Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Christmas Story 2012


A flash narrative of the Christmas Nativity story:
            Mom with child carries baby, flees her homeland enduring arduous experiences to birth her him in the squalor of a stable. Baby becomes man, leaves mother and assisted by apostles to testify to a message of hope and love.  Naysayers try to silence him in his intention of goodness. He is a savior, here to redeem and heal the world. He must pick up the cross and carry it. His mothers and apostles cannot assume this burden. He is persecuted, tormented and dies. Yet there is a resurrection. He pushes away stone to defy darkness and death. He is resolute. Love and hope reign.

The Modern Day Equivalent Parable:
The local paper ran the following article. It seems to me a Christmas narrative. This man Victor is a family friend. He was born on the same continent as Jesus. He was ostracized, thought possessed by Satan. He languished on the burlap mat in his hut. His mother carried him from village to village begging for help. The boy child had this rare disfiguring disease.  When he was ten she gave him to the nuns who agreed to bring him to America for medical intervention.
Many wise men tended to him assisting him with his medical issues, gifts were given to support his pursuit of learning. He had a vision of hope and love. He wanted to be a doctor, work with children, and alleviate suffering. A dream so lofty it was a star in the sky. He wanted to go to medical school. It defied reason. He persisted; rules and government would thwart him. He carried this cross, his intent bigger than any barriers. This is not yet a story of resurrection but it is indeed a story of redemption. His will and dreams prevail. His story speaks to me. As a mother, I will carry my child; she may have crosses, the world may assist her, yet in the end she must push back against any and all stones to her resurrection. It is my hope and prayer. And on this Christmas it is Victor who brings me the message of good cheer from the realms of angels.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Holy Landscape





Loss has many windows.
Parents, pets, and aunts all endings give a different perspective.   

The first death, the first funeral we attend lingers, a vaporous cloud that floats a mind movie memory the shades future loss.

My first loss was that of an eight-year-old girl cousin who was my same age. She was buried in her first communion dress.   She had a veil on her head and an amused smile to her sealed lips.
The kids all played hide and go seek in the funeral home. Our rambunctious natures not restrained by death. Her parents more comforted by laughter than tears.
At the wake we put on a musical review.  Our Irish ancestry fusing through our young souls as we sang and the old ones clapped resoundingly, grief’s’ dirge was somehow melodious.
 You think after many funerals you would have an expert status, sort of like a skill set you could post on LinkedIn.
But it is never the same. Grief’s Rolodex may reveal unshed tears when one hears a church hymn, but it is like a famous song covered by a different performer. Familiar, but it is it’s own.
The view is markedly altered when we loose one of our own. I had no reference point when brothers ex wife died. In the heart there are no exes. Chapters lived back in time when all were young is what stays in the heart at a funeral.
She had a name that announced her preciousness, Julie.
She had dimples and tawny untamed curls. She was a woman who liked the earth, who asked for little and asked for little.
But she had asked for a degree and a house and against the fierce current of life she created these. She found a little ramshackle house and made it a home, for her son and daughter. She made pots of soup and memories. She brought them smiles until their dimples matched hers.
One’s life narrative alters at death; the golden threads weave with the dark times until the fabric becomes a gilded tapestry.
There was much that could have encumbered her, life events that were soul scars. Familial addiction that left a cloud on her young life, a mom who died too soon, leaving her no place to burrow for love, the ex spouse who lived in the woods and liked to take the children on walk abouts, money only enough for needs.
But she was fierce, and not a complainer.
She forged on.
Until the work truck slipped into reverse and shattered her beneath it. An assault so traumatic that it is likely her deceased mom called to her from the other realm. She did not heed that call. Instead she heeded the voice of her own heart. She defied death, stayed to live more moment’s, to walk with her children a little closer to being grown ups than her own mother had managed.
Twelve years later she died, still too young at fifty-two.
When people survive deaths first knocking they seek the purpose of their survival. Why did I live? What shall God have me do?
Living twelve more years, too short, yet for what purpose?
 Julie’s memorial was held at the church next door, the one whose resounding praising and hallelujah’s had been her Sunday soundtrack while she lolled in bed after a long workweek. After the service we all went next door to gather with her children at her home.
It was not the staged sanitized environment of a funeral home. In the home of the deceased we could peek into her world, ponder her last moments. It was a montage of her life and memorial to her journey. The ivory Victorian wedding dress that hung on her bedroom wall to swayed, her dreams in the fabric.
A golden hue came from the small room with wrap around windows. It seemed a sacristy developed for meditation. The only item in the room was a gong used by Tibetans in their call to prayer. The paned windows seemed miniature frames to the splendor of the garden. It was a fantasy garden, a mystical place lifted from a dreamy celluloid fairy tale. Perhaps the bloom-covered trellises were fairy habitats.
Her son had labored on this garden after her accident. He cut stone, moved earth and constructed arbors. He wanted his mom to have a paradise, he gave heaven on earth.
Paradise right there in her own yard, his callouses from labors to create a beauty to enchant his mother to tarry in life.
Now she has departed to another garden. He had given her vision of the holy landscape in all the beauty he created. She was fearless, undaunted in life. He perhaps emboldened her to seek a paradise more lovely than floating frocks and lush earthly landscapes. From the earth she came to return and he was the souls tiller easing her on.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Remedial Learning in the School of Life




Ducking life and some brushes with the relentless tide of bureaucracy takes energy. Lately I feel sucker punched. Seems as if I am in the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life in the part before any angel rings the bell. Not saying that I would jump off the bridge to the rushing waters below, but my stamina is off. My belief in magic is tainted by the tarnish of how the government is taxing the investment I made with the state after promising not to do so. I am disturbed that my house payment went up 200 dollars per a month.  I am more than angry that the banking industry preyed on their na├»ve hopes of youth has scathed my son and his peers, who dreamed of a better world and academia, with a debt and an interest rate so relentless that they can only dream of a good cup of coffee and may never know freedom from the tethers of the financial monoliths.
I have been in the arena with banks for sometime now; shadow boxing, wearing myself out trying to take down this apparition of finances
It is a is a Kafkaian circle of madness, “We kept your mortgage, no Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac for you as you are a good credit risk, you are not entitled to any government programs. Yes we will give you a lower rate but first you must give us ten thousand cash dollars.”
And on goes the circle, and me I spin with it. I forget myself to it. I forget the heart of my story.
A land mine blew up while I was in my computer class. Checking my online statement I was stunned to see my payment had increased dramatically. Two hundred dollars more a month being enough reason for drama.
Being proactive or more honestly reactive and dramatic I immediately left class called the “Member’s First” mortgage company.  (Gotta love the name.) If they had not been three hours across the sate I would have driven to their office.
 Instead I did what I hate to do, I became the me I do not like. First I made snarky noise, lots of it. Then I became the real me, the powerless kid who had to hide her candy and pennies for fear of them being stolen. It became a jag, one of those cry’s the one I always saved for my momma, the litany of troubles with me crying the , “no body loves me everybody hates me I’m going to eat some worms blues.”.
 I am not old but my immune system is compromised by age. It is compromised by vision. Many around me are weary from the burden. Sometimes it is my own belief that burdens me. I can do this, I can get through college, I can climb a mountain, I can reinvent myself post divorce, post forty year teaching career, post 150 pound weight loss. I am the original begin again girl. I had to do it all myself, I will not ask for help. We see where this got Scarlett in Gone With the Wind.
Oh the dam of tears when they open and come spilling out are like the dykes of Holland.  I just carried on and cried telling Pam the loan officer (the name itself describes the relationship, I always feel as I am in the wrong, pulled over for some obscure infraction that I did not know existed).
 I wept, ranted until spent then returned to class where my age of fifty nine seemed youthful in comparisons to my classmates who were festively garbed in sweatshirt with Halloween icons.
 School behaviors are constant. I had returned with no hall pass or note from my parent and comment was made of my long absence from class.
 Their queries are the invitation to my soapbox about money, banks, systems of oppression. Misery loves company and I wanted all to know of my righteous anger. With the kids raised, the partner an ex and the sibs more like an ancient history I only have big demons to oppress me. I rage on about powerlessness. My instructor acquiesces to my opinions as much in kindness as in experience.
 I have commandeered the airwaves. Until …
The snowy haired woman who was learning photo shop in our independent study computer calls out to me.
Gently she nudges her way in. “ You must be careful what you say…
Words and thoughts create reality.”
 This is not a new idea for me.  I know all the good that has been manifested with a dream given voice. But I am a very slow learner (That is why I am in old lady computer school, all comes slow to me.) She gently reminds that we are in complete control of our thoughts, complete control of our finances. Really in control of all of our experiences.
 When I was a little girl and felt stymied by the grown up world I thought what I would do when I was a grown up. I would be a kind and loving teacher, I would wear cute clothes with icons on them, and I would always tell my kids they could be what they dreamed.
 I would have pretty nighties that coordinated with my satin slippers and many kisses and I would star in a movie. All these had come true. I was Jimmy Stewart when he first fell in love, but time passes and I forget I forgot to forge new dreams and I turn my attention to night sweats and bad dreams.
This classmate becomes my Clarence, my angel. She has her own name which I do not remember but so remember that had a friend who decided to call her Angie. Angie, my Clarence, my angel. A miracle is a change in perception.
She is the bell on the Christmas tree.
 I walk in this realm. I navigate through the earth landscape. This human existence, but my mind and my beliefs and my world manifest my thoughts.
I did not move Goliath, the bank yet I am a little awake. There is a twinkling. Little gifts come, a hug, Angie peers deeply into my eyes. She is out of seat as she has great purpose, to put me on point. I have not yet changed my thoughts or words, but I see love, love in her faded blue eyes, in her hope for me. And my seeking heart returns and I silence my cacophony and try to use my words to change my heart, just like Angie did with her kindness.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Mother Heart






Who knows how to get an angel in your life? We can look for angels but we cannot schedule for angels. We can have a visitation but often we are not clear that they have been with us until later.
An associate who I had worked with for many years had a very traumatic loss. I waited until life had quieted and called her. Death is a tsunami. Inquiring what she might need she did not dwell on her loss. She remembered our common interest in writing and asked if we could sit and write. She had a book in her, a story of the men in her life. She came after work. I intended to minister to her. I made tea, gave her a card and a candle. We did not linger on her loss. I had had a very recent death in my family. All the scurry and phone conversations and prayers and still my tears were stymied by too much backstory.
We sat in the suns fade, gave ourselves a time limit and began writing. The keys click gave a solace. Sitting there she emboldened me to look down the dark hole of loss. A mom whose child had been snatched, who would live with loss every day that she breaths put words on to the page. I put words to the page. And she was an angel who led me through my own dark. Here is the story she gave me.

Oh fear
Oh fear
Today I sit with a mom who has lost a child.
It was not on the roadside so we cannot build a street side sign to commemorate the horror of this event. He has a name, a christened name. It is this name she said over and over to God through the years when she prayed for him.
Dearest Father, and his name would fall like magnolia blooms from her lips. Petals of hope if she said his name enough it would be insurance not only that his soul would be saved but that she would precede him in death. Her prayers were not answered.
He was sliced from her bosom but never from her heart.
She found him in this expansive room of love. She was already a mom, a special needs teacher. Children were her purpose. Even in a house full up, three, four, from somewhere in the land of longing came his call. One more, and one more…
He came to her scathed as an eight-month-old baby. Taken away or turned over to the state. He had dimples, and bunchy hair and a soft heart.
He had a leg missing and life could just take his breath away. He needed every breath to live. He was not frugal and wasted his words, watching how a one legged boy could make others dance to his banter as he spewed his words about. He did not have his mother fear. He came in from a body that was no a sanctuary.  He was a survivor, had death wanted him it had had it’s chances or so he thought. Death is a malingerer.
I am trying to write an ending for a book. One character must die, so I must kill one. I am burdened by this. I feel like the biblical characters that go seeking of Solomon. Someone just show me, cut this baby in half for me.
Should one die slipping on an ice patch, or careening a car into a tree. I have a friend whose son did not die. He lived in a hospital bed for six years with his skull missing from his face, taken when he splashed against a wall and his brain inflated with swelling. She had prayed that he live.
Are prayers ever answered?
I need these women who fill the pages of a novel to have some peace, some closure. I want all those that rad to have a sense of completion. I want it neat for them. I want them exorcized from me. I want my life back. I bet my friend wants her life back. She wants it to be her birthday and she wants him to show up at her party with a myler balloon bouquet that rustles with love.
Another mother, died this day. She was called about twelve years ago. Her work truck slipped gear and came down the hillsides and crushed her beneath it. She say heaven her mom was there. But her children were here; her boy was still much boy. He was just twenty-two. She saw the light but a voice from this side called her back I cannot leave Jake.  Some force some thing that spurs mothers on kept her going.  She lived twelve more years. Now her son is a man. He got the call, Mom’s gone.
Oh mothers and sons. Once death wanted my son. I did pray, but my power was greater that God’s, I looked into his boy eyes as they spilled back into his head and he said when it is your time it is your time, I commanded him stay. We only want life. We only want breath for our children. The circle is skewed at all loss. I will write an ending for the book. These other stories have none. I pray. And all pray.
 While traveling I saw an icon image of Jesus in heaven. His mother lay in state on earth in repose. It was the opposite of my common vision of heaven. I never thought of the mother and how she had to continue to forbear. Death must not win> life must prevail until the end.
And there will be no amen.
“Amen” is a Hebrew word that stems from the word aman, which means, “to be faithful, support, or confirm.”