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In my continued quest to raise MKL’s spirits, I’m taking us to the long, wide, windswept beaches of the Riviera Maya again. January in Tulum was quite breezy; I suppose February in Cozumel will likely be the same, but that’s just fine. I’m excited to go – we’re a month away as of tomorrow. And today is our five month wedding anniversary, and we’re heading to the Stock Show tomorrow to see llamas, alpacas, rodeo, and whatever other surprises we encounter. He has promised to do his best to take the place of Kelsea – this is the first year she will miss the Stock Show, having gone every year since she was a month and a half old. He’s a very good husband. :-)
Quote of the day: “When we travel, we aim for the sublime. It’s the ridiculous stuff, however, that we tend to treasure the most.” — Erik Torkells
The surprise return of a favorite blogger after a year-long hiatus
Working from home on a snow day
A cuddly Maine Coon
A clean(ish) kitchen
December 11, 2006:
You had slept. I had only dozed, for the ninth night in a row. I had gotten up a dozen times from the bed next to yours to check on you, to be sure you were still breathing, like a new nervous new mother does with an infant. You would moan every so often. When you awoke in the morning, you looked over at me. “Am I still here?” you asked. “Yep,” I replied, “unless I’m dead too.” “Damn,” you said.
We talked then, about the pain, about how you wanted to go and were unsure why you were still here. You asked me then, if I would help you go if you did not go by yourself today. Which told me how much you were hurting. We talked about how I would do it, with the morphine. I would have done anything for you. But I could not commit to killing you. I said, “Let’s see how it goes today.” I couldn’t say yes – but I couldn’t say no.
The quality of the day changed after that talk. It felt like when you’re getting ready for a journey – which you were. We were down to just the orange sherbet now. I would slip a little between your dry lips (no amount of lip balm seemed to keep them moist for long) and you would smile this blissful little smile. We talked about the little blonde daughter that you had never had, that one time when you had an early miscarriage, and how she had always haunted you, and not in a nice way. How you had longed for her (I tried not to be jealous, not to feel like somehow I hadn’t been daughter enough for you.) How you could see her hovering around now, still being mean and angry. We had banished her together, you and I, me finding the words to help you forgive yourself for not having her (as if you had had any control over that) and us finding the words for you to use in talking to that spirit, to tell her that her behavior was unacceptable, just as a mother would talk to a obdurant child. That seemed to ease you greatly.
You needed the morphine – just small amounts – more often. More people came and went. We talked about your excitement about whatever came next. And we talked about your biggest fear – fear that my Father would be mad at you when you saw him on the other side, that he wouldn’t have forgiven you for something that you blamed yourself for, something that I know he never blamed you for, no matter what words I used to try to convince you otherwise.
More people came and went. I remember the quality of the light of the day, just as I remembered the quality of light on the day the Kelsea was born. It was a slow, gentle light, lingering and warm, but clear in its waning, fading in beauty, dipping and deepening into dusk, then darkness.
We talked and talked. You were getting…frisky? Cocky? Rambunctious? You were talking about getting up to the Pearly Gates and kicking St. Peter’s ass. I never did know where that came from, but more power to you.
You wanted to see one person in particular, but he had had surgery that morning and couldn’t come. You had something she wanted to tell him, but you finally decided that he already knew. And you let it go.
[As I was writing this, I noticed my reference’s to my Mother changed from “you” to “she” about this time, a sign of letting go, perhaps.]
The hospice chaplain came. I spoke to her out in the hallway, and couldn’t help but cry. I didn’t cry much the last few days. Mother didn’t want me to cry and so I didn’t. But Jodi, the chaplain was so genuine, it was impossible not to let some tears flow. I told her that she needed to talk, that there was something she needed to find peace around, before she could let go. After Jodi left, she was calmer – she had found a certain peace. I never knew what was spoken between them. It didn’t matter. It only mattered that she had released that last burden.
Things felt like they happened quickly after that, and then slowly. Jackie, her home care nurse, came to visit. It made her so happy. “It’s my angel,” she said. She always thought that way about Jackie. Jackie too took me into the other room and told me that it was her time. “Have you noticed that smell? It’s the smell of death,” she said. “I know that smell.” Jackie was a big, beautiful, joyful, compassionate woman. She told me that she’d tell the night nurse what to do, about preparing the body, that I shouldn’t worry. She hugged me.
As the afternoon faded, she started to fade. She became less lucid. She wasn’t talking so much. She was hurting more. I was slipping the small dropper of morphine between her lips more often. I was the only one who could give it to her. I felt like her pain was in my hands. It was getting late. We sat with her, my uncle and brother on one side, me on the other. She had stopped talking long ago, her eyes were closed now, her breathing slowing and labored. She would groan and twist sometimes, and I would give her another taste of the morphine. I did not know if she was hurting, but I could not stand to think she might be, and couldn’t tell me, and I was doing nothing to ease her pain.
The waitress at their favorite restaurant called, and told me to light a white candle in front of her, and encourage her to go toward the light. We did. We sat and talked quietly. We sat in silence. We sat through the night. E-Bro went to rest of a while. It was calm. I could feel her struggling to leave her body, as if her very spirit was working hard to let go, to get out, to be free. Finally, somehow, we could tell her something had changed. Maybe it was her breathing. Something. My uncle went to get my brother from the couch. We sat again, the three of us, encouraging her to go. I stroked her hair, whispered to her, kept my hand on her heart. It slowed. Her breaths came farther and farther apart, more and more shallow.
Until they stopped all together.
[These three days are always hard for me, especially coming at this time of year that I love. And so, over these next three days, I will be reposting what I lived during these days nine years ago. I did this three years ago as well, and find sharing my experiences and memories comforting and cathartic. I find it interesting to reflect on how my feelings about death have evolved as I have aged. But that’s for another post.]
With thanks and apologies to Eugene O’Neill for the post title.
[The next three day’s postings are my memories of the day before, the day of, and the day after my Mother’s death four years ago. This is a difficult anniversary for me, though it seems to ease each year.]
December 10, 2006: I don’t remember what we did today. Probably not too much but talk – and laugh. Uncle George and E-Bro were with us now, but strangely I don’t remember them being there. I only remember us. Over the past week, we had spent nearly every moment together, waking and sleeping. I probably took a walk once and went out to the store a couple of times. I took showers alone and went to the bathroom alone. But you didn’t. It was as if we were merging, merging for the last time. Looking back now, I see that that wasn’t a good thing, but it wasn’t something I could control. We had been so very close for so very long that our separateness was, for most years, only a matter of a few degrees. In the last days, those few degrees simply vanished.
You had started asking for the morphine towards the end of the day. Not much, but you’d never needed it before. I can imagine how much you must have been hurting to make that concession. You always hated painkillers, hated anything that made you feel out of control of yourself, unlike yourself. It didn’t seem to affect your clarity, but it did seem to ease your pain. I remember your pain. It was in your bones. When you would move sometimes – or sometimes when you were still and it was so bad that it would make you move – your face would grimace in this expression that was indescribable. You would hold your breath until it passed. I hated to see you in pain. I encouraged you to take the morphine. After all, we knew you didn’t have much time left – why spend it in pain? But you wanted to spend it being present. I admire that.
You had stopped eating by now, but today I could still get a few Dibs into you. Water. Your beloved orange sherbet in little tiny spoonfuls. It was sunny, and the light slipped through the slats of the blinds in gentle patterns, changing throughout the day, as sunlight does. You never asked for me to open the blinds or asked to look outside. Looking back, that surprises me, as you so loved nature. But you were focused on the world inside your three rooms, the world that encompassed the people you loved most, and the small things you had around you that you treasured. The rest of the world didn’t matter anymore.
People came and went, people you’d known for years and years who loved you so. You always thought of yourself as being alone, as not having many close friends, but so many people felt like you were THEIR close friend. You were very comfortable with that, with all of it, and with being alone. I suppose that’s the mark of a person truly happy in herself. But today, people came knowing that they were coming to say goodbye, even though nothing had been said. I left them alone with you, and they usually came out of the bedroom and started to cry, and I would thank them and comfort them as best I could.
Everyone brought food. You weren’t eating. I couldn’t eat, except late at night, when I couldn’t sleep. I would eat weird things in weird amounts, knowing I just had to get something, anything, into me. It wasn’t comforting. It was a random necessity. That had been going on for a week, my eating like that. Ever since you really stopped eating. For me, that was the beginning of my thoughtless, mindless eating habits that have added so much weight to my small frame in the last four years.
I don’t remember doctors coming. I don’t remember even talking to the doctors. But that must have happened. Mustn’t it?
In the afternoon, you took a nap. As always, I stayed beside you for most of it. I would go do little things, make phone calls, shower, clean something, constantly checking on you. When you woke, I took your hand, asked you if you had a nice rest. You said yes, and looked at me strangely. I chattered at you, you responded politely, still looking at me in that odd way, patting my hand. Then you said, “Who ARE you?” And I reminded you that I was your daughter. Your eyes cleared, you looked relieved, you laughed at yourself as you recognized me. I felt a chill that I did not show.
I had been so wrapped up in caring for you. For months, I think, I had been flying across the country every weekend to be with you. Your death became my life. We had always been close, except for those nasty teenage years, but especially since Kelsea’s birth. We had talked every day. After the last diagnosis, we talked three or four or five times a day. In the mornings, to be sure you were okay. If you were lonely. If I was bored. If you went to the doctor. In the evening before bed. If I was scared. If you had some piece of news. We talked so much because we knew that soon we wouldn’t be able to talk at all, not in the same way.
And you were so happy to have the three of us there. You loved us so. That night as we were going to bed, you felt it was going to be your last night. You said goodbye to me. You told me to tell Kelsea that you loved her. You reminded me that the car keys were in the little bowl on the half-wall by the kitchen. Yes, ever the Mother. And you went to sleep.
But it was not your last night.
The discussion about how we were all so focused on saying prayers for the citizens of Parls, and yet not for the citizens of other terrorist attacks in 2015 gave me pause. I feel no less sorrow for victims of terrorist attacks in Beirut, Syria, Thailand, or yesterday’s attack in Nigeria than I feel for those in France. And I feel the pain of those who suffer ongoing terrorism in countries such as Rwanda and people such as the Yadizis. As an empath, I have had to learn how to shield myself from my own feelings about these world events, and to some extent, from stories about poignant tragedies and disasters, while at the same time immersing myself in those stories until I can comprehend them, instead of just feel them. Perhaps that doesn’t make sense, but that’s how I am.
The uproar about our world’s lack of caring for other countries suffering similar attacks made me recognize (again) how our perception is driven by the media. Had we had minute-by-minute coverage on CNN about the Beirut attack and its aftermath, swarms of reporters heading to the scene immediately, and interviews with survivors and those who lost loved ones, perhaps our own sympathies would have been equaled stirred. But that’s not what happened. That’s not what happened with the terrorist attack in Yola, Nigeria yesterday. That same kind of intense media scrutiny might have generated similar sympathies. So yes, the media partially responsible for our reaction. It’s the only way we know about what’s going on thousands of miles away. In the early 19th century, it would have taken weeks or months to learn about a tragedy within a family if one branch were far distant. I don’t doubt that people lived from birth to death without knowing about atrocities committed on other continents.
(I will say here that the media did a good job of covering the horrific attack on the school in Kenya last April, and that my spirit was heavy with pain for the victims of that tragedy.)
Paris is a city that has been much more romanticized by western civilization than Beirut, Yola, Aleppo, or Kunduz. It has been the setting for films, novels, advertisements, vacations, and dreams, much more often than other cities that have undergone the trauma of terrorism, and that is another reason that last week’s events resonated more with many than did the other acts of terror. That doesn’t make it any more or less important. It just puts it more to the forefront of our personal vision. Had I known someone that had spent time in Beirut and fallen in love with it and shared that feeling with me, I don’t doubt that I would be more attuned to the daily events there. But, unfortunately, I don’t.
I appreciate the discussion about why we as a society did not seem to care as much about the other countries that were victims of violence last week and earlier in the year, and in the years past. It has made me recognize that I want to be more aware of what’s happening in the world, of the places that need the strings of my spirit to reach out with love and support across the miles. That’s now something I am committed to doing. It doesn’t minimize my feelings of empathy for Parisians, but it does make my empathy for other countries shine.
Like many, I wish there was more I could do. I am just one person. But all of us are just individuals. If we approach each other with empathy and love, perhaps all of our feelings of compassion combined can make a difference. I hope.
Quote of the day: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” — Jimi Hendrix
Confirmation that my pregnancy radar is still functioning (no, I”M not pregnant)
Getting things done
Talks with Kelsea who will be coming home on Tuesday!
Pardon me for waxing mushy for a post…
When I met MKL (through eHarmony, yes), I had no idea he would become my husband. When we had been matched (on my birthday), I had shown his picture to Kelsea and asked what she thought. She approved, so we did the little email-y, question-asky thing that eHarmony has you do, and it went well. And then I didn’t hear from him. And I didn’t hear from him. And one day, while we were at Topsail, and I was suffering from some stomach juju, I said to Kelsea, “Remember that nice guy that I was emailing with? He hasn’t responded to me. Do you think I should nudge him (because that’s what you can do on eHarmony) or should I just let it go?” “You liked him, right? Nudge him,” she said. So I did. He answered. When Kelsea and I got back, MKL and I had our first phone conversation. I was sitting in a camp chair on my front porch with a glass of red wine. We talked for an hour, and agreed to have lunch. He walked me back to my office after that lunch and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back inside, everyone said I was glowing. I never stopped glowing.
MKL knew that I was someone he had been looking for and hoping for. It took me a bit longer to figure that out , and I am so glad that I caught up with him. I cannot imagine my life and my future without him. He holds my heart and understands me as no one has. We are not identical, and we have our own opinions, but our spirits are shared and that makes me richer than anything else ever could. What a blessing, my MKL.
Quote of the day: “There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.” — Sarah Dessen
The shaking bowl today
A warm Mr. Man in my lap
Kelsea’s and my agreed-upon text code
I love the little town in which I’ve lived for over four years now. One of the things I love most about it is its support of the arts. We have a remarkable collection of public art lining our main street, as well as an “Alley Art” program, in which artists paint amazing murals on residents’ alley-facing garage doors. As I am planning on moving in with MKL (because we think a husband and wife should live together) in his town some 40 miles away, I wanted to document our small-town art so I could share it here, with a larger audience. Two weekends ago, on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, I took a long walk and began to capture some images. I’ll let you see them as we move along in time together.
This beautiful piece is called Waiting for the Bus by artist Lucas Loeffler Child. The artist’s mother became ill with pancreatic cancer and quickly passed away just as Child was finishing the piece. He gathered a collection of little things – pennies from the year she was born and the year she died, little treasures that the two of them shared, memories – and put them in a shining circular tin, placing it inside the chest of the angel just where the heart would be. He also positioned her in the center of her bench, so that people could sit on either side of her, with one of her hands curled gently beside her, so someone could hold it for comfort. While much of our town’s art changes from year to year, our angel is permanent, sitting waiting for the bus in the shade, halo in her lap, at the end of a very long day.
Quote of the day: “When love has fused and mingled two beings in a sacred and angelic unity, the secret of life has been discovered so far as they are concerned; they are no longer anything more than the two boundaries of the same destiny; they are no longer anything but the two wings of the same spirit. Love, soar.” — Victor Hugo
Comfort food after a day of pain
A solution to the mystery of The Cold War Horse
Still basking in the glow of newlywed bliss – although it would be really nice if we lived together, but that will come. It’s been a time of many moods, getting ready to send Kelsea off to college. I bought her a one-way plane ticket, and that made me a little shocked. She cut off all her hair and she looks adorable. We know we have a limited number of trashy-tv-together nights, and it makes me a little weepy. So my blues have been coming and going like the tides, rising and falling. But my happiness at being Mrs. MKL and the wonderful memories of our wedding help keep the light in my heart. I had saved a “blue bomb” orchid blossom from a wedding I worked a year or more ago; it has sat on my bathroom shelf so I could describe it perfectly to the florist (shout out to Judy at Surf City Florist for an awesome job). I now wish I had saved a blossom from my own bouquet, but I’m so pleased that I was able to leave Kelsea’s with Lynn and mine with Janie to enjoy.
Quote of the day: “She was prettier than a bouquet of roses and crazier than a headless chicken. Fitting in was not an option.” — Marissa Meyer
The man in mismatched socks in the bus station
Mothers who smile at their children (that happens less often than you might think)
My feisty friend at Half Girl Half Teacup has nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World award! It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the blog award circuit and I’m delighted, so stay tuned for my acceptance speech and nominations!
All pink and blue, unlike our swirling yet unfulfilled storm clouds here in Lafayette this afternoon. And speaking of babies – or those who are no longer babies – my darling daughter goes off to college orientation tomorrow. Then she comes back, which is good, but then she will go away again. I guess that is the way of it. As today’s quote says, we all leave a bit of ourselves behind when we leave a place. I have left much of myself at Topsail. My darling daughter will leave much of herself here. But we both have so much more to see and do and give, and an endless amount of ourselves to leave behind in the places we will love.
Quote of the day: “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” — Pascal Mercier
Making it through a tough day
Sharing Kelsea’s excitement about college housing
Our two new wooden parrots
One of the greatest challenges of seaside photography for me is the timing between taking my camera outside of an air-conditioned car or house and taking a shot. My timing was suberbly off in this instance, but I thought the condensation created as spooky a sand picture as I’ve seen.
Quote of the day: “And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon.” — Edward Lear
(As an aside, this quote is from The Owl and the Pussycat. My Mother put the poem to a tune, and sang it to me when I was little. Once I had Kelsea, I remembered it, and sang it to her. My Mother heard me singing it to her once, and was so delighted that I remembered her little tune, that has now stood the test of time and generations.)
Having Kelsea home safe from her long road trip
Seeing my husband today (since we don’t live in the same house yet)
How nice the word ‘husband’ feels in my spirit
A slightly cooler day
Mr. Man laying on my heart in the middle of the night
Topsail Beach, North Carolina.
Quote of the day: “What is family? They were the people who claimed you. In good, in bad, in parts or in whole, they were the ones who showed up, who stayed in there, regardless. It wasn’t just about blood relations or shared chromosomes, but something wider, bigger. We had many families over time.”
How proud I am to call MKL my husband
Hugs at work
My aircraft carrier-size bed