Happy Birthday, Brother

Birthdays, siblings, brother, death, death of brother

Dear Reader:

He would be 54 years old  today, but instead he rests under a marker that reads: “Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not here—I do not sleep.”

Today,  I can not help but remember my brother. Perhaps, you, too, have a special birthday you remember but no longer celebrate in the conventional fashion. Or, maybe your mind turns to a loved one on the anniversary of his death. Loss will touch us all and I have found that it can be such a comfort to share the experience with others. I hope you will not mind if I share my experience of loss with you today on this day that can not help but move me.

During his 36 years of life,  my brother, Matt Lehman, occupied a large place in my heart and in the imaginations of family and friends. He was handsome, stylish and charming. (Think Matt Dillon, seriously!) He was a salesman and a collector. He’d been born with long eyelashes and affecting eyes. And bat his eyelashes, he did! The gesture was even more disarming when it was combined with his ready smile. He radiated enthusiasm, as if for him the entire world and everything in it was exciting. He was a joy to be around, and so everyone wanted to be his friend.

Matt was the youngest of three siblings. He was like the exclamation point after his two sisters. And, he certainly was not meant to be the first to die. But, as he told me one day after a visit to the cancer treatment center “how can I ask ‘why me’ when there’s a 12 year old child sitting next to me waiting for his chemo treatment?”

There was never any hope given other than the  possibility that treatment could extend his life a bit. It was in July 2000 that I received his phone call telling me it was cancer, “not a good kind,” and the doctors had estimated he had four months left. In the end, he lived a full year after his diagnosis. He made the most of that year generously sharing the time he had left with those who loved him.

I vividly remember an exchange with Matt during one of our last visits. His faith was unshakable; he was going “home.” I did not share his strong beliefs, but I found myself explaining that I couldn’t go with him just then. I needed to stay and raise my 4-year-old daughter. My baby brother was going somewhere and some part of me felt that I should go with him or instead of him. Or maybe, some part of me wondered how I could bear my grief.

For a long time after Matt’s death, I felt sure that every ring of the phone would bring news of illness or death. And, of course, just below the surface was the fear that came with being brutally reminded of my own mortality. But, I have celebrated the milestones of 40 and 50 remembering that my brother never did. I am grateful for the years I’ve been given to test my commitment to my husband (shaken but never destroyed!) and to watch my daughter grow into an adult I admire, respect and love.

And, so  with tears in my eyes and a big smile on my face, I remember my dear brother today but not beside the headstone that bears his name.  For he is not there. He lives with me in my heart and I know in the hearts of many others.

I welcome you to share your remembrances of those you have loved and lost.

Love,

*Shell

*This nickname died with my brother. When he was young, he could not manage to say Michele and so I was Shell to him for as long as he lived.

 

 

This post was originally written on February 19, 2017 and posted after my blog went live on March 24.

 

 

 

My Journey to Strong: Chapter 1

 

IMG_6076

Chapter 1: Fear is an Excellent Motivator

 

Dear Reader:

The day I met my personal trainer, my ankle was still swollen and blue from the fall I’d taken the week before. I wore work-out clothing and furry slippers. My husband chauffeured me to my appointment as I hadn’t driven since my mishap. Indeed, I had barely left the couch.

We pulled up to a small office building where the first thing I noticed was the stairs leading to the upper floor. Thankfully, the gym is tucked behind the stairs on the ground floor. I hobbled in and Jonathan greeted me with energy and enthusiasm (two things I lacked).

“We’re lucky you’re on the bottom floor,” I said. “And, by the way, I’m so nervous that I need a drink!

He laughed and offered me something to drink. I declined feeling sure that he meant to bring me nothing more potent than a glass of water. And, of course, it was a joke (sort of)! I had come ready to talk about getting in shape. We began by discussing my goals. They were as follows:

  1. Fall less often
  2. Fall less often and
  3. Fall less often

I told him, what only those really close to me know, that I fall with some regularity. My last meeting with the pavement really scared me. I explained that fear was my primary motivation:  fear of injury, fear of doctors and hospitals and fear of aging badly. I was anxious to know if my goal was doable and he assured me that it was.

“Balance is strength,” he said, and “strength is balance.”

To prove his point, he asked me to attempt the 1-legged standing balance test. I passed! I was even able to balance on my still recovering right ankle! He explained that strength would determine my ability to respond to challenges to my balance. I could offset my inherent klutziness and my tendency to spend too much time dreaming, plotting and planning rather than observing my surroundings.  I was elated… for a brief moment.

Then it was time for me to be weighed, pinched and measured.  I turned away when Jonathan checked my reading on the scale. I did not peak at my measurements as he listed them on my chart. And I displayed no curiosity about my fat to muscle ratio. I just submitted to the process. I was focused on getting stronger. I’d worry about getting thinner later. That brings me to my first bit of newly acquired wisdom on my Journey to Strong.

Wriggle into your black leggings and check your vanity and embarrassment at the gym door!  Just do it!

Michele

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Calla Lilies are in Bloom Again

IMG_6031
This beauty just appeared on the hill leading down to my shed! The pure white color of the Calla Lily makes it a popular choice for both weddings and funerals.

“The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower — suitable to any occasion. I carried them on my wedding day, and now I place them here in the memory of something that has died.”

Dear Reader:

Katherine Hepburn spoke that line in The Lake, a long-forgotten play. I adore listening to her let the words roll off her tongue in her stylistic Mid-Atlantic accent, and, indeed, the line’s iambic pentameter sounds wonderful spoken in my California accent, too.

If you are a close reader, you are wondering how I’m able to hear her words. Let me tell you the story; it’s a great one! You see Katherine, it seems, was as tough as the characters she became famous for playing in her films.

The Lake was both a critical and popular flop. The same critics who had lauded Hepburn’s work in films wrote that the stage had exposed her to be lacking in great talent. Dorothy Parker famously said that her performance “ran the gamut of human emotion from A to B.” On top of that, the play was directed by Jed Harris, who was an infamous “big bad wolf” of American theatre. He was known for his abusive behavior to actresses (sound familiar?!). Harris intended to take the show on the road as he had sunk all his money into it. Hepburn, who was desperate to leave the play, wrote him a check for her life savings (around 14,000 dollars) and was released from her contract. She later said the experience was an important lesson in accepting responsibility for her own career.

Four years later, Hepburn was cast in Stage Door, a film about several aspiring actresses living together in a boardinghouse and competing for the same role in a play. The fictional play within the film prominently features the calla-lily- line. The director, Gregory La Cava, lifted it from The Lake Hepburn’s character practices it in rehearsal over and over, always without much feeling. But in the movie’s tragic climax, she memorably delivers the line with great emotion. Following the success of Stage Door,  that line became one of Hepburn’s signature catchphrases. She had turned her famous flop into a testament to tenacity. Now, that’s a strong woman.

hqdefault

They say that every person has a story to tell. It seems to me that every flower has something to say, as well!

Michele

P.S. Unfortunately, the elegant calla lily is poisonous; I do not let the puppy roam the hill as she is still in the “everything and anything goes in my mouth stage”.

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

Eternal Motion

IMG_5671

Dear Reader:

A poem for you inspired by my last visit to Maui:

listening to the crash of the waves and the crackle of the wind in the palms 

i feel an

overwhelming sense of gratitude and wonder 

so many cares lost in the rhythm of life

the waves break again and again and wash the past from the present

 

the young woman looks to the sea impressed by the force of nature 

the mature woman finds peace in the continuity

 

one can not only see eternal motion

one can feel it

the water advances then repeats

an ever-changing whole of blue possibility

Tell me, where do find your inner poet?

Michele

 

 

 

Creativity Calls

  • FullSizeRender
      Even the garages in Carmel are cute!

Dear Reader:

This cute little garage is attached to a cute little house in a cute little neighborhood in a cute little town. Sorry… couldn’t resist being so cute! But, seriously, I think “Paws Awhile” is good advice. No matter how much one enjoys an activity (or a person, for that matter), a little break can be a good thing.

I didn’t blog/write much during the holidays, but I did express my creativity in other ways. Our home was decorated top to bottom, the presents were wrapped in grand style, the gingerbread houses were sweet pieces of art, the table was set with my beloved collection of china and our doors were open to family and friends.

Today, I’ve returned to the page after having a restless night immersed in ridiculous, but unsettling nightmares. In one vivid scene, I can see myself frantically searching for my site. From the pink shed has disappeared. It is gone, because I have neglected it! 

I’d say that is a very good sign that I should return to the shed to enjoy the creative adventure that is my blog.

I’ll talk to you again soon!

Michele