Tag Archives: Love

Family Bonds


Armorel and L.

Armorel and L.

I spoke with my mother-in-law, Armorel, tonight. She told me, “I feel sad tonight, somehow.” And that’s exactly how I feel tonight,  just sad somehow.

To set the record straight, Armorel is not my mother-in-law any longer. Twelve years ago I gave up any official, legal status as one of her family members when I was divorced from her son. It was a painful break-up, hers and mine, for we had seemed to share a mutual understanding about life. At times the break-up seemed even more painful than his and mine.

I have missed Armorel in my life, the way she once was. I’ve missed the bond I thought we had. In the years that we were close, Armorel was the gentle spirit of a mother I had always wished for, and I thought she viewed me as another daughter. We would easily converse for hours. But divorce can break families in unexpected ways. Lines of communication are no longer smooth or open.

This weekend Armorel moved to an assisted-living residence. She is 96 years old, and until now, has pretty much lived an independent life. Armorel only just gave up her car at 94, with more than a little reluctance and feistiness.

In fact Armorel has lived a mostly independent life, at times having to be fiercely independent. When she was 18, Armorel left a small fishing village in Newfoundland to join other hard-working “Newfs” in Chelsea, Mass.  She married at 28, and at  36 was the sole support of her family with two young children, her husband gravely ill with brain cancer. By 47,  Armorel’s children had left for college, and her home was empty. At 63 she married again but had just three, sweet, short years with her second love.

Armorel is accustomed to the tough changes that life can bring, and she’s always demonstrated amazing resilience in continuing on. Her faith has a lot to do with that.

But tonight’s phone call was different. It was our first conversation with Armorel since she moved into the assisted-living residence, and her strong spirit seemed to waiver. My daughter spoke to Armorel first. Looking concerned, she mouthed to me, “Grandma’s very sad.” When I took the phone to speak, Armorel’s deeply sad voice sighed, “Oh, Sarah.”  Armorel didn’t need to say more. I understood. And it was at that moment that I recognized the bond we’ll share forever. It’s a bond known only by the heart and not by divorce decrees.

I knew exactly what Armorel meant by “Oh, Sarah” and what it said of where she was right now and where she has been in the past and what she has thought about. Because I know Armorel. I truly know her, despite those in-between hurt spaces of our lives. I know, and love, all the family stories about Armorel and her Newfoundland sisters, a time so long ago. And I dearly remember the wonderful times in our lives together, in the not so distant past.

“Oh, Sarah” she said again with such great wistfulness. And I welled up. There was so much to say and so little that could change things. Armorel knew that I understood what she meant. “I’m so sorry Armorel,” I said gently.

“I know I’ll get to like it,” she offered. “I know you will,” I encouraged. We both got quiet. There was a peace in that moment, a quiet reflective space. We understood. We have a bond. We weren’t just  talking about a new living arrangement but about a stage of life. A stage you only face if you’ve been gifted a very long life. It’s such a bittersweet gift. A gift that requires a lifetime’s worth of heartful courage, a strong spirit and abiding faith to navigate its course. Armorel will, I am sure, continue  life’s journey with exemplary grace.

Love you, Armorel… always have, always will.

Life is good (and sometimes just hard)

A Requiem for my Father

Four years ago, I was reminded just how fragile and tenuous life is when my father passed away a day after Christmas following a brief illness.  The preciousness of each day was highlighted for me during that holiday week.

Holidays often do not turn out how we  plan them.  Our lives often do not turn out how we plan them.

This year I was in the hospital for emergency surgery a day before Christmas, and it reminded me of the poignancy of that last holiday season with my father.  After  I returned home from the hospital,  I got out the scrapbook I had made in memory of him. As I opened the scrapbook, a folded piece of notepaper fell out of it.  I picked it up and realized that it was a piece of writing that I had forgotten about. I was so happy to find it. A serendipitous,  unexpected Christmas gift.

The piece contained my  hastily written-down observations about my father, as well as verbatim comments he made, while he was slowly slipping away during that holiday week four years ago.  It had been my attempt to capture and remember, in writing, the spirit of my father as he was leaving this world. . . .

At the end –

He was apologetic and regretful

– To me, to my daughter, to my sister and her son for hurting us in any way. He was regretful for not having met his grandson.

He was quiet and reflective

– Speaking  of his long forgotten friends from high school and remembering that a friend who was Jewish had a hard time socially in their 1940’s community.  He admired how his friend had handled it.

He was gently brave

-Trying a Healing Touch treatment offered by the hospital chaplain (My Dad was a 1940’s veteran, not a “new age” type of fellow), he commented afterwards, “That was wonderful!”  The chaplain, a retired Nun, responded, “You’re glowing!” Then, my dad said, “Really? I haven’t been glowing much these days.”

He was sarcastic

– Joking and laughing with the nurses, he liked that they appreciated his wry sense of humor.  Speaking of his sister, he said it annoyed him when she sat on his hospital bed without asking.  He observed, “She sits on my bed and holds court like Grace Kelly!”

He was peaceful and calm

-Listening to Christmas music we had brought, Ave Maria became his chosen favorite.  At one point he asked for us to turn off the music but, “wait till Ave Maria is finished.”

He was parental

– Asking my grown daughter when I was out of the room, “I think I know the answer to this question, but is she (meaning me) a good mother?”

My daughter replied “She’s wonderful.”

My father replied “I thought so.”

He was ethereal

– Lying so still and calm in his bed with his hands folded in prayer position, I often thought he was asleep when he was not.  If I would get up to leave the room at these times, he would suddenly open his eyes and say,  “Just sit with me.”  I think he wanted that peaceful protection of someone you trust watching guard while you rest.

He was illuminated

-Letting the burdens and hurts of this world pass from him, he reached out with the deep inner love that is within us all

Love you Dad!  Miss you!

Life is Fine,