The Last Gift

Seven years ago.

Just another of the lasts to remember that January and the beginning of February bring.

Mama’s birthday.  The last one she was here with us for.

Only, as life has a way of happening, we weren’t able to celebrate together.  One of the littles had gymnastics and the other one was under the weather.  So we had made plans on the phone that we would celebrate on Friday, three days later, at Stevi B’s with pizza and being together.

The one thing Mama had asked for was light.  In the form of fluorescent light bulbs for the fixture that hung over the dining room table.  The focus part, gathering spot, heart of her home.  Many a dream was shared, broken heart was comforted, peach was peeled, pea was shelled, homework was done, story was told, and guidance offered sitting around that table.  Under that light.

Fluorescent has never been my favorite, but it was the fixture Daddy installed after moving into that house on their December 17 anniversary weekend in 1977.  So in 2013, fourteen months after Daddy left this world, I was not going to argue the merits of lighting.  If Mama needed it, I was going to get it.

My tumbling little and I stopped by Lowe’s on the way to gymnastics.  Mama’s house was on the way, so we planned to get her bulbs and drop them by and see her for a minute and then head on to class.  I figured the errand of getting the long lights wouldn’t take long.  In.  Out.  Done.  On our way to see the birthday Maemae.

I was wrong.

I had NO IDEA that there were SO MANY options when it came to fluorescent lighting.  Daylight, bright, not so bright–which is what I felt standing in front of the options.  What if I picked the wrong one?  I had no idea what she’d been using and suspected that she might not know as well, since I don’t think we’d had to purchase any since Daddy passed.

Also talking with an under ten year old about lighting options gets interesting, if not helpful, results.  In an almost panic, I recall getting the lights needed, fingers crossed, hoping for the best.

We stopped by Mama’s.  I delivered her bulbs, which she said she was sure were fine, along with a hug, happy birthday wishes, and promises of pizza partying on Friday.  That’s what she said, “We’ll party on Friday.”

Which, of course, as the story goes, we did not.  She and I spent that Friday together in a hospital room waiting for red tape and hospital bureaucracy to make it possible for her to be transferred to the bigger hospital.  Critical time as it turns out, because maybe an earlier diagnosis could have made for a different ending.

But it was not to be.

Today I’m remembering my Mama.  On her birthday.  I’m thankful for this day 74 years ago that found her light coming into this world.  For this day that over the years I am sure she had to make most of her birthday cakes until one year when I woke up and realized, hey, maybe she doesn’t enjoy that as much as I think she does.  I’m thankful for the laughter and stories and joy that remembering my sweet and sassy Mama brings.

And I’m thankful for the realization that came to me this morning on Miss Sophie’s walk that the last gift I gave my Mama was light.  It was only a small beam compared to all the light she shone for me and so many others through the years.  But still, I am thankful.  She was a shining star who so often used her light to point towards the good.  “Find something to be grateful for,” she’d say.  “The Lord loves a grateful heart.”

It is with a grateful heart that I remember and thank God for the Mama I was given.  The woman who challenged me, who held my hand, who came after me when I was lost, who guided me, who held me when I cried, who cheered me on, who made me madder and happier than anyone else ever could.  I miss her with every breath.  Those fluorescent lights I bought seven years ago today have long burned out, but my Mama’s light still shines brightly.  Ever and always.

Love to all.

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The Most Precious Part of the Goodbyes

Tonight we said goodbye to a place that we hold dear, Bare Bulb Coffee.  I wasn’t sure if I could or would be able to be there as the lights were turned out for the last time, but as the time grew closer, I knew I couldn’t be anywhere else.

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Driving up to the shop one last time. Sunsets can be so beautiful…..

A few of us who have shared many cups of coffee and moments together in that space gathered tonight to play games, sit and talk, have coffee.  We ordered some pizza and hung out–making precious memories that I hope all of these people I love will carry with them for a long time.  There were friends there whom I was with last night, and there were friends whom I haven’t seen in far too long.

It was an unofficial Bare Bulb reunion of sorts, and it was good.

What I will remember most are the laughter and the stories.  And how folks whom we hadn’t known as long were brought around the table with open arms just like those we’ve known for years.  I’ll remember that strangers were invited to share in the pizza and the celebration and the light.  One more time.

I’ll remember the smiles on the faces and the gentle strumming of a guitar.  The children on the stage, playing games and eating pizza and coloring signs as tributes to this place where they grew up.  I’ll remember ordering my large decaf, no room for anything one. last. time.  The smell of the coffee.  The sound of the beans grinding.  The glittery tiles on the coffee table, the cool feel of the tile on the big table where the group gathered for one more round of Apples to Apples.

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The thing I’ve noticed is that when we are saying goodbye to someone we love, there is one thing that is always a part of those moments.

The stories.

And tonight was no different.  I heard all the stories being shared, and it made my heart glad.

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Tonight I’m most thankful for the ones who have gathered there over the years and those who gathered tonight.  Thank you for filling this sacred space with laughter and all the stories that we can hold close and use to fuel the flame given to us by this special place.  That we sent her out with laughter and fun and friends who have become family is a gift I will always be grateful for.

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…..and there was. For ALL.

May we honor what Bare Bulb Coffee was and what she taught us by letting our light shine–even in the darkest of times.  Together.

Love–and light–to all.

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From the first moment my feet stood in this place to the last time tonight, this place has always been a sanctuary for me. Holding me close and allowing me space and grace to do what my heart and soul needed to do. Thank you, friends, for sharing the journey.

 

seeking solace without reservation

there are days when the world seems
to be rushing toward that handbasket,
clamoring for a spot to climb in and go

it is on those days that I feel myself
swept up in the mad dash towards a place
I’d rather not be

but I can’t stop it,
all the throngs of people
pushing, shoving, shouting
and then

my friend reaches out her hand
across the crowd of people

“let’s leave this chaos
and all of this madness
and sheer meanness, let’s just go,
here, take my hand”

and so I do

and she smiles

“I’ve got you”

and she does

and together we find a place
away from the mayhem,
where we can breathe
and the flowers grow up to our elbows

we dance and spin around, falling to the ground,
cushioned by the pinks and reds and purples and yellows,
dizzy with relief

to have found another
in the splendor
away from the shadows and shouting

another who feels
and cries
and laughs over stories
about strangers on doorsteps
and children who are growing up

and finally,
I can rest
and then together we turn to let go
of what has been

and we hold tight to the light we were given
and each other
and, elbowing flowers gently as we make our way,
we go and find others
who
are being
swept up
in all the madness

and walk them home

San_Carlos_wildflowers,_2010

Sunset and spring wildflowers — on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, near Peridot, in Gila County, Arizona. By John Fowler from Placitas, NM, USA (Arizona Sunset Uploaded by PDTillman) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

don’t let them

don’t let them
tell you the stars aren’t really
diamonds
twinkling just for you
waiting to adorn your dreams
while you slumber
where you live out all your heart’s desires

don’t let them
tell you it’s silly to
guard your heart so carefully
or to love him so completely

don’t let them
convince you life isn’t hard
and that the world
isn’t broken

it is

but you in your diamonds
bringing life to your big dreams
holding the hand of the one
your heart calls home
giving from the beauty and kindness
that flows through your soul

you
will
change
it
all

 

Big_Dipper_Ursa_Major_over_Old_Faithful_geyser_Yellowstone_National_Park_Wyoming_Astrophotography

“Big Dipper Ursa Major over Old Faithful geyser Yellowstone National Park Wyoming Astrophotography” by Astroval1 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Big_Dipper_Ursa_Major_over_Old_Faithful_geyser_Yellowstone_National_Park_Wyoming_Astrophotography.jpg#/media/File:Big_Dipper_Ursa_Major_over_Old_Faithful_geyser_Yellowstone_National_Park_Wyoming_Astrophotography.jpg

Your Magic Power

You have a magic power.

Did you know that?

Within you lies the power to change the world, to change the lives of those around you, one smile at a time.

Today I saw this video, and it amazed me.  Each one of these precious souls is beautiful in his or her own way.  But after being told he or she was beautiful, can you see what happens?

Go ahead.  Watch the video.  I’ll wait.

*elevator music playing here*

Do you see it?  Do you see what happened?

Yep, each one of them became even more beautiful.  Their lights shone brightly!

All because of kind words from a stranger behind a camera.

We can do this for each other.  We have that power.  We can speak the truth and light into each other’s eyes and hearts.  With a sincere and kind word that encourages.  When we are brave enough to reach out to another with a gentle touch, the possibility of good grows exponentially.

How will you use your magic power today?  Start by telling the person in the mirror how beautiful he or she is, and then carry on from there.

Because you are.  Really.

Love to all.

 

 

 

Watching The Rock Die

So there was this day I found myself sitting at the Emergency Room with my sisterfriend there alongside, and I looked up at the TV right in front of me whose sound was not minimal, and the violence was jarring.

It would have been jarring in any circumstances, but with the background sounds of the young woman in the wheelchair crying out in pain as her husband rubbed her back in gentle circles, and the voices of the nurses insisting that no one else go back to a patient’s room or security would be called, it was dizzying.  Surreal.  Confusing.  Not to mention all the worry and anxiety.

And it was more than I could bear.

When a character on the TV walked into a room and shot The Rock, a man whom I’ve only seen in Disney movies and in brief interviews and that time he lip synced the Taylor Swift song, “Shake It Off,” it sent a shock though my system.  I really like him.  Okay, I’m in the ER, and The Rock is now dead.  Only he isn’t.  But in a room that has seen its fair share of gunshot wounds, it just seemed WRONG.

More than wrong.

Here’s the thing.  I’ve sat here thinking about that day.  And about ERs.  And the thing is, I cannot think of a single reason that wouldn’t be at least somewhat worrisome or troubling that would bring one to the ER.

Let’s face it.  It’s not a happy place.  Somebody is sick or hurt or struggling or something is WRONG and that’s why each and every person is in there.  If it’s not them hurting, they are there because they care about someone who is.

So maybe, could we all agree that these TVs that seem to be in every waiting space there is these days should be tuned to something that would take our minds off of the worry, pain, fear, concern, aches, hurt–or at least attempt to?

Like maybe “I Love Lucy” greatest hits.  Or an “Andy Griffith” marathon.  Or some other show that is devoid of violence or high speed chases or anything else that quickens the pulse and raises the blood pressure.  No more added stress.   I’m sure it would be a different show for all of us, but at this point, I’d take elevator music playing in the background.

Can we just remove the violence, the blood and gore and terror, at the very least?  (There’s enough of that in the world, in that very room, already.)

It seems that the older I get, the more sensitive I am to it.  At this point, I could do without ever seeing anything like that again.

Thanks for listening to my thoughts.  I welcome yours…..what would be your choice to pass the time in a place like the ER?  What do you think is appropriate?

Love to all.

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By Thierry Geoffroy (Thierry Geoffroy) [CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

 

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas…..

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By Helgi Halldórsson from Reykjavík, Iceland (Christmas is almost over) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

as I prepare to break down Christmas and pack away the ornaments, I sift through the memories made this Christmas season, and my heart is full to bustin’.

There are so many precious moments, big and small, that I have tucked away to keep me warm this winter and in the ones to come, but these twelve stand out for me tonight:

1–The first night that we were all under the same roof for the first time in several months, and I took that sweet, deep breath of thankfulness.

2–Listening to Christmas music while baking Mama’s cookies in the kitchen, using her very own cookie cutters.

3–Taking the Zoo Crew up to Wesleyan on a cold, wet afternoon to hear the Washboard Band play and hear Aub in her percussion debut.

4–The joy of sharing St. Lucia Day festivities with friends and family at Evening Prayer as my writerfriend D and I shared our stories of light for the second year in a row.  It’s a tradition now, y’all.

5–Attending “White Christmas” at a local theater with youth actors and actresses.  Seeing their beaming faces at the end for the curtain call–they were so pleased with the job they had done.  As well they should be. I fell in love with the place, the young people, and the story all over again.

6–The joy of sitting next to One I Hold Dear as I watched my littles perform for their Christmas programs.  When folks do things they don’t have to do out of love and just because they want to, that is a beautiful gift.

7–Hearing Christmas songs played live in my own home. As we wrap up our first year of piano lessons, it has been so much fun to hear the littles playing Christmas carols for us.  I am anticipating even more songs in the coming year to brighten our holidays.

8–The musical offerings talented and beautiful folks shared at Evening Prayer both before and after Christmas.  So much time, talent, and dedication went into those evenings.  I love each and every one of them for making my holidays truly special with their music, smiles, and laughter.

9–Seeing the faces of children, young and old, as they saw Santa Claus when he visited us at Bare Bulb Coffee.  So many precious secrets whispered in Santa’s ear.  The smiles were bright and everlasting.  My heart will never quite be the same again.

10–Hearing “Silent Night” in the candlelit church on Christmas Eve.  I choked up and couldn’t sing all the words.  I felt so connected to the ones who are no longer with us who also sang those words on so many Christmas Eve nights over the years.  I felt surrounded by a host of those I love.

11–Those precious, quiet moments in the wee hours of Christmas morning, when I sat there by myself in the midst of gifts and love, and I was excited, worn out, relieved, happy, and filled with wonder and peace.  And as I sat there, loathe to leave the sweet twinkle lights and their golden glow and the love that filled the room, I thought about how all of those emotions were probably present that very first Christmas morning.  That’s when my heart filled with gratitude, and I found myself weeping as I headed to bed for a few hours of slumber.

12–One of the very best moments was seeing the excitement in my children’s eyes and hearing the anticipation in their voices as they wrapped and then gave their Christmas gifts on Christmas morning. They were more excited to give the gifts they’d chosen than they were to open up the ones with their names on them.  That was a huge gift to me, and I am so thankful for their giving hearts.

Y’all, I was just kidding.  Twelve?  All the little moments.  Cups of coffee with friends.  Surprise visits with folks I haven’t seen for far too long.  Painting with my little friends and watching them focus and work so hard to create their own masterpieces.  Sitting around a fire with precious people as the sun went down and the stars came out.  Watching the children play with their friends as the excitement of Christmas came closer and closer.  Wrapping up in warm, colorful afghans and talking late into the night.  Hallmark Christmas movies.  Watching my brother teach my Aub how to make “Maemae’s” biscuits.  Phone calls and Christmas cards.  Hugs galore.  Cousins who make me smile and laugh.  Oh the joy and peace that passes all understanding!

All of that.

May each and every day of this New Year be filled with just such gifts for all of us.

Love to all.  Merry Twelfth Day of Christmas!

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By Grover cleveland (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Light and Warmth Everlasting

There is something sacred about sitting around a fire and listening to stories when the weather is cold and the season is dark.

I think we tell ourselves we sit there for the warmth that the fire gives.

But I also think that while the warmth might begin as a spark from the fire that rises toward the sky, it’s only the beginning.  That spark lights a flame in the hearts of those gathered round that is fed by the laughter and love and shared joy in the moment.

It is then that we are loathe to leave, telling ourselves that when we move away from the fireside, we will feel the chill in the air, and the warmth will be gone, and we will be cold and all will be dark again.

Turns out that isn’t true.

Giving thanks for the warmth that is long-lasting, the kind that comes from good friends, good conversations, lots of laughter, and light and love.

Hang in there.  Though the dark seems long-lasting, the Light is coming.

Love to all.

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First Sign of Spring Tradition

This afternoon, a lovely warm “teasing us with the promise of spring” day, our Princess came bouncing in from the backyard, where she and Cooter had been playing with Miss Sophie.

Bounced.  Yes.  She hardly goes anywhere that she doesn’t bounce. Or skip. Or dance.

I think walking might not be quite joy-filled enough for her.

She had something behind her back.

“Mama, do you have a little vase or jar?”

I shook myself out of the fog that the migraine had me in.  “A jar? Ummm.  Maybe.  Why?”

“Because!” and with a “tada” flourish and a great big smile, she held out a handful of purple flowers picked from our backyard.  A little bouquet of them.

Bless it.

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I knew where the perfect little jelly jar was and when she had them all arranged, oh how lovely!

And so filled with memories.

These are the same little flowers that she has picked every year when Spring starts pulling out her best dress and showing off a little, giving us a little taste of what we can expect when she decides to move in and stay with us for a while.

The same flowers I remember Aub and then even more years ago, my baby brother, picking for Mama.  She always ALWAYS put them in the little vase and set them in her kitchen windowsill.

And the same flowers I picked for her way before that.  And for my Granny.  And the same ones I believe I might have seen yesterday in a bouquet picked for my Aunt on her birthday by her sweet grands.

Picking those purple flowers has become quite the “first sign of Spring” tradition in our family.

Tonight I’m thankful for the joy of young ones in finding just the right bundle of flowers for the ones they love.  I’m thankful for the sunshine and the warmth and the thawing of toes and fingers and noses and–here’s hoping–of hearts.  And I give thanks for the Artist and all the ways the color purple is used to bring joy and Light, and how that reminds us that the cold darkness of winter will soon pass.  And the birds will keep on singing.

Love to all.

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epiphany

light

light bulb

realization

a new knowing

stars

Star

traveling

seeking

wondering

finding

treasure

knowledge

Love

Light

 

over the years so much written about light

“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?”*

“blinded by the light”

“you light up my life”

“this little light of mine”

“Light of the world”

 

but in the dark of night

so long ago

it took no words,

only one star, one Light

to lead the way and give the journey purpose

not just for the three

but for all

 

so on the Twelfth day we gather

and celebrate

and look for the light in our own lives

and tarry not for long as we move

towards it

with an Epiphany

that the Light is always there, waiting,

guiding,

a beacon of love for all

 

 


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

*Shakespeare’s words from “Romeo and Juliet”

 

Love and Merry Twelfth Day of Christmas to all!