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May 2011

May 18... Truth

I've been told that including a definition of a word to be used in a prose piece is a contrivance that should be avoided but sometimes that is the only place to start, except when the definition is totally with Truth  ~ "the quality of being true".

I watched Oprah's interview with James Frey yesterday, and the day before.  I can see where Oprah has grown and I was proud of her for acknowledging and apologizing for a public display that appeared painfully harsh.  I never read "A Million Little Pieces" but I couldn't really understand what all the fuss was about.  Here is a man who wrote a book about himself.  He embellished to make the story more interesting to his reader, a reader that he was trying to touch and inspire, to offer hope, and he was horribly and publicly chastised. 

I saw the original interview and all I felt was sad for James Frey.  He was brave, accountable and admitted to making a mistake.  Oprah was ruthless.  I hate it when Oprah is ruthless. 

When Jules and I were asked to come to Chicago six weeks after Shannon's accident, we were told by a very sweet producer that they were doing a show on Gratitude and they thought that Shannon's story would touch many people.  We agreed to go because we believed that it was a message, a gift, a prompting from Shannon and how could we say "No" to Shannon? 

Sitting in the audience, no where to run, no way to escape, we discovered that the show was about "Letters to Oprah", and not all of them were nice letters or positive letters.  As a matter of fact, the opening letter was from a professional basketball player's wife who was totally pissed (sorry) that Oprah had criticized and stereotyped professional athletes as "deadbeat Dads".   She fussed and fumed and Oprah tried to explain and Jules and I looked at each other wondering how we could have thought this was a good idea.

After commercial break, Oprah shared Shannon's story.  The gratitude journal, the accident, my letter expressing my gratitude for knowing what had made Shannon happy, having heard about the gratitude journal on Oprah's show, all the while watching photos of my precious beautiful Shannon flashing on a huge screen to Oprah's right.  After the segment, Oprah presented us with beautiful, soft leather bound journals, that she had had "made just for " us, so that we could continue writing our own thoughts on gratitude.  The journals were in boxes and we didn't open them until we were on the plane flying home.

Just inside the front cover I found a typed card expressing holiday wishes to Oprah's friends. 

Thirteen years later I realize that it made for good television.  A compassionate gift for the grieving parents, but did she lie?  Or did she simply embellish like James Frey?  Did she even remember that she had given the same journals as Christmas gifts? 

I'm certain that her producers made the suggestion with the purest of intentions, thought it would be a nice gesture and it is a beautiful journal that I started one of my "Million Little Attempts" at writing a book, in that journal, but the TRUTH was, that she had NOT had them made "Just for us".

I'll have to go back and watch the tape sometime... she may not have even said that but it is what I remember so does my memory, my interpretation determine whether it is the truth or a lie?

I used to illustrate this point by saying that we had a 1966 GTO convertible in our garage.  To those who know cars, that was apparently a big deal.  I'm sure they imagined shiney paint and flawless apholstery, sunny windblown drives down country roads...the truth was  ~Gto16    

and to those who knew cars, they could see the potential but it was, let's face it, ugly !!  

Now later, after many long hours,  incredible friends who worked tirelessly with Jules to bring that GTO back from the brink the truth looked more like this ~


Gtoshannon but perception played a huge part in what was true.

How do we know?  If you get a haircut that you love and you ask my opinion and I think it looks like the back end of a squirrel in a wind tunnel and I tell you that you look beautiful and you believe it, I've told the truth.  Your truth.  Why on earth would I tell you what I really thought... my truth?  Why would I want to hurt your feelings?  "Kill your buzz"?  I guess what I'm saying is that there really is no good definition for "truth", and the truth is that most of what we perceive is subjective and we all view life through our personal and individual filters, so maybe we just need to relax a little. 

There are paintings on the walls of all great museums that I might look at and wonder "What was he thinking?"  You might look at the same white canvas sporting one bright blue dot and be overwhelmed with wonder and admiration for such artistic vision. 

Religions, I think, should consider these same things when insisting that theirs is the only truth.  I'm sure that God would laugh, hearing us spout with such certainty that there is only ONE truth, if it weren't so sad.  We hurt each other because we need to be right.  Need to trust in truth.  Our truth.  The one and only truth.

Maybe I just wanted to congratulate Oprah on outgrowing her ego.  Thank her for being compassionate and gentle with a man who didn't mean to hurt anyone, he simply wanted to tell his story, his memory, his truth.  Maybe I'm just trying to understand truth as I continue to write from the center of me, searching for words that share emotions that defy definition. 

Truth is, I try really hard to always tell the truth in my writing... but what if my memory is different than yours?  What if you remember a red two stick popsicle and I remember orange?  What if I remember Red Lobster and you remember Sammy T's?  What if I remember a graham cracker/marshmallow cookie cake and you remember chocolate chip?  What if I remember that you were wearing brown pants when you sat with me in the Emergency Room and you know you never owned brown pants?  Will it really matter?   Will you think I'm telling a lie?  Will you doubt my sincerity or my desire to share?

Doubt the popsicle color, or the time of day or the restaurant or the brown pants but know this for certain,  when I tell you that Heaven is real, that Shannon lets me know she is near, that those we love are never just 'gone', that love is stronger than fear and death is an illusion... it's true !

May 17

"Thank you for Avery and Hayes.  Thank you for baby wrens knowing to avoid Sam.  Thank you for uneventful thunder storms.  Thank you for Jane's safe return.  Thank you for Jules' enjoyable conversation with his family."

May 16 ~ Gifts

IMG_0126For those of you who have waded through the last few years with me, one laborious sentence at a time, you are all too familiar with the fact that I am forever off track.  I love to have a plan.  I love the safe snug feel of a's the execution and follow thru that derail me.

Writing has taken a reluctant and pouty back seat to my return to gainful employment with Verizon.  I've missed this quiet time with unseen friends and cluttered thoughts that have a way of settling into a more clearly defined groove as letters congregate and settle like those glittery bits of dust in sunlight on a blank page. 

Yesterday I posted a question to myself... do I really have anything left to say?  Where do I start?  How do I begin?  The answer was "Just blog".  So here I am.  I picked up Shannon's journal to get her inspiration for today....  I forgot until I was staring at the blank page that her entries end on April 30, but not her inspiration.

In the gentle nudging I was reminded of my dear friends celebrating birthdays today.  Of Laura's miraculous recovery during this year.  Of Sue's courage and delight in life.  Images of Jilli playing her flute, Shel picking purple petunias, my Mom doing well after her year of health challenges.  Our newest babies turn one tomorrow.  Rain is splashing off of leaves that swirl and dance outside the window while Sammy watches, safely from Shannon's bed.  Newly planted coral bells and bleeding heart settle into the soft earth beside the Angel in the woods behind the house and I know that I am blessed beyond measure. 

I commit to work on happiness but Jane reminded me recently that we are happy enough.  Happy enough to be grateful.  Happy enough to deepen the smile lines beside our mouths instead of the frown lines.  Happy enough to show up.  Happy enough to care about the crumby day you may be having, happy enough to whisper prayers to Heaven on your behalf.  Happy enough to take a bath and brush my teeth.  Happy enough to touch my husband's hand or foot as we watch Wheel of Fortune.  Happy enough to know that Heaven has never seemed so real or so close.  Happy enough to know that we don't ever get over the sadness of missing someone we love.  I'm okay with 'happy enough'.


"Thank you for on line banking.   Thank you for moon flowers.  Thank you for the family of wrens on the front porch when I got home from work.  Thank you for only twenty days until I get to see my wonderful nieces.  Thank you for Oprah being nice to James Frey.  "

May 7 ~ Thank you for Motherhood

In the night, I woke from a dream and lay in the dark, in Shannon's bed, watching the leaves outside the window, play in the soft glow from the back porch light.  I listened to the hum of the ceiling fan and the tinkle of the stained glass dragonfly as it gently hit the window pane.  Three cats snuggled into all of my nooks and crannies made it impossible to move so I listened and thought and remembered.

I don't remember what I was dreaming but I do remember thinking about the summer's worth of blank pages in Shannon's journal beginning on May 1.  At first I felt my heart contract and then it occurred to me that, as with most things, blank pages are only lonely until your perspective shifts and since that was the only thing shifting under the weight of three sleeping felines, I followed to see where it might lead.

Blank pages aren't always the absence of words.  They hold infinite possibilities.   They wait patiently, poised with promise.  Expectant, inviting, vibrating with ideas longing to be expressed. 

Jans 460 Wishing for one more day, one more entry, one more word in that loose swirling hand that always makes me smile, is something I do because ...  because twenty three years simply wasn't enough... but it was amazing and wonderful and I am so grateful that even though at twenty I had no idea how to be Shannon's Mom, she chose me anyway.

Our lives were blank pages that we filled with love and laughter in abundance, conversation and debate, dreams and philosophy and lessons learned hand in hand.  Mothers are so blessed.  We know our children for nine months longer than anyone else.  They swim around inside of us listening to our hearts beat, our soft breathing,  singing , laughing, muted magical sounds that are our children's first introduction to the world.

The first day that we were home from the hospital after Shannon was born, I bathed her and fed her and stared at all of her fingers and toes and touched her earlobes and eyelids.  I watched her sleep, never wanting to let her out of my sight.  Her crib had been mine.  It was white.  I placed her gently on the new mattress, covered with white cotton sheets with tiny bears and a green and yellow blanket that her great grandmother had crocheted.  I tip toed from the room and sat on the edge of my own bed and realized that for the first time, I couldn't feel Shannon within me.  The distance between us seemed enormous.  I missed her.  We were separate.  Our paths were now individual and although we would walk them together, we would eventually take different directions, as it should be.  But in that moment, I was the loneliest I had ever been.  So... I tiptoed back into the nursery, scooped up my sleeping bundle of perfection and tucked her into our bed, beside me.  I listened to her easy breathing, the tiny noises that she made when she slept and we were completely happy. 

When Shannon was just a few months old, we got a German Shepherd puppy.  Digger.  He slept on the bed too and for most of my life, the times when I was unabashedly peaceful, were the times when my family, Shannon, her Dad, our dog and cats were all snuggled together in our great big bed.  Everyone safe and warm and together.Jans 459

My Mom worries about me on Mother's day.  I try to reassure her.  I will always be Shannon's Mom and nothing will ever mean as much.  I don't try to forget.   When someone asks if I have children I say "Yes".  When they ask how old, I say "Thirty six".  When they ask what she does, I say that "She's an Angel".  If they ask where she lives I say "In Heaven".  Oddly enough, the truth doesn't seem to make anyone uncomfortable.  To the contrary, it usually deepens our conversation.

I am blessed that I will be with my Mom tomorrow.  Jules' Mom will be with Shannon and I'm sure they'll be doing something fun.  We will think of them and smile. 

Last Sunday on Army Wives, someone made the statement that we 'get over our grief' but our "sadness lasts forever".  T.V. wisdom.  Just got to love it!  There will be sadness, but for most of us who can't be with our Mothers or our children on Mother's day, there will be an all abiding joy that will soften the edges of our sadness.  What a gift to have loved and been loved without condition or bounds.

I love you Shannon.  I love you Maw Maw.  I miss you both but I will hug Gram with gratitude.  I will make cupcakes and take a bubble bath and smooch on Gavin's baby face.  I will do laundry and have coffee on the porch and watch the Robins that have decided to build their nest on the wreath on the front door.  I will notice the extraordinary in the ordinary.   I will not regret the things I didn't get to say because I know, you know anyway.  I will listen for your Angel Whispers and look for messages on licence plates or in greeting cards, I will watch clouds float by and wave to my neighbors, I will thank God for all of the Angel's Moms who have touched my life and I will celebrate the fact that once again   ...   I can feel you within me. 

Shannon 4-5 

May 1 ~ Shannon's Heaven Day

I've been writing and deleting for over an hour now and I can't seem to find the right words. Thirteen years since I touched Shannon's hand, brushed her hair from her face, heard her chastise me for worrying or knew that everything would always be okay as long as we had each other.

I think about Melissa, Dorothy, Pete and Matthew. How special they are to us. How intricately our lives touched for just a moment, how Shannon became a part of their futures and without ever hearing her voice or sharing a pizza. They never got to discuss music or movies, their favorite books, the people they love or the dreams they held dear, but I hope they know her. Her gentleness and strength, her wisdom and innocence, her compassion and stubbornness. I hope they know how special they are and how they give special meaning beyond measure to this day.

There are new wind chimes in Shannon's garden and we had lunch with Todd and Dee and Jilli. Sammy T's still has the most amazing Bean and Grain burgers and sweet potato fries. I haven't cried today, remembering, is that a good thing?

I planted herbs. I put bright scarlet geraniums in hanging pots on the porch. I loaded the dishwasher and fixed the fountain in the pond. Such ordinary steps on this extraordinary day and all the while I imagine the 'big picture'. I imagine life in Heaven. Are there gardens to tend filled with every imaginable flower, butterfly and hummingbird? Are their children playing happily under the watchful eye of their Guardians? Are there meals to prepare and books to be written, clothes to iron and beds to make? I wish I knew. I wish there was a toll free number to call with any and all questions pertaining to the afterlife. Wouldn't it be fun if 411 really was the source of all "Information"?

Balloons5 copy

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.~Kahlil Gibran

It's so true. I am so blessed. Love defies definition, but if we look around we recognize it in almost everything and everyone. When we arrived home after lunch there was a happy glittering turquouise dragonfly at our door. Friends remembering with us.

If Shannon happens to be reading over my shoulder ...

I love you my Angel. I'm really okay. Dad is okay. It may not look that way when I'm wondering around the house in a daze or when I'm obsessed with finding the crystal you had with you at college or when I want Leo to face the window, but that's just me being Mom. Your Mom. Always. And for the month from your birthday to your Heaven day, I indulge myself. I ask for signs or messages. I work in your Garden. I touch the pages in your journal and the photo by your bed. I allow myself to miss you without apology, and I thank God with every breath that you chose to be ours for a time.

I don't allow the sadness that lives in the silent spaces within me to taint the way I view the world. But I realize that my life's experience has given me a filter to view it through. I think that it's like receiving a soft blue filter that only I can see through. No one else will ever see the world in exactly the same way, and I will never see it again as it was. It's all part of living, surrendering, accepting and then believing that it is all as it should be and we are never alone.

My life has been amazing because you are in it.