Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘death’

Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude. (A.A. Milne in Winnie-the-Pooh)

Rebe leads our play—sometimes with linear logic, sometimes not. In a child’s imagination, anything can happen. I ask questions only when I don’t understand the current scene: Is it day or night? Is the couch a make-believe car or taxi?

Usually I laugh at my granddaughter’s off-the-wall scenarios. Her sense of humor has developed far beyond the understanding of a nine-year-old child.

Today she dives into the serious. I don’t offer more than attention. Her doll, Ava, wears a layer of dirt from being dragged everywhere, but since her midsection is cloth, a full bath is not possible. In Rebe’s scene, her child has a fictitious illness, grow disease—her version of failure to thrive taken to the ultimate.

On a culturally learned keep-everything-nice level, I want to lead her to a gentler setting, but I let her continue, and listen. Perhaps she practices for real-life grief, in her own controlled setting, close to Grandma on this tangible, ordinary Wednesday. I don’t know. She is game initiator.

I play the role of surviving daughter. My baby-doll sister doesn’t make it through surgery. However, the next thirty-second-later day, Rebe lets me know something bizarre and unexplained happens. Both of us die and go to heaven. We have a party and then continue a regular routine. From the other side of the clouds.

“Let’s bake something,” she suggests.

“In heaven?” I ask.

Apparently, that scenario has ended. She wants to know if I have ever tasted flour.

“Yes. Probably when I was your age. It doesn’t taste like anything. Go ahead. Try it. It’s an organic brand.”

She lifts one flour-covered finger to her lips and agrees.

True, the taste of the flour is the-definition-of-bland. We discuss how different it is when the rest of the cookie recipe ingredients are added and baked.

Her eyes shine and smile broadens with the notion of how things change when they are mixed together.

People change, too. Sure, I enjoy my silent hours alone when I can create without needing to wash the floors later. Hours to play with words, mix them, add and subtract them. Give them power. However, I would have nothing with heart to create if all I had were continuous quiet.

Yes, Piglet, your heart is small, but size doesn’t have much to do with gratitude or love. Love and gratitude don’t take up space; they embrace people. And change them.

Thanks for a great day, Rebe. I love you.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are. (Anais Nin)

I am at the funeral of a man whose name I have heard for more years than I can count. Yet, I have never met G. He could have had brown, blue, or green eyes, been tall or short, had red hair or none.

Sure, I have created a picture of him in my mind. However, I have met people after hearing only their voices and my predictions have had a zero percent accuracy rate. Chances are, the image I’ve summoned keeps my prediction skills in the same nonexistent category.

I have come to support friends who knew G.

He had a mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia. Yet, he was not his diagnosis. When the people at his church came to know him, they recognized his unique sense of humor. The church members accepted G—as he was. He liked coming to services and being part of something important.

Smoking comforted his symptoms until that comfort turned on him and destroyed his body. One incredible day, with the prayer support of his friends, he gave up a three-packs-a-day habit within twenty-four hours. Too late, but nevertheless a miraculous change had occurred. He knew he had done something for himself.

As buoyed as I am by the beauty of the funeral service, I realize I missed something. I missed knowing G. The casket is closed. If I speak to the man inside, only his spirit may hear. I will not get a response, except in my thoughts and imagination.

I think about the anonymity of the casket. Those who mourn see inside with their memories. I need to listen even closer, and catch opportunities to recognize truth beyond the obvious, the judgments people make without even realizing they are making them.

Sure, a talkative lady with a quick smile is easy to approach. A child next to her who appears to have multiple disabilities may seem to disappear in the crowd—even though the child’s presence is like the ignored elephant-in-the-room. He is not his disabilities.

Sometimes I have no problem saying hello to people with obvious difficulties. Then, at other times I have felt every intelligent thought I have ever had drop away. Opportunities to make connections evaporate, especially when I feel anger in the air.

All of us are of infinite value. I pray to recognize that worth—even in the wrinkled face I see in the mirror. I can be hardest on me.

you are of infinite worth

Read Full Post »

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. (Thornton Wilder)

Jay and I are in a checkout line at a store on Black Friday. The store is far less crowded than we expected. We see a woman we both know.

“How was your Thanksgiving?” Jay asks.

I don’t hear her at first, but soon discover why she looks sad. Her husband died two days before Thanksgiving.

We offer condolences. She is buying supplies for a party—to celebrate his life.

I nod, then follow an impulse. One quick hug. No words. She accepts the gesture. I let go before any public display of tears.

She lets us know she is not withdrawing. I nod again. Words can’t touch the reality. The stages of grief can’t be bypassed.

I think about the few leaves left on the sweet gum tree in our back yard.

I don’t live in a part of the world with perennial warmth. In the Midwest, the leaves have held on tighter than they have in past years. Bright reds and oranges contrast against dark bark. Moderate temperatures have lingered. Until now

Winter steals a huge chunk of the calendar year. I want to remain inside summer fun, celebrate days without pain, icy streets, conflict, or injustice. Although I know war, injustice, the us-versus-them notion, has been around since the tale of Cain and Abel. Dissonance has nothing to do with seasons.

The current state of the U.S. has heightened injustice. Yet, many people scarcely notice. And I mourn the loss of sensitivity: to the notion that women are equal as human beings; people with disabilities need to be treated as people, not as disabilities; clean water is more important than any industry…

Branches demand the leaves let go. New buds will take over. Eventually. In the human realm, new buds of change don’t have a specific season.

Despite loss, this woman my husband and I know, is celebrating life. Hers and the husband she loved. I don’t know the future. True, I see a lot of dark clouds.  I also know people who treasure both truth and justice.

I am alive when I am conscious of my treasures. As Jay and I come home from the store, Jay reaches for the heaviest items to carry into the house, exactly what I would have predicted he would do. He and I have been married for forty-five years.

“You know what I liked about today?” I tell him. “Spending it with you.”

Leaves cover the yard, front and back. More will join them. Of course, no one ever promised fully-alive would be easy.

last-of-the-november-leaves-2016

 

Read Full Post »

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. (William Wordsworth)

A few dishes washed… laundry piled in the hall… dusting barely begun… I stand in our tiny hall and survey what else needs to be done. My guitar case is partially unzipped. I don’t bother to either open or close it. I haven’t played in weeks. No energy remains in this short body. I miss music. I miss classes at the Y, as well as the times with friends I needed to cancel.

Am I getting sick or has the adrenaline rush of the past few weeks ended and left me drained? Twenty minutes, that’s all. I’ll give myself a one-third-of-an-hour power nap. Jay can take short walks—by himself now. I should be able to take mini siestas. The nap extends. I’m even further behind.

All the while I want to call my friend, Henrietta. Her husband has been in hospice. The last time I talked to her he wasn’t doing well. I see my friend’s face in my imagination and I suspect the thought of her unconsciously has buoyed me through.

When I wake up the grogginess lingers. I prepare lunch on auto-pilot, but I can’t get Henrietta’s picture out of my mind, and I don’t want to. She has been caring for a husband who will never get better. I have been helping a spouse who has been looking forward to my homemade soups, digging into chicken with baked stuffing, and thanking me for being there. No comparison.

Finally, I’m tackling laundry when Jay says he is going for a walk around the block. Now, the time is now: I call Henrietta.

“I don’t know why I have been thinking about you a lot,” I begin. “I just had to get through to you. Don’t want to interrupt if you are busy…”

“I know why you needed to call,” Henrietta answers in her usual soft voice. She tells me her husband died yesterday. She believes an angel has been speaking to me.

What force, intuitive or divine, led my spirit? That answer is not mine to know, only to follow. Henrietta asks me to write my experience. Share it. Fill my paper, or this blog, with the breathings of my heart.

The fatigue settles. I begin to look forward to the next day with my grandchildren, a family birthday party, baking a pie for a friend, time to write.

The sun shines and a light breeze passes through. I grab both as if they could be stored and saved; I settle for savoring. The pain in my back eases. I realize I’m not as good at relaxation as I’d like to be. The ugliness of national news disturbs me. I can’t understand how respect is so difficult to comprehend and accept, in word, in deed. Respect is basic and has nothing to do with political agendas.

I breathe in and out—slowly. One heart that beats in steady rhythm allows life to exist; two hearts that beat with empathy can empower many. Life is precious, but it isn’t permanent.

At least not in this realm. I celebrate one day at a time. No more, no less. One precious day that can never be retrieved.

look-at-the-sky

Read Full Post »

There are no easy answers, there’s only living through the questions. (Elizabeth George)

Sun streams through the window and I try to hold onto the brightness, as if blue sky carried answers to questions that don’t fit into logical formulas. Life. Death. Illness. The healed and unhealed. The why.

The husband of a friend died yesterday. Several other people have cancer. A friend of my husband was just diagnosed with non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. Magic wands remain in fiction. Moreover, I look at the political scene and my stomach twists. How can so many people choose hate and see nothing wrong with it? I know a child who could have post-traumatic stress syndrome. I talk to a friend from the Y. “Will you pray for my husband?” Too many folk seem to be suffering right now.

A double rainbow appears on the wall behind my laptop, yet I can’t capture it with a photo. I don’t have adequate equipment. The picture appears dark and the rainbows show pale.  I erase the photo; the rainbows fade. I don’t have the ability to save the world by myself. Nor do I dare to reply to grief with platitudes.

Instead I offer an ear, arms, perhaps some of my time. And perspective appears. What matters? What doesn’t? If I give up my serenity over something small, a traffic delay, spilled juice, a photo that doesn’t work, changed plans that don’t fit my agenda, how much energy will I have when I really need it? Perhaps this is one small part of living through the questions.

Right now I’m aware of what I have and how fragile life can be. However, my attitude can change after a few ordinary, nothing-special days. I pray for awareness, to learn from unanswered questions.

love tainted world Optimism Revolution

 

Read Full Post »

When you are grateful—when you can see what you have—you unlock blessings to flow in your life. (Suze Orman)

As I wait for the green light at an intersection in my neighborhood, I suspect the driver of the old black truck coming from the other direction is in a hurry although I can’t cite any evidence to prove this is true. My heart and mind are not focused on racing. The transience of existence slows my thoughts. I’m on my way to a funeral.

Let the driver make the first move, I tell myself. And see if I am simply being hyper-vigilant. The truck turns with jet-action speed a split section after the light changes.

We would have collided.

I thank God, then recall my best friend Linda’s intuition last night. We were at an outdoor concert. The air got thick and hot. I felt tightness in my chest and started coughing. “I think we’d better go,” she said. “The air is getting just too heavy.”

Lightning flashed in the distance. No thunder. However, we had scarcely hit the highway when the rain came down with such fury I could have sworn we were traveling underwater. Our friend Tom kept his cool as he drove. And I was grateful to arrive home safely.

Now I say goodbye to a friend’s granddaughter. She lived a good life. She was loved. She had autism; it did not own her. I never met the girl and yet her picture in the obituary notice draws me to her. I know her grandmother. And I understand grief. People who have special-needs folk in their lives appreciate the beauty of the bond possible with them.

I think about the wound on my Ella’s chest and wonder how long it is going to take to heal. And yet it will heal. Eventually. It only seems like an eternity.

We can’t celebrate everyone we love forever. I wish I had understood the power of each moment years ago. Actually, I wish I could carry that knowledge into the times that seem boring, difficult, or annoying. Now. As they are occurring and not later.

Intuitions are gifts. The scene at the light saved me from a serious accident. My friend’s insight saved four long-time friends from a mob in a thunderstorm. Neither incident spared me from the real world or a finite existence. Chances are tomorrow will offer opportunities to laugh, cry, get angry, enthused, embarrassed, frightened, anxious, or inspired.

I pray to cling to the gifts.

a smile from God

Read Full Post »

You’re going to come across people in your life who will say all the right words at all the right times. But in the end, it’s always their actions, not words, that matter. (Nicholas Sparks)

Snow was predicted for today, but I expected a token inch or so. Our street, finally plowed yesterday afternoon, is now hidden. In the semi-darkness of early morning the white bitterness seems to explode its message; winter has won this battle. When the phone rings before eight in the morning I know what I will hear before I answer. The call comes from two states away, where it isn’t seven in the morning yet. My sister-in-law has not called to chat.

My mother-in-law has left her physical body in Midwestern winter and joined a higher, temperature-free dimension. As I look outside again I realize that like the February snow, Mary’s death was inevitable. But, I thought my spirit would be better prepared. Winter will end. This goodbye is final. At least from a limited five-senses point of view.

The first bird I see at the bird feeder is a female cardinal. The cardinal is a symbol of a visitor from the next dimension. Next, two more cardinals arrive. They don’t stay long. They feed and then fly into our blue spruce.

I think about the transience of life’s experience and that thought leads into disconnected memories:

I see my mother-in-law’s move from a more affluent neighborhood to a less wealthy one, not because she needs to do it, but because she sees a mission there, a house closer to her church. My vision follows the many people Mary invites into her home, the folk who stay for a while and then leave, changed somehow because of her welcoming…

Next my memory revisits the day when my younger son has tied a towel around his neck as a cape. He is two days shy of his third birthday and he is playing superman. He tries to fly off a chair, but his fantasy doesn’t transfer into reality. He has sustained a concussion. I don’t have a car. My mother-in-law drops what she is doing and takes me and superman junior to the hospital. Then she waits until after Steve is treated before bringing us home. Mary and Son-number-two are buddies. They have been since he was an infant…

Mary and Son-number-two’s daughter are also buddies. Nana is now declining. Ella pretends to be a bear. Nana pretends to be frightened. The game continues.

And so does today’s snow—along with a deep and penetrating cold. No, I could not ask Mary to stay on this earth with a body that is no longer able to contain her incredible spirit. She needed to leave it. The human Methuselah-model has not yet been designed. I said goodbye to Mary the last time I saw her, and I meant it. However…there is always a however. My generous attitude was aimed toward her, not me.

Another cardinal stops for a bite to eat before taking off.

Okay, how do I rephrase goodbye? See you in the next dimension, Mary. I don’t know when. But in the meantime, you have an enormous number of people asking about you. So long. Peace, beautiful lady!

cardinal, symbol of visiting past loved one

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »