Posted in My Bonnie, Pure Love

Josie’s Gift

de la Tour, vispix.com

It seems unfathomable that ten years have passed without telling about the gift that made such a difference in the year I lost my mother. I must have made mention of it in some piece, but I cannot place it, and certainly it deserves its own work of attention, especially at the tenth anniversary.

That December I lived in a big drafty house atop a hill with a view of distant mountains, open to winds and the long dark nights of a New England winter.  It was the following year that I would have pneumonia; but it was this year that I clearly recall the chill–inside.

Of my seven siblings, only one lived nearby, while the others were strewn across the country from California to Florida to New Jersey. In the vacuum of loss, the separation was excruciating. Despite the presence of my newborn son, the anguish of missing my mother overtook me as I approached her Christmas birthday.

Michelle sent us each a glass globes with painted angels, nestled in felt boxes; and I mailed out collections of music to soothe our souls; but it was the gift that came from Josie that made all the difference.

Josie didn’t know my mother, and she hardly knew me. In fact, she was the bosom buddy of my stepmother who now had little to do with the 6 difficult daughters she inherited from my parents divorce–let alone the extraneous brother and sister who sprung from my mother’s “affair” and her second marriage.

There was hardly a time when we were all under one roof–it wasn’t tolerated–until the morning of my mother’s funeral.  Then all allegiances were set aside and the 8 of us became one.  To hell with step-parents and divorce and half-status siblings, we were all Bonnie’s children.

That Christmas, Josie sent gifts to each of our children, especially the new baby. I received a clothes line fashioned out of garland, lit up by lights, and adorned with outfits, and onesies, and blankets, and socks, and tiny bears of different colors.

But it was the set of candles and the brass candle snuffer, adorned with dangling glass beads, tucked into a crimson bag of satin that deeply touched my soul.  For I discovered that Josie had sent these to each of Bonnie’s children… like my mother would have done.

I watch the smoke spiral out of the brass cap in the hand of my baby who is now ten, begging for the pleasure of extinguishing each candle–in an act that rekindles  the exquisite blessing of Josie’s Gift.

Kelly Salasin, December 2010

Posted in Recommendations

Evening

This is a beautifully rendered film with an exceptional cast of women (and men)–each playing a “supportive” role (rather than taking center stage) in the story of how lives are shaped.

“Evening” takes place during a single weekend–in the past–and in the present.  In doing so, it weaves together the fabric of the future with a tender, but delicate touch.

The film richly explores the period known as “transition” with a blending of spirit, memory, resolution and love.  A graceful hospice worker has a formative role.  The relationship between two sisters is stretched and reflected and deepened.

I recommend this lovely film to all, but especially to those wondering about the last days of a loved one’s life.  This is a particularly powerful film for daughters and sisters.  And for those, like me, who benefit from a regular dip in the mystery.

PS.  Gorgeous scenes of New Port Cliffs–and a mansion, for good measure 🙂

Kelly Salasin

Posted in Lanscape of Loss, Markers, My Bonnie

The Ring

Kelly Salasin, Contributor, Chicken Soup for the Mother & Daughter Soul

Morisot (visipix.com)

When the one-year anniversary of my mother’s passing came around, I found myself in the kitchen preparing some of her favorite dishes. I hadn’t planned it, but there I was one hot August afternoon, making her famous soup from the turkey I had roasted the day before.

As I poured myself into cooking, some of the deep sadness I was experiencing at this moved through me. I loved my mom’s turkey soup–how she cooked the egg noodles right in the broth, and how they soaked it up, tasting like dumplings.

I remembered the time she made some especially for me. It was summer then, too, and I had a terrible head cold. She arrived unexpectedly one afternoon at my work place with a huge jar of her turkey noodle soup.

I thought about the bread she used to bake and about how much butter she would slather on it, and how we loved to dip it into the broth. I began to feel a little more buoyant amid the pain of losing her

While the noodles boiled in the broth in my kitchen, I realized that I was reconnecting with my mother through food. I laughed a bit at myself when I reflected on all the dishes I had cooked that week. Without knowing it, I had created a beautiful ritual to honor my mother and to comfort myself at this vulnerable time.

Suddenly I felt my mother’s presence beside me.  I was so uplifted and excited that I began talking to her, imagining she were there.

What else should we make?” I asked of us both, wanting to keep the ritual from ending.

Irish Potato Pancakes,” was her reply.

I hesitated. The thought of these brought up another loss. The last time I made potato pancakes was two and a half years ago. I had taken off my engagement ring to make the dough, and never found it again.

Since that time, I resisted using that recipe–even though I really liked those pancakes. It’s sort of silly, but whenever I considered making them, I felt resentful of their participation in my loss, as if they were to blame.

My mom should know better than to suggest these, I thought. (I don’t even remember her ever making them.) She knew how upset I was about losing my ring. I had always called her whenever I lost something, even when I was away at college, even from across the country, even when I traveled abroad. My mom had a knack for helping me find my way to lost things, except for this time.

But despite these hesitations, I found myself caught up in the joy and celebration of the moment, and I reached for the cookbook without another thought of the ring.

My mom did love Irish things, and these were delicious. I opened the large coffee-table cookbook and turned to the pancake recipe. At once, something at the bottom of the page caught my eye… It sparkled!

I gasped in utter amazement! There, pressed into the pages of this book, was my diamond ring!

Chills ran up and down my body as my mind raced to ponder how this was possible. Hadn’t I used the book for other recipes in the course of almost three years? Wouldn’t the ring have slipped out during the packing and unpacking of two household moves? Hadn’t I checked the book for the ring when I had lost it?

My mind was subdued as my heart overflowed with the magic of gratitude and wonder. I slipped my ring onto my trembling hand, and a smile filled my soul as I whispered, “Thanks Mom.

That day, I made potato pancakes in the shape of hearts.