A Year Later

I wanted to go steal some roses from the chapel wall this morning for Alice’s birthday, but I’m a little sick with a bug so thievery will have to wait. Today she would have been 101, an age she, possessor of a monumental life force, had no desire to reach.

A year ago today I sat on her bed in Northwest Portland reading her cards and letters from many of you – gorgeous cards, such tender messages, even poems written for her – and from her best friend of sixty some years, Lorraine, and the few scattered relatives in our tribe who knew Alice and are still around.

Hard as it is some days to face the loss of her, I believe this last year would have been unbearable for Alice if she’d continued on. I’m troubled whenever I think of the people who try so desperately to keep going by one measure or another because of fear or because those who love them can’t let them go.

My friend Dee sent me an email today addressed to Alice: “Happy birthday! You have arrived where you wanted to be at 101 – not here!” Absolutely true. She went on to describe where Alice might be after this year-long passage:…maybe after floating in the great Ocean (of light) you have become a wave again.

May it be. One of my happiest memories of Alice is watching her roll up her pant legs, kick away her shoes, and, at age 67, step into the warm Pacific for the first time.

It’s been a beautiful day, starting with cards and messages, and now drifting along into late afternoon light. The sight of a neighbor’s new puppy in the parking lot a while ago and then watching a baby otter scurry along a log in front of my houseboat brought me back to the reality of how reliably new life comes along. I like new life. Also, I miss old life when it’s gone. Earlier today, I thought I would not be able to stop crying, but the crying came heaving to an end finally. It will start again and it will end again. That much I know for sure.

Tonight Meg arrives and we’ll find a way to commemorate Alice’s dying day, which is on Friday. I might snatch a few of the roses over in the alley behind The Place, after all.

In one of her notebooks, the author Katherine Mansfield wrote, “Dear Friend, From my life, I write to you in your life…” That’s how it feels for me with this blog. I’m writing to you in your life and I hope this message finds you well.

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P.S. Meg and I visited the chapel wall on Sunday and found this perfect rose waiting for us. Rose_One Year Later

Six Months

I am sorry that I sent out the wrong post a few minutes ago. What I meant to send was the following:

Alice’s 100th birthday was six months ago today. You were all a big part of it. I think about you all and miss you. It’s quite a change to go from the large, warm, connected crowd of us observing Alice’s life, her last birthday, and her passing to the presence, love, and understanding of a few close to me. All is well, in that life moves forward as life will just go ahead and do, despite monumental personal events.

And I’m okay, even without Alice. Nothing could surprise me more than this fact. I’m still going through her things and trying to make decisions about them, still have not taken her ashes to Iowa (that will happen this spring, I think), still haven’t found that secret path that leads to waking up in the morning and simply knowing she’s no longer here, still hate that little emotional lurch that happens when I remember that she’s gone, still haven’t responded to your comments on the last few posts, all of which I’ve read through several times and find so moving I don’t know what to say. But I will respond to them.

My hope is that the book will express some of my gratitude to all of you. And on that topic the news is good in that the project is moving forward and ready for final touches. Then off it goes to meet some editors. I’ll let you know the moment one of them accepts it.

Meanwhile, hugs and thanks and love to all of you. You know how much you mean to me and what you meant to Alice and me. You have to know that by now. Take good care of yourselves. I hope to be back in touch soon.

Farewell This Long, Long Life

Alice died peacefully on Wednesday at 1 p.m. Meg and I were with her. Her breathing had been ragged and labored and then it evened out a little. Finally it changed to slow, shallow, and steady, and then stopped.

She had not been conscious for some time. The last time she was awake and understanding some of her world was Tuesday morning. Once again I read her the messages on the birthday cards, but this time after each message, she’d say in true appreciation, “That’s nice.”

I’d read a few and then ask if she wanted me to stop because I thought she might be getting tired, but she always answered, “No. Read more.” Read more