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December 11, 2006:

You had slept.  I had only dozed, for the ninth night in a row.  I had gotten up a dozen times from the bed next to yours to check on you, to be sure you were still breathing, like a new nervous new mother does with an infant.  You would moan every so often.  When you awoke in the morning, you looked over at me.  “Am I still here?” you asked.  “Yep,” I replied, “unless I’m dead too.”  “Damn,” you said.

We talked then, about the pain, about how you wanted to go and were unsure why you were still here.  You asked me then, if I would help you go if you did not go by yourself today.  Which told me how much you were hurting.  We talked about how I would do it, with the morphine.  I would have done anything for you.  But I could not commit to killing you.  I said, “Let’s see how it goes today.”  I couldn’t say yes – but I couldn’t say no.

The quality of the day changed after that talk.  It felt like when you’re getting ready for a journey – which you were.  We were down to just the orange sherbet now.  I would slip a little between your dry lips  (no amount of lip balm seemed to keep them moist for long) and you would smile this blissful little smile.  We talked about the little blonde daughter that you had never had, that one time when you had an early miscarriage, and how she had always haunted you, and not in a nice way.  How you had longed for her (I tried not to be jealous, not to feel like somehow I hadn’t been daughter enough for you.)  How you could see her hovering around now, still being mean and angry.  We had banished her together, you and I, me finding the words to help you forgive yourself for not having her (as if you had had any control over that) and us finding the words for you to use in talking to that spirit, to tell her that her behavior was unacceptable, just as a mother would talk to a obdurant child.  That seemed to ease you greatly.

You needed the morphine – just small amounts – more often.  More people came and went.  We talked about your excitement about whatever came next.  And we talked about your biggest fear – fear that my Father would be mad at you when you saw him on the other side, that he wouldn’t have forgiven you for something that you blamed yourself for, something that I know he never blamed you for, no matter what words I used to try to convince you otherwise.

More people came and went.  I remember the quality of the light of the day, just as I remembered the quality of light on the day the Kelsea was born.  It was a slow, gentle light, lingering and warm, but clear in its waning, fading in beauty, dipping and deepening into dusk, then darkness.

We talked and talked.  You were getting…frisky? Cocky?  Rambunctious?  You were talking about getting up to the Pearly Gates and kicking St. Peter’s ass.  I never did know where that came from, but more power to you.

You wanted to see one person in particular, but he had had surgery that morning and couldn’t come.  You had something she wanted to tell him, but you finally decided that he already knew.  And you let it go.

[As I was writing this, I noticed my reference’s to my Mother changed from “you” to “she” about this time, a sign of letting go, perhaps.]

The hospice chaplain came.  I spoke to her out in the hallway, and couldn’t help but cry.  I didn’t cry much the last few days.  Mother didn’t want me to cry and so I didn’t.  But Jodi, the chaplain was so genuine, it was impossible not to let some tears flow.  I told her that she needed to talk, that there was something she needed to find peace around, before she could let go.  After Jodi left, she was calmer – she had found a certain peace.  I never knew what was spoken between them.  It didn’t matter.  It only mattered that she had released that last burden.

Things felt like they happened quickly after that, and then slowly.  Jackie, her home care nurse, came to visit.  It made her so happy.  “It’s my angel,” she said.  She always thought that way about Jackie.  Jackie too took me into the other room and told me that it was her time.  “Have you noticed that smell?  It’s the smell of death,” she said.  “I know that smell.”  Jackie was a big, beautiful, joyful, compassionate woman.  She told me that she’d tell the night nurse what to do, about preparing the body, that I shouldn’t worry.  She hugged me.

As the afternoon faded, she started to fade.  She became less lucid. She wasn’t talking so much.  She was hurting more.  I was slipping the small dropper of morphine between her lips more often.  I was the only one who could give it to her. I felt like her pain was in my hands.  It was getting late.  We sat with her, my uncle and brother on one side, me on the other.  She had stopped talking long ago, her eyes were closed now, her breathing slowing and labored. She would groan and twist sometimes, and I would give her another taste of the morphine.  I did not know if she was hurting, but I could not stand to think she might be, and couldn’t tell me, and I was doing nothing to ease her pain.

The waitress at their favorite restaurant called, and told me to light a white candle in front of her, and encourage her to go toward the light.  We did.  We sat and talked quietly.  We sat in silence.  We sat through the night.  E-Bro went to rest of a while.  It was calm.  I could feel her struggling to leave her body, as if her very spirit was working hard to let go, to get out, to be free.  Finally, somehow, we could tell her something had changed.  Maybe it was her breathing.  Something.  My uncle went to get my brother from the couch.  We sat again, the three of us, encouraging her to go.  I stroked her hair, whispered to her, kept my hand on her heart.  It slowed.  Her breaths came farther and farther apart, more and more shallow.

Until they stopped all together.

A departure from the serious nature of recent posts. Not that the world and its events are any less serious, but I think that sharing beauty is a gentle reminder of love. And a little stillness in life is never a bad thing.

Orchid Still Life
Anna Maria Island, Florida.

Quote of the Day: “And when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts, their words are sweet and strong like the fragrance of orchids.” — I Ching

Daily gratitudes:
Coincidences
My Physical Therapist
The shop cat at The Happy Beast
Women with mermaid color hair
Inexplicable tears

Pardon me for waxing mushy for a post…

When I met MKL (through eHarmony, yes), I had no idea he would become my husband. When we had been matched (on my birthday), I had shown his picture to Kelsea and asked what she thought. She approved, so we did the little email-y, question-asky thing that eHarmony has you do, and it went well. And then I didn’t hear from him. And I didn’t hear from him. And one day, while we were at Topsail, and I was suffering from some stomach juju, I said to Kelsea, “Remember that nice guy that I was emailing with? He hasn’t responded to me. Do you think I should nudge him (because that’s what you can do on eHarmony) or should I just let it go?” “You liked him, right? Nudge him,” she said. So I did. He answered. When Kelsea and I got back, MKL and I had our first phone conversation. I was sitting in a camp chair on my front porch with a glass of red wine. We talked for an hour, and agreed to have lunch. He walked me back to my office after that lunch and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back inside, everyone said I was glowing. I never stopped glowing.

MKL knew that I was someone he had been looking for and hoping for. It took me a bit longer to figure that out , and I am so glad that I caught up with him. I cannot imagine my life and my future without him. He holds my heart and understands me as no one has. We are not identical, and we have our own opinions, but our spirits are shared and that makes me richer than anything else ever could. What a blessing, my MKL.

Rings! 0428
(Photo credit: Issy Kilbride)

Quote of the day: “There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.”  — Sarah Dessen

Daily gratitudes:
Spoonerisms
The shaking bowl today
A warm Mr. Man in my lap
Physical therapy
Kelsea’s and my agreed-upon text code

Still basking in the glow of newlywed bliss – although it would be really nice if we lived together, but that will come. It’s been a time of many moods, getting ready to send Kelsea off to college. I bought her a one-way plane ticket, and that made me a little shocked. She cut off all her hair and she looks adorable. We know we have a limited number of trashy-tv-together nights, and it makes me a little weepy. So my blues have been coming and going like the tides, rising and falling. But my happiness at being Mrs. MKL and the wonderful memories of our wedding help keep the light in my heart. I had saved a “blue bomb” orchid blossom from a wedding I worked a year or more ago; it has sat on my bathroom shelf so I could describe it perfectly to the florist (shout out to Judy at Surf City Florist for an awesome job). I now wish I had saved a blossom from my own bouquet, but I’m so pleased that I was able to leave Kelsea’s with Lynn and mine with Janie to enjoy.

A Bridal Bouquet
Topsail Beach, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “She was prettier than a bouquet of roses and crazier than a headless chicken. Fitting in was not an option.” — Marissa Meyer

Daily gratitudes:
The man in mismatched socks in the bus station
Pretty skies
Mothers who smile at their children (that happens less often than you might think)
MKL
Prairie dogs

My feisty friend at Half Girl Half Teacup has nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World award! It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the blog award circuit and I’m delighted, so stay tuned for my acceptance speech and nominations!

One of the greatest challenges of seaside photography for me is the timing between taking my camera outside of an air-conditioned car or house and taking a shot. My timing was suberbly off in this instance, but I thought the condensation created as spooky a sand picture as I’ve seen.

Smudged Sands
Topsail Beach, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon.” — Edward Lear

(As an aside, this quote is from The Owl and the Pussycat. My Mother put the poem to a tune, and sang it to me when I was little. Once I had Kelsea, I remembered it, and sang it to her. My Mother heard me singing it to her once, and was so delighted that I remembered her little tune, that has now stood the test of time and generations.)

Daily gratitudes:
Having Kelsea home safe from her long road trip
Seeing my husband today (since we don’t live in the same house yet)
How nice the word ‘husband’ feels in my spirit
A slightly cooler day
Mr. Man laying on my heart in the middle of the night

Family 2The clearing skies after our pre-wedding Shark Party gave our friends a chance to become all one family by the edge of the sea.

Family at Sunset

Topsail Beach, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “What is family? They were the people who claimed you. In good, in bad, in parts or in whole, they were the ones who showed up, who stayed in there, regardless. It wasn’t just about blood relations or shared chromosomes, but something wider, bigger. We had many families over time.”

Daily gratitudes:
Love
Mr. Man
How proud I am to call MKL my husband
Hugs at work
My aircraft carrier-size bed

MKL and I got married on Saturday. Yes, we did. And it was absolutely perfect. There were so many highlights, I don’t even know how to share them with you, and I will share more pictures over the coming months, but here’s a start:

  • Our open house the day before the wedding had the beach house bursting with friends (who are family), blood kin, and love. And the shark tacos were a hit.
  • At the end of that party, the rainy skies cleared to a beautiful sunset and a wide calm beach, and we all migrated to the water’s edge to walk, talk, take pictures, and play ultimate.
  • No one was eaten by sharks (the shark tacos made it the reverse) and the post-wedding day stingray stab on LJRH’s daughter was dramatic, but not debilitating, making for an excellent story for her to take back to Missouri.
  • My loved ones made the house and the deck (E-bro’s, rented down the beach, with more room than mine) look spectacular, and perfect for an inside (rainy) or an outside (sunny) wedding. The sun cooperated and we were outside.
  • An arc of rainbow appeared behind us as we were sitting together after the ceremony. God and my parents were smiling down on us.
  • Painkillers – the drink of the Soggy Dollar Bar, courtesy of my much loved friends Dave and Amanda, who are my family met at that spot 11 years ago – flowed like the sea.
  • The two small and gorgeous girls became fast and immediate friends. In fact, all the people, many of whom had never met, became friends.
  • Beth K., the daughter of my late parents’ best friends, and a true and beautiful warrioress, joined us. We had never met before, and now I feel I have another sister.
  • My three new stepsons, all of whom are treasures: one was the most perfect ceremony officiate ever, one steamed and bustled me and made sure I looked perfect, and one led the toasts that brought me to tears.
  • My brother and sister-in-law and their wonderful children opening their hearts and home to us.
  • My sister and niece flying quickly and crazily in from Colorado to share the day and capture it in photographs.
  • Having my uncle and aunt and darling cousin (now one of my best friends, after a gap in time of some 35 years) made me feel like my parents were there.
  • Our across-the-street neighbor who lovingly provided a sandcastle cake, delicious crab dip, serving trays, a steamer, and her and her husband’s warmth, affection, and light to our special days.
  • JJ, who continues to allow me to come “home” every year for a few brief weeks, to the house on Topsail Beach.
  • My stepson T’s toast, which touched me deeper than my heart.
  • Having the Swine Sisters – aka my two best girlfriends from when I was 17 – reunited again as if no time had passed.
  • The girlie-hen-party that was a part of my getting dressed for the ceremony. I really feel like I have lots of sisters now.
  • I sparkled. And I glowed. And my dress was awesome.
  • Wearing my mother’s rhinestones that I used to play dress-up in, and carrying my father’s handkerchief.
  • MKL’s shirt matching the sky, and being my “something blue”.
  • Beautiful bouquets from Surf City Florist, and a lovely centerpiece created from grocery-store bought flowers. And my daughter’s swagging and shell-arranging skills were front and center.
  • All the vows, including those read by the officiate, handwritten on the back of placemats from the Breezeway, our favorite beach restaurant. (I’ll share a photo later.)
  • My most darling daughter, who not only wore a dress for the occasion, but looked gorgeous, and bailed me out when I pulled her aside just after the ceremony had started and told her I had forgotten MKL’s ring and she needed to drive like a bat out of hell to fetch it from our house. She did so successfully, saving the day, and allowing her to maintain her dignity by not bursting into tears during my vows (which she read the next day).
  • Another wedding down the beach releasing Chinese lanterns after dark – it was if they were ours, but we didn’t have to go to the trouble. (Fire and I are often not a happy mix.)
  • Seeing the Milky Way in the sky for the first time in years; it was here that my father first pointed it out and explained it to me.
  • Remembering almost nothing about the ceremony but the look in MKL’s eyes, which as always looked sparkling like the sea, with a hint of aspen trees.

DSCF3387
Topsail Beach, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “There is nothing more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.” — Homer

Daily gratitudes:
A couple more days by the sea
Long walks holding hands
Shark’s teeth
The smell of sunscreen
Love

Only a few days away…the sun will be rising from the ocean, instead of setting into it, but I’m not particular. In the meantime, I had to see my little baby girl off on her first cross-country drive last night – she’s going with three other girls, and I think it’s just a taste of how hard it will be to send her off to college. At least this trip, I will see her on Friday.

IMG_8721
Anna Maria Island, Florida.

Quote of the day: “Bring me the sunset in a cup.” — Emily Dickinson

Daily gratitudes:
A good night’s sleep
Outlander Book #2
Packing
Having a strong, independent woman as my daughter
Juggling to-dos

Today is my birthday, and as it winds down, I must say it’s been very nice. Quiet. Work (though it’s too slow right now for my taste). Lunch with MKL, and a beautiful card. A tour of the vaults in the Broker Restaurant in downtown Denver. A yummy cupcake and card from a lovely co-worker. Facebook greetings. A call from my daughter. And now I’m cuddled on the couch watching The House of Elliot. I realized yesterday that MKL makes me feel so special every day, and has helped me gain so much confidence in myself, that I don’t need my birthday to be a particularly special day. Every day feels special.

I’m glad I was born, and there were years when I couldn’t say that. I did indulge in a turn of the “Happy Birthday to Moo” spinning musical cow when I got home tonight. Because it is my birthday.

Birthday
Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “…we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand.” —  Robert McCannon

Daily gratitudes:
The woman I passed who smelled like lily of the valley
Guiding a new town resident through the grocery store
That my parents had me
The occasional cupcake
A nice walk today

You are perhaps wondering why you are reading a blog with a picture of a parking lot. There are two reasons tonight. The first is because I believe in seeing beauty in everything – even the light cast in the darkness of a parking lot, catching the glint of a stream of still puddles. The second is because parking has been a significant issue in the life of my darling daughter throughout her last two years of high school, since she’s been driving. Her school offers rather elitist parking alternatives. Either pay to park in the senior lot (but only if you’re a senior) or park along the 1.5 mile stretch of road alongside the school grounds, which are situated in the middle of a nice neighborhood. She’s a bit of a socialist (like me) and believes it’s wrong to have to pay to park in the lot of a school that you’re attending, and particularly unfair since not everyone has the financial means to do so. Which leaves her with free on-street parking. Needless to say, this free parking is only parallel parking (which even at my age is a nearly impossible challenge) and spots anywhere near the school fill up incredibly early. So for the past two years, I have received texts in the morning that say things like “I had to park in Nebraska and it will take me three hours to walk to class. Do I have to go to school today?” or “Everyone is stupid.” or “I. Can’t. Even.”

This image is not of that parking area. This image is of a spacious parking area that represents freedom and possibilities and how light can shine from the darkness, and that there are places where parking is not a struggle. In other words, today was my darling daughter’s last day of high school, and she will never again have to endure the frustration of parking along Greenbriar Boulevard. And she is to me a shining light that will brighten the future for more people than she will ever know.

Parking Lot - 2

Quote of the day: “My turn shall also come:
I sense the spreading of a wing.”  — Osip Mandelstam

Daily gratitudes:
Dinner with Kelsea
That no one was hurt when a car hit my bus this morning
How much Mary Roach’s books make me laugh
Chats with Christine
That my Texas friends in Runaway Bay survived the tornado with minimal damage

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