30 November 2008

arriviamo a roma!

how sweet it is...after sleeping almost the *entire* flight & waking to a sunrise over the french alps...landing at fiumicino to a rainbow (no photo ops for that one...all baggage in the overhead bin & seatbelt securely fastened, you know!), we are settled into the bel paese...happily enjoying that first cappuccino!...ambling around those familiar places we love...attending the first vespers of Advent with Pope Benedict at the Vatican...& capping the evening at a lovely dinner at la pace del palato with some dear friends...today we are in exploration mode until Mass for the first Sunday of Advent with Cardinal Hoyos & dinner with jp & friends.

24 November 2008

excused absences...

do you think my italian instructor will buy it if i call off due to travel in italia?? i hope so...because i'm thinking a week in italia trumps 2 classes in the US for sure! Little Man & i are off to the eternal city (& then some) after Thankgiving in PA with our extended family.

alas, Baby Girl is still in the rainforest for this holiday - hanging out, not with turkeys but with toucans (her research project)! she is home in less than a month & you know i cannot wait to see her!!

blogging might be a bit light until after friday (& pending my ability to find the internet POS in roma). may all of you who celebrate Thanksgiving this week have a wonderful holiday counting your blessings...

23 November 2008


i did not mean for this past week to be a rambling discourse of sadness; it started out as a simple answer to a simple question. in trying to make sense of my thoughts & to explain them more clearly, i kept hearing the advice of Brad, our funeral director...

"lean into your grief."

he did not tell me what my grief would/should look like, but he did gently tell me not to fight it.

we are reassured that we are blessed when we mourn. i became fascinated with this whole idea as i passed through the dark valley. this was not an easy path but it offered a gentleness i could not have imagined.

my words simply tell of my own "leaning into it."

i cannot imagine what it would be for another. but in it, i know we are not alone.

"the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall thouch them. they seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us utter destruction. but they are in peace...as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. in the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble... those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with in him in love; because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect." (Wisdom 3:1-3, 6-9)
Requiem ÆternamRéquiem ætérnam dona eis,
Dómine,et lux perpétua lúceat eis.
Requiéscant in pace.

22 November 2008


when the stillness of winter seeps into the world, the wings of one in flight may be heard in a breathless rhythm of time...the quietest breeze of the sleeping world stirs, releasing whispers of what was & what might be...nightfall is early but the wick easily lights to a softer hue of seeing...& the starlight draws a pattern on the midnight blue sky through clarity of air~~ an air so startling in its middle-of-the-night beauty that you know it is a gift to stand in it, to look up & to see the light come from so far, from so many places.

21 November 2008

hey! who moved the equator??

i'm beginning to think we've slipped a few degrees latitudinally here in eastern NC as we brace for our 2nd onslaught of snow in 3 days. (in our neck of the woods, any snow~ even one flake~ in november is an onslaught!) Little Man informs me that we could expect to see a dusting on the grass later today & low temperatures tonight of 24F/-4C (almost 20F below our typical november lows!) with wind chills around 14F/-10C. right now we have leaden sky with a stiff wind from the north...& a fire in the hearth!! if nothing else, this weather sure does ignite a bit of the holiday spirit!

in a few weeks Little Man & i are off to see Baby Girl in costa rica where i fully expect to find our misplaced weather & pack it in my bag for the return trip!

20 November 2008

drop of joy

finally home after more than a month-long absence, i woke that first morning to a double rainbow over the marshland that shouted "love never dies."

very few things have ever given me comfort like that.

the glorious sign marked a shift in my grief...my numbness started to drip away. i could breathe a bit deeper. i could pray a bit more than my oft-uttered "please help me." & most hopeful to me, i could feel momma around me.

before that day i had spent nearly 3 weeks obsessing with "where" momma & daddy went. my mind could recite the catechism's answer but my heart could not understand it.

looking at that rainbow i knew i had been asking the wrong question. & i also knew that in this lifetime i would never be able to wrap my head around answers to questions like that.

it just wasn't important anymore.

19 November 2008

one thing

in the heavy-hearted task of cleaning my parents' place i was able to find long stretches of mind-numbing labor punctuated with moments when time stood still & i comtemplated pieces of trivia & ordinariness that weave the fabric of life with strong threads, often unnoticed until their absences.

fragments of my childhood - an old spatula, a favorite drinking glass - provided tangible occasions of memory. i found myself holding tightly to things meant for other places...but in my hand, as though they were glued fast. to let go seemed to let go of momma & daddy all over again.

i had no real need for most of what i sorted...others did & so they would receive. hard as it was, i had to be pragmatic in the process - i could not dwell for long in the world of memory, for the distance to my home & the circumstances of their estate warranted it. these practical matters became the crutch of my functioning in those days...

3 piles for 3 different charities

pick up--sort--clean--move on
pick up--sort--clean--move on...

until the washcloth.

hanging alone on the bathroom towel rack was a solitary white washcloth...the one momma had used to wash her face in her last moments at home before we left for the doctor, for the hospital, for the funeral home.

a simple white square cloth became my undoing that day...i was done. needed a break. needed a darn good cry.

rational or not - i didn't care - i tucked it in my purse & it stayed there until i returned to my home a week later.

i have never washed it.
it still resides in my closet.
& it contains many tears.

18 November 2008


no, this is not our typical southern weather by any stretch...snow squalls blowing across the bay gave us a moment of white out today!Little Man was so excited to finally be able to call our northern family members & give this weather report...look closely now...yep, total accumulation = 18 flakes per square foot! time for some hot chocolate by the fire... (northern dwellers are forbidden to laugh at this post! ;-)

17 November 2008


i had 3 more days by momma's side.

on the 4th i would not make it in time. she even warned me. i'm so glad i was listening.

it is not fun to watch someone struggle for every breath. you find yourself breathing for her, but she does not improve & you become exhausted. so much so that you might even press your head against the metal bedrail just to feel something solid & real, something to carry your weight for a moment.

when someone tells you she is dying, she is. it's that simple. you've no room for doubt in your mind or in your time. momma told me she was dying in the same tone that she would have told me her best friend was coming to dinner or she needed to pay the phone bill...like it was on her "to do" list.

she died while i was attending to her broken furnace, surrounded by the chaos of a move & remnants of my childhood. the house was colder than the outside november air. my cell phone had no service. we were hours late leaving for the hospital on this errand she had requested, waiting for the service person, fearing pipes would freeze.

i opened the car door in the hospital parking garage to the sound of the 5pm angelus bells.

twilight again.

when they chimed their 5 rings of the hour, i told myself she was gone. i could feel the yet unfamiliar flutter of her soul nearby. every cell in my being knew her weighty absence & had yet to learn her new airy presence.

i turned through the familiar corridors with a purpose. stepping from the elevator, i was greeted with that look that i had once delivered to patients' families. no words could ever suffice.

arms all around me & finally i was alone with momma.

i did not find this unbelievable.

i combed her messy hair.

i found the spot where her skin was still warm (her mid shoulder area which my children still call the place of angel wings & i remembered this dearness)...& i held on for a very long time.

i lifted one eyelid to see her pretty green iris one last time but recoiled at the vacant stare returned to me.

i told her things i thought she should know.

i don't remember if i kissed her goodbye.

i called Brad & asked, "remember what we did for daddy's funeral 4 days ago?" he did. i replied, "please come get momma & do every bit the same in 3 more days."

& then i left the hospital for the last time.

16 November 2008


what i remember...

he was gone a full week before i could see him, a week consumed with momma's dying too. she still drew a labored breath & held onto my hand~ she needed me. he was already gone from this place~ seeing him really meant seeing the shell of the man i needed to see.

i had to choose.
it was a very long week.

momma was in surgery when daddy's funeral began. she was out of my grasp for those few hours~ beyond my words of comfort in a place i hoped would relieve her longing heart for a moment & ailing body for a very long time.

finally, my time to say goodbye to him.

i kept touching his soft, wispy hair & his fingernails...they felt like him. i knew better than to try & find comfort in the feel of his skin. i had been around too many dead by then...i remembered the disturbing feel & i stuck to what carried his memory for me, not wishing to shatter it with something morbid.

life & death do not feel the same & i could only cope with one of them at the moment.

~solid ground~

from the funeral home to the church...Brad, our friend & unfortunate funeral director (imagine that occupation in a small town) asked me if i wished to cover daddy's remains & close the coffin lid.

i could not begin to imagine doing that.

he patted my shoulder to let me know that my way was okay & then he removed daddy's wedding ring. i had never seen his hand without it. i placed it on my finger, in my heart intending it for momma but in my head knowing she would soon have no use for it.

i walked outside to breathe. i could not listen to Brad directing his staff. i could not watch them prepare daddy for his funeral Mass. i could not believe i was following a hearse to my childhood church.

i could not pray.
i could not speak.

Father F. had the choir sing & their music is all i remember...that & the cold coffin resting beside me. i put my hand on it to steady my every move.

by the time we reached the cemetery, momma was out of surgery. the nurse called my cell phone as i followed the pallbearers to daddy's gravesite. she wasn't doing so well...rather than being in the hospital, i think her heart was right there beside me & that made her post-surgical recovery that much more strenuous. surely her time under anesthesia was a relief from her newfound burden of widowhood; waking was not just waking to a medical recovery, it was also waking to a broken heart.

her presence with me was a keen as her absence.

another twilight...an ending of a day...& of a life. i know at that moment i would have preferred to leap into the light that hovers between day & night...clinging to the last notes of taps, letting them carry me far above the pain that had been & that was to come. the last note floated through the valley & in its wake was a silence that consumed me. i held my breath until the dry leaves rustled in a stray breeze.

in another moment we were driving away~ into twilight's last hurrah, heading again for the hospital.

15 November 2008

thoughts on grief...

(this may take a few days)

you asked an honest question~~ my pained reply...

this is why i cannot breathe the air of my childhood...right now. it is filled with sobs i never let escape. to draw them back into my lungs now is to suffocate.

the light of november is forever slanted in a western twilight that hurts my waking eyes, shining in all the wrong crevices of memory, peeking through the curtain in the funeral home at the opposite time of day, confusing my sense of balance.

daddy died at sunset.

we were driving through richmond, homeward bound, when the call came...only half-way there. the rest of the journey was simply~ dark. my only solid memory of that night was sitting at momma's feet while she rubbed my arm. the conversations flowed over my head, words swirling to high for my sorrowful mind to reach. my only thought was how incredibly soft momma's hand felt.

i woke the next morning from a deep, bottomless (unexpected) sleep into a strange new world. suddenly i could no longer stand the thought of abiding in pure dark, something i once thought magical. i clung to the light that day in all its forms...the flashlight searching over the car's engine for clues to the problem, the sun's reflection dancing absurdly across the river ripples, the ambulance's red flashes as it pulled into traffic, the thin, waxing moon at dusk...even the many monitors that surrounded momma that evening in the emergency room.

she would have lights about her all night. i felt comfort in that.

late to our lodging after the nurses' reassurances, my pure exhaustion granted me reprieve from the morning's vibrant new fear. later...in the deep dark of night after moonset, someone turned off the last light...

i bolted upright, gasping for air.

it seemed a nightlight would be required. my return to sleep was a wary affair fraught with moments of clawing my way back to consciousness...each time was a renewal of the slide show of the previous 36 hours of my life in various speeds of discontent which would not be stopped.

a 4:30 am waking was different...it was filled with hugs & kisses & my excited childrens' voices~ "momma, momma, come see!" they wrapped me in my coat & bundled my scarf around my neck as they told me of the wonder grandpa had sent to us straight from heaven.

looking up into the cold, clear sky stars were falling like rain...so many that i had exhausted every wish i ever had in a minute or two.

some of them have come true.

12 November 2008

foreign language help...

if i write my italian lessons with a "fluent" pen, maybe i will be too! (ok, so i'm an optimist...)

11 November 2008

07 November 2008


all the little pieces fit together& from a distance we begin to see the picture come into focus.sally recently tagged me to lay out some pieces of tile, so to speak...The rules are that I should give six details about myself, link back to the original site(s) and tag six more people.

i've already done this here & here.
for a little twist on the prompt...keeping it fresh this time around, i offer 6 details about myself specific to blogging...
1. i go here for laughs. this guy totally cracks me up! a few weeks ago i stumbled upon his blog from a link on another blog (isn't that the way of the blog world??!!?) & i spent *hours* laughing out loud. i think that may have been considered therapy! his most recent post to keep me in stitches was this one. i believe i might use an idea or two for next hallowe'en from it.
2. i go here for beauty. i cannot read one single word he writes. i am not even sure what language it is, but no matter...the photos are enough. ironically, i believe i found him through the very same blog mentioned in #1.
3. i'm feeling badly that my blogging of 1000 gifts has been quite lax lately. but as i consider this, i realize that i have been busy *living* my gifts...so that's good enough for me!
4. i am loving this opportunity to live vicariously through all your blogs!!!! i get fall foliage on demand, winter snows, bits of italia that make my heart beat faster, recipes to try nella mia cucina, poetry that inspires, travel journals of places i hope to see, stories that move my heart, words that make me cry~ sad or happy tears...you get the idea!
5. and #4 brings me to this thought...i really would love to meet all the wonderful authors of the blogs i regularly read. i'm thinking world blog tour! just ask spf & claudia & jp how much fun it can be when kindred blogging spirits get together.
6. there are scraps of paper all. over. the. place. with blog post ideas...on my desk, in my purse, in my pockets, on the grocery list, in my car... my fondest hope is that i will be able to read the scribblings when i need them (or at least not launder them into oblivion). blogging has led to a cascade of writing for me. i used to want to write. occasionally i made time to write (usually for a class). but being faithful to a blog has unleashed a torrent of words & i quite enjoy it. most of the words comes out in the form of poetry or short essays that i'm not sure i'll ever blog but i enjoy writing them anyway.
so that's my latest installation of random details about my life...a few more tiles in the mosaic. i know who i *want* to tag, but i won't. tag among yourselves. please let me know if you do this because i think it is an awesome way to get to know one another better.

04 November 2008


i think we brought something home from chicago, something more than sweet memories & great coffee...though i don't remember searching for it, buying it, packing it, or stowing it in the overhead compartment. but nonetheless cold weather came home with us! i'm talking mid-january type weather. brrrrrrrrrrrrr...& that abruptly reminded me of the top 5 things i will miss with the passing of the season...

1. morning coffee on the deck. i know i can still drink my coffee out there when the temperature is 30F/-1C degrees, but the coffee gets cold waaaay too quickly. & really, dressing up like i am competing in the iditarod is not much fun either.
2. going to sleep with the windows wide open, enjoying the sounds of the night bugs. let's just say, our 'window of opportunity' will remain closed when we dip below a nighttime low temperature of 45F/7C degrees ;-)
3. waking at 3 am to the sound of a mockingbird serenading the moon. i just don't hear him in the fall or winter...maybe he's not impressed with the cold either.4. packing only summer clothes for travel. summer clothing=lighter weight=more options. winter packing in the backpack is a true challenge. jeans & heavy sweaters...hmmmm... you do the math.
5. daylight filling the sky in the early morning hours. it is easier to open the eyes at 6 am when it's light outside!
but that got me to thinking...season change is not all gloom & doom. to be fair, i reminded myself of some things that bring comfort with the lengthening dark~ my top 5 consolations that come with the colder weather...
1. coming in from the cold morning air after hound patrol's first morning jaunt & wrapping my chilled hands around a steaming cup of coffee2. going to sleep snuggled under a down blanket
3. waking in the middle of the night to a crystal clear winter sky filled with stars. sometimes i slip out onto the deck & cannot believe the beauty spreading above me. & the still silence of a winter night is breathtaking.4. wool socks, cozy scarves, warm sweaters & soft mittens!
5. longer evening hours of dark are perfect for lighting candles & a fire in the hearth or in the fire ring outside.what are your cold-weather consolations?

03 November 2008


did you see the moon slung low on the horizon at twilight?...did you brave the night filled with pirates & ghosties & fairies & cowboys?...did you walk the path lit with surprise?...did you let a smile fill you with silly delight?...did you dare to enjoy a bit of the spooky booty?...(yes, soul sistahs, you know it!)aaahhhh...a lazy weekend at home! a crisp fall night spent in the "enchanted forest" & several hours by a campfire will do wonders to revive one's soul! (&, yes, of course, i ate all the chocolate! shhhh...don't tell boyworld.)