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Posts Tagged ‘death’

JUST BECAUSE!

Three years ago today
I watched you close your eyes for the last time.
Your love surrounds me still.
So many things about you I keep dear,
lovingly folded
within my memory recesses.

They are all part of your huge presence in my life…
your unconditional love,
spitfire personality,
extraordinary sense of humor,
superb cooking,
intuitive advice,
and your compassionate listening ear.
What wisdom that ear held!

Yes, how I miss you, Mom,
and your unselfish love.
You were never stingy with your affection.
You shared it with me,
and
with so many others, too.
Your love and warmth are still very much a part of me.
My heart continues to overflow.

Your wisdom went well beyond
what I see today.
So many pay to learn and think.
Those who are
educated…
college educated,
masters degree educated,
and PhD educated.

Your wisdom was simple and sincere.
Yet,
how many friends
and acquaintances
drew you out, confided in you?
It’s impossible to count.
There were far too many for even me to know.

Thank you for being you.
Thank you for encouraging me
to be my own person,
for encouraging me
as a young girl
to follow my dream of college,
even though
you didn’t know what a ‘classics book list’ was.
And, thank you,
for holding my hand through it all
even though
you had no clue what it felt like.

You were a classic in so many ways,
a true class act,
and,
I am who I am because of you.
You believed in me,
in the person I would become.

You helped me through many
of life’s hard times.
You never judged me, or those
who hurt me.
Thank you for that life lesson.

Most of all,
you were proud of me,
your daughter…
just because!
And,
I am proud to say
thank you, to you,
my mother, my friend…
just because!

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Thank you, Stephanie, of BeKindRewrite, Inspiration Monday XII,  for the excellent prompts. They are all so good.

Paper Towns

Julien rolled down his window and slowed as he passed the paper mill. His throat caught. His gut pulled itself taut, feeling like it was going to wretch. His paper mill, his father’s and grandfather’s, too. Everyone in town felt the same way, it was theirs, belonged to each of them. Their sweat lay behind those concrete walls. Here they had lived more of their lives than in their own homes with their families. This paper town’s heart had always beat to the rhythms and smells of the smoke stack. The stronger the whiff of sulfur and stink, the safer they all felt.

He inhaled deeply…fresh air, a smell foreign to him and to this area, a smell of no paper production. The air didn’t taste right, either. It tasted of lost jobs, of houses abandoned, of corner stores turned into job placement agencies. This Small Town, U.S.A. wasn’t his paper town anymore, not his small town America.

Why had he even come? He had driven through last year and had sworn he would never be back, hadn’t been able to sleep a full night for months after. He thought he would be over it by now, over the memories and losses he had seen and felt, families displaced, moving away from each other, starting again with nothing.

Over it? Never! Mill work pulsed through his blood. The feel of steel etched his mind and the smell of paper, his nose. Rolls of paper twenty-six feet long, five feet wide, weighing tons. Machines were everywhere: paper machines, cutter machines, doctor machines. The mill workers, carpenters, mill wrights, laborers, paper makers, electricians, machinists, they were all him. This had all been him.

The empty parking lot once filled with Chevys, Fords, and Buicks now played host to grass and weeds growing between asphalt cracks. Kids had snuck in and were throwing rocks to see who could hit the window farthest away. The fence they had climbed to get in, broken and rusted. The guard shack was empty, no one there to tell them to skedaddle, play somewhere else.

Fifty-six years ago it had been. He still remembered sitting big and tall in that pick-up, four years old and proud as punch, watching Dad behind the wheel, red cigarette pack stashed under the  short sleeve of his white T-shirt and a Marlborough hanging out of  his mouth.

They pulled in, and for the first time he saw what was behind that sacred steel gate. He had jumped out, looked around and knew instantly he had entered a new world, a world he wanted to be a part of, his world,  his home away from  home.

A rock hit his truck, startling Julien back to today. He turned just in time to see the boys look at him, wide-eyed and wondering, weighing whether they should stay or make a run for it. He pulled over and motioned for them to come over. They did, reluctantly. He asked their names. Familiar names, home town names, paper mill names. He knew their fathers and grandfathers well.  He sent them on their way warning them to be careful with their aim.

After looking at the building for a while, the mill he had known like the back of his hand and had felt the beat of for so many years, he pulled away…slowly.

Julien enjoyed the breeze as he drove down the country road and made a sharp left turn. He stopped, looked at all the stones, some large, some small, different names on each. The grass had been freshly mowed. There was nothing like the smell of cut grass. It reminded him of Dad at home, whistling while he mowed, moving in and out in an exact pattern.

The large family stone with his name on it knew he would one day be here resting with these others who were a part of him. Its light granite color soothed him. He felt comfortable here. He found his father’s marker and touched it.  It felt smooth with a bit of roughness at the edges. Just like Dad, he thought.

He leaned in a bit closer and whispered, “Dad, you left just in time.”

Julien rubbed the marker one more time, touched his fingers to his lips, and smiled that his father could rest in peace, thinking that his paper town was still humming.

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Kudos to you, Stephanie of BeKindRewrite for the amazing prompts for Inspiration Monday VI. Thank you!

WHISPERS FROM THE CASKET

 The familiar scent of the B&M factory wafted past my nostrils and into my memory.  It was a short eleven months ago this baked bean bouquet greeted me.  My small home town was where a working man’s dream was a life beyond blue collar. Gram Helen had taken me in her arms and smothered my cheeks with her warm kisses, so glad to see me. Dearest Gram. Could I ever love anyone more?

Today is bittersweet.  I am in a cab holding my husband’s hand, with my unborn child, our daughter, somersaulting in utero, all three of us heading to the funeral home. This is my Gram Helen’s day. It is a celebration of her life, a life well lived.  

She gave me all good things. If I close my eyes and think back I can still hear her beautiful off-key voice as she held my hand, caressing my long hair and singing with all her heart those generations-old songs. If these eyes squeeze even tighter I can see the two of us, together on her big flowered couch crocheting up a storm.  My young hands always watched her knotted arthritic hands and the magic they produced.  One little six inch mass of mixed up and tangled yarn from me resulted in ooh’s and aah’s from her adoring eyes.

The cab pulls up. We step out. There to greet me is my mother. She smiles, lightly hugs me and the thought faintly crosses my mind ‘Who said vodka doesn’t smell?’  Her first words to me are “So, Rose, do you think the clouds are getting a little lower now?”  I kiss her cheek and tell her she looks good. Mom will never change. She rarely uses my given name, instead preferring Rose Colored Glasses. I saw the good in everyone. She saw the opposite. But it worked out. We lived two doors down from Gram and when mom was gone for long periods of time having ‘fun’, Gram and I were cuddling and having fun, too. My heart was able to beat to a normal rhythm because of the two-door-down life we kept. Forever grateful I will be.

So many people surround me, hug me, kiss me, tell me how much they loved her, how she helped when they were beyond help, how her sense of humor made them laugh, how they could tell her anything and she would understand.  On and on, the stories don’t stop. I am so grateful their love for her is as endearing as mine. What better testimony to a life well lived!

I gather courage, swallow and walk up to her casket. I see a smile there, a bit different from the smile I knew so well, a man-made smile, and I look closer. I imagine her soft whisper. Her whisper is saying, ”You were the joy of my life, from my very own you came, not quite once-removed, my flesh and blood. Don’t ever forget you are mine and you are loved…dearly loved, my little alpha girl.”

I nod to the director. I am ready. I reach into my jacket pocket for my notes. I look at the words. I don’t need these. I put them away. My Gram Helen always loved me from her heart. I will use my heart to speak. I look out at them all, faces with stories, all of them, looking back at me with anticipation.  I smile at her memory and I begin.

 “We are here today to honor the life of an extraordinary woman. She was not the CEO of a multibillion dollar company, not educated at an Ivy League school. She didn’t discover a great scientific breakthrough and was not a famous writer or artist. What she did was far more important than all those things combined.

She loved me, a little girl, spent her precious time with me, and taught me how to grow up to love others, to be kind, productive, help when there was a need. She showed me how to appreciate the gift of life. The words to follow epitomize my Gram and the first time I read them I thought the writer knew her personally. Years later I learned differently, but they still fit her to a tee. They are taken from 1Corinthians 13:4-8, from the Bible, her favorite book.

“’Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends’”. 

The cab ride back to the airport was contemplative. My husband glanced over at me then put his gentle hand on the life growing inside me. I stroked his forehead then covered his hand with mine. We felt her movement at the same time. Our eyes met and locked. Little Helena would know her namesake. Helen with an a, our little alpha girl, the beginning of love.

 4/10/11 for Inspiration Monday VI prompts from BeKindRewrite

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