11.4.20 Lost and Found

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The worst possible reality was hers – she had just received the news that her daughter died. Had just gone through the funeral. Had just tried to return to something as “normal” as a soccer game … with the deep seated reality that nothing would ever be normal again. That was where I found her.

After the awkward, fragile niceties, I broached the impossible question, “How are you?”

“All I want to do is talk about her,” she said. “People don’t know if they should bring her up or not, but I want to remember everything. She was my best friend.”

I had nothing to offer her aside from my tears – my tears and a memory.

“I’ll never forget the first time I met her,” I handed over my words gently, wrapping the moment in my softest tone. I remember her eyes – hungry with hope, with desire for any fragment of a memory I could give her. “She climbed in my lap and touched my freckles. Then she told me I had a lot of polka-dots.”

And she laughed.

And I laughed.

And I knew it was the bereavement gift she needed.

I believe the most precious commodity we have to give, to trade, and most importantly to keep, are memories. The immeasurable value in giving a hidden chapter to a story you thought was over … what could possibly matter more than that? What could ever replace the value of another page? Another line? Another word spoken from a “voice” you never thought you’d hear from again?

I’m writing to ask a favor. Please share a memory … no matter how small or insignificant you think the interaction might be. Send the picture, share the card with their signature, and always tell the story. Keep trading the hope of memories lost, and found.

1.14.19 Not Now

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Today I lost my grandmother. And while I know each person’s pain is their own, this feels quite acute … as if a particular piece of my childhood-self, somehow, can’t fathom her world without her. Yesterday was a long goodbye, and today I missed her final breath by two minutes. Just two. I wouldn’t have wanted her to stay, but it was my turn to be the brave one. In leaving, it’s almost as if she was saying, “No, no little girl. This moment isn’t yours to bear.” And yet facing a host of tomorrows without her seems somewhat indomitable if I’m being honest.

After leaving, I wasn’t ready. So I stayed. I went to the lake and closed my eyes against the rare, January sunshine. I went to the park and swung in the swing she always sat in … second from the right. I bought sweets at the candy store. I ran all the way up the church steps … just to run right back down. Then I got my nails painted red – her favorite, flashy color.

I tried grandma, to have a day “bumming” around … just the way you’d like it. I smiled. I remembered. I played. And I know where you are. And I’m happy for you … but here’s what I’m feeling just the same.

 

There is an art to saying goodbye

to orchestrating a memory that you know will be your last

only nothing seems good enough

or long enough

because although you may have shared a million laughs

it seems a million and one …

would have been the perfect number

Maybe I could have been satisfied with just one more

if one more had been allowed

but then again

maybe not

In coming my memory flickered like moving pictures

each and every one starring that jubilant face,

but in going, I fear might fade

like the sound of a voice in the echo

like the shade of the eye I can’t catch

like the difference between holding a hand

and having yours held in return 

the coming

of going

hurts strong

There is an art to saying goodbye

and it would seem, I am no master

There are too many colors and

untidy emotions that don’t quite match

In a medium of tears and memories

of the words I’d planned to say

of the prayers I meant to pray

and moments I may have missed 

without knowing

I tried so hard

to paint pictures that would last

but now there is only beauty 

in retrospect

You’d think I’d have seen it coming –

but who looks for what they don’t want to see? 

Who studies what they never wish to know?

Who accepts what they’ve practiced to deny? 

There is an art to saying goodbye

and I’m sure 

somewhere

it is done prettily 

with noble tears

and released fears

and flower-petal softness

But art is only a representation of the parts we 

want

to remember

and today

I want then

not now

I’ll love you forever. Thank you for being you, so I could enjoy this life in a way I couldn’t ever pursue without the gift of eternal optimism, and relentless joy you showed me how to own.

I pray this poem helps you too, my readers, however you are hurting from whomever you’ve lost. There is an art to saying goodbye … and maybe the key to being the best artist … is to never say it at all.

Elle

11.27.18 A Name Worth Speaking

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I only had a minute, but I called her – that’s the not-so-generous way time is with me. She only had a minute, but she answered – the same gift of time she didn’t have to spare. But we talked. And it mattered, because in the few minutes we shared, me hearing her voice and her hearing mine, she told me a story.

“I just got through talking to the neighbor,” she said.

“Anything wrong?”

“Yes, actually.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Her mother died. It wasn’t very expected, but the way of it was powerful,” she went on. “Apparently, her mother had fallen, and being frail already, it was a decline enough to go on hospice.”

“That’s sad,” I said, imagining my own grandmother.

“It is, but then something amazing happened,” she went on. “I guess the family was all there, just visiting, and they were discussing nothing in particular when a chaplain came to ask if they wanted to pray. They said yes and right as the prayer started, her mother took one big breath … and was gone.”

“Just like that?” I asked.

“Just like that.”

“Wow,” I sat, momentarily struck by the beauty of it all.

“I know,” my mom said.

And she did.

To imagine that on the breath of a prayer, you can cross unfathomable distance. Your spirit and the doors of heaven meeting one another within the fraction of a whisper. To inhale here, and then exhale in exhalation ten million light years away. What a journey from breath to breath. What an assembly, with words spoken over you in intercession, to words ushered to you, entering you into eternity. What a journey.

This story, no, this reality, gave me pause in more ways than one, and I am honored that even in our trite “two minutes,” my mom offered me the gift of this telling. The truth is we really don’t know what lies between one breath and another. There is no “looking ahead” at the Author of Life’s chapter of your tale. And it makes you think doesn’t it? About what really matters one breath between another – and whether I’m using the breath within this very moment to compliment or curse, to speak or to listen, to drive away, or draw near. There may be nothing riding on a breath … or there may be everything.

The author Bansky once said, “… they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” And if this is true, then I think it matters so much more to me that the coming of my second death is far removed from the first. I want to live a life worthy of the memory of a name worth speaking again, and again, long after my dust has settled. Don’t you?

May each of your next breaths count.

Elle

11.4.18 Creating a Bank Account of Cozy

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Salted caramel hot chocolate. Thick, warm slices of buttered toast. Snuggles under a new, warm blanket. Reading a classic while it’s raining … bright colored leaves painting the sidewalk. The first fire of the season, logs snapping as amber shadows dance on your walls. This is the Danish concept of Hygge – dedicating oneself to the pursuit of coziness and comfort.

I was honored to be asked by the editors of Bella Grace to discuss what cozy looks like. November first, this special edition of Bella Grace Magazine came out and is available at Barnes and Nobles, or online. Tonight I finally took the time to dive in and I was instantly neck deep in seasonally sweet ideas and ways to slow the pace of my racing days. From creating oil-infused baths to hosting a Scottish “Cookie Shine,” I am tempted beyond all reason to fill my antique teacup and crawl into bed to read the rest.

I hope that you’ll take a moment to read “Creating a Bank Account of Cozy,” my article and journal prompt and tell me one cozy aspect involving each of your senses. As a sneak peek, I’ll share one of mine.

Taste: Warm pumpkin muffins fresh from the oven

Sound: Strong wind that wrestles the last leaves off trees

Smell: The thick smell of melting chocolate

Touch: Layers upon layers of fleece, cotton, and wool

Sight: The brilliant encore of Maples and Oaks in the finale of Fall

Your turn to turn on your cozy! I’d love to hear your thoughts on how the Danish concept of Hygge might affect you as the season turns.

Be well and stay comfortable friends,

Elle