Until Death and Beyond

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Memories are funny things. They travel with us wherever we go and can come out, apparently, whenever they want. Last week we went swimming with my dad. My daughter, Michelle had found a beautiful and rather large inland lake, at a State Park, just a half hour from my dad’s apartment. He was reluctant at first, but then decided to give it a try. He had a great time. He insisted that the water was perfect and it had done his bad knee a world of good. He recalled the short swim he took with us in a pool in Florida but then quickly added that the last time he had swam in a lake was with my mom.

It’s hard to believe mom has been gone for a year and a half. When we went to Florida with dad last winter he insisted on taking us everywhere that mom used to like being. He would always quickly relate stories of their adventures and look for our approval. He was deeply disappointed when we couldn’t find a place or a restaurant was no longer in business. I know dad is still grieving her loss. To some extent we all are.

Dad’s apartment is full of pictures. We and all of the grandkids and great grandkids are well represented. But most of the pictures are of his wife. She lives on in pictures and memories.

Crystal’s dad has been without Mary Jane for some seven years now. If she were to miraculously return, she would find quilts on the walls, dolls on shelves and other decorations just where she left them. They decorated the house together, collected little knickknacks and even stenciled the cupboards with flowers.   He has no interest in changing very much what is in the house, but insists that we can do whatever we want once he has joined her. We haven’t caught him talking to her lately, but I know he still feels like she is somehow close.  We feel that way too when we are there.  She always likes the big family parties and holiday gatherings.  Crystal thinks she is watching when we use the special red glass dishes at Christmas and put the embroidered table cloth on the table.

I don’t believe, no matter how many TV shows are dedicated to the subject, that spirits roam the earth. Somehow, though, our memories act like ghosts. For years after our loved ones are gone, we wonder what they would have done in our situation, or would they have approved of what we were doing.  It is as if we carry part of them with us wherever we go. When it comes to a long time spouse I can definitely see a parallel to a friendly haunting. Until death is by no means the whole story.

Crystal’s Corner: Cardinals and Mom

My mom always loved birds which is why my dad put a large bird feeder in the backyard which could be seen from the kitchen table.  Every day, my mom would watch the birds and get mad at the squirrels.  She especially loved bright red cardinals which would come to the bird feeder.  After she died, we saw cardinals at different times and in odd places. It seemed like when we would have family celebrations; there would be several cardinals around enjoying it with us.  We think this is mom showing us that she is around.

My daughter, Michelle, always seems to see cardinals when she needs my mom to be around.  She’ll tell me about it.  I have been giving her cardinal statues and Christmas ornaments to have in her house.

All the girls miss my mom.  She was always laughing and telling them stories and encouraging them.  My mom was a very good listener and helped them when she could.  Now when we see my dad, we share with him memories about mom.  It was hard at first, but grief changes over time.  We know she is safe and happy and well. Also, because of our faith in Jesus, we know we will see her again.

A long time ago I wrote a poem (before mom died) about mom teaching the angels to quilt when she is in heaven.  I can even picture this.  She taught many people to quilt and some of them became quilting teachers and even entered quilt contests.  I always feel like she is around me when I go to a quilt show or textile art show.  We use to go together and mom would comment on the techniques used and the colors and design.  She was so knowledgeable about quilting history and techniques and always doing new and challenging projects.  I am working on a number of projects.  I hope to get some of them into quilt shows and /or contests.  She would be proud of my lecture about Harriet Beecher Stowe.  I was working on it before she died.  She always encouraged me to continue with my projects and to teach.  It was something special that we shared, this love of teaching and sharing our knowledge and experience.  My daughter, Michelle, is going back to school to get her teaching credentials.  I think that the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.  She wants to teach the early grades and I know she will do well as a teacher and be loved by her students.

I wonder when Michelle is teaching in the future whether she will occasionally see a cardinal outside the window encouraging her.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all.

2008_062107July0002            2008_051707July0069

Crystal my mom and dad in 2008                                              Crystal with her dad and our grandchild 2008

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