Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Because obituaries are just way too short...moonshadow moonshadow

Friday evening we got the word it would be within hours. My husband stayed until around 2 am, but finally had come home. Then about 4:30 am on Saturday the phone rang. Verna had just gone in her sleep. We were relieved for her--she'd been in pain and was so weak since her stroke. But what a loss for the rest of us.

The obituary is just a brief outline. Not even a sketch of one woman's life. I only arrived at the last quarter. But here is what I remember:

They used to live in a tiny house in south west Provo. But on that small lot life was abundant. Verna could grow anything--inside or out. She kept geraniums alive, blooming, vibrant and happy all year round. And I've never seen anyone with more beautiful roses nor anyone who could make them bloom all summer long. It wasn't just a hobby. It was a passion. When my husband and I were dating (and we dated for forever) I would often find Verna's roses left in my apartment in tiny vases of water. Those were better and much more my style than dozens of long-stemmed roses from the florist. My favorite of hers was a pale purple rose with the sweetest of scents--it's called Moon Shadow. I've tried to grow my own, but mine are never as prolific. Nor do they ever seem quite as fragrant.

Verna accepted me like family long before I was officially so. And I always felt as though she accepted and loved me unconditionally. She treated me as if I were one of her own.

Another of Verna's passions was crocheting. Each of my four babies was blessed wrapped in a most beautiful blanket made by her hands. Even after her eyesight dimmed I would find Verna sitting in her favorite spot working her magic with a hook and a ball of yarn. It was as if her fingers had chained so many rows they knew exactly where to go--what to do--even without her eyes to guide them.

I've never been a big fan of Barbie, but Verna had a collection to be admired. Her tiny house on the west side could barely house them all. But when the city decided to raze that little row of houses and Verna moved into a larger home on the south east side of town they got their own room. She collected all sorts of dolls and had an enviable thimble collection as well.

Last year I decided I needed to make Verna a quilt for her birthday. It was a project I had started for myself, then decided to give to her, even though it was something I really loved. I finished it just in time and was so excited to give it to her on her actual birthday.

Let me tell you something about the giving of a quilt. Quilters put something of themselves into a quilt that only others who quilt understand. And they seal it almost always quite literally with a little blood, sweat and tears. This kind of meaning is often lost on the recipient, except when the recipient is another quilter.

As I gave Verna her quilt she got it. And she bestowed upon me the highest form of gratitude I could've imagined, "Oh, Mama would've loved this. She would've been so proud!"

A few weeks ago we got a call early in the morning. Verna was in the hospital. She'd had a stroke. I was leaving for Arizona the very next day and was debating whether or not to cancel my plans. But it appeared she was going to be OK, so I went. On my way home I talked to my husband and he told me she was getting ready to go home. Loved ones were coming to get her.

The day I arrived back in town I went to visit her in the hospital. She held me tight and said, "I was waiting for you to come." I knew I wasn't what she was waiting for, but I knew that she had anticipated my return. That meant a lot to me. I told her how much I loved her and she responded likewise. She acknowledged each of my kids in a deep and personal way. Pure love. I wondered why we wait till death to admit such depth of feeling to one another. I love the raw honesty of moments such as that. And the tenderness. I need more of it. I think we all do.

My husband, who is especially close to this particular aunt, went to visit her and tuck her in every night for those three weeks. Blood is thicker than water. It will be hard to say good-bye.

Bye. I love you.