unexpected Yellow Roses from my new friend.
Thank you so much
for brightening my life.
It’s the day in the middle of our two birthdays. I missed your call to me yesterday and will miss my call to you tomorrow, but at least I remember your voice in my head and heart. It was a tradition for as long as I can remember. Every year we knew that our phones would ring, and every year, without fail, we would send each other a card. It was a tradition, a phone call and a card on two days, one day apart. I think I miss you more now than when you died. I really do. You understood me like no one else, we had the same temperament and you would give me advice. You were friends with my mother and I know she dearly misses you too. But to me, you were my favorite “Aunt” and a friend.
Tomorrow, I will not light a candle for you, you would hate that, but I will eat a lovely piece of chocolate in honor of you. You gave me my first job working for you in your European chocolate shop on Lefferts Boulevard in Kew Gardens. It believe it was called Mimi’s from the previous owner. People envied me that job and I can hear you say “and why shouldn’t they?” I pretended to dust, replace chocolate on the silver trays (while sampling in the back) and we talked a great deal and ordered pizza for lunch. I tell people now that “just because chocolate turns a little white doesn’t mean it’s gone bad.” I did learn something, see? .
It was 1977 and I was going to my first year in college in September and you and Edward surprised me by buying me a pair of designer jeans that I picked out at the jeans boutique down the street. I thought that it was the most generous thing that anyone had ever gotten me, you crocheted me a blanket too and it was on my college bed. Yes, I still have it. You sent me home-made Krispie -like treats to college, big batches and I was so happy.
There is just ONE thing I take exception too and I’m sure I speak for Diane (your real niece) as well. You called us each “Augustus” telling both of us we were the ONLY “Augustus.” I would call you up and say this is “Augustus.” Only at your funeral did your real niece (and doctor) Diane and I realize you fooled us both, it was rather a funny moment when two grown women acted like 5-year-old children saying “I was Augustus” no, “I was Augustus.” You cheated on us, but we both were well-loved by you, love for two very different, wonderful people. Leave it to you to find a way to make us laugh at your own funeral, I have a hunch you planned it that way.
So I say to you, beloved friend, beloved fake Aunt, Happy Birthday in Heaven. I truly miss you and I love you.
Augustus (1 or 2)
Photo credits to above mentioned photographers,no rights of mine.
Writing @ LAF Publishing
Krispie treats home -made
Not only do I feel uncomfortable when I see someone who is being ridiculed. I leap into their world automatically becoming “Super-Defender”on behalf of them. I hate to see people put on the spot especially if they are awkward or feel uncomfortable. I feel so bad for them especially if the other person is a bully. I will just fly with my invisible cape and dazzling smile, into the conversation and defend the victim. I’ll make perfect sense, I can argue up a storm and offer a good counter argument as well.
It’s just when it comes to myself that the answers sometimes come later. I should have been a lawyer, a public defender but it’s a little late for that now. Unless they have done something illegal, I will always defend a friend or a family member, a loved one, no matter what. I think it’s called LOYALTY. There should be more of it in this world.
Happiness leaks out
News of a friend’s sudden death.
I have no breath left.
( In Memory of Helen Celestine Escoffier- an Angel to so many)
Like a gray rabbit
My pup prances down the steps
To our love, delight.
Coffee’s first, hot, sip
every morning with a kiss
Hi new person,
I just met you for a second on Facebook before, I don’t know you but I saw your name. All I know is that we were brought together by someone we know in common, a gentle, spiritual medium named Roland Comtois. You asked him for healing energy for your doctor’s appointment tomorrow but I think he had signed off by then. I offered to send healing energy to you and asked for others to join in. I don’t know you but any decent person would understand your anxiety and fear.
You are having a check up for your yearly mammogram, having been diagnosed with breast cancer before. Of course you are nervous and scared. Who wouldn’t be? I will give you advice that my Dad, when he was alive, gave me: Stay in Neutral. If you make a conscious effort it helps. You can avoid all the “what if….scenarios.”
I will send you magic dust so you can sleep tonight and get some rest and tomorrow I will pray that your examination goes well. I don’t even remember your first name now but I’m sure my healing energy and prayers will find the right person. I would do this in a second for anyone who needed it or wanted it. Family and friends of course, but just hearing in my mind, the tone of your message was enough for me to volunteer.
I hope all goes well but even if it doesn’t, you will have the strength to deal with it and carry on. Why? Because there is no other choice. We all fight to be alive, it’s an instinct. I think you will be fine, I praying for that. Good luck tomorrow my unknown friend.
My thoughts will be with you all day.
I loved the peachy-pink dress you wore on the last show, Oprah. I didn’t think this last show would be your own last lecture, a love letter, a synopsis from you to your adoring fans but in retrospect, it was what you were all about. Teaching. I admit I wanted to be able to cry, with you, for you and for me and the rest of the world but you saved that, and rightly so, for the last ten minutes. Your walk from the stage out was like watching a play, with emotion, but not with regret. How wonderful to be you.
I imagined I would get to see an emotional Oprah, one that showed your vulnerability, any slight doubt you had, any separation anxiety. But, I, was the one with the separation anxiety and loss, not you. I was the one who needed an emotional good-bye, you didn’t. Truly amazing. For the last twenty-five years I have grown up with The Oprah Winfrey Show. Today, even though I tape the shows I had to see it live. “I have to watch Oprah from 4-5pm today” I told my children. They understood and at 16 and 18, they have their own favorite shows, their loyal friends, their own lessons to learn, their own truth to find. We will have to teach them what we learned from you.
Oprah, you have been a friend to me and to people all around the world. “Your life is speaking to you, what is it saying…?” For me, it is saying that I will miss you, that I have learned so much from you, that 4-5pm will feel empty without you. You told us that “when it was the right time to leave, there was no regret, not bittersweet, just sweet.” I know I couldn’t be like that. Sometimes, I second guess myself but I know how to listen to my gut, to my feelings, to search inside my soul. I always knew that but you validated my feelings; you cheered me on as a woman and especially as a parent, as a stay at home mother.
Oprah is a teacher, an educator, a spiritual and religious woman, that was very clear today. You were on our own, to thank us, the audience, for making you feel special and loved and validated. “We too can find our own passion, in whatever way we choose. We can help people, be kind to one another and stave off bad karma by putting forward only good karma.” Yes, we have heard it before but it was good to hear it one last time. To remind us all of what is important, to be kind and give to others.
We will spread the love, we will spread the joy and the passion. You were the love of our lives too, Oprah, as we were yours. After 25 years, I have to say good-bye to a friend who has been on television all of my adult life. I grew up with you and I have learned a lot of lessons from you. I feel sorry for this new generation because they will not have you in their lives to teach them. We will just have to pass down what we have learned from you; as you see, you will be in our hearts forever.
I will say good-bye, because I have to. Thank you for all that you have done for this world. I will truly miss you.
I am part of an internet group of dear friends who also have Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disease. We generally talk about the effects of this leech, this parasitic illness and how it makes us feel and how it affects our lives. It is what brings us together; and we truly care about one another. Imagine, a group of people who you have never met yet you trust them, seek out their advice. These people really do know how your pain feels.
We could discuss things we used to do but cannot do now. For me, I would talk about gardening and how I used to have a big vegetable garden many years ago when bending down to my knees and getting up was no problem. I would reminisce about the bright green English peas that grew, the fiery red cherry tomatoes that bathed in the sunlight, two kinds of lettuce and thick, orange carrots. I could also talk about the three miles I used walk in under an hour with my work friends each day, outside, around a blue-green reservoir. Maybe I would confess I was a size eight for about two minutes and twenty years ago while I was struggling with infertility issues and the deep, emotional pain of that process. “If I couldn’t have children, I was going to be skinny” was my mantra as I made myself march outside.
The summer before I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and my children were at camp, I would take the train to New York City and relish being surrounded by people from all over the world, hearing them speak, watching the beautiful, colorful outfits that so many people donned in shades of rose, green, yellow, blue, shades of white and grey. Perhaps I would see a Broadway show for half price, go to a museum, or back to the Village and try to recognize it after many years. Going in to the city was like having an international picnic without even leaving the gleaming Grand Central Station. I didn’t worry back then about getting to the city and how much walking I would have to do and whether I had to take a cab because I was so tired and drained that I couldn’t put one burning, aching, painful foot in front of the other.
Many blogs I read are about chronic pain and diseases, and I wonder at their brilliance. It’s a dilemna for me because while I do write about my chronic illness or two, I write about everything else in my life. Am I doing myself a disservice? It could be. I write about food, depression, fun, family, television, friends, travel, grief, cheesecake, chocolate etc. It’s a mix and mash-up of a blog, like a patchwork quilt with different patterns and colors. Do I need to define myself more clearly? I may have just answered my own question. I am all things, not just one.
I am a patient, a parent, a friend, wife, mother, teacher and student. I love many things: reading books with beautiful covers, writing, taking photographs of children or benches or boats. I love to watch red cardinals and yellow finches at my bird feeder and butterflies winking by me. I love to eat good food, I am sweet on sweets, I dislike alcohol; coffee, orange juice, chocolate milk or Diet Coke are my beverages of choice, I drink them all at different times.
I could choose to pick one subject to write about but, it would not be my true self, of that I am sure. I am all over the place with emotions and experiences, flying, sometimes crawling, like red, yellow, blue and black kites sailing in the gusty wind, all tangled together, or in peaceful harmony, sometimes independently flying free. I am a person, with many facets. I am as many pieces of my puzzle as I want. It’s my puzzle, I need to make the pieces fit, for me.
The first album I purchased was a record, a 33, not that it would make sense to anyone in any generation other than mine. It was Carole King’s Tapestry and I remember sitting on the hard, steel beige cover of the radiator in my older sister’s room filled with full-fledged teenage angst. I sang along to “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and “You’ve Got A Friend.”
I sang the verses of “You’ve Got A Friend” focusing on “people can be so cruel, they hurt you and desert you”….I had a good friend who moved away and she swore to keep in touch with me. It didn’t happen for many, many years and I was hurt. Deeply hurt. I sang that song, over and over again,while I peered out of the dirty window from the sixth floor apartment building to the dark, empty and cold pavement below.
I am slowly, very slowly and intensely taking off pink nail polish from my finger nails as if it was the most important task in the world. I feel like a surgeon scrubbing in to make him/herself totally antiseptic. It feels like that to me but I don’t know why exactly. I don’t know the codes or rules for going to a wake but I know, for myself, I have to wipe away every sign of sunshine from my hands because that feels right. My hands look plain, wrinkled, weather-beaten and bare. I’ve stripped off every clue to color because my friend Dawn is dead and the world feels color-less and grim.
I didn’t know what to expect at the wake; I had only been to one wake before in my life and that was thirty-five years ago. We arrived before the official hours and already the room was packed. I saw her husband, John first, and I hugged him, then their oldest daughter who hugged me as if to comfort me. Her middle son sat tall and straight next to his friends and did not move, his eyes riveted to his mom’s casket. The youngest child was the most heartbreaking of all, he belonged to no one in that room. He was in his own world, going to the casket, returning to his seat, going to the casket and returning to his seat, his eyes on no one, alone in his private world. He sat neither with family or friends, he was in his own fragile bubble, looking younger than his years.
I thought in death, Dawn would look more like herself than she did in the last stages of her life. I somehow expected to feel comforted that I would see my friend as I had remembered her. I went slowly up to the coffin although I was terrified; I knew it was something I had to do. But, inside my head, like an unrestrained child, inside my head I was screaming with disbelief and anger “this is not OUR Dawn” I thought, “THIS IS NOT OUR DAWN.” In the coffin lay a woman I didn’t know, an old woman, with too much makeup. They had prayer cards with a picture of Dawn at her finest: natural, loving, with one of her great big smiles and that is what many people said they wanted to remember her by. Even though I felt the same way, the images for the next three nights when I tried to sleep were of Dawn in the open casket, someone I didn’t know, a stranger.
There were flower arrangements everywhere. A huge arrangement made from roses, dark, crimson roses that formed into a heart; it must have stood six feet tall. There were many other flowers, yellow, white, pink, every color you can imagine and as tall as one can dream.
Her husband John, then came over and put his arm around me to show me something. “I hope you don’t mind” he said but we used your letter to Dawn as our prayer.” In front of me, I saw a piece of paper with the words I had written FOR Dawn, many months before she died. It was called “Praying For Dawn” and somehow after writing it, I thought I would take a chance to drop it off at their house. It was meant for Dawn and her family, and yet here at the wake hundreds of people clutched the piece of paper that I had written.
Her family members wanted to meet me, they said they had all read it many times, I had no idea. I do remember that after I dropped it off I got a voice message in the back of my answering machine from Dawn, thanking me and telling me she loved it. I could barely make out her words but I never erased that message. I gave my condolences to Dawn’s mom and she said “Oh, do you like that prayer, one of her friends wrote that!!!” Somehow through my trembling lips and tears I managed to say that ‘I was that friend.’ I swear her eyes lit up and she thanked me and told me how often the family loved reading it. She asked ME if she could introduce me to Dawn’s father who had wanted to meet the friend that had written that poem. After the introduction, he hugged me, and then took my face in his hands and said “God Bless You” “Thank you for writing that about Dawn, you captured her the way she really was. ” He told me he had wanted to meet the person who wrote it and knew I was a neighbor but didn’t want to walk into the wrong house and be embarrassed.” I told him where I lived and told him that he and his wife were welcome to visit me at any time.
The emotional intensity for me was overwhelming. I was honored that they used my piece of writing at the same time I was in total emotional shock. People were complimenting me on something that I forgot about since I have written many pieces about Dawn in my blog. I looked at many of my earlier blog posts and I practically have a whole book about Dawn.
My husband practically had to drag me out of the door since we needed to get our daughter to her afternoon class. I saw an old dear friend that I hadn’t seen in a long time and we wrapped our arms around each other crying. “I feel so lost” she said, “I just feel lost.” We all felt that way, I think. Lost without a piece of sunshine in our lives, deprived forever more of this gift of a person who brought enjoyment to everyone she met. Dawn was our fighter, never giving up yet she still lost the fight to this horrendous disease. Dawn was our light, she was our strength, there was no one she didn’t like…..well, with the exception of a little dog in the neighborhood….We all laughed remembering that and it felt good.
Two days later I arrived at the church forty-five minutes before the service and again, there were many people inside. The church was beautiful, I had never been there before. The stained glass windows shone from the morning sun, the polished wood seemed inviting and homey. There were many new flowers, everywhere. So many people from our little community were there, every religion was represented, people from all parts of Dawn’s life were there to show their respect: sports teams, education, friends, family, neighbors, some of the neighborhood kids, friends and their parents for all three children and the middle school Principal. Our community sometimes gets a really bad reputation but when something happens to one of our own, we come together as one. Our little town becomes so protective and so loving of one of its own; it’s happened before. Many years ago when a young boy had cancer, the town rallied together as well.
Both Dawn’s daughter and husband spoke at the funeral. Her daughter is a young woman with the most grace and poise I have ever seen. This young woman will be famous one day, I guarantee it. Everyone was either wiping their eyes or just letting the tears stream down their faces like leaks out of a rusty, old faucet. After the service the pallbearers brought the coffin out to the hearse. I saw a random pink flower on the ground that escaped and as much as I wanted to pick it up and touch it I couldn’t. It didn’t seem like the thing to do, it belonged to Dawn.
One thing I did not know was the tradition of the hearse and all the cars attending the cemetery making a final good-bye to the house where Dawn lived with her family. We drove around the loop as well and all I could think of was Dawn’s enormous Christmas wreath that she was always so proud of, hanging still around the front door. It seemed to me so heart-wrenching to do that, to watch her family ride in the car passing their house where their mother would never again live. Maybe it’s for closure too, I can only guess.
After that, we all went to our individual homes, sighing, looking at the ground, crying, solemn and gloomy and still, feeling that we were in a different world, a new reality. I don’t know how long it takes before the death of someone really hits you and takes its toll but I do know that it does take a while. After the company, the distractions, the food and the flowers, the only thing that matters is that there will be an empty chair at their kitchen table that no one can ever replace. And, at all her children’s’ games, their mom will not be there to encourage them and support them. Whatever condition Dawn was in, good or bad, in a wheelchair or not, Dawn was always there for her children, rooting for them, happy for them until the very last breath she took to say a peaceful “good-bye.”
I will never look at the afternoon winter light in the same way again. My friend Dawn died today, February 11th, 2011 when the sky was blue, the sun shone through wind-swept trees next to ice and black snow, nudging a path. From inside, it looked too pretty for someone to have died. The sun was low and beamed on the bare empty branches like gold necklaces or a child‘s long, blond, sun-streaked hair.
I knew for a long time that my friend Dawn was dying. All of us in the neighborhood, walking partners and friends knew how her breast cancer metastasized to brain cancer. Hearing the words from my friend Margaret that Dawn had passed away a couple of hours ago in her house, was still shocking. Shocking in a mute, surreal way. It’s not as if I thought she would make a miraculous recovery, but if we didn’t see or hear about her, she was still okay and that was soothing and comforting. Intellectually, I should have known better; I didn’t. Knowing someone is going to die is so very different from their actual death. I couldn’t feel a thing.
I remember writing: “Praying For Dawn” on my blog and I made a copy for her. She read it and loved it and told me her family read it too. She even left me a message on my answering machine to say “Thank you,” I never erased that message.
Her daughter had just started college in Vermont as a February Freshman a few days earlier yet there was a car from Vermont parked outside their house. Dawn and her husband John have three children, her daughter, age 18, the eldest, her middle son, 16 and their youngest a boy age 14. There is no doubt in my mind that Dawn refused to die until her daughter was at school, just like my father lived through Christmas and died five days later, ten years ago.
What do you say when it’s actually over? Sometimes, nothing. The call I got from my friend should have clued me in but it didn’t. When she said “are you sitting down?” you would think that I would known immediately but I didn’t. My first thought was about my friend’s mother who is in her eighties. I, very slowly, sat down. Thirty seconds later it hit me, “Oh Dear God, not Dawn,” I whispered into the phone. “Yes, she said and paused, Dawn passed away today, two hours ago.”
She died in her house, around the corner from me. Her parents who live on the Cape had come down a lot these past few years. Margaret and I used to see them walking arm in arm, crying as they tried to walk slowly around the corner, holding on to each other for support. It took every bit of self-control not to run to them and hug them but they didn’t want to see Dawn’s friends, friends who were living when their daughter was dying. Would you?
Before my father died he used to say that “nothing is as important as your health” all the time and I remember it. I too, know grief. Now, I am grieving for my friend and her husband, children and their extended family. I am glad my friend’s pain and suffering are gone but knowing someone is going to die and them actually dying are two very strong and separate emotions. It’s the feeling of in between; it’s too new to comprehend and yet it was about four years in the making. Four years when I first noticed her bald, shiny head and twinkling green eyes standing outside wearing a cap in the pure, naked sunshine.
I laid beneath a sheet, two fraying cotton blankets, one dingy white, one blue, a thick burgundy colored comforter and an old beige puffy down comforter. l huddle beneath these blankets and still my hands are freezing and so too, my toes. I dig deep down inside the blankets and try to cover myself but I still don’t feel warm, I think I will never feel warm again.
In Memory Of Dawn