Tuesday, June 29, 2010

At Rest

I am home and so are my parents.

I took their ashes back to Chicago.

My whole family plus some friends were there.....to say good-bye.

I hope I did the right things.

I hope my parents would be pleased.

The containers, the ashes....they didn't give me any signals so all I could do is create something that the survivors, the people who knew and loved them, would feel good about.

In a couple of months.....I will head back one more time to Chicago and check their headstones and carvings.

In the Lithuanian cemetery, where my father is buried, I will plant some Hostas and day lilies. Hostas my dad dug up from his own garden and transported down here to the south. Hostas that will now make the return journey back north to stay with him.

My mother's austere cemetery won't allow plantings or flowers.....so I will only bring shears to cute the grass away from her family's headstones.....and a small stone to lay on the granite so she knows I was there.

On the drive back south, I wondered if I should have kept my parents' ashes with me.....as I already felt an emptiness....a lack of them....as I headed back home. But Chicago is where they lived and loved and made their life so I guessed that would be the best place for them.

Still....today....I wondered.....the house ...my house is filled with their stuff but not them....and I'm not completely sure that is right.

Startled to see a deer and fawn so close to us....it was a very unambiguous message though.

Monday, June 21, 2010

One absolutely completely terrible moment.

I have been sick for the last day and a half.

I tossed so hard in my bed last night my hips still hurt.

I thought I lost my mother.

Soon I will be returning my parents' ashes to Chicago.

I decided on Saturday to check everything. Make sure I have all the forms and papers I need. Cemeteries have a lot of rules and I would hate to discover some last minute glitch.

Each box of ashes came with a certificate verifying who was in the urn.

I knew I had the certificates but for about 10 minutes I forgot where I put them for safekeeping.

My hub checked the urn and found in each container a tag with a number that matches the certificate.

To help me.....he wrote down my mom and dad's number so when I was sifting through the papers I could easily spot the forms.

I found my mom's certificate but my husband blanched when I showed him the papers.....my mom's numbers didn't match.

Either I had some one's ashes or the certificate was wrong.

I crumpled over.

Oh God what if there has been a mix up? A year later...my mother's ashes could be anywhere....scattered over a farm.....in a grave.....under some one's couch.

There was absolutely nothing to do but wait till Monday morning when the offices of the funeral home opened....either there was a typo or my mother's remains had been mixed up.

I tried not to think about it.......I kept busy.....I forced myself to do small necessary tasks that would keep my mind off my worries. But all the time inside.....I kept thinking to myself.....oh please God let it be a typo. What would we do if it wasn't? What if she was scattered some place? How could I possibly make this right?

Monday morning my hub immediately placed the phone call.

He had them repeat the number to us.....so there couldn't be any possibility of them covering up the mistake if there was one.

He called.

"It's okay.....everything is fine."

I sank into the couch and I could feel my heart beat....as if it was still on an adrenalin high.

The possibilities were so horrible.....I still have mini flashbacks.....as if my mind still can't purge the bad data......

This evening......I checked the urn in it's pretty blue velvet covering. She was there...Mom was there....and soon she and dad would be going home....together.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Holy Card

I'm returning my parents' ashes to Chicago soon.....finally, a year after their death....I can take them back home to their final resting place.

I don't know how people make funeral arrangements in the grip of grief....even save....I have found it frustrating and difficult too make all the necessary phone calls and jump through all the hoops one must go through to bury a person--Christian burial permits, memorial service arrangements, purchasing vaults and urns that meet the specifications of two different cemeteries.

A couple days ago I remembered how much my mother liked Holy Cards and decided to make arrangements for a card for them. Holy cards, now called Prayer cards, are part of the Catholic burial ceremony. They are miniature portraits or scenes with Jesus, Mary or the Saints printed on a small card. The portrait/scene is on front of the card whereas the back listed the name, birthday and death of the person plus a prayer. They are handed out by family members either at mass or the funeral home or tucked into a card for friends and relatives who can not attend the service.

As a child, I was fascinated with these small intricate artistic cards.

The scenes could be delightful....St. Frances walking through a forest with little furry animals gazing up at him....Disney-gone-Catholic.......or Mary, young and sweet, listening to a tall winged angel whispering her fate.

But many of the cards were gory....saints burning at the stake, pierced by arrows, or bleeding from stigmata....replicas of the crucifixion wounds of Jesus. These cards turned me into a detective searching the faces and the bodies of these saints ... looking for signs of humaneness... a hint of pain or doubt or worry. I never found any...their small hands always rested with grace and satisfaction on their wounds....their glazed eyes always gazed unwavering towards heaven.

Apparently, you can now go online and print a sheet of holy cards and then cut or tear them apart for distribution. I saw a few of these cards in the office of the funeral home and disliked them. The poor picture quality and the rough edges from imperfect perforation made some of them look cheap. So I decided to go online and purchase professionally printed cards.

I flipped from one website to another....searching searching for a picture but after scanning hundreds of cards....I felt uneasy and anxious. The beatific faces without emotions now bothered me....anything with blood or swords or wounds made me cringe. I wanted welcoming faces not dispassionate faces....I wanted peace from suffering not bleeding hearts....I was looking for a saint or angel or a god who smiled...who seemed welcoming of my parents ... not indifferent.

Ozzie the Wonder Dog came into my study and poked his scabby nose at me....I didn't know if he wanted to go out or he was just being "emo" and sensing my feelings. We headed out to the back porch and I rocked in the humid heat for a while. I recently added a mezuzah on to the door frame of my backdoor....the little capsule that contains the "Shema" the central prayer of the Jewish faith. I absentmindedly stared at the mezuzah for awhile....when I realized that since this is where my heart and identity is now....perhaps I would find some guidance here.

I took out my prayerbook and read over the prayers until I found one that I really liked....peaceful......respectful......I tinkered with it ...added.... subtracted...and finally created something I felt my parent's would like and be proud of.

I went back to the computer and now tried to match the prayer to an image.

I found a sturdy broad shouldered Jesus. He looked like he might smile. He had a small lamb slung around his shoulders...a sign of gentleness and protectiveness....and although he had two wounds in his hands....I did not feel the wounds...the suffering...was the central theme of this image.....but a nod to reality.

My parent died peacefully.... but they had their wounds too....my dad's paralyzed leg and arm....my mom's body swollen from her failing heart.

I hit the "order button" and felt satisfied.

A day or two ago I would have never ever considered posting this Holy Card on my blog.....but I woke up today....and realized it was a prayer....and it is truly from my heart.....and reflects my hopes for my parents......and in the land of blogs and face book and a zillion words on the net....maybe being brave and posting something personal and honest is not something to be afraid of....

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Is Oklahoma really OK with this?

I"m not looking to be misunderstood this week.....although I did tangle with my IPhone a couple of days ago about having Lupus or going to St. Louis in July.

Now this ad catches my eye....

Is it just me or do you find a little subliminal messaging here?

Wide open-spaces and jam-packed places....while looking at the long legs and derriere of a woman??


Does everyone immediately think of the state of Oklahoma when you read that line....or are you inclined to wonder about the state of that woman?


boots and heels....

yippie ...i ...o....ki ...ay.....I"m sure thinking about something and it ain't Oklahoma.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

I really didn't mean that......

Okay.....texting is a normal part of my life....but I still can't stop sending bizarre text messages thanks to my IPhone.

I just sent a message to my hub:

" Kenny invited us to St. Louis in July."

All fine and well right?

Well....if you own an IPhone you know ..... the device corrects your spelling.....sometimes with rather interesting results.

My hub texted me back?


So I scrolled down and reread the text message I just sent.....it said:

"Kenny invited us to have Lupus in July."

Ahhh.....not quite.

Besides....Lupus in July is the pits.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


My friend Krista and I spent a little time together today....and the hours seemed like minutes.

Krista reminded me we met ten years ago.....this fall.....in an introductory rhetoric class at our local university.

The essay I wrote for that class was the first piece of my writing that was ever published....
I remembered writing that essay on graph paper with a scratchy old pencil while I sat in the middle of my bedroom closet....trying to find peace and quiet in a house full of three busy kids........Krista was starting her journey towards a master's and then a doctorate degree....and like a lot of people and events in my life.....ended up in New York.

Although I knew there was an age difference between us....it never mattered...she was and is a wise woman with a great deal of interests and smarts and I immediately found her fascinating.

Krista is now teaching at Syracuse University.....and I'm already contemplating travel ideas on how to get from here to there.....right now I'm intrigued by the thought of snuggling up for a couple of days on a train with an armload of books....or maybe I should bring along some graph paper and a scratchy old pencil....and see if there's any magic left.......

Friday, June 04, 2010


Although I don't often like to fly.....sometimes the view is amazing....I flew from the center of Long Island....to Baltimore....to home the other day.

Thanks to Jason, a Barnes and Noble friend and artist, I was nudged into putting some photo apps on my IPhone.....so I had something to do during the longer leg of the journey.

I liked this picture because the sky looked like a steamy bowl of soup with dumpling clouds floating in it. As the plane headed further south.....the thunderheads were so thick and the clouds below were so gray and ominous.....I was grateful to be on top of the weather rather than underneath it.

I'm always amazed when I travel....how quickly the vacation....vanishes once you start heading home. For a whole week I looked at rental houses for my daughter's wedding and pretty spots....then spent a part of each day on the beach....Fire Island, Cooper's Beach, Montauk, Ditch Plains....and the "Tip"......and yet....as I sat on the plane and looked out the window....snacking on my Southwest Airlines orange cheese crackers.....it seemed like all the sand and wind and sun I felt happened a thousand years ago.

As the turbulence kicked in closer to home, I realized I had a drink coupon. I have a whole stack of them from Southwest....and because I often fly during the day...never even consider using them. But at 4pm....with the plane bouncing around ....it didn't seem like a bad idea....so I pulled an old coupon out of my wallet and asked the cabin attendant if she had bourbon.

"Of course," she said, in a way that made me feel like I was pretty naive about the drink cart on planes.

Soon my bourbon and soda sparkled in the sunlight streaming in from the window.

And guess what???? Drink a nice stiff drink....and the turbulence doesn't seem so bad after all.
I drifted relaxed and calm to my home city.....riding the bumps.....without a care in the world.
Just before I disembarked.....I adjusted my sandal strap.....and a tiny pool of sand spilled out from my shoe from my morning walk on Fire Island.
I smiled down at the little puddle of sand....grabbed my purse...my little briefcase....and left behind Long Island and my week.....ready and willing to go home.