The Red Rose of St. Therese


This rose bloomed in front of my mom's nursing home

The day after my mom went to the hospital (my first night in town) I was working with about 4 hours of sleep.  I was so tired.  I went to the courtyard at the hotel I was staying at and sat down to have a cigarette with my coffee.  I was beat tired and gave myself a pass to smoke (due to the circumstances – I thought my mom was going to die).  Anyway, there was a woman sitting in the courtyard.  She gave me a nice smile.  I smiled back and bummed a light from her.  We introduced ourselves and she told me a little about herself.  To make a long story short.  She was from Philadelphia.  Her name was Kathy.  It turns out we share the same birthday, March 28.  She said, “God does answer prayers because just today I was telling God, ‘Please let me meet someone like me I can talk to.'”  Another Aries. 

Kathy told me a story about praying to St. Therese for a baby, after years of struggling with infertility.  “I dropped the Saint and just called her Therese,” she said as she told her tale.  She said that St. Therese is known to answer prayers for miracles and when she answers your prayer she will show you a red rose.  Turns out, she prayed and prayed and then she saw a red rose coming up through the snow during a thick Philadelphia winter.  A couple months later she was pregnant with her son. She told me she would pray for my mom.  So many people prayed for my mom.  I prayed and was not specific; I just knew God would know what to do. My mother did not die the week I went out to say goodbye to her.   She did not die the night I came into town and at the hospital she kept saying, “There are some folks from Heaven here who want me to go with them.”  I said to her as she lay so frail in her hospital bed, coming in and out of hallucinations, “Tell them to take a number; I just got into town.”

 

My mother was in the hospital from Sunday to Wednesday (May 22 – 25) and was treated for a bad urinary tract infection and severe dehydration.  She went home from the hospital on Wednesday.  When I left her and had to say goodbye, I left her in the nursing home dining room, fully dressed, with her portable oxygen hung like a backpack to her wheelchair.  She was wearing her Betty Boop t-shirt,  talking with her table mate.  This woman kept trying to offer the sugar to us.  Her sixties wire winged glasses and her gummy smile will forever be in my memory.  The kindness and gentleness my mother spoke to her with will also be a sweet memory. 

I was not able to stay for lunch as I had to get to Denver to catch a plane. Before I went to visit her that day, I noticed a red rose in the nursing home garden out front.  I believe St. Therese made it bloom.  I believe prayer made it bloom.  I believe love made it bloom.  It could have been the Colorado sunshine, but I believe it was hope and miracle.  I do not expect a full recovery (as my mother is very ill and has two brain tumors), but I did get the chance to say goodbye to my
mom and spend time with her. 

Mom and me at nursing home

I met my new friend, Kathy, very serendipitously and very vulnerable.  Her path put her next to me that day.  I believe God puts people in your path to offer you love, hope, kindness, and guidence.  To tell me about St. Therese and the possibility of miracles.  She was visiting her son out in Colorado.  So, if you need a miracle pray to St. Therese.  Drop the saint, just like Kathy from Phily did, and call her Therese.  She will answer with a red rose.
Miracles are funny things — they take on their own form.  Their own path.
 
This is a slideshow of some of the photos on my mother’s shelf in her room at the nursing home.  Photos of my family and my mom’s family. 

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Light and Shadows 4


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I am at the nursing home now.  Free wi-fi.  I am writing this under a darkened Colorado sky sitting in a circular gazebo.  The sun has set for the night.  As I drove back from Cheyenne, Wyoming today I thought about so many things, but mostly, my mother and how painful this is — I don’t want to numb this experience with denial. I want to embrace this.  Feel the light and the shadows.  I will only be able to do this once in my lifetime, so I better be present  when I give her a sweet kiss goodbye.

Photo by memomuse -- this is my favorite spot in Cheyenne. It overlooks the Rocky Mountains to the left and those there in front of you are the Snowy Range Mountains. Then behind me which you can't see in pix is Cheyenne Frontier Days stadium.

The mountains are my muse and today I realized even though I miss them so much and the land out West — this landscape and beauty is within me and wherever I go.  I take the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and the Wyoming plains with me with every thought and breath I breathe.

I saw Mike Shay, a great friend who works at the Wyoming Arts Council and who has helped me write a lot of grants from the Wyoming Arts Council in the past. 

I had a homemade lunch with my nanogenarian writer friend, Jenni, who made baklava for my wedding.  We sat and chatted over meatloaf with mashed potatoes on top with chives and cheese, green beans with dill — Greek style as Jenni says, whole wheat bread with butter, blood red chili sauce to spice up our meatloaf, and a delicious salad, topped with Greek olives.  We talked of babies and infertility and miracles and how babies come when the mama is ready, and being pregnant during the war (WWII), and her moving to Hawaii and being there when Pearl Harbor got hit, with a baby in her belly.  We talked about my mother and little tears dripped delicately over this homemade meal.  I savored each bite and with Jenni, I am so comfortable.  I felt if I was going to lose it and cry, this would be where I would be comforted most by my ya-ya.  Jenni is not a grandma to me.  I love her, but we are friends.  It strikes me strange sometimes that I can be such good friends with a 93 year old, but that’s that.  I am an old soul; she is a young soul.  We meet somewhere in the middle.

My friend, Shannon, who is one of my people in Cheyenne (I have four — Mike Shay, Shannon, Jenni, and Heidi) only had lunch break available at 1 so I told her to meet me over at Holiday Park, which Jenni lives across from.  So Jenni had strawberry rhubarb pie for us and I tried to rush out, but Jenni wouldn’t have it.  She invited Shannon over for pie and that was settled.  We had black coffee and talked about how Jenni developed a taste for it because during the war, you couldn’t get cream and sugar.  We had pie and Goldschlager in tiny little brandy glasses.  It was delightful.  Shannon left to go back to work and Jenni and I talked some more. 

After that, I ran some errands in town.  Then my last stop was the hospital to see Heidi’s baby. My best friend had a baby May 22, the day I arrived.  Pure light is a new born.

photo by memomuse

I parallel parked on a side street near the hospital and what do you know, Lou Brown, an old soccer coach was working on his yard.  He always had such a  beautiful, eclectic yard.  He was very similar to my parents in that respect. Something that is notable about my long overdue conversation with Lou are two things.  He said to me a long time ago, when I was lamenting about not liking Cheyenne, “Always water where you are standing.” And with his thick Jamaican accent, he repeated it, pointing to his feet in a shoulder width apart stance.  He swayed in this movement to bring home the point again, as he pointed to his feet and the earth below.  I think where we stood today where the photo is taken below, is where he said that to me years ago.  Another thing he said, “Your parents not only beat to the drum of a different band; they beat to the drum of a different orchestra.”

A good friend from the past -- this is quotable -- "You're parents, Megan, not only beat to the tune of a different band, they beat to the tune of a different orchestra. Your mom wasn't afraid of anyone or anything."

My father always admired his landscape of his charming historic home.  That is something I miss a lot about living in Cheyenne — running into people that know me and my history. In North Carolina — nobody knows me or my past. Nobody knows my parents and how eccentric and beautiful they were. Nobody knows that they were a little kooky beautiful.

photo by memomuse -- although this house is not my mom's anymore -- it will always be where The Miller's lived

Nobody knows our house was like an antique museum with a stuffed lion in the wood paneled den and a fertility mask from African hanging on the wall in the den themed African room. Nobody knows that people would plan their daily walks down 23rd Street to see the landscape and brilliance of my parents’ greenthumbs, with aspens dangling in the high plains air and the many other plants and flowers they landscaped.  Nobody knows that I was a star athlete who moved from Chicago to Cheyenne when I was 15 and that I thought Wyoming was the most hick ass place on the planet. 

photo by memomuse of memomuse at the Wyoming state line outside of Cheyenne, "The Gateway to the West"

Nobody knows that I lived there for the almost two decades and always feel my most free when I am among its wide open spaces between land and sky.  Nobody knows that it is my home.  Wyoming and the West is in my heart.  I have truly never left.  Southerners just say, “You’re not from around here, are you?”  I always say, “No, I am a Wyoming native.  I miss it so much.”  And then I go on talking about vertical landscape vs. horizontal landscape and how it opens your mind and heart because you can see only land and sky and for as far as the eye can see.  I have come to realize that the West is my Tara (for all those “Gone With the Wind” fans – I know I am a fan because my mother and my sister and me used to snuggle in bed on Sundays and watch Family Classics with Frasier Thomas on WGN when we were kids and Gone With the Wind was one of our favorites.  We watched all kind of old movies.)

Landscape is important.  It is where we plant ourselves and our memories.  But it doesn’t matter where we live.  It is how we live when we are here on this earth.  Thank you for taking the time to read this today.  I know it was long and it is just a rough draft of the collection of essays and stories I will write one day.  You will have to look for a book someday (and I’ll let you know for sure when it comes out — believe you me! — called The Flea Market Mafia

Journal Your Journey — it is a beautiful road.

photo by memomuse - "Parking Lot"Photo by memomuse of her shadow photo by memomuse

memomuse is a cowgirl lost in the South.  She lives in North Carolina, but gets out to Wyoming and Colorado to open her heart and eyes.  She believes this area near the Rocky Mountains and the High Plains of Cheyenne is the most beautiful place on Earth.  She firmly believes you bloom where you are planted if you tend to the soil and water where you are standing.  Plenty of sunshine and hope from friends and loved ones help too.  She currently is taking a journalistic approach in essay and diary form about her mother’s terminal illness.  She is calling this series of essays, “Light and Shadows.”  This published collection of photos and essays and blog entries will be highlighted on her blog, www.memomuse.wordpress.com.  You can see why she fell in love with Wyoming and the cowboy lifestyle on her rodeo and cowboy blog at www.meganoteri.wordpress.com.  She told me to tell you — Journal Your Journey.

Faith – A Thought Essay in Photos


photo by memomuse - "Blurred Faith"

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

photo by memomuse - "Left of Center"

 

This photo is kind of blurry, but so is my faith at times (most of the time).  But I believe… in something.  I don’t like to define it or talk about it to anyone other than myself and my God. But you know what they say, “Don’t talk about religion or politics.” So, let’s move on to some more photos of what I feel represents or speaks my reflections and thoughts on faith.  Some background info:  My mother is dying.  If you have to label something — she has two brain tumors she has lived with for the last ten years.  One is on her brain stem and the only is on her cerebellum (although I feel it should be in her cerebellum — we need a consult from Dr. McDreamy, ha ha). I have expected her to die since 2000 when we found out she had the tumors.  But my dad died in 2003 from lung cancer and shocked us all, my mother the most. He is buried at Arlington Cemetery.  He was a member of The Frozen Chosen.  My mother told me that she wants to be cremated and buried next to my dad at Arlington.   If that is possible, her plan B is to be scattered at sea (The Atlantic Ocean).  She told me, “A simple tasteful ceremony.”
“Of course,” I said.
She is a one in a million. And my dad was a one in a billion.  I’m one in a trillion.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I have Anne Lamott’s book, Grace (Eventually)- Thoughts on Faith.  I brought it to listen to on the airplane.  I haven’t listened to while I’ve been out here.  I’ve just been too busy.  I love Anne Lamott.  She inspires me.  I love her honesty and her words are beautiful. 
I am at my most peaceful and inspired when I am in a nature.  My father, Bless his heart, as they say in the South, was a deep man, with haunted memories of the Korean War, a broken childhood, a child born, not only the year of the crash, but the very month of the crash, October 5, 1929.  He was a gardener and a poet.  He was a night watchman for The Northern Trust Bank in Chicago. 
 I watched him watch nature while he took smoke breaks and he took plenty of them.  Plenty.  He would park that cig in a stare and think quietly, the orange amber hangin’ off the left side of his lip.  He taught me how to observe.  He was also a bird watcher; I think he knew their names and stuff.  I think of him when I see cardinals. 
 When he died, I had no idea where he went.  I’ll be honest.  But I knew he went somewhere better.  Somewhere he was at peace — with the war, with his sins, with his shame, with his secrets.  He was at peace.  But it took me years to get over the many bridges and interchanges of the highways and interstates of grief.  He was a good man.  He taught me how to find God in nature and in silence.  I credit him with teaching me poetry, how to see it, how to spot it. 
Faith is a curious thing.  I see it in people, in trees, giant cottonwoods, open meadows with birds purring the song of a morning, and at sunset in the clouds and open sky of the West.  I find faith in my heart.  But I finally figured out I don’t need to tell a soul about it.  My faith is for me. 
This photo is my mother smelling the lilys I brought her in the hospital.  She was discharged May 25.  She went back to the nursing home a lot stronger and so much better and happy her whole family rallied around her to give her love and unconditional support  She had a really bad urinary tract infection and severe dehydration.  I drove up to Cheyenne, Wyoming to see my best friend’s baby boy.  I stopped at the Terry Bison Ranch and had the best (and I can say this in all honesty) damn grass-fed buffalo sirloin.  $24.99 and worth every cent.  The veggies were seasoned and bright and delicious.  Yummy mashed potatoes, Texas toast just perfect crispy and a green colorful leafy salad.  A glass of Merlot helped wash that delicious meal down. 
But before I had dinner, I took a lovely walk around the ranch and saw horses, new-born calves, goats, llamas, camels, peacocks, chickens, and a herd of grazing buffalo.  Young little babies galloped in the field.  It was a lovely afternoon. 

photo by memomuse - click on photo to go to the Terry Bison Ranch website

 
 

photo by memomuse - "Forever West"

 The Terry Bison Ranch is right next to this sign.  It’s off to the right.
So, back to faith.  I find my faith in nature and I had the opportunity to take some photos during the glorious hour and half before sunset in Wyoming.  Ya got to understand this straight away – you can see for miles in Wyoming.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Long shadows casting brilliant light.  Before the sky lights up with pastels only God could create, you see the most brilliant light and shadows cast over the land.  Nothing to interfere with its beauty. Just wide open spaces.  I truly believe this is what opens people hearts up so wide — the space to see.
Here are just some of my photos from my afternoon photo shoot.

photo by memomuse - "Engine"

 
 

photo by memomuse -- "Isn't She a Beauty"

 

 

I leave you with my favorite photo from this little adventure, just over the Colorado border on Interstate 25. 

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photo by memomuse - "She is Forever West"

memomuse is a writer living in the South.  She is a cowgirl lost in the south.  She loves wide open spaces and wide open hearts.  You can follow her photojournalistic journeys on this website.  She is currently documenting her mother’s farewell to this earth this week at this same website. Tune in — it’s pretty interesting. Journal Your Journey.  She is also the creator of “The Original Journal.”  Find it on facebook under “The Original Journal.”