Love Never Fails

I am a strong believer in signs.  I know that if you open your heart to it, Spirit will speak to you in all sorts of ways.  For me, a rose has always been a sign from a loved one who has passed.  I wrote about it in a post called The Rose.

Earlier this week, my Aunt Mary, who I loved dearly, left this physical world after a rapid decline over a few days.  Her death was quite and peaceful quite the opposite of the sparkly-life-of-the-party-girl she was all of her life.

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That’s Aunt Mary on the left with her best friend Marge.  She had Marge were BFF’s for 70 plus years.

Wednesday, we went to her house to look for some things we needed for the wake.  The funeral director asked if my aunt had the crucifix from her brother’s wake.  She thought we might want to use it again.  So there we were, hunting through piles of stuff that Aunt Mary had accumulated over the years.  She was on the verge of becoming a hoarder.  Boxes and bags full of all sorts of things everywhere.  I was searching in her old bedroom (she had stopped sleeping in that bed a few years ago because it was too high for her to climb into) opening closets,  checking in night stands, digging in bags.  I made my way around to the far side of the bed, climbing over all sorts of obstacles, to a chest of drawers.  I had to move more boxes to open the top drawer.  I moved the contents of the drawer around and in the back saw a round, grey box that looked out of place.  I took it out and opened it.  Inside was a beautiful crystal rose.  Now that’s my Aunt Mary, sparkly all the way.

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Transitions

They lit the candle outside my Aunt’s room tonight. There was Christmas music from the CD player next to her bed and a blank journal for visitors to write in. After I left, they were changing the sheets from standard hospital white to pretty pink or blue. The lit candle let’s everyone know that Mary is getting ready to transition. Nurses, aides and even the housekeepers will stop by so she is never alone.

I sat with her for two hours tonight. I asked if she remembered how, when I was little, we would sit on her bed and pretend it was the back of a whale that took us all over the world. What adventures we had. And she would pretend to be Chinese Girlfriend and call me up and we would tell stories. And when she took me to Central Park Zoo and I was done watching the seals and had to pee, she would take me across the street to the Sherry Netherlands Hotel to use their fancy restroom instead of the public ones in the park. And when I was older, we would go into Bergdorf’s or Bendel’s, places we had no business being in, and she would make the sales people take things out and we would try stuff on and then she would say “No, the color is all wrong” or “That just isn’t you”, and we would walk out. How she was always my own, personal “Auntie Mame”.

Her nurse Debi told me yesterday she thought Debi was me and was trying to plan a party with me. She was always the bartender, in the kitchen with the blender making cocktails. They never had names. She’d ask what you wanted by color. “You want a pink one or a brown one?” So I told her tonight that if my mother or her brother Marty came for her she should go. They had a big party ready for her. I would be back tomorrow but she shouldn’t wait for me. She should go and I would catch up later.

She couldn’t talk today. Or move her head. Her eyes had that “thousand yard stare”. But yesterday she could. She would say a lot of things that didn’t make sense to me but sometimes it was as if nothing was wrong and she would whisper to me like a fellow conspirator. “I know why you are here.” “Oh, why’s that?” I said. “You’re here to do what you were meant to do. To do what’s in your heart.” “And what might that be?” “You’re here to make people smile.”

Oh Aunt Mary, I’ve been trying to figure that out for years. What took you so long to tell me?

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Vanquished

I lived for 21 years with a man who terrorized me; physically, mentally, emotionally. In the beginning, before we were married, he wasn’t like that. He wooed me and pretended he liked me the way I was. I was younger than him and part of the generation of women who believed they were in charge of their own lives.

After we were married, his real intentions became plain. He was to be in charge of me. I would have no friends he didn’t approve of. I would do things his way. I would change my attitude or pay the price.

At first, I thought we could go to counseling and work things out. We went once. Then I thought I would just continue to stand up to him and eventually, he would see that he couldn’t change me. In answer, I had hot water thrown in my face, a wet rag shoved in my mouth while he grabbed me by the neck, a wine glass broken over my head, my head slammed into the wall. He tore the clothes off my body, threatened to kill my cat, woke me up in the middle of the night to throw me out of bed and just when I would finally fall asleep on the couch, wake me up again and beg me to come back to bed. He called me a disaster, whore and worse.

His furies were like a squall at sea. Everything could be perfectly tranquil and suddenly all hell would break loose. I never saw them coming. It was becoming an impossible situation. I even went to a lawyer to find out what asking for a divorce would mean.

One evening, we were home having a glass of wine,enjoying the fire. The mood was good, so I thought it might be good time to talk abut how unhappy I was and how I wanted to be like we used to be. Things went south very quickly. He said maybe we should just call it quits but that if I left, I would leave with nothing. I argued back that if we were going to split, I just wanted what I had brought to the marriage – some personal things and $12,000. He screamed at me that nothing was mine, it was all his. I would leave with nothing.

I don’t remember much other detail, except that for the next four hours he screamed at me, threatened me, threatened my family, grabbed me, pushed me. The expression on his face, the way his eyes had a burning, glassy look terrified me. I was sobbing, exhausted, like a rag doll in his hands. He demanded over and over that I admit that nothing was mine. In between sobs I kept repeating that it wasn’t true.

I ended up on my knees in front of the fire. My blouse was torn, my makeup smeared, my hair a tangled mess. He shoved a piece of paper and a pen at me. “Write”, he said. “Write that you have nothing, that everything is mine. Write.”

I couldn’t fight anymore. I was so tired. I took the pen and wrote what he asked. I handed the paper back to him. He read what I wrote and smiled. Then he tore the paper into pieces and threw it into the fire. “Let’s go to bed”, he said and went into the bedroom.

I knelt there, stunned. He just wanted to prove to me that he was, after all, in charge. I was a conquered land.

I knew at that moment, this would only end with the death of one of us.

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Look Up

Every day I ride the commuter train I see people being “productive ” with their train time.  They read the paper, check the news online, answer emails, make calls and work on their laptops.  I used to do that.  Now I meditate or just “be in the moment”.

Today, while everyone had their heads down being productive, I looked up and out the window.  This was my reward.

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Christmas Magic

We are doing minimal holiday decorating this year: a wreath on the front door, evergreen balls hanging on the front porch and gate arbor and a small, table top tree.  We may pop a few more tings here and there as the month goes along but this will pretty much be it.

So today we bought the little table top tree and put it in the family room.

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Something caught my eye on the ceiling.  Looks like the universe lit my tree and put a star at the top.  Thanks for the encouragement.

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Clever Boy

Yesterday, I had a hair appointment.  The salon I go to only takes cash or checks and when I settled up, I used the last check in my checkbook.  As soon as I got home I went to get a new checkbook before I would forget.  We have a linen closet in the downstairs bathroom that we use as a place to store paperwork, paid bills, bank statements, etc..  That’s where we keep the box of blank checks.  I’m in there pretty much every week.  So when I opened the folding doors, I was suprised to see a photo lying on the shelf that I don’t remember seeing before.  It was of my boy Gilligan.  He’s been on my mind a lot lately because I knew we were somewhere near the one year anniversary of putting him down.

Now I’m terrible with dates.  I have to repeat a little rhyme to remember my own wedding anniversary.  I can remember months and seasons that things have happened, but not dates.  So today, I searched my blog to find the post I wrote when we put him down.  Yesterday was one year to the day.

Thank you my sweet Gilligan.  Clever boy.

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An American Thanksgiving

I grew up with the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.  We had at least twenty people, two turkeys, three kinds of potatoes and more pies and desserts than you could count.  Now it’s just my husband and me, our two dogs and a visit to my Aunt in the nursing home.

But that’s OK.  Because this day is not about that picture perfect family gathering.  This day is about gratitude.  And you can be a part of any religion or no religion.  You can have a big family or no family.  You can be with a crowd of people or by yourself.  You can live in a big house or on the street.

What makes life wonderful and beautiful is not what you have but what you are grateful for.  There are people who have more than I can imagine who are miserable and people who have what seems like nothing to me who are happier than I am.

I control how happy I am and when I think about what I have in my life, I am SO THANKFUL.  Truthfully, I do  miss the big family gathering.  But that is not the way my life is right now.  It may never be that way again.  So I will love and appreciate the wonderful things I do have.

I will make a small turkey and all the sides my husband loves.  We will cook together and watch football.  There will be a fire in the fireplace and warm and sleepy dogs on the floor.  We will toast each other with a good wine and snuggle on the sofa.  I will not think about all the people and things I am missing but all the incredible people and things I have in my life right now.

Next year, Thanksgiving may look entirely different.  Circumstances change.  The facts of the day won’t matter.  How I see them will.

Love and peace to all.

Happy Thanksgiving, however you celebrate.

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