Life is about a lot of things

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Today began as nothing special.  But  my nothing special day changed drastically when my car made the familiar turn onto my road after doing some shopping on my day off and I casually glanced along the macadam leading to my house.  What I saw on the road made me do a double-take and tears instantly appeared in the corners of my eyes.

A random woman, a stranger, was walking her two small dogs, one black and one white, down my road and for a split second I could have sworn it was my mother.  When she was still alive, my mother chose to park her car in my driveway and walk her two small dogs, one black and one white, on my road because it was a manageable, quiet street.  When I came home from work, I would see the silhouette of my mother and her two sidekicks as they simultaneously pulled her in a myriad number of directions.  It was a struggle for her but she walked those little dogs until she could walk them no more.

Before I realized it, I had come to a complete stop and simply watched this woman walk away from me.  I don’t know how many minutes passed before the fading contour of her shadow turned onto the side road and disappeared.  The clock of my nothing special day stopped and I couldn’t move.  I could barely breathe.

The hopeful part of me anticipated that the woman would turn around and come back.  The stubborn part of me was willing to sit in the middle of the road until she did because the child in me thought for a split second that my mother would be the one to round that corner on her way back.

Eventually I collected myself and pulled my car into my driveway.  I was already on the verge of an ugly cry so I stood in front of the Birch sapling I planted three years ago in her memory and nothing could stop that surge of emotion from escaping.  But the cry was much shorter than I anticipated.  As I looked at that Birch tree, now almost double the size it once was, I realized that life does go on.  We endure many hardships, we suffer through tough times, but beauty always has a way of sneaking back into our lives, even when we think the best things in our lives have been taken.

mom's tree

(this photo was taken in 2014, shortly after it was planted)

Life evolves.  Life is about birth, growth, love and death.  But life is also about remembering, cherishing, holding on to memories and carrying on.  Life is about chance encounters, reconnecting with friends, deja vu and finding new things to love.  And life is about knowing that you were once able love something so much that it physically hurts when you keep remembering that it is gone forever.

Life is about a lot of things but, good or bad, life still happens every day.  I am just thankful that I am able to wake up each morning, engage with the people I still have in my life and spend time remembering those who have been able to emerge from their eternal cocoon and spread their wings in a new reality.

Life is about a lot of things.  But most of all, life is about finding some happiness in the saddest part of your day.

Mortar envy

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From the moment the sky scraper was built, it was jealous.  The small church paled in comparison to its size and newness, but somehow the recently built monstrosity knew it had none of the character and charm that this relic had.

A myriad number of people came and went each day through its newly built foyer and, although the monolith felt important, the new tower knew it could not compare to the importance of the little church that it shadowed.

Each day, the looming fortress would watch people enter and leave the hallowed sanctuary.  Their emotions were strong and were easily expressed.  Family and friends held hands, locked arms, shared their joy or comforted each other as they entered and left the century-old building, tears staining their cheeks after a funeral or smiles etched into their faces following a wedding or christening. The more the new fortress watched the feelings and sentiment shared by the patrons of the old building, the more its resentment grew.

“St. Paul’s Chapel, NYC” by Amy Light

The tower watched the expressionless faces of the people entering through its revolving door.  Most had digital devices in their hands and not one person acknowledged any of the other people in the building, lost in their sad world of technology.  The building paid attention to the people in each of its offices, noting their lack of enthusiasm and utter disdain for their existence.

The cafeteria was the same.  The only noise that was heard within the four walls of the dining hall were the sounds of the cash register and the din from the kitchen as the cooks continued to prepare the lunch items for the day.  Nobody smiled.  Nobody had even the smallest conversation.  Ear plugs were attached to mobile devices so each person could tune out the world around them.

The fire started in the furnace room long after everyone had left for the day.  The fortress could feel the heat from the fire and was satisfied that the slow burn would not be detected.  It had systematically dismantled all of its alarms and fire suppression systems so the alarm company and the fire department would not be alerted until it was too late.

The flames turned into an inferno and windows began to break as the heat became unbearable.  Smoke billowed through the shattered glass and the building breathed a sigh of relief knowing that it would no longer have to bear witness to the emotion the church was blessed to experience.

The final explosion was small in comparison to the fire.  Chunks of concrete were launched in all directions and a few small pieces came to rest at the back of the church.  The remainder of the structure fell to the ground leaving behind the metal carcass.

In the weeks that followed, those few small pieces watched as the clean up began.  The debris was taken away and the skeleton of the building was broken down and removed.  From their vantage point, the concrete remnants breathed a sigh of relief as they were left untouched to enjoy the rest of their existence as part of the church that they had admired for so many years.

Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press Writing Challenge

 

 

 

A decade plus a year

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My mom and I sat at the end of his hospital bed.  My brother had just left to take care of his young family and my mom and I remained.  There was one dim light in the corner that cast shadows on his bed and our two chairs.  The rest of the room was bathed in darkness.  We sat for several hours as my dad continued to have small seizures.  When we couldn’t bear to watch his suffering anymore, I had the night nurse call our doctor at home shortly after midnight to increase his morphine.  The seizures stopped and both my mom and I silently counted the seconds between his breaths.  The last time was 14 seconds and then he just stopped breathing.  It was 2:00 am on March 9th, 2006.

It is a strange experience watching the life slip out of a body that once cradled you as a child and was always there with open arms.  We said our goodbyes and I drove my mom home, neither of us crying because we wanted to be strong for the other.

It took a few months for me to be able to picture my dad as he was in life and not how he was in death.  The body that we said goodbye to in the hospital was not my dad.  My dad was the life of the party.  He was charming and funny.  The men loved to hang out with him and the women loved to dance with him.

Now when I think of my dad, the picture I have in my head is of his infectious smile and the mischievous twinkle in his eye. I think of him tanning in the nude at the end of our dock and using folding chairs for privacy as the boats went by our cottage.  I think of our family spending time tanning on the ice in February when the sun’s warmth grew stronger.   And I think of all the time my dad spent to try to make our lives happy.   I miss you, dad.

 

 

The day in between

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March 8th had never previously had a profound effect on my life.  It had always been a day like any other.  But three years ago, that day marked the separation between the calendar date that my mother and my father passed away.  Although the losses were separated by almost 8 years, the fact did not go unrecognized that the dates of their individual passing almost overlapped.  March 7th was the third anniversary of my mom’s passing and March 9th will be the 11th anniversary of losing my dad.

Time is a funny thing.  Had those moments not occurred within less than 48 hours of each other, eight years later, that single day on the calendar would go by inconspicuously.  It would still be a day like any other.

arch bridge

But today has become a bridge – a connection that holds the memories of both my mom and my dad in a splendid moment of happiness between the two saddest days of our lives.

Today is the day when their laughter is heard and the thoughts of their smiles are etched in our memories.  Those moments shine above the heartbreak of their losses.  Today is the day that will hold us in its embrace, allowing us to live in the contentment of how wonderful life was when they were both still with us.  And today is the day that we can stand on top of that bridge and not feel the pain of loss on either side.

(image credit)

One thousand and ninety six days

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Three years ago today, March 7th, was the worst day of my life.  I woke up to my cell phone ringing at 7:00 am and the voice on the other end of the phone told me my mother had passed away in her sleep.  We knew she had been ill, but she had been having a great week during the week leading up to her passing so her death came as a shock.

There are still days I get excited to tell her about something that happened and mindlessly reach for the phone to call her.  I’m sure that will never  change.  Below is the poem I wrote and read at her celebration of life.  I miss you mom.

You left us in the early hours,

so peacefully your spirit would roam.

Through a gentle wind and the rising sun,

the angels called you home.

A ladder was built for your journey to light,

each rung meant to make you content.

While bathed in the glowing light of rebirth,

you gracefully began your ascent.

Loving arms awaited  you there,

curling you into their embrace.

Heaven welcomed an angel back home,

 rejoicing her love and her grace.

You leave behind your spirit and joy,

in those who loved you each day.

While our days will be saddened by the emptiness we feel,

we know we will see you someday.

~

Jane Eleanore Nairn – May 21, 1940 – March 7, 2014

 

It was never just a muffin

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I am addicted to Pinterest.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  But Pinterest has opened up new avenues of cooking for me as well as opened a few doors to my past.  Today is a glowing example of that.

I wasn’t looking for anything specific so when I came across a simple picture of a blueberry muffin, I was immediately transported back to our house on Foreman Road.  I was 10 or 11 and I was in our kitchen, as I always was on Sunday mornings, making Betty Crocker Blueberry muffins for breakfast.

betty_crocker_muffin_mixwild_blueberry

I loved Sundays.  I loved the fact that my parents trusted my ability at such a young age to prepare a breakfast that we would all eat in their bedroom, they tucked under the covers and me (and sometimes my brother) sitting at the end of the bed.  Thinking back to those wonderful times, I can almost smell the freshly baked morsels just out of the oven.  I can see the pat of butter melting into the white cake, making the blueberries glisten in morning light from their bedroom window.

If I close my eyes, I am back in that kitchen mixing the ingredients ever so carefully, taking the lid off the tin of real blueberries in syrup and making sure I am careful not to spill the syrup and stain anything in its path.

Just when I feel like my parents have slipped a little further into my memory cache, one simple picture of a blueberry muffin was all it took to bring them stampeding back into my thoughts.  And now that I look back at all those breakfasts in bed, it was never really about making muffins.  It was about making memories…..moments that will help my parents be with me forever.

 

Cry Baby

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“There is a sacredness in tears – they are not the mark of weakness, but of power.  They are messengers of overwhelming grief, and of unspeakable love.” ~ Washington Irving

~~

Having shed my fair share of tears in my life, this quote struck a chord deep within my emotional register.   It has always been easy for me to saturate my cheeks with salty tears and I come by it honestly.  My dad wore his heart on his sleeve and many times that same sleeve was used to wipe his tears as he watched movies, TV shows and even commercials.   When my apple fell from the family tree, it landed right at his feet, and I’m sure that made him cry as well.

My mom was very private about her crying, although she didn’t cry frequently.  She would gracefully leave the room and gently close her bedroom door.  There were never heavy sobs heard from the other side of that door but her swollen, red eyes the next morning are what Crime Scene Investigators refer to as ‘evidence’.

Sometimes being able to cry so easily is a gift, a genuine release of emotion that feels much like a cleansing.  But the burden of  not being able to control the moments that those tears appear can also be slightly detrimental and result in having my friends, family and co-workers questioning my stability and well-being.

tears

I will never regret being an empathetic person, a cry baby.  I love that I can feel so deeply that life, whether it be my life or someone else’s, can have such an intense impact on me.  And I can take solace in knowing that the people who understand this about me, the people with whom I choose to share those emotional moments, have inevitably shed the same amount of tears with me.