Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Latest posting for the Health Activist Writing Month Challenge WEGO

Prompt #26:  Health tagline. Give yourself, your blog, your condition, or some aspect of your health a tagline. Make sure it’s catchy!


using MindfulCaregiving tools for emotional balance

Prompt #25: Third person post. Write about a memory you have but describe it using the third person. Use as many sensory images (sights, sounds, textures, etc) as you can. Don’t use “I” or “me” unless you include dialogue. 


A big wind blew on that January night when, at age 87, she had her three-hour surgery. Then, against all odds, she hung on for three days. She died as she had lived, true to lines from her favorite poet E. Millay, With all my might, my door shall be barred. I shall put up a fight, I shall take it hard. Her three daughters gathered around her bed in the ER, telling her it was all right to go, that she had lived a full life, and that she was loved. 

Later, at her funeral service, she made herself known. It was a windy day, another big wind blowing, but this time blowing down whole trees. Despite the thick, dark, cloud cover, her solar rainbow maker had been stuck to the window of the nursing home parlor where people had gathered to say goodbye. 

Partway through the service, just as the minister began to describe the big wind that had blown the Friday night before she had died, the clouds suddenly let through one shaft of light that shot down and hit the rainbow maker, making the rainbows dance all around the mourners. Then a huge gust of wind broke a branch off a tree and it cracked like a gunshot against the window. Her youngest daughter and caregiver said aloud, “That’s my Mom!”

After February, with all its funeral focus, and the feeling of lightness and space in the heart of the youngest daughter, the weeks of rain hit, and the two eldest began repeated visits to pour over family possessions. Dissatisfaction crept quickly into the heart of the youngest as the house got a messier. The lawn grew long, flower beds filling in thickly as her dining room clotted with ancient broken down boxes of photos, letters, childhood drawings, and elementary school grade reports. 

For the next three months, the three divested themselves of the shadows of the past as their shared family history and the artifacts of their ancestry passed through their dusty fingers. Silver thimbles fitting smaller fingers, letters to Great Grandmother from Civil War soldiers, dim daguerreotypes of grim, faintly familiar faces.

But the way the three sisters related to that history was wildly at odds. The two eldest devoured it, sitting for hours reading the letters, sleuthing out romances and relationships in the ancient stories. It all gave the youngest sister the willies. After maybe an hour of sorting, not wanting to be looking back and wading through history, she would gasp, “I need a break”, and would go to recover elsewhere. She wanted to be looking forward, reflecting on the meaning of things now.

She thought, "People’s hand-me downs hold me in the past, bringing a bit of past into the future, slowing it all down. The past drags at the heels of the future, makes it keep looking back over its shoulder. It's good to let go, to be 'forward-looking' as Mom would put it.  We can’t help but carry the impression people have made on us, the way our fabric is altered by their temporary presence. It is that change that we carry, to which we're attached, that we think we will preserve by keeping the things of their life. Things are only things. Matter, as in a thing, need not matter. Matter also means to make a difference. Those who have peopled my life have already mattered—no need to commemorate them in clutter. I need a big wind to clean out my life." And then a small thought crept in, "Well, maybe I'll keep just one or two little special things."

(*Adapted from "Exploring Hell and Other Warm Places", the mother/daughter memoir that inspired "The Caregiver's Compass", a handbook for emotional balance.

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