Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Teacher of Love

      I’ve heard his name mentioned a thousand times throughout my life. He’s somewhat of an icon to many people I’ve known. How could someone, who lived just 33 years, leave such an indelible mark?
Posture straight and standing tall, he walked miles of dusty hot earth, finally reaching his destinations. Of Jewish decent, born in the spring time to a loving mother and father, he set off in his teen years to begin his calling; show others what he inherently knew in leading by example.
His steely-blue eyes, auburn-colored hair and trim stature represented hope, faith and prosperity of the heart for those who had the good fortune to embrace this man’s warmth. He needn’t meet one in person for them to envelope all he offered; one merely need open to their hearts, souls and awareness to receive the restorative benefits he spread like a ripple effect upon calm, clear, aquamarine waters.
His life, however, was short-lived as he was killed at age 33. Those outside his mind-set were deeply threatened by the fierce loyalty to his own beliefs. They were in far greater number than those who followed him. His powerfully intoxicating personality made those outside his group terrified of losing these individuals.
In the end, on a snowing winter’s night, he was put to death. As his loved ones, from far and near, gathered at the specified site on the mount, they cried in agony at what couldn’t be stopped. As his mother lay crying at his feet, his father comforted her and in his own agony, still felt the pride his heroic son embraced.
I’ve dreamed of him swimming nude in the warm waters, surrounded by tiny waterfalls. I watch as he pulls his lanky body out of the waters to lie next to his lady love and soak up the rays of the brilliant sun. I’ve dreamed of walking through a cave and discovering a drawing in the stone of him next to a similar etching of Ross, my deceased brother. In the dream, I can’t help but notice the physical resemblances of my brother to him.
As I ponder life and what he means to me, I take comfort having a friend known only to my heart, soul and consciousness. To this day, he means the world to me; the teacher of love. 

Show Me the Way

      Scrolling through Peter Frampton’s Facebook page, I noticed a posting put up by Patricia Arias Ferreira: “Peter Frampton is still alive and heading to San Francisco.” His tour was due to hit The City on Friday, revisiting his “Frampton Comes Alive” album from 35 years ago. “Friday?” I thought, “Oh, my God, that’s tomorrow!”
      Thinking back to 1976 when I was a fresh and sassy 16 year old, I remembered begging my mother to let me attend the “Frampton Comes Alive” tour four hours away. I was shocked when she gave me the look! The following summer, Peter and his band were playing in Chicago. I was visiting relatives and again pleaded to go, however, was told, “I don’t think your mother would approve, Debbie.”
      Bringing myself back to present day, I quickly sent an email to a friend and asked if he’d go with me. He replied, saying to get the best seats and he’d pay for them! Grabbing my telephone, I called Ticket Master only to learn the show was sold out. Sitting at my desk stunned, I stared out the window into a neighbor’s pasture. I thought, “I’m 51 now and Spencer is with his father and stepmother’s family for two weeks. Here I am with permission and time is on my side.”
      Just then, an email popped in from a childhood friend, asking what I was up to. I let her know I just tried getting two tickets to the Frampton show and they were sold out. She instantly responded with a notice from KFOG, San Francisco’s local radio station, about two choice seats posted. She said to call the number NOW.
      I dialed and when my call was answered, I boldly said, “My name is Debbie. I’ll take the two Frampton tickets off your hands.” The man with the tickets let me know someone called ahead and said they might want them. I said to tell that person the tickets are officially sold – to me! He cracked up and replied, “They’re yours, Debbie. I’ll meet you in front of the Warfield tomorrow night for the exchange.” A world of thanks filled my heart.
      The next evening, I drove like Mario Andretti to The City while my friend painted my fingernails. I wanted my rancher’s hands to look presentable, complete with light pink polish. Once in The City, I located a parking garage near the Warfield. Standing at my truck, my friend and I shoved the home-made veggie wraps into our mouths. Now, it was time to get the tickets!
      The owner of the tickets was in front of the Warfield, as promised. My friend gave him the money, I took the tickets and we raced in the front doors. My hand was stamped with bright blue letters, “Over 21”; I knew I’d finally made the grade and had permission to be at the Frampton concert. Soon, I would witness the live version of “Show Me the Way”, the signature track from the best-selling album of 1976, which sold over six million copies in the United States.
      Promptly at 8:00, the lights went out and the band walked on stage. My big, blue eyeballs took in all they could absorb, while my mind raced a thousand miles an hour in anticipation. I thought back to one of Peter’s Facebook postings in which he wrote, “Can't thank you all enough for all your impassioned comments about the recent shows. The last few years have been a new awakening for me. I'm having the time of my life doing what I love. It’s so great to share it with all of you.” Suddenly, I heard my late mother’s words, “Honey, make sure to continue doing what you love and remember, I’m always here for you.” At that moment, I felt a little sad.
      The present-day “FCA” tour captivated my attention while the movie of Peter’s life reeled behind the band. As a devoted animal lover, I was taken with the photo of a younger Peter sitting next to Rocky, his German Shepard. The photos of Peter as a little boy made me want to reach out and meet the child.
      The band played while my ears absorbed perfectly mixed sound. Each member had their own special abilities: the drummer’s technique was ever-present; he also allowed the kindness in his eyes to shine on. The bass player was cool and confident while the keyboard player displayed his multitude of musical talents. Peter glowed like a Christmas tree and mentioned the goose bumps running up his left arm. He was sharing with us a passion he deeply loves.
      I wondered how Peter acquired the opportunity to have the time of his life doing what he loves. Is the answer hidden in the stars? It is given to a select few? Is it about having the right product reach the right person’s hands at exactly the right time?
      All of a sudden, the audience was staring at a man from NASA in his spaceship and it was LIVE! Peter began talking to the man and an exchange ensued. I stared at my friend sitting next to me, in disbelief. He leaned over and told me it was really happening. You see, I live on a ranch in the country mountains without television, radio, newspaper or cell phone reception. My friend knew I wasn’t aware of such communication.
      The man from NASA floated back into outer space while Peter and his band went into another tune from 35 years gone past. In my mind’s eye I was 16 again, back in my childhood home. There, it was the middle of the night and while everyone slept, I was nestled in bed with my head phones on listening to “Frampton Comes Alive” full blast.
      Then, before I knew it, the FCA show was over. As my friend and I were walking out the front doors of the Warfield, my soul felt full-filled: a long-standing wish finally came true. The morning after the concert, I awoke to see the bright blue stamp still on the back of my right hand. The subtle reminder showed me what I wanted so much came to fruition, with a little help from my friends.
      I’m inspired, hopeful and encouraged by those doing what they love. Until this happens for me, I’ll continue talking to my barn cat and rescued farm animals, sharing with them the dream for a career of my own. Watching Peter come alive proved he will show me the way.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Table for One

Nearly nine years ago, my life transitioned and I began doing several activities on my own. One of these solo events was dining out. I discovered Yat Sing, a local Chinese restaurant. In the window, a red, lighted sign proudly displayed, “Best Pot Sticker in Town”, enticing prospective diners to stop in.
“Oh, wow! I love Chinese food!” I said to myself and walked in. The Chinese hostess, asked, “How many?” to which I replied, “Table for one, please.” While I obediently followed her to a quiet corner table, she asked, “Why you alone?” I let her know I just learned of Yat Sing and stopped in unexpectedly.
The waitress brought water and a menu to my table as we engaged in small talk. I asked her name and she said, “My name Peggy.” I told her my name is Debbie and we smiled awkwardly at each other. I was chuckling inside at her American name and she still felt funny saying it.
Gazing over the vegetarian section of the menu, my mouth watered as I hadn’t seen these items since I’d left the Hawaiian Islands several years prior. The entire section was my oyster. When Peggy returned, I let her know I was ready to place my order.
“What you want?” Peggy asked, smiling. “Yes, Peggy, I’ll have the veggie pot stickers, veggie spring rolls, fried rice with no broccoli or egg, spicy garlic string beans with no green chilies, won ton soup with no mushrooms, fried veggie noodles and green tea, please.” Peggy stood without a notepad and repeated my order free from missing an item. She asked, “You want half order pot sticker and dumpling?” I shook my head from left to right. While my eyes were large in amazement and anticipation, she said, “You sure no one else coming?”
It wasn’t long before every inch of my table was covered with pots, bowls, pans, plates, utensils, water and a tea pot. I was astounded at the amount of food sitting before me! Soon, one worker after another stopped by to gaze at me and say hello. Eventually, my table had particles of noodles, rice, sauces and crumbs scattered about. I’d eaten as fast as I could for 30 minutes before finally discovering I was full. Thank God, no one was with me! I asked for containers to take the remainder of my meal home. After paying, I waddled out the front door with a large plastic bag filled with left-over dinner to last the next three nights.
I’ve been to Yat Sing more times than I can count and have yet to bring friends. The truth is, I eat so fast when I’m there and I’m embarrassed. I’ve narrowed down what I order to just six veggie pot stickers and four veggie spring roles. Sometimes, I’ll splurge and order the spicy garlic string beans, (without hot peppers, of course). What I don’t want anyone to know is I can’t stand the thought of parting with just one of my precious Chinese food items.
For years, I was lovingly referred to as, “A human vacuum cleaner” by one and “Little Piggy” by another. Although I’d like to eat slowly and calmly while dining at my favorite Chinese restaurant, it’s not possible. If someone were with me, I’d have to secretly eat a meal before we went in so I could better pace myself. As a result of my eating style since divorcing nearly nine years ago, I gained 40 pounds. Although part of the excess weight has come off, I’m learning to think now before I dive into my plate – except when I’m at Yat Sing.
Recently, I went there for a quick bite to eat. The hostess greeted me with her usual warm smile, “I know, I know, table for one. Why you no fwends?” I confessed I don’t want to share my veggie favorites. She immediately came to my rescue with a brilliant idea, “Next time you come, bwing fwend. Order more what you love, then no more table for one.” 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Home Sweet Home

         A feeling of security, comfort, peace, family, solidarity, familiarity, love and belonging enveloped me the moment my mother, Ross, my brother, and I moved to our new  home in Redding, California during the summer of 1973. My mother was newly engaged to Frank, who became Ross’ and my stepfather in December of 1974. At long last, I finally felt a sense of solid ground and permanent togetherness.
            Although I lived in this beautiful home on Alden Avenue just five years before graduating high school and heading to the Hawaiian Islands, I knew I could revisit the picture-perfect home I’d known. I’d spent those five years with the “Movie Stars”, my close girlfriends, in a world of non-stop activity, and indescribable unity. With our family’s homes right around the corner from each other, we knew another fun-filled event was only moments away.
            Life, however, drastically changed when Ross ended his life in 1999; the unraveling of my fond teen-age memories began. Two years later, my mother died, leaving my world a state of shattered disbelief. Shortly thereafter, the home I’d grown to count on was sold. Frank remarried and moved to Idaho. The life and memories I’d known until I was 41 came to a screeching halt.
            Since beginning my life as an adult, I attempted creating the feelings I’d known on Alden Avenue. While moving between Californian and the Hawaiian Islands, the security eluded me. I married when I was 36 and became a mother at age 37. Surely, now what I deeply longed for could be mine again. However, my husband and I divorced six years later, while Spencer, my son, and I remained on our ranch. Eight years after divorcing and 14 years since moving to our ranch, I’m still trying to create the life I deeply miss.
            It wasn’t until July 30, 2011, I felt the feelings I’d known on Alden Avenue. Donna Wishon, one of the Movie Stars, lost Wish, her father, a week prior. The Family of Friends I’d known the past 38 years came together to honor and remember Wish, a gentle soul. Donna’s family home is no longer as I’ve known; both her parents are now gone, too.
I was given the opportunity to stay over night in Katy Dunbar’s childhood home as her folks were out of town. Katy is another of the Movie Stars and Korki, her mother, was one of my mother’s close friends. I was relieved to park my suitcase away from any troubles for a day.
            Walking into the Dunbar’s home, I was instantly catapulted back to 1973 in a way I could never have imagined; I felt the missing pieces of my heart come together. I walked down the hallway and gazed at the family photos on the wall. I rolled my suitcase into Katy’s childhood bedroom while a flood of memories returned me to the days when the Movie Stars played there. Once again, I was in a picture-perfect home, complete with all for which my heart longed.
           The next morning, however, I awoke overcome with an aching sadness. I realized the love, security, safety, family, aesthetic beauty, familiarity, closeness and happiness I felt in the Dunbar’s home was only for a day. In a few short hours, I would leave behind all I desired for Spencer and me.
            Crawling out of the comfortable twin bed, I walked outside and sat in a chair to watch the automatic sprinklers prepare the lush yard for another hot Redding day. The birds jumped from one potted plant to another with seemingly not a care in the world. Behind the greenery of the yard, I saw the area, which once housed 4-H farm animals to pet. Across the freshly-mowed lawn, the sun rays streamed through the trees the Movie Stars and I raced through another lifetime ago.    
In my adult years, I’ve not felt what I had as a protected, teen-age girl; perhaps this is not to be as an adult? As a mother, I’ve not created a financially stable, nuclear setting for Spencer and myself. With foreclosure of our ranch on the horizon, a destroyed history of stellar credit and a mountain of bills too high to climb, I continue seeking the right choices. Where do we go from here? I look into Spencer’s eyes and pray he doesn’t sense my agony of defeat. Instead, I focus on what I have done for us.
            Is there a magic formula to soothe the longings in my heart? Is it in a book I may find at Barnes & Noble? Is it in a story I may write and stumble upon as I re-read my words? If given an opportunity to sit down with my late mother for a cup of tea, could she guide me to my answers?
When the nine Dunbar siblings walk into the childhood home they’ve known nearly 40 years for family gatherings, they understand what I’ve described. Their mother and father greet them with a warm welcome; the grandchildren race throughout, while making a bee-line to the Silver Egg, for a piece of candy.
I’m grateful for the life once lived – if only for a day. Knowing now what’s missing in my existence, I’ll continue searching for this hidden treasure. I hope to locate the map, guiding me to my home sweet home. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

As the Crow Flies

           Sex education is never a joy-ride for a 13-year-old. I especially scoffed at the fact one even had a body, let alone certain parts. I dealt with the birds and the bees by covering my ears hollering, “I don’t want to hear it!”
            It was July of 1973 when my family moved to Redding, California from Cottonwood, the tiny town 30 minutes down I-5. The day we moved into our new home, Mr. Lee, the old man next door, drove his golf cart up to my parent’s front door and asked me to ride around the neighborhood with him. Although it felt creepy to have an “old” man in his 40’s ask a 13-year-old girl to ride in his golf cart, I didn’t know how to politely kick him to the curb. My mother harped on me for having, “The fastest ‘No’ in the West” before she had an opportunity to complete her question.
I was riding around in the golf cart with Mr. Lee when three girls down the road knew they had to “rescue me” from his clutches. They hollered for Mr. Lee to pull his cart over so they could meet me. I didn’t even know their names and here they were to help; they obviously knew his history. Jumping out of the cart and as Mr. Lee pulled away, I said to my new best friends, “Oh, my God! Thank you for getting me away from him!” Donna, Katy, Susan and I named our newly-formed friendship, The Movie Stars.
            Our summer raged on with swimming, horse back riding, motorcycle riding, bicycling, running through the woods, playing in Charlie’s junk yard, picking cherries, pushing each other in a wheel barrel, sleeping under the stars, making pancakes for breakfast and listening to John Denver and the Beach Boys.
We also enjoyed putting loads of make-up on Cleo, my family’s white German Shepard, and using the items from my mother’s expensive stash. We discovered her bright red nail polish as well and with our tools went out to the backyard to Cleo with the demand, “Sit. You’re going to look beautiful in just a few minutes.” Cleo was patient while we applied bright blue eye shadow, mascara, black eye liner, red lipstick and painted her toe nails bright red. When my mother arrived home from work, she was shocked to see Cleo wearing her Vivian Woodard cosmetics. Unfortunately, I was grounded for a week.
I began my new school in early September as an 8th grade student at Parsons Junior High. I saw my class list and instantly became horrified when I read in bold letters, “Sex Education, Period 3, Mr. Crow.” Racing home, I told my mother she needed to sign a paper to get me out of this class. She waived her arm in the air and said, “Honey, you’re 13 now and the time is right.” I exclaimed, “But, Mom! I don’t even have anything yet – it’s too soon!”
The first day of the deeply-dreaded class, I chose to sit as far from Mr. Crow as possible. I hoped to get through this year without being noticed, surrounded by my classmates. He reminded me of Mr. Lee, my neighbor; they shared similar physical characteristics – and gave girls my age the creeps.
Mr. Crow began by asking the class various questions about our summer. I remained hidden and silent.  Then, however, we had to introduce ourselves and raise our hand if we were new to the school. My hand went up and so did the bottom of my white sleeveless top. Mr. Crow made an immediate bee-line through the desks, tables and chairs to be at my side. He hollered, “Debbie Patterson, if I see your belly button one more time, I’ll put masking tape over it!” Admittedly, my favorite shirt with red trim was becoming too small, however, I adored this gift from my mother. When I defiantly said, “You touch me and you’re in big trouble, Mister”, he marched me to the front of the class and did exactly as promised: he slapped a piece of masking tape over my belly button so quickly, it left my head spinning.
Sitting quietly at my desk one day in Mr. Crow’s class, he began frantically tapping his pointer on the chalk board. “Can anyone tell me the meaning of Cooper’s Droop?” From the blank stares of the students, it was clear none of us were familiar with the term. Mr. Crow let us know it was the description for droopy breasts. He thundered, “It’s what happens when you don’t wear a bra!” Snickering to my friends, I told them he had horrible handwriting and it appeared as though he’d written, “Cooper’s Poop.”
BOOM! As if by magic, he was standing next to me again! Fearful he would grab me in anger, I leaned far away, fell out of my desk chair and crashed to the floor. Again, the class was in hysterics, laughing at the antics between Mr. Crow and me! He pointed his stick for me to stand next to the chalk board and give my explanation of Cooper’s Droop. I crawled to my feet and slowly walked to the front of the class with steam pouring out my ears. Putting my hands on my hips, I boldly announced, “Class, I don’t believe Cooper’s Poop is even in the dictionary.” The class screamed in laughter while Mr. Crow aimed his pointer at the door. When I asked, “What for this time?” he told me to go to the principal’s office. When I protested, he said, “Tell your mother, it’s time for you to get a training bra or I’ll wrap them up with tape!” Incensed, I responded, “I don’t need one yet and if you'd stop looking at me, I wouldn't be in trouble all the time."
The principal called my mother at work while I swung my legs back and forth in the lobby chair. She picked me up and in silence we headed to Sears for my first training bra. She handed me six boxes of size AAA teeny-weeny training bras, meant to keep me in school. She put me into a dressing room and said to get the one, which fit the tightest. I continued slinging the items over the door until finally marching out with one. Horrified, I said, “Oh, Mom. Please don’t make me wear this ugly thing! It’s looks like two Doritos with strings.” She said, “Just get through school, Honey. What you wear at home is your business.” Deal. My Raisenettes and I moped behind my mother to the cash register.
Slowly walking down our dirt road the next afternoon, I heard the sing-song of Greg, the 15-year-old neighbor boy, “Debbie’s getting boobies, Debbie’s getting boobies.” Horrified, I turned around, raced back home and put on two t-shirts. I told Mom what happened and she said I may want to think about wearing my training bra even at home now. I put the thing on, wrapped a red bandana around my chest and put the two t-shirts back on. Heading back down the road to Donna’s home to play with her, Katy and Susan, I kept an eagle eye out for teasing boys.
Nearly 38 years passed since my first training bra. I recently wrote Bernice, one of my sweetest classmates, from Parsons Junior High. I asked whether she remembered me and Mr. Crow’s class. She responded, “Hi Debbie, you were my first friend at Parsons from the first day of school. I will never forget having my first rebellious friend I ever experienced, who refused to wear a bra. Mr. Crow threatened to wrap them up with tape. It is amazing Mr. Crow touched you so much.” 
I’m 51 years old now and won’t walk to the barn without wearing my trusty support system, hoping to keep Cooper’s Droop at bay. My shirts are long enough to cover every inch of my midriff. As for my training bras, they were gladly tossed into the Salvation Army bag as I naturally did outgrow them.
Mr. Crow, where ever you are, thank you for teaching me what I wasn’t ready to learn back in ‘73. There are rules of protocol to keep us safe, healthy and free of ridicule. Although I don’t believe I’m a rebellious adult, you pushed me to stand up for myself; I’ve passed this message on to Spencer, my 13-year-old son. Because of my former days, I’ve taught Spencer how to walk a much smoother path in life.
He’s read the stories I’ve written; perhaps this is why he walks an easier trail. As for the crow and how he flies, I’m still trying to learn the fastest, shortest, easiest route to my ultimate destinations. After all, it’s well known I graduated from the school of hard knocks. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011


I enjoyed reading all your books and now they are headed to my mom's.  You really write to the heart and I want you to know this.  I was a little sad finishing the books because there are no more (for now).You have had very wonderful people in your life and that is what it is all about. Your stories are so vivid it makes me really want to know everyone, too.  And for the ones that are gone, you have provided a legacy that will not be forgotten.
Jacquelyn Theile

Your writing flows very well and it's easy to follow along.........not confusing at all.  You convey everything in a clear fashion and with humor. 

Linda Di Grigorio

Your stories will be cherished by Spencer.  The Life Stories class I'm taking taught me how much family stories enrich a person's life.  Not only are your stories informative, they are well crafted.  Of course they resonated with me because I am acquainted with most of the players.  Your writing is warm and wonderful.
Aunt Audrey Herald-Polster

When I read your stories they brought me pleasure and helped me understand who you are.  They inspired me to write........I just have to find the time. Good luck with the new book and I can't wait to read it.
Debbie Gott

What I can remember are loving the stories; laughing, tearing, getting to know you, getting to know the animals, enjoying the pictures and being jealous of your farm.
Love, Patsy Fish

So glad you have written another book.  I’ve always enjoyed reading your books and am looking forward to reading your fourth.  Your books are in my special place; when I see them I am grateful for everyday. Reading them gave me a sense of appreciation of my life. Each day we see “friends” and remember, meet, pass by, smile, wave, wink and embrace them. There is a reason for those special moments; encounters and your books taught me that.  “Friends” are our guardian angels who help us through the ups and downs of life.  Thank you for showing me that.”
With Love, Elginia Bowers

“Here's what reading your life stories meant to me: Mainly they allowed me to know more of the real you.  There were stories of your life I never had a clue you dealt with, even after years of knowing you!  In reading or hearing anyone else's experiences and how they handled them, it makes me think more of my responses and to consider another point of view.  Deb, knowing you is a joy...and ALWAYS thought provoking!
Your friend, Pam Slocum 

I don't know if I've read all of your writings, but I've enjoyed what I've read.  The most memorable book to me was And Then There Was One.  I found it very moving.  Of course, I loved your story about Shiloh from the beginning.  As always, it is sad when it has to end, but we all know it's part of the living experience.  We also know it does not really end there.  So, I think it is safe for me to say the things you write move and inspire me. You have taught me so much.  I appreciate that.
Love, Trudi Christina
I hope what I say has some meaning for you or your publishers.  It goes without saying I wish I had the opportunity to read all of your works. I found your writing exudes warmth and brings to the reader familiar surroundings and situations.  This gives the reader a comfort level and a feeling of knowing the author; something many authors find difficult to do. I also like the fact you provide focus for the reader.  It allows the reader to participate in the experience you are writing about.  Such focus does not allow for wandering thoughts or distractions to interfere with the essence of the story. I also like the way in which you set the scene for your stories.  This helps the reader picture himself or herself in the place where the characters and action are, giving him or her a participatory role in the action. It seems these stories and your way of writing them are very appropriate for intermediate grade children and would be very valuable in the classroom as a teaching tool to improve student writing and related language skills. I hope you are still writing and I personally can read more of your work. Looking forward............
Nancy Krchniak 
Blessings of this day, crystal blue eyes! Deb, please know how much your experiences have meant to me! They are from your heart – the very place from which to feel, speak and act. Thank you so very much for putting your heart on paper so we, who love you, could share what you’ve gone through on your own unique path to love and enlightenment. I am so grateful to have met you. Thank you for your trust. Blessings, love and hugs to you and Spencer!
Cindy Pitt

Living and experiencing life with you has made a big impression on me. YOU healed many parts of me and my life; so did Spencer, Howie, the pig, Moki, the cat, Shilo, the bull, the St. Bernard’s and your ranch! 
Love you so much, Deb! 
Victoria Cserjan


I read your blog:, and I'm serious when I say you're one helluva writer and more! As you said, "The only thing with the blog is the reader doesn't have the photo, which accompanies the story of the Frampton concert." I’ll let you know whether I have success on inserting your blog pictures!
Deborah, I've got to let you know as a writer, you've got TALENT in far more ways than I can express. In my experience, sometimes I didn't need a picture to accompany the story: Written words can draw its own picture(s) in the reader's mind, and it can be hard to find THAT picture that illustrates the story.
You blew me away with your weblog (blog), and I wish I could meet you in person after reading it! Of course, I'd like to meet you, your family, as well as your rescued/extended family while we're in CA, because I have no idea when we'll be back on the west coast.
Your ranch in Woodside seems to be filled with incredible love, sacrifice, compassion, advocacy, passion, along with so much more I'm unaware of and I'm in awe of you! Your immediate and extended families are lucky to have you on their side!
If I can help out in any way, beside my "constructive criticism", photos and any other ideas for your blog: I can say honesty say your heart-filled and funny stories are GREAT: I feel honoured you shared it with me and I can't wait to meet you in person someday: I hope we will meet sooner rather than later, too!
Take care,
Jennifer Ballard-Stewart

Dear Family of Friends,

My Aunt Shirlee encouraged me to begin writing August 1, 2000. When my mother was dying in April of 2001, she urged me to put my stories into books. I've ful-filled both their requests. Aunt Shirlee, my mother's eldest sister, recently left this message after reading several of my latest stories. If you, or anyone you know, has suggestions on how I may pursue my ailing aunt's and late mother's requests, please let me know. I'll be grateful for your help. LOVE, Deborah, Debbie, Deb.

Deb, You have done one helluva job. You know what? I’m as baffled as you as who to send them to for a critique, for the avenues, where to, what publications to put them in. God, is there anyway, through the Internet, you can find someone to represent you? Or talk to another author? Like the one Mary Higgins Clark book I sent and asked you to read? How do you find a good, responsible, solid agent? Deb, please, I think that’s what you need. Maybe a good writing group, with a good agent? Someone in the business, so you’re not fooling around, playing around, taking advice from people who may not have correct advice. Do you hear me? You’re really on my mind. Let me hear from you when you’re in the mood. I know you have a lot on your mind.
Aunt Shirlee Herald

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Religious Experience

Prior to September 11, 2001, I was never terrified of flying. Three months later, I prepared myself for a trip to New York City to see long-time friends. We had not gathered in 13 years.

Seeing my friends again was magical. We knew each other while living in the Hawaiian Islands, staying in touch since first meeting in 1983. Our reunion led me to a renewed sense of myself I lost touch with over the course of many years.
Saturday, December 8, I told my Catholic friends my desire to attend Mass the next morning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Church with them. They agreed the venture to St. Patrick’s was a good idea. I called another Catholic friend to see if he would like to join us; and he met us at St. Patrick’s for the 9:00 a.m., service.
 From historical notes, I learned St. Patrick’s Cathedral has served as a place of comfort and solace for millions of people since the church first opened in 1879. Today, over three million people a year come from all over the world to visit one of New York City’s most magnificent cathedrals of worship. Cardinal Spellman is quoted as saying, “At its portals, the world seems left behind and every advancing step brings heaven nearer and deepens the soul’s union with Divinity.”
 Possibly as a form of rebellion and most definitely in reaction to my formal religious training, I walk a path of my own spiritual choosing. I feel more at ease having my information come from intuition, my “guides.” I chose to discover my divine guidance, specified in the Swedish proverb, “The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your arm.”
After taking my seat, being one of approximately 2,200 present, I picked up a Bible from the pew in front of me. I began flipping through the pages, coming upon a separate section at the very back. On a page added, the reader was advised who was and who was not eligible to receive Holy Communion. It read, “Those who have committed a grave sin may not receive holy Communion,” … After reading this I thought to myself, “I am going to receive my first Communion!”
 Our time came to join the long communion line. With my friends behind me, I went to the front of the church for this holy moment. I was unable to see how one receives Communion. I could only see backs of heads as we were in a single file line. 
When it was my turn to receive the highly sought after communion wafer, I said to the priest, “This is my first time receiving Communion. Since I am not Catholic, I am not sure what I am supposed to do.” There was an uncomfortable silence during which, I noticed the priest’s body visibly stiffen. “You are not Catholic?” he queried. “No, I am not Catholic,” I repeated, shaking my head from left to right. He replied, “Then, you may not receive Communion.”
I stood beneath the extraordinarily high cathedral ceiling of this stain-glassed architectural masterpiece, and thought to myself, “What is a person like me doing in a place like this?”
As I walked silently back to my pew, I wondered if the “church” believed Jesus would praise this priest for his righteousness. Would it occur to the Catholic Church hypocrisy and hopeless discrimination had just been imposed upon me? Is being Catholic a prerequisite for receiving the love of Jesus Christ into our lives?
The remainder of the service captivated me. “Remove All Negativity From Your Life.” With tremendous conviction, the priest continued we couldn’t merely say we are going to remove negativity; we must act on it now.
I looked at the congregation, wondering who was living an emotionally and/or physically destructive relationship. I pondered the priest’s theory. Were these individuals being limited to merely praying for a way to end their unhappiness, so they could begin living a healthy, optimistic life?
Perhaps after years of badgering, threats of terror, degrading verbiage or other types of pessimism, their abuser had beaten down, physically and/or verbally, the abused until she or he became a severely damaged human being. Did this sermon hold hope for these individuals? If married, is divorce an option? At what point are the disheartened allowed to bring the “love of Jesus into their lives”?  
By the time the four of us exited the grand doorway onto the cold steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, my enthusiasm for this place of worship drastically diminished. In this church’s eyes, I did not belong and was unable to participate in all this holy sanctuary reportedly offered. Ironically, during the course of the service the offering basket came around twice; on both occasions my money was taken. My donation was whole-heartedly accepted, yet I was not.
More than 2,000 years after Jesus’ short-lived life, worldwide human non-acceptance continues, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

"Charles, Jr."

In August of 1999, our family was on a road trip to Disneyland in a rented RV. It was a vacation, including six teen-agers, two of who were Ross, my deceased brother’s, kids. Spencer, our son, was two-and-half years old at the time. I remember my mother telling me, I ought to have my head examined for attempting such an excursion. As it turned out, this journey was a memorable one.
            We made several stops along the way to various sites, such as Hearst Castle. We rode horses at a dude ranch and spent the night at a hot springs “resort” for RV drivers. Did you know the smelly waters of hot springs could turn even your most precious jewelry a greenish black?
            At last, we arrived at Disneyland and checked into the Disneyland Hotel. The teen-agers were excited to get onto the rides. They were given their passes and off they ran. I stayed with Spencer, while my husband caught up to the others to enjoy big-kid rides. It was early in the afternoon when Spencer and I took the tram to Disneyland.
The intense Southern California sun was relentless. I pushed Spencer’s covered stroller to a water fountain, lifting him out so we could splash water on our faces. We were at the fountain approximately 10 minutes when a tall, blond, handsome fellow in his early 30’s, approached. He commented on how much fun we were having, watching us with envy and sadness. I looked closely at this man’s face and could see an empty, faraway look in his eyes. What was he thinking at this moment? What happened to this gentle-faced young man? I took the time to listen.
Holding Spencer’s hand, I asked this man why he approached. He said he had a son, Charles Jr., who was also two-years old, with blond hair and blue eyes. I told him I was enjoying my life with my son, feeling blessed having him. Charles Sr. pulled out of his wallet a well-worn photograph. A smiling boy, sitting next to the edge of his swimming pool, was wearing only a diaper. It was then the man began his story.
Charles Sr. was from Mariner’s Cove, the Hawaii Kai side of Oahu, Hawaii. I told him I lived on Oahu eight years, having attended the University of Hawaii. I spent a majority of my time in Mariner’s Cove with a family who accepted me as their calabash, or adopted daughter. I knew Hawaii Kai very well and even knew of the street on which he lived. What a twist of fate he and I should meet today.
One day, Charles Sr., and his young son were in their fenced backyard, sitting by the pool, playing. Thirsty for water, Dad carried Charles Jr., outside the pool area, setting him down near the gate. Dad had an eight-foot high, security-alarmed gate surrounding the pool, with a lock on the gate. After a mere two minutes, Dad returned to the pool area, calling his son. No answer. As Dad rounded the corner, to his horror he discovered Charles Jr., face down in the swimming pool, with his water-filled diaper visible.
Dad dove into the pool, pulled his son out of the water and administered CPR. With his portable telephone nearby, he dialed 911. The paramedics arrived, also administered CPR, only to deliver the most shocking news to Charles Sr., “I am sorry, Sir, we are unable to revive your son.”
Spencer and I stood quietly.  Charles Sr. broke the silence by telling me no matter how much security I think I have; never turn my back on my young son when he is near water. I nodded in agreement. I thanked this man for approaching and sharing his story. He told me the likeness of my son to Charles Jr., was so overwhelming, he felt compelled to talk with me. To this day, when Spencer is near water, I look back into the eyes of Charles Sr., and am reminded of his beautiful young son.
Charles Sr. has a gorgeous blond daughter now, whom we met. He displays a tremendous amount of devotion to his young daughter.
We do not know what awaits us around the corners of our lives.  We can, however, recognize and acknowledge the precious treasures we are given. When I look into Spencer’s eyes, I know I do. 

"Placard 152"

       It was time to find a friend for Shiloh, my rescue steer. We acquired him two months earlier and no matter how much I fed him, brushed him and loved him, he continued to wander to the neighbor’s ranch in search of companionship with their bull. I could not stand the thought of him being in his pasture alone a moment longer. Wanting him to stay with me, I knew he needed a companion of his own kind.
   Spencer and I were leaving our ranch one morning, we stopped at another neighbor’s to say hello. I told them about our plans to spend the day at the auction and then we continued on our way. We were going to bring a young girlfriend home for Shiloh.
      When we arrived, the entire scene immediately put me in the past, to my childhood. I felt a strange sense of déjà vu; I was with my mother and Ross, my brother. Back then; we were waiting for my mother to bid on two calves, one for Ross and one for me.
      Now, 33 years later the auction seemed strikingly similar. Even the tiny café slinging greasy hamburgers, had the same appearance and feel. The cowboys and cowgirls ordered, patiently awaiting their meals. Spencer and I purchased a bottle of apple juice, found nothing else desirable and made our way to the equipment sales lot.
     We needed a trailer to transport Shiloh’s new companion back to the ranch. Soon, I found the perfect one. Its blue trim was the same color of our vehicle, so I bought it and we headed back to the auction arena.
      We had 30 minutes until the auction began. I opened our red cooler box and we ate lunch in the arena seating area. We enjoyed a delicious meal of organic yogurt; roasted soybeans; sliced vegetables; soymilk; applesauce; cheese and crackers; peanut butter crackers and juice.
     Show time! With Spencer and me in the front row, the calves paraded through the doors. In anticipation of the perfect heifer calf, I held my auction placard, #152. A tiny black and white something-or-other appeared. The auctioneer was talking so fast; I had no idea what he was saying.
     Innocently, I raised my placard to get his attention. The talking stopped and the animals filed out. Hmmm, I wondered. Did I buy that little black and white one? It was very adorable. Just in case I wasn’t the successful bidder, I thought, “Let’s try again.” 
      Another group of young calves ambled into the arena. I instantly spied another sweet face and held my placard high. Several other attendees raised their cards and not knowing what to do next, I kept my arm extended. My mind was tumbling in a sea of overly tight Wrangler jeans and beat-up cowboy hats. I wondered what I should do.
       Another group of young calves appeared. “Oh, look at that one over there, Spencer. Is that the kindest face on an animal?” Once again, I hoisted my placard skyward. Suddenly, the auction arena went silent as the auctioneer pointed at me and hollered into the microphone, “Do you know what you are doing here? Have you ever been to an auction?” I proudly told the auctioneer of my days at the auction some 33 years ago. Listening to the chuckles coming from the audience, I knew it was time for us to leave.
     Once inside the auction office, I handed the clerk my placard. She clicked away at her keyboard, printed up a sheet of paper and handed it to me. I was stunned to learn, I purchased not one, but three calves. I was informed two of the three were just a month old. They would need to be bottle-fed twice daily for six months.
       I nearly collapsed, as I already owned 24 other ranch animals. I wrote a check for the three calves, averaging $100.00 each. Hand in hand, Spencer and I walked outside. I needed a breath of fresh air. The calves were loaded into our shiny new trailer and it was time to make our way home. I never pulled a trailer and did not want anyone to realize how green I was at this auction business. Now, I longed for someone to follow our expanding herd home.
      The auction feed store had no calf milk formula; however, they gave us directions to another store a few miles down the road. There we found everything we needed to supplement and sustain our new calves. We purchased bottles, powdered calf milk and powdered vitamins. We were on the road again 45 minutes later.
      We were back at the ranch that evening at 7:00. When we arrived, I wondered how in the world I was going to unload the three calves from the back of the trailer. Being barely able to drive forward with the new trailer attached, I knew I had no chance of successfully backing the trailer up to the pen.
      All of a sudden, I saw headlights coming up our driveway. Knowing Spencer and I were returning from the auction that evening, my neighbors came to see if I needed assistance. I could hardly believe my eyes and was so thankful. They backed the trailer up to the pen and together; we unloaded the calves into their new home. They rinsed the trailer and put fresh straw into the stall for the calves’ bedding.
      I thanked them profusely for their help and bid them goodbye. Before leaving, they told me within a week’s time they would be moving up north. Once again, I felt my world falling apart. How would I manage without them? Since Mo Kitty, their cat, spent most of his time at my home anyway, they asked if I would take him. They barely extended their offer when I declared, “Yes, of course!”  I did it again. My love of animals overwhelmed any reasonable thoughts associated with the effort it would take to care for them.
      My husband was out of town and I was on my own that night. It was way past feeding time for the two young calves. Spencer was still asleep in the car, so I raced into the house to put the bottles together. Believing the most difficult part of this adventure behind me, I was anxious to feed the new calves and have them begin feeling at home.
      The calves, however, wanted nothing to do with the bottles or me. In their eyes and through their actions, I sensed their concerns, “Where is my mother? What is that funny shaped nipple Deborah is holding? Why is she trying to put it in our mouths?” I desperately and unsuccessfully attempted to feed them. Finally, I stopped and put the bottles down. I needed to feed the other ranch animals, take Spencer out of the car, prepare our dinner and tend to his nightly routine.
      Later that evening at 11:00, I called my mother, recounting the day’s events. Frustrated and exhausted, I hung up the telephone to prepare myself for a good night’s rest. An hour later unable to sleep, I crept out of bed. Dressed in my white nightgown and cowboy boots, I headed back out to the stall carrying warm milk for my two youngest calves. Again, they raced around in circles until I finally gave up.
      I lay down on top of the fresh straw, crying for what seemed an eternity. I feared my calves would go hungry and die of starvation during the night. They watched me and wondered what was happening. I came to the realization; I could not care for them on my own. I was overwhelmed with the feeling I was in way over my head.
      At 7:30 the next morning, I telephoned a neighbor telling him what happened the day before. He bellowed into my unprepared ear, “You did what? You have two bottle babies?” Immediately he barked, “I’ll be right over,” and hung up. Within 20 minutes he arrived at our ranch.
Without hesitation, he grabbed one of the two bottles, cornered Freckles, the one with, “the kindest face on an animal,” holding him around the neck. With his enormous fingers, he pried open the smallest bull calf’s mouth, shoving the bottle in. Within seconds, Freckles was suckling. Cody Bleu, the other bull calf, was a month older and did not need to be bottle-fed.
      Next he grabbed Patches, the “tiny black and white something-or-other,” backing her hind end into the corner of the corral. I watched in amazement as he pried the very adorable heifer calf’s mouth open, starting the feeding process. I was transfixed by yet another learning experience.
       As I observed, I suddenly felt as though the hairy arms cradling Patches did not belong to my neighbor, but to Ross, my brother, who died one year before. With his long sleeves rolled up, I watched as those familiar arms fed Patches. I felt a certain closeness to Ross I had not known in the final years of his life.
      Although I did not dare move from where I was standing, I wanted to reach out and touch my brother. Once the ravenous calf emptied the bottle, physical reality set in, replacing my neighbor’s arms with the image of my brother’s. So the tears streaming down my face would not be seen, I grabbed the empty bottles, quickly leaving the pen.
      I will never forget this experience. Although at times I feel lonely, I’m never alone. As I continue my journey through life, knowing this makes all the difference.  

"Between Mother and Daughter"

              Less than two years ago, in July of 1999, my mother and I stood before our relatives and friends, bidding farewell to Ross, my brother, at his funeral.
                 In honor of my late brother’s 40th birthday, on Friday, March 30, 2001, I telephoned my mother. During our hour-long conversation, we discussed various topics. We covered what Ross was doing in the spirit world; to the liver cleanse diet she was beginning that same day. She was excited and hopeful about the liver cleanse diet. We completed our chat with the usual, “I love you.” My mother said she would call Monday morning, April 2nd, my 41st birthday.
           Monday morning came and went. Totally out of character for her, she did not call. Knowing her so well, I was alarmed and about to call her when my telephone rang. It was my stepfather letting me know he admitted my mother to the hospital that morning. When he told me her liver was completely consumed with cancer, my heart sank. I became nauseous while attempting to absorb this information. He mentioned my mother was not informed her liver test results returned with the highest of cancer counts.
My mother’s oncologist told him the liver cancer metastasized from the breast cancer she survived exactly 20 years prior. Having studied Chinese medicine and emotional healing, I knew there was another reason. Every part of one’s body maintains a representation. The breasts symbolize the need to nurture and be nurtured. The liver maintains anger, resentment. The body will attempt to get your attention, one way or another. My mother’s body was sending her another message.
            I immediately called my mother’s hospital room. In a whisper she told me she was fine and would be going home soon. I asked her if Spencer, my young son, and I could come see her in the hospital and she responded, “No, Honey, I’m fine.”
During the next eight days, I called her two to three times daily. In spite of my concern, she continued to insist it was not necessary for me to make the four-hour drive to see her. Finally, I could stand it no longer, packed for a couple of days and headed up. The date was Tuesday, April 10. Spencer stayed with his father while I was away.
            That evening I walked into my mother’s hospital room and was immediately shocked at the sight of her. The woman I’d known 41 years as my mother was drastically changed. I was overwhelmed with terror, grief and shock. She and my stepfather, knowing they could hold me at bay only so long, weren’t surprised to see me.
            I remained at the side of her bed until 10 that evening and we spent hours discussing her current situation. With desperation evident on my face, my mother asked, “Honey, do you believe in miracles?” I responded, “Mom, it was you who taught me to believe in miracles.” She said, “Then let’s pray for a miracle.” It was difficult for me, knowing the seriousness of her health and not revealing it to her, however, I did not want her to give up hope of living. Late that evening, she was beginning to drift in and out of a restless sleep.
Abruptly, her eyes flew open. She asked what kept flying back and forth past the left side of her head. I felt my stomach knot and asked, “Well, what does it look like?” When she replied, “Angels,” I denied what I initially thought. Instead, I told her they were there to comfort her during her stay in the hospital. Later that night before my mother went to sleep, she told me she would be going home the next day and it would not be a moment too soon. I thought to myself, “See there? She is getting better.”
            I sat down in the chair next to her hospital bed, took a deep breath and a long look at her. Her eyes were closed and I assumed she fell asleep. To my surprise, in a whispered voice she asked, “What is he doing here?” I hesitantly looked over my shoulder into an empty, dimly lighted hallway. I asked, “Who, Mom? I do not see anyone.” She replied, “Ross.”
I could not see my brother’s spirit; however, observing her furrowed eyebrows, I knew she was seeing something beyond the usual reach of one’s physical eyesight. To soothe her, I told her he probably just popped in to say a quick hello. She said she did not wish to speak with him, asking me to tell him to leave. Silently, I spoke to my brother’s spirit, letting him know we appreciated his taking the time to visit. I told him at this moment the conversation was between mother and daughter. My mother’s eyes opened and she thanked me.
            The next morning, I spoke with my stepfather on the telephone. He talked with her doctor and was advised she might be going home today. I jumped into my car, drove to the hospital and waited at her bedside for the doctor. It was then she told me of a dream she had the night prior after my departure from the hospital.
My mother dreamed she was still alive and several persons from the hospital staff were wheeling her to the morgue in the basement of the hospital. I felt horrible for not staying next to her hospital bed the prior night. I knew she would not have such a nightmare if I remained with her while she slept.
Her doctor walked in shortly thereafter around 8:15 a.m. I immediately asked for her release papers. He put up his hands and said, “Now hold on, I said she would be released in a day or so.” I saw the pleading look in my mother’s eyes and said, “Don’t worry, Mom, you are going home today.”
I told her doctor to step into the hallway. I asked what needed to be done to expedite the process. He said he would have to make a telephone call in order to be certain the home care equipment could be delivered that morning. I responded, “Then please do it.” He said he had other patients and selfishly, I told him, “You have just one patient right now, my mother. “
The next part of our conversation hit me like an avalanche. He said, “Now look, Debbie, this is all a part of the dying process.” With my heart pounding and through my tears I told him, “No, this is a part of your dying process. Now make it happen so my mother may go home today!” My intense and demanding voice echoed throughout the hospital floor. Shortly thereafter, my mother was home.
            My mother told me she knew her final chemotherapy treatment could be fatal. However, she did not have the courage to counter her doctor’s white jacket of authority. It was her feeling if she refused to undergo this final round of treatment, she would have a much better chance of surviving. Until this conversation, I was unaware of the chemotherapy treatments. Knowing I am a supporter of alternative and nutritional healing methods, she did not wish to tell me about her medical decisions. Now, she realized choosing chemotherapy was a life-threatening decision.
My rescue instincts shifted into high gear and the healing work began. I asked my mother what was killing her. She confided she held unresolved resentment for years. Her feelings were eating her alive; she knew exactly why and when these feelings began.  
We discussed the terror, frustration, guilt and sense of hopelessness, which prevented her from verbalizing her feelings until now. Still, she confessed she was prepared to “die with dignity” rather than take action and make the necessary changes her body demanded. I contemplated the deliberate intentions of my mother’s Master Plan.
It was my mother’s relationship with her own being, which would also be difficult for her to approach. We covered every aspect of her life, from conception to present. Our goal was to release traces of damage from her accumulated negative experiences. Intuitively, I would mention the year her body wanted to discuss. She instantly recounted what occurred during that time frame; what deep-seated issues needed to be addressed.
During the course of our many discussions, the conversation eventually turned to nutrition and changes she needed to make. My Aunt Audrey and Uncle Ron forwarded a copy of Maureen Kennedy Salaman’s book, Nutrition: The Cancer Answer, ll. From my reading of Maureen’s research, I discovered heredity accounts for only five percent of all cancer cases. On the other hand, 70 percent of all cancer deaths are linked to nutrition! Since my mother was well educated in the field of nutrition, she knew to return to a vegetarian diet. What she was not willing to do was honor her body regarding the unresolved resentment she held.
            I contacted healer friends in the Bay Area. They in turn contacted others and a network was formed on her behalf. Prayers came in from all over the country; the support was tremendous. Oddly enough, while reaching for my mother’s Healthy Healing manual by nutritional authority Linda Page, a brochure fell on my head. It was from my mother’s massage therapist. I took this as a sign to arrange for her to have a massage. As luck would have it, this particular massage therapist also did energy-balancing work. Together, we cleared the terror and grief of dying from my mother’s body until it calmed.
            Her body began to reject the canned chicken broth; soon thereafter the canned vegetable broth was also refused. I would not accept the fact her body was denying our efforts. I continued to be optimistic her body would only accept the fresh organic juiced foods my stepfather and I prepared for her.
I refused to give up, regardless of our efforts and despite my recognition of the changes overtaking her. The nights were long and emotionally excruciating for us. With my head nestled next to hers, I cried endlessly, constantly begging her, “Don’t ever leave me, Mom.” She looked at me with the same furrowed brows and said, “Honey Bunny, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll always be here for you.” For the moment, I was relieved and comforted by the sense of her spiritual immortality.
            During the days, I frantically read books; reviewed faxes received from loved ones, voraciously consuming every bit of available literature on cancer and cancer cures. With knowledge in hand, I would drive to the health food stores with a list of beneficial supplements.
From a private source, because it was unavailable in the health food stores, I acquired the vitamin B17, amygdalin. My review of Ms. Salaman’s Nutrition: The Cancer Answer II educated me regarding the benefits of this supplement. In the book, Maureen advocates the early use of cancer-killing B17. It is found most abundantly in apricot kernels, is capable of killing cancer cells and also has cancer-preventative properties. In December of 2003, Maureen telephoned me, advising she now tells cancer patients, “Don’t even think of eating meat.”
Unfortunately, with the exception of water, my mother could not keep anything down. When she started bleeding from inside her mouth, I prayed the source was merely the thin tissue there. Tissue eroded by the chemotherapy was not yet replaced with new tissue. I learned from my mother, one of the terrible side effects from the chemotherapy was it caused the entire inside of her mouth to have blackened sores.
Those sores extended down her esophagus and she could barely swallow. The pain from these sores would make her eyes water. Having to watch her endure the misery made mine do the same. On one occasion her mouth bled an entire day. Finally, I secured a prescription for Vitamin K, assisting in slowing down the bleeding.
            The next day, I was pulling large pieces of bloodied tissue from her mouth; all the while praying it was not coming up from her stomach. For the balance of that day, she became visibly weaker with no further desire for me to read to her. To that point, I was reading a book to her, by author Louise Hay, entitled, Empowering Women.
      The following day, she asked for her pearls. At first not understanding, I was forced to have her repeat this request. My stepfather retrieved her jewelry box, producing two strands of pearls. I held one strand in each hand. She made her selection and I asked why she wanted to see them. She said she wanted them to go to Kate, the teen-age daughter of Ross, my deceased brother. She wanted Kate to wear them when she married. At that moment, the reality of my mother’s condition hit me. Unable to control myself, I ran to the bathroom crying so hard, I thought I would die.
            That afternoon, my mother told me she needed an epiphany. I heard the word several times and fortunately, I knew how the word was spelled. Not knowing exactly for what my mother was asking, I went to the dictionary and looked it up. There are many definitions of the word. As I read a number of them, she would shake her head from left to right as if to say, “That’s not it.”
Finally I read the following: “A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something.” She nodded her head in an up and down “yes” motion. Gently, I leaned over her and asked, “Mom, are you wondering about the spirit world, what you will be doing there and whom you will see?” Her eyes opened wide and she whispered, “Yes.”
She asked about the white light, if there is pain in the spirit world and what her duties would be when she arrived. I pointed to the pictures and displays of angels throughout her home. I explained to her what I learned from Ross and others who crossed over into this dimension. I told her the only emotion she would find on the “other side” is that of pure love. She closed her eyes and smiled.
            The following day, no longer able to endure the pain, my mother requested morphine. I asked her to repeat this request three times to be certain of what I was hearing. Sensing her agony, I telephoned her home health care nurse, who came over and taped the injection to her stomach. My mother did not flinch. I looked at the woman lying on the bed in front of me, the woman I’d known my entire life as “my mom” and realized I no longer recognized this person.
A cold chill ran through my body. I telephoned my mother’s minister, asking her to come over. She visited with my mother, reciting several Bible versus to comfort her. Later that night, I stood next to her bed with my hands face down on her torso. I felt the slight breeze of my mother’s spirit departing her body, leaving behind an empty physical shell. Having held several of my farm animals at the time of their death, I was familiar with this feeling.
My mother lived through one more night. Terrified of having her expire while I slept by her side as I had 10 nights prior, I chose not to sleep next to her that night. My stepfather filled the vacant spot on the couch. The next morning, I bolted out of bed at 6:00 a.m. I raced to my mother’s side, all the while expecting to find a lifeless form.
Instead, I found a completely unrecognizable being. Stunned at the ghastly site of her, I stood back not knowing what to do or think. At last very quietly, I sat down next to her bed, wrapping myself in her favorite blanket. I was in and out of the chair until 10:45 a.m. All the while I thought to myself, “For what, on GOD’s green earth, is she waiting?” Finally, it dawned on me to leave her alone.
I decided to take a bath and “relax” a few minutes. As I was leaning back in my mother’s bathtub, my heart began to pound and my stomach felt uneasy. Jumping out of the tub, I wrapped myself in a towel and ran to her side. Sensing her death was near; I called my stepfather to come quickly. As he walked up and stood beside me next to her bed, my mother took her last breath of life. It was 11:03 a.m., Saturday, April 21.  My mother was only 63 years old.
            A family friend operates our local mortuary. I telephoned, telling him my mother just died. He and an associate immediately came over to the house. With them, they brought a gurney and a body bag. Together, we lifted my mother from her former resting place onto the bag, which lay on top of the gurney. When I tucked her body in, I tenderly touched her face one last time. After a final long gaze at her, I zipped the bag closed. The gurney was rolled out of our living room and into an waiting van.
            That night as I lay in bed, I cried with barely the energy to do so. Overwhelmed with a feeling of emptiness, fear and being alone, I could not believe I was still alive. Then, I remembered my mother’s words, “Honey Bunny, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll always be here for you.” At that moment, I knew her spirit would guide me the rest of my life.
The same applies when I long for Ross, my brother, who took his life on July 4, 1999. I say his name and once again, I feel he is by my side. Whenever I need my mother, all I have to do is call for her. As always throughout my life, she will be here for me.

In loving memory of Frances Herald Chapter,
My mother
Born: December 19, 1937San FranciscoCA.
Died: April 21, 2001ReddingCA.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there I do not sleep,
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on the 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 quiet birds in circled flight,
I am soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,
            I am not there,
I did not die. 

Struve and Laporte