A lot has transpired since I last wrote in this space and I've hardly thought about blogging in part because some of the things feel hard to put words to. It's easy to talk about Kali's 14th birthday and the fun surrounding it, or experiencing the solar eclipse, or what's coming out of the gardens... It's harder to put words to my swirling thoughts and emotions surrounding Samuel's death. That is going to take some time. We look forward to gatherings with hundreds more tomorrow to remember him, grieve together and celebrate a life well lived. But that's just a few hours of one day. I'm trying to figure out what it will be like in the months and years to come to not have his physical presence here with us. The reminders of him, no doubt, abound. But it's not the same, not even close!
Kali had wanted to see Samuel again and we had found an evening where Mom and Dad could watch the two younger girls while we went up the hill for a short visit. That evening, right before we were about to head up, we learned that he was laboring more breathing and it seemed that the end was probably near. Jason and I still went up, but without Kali. She has handled it well (externally at least) that she didn't get to say goodbye, but my hearts aches about that.
I cannot articulate well how much of a gift it was to me to be welcomed into their home. Samuel and Margaret, their children and grandchildren all there. I feel like the things I want to say about it could have the tendency to come out really oddly and not be understood in the ways I mean them. That evening as I sat with Samuel it really felt like he was laboring. I didn't sense that he was anxious or worried, but definitely that he was working. The hardest thing was not being able to understand his murmurings. I didn't miss the few little smiles I caught glimpse of or the soft chuckles I detected as we talked and sang to him. It was not easy to leave. I wanted to be there. I wanted to support him, to be present with him, to tell him what he meant to us and that he could do this and was doing it with such strength.
I felt again within myself that pull to work at one end or the other of the life spectrum. I think I've mentioned my goal of being a doula some day. While the tug is different, I feel as compelled almost to help people die well as I do to help women birth well. Many women give birth and yet the experiences of women birthing is so varied. It seems similar with dying, except we all do that (men and women alike). The idea of a "good death" may seem weird but I really do feel like death can be done in ways that lessen the pain and grief of the loved ones that remain or can be a traumatic event for the dying and those that love them. Like Nora, I feel like Samuel died the way he lived - courageously, thinking of others to the very end, and without fighting. It's not that it makes the missing less or the grieving easy. It just felt like Samuel's death was as close to as he would have wanted it that I could imagine - with his family surrounding him in the home they built together on the hillside where they planted fruit trees and raised their family.
Samuel died 2 days after Kali's 14th birthday so the week was one of celebration and loss. Samuel was also good at holding life's paradoxes and complexities and so we tried to do the same. She has gotten in some what of a birthday rut, and so the festivities looked a lot like the last few years, the kids in the pictures are just getting bigger. There was a birthday party and sleepover with an outdoor fire and this year homemade ice cream and a rainbow! We made our first large batch of salsa to enjoy fresh before/during/after the party! A birthday brunch with funny cake pie rather than a birthday cake.
And then the yearly trek to the fair which fell on her actual bday this year, complete with a picnic of pesto cheese tomato and sprout sandwiches and lots of fair rides. Oh, other than children getting bigger, I'd add that each year this parent feels a bit sicker on the rides! Terah's bravery increased throughout the evening and by the end she was clinging to her merry-go-round horsey and saying "more, more." She wasn't sure about the first ferris wheel ride, but thankfully accepted my explanation that I could not get us "down" but we'd have to wait for the person that got us on to let us off.
Speaking of rides, we splurged recently and got Terah an early birthday present. She's been enjoying the little horsey we have in the house, a long term borrow from Samuel and Margaret. She really can zoom fast around on that. And when the older girls are out riding their bikes, she wants to be big enough for the tricycle we have. So we got her a little bike to use on the flat spot. She's still getting a hang of the steering on this one and has been dumped off a good number of times, but she'll get there! This little gal seems to never be without a few boo boo's!
Before this nap comes to a close, a few other things so I can be more or less "caught up" on the notables for now.
The girls enjoyed a new experience (knockerball) when we attended a surprise bday party for my brother-in-law. Jason also got in one and got knocked around a bit. :) The things we humans come up with for entertainment!!
A blog post in August would not be complete without some kind of food update. We made a lot of special things surrounding Kali's birthday, including me finally making sufficiently flaky biscuits at her request - but not without caving and buying some white flour. The biscuits did make pretty sweet ends for a little sausage sandwich with our recently made batch of chicken sausage. It's so nice that some of Kali's favorite foods are shared by the rest of the family! And BIG SUCCESS - Kali grew eggplants and we got to enjoy fried eggplant thanks to her determination and persistence!
We had a very fun playdate with Ivy recently while her parents enjoyed a few hours to themselves. We all hope it is the first of many! We got some playing in and a little stint at the swingset but that little gal spent the majority of the time in the high chair eating supper. I wasn't sure when to just say "ok enough supper" when she seemed so enthusiastic about continuing to open her little mouth for each spoonful. It was so delightful to spend the evening with her, even if Terah is not 100% about her increased mobility. She seemed to really like when Ivy could be plopped in her lap and she'd just remain there. Those days are over!
Remember those huge rocks we hauled as a family months back? Jason got them placed in Nora's garden last week. It seemed the most fitting activity for the work times Jason had in the day or two after Samuel's death. And now there is good seating there for us - I'd love to get in the habit of spending a few minutes there daily (but at first I should probably just aim for weekly or even monthly!). He still is hoping to gather some additional rocks before the project is complete but it was nice to get it to the next stage in the process anyway.
And finally: the sky! We've had some great thunderheads and then of course the solar eclipse. 1/5 of our family missed it entirely (napping), 2/5 of us stayed at home to keep things going on the home front and as noted earlier it's my craziest work time, and 2/5 of us got to go to TN with family to see the total eclipse. Kali and Alida enjoyed a trip of a lifetime, thanks to E&K for treating them to a wonderful time! I got a few peaks at the Virginia less impressive version of it when I stepped out of the office briefly and I got the blow by blow by text from Jason who was rather enthralled by it at home. :) I will say that the shadows were amazing!
In closing, Jason found this monarch recently when he went to check the cocoons on the milkweed. We sang "In the Bulb there is a Flower" at my Grandma Myers' memorial. I think of Samuel now and the line, "in cocoons a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free."