I love my Mom. It’s not just loving her though, I admire her. When I think of some of the best qualities a person should have… truth, trust, honesty, integrity, acceptance, humor, a non-judging attitude and spirit, honor, fun, smarts, strength, an ability to keep moving forward no matter the circumstance, and grace… she has all of that in spades. I have known this, and looked up to her, my entire life. She’s a fantastic role model, someone to aspire to be like, and then on top of that, she’s also my friend.
Mom and I sat at a restaurant I like while I was in Oregon this sad month and she said to me she was glad we could talk to each other about most everything. I agree. The truth is Mom and I have been friends most of my life. I’m lucky. I watched her while I was there for those 19 days and I, again, was amazed by her. She is no stranger to sadness and heartache and yet she shines. She keeps moving, keeps making sure those around her are OK as well.
I saw Mom with Don’s kids, who are fantastic people by the way, and I loved her all the more. Was so proud to be her daughter, yet again. Mom has a way about her. A way to calm and make you feel like you matter and that you are important. She does this effortlessly. She does this naturally. She does it with everyone she’s around. It’s why people love her. My friends, throughout my life, have loved and do love her. And over the past three weeks she was these things for Don’s kids, without even trying. She probably doesn’t even know she has had this effect her whole life. The feeling she instills of calm and peace combined with that smile, the famous smile that beams light and love, it engulfs you. Her presence says everything will be alright.
Somehow, through tears and sadness and heartbreak, she manages to keep that wonderful smile. She manages to see that there is still beauty and love and hope and reason in the world. This doesn’t mean she hasn’t been hurt and sad and angry in the last three weeks, or at other times in her life, it just means she knows how to feel that and still see the love around her. She looks at the world with the best eyes… eyes of hope and love and possibility. She doesn’t let circumstance weigh her down, change her outlook, make her cynical and hard. She never plays the victim and has never been one. It’s spectacular, really spectacular.
Mom has had her share of sadness and loss. My heart aches for her now, as it has in the past, as she deals with this heartbreak. But I know something, something she knows too, something she said to me herself, I know she will be OK. And she will. Knowing that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking of her many many times a day and trying to will my love to her over the miles between us, I am and I do. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hug her and tell her over and over that I love her and that even though I am miles away I’m holding her. I think she knows this. I hope she feels it. But knowing it helps me, and her too I think. Because it’s true. As she gets through the hours, and days, and the next few months, she will keep her life moving forward. She will love and be loved, she will have happiness and joy, she will laugh and have peace again. She will be OK because she is grace under pressure. She will be OK because she knows there’s more good than bad in the world, and that light always shines it’s way into dark spaces. She will be OK because Mom is strong beyond measure. She’s stronger than even she is aware of I think. She will be OK because it’s who she is.
I love my Mom. But more than just love, I admire her. That admiration causing tears to stream down my face and my heart to swell with pride. I love you Mom.
I can’t believe it’s been a week. A week. Time goes so fast, or slow, or fast again, depending on how you look at it, and how you feel. To me, and in talking to Mom, to her as well, it seems as if the last week has stretched out creating the illusion that oh so much more time has actually passed than has. Yet all in slow motion… stretching. It’s strange.
It’s strange what emotions do to you. Sad ones anyway. A week ago today Mom called me early early in the morning to say her husband, Don, has died suddenly, and what everyone believes is pretty peacefully, in his sleep. She woke to strange breaths, tried to wake him, called 911, did chest compressions until the ambulance arrived, and watched as they worked on him both here at the house and then again at the hospital. He couldn’t be revived. She was sitting with him when she started making calls.
I couldn’t believe it early that morning and still I don’t know if I can believe it. I was just here visiting a month and a half ago. Just here at the house hanging out with them. Here chatting with him, loving that occasional mischievous grin he’d get sometimes when he thought he was pulling one over or getting your goat a bit. I really liked that grin. I really liked how he made my Mom happy. Gardening, traveling, spending time with family, trying new Vegan recipes together, reading the paper over good espresso in the morning, and watching the news at night.
Don was a passionate man. Passionate about seeing and exploring the world, passionate about his grandkids and kids, passionate about my Mom and their life here on the farm. He loved trying new gardening techniques and recipes and finding just the right mix to make a suet the birds would like and eat, mixing it up in big batches and devising a plan of delivery so the bigger scrub birds couldn’t get it all.
Sitting here helping Mom go through some of his papers I discovered he was a bit of a poet and philosopher at heart, eloquent when he wanted to be in writing his thoughts down. Snippets here and there of things he’d experienced while traveling, feelings he’d had as kept moving forward through life.
He was an amazing guy, and though I didn’t know him nearly long enough, or know him as well as I would’ve liked, I really only need to know this… he loved my Mom well, he loved his children, and he adored his grandchildren. He had friends he cared about and who care about him. He knew what life is all about. He lived his life using that as his guide… it’s about the people you love and who love you. And because he lived his life that way, because he knew it was all about loving his people and them loving him, he made such and impact on those people… he made an impact on me. I can see him in the beauty of his grandchildren, in their smiles, their sense of fun, in their determination. I can see him in his children, how they are as parents, who they are as people. His legacy is vast and far reaching. His memory, his impact on everyone, so lasting and strong.
Don… you loved well… and you are so well loved…
And if you can hear this… hear me… I hope the fish are bitin’ where you are, and I hope they look out because Fly Fish Don is coming.
“to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.”
― Ellen Bass
Don, you will be missed.
Stan… I am so sorry my friend. And I love you…
I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge, that myth is more potent than history. I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts, that hope always triumphs over experience, that laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death. – Robert Fulghum
Here it is, Tuesday, I’m back at work. How to describe the weekend? I find myself at a loss in this area because I’m emotionally pulled in so many directions. But here I sit, alone in my office during lunch, about to give it a try anyway, as torn as I am.
I guess the first thing that comes to mind is beautiful. And it was. The celebration of my grandmother’s life, held on Saturday, October 8, at noon, was simply beautiful. Not just the setting, though it was, and not just the people, though they were as well. No, it was the spirit of it. The mood. There we were, a large room full of people, all thinking and feeling so deeply about her. All honoring her. And honestly, there was joy in it. Sadness, to be sure, but also a feeling of joy and connection. She would’ve loved her day. Children and grandchildren getting up to talk about her, their voices all filled with so much love and respect. Music… sung and played, food… including, of course, chocolate, a slide show… with music, and people laughing about this thing or that thing they remembered her doing or saying. So much love, and so present in the room, the sense of a life so well lived. And I guess, thinking about it sitting here, that’s the thing. She lived her life well. And we, those lucky enough to be related to her, to be present because of her, learned that from her. We have learned how to live our lives well. The whole event so well organized by her children, the slide show so well done by her son. Her husband, our father and grandfather, so well looked after by his children, his grandchildren. So much compassion, so much respect. And there it is… the truth of the matter, and the truth of a life like hers. Even that day, with her physically gone from us, we were more connected because of her. The family bond strengthening… feeling her arms wrapped around the collection of us, hugging us tightly together. As if she was saying to us, I’m still here, holding you all. We all felt it. As we held each other, as we cried, and even as we laughed. I feel it still. I don’t think it will ever go away. Her power so strong, her influence so rich, her love so great.
We spent the rest of that day together, those that could, and the better part of the next. And then Sunday night we went to watch my uncle play music. She would’ve loved that as well. People enjoying his music, some food, some wine or beer or whatever, and again, being together.
Karen and I left for home after Tom was done making music, and half way there, tired from driving so late, we stopped… for pie and coffee. I thought it was fitting, and I know grandma was smiling. She herself a fan of stopping during early morning hours for pie and coffee, getting a break from driving during long road trips, children asleep in the car. I thought to myself, as afterward we got back in the car and continued the drive home, grandma was there with us. And I know that she’s here with me now. As she will always be… during stops for pie and coffee, during those transcendent moments listening to a great piece of music, during a hug, a call, a laugh, the reading of an email from family. She is there. And that, as it always will, gives me a great sense of comfort… and joy.