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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Make The World More Beautiful

I used to be a Unitarian.  I think I still am at heart.  The minister at Neighborhood Church, the Unitarian church here in Pasadena,  was Brandy Lovely.  You gotta love a guy with a name like that.  He was wise and funny and I often cried and laughed at the same time when he spoke on Sunday mornings.  On his last Sunday before he sailed off into retirement,   he said that the purpose of life is to make the world more beautiful.    Immediately I disagreed with that idea.  Not out loud, of course, but it just seemed too simple to me.

As the years go by (my dentist's nice way of not saying that I'm getting older) I have come to understand the wisdom of that statement.  I realize that making the world more beautiful can take many forms.  It could be that biggie medical breakthrough that saves lives.  Or maybe the flower garden that my up-the-street neighbor toils over constantly.  Or any number of things that have probably come to your mind, dear reader.  I think it can be as simple as holding a frightened person's hand.

 In the several days that have passed since my brother's death, I realize that the memories that I treasure about him are the things he did to make the world more beautiful.  He created a gorgeous garden.  He knew how to prune roses just right. In our family, birds have always been a big deal.  His racing pigeons were poetry in the sky as they circled above us, iridescent feathers catching the sun.   Once he polished my car for me.  It looked better than when it was brand spankin' new.  He could cook delicious meals.

Making the world more beautiful is actually very easy.  Each one of us has ways that we specialize in doing it.  What are yours?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Close the rip, repair the tear

My brother died yesterday morning.  I realize the heaviness of that as an opening sentence.  It was an unexpected heart attack.  The first thing my husband said was, "He's the strongest person I know."  Yes, but his heart had forgotten that.  Or didn't let his brain know that it was struggling.  He survived esophageal cancer.  Another heavy sentence considering that the survival rate is only 5%.  But the complication is that he often had indigestion due to the extensive surgery for the cancer.  So when he had nausea perhaps he mistook it for an everyday occurrence.  We do adapt don't we?  Usually that is a good coping mechanism but sometimes it is not.  He decided to get help when his hands went numb and then he collapsed before he could get to the ER.   His two beautiful daughters and his lovely wife of 40 years are left behind.  They had taken a walk together in the morning, he had rototilled the yard and then lifted weights.   All on a beautiful summery winter's day in Southern California.

The hardest part of all this is imagining that the things he worked so hard to create are now just abandoned.  Or maybe not abandoned but waiting and wondering. Years of making his corner lot absolutely beautiful.  Fruit trees bare but with a promise of lusciousness soon.  His racing pigeons looking anxiously from behind the cage wire to see him bringing feed in the early morning.   His dog confused that he didn't come home this time.  The favorite chair patiently expecting the weight of his body.  He had a wonderful sense of place and loved his family and home. This is all so very sudden and final.

Grief for me is like some sea creature.  Moving to envelop and explore a memory and then moving on, changing color to indicate emotion.  A huge sea creature that barely fits inside my body and threatens my breathing from time to time.

I hadn't spoken to him in five years.  A rift, a rip, a tear in our relationship, a disagreement over some inherited property.  This is the most difficult type of grief for me.  The loss coupled with the regret over missed opportunities to stitch back together the relationship.  Close the rip, repair the tear.  A repaired thing can be stronger because of what is added.  Understanding.  Forgiveness.  Resolve to try again.  A commitment to love in spite of an unexpected cost.  I do not want to dwell in regret.  I will miss him.  I will think of him often and I will try to love better and forgive more easily.  Yes, he was the strongest person we knew and in the coming days we shall draw on his legacy of strength.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Here doggie, doggie 2

You know how after you buy a new car, you see them absolutely everywhere?  Never noticed them before, but now every other car on the road indicates that the driver has good taste just like you?  Wait.  This is a post about doggies.

Well, after the little spotted doggie drama, the very next day what should I see but another dog running down the street while on my way to do very important busy things.  Cuter by far than Spot-what the heck, let's just name him-and wearing a red sweater, was this adorable little white fluffy dog.  Who can resist a little white fluffy dog?  I mean not to own, just to enjoy for a few minutes.  Unlike that Spot, this little girl came right up to me.  I love a girl with whose got her priorities straight.  Run around and have fun but be smart enough to recognize when you need help.  Tucking her comfortably under my arm, I asked around and knocked on a few doors but no info about where this little gal lived.

So, rather than calling the Humane Society, I drove her straight there cooing to her from the driver's seat, complimenting her on her choice in sweaters.  She was friendly to staff and after assuring them I wasn't relinquishing my own dog, I watched as they took her photo assuring me that someone obviously loved her and would show up for her soon.

But here's the thing--in one of those crazy, amazing moments, I overheard the desk person talking on the phone to someone about a little white dog with brown spots.  "Yeah he's here, uh-huh, well you'll have to bring proof of ownership and $73 to claim him."  Yep, you guessed it. Spot was rescued, incarcerated and awaiting his freedom.  I went back just to confirm my suspicions and that little stinker--he came right up to the fence, wagging his tail like we were old buddies.  I forgave him for  all that chasing around the day before and drove off to finish my errands not looking right or left lest I spot another canine in distress.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Here doggie, doggie

I got the things I needed from the hardware store, a worthy old one that has been in business since 1922 with a cash register to prove it, and was headed home when I spotted the little guy running in the middle of a very busy street.  White with three brown spots running down his left side. The jaunty look.  I pulled over to try to rescue him because that is what I'd want someone to do if it were my dog who was lost and so very afraid.  He considered my offer of help and came close enough to check out the clementine I held out to him.  Lacking any pieces of meat as I usually don't ride around with those,  I hoped to lure him in with the orange wedge in my hand.  He was hungry and was seriously considering it when the guy who lives in the corner house came out with some turkey.

Over the next hour, yes you read that right, a total of six people tried to keep the little guy from getting hit.  A PT Cruiser came close but crazy women standing in the street waving their arms wildly prevented that.  The adrenalin rushes were wearing us all out.  Finally he just sat down next to a woman who seemed to have the voice, or something,  that he liked best.  I drove away after she assured me that she would take care of him.

For the rest of the ride, I marveled at the amount of time and effort that six people took to try to save this one smart but very anxious little beating heart.  Amazing.