updated: Jan 15

Whatever Comes Next

Wind rushes cool, gentle

rustling gold-green leaves

in tall old oaks. The corner of Poplar

and Hawthorne hums with constant

cars, motorcycles, trucks, vans.

Shadows mix with patches of sunlight

on the grass, branches wave slow

cicadas rhythms pulsing a backbeat

to the melody of wheels rolling

engines pulsing on pavement.

Summer ends slow and supple

the shifting of air and earth

as natural as breath in lungs.

Drumbeats of autumn felt

in the breeze, in what is golden

and shadowed, in the way my heart pulls

at the knowledge that we will soon

leave this place. This place

of shelter, of sorrow, of sunshine

of rest, of rehabilitation, of rain.

I lean into September’s sunlight

and know it will stay with me, a shadow

of the summer that broke my heart

and saved my child’s life

tears and laughter, screams and smiles

already touchstones of memory, pink and purple

lollipops, her hanging from rings

on the playground, surrounded by kindness

the music of the only thing

we all have left, the thing

that thrums through each person

who ever calls this place home

for a season, until changes come

sending us home, heart holding hope

as leaves burn green-gold-rust, heart salvaging

rainbows from rain, stepping out of shadows

into brightness, into the following chapter, into

whatever comes next, sunlight on our backs

the shadow of Poplar and Hawthorne

and its old oak trees behind us.

Copyright @Stacie Eirich January 2, 2024

*Photos above and below are mine, taken at St. Jude’s Target House, August 30 2023.


I wrote this poem on September 16, 2023 — just two days after my child officially completed chemotherapy treatments and received clear results on MRI scans. We had spent the majority of 2023 living away from home near the hospital for treatments, and this news meant that we would soon be leaving.

To reach the end of my child’s treatment and receive the news that every parent of a pediatric cancer patient wants — that your child no longer has any signs of cancer — is a moment of mixed emotions. Yes, there is great relief and a kind of joy so expansive that it almost feels overwhelming, like taking in breath when you can’t hold anymore air.

But in that same breath there is also a wrenching sorrow, and an anxiety that can also seem overwhelming. Anxiety and sorrow from the changes of leaving a place you’ve grown comfortable with, a place with friends who understand the fight, friends who are still fighting and that you leave behind. Stress from the new realities you face when you get home — of navigating a return to school, work, domestic duties, finding continued therapies in new places, of reentering life when the needs and emotions of your child are different — when you are different.

Of overwhelming fear from ‘Whatever Comes Next.’

In a blink, three months have passed, and we are entering whatever comes next in 2024. So I felt it was apt to share this poem as we move forward into a new year. It was the last poem I wrote before leaving St. Jude’s Target House (where we lived from May-Sept 2023); its entrance is at the corner of Poplar and Hawthorne. I wrote several poems out in its green spaces, and often sat watching and listening to the trees and traffic there. It was a space of peace and calm, a place where I could walk or write out my grief — or sit and breathe through my sorrow.

In December, my family returned to St. Jude and visited Target House briefly after follow-up scans. It was decorated with festive trees and colorful Christmas lights. The staff gives off warmth, friendliness and a kindness that could perhaps only be found in a house filled with young cancer patients and caregivers. The pain is palpable, but so is the hope.

At home, the pain is still palpable. But the hope is perhaps, greater. Instead of facing only the next hour or day, we are looking forward to the next months. We are making plans and living life — and know there are big changes coming. Changes that will see our family moving again, though this time, not for cancer treatments.

We can’t leave the last year of our lives behind us, just as the candy-striped playground and old oak trees at Target House, the sights and smells and sounds of Memphis will remain in my memory.

But here’s to that tremulous, wondrous ‘Whatever’ is coming next — we are ready.

Thank you for being here, and for reading. I’m grateful for family, friends and readers like you. Your love and support means everything.

If you’d like to listen to this poem and the thoughts that followed it — you can find the audio on my podcast, Poetry for Peace, Season 4: A New Dawn — listen on Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Google & more.

Happy New Year 2024,


*Post Script* My child is a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  If you’d like to follow our journey to a cure, visit:

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