Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Pocket Books

from ryan

Her black fabric pocketbook. With two handles and three compartments. I made sure there was always a few dollar bills and a small container of change in the middle fold, besides my Mother's wallet with her driver's license and social security card and charge cards from the 1990's, several small color photos of her two grandchildren, and a stunning black and white one by one inch photo of herself when she was barely in her 20's. 

That pocketbook was my Mother's true North. No matter what was happening in her life, even through the last few years when she had no need for anything in it, when she was the slightest bit lost or confused or on the imaginary move, that pocketbook grounded her. She sought it, searched for it, asked for help in finding it, took comfort in it, and then forgot about it until the next time.

The pocketbook has stayed on my couch until yesterday, when I moved it five feet where it now sits on top of the box of my grandchildren's lego-type all colors plastic wheels, tucked into the side of the bookcase.  I'm searching for some use for it so I can keep it. I'm desperate enough to think about planting my jade cuttings in one of the compartments. (joke). 

I have been embraced by sympathy and condolence cards. I started hanging them up on one of the hall closet doors--across from our holiday cards spread across the inside of the front door, but there are so many. Maybe 30. Or 50. They say wonderful things: 

"We give comfort
and receive comfort
sometimes at the same time"

and from the little prince:
"In one of the stars
I shall be living
In one of them
I shall be laughing 
And so it will be 
as if all the stars 
were laughing
when you look
at the sky at night."

JB says the number of cards and calls and connections and offers of help is a bit amazing. It feels amazing. I figure there are probably 1, 2, or 3 reasons for so much caring and kindness:

1. It's so easy to feel and understand the loss of a Mother so it's easy and comforting to offer solace.

2. I'm actually blessed by the quality of the people in my life and by my efforts to connect and be kind to others. I'm not perfect by any means but I am sincere and when I care I care. Like my Mother did. 

3. The song, "You Raise Me Up," played at the chapel as my Mother's casket was carried in and I and JB and Jessica and my brother and sister-in-law walked behind her--that's my Mother's doing--raising me up so I can stand on a mountain and  catch kindnesses in the sky.

My family gave a card of thanks to every aide and nurse on the floor at the nursing home, with a surprise holiday $ inside. Today we received a card from one of my Mother's aides; one of the women who was the last to touch her and prepare her after her breathing stopped. She wrote us a note:

"It was easy to care for you and your Mother, and I'm in awe of your show of appreciation and love you gave us on a daily basis. It will forever stay in a small corner of my heart. My w(h)ish is to clone that mold in humanity."

Whatever we did to have even one person feel that way, to feel our appreciation, it "gives and receives comfort sometimes at the same time….."

Aha! It just hit me. I can gather all these cards and store them in that pocketbook; maybe in the compartment with the zipper. Maybe in all 3 compartments. And then, as I wonder where the heck to put that pocketbook, I can remember that I have somehow managed to be found and be loved; that I have inherited even more love; and that I have a duty to pass all that love around.

happy new year, my friends. Thank you most sincerely.


Monday, December 22, 2014

the love story

We said goodbye this week. I'll let these photos speak for themselves. I'll only add that my Mom died comfortably and in peace. She left us with no regrets and with family and friends we celebrated her life through service and song. I will miss her forever, and my memories are wonderful. love kj

Saturday, December 13, 2014

What Love Is

The last few days have been unreal. My Mother is dying. We have been given a private room at the Nursing Home and I have slept on a roll up bed near her for the last two nights. I woke from a fitful and interrupted sleep the first night telling myself I couldn't continue to sleep here. But at 5 am she cried out and my presence made a difference. Then today, although her communication with us and ours to her has been a hundred times 'I love you', she said, "please don't leave me alone." So I'm staying. I am surprised to acknowledge that I consider comforting her a high privilege. 

Despite her four children a her good husband traveling on business, my daughter Jessica arrived yesterday and stayed until mid-afternoon today. That's her hand entwined with her grandmother's. We cried so deeply. My Mother is almost 99 but it still feels too soon. We will miss her so much it hurts so much already. I watched Jess caress her and calm her and kiss her and I know yet again that I have raised a wonderful wonderful daughter.

And I'm feeling that my Mother has also raised a wonderful wonderful daughter. I am proud of myself.  

The staff here feels that the process of dying will not take a week now. They assure me my Mother  will remain peaceful and without pain. This morning, around six am, I put my iPhone to her ear and played Perry Como singing "Till the End of Time" and the soundtrack of "Some Enchanted Evening." And then Bing Crosby's "White Christmas." Her eyes were closed and she didn't move. We held hands and my tears fell. These tears are so much about love I almost welcome them.

My Mother has every reason to be proud of her life and her passage. She spoke my daughter's name. She kissed JB, she told my sister-in-law "I love you four times." She told us she is comfortable.

And me: she struggled but she got it out: "Karen, I've always loved you. I worried about you because I love you so much. I love you. I love you."

There will be heartbreak in this family. But there will be no regrets.

What a blessing.


Thursday, December 11, 2014


I took this photo about two weeks ago. This is my Mom. We didn't know then that her liver was failing; that today she would speak for maybe two minutes at a time and then fall back into a comfortable sleep.

We didn't know that today the nursing home and her doctor and hospice would be preparing us to lose her, any day now. 

My Mother is 98, a month short of 99. For almost a decade she has operated with a faulty memory that has held her smack in the present. And in the present, she is fully present. She is kind and fun and very dear. How anyone without a working memory can be so with it is beyond me. But she was and is. Ask anyone.

The head nurse at her nursing home told me tonight that all the staff is taking this hard. I know that must be true because they are coming to us, some crying, others volunteering stories of how much they care about her. They are checking in on her and fluffing her pillow and massaging her shoulders and legs and holding cups of ginger ale with straws for her. To a person, they are so kind.

In the next week, or perhaps two, I'm told to expect that my Mother's body will slowly shut down; that with the help of Morphine she remain comfortable and without pain. Today she is able to say I love you and to squeeze my hand and smile and say thank you to everyone who so lovingly comes in her room to care for her. 

I am both prepared and unprepared to lose my Mother. I am aware of the deepest love within me and I will have no regrets, a gift in itself. But god will I miss her. I won't miss the nursing home or doing her laundry or deciding to put off that trip to Italy, but I will miss my Mother for all of my life.

I know how lucky I am to have the privilege of loving her so much. 

If you don't mind, would you pray with me that she will die, if she must, in the gentlest way, hopefully with me with her, both of us knowing that the whole of her life was everything a good life should and could be.

I keep telling myself these tears are solely due to love. Which is true.


Wednesday, December 03, 2014



The word has meaning for me.

First off, I'm consulting again doing what I last did 10 years ago. From home, on my own schedule. Mostly I like it.

Next, for the last few weeks my Mother has been 'present' in our conversations only about half time. The other half, she's in her own world. This I don't like.

And then I'm juggling my strong love of these holidays with my desire not to stress. I'm not sure how to  coast into and out of making presents, spending time with family, baking cookies, hanging  lights, visiting friends, fitting in all that I hope for. 

And finally, I am writing a glorious (to me) book, lines and paragraphs and sometimes even chapters tucked into moments mostly when I have enough time. 

What does it mean to teeter in part-time? Does it mean I'm avoiding full-time? As in Full Time?

I could never complain. I have leisure moments far greater than ever before in my life. I have choices. Gardens. Books. TV shows.  Farms and oceans. And grandchildren. Children!

But sometimes I wander from one thing to the next, kind of sputtering instead of flowing. I know flow is important. 

And I'm not sure I have it.

Do you?