Category Archives: Loss

How lucky am I???

Most everyone that knows me knows that when I was 7 years old, my mother passed away.   She was 41 years old.  I have outlived her by 2 years now and am beginning to see many unfinished circles complete.  My own daughter has a best friend that I am delighted to have in my home, and Amanda, who is a blessing to my daughter, is also a blessing to me.  I have granted her “Honorary Daughter” status.  By the same token, even at my age, I have recently been granted “Honorary Daughter” status once again. This is the most wonderful gift that women give each other.  One of the unfinished circles I have the pleasure to experience has been my opportunity to pass this gift along.

Although I had to survive the excruciating pain and fear of the blind-siding loss of my mom, God has granted me abundant grace in love from other women over the years.  No one can ever replace my own mother, but I have been ever so blessed by the many wonderful women brought into my life.  One such woman was Gullinore Campbell, who became for me “M.O.Y.” during my 7th grade year.  I had decided that she was not just “Mother of the Year” but “Mother of ALL Years” for the simple fact that she listened attentively to me.  She asked me about my problems, offered comfort, advice and support.  She was exactly the kind of nurturing spirit a pre-teen needed.  MOY taught me how to attend to the sniveling drivel of a twelve-year-old.  (Not that my own daughter snivels or drivels, but Clarke definitely benefits these thirty-one years later from the gift of attending I learned from MOY.)

In my young adulthood, I had the pleasure to work with a lady named Loree Charles.  Loree taught me humility and Christianity by the way she lived her life.  When I met her, she had recently returned to work after caring for her mother and step-father, both of whom had Alzheimer’s Disease.  She dealt with moving her step father and mother to nursing homes, renting  her parent’s home, and churning through a very demanding job.  Through dead-beat renters, running back and forth to King’s Mountain as her stepfather’s health declined, and quietly enduring the pain of her mother mistaking her for someone else at every visit, she still managed to smile.  She trusted me enough to share her pain and worries with me and unselfishly helped me through mine.  The people she has worked loyally and diligently for in the last 16 years have (for the most part) not been worthy to stand in her tiny shadow.  Loree’s willingness to share her struggles and talk openly to me about her prayer life showed me that just because life is difficult doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t love you.

Shortly before I met Loree, I was given the gift of a mother-in-law beyond any new wife’s best dreams.  Carol Armstrong is the woman who I am privileged to call Mom these days.  From the very start my relationship with her son, my mother-in-law has given us her uncompromising support.  She helped me plan the wedding, she and her friends threw me wedding and baby showers and she was present for the birth of our daughter.  She even helped me wall-paper the miniscule bathroom in our first house and I could not have enjoyed the task more.  Had it been left to Frank and myself, one of us would not have left that bathroom alive.  Not once in 18 years of marriage has Mom been anything but a great friend and adviser.  She and her husband of over 40 years raised my best friend.   She is a strong and supremely classy individual and I want to be just like her when I grow up!  “Evil mother-in-law?”  I think not!  (Eat your hearts out ladies.)

As if I have not been blessed enough, just last year I was adopted by my friend Cheryl’s mom, Judy Bridges.  Judy was my original mother’s name, so I’ve come full circle.  Judy is a cancer survivor who inspires me with the seeming ease with which she takes each person as they are, and graciously offers them acceptance.  Not only has she not forgotten how to have fun, she has in the past had to remind me to have fun, too.  I have the distinct impression that the two Judies would have been great friends.  I can easily imagine Cheryl and I headed to the theater with our moms and having an absolute blast.

God makes no mistakes.  As a matter of fact, He scored BIG on this one.  It is as if every time I cried out to Him, begging him to tell me “Why” when I was growing up, He nodded indulgently, knowing how much love and joy He had for me in response.  It has been a gift beyond all telling.  Thank you Lord.  Thank you, Ladies!


The loss of a gentle soul

Do you feel it?  It is the slow mournful sound of an adventurous and gracious spirit leaving this world.  While that dirge plays here, a band strikes up elsewhere to receive her.

Mary Rose Fiore is a singular and spectacular individual.  She is my aunt.  She was a student of literature, philosophy, biology (where she met my Uncle Carl) and Tai Chi.  At the age of 84, she decided she wanted to ride an elephant at the local fair.  And nothing was keeping AMR (as we loved to call her) from getting on that elephant.  I have the picture in my family album to prove it.

When I was a youngster, every year near my birthday and again at Christmas, my Aunt and Uncle would make the trip from Burlington, CT to Greensboro NC to see us.  They’d spend about 2 weeks which would completely throw my father out of his routine and drive him crazy.  This was, of course, a bonus of their visits.  Dad would try not to get into a tizzy, but eventually he always did.  As a child, it made me uncomfortable but as I grew older, I found his sniping with my Uncle while they reverted to the level of 12 year olds to be a bit entertaining.  AMR, who was the prize the two men endlessly tried to put in the middle, couldn’t be bothered to take part.  She’d get up from the couch, leave her Manhattan on the side table and come toss the tennis ball with me in the hallway while I played and re-played Bachman Turner Overdrive “Takin Care of Business” for the Nth time.

The extraordinary thing about AMR is that she forgets nothing.  Until a few years ago, she still asked me about my best friend from 2nd Grade – Yiioshi Deberry.  I haven’t seen Yiioshi since 9th grade, but every year, AMR remembered to ask about her.  She also remembered my favorite color (in 4th grade) was Forest Green, so she knitted me a sweater in that color.  She was not in the least perturbed when she presented it to me at Christmas and I informed her that my new favorite was periwinkle.  I should have been poked in the eye with one of her knitting needles for my lack of graciousness, but she does not have that kind of spirit.

AMR is beloved by all she meets.  She had a neighbor who could never get her name right.  He would call her Rosemary or just Mary.  She doesn’t often get her dander up about things, but she is insistent people get her name right because she likes it.  So, she decided to gently teach her neighbor a good way to remember her name.  She told him, “Mary sat on a tack.  Mary Rose.”  The neighbor decided to call her “Tack” instead.  What could she do?  She smiled and accepted it, as she does so often, with grace.

When I graduated college, I was lucky enough to be given a trip abroad by my dad.  He and I could barely stand to be in the same room for 2 minutes at a time, so he saved us both the possible murder charges and messy international trials by sending AMR to Great Britain with me as a chaperone instead of himself.  She was awesome.  If I wanted to climb up a hill in the back of the B&B in Ambleside, she was right there with me.  With her Keds flying up the hill at a pace with my high-tops, we bypassed the cows who watched us with some suspicion as we took in the view.  Later during that trip, we broke away from the tour at Ann Hathaway’s house and (gasp) took pictures – illegally.  And I also conned her into climbing into a choir loft in an ancient church just to see if we could.  We were busted…but not too badly…the Vicar couldn’t get too mad at my wide-eyed 60-something auntie.  Best of all, if we stopped in the middle of the day for a break, it was a hard cider for me and a Guinness or Cider for her, too.  And she slammed me at Canasta daily – multiple times – until I couldn’t be a good sport about it any more.  It was a rare and special time for us and we treasure it to this day.

About 10 years ago, AMR was hit with a nasty case of mouth cancer.  We nearly lost her a couple of times during that fight, but she took on Cancer (this time for the 3rd time) and beat it yet again.  She lost part of her jaw, tongue, all of her teeth and other various bits of her mouth, making it such that her only meals from that operation on had to be prepared in blender.  She would sit primly in front of a plate that looked very much like regurgitated bird food and smile serenely, claiming it was “delicious.”  This summer while she visited me, I was stoked when I got her to eat pot roast – two helpings.  They were barely enough to feed a flea, but it seemed as if she enjoyed it.

Sadly, AMR had a heart attack the day before Thanksgiving, cracked her sternum, and developed a number of other health problems subsequently.  She developed an infection and began to get fluid in her lungs.  Several days later, she was aspirating her food.  The doctors informed her she would need a feeding tube and that’s when she said, “No, thank you.” On Sunday, the decision was made to put her on palliative care.  When my sister went to visit her, she entered the hospital room and said, “Hey, AMR!  How you doing?”  AMR didn’t lose a beat.  “Never Better!” she chirped (which is so like her).  On Monday, they removed the drain from her chest and her only treatment has been morphine since that time.  The problem is that AMR does not know how not to fight.

I got the call just now as I type this entry that she has passed away.  Did you hear that?  Did you feel that?  I sure did.  God bless and rest Mary Rose Fiore.  An adventurous and gracious spirit.