Synchronicity or the Head Clobbering

thistlefarmsheaderThistle Farm women

Synchronicity. Some believe in it. Some call it coincidence. Some call it grace. Many believe it is the presence of “The Holy Spirit.” My three older sons do not believe it and sometimes I am so enthusiastic about something that has happened to them that I am sure is leading to something else or already has. I say, “Oh see, that is why you were there then!” They don’t believe that one bit and simply give me that stare of “Oh sure.” It is hardest to believe in when one is suffering and trying to be reminded that there will be a learning, a purpose, and a better way or at the very least a “wiser way,” afterwards. I am not sure what these in-your-face moments are, but I wholeheartedly believe.

During Lent last year I participated in a book study through church where we read, “Hither and Yon- A Travel Guide for the Spiritual Journey” by Becca Stevens, and Episcopal priest. I was so enamored with this book and with the writer that I still have no less than 32 sticky notes on important pages! I was mostly grabbed by the authors experience as the founder of Magdalene House, a residential community for women with a criminal history of prostitution and drug abuse. These women come to this home beaten both physically and in every way possible through trafficking and long, wretched journeys through the very worst of life. Here they are housed for two years, rent free, and taught a new way of life that includes entrepreneurship, skills, sobriety, and most of all self respect and worth. It is astonishing in its success and unique in its sustainability.

Apparently, Becca noticed a plethora of thistles growing around this property and when she picked them, she also noticed a creamy feeling on her hands. Thistle Farms has become a hugely successful venture of lotions, salves, oils, teas, and more with a production facility on the premises. Through marketing, savvy packaging and promotion the products have gained world wide distribution and provide training, jobs, and income for the sustainability of this non-profit and for the women who are expected to work in some capacity for this business. Amazing!

I was unable to attend the retreat held here in Raleigh a few weeks ago, where Becca spoke for the entire weekend. I did however catch her sermon on Sunday where she appeared on the altar barefoot for the entire service. I loved her even more than I expected to. And more, I love what she does with the utmost respect, empathy and empowerment she offers to the most broken of us all. With my degree in buying and merchandising I am also totally attracted to a model of sustainability in a non-profit rather than the more typical hand-out-begging on a consistent basis.

I was so inspired by Becca Stevens and more recently by reading her book, “Snake Oil,” that some friends of mine and I dream of creating a homestead version of Thistle Farms here in Raleigh. It seems like an overwhelming but very enticing project to embrace and yet, we will actually have our first meeting on this topic in a couple of weeks. It all rolls around in my head often along with the other ten or twenty projects typically also rolling around in my head! I need to reel myself in on a regular basis.

This past weekend was Memorial Day and we spent it in Washington DC at a wedding with our family. On Sunday, Shep and I were determined to attend the service in Washington Cathedral and I was as blown away by its grandeur as I expected I would be. However, the Pentecost sermon by Rev. Canon Gina Gilland Campbell was just “okay” and not grabbing me. There was plenty for me to look around at and keep myself distracted so that was fine. When she began describing the story of “Denise” who’d been a prostitute for years I was drawn in. What follows is the part of her sermon that made me sit up, take notice, and prepare for the clobbering over my head.

Denise came to visit me for help in discerning direction for her life and ministry. The Spirit’s pull proved very strong. Denise was resisting.

 

She asked me to describe parish ministry; the rhythms of sermon preparation and liturgy planning, visiting the sick and the homebound, running a Sunday School. And I am holding in my hand the scores of her aptitude testing for ministry; her gifts and grace for mission and evangelism, for service to the poor and disenfranchised, simply flying off the page.

 

We kept talking, for ten, maybe 12 years. And during all those years, the Spirit continually pushed Denise out into the neighborhood. A rape survivor, her heart for serving abused and misused women astonishes. From Denise, I first heard the stories of the meanness and magnitude of the sex trafficking industry in our country. She knows these women and their children.

 

The church Denise worked at had long ago fled their changing inner city neighborhood for the outmost suburbs of the city. Denise led an adult Bible study and taught an adult Sunday School class. She shared her prayer with them, and her dream: a place where women and their children escaping abusive and dangerous situations could call home. The women would agree to enroll in school, to provide attentive care to their children, to work towards independence.

 

Do you know what happened? Someone gave her a lease on 15 acres of land for a dollar a year. Three hundred volunteers built a four room house and furnished it and became the first volunteer staff. Magdalena House, place of hope and promise, in less than seven years became two houses and continues to expand and grow. “You have to invest in a woman’s life every day to make a difference.” says Denise.

 

And some will say it is the wine. And others will say it is the Spirit.

 

And so, as I usually do when these startling winks come my way I thought “Now what made me be in this place at this moment to hear this sermon which is only being delivered at this service?” I think I know the answer. I needed to hear that this happens in places other than Nashville, TN with Becca Stevens and that perhaps my church community and my friends can be part of something just this important to heal the hearts and souls of broken women and children. I call it The Holy Spirit that helps me be in the place I am meant to be each and every day. You can call it whatever you’d like, or nothing at all, but it happens just the same. If you pay attention you get the extra bonus of the thrill of it all and your heart makes that leap!

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The Fairy Godmother Gets the Love

Fairy GodmotherIMG_1285

On a regular basis I criticize my youngest son for “having few or no emotions.” I don’t feel good about this but it is inevitable, given that I am one of the world’s most emotive and reactive people, paired with a 16 year old who rarely if ever shows any sign of anxiety, fear, sadness, excitement, dread, regret or remorse. So, as you might imagine there is much friction and angst. Every day I promise myself that I will not criticize him for this and that I will accept him as he is. I employ every one of the 12 steps to bring me close to letting go, letting God and knowing that this is his journey not mine. And, I fail every single day.

But, again and again, I become frustrated. I want feedback. “Do you like it/him/her or hate it/him/her?” “Do you want to go or not go?“ “Are you happy about this or sad?” “I’m excited that you got that job, are you?” “You hurt my feelings so will you apologize?” I NEED feedback. I get none. I ask more questions and make it worse.

One of my older sons has chastised me for doing this and says that I MUST stop saying that his younger brother has “no feelings.” He is right and I know it and yet, I fall into the pit over and over again.

He wanted desperately to go to the beach with friends this past Memorial Day weekend. At first I waivered as I often do, but then I decided that every one of my sons should come with us to this wedding luncheon we were invited to in D.C. He was less than thrilled as were his older brothers too. Sometimes though you just have to put your foot down and say, “We are all going” and yet, you wonder if they will simply say, “I don’t think so.”

But we all did go to share in a celebration of a couple’s west coast marriage for those of us on the east coast. These were friends of ours who had been family for the last 35 years and it seemed like the sweetest thing to do. But, for this youngest boy in our family, who barely knew the family, he came along reluctantly. He was miserable about missing the beach trip.

Our one friend had been the closest to us of all and she lived in DC. She went on college visits with some of my sons, took them everywhere whenever we came to the Capital City, came for long visits staying in our home, sent the perfect gift or book to each of the boys for every one of their occasions for their whole lives. She shopped in a small local children’s bookstore named, “Fairy Godmother” where they got to know each of my six sons and what they were interested in. It is in Eastern Market where most of her shopping is done. But she really is their “fairy godmother” and the real godmother to two of my sons. She’s also been their aunt, their grandmother, my sister and all other things needed when they were. When she would visit she remained a committed smoker and would step out on our deck to smoke on a regular basis. It seemed so odd for someone so brilliant and successful, who cared about her health, loved life, adored traveling, and who had lost both parents to cancer. She had a cough that never was concerning, became winded more easily and finally was diagnosed with COPD not too long. She is now tethered to oxygen.

Time had passed since we’d seen her and yet she prepared me for how thin she had gotten. She was indeed thin, almost frail and it was hard to fathom that she now had round the clock live in help. When the lovely luncheon was over, we walked her out to get her into the car that would take her home. We each hugged her tight, told her we loved her and began to leave.

But, the son “without emotion,” (the one who I imagine read a book about a Navy seal once and decided that “Yep, I will be tough no matter what and no one will get to me,”) THAT son walked her to the car. And THAT son bent down as she got in, hugged her and kissed her on the top of the head. I was touched so deeply that it caught my breath and I felt hot tears welling in my eyes. I walked to our car in silence. I know this. He is okay. He has a heart that is tender and empathetic and what else could be more important? I learned what I needed to know and I should remember this now when I search for something that is not mine to see.

PRIESTS, CELIBACY, AND FEMALES

Clergy 6a00e54eea6129883300e54f2b19d88834-800wi

I was raised Roman Catholic through during far less enlightened times than these and long before the hip Pope Francis. The priests were single and celibate. The nuns were the same, kind of, because I guess they really weren’t single, sporting wedding bands and claiming their marriage to God. What is there to say about that? I won’t get started on nuns, because that is a landmine for me, and a whole other story for a whole other time, so we’ll shelve that one.

This is about clergy, priests in particular. I am not a researcher, so this will not be based on facts or long studies that involve placebos or clinical trial groups. As is usually my style, I am sharing my observances and my thoughts about what I see and how I think it works or in this case, doesn’t work so well.

The idea of Catholic priests and celibacy is an example of didn’t work out so well. It is still the required condition and commitment for any Catholic priest despite all of the disastrous outcomes of huge percentages of priests and worse for their devastated victims. Still, the Catholic Church requires this sacrifice of their mostly young men who come to seminary having received the “calling.” I have yet to figure out when and where God said, “Sorry you can’t be sexual and serve me at the same time.”

When I wasn’t busy trying to peek up under the nun’s veil to see if her head was shaved, I was busy waiting for the “whisper of Christ in my ear.” Told that it would come on one glorious day I waited patiently, sure that I would be deserving of such an ethereal and life changing moment. When I never got the whisper I figured that I just wasn’t good enough or holy enough and still I waited. I thank God now for skipping my ear in that whispering process. I digress.

Back to the priests. So yes, they were an odd and quirky lot. The old ones were cantankerous, often drinking too much, telling somewhat bawdy jokes that all were required to be laughed at, whether funny or not. They were catered to and treated with reverence and a sort of worship akin to presidents and such. They had maids and cooks and often beautiful and historical residences called rectories. Bridget and Ellen were sisters who came from Ireland and the perfect servants for the role. I do believe that they felt they were serving God! They dotted around giggling, serving, and keeping all the secrets with their lilting brogues always praising these mere mortal men who had their own battalion of inner demons. In a good parish some devotee would collect money and buy them a car. It was usually a Buick and almost always black, but hey, it was a FREE car!

The rectory of the parish I belonged to in Brooklyn was in a ghetto neighborhood that even back in the 60’s was riddled with crime. But the rectory was a mass of valued Oriental carpets, mahogany detailed stairs and paneling, a grand dining room and long carpeted stairs that led to the secrets of the priest’s bedrooms. My friend and I worked evenings in the rectory, answering the phones and doing some filing while being ever so intrigued by what might exist up that stairway. So tempted were we, that on a few occasions when no one else was around, I stood vigil at the bottom while she ran up to the bedrooms and looked around. I wonder still, if someone had walked through the front door just what she would have done. Hid in a closet forever? Climbed out a window? Hid under the bed? Just what were we thinking? We never found anything particularly sensational, but I suspect those items were well hidden.

Years passed, we all moved away, got married, had families and I had little or nothing to do with the Catholic Church. I married a man who was as they say, “a cradle Episcopalian” and I am not a fan of that expression because to me, it is akin to “blue blood purebred.” But, I was intrigued by this church and found that it not only had a sense of humor and lightness, but it had married healthy clergy and praise God some were women! I was in with one felt swoop and the shaking of the Episcopal Bishop of Long Island’s hand! Done. Converted.

Once we moved to North Carolina in the early 90’s with my then four children, we set out to church shop. After the first one we went to my nine year old said, “If you ever take me there again, I will throw up.” Needless to say, we did not revisit. We came upon a small church where we were told, “Please come back. We have a great rector who is away on vacation, but she is a Type A personality and wonderful.” I’m not sure which grabbed me more, the type A part or the fact that this place was led by a woman, but we were back and stayed for the next 12 years!

This woman was one of the most gifted speakers I ever heard, and that was true Sunday after Sunday, since she ran the church on her own back then with an occasional respite by a deacon. She ran deep, was hysterically funny and irreverent at times (appropriately) and leaned so heavily to the left she could have fallen over. I learned something new and spiritually innovative each time she opened her mouth. My entire political perspective changed. We became friends and our sons played together often. He was an only child and as parents of only children do, they often take your kid places for a companion and well that worked fine with me! My kids believed that her parents were their grandparents and loved them. Our friendship grew and though I never felt that I was part of her “inner circle” I was so grateful to have her in my life, especially years later when one of my sons died and she became my lifeline.

Speaking of “inner circles,” this tends to happen often with clergy. It is this magical place where you are definitely an “in crowd” member and looked upon with envy. It is as if the most popular kid in school has taken you in and this a cool place to be. I feel it happens even more with female clergy than with male, but it works both ways, though there is golf playing and slugs of beer with the males more as opposed to coffee or lunch with females.

So back to my friend and priest. She was sick ALL the time. Albeit she had lost her spleen years back which makes one vulnerable to repeated infections so that was a big issue, but in this field, she was exposed to mega germs day in and day out and let’s be frank, a priest practically puts her fingers in your germy mouth when delivering hosts during Eucharist! She was exhausted ALL the time. She often missed the school plays and the events of her adopted and beloved only son. Her days had no beginning and no end . There are rarely days off and you are on call 24/7 likely being called more often than the average CEO or heart surgeon! Someone is sick, or had a baby, or is dying, or is crying, or suicidal, or coming out of the closet, or questioning their faith, or being abused, or homeless and hungry, or angry, or grief stricken, or needing communion or last rites or, on and on and on. I cannot even imagine, because again, I am so glad I never heard the whisper.

Not to have an entirely negative spin here because I do feel with all my heart that these women absolutely love their work and feel that indeed, they are walking Jesus’ walk and doing Jesus’ work as desired. They live a life likely feeling as close to God as one can and their lives are filled with more grace filled moments than the average. They beam when they preach and when they process down the aisles of church for services. Somehow they learned not to cry from the pulpit, which always fascinated me. Is there a course taught on that? Must be. But, I am not sure about the level of demands this work insists upon.

When my priest and friend had a major stroke in 2008, our church changed and the parade of “substitute teachers” (precisely known as “supply priests” or “interims”) were mostly awful and the youth program deteriorated. She was guarded like the pope or a famous actress following cosmetic surgery. No one was allowed to visit or see her in her altered state. Meals could be delivered, but left on the doorstep. Cards could be sent. But, she was protected so closely by her posse that parishioners became frustrated and hurt to the point of giving up on giving help. They loved her so deeply and wanted with all their hearts to give back some of the love she had given so freely, yet they were never allowed in. This went on for so long and was so restrictive that eventually they did give up and lost interest, never to attempt visiting again to this day, seven years later. For a woman as brilliant and social as she was, this could not have been helpful and remains a mystery to me how the exclusivity became her detriment leading to isolation. She was never able to return and we left seeking a new church with programs and clergy that felt like a good fit. We found a downtown church where we really liked the rector and assistants. Though he was a male, both associates were females and one was already a friend. Though the culture and population still seem like a poor fit for us, the programs and clergy seemed more important.

In being friends with the female clergy here I have witnessed similar stresses and unrealistic expectations of them. I see them always needing to be someplace and likely never feeling like they are in the right place while rushing to get to the next one. Their spouses and kids wait. Dinner waits. Vacations wait. Sundays are never part of the family weekend. As my friend says, “there is just never time to make a salad.” And when one is finally on their way home to attempt to make the salad, the call comes, “Please come now, my mother is dying,” and so the car turns around to head to the hospital. No salad.

And being as self conscious as most of us females are, no matter how hard we try to liberate ourselves, I imagine there are often the unwanted thoughts on the altar as the spotlight soars down onto the priest of, “Is my hair looking gray? Do I look fat? Did I remember my earrings? Are they too big? Is my stole straight? Are my kids hating me being up here? What if I fall in front of everyone? What if I get sick in the middle of the service? What if that baby slips out of my arms into the baptismal font?” Maybe they have enough spiritual connection and enough strength of the Holy Spirit around them at all times to skip this litany but I know I would be thinking those things. And if and when the female clergy become ill, it is completely overwhelming. Hundreds or thousands of parishioners can descend with lasagnas, prayers, cards, visits, stories of their friend’s friend who had the same disease, etc” Not unwelcome and always appreciated but completely overwhelming and insatiable for the givers.

I am a feminist and have been since N.O.W. began in the 70’s, but I am a realist feminist if there is such a thing. I am a strong breastfeeding advocate so I do not think that parenting roles are interchangeable and I was a stay at home mom for many years, eternally grateful for my husband providing just barely enough to keep us afloat. I think women and men ARE different and relate differently to our own gender as well as the opposite. Hard as we may try, I think that by and large these differences continue to exist in most cases. Women thrive on talking. Even when I see little girls in my practice (as the mother of six sons, I have none!), they are talking to each other, to their moms, to themselves, way more than little boys. We love to talk to each other and most of the time, we NEED to talk to each other about nearly everything. This may be a luxury that women clergy are denied. They CAN’T talk about most things they deal with every day. It’s far worse than HIPPA for heaven’s sake. I know they have “spiritual advisors” for this purpose, but maybe that’s once a week if they’re lucky and it just can’t be the same as meeting for coffee to dissect every inch of what is going on in our lives and with whom, across from a good friend! There has to be intense lonesomeness for a priest and likely for males as well as females, but I suspect, less so. What an odd life for a female.

And speaking of males, I imagine there is similar sentiment amongst those married with young children. They too are rarely able to have a normal uninterrupted family life, exhausted with the demands of a church that never ceases having needs and extremely intense seasons for two very long periods of time each year. They too must suffer the “I’m never in the right place at the right time” feeling as well as the “what ifs” on the altar.

So, here’s my outrageous thought. I am wondering if the Catholics had it right all along. If in fact, being celibate and unmarried allows one to be more able to cope with the extreme demands of this inhuman job. I mean I wish it didn’t mean that they also had to be celibate because well, you know how that ended up and I don’t know how this could be handled. Like ummm, “Well, you can be in a relationship, but it cannot be demanding and you cannot live together or be married and well, she/he has to be okay with your 24/7/365 demands.” Not realistic? Neither is this calling or job. Something really has to change to save the psyches and health of these lovely and brilliant women (and yes, men too) who have so selflessly given their hearts and their souls to the love of God and the caring for us all.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF MAY

LTYM second night

Sometimes when my head and heart are this full, it is hard for me to write. But, at the same time there are a million thoughts running through my mind that I want to record before they melt away.

For the last 20 years May has been my most dreaded month. When my son died on May 4, 1995, the calendar became more of a chart of sorts that included before, during, and after. Typically, towards the end of April with daffodils and azaleas blooming, I would start to have this nervous, sinking feeling that the dreaded anniversary was coming. In the first few years this meant launching balloons, sitting at the Memorial Garden, having flowers on the altar in his name, a family dinner and more. Every minute of it felt awful and deeply internal. I used to always say, “In case the mind forgets the date, don’t worry the body will remember,” and indeed the free- floating anxiety would validate that concept. In more recent years there was just the remembering and the wondering and the missing.

I saw an ad in the newspaper last year for a show called, “Listen to Your Mother” and was intrigued to the point of convincing my newly formed book group to attend. We ate dinner across the street and went to the show at Peace College in Raleigh. Fourteen women stood up one by one and told their stories relating to motherhood or mothering and I was mesmerized. I loved every word and felt stunned when one woman, Mandy related her story of losing her precious baby daughter. When we came out of the theater, my friends said, “You are so doing this next year.” I laughed and said, “No way.”

Well, I remembered and poked around in January to find out what to do. I learned that I needed to submit an essay for consideration and then wait. What would I write? In my 33 years of mothering and in working with mothers, I have hundreds of stories. In all my years prior to those and including those, I have often related the horrendous way I was mothered! It didn’t seem like this would be a good topic to delve into for this venue. I was encouraged to write about my experiences as a lactation consultant working with new mothers but that just didn’t grab me. I knew I had one big, life-changing story in my heart and that was the loss of my two-year old son. It would have been his 22nd birthday when I sat down for an entire day and wrote a 15 page essay on holding him from birth to death. 15 pages? This would never do, since it was to be a five-minute reading!

I wrote and rewrote and had friends edit and rewrote again and again and again. It was difficult deleting details that I felt were so important to this story, but it had to be done in order for me to enter. Finally, at the deadline, I submitted my abbreviated and yet, still way too long story. It was accepted and I was beyond thrilled. In fact, I really could not believe it!

Then, came the audition where I went to the producer’s home and read for her and her partner. They were crying before I read the first line, which made me even more nervous but somehow I held it together, thanked them, left, and sat in my car draped over the steering wheel sobbing. My entire insides had turned to mush and all the grief came back grabbing my heart again, like a vice grip.

My husband, Shep and I drove to Florida in February for a wedding and a visit to his family. With the top down one day as we happily drove around Miami I said, “Oh, I forgot to check my email.” There it was—I was accepted to be a cast member and part of “Listen to Your Mother” 2015. I would be reading my story of love and loss on the exact 20th anniversary of the funeral for my son! The ironies of life never cease to amaze me.

A few days have passed since this momentous event and I find it difficult to express how much it meant to me. When we were all seated on stage and the lights were still on, I could sift through the sea of faces finding my loves, my family, my friends, and more which touched me so deeply. There were enough rehearsals and practice readings so that I was able to get through my heartbreaking story without a tear, which I would never have imagined. It was quite a feeling to think I was being listened to and validated and to know that others shared my feelings as well. When I read, there was silence and all were listening. As the mother of six children, you can imagine how rarely I feel listened to! I was anxious about my children hearing the story that changed their lives in its entirety as well, so I was glad when the lights were such that I could no longer see their actual faces but could still hear their sighs and their sniffling. And oh my heart ached to put my husband, Shep through the listening of the worst day in his life, once again. For my two children born after this tragedy, I was aware that this might be the very first time they were hearing the whole story of what took place before their time.

In these last few months a bond formed between the 12 women and me. Each had a different story of mothering or being mothered including the near deaths of children, the dreads of children becoming adults, reinventing step-motherhood, the care of one’s mother nearing the end of her life, a mother living with debilitating illness, the disappointments in childhood and the hilarious rendition of a single mom’s journey into online dating. We’d shared our hearts and our immense strength, and we chatted often on social media. There was a great fuss made over each of us with gifts and photos, flowers and accolades. It was completely thrilling for me. After the second performance each of us still were amped on adrenalin and yet, completely spent.

So, let me say this about May. This May is glorious! It began with this opportunity of a lifetime and will continue for the next two weekends. Next Saturday we will attend the long awaited graduation from Guilford College for my third son, Oliver. He struggled so much through school as it was never easy for him and he never seemed to get that it was about “learning” and not just “passing.” Oliver had to leave college after three years and it took the last five years for him to want to go back. When he finally wanted it badly enough, it was a whole new experience and he shined like freshly polished sterling silver. A straight “A” student, was never how I would have described this son, but oh yes, he is now and has been for all of these last two years. I could not be more proud and he has become an excellent teacher, cook, activist and most of all an exemplary man of heart, soul, and integrity, not to mention, completely hilarious.

Following that weekend, we will attend a wedding luncheon in Washington DC for old family friends who have been through so much. The groom has visited hell and come back many times, so this day will be a glorious day of redemption and resurrection of the very best kind. All of my sons will attend and that in and of itself is always a celebration.

So, this May 2015 has been an excellent May so far with more to come. I am honored, I am excited, I am hopeful and have new friends. Most of all, I am deeply grateful.

TWENTY YEARS AGO TODAY- The Funeral in Raleigh, North Carolina

EULOGY May 9. 1995Altar-300x222

A funeral had been held in Hampton Bays, New York for my 27 month old son Gregory on the day after he died. Following that nightmare we drove for 10 hours back to North Carolina in a stunned yet traumatized state. When we got to our house on Mapleridge Drive in Raleigh, our friends, priest, and neighbors had put away or hidden every trace of Gregory. This sent me into an even greater panic and I became nearly hysterical searching for his toys and his things. Immediately, all were placed back into their original spots. It’s not that it was better either way, it was just that every nerve in my body was electrified and I could not tolerate any more changes, no matter how miniscule.

Our priest and friend, Diane Corlett arrived the next day to help us plan a second funeral here in Raleigh at Church of the Nativity, where we were members. We had to choose hymns, readings, readers, an urn, and more, all of which were impossible to do. She left that evening with all ready for the funeral to be held the next day. I stayed up all that night crying endlessly and wrote the following eulogy, which I actually stood up and read at the funeral. I will never know how I was able to do that except for the fact that the Holy Spirit must have decided that she needed to fill me with every ounce of courage she had to spare. I certainly had not one ounce of my own strength in me.

Eulogy – May 9, 1995

My darling, little Gregory.

When you were born

Just two short years ago

A new light came to this earth.

Every mother’s baby is special indeed

But you, dear, innocent Gregory

Evoked emotion and love

In anyone who came near you.

Wherever we went

People stopped and smiled

And “oohed” and “aahed”

And you gave to them

Exactly what they needed.

You intrigued and attracted

All sorts from all walks,

And as one doctor once said,

You “oozed life.”

And that Gregory

Is who you were

To the world.

But for us you were the essence of love

When you came from my womb

With power and might

In the very dark of night

Your brothers and dad watched in awe

And nothing was ever the same again.

We thought we’d known love before,

But, no never like this.

We suffered through your pain

And held you always.

You slept snuggled with your dad

And you would only eat in one place—

On his lap!

What soul mates you became!

For Oliver, you were his buddy,

His student, his wrestling partner

He adored you endlessly.

To Peter, you were a little friend

In the night, as lately

You’d become closer and closer.

To Nicholas, you were almost like a son.

He carried you and played with you

And taught you all about basketball.

And now my heart breaks

As I watch my children’s pain.

And as for me my fair -haired cherub,

I learned life

I learned giving

I learned true love.

And if I should live on

Without your tight hugs

Your wet kisses, your baby blue eyes,

Your sweet milk breath,

If I should survive the days and nights

Without you nuzzling at my breast,

Then I know my God

Has chosen a task for me

Beyond any comprehension.

I shall love you forever

To the very depths of my soul.

Love, Mommy

Still

Gregory in bath

I brace myself

With a resolve reserved for

Hurricane force winds of 12

Boarding up the windows

Battening down all the hatches

And like a surfer in Maui

I wrap that leash

Real tight around my ankle.

But what I do to prepare

Matters not at all,

For strength

To “steel up”

None of it is resilient enough.

Most call these few days

Cinco de Mayo

I call May 3, May 4

Sinko de hell

Still the remembering

The utter terror

And fear

Take hold of my

Heart

My soul

My balance

And my good sense

Tells me

That which is gone

Is gone,

but I still struggle it seems

To completely absorb

That it is over

But it never really is

And he is always

Still gone.