Tag Archives: angels

Days And Decades

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How 15 hours became 20 years…

Today is the 20th anniversary of Mama’s death…but just barely.  December 8 was just a couple of hours old when she drew that last breath and moved from here to Heaven.  So while this is technically the anniversary, I always spend December 7 remembering…reliving…her last day of life, and spending it with her.

I arrived at Baptist Hospital around 11:30 that cold, grey Sunday morning, to relieve Dad, who had spent the night before with her.  He told me that, after being unresponsive for over 12 hours, she had awakened in the middle of the night, and they had a conversation.  She said she knew she would die soon, and that she was not afraid.  His recollection of that exchange shook me, hard and deep.  As we chatted briefly, he made a note to send to their financial advisor on Mama’s hospital menu for that day.  I remarked that I probably had a blank sheet of paper he could use, and he said no, the menu would be fine, especially since it documented the date and his note was an instruction for an account change that needed to be done before the end of the calendar year.  He was, and still is, careful and astute in financial matters.  We hugged goodbye and I told him to go home and get some sleep, that I’d see him later.

Just minutes after he left, Mama’s face changed, as did her breathing, echoing through the room with “the death rattle” I had often heard mentioned in older people’s conversations, but had only heard with my own ears a few times.  It didn’t register with me right away that she had begun actively dying, but over the course of the day it sank in.  In about a half hour a nurse came in to check Mama’s vital signs, and she asked how long her breathing had been like that.  When I answered, this sweet nurse just came and put her arm around my shoulder, telling me that she didn’t think Mama was in any pain or distress, that I could talk or sing to her, pet her and love her, because nothing was bothering her now.  I think now that this nurse may have been an angel; I don’t remember having seen her at any other time during our hospital stay; I can’t recall her name or face or hair color; I only remember her words and the feel of her arm around me.

For her last 15 hours, Mama and I shared that little space together, mostly alone except for nurses and CNAs coming in to check her vital signs and to ask if I was all right, if I needed anything.  We only had a few visitors, including a hospital social worker and her husband, who circled around and prayed with us, and my cousins Judy and Ann, who came that night just hours before Mama died.  There were some phone calls through the day, but mostly many hours of stillness.  Mama never awoke that last day, but I spoke to her, and I know she was aware of my presence…my love.

Flash forward to last week when I was messaging with a friend and telling him about Mama’s anniversary coming up.  He expressed understanding of my residual grief.  We talked on about the state of current affairs, the world, and concerns over what we, as individuals and as a culture, may leave behind.  I tried to reassure him that he is sending light into a world that sometimes seems very dark.

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And I realized something.  Those last priceless hours I shared with Mama shaped the way I view my years, and how I want to spend whatever time I have left.  When it is time for me to leave this world, I hope I am remembered for the moments I shared with others…one on one and bunches of us together, moments of music and silence, times we laughed until we cried, ate until we belched and then laughed some more, hugs and smiles and being genuine with one another (I don’t really know how to be any other way).  If my moments are meaningful, then my years will be worthwhile.

In her last 15 hours of life, Mama taught me just as much as she did in the 58 years that preceded them.  What a gift!  If my days and decades are a tiny fraction as full as hers were, I will leave something good behind me here when I leave.

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R.I.P DivaMobile

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She was more than just a car…

Most people have probably seen the insurance commercial in which a cute girl speaks to the camera, saying “You owned your car for 4 years.  You named it Brad.  You LOVED Brad.  And then you totaled him…”  The script goes on to describe the relationship between the car and its owner.  I can relate to this scenario more strongly since, after nearly 12 years of driving her, I wrecked my beloved DivaMobile.

The sadness of watching her getting towed away was overwhelming.  I cried and then I threw up.  No kidding.  (I think the throwing up had to do partly with my taking antibiotics at the time…but only partly.)

In order to explain my attachment to her, I need to give a bit of backstory.  I found myself in February 2004 needing a replacement for my previous car, which had been rear-ended and totaled in that wreck (which was not nearly as traumatic as this one). Jeff and I looked around and test drove a few, and decided that it made the most sense for us to go ahead and purchase something brand new.  So we bought a new 2004 Honda C-RV.  I named her Veronica, nicknamed The DivaMobile.  She had 153 miles on February 20, 2004 when I took delivery, and the only reason those miles were on her was because the dealership did not have a stick shift in my desired color on the lot.  So mine was driven over from North Carolina.  She was not fancy, but she was silver, shiny, new and all mine, and I loved her from the start.

The DivaMobile carried us on many vacation adventures, including, I believe, our first trip to St. Simons Island.  We took her on several trips there and to Destin, our other favorite vacation spot.  She was my companion on my work commute, to music and volunteer activities, taking our dogs to the vet, and she always had more than enough room for all the gear I carried around with me.  (It is difficult for me to travel light, whether literally or metaphorically.)  She saw the transition when Ernie The Wonder Beagle died and then Our Boy Roy became part of our family, hauling them both when they needed to go to the vet or anywhere else.  Roy always gets excited when I ask, “Do you want to go for a ride?”

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From February 20, 2004 until January 20, 2016, The DivaMobile carried me safely everyplace I needed to go. I spent all of my 40’s with her, and then some.  And with God’s help, she kept me safe in the worst wreck I’ve ever been involved in as either a passenger or a driver.  I walked away from this nightmare with only some bumps, bruises and scratches.  Physically, I am OK.  And I am grateful.

For years  I had a tiny angel on a leather cord hanging from my rear view mirror.  I liked the thought of an angel riding along with me.  I still do.

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Jeff and I don’t trade cars often.  We tend to make long-term commitments, driving them until they die…or in this case, until they are killed.  The DivaMobile and I traveled 154,408 miles together…minus her first 153, that is.  I’m praying my next car relationship is as long and satisfying, just with a happier ending.

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Angels Among Us

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Comfort in plastic and concrete

 

Shortly after Mama died, I was at the house with Dad and I saw something in the kitchen I had never noticed before.  On a small hook next to a cabinet hung a few little plastic angels suspended by metallic gold thread.  They were tiny and cheap, and I found out later that they glow in the dark!  I don’t know where she got them, if they were a gift or if she had bought them herself.  I can imagine that they might have been attached to some sort of small present as part of the wrapping.  Seeing those little angels at this time of bereavement brought me an odd sort of comfort, and I asked Dad if I could take them home with me.  I don’t think he had ever noticed them hanging there either, and he gave me his blessing to take them home.  

I later received a catalog in the mail and, as I was looking through its pages of gadgets and knick-knacks, a picture of Mama’s kitchen angels jumped out at me!  They came in sets of 10 and were very inexpensive, so I bought a bunch of them.  I figured I would use them in craft projects, gift wrapping and the like.  When Mom Cutshaw died, she had requested a closed casket, so I asked one of the funeral home men to slip one of them into her casket, as a little temporary parting gift from me.  And again, one of these little plastic angels gave me a peculiar sort of comfort.Image

Before and since, I have collected angel figurines and jewelry, and I enjoy taking photos of angels where I see them.  A church near my house has a beautiful angel next to its majestic red front door.  She is almost the size of a real person.  On my way home one afternoon when the sunlight was especially pretty, I stopped to photograph the church, its arched door, old-fashioned bell, historic cornerstone and steeple, and especially that lovely angel.Image

From the street as I drove past, she looked like she was made of marble, but up close, I could see that she is really made of concrete.  Whoever made her gave her detailed wings, a flowing, drapey gown, praying hands and a serene face.  A face I found, again, strangely comforting.Image

 

I took a class last year that had students fill out a form and answer questions regularly before our individual meetings with our supervisor.  One of those questions was, “Where have you found God this week?”  In my faith and my worldview, I find Him everywhere, in big things and small ones…because I choose to look for Him everywhere.  I’m not saying that I can always make sense of what He’s up to or that I understand how He’s working all the time, because I don’t.  But I know He’s there.  

I have found Him in the most unlikely places, maybe more often than in the confines of a church building.  I’ve seen Him in the faces of people who, stricken with their own grief, somehow manage to reach out and comfort others.  I have felt Him in the embraces of my family and friends when no words could offer solace.  I have heard Him in music and birdsong and the sound of ocean waves.  And He has sent me comfort and peace in the form of angels.  Even (or especially) in Mama’s tiny, glow-in-the-dark plastic angels.