Mary Beth Writes

I found a plaque at Goodwill (I lost the photo I took of it...) that made me laugh out loud.

I asked Jesus, "How much do you love me?"   

"This much." he answered.

Then he stretched out his arms and died.

I understand the heartfelt statement of faith and gratitude, but wow, if you are going to laminate your faith statement onto a plaque – maybe run it past a writer first?

This sounds as if the Son of God was doing okay until he encountered the Sins of You.

So anyways… D is for Death.

Oh yeah, this will be short and easy.

Central statement of this essay; death sucks.

But also; death brings weird clarity.

What you miss after a person dies is a black light that will tell you what you had.

When my dad died when I was a young teenager I realized I was no longer afraid of getting yelled at. There’s a legacy, huh? I also lost family meals at the dining table. (It was just mom and I after Dad was gone. We ate a lot of hamburgers and pie at the Swedish Coffee Pot. ) I lost an exacting person who possibly, if I had excelled, I could have pleased. I never got to have a dad who said, “Hey that was good!” I missed those stories one wonders about when you start living your own adult life, when you try hard things, when you try to be a leader, when you parent your own kids.  I would have liked to ask what becoming an adult was like for him. I have clues, but I don’t really know what he would have said. So death shows you what you miss, what you don’t miss, what you forget to ask, what you didn’t get.

Let’s talk dogs, not dads. It’s easier. Not easy, just easier…

When older pets die, invariably the first thing one doesn’t miss is the strain, work, and expense it was to take care of them in their decline. The lack of responsibility is a relief. 

But as time goes by there comes that day when you are standing in the kitchen talking to someone and you fall into that old story about “that night it was freezing cold, and you were slow on the walk, and you were also busy talking with our son, and Becky casually brought a frozen bunny head into the house, a snack she had found for herself along the way…” And now you are laughing so hard you are weeping.  

When those sad and hilarious tears hit – there is one of the mysteries of death.

You always knew you loved that wonderful dog but most of the time your love was a pleasant background hum in your life. In that retelling of a great old story, that old  love piles up like snow in front of a snowplow. Suddenly it is all over and around you, a great big wash of clear, sweet affection.

Death also seems to take all the love there was and reduce it into itself like a Haute Cuisine French sauce. And every once in a while you will be surprised by the steam, aroma, and the pungent glorious taste of that remembered joy and love. It messes you up bad (bring on the hankies) but you could care less. Your grief is right here now – but for this bit of time, grief is also joy, thankfulness and a profoundly deep need to laugh and be happy.

I don’t know why this is. Certainly not everyone we lose affects us like this. But some of them, blessed be, stir us still. The hole where they are gone demands to be filled with something good and that’s about as close to “love never dies” as I can understand.

Logically, you wouldn’t hurt this badly and you wouldn’t be wiping snot and tears off your face if you had not shared your life with that goofball mutt for 14 years. But who’s kidding who? She was one of the shiny ribbons woven into mortality. Even now, years later, telling Becky stories is STILL a happiness that vibrates in me when I remember her. Nothing in my regrets the day our gangly son brought home this gangly pup who would raise our kids and then break our hearts. Death took her, but left us bigger and better.

Death cracks and breaks us. Sometimes I think that is the point. The cracks are where light comes in and shines out. 

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" She was one of the shiny ribbons woven into mortality" . What a beautiful way to put it! And I love your new website. Congrats to you and LEN!

Thanks. And thanks for letting us know this wasn't working at first. And yeps, I am thinking of your mom, also. Shiny ribbons through our lives.

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Let's go to Canada. It will be beautiful and convenient and nothing will get too crazy.

Hi! Len and I returned home at 1:30AM from our 15-day road trip through eastern Canada and Maine and more.  

In case you ever wondered, you CAN go to the “Glazed and Confused” donut shop in Syracuse, NY at 9 in the morning, peruse the  Erie Canal museum https://eriecanalmuseum.org/ and then drive back in Waukesha - all in one 16-hour day. We are generally closer to interesting places than we know.

But I get ahead of myself.

An afternoon in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Sault is a French word that mean topsy-turvy as in the rapids on the St. Mary river that tumbles between the US and Canada. Or summersaults. Isn’t that cute?

We walked a lot that first day. We thought the Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site; which is two old houses that we wanted to see, were just around the corner from where we parked. Nope; more like two miles there and two miles back.  But it was a brisk day and after our hot, humid Wisconsin summer it was delicious to wear a jacket and not sweat.

Mountain Top Toddler

We drove to Chicago to help care for our 2-year old granddaughter. There is a lot going on in their family as is true of any family with a toddler, a new infant, and two working parents. Such as; my daughter went back to work the same week their daycare center closed for a 10-day break. A perfect storm of domestic hoopla. 

We only watched her from 7:30AM until 4PM on Monday and Tuesday. When our son-in-law came home from work, he took over. Other relatives are watching her the next few days. 

Here are three things I noticed about taking care of a toddler.

"Death Comes for the Archbishop" and How to drive to the Y without a map.

I read Willa Cather’s “Death Comes for the Archbishop” when I was in high school. I heard it was an important book which made me curious (still does), so I borrowed it from the library and read the whole thing.

It was mud. I didn’t care about the characters; two middle-aged priests who go to the American southwest to build and strengthen the Catholic church. Snooze. Nothing cohesive happens. They do a bunch of walking around in the desert followed by episodes of trying to be helpful a few days here, a few years there. Yawn.

When Weaving is NOT a Metaphor

I wrote this 12 years ago.  It's long and even I get confused as to what I wrote when one gets about half way through this  - and I was there!   But some of you will be interested to read how those "ethnic weavings" from Guatemala begin.  Next time you buy something hand woven, for less than $20, you will understand that price is not right.

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