Saturday, April 7, 2012

April 9 HONOR HILL There is a beautiful little 17th century chapel situated on top of a hill covered with a blanket of yellow daffodils. Surrounding the chapel are hundreds of gravestones sitting up high and proud for all to see. Generations are here who have lived and loved in our little village. It was a delight for me to meet and learn from a tired, white haired and wrinkled old man who I watched as he struggled to walk up the hill. He used his cane and stopped briefly at many of the headstones. At some he brushed tears from his withered cheeks and at others I could hear him gently chuckle and tip his hat as he struggled higher up on the hill. He appeared to be getting more and more fatigued as he moved on and I walked over to him and asked if he needed some help getting up such a steep hill. “No, but thank you so much. I come here on every nice day to say hello to many friends who have gone before me. To walk past their head stones is to be reminded of what great friends they were and to discuss what I have yet before me. It’s very comforting as I read their names and remember.” He pointed to the right and said, “See there – that’s old Johnny. He was the best. He loved his family, his God and his community with passion. He taught me so much in life and is now teaching me in death as well. He and I had many laughs over the years and I miss him still today. “ He twisted around a bit and with a wistful look in his sad eyes he pointed further up the hill and said, “….and up there Emma is waiting for me.. and Joey ….. and Mike. I need to move on … they’re waiting for me.” I watched him struggle on, holding his cane and stopping every so often to share a bit of himself with his old friends. His wisdom was a special gift for me. I had never been a “big cemetery” visitor, but I sure as hell will be from now on. It’s the finest honor we can give to our departed loved ones. He was a wise old man and I will be sure to honor him when the time comes.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

April 7 GLISTENING IN THE SAND It was a glorious sunny day and as I walked along the lonely stretch of beach I thought of one of my favorite expressions – “God’s in His Heaven and all’s right with the world.” A gentle breeze whispered to the reeds and rushes along the dunes and I felt a tremendous peace settle over me. I reached my hand above my head to capture the wayward strands of hair blowing before my eyes and it was then I realized that I had lost an earring. Not just any old earring but one of the very special ones given to me by my husband before he died. I quickly lost that sense of peace as I retraced my steps hoping to spot it glistening in the sand. It just was not to be. The tide was coming in and I was certain it had been washed out to sea. I went home saddened and feeling that awful sense of loss not only for my precious earring but whenever I thought of my beloved. A few days later, as I began my daily walk by the sea, I passed an older gentlemen using one of those metal detector devices to scan the sand. He stooped over slowly to pluck an object fro the sand. He looked over at me and said, “Well now, will you look at this? Someone must be missing a beautiful earring.” I was thrilled and told him about my loss a few days before and he just smiled and nodded his head. “Of course he said. I’m not at all surprised. Don’t you realize you’ve just witnessed an angel at work? When all seems useless, we often have our own angel stepping in to help us out. It seems like you have a very special. I bet it’s your late husband working remember to thank him.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April 6th – E = EVERYTHING MUST GO I thought I was ready for it and that it would be a relief to “downsize.” It almost tore me apart! Although I was not one to hold onto “things,” because they were just that … “things,.” after 60 years of running a household and caring for eight kids, a husband and several dogs, I had amassed quite a collection. I foolishly thought … Enough! I’m going to get rid of a whole lot of this “stuff” and downsize. I certainly don’t need it. I decided to sell my house, clean out my closet, and move to a neat little condo where I no longer have use for those oversized frying pans and spaghetti pots. I certainly didn’t need the mismatched dinner plates, cups, saucers and soup bowls. I had milk, water and juice pitchers, ash trays and silent butlers, cut glass and crystal, Limoge and Dalton, to say nothing of demitasse and Irish coffee sets. Their only function was that of dust collectors now. My beloved husband died; my wonderful kids were all grown and living on their own; my home was no longer the home I loved so dearly. It was just one more “thing.” Time to move on, I thought. I scheduled an Everything Must Go Tag Sale. What a complete and utter fiasco. I stood like a sentinel at the door and every time a person would pick up one of my “things” I panicked. I would remember a moment in time, an event or joy or sorrow connected to that particular “thing” and just couldn’t bear to part with it. It belonged to me – to my family, to our history – to my kids. I felt like little pieces of myself were being fractured and disrespected. I’d smile at the remembrance of the many Sunday dinners and the very special holiday spent together as a family; the Christmas trees, the Thanksgiving turkeys, the picnics, the stick ball games and barbecues. I could picture the large refectory table in the dining room resplendent with china and candles and centerpieces. I’d see my sweet husband sitting at the head of the table and my kids seated around . I could could hear the happy chatter.and feel the energy. It was unthinkable to allow those special keepsakes to go to strangers. They were the anchors of our history and no one who hadn’t lived the experience would ever be able to appreciate their value. We needed them as precious reminders of past blessings . The ash trays would never be used again; no need for a silent butler; no sense in the dust collectors or the oversized serving pieces. I may not have needed them any longer but my children and future generations would need them to reflect and cherish their history and traditions. I sure hope so. The sale was to be held from 9:00 -5:00 .on a Saturday. By 10:00 o’clock, with tears in my eyes, memories in my heart, and gratitude in my soul, I closed the door and placed a big sign saying, SORRY – SALES OVER.
April 5th - D = Death and Dying The tears flowed freely down her cheeks . She drew in a deep breath and mumbled to me, “I just can’t do this any longer. It’s killing me and I feel so useless. If only there was something I could do.” I covered her shaking hand with mine and replied, “I hope you’ll listen carefully to what I’m going to say. It’s important for both you and your mom.” I began to speak and gazed into her sad tortured eyes and said softly, “Ah my friend, watching you sit beside your mom during these last few days of her long life touches a cord deep in my heart. You may not recognize it now but trust me when I tell you that these final days and hours with you are the finest gift you can give her and her finest gift to you as well. To be able to sit quietly next to her, stroke her hair, hold her hand, put your arms around her and bring her close to your heart is giving her the strength and tools she needs to die with love and dignity. Dying is hard work and your mom is clearly very tired. Her body is working really hard to accomplish this final task yet her mind and senses can remain calm and at peace. She needs your support now more than ever. She's feeling your love and devotion and that's bringing gentle comfort to her tired body. Your presence along this final leg of her journey is some kind of miraculous salve that eases any pain she might have. She can feel your gentle strokes and your strong arms holding and guiding her. Just as she caressed your hurts as a child too are you comforting her now by letting her know how much you love her. It is your finest hour in all the many years you've spent loving each other. And she’s giving you a special gift with her long goodbye. My mom died years ago of a cerebral hemorrhage and was dead when she collapsed to the floor after a full, active day. The suddenness and unexpectedness of it caused a deep and fracturing crack in my heart . It has left a void that can never be filled. I never had the chance to say goodbye. I couldn't hold her hand, stroke her hair, and comfort her with soothing tones. I know it’s impossible to feel peace during these awful days but they will become treasured memories in the days ahead. A day won’t go by when you won’t think about this wonderful woman and these thoughts will be blessings from her as she pops in and out of your mind. Her unexpected “visits” every now and then will help you through the bad times. You and your mom are connected in a magical, mystical way because of these final days. Embrace every one of them and hold them close forever. “

Monday, April 2, 2012

April 2nd 2012 Alzheimer’s Disease I am alone, abandoned, anonymous. What the hell am I doing sitting alone on this plane? Why can’t I remember? Am I crazy? Where is Abby? Where has she gone? Who is that lovely lady who brought me here and who the hell is sitting in Abby’s seat next to me. And why am I strapped in like a prisoner. I have to get out of here but I don’t know how to get rid of this damn leash that’s holding me down. Holy Good God … . what is that roaring noise? And why are we moving so fast? We’re going much too fast. I struggled to get up but the dam leash has me locked in place. Someone, help me please. The lady sitting in Abby’s seat reached over to me and placed her hand over mine. “Shh, shh, shh, … “it’s okay,” she said. “It’s the plane taking off. We’re going to be fine. Just try and relax and we’ll be safely in the air in just a few minutes.” She stroked my hand and arm and smiled at me as she whispered comforting words. I was happy to have her next to me but I had no idea who she was. She was very pretty, with shocking white hair that framed her kind, wrinkled face. She had a sweet smell of lilacs about her that reminded me vaguely of someone I knew a long time ago. Her piercing blue eyes held such deep sadness that it unnerved me a bit more and it was difficult to hold her gaze. She continued to caress my hand and I could feel the anxiety slowly drifting away and I was able to relax. I put my head back against the head rest and fell into a welcomed sleep. I awakened to the Captain’s strong voice telling us we were fifteen minutes from our destination, Denver, Colorado. He told us the temperature on the ground was a mellow 70 degrees and it was a beautiful day. He thanked us for flying Delta and wished us a good day. I opened my eyes and stretched my cramped arms and legs. Abby turned tentatively to me and said, “Hello there … how are you feeling?” “Just fine,” I answered. “It was a very smooth flight, wasn’t it?” She nodded her head and asked me if I remembered feeling confused before we took off. I replied, “Of course not. … why do you ask.?” She smiled quietly and gently reminded me that sometimes the Alzheimer’s Disease plays funny tricks on my mind. She took my hand and said “Okay, love, let’s go on home.”
April 4 – C COOKIES, CANDIES, CUPCAKES AND ICE CREAM It was a fine sunny day with fluffy white clouds sweeping across the clear blue skies. I sat across the street from the newly painted bright pink building that was nestled between two large 3-story Victorian buildings. The sweet little building was no more than fifteen feet wide and perhaps twenty feet in depth. It's very size made a huge statement and my eyes were immediately attracted to this midget among giants of a building. It was one story high and set just a speck back from the street. This created a miniature "garden" in front that served as home to a large pink ceramic pig named Penelope. Eight little piglets that appeared to be scampering playfully around their mom’s feet surrounded Penelope. She stood, smiling delightfully, as she seemed to beckon and welcome patrons to the newly opened Pink Pig Confection Shoppe. Each piglet had a name painted on its haunches identifying the many delectable and exciting sweets for sale. I smiled and just had to go in. I crossed the street to investigate this new addition to our Town Square. But first, I had to stop and pat Penelope Pig's shiny head as she stood guard at the front door. Only then did I enter this sweet little building. I opened the brightly painted magenta door and inside found pure magic. As I stepped thru the entry, I heard the tinkling of a pantry bell and immediately every one of my salivary glands was awakened by the intoxicating smells of chocolate, cinnamon, cherry and every imaginable sweet scent. Smiling clerks whose names were clearly visible on their bright yellow nametags came forward to welcome me. The owner who calls herself The Wizard of Sweets was first to greet me, followed by Jumping Jack, Jolly Polly, Gladys Glowworm, Leaping Lizzie, Flippin' Frog, and Wacky Willy . Each wore their bright yellow nametags proudly and moved among the parents and toddlers explaining the many different treats they were ready to serve. Candies, cookies and cupcakes were shaped like miniature red fire engines, adorable little flowers in all colors, licorice striped zebras, golden tigers and bears, marshmallow kitties, and dark and light brown puppies of all breeds. There was such a cacophony of voices, ‘ooh’s and ah’s’ and “Please Mommy, I want that’” through giggles and laughter that it was difficult to hear the names above the chatter. Of course, there was a Peppermint Pink Pig called a Penelope, a smooth pinkish colored sticky delight called a Cheery Cherry, a smooth clear vanilla wafer loaded with chocolate chips called a Kissy Coin, a citrus flavored delight called a Lemon Louie, and last but not least, an enormous tower of different flavored ice creams piled high into a cone called a Magic Kingdom. The ice cream was whipped to perfection right there in the shop and was a pure culinary delight of all natural ingredients. All treats could be topped with sprinkles, gummy bears, peppermint chips or any combination of nuts. This enchanting little place had fed not only my sweet tooth but my heart and soul as well.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April 3, 2012 B FOR BIRTHDAYS What people don't understand about birthdays and what no one ever tells us when we're eleven years old, is that we are also ten, nine, eight, seven and even down as young as two or one year old. We carried all those years along with us and they brought us to this, our eleventh year, They are a part of our very essence and will never go completely away. They remain with us always. Some days we might say something stupid and that's part of us that's still ten. Maybe some days we still need to call our mothers for help because we're frightened or need an answer to something we don't understand. We may even need to be cradled in her arms and have her wipe away our tears. We will still need to be soothed by her tender touch on our bowed head. That's the part off us that's still five years old. And perhaps some day when we're all grown up, we will cry like we did when we were three years old. We may be so sad and frustrated that we don't know where to turn. And that's okay too because that's the part of us that is still three. Indeed, we carry every age within. When we are 50 or 60 or 70 years old, some where, some place deep within our souls those qualities so much a part of us when we were only toddlers or teens or young adults remain with us still. We will still feel the need to laugh and cry like a three year old, rejoice and celebrate like a six year old, We can never forget to touch all these spaces deep inside ourselves that are still so much a part of who we are. I hope we can sing Happy Birthday with gusto and joy. Birthdays are very special days on this journey of life and we need to honor them. We need to reflect, reminisce and celebrate a whole birth week or birth month. Certainly a day is not enough for the miracle of who and what we are and what we yet to become.