Blog, Writing

Today Was a Mixed Bag

Day 91

Today was quiet. I had a few hours by myself which I spent listening to YouTube videos of favorite hymns. I started thinking about my Dad singing Steal Away and tried hard to find an arrangement that was similar to the one he often sang when we traveled in the car. I finally settled on a Tennessee Ernie Ford version which was almost identical. I think that must have been the version that my Dad had heard many times.

Flipping through many of the other hymns Ernie Ford sang put me in a bit of a melancholy mood. I sat here alone for a time in Mom’s Carriage House apartment and listened to old hymns — one after another — and just cried. Sometimes, I would ask mom if she remembered an old hymn and she would sing it to me. Such a special memory and one I hold dear to my heart.

All this took place while my husband and his sister met with the minister to make final decisions about the memorial service. Today was one of the difficult days, but full of such wonderful memories. Mom and I had many intimate conversations and I feel blessed that she trusted me with the things she shared with me. I will take them to my grave. That is the bond we had — one most people never realized.

On to Writing

One of the assignments for my class was to eavesdrop on a conversation as part of an exercise in studying dialogue. It sounded very sleuth-like and I was game to go about listening to other people talk to each other.

Hubby and I decided to go to Barnes and Nobel — one of our favorite destinations. We each ordered a peppermint latte (before the holiday season runs out) and I sat down next to a table immersed in conversation. It truly was revealing to listen and apply what I learned in Margaret Atwood’s class.

Afterward, I browsed through books and read jacket flaps. I was suddenly intrigued by what publishers write as the synopsis of the book. Now I am comparing what I write to what others have successfully written and also try to think about how my work would be summarized on the dust jacket of a book.

Self-Induced Homework

img_8332I decided I needed a short book to read. I flipped through books looking for examples of first, second and third person writing. I am learning so much! I came across Stephen King’s new book Elevation and decided it was the perfect size for occupying a few hours of emptiness.

Tonight I read about 1/3 of it. I may need to re-read it, though, because I am hyper-sensitive to writing style, dialogue, and character development to fully absorb what I’m reading.

Social Media

I also decided to create a GoodReads account and start giving myself some reading goals for the year. Stephen King made the first cut as my ‘currently reading’ bookshelf.

All in all, it was a full day — a mix of fond and difficult memories and a look to the future. Now it’s time to read a little more, then think about hitting the hay.

“There’s nothing more intimate in life than simply being understood. And understanding someone else.” 
Brad Meltzer

Blog, Holidays

Finding Christmas

Day 80

Tonight I am thinking about Christmas. This is the first Christmas in a very, very long time that Christmas is arriving in an unfamiliar way. We normally would have our presents purchased and wrapped and under the tree. This year it is not so.

IMG_8181We walk into Christmas Eve accepting all that has transpired. We are suffering a tremendous loss and having a Christmas that sets that memory aside in favor of shopping and exchanging gifts seems wrong.

We will do that a little later, but on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we will simply enjoy each other and give thanks for all we have and yes, all we have lost. We are both looking forward to just sitting with each other in front of the Christmas tree without any concern for gifts or expectations. We will just be together and focus on why we celebrate this holiday.

I have experienced a lot of loss in my life and this Christmas comes on the heels of another devastating loss. We will take our steps slowly with great reverence. And that’s okay. It is the way we will regain our footing and move forward into the new year.

For all of you who read here, I wish you a Blessed Christmas. It will be filled with moments that will become memories — hopefully more good than bad. For those of you who do not celebrate this holiday or who also find yourself in similar circumstances, I encourage you to just embrace the time to find peace within yourself.

“This Christmas mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love, and then speak it again.” 
Howard W. Hunter


A Sad Goodbye

Day 79

Twenty-two years ago I married my husband and gained a mother. Yesterday I lost her.

Just because you marry someone does not mean that you will be accepted, let alone loved, by that family. This is where I was fortunate. I had already lost my mother and my step-mother — both of which were devastating losses for me.

My mother-in-law and I became good friends and confidants. She visited often and we developed a wonderful relationship. I loved her very much. She was my mom for these last 22 years.

The last 8 days have been difficult as she faced the end of her life. She was a strong woman who fought a tremendous fight. The only gift I could give her was to be there for her as she had always been for me. For seven days we stayed with her and did all we could to make this last part of her journey as comfortable as possible. She was at peace and while that gives me comfort, I know I will miss her so much in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

Tonight we drove home. We had taken both cars so we drove home separately. I tried listening to Christmas music, but it just did not feel right. Christmas has been put on the back burner for us. I turned on the CD player and an old Simon and Garfunkle CD came into rotation. When this song came on, I broke down:

“Bridge Over Troubled Water”
Written by Paul Simon. Performed by Art Garfunkel.

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all (all)
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you (ooo)
I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh, if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

The lyrics are one thing, but hearing the song shattered my heart.

As I drove closer toward home, the sky turned a beautiful pinkish purple. It was stunning and made me think so much of mom and how much I miss her already. These last months had been so difficult for her and all of us who loved her. We always tried to lift her up and this past week was no different. We were all with her.

Now she has gone on — no longer in pain — and we are left to maneuver through this life without her. It will not be easy. She was a big presence in my life.

Godspeed, Mama. I miss you already.