My stepdaughter Kristen and her husband Sabin have recently succeeded—after many attempts over the past 8 years—in having their first child together: a beautiful baby boy named Ethan. Sabin came to their marriage with a bright-eyed little daughter, Kayla. Kayla, to whom Kristen has been the best stepmother that any child could ever want, is now in high school. So, when Kristen’s wish to have a baby with Sabin was finally granted, we were all thrilled. I do believe that Kristen’s father, my late husband Harold, is ecstatic as well. I imagine him looking down on the scene in the hospital with a huge smile on his face, proud that he’d had a hand in nudging the ‘Powers that Be’ into granting his sweet daughter this boon. However, I am also sad that Harold is no longer able to be here in person to hold and experience the joy of his grandchildren, as he did with Kayla.
As I sat in my sister’s den that day after Ethan’s birth. I held this discussion with Harold in my head, looking upward, as people tend to do when talking to dead loved ones. Suddenly, my vision was directed to a wall hanging across the room from where I was sitting. I realized that I must have passed by this cross-stitch piece many times over the years of visiting my sister Jan’s home, but I’d never given it any thought. I got up and walked over to see what my diverted attention was all about.
The title of the piece was “Life.” Next to that was a picture of a monarch butterfly in stitchery and the words below: “Life is not perfect, but there are perfect moments.”
I was taken aback at the meaningfulness of this coincidence. Butterflies had been a metaphor surrounding Harold’s death, having been symbols in his dreams long before he knew the nature of his own impending transformation. My last words to him, besides telling him that I loved him, were about becoming that butterfly and heading toward the Light.
I didn’t need to be reminded that life isn’t perfect. I’d lost both Harold and my first husband Gene to cancer, and was in Florida at Jan’s because her husband, my brother-in-law, Curtis, had just died that week. My husbands both died relatively young, but Curt’s death at 77 clearly drove home the fact that my siblings and I are ALL GOING TO DIE, and sooner than later. The thought crossed my mind, “Screw everything I’ve said and written about becoming the Wise Woman, Crone!”
This getting old was turning out to be of no interest at all to me…
So, there you have it. It seems, what I did need to consider more fully was the perfect moments part of the saying on that wall hanging. Thinking about this, I realized many such moments had already happened that week in spite of my grief over losing the man I’d loved for the past 50 years as my ‘brother from another mother.’
Even in grief, I had experienced delight at times when interacting with family members who live in Tampa Bay, as well as with those who had come, like myself, from various other parts of the country to pay their respects. I had the pleasure of meeting my nephew Eric’s and his wife Sarah’s funny, charming six-month old baby August for the first time. I was able to attend one of my son Dylan’s music gigs while in Florida and to feel the maternal joy of observing him as a master of his craft. Time spent with Dylan and his wife Angie at our favorite beaches along the Gulf-of-Mexico was also special; all that sun and surf and negative ions and such. And, of course, the birth of Ethan, who chose to enter this life just days after Curtis had taken his leave.
While in this state of mixed sorrow and gratitude, words of psychologist/author James Hillman came to mind:
Even as plummet-bound bodies, decaying, dying as we learn through life, we remain nonetheless force fields of energy, dancing on the grave of history and aflame with eternal fires.
These thoughts give me peace of mind that while my loved ones will grieve my own passing some day, they will get beyond that, as we all must, and continue to experience their own challenges and perfect moments, as will their loved ones, and their loved ones after that, ad infinitum.
Several hours after hearing of Curt’s passing, I came across these words my friend Andy had posted on a social media site, “The magnitude and intensity of loss are a constant reminder of the greatness and eternal presence of the Ancestors.”
It’s funny how memory works. As I now contemplate those words—thoughts that were meaningful in reference to our family’s sorrow over the loss of Curt—a snapshot of my past comes to mind:
I used to love spring and summer in Michigan. We had 15 acres and large gardens. I was a worker bee, who enjoyed planting, weeding, and working in clay loam, getting muddy and sweaty in the summer sun. However, the fact that our gardens thrived was due to my husband Gene’s green thumb. That man could make anything grow, like his father before him. This wand has been passed on to my daughter Julie, who is her father’s child. Sometimes when she is standing in our yard in Berkeley, surveying the loveliness of her handiwork, contemplating ‘what to dig up and move to where,’ she reminds me so much of him.
Life does go on in all its imperfect perfection.
We are force fields of energy, aflame with eternal fires.
There are ancestors among us.