Tag Archives: Death

To Those I Love

In my previous blog post I mentioned that my family has been through a series of tragedies over the past six months, including the unexpected death of my mother on June the 8th of this year. I did not learn until the day of the Memorial Service that she died of a massive heart attack, with no previous history of heart trouble. My wife surmised that my mother must have died from a broken heart because of all that has beset our family. I think she might just be on to something.

My mother was 89-years-old when she died and I am sure that many might assert that, at 89, it couldn’t have been all that unexpected. Yes, she had a good run but we all expected that she had several more years in her – given that she had no medical history that might have suggested otherwise.

My mother’s passing has raised several issues as she was the family scribe, as it were. It was she who kept track of births, movements, and other family demographics. It was she who sent out the annual birthday cards to every child, grandchild, and great-grandchild. She was an avid letter writer and a beloved pen pal to several of her descendants including my youngest daughter, who was also my mother’s youngest grandchild. All in all, my mother was the matriarchal glue that held the family together.

My youngest sister started an annual family picnic and reunion several years ago in an effort to bring my mother’s descendants, their families, other relatives, and close friends together for personal encounters that had long ago slipped by the wayside as school, spouses, in-laws, and the miles brought about separation. After the Memorial Service las Saturday my younger sister asked me if there was any point of trying to keep the family picnic and reunion alive to which I resoundingly replied: “Yes, there is.”

We don’t know for sure who will step in and fill her roles. My youngest sister suggested she might be the one to send out the birthday cards, but she has far too much to deal with as it is. Myself, I would like to automate the family demographics somehow but have not yet solidified a plan.

PrairieHillCemetaryIn the meantime my mother was interred this afternoon in the Family Cemetery, back home in Oklahoma, where she will lie alongside my father and baby brother, whom we lost in August 2000 at the age of 35.

Now, I had hoped that the death of my mother would signal the end of the series of tragedies but I received a letter yesterday from Anchorage, Alaska and I knew what it contained without a need to open it. My son-in-law was standing next to me, as the letter had gone to our old address, and I turned to him and said: “My (half) sister has died.” I opened the letter to discover that my father’s first born had passed on the 6th of June, just two days prior to my own mother’s passing.

Below the news was a poem much loved by my sister that she had asked be shared with those she loved upon her passing. I checked on the Internet and the poem exists in different forms but was always attributed to Author Unknown. Although I have read poems of a similar sentiment this was the first time I had read this one and I would like to share it at this time.


~ To Those I Love ~
When I am gone, just release me, let me go, so I can move into my afterglow.
You musn’t tie me down with your tears; let’s be happy that we had so many years.
I gave you my love, you can only guess how much you gave me in happiness.
I thank you for the love you each have shown, but now it’s time I traveled on alone.
So grieve for me awhile, if you grieve you must, then let your grief be comforted with trust.
It’s only for a while that we must part, so bless the memories within your heart.
And then, when you must come this way alone, I’ll greet you with a smile and a “Welcome Home.”
Love,
Nola

In Memory Of:
Nola Billie (Nichols) Richards
June 1, 1934 – June 6, 2015

What Dreams May Come

Fortune Teller2

When I was all of seventeen I accompanied some friends to a carnival in Santa Ana. One of the girls in our little troop insisted that we each pay to have our fortunes read by a Gypsy fortuneteller that accompanied the carnies. Well, I never put much cotton in the idea that a person could predict the future and resisted but was finally pushed inside as the last of our group, all of which had previously exited her tent with smiles on their faces.

Inside the dark, yet colorful, tent I was encouraged to sit and offer my palm. The dark woman took one look at it and any vestige of mirth that might have been on her face immediately disappeared and was replaced by a look that might have been called horror. She then proceeded to consult the cards I selected from a Tarot deck and then some runes with peculiar markings that she had me warm inside my cupped hands and then release as if I was throwing dice. None of this brought a smile to her face but in the end she told me that she was sorry but I was going to die before my twenty-first birthday.

Now I often wondered if one of my so-called friends at the time slipped her ten or twenty dollars and said: “When Sam comes in you tell him he’s going to die soon.” I cornered them with that accusation and they all swore “cross my heart” they didn’t. Okay, if they didn’t then why would a Gypsy woman who made a living giving people good news would tell me I would be dead within the next three years? It didn’t make sense to me and after a period of what might be called grief or depression I decided I wasn’t going to let her fortune change my life, which is not to say it didn’t cross my mind a lot over the next several years.

I recently went to an Asian restaurant with my wife and two youngest children (21 and 19) and when we opened our fortune cookies my little slip of paper was blank on both sides. On our previous visit I had opened my fortune cookie only to discover that it was empty. Both of those incidents took me back to that Gypsy fortuneteller from so long ago and this past Sunday my wife and I had lunch at the Canton Palace and when I went to open my fortune cookie it was with hesitant trepidation. I opened the cookie, found a fortune, and read: “You will be healthy and wealthy in your old age.” That was so much better then no future at all.

In A Course in Miracles we are told that we are living in a dream and none of what we perceive is real. My friend Jerrie, who is in his eighties and refers to himself as a recovering Catholic, says that we are really lying on a grassy bank beside a river in Heaven having a dream about not being an eternal spirit. At sixty I have been thinking more about the end that is inevitable and, like Hamlet, I wonder if we will still be able to dream when the heart and brain stop functioning but the analytical side of my intelligence says no while the hopeful side wonders maybe. Then there is that other self who worries that what happens after death is exactly what we believe will happen. That’s just too frightening but would make a good story in the vein of The Lathe of Heaven.

In the Course we are told that Death has no power unless we choose to identify with it and that Death is not real. Yet, I look around me and I know that it is oh so real and oh so inevitable. Thirty-eight years ago tomorrow, the thirteenth of December, my cousin and best friend Carol took her own life and some seven years before that my dear friend Marsha had had enough of life and at sixteen she stepped in front of a truck to end the pain.

Are they dreaming now?

Tempus Fugit, Mors Venit

Back in the Fall of 2012 the professor for the songwriting and composition class I was taking at the local community college assigned the class the challenge of writing a set of lyrics that involved time. I usually don’t have too much difficulty deciding on a theme but with this particular task I was lost. That is, until the morning of September 27th when I noticed two things in particular in the Sun newspaper: Randy Bachman was turning 69, and Andy Williams died. There were other birthdays and passings but these two were of particular significance to me. For someone of my generation the “Guess Who” was a significant musical influence and growing up with the Andy Williams’ Show (remember the Osmond Brothers?) was a real treat. Well, those two events were all the inspiration I needed to compose the following set of lyrics and turn them in that afternoon.


(V1)
Thursday morning Sun was in my eyes
With some tears that didn’t fall
Andy Williams died, tempus fugit
And some years cry foully pall

Moon River wider than a lifetime
Where do I begin to tell you when
Your lover has gone with Autumn Leaves
And that old summer sound of music

(V2)
Thursday morning Sun was in my eyes
With some fears that didn’t stall
Randy Bachman plied as mors venit
Sixty-nine, Oh, Happy Day

That woman gonna mess-up my mind
She ain’t a gonna share any land
New mother nature falling behind
She ain’t a hanging on to your life

(Bridge)
Time is a thief, a prankster at best
He steals your innocence and says you’ve been blessed
He kills every dream you’ve ever confessed
And battles each quest until you’re finally at rest
Down in the ground where the worms squirm around

(Coda/Release)
Thursday mourning Sun was in my eyes
Thursday mourning sun will soon be gone
Tempus fugit, mors venit
Time flees, Death advances