In Memoriam

One never expects these phone calls. The ones that interrupt a tranquil existence to announce the unimaginable. To pass on the news that others can hardly grasp. The news of an untimely death. The call from a mutual friend to tell me that the woman who has cleaned my house for the last four and a half years had died.

Absolutely unimaginable. Ann was the epitome of health. A lean woman in her early 50s who lived a life of physical fitness as a personal trainer and yoga instructor in addition to cleaning houses with more energy than a nuclear reactor. Dead. Found slumped over her computer after failing to show up for her yoga class.

I was stunned by the news. Scheduled to come in a few days, now I would never again see this energetic woman full of dreams.  During the time that I’ve know Ann, her realized dreams included getting her bachelor’s degree, with honors, in recreation management with a minor in psychology, going to Bali for advanced yoga training, and moving from several undesirable living situations to a place she genuinely loved and felt at peace with.

Long involved in the ocean paddling scene, a memorial paddle-out is scheduled for a day I’m not available. So how could I memorialize her life? Dawning on me that the money I would have paid Ann could be used in some way to honor her life, it didn’t take long to figure out that I could buy a lot of Michael’s jewelry beads, at 50% off, for the ladies at the Lighthouse! Jewelry making is not really my forte, but I loved lingering over all the colorful choices before me, calculating how to get the most bang for my buck. I toted a pretty hefty stash home.

Last Friday the women at the Lighthouse, a fifteen-month, faith-based residential treatment program for those recovering from substance abuse, made Psalm 23 bracelets in memory of Ann as I told them her story. While life was coming together for her now, that hadn’t always been true. In her younger years, Ann, too, had struggled with substance abuse. At one point, losing her driver’s license, her mother drove her to cleaning jobs. When she acquired her own transportation, she, for a period of time, arrived at client’s homes balancing a vacuum cleaner on her bike. She was nothing if not tenacious about her recovery.

The women were engaged with Ann’s inspirational story as they strung various colored beads symbolic of different aspects of the psalm. The uniquely individual bracelets were a creative delight. One in particular stood out to me. I was taken with the artistic sophistication of Sonia’s bracelet when she asked for help tying off the elastic ends in a square knot. This wasn’t the first of her art that had attracted my admiration. With our heads together fumbling over a pesky knot, I wondered aloud, “Do you have any idea what a talented artist you are?” Without self-deprecation or demurring, Sonia quietly gestured around the room full of art making and said, “Not until you opened the door for me.” Ann would be so pleased.

When you have received unimaginable news, how have you come to terms with it? If something creative came out of that experience, what was it? Has someone opened a door for you?  What might you create to memorialize that?

Looking forward to what you have to share.

PS – Below are the symbolic bead colors for The Psalm 23 – The Lord is my Shepherd – Bracelet

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures (green);
He leads me beside quiet waters (blue).  He restores my soul;
He guides me in paths of righteousness (white) for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil (black), for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff (brown), they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil (yellow); my cup (purple) overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness (red) will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
 

 

11 comments to In Memoriam

  • Dale

    That was Lovely, Thank You !!

  • ANNA POWELL

    Wonderful blog, Lynne. Beautiful way to remember Ann.

  • Beautiful post, Lynne. We are sad that you lost a good friend. Like others you know, it took Ann a while to figure it out, but figure it out she did. Your remembrance of her is pitch-perfect.

  • Thank you Lynne. Passing this post on to a friend who is experiencing a family loss this week. Perfect timing.
    Tara

  • Deborahloyd

    Beautiful, Lynne. Condolences.

  • My mother was only 67 and my wife was only 59. I have outlived all my grandparents. I must live to be 60 and two weeks to outlive my father. There is no good time to die. Someone will be there to mourn but life will go on. I have been near death many times since cancer was discovered in me six and a half years ago but I’m still here. God has one thing for me to do before I die so it may take some time. We all die at one time or another but still will die. Just hoping to get the most people to the Lord before my turn comes.
    Dave Faulkner

  • Nadean

    That is such a beautiful description of Ann’s life. Your bracelets are wonderful and Ann would be so honored. Bless you.

  • PATRICIA CONDER MCWANE

    Thank you, you are awesome. I am going to make me a bracelet and maybe some more. We need symbols to hold to when we loose someone. This will help me in the healing of loosing my Dad recently. I wish I had the inspiration and talent that you have to see and do beautiful things like this. I will just continue to read your articles and keep being inspired and uplifted with each one.

  • Mary Boalt

    You asked an interesting question at the end of the article about Ann, “what creative experience came after receiving bad news?”. I can’t explain this but after being diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago, I upholstered a sofa! I had never done anything like that before! I just went in the room with the sofa and worked and worked and worked…between bouts of crying and praying. Did I think I wouldn’t live long enough to finish it for my sister? I finished it before my surgery and she still has it today! And it’s darned cute! Where does that energy/drive/determination come from? I think it was needed time to be alone with my thoughts and problem solve about two things at once…one serious and another a productive distraction.

    Thanks for your columns, Lynne….I really enjoy them and the thought provoking questions you end with.

  • deanna bowling

    I was going to say that my family doesn’t do things in memoriam, but then remembered several dates in common in our family.

    1) My Aunt Kate, her son Gary, Gary’s daughter Mary Kathryn, and my daughter Tamara Ann, were all born on March 11. Gary’s daughter Mary Kathryn and my daughter Tamara Ann, were both born in 1965, at the same time during the day. Gary, myself, Mary Kathryn and Tamara Ann were all born with the same birth defects.

    2) My birth father John and my step father’s mother Grandma Glaubitz both died on my step-father Leo’s birthday, November 30th.

    3) My step sister Ellen and I were both born in 1943, 5 months apart to the date and hour, on the 13th at 7:30 in the morning My brother Jerry and our step sister Betty were born 4 months apart on the same date, on the 28th

    4) Upon seeing an oil painting of our step father, one of our relatives stated that they hadn’t remembered my brother ever wearing a mustache.

    All of the women in my mother’s blood line look remarkably alike, to the point that upon my seeing my Aunt Kate and her husband Uncle Stan for the first time in 20 years, my Uncle Stan counted off the women who had died in Aunt Kate’s family in order to figure out who was still living, thus narrowing down those left to me, because after all I was with his daughter.

  • diane kessler

    Two months ago we got the news from our mother’s doctor that she might have only up to 6 months to live. I prayed and journaled and agonized and talked to counselors. One old friend suggested…opened a door….an idea. I did it and both my Mom and I were so very deeply blessed. The idea was to write many, many of my favorite memories, big and small, old and new, of my Mom. As I wrote them in a little blank-paged journal, I illustrated almost every memory with a drawing. Some were silly, others tender, and all of them together wove a new thread into the strong bond between Mom and me. As I’ve been struggling in my relationship with my Mom, writing these memories brought what I am grateful for to the forefront. Now I need to thank my friend profusely for her idea that opened that door.

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