One of my role models for grace-filled living at the end of life was Gilda Radner. Her antics on Saturday Night Live were part of my late adolescence into early adulthood. Characters Emily Litella (“Never mind.”) and Roseanne Rosanadana (“It’s always something.”) were among my favorites. Little did I know that many years later, I would be working for an organization created after her death from cancer. Gilda’s Club is a non-residential community offering support for those diagnosed with cancer, as well as their families and friends. It was founded by Gilda’s husband Gene Wilder, her brother Michael Radner and her counselor Joanna Bull who I had the joy of meeting and interviewing when the signature red door Delaware Valley (PA) chapter opened. I have facilitated groups for them and clowned around as my character Feather who is a winged faerie.
Prior to her passing, Gilda wrote a book called “It’s Always Something” that was made into a tv movie. A passage that remains with me jumped out again after I saw this image on my friend and radio producer Shayne Traviss’ Facebook page.
““I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” -Gilda Radner
Change can be scary. It can also be exhilirating. One of the most oft heard concerns that have come from my clients over the years is fear of the future. “I don’t know what’s going to happen.” “What if things don’t work out?” “I don’t know what to do with my life.” To the first of those statements, I have said “The truth is, we don’t know moment to moment what will transpire, so I prefer to live as if it will be something that I would label positive.” To the second, I have shared “I have found that things work out for the Highest Good even if it feels sucky at the time.” and to the third, “Great! You have a whole lifetime to figure it out, start now. What lights you up from the inside and turns you into a human sparkler?”
There are some days when I wake up with trepidation and hestitation about what the day will bring and others anticipation. Although I may not be able to control my first thought upon opening my eyes, I certainly have the choice about those that follow. Even in the midst of the dark nights of the soul that I have faced, I have instinctively known that the sun would eventually peek through. I do take into account that I was raised to be optimistic and resilient, knowing that love would prevail over fear and darkness.
So, what if you could willingly embrace life on life’s terms, stand with head held high, arms outstretched welcoming what the day will bring?
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACCcU0X0dW0 What The Day Brings-by Brad
Today, my darling mother would have been 89 years old…hard to imagine at times. Even harder to wrap my mind around the idea that she has been in Spirit for 2 1/2 years. She ‘left the building’ (kinda like Elvis Presley) on November 26th, 2010 and I have not one smidgen of a doubt that my father who paved the way on April 3rd, 2008, was there with a hug and smooch to welcome her; in his words “The most beautiful girl in the world.” They were married almost 52 years when he passed and she continued on with a broken, but open heart; living and loving her friends and family with her trademark zest. She would say often that she was shy; having grown up mostly with cousins as her friends. Her mother (my grandmother, Henrietta who I referred to as Giggie) was one of 13 children, so she had lots of cousins (mostly boys) and my Uncle Jim to run around with in her Philadelphia neighborhood (the Olney section for those familiar with the city). One of her uncles used to call her “Sally up the alley”, since they all lived around the corner from each other.
I never saw that in her. Instead, I watched, marveling at the ways she embraced life and collected friends everywhere she went. Our suburban South Jersey home was a gathering place for our friends and those of my parents. Holidays were memorable and after parties, the house rang with the residual energy of laughter and love.
I often wonder what it was like for her; beyond thinking of her as my mother, but as a woman. Her father died when she was 18 and for the rest of my grandmother’s life, they lived together, traveled together and when she and my father got married, he moved into their house and after I was born and we moved to New Jersey, my grandmother came across the river with us. My father used to say “I didn’t move in with them, she didn’t move in with us. We all moved in together.” My mom was a career woman as well as homemaker which was rare for someone of her era. When my parents met in 1955, she worked as a switchboard operator for a law firm and was well respected by her bosses and co-workers. She maintained a long term friendship with her friend Miriam Tindall who she met there. She would joke that my Aunt Miriam (as my sister Jan and I referred to her) could eat chocolate nearly all day long and stay skinny and all she had to do was look at it and she would gain weight. We spent many a Christmas with Aunt Miriam, Uncle Dave and their son Brian and I wondered how Santa knew to leave presents for two little Jewish girls. She met and married my father when they were in their mid-30’s which was relatively late for that time. Her handsome sweetie courted and wooed her, marveling at his luck at meeting her at a party of a mutual friend after she had been stood up by her long term boyfriend. That night, she came home and told my grandmother that she had met the man she was going to marry. When you know, you know. And she did indeed. Their first date was at a Chinese restaurant and her fortune read “You’d better prepare your hope chest.” She kept that fortune in her wallet until it was stolen when I was a teenager. She kept it in her heart forever.
Throughout my childhood, she had many jobs; guess I know where I came by my penchant for adding new career tendrils. She was a gateguard at our local pool, an Avon representative (which helped Jan and me to land some regular babysitting gigs), she sewed doll clothes, working for a woman named Mrs. Handy (which I always got a kick out of), and wrote a community ‘gossip column’ for the Burlington County Times, you know,-who got married, graduated, got awards and such. When Jan and I were old enough to stay home by ourselves, she landed a job at Sears as a switchboard operator and there she remained until she retired at 65. On top of all of that, she volunteered at Rancocas Valley Hospital and made our home a haven.
When she passed, my life changed dramatically. I am still processing the impact of the physical loss of my most ardent cheerleader, but feel that I have integrated her best qualities. There are times when I look in the mirror and see her gazing back at me. Words come out of my mouth that have me thinking she said them (and in her voice). She shows up in so many ways in my consciousness, sneaking in when I least expect it. I sometimes use her as a barometer for values; such as “How would Mom handle this situation?” and that gets blended into the ‘cake batter’.
The photos that are at the top of the article were taken, I’m guessing when she was in her late teens/early twenties and I had actually not seen them until I was going through her belongings after she passed. They remind me that she had a life before taking on her most cherished roles as she thought of them as “Moish’s wife and Edie and Jan’s mom.” Such a glamour girl!
Happy Birthday Mama Cakes. Celebrating you grandly and with love <3
Tonight is the first night of Passover; the annual holiday in the Jewish religion that commemorates the Exodus from Egypt. Most who are reading this may be familiar with the Hollywood-ized version in the movie The Ten Commandments or those who are knowledgeable about the life of Jesus, are aware that the Last Supper was a Passover seder. The word ‘seder’ in Hebrew means ‘order’; because the service is done in a linear fashion. Tonight and tomorrow night, people will gather around tables long and circular to tell the tale of the enslavement and freeing of the Jewish people who were forced to toil in service to the Pharoah and build structures to his glory.
In my childhood home, the week or so prior to the Big Day brought with it the family tradition of changing the dishes and removing chametz which according to the website www.chabad.org is “Any flour of the five species of grain, which is mixed with water and allowed to ferment before being baked, comes under the definition of chametz according to the Torah. The five species of grain are wheat, spelt, oats, barley, and rye.” My father would haul down the ‘good china’ that we used only at Passover because it had not been exposed to food that wasn’t considered kosher for Passover and we we would wash it and place it ever so carefully on the dining room table at which family and friends of all religious persuasions would gather for the ritual meal. The kitchen cabinets and fridge would be emptied of items that didn’t fit into the acceptable category and given to our next door neighbors. In their place would be all of the fixings for meals for the next eight days. Matzah ball soup was one of my favorite annual delicacies and my mother and uncle would argue whether they should be light and fluffy (her preference) or stick to your ribs heavy (his preference). One of my dearest memories about culinary delights for this particular holiday was my father’s speciality…fried matzah. Think french toast made with matzah instead of bread. He would whip up batches while singing along at the stove and keeping up a patter with us as we helped. I can still smell the delicious aroma and I can feel the experience in my heart.
Another dad recollection was the way in which he led the service around the table with the Maxwell House haggadah as the guide book. He did what I referred to as ‘speed seder’ which flew in the face of the lengthier version that more traditional families (and likely a reaction to what may have been the case in the Orthodox home of his upbringing) do. I’m sure everyone was relieved. In the service there is a component called The Four Questions that lead into the re-telling of the story. Although it seems like an inside joke, most Jews know that the REAL Four Questions are “When do we eat? When do we eat? When do we eat? AND When do we eat?”
www.nytimes.com/2011/04/09/nyregion/09haggadah.html the story of the revision of the tried and true icon.
http://youtu.be/E_RmVJLfRoM Dayenu-Coming Home by The Fountainheads
Have you ever heard a calling, a whisper from Mother Nature/Gaia who invited you to pay attention to what was happening around you and make a positive difference? Mare Cromwell who refers to herself as “a plant intuitive, sacred gardner and worm herder” has written a colorfully covered, love splashed book called Messages From Mother….Earth Mother as her response to the beckoning. Mare worked for the National Park Service as a Ranger in the Grand Canyon and Alaska in her early twenties so she has direct connection with the various eco-systems and the necessity to sustain them for the sake of all life. Part of her spiritual path honors Native American tradition.
I met Mare at a women’s conference in Maryland a few weeks ago and immediately sensed a kindred spirit. The book winked up at me from the table and I felt as if the hand on the cover was holding my heart as well. As soon as I left the conference, I immersed in the ‘lucky’ 13 messages that the book encompasses. Mare frames the story in the guise of a young woman named Sarah who is facing major life changes including the ending of a close relationship. As a result, Sarah decides to take a hike in the mountains to heal her heart and her world-weariness.
On the path, she meets a being who she discovers is the one and only Earth Mother who knows her and every living creature by heart. Thus begins a new relationship and awareness of the world around her. Mother shares punny joke and infinite wisdom, asking Sarah to use her voice to speak up for the voiceless and her written communication skills to express vital messages to all those willing to join in the cause of planetary healing. The conversations can feel a little mushy-gushy, but then mother-love is like that sometimes. It is also flavored with serious, detail oriented ideas for caring for ourselves, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It offers insights into concepts such as dying and living, fracking, conflicts and soul woundedness, gratitude, unplugging, taking time to rest and rejuvenate. Two of my favorite chapters were invoking the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine as we honor our differences and unity.
Read this book and if you feel so moved, become a midwife for birthing a New Earth.
Her first book is called If I gave you God’s phone number…. Searching for Spirituality in America.