“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


To everything - turn, turn, turn

Across the street a friend lays dying.

sit here in the blessed silence of my house.

Stop reading right here if you must - I don't blame you; I would turn away if given the opportunity. I wonder if I should even mention this at all - part of me just wants to write a list of all the things that bring me joy, to weave a spell with magical words & phrases that will make this okay, but across the street a friend is dying. It seems to be spelled out in capital letters right out there in the dark early morning air that separates our houses. She is in that in-between place I write of so often, much more there than here, and while she is not alone, she is alone.

. . . tulip trees, sweet olive trees, magnolias, camellias, hackberry trees, azalea bushes, daffodils, hydrangea, cherry laurels, climbing yellow roses, robins' nests, guardian owls, pear trees, pecan trees, wisteria vines, paperwhites, oak trees, turkish caps, red cannas . . . I chant these birds & plants to myself, sitting here in the midst of them all. I can see myself from above, warm & cozy with the fire spluttering behind me, a clock softly ticking . . .

A clock softly ticking. It is still dark outside, but daylight is stealing in - I hear a bird calling; I still don't know what bird it is, and despite my earlier promise to myself to find out, I may not. I may let its identity remain a secret. Another bird is singing now, and there - another. They welcome the day. But across the street a friend is dying, I want to tell them, hush, and as I think that, they sing more loudly, and more join in. She would like that, I think. She would want the birds to sing her to a new place, she would tell me that some silences are different than others.

And so this silence is full of birdsong.

It is full of the beginning of a new day.

and if i die before i wake . . .


  1. "now i lay me down to sleep and pray the lord my soul to keep. and if i die before i wake...."
    dear, dear debi. you know how i think about this, what i would say and repeat over and over to myself if i were sitting wearing your yellow shoes...remember the quote

    but you have quite another offering of comfort in your description of all that life that surrounds you and your neighborhood. such beautiful plants, and song and smells that you must have there today. i honor the end and i honor the beginning.
    i love you dear.

  2. I'm so sorry, Debi. I'm glad you can write about such things as it helps you, and us, to recognize that what is terribly sad is also beautiful in its way.

    Sending you big hugs.


  3. When I was 19, one of my sisters died. (I think you might know this already) She had been fighting it off for years. But I remember those days, where life was going on and it just didn't seem right. or fair. how dare those people be laughing? how dare those birds be singing? how dare a beautiful life and soul be leaving me?
    ...but she's not gone. She's always with me. Just like the birdsong.

  4. debi, i am so sorry for your friend. and for you. i too have had loss, i remember all too well those last days sitting with my children watching my late husband. it changes you, too much loss. so often people will tell me, ah, you and the children are doing so well, you have met someone, the kids look happy. and i never say anything back because all i really would be able to say is "what's your point?" you fall in a hole, you dig yourself out. you look deep into that part of you that holds your smile. you find it. it gets lost and you go looking again. be well.

  5. those in-between-moments are the sacred space...for leaving...arriving...opening up...letting go...for being...for believing...for trusting...for the knowing...for the living...for silence...for voices...for life...those in-between-moments are sacred...for her...for you...for everyone around her...those in-between-spaces are the moment.

    thinking of you xx

  6. Thank you all. I meant to close the comments on this post, so no one would feel obligated to respond, but also because I thought when & if someone did, it would just make me break down. But, oddly enough, it hasn't. It's helped.

    So . . .

    Robin - I remember the quote. It's a wonderful quote, a wonderful scene. And yes, I have all that I described, and I have friends nearby who will miss her as much as I. We are lucky to have known her & we are lucky to have had the chance to say goodbye.

    Tango - I thought more than 3 times about posting these thoughts, and in fact took them down once, rewrote them a bit later & then decided to let them stay. I worried about my use of the word dying - shouldn't I be more genteel, I thought? Say passing? Say leaving this world? But no, she is dying, and that's the reality of it, and she would be the first person to say so. It is the natural order of things.

    Bridgette - Yes, I knew about your sister. So young it doesn't seem fair. Mary has just turned 95 & that makes this easier. It's expected, it's time. It does seem that the world should just pause for a bit, even so. But you are right - she will always be with me. In birdsong, in owl sightings, when I'm able to name a flower she introduced to me. She will be there.

    Margie - A wonderful description. Thank you. The waiting is difficult, perhaps the worst - I, too, have been through this waiting before. Nothing to do but go through it and continue on & hold the other person in your heart. Thank God our hearts will do so.

    Lin - Yes. Those in-between moments are the sacred spaces, the sacred moments. I know she is ready to go, has, in fact, mostly gone already. I know she is looking back and forward at the same instant. How amazing that must be!

    Love you all!

  7. For every sunset
    there is a sunrise___
    standing in the light
    of an eternal life.

  8. Debi,

    I read this post today at school. You already know that I read all your posts on my lunch break. Since then, I've been thinking of you off and on - through all the chaos of second grade love, crepe paper, and construction paper valentines. Just thinking of you. And wondering what to say that will help. I still don't have it. There are no magic words. So, I sit here. And think of you. And I wanted you to know it.

  9. I know of this place.

    I have been here.

    And what remains...always will...

    is love.

    (warmest thoughts and hugs
    for you dear girl)

  10. No...I didn't turn away...I read on Debi. I too, have been in this place...this hard place filled with deafening sadness...

    I am thinking of you and Mary...

    Much love...

  11. It's a journey that we all will make someday; I hope not too soon!
    But, to Mary...I hope I am as fortunate as she to have someone like you as a guardian angel here on earth.And, I hope I am as fortunate as she to not go too soon.

  12. Hello ~ I'm not sure of the message that I must share......but I will just tell you the events of my afternoon and you perhaps can find it. A few hours ago I was taking photos of our visiting Trumpeter swans. One, in particular, was alone away from the others....not moving, I questioned if this was snow or perhaps a swan that had passed...I brought my lens up and no, everything was fine; I could see some movement. Suddenly the swan brought its wings up and all I could see was this vision of angel wings. Now about an hour later home from our lovely winter walk, as I turned from the car, with my camera in hand, I heard a rush of flapping wings in the air. I turned to look up just overhead,expecting to see the Canadian geese....instead the swans, probably about eight had flown directly overtop! What a vision...what a rare and special blessing. I looked at my husband in awe and he said to me "you see they just wanted to say thank you for taking our picture".

    So I come into the studio...reading emails...and notice your beautiful photography sneak peak at Stampington and a moment later I am reading your blog and looking at the stunning photo and your words below. As I begin to read I am not afraid, I understand, and I know how a person's passing can be beautiful....I know this. When we lost our dear father last year my sister shared the magical story of our lost ones and the little birds that she believes travelled across the country with her and my father's ashes. Every time she would walk out doors, from the hotel rooms to airport flight changes, she is convinced ever since that my predeceased young cousin and uncle Edgar were with dad...perhaps some of our loved ones can be found in the flight or the songs that some sing. I know that there has to be a reason why I have seen these majestic creatures fly overhead so close just minutes before finding myself here, and why I could think only of angels' wings....perhaps your friend will find herself with the swans?

  13. Debi,
    my heart aches for you, I too have been through this recently. i don't think there is ever a way to make death, or the feelings of loss that come with it, okay.
    we can only watch and listen and remember and cry and laugh and miss. how lucky she is that the birds have come to"sing her to a new place"
    my heart is with you.

  14. Hi~ I just wanted to say "I'm sorry" for what you are going through. I have recently gone through this twice and it just never gets any easier. It always amazes me that while lives and emotions are suspended and paused, life continues to go on around us. Sometimes it is that which helps to maintain the sense of normalcy even when we know that nothing is normal at all. Again, I am sorry...


  15. Oh dear Debi...

    I read these words of yours..you talk of not blaming anyone for turning away. I couldn't imagine turning away from a friend going through such a difficult time. I only wish I was here a few days earlier. I only wish I could be there in person for you in some small way. I wish I could make it less painful for you, yet I know that is impossible...but the pain tells you how meaningful and how precious this friendship is to you...I know how much you love her.
    I'm thinking of you.

  16. To everyone - I'm sorry it has taken me this long to respond, but I've thought much about your comments and each has been much appreciated, much taken to heart.

    jfrancis - Thank you. It helps to believe this.

    Relyn - The vision of you surrounded by paper hearts reading this is almost poetic. :) I'm responding to this days later, after she is gone, which makes it even more lovely. Words are unnecessary when you leave such poignant pictures.

    Maddie - It is a place we visit we unwillingly, but a place we recall forever in our hearts, in our soul. We draw a map inside ourselves and find ourselves returning, re-visiting. And, yes, the love remains. Thank you so much.

    Celeste - See? You, too, have been here. This place is a part of our lives, and it is hard. But we are picked up & held up by our friends, and even those we've never met. Thank you for the helping hand.

    Paula - And see? It is a place to which we will all journey someday. Mary has shown me that in the meantime, we must live our lives as graciously & as full-to-the-brim as possible. You are so kind to call me a guardian angel - I was just a friend.

    Gabrielle - I have been unable to clear my head of your story of the swans. It pops up daily - I believe in such things. It was this story that made me see the raccoons in a different light, to believe the raccoons were Mary's guides. Perhaps I'll save the swans for myself. :) I loved this tale - thank you!

    Suvarna - There is nothing to make the ache better, although we all know time makes it bearable. Luckily we are able to remember the good times, and cherish those memories. In fact, we even remember the not-so-wonderful times, and wonder why we thought they were so bad. Thank you for your kind words.

    Patti - I think you are right. It is really a good thing that life goes on normally around us, else how would we ever be able to get up & get going every day? It is the least we owe to those we lose - to live our lives. I hope you are doing well. Take care.

    Jaime - The pain does mean she was loved. And luckily she knew that - it was the last thing I told her when she was still able to understand me. She tried to answer, and was unable, but she looked me in the eye & said it back. I am smiling now as I write this - that is a good sign.

    Bless you all.
    Love, Debi


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