folding shirts

"The Ages of Life" by Georges Lacombe
“The Ages of Life” by Georges Lacombe

We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies. These spirits form our lives, and they may reveal themselves in mere trivialities – a quirk of speech, a way of folding a shirt. From the earliest days of my life, I encountered the past at every turn, in every season.
~ Shirley Abbott
(Womenfolks: Growing Up Down South)

Early this morning I was awakened by a dream, one of those slice-of-life dreams that seems profound in some way. In the dream my father was young again, folding a pile of his fresh white t-shirts, as he used to do so meticulously on his laundry day. Padding over to the computer, I soon discovered our internet connection was down… So… I started looking through my quote collection to find one to go with the painting above, and smiled at the ‘folding a shirt’ connection to my dream.

I have the feeling I’ll be taking a leave of absence from blogging for now. Friday I had a root canal and other dental work done under conscious sedation, and the effects of the sedation didn’t wear off completely until late Saturday. Tim had some dental work done on Monday as well and both of us are still recuperating and on pain meds.

Meanwhile things have reached a crisis level with my aunt, who is 97. She now needs full-time care and seems to be declining rather quickly. She’s not eating and losing weight rapidly. Another aunt is in town and was working at finding her a place in a nursing home, but my long-suffering sister has decided that she would rather move Auntie into my father’s house so she and her husband can care for both her and Dad. Fortunately they have an appointment with an agency to get some professional in-home assistance, and an appointment with Hospice, too.

Both of Auntie’s sons predeceased her, but her granddaughter, who lives in Tennessee, is in town now as well. She doesn’t want to die alone, so the aim is to keep her surrounded by those who love her.

Nothing is here to stay
Everything has to begin and end
A ship in a bottle won’t sail
All we can do is dream that the wind will blow us across the water
A ship in a bottle set sail
~ Dave Matthews
♫ (Baby) ♫

I have been assigned the task of planning for a simple cremation by-passing the cost of and toxic chemicals used at funeral homes. This research is bringing up all kinds of emotions. On the one hand it makes sense to be ready with a plan, but the very act of planning seems cold and calculating somehow… Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial by Mark Harris has been helpful. I wish there was a natural cemetery in Connecticut, but since there isn’t, cremation seems best.

Things have changed a lot since my mother died twenty-one years ago. Online I found the Cremation Society of New England. If I understand what I’m reading correctly, one can fill out forms online and have plans in place for when the last moment has arrived. But I will have to read this over a little at a time…

I love the painting at the top of this post, “The Ages of Life.” It seems to be a stage in a play. The woman in the lower right corner makes me think of Auntie, left widowed at such a young age. And now she seems to be the black figure with the cane in the background, quietly leaving the scene.

26 thoughts on “folding shirts”

  1. What a wonderful post. For everything there IS a season… and it’s wise to discern our seasons as we move through them. I also was faced with cremation for my late husband. I know he had no problems with it – in fact he mentioned he preferred it. I too would have rather had a natural interment but in Connecticut I found no way for that either. I didn’t have time to plan for John. It came of a sudden… although he had been failing for years. Yet I think of it now as not being cold, but as being loving and caring for this last stage in this life here with us together. He would have thought it caring to take care of mine. I know from the years of his caring in all sorts of life experiences we shared.

    1. Thank you so much for your encouraging words, Merrill. I’m very sorry for the loss of your husband – how long ago did he die?

      Tim & I feel the same way about cremation. We were so unprepared for making all these decisions when my mother died, even though we knew for several months beforehand that she would not survive her battle with cancer. My sister and I wandered around nearby towns in a daze, looking for a funeral home we “liked.” My father was too devastated to cope and the hospital was getting irritated with us for not making arrangements to have mom’s body removed in a timely manner. It would really have been better to have wrestled with these decisions ahead of time. We’ll do better, I think, handling arrangements for Dad and Auntie.

  2. I’m so sorry things are all piling up on you right now, and for your aunt’s worsening condition.

    One thing you can do is to plant a tree in honour of your aunt, when she goes. That’s a way to create and look after new life after someone has gone.

    Oh and give yourself time after the conscious sedation. I had years of that and know only too well how it affects one.

    Take care, and take all the time you need. Hugs.

    1. Thanks, Val, you’re a sweetheart…

      Planting a tree (or two) in the fall sounds like a good idea, since we’ve been meaning to do that ever since our two lovely birch trees were removed a decade or so ago. They were supposedly in the way of renovations – long story…

      If we get a couple of kittens in the fall that would be some new life to look after, too. 🙂

      We love our compassionate dentists – conscious sedation is a blessing, even if it does take a good while to shake it off!

      Things seem to going well so far up at Dad’s – they are getting 40 hours a week of in-home assistance – and that will be a blessing, too, especially after my sister returns to lecturing in the fall semester.

      Thanks so much for your moral support – it means a lot to me!

  3. Barbara, your heart is wide and beautiful. Your ancestors speak through you, all the time. I know you will do what your heart calls. If you’re off blogging for a while, we will miss you, but know your heart is bringing you to where you need to be. Love, Kathy

    1. Thank you Kathy, my dear friend! Every other day or so I get phone call from my sister with a progress report. Auntie seems to be settling in and making herself quite at home and even seems to have found a second wind. I’m so relieved that lots of outside help has been arranged to give my poor sister a bit of a break. Lots of love and *hugs* to you, too!

  4. We will miss you, your art and your intuition.

    This post tells me that your sense of history and family will keep you strong and able to embrace and face your current challenges. We will be here when you return.

  5. You definitely have a blessed heart Barbara! Everything in this post made me so emotional & yet, gave a courage. “Nothing is here to stay…” There are certain people, I want them to be around me forever. But, in the coming days they will wave good bye. 🙁

    I hope the things are fine at your aunties place. Life moves on…

    Thank you so much, and do take good care of your self, because of the root canal. I know its quite irritating.

    1. Thank you, Sonali! It’s sad but true that no relationship will last forever, at least in this life. But sometimes I think relationships can be eternal, if our minds and hearts are open to the universe and the blessings it offers… And if some relationships are eternal, they certainly keep evolving, even as they do here. Indeed, life does move on…

      Dr. Seuss once said something to the effect that we should not be sad when something is over, we should rather be happy that it happened. That thought always comforts me. And as my dad used to say to comfort me whenever one of my pets died, remember the good times!

  6. The quote is perfect. I love the way it refers to our ancestors dwelling in the attics of our brains.

    I’ll miss your posts–but you’re doing what you need to do, and you can always resume blogging when things settle down. You have a wonderful perspective on the importance of families. My thoughts are with you.

    1. Thank you, Sheryl, I miss you, too! I love the idea of ancestors dwelling in the attics of our brains, too. It’s comforting to have them so close and to contemplate the wisdom they have passed down to us descendants. I was such a dreamy little kid that when my mother used to tuck me in and say things like, “sleep tight” or “snug as a bug in a rug,” I didn’t wonder what the words meant, I wondered what maternal ancestress said them first and how many generations the sayings passed down, mother to daughter, to get to me.

  7. Wishing you the best, Barbara, as you take a blogging break. There is a lot on your plate right now, and it looks like you are tending to it consciously and with presence. Thank you for the folding shirts quote. The quote brings us to earth and yet inspires us simultaneously. May your root canal heal and your aunt’s suffering be eased.

    1. Thank you, Kathy. Funny how the blogging break started for one reason and wound up being used for another reason. The months to come should prove to be very interesting and full of surprises, I suspect. One never knows which ancestor will reveal themselves in a mere triviality next!

  8. The ages of life indeed. I too notice my dreams and how they interweave with my past and present, they’re always worth paying attention to.

    May everything go well for you and yours, Barbara- come back after a break and let us know how everything is going!

    1. Thank you for your kind wishes, Tracy! Auntie has settled into her new life and seems to be a little revived, although each day she seems to feel a little differently about what is to her liking. Thankfully she is fond of one of the in-home caregivers, but she rejected the other one so they are looking for another to take her place. Very long good-byes can be really tough on everyone.

  9. I’ve missed you Barbara! The last couple of months have been pretty hectic for me, so I haven’t spent as much time online as usual, but noticed I hadn’t “bumped into you” anywhere. I see now that you are having a planned break (mine was unplanned!) and wish you well with all you are feeling and going through.

    I know that out ancestors speak to us in our dreams, and there are no coincidences. Folding Shirts is so significant to you right now, and I love how you have expressed your feelings.

    Take care, my friend. I look forward to your return. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Joanne, for your kind words of encouragement, and for understanding about dreams and ancestors. I put a sweet potato chili in the slow-cooker this morning and am using the rest of this day trying to catch up a bit in the blogosphere.

      I continue to be dazzled by all the marvelous pictures you’re getting with that new camera!

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