“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


Mary One Year Gone

It is the evening of Valentine's Day, dark already and it has been cold, the snow gone, snowmen falling to their knees all about us, and I have this picture of a chair to offer you. It is my third to last picture of Mary, the one where I apparently looked away, the next two are fine, she is in focus, but in those she is looking away, seeing a place I couldn't see. In this one she is seeing me. On her way to the hospital for the last time, I surprised her outside her door, she wasn't expecting me, and I see that in her eyes, I see that she knows me, she knows what is happening, she knows, she knows, she knows, and perhaps that is why I focused on the chair, perhaps it's not that she moved or that I messed up, perhaps seeing that knowledge was just too hard, perhaps I just couldn't acknowledge it back. The next time I saw her was 2 or 3 days later and she was back home, in her bed, just like she wanted, exactly where she wanted to die, but she was mostly gone, and sometimes I think it probably didn't matter, she was so unaware of things and us, but I know that's wrong, there were moments of awareness, just moments, but we were there and spoke to her and held her hands and kissed her cheeks and Lyndi-Linda seldom left her side.

It will be a year tomorrow - it was a Sunday morning and I'd been sleeping on the couch, keeping her house in my sight if I awoke. and I knew when I did wake that morning it was over. I could see lights on and her son-in-law pacing the dining room. It was about 5 and I knew and I can't remember if I got up or if I went back to sleep, but I waited until I saw Lyndi drive up, or maybe she called, I am so unclear, but I got up and I got dressed and I said goodbye to her, to Mary, though she was already gone and it mattered not.

Here, a year later, I will tell you that I am angry with her, mad at her for no funeral, mad that she donated her body to science, angry that the memorial service didn't take place until April, and I hope she is listening. I have grieved before, I have buried my father, was by his side when he died, I am not new to this process, but this has been a hard year, and that lack of ritual holds much of the blame. To myself I call it The Year of Not Reading, the first time in my life books have not been friends to which I could turn, only one or two new ones started and finished, tons of new ones stacked and waiting, a few pages read, then the books put aside, as, one by one, I found nothing there. I painted and then stopped, and I began to write. It has been a selfish year, a year of self absorption, of looking backward to where I was and how I got there and how I got here, and I found time for others' words only in small doses, but those doses were solace. The blogging world is daily full of paragraphs and tales by strangers-become-friends, and y'all will never know how much a pretty sentence lightened my heart, how it affected my day to read of a peach eaten in a kitchen with sunlight streaming through the window, how images of trees and dogs and this and that made me smile and tear up. You will never know how much I missed you when I began to write more and more, leaving painting temporarily behind, learning to use my camera as my canvas, letting go of trying too hard, time itself difficult to come by. A very selfish year indeed. I bow to you with Namaste hands for still being here.

But a year it has been. A year too quickly gone, too many changes outside my windows, not enough inside. I miss her still, miss her friendship, miss the ease of our conversations and our silences together, and now, having told her of my anger, perhaps I can read again. Maybe not. Who knows? Perhaps that will only come when Maggie has also gone. In the meantime I will continue to find favorite passages in books already read and re-read those.

" I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesterdays are buried deep -- leave it in any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance. The cloud clears as you enter it. I have learned this, but like everyone, I learned it late." ~ Beryl Markham / West with the Night

The cloud clears as you enter it.
How wonderful.


  1. did you take the photo in black and white?

    i cannot say much ...i have a big lump in my throat and it amazes me..the emotion a post brings up that you do not think of often. past years do seem safe & i am pleased a the prospect of the clouds.

  2. I read something Important once that said the stages of grief don't really go in order like they're supposed to. Instead, they linger underneath somewhere and blindside us enough to leave us breathless. I hate that because I know it's true.

    But sometimes grief makes me feel like a superhero. Bam! Pow! Every time it shows itself, I suffer a little (OK - a lot) but then I knock grief back on its butt, For sure, I don't sit around waiting for grief, but I know it will be around again.

  3. Fighting tears as I read this..and write this. Time heals..however slowly. And - perhaps - this expressing your anger is the final piece of letting go...

  4. Oh, Debi.

    Tears of compassion for you as I read your words. From my viewpoint, way up north here, it was not a selfish year. It was a year you gifted your blogging friends with raw glimpses into your wild heart. "Tis why we keep coming back for more.

    And that last quoted paragraph? The exact piece of advice I needed today.


  5. Deb

    I have nothing more than a simple I'm sorry. . . for the loss and for the absence of ritual.
    I understand
    Perhaps Mary and my dear sweet Nanny are sitting together somewhere waiting for the "we didn't want a formal end" meeting to start.

    Thank you for the quote, it has been saved in my folder.


  6. Debi... I sooo understand. On the 13th, my beloved grandma has been gone a year too. I just didn't have it in me to post yet. What a beautiful post about your Mary~ xxxVicki

  7. The absence of the ritual wherein you weren't afforded the opportunity to say goodbye leaves you without a real sense of closure and one needs closure, whether you think you do or not at the time. It allows you to really come to grips and face the loss. I'm so sorry for your loss and the pain of that loss that you are still feeling a year later. It does get better with time.

  8. The cloud clears as you enter it.

    I wonder if that's not the problem sometimes? I wonder if we avoid the cloud in dread so that it grows huge and menacing. I wonder if we just entered that cloud, admitted our anger, our pain, if we wouldn't see that the cloud begins to dissolve little by little.

    I don't know for sure. But, I certainly hope so.

  9. Posts like this are the blood and guts of this blog of yours. It's why I keep coming back and will always come back.
    You put down words like this and most of the time, I don't want to comment. I just want to sit quietly with what you have expressed so eloquently and be still. And reflect. And feel.

  10. serendipitous indeed.
    but i felt that, the first time i came here.

    this line: "snowmen falling to their knees all about us" is a heart breaker, the images it conjures.

    and so now you have had that year of grieving for mary and this year of grieving for maggie.

    i hope this coming year the cloud will clear as you enter it. i hope there will be sunshine.


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