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Archive for May, 2012

Memorial Day…

It’s just a piece of paper, folded several times. Containing a few well thought out words, written over time. Times when things were quiet, sometimes by flashlight, moonlight, others; the light of day.

ww2-soldier-writing

One carries that paper till it’s ragged and tattered, nearly confetti. But one carries it close to the heart. And hopes it stays there till a guy or gal is home, unpacked, reunited, well fed, hugged and reassured by a night of quiet sleep in an old familiar bed.

Even then, the letter is tucked away, like a faded photograph or a misty memory.

But for now, the world is on fire, and the days all blend together in a nightmarish collection of close calls and cold sweats and all the “things I haven’t done yet…”, moments of lucidity, and others of utter chaos.

Then comes a fateful moment, a flash, a thud, a struggled breath, a pool of blood. A brilliant light, and a pair of reaching hands…one taking the letter carrier away to a celestial muster…And another to seek out the pocket where such letters are customarily stored.

marinecasket

 

There will be a flight, a Freebird home, and a gathering…where a tattered letter will accompany another typed on finer paper, with signatures and sincere thanks from a grateful nation. And too, a folded flag.

condolence

That tired piece of paper folded several times is now carried next to another heart, stained in tears and holding a new meaning and stark reality…all the things that could have been.

Look to the sky and give thanks… Happy Memorial Day.

boots

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I have been hit by a barrage of advertisements for Mother’s Day declaring that if I REALLY love my mother, I will do as they say and buy what they say at the retailer of their saying and present it as they say…or I might simply be a bad son for having turned my back on the material greed of the retail generated mothers.

I haven’t a mother, just the memories of having had one, for a decade now. What is it that a son can do for his late mother on the designated Sunday in May? I thought perhaps on this spring Wednesday afternoon I might visit her grave, appraise the condition of her granite upright monument, and make a plan to clean the effects  a decade in desert weather has inflicted on it.

I know it has been cleaned in the past by family members. I know that grass clippings have been whisked away in the warmer months, that snow has been brushed aside during the dark months…and that I have illuminated her name etched there with headlamps during the hours between dusk and dawn. A lot of moments that found me in need of her presence in my life have led me there, despondent at times, happily sharing in others. Some visits have left me in tears for various reasons; others have left me without emotion, resolute to the point of being cold, distant, or simply strong.

I did return there after a conference with a well-intended cemetery attendant over the causes and cures for the staining of granite exposed to elements. He did offer a possible stain removal solution, and also the opportunity to be buried near my parents, without a large expenditure of cash up front. I am considering buying a plot on my own, as the plot of my life is tending to see the numbers of family still interested in my membership in said family, to be dwindling at best.

After returning to the grand old cemetery with sunshine overhead, music from my car radio through a pair of open windows, a bounty of the subscribed cleaning supplies and a well lubed elbow to see to it that mom would soon know I loved her still…I set about the task of scrubbing her stone and making it right come Mother’s Day this weekend…my version of honoring the day in a public display of dedication to a corner lot with a granite creation in the midst.

As I applied the warm mix of cleansing solution to the engraved names of my parents, the date of birth of them both, the date of death of just one so far…I thought about the ten years and four months that has passed since her burial.

One can’t fathom the influence of a true matriarch has had on a family until she is in a diminished state and finally passes into the next life.  In the weeks and days leading up to her death, her family remained at her side, but as a cohesive unit…it will suffice to say that she was the adhering factor and would be missed deeply. That hunch has proven prophetic and I dearly miss the occasions when we gathered together as one and rallied around her for whatever reasons. It has become but a state of memories and fond recollections.

Although I reapplied the cleanser again and again, and brushed more in earnest, it came to me; the stain and the truth were both there for the duration. It has been ten years. I can’t imagine living with the heartache that accompanied the time period when that stone was pristine and newly set where she lay. So I rinsed it in cool water and drove away.

And I wondered if the stone already carried an as of yet not evident mark from the day it was set in place, tarnished by the division of her flock, the decay of the honoring the rules of her home left behind. I have to admit that I appreciate her effectiveness as a mom and community influence more than ever. And that over time, it becomes more evident just how remarkable a human being, woman, mother, and friend that she was. Her influence lives on in many people and I am honored to have called her mom. And too, I admit her effect and the respect that followed her in life, has been diminished to some since her death. If she were still living among us, certain others would carry a much different attitude in light of her way of urging more fitting behavior.

I pondered if a soul in heaven could or would truly sense the dissent and mourn the erosion of what she created and was taken away from too soon. I wondered if such behavior could make her time in heaven less than rewarding for fragments of the time.

I wondered in truth that perhaps my disappointment over the demise of my family over time was the only sorrow being felt. There may be other living souls feeling the twinge of the broken family unit, but perhaps there is no such a letdown in heaven. And it made me glad to believe so.

It is now plain to see that for today at least, the mark of time and the elements are to remain on her (and my father’s) names there carved in the stone.

And I thought about the significance of Mother’s day itself and the other days mainly promoted by retailers. There is no way to meet their lofty and expensive standards, unless of course we actually just loved and respected our moms on the days before and after such days on the calendar.

I recalled that regardless of the days marked in red on the calendars over the years, she was always our mother, even when we scarcely were earning her love and devotion…All the days between the days she was obligated to care (either by the church or the retailers) she always stayed a mom.

And it occurred to me that few, if any of my efforts should evolve around a specific Sunday in May. It came to me that my efforts ought not to be a forced effort at all and that my daily existence and substance ought to honor my mother.

It also became clear to me that flowers at her grave are trivial because she can see and smell flowers in every garden spot that exists under heaven. It dawned on me that a scrubbed stone in the corner of an old grave yard might be minimized by the fact she can soar above even the tallest of mountain ranges, made up of granite or otherwise…and convene with soaring eagles. She can assure the nested fawn, marvel at the wobbly legged new foal. Or even look in on her great grandchildren when they are kneeling for night time prayers or are up to their ankles in a joyous mud puddle.

She can be anywhere. I know this because for many hours on most days, she chooses to accompany me here inside my thoughts, my heart, my drives, my laughter, my tears, and my life dreams…And I know she is proud of me even as I lend my hands to the keys here. She needn’t tell me what to say here and now…she taught me those things long ago…and I think perhaps for the past few years I have been channeling more writings and have been the blessed recipient of more epiphanies than before she left her earthly bounds. And I think perhaps that is not a coincidence…

I looked around today, at well preserved old cars with well-worn but still intact paint jobs. And I passed ancient farms with the weathered barn wood and fence rails that wear the badge of smooth spots from livestock reaching out to the greener grasses there beyond the corral. The Statue of Liberty has a proud coat of green patina from her life standing in marine air, no longer gleaming copper.

I thought of my father’s work hardened hands, once so immense and strong…now mostly resting and tellingly full of stories of the pipes he fit and the wrenches he turned and the long life they spent together.

As I returned to my mom’s multi-hued grey stone, I reflected on the decade since it had been set there. I looked into the rear view mirror at my own reflection and the weathering that time had added to my face, and my eyes. I looked at the growth in the surrounding trees and thought of her grandchildren now being no longer kids, no longer babies.

I looked at the big picture, knowing the marks of time there on her stone had been well earned and are reflective of the years that had passed.

And I realized that between mom and I, just one of us was growing older, and perhaps the next time I see her we will be closer to the same age and yet forever young. And maybe she’ll take my hand and lead me to where she is now. And that old stone will be a mere step, the last here on God’s green earth, and the first on the journey to places beyond.

And neither one of us will notice the weathering left over time.

Happy Mother’s Day Momma. Every day.

Love, Matthew Lyle

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