Life Story Writing

Teaching Life Story Writing and Musings On My Life ~

Where Have I Been This Past Year?!

Well they say …’the best laid plans of mice and men…’  Where do I start?  Almost a year ago on a visit to England, my Mum wasn’t well.  By December she was diagnosed with stage iv colon cancer.  Since then I have been flying back and forth to spend time with her and help her.  Its really a two edged sword.  I found myself looking at life juxtaposed with death, happy memories with sad, health with illness, expectations clashing with reality.

For years I had asked Mum to write about her memories, her life, but her pen never met the paper.  We realize we are down to her final weeks, I believe, maybe even her final days and its all water under the bridge.  As I scan her photos I have questions: how old were you when you met Dad?  Where did you meet him?  Tell me again about your knee injury?  How did you ever get your parents to let you go touring with Dad on a tandem before you were married?!

LanepersonalityThere are gaps. We gather what we have.  Old photos become treasures, a door to a bygone era, a Mother bright and beautiful, full of energy and adventure, a Mother I never knew.  How I wish I could have known her then.  We ask family members endearingly to take time out of their busy lives to start jotting down the memories as they come, and come they do: the high heel shoes and bleached hair, the Val Doonican records piping through the house, how she would run out and strip off her shirt and bathe in her bra to grab a little sunshine and tan, her cheesecake, her grapes smothered in cream and sprinkled with brown sugar, her legendary Sunday roasts, her brushing my wet hair and insisting it be dried before I go to bed, her devotion to family, her love for small furry things, her fashionista sense, her mad knitting and ironing skills and the list goes on.

Memories can come in fragments, they can come in torrents, they can come in a scent or a tune or a taste.  They can come from standing in a certain place or being with familiar faces or as conversations of shared memories are spoken.  These are the golden nuggets.  Sometimes we don’t get to choose what we remember so when the memories come we cherish what we have.  Grab that pen, write it down, text yourself, leave yourself a voicemail, write in your journal, write yourself an email, share it with Laneadventurefamily members.  I have found an interesting phenomena, that as I let these treasures surface and as I skim them carefully off the top of my mind and put them in a safe place, quite often they are followed by another memory and another.

So muster the troops! Call family members! Text them or email them! Ask them to write their memories.  Take all these gems and compile everything in a book using software such as found at http://www.blurb.com.  As we take the collective memory of many people and add to them the photos we begin to create a picture of a person’s lifetime.  Because when all is said and done all we have left of life is memories. Happy remembering!

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The Thick Of Thin Things ~ My Love/Hate Relationship With Technology!

IMG_0194These past few days I have been contemplating my love/hate relationship with technology. It seems to have me, more often than not, by the neck, holding my life for ransom. One day, one hour, one minute at a time I am trading out the other things I could be doing for time on the computer. There is this invisible thread that pulls me to check out my Facebook notifications, check my email, maybe do a little research for a post to my Visit My British Isles page or my Life Story Writing page. Not bad I think to myself. Yet it seems as if there is some kind of time distortion going on when I engage in technological pursuits.

My list of things to do, people to see, seems to grow, not diminish. My writing does lies abandoned. My multiple reading books sit waiting for me. Surely with a husband and daughter at work I have no excuse not to carve out one hour of writing time and one hour of reading time?

I have in times past closed the computer and walked away for a day or a week. It feels somehow freeing. Its like those other addictions, sometimes easier to go cold turkey than to piece meal my way along.

For good or for no good at all, my life is inextricably linked to technology. I love the instant connections. I hate the time consumption. I love the wealth of knowledge at my fingertips. I hate that I drown it endless web pages. I love the friendship and kinship I find. I hate how frazzled I feel trying to not ‘miss’ anything. I love that my words can be heard around the world. I hate that I feel dependent on technology for this. I love the opportunities it presents. I hate how overwhelmed I feel trying to figure things out and keep up! And so the list goes on.

This struggle is playing itself out in my mind in one more arena right now: whether I should get a smart phone, or not. I went to a class last week, where the instructor said ‘If you are using your phone as a phone and entertainment device only then you are using it as a dumb phone!’ He pointed out that in the future when we want to go to the store we will dictate our list to the phone and the phone will use a GPS to take us efficiently through the aisles to pick up our products. At the checkout it will price match. And of course we will pay with our phone. He said we do nothing riskier than carry a wallet full of cards around.

Next month Apple comes out with a Health Kit that will monitor your health to the extent it may save your life!

When I pull my little $30 flip phone out in public I feel quite self conscious. I realize I am a dying breed.

Its coming and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I do however have a choice on how I choose to manage the technology in my life, and its time I figured that out

Does anyone else struggle with this? Please do tell me what has worked for you!

Feeling Beautiful?!


Ha, you know those days when you look in the mirror and you feel haggard, washed out, maybe a little scary or even feel a little ugly? For those days I have a special mantra that I repeat to myself. It goes something like this:

G-irl! If you looked in the mirror ten years from now and saw THIS, you would be HAPPY!

I laugh a little to myself and decide to be happy now.

Outward beauty is lauded and worshiped in our society from GQ looking men in retro suits to lithe, photo-shopped women with perfect teeth and skin. Yet paradoxically a focus on outward beauty can lead to an ugly life. Have you ever wondered where true beauty has gone?

Today, my friend, Denise challenged me to ask myself, ‘What makes you FEEL beautiful’ and here are my thoughts.

BEING MYSELF: As long as I have memory I have loved being me. I like who I am. The fact that I am different from others has always been way more exciting than trying to be the same as everyone else. So I feel most beautiful when I am being most ‘me’. Sometimes this is challenging when I feel scared, intimidated or threatened. I am in this life to live it fully and not for the acclaim or praise of the world. When you find your own beauty its a part of every facet of your life, you feel it intimately, radiantly. You don’t suck the lifeblood out of others, you give them energy, life and a gift of your own beauty in the form of love.

TAKING CARE OF THE WHOLE: For me beauty is a holistic experience, that is, its an inside as well as an outside thing. If I’m taking care of my body, feeding it well, exercising it, giving it rest and recreation, the company of others then I know I will feel beautiful. This goes for taking care of my spirit too. As I feed my soul with spiritual things I feel an increase of beauty in my life and I feel and radiate beauty.

LIVE MY TRUTH: Being honest and authentic has a beauty all its own. As I live my life according to my beliefs I feel joy and that joy makes me feel beautiful. I am at peace with myself and those around me. This doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes, I do, but I try to put things right. I admit my mistakes and try to be an agent of healing in my own life and in the lives of others. Life has no guaranteed happiness but I do believe in the Prince of Peace and that no matter what adverse curves life throws there is a way through and a brighter day will dawn. Living my truth, believing in peace and having hope make me feel beautiful.

UNCONDITIONAL LOVING: When I see others as God sees them and love them as He would, I feel beautiful. When others overlook my faults, see the earnest good intent in my heart and love me unconditionally, I feel beautiful. When God and others give me grace, I feel beautiful. When I can give others grace, forgiveness and acceptance I feel beautiful.

BEING IN NATURE: When I am surrounded by beauty I can’t help but feel beautiful and for me that is being out in nature. My hair can be wind tossed, my face, make-up less, my clothes can be unfashionable yet I feel so one with the beauty around me it permeates every part of me! Maybe that comes from my growing up in beautiful, verdant English countryside or maybe I just love the world around me, green or brown, sunrise or sunset, desert or ocean, valley or mountain top. How can you not feel beautiful when wrapped in so much beauty?!

So here’s a shout out for more ‘true beauty’ in our lives!

Well there you have it, my bottom line on beauty. What’s yours?! ^_^

Thoughts On Writing

The heights by great men

I have always loved this quote by Longfellow.

You don’t have to be really smart to write.

You don’t even have to be really talented to write.

What you do have to be is patient, with yourself and with the process.

And you have to be willing to work.

Whether that is literally writing in the night when others are sleeping or just putting in the effort anytime.

How is talent created? Over time with earnest effort.

I truly believe that writing improves with… well, writing! (Surely someone who writes every day is going to be ahead of the game.)

Your thoughts over time prepare you to write. Take note of your thoughts.

Anything you do in life to develop discipline will pay off in the writing department. Dealing with difficult challenges and not giving up or honing your ability to be tenacious will show up in your writing skills. Whether its just getting your butt in the chair late at night when you are tired or working through a difficult scene, you just start and do and keep going.

There is something extremely empowering in the actual doing, no matter what the end writing result is. You sharpen the saw in many ways when you sit down to write; your ability to be disciplined, your ability to focus, your ability to concentrate, your ability to think positively and your ability to open yourself up to a higher source of inspiration are increased.

When you sit down to write, there is before you, a moment of a thousand possibilities. Some of your best writing may be done without you knowing beforehand it is about to be created.

Creation is a process, so at one sitting you may fairly lay down a skeleton of jumbled ideas. Is that a brilliant piece? No. Is it a place to come back to and start from the next time? Yes. Does it have value? Certainly. Who’s to say what your skeleton of jumbled ideas may become…

Writing is like drawing lines in the sand. At any given moment when we sit down to write we draw a line. We can edit and change the shape and direction of the lines, each line adding to the overall picture, each line having value. But the picture takes time. Beautiful things are created, over time.

Sometimes you really need to take yourself out of the way of your writing. You need to practice being a conduit and let the writing come through you without judgment, without thought, without planning; let the thoughts flow down onto the paper. Sometimes you just need to write, to start and be a little less controlling and see what comes.

Over time, your writing will add to who you are, it will help you become the person you want to be. At tough writing junctures, whether its to write or not or how to write or even what to write, you will keep the vision of where you are going, where you want to be. Knowing you are on the path, headed in the right (write?!) direction helps you know writing is worth it. And you are worth the writing too.

You are blessed with the gift to write. You live in the light ages not the dark ages. You have a knowledge of language and literature and a world wide audience like no other generation.

Someone in this world needs your voice whether to uplift, educate or entertain.

These voices call you to your writing.

Writing; the most thrilling, unknown adventure you will ever embark on! And its only a pen stroke away.

The Infamous, Larger-Than-Life Gerry!

Gerry and little 'Teraza Maria'

Gerry and little ‘Teraza Maria’

Its seems only fitting that I should end this day by writing about Gerry Fairless, Auntie Gerry, as she was known to me.  In the early hours of this 4th of July 2014, in a hospital in Montevideo, Uruguay, Gerry began the greatest voyage ever.

Ninety one years ago a little girl was born to Ada and Alf Hill.  I can’t help but think that from her very first breathe she stole hearts and had a captive audience.  Four years later she became a big sister to her baby brother, Geoff, my father.

Nellie as she was known in her earlier years lost her Mother to cancer at age 14. Life could not have been easy. During World War II she was to meet a handsome pilot, Colin Fairless, whom she later married.  Colin was from Montevideo, Uruguay.  And so began her first of many trips to Uruguay (and back) and a new life there, half way around the world.

Gerry was big on family.  She wrote on aerogram letters every week to her ‘Daddy’ back in Brierley Hill, England.  Her Daddy eagerly awaited each letter and wrote faithfully back too.  They numbered their letters in case they were lost.  Gerry was very fond of her baby brother, Geoffrey. They wrote, then telephoned, then at 80 she entered the technology age and learned how to email and finally to Skype. Their friendship has spanned 87 years.  Today my Dad not only lost his longest and closest friend but last connection with the past.

My earliest memories of Gerry are at around age 3 or 4.  I remember sitting in the back of my Dad’s delivery van as we drove her back to Southampton to take a ship home.  It was dark and uncomfortable back there and maybe that is one of the reasons it was memorable.  Or maybe because of the huge cruise ship although I have no recollection of that, just a photo.

I remember she smoked which in my young child like mind I found an oddity.  I was never around people who smoked.

Gerry was loud and vivacious.  I was quiet and timid, but my Mum says I was just like her!  Throughout my life my Mum would all of a sudden look at me and say ‘Oh, that was so Auntie Gerry!’

Gerry could do the best ‘little girl’ voice, ever. It made me laugh. On one visit she called me ‘mon petite chou,’ my little cabbage!  She was one of the few people who could truly pronounce my name right and she would say it with her singing, Spanish accent. ‘Teraaaza, Maaaria!’

She seemed to have mastered being fully alive in that body of hers.

In Montevideo she became part of an amateur dramatic society, the Montevideo Players.  She adored acting.  It literally was true that the world was her stage, darling, because you never really knew if she was being Gerry or was still ‘in character’.  In a way, it’s as if she walked onto the stage and never walked off.

In her last days at the hospital the doctor asked her who the Queen of England was, testing her mental capacity.  She replied ‘Mary’.  When her son visited her he asked her the same question.  ‘Queen Elizabeth of course,’ she replied.  Mark, her son, explains that she was ‘acting’ for the doctor because lets face it what else could she do in a hospital bed?!

Oh Gerry! True to the end.

Gerry’s life was not without heartache.  She lost a son Neil and her husband Colin.  She has lived 25 years without her sweetheart.

A week ago her son Mark and grandson Morgan arrived in England for a visit.  Four days ago I skyped with them for the first time, catching up, we chatted about Gerry.  I talked about visiting.

I had so hoped to see you, Gerry, just one more time.

And now she is gone.

We play Russian roulette with the possibilities and probabilities of our lives.  So many times we hold the things that matter most, hostage, to things that matter least or to things that don’t matter at all.  Why do we do that?  Why do we let this life whiz by us half-lived?

Maybe my brother said it best of all; that in her infamous way, Gerry has gone out with a bang, stealing the show on the 4th of July.  Because lets face it every 4th of July I will think of Gerry and celebrate her crazy, beautiful life!

When all is said and done we are shocked she is gone, it almost unthinkable. She was in her own way iconic, a legend.  Yet we are glad she did not linger suffering in this body that wouldn’t work for her; this body that wouldn’t let her completely be ‘Gerry.’

I like to think there is a grande reunion in heaven today.  Gerry, her Mum and Dad, Ada and Alf, her son, Neil and sweetheart, Colin.  And guess what?  She is stealing the show again. ^_^  ‘Cheers, darling and goodnight Auntie Gerry, till we meet again.’

Behind A Closed Door

In life we make lists, we separate or compartmentalize our things and experiences.  We organize and categorize our living.  Yet in the end everything is connected, there is no separation in reality.  Okay so maybe I am just trying to explain this to myself.  Why?  I do have a reason and it goes something like this:

A couple of months ago I found myself in York England living out a dream I’d had for many years.  Although born and raised in England I now live in the States so going home is a much looked forward to tradition.  But this was a homecoming of a different kind.  I was travelling alone in England for six weeks and I would finally have time to live out some of my long-held dreams.

Alfred William Hill

Alfred William Hill

Why York and what does it have to do with Life Story writing?  My great-grandfather Alfred William Hill was born and raised in York.  From what little we know that has been passed down he sang in the York Minster and was trained as an Organ Builder no likely at the Minster too.  So what relevance does that have to me today?  Well for one I was born a Hill and secondly I carry some of his genes.  I don’t know about you but for me there is a strong connection to the past, where I came from and who I came from that helps me better understand and appreciate who I am and maybe even why I am the person I am.  Now that has direct bearing on your Life Story right?!

Evenson Chapel

Choir Stalls

The Mighty Organ

The Mighty Organ

 

My time in York was short but I was there and I reveled in that simple delight.  To think that I was walking where he walked, seeing in part what he had seen.  Well lets face it the Minster Cathedral hasn’t changed that much since he was there.  I was even hearing some of what he had heard as that beautiful organ bellowed out her ancient melodies that lifted our thoughts and eyes heaven ward.  At Evensong I sat a few rows away from the choir stalls and imagined him as a boy singing there.  As the organ played I wondered if he had been trained as an organ builder by knowing some of the intricacies of that organ.  As I climbed the tower up its several hundred steps to the view of the spreading city below I wondered if he had ever seen his world from that perspective.

 

I thought about his life, how he left this beautiful city to come to the industrial and blackened country of the Midlands.  Did he miss his family?  Did he miss his home?  He had married the daughter of an organ builder who had gone to York to work on the Minster organ, or at least that is what we are told.  Alfred married Bertha and they had four children.  Bertha was carrying their fifth child when she heard the news.  Her husband Alfred was dead, killed in an accident at work.  He had been working on repairing a lift (elevator) when it fell on him and crushed him.  He was just a young 35 years.

 

The York Minster

The York Minster

My mind was brought back to present day as I stood there in the Minster, breathless with its beauty and its enormity.  These two worlds present and past seemed momentarily to converge as it was as if I could feel Alfred so close that I half expected him to come from behind a closed-door and great me with sparkling eyes and a infectious smile!

Although long gone from this world, I believe my great-grandfather exists as a spirit being, that he is aware of my life here.  I find it realistic to believe that knowing of my visit to York, knowing of my awareness of him, that it is quite possible that he joined me in spirit there that day.   Real or imagined, I was there and it impacted me.

What can I take from this?  Alfred was born an illegitimate child of my great-great grandmother who was in service as a servant in great house at the time.  Taken in and raised by his grandparents as one of their own Alfred made something of his life.  We know of his love of music and singing and his ability to build and create.  We know he dared greatly to leave his home and move to a new place and made a new life.  We know even in those impoverished and challenging times he found love and married, raised children.  In his short life he truly lived his dreams with passion and conviction.

Thank you Alfred for the legacy: Create, Dream, Love and Live!

 

Is there someone from your past, recent or distant that you feel a connection to?  What have you learned from them?  Write about it!  Capture their story from your perspective.

Four Lesson I Learned From My Friend’s Viewing

There has been a great tragedy in our neighborhood, we lost a whole family, Mom, Dad, children and Nana.  One minute they were full of life, the next they were gone.  This has affected so many people but especially their extended families and close friends.  Hearts are aching, eyes are wet, sleep is hard to come by, so much emptiness.

Life is fragile for many reasons.

Here are four things I learned from my friend’s viewing.

Lesson number one: I walked by Kelly’s casket.  It was her body but it wasn’t Kelly.  The same with her children, their bodies lifeless almost manequin-like.  It never ceases to amaze me at open casket funeral’s that every time I see the body I get this overwhelming feeling that what I know is true.  The body is the empty shell that once housed their spirit, their essential essence, the thing that really makes them who they are.  Because day in and day out we see and interact with one another on this physical plane its a stretch for us to realize that who we are isn’t purely physical.  The physical is only the outward manifestation of spirit, emotion, thought and personality.  All those remain intact and leave the body as one at death.  The real life force of a person cannot be snuffed out.  There is a far greater, wondrous plan at work.  This once again brought peace to my heart even if my mind still reeled at the horror of their tragic deaths.  This was lesson number one.  They still live, not here but in another realm.  They still think and love. They are still the same people we knew here.

Lesson two came to me as I watched the video, the montage of a myriad of photos that passed before our dewy eyes.  I stood clinging to my husband.  And then it happened, Kelly pulling a goofy face.  We all need be goofy in pictures on a regular basis.  Why?  To bring a burst of laughter and smile to the faces of our loved ones, after we are gone. Kelly also took a ton of pictures. Lesson two, be goofy and take lots of pictures.

Lesson three.  Short though there lives were, Kelly and her children shared this immense loves for one another that was almost palpable.  Kelly always had a smile for everyone, was a joy and a light.  Lesson three, live life with love.

Lesson four.  Don’t fret too much about the worldly things.  I thought about Kelly today and realized, she didn’t have her cell phone or Facebook, she wasn’t worried about what she was going to wear, or if her house was clean, she wasn’t worried about how much money she had.  She was with people who loved her and was looking down on people who loved her who were sorrowing and wanted to comfort them and tell them everything was okay.  Lesson four: Write a letter to your loved ones on what you want them to know if you don’t have a chance to say goodbye.  Kelly would want us to be happy, remember the good times, live life and celebrate each day. That is what she would want us to do. That is how she would want us to honor her memory and not worry about her.  Besides if we really think about it we know what she is doing, she is busy making friends in heaven.

Kelly and kids

Perfection In Writing In An Imperfect World ~ Just Read It!

perfectly imperfect 2Perfection has been on my mind for a while now. The subject keeps cropping up here and there as if the universe is calling out to me to write this.

Today I posted this in response to a discouraged writer on our Facebook Writers Group:

I think as writers and as humans we need a more accepting, loving attitude, a gentler way with ourselves. We are not perfect and that is so blatantly obvious. Yet it seems we spend our whole life trying to come to terms with our imperfection. The opposition and struggle in life is what shapes us and our writing. Your words have value, they have power. Sleep on it, go for a walk in nature, listen to beautiful music, laugh, sigh, ponder. And write again. Write for you.

At age 20 I was living away from home for the first time. Up to that point in my life I had taken things to heart. I was conscientious and a striving perfectionist. You get the picture, kind of neurotically disappointed because I never fully lived up to my own expectations. Then out of the blue one day I was pushing my bike up a hill in Leicester, England when I had this epiphany. This striving for perfection wasn’t the right perspective on life. It was making me miserable. In that moment something changed inside of me and I let go of perfectionism for good.

Did that mean that I didn’t care about myself, my life and my goals anymore? No, that would be ridiculously counter-productive. I just took a step back and looked at life a little more realistically, maybe a little more logically. The pattern of, get up each day and try, was still there. There were days I succeeded and that was great but there were also days I failed. However, now instead of dwelling on the negative, I just joyed in the knowledge that tomorrow I would wake up with a clean slate to try again. And that is exactly what I did. I just kept waking up each day and trying. I showed up and I practiced at improving my life.

Fast forward many years. I am close to 40 years old, divorced with five children ages 4-13 and in school full-time. In one of my many classes, a class on morality, perfectionism was discussed. The Professor suggested to us that instead of seeking for perfection we seek for excellence. Something stirred within me. This resonated with me and felt right. From that time forth I viewed my life as seeking for excellence. Does this mean I am an overachiever? No. Does this mean I think I am pretty awesome? No. It just means that I am continually seeking growth and improvement in my life.

excellencevsperfectionDisappointment, struggle, opposition, failure are part of our allotment in life and we don’t like it. Yet without these things there would be no learning, no growth, and really in my eyes no life. Imperfection isn’t the enemy its the path.

So as in life, in writing. Imperfection: the disappointment, the struggle, the opposition, the failure are not the enemy, they are the path. We just need to learn from them, not dwell on the negative, be gentle with ourselves and keep showing up, practicing and seeking excellence.

My Love Affair With England

IMG_0754

Well today has been a landmark day. I started to live one of my dreams. I have made a new FB page called Visit My British Isles. https://www.facebook.com/visitmybritishisles?ref=hl In conjunction I will also be starting a new blog.

Why? I was born and raised in England for the first 24 years of my life. Then I removed to the United States when I married. Every time I have had the chance to visit ‘home’ again I have fallen in love once more with the endearingly beautiful countryside. Walking in the green-filled landscape always fills me with a bounteous peace.

Over the years I have spear-headed many an adventurous family excursion across the Atlantic taking my five children to their Mother’s ancestral home, and they love it!  We have done the traditional London double-decker bus tour, Stonehenge, Warwick Castle touristy things. But also the more off-the-beaten-path things too. We always traipse up Malvern Hills to the beacon, there is such a view from up there.  And even if its raining, its exhillirating and bracing.  We always go to Grandpa and Grandma’s holiday home in Wales and sit on the beach at Aberdovey.  We eat sandwiches and crisps in the sand dunes, make sand castles, paddle in the cold sea and fly kites. We have traveled and stayed in random B&B’s (Bed and Breakfast accommodation), toured the highlands (Scotland) from Stirling to Loch Ness and back down to Edinburgh. We have bought souvenirs from near and far, whether Scottish jewelry, tartan kilts and bagpipes or teach yourself Welsh tapes andWelsh love spoons to scads of English chocolate.

For the time we are there I make believe I live there just for a few weeks. Returning to the mock Tudor home I was raised in since I was seven years old, walking around the gardens and woods, soaking in the colors and scents, being amazed that the weather turns out so well, catching up with family and friends like it was only yesterday. Everything is so familiar.

The people are so down to earth and welcoming. They exude a ‘take me as I am’ air, quietly confident in being themselves. Not necessarily given to following the fashions of the day, they make their own style. British people have that outside weathered look from walking in the wind and rain. If you find any sun-tanned folks they are usually recently returned from ‘abroad’, some sunny south of France location or Spain or Majorca. Living so close to the continent they can enjoy the best of both worlds.

Not only do I love England for the greenery, the history, the memories, the family and friends but also the food. Food is so nostalgic. To go home and eat fish and chips, faggots and peas, a sumptuous Sunday roast and a great curry (er yes very British) not to mention the ‘pudding’ (desserts) topped in custard or the baked goods with fresh cream. Its a good thing I do a lot of walking when I am in England. It usually balances out all the extra yummy food I consume.

In a few months I will once again make my pilgrimage to England. My folks are getting old now, they are in their mid 80’s. Our time is numbered to days, however many days I can visit with them. Each trip could be the last time I say hello and goodbye. Yet I know even when they are gone, England will still call me home and part of my heart will always be there.  My quiet love affair.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM A STRANGER’S FUNERAL

I love going to funerals, said no one ever. But here I was again sitting with that quiet awe, pondering the mystery of life and death, finding it hard to imagine it will happen to me one day.

Everyone should go to a funeral every now and again. It brings us face to face with our mortality and that’s a good thing to think about once in a while. We are so caught up in our day to day business that barely do we take a quiet moment to look back and see how far we have come or look ahead and pick out the way. Nor do we sit back and enjoy the view from where we are.

At a funeral a life is painted in broad brush strokes and fractured detailed images, the stories that are pulled from the hat of life. I sat there only yesterday listening to the life of this man pass before my eyes. I man I never knew, yet knew fairly well by the time I left the chapel doors.

His son spoke first. He began by telling us all the things he hated about his father. Yes, that had our attention as he proceeded to tell of those things, like getting up early or putting up the hay. Then he confessed what he wouldn’t give to be doing those things with his father just one more time. Lesson learned: you know those things that annoy or irritate you that your loved one does? You will miss them and as the memories rise they will even bring a smile to your face.

At a funeral you can’t help but wonder what folks will say at your own funeral. What experiences will my kids draw on to talk about me? How will they remember me? How do I want to be remembered? Am I living my life so that I am leaving that legacy of memories?

Death can steal us away early or late. Am I living with any regrets, any unspoken words? Are there things that I am putting off doing because I am too busy or too tired or too scared? Sometimes there is no right time, you have to make it happen, maybe even be a little daring.

I sat there surrounded by hundreds of loving family, friends and neighbors. They had dressed in there very best, taken time out of their busy lives to sit patiently, lovingly, quietly listening for the more than two hours that it took to send Sherral on his way…home. I wondered who would come to my funeral.

His wife stood with courage. Would she cry? We would be brave for her. She related that her husband had insisted she speak at his funeral and how she had questioned his wisdom. She finally conceded and joked that now she would finally have the last word. The last words were filled with love and respect, admiration and joy for a full life lived with her best friend.

I looked at my husband as we drove home. I felt more forgiving, he seemed more perfect than a few hours earlier and my mind couldn’t help but think that one day we would have to say goodbye, at least for a while until we were reunited beyond this mortal realm. That day could be tomorrow, it could be many years away. The problem is we never know. We live almost carelessly like that day will never come. We live like we are immortal, untouchable, enchanted.

So tomorrow when I wake up I will pray to have a good memory, a memory of the things I learned and the way I felt at the funeral because you see tomorrow could the last day I have to forgive, to love and to live. You just never know.

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