About Me

Thanks for being here! I am a mom of three (two girls, 15 and 13, and one boy, 9) and a teacher of many (thousands during my more than 17 years teaching high school English and Spanish in Philadelphia). Forever a student, I love learning - whether through talking to others, reading, watching movies and documentaries, or traveling. I also love running (slowly), hiking, and practicing yoga!

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Coat, My Mom's Coat

Me in my winter coat. Photo by 10-year-old Grace. 
Last year, my mom gave me a winter coat for Christmas. It is warm -- filled with "Premium European Goose Down" -- and covers me from head to knees. She gave it to me a month early because, like this year, winter arrived in November. I wore it almost every day. My sister laughed when she saw me in it because she had, unbeknownst to my mom, picked out an almost identical coat for her. So it came to be that my mom and I had matching coats. Yet my sister never got to give my mom the coat the way she wanted to. A week before Christmas, my mom had a CAT scan showing that she was not responding to treatment. A few days later, she and my dad met with hospice/palliative care. That day, Kate called me while I was driving to my parents. We cried together and debated whether or not she should give my mom the coat. Yes, we eventually decided. It was an act of hope, even though we knew. And my mom and I did wear those coats together a few times. She came to Grace's basketball games until she couldn't, always wearing the coat that made us laugh when we saw each other. "The twins," my mom would say.

She wore it, too, to her last doctor's appointment at Penn. It was on a Friday afternoon and the plan was that I would meet her and  my dad at their house and drive with them, but a snowstorm snarled traffic, so we decided to meet at the hospital. I knew that when it took me an hour and a half to drive across the city (usually a 15-minute drive) that my parents were in trouble, but what were they to do? They had already left and there was no turning back. Four hours later, and many panicked phone calls between my dad and me as he tried to find the best route (at one point I asked a police officer at the information desk, and he just shook his head, "Lady, the whole city's at a standstill. There's no good route"), my parents made it to within two blocks of the hospital, but were still not moving. My dad called, "Mom got out of the car and is walking the rest of the way. I think I'll be another half hour. I'll call you when I park.") I ran outside to look for her, but the snow was swirling and vision was tough. I crossed the street, walked in the direction of my dad's car, and still didn't see her. Wondering how I would ever find her, I ran back towards the hospital and there she was, standing right in front. "Mom!" I yelled, waving my hands above me, then running. She, in her coat, lifted her hand as well and smiled, shaking her head. A moment more and we were together, laughing at the absurdness of it all. In the nearly empty hospital we at first found that no one was on her floor, but a nurse on her way out led us to another floor, where, when I knocked and opened the door, another nurse, once I had explained our situation, said "Don't worry. We'll take care of you here. We got you." And they did.

This year, I've already worn the coat to the girls' soccer games, and to work. Every time I put it on I think of my mom with gratitude. Did she know what a perfect gift this would be when she gave it last year? Did she know how much I would appreciate feeling warm, and loved, every time I put it on? Sometimes, when I miss my mom too much, I like to think of seeing her again one day. And maybe it will be just like that day at Penn, in the snowstorm, when we finally found each other again and laughed about our arduous journeys. "Can you believe it?" we'll shake our heads, but not unhappily, because we are together. "So much time to get here!"

For now, I have the coat. The cold weather is bitter and brutal, and I can't say I enjoy it one bit, but I can stand it because of my coat, and that's going to be enough until the spring.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Life is a Struggle. Enjoy the Struggle.

The above advice came to me via one of my high school seniors, via her grandmother, Millicent Bracy. I like it, and I I've been thinking about it this last week, which was a bit of a struggle. It started last Friday night with Joseph, my three year old, throwing a massive fit in Barnes and Noble because he wanted a Spider Man toy, which Genevieve, my eight year old, had shown him. He didn't want to leave without it, and he didn't want to leave, period. After I slide tackled him to keep him from running away I still had to wait in line to buy the birthday present we were there for, because we had a packed day the next day, starting at 7 am and leading all the way up to my niece's 3:30 pm birthday party, and there was simply no other time we could buy it. Sorry, Barnes and Noble customers of last Friday night. I really am sorry. I could tell by your looks that you were not pleased. I know that listening to my son yell, "I'm putting slobber on you!" and then watching him actually wipe slobber on me must not have been your idea of an ideal evening. I did not enjoy it either.
Joseph, in a moment of peace.

The next morning we all stood shivering in the pouring rain to watch my daughter's tournament soccer games. That was actually a highlight of the week. I always love watching Grace play. Afterwards, it was to my niece's birthday party. Another highlight. I roller-skated and ate cake, so you can see why. (I also gave her the birthday present that we had so painstakingly picked out the night before). But that night, it was on to the beach, and the next morning, Sunday morning, my sister, dad, and I, as planned, kayaked out on the sparkling waters that had been such a part of my mom's life and said our final goodbyes (if there can ever be such a thing as final goodbyes). My heart was heavy. My heart is heavy.  And so, as I woke up each morning to run this week, I contemplated Millicent Bracy's advice: Life is a Struggle. Enjoy the Struggle.

Enjoying the struggle in Barnegat
Each day, the alarm would go off in the dark, and I would run west alone. This week, I was thinking about my dad. He came over in the rain on Monday to plant daffodil bulbs in our front garden. Joseph helped, placing each bulb in the hole my dad had dug for him and covering it with dirt. When they finished, Joseph looked at the ground, head tilted, and said, "Are they gonna grow now?" No, Joseph, they will not grow now. And each morning, as I ran in the dark, this is what I thought about. How long it takes for things to grow. How hard it is to wait, not knowing if they ever will. Still, I kept running. Not many people were out this week, in the dark. When I crossed the footbridge, where in September I was rewarded for my efforts with the beautiful pink hints of a sunrise, I was still in the dark.

I know, somehow, that I need to keep running, that this is what is saving me, but it didn't feel good this week. Still, I keep going. On Thursday, finally, a block from home, I felt relieved. It was still dark, but I had gotten up another morning, and I had done what I know I needed to do. A cool glass of water was ahead of me, and a warm shower. Almost home! Then, without warning, I fell flat on my face. I was in my neighbor's driveway, my foot having caught a slight crack. If someone hadn't just pulled into the the next driveway over, I would have been crying as I lay face-down on the sidewalk, my hand and hip hurting. Instead, I jumped up, embarrassed, and waved to the car to show I was ok. I am ok! I am ok! She was not my neighbor, as I thought, but just a woman turning around. She quickly drove away.
Seeing my dear friend Crary in NY, a highlight of the week.  Worth the ticket.

Am I enjoying the struggle of my life? I am not sure. I'd like to be the kind of person who does. Maybe it's more that I enjoy the moments between the struggle. This weekend, after   a week of more children throwing fits, several unexpected and rather steep bills, many nights of less sleep than I would like, and a traffic ticket of $143 for making an illegal right turn in New York City (for what it's worth, I really didn't see that no turn sign), I  could also look back and see many moments of sweetness. Last night, my family and I went camping. We roasted marshmallows around the campfire and slept side by side in a tent by the lake. We talked and laughed and felt blessed. And I was all set to write about this, and only this, tonight.

These guys are worth the struggle. Even slobber. 
Honestly, that's all I should write about, because I am blessed. BUT, that's not the end of the story. Because we came home to find we had been robbed. Computers, television, stereo, jewelry of great sentimental value … even Grace's $15 Target alarm clock was gone (our vacuum, too). So I guess this is what life is going to be like. For every sunrise, dark mornings. Unexpected falls on my face. Not, as the saying goes, a rose garden. And, like Joseph, I want the flowers to grow now! I want my rose garden. We planted them, didn't we? Why aren't they growing? Will they grow tomorrow? When, dear flowers deep in the ground, will you grow? Because I am waiting.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sisters and Friends

At the beach on a beautiful September Saturday

Last weekend we celebrated my sister's birthday at the beach with three of her closest friends. The five of us decided last March, near my sister's actual birthday, that we were going to do this. We didn't know how at the time, but we would.

Kate and I drove down together late Thursday evening and arrived at the dark house in a soft rain. We slept in my parents' bedroom, which for me sweetly connected us to all those evenings throughout our lives when we had slept in the same bedroom together: in the house on East Park Avenue, when I would try to hide under her covers so my parents wouldn't see me, at the beach, in the twin beds, with the windows open and the sound of the ocean lulling us to sleep, in the attic bedroom on Woodland Avenue, waiting for Christmas morning... Thousands of nights have come and gone since those childhood days, of course, but as we brushed our teeth and put on pajamas in that quiet house I felt that I could touch the taut wire of our lives and feel a current running through that had never been interrupted.

The sweetness was touched by sadness, too, though. Kate put words to it first, saying, as she appeared from the bathroom after washing her face, "Is it just me or is this really hard?" Yes, it was really hard. My mom's shoes still lined the closet floor, and her books--she always had books--filled the nightstand. All of our children had been snuggled by her in this bed, on lazy weekend mornings when there was no need to rush, and we, too, had often joined her and them. I cannot remember what we talked about, but I remember laughing.

Perhaps it is fitting, then, that while out to dinner Saturday night for the official celebration of Kate's birthday, that our group, after a particularly loud outburst of laughter, was approached by the manager of the lovely restaurant where we were dining and asked if we could try to be a bit more quiet. "There have been some complaints, I'm so sorry," she said. She really did seem sorry. Later, we
Kate and my mom at the beach years ago. 
discovered that the "complaints" were all from the same grumpy looking man who had been glaring at us all evening. I wish him more laughter. I wish us all more laughter, and more time with those we love. Could there ever be enough time?

My mom's friends had one last gathering at the beach with her last September, before she got really sick, and I know that it was filled with laughter, too, even as my mom faced the most difficult time of her life. Swimming in the ocean, paddle-boarding in the bay, and laughing this past weekend, I felt light and joyous and heavy and heartbroken all at the same time.

But oh how we laughed. We were sitting in a circle on the beach on Saturday afternoon, retracing the winding paths of our lives, when someone mentioned that she felt "a bit like Thelma and Louis." She meant like Thelma and Louis on their joyous journey, of course, not like Thelma and Louis as they drove off the cliff.  And we all agreed that if we were to make that movie, we would not have Thelma and Louis die in the end. They might not have had the future all wrapped up for them in a pretty bow, but they would have kept driving, at least, heading towards a future that was entirely their own, trying to leave the heartbreak behind. Yes, in our version, we all agreed, they would have kept living.
We were having so much fun that we forgot to take pictures. This is the only one of the group we got. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Morning Runs and Mom

I've started running in the morning. I wake when it's still dark, slip on the clothes I've laid out the night before, drink a glass of water, and head out the door. The crickets are chirping and the moon is out when I leave. The stars are shining, too. Then, it is down to the Cooper River, or "Cooper Wawa," as Grace used to call it when she was two (for Cooper Water, instead of Cooper River).
Grace riding around the Cooper Wawa five years ago ... 
Only a handful of people are also out at this time, and I've come to recognize the regulars. The other day, when it was raining, there was only one other man, walking with his umbrella. "We got us a shower," he said, not unhappily, as I ran by. I run west first, towards the city, towards the Delaware River to which the Cooper flows. By the time I reach the foot bridge to cross the river, the sky to the East is a pale orange-pink. The sunrise. I cross the river and run East too. Last week, one morning was particularly beautiful. There were a few clouds in the sky, each a slightly different delicate shade of pink, and a lone boat, a foursome, out on the river. I thought of my mom, as I so often do on those morning runs. Sometimes, I miss her so much that it is all I can do just to say her name, Mom. 

When I was little, my mom used to ride me around this river on the back of her bike. Once, there was a sudden thunderstorm, and we had to take shelter in a gazebo along the river. I remember feeling so safe. Mom, where are you? I asked that morning last week. My mom had made it clear to us before she died that she was not afraid of dying, if that was what was to be, though "Of course there is nothing I want more than to stay right here with all of you." I know that was true. Some people say, lightly, "Your mom is still with you," and of course though I know what they mean, she is not still with me. At least not in the same way that she used to be. How much I would love to be hugged by her one more time, or to hear her voice, or feel her hand warm in mine.

Last week, as I ran, I said goodbye to her again. I thought of her funeral, and how Ken Carter, the retired choir director of the Presbyterian Church in Haddonfield in which she, and I, had been raised, sang For the Beauty of the Earth. We hadn't seen Ken in years, but when the pastor called him up two days before the service to ask him if he would sing, he said yes without hesitation. Later, we found out that he had refused the honorarium. The song was his gift to us.

As I ran, the song's words came to me: For the beauty of the earth/for the glory of the skies/for the love which from our birth/over and around us lies ... This beauty, it is almost enough. Is it enough? Will it be enough for me? Can I believe, and remember, as a friend wrote to me after my mom's diagnosis, that "Our Creator is Good"?

As I crossed the bridge back home last week, the river beneath me, the sky above, I felt the answer, a gentle whisper in my heart: Yes. But ... Mom, Mom ... I still miss you so much. And just then, taking my breath away, a white egret glided in front of me, wings spread wide. For the joy of human love/brother, sister, parent, child/friends on earth and friends above/for all gentle thoughts and mild ...

So I will keep running, and I will keep running in the morning, even if it means rising in the dark. Somehow, between the stars above I begin with and the sunrise with which I end, I will find my answers, and my comfort, or at least I'll try.

These pictures were taken along the Cooper River after Hurricane Irene in August of 2011. There was flooding, and the wind was strong, really strong (thus my face, to the right). Though I am wearing running clothes, I didn't actually do much running after Joseph was born, until now. In that picture, I am standing on the bridge where I saw the egret (and have since seen the egret several times). 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Poopin' Perry's on the Phone

 I met my first best friend, Margo, on the first day of second grade. She made me laugh during lunch and played my favorite game ("pretend you're an animal") at a play-date at my house soon after. When I went to her house, her mom fed me snacks and invited me to stay for dinner. We walked to school together every day, spent nearly every afternoon together, and often had sleep-overs on the weekend. She held the umbrella for me as we walked to school the morning after my dog, Ranger, had died, and she, along with all my classmates, sent me a hand-made get-well card when I was out of school for two weeks with pneumonia.

To this day, I remember Margo's childhood phone number, as I called her house nearly every day from the rotary phone on my kitchen wall. We loved each other in that sweet childhood way that only first best friends can.
Me, Margo, and my Dad at the Haddonfield Five-Miler, our first-ever race, in 1984

There was only one complication: Margo's big brother, Jonathan. I thought of him then as a a high-schooler but now I realize he was probably a sixth or seventh-grader at most. He was a bit Kevin Arnold's older brother from the t.v. series The Wonder Years and a bit Greg Heffley's older brother in the book series (and movie) Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And he did not take a liking to me. He may not have liked anyone else, either, but I specifically remember how little he cared for me. Margo and I would be sitting at the kitchen table doing a puzzle and in would walk Jonathan. I would attempt a smile and a "Hi," only to be met by scowling and a grunt of disgust. 

Also, Jonathan claimed complete control over the family phone, so that every time I called (which was every day, possibly multiple times), he would answer. EVERY time. My name back then was Jenny Perry (I took the name Gentlesk when I got married), but when I called I didn't have to say my name because Jonathan knew my voice. Thus:


"Hi ... can I please speak to Margo?"

Silence. Deep sigh of irritation. Then ... 

"Maaaaar-gooooooo! Poopin' Perry's on the phone!"

Then Margo would answer. We always just pretended that we hadn't heard the offensive name though, of course, we had. I would feel a bit embarrassed ( thinking "I'm NOT Poopin' Perry, I'll show him!") and then I would move on. Margo couldn't help her brother, and I couldn't worry about my last name beginning with a P. Right? This is what we do for love. This is just what we do. 

Tune in next time for the story of how I hid in Jonathan's room during a game of hide-n-seek only to accidentally break his desk JUST as he came home ... You'll laugh, you'll cry ... 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Rooftop Dreaming

Camas para sueños (Beds for dreams) (1985) by Carmen Lomas Garza (1948-)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
I first saw Camas para sueños nearly five years ago when I was visiting Austin, Texas to attend a conference (and to see my dear friend Crary). On my lunch break I wandered down Congress Street and came across the Mexic-Arte Museum (http://mexic-artemuseum.org/), which was hosting an exhibit on Photography of the Mexican Revolution. After passing through the exhibit, I found in the gift shop a print of Camas para sueños, which I bought for the girls. Ok, it was also for me. The print now hangs, framed, where all can see it in our home. 

I especially love Camas para sueños because it reminds me of my sister and the dreaming we used to do as kids. Out my second-floor bedroom window in the 206 East Park Avenue home was a roof onto which I used to climb. Though I could never have put into words then the reason for my rooftop escapades all those evenings, I know now that they were essential. The roof was above the kitchen, where my mom would be, her steady presence allowing me to dream. 

My house now, too, has a roof to climb out on -- the one above the screened porch out back -- though the window air conditioning units make it difficult to do in the summer. That's ok, though. Summer has its own escapes. It is the fall, with all its demands of work and school, that makes time on the roof most inviting, and needed. I look forward to those evenings when we climb out, lie on our backs, and gaze at the towering pine tree above, and, beyond that, the stars. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Two Birds, Two Stories

I first thought I could write again about a month ago, and I knew what I was going to write about: Joseph and I had found a young, wounded sparrow outside our home, and we had saved it. That morning, before the sparrow, we had biked (Joseph in a seat on the back) to my parents' house about five miles away. There, I had sat on the bed where I last said goodbye to my mom and cried. That is, I cried for about 10 seconds until Joseph started squeezing my cheeks and making silly faces, screaming, "Don't cry! Stop crying!" I stopped -- laughed, even -- and we got ready to ride home, but I was still so sad.  

We were three houses away from our own home when we encountered the sparrow spinning in desperate circles on the sidewalk. We stopped, wondering what to do. This sparrow was clearly in trouble. 

Eventually, thinking of the cats that lived just down the street, I gathered a shoebox and some soft hand towels and placed the sparrow on the safety of our back screened-in porch. A quick drive to pick up the girls from basketball camp and we were back, the girls now joining in the concern and excitement. Grace called her cousin Emma, who said, "You should take it to Cedar Run." This wildlife refuge, just down the street from her home in Medford, had a hospital for treating wounded animals. Of course! I called. They would take her.
Animal lovers Joseph, Genevieve, and Grace. 

Forty minutes later, we drove the winding road through the woods that led to Cedar Run. The sparrow sat calmly now in its box on Genevieve's lap, then Grace's. When, after I had parked the car, I leaned over the box to check on her, the sparrow seemed to meet my gaze with a trusting look. Take care of me. Or, perhaps, it was resignation, and a question. This is out of my control. Will you take care of me, or hurt me?

It felt good carrying her into the hospital. We filled out some paperwork, passed the sparrow to them, and left. They seemed to know exactly what to do. 

That night, I thought about the sparrow, and how it had fallen onto my path so wounded and small. And I thought about how I had felt better after doing this small, good thing. I was ready to write. It felt good -- maybe great, even -- to make that decision. Thank you, little sparrow, I thought. 

But it was not to be. "Starting to doubt u only get what u can handle," was the text from one of my closest friends this week, telling me of a terrible crisis in her family that threatened to put her over the edge (it came on the heels of several other crises), "Wondering, what next?" Her words brought me back to the reason I never wrote the sparrow story. 

The night I planned to write, I arrived home from the movies with the kids, feeling happy. I would put them to bed and sit down at the computer. The feeling of that little sparrow, its heart beating fast, in my hands, the satisfaction of helping it...  

My thoughts, along with me, and the kids, came to an abrupt halt at the bottom of our front porch stairs. There, right in front of us, was a dead bird. It was actually on our welcome mat, I kid you not.  It was black, and its feet stuck straight up in the air, stiffly. I looked behind me to see if someone was playing a joke on me. Joseph and Genevieve were waiting for my reaction. When I didn't say anything, Joseph started talking, an innocent three-year-old's words, but ones that cut me to the core. "It's dead, Mom, see? It's eyes are open, but it's dead. That means it's never coming back. It's dead, forever." Genevieve continued to watch me closely, and Joseph kept talking, both of them close behind as I carried the bird to the back yard to bury it. "Are you ok, mom?" Genevieve asked. 

I didn't write that night. I went to bed early, right after the kids, and dreamed in fits. In one dream, I was in my childhood home, and my mom was there, only it wasn't really my mom -- I realized this even in the dream -- and, feeling badly, I tried to lock myself in a bathroom so I wouldn't have to see her. 

"You only get what you can handle," some say, and maybe there's truth in it ("If He brings you to it, He'll bring you through it! That's what I always say!" I overheard a woman at church saying once). But to be honest I've always hated this saying, and I think that any thinking person can clearly see that some people do get more than they can handle. I don't know why. 

Still, the human heart can handle a lot. My heart can. And though I often feel like the sparrow in my hands that day, helpless in the face of a universe that will do with me what it pleases, I'm going to keep trying for that deeper trust, the one that says Take care of me and then believes, deep down, that Someone will. 

Photo of a young sparrow (http://www.wunderground.com)
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." - Matthew 10: 29-31

Friday, August 15, 2014

When You Can't Hit a Winner

Grace at tennis camp
The girls just finished a week of tennis camp with their cousins, a summer tradition now for three years. Their head coach is Dave Okun, who was also a coach to my sister and me growing up. Though I haven't played tennis seriously since high school (my sister still plays), all those hours I spent on the court are a part of me. Dropping the girls at tennis camp feels different than dropping them at basketball, or soccer. The thwack of ball hitting racket has an emotional resonance with me still that  is tied to my memories of my parents (many time champions of the "Married Couples" tournament at the Haddon Field Club) and my youth. 

The truth is, though, that although at one point I was a promising tennis player, despite my hours of lessons and clinics, I never became that good, because I turned into an emotional basket-case on the court. Really.  Once I hit the big time (read: varsity high school tennis), I played with a desperate fear not to lose rather than any over-whelming desire to win. It is still a little embarrassing to me, so much so that a few years ago when I was invited to the Hall of Fame dinner for a teammate who was being inducted (Kim Lamania--she was amazing), I contemplated, for a moment, not going, because it meant reliving all those feelings. I know this is ridiculous. Nobody, nobody at all, has thought about this for even one second other than me. This is probably true for all teenage anxieties. All life anxieties, perhaps. 

A good coach, if you listen to him, will tell you this. I wasn't ready to listen all those years ago, which is a shame, because I'm sure Dave and many others were giving me all kinds of wonderful advice.  I know he did, actually, because when I picked the girls up at camp the other day I noticed a painting that one of Dave's players had done. There were two, in fact, and both quoted Dave. One read,"If you can't hit a winner, don't hit a loser," and the other, "Make a decision." 

I don't know what this year ahead will be like but I know that, since my mom died, something has fundamentally shifted in me. Or perhaps I am the same but the ground beneath me has shifted, and now I have a different view. I find Dave's words very wise, so much so that I think I'm going to live by them for a bit. For the day by day, "If you can't hit a winner, don't hit a loser," (i.e. get out of bed, be kind, do some work, breathe) and for the long-term, "Make a decision"  (i.e. LIVE). For though I never quite mastered it in tournament play, I still remember that wonderful feeling of hitting the ball right in the sweet spot, the power of my arms, my legs, all of me, making a decision and doing something about it. Though you were never guaranteed that it would happen, when it did, it was magic.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

My Light is Shining Bright

My mom in LBI during the summer, 2012. 
My mom and dad recited e.e. cumming's poem I carry your heart ... to each other at their wedding 43 years ago, and for the last few months of my mom's life I noticed that my dad had placed the tattered paperback they had read from on her bedside table. I noted this to my mom one evening in early April as I sat beside her on the bed. "Yes ... I always loved Walt Whitman," she answered, slowly and in that slightly non sequitur way conversations with her had begun to have. "O Captain! My Captain!" I quoted, laughing that with all my years of studying literature this was all I could produce. My mom continued, "My light is shining bright." I reached for my dad's Ipad to search for the full poem and wrote in O Captain! My Captain! My light is shining bright. I may have also typed in Walt Whitman. Up popped his poem Miracles, below.


Walt Whitman1819 - 1892
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles, 
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, 
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky, 
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of
   the water, 
Or stand under trees in the woods, 
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
   with any one I love, 
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest, 
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car, 
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
Or animals feeding in the fields, 
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air, 
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
   quiet and bright, 
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring; 
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles, 
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with
   the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—
   the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

I do not know why this poem appeared instead of Whitman's more famous O Captain! My Captain!, though I imagine it was the line "the stars shining so quiet and bright." As my mom and I lay side by side for the rest of the evening, mostly in silence, I thought of the poem and my desire for a miracle. I was praying then, and continued to pray until the end, for a miracle to save my mom. I believed it could happen. On Sunday, the day before she died, I thought, "Maybe, just maybe, it will happen on my birthday (April 10th)." Instead, that was the day of her funeral. What does one do with this?

Well, I have started running again. Also, doing yoga. On Mother's Day weekend my sister, dad, and I, knowing it would be hard, came to the beach, and I was able to "wade with naked feet just along the edge of the water," as Whitman wrote. As I waded, dolphins appeared along the shore and swam along, playfully. The waves caught the sunlight just so and I tried to capture how beautiful it was with a photograph, but I couldn't. And as I walked my mom's line came to me and I kept repeating it over and over and over:"My light is shining bright, My light is shining bright, My light is shining bright." What does one do with such a miracle?
Me, my dad, and my sister in LBI Mother's Day Weekend. I love these people.

Mom, your light shined so brightly. We miss you.  We always will.