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 miss the bond I thought we had. But divorce can break families in unexpected ways and the lines of communication are not 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 by 35 was the sole support of her family with two young children, her husband gravely ill with brain cancer. At 46 Armorel’s children 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 challenging. It was our first conversation with Armorel since she moved to her new home, her assisted-living residence. My daughter spoke to her first and looked concerned mouthing, “she’s very sad.” As I took the phone to speak, Armorel’s wavering, deeply sad voice said to me, “Oh, Sarah.”  She didn’t need to say more. 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 she 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 sisters, a time so long ago. And I remember the wonderful times in our lives together in the not so distant past.

“Oh, Sarah” she said with such great wistfulness, and I welled up. There was so much to say and so little that would change things. Armorel knew that I understood what she meant. “I’m so sorry Armorel,” I replied. “I know I’ll get to like it,” she offered. “I know you will,” I encouraged. We both got quiet. And there was peace in that moment of quiet, a reflective space. We understood. We have a bond. We weren’t just  talking about her new living arrangement but about this stage in her life. It’s such a terribly bittersweet stage, but a stage you only face if you’ve been gifted a very long life. Armorel will, I am sure, live it with 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 life is when my father passed away a day after Christmas following a brief illness.  The preciousness of each day was highlighted for me  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 ended up in the hospital for emergency surgery right before Christmas, and it reminded me of the poignancy of my last holiday season with my father.  Soon after  I was back at home, I searched for the scrapbook I had made for him and found a piece of writing I had forgotten about.

The piece consisted of hastily written-down comments  my father had made and observations I had during that time 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

– To me, to my daughter, to my sister (when he was confused and thought I was she)….  for hurting us in anyway.

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!”  When the chaplain responded “You’re glowing”, he 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 to . . . “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,