Last Words

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Photo Credit:  Sally Calligan

Dear Readers,

Thank you all so much for your patience with me and my “grief journey”.  Even after 40 days, it is not over.   Perhaps I just have a better appreciation of what one really entails.  Lent officially ends on Maundy Thursday but I am ending this sojourn after 40 days in the wilderness.  I prayed, at the beginning and every day, for it to be a Spirit filled 40 days.  Here I will confess that sometimes I truly had no idea who was writing the words or where the idea came from.  Sometimes I just posted a picture because that was all I could do. Grief can make one positively paralytic, as my house attests.  So again, thank you for reading and bearing with me.  I have taken most of you along on a trip you were not intending to take.

Today when I sat down in the church pew for Palm Sunday, I had the perspicacity to ask my mother (something I rarely do) to send me a little sign that she was with me, Thing 3, and my dad in church.  Thirty seconds later, the organist played the most beautiful instrumental rendition of Jesus Loves Me, one of the two hymns my mother requested at her funeral.  Ah, confirmation.  Thank you, Jesus.  I love you too.

Recently, Rick Warren had a podcast series called the The Seven Greatest Words of Love.  I usually binge listen to Rick while I clean the house or drive in the car.  During several of the above noted  podcasts, he spoke about a classic children’s night time prayer and Jesus’s dying last words.  In the last 3 months I had thought about the 18th Century bedtime prayer I myself said as a child every night.  Here it is:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

A less troubling version for kids is:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
Watch and guard me through the night,
and wake me with the morning light.

One of my favorite bedtime prayers  is found in the Book of Common Prayer (p. 134):

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep.  Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothes the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake.  Amen.

I confess, however, that I did not give any thought to my own mother’s last words until Rick Warren was talking about Jesus’.  And that has given me tremendous pause for thought.  What were my mother’s last words?  I am going with, “Good night, darling. It’s been a marvelous day.”   My father might be able to remember.  What were Sally’s last thoughts?  I am sure she said a prayer of thanksgiving; maybe she also wondered if she’d taken her medicine, if there was yogurt to eat for breakfast in the morning, where did she put her damn reading glasses???

Because my mother Sally died in her sleep, her family members are left with a few mysteries.  Some of these, friends and family have cleared up.  There is no explanation for where she put somethings in her kitchen.  Still.  One thing I am certain of:  angels were encamping around her sleeping form, twelve legions of them if need be.

It is finished.  My mother committed her own spirit to the Lord and I know she was well  received.  Amen and Happy Easter!  REJOICE.

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XOXO

 

What version of Sally do you think is in Heaven?  Something different but even more beautiful!

 

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Are You My Other Mother?

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Right up there with Dr. Seuss is the author of “beginning to read”  books, P.D. Eastman.  Although not nearly as prolific as Seuss, Eastman’s books Are You My Mother? and Go, Dog, Go! are easy to read classics on par with The Cat in the Hat and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  

Eastman’s story about a baby bird hatching while his mother is gone from the nest foraging for food, and his subsequent quest to find her, leave an indelible and anxious mark on many a four and five year old.   The baby bird did not know what his mother looked like so he inquired of a kitten, hen, dog, cow, car, boat, jet, and SNORT, asking plaintively, “Are you my mother?”

I  am fortunate that I did not have to ask this question as a child.  However, both of my maternal grandparents lost their mothers in adolescence and my father-in-law, The Headmaster, lost both parents at a very tender age.  This is why, although the waves of grief billow over me threatening to capsize my equilibrium, I try to have only the occasional pity party.  I was blessed with knowing my mother Sally and liking her, to boot.

But even my mother threw me and my sisters out of the house.

“GO OUTSIDE!”  she yelled with alarming frequency.  Sometimes she’d even lock the doors so we couldn’t come in and bug her.  Reading a book in my room was not an option. She needed the nest CLEARED.

When this happened, I would ramble in the neighborhood, visiting my “other mothers”.  Estelle McDowell, a married, childfree woman who looked liked Mrs. Claus, read me her childhood books, books written in the late 1890s and early 1900s by Josephine Scribner Gates.  She entertained me with stories of the pet monkey she once owned.  Even if I couldn’t come inside to visit, she would hand me a piece of Almond Roca candy and kindly tell me to skedaddle.

Then there was my “Nana”, Lois Watson, to whom I was not related but who was present when my mother brought me home from the hospital, who knit my Christmas stocking, and taught me to bake.

Finally, there was Thelma Willard, who taught my mother to garden, kept a basket of polished beach agates on the hearth, and whose husband’s garage was filled with hundreds of clocks with which he’d tinker.

All of these women’s houses were their own special kind of Wonderland and the people who inhabited them were lavish lovers of children.

The absence of my mother Sally has obviously created a tremendous void.  There is no upside in this.  But is there, perhaps, more space for others to tuck themselves in?  Skipping around my Florida neighborhood, I ask myself, “Are you my mother?”

There is Winnie, my mother-in-law, who has given me space and healing hugs.  There is Carol, my next door neighbor, who gives me gardening and household tips, a friendly wave across the driveways. There is Sandy, who invited me to the Daytona Beach Symphony Fashion Show.  There are the women of Sally’s bible study at Trinity Episcopal Church who welcomed me into their circle when I was forlorn.  I gravitate to their experience, wisdom, and open hearts.

The baby bird at the end of the book Are You My Mother? cries out, “Where am I?  I want to go home.  I want my mother.”

Baby Bird gets his wish.   And in my own way,  I am too.

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Deep Calls to Deep

 

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Photo credit: NiagraFallsLive.  In 1901 Annie Taylor was the first person to go over Niagra Falls.

Recently I was reading Psalm 42, the subtitle of which is “Longing for God and His Help in Distress”.  Overall, the psalm is a picture of inundation of grief and despair, water imagery flowing throughout the course of the psalm.  What caught my eye was the use, in verse 7, of the word cataracts:

“Deep calls to deep
    at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows
    have gone over me.”  

Catarata is the Spanish word for waterfall, which is the old fashioned use of the word in the psalm in the English NRSV translation.

When the river is full, the deluge is constant, pounding, a cloudy curtain of water pouring unimpeded into the pool below,  spray rebounding forcefully.  When there’s a drought, the falls slow to a trickle.

How this is like a veil of tears, obscuring one’s ability to see, the lens of the eye dry and gritty, forming a cataract of sorrow.

Today, I have gone over the edge, albeit in a barrel, bouncing around up and down.  Psalm 42 ends with the refrain, “Hope in God: for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”  I know this to be true.

Birthday Blessings to my baby sister MCVWasHere.  May this be your best year yet!

 

 

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Lost and Found

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The day I was supposed to drive from Northern California to Washington to study for the bar exam, I lost my car keys.  It was the summer of 1991.  The 1977 Buick Skylark that was my wheels (and perforce humility) only had one set of car keys when I bought it 5 years earlier from the elderly neighbor lady.  One minute, I was loading my car and then the next I was searching frantically for the keys.  Which were not found that day.  By the time the locksmith came and cut me a new key, it was late in the afternoon.   My mother convinced me to start my journey the next morning, rather than drive at night through the redwoods and isolated parts of Oregon to Eugene.

“Never drive when you are upset,” Sally proclaimed, an admonition I have endeavored to pass on to my children.

“Maybe,” she opined, “this is God’s way of telling you to spend another night.”

For every time I listened to my mother, there were probably ten that I did not.  That time I did.

The keys were found almost a decade later, when my parents were moving from the house, my Cal Bear keychain a tad rusted, still grasping tightly to the keys of a car I no longer owned.  They had fallen through a crack in the deck.  How and why they were ever found remains a mystery.

A lot of things have fallen through the cracks of my life over that past two years.  When Sh*t Happens, this is to be expected.  There are peripheral casualties.  It is impossible to hold the center at all times, just impossible.    This is painful.  Between the illnesses, a heart surgery, the death of a parent and the loss of a job, Thing 3’s nascent college career slipped through the cracks.   This is partly her fault, partly her parents, and partly the natural order of things.  Even when you are getting straight A’s, life sometimes just falls apart.

“Maybe, ” I opined, “This is God’s way of telling you to spend another year at home.”

I do not know what might have met me on that road on a dark summer night.  I can only tell you that my mother was right.  Never drive when you are upset; take the extra time.

So, the prodigal daughter is home.  My arms are wide open, even if I don’t have a fancy dress and honking ring with which to welcome her but Big Mike is fixing her dinner.  Perhaps she will do me one better and listen to her mother two out of ten times.  Perhaps.

 

 

 

 

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Hand Blocked

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I would really appreciate it if someone could tell me why my mother saved an envelope of clothing labels.  Is this something one Kon Mari’s?  It is evident they were her mother’s.  Some tell a tale of travel: Kay O’ Kauai and Rita Tillett of Las Brisas in Acapulco.

What Would Sally Do?  I ask this question a lot.  Sometimes there’s an answer but not today.

 

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Sorry, Sisters

My mother Sally wore red shoes to my baptism and her mother’s funeral.  Scroll to the end.  All of my grandparents are featured in the link below.  The beginning explains my thighs ….  sigh ….  but not my big head.

http://share.imemories.com/pubshare/ec25ba1a-e331-4833-af13-28331823e78b/1177735

Brought to you by my father and iMemories.  

Viva El Rabano!

 

 

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