Writing Comes To Be

Snow was falling. We’d just picked up Mama at St. Theresa’s retirement center to drive to Perkins for her weekly fix of pancakes topped with an egg. She sat in the back. Already her mind was failing, though we didn’t want to admit it. All of us, most of all Mama herself, had been through so much in the past few years: Dad’s death, her stroke and subsequent brain surgery, a year of rehabilitation, and now this new apartment in a strange city far from her home town. We wanted, needed her near us. What she wanted and needed we really didn’t know. But each of these trips to visit her hinted of more loss to come.

We watched the new snow cover an autumn that had turned dull. The more sparkle the better when it comes to denial.

Suddenly, from the back seat, Mama’s voice. “Did I ever tell you about the time Dad took the ice pick after my mother? I screamed and yelled, and I think she would have killed him if I hadn’t pulled at her dress, bawling like a baby and crying NO! I was only a kid.”

“What?” I turned in the seat. “When was that?”

She looked into my eyes like she’d never seen me before. “Oh!” She was startled. Maybe she hadn’t realized she spoke out loud. “You forget I said that. Never speak ill of the dead.”

“The generations should know the family secrets.” I said as though I knew everything.

“No.” She replied. “They shouldn’t.”

It is from such fragments and the spaces into which they fall that my writing takes form and comes to be.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Carol in the Hand of God

Carol in the Hand of God

My friend Carol died yesterday. She'd been ill for a while and was on dialysis, but none of us thought her passage would come so soon. She already was on her journey from this world to the next when I took this picture of storm clouds at sunset Tuesday evening, just hours before her death the next day. At first I saw only the amazing combination of clouds, rainbow and color. And I saw the strange burst of light. But not until yesterday evening, after I heard she had dropped her body and was on her way, did my eyes adjust to see that Hand formed by the clouds. Nor did I see that the light seemed to have a human form, leaning foward, a spirit taking flight. Carol?

Some of us do this--see the Virgin Mary in the ice crystals on a window, Jesus in the bark of a tree. Normally we'd see ice; we'd see the tree. It's the timing that makes the difference. It's the coming together of two realities, normally disconnected, but suddenly one event that explodes in the mind with the force of Truth. I caught my breath. Ah!

 I've no trouble at all believing that Carol's in the Hand of God. I've no problem visualizing her flight into that Beauty. She who was the most common of women, the most loving, among the most compassionate and joyous and funny of any person I've known. In my vocabulary, "common" is a high compliment, deriving from "one with all, with everyone and everything."

We grew up together and attended school in the little border town of Baudette, Minnesota. She made her lifelong home there. She died there. From there she took off for the heavenly realms. We wrote our stories back and forth in emails almost twenty years. From her words I carry so many pictures of her life, her beloved family, her neighbors, her friends to whom she was more than commonly loyal. She once told me that to find God, to be close to God, all she needed to do was take a walk and look at the sky. Walls cannot contain God, she said. God's everywhere.

Of course. And so, now, is Carol. I wonder if I'll miss her. Today I do. But maybe all that's needed to be with her is that I take a walk, raise my head, and look at the sky.