Pebble in the Water

By Sunsue Fleming

There were few books in my home where I grew up. I don't remember being read to at bedtime or any other time. Maybe I just forget. There was one book I found and read from cover to cover. It was a book of American poets. It became my bible. I fell in love with poetry. There was one poem that was my favorite. I read it often. I knew it by heart.

That poem circled back to me a few years ago.

After I retired, I began part time retirement work in home health care. About a year after I began, I was diagnosed with cancer. During treatment I continued to work. I needed to continue to help others to let go of my own drama for a while.

My client was a lovely woman who was held in love by her family. I felt held when I was there too. I stayed with her through hospice. Her last day, I drove through a snowstorm to get to her. She was unconscious and I sat by her bed and picked up a book to read to her. I opened it randomly and read the page. It was my favorite poem as a child.

At her service, her daughter, who I became close to, told me the poem printed in the order of service best described her Mom. It was my favorite poem.

This is the poem that I fell in love with as a child. I live on a pond now and often throw rocks to watch the ripples flow.

Drop a Pebble in the Water by James W. Foley (1874-1939), published in the bulletin of the Market Street Church of Christ in Athens, Alabama (1911)

Drop a pebble in the water: just a splash, and it is gone;

But there’s half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on,

Spreading, spreading from the center, flowing on out to the sea.

And there is no way of telling where the end is going to be.

Drop a pebble in the water: in a minute you forget,

But there’s little waves a-flowing, and there’s ripples circling yet,

And those little waves a-flowing to a great big wave have grown;

You’ve disturbed a mighty river just by dropping in a stone.

Drop an unkind word, or careless: in a minute it is gone;

But there’s half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on.

They keep spreading, spreading, spreading from the center as they go,

And there is no way to stop them, once you’ve started them to flow.