We Are Lilly: A Poem

We are Lilly.

We are 140 years old.
We are a building in downtown Indianapolis.
Brick and mortar.
Wood. Tiles. Tunnels.
A sprawling campus
with a fountain to grant the wishes of patients.
We are worldwide
affiliates in China and the UK.
flags and locations working together across nations
uniting care and discovery
to make life better for people around the world.

We are 140 years old.
We are the living dream of a Civil War Colonel,
who was forged in a blood stained battlefield.
We are the children of sweat
and the glimmer of light that kept him going
as his business failed and as he lost people he loved to diseases we would one day treat.
We are his red signature
the blanket he envisioned to bring comfort that this medicine was right.
We are a wish to take what we find here and make it better and better.

We are 140 years old.
We are an answer to a prayer from the 1920s.
Mothers crying as their children wasted away in front of them,
diabetes exposing their ribs and mortality.
Diabetes a death sentence
and we were the ones to push Death back.
Heroes working through holidays to bring forth insulin.

We are 140 years old.
We are 1940 and '50s men and women waging war on infectious disease,
a ruthless enemy, swarming across all countries.
We fought with antibiotic penicillin swords
and shield vaccines holding the line against polio.

We are 140 years old.
We are magical miracle makers.
Obsessed scientists in goggles and lab coats
finding needles in haystacks.
Chemists making needles when we couldn’t find them.
We make medicines with pestle and mortar, computers and beakers.
With our minds, our hearts, our hands
we reshaped what it meant to live with mental illness.
We stepped in their shoes and stepped up beside them
so they wouldn’t have to fight the demons of depression alone.

We are 140 years YOUNG.
We are still here.
They doubted us.
Said we were hopeless.
Proclaimed we were an impending casualty after YZ.
But we are triumphant.
Standing amidst rubble,
shaking dust off our shoulders,
holding our world, our word, our promise high for all to see.
We are a monument head held high and defiant.

We are 140 years YOUNG.
We are farmers,
sowing seeds in our community
with our hands and our hearts
at home and abroad.
United Way. Day of service.
Digging irrigation ditches to lead water where it needs to go.
Smiling as the crops we planted sprout,
growing because of our care.

We are 140 years YOUNG.
We are a whisper of confidence and compassion after a fracture or heart attack,
a calming partner that will stand up with them to cancer.
We are a future not yet discovered,
authors of an adventure being written with each of our actions.
We are the challengers
chasing white whales,
through choppy waters.
We will help patients rediscover the joy of touch and clear horizons.
We will step in to shield them when their bodies turn on them casting pain and arthritis.
When Alzheimer’s creeps into a mind like thunderstorms,
a thief stealing every moment and memory that ever mattered,
count on us to be there,
standing watch
strong and vigilant.
No matter the disease,
we will be the light pushing monsters of fear back into the shadows where they belong.
We will be the well patients can draw strength from,
and sustaining.

We are 140 years YOUNG.
We are the living dream of a Civil War Colonel.
A worldwide collection of affiliates
A community’s heartbeat.
We are united.
We are the ones who will take what we find and make it better and better for the next 140 years to come.

We are Lilly.


—Andrew Embry, April 2016


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