Saturday, January 23, 2016

Latest Musical Obsession

I am obsessed with this piece. I listen to it over and over.

Here are the words and the translation:

Pulchra es amica mea,
suavis et decora sicut Jerusalem,
terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata.
Averte oculus tuos a me
quaia ipsi me avolare fecerunt. 

Thou are beautiful, O my love,
sweet and comely as Jerusalem,
terrible as an army set in array.
Turn away thy eyes from me
for they have made me flee away.

I bought a copy of this piece (along with several others I'm obsessing over) in order to sway my choir director to add it to our next season's list.

Friday, January 15, 2016

We Go Home When We Die

On Saturday night, January 2, at 6 pm, my sister got a phone call. On the other end of the line was a police investigator who had to inform her that her husband had been found dead while sitting in front of a slot machine at a truck stop in Nevada (he was a trucker, though on this occasion, he'd gone with some friends to Wendover, NV, to ring in the New Year). He'd simply leaned back, closed his eyes as if he were tired, gone into cardiac arrest, and never moved again.

The next day, when I learned the news from my mother, I knelt down to pray for my sister's well-being. I had barely started the prayer when I was completely washed in a sensation of warmth and utter peacefulness (which is how I usually experience the Spirit), and I could feel my brother-in-law's presence in the room. I'll call him Curtis.

It felt like Curtis was right next to me, and I could see him in my mind's eye, with his salt-and-pepper beard, his wide grin, and his hearty laugh. He wanted me to give a message to my sister: that he is fine; he's happy and he's free and he is in a beautiful place. He wanted me to tell my sister that he loves her and he is sorry for causing her grief. I continued kneeling by my bed until the warm feeling faded (I never like to shorten that experience, if possible), and then finished my prayer.

Later, I told my sister the message at our family dinner to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday. My sister, who is one of the strongest people I know, burst into tears because the message was a huge comfort for her. A few days later, one of Curtis's young granddaughters told her mother (Curtis's daughter) that she had had a dream about Grandpa, and that he had given her a hug and told her he was very happy.

Once I got over that shocking childhood period that every kid goes through when they realize their parents will one day die, I haven't been afraid of death. I know the spirit that inhabits our bodies is eternal and merely leaves the physical body and goes somewhere else after death. My other sister, in fact, proved that fact when she drowned as a baby. Her spirit left her body, and even though she was a baby, she says that she understood that everything was fine, and she felt this all-encompassing sensation of love all around her even though she didn't meet any other people in her near-death experience. She was sad that she wouldn't have longer to live on earth, however, and after that thought, her spirit quickly re-entered her body while my mother was performing CPR. That experience stayed with her, fresh in her mind, all through her life. Now in her 30s, it still feels for her as if she experienced it yesterday. She says she has never had a fear of death, and she has always felt that she is loved and has a mission and purpose in life. It is what sustained her through many trying times, including 10 years of living with an abusive man.

I told you about my experience when my friend, Mark, died--how he came one last time to say good-bye before stepping through the portal to eternity. In fact, he came recently to visit me in a dream, where he told me he is very happy.

We go home when we die. It's a home we don't consciously remember after birth, but I think each of us feels a connection to that place in some way--even in life. Death isn't death, after all. It's merely a graduation. The people you love who have passed on before you are all waiting in that place to welcome you home. Christ is there, too, and it is His love people talk about feeling when they've gone there and come back.

So, good-bye for now, Curtis. I loved your presence and your sense of fun and your devotion to my sister and her son. We'll meet again someday.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Dr. Seuss for $1000, Alex

Little Gary, who is eight, has begun requesting that I read Dr. Seuss's The Sleep Book to him every night. This has been going on for a few weeks now, and he doesn't seem to be getting tired of it. He won't let Husband read it to him, either. It has to be me. Plus, he notices when I change my usual inflection in any part of the book (and comments on it).

This morning, he said to me out of the blue, "What's in Culpepper Springs, Mom?"

I had to stop and think for a minute. Culpepper Springs...Culpepper Springs...I know that town name, but what's in it?

"I don't know," I finally answered.

"The Stilt-Walker's Hall," he replied pleasantly, and I suddenly realized I'd been Alex Trebeked. According to The Sleep Book, Stilt-Walker's Hall is where all the stilt-walkers sleep after a long day of stilt-walking. Then I wondered: he's eight. Has he reached that advanced level of subtle sarcastic pleasantness that most British people strive all their lives to achieve for the sole purpose of putting boorish Americans into their place without them being any the wiser? (If so, I'm so proud.)

You see, last night was the first night I refused to read the book since Little Gary started asking for it. It's a long book, and by the time I noticed how late it was (the girls and I were thoroughly involved in several scintillating episodes of "Boys Over Flowers," which Sophia has recently become obsessed with after Elannah started watching it again. HA HA HA HA HA! I'll comment on this delicious bit of irony later), it was after 10pm on a school night. He was upset, but he was too tired to make much of a fuss. Maybe he just saved up his frustration and poured it all into that question this morning. Or it could be that he fell asleep mulling over the fact that none of the stilt-walkers in Stilt-Walker's Hall seem to need a blanket to cover them while they snooze, and he just wanted to remind me of that fascinating little place.

Speaking of kids, I took both the boys to their swimming lessons yesterday evening. I was armed with a book (Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo) and was ready to happily read out the hour of lessons in the hot and humid environment of the city pool, when a woman walked up to the spot next to mine on the bench and started putting her children's hastily discarded outdoor clothing into neat piles. She had a baby on her hip and looked to be around my age. When she made a comment to me about the clothing she was folding and then asked what book I was reading, I recognized the look of a mother of young children desperate for adult conversation.

We chatted for the entire hour, and she asked if I'd be back today. I assured her I would be. I remember well the feeling that, when the children were very small, everything that came out of my mouth all day was things like "We don't put our heads into the toilet bowl!" or "You just asked for a peanut butter sandwich, so why are you crying when I give you a peanut butter sandwich??" People tell you to cherish the time when your children are small, but let's be honest: some things you don't really miss. Dirty diapers. Sleep-deprivation. The agony of shopping with multiple tired, hungry little children.

Reading them the same book over and over and over or watching the same kid's show over and over and over.

But I'm a lucky mom. I have survived the years of very small children, and I don't mind reading The Sleep Book to my eight-year-old--provided it is at a reasonable hour of the evening. He generally keeps his head out of the toilet, too, and sucks it up when I give him the sandwich he asked for moments before. And every once in a while, he says, "Remember when you used to kiss me all over my face?" so that I will kiss him all over his face.

I love that.