© copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert
In the last sixteen years, I have only used the word in my writing. It just does not seem apt for me anymore. In 1991, my Grandpa passed, or as some say, he died, although he never did. I am reminded of this today for someone I knew from afar for many decades, and met face-to-face only a year ago on this same date, took his last breath this afternoon.
It is a somber day; yet beautiful. Phillip, is gentle man, a giant. His heart is, to coin an expression, more golden than gold. His spirit is softer than the yellow metal is in its purest form. Phillip’s goodness is great. You may think it odd that I presume to know so much about this man. After all, we only spoke on a few occasions in the past year. However, I am closely acquainted with Phillip’s family. I have, by extension been apart of this loving circle for generations.
On March 11, 2006, I spent hours chatting with Phillip. We discovered all that was between us. Until then, we never understood that we were truly connected. Without communication, there is much conjecture. When we open our hearts and minds much is realized, at least Phillip and I thought so.
Our conversation was deep; it went on throughout the day and into the evening. We spent hours relating to what was, is, would be, and could be. I never felt so safe, so sane, as fortunate to be part of his, my, or our family as I did on this date a year ago. Strangely enough, when we first spoke Phillip was sitting in a sacred chair. It is my Mom’s favorite chair. Mommy settled into that seat for years. She read, smoked, smiled, and laughed, all from that chair. I felt certain she was sharing the wooden bench with Phillip as he and I chatted.
No one sits in that maple structure anymore and has not since Mommy took her last breath. My father gently looks over at the white and wood construction often throughout the day and every evening. He has for years. He discusses the day with Mommy as he sits across from her. Fresh flowers are neatly positioned in front of her fixture regularly. Father always buys her favorite blossoms and talks to her about his choices.
When Mommy’s body, in a physical sense was here on Earth, each morning my parents would brew their first cup of tea and walk through the garden examining every new shoot on each beautiful plant as the tea steeped. They kept a pictorial log of the gardens growth. They mounted photographs on a rolling file so that they might flip through these, as if watching the transformation through time-lapse photography.
Mommy and the love of her life were both avid readers. They frequently exchanged books and articles. They still do today, although Mommy sends her circuitously. Nevertheless, my parents still share.
I too share with Mommy. She is so very much a part of whom I am, what I think, say, do and feel. She is forever with me. Now, she and Phillip are sharing or so I imagine. Perhaps, when he sat there in her chair with her, she and he knew. It was time, time for them to meet and be one. Phillip is my father’s younger brother. Yet, Mommy and Phillip had never met. Families do some not so funny things in the name of love, caring, concern, or knowing what is best.
I suspect, as I think about the life after this Earthly existence, those of us bound by the properties of this planet rarely imagine what is most important, love and peace.
After I learned Phillip was lost to my physical touch, I looked around me. I examined all my possessions and wondered were any of these truly valuable. Did my clothing, my car, even my home have any actual worth. Were these assets or distractions? I pondered whether life itself was significant. What is the meaning of it all? I could think to leave this planet, for I do inquire what is the point. Yet, I think that decision would not be wise.
I have to believe there is some reason I am here. My Grandpa taught me so much. He gave me reason for living. Grandpa taught we to be open, honest, curious, and concerned. Grandpa, born more than a century ago was, is, in fact a peacenik. Grandpa regularly recited . . .Hearts, like doors, will open with ease,
With two very, very little keys.
And don’t you know the two of these
Are “Thank you, Sir” and “If you please.”
Grandfather Mitchell memorized . . . “Two wrongs do not make a right.”
Grandpa felt deeply, ‘Love always endures.’ What seems like centuries ago, I yearned to visit a beau. This magnificent man lived states away from where I resided. Roundtrip airfare was two hundred and eighty nine dollars. I certainly did not have dollars to cast to the wind, only to watch them fly across the country. To this day, I do not know when I mentioned the subject to my Grandpa. Surely, I never expected, nor did I ask him to pay the price of such a costly ticket. Without hesitation, he did. If you knew how extremely frugal my family is, you would trust, this was weird, wonderful; ye still bizarre! Nevertheless, it happened.
I could not get over such a gesture! I thanked Grandpa over and over again. I was and to this day, am grateful for the gifts he gave me, this one and the less tangible treasures. Grandpa turned to me one day and said, “Betsy; No one does anything they do not really want to do.” He assured me he offered me the opportunity to travel for that was what he really wanted to do. While he appreciated my expressions of gratitude, I need not thank him again. My going and enjoying was his pleasure. For Grandpa facilitating growth was love and love was the reason for living. Sharing love brings peace.
Grandfather Mitchell taught my Mom the same. Love and peace were forever his lessons. The scientific method was his preferred tool for instruction. Grandpa gave Mommy the freedom to think and to be who she was naturally. My Mom is, was interested in every entity. She was a scientist, just like her father. He was a Chemist, a Pharmacist, and a lover of people. She was a Social Scientist, a little lessen enamored with human foibles. As a child, Mommy saw too much pain. It hurt her heart. She longed for love and peace and worked to create it. She did.
Observation, examination, and experience were my Mom’s mentors. Mommy embraced learning easily. Her father, my Grand encouraged little Berenice Barbara to explore and share her discoveries. The two chatted often. They were, they are, two great minds with millions of thoughts, each inspirational. They imagined all the people, sharing all the world, and living in harmony. I trust they still do. I suspect now that Phillip has found his peace, he has joined them. The three are together giving rise to greater love.The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.
~ Morrie Schwartz [Sociology Professor]
My Mom wanted me to learn as she had. Curiosity continued to be the teaching method of choice; love and peace were still the curriculum. Berenice Barbara the parent had two overriding principles.“Do whatever makes you happy, as long as it does not hurt anyone.”
“No one has the right to tell you what to think, say, do, feel or be.”
Mommy never did. If I asked for her advice, and on occasion, I did, I would hear the previously stated philosophy. Oh, if only I knew what made me happy. If only I was certain what was wise. I find no joy in their departures; although I have never felt they left me. I am in some ways more with my Grandpa and Mom now then I was in life. I feel their presence. Rarely, if ever do I speak of them in past tense. I definitely do not say; nor do I believe they “died.” I feel their love and I am at peace.
This is exactly what I was saying to Phillip little over a month before he passed. Phillip expressed his deepest fear. The doctors had expected him to exit Earth months ago. Physically, by all accounts, Phillip was ready to pass. However, he stayed. When asked why he lingered, Phillip shared he did not wish to leave his two daughters alone. He, with help from his wife’s spirit, raised them since they were very young children. Becky passed on Mother’s Day decades earlier. The girls are in their early twenties now, still so young. To be without a mother and a father, Phillip did not wish to do that to them.
I was visiting at the time he made this statement, though I was a room away. Upon hearing his reflection, I knew I must speak with Phillip. I entered his hospice room. I proceeded to his bedside, walking right past his mother and sister. I put my face to his and began to tell my tale.
I said, for as long as I could recall, my worse fear was I would loss my Mom. I missed her even when I was in the same room with her. She was [is] so alive, infinitely interesting, open, brilliant, and vibrant. I had hoped to pass before her. Surely, without her I would fall apart. How would I live? Who would teach me as she had.
I was close to my grandfather and feared his demise; however, it was different. To this day, I am unsure how, for my Grandpa engaged me for hours daily in my younger years. I even lived with him for a couple of months when I was eleven years old. Perchance, I had accepted the convention that Grandfather’s pass, since my paternal Grandparents were never on Earth in my lifetime. I know not. I did understand that though Grandpa’s body was not visible. He still lives large in my life. Only last evening I quoted him on a blog. I attributed his words to him. Grandpa lives!
Nevertheless, without Mommy, I knew I would not function. As I attempted to tell Phillip this, I cried uncontrollably. Finally, gasping for air, I quoted Morrie Schwartz of Tuesday’s With Morrie fame. Professor Schwartz told his former student, author Mitch Albom, “Death ends a life, not a relationship.”
Tearfully, I told Phillip my Mom never left me. She is so much a part of who I am in every moment. Berenice Barbara is within me. I am as close to her as ever. She still teaches me. I also share the lessons I learn from her with others. I assured Phillip as best as I was able, he was not leaving his daughters or other members of his family. He was only changing the way in which he would be with them.
After I spoke, a hug festival ensued. Love and peace filled the room. Grandpa and Mommy were there with us all. The two are still teaching. Yet, much remained unsettled. It is challenging to grasp the unknown. Yet, I must trust that ultimately Phillip has. Today he decided to take his last breath as he held his daughter’s hand. I hope she too was [is] able to understand he is not gone. Only his appearance differs. Amy and Stacy, I love you so. Your Dad does too. He will continue to be there for you. He will teach you now as he was when you were younger, as he did while working through his own rite of passage.
Another relative of mine, Nicholas has been ill for years. He too is young, still in his fifties. His son has not yet graduated from High School. I wonder if Nicholas might also want to be there for his family. Might he muse that though his body may wither away, he will not. If only we knew to our core, that death is not our undoing. We live in and through all those that we touch.
I kiss your sweet face Phillip. I would ask you to say hello to Mommy and Grandpa were I not able to do so myself. It is almost midnight and I must sleep. I was never able to slumber well unless I said “Pleasant dreams” to those I love before I went off to bed. Thus, I wish you “pleasant dreams!” May we all live and rest in peace.
Tuesday’s With Morrie By Mitch Albom