Saint Dorothy

I scattered some of my mother’s ashes in my backyard on All-Saints Day.  My mother hated funerals. She didn’t get the whole “closure” and “gathering together” thing.  She thought of them as rather tacky and unnecessarily burdensome to the family.  

When my father died, we took the ashes out to an Indian casino after the requiem mass.  We left my mother on a seat at a slot machine because watching us scatter my father’s ashes was the last thing in the world she wanted to do.  My brother and a couple of cousins and I drove out into the desert a ways to scatter the ashes.  My father loved the desert.  He also maintained, throughout his life, that he was part Native American despite the complete absence of any confirming evidence.  It was a nice idea, but we were clearly inept at scattering ashes.  It is harder than you think.  It is windy in the desert.  There are kind of a lot of ashes.  As I tried to release my father, body and soul, to the Great Spirit, my brother kept yelling that I was getting dad all over me.  None of the attendees was sure how I was going to go back and face my mother at the casino with a thin veneer of my father’s cremains all over me.  Let’s just say that event did nothing to change my mom’s opinion of funerals.   

Even though she didn’t like funerals, I knew my mother would have had no objection to her family having a service for her if we felt it would be helpful for us.  I always thought I didn’t care whether we had a service or not.  My brother didn’t want a service.  I figured that I would take her ashes back to California and we could scatter them near where we scattered my father’s ashes.  Still, after she died, I did ask the cremation services company to divide her ashes into several smaller quantities on the off chance that I decided to do something different.  A few weeks later, it suddenly, for no discernable reason, seemed important to me to scatter a portion of her ashes behind my house.  Theologically and symbolically, I believe my mother is a saint in Heaven now, so I decided to do it on the evening of All Saints Day. 

I picked out a passage from The Book of Wisdom in the Bible.  If you have never heard of The Book of Wisdom and can’t find it in your Bible, please don’t think I made it up.  It is one of those books that appear in Catholic and Episcopal Bibles, but is not part of the canon in many Protestant churches.  It struck me as strange that, as I am exploring a change in church, I found the very words I wanted in a version of the Bible that a lot of Christians don’t even include.  Still, I found comfort in Wisdom:3, which refers to everlasting life.  The passage I picked reminded me that it is foolish to think my mother is really dead.  She lives in joy in Heaven and I will see her again one day.  As I walked up and down the back yard scattering the ashes, I sang the Irish Blessing.  I sang that song to her every day for the last two weeks of her life.  It sort of became “our song” during that last season of good-bye.  When I got to the last line of the song, “And, until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand,” I began sobbing.  It was the first time I have really broken down since before her death. I feel like I’ve been remarkably calm and composed, especially for me. 

I think I know why the blessing song triggered this outpouring of emotion.  The song works both ways. The song told my mother that I knew God was holding her in the hollow of His hand in Heaven now. The song also was also telling me that my mother is waiting for me.  She is trusting in God to hold me in the hollow of His hand until the day we are reunited forever.   

I feel kind of empty since my impromptu funeral.  I think some of the grief that poured out of me with the tears left a space inside me that isn’t quite filled up with acceptance and contentment yet.  I don’t really feel like me, but I can’t say what I do feel.  What is kind of weird is that, maybe for the first time in my whole life, I feel okay living in whatever is.  As odd and uncharacteristic as it seems, I am content to float along and experience the life that I am living without feeling a mad compulsion to make that life what I think it should be.   

Maybe Saint Dorothy is pushing me into the hollow of God’s hand.

Different people have different thoughts and traditions around death and funerals.  Have you ever experienced a ritual that brought you a little “good grief,” as my song to my mother brought me?  Please tell us about it.  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

May God hold YOU in the hollow of His hand today!

Terri

 

The Turkey Vultures And I

I used to have a secretary who believed I lived under a sky-blue-pink cloud of oddness and absurdity.  She swore that there was no one else on earth who could end up in the weird and strange situations I perpetually encountered.   

For instance, one Monday morning she asked me about my weekend.  I told her about my Sunday morning.  I was taking my dog out for her early morning walk.  Since I had just rolled out of bed, I was shuffling along in a bit of haze. I was not wearing my glasses.  As my dog snuffled around, I happened to look up and noticed a man running towards me.  The first thing that went through my brain was not, oddly enough, that he was stark naked… which he was.  Without my glasses, what I first noticed was that he appeared to sporting long, grey dreadlocks.  As he came closer, I realized he had a grey sweatshirt on his head and the “dreadlocks” were actually sleeves flopping over his shoulders. 

It was only then that I realized that the sweatshirt on his head was the only article of clothing the man was wearing.  There was something besides the sweatshirt sleeves flopping around.  Again oddly enough, it didn’t register with me that naked running guy was heading directly towards me and that he could be dangerous.  Instead, my inexplicable initial reaction was to think, “isn’t it cold for him to be running around naked?” 

When I told my tale, my secretary looked at me with way less amazement than I believed my story warranted.  Her response?  “Naked running guy?  Terri, it had to be you.  It could only happen to you.”   

My secretary was not amazed because odd things have always tended to happen to me. When I went on my “if-it’s-Tuesday-it-must-be-Belgium” package tour of Europe, the tour company paired me with a roommate who brought chocolate bars to distribute to the children of Rome and refused to come out of the hotel room the entire time we were in Paris because she knew French people hated Americans.   I lived with my parents and two basset hounds in a twenty-seven-foot travel trailer for a year.   When I reported the theft of my car’s license plate, the DMV told me it was my own fault because TINKRBL was just too cute to put on a personalized license plate.  The vet once selected my dog as “pet of the month” when he removed a bladder stone the size of a softball and the dog lived. There is just no way around it.  In my world “normal” equates to “weird” in most people’s dictionaries.   

Something happened recently that reminded me that I am still a weird magnet.  Our satellite television feed became possessed. 

Now, I do realize that there are many reasons satellite television signals can wobble.  Rain, falling branches, and even sun spots can all cause signal loss.  In fact, I have always listened smugly when sellers of other delivery methods warn about the unreliability of satellite.  Despite living through three Florida summers, with accompanying wackadoodle weather, we’ve experienced very little interruption. The satellite dish even survived the ravages of Hurricane Irma.  It seemed to me that satellite tv technology had progressed enough to mitigate the problems caused by weather. 

Nobody ever mentioned the turkey vultures, however. 

Some weeks ago, we began to notice signal interruption and problems connecting to high definition. Since we were experiencing thunderwowers just about every day, I didn’t think too much about it except to think I might have been wrong in my assessment of satellite tv’s progress on the reliability front.   

However, we soon realized that the television problems were not limited to stormy weather.  Our signals seemed really weak, corruptible, and just fouled up pretty much all the time, even on the exceedingly rare occasions when the sun was shining. In thinking about when the issue started, Max reminded me of the flock of turkey vultures on our roof a few weeks ago. We were in the car, getting ready to leave the house when we noticed about eight of them congregating up there.  They were obviously gorging themselves on some sort of revolting dead animal meal. The whole idea was just too disgusting to contemplate, so we backed the car out of the driveway and hoped they would be gone when we returned.   

Indeed, upon our return, we observed that the turkey vultures had vacated the property. We sighed with relief, pulled the car into the garage, and continued our uneventful, carrion-free existence. 

Now, I’m pretty sure those turkey vultures were practicing karate kicks on the satellite dish while they dined on their roof service.   

When I called the satellite company, the nice man tried all the normal things that customer service tries in order to restore service. I was pretty sure those things were going to fail.  They did. During our conversation, the nice man discovered that our satellite dish was badly mis-dithered, meaning that it wasn’t aligned properly to receive signals from key satellite feeds from satellite space.   

Suddenly spontaneously mis-dithered, after years of properly receiving signals? Color me skeptical. I blame the turkey vultures.  The nice man set up an appointment for a technician to come lay hands on our satellite dish and heal our reception.   

I told the nice man about the turkey vultures.  At least he had the good grace to be amazed.

Now it’s your turn!  Convince me that I am not the only person on earth who attracts weirdness.  What is your best “weird and strange” experience? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a bizarre day, in the best possible way!

Terri 🙂

A Total Eclipse Of The Brain

The media reported for weeks that a total eclipse of the sun was due to trip the light fantastic across the central Florida sky in the midafternoon on August 21, 2017.  There was a lot of hype.  Apparently, it was a big deal.  I didn’t pay much attention at first.  I had plans to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom that day with my cousin and his family who were vacationing from New York.  That had way more priority on my excitement agenda than some freak natural phenomenon.

Then, a friend mentioned that she had gone to Lowe’s to buy special eclipse-viewing, sun-filtering protective glasses.  I decided I should get in on the action.  I hauled myself to Lowe’s, only to find that there were no more oxymoronic sun-watching, sun-blocking glasses to be had.  The long-suffering Lowe’s employees must have tired of answering plaintive questions about them because someone had made a small cardboard sign, proclaiming “Glasses All Sold Out” scrawled in pencil. When I told my friend about my failure to obtain the all-important glasses, she looked pensive and then said, “It wouldn’t surprise me if Disney actually has something for the eclipse.” I promised that, if Disney did not provide specially themed protective glasses, I would not stare into the sun and burn out my retinas.

When I got to Animal Kingdom, it turned out that Disney did, indeed, have something for the eclipse.  The “something” consisted of large signs posted throughout the park that said, in effect, “don’t look up.”

I’m not sure if the eclipse really had much of an effect.  For one thing, clouds are pretty much of an eclipse buzzkill.  Cloud-free afternoons in August in central Florida are about as rare as a solar eclipse itself.  August 21st was no exception.  The sun was pretty much eclipsed… by threatening rain clouds.  Between the clouds, the signs, and my own good sense, I did not scrutinize the sky to see if the sun looked any different.  On the other hand, the world under the sky may have looked somewhat different.  Usually, when the sun is obscured by clouds, the sky is dark, but I wouldn’t say the world looks particularly dark when I look around me.  My surroundings maybe don’t seem so bright and iridescent, but I think everything still looks sharp and clear.  During the eclipse, the world around me may have seemed a bit more beige and grainy.  It felt sort of like I was looking at the world through a really dirty window.

Notice I say “may” have looked somewhat different and “may” have seemed a bit more beige and grainy.  It is hard for me to be definitive about the whole thing.  While I was pondering the effects of the eclipse, it struck me that I am truly not that certain if the look of the world changes in the same way when there are just clouds and shadows.  I don’t know that I’ve ever stopped to observe and consider the idea on a normal, cloudy day.  I’m not sure if the differences I noticed were truly effects of the eclipse or if it was just that I was being more attentive and noticing things that are always there, eclipse or not.  It may be simply that there was no discernable difference.  The eclipse may just have jolted me from my tedium and blotted out what I think I know about the world around me.  The condition and event of the eclipse just forced me to stop and take mindful notice of my surroundings.  Maybe the clouds always make it look like there is a veil of grime swathing the world and I just never stopped to notice.

I think most of us go through life with a pretty firm belief that we have a sound empirical and sensory knowledge of our surroundings, but I also think that we would be surprised at how we might change or supplement that knowledge if we challenged ourselves to observe with fresh eyes.  People say that it is important to stop and smell the roses.  I’m sure there are hundreds or thousands of fascinating, poetic details in our world that go unnoticed every day until some major event like an eclipse motivates us to truly experience our natural world.  Maybe the eclipse changed nothing but my perception.

Maybe there were changes related to the total eclipse of the sun itself, but maybe there were more changes related to the total eclipse of the brain.

My apologies that this post is pretty much “old news” by now.  I wrote it in late August, but my mom’s death and Hurricane Irma pushed it to the back burner.  For those of you who actually still remember the solar eclipse, what do you think?  Did anything truly look different?  Or did you just notice details that are probably there all the time but we just don’t notice them?

Have a sunshine-y day!

Terri 🙂

P.S.  But wait, there’s more!  No, I am not selling ginzu knives.  I just wanted to let you know that you can have an extra helping of Terri this week.  The nice people at www.retirementandgoodliving.com asked me to guest post on their site.  You can go to www.retirementandgoodliving.com and hit the blog button if you want to check it out.