Showing posts with label O Death. Show all posts
Showing posts with label O Death. Show all posts

10 November 2011

Giving Thanks, Day 10

One of my soul friends lost her sister today, unexpectedly. My heart is weeping with hers.

And yet, death is no victor. That's more than a comfort. It's an endless mercy.


I'm thankful for what I know.

03 November 2011

Giving Thanks, Day 3

So, ha ha, I posted this on Facebook for Halloween:

This image may originate here. (So much for attribution.)
Early this morning, after Rob got up but before the sun and I did, I was lying in bed, minding my own sleepy business, and something with a lot of legs RAN ACROSS MY FACE. Ear to ear, straight over my cheekbones. I am a light sleeper, even when I'm dreaming, so in a nanosecond I was bolt upright and freaking out, shaking my head and slapping myself around to make sure that spider was OFFOFFOFF! Talk about an adrenaline rush. I sat there in the dark, my heart pounding. I did not, did not dream that! I pictured this spider running for his life, away from the big flailing thing he'd just mistakenly used as a highway. But no. Suddenly, I felt a tickle on the back of my shoulder and this time I stopped, dropped, and rolled like I was on fire. Good thing Rob was up already or I'd have probably knocked him out of bed by accident. I was taking no chances. A few years ago I got fanged by one of those pale green house spiders with the googly brown eyes that Rob used to tell me don't bite, and now, well, you know what they say... I'm twice shy. Exponentially shy. I can't stand spiders in the house. We are not amused.

After that, no more tickles, no more feet. I was able to catch a few more zzzzs (a testament to how much sleep I've lost lately rather than to how courageous I am). But when I woke up (after the sun) this is what I found:

Aieeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!
scattered body parts!

I am still creeped out, many hours later. Augh! It's going to be a little tough to sleep tonight.


BUT. Here's my big gratitude for the day: I won that battle. No googly-eyed spider bites for me today. And I'm sure his ancestors in spider heaven welcomed him home with many many open arms. Thankful!


Other things that didn't bite today:
  • giving away the rest of the Mexican chocolate brownies
  • getting to see an old friend, somebody I love like family, and meet her new baby, Niles (love you, Jamie, and it was so good to see you and Addie and the baby chunk and your sweet gram)
  • helping my in-laws' neurotic cat with her worried peevish old lady cat thoughts (no, really)
  • watching Neil Thornock drive away with a giant accordion loaded into his fabulous cargo bike
  • perfect timing: at the very moment I decided I needed to find somebody with a truck to help me move a couch to Lu's house, I looked out the window and spotted the bishop, home early, and he and his truck and one of his landscaping worker bees helped me deliver Big Pink in five minutes, round trip
  • new space opened up in the living room
  • shuffling pictures on the walls
  • the rest of the Harry Potters, on loan from my cuz
  • Gary bringing me a gift he knows I'll appreciate: a tragic handwritten poem he found while deep cleaning his basement—it was hidden behind some duct work (sad subject matter, but it's great to have a friend who'll think to give me something like this)
  • Rob's glee at having a P.A. system to play with
  • Brian's songs with a little more reverb
  • sweaters from the UK
  • digging out the Italian book of Hanon Virtuoso-Pianist exercises and beginning to break in my fingers again (ow)
  • vegetables
  • praying with perspective
  • looking forward to tomorrow
  • my pumpkin and his Jack-o-lantern:

13 March 2011

My Old Dawg

I really, really hate to say this. My little dog of 17+ years is dying. I can feel it. I can see it. I've been watching him age in a hurry over the past few months, but last week he began a more rapid descent. His cataract eyes seem all of a sudden to be quite blind. His ears still show sporadic signs of reception, but his hearing seems to have turned almost entirely inward. He trembles, he frets. His perception is off in all ways. Izzy is not in touch with the world anymore; he's in some alternate reality. He climbs steps that aren't there. He sometimes sits and stares up expectantly at people(?) I don't see. It's hard to walk him, to guide him, to interact with him, to watch him. He's needed to wear The Cone of Shame recently, not because he's in trouble, but because he mindlessly works different parts of his body, especially his feet—lick, lick, licking absently until he wears away the hair and irritates his own skin.

He's been a great friend, and sometimes an almost equally great menace, but mostly a friend. He's a creature of fun and mischief and intelligence. There've been times when I fully expected him to open up his mouth and speak English. Before he started falling apart, he could dance like a biped, shoot rubber bands, snowplow, do tricks for packing peanuts, skateboard with Rob, eat cat truffles by the dozens (if given the chance, which happened rarely and only by accident), count, offend female dogs and small children without ever losing his innocent friendly smile, function as a doorbell, beg for lit matches, run from citrus peel, and charm old ladies. I miss his maniacal daily rip-snort through the house. I miss taking him for canyon walks. I miss the crazy beautiful vibrant creature he once was, knowing that he is not long for this world, and that he is not going to recover from this current sickness—at least, he's not going to go back to the dog he once was.

I've been praying this week that the weather would be sunny and warm and dry so he can spend most of his time outside in the backyard without The Cone of Shame and occupy himself with grass and smells and fenced-in wandering. We've had a nice stretch of weather. If I could have my wish, Izzy would quietly slip away while curled up and taking a lovely sunbath. He stays so shivery lately and he's so frail. Most of the time he seems kind of oblivious to us, but yesterday I sat with him a while out on the lawn and stroked and massaged him and spoke gentle appreciative words into his deaf little ears. He did seem to appreciate it. Ugh. I don't want him to suffer. He's been so wonderful.

I've been remembering how sweet he was when Gram was here with us, dying. For days he lay with her on her bed, still as can be, which was totally unlike him then. He got up only for drinks and food and walks, and then he was right back again, snuggled in close to her. On the day Gram died, and the gentlemen from Berg Mortuary came for her, we sent Izzy to the back of the house so he wouldn't get underfoot. Later that evening when we were sitting around, so solemn and sad, he came and sat before us, staring us down. We asked him, "Izzy, where's Gram?" (He loved being asked "Where's [so-and-so]?" and then leading us to the person, grinning with pleasure, and waiting for his praise.) He answered without his usual energy by quietly going to the front door and looking out toward the street. We asked him several times on other days and always got the same answer. He never wanted to go back into Gram's bedroom afterward; acted as if it didn't exist. He's a smart little guy. I felt he knew. He knows death like I do.

I remember how he'd do the same thing with me when I was going through miscarriage. I'd lay on the couch and he'd lay on the floor wedged against the sofa or cuddled up with me, if I'd let him. I think of these things, these kind moments when he was a comforting instead of a wild presence, and I wish for him to be comforted now. I don't know what to do for him. But I will keep praying for sun, till he goes. Sorry to all of you who are ready for spring rains. Those can happen at night, while he's indoors, okay? That's the only concession I'll make.

I'm thinking of my poor pooch every day, naturally, but earlier this afternoon I found a little poem I wrote a few years ago after he'd run away from home and come back. While we were on a vacation he'd escaped from some family members' house when they weren't watching him (he's a slippery fish). We came home to no dog, and to all-around panic. I printed about half a million flyers and we wallpapered Provo with them. A few days later, a kind lady across town called and said she had our dog—she hadn't seen my flyer, but she'd phoned about his tags and gotten our home number. She told us one day he'd simply pushed her front door open and come sauntering in. She said he communicated very clearly to her that he needed help and that she was supposed to get it all sorted out, the end. She did, and were we ever grateful.

So here's a shaggy poem to celebrate a lovable friend who will certainly go to dog heaven one of these days soon.

5 May 2006
A dog with a nice disposition
who greets you in the morning
with love and a ready wag
is not unlike a flat stomach.
Maybe neither will last all your life.
They’re easy to take for granted
until you think you might have lost them.
If they come back to you,
you smile again at sunup
and give them an appreciative pat.

19 October 2010

Good Chaps, Good Gaffes

Here's a question: Do angels read blogs?

I woke up from a dream this morning in which Rob told me off-handedly that Leslie (Norris, a favorite friend and poet, deceased now) had recommended a piece from my blog—was it a review?—to a couple of men, somebody named Dan and a fellow whose name escapes me now.

"REALLY?! What did he say? What was it he read?" I cried.

Though I begged to know more, Rob wouldn't answer. He was busy with his own projects, his day.

Still, I was thrilled and shocked. Leslie reads my blog? And he found something he considered worth sharing?

So now I'm wondering about angels and if they read over our shoulders. I'm thinking yes, of course. Seems it would only make their ministering jobs easier and more interesting.

If that is the case, dear Leslie, and you should happen to one day scan my blog, I hope you will find this message: We miss you and Kitty so.

As for the rest of you reading over my shoulder, I hope you explored the above links, particularly the ones that will take you to audiopest, Rob's blog. Lots of fun sound files and good words there to enjoy. You're welcome.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Here's a statement: I love KBYU-FM. I love its music, programs, news, music hosts, and announcers. You might remember a few days ago I blogged about a young woman who tripped over her tongue while reading the morning headlines and telling Classical 89 listeners about the world's largest living organism. She said something so tragicomically inappropriate that it changed the course of my entire day, which had been dragging to that point. Thank you, thank you, belly laughter.

I was so inspired by that great ab workout that I sent a message to the station, offering my hilarity, gratitude, and condolences. I got a a very pleasant form letter back which struck me funny as well given its tone:
Dear Georgia, Thank you for taking the time to write. We always appreciate hearing from those interested in our station and its programs. Thank you for writing to Classical 89. We appreciate hearing from supporters and are happy to hear how much you enjoy our programs. Those of us who work at this station truly appreciate the kind words of encouragement from you and other viewers. It affirms that our efforts are having an affect -- that our programs are being enjoyed and making a difference. This is a big part of our mission, and we're glad to hear we are reaching you. Thank you again for writing. We hope you continue to enjoy and support Classical.
You certainly are reaching me, but it doesn't sound like I really reached you. Did any human being read my email? Oh, well. Ha.

Ah, but then yesterday I got a message from Program Director Eric Glissmeyer:
Dear Georgia: I also heard the newscast that morning. It was kind of horrific, and kind of funny at the same time. Glad you got a kick out of it!
What a good sport. His note tickled me, but then this morning I got another message, this time from News Director Wes Sims: 
Georgia, Thanks for your encouraging comments about our student newscaster’s gaffe on the air. I’ve had my own embarrassing moments in broadcasting, so I was understandably sympathetic. (My personal best was a statement that a gunman was charged with assault with a deadly woman.) We’re glad you listen to Classical 89 … hopefully not just for our mistakes.
Tell me—how could I not love this station? I recommend you give it a listen too. Best classical music anywhere, and great people tending it.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

By the way, I made a new audio discovery yesterday. I found out one of my pet A/V sites has an internet radio station. I listened for a while as I did some plodding work and was "excessively diverted." An entertaining mix of sound captures—music, voices, odd gleaned stuff—all very random tracks. Some of it you'll love, I'm guessing. Some of it may get too weird for your taste. Let me know how you fare.

09 May 2010

I Gather Armfuls

So disorienting: the Primary kids didn't sing their annual mother-songs in church today. What?

That's why I have to post this song. Even though it's the same one I posted two days ago. No dancing with a floor lamp this time, just beautiful people.

Oh, I love these kids. Love. Them.


Good things happened today. (Happy Mothers Day, y'all, that is, if you haven't already checked out and gone to bed.) For instance:
  • a dream of about a dozen or so women, all in gorgeous maxi dresses
  • a nice warm wakeup call from my favorite person
  • "the perfect diner egg" and hash browns, eaten on the run
  • wearing Grandma Daphne's orange bakelite necklace with the magic black $8 dress and not feeling like Halloween
  • feeling nurtured by Vincent love, empathy, and laughter (I could write a lengthy post just counting up reasons I adore them)
  • being blessed by a friend's beautiful dream (she even let me act in it)
  • little girls in bright summery maxi frocks 
  • getting to see my Kim who's home from USU for the summer
  • Rob's delicious shortbread (so good in fact that he should be made an honorary Scot)
  • not being handed a funeral carnation at church for Mothers Day
  • lunch AND dinner at Tribal Headquarters
  • creating paper rose wreaths
  • the Blueberry Hackworths finally drying to their perfect point of readiness (i.e., wearing and not melting the confectioner's sugar)
  • making frosting with Amy
  • helping Jeanne through a migraine
Other good things happened this weekend too, including:
  • an elegant bouquet of tall irises from my honey
  • sharing our refrigerator roulette lunch and some good conversation with Suzanne's painter
  • scrubbing the bathroom of a young friend on her moving day (the fun part was amusing myself with self-talk like, "You're a Christian martyr, yes, that's what you are, a Christian martyr!")
  • promotional free eats at Orem's new Café Paesan Italian Bistro on Friday—good food from the people who opened Café Rio—tastes like a winner
  • laughing too loudly with Rob while looking at travel books in the public library
  • Dad B, despite being in so much pain he can hardly walk this weekend:
    • coming over with Mum and surprising me with a a visit
    • bringing me a pot of beautiful dark lilies because he wanted to help "make it a better Mothers Day"
    • giving me great bear hugs and love-yous
  • actual squirrels! with long bushy tails! 
  • walking by Utah Lake
  • yellow-headed blackbirds and the way they land and go for rides on tall phragmites 
  • tiny yellow warblers
  • the sax player who was out on the airport road, improvising jazz while accompanied by peepers, ducks, coots, and all sorts of noisy creatures
  • giant bulls in a field that look just like our former stake president's family
  • partying with the cousins to celebrate 6-year-old Bethany (and if you want a piece of genuine Mothers Day sweetness, you WILL click that last link)
  • toxic Cheetos
  • everybody's pregnant (well, I'm not, but nearly everyone else is and really, truly, I think that's wonderful)
Hurdles I got over:
  • baby weepies (several rounds)
  • fatigue
  • missing my matriarchs
  • missing absent in-laws
  • burning both hands all over while catching a great ol' big blob of hot glue (saved the table though)
  • not being able to stop smelling the pernicious phantom must for two days after scrubbing my friend's toilet (see: moving day, above)
This next part doesn't belong on any of the above lists, but I want to put it somewhere for safe keeping. I'm warning you now that if you want to avoid reading a real piece of sadness, stop now and visit the next blog on your list. 

A woman who was a member of our church congregation for a time moved across town a few short months ago to an apartment complex for retired people. Sylvia was 61, divorced, a nice and gentle lady, also I think very lonely. She dealt with some sort of mental illness I could never quite get my mind around—nothing dangerous to anyone else, but it made her quite odd at times. And the woman could talk, boy howdy. Rob was her home teacher for a while, and I like to think we were friends. Apparently, she died just recently. It seems that no one knows what caused her death. Her new bishop, who was her current home teacher, tried phoning her and couldn't connect with her as usual, so he went to her apartment to try to get in, thinking she might be in trouble. But she was already ten days beyond her trouble by then. He found her seated in her living room with her coat on. Her front door was unlocked. Ten days, no one looked for her, no one knew a thing. It rips me to pieces. 

No funeral. No obituary. No family?

I trust she's okay now, that she's having a marvelous reunion with people who care for her, and she's able to feel light and well and happy, since she's left her pains and illness behind. I believe with all my heart she was welcomed home with beautiful brilliant love, more than enough to let her know how important she is. But those ten awful days, they haunt me. They make me ache. After I heard the news today everyone around me looked different and I felt a fierce surge of interest in them. The desire to be more aware and attentive in my relationships doubled, tripled, quadrupled.

Where I feel the yearning most is in my hands. I want to be touching people more. Knocking on doors. Dare I say it?—picking up the telephone. (That's how I know this is serious.) Working, helping, holding. If a day set aside to honor mothering isn't the time for those kinds of desires to increase, I don't know when is the time. My hands need to be busier with nurturing. I only have these two hands and they're not always as strong as I'd like them to be, but they weren't stuck on the ends of my arms so I'd get good at standing around and wringing them. 

I want to have some kind of personal memorial for Sylvia. Maybe it'll just be a walk & think. Maybe a Mcdonald's chocolate shake (her favorite) with a friend. Maybe I'll try to make a new friend. That's it. That's what I need to do. Awkwardness, be damned.

I'm reminded of a really beautiful talk I've listened to several times already, by one of my modern heroes. If you didn't catch the LDS General Conference last month, this will be new to you, and likely a real uplift. Give it a listen. 

16 November 2009

Wearing out my muse

Some writers just can't take a hint, I guess.

But I've simply got to make that screenplay competition deadline!
Don't you have anything else for me?



11 November 2009

Poppy Day



In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

— Lt. Col. John McCrae (1872-1918)

"Lest We Forget," photo by hobvias sudoneighm, published

10 April 2009

A quiet week


Monday—April 6th—brought me a sunny little seven-year-old knocking on my door, holding out a squished fistful of pretty yellow harvested from my own front yard. Have you noticed that all it takes to turn a weed into a flower is for a loving child to pick and offer it? My sweet neighbor's honorable bouquet and her shy but eager hug gave me some needed strength.


Because April 6th is a a special date to me, I chose that evening, after our FHE, to take care of a Life Errand, something that I've been needing and wanting to do for a long time. Rob went with me and we sought out a favorite tree of mine, the one I was sitting beneath once when I saw the Grim Reaper making his way down the street and I actually laughed at him. (Have I told that story yet?)


(Seems ironic: I was the one in the cemetery, sitting on the tree's roots so long I felt I might turn into a granite statue, and fit right in with the other headstones. The Grim Reaper was in the middle of the road and doggedly stuck to the striped white line like he owned it, on the other side of the fence. I suppose he might actually own it, come to think of it. That's certainly where he picks up a lot of careless customers.)


I left a small piece of the past in this place, entrusted it to the care of this tree that's been around a long time. It's seen some things. It knows. Rob was with me when I laid down a token of a heartache that needs to be put to rest. I couldn't think of a better place or a more watchful guard. When the weather warms a bit more I will love sometimes to go and sit with my tree again, with turned thoughts.


Monday night I started a batch of horchata soaking. Tuesday I spent all morning finishing it (next time I will buy the cheesecloth instead of cheaping out and trying to strain the rice sludge through a flour sack towel) and shared it with lovely Wendy. Missed by a hair getting mashed by another big truck (not my fault!) on the way home and most of what was left of the horchata in the uncovered pitcher responded, true to the laws of physics, by soaking the dog car and a couple of library books. At least I had enough left to let Rob have a glassful with dinner.


Dried horchata residue looks simultaneously like a tree of life and a really big tongue.


Photo by Tony Randell, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License.

Wednesday I didn't take my Project 365 photo because I never could get my camera trained fast enough on the one subject that entertained me all day—a bold, beautiful scrub jay who's taken up residence at our house. I love these birds. They seem to choose favorite places to haunt, and not long ago when I was out walking in the 'hood, I noticed one of those houses, and started wishing for some blue birdy company. Interesting factoid: unlike many other species, scrub jays share their color equally between male and female. Both get to be bright. And bright they are, in multiple ways. Jays are so smart! My new friend hung around near the feeder and in the side yard for hours, and at one point stood in the center of my kitchen windowsill and stared me in the face in the most delightfully cheeky way. I hope he/she/(they) will stick around.


Thursday I did not go to the Jehovah's Witnesses' commemoration of the Last Supper. I did think about it though. Have I mentioned that I have been adopted as a project by a wonderful 17-year-old JW missionary girl? I really really like her, and suggested we do a cultural exchange where I go to her meetin' and she comes to hear me sing (while safely drowned out by real choir voices) at my church on Easter Sunday. She wasn't comfortable, and me, I just had to work late.


Today I had the great pleasure of offering some heartfelt birthday wishes . . .


. . . and also receiving some early birthday love.


After a ladies' lunch, I spent the rest of the day and night printing for my cousin and cousin-to-be while I listened to a favorite podcast. Over and over I made these words appear along with a suite of invitation pieces. That sums up well how I'm feeling right now: Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

02 December 2008

It's a wonderful life


Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News' Mormon Times

I actually believe that, in part because you showed me it was so. It's hard to lose you, Elder Wirthlin—you feel like family—but the hope you inspired in my life lives on, and I will always remember that I trusted and felt loved by you. You helped me make out heaven a little more clearly. You kept a pocketful of order and let me see that, really, it's just that easy. I want to be like you. Servant, friend, Olympian.

25 November 2008

A famous beauty (without, within)



Kind friend, light-catcher, preserver of memories, teller of stories, witty observer, marvelous mentor, balance-finder, quiet exemplar, charitable hand, peace-seeker, possessor of grace, protector of dignity, forward-thinker, poet's muse . . . worthy worthy mother.

Kitty, how we love you! God be with you till we meet again.

01 October 2008

Am I really that busy, or am I just incredibly disorganized?

Don't answer that. 

I am astonished at how this past week flew. And today (I mean Tuesday though it's actually Wednesday now)—I swear it was a week long all by itself. I worked my fanny off from the time I got up till pretty much now. But it was a productive day. Here's what I managed to accomplish:

• I woke up at 7:57 a.m. after getting to sleep past 2:00 a.m. (or so). 
• I dragged myself to the shower to try and come back to life before getting a scheduled called from Boston at 8:30 a.m.
• I spoke in mostly complete sentences, 45 minutes' worth of them, while talking with Tony Kahn. It was an official interview. I was being recorded. For broadcast. This is way out of my comfort zone. I needed another shower by the time we were through.
• I succeeded in having clammy hands for the rest of the day.
• I poached eggs in a fresh spicy tomato sauce.
• I completely and repeatedly spaced off announcing that I was today's guest blogger at Segullah. Sorry about that, you three faithful readers. It's not too late for you to visit and read. Please do, in fact, . . . and maybe leave a comment so I can feel like I'm not wasting their space.
• I put deceptively simple-looking almost-but-not-quite-finishing touches on this new website. I am very happy about it—it's the next incarnation of Tony Kahn's Morning Stories work. Please, please, check it out, and check out Morning Stories too. I promise you will love it. Love, love, love. AND. If you visit the website you will get to hear the fast edit of my early morning talk with Tony. He wanted to quiz me about Gigi's death and the coffin we built. I know I've told some of you a little about it, right? Just haven't blogged the story yet. (Don't expect the whole story in the interview.)
• I spent a half-hour at D.I. with Rob, right before closing time. This was my one break of the day. Found nuthin.
• I paid the mortgage.
• I exchanged letters with Rob.
• I discovered I'm getting sick.
• I drank a blackberry smoothie, made by Chef Rob, through two straws from a giant milk glass vase while soaking in a warm tub. And it doesn't get much better than that without company.

Tomorrow? I plan to accomplish nothing besides sleeping and eating. My universe has to balance out sometime.

09 September 2008

Black and white

In a few short hours Rob and I will drive a borrowed car to a Salt Lake crematory, to watch over our dear Phoenix as she enters the fire, accompanied by the love of many of her family and friends.



I'll have to miss my haircut appointment with Patrick. Oh well, that's life. Or in this case, death.

As soon as we get home I will attempt to finish making this:



Now that's life.

In the evening I will get to watch and yell as one of my young women kicks this:



It's going to be a day of high contrasts, that much is sure.

31 August 2008

A light in the distance



Oh, Gigi. I'm so glad I got the chance to know and love you.

Tonight a pretty wind knocked at your door with a faint thundering, hand in hand with a little fragrant rain which danced around anxiously on the front step. They hoped you would come out for a walk, for a journey, for a one-time chance to hop the 2:00 train and ride its powerful surging song away and away and away, and that is just exactly what you did. I hope it's an exciting trip.

I am going to miss you terribly. I already do.

07 July 2008

Oh, how I wish I was in New York

It's bad enough we are missing the fun at Rob's family reunion, but now I learn we're going to miss an incredible exhibition of Paul Fusco photographs, "R.F.K. Funeral Train—Rediscovered." What a piece of Americana. I'm eating my heart out. Hey, if you're in the neighborhood, won't you go and enjoy it for me?

And if you're curious about why it's gotten under my skin, just take a look at this three-minute slide show produced by The New York Times. It's narrated by the photographer. This to me is beauty. The real deal.

13 February 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

I'm back from Texas, but I got hit with a killer bug last night. So for now, since I'm feeling too rotten to write an original post, and since I'm too sick to even kiss, I will stall for time and share with you a very worthy historical letter that I think is fairly appropriate to the occasion of Love Day, especially considering world events. Get your tissues out; this one may make you weep.
Camp Clark, Washington
July 14th, 1861

My Dear Sarah,

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days perhaps tomorrow.

Lest I shall not be able to write to you again. I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure, and it may be one of sever conflict and death to me. "Not my will, but Thine O God be done." If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my Country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged and my courage does not halt or falter.

I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution, and I am willing, perfectly willing to lay down all my joys in this life to help maintain this Government and to pay that debt, but my dear wife when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows, when after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself I must offer it as the only sustenance to my dear little children, is it weak or dishonorable that while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze underneath my unbounded love for you my darling wife and children, I shall struggle in fierce though useless contest with my love of Country.

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer Sabbath night when two thousand men are sleeping around me many of them enjoying the last perhaps before that of death; and I am suspicious that death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart while I am communing with God, My Country and Thee. I have sought most closely and diligently and often in my breast for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of all those I loved and I could find now. A pure love of my Country and the principles I have often advocated before the people another name of honor that I love more than I fear death has called upon me and I have obeyed.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me in mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break and my love of country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of all the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me and I feel most deeply grateful to God and you that I have enjoyed them so long and how hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years when God Willing we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us.

I know I have but few and small claims upon Divine Providence but something whispers to me perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah never forget how much I love you and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield I shall whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you how thoughtless how foolish I have often times been. How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness and struggle with all the misfortunes of this world to shield you and my dear children from harm but I cannot I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more. But Oh Sarah if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they love, I shall always be near you in the gladdest day and in the darkest night amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours always, always and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheeks it shall be my breath or the cool air cools your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead, think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow up as I have grown and never know a father's love and care, little Willie is too young to remember me long and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood.

Sarah, I have unbounded confidence in your maternal care and your development of their character and feel that God will bless you in your holy work.

Tell my two mothers I call God's blessing upon them.

Oh Sarah I want for you there come to me and lead thither my children.

Sullivan

22 April 2007

Watch

The Ancestor has taken a bad turn. She is on her way home very soon, folks—that's what everything inside me is saying. I believe death will come as a gentleman caller this week. I am on my watch. Thanks to all of you who have expressed care in the past. This beautiful life is really just the blink of an eye, isn't it?

07 December 2006

Looking back on Black Friday and a few other items of business

He's pink. I'm yellow. It's always been that way.
He's tired. I'm tired. It's been that way since about mid-November.
But dang if we didn't manage to get the first bound copies
of the edition to their destination by Black Friday.
That's why we took the photo. We were so relieved.
But we're still not getting enough sleep.
Self-employment is not for the faint of heart.
It's for insomniacs. Insomniacs who get along.

So, I've got our press's web page updated again, finally. Please tell all your pals. Especially your pals who like to spend money on nice letterpress. And even if you're broke, please go and have a look so your friends the printers don't get lonesome. Got feedback?

My next item of busines is this. I subscribe to This American Life's weekly podcast, and tonight while I was doing some bookbinding work I listened to the babysitting episode, #175 (you can listen to it for free--just search the archives). It's a great one all around, but I was moved by the second "act," a personal story told by Susan Burton about a time in 1988 when she and her little sister and a large number of other "unaccompanied minors" (or as she calls them, "divorced kids") were stranded in the Chicago O'Hare airport on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day during a terrible blizzard. It was a really insightful piece, and at the end Ira Glass announced that a film had been made based on this experience. Yeah! Sounds like one Rob and I would really enjoy! I looked up the movie title and watched two different trailers. What. A. Dog. Can I say it again? WHAT! A! DOG! After the great radio work I'd just heard I was completely bugged to see that the story had been so utterly and predictably dumbed down. I want to scream. Not because the junior high set gets to eat popcorn while wasting their brain cells on yet another insipid, ridiculously sterotypical piece of parasitic holiday schlock, but because dumbbody wasted a perfect opportunity to tell a real, good story. Phlllbbbttt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And now, we return you to "Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Men," already in progress.

Alright, so I'm way behind in replying to comments on the blog. I'll just hit a few points here, in case those of you who were asking about Gary's tiaras and other things don't feel like going back to the original posts again to see if I ever answered.

The tiaras: Gary sells them; he doesn't wear them. At least not that I know of. Gary . . . want to back me up on this? He graciously allowed me to borrow them from his shop to help decorate for a Young Women event I helped with. It had a princess theme. Not my idea, but being the supporter of causes that I am, I supplied the tiaras. Thanks to Gary. But honest, I've never caught Gary wearing one. I know you're all disappointed. Is it any consolation to you that the first tiara I touched broke in my hands? Gary's not a princess, and I'm not either.

The spiritual experience at Beto's will have to wait for another day. Sorry, compulsive writer. But I will eventually tell.

Liz, I think you hit on a great point about when you talked about spending years first of all learning to identify the manipulators in your life, before you ever started being able to say no to them. It's funny how almost addicting the feeling of freedom can be once you get some of these things figured out. I read a good book a friend loaned to me called Controlling People and it really helped to open my eyes to the dynamics of such interactions and what's at the heart of them. Maybe you'd find it useful too. I also read a great book on sociopaths at the beginning of the year. Overall, I do better than I used to in the bully battle.

Lorien, I will certainly add "circumventing circumcision" to my gratitude lists. I am absolutely thankful I've been able to do that.

Azúcar, you and I have another connecting point in Andi, don't we?

Elizabeth (you're Liz to me always), are you writing your own lists now?

Chemical Billy, let's dance together on cocktail wieners next time you're in town.

B., Unlike you, I can't say I've outgrown much in my life. Maybe acrylic sweaters, but that's about all. I'm working on it.

Liz, Billy, Azúcar, and Julie, I like your at-home date input. Why would we ever want to leave our house again?

Last thing is this. As per the instructions my sister-in-law gave in a sacrament meeting talk a week and a half ago, I'm still rather diligently writing gratitude lists every night. Well, I missed one night, but that's because it was after 2:00am when I quit working and I was too tired to do anything but drag myself to bed, so I wrote that list in my head till the next day. I'm telling you, the regular exercise of remembering and recording things I'm thankful for makes a huge difference in my overall emotions and experience. I find myself noticing more good things, eager to remember (and share) them. The practice often has power to help lighten heavy and dark feelings and it even lifts fatigue, at least a little. Any time I've ever done this I've felt immediately rewarded and have wanted to go on doing it forever. It's amazing what sweet things can be wrung out of even the toughest kind of day. For instance:

#11
•the gorgeous, plump, perfect, mouse-glossy brown seed that fell out of the apple I cut for lunch
•The Ancestor getting the chance to go out and party with her visiting teachers (two senior citizens of the able-bodied variety) FOR FIVE HOURS
finding a home for a lot of practically new socks I recently replaced with some that stay up
•good radio storytelling
•seeing a few more sales now that our website is updated
•hemp seed
•Miss Mary's unexpected turnaround after her near-death experience (Miss Mary is my Methuselah cat)
•getting an email from an old friend who admitted: "Whenever I spell your name I pronounce it in my head, Geeyourjeea, just so I can spell it right."
•hearing about other people's dreams
•a telephone headset that saves me from a crink in my neck
•having gratitude lists to read over again
•getting rid of a headache
•realizing it wasn't the flu after all, but just the bad gingerbread cookies

15 June 2006

I say, an essay!

Oh, my. I did it. I can't believe I wrote the whole thing. I started last night 'round midnight and I didn't shower today (though I did go out into public when I had to, visiting teaching, even), and I didn't wear so much as a French woman's smidgen of makeup, and I didn't do most of what I was "supposed to" because I had words burning a hole in my brain.

I should be sleeping now instead of talking about it, but I will quickly say that if I hadn't gone to my clinic yesterday and had my latest and as-yet-unnamed-On-Bright-Street epiphany, I would have divied up the day into little improvement-oriented chunks that would have kept me under control, made me brush my teeth, and ruined everything. I would have missed the deadline for submissons, June 15th, today.

I'm not saying I did it big. I just did it. At the end of the first draft I looked it over and said, See, self? I can do this, and nobody suffered for it, except for maybe my sweet little visiting teaching companion who had to sit next to me on the couch.

There's not enough time or brain activity left in me to go into explanations about why this is personally a big deal, this starting and finishing of a few paragraphs. Blah blah blah. Here's the essay already. I hope it fits the bill for the Irreantum folks. I won't hold my breath--the important thing is that the words are cooling on the page now, and no longer sizzling away in my head.


BREAD OF HEAVEN

The call came early, and as most everyone knows, when the phone sounds before the sun, you vault from your bed and sleep takes a hasty turn to panic: Hello! Who's died? On this particular morning, April 6th, there was no death to report yet, but a weary stalwart voice on the other end of the line politely breathed woe into my ear: We're in the emergency room. Leslie's had a stroke. Please come.

Oh, Kitty. Yes. Yes, we're on our way.


Night yielded to a misting morning, and Rob and I drove to the hospital in disheveled unshowered solemnity. April 6th. Today is Christ's birthday, I thought. Of course He has invited Leslie to His table. What a gift to have a favored son come home; a celebration is surely being prepared. But here with us, as if to reveal the mortal brightness that was being extinguished, the heavy sky, hungry for sun, turned grey and slow with weeping.

There he was and there she was, just like always, except that his saying and seeing had ceased, and nothing was left but the labor of his breathing on a borrowed bed, between the unnatural light above and the cold, aseptic tile beneath. Whispers and blessings, loves and prayers, tears and pain, we few labored alongside him without knowing how.

What can I do? What do you need? Help, let me help.

Tansi, then. Tansi needs her morning walk. It will be her first walk with the unanswerable anxiety of absence. Is there even the smallest comfort for a cherished, grieving pet? She'll want tending.

Warbling song. It occurred to me that perhaps this I would miss most about Leslie. Funny to apprehend that the great man touched my heart most deeply singing snatches of contented tunes while seeing to everyday comings and goings--standing in the backyard, watching Tansi play; locking up the house and loading into the car; bringing in trash cans and taking them out; walking slowly with Kitty and friends through a restaurant parking lot. I never recognized his meandering melodies; I believed them to be his own irrepressible inventions.

On her own threshold I encircled Tansi's neck with the familiarity of her leash and spoke kindly. She was tense and confused, sick inside as I was. Stepping through the doorway and urging Tansi forward, all I could think was that Leslie would be singing now. He would sing to Tansi as they walked the long drive and trudged down Carterville Road, following their customary route. The certainty of it filled my head. Alright, I thought, then I will sing for you today, my good pup.

I laughed at myself, a justifiably reluctant alto. Never mind that. I could warble too for an occasion like this, only without the charm. What should I sing? I know none of Leslie's songs. Surely he would croon sweet melodies known to old Welshmen, but strange to radio ears. Nothing came to me. Nothing. Then a little something, just a single hymn that lodged in my mind:

Guide us, o thou great Jehovah,
Guide us to the promised land.
We are weak, but thou art able;
Hold us with thy pow'rful hand.
Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit,
Feed us till the Savior comes.
Feed us till the Savior comes.

Open, Jesus, Zion's fountains;
Let her richest blessings come.
Let the fiery, cloudy pillar
Guard us to this holy home.
Great Redeemer, great Redeemer,
Bring, oh, bring the welcome day!
Bring, oh, bring the welcome day!

When the earth begins to tremble,
Bid our fearful thoughts be still;
When thy judgments spread destruction,
Keep us safe on Zion's hill,
Singing praises, singing praises,
Songs of glory unto thee,
Songs of glory unto thee.


I cried as I raised my poor voice. Would Leslie balk at a Restoration paean? I felt foolish in my solo as I passed neighbors' houses--a stranger in black, singing a song of worship while walking a troubled dog--but I carried on. The hymn left no room for another anthem, so I repeated it, jumbling the verses–that didn't matter. Tears spilled from me. I kept time with my footfalls and imagined how Leslie would sing such a hymn. Where would he and this little Welsh Terrier wander together, and how? I yielded to my companion’s tuggings, mimicked Leslie’s pace and his endearments, and gave to Tansi as many memories as I could. The song flowed from me and Tansi and I relaxed. There was a spirit of comfort with us.

Late in the evening, after a devilishly hard day’s work, Leslie went quietly home to feast at his Master’s table and celebrate in good company the beauty of nascence. We who stayed behind scattered, our stomachs burning, beneath the blackened sky.

The question of song arose again as funeral plans began to unfold. He and she had agreed that their services should be conducted after the manner of their Latter-day Saint friends and colleagues, but Kitty was fretful about having to sing their soulless songs. First one friend, then another, was given the job of making musical selections; a new widow’s mind is understandably cloudy. No matter. The task appropriately fell to Wally, who appeared the next day, kindled, dependable, and reverent, with his choices. He thought it right to sing a traditional Welsh hymn to end the service . . . Cwm Rhondda? It was familiar to both faiths. Oh! Yes, Kitty answered, please, Leslie would love that. And what was the tune Wally began to sing then? The same that had the day before taken hold of my mind and rolled off my lips to soothe two forlorn creatures. A rush of connection filled me, and I knew that a generous nature was its source.

The correspondence didn’t stop there. Reading the traditional text of Cwm Rhondda I felt afresh the surge of interconnection as I realized this hymn was Bread of Heaven, the subject of one of Leslie’s final, marvelous, unpublished poems. I’d read that poem and read it again, and I’d loved it.

So the hymn we share was Leslie’s long before I knew it was mine. It began where he began and where my family began, in Wales. He grew to love the song in chapel. He learned a mischief to its tune in his mother’s kitchen. He chanted it with mates at football matches after dodgy rulings by referees. His fathers sang it in coal mines. I sang it to his dog. And we all wailed it soulfully to heaven in benediction to his life.

In a month and a half, it was Leslie’s birthday. It was a day to spend with Kitty, but other family business called us out of state. It was a bittersweet trip–another early morning but not so grey as the last one we’d risen to meet, a quiet drive into unfamiliar territory, and a new life to consider. We joined our clan for a baby's blessing, little Scout’s first occasion wearing handed-down ancestral white. Her father blessed her with the poetry of love and priesthood. As a family we shared the feast of the sacrament table and were filled. And then, miraculously, we sang, Guide us, o, thou great Jehovah, guide us to the promised land. We are weak, but though art able; hold us with thy pow’rful hand. When the regular congregation, that justifiably reluctant choir of Saints, reached the chorus, it couldn’t be helped; I had to sing out, overflowing, Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more (want no more). Feed me till I want no more. My tears fell then and again at home when I held my tiny niece. Privately I warbled the hymn for her, once more with the Welsh refrain, in the hope that she would always remember, feel connected, and be fed.

24 October 2005

Happy anniversary, Kyle and Peggy.



43 years ago my parents married. A few hours after the simple ceremony, my military pilot father flew to Cuba, entrusting my mother to the care of her parents until he returned. Instead of complying with everyone else's wishes, my newly-wedded mother took the family dog (which, although a female, had been named for her high school sweetheart), rented an apartment, and immediately set up her independent household. She bought furniture. The dog disappeared. My grandmother was the one who found Bo, Jr.; she was sitting, waiting on the corner in front of a house the family had lived in years before, just blocks away from the apartment where my mother was settling. In four months my father returned safely from Cuba. He and my mother didn't live happily ever after, but they loved and they lived until they died and somewhere in there they made me. Sometimes I miss them so terribly, like the missing is brand new--a fresh deep cut, not a still-tender decades-old stripe that tries to erase itself in vain.

I believe they are happy and busy. And together. I imagine them celebrating their anniversary in many joyful ways they were unable to here. I hope they know I'm thinking of them with love and gratitude and understanding. And I can't help but make a selfish wish and hope that they're proud of who they made.