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Christmas Past

DSCN2231I remember those magical days-

children running in from the bus

to see what new presents

had suddenly appeared under the tree.

I remember the magic of lights-

the “oohs and ahhhs” as the switch came on.

The weeks of “what I want for Christmas”

coming from innocent souls.

Then the chorus of “and that’s all…”

followed by several more favorites.

Yesterday, my babies, my life-

The Joy on their faces, on my face as well.

Today, I lay here alone, a tree with no presents.

Sits in a “living room” no one plays in.

I pick up a sick grandchild from school,

Drive by a graveyard-when one of them lies.

I wonder, today, with life having little meaning,

how those days, when we were so poor,

when those “wants” really did magicially appear.

If it is worth it now, the memories, all I have.

My sick heart pounds, the hot tears roll,

down lonely cheeks as teens tell me

“I won’t be home after school, I have to hurry.”

There are dinner and parties, friends, life.

Please remember, children of today,

that life goes by so fast, that todays’ kids

are tomorrows adults, with kids of their own.

And we, who once were so needed and loved.

Have grown old as my babies grew up.

I put up a tree, as my youngest insisted.

But no joy of a new present  hiding  there today.

Just memories, the awareness of time rushing by…

Like the old Scrooge Tale, it is-

Christmas Past, Present, Future.

I must remember that life moves on, even if

it drags me kicking and screaming.

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Talking with the Dead

Though I have chosen a scary title for my Halloween blog, I have only precious memories in mind.

Holidays are a time when my lost loved ones are particularly on my mind. I remember things we did together, laugh quietly at converDSCN1024sations and times we shared.

I lost my father only two months ago. There are so many times that I find myself thinking, “I can’t wait to tell dad about that!” -then realizing that dad isn’t there to tell. My heart sinks as I think that the books and stories he wrote are all I will ever have. Memories constantly come into my mind of our days together. We were both strong willed and had our differences, but I was his only child and he loved me unconditionally.

I often feel that I never really knew my mom like I so desperately wanted to. She kept her past life very private. She was lively, funny and beautiful, I will always remember the funny things she would say, tricks she would pull, and the delicious treats she would make. My son loved her special dessert she called “Good Cake”. Still, there was a mystery about my mother that I sometimes connect with, a knowledge that she was so much like me, that when she saw me taking a “wrong turn”, she though of herself, and it caused her to close up inside. Since people tell me that I “look just like her”, I often wonder if our solemn, secretive natures were more similar than I will ever know. Perhaps the things she saw as regrets were different from mine only because of the time we lived in and the increasing acceptance of life’s choices.

Halloween, and then Las Dia de Los Muerte, in the Hispanic culture always bring back sweet, yet painful memories of my son. He was 15 when I lost him very suddenly in early October a few years back. October had always been my favorite month, and now it is only a long torture that ends in the very “celebration” of death, or at least a connection with the dead. My son and I were very close, every day is another trial in pain and sorrow. I literally lost my health because of his death, so I cannot for one minute forget it. My son loved Halloween, dressing up and going out with his older brothers and sisters when he was young, and then,with his friends as a young teen. He was quiet, but had a beautiful face, a sly smile, that I still see looking at me when my thought wander in quiet times.

I often visit the cemetery where they now lie, along with the old graveyard down the road where many of my elders are buried. It down and talk to them, cry for them, ask for their help, for reminders of their love, like the dimes I am constantly finding that have come to feel like a message from my son that he is with me. Since it is Halloween, I will mention the other special sign that I have with my son and my mom-I find Black Widow spiders on their graves, in the flowers, beside the stones. Its like they remember that I study insects and know that I will see them as a sign that they still dwell with me. I will look around and find no other Black Widows in the cemetery. That convinces me that it is a special and private symbol between us.

Talking to my lost loves provides me with a link to them, a closeness, that I never want to loose. I have never felt that I had to be in the cemetery to connect with them, but sometimes, being there, bringing a flower or a small symbol of something that reminds me of them, helps my aching soul. There is nothing to fear, and much to treasure when we refuse to let those that have been stolen from this earth to become stolen from our hearts.

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MUSCADINE MEMORIES

DSCN2817One day last week when I was at your house-okay cleaning out your now empty house, I noticed the most wonderful vine of the old fashioned Muscadine grapes growing up a tree at the edge of your yard.

I have never seen anything like it! Oh, Dad, how I wanted to run in and get you and show you the redbud tree hanging full of Muscadine grapes. You and mom grew up very differently, but I lost you both in your 87th year. Mom was a few years older, so I had to watch you drown in the misery of waking up without her after 62 years together.

l I haven’t been able to write for the past few months, since I lost you. There is so much inside me, I know I will never remember the feelings as I did when they were fresh, and I will always resent it. What kept me from writing was not because of you passing, but the pain was nearly as bad. A violation by someone, of my deepest thoughts, written in my journal, had made me feel as though I had been robbed of my most precious gift-the truths, good or bad that I written in a journal to the son I lost when he was 15 years old nearly every day.

When I saw the Muscadines, I knew the only reason they had survived was because they were wound around the branches so high in the redbud tree. Your neighborhood is full of bears, and my son who lives next door has seen many walking through your yards. My aunt on the hill above you had lost her grapes to the bears, as had neighbors and friends, I couldn’t think of anyone who hadn’t lost their grapes to the bears. A surprise for you, dad, but a couple of months too late.

All this time that I have been unable to write, I have though of you and mom, of my Andrew, all the loss, the sickness and pain I have endured, all the court stuff I had to endure in order to settle your estate. Hell has been my constant companion. Maybe that’s why the wild grapes were so special-a moment of joy and beauty amidst all the pain.

I can write now, the anger over having been put through a completely unnecessary hell during the weeks proceeding your loss have dissipated to the point where not writing would let the evil win-and I damn well wouldn’t do that. So I will write a few of the memories that the Muscadines brought to me. Perhaps, in some small way, they will help me heal.

Dad, I had seen your health failing for a long time, your memory and rationality fading as well, and I had been working to get things in order. I felt a lot of guilt, many of the decisions I had to make were hard. I knew without a doubt that I was doing what you wanted me to do, but there was still a ring of guilt to suddenly be the ‘one who held the gold’.My kids and I will never forget your slightly evil (but loving) smile, when we would want something that your conservative mind could not quite go along with and we would see you smile, as you looked at us and said, “You know the ‘Golden Rule?” And we did know it. Your “Golden Rule” had always been, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”(possibly first used by Confucius) -and it had always before meant YOU. Suddenly it was ME.

Part of me anxiously awaited my turn at “holding the gold”, and part of me had always feared the responsibility that came with it. Now, that I did “hold the gold”, even though you were still here in a weakened condition, I found the responsibility both humbling and empowering. Every decision that was made was MY responsibility, every mistake made was my fault. Suddenly, I wondered how you could have held that responsibility all those years and smiled as you reminded us of it. It was completely terrifying.

Thinking back, again, (and not having allowed myself to write it), I remembered the little gift your grandchildren and I received within moments of your death. My son’s friend, who had been with us when you died and had loving called me “Mah-mah” since his childhood, had called my son on his cell phone and told him to look at a photo he had made with his phone. In his picture, directly over the spot where my mom (and soon you) would be buried, there had suddenly appeared a beautiful rainbow, so perfectly centered above your graves that it had seemed like a message from God.

Muscadines…they reminded me of so many of the moments in nature I had shared with my grandparents, parents and children through the years. Those little snips of beauty that stay with you as though your mind was a camera, even though you had no actual photo. I thought of Andrew, three or four years old, staring up at a huge sunflower. I will never forget the look of wonder on his face as he gazed up at that eight-foot high flower, as golden as the sun, above him. I remembered finding the hillside filled with bloodroot flowers whenI took a walk with my children were they were quite young. I showed them how the plant got its name from the Mercurochrome-colored fluid that flowed from the stem when it was injured or broken of. Many years later, I witnessed one of my children, telling the same story to their child.

Once, when I was about ten years old, my grandmother, aunt, my mother and I, went on our daily walk in my grandparents pasture. Suddenly, my grandmother almost stepped on a snake. My mother screamed and my aunt laughed, “Its only a garter snake.” she smiled as she saw my mother look away. My mother was never afraid of snakes or spiders and was quite embarrassed at her own reaction. “I hadn’t looked that close yet”, she mumbled, and we knew it was true. Mother always told me that she was much more afraid of men than of spiders and snakes, “because you knew what a spider or snake was going to do.”

My aunt ran a little country store and to this day, I can see my mother marching in with a black widow spider she had caught in a jar. Even the men stepped back a bit as she told them about catching it on the very steps they had just gone up. I could write a book on “the little store” stories that my cousins and I shared as we enjoyed freedoms modern children no longer have-wandering the neighborhood without supervision. To this day, my favorite “little store” stor is the time mu cousin, Johnny, who was maybe 14, pretended to vomit on the store’s steps as my furious uncle tried to sweep up the fake plastic vomit before someone stepped in it. A crowd of cousins stood at the edge of the store building giggling away. When my uncle realized that he had been duped by a teenager, he was madder than ever.

Sometimes, in this rough and often cruel life, a simple scene like the muscadine grapes will bring us back to all the good memories we have had. For a moment, we smile, we realize how much love surrounded us, even when we were a bit naughty. WE close our eyes and remember those who are gone now and find ourselves smiling rather than shedding ear. Just for a moment, those muscadine memories surround us, comfort us and ring us home. Maybe life wasn’t so bad after all.

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She Sliters Away

It had been a fine summer for Sylvia. No floods, plenty of insects, the birth of a new group of live young. But now, it was time for Sylvia to find a place to spend the cold, Appalachian winter.

She slithered quietly through an overgrown garden, eating a few snacks on the way. Her tongue waved as she became aware of the scent of water and rotting wood. Perfect! A fallen maple presented itself not far from a tiny mountain stream.

Sylvia continued on up the low hill from the garden and explored the space underneath the log. It had fallen several years before and had created small spaces in the damp soil which she could work on in order to make her winter home.

She took one last breath of cooling fall air before she began carving her winter home in what appeared to have been home to a worm at one time. Gently, she curled up inside the hole, her fertilized eggs ready to grow inside her as she settled down for a long winter’s nap.

Sylvia had seen other snakes like her-garter snakes with a print of different colors of brown and she knew she was both beautiful and harmless. Smart human neighbors left her alone to eat the insects that consumed their gardens or simply admired her grace, perhaps hoping to see one of her babies as it slithered away from her as it hatched, alive and ready into a new world.

Her life had not always been easy. Once, a human ran over her mother with a lawnmower and a human mom who happened to study amphibians happened upon her. Her mother had died, but the kind lady saved two babies who were only slightly injured and let them go in he garden when they had healed in about a week. Thus, she and her brother had survived.

Sylvia often spent warm spring mornings in the lady’s garden and the lady would come by and speak to her, never touching her, only whispering greetings. How Sylvia wished that she could say, “Thank you.”, but, alas, it was no to be.

One day next summer, Sylvia would find a quiet place and give birth to her young. She would not give them any maternal care, only wish them a good life and watch them crawl away. Such is the life of a garter snake. The lady who saved her would always remember her, always hope she saw Sylvia in her garden. Their lives were separate, but forever bound.

Hopefully, one day, the lady’s children would tell stories about the baby snakes and teach others to appreciate them and share their yards and woodlands with them. Such is the way with nature. We share the same world, but in separate realities. I wish you well, Sylvia, and hope I see you or your young next year!

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Going Home

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Jen drove slowly down the old dirt drive. “There aren’t many dirt roads or long driveways left,” she thought. She hadn’t seen her great aunt Sarah in many years. All sorts of excuses rushed through her brain as she got closer to the lovely old farm house at the end of the driveway. “I’ve lived too far away, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t seen her since I was a child,”she thought, then guiltily threw each excuse aside.

She had not taken the time-period. Now, she was 27 years old, a high school history teacher, engaged to be married and she could surely have thought of more valid excuses than those. But something had tugged at her heart. She had come to Alabama to tour a local schools system for a study she was conducting. Remembering that Aunt Sarah lived in this county, she looked her up in the phone book. Surprisingly, she was still listed.

She got out her I-phone and turned on the app that showed her a map to the little town of Rosewood and soon found Cornfield Lane right off the main road. “What would she say?” she wondered as she pulled up the two story house with a wrap around porch. Would Aunt Sarah remember her, welcome her, or would she be treated with disdain?

Jen remembered that Aunt Sarah, her mother’s aunt, had been married, had 3 children and then her husband had died at a fairly early age. She didn’t think she had remarried, because her name was still the same in the phone book. It seems the children would be about her mother’s age, probably with grandchildren of their own.

With her heart beating quickly inside her chest, she parked her Maroon Chevy Van near the house and walked towards the door. It was nearly Halloween, and even in Alabama, there was a nip of autumn in the air. Jen, pulled her sweater around her as she walked up the old brick sidewalk. Before she started up the steps, an elderly lady walked out onto the porch. The screen door creaked as it closed behind her.

“Why, Jenny!” The lady exclaimed. “Jenny Markham! Is that you?”

“It’s me, alright, Aunt Sarah.” Jen said with a blush. “I have no excuse for not having seen you in so long. It makes those Christmas cards seem awfully pitiful.”

“Well, don’t you think a thing about it,” Aunt Sarah said with a smile as she opened the door and motioned for Jen to come in. Jen obliged, remembering the high ceilings and the slightly old scent of the wooden house. She looked around and smiled. It was as if she had been here only a short time ago.

“Come on in here and let me make us some tea,” Aunt Sarah smiled as she lead Jen to the room behind the living room. Sarah stood and looked around at her Great Aunt’s kitchen. The same long table and chairs sat upon the worn tiles, the curtains were new, but of similar pattern, an autumn harvest with ruffled bottoms around the windows which hung over the sink and the one on the slightly opened back door. It brought back memories of her mother and rest of their big family coming here for watermelon on the Fourth of July when she was young.

“It sure is good to see you, Jenny!” Aunt Sarah smiled. “What on earth brought you way out here in backwoods Alabama?”

Jenny told her about her research project, career and upcoming marriage, inviting her long-lost cousins and families to come. Aunt Sarah sat and sipped tea with her for maybe half an hour before she invited her to come through the house and see the walls and dark walnut dressers filled with pictures of her children, grandchildren and even their kids. Again, Jen’s heart beat rapidly inside her as she took in the years and memories that she had missed out on when her father had taken a new job in East Texas.

She wondered what her life would have been like if they had stayed here. Would her and her brother’s kids been friends with Aunt Sarah’s children, would they have ridden the same bus, lived on the same road, had watermelon on that worn front porch on the fourth of July? Would she already be married, maybe to someone she knew as a child.?

Thoughts swirled through her head as the “what if’s” rushed by. What was the name of the high school here? What college would she have gone to? Would she have been a teacher, like she was now? It was at that moment Jen decided not to tell her Aunt Sarah her secret. She would save it until after the wedding, it would seem better then.

Inside her, Jen felt the movement of her baby, a girl, she had learned just yesterday. She wondered how Aunt Sarah would feel about her being pregnant before her marriage and then grabbed her Aunt’s wrinkled hand. Of course, she would love this baby, just like all the other children that decorated her dressers and walls. Surely, out of all of them, there had been children conceived before their parents married. Perhaps their parents had never married at all.

After a long visit, Jen walked back to her car with Aunt Sarah and her collie, Barney, beside her. She promised her Aunt that she would never let their families loose touch again, and she meant it. In Aunt Sarah’s younger days, having a baby before marriage would have brought many cross looks and perhaps even a few rejections. But this, thank goodness as a different time.

Jen vowed to herself that she would write her aunt a letter and tell her more about her soon-to-be husband and the baby she was carrying as soon as she got back to Texas. There was one more thing she would ask of the Aunt she had just come know again. She would ask her to allow her the honor of naming her new baby, Sarah.

Jen drove slowly down the old dirt drive. “There aren’t many dirt roads or long driveways left,” she thought. She hadn’t seen her great aunt Sarah in many years. All sorts of excuses rushed through her brain as she got closer to the lovely old farm house at the end of the driveway. “I’ve lived too far away, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t seen her since I was a child,”she thought, then guiltily threw each excuse aside.

She had not taken the time-period. Now, she was 27 years old, a high school history teacher, engaged to be married and she could surely have thought of more valid excuses than those. But something had tugged at her heart. She had come to Alabama to tour a local schools system for a study she was conducting. Remembering that Aunt Sarah lived in this county, she looked her up in the phone book. Surprisingly, she was still listed.

She got out her I-phone and turned on the app that showed her a map to the little town of Rosewood and soon found Cornfield Lane right off the main road. “What would she say?” she wondered as she pulled up the two story house with a wrap around porch. Would Aunt Sarah remember her, welcome her, or would she be treated with disdain?

Jen remembered that Aunt Sarah, her mother’s aunt, had been married, had 3 children and then her husband had died at a fairly early age. She didn’t think she had remarried, because her name was still the same in the phone book. It seems the children would be about her mother’s age, probably with grandchildren of their own.

With her heart beating quickly inside her chest, she parked her Maroon Chevy Van near the house and walked towards the door. It was nearly Halloween, and even in Alabama, there was a nip of autumn in the air. Jen, pulled her sweater around her as she walked up the old brick sidewalk. Before she started up the steps, an elderly lady walked out onto the porch. The screen door creaked as it closed behind her.

“Why, Jenny!” The lady exclaimed. “Jenny Markham! Is that you?”

“It’s me, alright, Aunt Sarah.” Jen said with a blush. “I have no excuse for not having seen you in so long. It makes those Christmas cards seem awfully pitiful.”

“Well, don’t you think a thing about it,” Aunt Sarah said with a smile as she opened the door and motioned for Jen to come in. Jen obliged, remembering the high ceilings and the slightly old scent of the wooden house. She looked around and smiled. It was as if she had been here only a short time ago.

“Come on in here and let me make us some tea,” Aunt Sarah smiled as she lead Jen to the room behind the living room. Sarah stood and looked around at her Great Aunt’s kitchen. The same long table and chairs sat upon the worn tiles, the curtains were new, but of similar pattern, an autumn harvest with ruffled bottoms around the windows which hung over the sink and the one on the slightly opened back door. It brought back memories of her mother and rest of their big family coming here for watermelon on the Fourth of July when she was young.

“It sure is good to see you, Jenny!” Aunt Sarah smiled. “What on earth brought you way out here in backwoods Alabama?”

Jenny told her about her research project, career and upcoming marriage, inviting her long-lost cousins and families to come. Aunt Sarah sat and sipped tea with her for maybe half an hour before she invited her to come through the house and see the walls and dark walnut dressers filled with pictures of her children, grandchildren and even their kids. Again, Jen’s heart beat rapidly inside her as she took in the years and memories that she had missed out on when her father had taken a new job in East Texas.

She wondered what her life would have been like if they had stayed here. Would her and her brother’s kids been friends with Aunt Sarah’s children, would they have ridden the same bus, lived on the same road, had watermelon on that worn front porch on the fourth of July? Would she already be married, maybe to someone she knew as a child.?

Thoughts swirled through her head as the “what if’s” rushed by. What was the name of the high school here? What college would she have gone to? Would she have been a teacher, like she was now? It was at that moment Jen decided not to tell her Aunt Sarah her secret. She would save it until after the wedding, it would seem better then.

Inside her, Jen felt the movement of her baby, a girl, she had learned just yesterday. She wondered how Aunt Sarah would feel about her being pregnant before her marriage and then grabbed her Aunt’s wrinkled hand. Of course, she would love this baby, just like all the other children that decorated her dressers and walls. Surely, out of all of them, there had been children conceived before their parents married. Perhaps their parents had never married at all.

After a long visit, Jen walked back to her car with Aunt Sarah and her collie, Barney, beside her. She promised her Aunt that she would never let their families loose touch again, and she meant it. In Aunt Sarah’s younger days, having a baby before marriage would have brought many cross looks and perhaps even a few rejections. But this, thank goodness as a different time.

Jen vowed to herself that she would write her aunt a letter and tell her more about her soon-to-be husband and the baby she was carrying as soon as she got back to Texas. There was one more thing she would ask of the Aunt she had just come know again. She would ask her to allow her the honor of naming her new baby, Sarah.DSCN1026

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The Heart of a Man

 

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 The Heart of A Man

 

 

 

 

We can move like the waves on the ocean,

Or dance, with only the moonlight

shadows reflecting the land.

I can feel like I love you completely,

But, still, I cannot understand

why I always feel love is hiding

deep in the heart of a man.

Across hills, we can journey together,

our souls become one with the light.

The whispers of autumn approaching,

yet we lie like two strangers at night.

For miles, we have traveled this highway,

and still I do not understand

what keeps the emotions so silent

In the heart of a man.

 

 

reprinted from beebeesworld Fall 2012-one of my favorites. Its been a rough week, but I wanted my friends to know I;m still out here, new friends please read some of my old entries listed on my home page!

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And Suddenly He Becomes a Man

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Today, he sits in the drivers seat as we listen for the rumble of the school bus, listen for the squeal of the brakes, and I watch him disappear into the bus as I scoot into the drivers seat.

If it were not for an error in the school drivers ed list, he would already e driving, so I am savoring these few extra moths when he has to be my chauffeur, my co-pilot.

Two or three years ago, it seems he played with Lego’s and played video games, this year his is studying computer coding and just finished an internship for the school system in this area. Where has time gone?

In three years, he has grown eight inches, and has almost caught up with his brother, who is 6’5” tall.

I miss my baby, we were so close. All of my children and I were close. The one I lost at age 15 when he collapsed while playing baseball, I dream of, eyes wide open , of who he would be, what he would be doing eight years later. I feel cheated, lied to. His death cost me more than words can describe.

I enjoy days with my daughters, chasing babies as I once chased them. They sigh and say, “I don’t know how you did it with six when two drive me crazy!” And I just smile and say, “Mom’s with lots of kids grow extra hands and endless hearts.”

The nus stop is beside my oldest son’s house, where he, his wife and three kids live. To see those little white heads running up to me and saying, “I love you, Beebee.” is a gift beyond compare.

Still, I have learned there is nothing like your own children. Grand kids as wonderful, but they are not yours. You and your own children have secret languages, know each others inner thoughts. You know how they like to be held, you can nurse them when they are fussy. You have your schedules, your speial subjects that you enjoy, things that arre privte between only you and yours.

Don’t get me wrong, grand kids are great, Not just because of the old addage that “You can send them home.” but that they are rather like a glimmer of your own child mixed with a gleam of their other parent. Sometimes you catch a familiar look or action that you remember from long ago-a smile, an impish grin, a silly giggle.

To see your last child. drive away in his own car, leave for college, get married, is so much more exciting to them that it is to the mom-left alone, feeling useless. A largely stay-at-home mom like me especially suffers when they have lost a child forever and have to watch that last living child spread his wings and fly. Your tears are filled with both relief and pride.

I was an only child. I learned about sibling rivalry from my own kids. I dreamed that my kids would grow up and be like the siblings I never had, but they didn’t. They are siblings to eachother-not to me, and I have to settle for being the mom who was once everything and is now, one who wove their being, but has found herself out of yarn.

I’m am surprised and proud of my youngest son. I was/am an old hippie, jeans and peasant shirts, leather sandals, guitars and Lynyrd Skynyrd. He dresses is suits and ties, has computer skills that make me feel illiterate, he worries that his teeth are shiny enough, that his shoes are clean enough. I wonder, sometimes, where I got him. Certainly, thank goodness, he is the opposite of his father-a Harley rider who enjoys road-side sales booths and collections of used clothing. At least my son and I think alike- finding joy in discovery, whether in nature, or in technology.

One day, it seems, a mother is looking into the eyes of a new life, never knowing what that child will become , And then, in the blink of an eye, that baby is a child, a teen, a young adult, a father or mother themselves. Life goes by much too quickly, sometimes bitter-sweet, just realizing that as they grew older, so did you.

Having to look in that dark glass of what might have been when we loose a child, is the worst pain a mother can feel, yet each moment spent with that precious child glimmers like a diamond. I don’t have another mother who is a close friend that has lost a child, neither can I can tell you how many times I would have liked to smack the well-meaning people who have , lost for words, remarked, “I know how you feel, I lost my sister, brother, friend,( fill in the blank). NO, they do not know and I pray they never will.

Next spring, watch the first pale leaves emerge from a flower, look at it each day as the green grows darker and buds start to form. Close your eyes and inhale the sweetness of the bloom, then let the flower go to seed and plant the seeds again next year. Life does not stand still, it must be protected and revered.

Read “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran if you want to get a beautiful picture of the phases of life. Read it to your children, sing to them, teach them poetry, and don’t be surprised when one day your grandchild repeats that poem or sing that song as he walks beside you along life’s path.

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