When the Circle of Life Feels More Like a Box

IMG_439808736277A dear friend of mine lost his mother this week. The moments of death & grief unfold unexpectedly yet predictably. That is, not knowing when or how they will arrive, they will come. And as a close friend who, as any of us do, wants to help ease the pain, I realize such skill doesn’t always easily come. And maybe it’s not suppose to. I can think of no more solitary journey than that of grief. Being surrounded by love, family and friends cannot, nor should it, alleviate that sacred walk along immortality and mortality, finite and infinite. Life and death. We all breathe it everyday, witness it ad nauseum through news media which desensitizes us with over sensationalism giving little to no regard for the sanctity of life and death. And the most difficult observation while grieving is the harsh realization that life around us marches on. How is it the people mindlessly go on while one of the most difficult of all life events has just hit you hard?

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. It is as unique to each of us as our own DNA. How I cope with such loss may greatly differ from your way. Neither is there any timeline for grief and its stay. But still, I fall into the trap of wanting to either enter in with you or relieve it for you…neither of which can I truly do. It is a solo spiritual wrestling within the soul.

So, as a consoling friend we can only fumble our way through “being there”. Do I stay or should I leave? Give the hug or give the space? Attempt conversation or sit in silence? It can turn into a fretful sense of unsettled helplessness followed by the painful blow that I just can’t fix everything no matter how much I may want to.

I have “boxed” in the Circle of Life with these expectations. I have forgotten the reason I call you friend. And then, thankfully, love unleashes the binding walls.

And so, I will love. And I will trust Love to know. It is not my journey but yours. I love you my friend. It is all I have. And in love, the Circle of Life remains.

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Of Fireflies and Mason Jars

I never did like school all that much. I suppose that puts me in the majority. However, I never felt that way. Whether I intently tried to be unique or simply was a little eccentric, in my childhood mind, I believed I was different.

Trending, well, back then we went through “fads”, was not my style. To tell the truth, I think such conformity simply bored me. Ha! That’s a lie! It scared me! I could never measure up. So this shy “different” little girl silently, timidly, and cautiously meandered through hopscotch, build a wall, flip cards, jacks, kickball, hitsies, jump rope rhymes and all those other recess charms.

I loved kickball! That’s normal. Isn’t it?

In the classroom, I quietly and dutifully did my work. Fortunately, most subjects came easily to me leaving time to daydream. But, one annual frustration was the ever dreaded Science Fair! Perhaps, again, my nonconformist persona forced me to put pressure on myself to come up with the model no one has built before or the solar system in a display like no other. Who doesn’t want to have the best exhibit? It was eighth grade! …my last project of elementary school.

I wanted the best. That’s normal. Isn’t it?

I chose the lightning bug. Having found the perfectly shaped model, I cut away at the Palmolive bottle. I painted. I poked and glued. I took apart things and reconnected things….until no more could be done. Project complete! And then, that “Leave It to Beaver” moment of truth creeps in. That moment when all that you had imagined for yourself fades away leaving the starkness of reality before you…Sitting right there before you on the dining room table. Heaped upon heaps of ripped newspaper. Staring at me with black dripping eyes, I see it. That sorely painted Palmolive bottle reflected not one flicker of the lightning bug magic I had so wanted to convey. The flashlight bulb rhythmically blinked on and off, but any luminosity and brilliance was dulled by the heavy coat of tempera I had put on. Layer after layer slathered on before the previous stroke would begin to crackle and peel. Peeling and Crackling. Painting and Slathering. It was the crudest, the ugliest and the saddest piece of “science-art” I had ever made. That night,

I hated my “Stupid ugly lightning bug!” That’s normal. Isn’t it?

Many a summer’s night has come and gone since then. How many thousands of lightning bug flashes measured from youth? In the warmth of a July breeze I still find them. I see them. Winking and blinking a sweet smile to my face. Their courting light patterns beckon a mate…in ALL those tiny fragile flying beetles, glows a light made for one other. With a signal back, she gives her presence. The two actually find each other! How spectacular! Over soft grasses, between flight paths and light flashes in the meadows, they find each other.

As a child we gathered them, cupping them into our hands. In my mind’s eye I see silhouetted children flitting about. Laughter and giggles for all the lightning delight. And then a cheer. “I got one!” Gathering to witness or even a chance to hold, a hush of awe stills us. Huddle together. Sockets wide-eyed in the dewy darkness. Waiting. Waiting for the lucky captor to open the night. And with a gasp of a miracle, we hear the quietest sound in the world as we blink in the green glowing belly of light. Or is it yellow? Or white? And how does it flash?

In the prepared mason jar whose lid has been dotted with pinholes, we release the miracle upon the leafy sprig. Quickly twisting the cover, the tin lid whistles to closure. One by one, we take turns as host while the others fall into step behind. The memory of silence, wonder and light captured within a jar brings to me nothing less than a notion. A notion, of destiny blinked out specifically, one for another. A notion of infinity in a journey of life…a small brief life. A notion of normalcy and all that’s right.

As we all remember of fireflies and mason jars.

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Angels of July

My baby girl, my third daughter, turns twenty this month. After experiencing two births already, she carried easy and with her, my water broke for the first time. Certainly she would arrive soon! But she fooled me. Contractions came and went and stalled…walking the hospital hallways to help restart labor, the option to induce labor was around the corner. With all of today’s conveniences and my excitement to meet my new cherub, the Potossin invaded my uterus.  Within two hours she came to us @8:00 a.m, July 10, 1994. Fairer than her sisters, we all marveled at her preciousness. And the miracle of birth awed us once again. Her big sisters delighted in her, holding her and singing lullabyes. My mother came to stay a few days, helping to settle us all in. I see her rocking her youngest grandchild in the chair she gifted us to celebrate this joyful occasion .  I often wondered in later times, had I waited for those contractions to return on their own, might my tiniest girl been born July 11th instead-giving her claim to Gramma’s birthday? A tribute made more reverant since Gramma died before my newest babe even turned two.

The birthdays, even then, came and went so swiftly. At four, long blonde ringlets bounced down her back. Her sweet little voice ushered melodious jingles when she spoke and I oozed with giggly love every time she tried to form an “r” honing in on quite a New England accent. Being a working Mom, everyday I toted them, three car seats, bags of “tricks”, and my princesses.  It was one day in March 1998, when a late winter snowstorm arrived.  Somehow, given that it was nearly Spring, my mind tricked me into believing it couldn’t really be that bad out. And now that she was a big girl, I let her sit in the front on her booster seat, her sisters buckled up in the far back bench seat of the mini-van.  Off we went. Nerves sweated my hands and brow as I quickly realized the slickness of the roads. Again, my mind betrayed with words of encouragement to go, go just a little farther before you decide.  Ah, and as any mother knows, the whining and bickering would certainly enter in. Yes, in my snow “denial”, jittering nerves gripping the wheel and tempting of fate, those cute little sweet princess voices turned. In my retort, the van found a punctuating patch of ice and the steering wheel turned. All DMV instructions for pulling out of a skid, or rather driving into it, never, I mean never found their way to my reflexes as instinct held onto the wheel and my foot laid heavy on the brakes. I let out a scream as my paralyzed reflexes allowed the van to perform a 360° across the lane as another car approached.

Accidents in slow motion. Life flashes by. My eyes see the fearful, perfectly beautiful face of my child sitting next to me. Through the passenger window behind her, I see a small tree getting closer and closer. I hear the crying screams of my Big Girls, aged 5 & 6, behind me, so far behind me in that “mini” van! My mind only harbors the horrid thought, “What will the end of this picture be?”. CRASH! More screaming. More crying. Silence. Jolted into the bark, the passenger door leans into the tree. My glasses were thrown off my head with whiplashing impact. Before I knew it, the older girls had unbuckled. I grabbed my youngest and we quickly exited the driver’s door meeting the other two at the sliding door behind me. Huddled and whimpering, quickly assessing that we were in fact fine, we were escorted into the property owner’s house for comfort until the police and ambulance arrived. Within minutes my girls and I regained our “senses” as we wiped away any remaining tears. We were fine. We were indeed fine.

Stories to memories and memories to stories.  “Tell me a story of when you were a little girl” they all use to beg.  Over time, they realized that The Accident would be one of their stories. One time in recalling the details, I told my youngest daughter what I had seen behind her through that window and my fear for her. You see, we had locked eyes that day, but I was so afraid she would turn to look out her window. I held my breath, my fear paralyzing any action to save. And the thought of her head hitting the tree numbed my whole being. And then she told me her version in one simple sentence. But Mom, you just kept saying, “Look at me. Look at me. Look at me.”  Her words stunned me because not only did I not remember saying that,  I am convinced that I did not say that! I remember screaming, but she heard words . I remember looking into those eyes, locked into those eyes with great intensity not only immobilized by fear, but by an energy, a presence, holding us drawn, like opposite ends of a magnet. And she heard a voice with instructions that kept her unharmed.

It was then that I realized that one of Gods angels protected one of mine. I believe her name was Virginia, a Gramma who left us too soon, and my Michaela born perhaps hours too soon, shared that day in a way that only two Angels of July may ever know.

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