…looking back…

Life is really like a jigsaw puzzle. Except that we don’t get all the pieces at the beginning. We start with a few and as we age we pick up another piece here and there. Unlike puzzles that come in a box of 500 or 1,000 pieces, we don’t know what number we’ll end up with…until our lives come to an end. The really cool thing is we can have as few or as many as we choose. Pieces, that is.

Free will. Remember what the Bible tells us about Adam and Eve. God allowed them to make their way in the world once they’d eaten of the forbidden fruit. Because of their sin, humankind must make our way back to God of our own choosing.

I’ve probably selected many, many more puzzle pieces to form my life than say, my husband. He’s held fewer jobs, making his way up the corporate ladder one rung at a time. As for me? I’ve kind of hopscotched up and down life’s ladder unable to decide what it was I could ace. Only when my daughter was born did I settle into my very own “jigsaw puzzle.”

IMG_4309When we’re young, most of us are totally without focus. We’re drawn in so many different directions, like dandelion flowers floating about on the wind. Certain milestones serve to anchor us to reality…school, loved ones, jobs and old age. It’s the final one that weighs in most heavily.

While options are more limited by the quality of our lives in older age, we’re not as saddled by too many puzzle pieces from which to choose. We can be more selective. We can linger over the appeal of some and not others. We can choose a second piece, if the first piece doesn’t quite fit.

Who cares if my jigsaw puzzle’s a little lopsided? Does it matter if I’ve chosen to fill the entire puzzle with a beautiful blue sky? In fact, I might decide to leave holes in the puzzle. There might be a few heavenly pieces I’d want to fill in when I’m done down here.

Unlike real puzzles over which I agonize as I hunt down the exact pieces that fit together, I look at my life now as unfolding day by day.

Since I began helping my daughter plan her wedding almost a year ago, my house has wallowed in dust and grime…and I’ve not given it much thought. Even as I undertake to get my butt going in that direction, I’ve stopped to write some…watch a little TV…nosh a little…and cuddle my cats. The house’ll get done. Meanwhile, I’m just enjoying figuring out…

…what puzzle piece comes next.

………hugmamma.

 

whatever our belief…

I cannot imagine that the Almighty from whom all life flows, views the casual taking of life in His name…to be a good and just thing.

Young men with nowhere to go and time to kill…literally…have taken to effecting some violent video game upon the rest of the world.

Hard to imagine that grown men industriously working to further civilize mankind, are unable to bring nomadic zealots to heel.

Is the gift of life so cheap that it is thrown back in the Almighty’s face with disregard and disdain?

What of the parents and families who have nurtured these young men? Do they bless their offspring or do they pray for the Almighty’s forgiveness?

Evil is not how most would describe the Almighty.

Evil is how these young men portray who they are…by their evil acts.

Is it possible then  that they believe in an Almighty who is evil?

I prefer to think that no such Being exists.

The Almighty in which these young men believe is…

…a phantom of their violent imaginations…

…nothing more…nothing less.

………hugmamma.

 

 

nurturing thursdays: journeying towards her best life…#15

I can only imagine what went through Pat’s mind yesterday as she learned how her life will unfold going forward.

We all try to take each day as it comes.

For most of us it’s a simple undertaking. It’s the same old, same old. There may be a few variations on the theme, and some can be major…like changing jobs…retiring…moving to a new home…having a baby.

Life-threatening illnesses, however, takes it to a whole other level. One for which no amount of preparing, mentally and physically, can ever be enough.

Pat’s journey with multiple myeloma and amyloidosis is daunting, to say the least. 

It’s like walking through a tunnel, not knowing what the darkness holds in store along the way.

Holding onto hope and positive thoughts are like the light at the end of the tunnel. And that’s what human survival is all about. Hanging on with all of our might.

That’s what God intended when He gave us life. He meant for us to squeeze every ounce of goodness from His gift. 

Happiness is that warm, fuzzy feeling when something good lights us up…from the inside out. And that feeling occurs in small and large doses throughout our lives. 

Never give up on happiness. It’s there for the taking. We just have to accept it.

And why wouldn’t we? It doesn’t make sense to turn away from it.

Don’t worry! Be happy! As the song tells us.

Easier said than done. Perhaps. And yet what’s the alternative?

Letting life slip away without any say in the matter?

That’s not Pat’s style.

…and it’s never been mine.

………hugmamma.

(Enjoy other inspirational thoughts at
https://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/nurturing-thurs-boiling-water/

 

 

nurturing thursdays: this is our life…

Nothing puts on the brakes faster than learning someone near and dear has been diagnosed with a life threatening illness. Such was the case yesterday when we learned a family member has not only one, but two such diseases…multiple myeloma and amyloidosis.

Taking quickly to Google we learned that both illnesses require a battalion of white blood cells to bring down MM and AL. Both are rare, involving an over production of amyloid protein cells. MM is treatable; AL, manageable.

Sitting in church today, having returned to regular Mass only a few weeks ago, I was reminded of the peace I find relinquishing a few moments of a normally busy life to God. My mind may wander from time to time but my body is grounded in the community of people with whom I share a spiritual commonality. 

Regardless of what we believe individually, there is no denying that man is not the be all and end all. There is a greater force than us.

Throughout our lives we may strive to conquer the world, but inevitably we are the ones conquered. Our bodies, and sometimes our minds, abandon us to the elements. In Genesis 3:19 it is written in part:

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Whether or not we believe in God, there’s no denying the fact that when we die our bodies indeed return to dust.

Living is struggling against the inevitable. We are consumed with the desire not only to survive but to thrive in the process. None of us with the will to live would lay down and die without a fight.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize it’s quality of life that matters. A long life seems hardly worth living if we’re not able to do much of what keeps us invested in being here.

In my opinion that quality includes living stress free as much as we are able. Of course there’s much over which we have little or no control. However there is also much we can control…over-worrying…living in denial…refusing the compassion and support of others, preferring to go it alone. 

Perhaps that over which we have greatest control is to alwayslive our best lives.

The threat of dying can eat away at what time we have left. Perhaps if we could learn to embrace life in the time remaining, we might look upon death as only a moment in time, albeit the final one.

I don’t profess to know more than anyone else. It’s only when I take the time to reflect in the relative calm of Sunday Mass does life reveal itself more clearly.

A man and a woman, heretofore strangers, bonded to give me life. It is not inconceivable then that the life given to me can end just as naturally as it began.

Life is not a given, it is a gift. I pray we can all remember that when life nears the end of its cycle.

And would that I could be there to embrace you in a

…huge and loving hug.

………hugmamma.

(Enjoy other Nurturing Thursday entries at
https://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/nurturing-thurs-repeating/

nurturing thursdays: loving is…living

You might wonder why my limited writings of late have been as entries on blogger Becca Given’sNurturing Thursdays.

Two reasons.

Thursdays suit me well. Having run errands and done chores earlier in the week, I reward myself with a short stint at my laptop doing what I do for sheer pleasure…writing.

More importantly, however, is Becca’s invitation to share words that help us feel good about ourselves. God bless her for giving contributors a platform which encourages us to have compassion for ourselves and others.

While other writers contribute more regularly, I’m grateful that my entries are accepted when I am able to snatch a few moments here and there. Perhaps if I limited myself to a few inspirational words, I’d do better. And yet, I can only think to share a little slice of my own life. If it inspires then I am blest. Mostly though, it’s just me trying to figure out…life.

The passing of my beloved Mocha recently coincided with my husband’s casual announcement that he was retiring sooner than expected. Instead of 2016, his last workday will be January…2015!

After the dust settled in my brain, gone musty as an empty-nester these last 12 years, I listened as hubby revealed the whys, hows, and wherefores of what had transpired. Suffice it to say, he’s come out on top. Although retired, he’ll continue as a consultant for another year.

All I’ve ever wanted of my marriage since day one…was my husband.

IMG_4079I’ve waited 44 years to spend more than a few hours a week with my best friend in the whole, wide world. I’ve only had a taste of what his coworkers have always shared with me when we’ve met at office functions.

Among the many compliments were my husband’s fairness…his calm in the midst of turmoil…his patience…his generosity in sharing the limelight…his integrity…his humility…his willingness to mentor others…his loyalty and dedication…his work ethic…his tireless efforts in always seeking the truth…and his willingness to go the extra mile on behalf of others.

Yes. My husband’s a saint. I called him that once when we were first married. His retort was that it was an unkind remark. Only my husband would take offense at being held up on a pedestal.

My husband loved our little Mocha as much as I did. He wasn’t as demonstrative toward her as I was, not given to hugging and smooshing ad nauseum like me. Nonetheless, Mocha always knew she could depend upon him for a walk anytime of the day or night. With me, there could be resistance depending upon the weather and what hour of the night it was. My arthritis doesn’t do well in the wet and cold, and I’m deathly afraid of encountering a bear or cougar in the dark.

IMG_2145When Mocha left us I couldn’t help but feel she did so knowing my husband and I would have more time for one another…one less family member who needed our care and attention. Especially with all she required the last months of her life. Feline siblings, Sitka and Juneau, are now happy to get more cuddle time with me. Although I think they miss their little pal as well.IMG_4810

In reflecting upon Mocha’s life and my husband’s retirement, I couldn’t help but think that those we love the most live on through us who remain. We are their legacy. We continue to tell their story long after their physical presence is gone. We attest to their having been here.

Sad then, those who die unloved.

Who will speak of them? Who will testify to what they did…their dreams…their passions…their accomplishments…their failures? Who will say “We played softball together on the weekends.” Or “She loved doing things with her children.”

Perhaps when we care for others we, in some small way, acknowledge their reality. They live because we think about them…even if only for a moment. All those with whom we engage as we go about our daily lives…the waiter…the supermarket cashier…the dry cleaning clerk…the pet groomer…the landscape worker…our furry family members.

We matter to others. Probably more than we know.

Mocha’s still with me as I go about my day. Reminding me that as long as we’re here, she’ll be with hubby and me…

…enjoying our retirement years.

………hugmamma. 

(Enjoy other inspirational writers at  https://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/nurturing-thurs-next-time/                                                                                                                                            

 

Imported Photos 00137

three dimensional…

Just like my writing, I think of myself as a three-dimensional person. 

I’m compassionate and I’m edgy. Those who have followed along with my blog since its inception in 2010 have probably gathered as much.

Humor, of which mine is the tongue-in-cheek variety, lightens the stresses of everyday life.

To always dwell in the softness of clouds is not my life, and therefore not my writing.

I leave sweetness to those who handle it more deftly.

Others perceive what they will from what I write.

I myself tread lightly when looking into their souls.

For I know not from where they have evolved.

As they know not from whence I came.

Veils lift…shadows give way.

Accept what’s there,

…as it is offered.

………hugmamma.

in loving memory…of lives lived…not lost…

 

Life…and death…have a way of slowing down the rat race.

When we seem certain that the nuts and bolts in our daily lives are running smoothly, the machinery in our little world…our microcosm…chugging along quite nicely, producing the results we’d hoped for, striven for…fate intervenes, upending our…house of cards.

I spent a few moments this morning perusing the most recent posts written by friend and fellow blogger, Christine at http://randomthoughtsfrommidlife.wordpress.com

Français : couverture du livre La maladie d'Al...

Français : couverture du livre La maladie d’Alzheimer – Accompagnez votre proche au quotidien (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My original connection with her was that her dad was suffering from Alzheimer’s. You see…my mom also suffered its debilitating effects before finally succumbing a number of years ago.

As a result, I was on the path to doing what I could to deter or slow the progression of that dreadful disease…in myself.

Sadly, Christine recently lost…both parents.

Her mother was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer, not too long before she died. Christine’s dad followed soon after.

A few years ago, before I began following Christine’s blog, she suffered the loss of a beloved sister who had been retarded.

I’ve admired Christine’s strength throughout the turmoil she endured caring for her parents. And the love she shared with them…and the sister who had gone before.

Christine’s compelling story was like…a dip in the icy cold glacial waters off the coast of Alaska.

When we think life is so unfair…it seems best to remember the advantages we do enjoy.

I’ve been given a chance to live…

…to love…and be loved…

…to explore my talents…and forgive my weaknesses…

…to know others…and have them know me…

…to see with my eyes…the beauty of all I see…

…to hear with my ears…the sounds of life beckoning me forward…

…to sample with my own taste buds…all the gastronomical delights that others create…and the humble offerings that emanate from my own two hands…

…to walk and jump and climb and crawl and wriggle and stretch.

Above all…

I can think and remember and express and give voice and cry and laugh and complain and argue and be thankful…

…and I can pray…

…for myself and for others…

LIFE AFFORDS ME ALL THIS…

AND SO MUCH MORE.

Death cannot take away all the life that I have lived thus far.

Only I can do that…if I fail to crowd every nook and cranny of my life with the sights, sounds, smells…and all the amazing moments that present themselves.

Christine’s story reminded me to…enjoy the ride of a lifetime…

…every single moment…of every single day!!! croppedphoto

live your own life…not someone else’s…

Water ripples

Image by mcconnell.franklin via Flickr

Simple advice from the man who is touted with changing the world in my lifetime…Steve Jobs. While he may have touched upon my life like the furthest ripple from where a pebble hits the surface of the still waters of a lake, Jobs words are more in sync with who I am, than those of family and friends who think they know me best.

Determining that they have my best interests at heart, siblings have, from time to time, made suggestions as to what I might want to do. That we’ve not seen one another in years doesn’t seem to matter. The old adage that “blood is thicker than water” may have something to do with it. And while that may be true literally, figuratively…I’m not so sure.

In striving to live healthfully I’ve learned that water is essential to my body’s machinery. Supporting me in this assertion is the following from the website USG.

The movement of water around, over, and throug...

Image via Wikipedia

Think of what you need to survive, really just survive. Food? Water? Air? Facebook? Naturally, I’m going to concentrate on water here. Water is of major importance to all living things; in some organisms, up to 90% of their body weight comes from water. Up to 60% of the human body is water, the brain is composed of 70% water, and the lungs are nearly 90% water. Lean muscle tissue contains about 75% water by weight, as is the brain; body fat contains 10% water and bone has 22% water. About 83% of our blood is water, which helps digest our food, transport waste, and control body temperature. Each day humans must replace 2.4 litres of water, some through drinking and the rest taken by the body from the foods eaten. …

There just wouldn’t be any you, me, or Fido the dog without the existence of an ample liquid water supply on Earth. The unique qualities and properties of water are what make it so important and basic to life. The cells in our bodies are full of water. The excellent ability of water to dissolve so many substances allows our cells to use valuable nutrients, minerals, and chemicals in biological processes.

One brother suggested I author a story about a little, Hawaiian girl discovering the world beyond; a sister liked a recipe I’d posted and encouraged me to include more in my blog. I thanked both but felt neither was what I wanted to write about. And now in my 60s, I thought I had a pretty good idea as to who I am and what I want.

Fower and bud of yellow chamomile (Anthemis ti...

Image via Wikipedia

It took me a long time to throw off the mantle of others’ expectations of me. Only when I became a mother, did I realize I didn’t want others meddling, however well-intentioned, in how I parented my only child. I was determined to raise her to be who she wanted to be, knowing that my husband and I would always support her with unconditional love.

Handing over the reigns of control to my daughter hasn’t always been easy. But I reflect on the long and difficult path to finding my own voice, and I’m grateful that my daughter has found hers at 25. She speaks to us almost daily, detailing things she wishes to share. We ask questions, but we don’t prod. We express our opinions, but assure her that she knows best because it’s she who lives her life, not us. We affirm the value of her decisions. And we empathize when things don’t occur as she thought they would.

Even in middle-age I looked to others for guidance. I called them role models, women aging gracefully. I thought for sure they had the secret to peace on earth. But I’ve come to realize that I can’t model myself after anyone. What works for another, probably won’t work for me because we’re different people. We’re the result of different parents, different experiences, different strengths and weaknesses, and different life views.

It’s uncanny how a man I never met, an icon, Steve Jobs, knew what was best for me…and millions of others.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

 Steve Jobs’ life should be a beacon for those who know in their heart what feels right for them. And my daughter is an example of someone who took up that torch…

…living her own life…with our love and blessing………hugmamma. 

each with a story to tell…

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a favorite jazz station, the music playing in the background. I remember nothing else the deejay said except that each of us is looking to tell our own story. Those words have stayed with me, coming to the forefront when I listen to other people speak, whether in person, on TV, on the radio, or read what they’ve written, or what’s written about them.

It’s as though I’m watching a larger-than-life screening of “This is your life!”, a TV reality show from the 50’s, hosted by Ralph Edwards. Using a scrapbook with photos from the person’s life throughout the years, Edwards surprised the person whose life was featured, with people from his or her past. While not exactly the same, I tend to listen to someone’s story as though I’m looking through a View Master…one slide at a time…click, click…click, click.

I think perhaps we’re all looking for legitimacy. We want to make sure we’ve made our mark, before exiting this life. We want someone to remember that we were here. So we tell our own story…every day. The trick is getting others to listen. And the only way we know for sure is if they engage in conversation…telling us their story. And so it goes…back and forth…round and round.

The main characters of the show. (Background, ...

Image via Wikipedia

While most of us engage in modest storytelling, there are those who have taken it to a whole other level…on reality TV. The Kardashians have allowed us to move in with them, and as a result we’re privvy to their successes, and their foibles. In The Biggest Loser the challengers look to us for support and compassion as they wage a desperate fight against obesity. Even in the sitcom Everybody Loves RaymondRay Romano encourages us to laugh at his display of idiocy. I’ve heard much of it is reflective of his true self. Maybe he loves playing the fool. Nothing wrong with that. It’s his story, after all.

Blogging is a very good example of storytelling. We’re all telling our own life stories…in our own way…on our own terms…in our own good time. I don’t think we intentionally write to be validated; but we like it when we are. Storytelling is like reruns of our favorite TV show, mine being I Love Lucy. We never tire of telling our favorites. If you’ve read hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul from its inception, you’ve heard me relate some of my stories…

time………and time………again………hugmamma.     

no more…what if?

My friend Sylvia emailed me the following some time ago. It’s been simmering on the back burner. Other topics clamored to be heard. Now that most of those have gotten “on air” time, I decided now might be the time to share this.

My previous post about Rachel Beckwith, the 9-year-old who died in a devastating accident last week, made Sylvia’s contribution even more relevant. Rachel’s unexpected passing touched the hearts of so many because she was taken too soon, and because she demonstrated that even one so young can make a difference.

But to her parents, her younger sister, extended family and friends, Rachel is no longer present in their ordinary, every day lives. She won’t be sharing smiles with her dad, while eating a simple breakfast of cereal on a Saturday morning. She won’t be confiding in her mom about her crush on a boy in school. She won’t be there to hug her sister when she falls while learning to ride a bike. She won’t have the first cookie hot out of grandma’s oven.

What if there isn’t anymore?

One day a woman’s husband died, and on that clear, cold morning, in the warmth of their bedroom, the wife was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn’t “anymore.”

No more hugs, no more special moments to celebrate together, no more phone calls just to chat, no more “just one minute.” Sometimes, what we care about the most gets all used up and goes away, never to return before we can say “good-bye,” say “I love you.”

So while we have it, it’s best we love it, care for it, fix it when it’s broken and heal it when it’s sick.

This is true for marriage…and old cars…and children with bad report cards…and dogs with bad hips…and aging parents…and grandparents. We keep them because they are worth it…

Some things we keep…like a best friend who moved away or a sister-in-law after divorce. There are just some things that make us happy, no matter what.

Life is precious. Keep those who are special…close. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so let them know you love them…

every chance you get………hugmamma. 

massage “therapy”

I’ve had an unusual last 6 months, with allergies and fibromyalgia taking its toll throughout the spring season. Luckily it was after I’d tended to my garden, preparing the beds for the growing season, weeding and laying bait to minimize the slug infestation. Summer was a busy time with travels to Venice, Italy and Irvine, California. And during the last couple of months I’ve criss-crossed the country to be with my daughter. So it was with great anticipation that I saw my massage therapist,  yesterday.

Under Jennifer’s very capable hands, I felt the knots in my neck and shoulder muscles begin to loosen and relax. I winced in pain when she worked one particular spot in the crook of my right neck area. I’d never done that before, so I knew I’d been in desperate need of a massage.

An “old soul” at 27 years of age, Jennifer is not only good for my aches and pains, but is also someone with whom I commisserate on just about everything. Like the rest of us, she has had to sort out her life. Married, with her own business, I think my massage therapist, and friend, should be congratulated for “making lemonade, out of lemons.”  

Jennifer is such a home body. Having had a bountiful garden this year, she’s been busy canning sugar pumpkins, and making apple butter and blackberry jam, and turning squash into homemade soup. And she was understandably proud of harvesting 20 ears of corn, for neither the deer nor the raccoons had ravaged the stalks. Contributing to their winter stockpile, Jennifer’s husband will soon be hunting elk with friends. She indicated that at least 500 pounds of meat can be had from one animal.

I’m amazed at the thrift and frugality in such a young couple. And yet it doesn’t seem to be founded only upon economic concerns. Jennifer chooses to live a simpler life in terms of material acquisitions. Her passions lie elsewhere, a horse with which she is training, and a determination to become a licensed practitioner of myofacscial-release. These do not come cheap. But they are meaningful and fulfilling goals, for which Jennifer is willing to make sacrifices.

While my body is grateful for my massage therapist’s skill, my soul is graced by her youthful wisdom.

for Jennifer, hugs…hugmamma.

“freddie the leaf, the fall of”

The only author I can wholeheartedly call my favorite is Leo Buscaglia. Otherwise, I select books according to their subject matter. But I’ve enjoyed reading every one of  Buscaglia’s books. A postscript to one of my favorites, reads:

“Leo Buscaglia approached life with joy and enthusiasm. He pursued a path of perpetual learning that took him to places of wonder, excitement, and enlightenment. His sense of urgency to live life now and explore all that is possible was contagious to all who knew him. His life was dedicated to the single concept of ‘Love’ and all the beautiful and positive elements that it encompasses. …He died of heart failure on June 29th, 1998, at his home in Lake Tahoe, Nevada at the age of 74. A note was found on his typewriter the next day. It read, ‘Every moment spent in unhappiness is a moment of happiness lost.’

In 2004 I was in Chautauqua, New York, visiting my daughter while she danced in a summer program. Browsing through the bookstore housed in a charming building, I happened upon “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” by Leo Buscaglia. Tucking myself away in a corner, I read it. A lump formed in my throat for the story was written to assuage a child’s loss of someone special, to death. The book, in its 20th edition, is a “beloved classic that has helped thousands of people come to grips with life and death.” I’d like to share it with you now, in the hopes that it might someday do the same for you.

Spring had passed. So had summer. Freddie, the leaf, had grown large. His mid-section was wide and strong, and his five extensions were firm and pointed. He had first appeared in Spring as a small sprout on a rather large branch near the top of a tall tree.

Freddie was surrounded by hundreds of other leaves just like himself, or so it seemed. Soon he discovered that no two leaves were alike, even though they were on the same tree. Alfred was the leaf next to him. Ben was the leaf on his right side, and Clare was the lovely leaf overhead. They had all grown up together. They had learned to dance in the Spring breezes, bask lazily in the Summer sun and wash off in the cooling rains.

But it was Daniel who was Freddie’s best friend. He was the largest leaf on the limb and seemed to have been there before anyone else. It appeared to Freddie that Daniel was also the wisest among them. It was Daniel who told them that they were part of a tree. It was Daniel who explained that they were growing in a public park. It was Daniel who told them that the tree had strong roots which were hidden in the ground below. He explained about the birds who came to sit on their branch and sing morning songs. He explained about the sun, the moon, the stars and the seasons.

Freddie loved being a leaf. He loved his branch, his light leafy friends, his place high in the sky, the wind that jostled him about, the sun rays that warmed him, the moon that covered him with soft, white shadows.

Summer had been especially nice. The long hot days felt good and the warm nights were peaceful and dreamy. There were many people in the park that Summer. They often came and sat under Freddie’s tree. Daniel told him that giving shade was part of his purpose.

“What’s a purpose?” Freddie had asked. “A reason for being,” Daniel had answered. “To make things more pleasant for others is a reason for being. To make shade for old people who come to escape the heat of their homes is a reason for being. To provide a cool place for children to come and play. To fan with our leaves the picnickers who come to eat on checkered tablecloths. These are all reasons for being.”

Freddie especially liked the old people. They sat so quietly on the cool grass and hardly ever moved. They talked in whispers of times past. The children were fun, too, even though they sometimes tore holes in the bark of the tree or carved their names into it. Still, it was fun to watch them move so fast and to laugh so much.

But Freddie’s Summer soon passed. It vanished on an October night. He had never felt it so cold. All the leaves shivered with the cold. They were coated with a thin layer of white which quickly melted and left them dew drenched and sparkling in the morning sun. Again, it was Daniel who explained that they had experienced their first frost, the sign that it was Fall and that Winter would come soon.

Almost at once, the whole tree, in fact, the whole park was transformed into a blaze of color. There was hardly a green leaf left. Alfred had turned a deep yellow. Ben had become a blazing red, Daniel a deep purple and Freddie was red and gold and blue. How beautiful they all looked. Freddie and his friends had made their tree a rainbow.

“Why did we turn different colors,” Freddie asked, “when we are on the same tree?” “Each of us is different. We have had different experiences. We have faced the sun differently. We have cast shade differently. Why should we not have different colors?” Daniel said matter-of-factly. Daniel told Freddie that this wonderful season was called Fall.

One day a very strange thing happened. The same breezes that, in the past, had made them dance began to push and pull at their stems, almost as if they were angry. This caused some of the leaves to be torn from their branches and swept up in the wind, tossed about and dropped softly to the ground. All the leaves became frightened. “What’s happening?” they asked each other in whispers. “It’s what happens in Fall,” Daniel told them. “It’s the time for leaves to change their home. Some people call it to die.” 

“Will we all die?” Freddie asked. “Yes,” Daniel answered. “Everything dies. No matter how big or small, how weak or strong. We first do our job. We experience the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain. We learn to dance and to laugh. Then we die.” “I won’t die!” said Freddie with determination. “Will you, Daniel?” “Yes,” answered Daniel, “when it’s my time.” “When is that?” asked Freddie. “No one knows for sure,” Daniel responded.

Freddie noticed that the other leaves continued to fall. He thought, “It must be their time.” He saw that some of the leaves lashed back at the wind before they fell, others simply let go and dropped quietly. Soon the tree was almost bare. “I’m afraid to die,” Freddie told Daniel. “I don’t know what’s down there.” “We all fear what we don’t know, Freddie. It’s natural,” Daniel reassured him. “Yet, you were not afraid when Spring became Summer. You were not afraid when Summer became Fall. They were natural changes. Why should you be afraid of the season of death?”

“Does the tree die, too?” Freddie asked. “Someday. But there is something stronger than the tree. It is Life. That lasts forever and we are all a part of Life.” “Where will we go when we die?” “No one knows for sure. That’s the great mystery!” “Will we return in the Spring?” “We may not, but Life will.” “Then what has been the reason for all of this?” Freddie continued to question. “Why were we here at all if we only have to fall and die?”

Daniel answered in his matter-of-fact way, “It’s been about the sun and the moon. It’s been about happy times together. It’s been about the shade and the old people and the children. It’s been about colors in Fall. It’s been about seasons. Isn’t that enough?” That afternoon, in the golden light of dusk, Daniel let go. He fell effortlessly. He seemed to smile peacefully as he fell. “Goodbye for now, Freddie,” he said. Then, Freddie was alone, the only leaf left on his branch.

The first snow fell the following morning. It was soft, white, and gentle; but it was bitter cold. There was hardly any sun that day, and the day was very short. Freddie found himself losing his color, becoming brittle. It was constantly cold and the snow weighed heavily upon him. At dawn the wind came that took Freddie from his branch. It didn’t hurt at all. He felt himself float quietly, gently and softly downward. As he fell, he saw the whole tree for the first time. How strong and firm it was! He was sure that it would live for a long time and he knew that he had been a part of its life and it made him proud.

Freddie landed on a clump of snow. It somehow felt soft and even warm. In this new position he was more comfortable than he had ever been. He closed his eyes and fell asleep. He did not know that Spring would follow Winter and that the snow would melt into water. He did not know that what appeared to be his useless dried self would join with the water and serve to make the tree stronger. Most of all, he did not know that there, asleep in the tree and the ground, were already plans for new leaves in the Spring.

The Beginning.

Having purchased the book as a keepsake for my daughter, I turned to the first blank page and penned the following inscription.

Summer 2004

Dearest daughter,

I discovered Leo Buscaglia in Chautauqua this summer. Reading his  words was like looking at my soul through a mirror. He wrote, and lectured about, and lived a life of love, always having a positive attitude. “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf ” continues Buscaglia’s outlook thru to the final stage in life. 

 Live each day to the fullest, love hugely and passionately, strive always to have a positive attitude toward yourself, others and life. These are what I leave to you, when I fall from the “Tree of Life.” And I know you will do the same for your children, when your turn comes.

I will always be with you in spirit until we are together again, where all leaves spend eternal springtime together. Think of me as your “Daniel.”

All my love, forever…Mom

my sentiments for you, as well…hugmamma.

totally surprised

While I wallowed in human kindness, my husband and daughter gasped in surprise! Was I the same person who always reminded them to “drive carefully and be safe?” How could I then hitch a ride with total strangers, far from home. Not until days later when we celebrated Thanksgiving did I learn of their dismay.

A friend of our daughter’s dined with us at a charming restaurant. Because of Nutcracker rehearsals, she wasn’t able to spend the holiday with family living in another state. Sipping martinis and nibbling appetizers, my family recounted my sojourn for the benefit of our guest. Until then I hadn’t realized how much my rash decision affected them.

Our daughter likened my behavior to Kevin’s mom in “Home Alone” when she begged a group of traveling musicians for a ride. “Come Hell or high water” she was going home to her son. He’d been inadvertently left behind when his family set off on their vacation. Like her I was determined to see my daughter sooner, rather than later.

Moms will agree that we do whatever is necessary where our children are concerned, even putting ourselves in harm’s way. Instinct “kicks in” and reason “takes a hike.”

no regrets whatsoever…hugmamma

journal tidbits

Two items in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye this morning,  “Gene Shows Promise for Alzheimer’s”  and  “Family Blames AIG In Bet on Mom’s Life.”  The first article provides a speck of hope; the second sets off a red flag,  “buyer beware.”

“Scientists have found a way to dramatically reduce the erosion of memory and learning ability in mice with a version of Alzheimer’s disease, potentially offering a new approach for tackling the illness in humans.”  MIT researchers discovered that a genetically engineered gene, SIRT1,  “regulates the production of a class of proteins known as sirtuin one.”  More sirtuin in tested mice allowed them to retain both memory and learning ability as they aged. GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s consultant Dr. Leonard Guarente,  “a biologist at MIT and the lead author of the study,”  suggests this may be a drug-based approach to treat Alzheimer’s. However  “Much more research is now needed …” according to The Alzheimer’s Society in the U.K.

The article further indicates that resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine, has been found to slow aging in mice. This seemed to affirm the intake of grape seed supplements recommended by Dr. Vincent Fortanasce, a practicing neurologist, in his  “The ANTI-Alzheimer’s Prescription.”

whatever works!…hugmamma

“A dispute over a huge life-insurance policy on an Indianapolis woman who drowned, fully clothed, in her bathtub took a new twist this week when her family alleged American International Group, Inc. ran a  ‘scheme’  to let investors buy big policies on older people as speculative bets.”  Reading this I was reminded of a TV documentary exposing just such a scam. How does it work?

An insurance entrepeneur encourages an elderly person to purchase a huge life-insurance policy, often paying for it with a loan. The policy is then sold to an investor who pays the premiums and collects, when the insured dies.

In the reported case the entrepeneur expects to be paid the $15 million involved, while AIG wants the policy declared null and void. A spokesman claimed AIG  “stands by its allegations that the policy was procured under a  ‘fraudulent scheme.’  ”   The victim’s estate is seeking control of the $15 million, and filed suit for $45 million in damages against AIG claiming they ” ‘engaged in minimal underwriting efforts’  and issued the $15 million policy, ostensibly for estate planning,  ‘without verifying key information,’  including whether Ms. Tomlinson could afford such costly insurance.’  ”  The article continues  ”  ‘Even a cursory review’  of various application materials would have raised red flags about…annual income, but AIG…turned a blind eye…to warning signs in eagerness…reap enormous benefits,…’  ”

“buyer beware!” …hugmamma.

ride with strangers

Eagerly anticipating a visit with my daughter, I took a connecting flight to where she lives on the east coast. Rather than fly into a major hub, I chose to connect at a smaller airport closer to my destination. From there it was only another hour until I saw that beautiful face, which always brings a huge grin to mine.

Relaxing into the first leg of my trip I drifted in and out of sleep. Finally the plane touched down on the tarmac. Scurrying through the exit door, I hurriedly made my way into the airport. At the nearest flight schedule board, I searched for the gate number of my continuing flight. I could feel my blood pressure rise when I soon realized that it was not listed. Panicked, I found an agent who directed me to the nearby ticket counter.  Walking towards it I noticed a short line of customers waiting.

When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter and inquired about my flight. To my dismay I was told that all flights had been cancelled. The next available wasn’t until 9 a.m. the next day. Not accustomed to finding myself in such a situation without my husband who usually manages such dilemmas, my heart sank. All I could think was that my daughter was so close, but yet so far.

As is my custom when I’m flummoxed, I phoned my husband who still happened to be at work. My words came tumbling out faster than he could comprehend. But finally he understood my situation. Stepping away from the counter to speak with him, I soon realized that I’d have to figure this one out myself. While still half-listening to him, I overheard a conversation between a man and a woman. Drawing closer to hear what they said, it became clear that she was traveling with him to the city where I was also headed. The gentleman had rented a car beforehand.

I quickly jumped in to ask if I could also hitch a ride. Just as I was told that I could, a younger man joined us to confirm that he would be our fourth traveling companion. Needless to say my husband overheard my maneuvering and was flabbergasted when I said “Bye. I’m riding with Larry. Call you when I get there.” Without waiting for his reply, I hung up.

Lucky move on my part. Seconds later a woman asked if she could join our group. Unfortunately, the car could only sit 4 comfortably on the 5 hour drive.  I felt badly but knew she had the option of staying the night on the airline’s “dime,” and catching a flight out the next day. If I felt any reluctance about the trip, a ticket agent acquainted with Larry reassured the other woman and I that we were in good hands. As a frequent flier for business he was a regular customer.

The journey was nothing short of amazing. My fellow travelers and I established an easy camaraderie. We spoke of family, work, ourselves, our interests. The two men were natives of the area to which we were headed. Larry was returning home from business; John was visiting family. Jane was joining her husband who had gone a day ahead to attend a conference.  At times it was a four-way conversation; other times the 2 men talked, while Jane and I murmured quietly together in the back seat. We all agreed that Larry could pick the time and place for our one and only rest stop. We were all in a hurry to get where we were headed.

As we drew nearer our destination, I was sad to part with newfound friends. I become attached easily. After dropping Jane off at her hotel, we drove to the airport where Larry would return the car, John would rent one to continue driving another 2 hours, and I would meet my daughter. Getting out of the car I hugged Larry, pressing a $20 bill into his hand. Without pause he pushed my hand away refusing any compensation. It was enough, he said, to have pleasant company on what would otherwise have been a long, lonely drive home. Choking back tears, I thanked him profusely and gave John a big hug as well.

Once I saw my daughter, it made little difference that I arrived at midnight instead of 7 p.m.  She always “makes my day”, no matter the hour. I couldn’t ask for more, especially after being bestowed with the gift of a Good Samaritan who came to the rescue of strangers who became friends.

forever grateful to Larry…hugmamma.