Borrowing Wisdom

Angela BrentonThrough the past few weeks of ongoing grief at losing Angi one capability at a time, I’ve been blessed by words of wisdom from many people, when I could not muster any wisdom of my own.

First, from Craig Smith, a colleague and former supervisor, who may not even remember the exchange. When his father passed away many years ago and I was dumbstruck for words to comfort, I stupidly said to him: “I can’t even imagine losing my dad. How do you deal with it?” He shrugged matter-of-factly: “You just do.” Those may not seem like profound words, but through his delivery of them and the kind of person he is, they were. They helped me through the loss of my dad a few years later, and they have continued to help me. I decided even before losing Angi that you can deal with adversities well, or you can deal with things poorly — and it’s usually easier for your family and those you love if you deal with them well.

Second, from Mike Cope, a former minister at our church home in Abilene, who wrote “Megan’s Secrets” about the challenges faced by his indomitable young daughter and losing her at a tender age. Among those words were the advice to accept with grace the words and actions that others offer intending to comfort and encourage you when you are grieving … but only sting and hurt instead. You take them in with the spirit in which they are given, not necessarily the content of them. That is true grace. I’ve come to think of his advice as a corollary to the Golden Rule: “Receive from others as you would have them receive from you.”

Third, from Amy Ray, Angi’s chemo nurse who (in a very brief span of time) became a dear friend. As Angi lost more of her faculties, she could no longer speak but could still understand what was spoken to her; even smile when her cousin Roger said funny things to her. It was at this time, when Angi had been off chemo and in hospice care at home for almost a week, that Amy called me to ask about her. “Keith,” she said when I told her, “Have you given her permission to die?” I immediately (and thoughtlessly) answered, “Yes, of course!” but as we talked, I began to understand that Amy meant that I needed to tell Angi that. So as Carol, Roger’s wife, sat holding her hand, I went in to Angi’s little bedroom-made-hospital-chamber and told her.

“Sweetheart, this is going to be really hard for me to say. But these last few weeks while you’ve slept at night, you’ve been talking in your sleep, and the only word you’ve said has been ‘Huh-uh.’ I’ve wondered if you’ve been telling the Lord you’re not ready to go yet. I just want you to know that if He comes for you again, you don’t have to say ‘huh-uh’ anymore. You go with Him. You leave this suffering behind.

“You’ve made everything so easy for us. We’ve sold this house; it closes tomorrow! We’ve bought another one that will be perfect for us. You’ve done everything anyone could do to bless our lives more than anyone could have asked. I’ve talked to Matt and he understands how much you’re hurting, and that you may not be with us by the time he can get here, and he’s alright with that.”

About that time, Carol motioned our daughter Laura in and she sat on the bedside by her mom. “And this one is stronger than she has ever been! You’ve raised her strong and smart, and she can handle anything. So we all want you to know that if the Lord comes for you, and you have anything to say about it, you go home with Him. We’ll be alright. We will miss you like everything. But we’ll be alright.”

Angi had a restless night, beset by pain, and about 4:30 I gave her a couple of soda straw-fulls of water — all she could still swallow — and that seemed to calm her so she could sleep.

Sometime between then and 7:00 when I awakened next to her in the recliner, she went home.

There are words of wisdom that change your life. Some of them are in poetry, some hidden like treasure in scripture, and some come from the lips of those who love you.

But the words of wisdom that I borrow most often came from my friends (you know who you are) who learned that their second child, still in the womb, would only survive at best a few minutes into this world. That is exactly what came to pass. The minister of their small home church conveyed their words to him, at their request, during the memorial service for their little son:

“We don’t know why God took our sweet baby home so soon. We don’t know why these things have to happen. But we also don’t know why He has blessed us with each other, with a wonderful marriage, with a beautiful little daughter, and with a loving family and friends.”

As I mourn Angi, these words of wisdom put life in perspective for me.

And I will always be grateful to God for the people who were willing to let Him speak through them to me.

A Few Words of Thanks

Sometime in the wee hours of this morning, while my kids were still sleeping, I made a choice. I made a choice to not grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13) anymore. At least for a while. My family was going to need me to be strong for them today, and I was committed to expressing our appreciation — at the close of Angi’s funeral service — for the kindness shown us during this difficult time. So I tried to settle on what to say. This is what I remember saying:

Angela Brenton“I wanted to be able to express my family’s gratitude for your presence here today, to honor Angi, and for the ways that so many of you have ministered to us for the past few weeks: For the cards, notes, letters, gifts, gift cards, flowers, favors, meals, Facebook messages, Twitter tweets, and CaringBridge comments … but especially for your prayers, which have sustained us in a way that I can’t explain or deny.

“From here in Little Rock to Sylva, North Carolina to Springfield, Missouri to Malibu, California to Abilene, Texas — really from all over the country and the world, we have received encouragements through your prayers. Even now, the people of the tiny church in Sylva where I sometimes preach are refurbishing the house we bought so that Angi wouldn’t have to climb the stairs to reach a master bedroom — and about two dozen volunteers from WCU are set to move us into it next weekend. That’s how they’ve put their prayers in motion.

“A lot of you know my family and me through Angi and a lot of you are here because you know Angi only through me and/or my family. If I could paint an accurate portrait of her with my words, I’m convinced that the only people who would leave this place sad are those who didn’t get the chance to really get to know her.

“Like so many of us, the diamond that was Angi’s life was multi-faceted: daughter, wife, mother, cousin, aunt, author, lecturer, conciliator, mediator, employer, employee, colleague, Rotarian, community servant, friend — the list would go on and on — but to me, the facet in which she reflected grace most brilliantly was that of educator.

“You would only have to read online Angi’s keynote address at the “Conference for Ethics and Praxis in Communications” at Azusa Pacific University last year  — titled “Forgiveness: The Wound That Wants to Be Whole” — to understand that Angi’s gifts at preaching far exceed mine. But the ministry she chose for her life is higher education — because she believed in people — and the years spent at Christian universities, because she believed in God.

“As her husband, I too saw that facet shine, and I learned a lot from Angi.

“I learned that one of the secrets to loving people is that nothing about them — age, gender, height, weight, size, shape, race, ethnicity, color, faith, choice to not believe, sexual preference, wealth, position, station in life — none of those things about people really make a difference. You just love them. If they disagree with you, you just love them anyway.

“I learned that from Angi, because that’s what she did.

“I learned that one of the secrets to listening is that your eyes are often just as important as your ears. You make connection with people with your eyes when you listen, and your ears will follow. And if some self-disclosure is embarrassing or difficult for them, and they look away — you look away, too. Then you reconnect with your eyes and let them know that it doesn’t matter; that they are accepted.

“I learned that from Angi, because that’s what she did.

“I learned that one of the secrets to forgiveness is to forgive completely. When people hurt you or let you down or even betray you, you let go of it completely. No grudges. And it’s so incredibly freeing.

“I learned that from Angi, because that’s what she did.

“I learned one of the secrets to a perfect marriage — not that we were perfect; we just wanted to be perfect for each other — is really simple: Nothing that you want, no desire, no goal of your own, is more important than the needs and desires and goals of your mate.

“I learned that from Angi — and I had to learn it quickly and soon in our marriage! Because I was the other partner who had to hold up my end to make it perfect — and that’s what she did.

“And all of the things she did, or said, or was — all the things she taught us — were because she wanted more than anything else to be just like Jesus of Nazareth — and I don’t think there’s anything that anyone could say to refute that. All those things give life meaning, and purpose, and significance.

“Many universities have the custom of selecting a professor — often by their students — to deliver a ‘last lecture,’ a kind of capstone address for the school year. The things Angi taught us are her legacy, her ‘last lecture’ if you will. She didn’t write it. She didn’t deliver it to a gathered audience like this. She did better than that. She lived it.

“Now you and I, we have the opportunity to live it, too.

“I want to close by saying something that you won’t hear most husbands say:

” ‘Thank you for embracing my wife.’ “

I Will Bury My Wife Today

It’s four in the morning and I’ve been awake for an hour.

I’ve committed to trying to express my family’s appreciation for the great kindnesses shown to us during the past almost-three months at the close of her funeral service later in the day.

But about all I can think of, over and over, is that single sobering sentence:

I will bury my wife today.

I will bury my wife today.

I will bury my wife today.

I Hate Cancer

20130403-194937.jpgOne of my earliest memories of cancer is seeing a movie on television when I was a kid – I think it was “Stolen Hours” with Susan Hayward – in which a not-so-nice lady was humbled and humanized by it, and finally succumbed to it. When the movie’s characters talked about a brain tumor, I thought they were saying “brain doomer.” Back then, it might as well have been.

My other memory is of visiting a sweet elderly widow from church, bedfast at home from an untreatable cancer. Her name was Anna Clancy, and like many other residents of the area near my church in the Fountain Square area of Indianapolis, she was originally from Germany and had the accent to prove it. She knew she would never return there, but loved to see and share with us color slides from her homeland in her GAF stereo viewer. On one visit, she gave me the chocolate-brown plastic viewer and all the gorgeous slides; it was an early version of the View-Master. For a child like me with poor distance vision and no ability to fuse the images from my two eyes more than a few feet away, the device was pure magic. It turned out to be our last visit. I think she knew it would be.

I hate cancer.

It has taken shots at my maternal grandmother, my mom, my older sister and even me. It has threatened and taken relatives, friends, colleagues anf neighbors.

There’s nothing fair about cancer. I survived a pretty easily survivable type of it in my early twenties, but it took away my ability to father children. Sure, we’ve been able to adopt the two greatest kids in the whole world. But no thanks to cancer.

Cancer doesn’t care whether you are young or old, male or female, wealthy or poor, healthy or infirm, gay or straight, black or white or somewhere in between. It is very democratic. But it is not fair.

Now cancer is trying to kill my sweet wife Angi.

She is battling it with all her might, while it slowly saps every ounce of strength she has. I hate that she has to.

I hate that it sneaked up on her like a filthy thief. Pancreatic cancer has no outstanding symptoms. It’s almost always diagnosed too late.

I hate what it is doing to her; torturing her, starving her, drying her out, weakening her.

I hate what it is taking away from her: food and water, strength, comfort, health, pleasure, hair, dignity.

Yet no matter what cancer takes, it does not take away her patience, her persistence, her cheer, her love, her faith.

I hate what it is giving her: wracking pain, nausea, dry heaves, insomnia.

I hate that I try to help and there is not really one thing I can do to make life better for her, and I am still worn out at the end of the day.

I hate what cancer is doing to my family.

I hate having to sell our house because I’m not working fulltime and wouldn’t be able to make payments on it nor utilities for it if it fell to me.

I hate the prospect of having to move and not knowing when or where.

I hate what this cancer is doing to my kids, to Gran, to extended family and dear friends and church siblings.

I especially hate the stress and uncertainty this is all putting on my daughter, about to turn 17 and fighting her own brave battles.

I hate cancer, the slow torturing killer of loved and loving people. I hate cancer because it is evil. I hate cancer because it is of the accuser.

Cancer lies. And we know who the father of lies is.

Cancer murders. And we know who was a murderer from the beginning.

It doesn’t help to hate cancer. Just hating it doesn’t help at all.

But cancer isn’t a person. I don’t get any picture from scripture that there’s anything wrong with hating an evil thing. When I think about cancer, I can’t help but hate it.

No apologies.

I hate it.

Your Prayers Needed for My Family

20130219-201831.jpgThe Brenton family needs your prayers, because we need two miracles.

Angi has been a little ill – digestive difficulties – since January and it got bad enough that she went to the doctor early last week. They did some blood tests and a CT scan Friday, 2/15. The preliminary diagnosis we got the next day from the scan is pancreatic cancer – a golfball-sized tumor near the bottom of the pancreas, and unfortunately, signs that it has spread to the liver.

The prognosis for this type of cancer is never good, and life expectancy if caught early is usually about nine to twelve months – less if other organs are affected.

She will see an oncologist in Asheville Thursday, one who specializes in this type of cancer, and we’ll know more then.

This has been a shock for all of us, and we have been informing family members and friends. It has been especially difficult for our 16-year-old daughter Laura, who has been battling depression for some months. The day Angi’s scan was taken, we were admitting Laura to the local hospital’s ER for a comprehensive evaluation. We agreed (including Laura) with the evaluating team that she needed to be placed temporarily at a hospital which specializes in treating depression, and one of us was with her at the ER 24 hours a day until a bed opened up Monday evening 2/18, just 3-1/2 hours away. We have taken her there, and she’ll be in that program to help restart her life about 5-7 days.

I preached Sunday morning and longed to explain to our church family at Sylva why I was so earnestly seeking their prayers, but I couldn’t until we had been able to tell extended family – our moms, kids, sisters and Angi’s cousins – and a few working colleagues. Each one of our church family respected that, and prayed in faith that God knew what was best for us and would provide.

That’s what we’re asking from all of you: prayers of faith. Be as specific as you want to be in your prayers, but we really need two miracles. I’ve only asked for a miracle once before – my dad’s recovery from a heart episode and coma at age 66, 20 years ago. God didn’t answer as my family and I had hoped or asked at that time, but we still believe in His limitless power and desire for what is best for us.

Thank you in advance for your grace in doing this. We may not be able to respond to every kind word you send while we try to cluster our far-flung family in prayer and hope. But please know how much we appreciate your prayers, love and well-wishes.

The Morning Walk

When my dog Roadie and I leave the front door behind at 6:05 a.m. for the morning walk, it is just a shade lighter outside than pitch-black. Here in the Nantahala National Forest — a temperate rainforest — virtually every morning begins with the mountains permeated by mist.

The fog is cool and luminescent, providing the only light. As dawn encroaches and the pupils dilate, the sourceless light becomes only slightly brighter. Using a penlight only makes matters worse; like headlights in dense night fog, the result is only brighter fog.

Air is humid and fresh with a thousand scents: conifers, deciduous trees, ferns, wildflowers, mushrooms, molds, decay. Roadie’s nose tells him a hundred thousand things I would never understand. He pokes. He prods. He investigates.

I breathe it in. I walk. I walk by faith; not by sight — because there isn’t enough light to walk by sight. Roadie is simply a pure-ebony smudge in a setting of charcoal grey. I can barely make out his goofy-looking sideways walk when he reaches the end of his leash. Oddly, even the blacktop appears lighter than tree-trunks or leafy plants. It’s a darkness that tells lies about light, but shares sweet secrets about the wild.

Unlike the views from a few vistas on our evening walk, no distant hills or peaks are visible.

But they are alive, because you can hear them. Crickets, at first. A few peeper frogs who have unsuccessfully dragged the mating call on all night down the hill by the stream feeding Scott’s Creek. Occasionally, the sound of a rig downshifting to climb the hill on distant 441; or a sleepy driver wandering momentarily onto the rumble strips at the side of the pavement. Once in a while, the notes of the first-awakening songbird of the day.

Before the day begins, the world is new. The morning’s bad news has not been seen yet on the television or in the newspaper on the front walk. The tweets and facebook posts of loneliness, pain, stupidity, regret, anger and orneriness have not yet been read. The uncultured wails of country, rock or rap have not yet been heard on the car radio.

Each day has a chance.

Each day has potential.

Each day has a warm, waiting home with sleeping, loving family still tucked cozily under their covers at the end of the return trail.

The woodland light continues to brighten as Roadie and I pause so I can close the front door behind us to grind the beans and perk the coffee.

Whatever the day brings, each day is going to be a good day.

We’ve decided, Roadie and me.

Who Are Your Twelve?

Our preparation to move to North Carolina is progressing well — we sold our house here in Little Rock Tuesday to a buyer who requested a closing date that is the same day that we had requested on our new house.

We went to see it on a little vacation trip, and enjoyed a day-and-a-half in Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains.

I applied and interviewed for a part-time position at the university.

We got acquainted with our new hometowns (Dillsboro, Sylva and Cullowhee) a little bit.

We met people new to us, and made friends over dinner and in prayer afterward last Sunday evening with  another family whom I feel sure will continue to grow closer and more treasured in our hearts.

Now the hard parts: Packing. Leaving. Realizing that it was probably our last family-of-four vacation for at least a long, long time. Helping our son move out of the house and into his apartment today. Saying goodbye to eight treasured friends in our LIFE Group at dinner last night.

As we dined together, I remembered a movie called Joshua where a farewell dinner was given by his friends for a person who has been called to an audience with the pope in Rome … a person who might be a lot more than just a visitor to their small town. Extraordinary things have happened among this group of friends and in their community as a result of the powerful love of this stranger. One of his friends, after the dinner, realizes aloud: “There were twelve of us.”

Last night I was made aware again of how our lives connect with so many others, changing them and being changed by them — but also of how profound those changes can be within a circle of close friends, no matter how different from each other we might be.

It made me wonder again what might happen if — like Christ — believers prayed fervently all night and then formed familial relationships with as few as twelve people … dedicated themselves to exploring His nature and personality together … lived it among themselves and others … prayed for one another from the heart … gave of self, sacrificially … loved deeply.

The movie I remembered starts thoughtfully and well, but I think it ends on a weak note. If I’d written its script, I would have had the character Joshua tell the pope:

“With all due respect, I didn’t come to see you or to satisfy your curiosity. I came to make a difference in the failing faith of twelve people I came to love … to help them experience what it means to believe even when confronted by things you can’t understand.”

My family will have that opportunity to help and be helped in that way when we move in three weeks.

We don’t know whom our twelve might be.

There might be more, or less, than twelve. Some might draw us closer with them to God through His Son than we could have imagined. Some might disappoint or wound us. They might choose us, initially. We might choose them.

But we will choose each other, and we will choose.

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. ~ Luke 6:12-16

Who are your twelve?

What God Wants/Doesn’t Want For Us

Those of us who believe in God often believe ourselves into one of two categories of faith: that God is perpetually angry and predominantly just or that God is constantly loving and always mercifully forgiving everything.

God number one just gives us laws, and if we don’t deduce them correctly and obey every one of them to the letter, we are eternally-conscious ash on the funeral pyre of hell. He expresses what He wants from us; what He wants for us to do.

God number two wants everyone to be saved, so no matter what we do and how heinous it is He will just mushy-hug us all into His heavenly home anyway. He expresses preferences for us rather than commands, and in the end it doesn’t matter whether we’ve lived up to them or not.

These naive extremes result from the logical fallacy that since these concepts of God seem oppositional to us, only one can be true. Nuh-uh. They could both be false. They could both have roots in truth. They might not be oppositional at all – and they aren’t.

I believe God is both merciful and just — and I’ve blogged about the reasons and the scriptures enough that I’m not going back over than road again here. I believe that what He expresses toward us are not merely commands or preferences … but the loving instructions and promises of what He wants for us.

What He tells us to be and do is what is ultimately best for us, and He tells us because He is righteous (it’s simply the right thing for a parent to do!) and because He loves us.

Angi and I have raised our kids well into teen-age now. If we’ve done our treasured job well, Matt and Laura will continue to make wise decisions that build their future and their relationships with others. The time for mere commandments is over; those were necessary when they were little and unable to make wise decisions yet for lack of experience. We rewarded obedience; we punished disobedience. Now that is becoming unnecessary; as they increasingly shoulder the responsibilities of life, life itself applies discipline. We do not intervene to remove the consequences of their choices because we love them and want them to grow in the directions that they choose.

Let’s pretend.

Let’s pretend that Angi and I had also been the parents of an older child and she had been our first. This child had helped us care for and nurture and teach the younger two, loved them as surely as we did, and in an unfortunate incident whose portent the younger children could not fully understand — a dare, perhaps — she had rescued the two of them from certain death … yet lost her own life in the effort.

What would we want for our remaining children from then on?

I think I’d want them to remember their older sister fondly. I’d want them to understand and appreciate how much she had loved them and was willing to give up for them. I want them to know that I still loved them as dearly as ever; that I did not blame them for her death.

I would want for them to live their own lives reflecting a growing love toward others, love that gives and never looks back. I would want them to be willing to tell stories about her to others; repeat stories that she had told them when they played school and she was their teacher.

I would want them to get to know her friends better and spend some time with them so they would know more about her; to sing her favorite songs when they got together to remember her. I’d want them to know everything I believe about where she is now and how and why.

I would still want them to grow up, find a mate for life they can love, bless, and be blessed by as much as I have and have been with their mom. It’d be great if they had their own kids, too!

There are all kinds of things that I would not want for them; things that would warp and distort and could yet destroy their lives, even after being rescued once before. Every parent knows what those things are.

And, of course, I would want / not want these things for them because I believe they are the things God wants and does not want for His children. He expresses His relationship to us as “Father,” and He did so through His Son. The comparison between the perfectly merciful and just God and the fatally-flawed person that is me is infinitely distant, I know.

But as I have confessed many times, I am an unabashedly simple-minded person. And an analogy like this “let’s pretend” helps me understand a little better His nature, His love, His righteousness, His justice, His mercy.

It helps me understand who He is, and what He wants – and doesn’t want – for me.


I’ve had a truly crummy day, and don’t feel like blogging.

I’ve had to talk to both my children – separately – about academic integrity today while keeping in my anger that the new phone/Internet/cable was down when I needed to be doing urgent things online; that the dog had seen fit to wolf down an entire box of doughnuts AND a bag of frosted pretzels; that the garage door opener has gone on the fritz and will require an expensive repair call; that our planned family trip to Ireland next summer has been seriously jeopardized. It’s also my son’s 16th birthday today, and has been possibly the suckiest one ever for him, since we’ve had damp or dangerous weather three days in a row now and the State Police will not conduct the driving portion of the license exam. In addition, Angi put together his favorite red velvet birthday cake mix and left it in the oven to help preside at UALR’s winter graduation … and I followed my nose to its singed remains about an hour ago. If she said anything to me about it when she left, I didn’t hear her two rooms away.

If you want to read something profound and seasonal and spirit-lifting, read John Mark Hicks’s blog entry, Christmas: The Incarnation of God and/or Royce Ogle’s Merry Christmas.

I wish I could put two cogent thoughts together right now, but I can’t. I wish I could weave a great tapestry of meaning on how I wish Advent could be about shouldering the responsibility for being God-in-the-flesh as Jesus was rather than about indolently anticipating His return as if we had nothing better to do. But Paul already wrote the second letter to Thessalonica and I know I couldn’t do better than that.

Nor could I do any better than the two brothers I linked to above, who understand what Incarnation means and the sufficiency of it – and write about it powerfully and persuasively.

This evening I learned that incarnational living sometimes means dashing out in the <1/4-mile visibility fog to go to Kroger's and pick up a couple more red velvet cake mixes and a small bottle of cooking oil, recruiting my daughter to help me clean up the cake pan and mix the new one and pop it in the oven before Mom gets home and brother comes out of his room.

She helped a lot. As we were cleaning up again a moment ago, she said, “That was fun! I know you were having a bad day today. It’s better now, isn’t it? You were lucky I really didn’t have homework tonight.”

And she was, of course, perfectly right.

Boo At The Zoo

Angi and I took our daughter Laura, 12, and her neighbor Caroline, 9, to the annual ‘Boo At The Zoo’ last night. Matt, at 15, is too old for such tomfoolery while there are video games and an operating X-Box 360 in his room.

He missed a great time, though.

At ‘Boo At the Zoo,’ though most of the animals are asleep, you will see all kinds of colorful creatures going from tented booth to booth trading tickets for treats … eating funnel cakes and corn dogs … riding carnival rides and the Little Rock Zoo’s long-time attraction, the miniature choo-choo. LOTS of colorful creatures. Dozens and hundreds and thousands as the night grows darker and the lines grow longer.

It’s a real zoo!

They pass giant wire-frame sculptures of spooks and jack-o-lanterns. To pass the time in lines, they see glowing pumpkin patches and “cemeteries” alight with skeleton-topped “tombstones” that all read:

R.I.P. Ashes to ashes / Dust to dust / Here lies someone / I wouldn’t trust.

The tombstones are cute … the first time. But there are dozens of them, all over the zoo, and they all read the same!

So the would-be writer in me got to thinking (as we waited in line for treats and rides): “What if they were different? What if they were funny epitaphs like the bizarre ones people used to have, with names that sounded like animal names?”

And this is what I came up with:

She traveled slow
Her life well-spent
She’d always go
Where her trunk went.
Her songs and cries
Always enthralled
But to the skies
Her soul was called.
Too young for wife,
Too small for friend,
The circle of life
His life did end.
To fish – he can
To fly – he can
To cry – he can
To die – he can.
For many eyes
He’d flash his plumes
But now he lies
‘Midst flowers’ blooms.
A mask so smart
He always wore
He’d steal your heart
But is no more.
He was quite tall
And quick of tongue
He took a fall …
Now he’s just long.
When aped at sport
He’d take a ribbin’
To rude retort
He was not gibbon.
A prickly quill
He’d always wield
Yet to Death’s will
He had to yield.

Okay, probably too weird and morbid for most kids … and many adults ….

What do you think? Worth suggesting to the folks at the Zoo?