Monthly Archives: December 2013

A Christmas Gift

Only three of us showed up to my yoga class today so we downward-dogged and chatted a bit, too. Pat, the instructor was talking about a great new consignment store. “I have these Dooney and Burke purses that were my mom’s. They’re really nice, but I don’t think I’ll ever use them. I’m thinking of taking them into the store,” she said. “I hate to give them up because they were my mom’s, but you know, we need to clean out our stuff.”

“ I have John’s things all over the house,” a woman who had lost her son a little over a year ago said. “I’m not giving them up.”

“I can understand that,” Pat said. “You don’t have to.”

“I even have a whole area that’s kind of a memorial to him, “ the woman said. She might have even said, “shrine,” I can’t remember now. “I have pictures of him and candles.”

There was a small silence. “That’s nice,” Pat said. “It must make you feel good to see him everyday.”

“I’m not sure if it makes it harder,” the woman said.

Because we were inverted, I couldn’t see anyone’s faces to see their expression. Little emotion was coming through the voices.

“And we have his ashes, of course,” the woman said.

“Are they in an urn?” Pat asked.

“Oh, a big beautiful urn,” the woman said.

I morphed the image in my head of a small urn to a large one.

“That’s great,” Pat said, her tone now ultra cheery. “You can say hello to him every day.”

There was another silence, then the woman said, “Well, I just moved the altar near the urn downstairs.”

“Oh? Why?” Pat asked.

“Well, it’s almost Christmas and I need to have room for the decorations. My grandchildren will want the decorations,” the woman said.

Later as I drove home, I replayed the conversation in my head. As I said, all this was being discussed in such bland tones, but underneath we’d all felt the profound sense of loss. Hard to lose your mother—horrible to lose your son.

I’d been worried about this kind, upstanding woman—how she was going to withstand her son’s death. How she was going to keeping going?

But now I could see that Christmas and the grandchildren were going to be the saving graces. She was ready to move on for the next generation. And she could begin to heal.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate. Happy New Year to all.


Wading In



I did something today I haven’t done since I was a little girl.

My parents both worked when I was little so we had to have someone take care of us during the summer. We lived near Volunteer Park in Seattle so Allie Mae would walk us there around noon every day. The Park had to be at least a mile away and we had to climb steep steps up to 15th, but we never complained. Even my little sister who was six at the most.

 We’d spread out a blanket and have lunch (tuna sandwiches and potato chips) in the park on a great green lawn in front of the Art Museum. Sometimes Allie Mae would take us to the playground. Someone Mother knew had gotten polio in a public pool so we were forbidden to go into the wading pool. One very hot day, Allie Mae relented and allowed us to put our feet in. We were content for 5 minutes, but then we looked at all the kids splashing and kicking and screaming with glee. So we waded in a little deeper…and then a little deeper. Soon our pedal pushers were wet to the thighs. Allie Mae scolded us all the way home.

There was no one to scold me today as I walked along the beach. I didn’t really intend to get my feet wet. The sand clings to your skin and it seems a lot of effort to get it off. Then a wave rolled in right over my toes. Then I found a piece of coral that was magenta and green so I had to go a little deeper to see if there were any more treasures. Then a big wave came in and once more, I was wet to my thighs.

I’m sitting here writing this with sand between my toes and a grin on my face.




Goodbye, Mr. Mandela, We Will Miss You

It is a sad day. It is a day I didn’t want to come. I wanted Nelson Mandela to live forever.


I became familiar with him and his anti-apartheid struggles when I taught in the 1980’s. As a geography teacher, I taught some about latitude and longitude, but it was always the people (and the foods) that I emphasized.  In 1987, the movie, MANDELA, was broadcast on television. Starring Danny Glover as Mandela, it was great! I taped it and showed it to my classes when we studied South Africa. From then on, Mandela was my hero.


When he was released from prison after 27 years, I was cheered. When apartheid was dismantled, I was heartened. When he became the country’s first black president, I was amazed. When he showed such integrity and forgiveness to the whites who had harmed him and his fellow people, I learned that goodness and power could reside in one person. He not only spoke of peace and equality, he put his words into action.

President Barack Obama spoke about this today: “We’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with,” Obama said. “He no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages … His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to.”


I knew that it was time for Mandela to make his final journey. He was ill and tired. A 45-year-old South African housewife expressed my emotions exactly.”I have mixed feelings. I am happy that he is resting but I am also sad to see him go,” Molebogeng Ntheledi was quoted as saying.


Goodbye, Mr. Mandela. May you rest in peace. May the lessons you taught the world never be forgotten.