Monthly Archives: May 2015

More Memories of Memorial Day

Standard

mother portrait

“I’ll be seeing you.” This refrain played over and over in my head that first Memorial Day after my mother’s passing. It seemed that it was inserted into my memory bank for a special reason. Oddly, it was also the first time I so clearly understood that my mother had the ability to place herself into events, books, and even manifest items and occurrences by her own power. Both Richard and I were mystified and not just a little bit confused by all of this. For some reason, I thought that, if someone wanted to communicate after they “died,” they sent a tidy little sign that they were okay and not to worry about them anymore. And that would be that! My mother clearly had something bigger in order.

“I’ll be Seeing You” is a popular World War II song. It is a poignant piece, and, because I like music of that era, it is a favorite of mine. It’s meaning reverberates for me still about seeing “you” in all the old familiar places, that this heart of mine embraces. I love the lyrics that end with “I’ll be looking at the moon but I’ll be seeing you.” Most of us think of this song as referring to a romantic relationship and of those separated by the necessities of war. I was surprised when they took on meaning about a different kind of separation, a separation “beyond” the world. As this story unfolds, you will grasp the meaning more fully. It is all about love and not just any trivial love, but one that is transcendent. It is about a love that feels like your heart is bursting open in joy.

In my last writing, I explained the astonishing coincidences within the book on tape Richard and I heard en route to Ann Arbor. I see now, in retrospect, that my mother was in high gear that weekend. In fact, she presented what I have called her “piece de resistance,” one of her highest achievements up to that time. It is about the violets, one of the themes we have come to see as her “go to” form of showing her presence.

Early in the spring, well before Memorial Day, I always take pleasure in planting grass seed in our lawn. It is quirky, but I am thrilled when the grass comes up and the lawn looks more beautiful. Over the years, I have hired others to do this, but I never like the results. I guess it has something to do with my lovingly putting down the seed by hand and throwing top soil all around and then waiting…

The spring after Mother’s departure, I again set out to seed the lawn, but this time there was a big surprise for me. Large portions of the lawn were radiant with purple violets. I know my lawn. Those were never there before. In wonderment, I immediately knew they must be a gift from my mother. She would know how I would remember all the years we trekked into the woods near our home, dug up violets, and transplanted them onto our property. Even as a little girl, it was an adventure we enjoyed and relished. We would ooh and aah over the different colors and varieties that we discovered, even yellow violets. I cherish this memory.

And now, as if by magic, they were blooming all over the lawn.

A few days later, Richard and I went to New York to visit out of town friends. In a hotel room where we have stayed frequently, we discovered that there was something new there too. In the entryway to the room was a lovely botanical print of a violet, hung so we couldn’t miss it. Whenever we entered the room, there it was. That picture was never there before.

Coincidence?

Then comes Memorial Weekend and we are traveling to plant the flowers at the cemetery in Michigan. Along the way, Richard and I decided to stop in Ohio to visit his ailing brother and our sister in law. We had formulated a plan that Richard would take his brother out for lunch, while I would entertain his wife at another restaurant. They were encountering some hard times with a serious illness, and we wanted to lend support.

My sister in law, Joyce, had carefully chosen a charming little quaint cafe.
We entered and were taken to our table. My eyes grew wide when I saw what was in the centerpiece of the table — it was an antique cotton handkerchief, exactly like one my mother used when I was a child. It was emblazoned with violets all over it. I was stunned. I noticed that none of the other skirted tables had handkerchiefs under the glass on them. When the waiter came to our table, I asked him about the handkerchief. He gazed at the centerpiece and seemed as amazed as I was. He said he had never seen something like this before. (Am I in the twilight zone?) Then, by some quirk of fate, he started telling me that this grandmother had just died and he had seen her image that morning. (I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone now for sure.)
Joyce and I have often marveled at the almost surreal time we had in that restaurant that day.

Richard and I continued our journey. As we rode along, I took note of the umbrella shaped May apples flowers blooming along the side of the road. I had not seen these since I left my childhood home and, you could guess it, my mother and I also transplanted those wild flowers onto our property. There also seemed to be many billboards and churches and signs about God and Jesus. One that could not be missed was a gigantic sculpture of Jesus coming out of the lake in front of the “Solid Rock” church. I felt as if all of this was more than riding along a highway through a part of the Bible Belt. I already knew that everything happens with purpose and that I learned through yoga, not through Christianity.

But there were more plans afoot. As I look back now, with far more understanding than I had then, I can imagine my mother rubbing her hands together as she gleefully plotted her next surprise. She was holding onto these and was poised to present them to include my brother and sister in law, Bill and Judy, with whom we would visit and do the ceremonial planting of the flowers for both my mother and my father.

We never knew what wonders we would behold from minute to minute. This was becoming a great adventure into the land of miracles. Anything could happen now!

Advertisements

On Memorial Day: I’ll Be Seeing You!

Standard

mother portrait
Once again, we send abundant thanks to all who read and took time to write about the last post. This includes family, friends, and those who heard about the subject matter and decided to get involved by sharing personal stories. What seems to be happening is that many who have had communications from their departed loved ones or have wished to have this occur, have few places to go to share these thoughts. Most of us, including me, felt judged and sometimes even ridiculed for what I reported. So your insights mean a great deal.

Now, when I say us, I refer to my husband, who, along with me, cared for my mother, loved her deeply, and shared much with her, during and after her time in the world. Yet, as I said before, the “us” includes my mother. To say I am surprised and mystified by what I am experiencing, is understatement.

At various points, when mom was sending message after message, in quick succession and all so funny and joyous, I sought out the help of spirit communicators. I did not do this lightly. The world of mediums and psychics was not familiar or even welcome territory to me. I was wary, but more about this later…

The few friends who knew what was happening could see that I was struggling to understand and to not feel crazy or weird.  A few gave me leads to reliable sources to help. In the course of all of this, one stood out. She told me that when I started to write about my mother and be public about it, my mother would step fully into the process to help me. And she was right! My mother is very present now and has gotten even a little pushy, which was not at all her character in life. She was not controlling or bossy. but, don’t forget, she does not have to go by the sweet, gentle personality she had in the playbook of our life together on earth.

I am still trying to get used to this new concept. My mother is not who I thought she was. Not at all! She has had the singular power to pull me from my reticence to speak my Truth. That is not a small thing. She is powerful beyond measure – but then so are ALL of us, if we understood with clarity.

Now this was to be my writing about the miracle of the moon at the time of Mother’s passing. But it is not. Instead it is about the first Memorial Day after Mom departed. In fact, so many messages and signs came on that holiday weekend, I cannot fit them all into one writing. More will come next week.

I hope you enjoy this, Mom! And that my dear readers find it entertaining and illuminating.

Richard and I knew we would return to the cemetery for Memorial Day, to plant flowers at my parent’s grave. The day Mother’s body was buried, in January, was bleak, cloudy, and dreary. It was not unlike the way I felt. The flowers that would be left in tribute to Mother would soon become crisp and frozen. We filed from the church. My brother, Bill, and sister in law, Judy and Richard and I sat in the back of the limousine, traveling behind the hearse, flags flying to alert all others on the road we would not be stopping for traffic lights or stop signs. We were a part of a solemn cortege, the mourners accompanying the dead in a final funeral procession.

Arriving at Bethlehem Cemetery, once a quiet and rural setting but now surrounded by neighborhoods, a major highway nearby and just past a shopping center, we exited our vehicle with a steady gaze at the minister standing in wait, his robes and scarf ruffled by a breeze. The coffin sat under a newly erected tent with room for only a small group to gather but with little protection against the icy chill of the January winds. On top of the casket was the family farewell spray of white flowers and lilies. The flowers and the white represent everlasting life, like the symbol of Easter, the white lily.

As dismal as I felt, I had no doubt that, despite the death of the physical body, mother’s spirit was still very much alive. But we followed the rituals of my mother’s faith, and, I, the daughter, still in my own body, grieved at not being able to kiss my mother’s warm check or see her smile once again. The actual burial of the coffin would occur later that day and not in our presence, due to the weather conditions. When the pastor, whom I had known for many years, finished speaking and the service was complete, I held to the casket and cried. This time I would be leaving her, as I knew her, within a body. In her casket, she would be left behind covered and buried. No matter my spiritual beliefs, I wanted her back in my world of sights and sounds. Instead, I took some of the white roses and the white silky ribbon inscribed with “Mother” in gold letters. These would be keepsakes, something to hold onto and remember.

After all the guests left the lunch that followed the funeral, Judy, unbeknownst to us, drove back to the cemetery. My mother was buried by now. The pretty white flowers were resting on the snowy ground over her grave. Judy took more roses before they had a chance to freeze solid. She would dry them and bring some to our house for the Connecticut memorial service yet to come.

That night the temperature dropped dramatically, and the winds howled. Lying in bed, I felt desolate at thinking how cold it was in that coffin, my mother alone but for the soft toy Siamese cat we left next to her. I knew she was no longer inhabiting that body, but it was still not easy for me to grasp this concept. A part of me thought she must be cold and lonely. The separation I felt was deep and painful.

The next day, the plan was set to return to the cemetery in the spring. All of us would be together, to plant flowers at her grave for Memorial Day..

Months passed and Memorial Day would soon arrive. Richard and I set out by car to return to Ann Arbor, carrying with us some of Mother’s remembrances to share with the family.  We decided that, to pass the time in driving, we would listen to an audio book en route. This had become a tradition during the journey from Ridgefield, Connecticut, through New York, clear across the breadth of Pennsylvania on Route 80, into Ohio and up to Ann Arbor. We had made this trip numerous times after September 11 when my mother grew afraid to fly and the restrictions made it hard for us to be at the airport gate and for her to travel with her Siamese cat under the seat in the passenger compartment. So our only option was to drive back and forth if she was to continue visiting us for several months a year.

On these trips, we felt we needed to entertain Mom and ourselves, so I searched through books on tape at our local library.  Knowing that both my mother and Richard like to read mysteries, I found what seemed to be the perfect choice. It was a series of mysteries written by Lillian Jackson Braun. The story line included a quirky writer who had two Siamese cats, one purported to a a messenger of psychic clues. This was just the ticket – both my mother and her Siamese cat would love these stories

Excited to share what we expected to be all of us attentively listening and marveling as the mystery unfolded, we set off for that first trip, with mother and her cat, Dasher, in the back seat of the car. Within minutes when the reader began the tale, Richard and I would be listening intently. In the back seat, Mother and Dasher would immediately doze off. That was how it went for years. We got hooked on the cat stories. The motion of the car lulled mom into sleep and her increasing hearing problems made it impossible for her to enjoy those funny little tales.

So, for old times sake and because,(oh, yes, I did say we got hooked), I picked up at the library the only book we had not heard through the years. As the story emerged, Richard and I began to smile as one coincidental item or event in the book after another startled us. It sometimes seemed that my mother had chosen the storyline. We kept looking at one another, in wonder of the many “pieces” that had something to do with us or with my mother.

These are the primary “coincidences”in the storyline:. The mystery had something to do with a lost handwritten cookbook – didn’t my mother meticulously write out all her Christmas cookie recipes in little books and give them as treasured gifts to family and friends? We all talked about them, especially as mom aged and her beautiful handwriting grew more unsteady. Then, in passing, there was something about an old German Bible. Didn’t I still own the German Bible with all the exquisite artwork that had passed down from my mother’s family? There was mention several times of Columbus, Ohio (where Richard was born) and something about a TV Talk Show that had millions of viewers (hadn’t Richard executive produced the Phil Donahue Show for 18 years? It was seen by millions. And didn’t Richard and I write a book called The Talk Show Book?). Oh, then Poor Richard’s Almanac was cited. There were elaborate descriptions of cheeses that were to be served at a party. One of mom’s favorite lunches was when I made up a cheese and fruit plate for her. On a special occasion in the plot, we learn about a highland clad bagpiper, piping “Amazing Grace,’ a favorite of ours and mother’s and played by the bagpiper at the conclusion of our private Memorial Service in our home.

As we road along the highway, I began taking notes on the various portions of the book on tape that seemed to mean something to Mother and to us. I knew I would not be able to remember all of this. Now we fast forward to the present and Mother’s urging me to tell you about that book. I felt I needed to be sure I was accurate in the details. I googled and searched to find the right book. Finally I discovered the similar plot in Braun’s book, The Cat Who Said Cheese. Without enough time to order a hard copy of the book, Richard ordered it on Kindle, a device he uses but I do not. He volunteered to scan it and look for the parts I gave him in my handwritten notes. One by one, with almost as much disbelief that we felt on the first reading, they emerged. All of them, except for one.

My note said something about frogs. Frogs? I could not remember but had jotted down something about life and death. What was that? Then, in the last chapter of the book, Richard found it. The main character of the book, Qwill, had the habit of reading to his two Siamese cats. This time he was reading The Frogs, a play by Aristophanes, one of the luminaries of Greek literature. This playwright, whom I just happened to have studied in my theater classes in college, was known to bring feelings of both laughter and sadness, all at once. The quotes in the book are “Who knows if death be life and life be death?” and “Who knows whether living is dying and breathing is eating and sleeping is a wool blanket?” These are the kind of expressions that emanate from so much of my teaching of yoga, and I love both the wisdom and the silliness of Aristophanes.. Was Mother showing how her jokes and humor were reflections on what we perceive to be death? Whatever the meaning, Richard and I were touched deeply, both the first time we heard them in the car and again, yesterday.

To put a cap on the completion of this writing, I walked back into the kitchen. And, guess what? There was Dvorak’s Symphony “From the New World.” Could they be playing it so often on the radio and just at the right moments? As I heard the final chords of this magnificent piece, the announcer said,” You have just heard the NBC Orchestra, led by Arturo Toscanini. Well, you outdid yourself, Mom. It could have been any orchestra or conductor, but it was Toscanini, whom my husband met in his youth. It was Toscanini who heard Richard’s boy soprano voice singing, and who invited the twelve year old Richard to attend his farewell party in New York City before the maestro left to summer on his island in Italy. Richard still has the autographed personal photo Toscanini chose to sign to him.

Now, I ask you, could all of this have happened just by chance? No wonder Mother wanted me to tell you about our first Memorial Day. My mother is quite the maestro herself, I would say!

 

What Did My Mother Think of the Tribute?

Standard

mother portrait  WHAT DID MY MOTHER THINK OF THE TRIBUTE?

First, my thanks to  everyone for responding to the Mother’s Day Tribute to my Mother. There were so many, it has been impossible for me, at least at this time, to respond to each in a more personal way.

We were deeply touched by the kind, generous, loving words expressed and by the remembrances of those who actually knew my mother. It was moving to have people recall her recipes, her readiness to have fun, her sense of humor. Of course, Mom lived to be 98 years old so she met a lot of people along the way. And my mother and I were very close, so she knew my friends as well.

Please know how grateful I am that you took the time to write to us. And, if you feel you have friends who would want to read about this, by all means, do share it with them.

Did I say us? Yes, I am saying “us.”  Just who is the “us” I am referencing? Could it be that it is my mother AND me? Or am I being too audacious in suggesting that we are both aware of your comments? Read on, and you will see why I am making such a claim.

My intention, at the time of writing the first blog, was to forge ahead with the story, telling you more about our lives and how we became so close, describing her last days and the many miracles that began to emerge, and let you know how she set about making her presence manifest and known AFTER she left her body. This is still my intention, but something intervened.

What intervened was my mother, barely letting a beat pass before she showed her glee and approval of my first writing. Really, Mom! You couldn’t contain  yourself.

So many times over the years, people have asked (sometimes with a note of skepticism in their voice — but who can blame them?) — how my mother has communicated and how did I know it wasn’t just my imagination or coincidence or my being a little bit too liberal in my interpretations.

Here is what happened:

I finished the writing and posted the words you read last week. Pleased with what I had written, I went to the kitchen to pour myself some green tea. Our Bose radio is always tuned to WMNR, a commercial free classical station that we, including Mother, have listened to every day for over twenty years. As I walked into the room, I could hear the music that was playing. Even though I should be used to this by now, I am always delighted and surprised when one of these “coincidences” occurs.

There it was – Dvorak’s Symphony, From  the New World, my mother’s favorite afterlife theme song. I smiled in recognition, then walked to the staircase to call out to my husband, Richard, to tell him what was playing. It figured, this same music was one of my mother’s signature pieces of communication. Still, we are surprised whenever these  messages are received.

You may not know this piece of music. It is most recognized as it became associated in gospel form around the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As the train, bearing the body of Roosevelt passed by, a lone black man in uniform,with tears streaming down his face, played it on his accordian. The largo part of the symphony is sometimes called “Goin’ Home.” When it was set to lyrics it includes words like “I’m just going home,” “work all done,” and “there’s no break, there’s no end, just a living on.” I madly searched for this piece, to be played at my mother’s memorial tribute, not realizing it was Dvorak. You would know the music, it was repeatedly played by the lone bagpiper at one service after another for the firemen who passed on September 11. My mother and I wept whenever we heard it during those sad days.

The formal funeral for mother was held in Michigan at the church of her childhood. She was laid to rest in the cemetery next to my father. But this was far from Connecticut where we lived.  Richard and I wanted to memorialize her here, in the home where she had lived for many years, where her beloved Siamese cat still resided (with us now) and where she had been included in our parties and our lives. This was our personal tribute to Mom and Richard and I handled every piece of it, including the bagpiper playing “Goin’ Home.” There is more to this story, but my mother’s glee was palpable and I could feel her smiling ear to ear, at having someone “pipe” her home.

Over the months and years to follow, the Dvorak symphony would suddenly be playing on special days or celebrations, or when we did something that made mom happy.  On one occasion, we called in a donation to WMNR, the radio station we like, and, though we never asked for it to be played, there was Dvorak.  Mother has surprised us with her ingenuity. She managed to make the point that she was still around, particularly if Richard and I were having a disagreement. There it was, Mother dropping by! She “dropped by” so often, we got used to this signature piece of evidence she sent.

The thought of “going home,” as a metaphor for death, was not ever discussed in our household or verbalized during the weeks prior to her departure. Yet, only days before she departed her body, lying in bed, she dreamily spoke those words. “Home soon,” she said, as I sat by her bedside. She seemed to be speaking to some unseen someone in the room. Her sweet face expressed contentment. She knew she was going home.

But Mother was not finished making her presence known, regarding the Mother’s Day Tribute.

Two days after, I was again in the kitchen. Sitting at my desk, I was readying to call a dear friend in Chicago who lived next door to us there and who was as close to her mother as I was to mine. While living in Chicago, we used to take out mothers out to lunch and then drive both of them crazy with our zany humor. They just shook their heads and put up with our loving, though silly comments. “What are you having your mother do to help out?” we would say to each other. “Well, Mom cleaned out all the gutters yesterday,” and we would cackle and laugh at our ludicrous jokes. Mother and I had such happy times with Linda and her mother.

As I started to dial Linda’s number, I noticed something sticking out from under one of the wall hung bookshelves that housed my collection of cookbooks. I pulled at the object and out came a plastic coated insurance card. It belonged to my mother. It was something I carried to all her doctor’s appointments and hospital stays. Mom and I used to laugh about her name on the card. Mother’s first and middle names were Esther Dena. On the card it read E.D. One time while waiting for an appointment for a doctor, the person calling mom into the examination room, said they were ready for Ed. We laughed and laughed, and I took to calling her Ed, from time to time, which always resulted in bales of  laughter. Mother and I loved to laugh.

But what was that card doing, over seven years after mom has left the world, sticking out of a bookcase? Not a likely thing, you see. Yet here is something else to know. Mother has taken pleasure in “hiding” flat objects, like cards or photographs in books. A photograph of her famous Christmas cookies, showed up in one book. One day I was planning to give to my yoga students some quotes on love. In my spiritual book collection, I found the book, (one of my favorites now) called Narada’s Way of Divine Love. I hadn’t opened it for years. Tucked inside was a photograph of my mother and me, taken at a surprise birthday party in Chicago many years before. The party was given by the same Linda I mentioned earlier and my other great friend, Alice. There we were, Mom and me, dressed up and smiling happily.

Was all of this a coincidence? Was it by chance that that photograph just happened to be in one of the most powerful books about love known to me? What do you think?

So I have digressed from the unfolding of Mother’s story, but only because she wanted me to tell you about this. Thanks, Mom, I hope they are enjoying our new blog post.

Soon I will tell you about the full moon and what happened the day Mom left her body. There is so much Grace and Beauty to behold!

A Special Mother’s Day Tribute

Standard
A Special Mother’s Day Tribute

mother portraitHappy Mother’s Day, Mom! This is YOUR story, the one we have shared and I have tried for so long to write. It is my special gift to you in honor of Mother’s Day. I love you!

What you, the reader, will see as this writing unfolds is something that springs, full blown, from my heart. It began to be written, (actually I was “commanded” to write it), only weeks after my mother took leave of her body, or, as we tend to say, “died.” In all the times I attempted to write on this most significant story of my life, I seemed to be thwarted and never allowed to finish it. I was not yet ready…

Now I know that my mother and I are jointly sharing this writing with you, but this will take some time to explain.

 

While my mother was “in the world”, she taught me many skills, like how to sew my own clothes, and curtains, and pillows. She patiently showed me how to cook and bake (especially her family favorite Christmas cookies). She shared ways to make our home warm and attractive. She made it fun to be inventive and try new foods and experience different cultures. I learned from her the joy of reading books and learning new ideas and skills. She helped me to develop a love for theatre and music and dance, enrolling me in ballet classes at a very young age. Overall, she did not program my life in such a way that I couldn’t make up my own ways to play with friends, with pretend restaurants and menus, forts and talent shows. All this has traveled with me throughout my life and I so appreciate every bit of it. Thank you, Mom!

But the best was yet to come. The greatest gift came AFTER she left this world. It came in the form of profound mystical experiences that surrounded her as she took leave and then, after she was “gone.” Much to the surprise of both my husband and me, Mother seemed to make it her mission to show us, without a shadow of a doubt, that life and love is eternal. No small undertaking!

In her lifetime, my mother had not been a particularly religious or spiritual person as far as I could tell. Yet, once she was free of the confines of a body, the spiritual power and force she demonstrated was astonishing. Through her charming and whimsical signs, manifestations, musical interludes, phone messages, and all forms of reminders, she was making clear to us that she was present and, in the course of time, I was to make this known that each of us is the Light of Divine Love and Eternal Life. Only because of my mother’s urgency and enthusiasm am I able to have the courage and clarity to tell you about my mother and how we came to know this Truth.

I borrow now from an earlier description of our “story,” which I have so far called Until the Full Moon: a Mother and Daughter’s Mystical Journey Through Life, Death, and Beyond.

“Our well tended lawn was purple with violets. They were never there before. Where did they come from? Two days later, a print hanging on the wall in our New York hotel room was a detailed botanical drawing of a violet. We often stayed in this room and never saw that before. Then a pretty antique handkerchief, identical to the one my mother used when I was a girl, showed up decorating the centerpiece on a table in a little restaurant in Ohio. It had violets all over it. Was it just a coincidence or yet another way my mother was sending me a cheery message, months after her death? She knew I would remember all the years she and I transplanted purple violets from the woods around our house and that I often made tiny violet bouquets for her. Soon my mother was sending songs on the radio, a photo of her legendary cookies tucked into a book about love, and even a plastic cheeseburger to remind us of our visits to MacDonald’s. Were these just coincidences? Not a chance.

“The odds are against us. One out of one dies.” So wrote Maggie Callanan in her book, Final Journeys, quoting her father as he ruminated on the certainty of death. But what if death is nothing more than a crossing over, a shedding of a temporary body? What if we move into another plane of existence, sometimes called heaven, where the “deceased” can still make jokes, send heartening reminders, leave their name on a cell phone, and bring signs of love to those left behind. While an afterlife is commonly accepted in many spiritual philosophies (indeed, 84% of Americans believe the soul survives after death), it was nonetheless a surprise to my husband and me when my ninety eight year old mother departed the world but did not depart from us. Instead she sent hundreds of reminders of her love for us.

“We will always be together,” were the words I spoke to my mother as she and I struggled with the inescapable confrontation with death. Mother had been living with us for several years, and, finally, in hospice care, the end was certain. She and I had a deep and abiding love that stood the test of time as the role of mothering reversed and death neared. I became her fierce defender and protector. I took on doctors, nursing home administrators, anyone who discounted her as too old to matter. In the midst of the mundane duties of care giving and the classes I was teaching in spiritual studies, mystical events began to occur at our home. At first, I was incredulous, then I felt fear and denial, until the frequency of these “miracles” and their purpose became evident. They were signs of grace and divine love meant to be enjoyed and shared and, unexpectedly, my mother was to be the foremost deliverer of these messages.

I invite you to join us in weeks to come as we explore together, and with my mother too, the certainty of eternal life and love. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain when you come to see YOURSELF as the Light of Divine and Eternal Love!