Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Moccasins


Her voice is filled with fear and carries with it a tone of terror.  “He is terribly sick, the doctors aren’t even sure he will make it.”  I listen, giving my full attention and ask for more details.  “When did this happen?  How old is he?   How are his wife and kids holding up?” 

Maryellen seems in a daze as she goes through the painful ordeal her good friend is facing.   As the story of his illness unfolds, her matter of fact manner regarding the children strikes me.  “His wife has decided not to tell the kids just how seriously ill their father is.  She thinks it best to keep them from the truth.”  I respond in my usual quick and unfiltered style, “Isn’t that what Dad decided for you, when Mom was dying?  And didn’t he also keep you from attending her wake and funeral?  I know he did it to shield you at the young age of 9 but do you think it was best?” Then I simple ask, “What do you remember about Mom, her illness and final passing?”

Now, you should understand that we are sisters and very involved in each other’s lives.  Yes, the blood flowing through my veins is the same as hers.  And Yes, I am her senior by 10 years but she is my Boss (owner of the business which employs me).   We have laughed, cried and shared on everything we hold dear – all our lives.   I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, sharing and telling every thought and feeling that crosses my path.  Maryellen, my baby sister, is not such an open book.   But this question before her seems to, ever so gently open a door, which would otherwise remain closed.

“I don’t remember much about Mom”, she confesses almost guiltily.  “She was always lying down and resting.”  Then, opening the door a little further goes on to tell me what she does remember. “I stood in the parking lot, looking up and waving at her in the window of her hospital room.  That would turn out to be our final good-bye.”  I take a deep breath and swallow the lump which had formed in my throat. She continues, “The next thing I remember was coming off the school bus and knowing immediately that she had died.  There were so many cars parked in front of the house.  I went inside, sat down on Dad’s lap and cried.”  Again, so matter of fact in her manner.

What she then shared broke wide the door of her heart.  “I was 9, and after that brief cry I could think of nothing more than the moccasins I had seen in the store window.  I wanted them so much and wondered when we could go and buy them. Here was this terrible news about Mom and what I remember most in that minute was caring about those stupid moccasins!”   I am utterly blown away with her telling of this truth.

My own remembrance of our Mothers illness is vastly different as I’m sure my 3 other siblings (Ann, Pat & Frank) each hold. But, I immediately tell of my realities, “I shared the responsibility for taking Mom for chemotherapy.  I was at her side when the doctors gave up any hope of remission. I stood at her hospital bed praying “the Hail Mary” while she took her final breath and then drove Dad and Nanny home to prepare for your arrival from school.” 

I have looked at my mother’s passing from so many angles and viewpoints but this was completely new and different!   Almost 35 years have passed and I am first hearing about “the moccasins”.   

Our memories of that catastrophic moment seem frozen in time.  Mine held within the confines of an 18 year old being forced to quickly grow up and face the harsh reality of death.  And for Maryellen, the innocent desire of a sweet child found in those moccasins; overshadowing and maybe protecting her from the unimaginable tragedy unfolding around her.    

Walking through that slightly open door gave us both the courage - to relive, to retell, and to help each other carry that which is deep inside our very souls. 


Frank, Ann, Pat, Chris, "Baby" Maryellen

Beautiful Marie 
In Loving Memory of our Mom ~ who lives forever in our hearts. 


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Rusty Old Shed


It was an amazing story.
Told with humor, which completely held my attention
and authority, which utterly peaked my curiosity.
I found myself entering into its mystery and believing the lesson of the tale.
I have not been able to let it go.
 I bring it to life now – using my imagination to embellish the details; making it my own.

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She arrived at the Pearly Gates of Heaven and was met by a smiling man in a white robe. “Christine, it is good that you are here!  I will be your tour guide and show you around this place,” spoke Saint Peter.  Christine was aware of all that she left behind: her possessions, achievements and stresses she had in her life on earth.  Her heart remained full of love given, and love received. But, she still carried a feeling in her gut – a feeling of being dissatisfied.  It was with her on earth and now seemed to carry over into her new eternal life. Christine simply ignored it and turned her attention to Saint Peter, noticing the lightness and freedom in each of his steps. 

“Are you ready to begin exploring heaven and all its offerings?”  

Saint Peter led Christine to a beautiful meadow overflowing with cherry blossoms and a running, clear stream.  The colors everywhere were so vibrant and the air so fresh with a sweet fragrant smell. All this beauty and yet Christine was fixated on an old metal shed she spotted in the distance – rusted and worn from the passing of time.  She was quick to inquire, “What is that and why is it here?”  Saint Peter answered, “Oh, it is nothing – leave it be”.  And the tour continued.

Before Chris’s eyes were snow-capped mountains with peaks engulfed in the misty haze of clouds. Lowering her gaze, the shadowed valleys summoned her to explore their many paths. As she scanned the landscape, the sight of the old rusty metal shed, again, came into view. She couldn’t help but inquire further, “What is that and why does it seem to be following us every place we go?”  Knowing Chris would not stop asking until satisfied with an explanation, Saint Peter invited her to move toward to the shed.

Once closer Chris could not help but remark, “What is this terrible looking shed doing here in heaven?  What purpose can it hold?”  With that said, Saint Peter opened the door to reveal a giant warehouse of shelves.  Each shelf contained boxes, all tied with red ribbons.   Saint Peter explained, “Every box contains the name of a person who lived on earth.  And within each box is placed the blessings that went unrecognized and unused during their lives.  These boxes of blessings are then stored away in this old rusty shed.”

Christine scanned the area in search of her name.   She passed countless number of boxes in varying shapes and sizes.  She knew each box represented how well the person lived, each size revealing the specific number of blessings lost and forgotten.  As she came upon her own, Chris could feel that hollow pit return to her stomach.  Her box was rather large and she now understood that the remedy for her discontent was here within her grasp. So many blessings she had failed to recognize and accept throughout the days of her life, now carefully placed in that box - neatly tied with a pretty red ribbon – stored for eternity in a rusty old shed.

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My prayer is that we uncover and use every blessing set before us 
 Leaving nothing to be stored in heaven.


(Thank you Sister Pat Duffy for the gift of this tale)