Posted in Return

“Our Lady of Wawa”

Aidan’s autumn week home has come to a close, finishing with a trip south for a family wedding in Pennsylvania, completed by the necessary Mecca to Wawa–just for gas; and while we’re there–How about a soft pretzel or two.

We skip the hoagies this trip, but what about Tasty Cakes–the Communion of Return–the Body of my Childhood (the peanut butter chocolate ones) and of my late mother (Butterscotch Krimpets.)

We arrive home the lesser for it, even while our hearts are full, and the powdery sky above the Green Mountains speaks of the cleansing promise of winter, as once again we say goodbye to our son.

Posted in Lanscape of Loss, Light, Markers

love’s surplus

If able and inclined, raising kids helps open us to unconditional love which may have been buried in our own childhood.

Once the kids are gone, we may find ourselves with a surplus which we might invest in each other, and more poignantly, I find, in loving oneself, unconditionally, for perhaps the first time.


Posted in Apprenticeship with my own passing, Lanscape of Loss, Loss & our nation, Voices

Faces go to God

Like the flowers & the season & the light & even many loves, everything, including me, passes.

And doesn’t that make it hard to breathe?

On Wednesdays, I used to say to my children (and myself): “Don’t say, no, go with the flow,” which is perhaps why, in the absence of their presence, I wake on a quiet Wednesday morning to a spontaneous meditation of letting go.

Loved ones. Precious times. Personal highs (and lows.) Resentment. Bitterness. Dreams. Teeth. Muscle tone. Heartache.

There was a time when if I didn’t hold on tight, it would all be gone. Much like I ask the leaves to do when a strong wind comes too soon.

“Hold on!” I say, “Hold on!” not wanting a single leaf to leave before it’s reached its peak; before I’ve had every opportunity to savor its color as if such a thing is due.

How did I come upon such entitlement? Is it American? White? Middle class? Does such a subscription simply accompany each incarnation?

What if instead, I offered to the leaves and my heartbreak: “Let go! Let go! Let go!”

My stomach clenches at the thought like it did that September morning at the shore when they came to take my mother and carried her out in a bag right past her tomato plants, still ripening on the vine.

Didn’t she love her tomatoes. With salt. Don’t I still. 4 remain on my counter, the last of summer’s gifts.

And didn’t I feel, after she took her last breath, after we opened the bay window above her dead head–the whoosh of love. The freeing of energy. The opening of the door to heaven, whatever heaven may be.

To everything, there is a season, and sometimes the season is too short.

It’s this lack of certainty that unnerves me. Do I have 2 years left like her? Or will I be taken this year, suddenly, like my grandmother was at the age I am now? Or will I live on like her mother, long enough to dance at my great-granddaughter’s wedding? (Wasn’t my Nana something!)

My very first friend Glenn had Leukemia and maybe that explains my lifelong meditation on death or maybe it was my father’s and grandfathers’ occupation: physician, or one of my earliest jobs: in the morgue. Or maybe this is the pre-occupation of aging, “The apprenticeship,” as Whyte says, “With our own departure,” or maybe this is just the way my mind has always worked, like that of my firstborn’s, who was there when his grandmother died, asking me later or was it before:

“Where do faces go when they die?”

To which he responded himself:

“Faces don’t go to coffins. Faces go to God.”

Or it could be the leaves barely yellow blowing from the trees, the house once filled now empty of children, my mother gone 18 years, too many days in a row of dark and dreary, and the light, this morning, returning, with a rosy hue, a perfect color–for relinquishing everything.

“Let go, let go, let go.”

I’ll give it a try.



By Monza Naff

Urge me to drop every leaf I don’t need
Every task or habit I repeat past its season
Every sorrow I rehearse
Each unfulfilled hope I recall
Every person or possession
to which I cling-
Until my branches are bare,
until I hold fast
to Nothing

Blow me about
in your wild iron sky,
all that’s puffed up,
all that in me needs
to go to seed,
send my shadows to sleep.

Tutor me
through straining night winds
In the passion of moan and pant
The gift of letting go
At the moment of most abundance
In the way of
falling apples, figs, maple leaves, pecans.

Open my eyes
to your languid light,
let me stare in your face
until I see no difference
between soar and fall

until I recognize
in single breaths,
faint whispers of cool air
through lungs.

Show me the way of dying
in glorious boldness
Yellow,gold, orange, rust, red, burgundy.

Posted in Light, Loss & our nation, My Bonnie

For the grandmothers

Peaches & blueberries & lima beans: Nana Burrows.

Corn on the cob & shell peas: Nana Lila.

Tomatoes: My mother, my grandmothers, my great-grandmothers, myself.

I find us in the garden. At harvest time.

And how is it that this matrilineality surprises me there?
Have I forgotten Eve? Gaia?

I resent the garden like I do all realms relegated to my mother because of course, they meant she had no energy, no time, no spirit left for anything else (if in fact she was admitted anywhere else.)

Even so, I marvel at the capacity of two days of vague autumn sun to ripen so much on the vine.

One must be hopeful to plant a garden and persistent and resilient. Gardening is foolhardy and often stunningly rewarding–body, mind & soul, but especially soul. To be intimate with the soil and the sun, the worms and the birds, the elements and disease is… Everything.

It is a holy act, gardening, in the dirt, on one’s knees.

A man in the garden is a beautiful thing. A child too.

But it is my mother and my grandmother and my great grandmother who I meet there, in the intertwining of the vines while I gather the green beans, reminding me of our lives, our paths, our futures–joined.

I harvest for them. I plant for them. I speak for them.

I hope–for all of us.

Posted in Lanscape of Loss, My Bonnie

2:22 am

The undertow of insight is so strong that it pulls me to the shore of waking, and in the alchemy of night, I see clearly, my son’s pain, like the barren planet upon which the Little Prince once landed.

18 years ago this very night, I woke too, with another kind of undertow. My mother’s leaving.

That night, instead of both my boys back home in their own beds for their father’s 53rd, it was each of my siblings sleeping under one roof, like we rarely had, with 22 years between the oldest, myself, and the last of my mother’s children, my youngest sister April.

As retrospect goes, despite being the oldest, I was young too. 36. A newborn at my breast. My mother just a few years older than I am now. My baby sister, 14. My brother 16. And a whole host of sisters in between, in various stages of “grown,” out living on their own.

It was a magical night of co-sleeping, literally beside one another, whole families on wall-to-wall air mattresses lined up in the diningroom (where had the table gone?)~the mattress closest to the kitchen held me, Casey, baby Aidan & Lloyd (missing his first week of kindergarten.)

Just two weeks ago, before returning home to an empty nest (a perch, I now realize, my mother never reached), I bought myself 3 different small packages of tiny tea cookies, one with Lavender, another with Earl Grey, and the last with a chewy raspberry center, which sits beside my rose tea as I type and the clock strikes 3.

We sat vigil with our mother this night, 18 years ago, beside her hospital bed which sat in her livingroom near the bay window where her exercise equipment stood only 3 months earlier.

We took turns beside her. One or two at a time. Until that time, when the turn-taker woke us to say:

It’s time.

But before that dawning, my mother’s namesake went to put on the coffee, and did I open a tootsie pop, the one with the raspberry wrapper, or were we eating pop tarts, the raspberry kind?

I’ve learned that if I set aside some time for grieving, for missing, for communing with this holiest of nights, my mother’s leaving, then there will be more space for celebrating the man born on this day with the boys we brought into this world together, though this was much less true on his 35th birthday after my mother was zipped inside a bag by her high school classmate, the undertaker, and taken out like the trash–a body that conceived, carried and delivered 9 of us.

She is my muse.

Until her death, I had only written for myself, in my journals, but after she was gone, the words poured out in an act of love and consciousness we had long cultivated together, at her diningroom table, though she preferred coffee.

The thing is, neither tootsie pops or poptarts have seeds, like this tiny cookie shaped into a flower that sticks to my teeth even as I sip and swallow.

Today is also the Feast Day of Mary. The Mother of God. A perfect day for my mother’s heavenly reunion as she arrived, like her Aunt Doll did, on Christmas Day.

We are a Marian household. I write across the pond from land belonging to the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (of Mary), my own day of birth, and welcomed to the world our first child on Mary’s Assumption.

No doubt it is Mary who thought of the raspberry and the comfort of the Little Prince on the barren planet, knowing what it is to worry about the silent suffering of a grown child.

He was the one to see her blue effervescent light on this land before it was ours.

“You live in paradise,” he says now when he visits.

“Les vrais paradis sont les paradis qu’on a perdus.”

If only that quote belonged to Le Petite Prince then this piece would neatly end and I back to bed beside the birthday boy, but alas, “The true paradises are the ones we lose,” belongs to Proust.

Posted in Artifacts/My Bonnie, My Bonnie

My Mother’s Glue

I wake to the sounds of turkey, like the ones clucking across the ceramic spice containers that sit in my kitchen window. (Maybe those are roosters not turkeys? I always thought they were turkeys.)

The Salt is my favorite because there is a crack running through it. My mother was dedicated to reparation (and salt.) Countless testimonies withstand of her willingness to put things back together. There is the statue of Mary. The teapot. The picture frame. Her sobriety. Her life.

She often dismissed my need for precision in the kitchen.”I don’t know, Kelly, just put some in,” she’d say, about the salt or the celery, the butter or the onion. (A stuffed turkey, her favorite, was the first thing I learned to prepare, each her Christmas for her birthday.)

Never able to reach perfection herself, and having almost drowned in the attempt, my mother taught me to rely on softer measures of knowing… taste, smell, the signs and the synchronicities.

My mother’s spice set is stained with age. The square edges are chipped. They remain empty, but they are filled with the comfort of her imperfection.

Posted in Lanscape of Loss, Light, Markers

The edge of now…

An increasing number of headachey days have been amplified by increasing bouts of indigestion and now depression, followed by this afternoon’s surrender to a napping meditation which stills me into the magnitude of my son’s footsteps in the room overhead, soon to be silenced by his absence; and didn’t I, once upon a time, numb my head in pain, so that all of the nerve endings were preoccupied, staving off the terror of too much understanding, which crept in at the edges of childhood, without proper companions to ease the way…

…And while this awareness does little to dispel the intensity of an approaching migraine, it does awaken me into my body, into the re-membering that I am not alone, that there are companions at the edge, at every edge in fact, even death; “a wide-open eye in the dark,” said the Benedictine monk of prayer, and hasn’t my life been a constant prayer, and didn’t I hold the hand of those more terrified than me, and come to sit beside others at their own edges; and once arrived across the shore into the sovereignty of my own belonging, didn’t I return to the dark, with a light, to find myself, and wasn’t she waiting, in the corner, and not just trembling, but beaming, welcoming me, here, into my body, where I find an unexpected lightness of being, like I did this afternoon in meditation, like I do on the mat, and for no other reason than instead of abandoning, I entered, Now.