“This letting go process is not for wimps.”
Last weekend my four sisters, Peggy, Connie, Joanne, and Mary, held a mini-reunion in Kansas City. On Saturday we enjoyed a wonderful dinner hosted by my brother Bill and his wife, Connie, at their home in Olathe. Connie prepared a feast which was served on our late mother’s good china. The table setting also included Mom’s good silver, so that made the gathering even more meaningful.
From left to right - Joanne, Eileen, Mary, Connie & Peggy
Front Row - Our host and hostess with the "Most and Mostess" - Brother Bill & wife, Connie
The special guest for the evening was Katelyn Seraphina Umbehr, accompanied by her parents, Josh and Lisa. (By the way, Katelyn just learned that she’s going to be a big sister in October!)
Katelyn entertained the guests for hours with her smiles, giggles, waves, and kisses. Her aunts were so thrilled to finally get the chance to meet and hug little Katelyn.
Katelyn with her new Easter bonnet and purse
Katelyn clapping hands on Daddy's lap
Katelyn kissing Mommy
On Friday night Nikki called from Whidbey Island at the start of the evening filled with memories of Patricia on the 2nd anniversary of her death. It was great to be able to connect with Nikki that way. We sang a couple of songs over the phone and read a tribute that our niece Naomi wrote for Patricia. (Naomi lives in Minnesota and is Connie’s oldest daughter. She is also the mother of Connie’s 7-year old granddaughter, Kelsey Constance.)
Naomi (on left as a child) and Kelsey on right
Naomi gave me permission to share her thoughts:
March 23, 2007
My celebration of Aunt Patricia’s’ life took place at the Mississippi River right in my back yard. It’s a beautiful spring day here with the birds chirping, geese flying home and splashing into the river; even heard a few woodpeckers doing their thing.
I found my place, lit my candle and took a seat in the sand. (Yes, still a bit cold.) The river had risen in the past week since I had last been there. I was amazed by the power of the water. The ice and branches all flowing downriver so fast; with no particular outcome and so many possible destinations!
It got me thinking of life, (mine in particular), and how it seemed to be doing just that, going with the flow. The power of the water (life) mesmerized me. How does anyone fight that? How did Aunt Patricia? She saw the best and beautiful in everyone and everything around her and was always so full of laughter and happiness!
That is when I saw it. Against the flow of the melting Mississippi, came the bravest, cutest baby beaver I had ever seen! (Especially so close.) I burst into tears and laughter at the same time. At that moment I realized she was with me and I heard the sweetest voice telling me, “It’s spring and all things are new, it’s never too early or too late to go against the flow in search of happiness. There is nothing stopping you!”
Even now after you’ve been gone from us, you still find a way to inspire and uplift. Thank you, Aunt Patricia. I love you… Naomi
After Patricia’s passing, my friend Kat wrote to me and said:
It is fortunate for us that you are gifted at grieving ~ in prose. So many of the things you have written or copied from songs, scripture, and poetry have touched me deeply.
Since my mother died in December, I am reminded of her in so many little ways.....and of course, in the big ones. Reading your words about your sister's early passing from this earthly place, and from your family simply allows me to feel what I need to, and also to be thankful, like you, that I had the privilege of knowing this wonderful woman, of being alive, of loving and losing, and for all the pieces that continue to fall into place along the journey....
After reading last week’s column about Patricia, Kat shared the following insights:
You know, as a science teacher I continuously make (personal) connections between spirituality and the purity and balance of nature. These help me deal with the loss of my mother as well as others close to my heart.
I hope they help you, too.
Water comes in three distinct shapes and forms.
There's ice ~ solid, clear, defined;
Water ~ fluid, shapeless, agile;
And water vapor ~ invisible, omnipresent, weightless.
Water couldn't return to the atmosphere in any shape other than gas without severely disturbing the inhabitants of this planet! (Think about water returning to the sky as rain.... stay on the sidewalk!)
We know that water vapor is around us all the time...sometimes in huge percentages, other times just a tad. Still....it's there. A solid that's now invisible and as light as the breeze. A glass of water that's now everywhere and not even wet!
How brilliant God is!
Patricia is now free to experience the beauty all around us, to be a part of all that she held so dear.
I know this ceremony will be a tremendous experience for everyone.
My thoughts are with you, Eileen.
This next poem was printed onto a photo of Patricia taking pictures at Chiricuhua National Park in Arizona during a visit with Victoria (“Magic Dance”) and her partner Janice.
The poem was written by Victoria:
By the power of every moment of her goodness
May her soul’s brightest wishes be fulfilled
As magnificently as each sunset she captured,
As completely as the shining full moon.
For all in whose hearts dwells respect,
Who have known Patricia’s wisdom and humanity,
May their lives prosper together in the blessings
Of her generosity, compassion and strength.
Just as the soft rains fill the streams,
Pour into the rivers and join together in the oceans,
So may the power of every moment of her goodness
Blow forth to heal the hearts of all those who miss her.
Nikki and Patricia
Finally, I found this Irish blessing on the internet recently. Nikki decided to read it last Friday when Patricia’s ashes were spread at Ebey’s Landing:
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep
I am the thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain
When you waken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of gentle birds in circling flight
I am the soft star that shines at night
Do not stand at my grave and cry –
I am not there, I did not die.
Sunset on Mazatlan's shores one year after Patricia's passing