The seventh installment of the serialization on loves. This one is on Light. I love light. It is one of a few things which I have a very deep understanding of.
I had met the woman for the first time at a gathering of my girlfriend Donna’s family. I first saw Barbara in a hotel room one beautiful, sunny afternoon, in Morro Bay, California. It had been one of those postcard California days, spent doing something I would generally never be caught dead engaging in. The experience left me with two words snared in mind.
There were several more occurrences. My home. Phone calls to Donna, her niece. Little messages and touchstones thrown skipping across the pond of Donna and I’s life together. Each time the staccato, resonating, tap tap of her light, into and across my world, would create an echoing of the same two words from within me.
I never uttered what was on my mind as a result of our meetings. It is one of “those things” . I hesitate to comment on people who are my elders some times. The two words remained something I would come to appreciate though. The experience is what caused the woman to be a light in my eyes.
The closer I looked, the more steady and clear it became: that glow she would emanate.
News came as much does: a phone call or note, hastily sent sailing into a full life with little space. But with that, came the two words again to mind.
A battle, a wedding, a series of events, choreographed with hope, planning, and intentions well aimed. Again the two words rang out, and I remained silent, rather than speaking.
And the call came. A civil ceremony hastily assembled in the family home, and Donna’s cousin Stefanie was wed. Her mother Barbara, passed away a scant two hours after. Two words.
Plans dashed themselves to pieces. But then in a phone call from Stefanie, we learned her Mother’s wish was that everyone gather together regularly. There would be a memorial at a Church in Hingham Massachusetts that she loved. One of the things that I appreciate about Donna’s family, is that they seem to all be proponents of action. They are big on going and doing. It is indicative to me of their ancestry, which is deeply rooted in American History,
Donna and I strode up the steep drive which lead up to a majestic 16th century Church. The weather vane on the steeple and American flag waving in a cool breeze stood out against puffy white cumulous clouds scudding across a blue sky in a valiant replication of traditional Americana: post card style.
We were late.
Stef was standing in the doorway of what is known as the Old Ship Church, parts of which had been scavenged from a sailing vessel. A cream tone dress, replete with red woven leaves highlit in black, chic knee height boots and dark hair framing pale skin, she fit that diorama standing in the doorway. Two words.
Leaving her post, she walked down to meet us and slipped her arms around Donna and I both, and we walked warmed, into the old church together. It was full. I think we were the last to enter.
Inside we quickly found a place to sit. On the way I saw Dusty, Barbara’s man, and slapped him on the shoulder, clasping his hand in mine. We shared a knowing smile. A man rising to the challenge of the day.
The Golden light of a Spring afternoon in Massachusetts flowed through old paned glass and into the wooden church, collecting in warm pools on oaken floors and a day which had dawned cloudy, rainy and cold, had blossomed in respite, as if in acknowledgment. It was a gift. So much like that day in Morro Bay, when we had first met Barbara. Two words.
This song had come to mind. And peace flowed in that place amongst shards of glass which reflected all of that light. Memorials can be like that. When done well, they are about healing, and goodbyes and embrace, making the vessel broken, whole again. The light was there.
The service went sweetly forward as one by one, family and friends arose to speak on the day and passage of the life of Barbara Adams Bowers Valovic. Barbara’s cousin Susan Bowers Vergeront, read a poem which Dusty had written in the wake of her death. Both Donna and Stef managed messages that had the affect of a warm, melodious sonnet more than any stark indication of bereavement and loss.
All the while this was going on, two words kept pushing their way to the surface inside of me, much as eggs boiling in pot. I had thought about speaking of them. Public speaking and preaching in front of Church Congregations is nothing new to me. I have always felt very at home doing that. But I stopped myself. Often when we speak, as much as we try to avoid it, the message becomes about us. Barbara was strong in my heart and I fondled the words, keeping them close to me, not letting them go.
As the service ended we walked across the street, wet with melting snow, and into the big church meeting hall where tables were set, and a feast laid out on a long line of tables at one end of the huge space. As the day waned, the soft amber lights in the hall belied the warmth of being inside on a deepening New England evening.
Hanging back, and out of the way, camera in hand, I captured what I saw in as unobtrusive a manner as one could. Inside, the two words had dropped in tone and reactive timbre, to a mere simmer. They slowly circulated and everywhere I looked, as things transpired, the words would slowly slide to the fore, then back to the bottom of the pot.
Donna and Stef were seated together. Sort of out of nowhere, a green patterned ring binder plopped onto the table. Stef said simply: “Someone who is very loving did this.” As Donna opened the cover I could hear her audible gasp as a photograph leaped out in that amber light, surreal in it’s stark, telling detail.
Under a bright, emergency orange cover lay Barbara, head askew, plastic hose snaking up her chest and into an oxygen mask, in bed, in the front room of the home that she and Dusty had shared. It was what one would commonly refer to as a shock. It seemed out of context for the here and now, that death bed holding a body steadily asphyxiating, in the last stages of Lung Cancer.
As Donna, Stef and I paged through, we experienced their wedding day, and Barbara’s last hours on earth in the presence of those who love her. I was leveled by the magnitude of the gift. Light, and two words.
Donna closed the book, placing it back on the table. The two words softly floated up once again in that simmering pot, and wrapping my arms around Stef, from behind her, so she could not see, I whispered them in her ear.
“Well done.” and then “I love you”. The two words, and light.
Life is really all about the light that you walk in.
We should all love and cherish that.
Here is a great little commercial piece done for TC Bank. Highly recommend it. Sent along by Bill Babage.