Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Leave love in the world as your wake

The past couple weeks have been crazy ones. Over a year has passed since Mom died, and it was time to close the first circle of mourning with a memorial service. Older daughter Annie would be in town with her new husband, John, and that set the date: June 14.

It meant getting the house in order in a very literal way.

In my world, things don't always (or often) go as you expect them to go. And in the middle of the patching, painting, scrubbing, and moving things about, illness struck. Maybe it was swine flu, but whatever the culprit, it led to a serious problem with asthma, and I was pretty much out of commission.

But in the mysterious way things have of coming together, things came together anyway. New friends Jim and Judy, whom I'd met through WauwatosaNOW, tilled my garden, and daughter Liz and I got it planted. Old friend Dana showed up to fix the front door. Janik, amazing jack of all trades from Poland, called just when things looked impossible and quietly and efficiently finished painting the two rooms that were underway. Both Geo and Liz worked long hours, mostly without complaint. Sister Karen and niece Molly brought food and made photo displays. Brother-in-law Larry buried the huge raccoon that was murdered in the back yard the night before. And dear friend Susan brought native flowers to grace the center of our circle.

The prednisone did its work and I could breathe. Cousins I hadn't seen in years showed up: now all our parents are gone, and we form the line between the living and those who have gone before us. The next generation of  little boys, Mason and Mitchell and William, brought us beauty and joy and reminded us what it is all about.

We spoke our memories and shared some laughter and tears. It seemed to be just what it should have been. Later, when everyone was gone and I sat on the stoop in silence, a pair of white swans, close as my parents had been in their marriage, flew low overhead. I took that as a sign that all was well; all manner of things were well.

Annie, though, said it best:

When I think of Grandma I remember the smells of coffee, of raspberries in the hot sun, of pulverized rhubarb and sugar, and pencils and crayons from that hide-away cabinet in the back room. I remember softness, that smoochie Grandma of ours. Always kissing, hugging, guiding our hands as we rolled out Christmas cookies, powdering us as we got out of the bathtub, making each of us feel so special and cared for. When I think of Grandma I remember Love.

Perhaps memories of a child are always tinted with this sort of golden light, but I think in this case, I was just seeing things as they were. Grandma created a world filled with love and family, one that she pulled each of us into with a warm embrace. She wanted her family to be together, as they are now. She wanted us to embrace each other as she did us, to live our lives full to spilling over with joy.

Let us rejoice in having had her while we did.

Let us celebrate the love and the light that she brought into our lives.

Let us bear her memory as an example of what sweetness and goodness can be.

Let us love one another in remembrance of the love we have lost, carrying her always in our hearts.

Thank you Grandmother for touching our lives as you did.

You left love in this world as your wake. We weep now because we miss you dearly, but we will celebrate you always.

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