I always love to watch the instrumentalists play. The sweet melody coming from the trio of piano, flute and viola this December afternoon took my mind to another Christmas caroling memory.
I had made many trips to the hospital through the fall. Sometimes I went to the 4th floor ICU, sometimes to the 3rd floor Medical-Surgical unit. Always to visit, assist, encourage my dear friend Nancy. Before her illness, she was typically the encourager, the giver, the friend ever ready to lend an ear, a hand, expertise, ideas, dreams…
It was so difficult for Nancy to be the recipient of others’ care, love, gifts.
Her illness and subsequent complications from heart valve surgery in October escalated into placement of a pacemaker, and an allergic reaction to heparin resulted in loss of circulation to one foot, and several fingertips, ultimately leading to amputation of the foot just after Thanksgiving. Yet, Nancy remained an encourager, a sweet spirited gracious lady through each trial.
She was so overwhelmed when she received word that missionaries and friends around the world were lifting her up in prayer. Surely, God granted the petitions for peace of mind.
Christmas Eve was on Sunday that year, the 4th Sunday, one of the Sundays that my husband, and I, and our three sons served in the nursing home ministry with several other couples and families from our church. A Candlelight service was planned at our church that night, but there was no choir practice scheduled.
A couple free hours between the nursing home service and evening church meant that I could go up and spend some time with Nancy. I drove to the hospital and made the now familiar trek from the parking area to the lobby. At the elevators, I met up with our close friends, the Griffin family; they also served in the nursing home ministry. Beth had been the most constant companion to Nancy since our return from camp the first week of August. Beth and Nancy’s sister, Jo, took shifts staying with Nancy most waking hours at the hospital. Nancy was so weak after each surgery and recovery attempt that she needed an advocate.
I noticed as I met up with the Griffin family that they carried hymnals, and that Deborah had her viola. We rode up to the 3rd floor together and were greeted by Nancy and Jo with a warm welcome when we entered her room together.
The ensuing hour of singing carols accompanied by Deb on the viola was precious. A couple from a nearby room came and listened at the doorway as the room was quite full. The hour was such a gift to each of us and an offering of praise to God for the priceless gift of His Son. I treasure the memory of dear friends gathered together sharing love for each other and God.
I left the hospital after hugging Nancy and Jo and drove to church to join my family for the candlelight service. It seemed that my heart could hardly have been fuller with joy, but hearing the Gospel of Luke chapter 2 account of Jesus’ birth in the hushed, candlelit chapel further enhanced the peace and joy I felt.
As I drove home the streets were quiet in that particularly unique way that they are late in the evening on Christmas Eve. Simple white lights twinkled from the trees lining the street and a clear sky was filled with the splendor of God’s decorations: sparkling stars, a moon that caused the snow crystals to shimmer. It was an awe filled silent, beautiful night. A precious memory.
What was my mind saying when it heard?
What did You reply to the silent cry?
humble a heart.
Peace comes in trusting.”
re-visiting the feeling of disconnect when I sit in observation of my world…. rather than engaging in life.
wavy Monet images
viewed through old glass panes.
The world: beauty and sorrow
intermingled in muted impressions.
Secluded from the room
muted sounds, silenced voice
not touched or felt.
On my window seat
Not inside, nor outside
a veil between
hollow, aching limbo.
I dreamt that I am a newly hatched Monarch butterfly. I came out of the chrysalis to find no support to hang on while my wings unfurled, dried and the veins stiffened, became strong enough for flight. My wings have hardened, yes, but crumpled like a candy wrapper tossed to the street. I cannot fly and float on the breezes, I cannot visit the beauty of the flowers or show the beauty that I was meant to display. I may crawl on the ground for a brief time before dying with my purpose unfulfilled. It is hopeless.
Can I waken from this dream to find that I am still in my protective casing, not yet transformed, not yet broken out to try the world? That I am suspended securely from a branch, from a support. That I will have opportunity to expand my wings, straight and strong. I will fly in the air and visit the flowers – be a blessing of hope and joy to those who see the new-born creature flying, floating, gliding gracefully… wings as yet undamaged by this world…
His hacking cough, stuffed up nose,
The cars all packed, stop and go,
Feelings squashed down in her heart,
All congested—every part.
Raindrops plop and sirens screamed,
Nothing’s moving so it seemed.
His irritation fogs the air,
There’s no way he’ll let her near.
What decongestant can we use,
These traffic jams to defuse?
Feel the feelings let them out,
In a car it’s fine to shout.
Behind clouds blue skies are there,
We know it all will someday clear.
One day, the rain will stop “they” say,
Cold symptoms tend to go away.
Emotions stuffed can be dispelled.
It’s helpful, though, if you can tell
What you’re feeling and be aware;
This world is full of many cares.
There’s traffic and its frustrations,
Missed meetings; need for ministrations.
Remember, behind the clouds, it’s blue
Sky and feeling feelings is true.
His cold symptoms will blow away
And you’ll commune again, someday—
‘Til that day when traffic’s clear
And the rain’s stopped, drive with care.
Give him chicken soup and love,
Touch him with a gentle glove.
Feel your feelings, and be aware—
Your life, don’t always let them steer.
When congestion’s passed, this is real:
In life simply breathe, be, feel.
The anachronism of her life is apparent
in the fullness of living she brings
to watercolour days of pastel, soft-edged beauty
that melt into vivid star-filled nights
aburst with multilevel promises
visible in the deep night sky.
And yet, again, the pale light brings
a herald of another day about to open on
a scene sadly out of place in this time.
She is most alive out of its reach,
As buzzing tree-trimmers, leaf blowers,
engine sounds, smother life’s gentle melody.
I spied the swath of ribbon while searching through a drawer of craft odds and ends for my glue gun. Its pristine shimmer caught my eye, and I picked it up, gently caressing the cool silken satin. A collage of images and of memories passed through my mind.
I recalled numerous handmade outfits: my christening dress and bonnet, accented with embroidery and satin ribbons; my First Communion dress with a matching doll-sized dress; whole wardrobes of baby doll clothes and Barbie doll clothes- one of the dresses an elegant white satin bridal gown. Each item was made by my mom with precision, care and love for me.
Another memory floats up in my mind. My own infant daughter dressed carefully in a handmade green and white knitted outfit: jacket, booties, cap with white satin ribbon peeping out from the ruching. Yet that outfit was made by a stranger, made for a stranger’s infant. It was lent to me by my hospital roommate to dress my daughter in for a few photographs before I parted from her and left her at the hospital to be adopted.
The slip of ribbon I held in my hands was similar to the way I view life’s precious relationships: I treasure the present as it slides, silken, through my calloused fingers. I am aware that its sharp, clean-cut edges are prone to fray and unravel with time and wear.
Eighteen years passed between the time of photographing my infant daughter and our reunion. I vividly recall bemoaning, in our first year of reunion, the truth that four short years of college nearby could be all the time I would have to get acquainted with my reunited daughter. She had just moved to Chicago from Kansas for college. I was overjoyed to find her and meet her after a five year search. Yet I approached the relationship with tentativeness, fearful that the delicate fabric of our connection would disintegrate and slip through my fingers. And as it happens, she withdrew from contact within a year after she graduated from college. E mail responses and visits became rare and I was left with a scrap of satin ribbon that was frayed, its ends tangled threads which begged to be trimmed away.
A much newer mental image is of pink satin ribbons. They are symbols of the fight against Breast Cancer which claimed my sister-in-law’s life. They also served to bring my daughter and I together again.
In 2011, my mom, my daughter, my daughter’s adoptive mom, and I walked in the 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk in San Francisco. Ubiquitous pink ribbons filled our sights as we walked 20 miles a day for three days. The ribbons symbolized a united cause: a battle for education, research, awareness. The goal: that mothers, daughters, sisters, husbands, sons, fathers, friends would cease to be parted by Breast Cancer.
I had forgotten the precious memories of the time spent in my daughter’s presence, spent with my mom, my daughter and my daughter’s “other mom” until I received a package recently. My daughter’s adoptive mom sent two beautiful quilts she had made from fabric covered in pink ribbon themes, a quilt for my mom and one for me. I received the quilt with gratitude for her thoughtfulness, her willingness to welcome my mom and me into relationship with her.
Again, I turned my attention to the slip of satin ribbon in my hand. It represents moments brief and precious, and reminds me to cherish with gratitude the relationships the satin ribbons bring to mind.
Today, forever in a blossom,
Joy, light, Love.
photo courtesy of: Nosha Hanami/Flickr photo sharing