Presence | Mamalode


Presence | Mamalode.

Please click on the essay. I get paid by the unique visitors. So please share. It may be too sad for some to read (grief trigger warning), but it’s one of my best pieces of writing. It’s also the story about my mom dying. She literally died on the phone with me. I think most of you know that as she passed on Christmas Eve two years ago. I even was a Debbie Downer and posted it on Facebook when she died (sorry, my mom dying trumps Santa pix).

Check out Mamalode — “America’s best parenting magazine” — Lisa Stone, CEO of BlogHer, while you are on the site (after you read my essay of course). Talk about audience. It’s an authentic magazine about motherhood. Heck, they are sending a wooden minivan (yes, a real one) around Missoula, Montana and asking moms and dads to write down things they want to let go of and they are going to light it on fire. I wish I could attend that bonfire. All non-Missoula folks can email their shit in. I plan on it. I am letting go of guilt and shame this year (and trying to let go of unrealistic expectations, although those really work for me and help me be an over-achiever but it really doesn’t work for me so good).

Click and share and get some Kleenex if not for Betty leaving this world in a blaze of Christian glory. Just so you know, she was tight with Jesus. She saw him twice in her life. And Betty was never one to exaggerate. She was one to tell someone off; she just didn’t lie. She saw Jesus once when she was a little girl and once when she was “so depressed I couldn’t walk across the floor to pick up a toothpick,” in her own words. She had just had her 12th miscarriage with her first husband. So my sister and I are here miracles.

So, before this ends up a chapter and YOU are exhausted from just reading the update, click and share.

I Want to Call My Mom: What is the Area Code in Heaven?


I want to call my mom. Better yet, I would like to have a cup of coffee with her and sit with her in the breakfast nook of our house on Maxwell (in Cheyenne).

I miss her. It is an ache I can not explain nor put into words. All I know is hearing her voice on this earth made everything okay. I did save phone messages from her that I replay often. But it isn’t the same.

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Arlington National Cemetery Arlington Virginia

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Backside of Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

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Front side of Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I galloped into this area with typical Meg enthusiasm and shouted to a tourist with a camera, “Is this the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?”  He gave me a stern look and the universal shush signal with a finger over his lips. Suddenly, I realized this was a sacred place in terms of being silent.  Not sure if I described that well. But I knew suddenly that you are not supposed to make noise in this area. I guess coming right from my mom’s funeral/inurnment, I was in a noise making way since the funeral was a quiet exercise in introspection and reflection.

I took some photos  here and then walked back towards the path to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. I saw a rain print of a bird on the stone path. It rained heavily before my mom’s funeral as we sat in the Arlington National Cemetery parking lot. The rain stopped and the sun came out for my mom’s funeral. I almost expected to see a rainbow. Instead, I felt one in my heart. So many colors inside my soul, bright and buoyant.

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This is a stone in my neighborhood, far from Arlington. I pass it on my daily walk. It is located in an overgrown garden of a giant Southern house desperately in need of a paint job.  An old black lady stands on the porch with her broom and sweeps the dust off in summer. She waves to me and my son. The stone says, ” If tears could build a stairway and thoughts a memory lane, I’d walk right up to heaven and bring you home again.”

This line is from a longer poem:

If Tears Could Build a Stairway

If tears could build a stairway
and thoughts a memory lane
I’d walk right up to heaven
and bring you home again.

No Farewell words were spoken
No time to say good-bye
You were gone before I knew it
And only God knows why.

My heart’s still active in sadness
And secret tears still flow
What it meant to lose you
No one can ever know.

But now I know you want us
To mourn for you no more
To remember all the happy times
Life still has much in store.

Since you’ll never be forgotten
I pledge to you today
A hallowed place within my heart
Is where you’ll always stay.

– Author Unknown

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Sign near Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

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In courtyard near the Columbarium at Arlington national Cemetery after my mom’s funeral.

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In front of my parents’ grave-site although it is not exactly a grave. I call it ash cubby).

When we drove into Arlington it was raining. We had to use umbrellas as we got out of the car. My nephew smoked a cigarette outside the car while we waited for the rain to pass. it was pouring, pellets dropping on our forest green jeep. We were parked in the lot for funerals. We were far from tourists. In drizzled on us after the hard rain passed. We went inside.

We followed the black government plated sedan to the funeral site.

The rest was a series of acute blurs that drift into memory thick — unannounced.

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I believe in angels; I have to.

Blossom


"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." - Marcel Proust

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love." - Washington Irving

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” – Washington Irving

The photo above is the fireplace mantle in my bedroom. The elbow in the orange plaid belongs to my husband. The cards on the mantle are some of the bereavement cards I received after my mother passed away.  I finally (very reluctantly) took down the Christmas lights that were strung across the mantle. I had a hard time letting go of Christmas this year. My mother passed away on Christmas Eve. In some strange way, keeping the lights up somehow made her not dead. But she is.

I knew I had to remove the Christmas lights from the mantles in both my bedroom and our parlor. The parlor is where we eat. It is the center of our 1880 Victorian home. Oak wood floors, curry yellow walls, my husband’s grandfather’s table that has seen generations of family meals, the cherry wood buffet with a pinkish marble counter top flanks the room on the southeast wall. My mother and I bought this buffet together at an antique flea market in Cheyenne called The Avenues. I loved that flea market. I used to go there with my mom all the time. She had a booth there. Betty (my mom) knew how to barter proper. She knew her antiques. I remember marveling at her when she would flip over a china dish or tea saucer and know exactly, right then and there, its value and worth. She would cross reference names and brands in her antique books.

I eyed the beautiful buffet, sliding my palm across the cool marble counter top. My mom smiled at me, aware of my interest. Immediately, without saying a word to her, she said, “Offer them $100 less, that you will pay cash, and that you will pick it up today.”  The buffet was marked down. Betty followed with, “It’s marked down. The vendor wants to unload it.”

Shyly, I went to the counter where the owner of the flea market was sorting tickets — placing vendors’ sales tickets into piles. “Hi Betty,” she said to my mother. They launched into a short conversation about what my mom had sold that week in her booth, doling out names of antiques and flea market treasures like a diner waitress does to a well-known menu.

“$400 cash and I will pick it up,” I said awkwardly. Betty stood next to me, quiet.

My beautiful redheaded mama I adore and love

My beautiful redheaded mama I adore and love

“Let me call the vendor. What is the vendor number on the ticket?” the antique shop owner said. My mom jumped in with a name, as she knew all the flea market vendors at the Avenues. The Avenues was located on a curving turn that arched to a left, right across from the Cheyenne airport. I had taken this curvy turn hundreds of times, as it also is a turn that takes you to Cheyenne Frontier Days Park.

“The owner of the shop verified Betty’s hypothesis — Betty’s gut instinct. Yep, the vendor wanted to unload it. I just got a deal, I thought to myself. How I love a deal. That is one of the charms and alluring pulls of flea market antique shopping. Bartering is where you earn your flea market stripes. I had just earned my first. Don’t get me wrong, I was a garage sale barter champion. Heck, I would barter for a shoelace if I could. It just came natural.

I felt the rush of the bargain. We arranged a time to come pick it up with my husband. He had the truck. He had the muscles.

My mom had a confidence to her that was unmistakable.  Most people felt very comfortable in her presence, unless you crossed her. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” she always said. Although she always gave people the benefit of the doubt. Her heart was large. Her laugh was larger. I miss it. I long for it. I wish I had her laugh recorded.

These lovely artifacts (antique books, trinkets, letters, objects) punctuated her life. They were just things when she was alive. Now that she is gone, they are maps of who she was. It is interesting what we take for granted when we have our loved ones live in the flesh and blood. When they are gone, physical objects sometimes act as sieves for our love for them., filtering the pain of the loss and acting as windows to transport us to memory — to love.

My mother’s ashes are on the mantle in the parlor. We are still waiting to hear from Arlington Cemetery on her funeral arrangements  The mantle in the parlor was flanked by two Santas my mother had given me and that were present at childhood Christmases.  Colored Christmas lights resembling brightly colored sugary balls — twisted, twined, and wrapped in fake garland — snaked along the mantle between the Santas and my mother’s urn. Well actually, the garland and lights rested over her walnut box urn since I was afraid if I put the garland behind the urn box, that somehow it would make the box fall to the floor.

I plugged in the lights every night after her death, sometimes leaving them on all day, well past traditional Christmas light season. It was my ritual. I would plug them in first thing in the morning and say my prayers and send my love to her. Sometimes I would weep at the mantle, longing for my mother’s words, embrace, smile, laugh. I talked to her sitting at our parlor table. I wept at the parlor table. At night, before I went to bed, I would unplug the lights and kiss the wooden box of ashes. I took down the lights last weekend and forced myself to take down the Santas that flanked both sides.

My February Memorial Mantle

My February Memorial Mantle

For some reason I can’t really explain, I knew it was time to take down the Christmas lights and Santas and embrace a new flower that is emerging from this loss. I am not saying I am hurting less, but the pain is less acute and more obtuse — surrounding me with its wide angle, enveloping me in sadness. A bud is emerging and flower petals are wrapped tight around the bud. Creating a cleaning space for my grief will provide the necessary sunshine to get the reluctant bud to open. The process of grief is not linear. I hopscotch back and forth between anger, denial, acceptance. I do realize my mother is somehow (beyond my understanding as a human on earth) with me, within me, and above me watching me grow and blossom.

I just will never be able to explain it nor completely understand it.

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Azalea blossom in my front yard.

“Grief is the price we pay for love.” – Queen Elizabeth II

Photo Source: Mother Nature Network Angel Wings

Photo Source: Mother Nature Network
Angel Wings

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Mantle in my bedroom after clearing off Christmas lights.

“Grief changes shape, but it never ends.” – Keanu Reeves

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My husband carved the wooden heart as a gift. The angel came with a sympathy card from a childhood friend who knew my mom as a child. My mom was the Girl Scout troop leader. This friend remembered how my mom taught all the Girl Scouts the Girl Scout Promise.

The Girl Scout Promise

On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

The Girl Scout Law

I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
and to
respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.

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Angel Heart

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“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” – Edith Wharton
My mother was both the  candle and the mirror.

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The turquoise turtle was my mom’s. It rested in her bathroom on her two tier bronze circular shelf that also held her Buddhas.

“God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.” –  Rudyard Kipling

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Mantle in my bedroom

“A mother is beyond any notion of a beginning. That’s what makes her a mother.” – Meghan O’Rourke

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Monet Mantle. One of the things that made me fall in love with my husband was he had a Monet painting. His sensitivity to both my parents’ death has helped me survive these great storms. My father passed away in 2003. My husband held me as I cried myself to sleep through both loses.

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.”  – Mother Teresa

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Parlor room mantle.

“Never does one feel oneself so utterly helpless as in trying to speak comfort for great bereavement. I will not try it. Time is the only comforter for the loss of a mother.” –  Jane Welsh Carlyle

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Buddha Mantle. The two Buddhas next to my mom’s ashes were hers. The rose is from my backyard rose vine.

“The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.” – Buddha

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You can see a little bit of the buffet in this photo that I bought with my mom at the antique flea market.

“Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.” – Khalil Gibran

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Love Mantle. Healing Mantle. I move through the grief and stop when I can not walk anymore.

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“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” – Washington Irving