Posted in grief, Jamie Dedes, poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry, Video

Done . . . and not done yet . . .

photo-37-1I watched it all over my friend’s dear shoulder,
that time of living while dying and celebrating ~
like a garden snake ~ the shedding of the skin,
the detritus of material man with its hungers and
wild, woody creative soul, sketching ruby-jeweled
memories in sand to be blown like a Tibetan mandala
across Timelessness . . .

while he,

lone monk,

gripped

by systems on systems of hospital wiring, billing,
approvals, and laws around funerals and burials,
estates, plans, and proposals for headstones and
the where, when, and how of a memorial service,
the left-overs of his life to be sorted, stashed, stored
or sent to the right people in the right places.

Done!

… as though there had been nothing. No one.

– Jamie Dedes

♥♥♥♥

NOT DONE YET

Dedicated to everyone who is living with dying. That would be all of us.

A Taiwanese advertisement based on a true story.
Inspiring. Give it a chance. It will make you smile … and maybe shed a tear or two.

© 2014, poem and photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity and to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.” I am the poetry liaison and a member of the Core Team. Terri Stewart (Beguine Again) is in the lead position and the Beguine Again collaborative and The Bardo Group are coordinating a consolidation of the two groups.

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

Posted in General Interest, Imen Benyoub, Peace & Justice, poem, Video

You who lights candles . . . Salam to you . . .

file261336842312-1Bitter is this dawn that no longer comes
With the prayer of doves on rooftops
And your face

This treacherous sky above your head
The colour of lead and flame
These forests of stars smothered
In the blinding smoke

These banners ripping the air around you
Woven of cries
These fields of ruins and debris
Where you stand shivering
In the nudity of daylight

You, a lonely prophet in this besieged space
Who listens to the laments of stones
And writes his testament
With tears and blood

You, who lights candles
For the passing caravans of martyrs
And falls asleep with the night

Salam to you

. . . this  poem . . . in my mind i wrote it for a friend in Gaza . . . i haven’t heard from him in weeks now . . . 

– Imen Benyoub
© 2014, poem, All rights reserved; photograph courtesy of morgueFile

pictureIMEN BENYOUB ~ is a multilingual, multi-talented writer, poet, and artist from Guelma, Algeria. Imen currently lives in East Jerusalem. She is a frequent guest here on The Bardo Group blog and with On the Plum Tree and Plum Tree Books Facebook page as well.

~

ALICE WALKER (b. 1944), American activist and Pulitzer Prize winning author:

Not with a bang … but with a whimper.

Peace: It’s a decision.

Posted in General Interest, Illness/life-threatening illness, Jamie Dedes, poem, Poems/Poetry, Poets Against War Week

Our Sighs Ride the Ebb-tides of Eternity …

 

On May 28, our group for people with life-threatening illnesses celebrated the lives of those who have already passed on. I was unable to attend the memorial service due to bronchitis, but I celebrate them, two of my family, and this wonderful group here today.

Our group is composed of people from several different religious traditions and is hosted by our local Insight Meditation Center. The group was founded and is run by a Buddhist chaplain who has been very kind and is a stalwart friend to each of us.

I no longer attend meetings. By some surely unearned grace, I am now considered “chronic and stable” and I’ve grown to the point that the news of death no longer disturbs me. The major take-away for me from this experience is that the only difference between having a medically predicted expiration date and not knowing when our time will come is that with a diagnosis, we no longer fall into those moments of denial. That’s a huge gift. Huge! The result is that we become present in each moment. 

Today, is my loving celebration of: Ann, Deborah, Dick, Ernie, Hilda, Mary, Parvathy, Robert, Mary Kate, Steve, Victor and to family lost in recent years: my former husband, Kirby (the most decent man I’ve ever known), and my cousin, Christopher, with whom I grew-up and who was like a brother … 

Each moment and every person is precious and beautiful and the only thing that really matters is how much we have loved and been loved and that – as survivors – we continue to live in the service of our families and those in need. In the end it would seem that’s the best way to honor the family and friends whose memory we treasure .

IMG_20140525_103644407Eternity flowed deftly through the last eight years
enfolding in her stream eleven with whom we
contemplated Knowledge and Mortality
Looking back, we ponder amazed at love among friends,
……….it blossoms fragrant, as gentle
……….as a dewy rose among thorns and thistles
We thrash and crawl and climb
……….puzzling
……….over the sea and fire that stalks us
Our hearts, cupped in one another’s hands
……….like castanets, beat in unison
Our measured moments grave lines in phantom fears,
……….they float like storm clouds above us
In words of jade, we speak elegies and encomiums
Our smiles mask our sorrows and yearning
Our laughter is love grown wild
We see each other in a thousand shapes and dreams
……….and in nameless names
Our sighs ride the ebb tides of Eternity
…..Another moment:
…..and even the sun will die
…..but our lotus song will echo on ….
……….We have lived! We have loved!

© 2014, poem and photograph (yellow roses traditionally symbolize friendship), Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity, to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded and host The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another – no matter our tribe – in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.”

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

Posted in John Anstie, Peace & Justice, Poems/Poetry

Hearts of Oak

poppy-fieldThis is primarily for Remembrance Day, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the Armistice. It speaks not just, as used to be so often the case, those who gave up their lives in war, but for all those countless others, from civilian and service life, who suffered as a result of war, their lives damaged in so many different ways.  It begs the question: “what is the point of war?”

In all that’s written of this day
I will say only this:
for every single life that’s lost
hereafter may be bliss,
but not the kind of bliss that you
can feel of heavenly truth,
those dreamy summer days that lost
the innocence of youth.

It isn’t here that rapture’s found
nor magic hearts of oak.
Instead, to free the body’s hurt
and love of life that broke,
in time, the route from suffering,
when they could fight no more,
was caring for their brotherhood,
and yielding life to war.

How soon forgot the agony,
the torture of their ends
and freeing them from all the tears
that tragedy portends.
By all the loved ones left behind
a lasting price is paid.
For they must live with pain of loss,
their own release delayed.

By all the soldiers left behind
another price is paid.
For they must live with damaged soul
a mind forever frayed.
So on remembrance day be sure,
when you recall the lost,
remember too the broken soul,
their bliss a greater cost.

– John Anstie

© 2013, poem, John Anstie, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Martin Birkin, Public Domain Pictures.net

John_in_Pose_Half_Face351w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer.  John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (cover1UK).

John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Posted in Essay, grief, Spiritual Practice, story, Terri Stewart

Sacred Grief: Shabbat Shalom

Leningrad_Codex_Carpet_page_eThe power is out! I am sharing something I wrote in November 2010. I think it speaks to the spiritual practice of grief work and for preparing for difficult seasons of life. I am going to let it stand as a piece and not edit it on my phone! I hope you enjoy this glimpse into my past.

Often we think of Sabbath as Sunday. In fact, traditionally, Sunday is the Day of the Lord and sundown Friday to sundown Saturday remains the Sabbath time. Recently I went to Shabbat service at Kol Ami to experience the beginning of Sabbath, a dedicated time of reflecting on giving our lives and all there is to God. Going to a Jewish service is a little unnerving as it is generally in Hebrew, however, the Siddur (what would be like a hymnal) is written in Hebrew and English. It also has the transliteration so you can follow along. Whew! That allowed me to sort of keep up.

When I entered the Narthex to join Kol Ami during Shabbat, I was a little nervous. After all, I know what we think when new people come and visit us! Often it is “Hooray!” How odd would it be to become the new person again? And how odd is it to become the new person within a building that I know so well? When I entered, Rabbi Glickman almost recognized me. I said hello and put myself into context for him. He introduced me to a lovely couple in the congregation. I got there just in time to hear their tales of recent loss to Rabbi Glickman. My heart tugged because I know those tales of loss. It has been an entire year devoted to loss for me and to the dangerous work of going through this liminal time in my life. Late last summer we had to put down Sarah, our dog of fourteen years. In October I finally did some very heavy grief work for my mother. In February, a good friend at school died. And not only did he die, but I was the one who had to break the news to my school community. I presided over his memorial service. And then, the capper for me was the loss of my brother in May. Oy vey! And then there have been smaller losses since then. But these were the big boulders for me. The interesting thing that I learned was that each time a smaller loss, it taps into that bigger well of grief that has built up. So even a smaller thing like the ROTC soldier at Seattle U who was killed in Iraq recently, brings up the bigger grief and you have to deal with it again. Then I met Maria and her husband.

Maria shared with me at the Shabbos service recent news they have had of a close friend dying. And this was layered on top of huge challenges they have had over the last year. They are an older couple and have had to face challenging health situations that seem to be coming at them in waves. On top of that, they lost their grandson seven years ago. So these smaller challenges and griefs are tapping into that huge loss in their life. I was so very aware that even though there were many differences between us (religion, culture, age), that coming together in our grief to share the loss together on Shabbat as we recite the Kaddish together was an amazing experiment. Kaddish is recited for all who grieve and is an amazing response of faith. In the deepest grief, the responsive prayer is one of praise to God. It is:

Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for u and for all Israel; and say, Amen. He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

I am also reminded of all the hurts that can come to us during this upcoming Advent and Christmas season. For children of alcoholic parents, for recovering addicts, for people undergoing the birth of a new way of having family, for those suddenly without family, for those who are alone, even for those of us who very much need to watch our food intake—it can be challenging at best and a minefield at worst. I think my wish for advent, for this time of growth, is that we all can embrace change and loss where we need to knowing that it is gestating into something new that may bring forth a beautiful new life. And in this time of gestation, that we may claim together, the magnificence and glory of our creator who creates peace for us all.

Love,
Terri

© 2013, post , Terri Stewart, All rights reserved
Illustration ~ Leningrad Codex cover. This is from a very old mauscript of the Hebrew bible. A former possession of Karaïte Jews written circa 1010 C.E. The photograph by Shmuel ben Ya’akov is in the United States public domain.

WP_20131026_034REV. TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

Her online presence is Cloaked Monk. This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Posted in Essay, General Interest, memoir, Priscilla Galasso

Affairs of the Heart

“Sudden massive coronary events” are dominating my thinking lately.  I am reading Joan Didion’s account of her husband’s death in The Year of Magical Thinking and recently browsed the pertinent pages of Ekaterina Gordeeva’s book My Sergei while waiting for Steve to glean salable items from Good Will on Tuesday.   I am also writing my own memoirs of my husband Jim in a Continuing Ed course.  What struck me this morning was the role of the grieving person’s best friend as hero.  Not the knight-in-shining-armor type hero, but the simple, calming presence modelling a way to be.  In a moment when shock obscures all notions of how to act, having a trusted person exhibit some caring, helpful behavior is a distinct grace.

My mother was that hero to me when my sister was killed in a car crash.  Alice and I were traveling across country together, enjoying the freedom of being 20 and (almost) 17 when it happened.  My mother cobbled together connecting flights from San Jose to reach me in Nebraska the next morning.   She got me discharged from the hospital and set us up in a hotel while she went through all the details of bringing Alice’s ashes back to California.  We went to the mortuary the next day.  I was still rather zombie-like while my mother handled the business.  Then the director asked us if we would like to see the body.  “Absolutely,” was my mother’s reply.  For some reason, I hadn’t realized that was why we were there.  I hesitated.  Mom led me into the room while the director closed the door.  “Oh, honey,” she sighed as she approached the table.  “No, she’s not there.  She’s gone.  Look here…” she began to comment on Alice’s wounds, on her swollen face and how old she looked, as if she were a battered wife decades in the future.  My mom said something about all the suffering her daughter had been spared.  Then she tenderly bend down and kissed that pale, waxy forehead.  My mother has never looked more beautiful to me in all my life than she did at that moment.  Strong, compassionate, wise and incredibly beautiful.  I wanted to be like her, so I kissed my sister’s forehead, too.

photo credit: Dharam Kaur Khalsa
photo credit: Dharam Kaur Khalsa

Gordeeva writes about her coach, Marina, prompting her to go into the ICU room where her husband lay.  “Don’t be afraid.  Go talk to him.  He can still hear you.”  She goes in and begins to unlace his skates, a normal gesture that helps loosen her words, her tears, her emotions.  I remember our priest asking me and two of my daughters if we’d like to anoint Jim with some olive oil, bathe his face, and prepare his body to be taken away.  It was a relief to excuse ourselves from the people downstairs in the living room and go up to him together, to say our goodbyes together, to touch him one more time.  I am so grateful someone thought of allowing us that right then.  We had another opportunity to say goodbye to his body at the funeral home later when my two other children came home.  By then, I could take the lead with them and encourage them to approach.  I can’t remember who started humming “Amazing Grace”, but we all joined in, musical family that we are, and swayed together, arms and bodies entwined.

In the aftermath of Jim’s death, my youngest daughter and I fought frequently.  I didn’t know how to talk to her, to listen to her anger directed at me and recognize that she wasn’t hateful, only grieving.  Steve was the one who suggested that she was hurt, not hurtful and agreed to sit by me while we attempted an honest conversation.  My instinct was to run away.  I was grateful to observe someone who could be calm and present, reasonable and compassionate in the face of powerful emotions that frightened me.  He is adamant about not rescuing me, but equally determined to be the best friend he can be.

I hope that I will have opportunities to be a great friend to someone in grief.  I would like to be a conduit of such grace.

– Priscilla Galasso

© 2013, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~  started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

“My courage is in the affirmation of my part in co-creation”, she wrote in her first published poem, composed on her thirtieth birthday and submitted alongside her seven-year-old daughter’s poem to Cricket magazine. Her spiritual evolution began in an Episcopal environment and changed in pivotal moments: as a teenager, her twenty-year-old sister died next to her in a car crash and, decades later, Priscilla’s husband and the father of her four children died of coronary artery disease and diabetes in his sleep at the age of forty-seven  Awakening to mindfulness and reconsidering established thought patterns continues to be an important part of her life work.

Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

Posted in General Interest, Naomi Baltuck, Photo Essay, Photography/Photographer

Two Subjects (and one important thing to remember)

While traveling in Argentina, we visited La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.   Since 1822, nearly 5,000 mausoleums have been constructed  in the highest fashion of the times, from Baroque and Neo-Gothic to Art Deco and Art Nouveau.   La Recoleta is a city for the dead, with elegant marble tombs neatly laid out in blocks over fourteen acres.

Some are maintained, for love or pride.  Others, like the poet Shelley’s statue of Ozymandias, have fallen into disrepair, covered with spider webs and graffiti, littered with broken glass and faded plastic flowers.  Feral cats stare warily from their marble perches and skulk away sideways if approached.

We saw the grave of Eva Peron, and other statesmen, poets, generals, and presidents.

More interesting to me was the final resting place for a mother and her infant.  They were not famous, but clearly they were loved.  Did she and the child die in childbirth?  Were they swept away by an epidemic, leaving behind the grieving husband and father who erected this memorial?  Was he able to pick up the pieces of his broken life to find happiness again?

Wherever we go, we will find reminders of all the stories in this world that will never be told.  When I took this photograph, I could be certain of only two things.  Both mother and child were subject to an early and tragic demise.  And, as seen by the lush green fern sprouting from the dust collecting in the cracks in the stone, life goes on.

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Posted in Essay, Naomi Baltuck

Today (we are all survivors)

We are all survivors, of our personal histories, our family lines, and of the human race.  Since the dawn of time, think of the families ended abruptly by a bullet, a spear, a club, a predator, illness, by accident and even by someone’s own hand.

Today is the anniversary of D-Day, the Normandy invasion in 1944.  It was the day my Uncle Lewis was launched onto the Normandy beaches into a cruel war.  I think it no coincidence that today is also the anniversary of my father’s death in 1965.

The day before he died, while his kids ran and laughed and played in the yard, my father planted a walnut tree—just a stick of a sapling–by the side of the house.  Did he know what he was going to do?  Did he plant that tree as his own memorial?

I hope not, because someone else is living in that little house in Detroit, and my Dad’s walnut tree is long gone, cut down in its prime.  This I know, because I drive past each time I go back to visit my Aunt Loena.   So these words must serve as a memorial to a World War II vet who came home without his little brother and best friend.  That was the sin his mother never forgave him for, the sin he could he never quite forgive himself for either.

My army buddy, Jack Oliver, attended boot camp with Uncle Lewis.  He helped me understand that my father was as much a victim of the war as my uncle.  When the War Department tallies the casualties, it counts the dead, the wounded, the missing in action.  But no one ever takes into account the broken hearts and broken families left by the wayside in the wake of war.  If they did, perhaps they would stop sending our children off to fight and die.

But today is a day a of forgiveness, a day of understanding, a day to be thankful that life goes on.  It is a day of sorrow, but most of all, today is a day to love.

– Naomi Baltuck

© 2012, essay and photographs, Naomi Baltuck, All rights reserved

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi410xuqmD74L._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Posted in Culture/History, Essay, Naomi Baltuck, Photography/Photographer

Remembering Uncle Lewis, A Memorial Day Story

One of my earliest memories is of dinner at Grandma Rose’s house.  Her towels, furniture, and closets smelled of mothballs; she even stored her silverware in mothballs.  Mostly, though, I recall standing on Grandma’s couch to study the framed collage of black and white photographs on her wall.  I recognized my father, but knew the other boy in the pictures only by name, and by heart.

Uncle Lewis was my father’s only sibling, younger than my dad by ten years.  We never met, and Daddy never spoke of him.  But they were best friends.  In one picture Lewis was laughing, having been surprised on the toilet by my father with his camera.  The brothers teased Grandma too.  Lewis would yell, “Harry, stop hitting me!”  Grandma would rush in, and scold my father for picking on his brother.  Undaunted, they’d laugh and repeat, until Grandma caught on.

Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lewis was drafted into the infantry, a shy studious eighteen year old who had never kissed a girl.  My father joined up as an officer.  He pulled a few strings to get Lewis transferred into the 30th ‘Old Hickory’ Division, so the brothers could cross the Atlantic on the same ship.  Lewis wrote letters and post cards home, often addressed to their dog ‘Peanuts.’

“Hey, Peanuts, tell Pa to eat his spinach!”   From the ship he wrote, “Harry and his buddies sneaked me into their cabin.  They gave me chocolate and let me play with their puppy.  Don’t tell anyone, or we’ll all catch it.  They smuggled the pup on board, and officers shouldn’t fraternize with enlisted men…”

While serving in Africa, Italy, England, France, and Germany, Harry was safely behind the front lines.  But Lewis was sent to Normandy two days after the D-Day invasion.  He fought in the hedgerows of France, and in Holland.  “The Dutch ran into the streets and passed out everything from soup to nuts.  As we marched out of there in the middle of the night, you could hear the clink of cognac, whiskey, and wine bottles in the guys’ jackets, amidst all the cursing and the roar of the Jerrys’ planes overhead.”  

To his parents Lewis wrote, “Dear Ma and Pa, today I saw General Eisenhower drive by.”  Or, “Kronk said the war can’t last.  It just can’t.  And he said it with such an angelic look on his face, I believe him!”

But to my father he wrote, “You should see the bruise from where a bullet passed through my shirt, Brub.  It was a close call.”  Or, “They took Julian away.  It’s so lonely here, Brub.  He’s the reason I wouldn’t take that promotion to sergeant.  We dug in together, took care of each other when things got rough.  I don’t know how bad he’s hurt; I just hope he makes it, and escapes this Hell.  Pray for me, Brub. Pray for me.”

On September 20, 1944, the day before his company attacked the Siegfried Line, Staff Sergeant Lewis Baltuck was killed by the blast of a shell.  Twenty years old, he had hardly begun to live.  He was survived by his parents, his dog Peanuts, and his brother Harry.  He never had the time or the opportunity to fall in love and marry.  He left no children to mourn for him—only the Bronze Star and the bronzed baby booties Grandma kept on her bookshelf until the day she died, more than forty years after her son’s death.

Harry married, had seven children, and built his own little house in Detroit.  But for the rest of his life he suffered acutely from the unspeakable burden of depression and Survivor’s Guilt.  When Grandpa Max died, my father became the sole caretaker of his widowed mother.  There was no one to share that burden with, to joke with or jolly her along.  Worst of all, crazed with grief, Grandma Rose blamed Harry for Lewis’s death.

I envied those kids who grew up with cousins to play with, and uncles who cared about them.  Uncle Lewis would’ve been that kind of uncle, and my father would have been a different man, without that black cloud to live under.  When Daddy died in 1965, we lost our connection to my father’s extended family, and our ties to our paternal cultural heritage were nearly lost as well.  But it does no good to dwell on the past or to speculate on what might have been.

Uncle Lewis was right about one thing.  War is Hell.  The price it exacts is impossible to tally, and can never be repaid.  When a soldier is killed, one heart stops beating, but many more are broken.  The wounds inflicted upon whole families are so deep that the scars can still be felt after generations.

I swear my uncle’s little bronze baby booties will never end up on the bargain shelf at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, like so many others I have seen there.  How sad to think that such precious keepsakes might be tossed into the giveaway because no one remembers or cares about the one whose little feet filled them.

I attended the 60th reunion of the Old Hickory Division in Nashville in search of someone who knew my uncle.  I met only one man who remembered him…“a quiet man who didn’t say much, but when he did speak, he was always worth listening to.”

I tell my children that story, and many other stories about their Great Uncle Lewis.  I am confident he will be cherished and remembered, not just for his tragic death, but for his joyful life.

copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppiNAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Posted in Poems/Poetry, Video

On the Death of the Beloved

$T2eC16FHJG!E9nm3pwQLBRZIZHCJm!~~_35Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or might or pain can reach you.

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.

We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:

To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.

– John O’Donohue

Posted in Essay, General Interest, Guest Writer

THE STORY OF A WAR AND A QUIET MAN

Normandy American Cemetery

“My army buddy, Jack Oliver, attended boot camp with Uncle Lewis.  He helped me understand that my father was as much a victim of the war as my uncle.  When the War Department tallies the casualties, it counts the dead, the wounded, the missing in action.  But no one ever takes into account the broken hearts and broken families left by the wayside in the wake of war.  If they did, perhaps they would stop sending our children off to fight and die.” Naomi Baltuck

REMEMBERING UNCLE LEWIS

by

Naomi Baltuck (Writing Between the Lines)

One of my earliest memories is of dinner at Grandma Rose’s house.  Her towels, furniture, and closets smelled of mothballs; she even stored her silverware in mothballs.  Mostly, though, I recall standing on Grandma’s couch to study the framed collage of black and white photographs on her wall.  I recognized my father, but knew the other boy in the pictures only by name, and by heart.

Uncle Lewis was my father’s only sibling, younger than my dad by ten years.  We never met, and Daddy never spoke of him.  But they were best friends.  In one picture Lewis was laughing, having been surprised on the toilet by my father with his camera.  The brothers teased Grandma too.  Lewis would yell, “Harry, stop hitting me!”  Grandma would rush in, and scold my father for picking on his brother.  Undaunted, they’d laugh and repeat, until Grandma caught on.

Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lewis was drafted into the infantry, a shy studious eighteen year old who had never kissed a girl.  My father joined up as an officer.  He pulled a few strings to get Lewis transferred into the 30th ‘Old Hickory’ Division, so the brothers could cross the Atlantic on the same ship.  Lewis wrote letters and post cards home, often addressed to their dog ‘Peanuts.’

“Hey, Peanuts, tell Pa to eat his spinach!”   From the ship he wrote, “Harry and his buddies sneaked me into their cabin.  They gave me chocolate and let me play with their puppy.  Don’t tell anyone, or we’ll all catch it.  They smuggled the pup on board, and officers shouldn’t fraternize with enlisted men…”

While serving in Africa, Italy, England, France, and Germany, Harry was safely behind the front lines.  But Lewis was sent to Normandy two days after the D-Day invasion.  He fought in the hedgerows of France, and in Holland.  “The Dutch ran into the streets and passed out everything from soup to nuts.  As we marched out of there in the middle of the night, you could hear the clink of cognac, whiskey, and wine bottles in the guys’ jackets, amidst all the cursing and the roar of the Jerrys’ planes overhead.”  

To his parents Lewis wrote, “Dear Ma and Pa, today I saw General Eisenhower drive by.”  Or, “Kronk said the war can’t last.  It just can’t.  And he said it with such an angelic look on his face, I believe him!”

But to my father he wrote, “You should see the bruise from where a bullet passed through my shirt, Brub.  It was a close call.”  Or, “They took Julian away.  It’s so lonely here, Brub.  He’s the reason I wouldn’t take that promotion to sergeant.  We dug in together, took care of each other when things got rough.  I don’t know how bad he’s hurt; I just hope he makes it, and escapes this Hell.  Pray for me, Brub. Pray for me.”

On September 20, 1944, the day before his company attacked the Siegfried Line, Staff Sergeant Lewis Baltuck was killed by the blast of a shell.  Twenty years old, he had hardly begun to live.  He was survived by his parents, his dog Peanuts, and his brother Harry.  He never had the time or the opportunity to fall in love and marry.  He left no children to mourn for him—only the Bronze Star and the bronzed baby booties Grandma kept on her bookshelf until the day she died, more than forty years after her son’s death.

Harry married, had seven children, and built his own little house in Detroit.  But for the rest of his life he suffered acutely from the unspeakable burden of depression and Survivor’s Guilt.  When Grandpa Max died, my father became the sole caretaker of his widowed mother.  There was no one to share that burden with, to joke with or jolly her along.  Worst of all, crazed with grief, Grandma Rose blamed Harry for Lewis’s death.

I envied those kids who grew up with cousins to play with, and uncles who cared about them.  Uncle Lewis would’ve been that kind of uncle, and my father would have been a different man, without that black cloud to live under.  When Daddy died in 1965, we lost our connection to my father’s extended family, and our ties to our paternal cultural heritage were nearly lost as well.  But it does no good to dwell on the past or to speculate on what might have been.

Uncle Lewis was right about one thing.  War is Hell.  The price it exacts is impossible to tally, and can never be repaid.  When a soldier is killed, one heart stops beating, but many more are broken.  The wounds inflicted upon whole families are so deep that the scars can still be felt after generations.

I swear my uncle’s little bronze baby booties will never end up on the bargain shelf at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, like so many others I have seen there.  How sad to think that such precious keepsakes might be tossed into the giveaway because no one remembers or cares about the one whose little feet filled them.

I attended the 60th reunion of the Old Hickory Division in Nashville in search of someone who knew my uncle.  I met only one man who remembered him…“a quiet man who didn’t say much, but when he did speak, he was always worth listening to.”

I tell my children that story, and many others about their Great Uncle Lewis.  I am confident he will be cherished and remembered, not just for his tragic death, but for his joyful life.

© 2012, essay and family photos, Naomi Baltuck, All rights reserved

Photo credit ~ Normandy American Cemetery: I doctored this (taken in 2010) so that the original colors would not lend a dissonant note to the post. The photo was taken by Harald Bishoff and uploaded to Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported. J.D.

Naomi Baltuck ~ has been blogging (Writing Between the Lines) since December 2011. She shares her days and her thoughts in the true spirit of weblog, a dairy of sorts. Her posts are perfectly executed works of art: careful and caring, symmetrical and clear. Her interests are eclectic but her family is certainly her center. We are proud to have her as a contributing writer. J.D.

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry

LOVE UNDER THE SHADOWS

“Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” Kahlil Gibran

LOVE UNDER THE SHADOWS

by

Jamie Dedes

nothing moves, not even the reluctant beat

of your heart, which once danced with mine

and made rough sense of life, now so like

·

summer noon when all is still, even bees

and your gray eyes that happily feasted

on mine and shared my lamentations

·

death too grieves at the sorry circumstance

of such fools whose trivial discontents and

untoward presumptions fade into nothing

·

tears that we embraced the world and the

flesh and neglected the shadows that rode our

backs where angel wings more rightly rest

·

© 2012 poem, Jamie Dedes All rights reserved

Photo credit ~ Michael Drummond, Public Domain Pictures.net

Posted in Essay, Guest Writer

A FULL LIFE …

Charlie Badenhop

It is my pleasure to introduce the wisdom of my friend, Charlie Badenhop, on our pages. Charlie is the internationally recognized creator of the human potential discipline of Seishindo . He is also a highly respected life-coach, practitioner of self-relations psychotherapy, and neuro-linguistic programming. He first published the essay below in his Seishindo newsletter, Pure Heart, Simple Mind. I find it brings a very important message to our readers. R.R.

·

“A FULL LIFE IS NOT NECESSARILY

A LONG LIFE”

by

Charlie Badenhop

Posted here with permission. All rights reserved.

Are you living your life appreciating what you DO have, or are you lamenting what still seems to be missing?

Three years ago the eight year old daughter of a friend died in a freak accident at school. My friend was devastated and I could not think of any wise words that might console him.

As the weeks rolled by my friend slipped into an ever deeper sense of despair, and nothing anyone said seemed to lift his spirit.

After a few months time he went out-of-town on a business trip, and on the train ride back he engaged in conversation with the woman sitting next to him. The woman sat there and nodded her head often as my friend talked about the death of his daughter. He reported to me that he had the sense of talking and talking and talking, until he finally felt like he had nothing more to say.

As my friend came to a natural state of rest, the woman nodded her head one more time as she took a deep breath, and then said the following, “I can very much feel your pain, and I understand the loss of your child must be devastating.”

“At the same time,” she said, “I wonder if your pain would not be lessened if you celebrated the life your daughter did have.”

“You told me about your daughter’s sense of awe the first time you took her to the ocean, and how you carried her in your arms as you waded out into the water.”

“You also spoke about the many times she sat on your lap and told you about the magical adventures she had during the course of her day.”

“Perhaps the sweetest story you shared was how you told your daughter every night how much you loved her as you tucked her into bed.”

“I’m wondering,” the woman said, “What is it that leads you to believe you and your daughter did not live a full and glorious life together?”

“Is it because she died at eight years old and not at eighty? Certainly it would seem that the quality of one’s life is not tied to the length of one’s life.”

“I would like to gently suggest that you and your daughter did live a full and complete life together. She just didn’t live as long as you had hoped for and expected.”

As the train neared the station the woman continued speaking. “I am seventy-two years old, and in looking back on my life I don’t feel I have shared with anyone, the depth of experience and love you and your daughter had together.”

“On one hand this makes me deeply sad. On the other hand, it wakes me up to the fact that my life is not yet finished. I can begin today to live the life I truly desire.”

“This is the realization that your experience has helped me to understand, and for this wonderful gift I thank you deeply.”

The woman smiled as she stood up, preparing to exit the train. “None of us know how long we have to live. No one has control over the length of their life.”

“The quality of our life on the other hand, is something you can ensure on a daily basis. An emotionally fulfilling life is a complete life, regardless of how many years you live. A life without love seems to take forever to end.”

“We’ll do well to appreciate what we do have, rather than lamenting about what we don’t.”

To the readers of this [blog post], I gently suggest you consider how you want to live your life, in order to ensure that your time on earth is fulfilling and complete.

Posted in Guest Writer, Poems/Poetry

CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

CHILREN’S HOSPITAL, WAITING ROOM

by

Rev. Bill Cook

From this side of this window-

through this glass looking

down seventeen stories  –

the world is a odd place.

.

The smell of rain

has become a distant memory.

Taxi cabs – thick bugs.

People- so much seed

scattered on a hard path.

.

Who would have thought

a tiny swish rising

through a stethoscope

could so change  everything.

.

Here we are a congregation

Of the suspended –

Inhabitants of a sanitized purgatory –

A communion of those who wait.

.

Here the priests and prophets

wear blue scrubs

and white paper masks.

.

Why, I ask, is it that your tiny heart,

no larger than your tiny hand,

should refuse to grow?

What providence has brought us here?

What karma? There is no answer

.

so we wait.

We wait for our names to be called.

We wait.

Re-blogged with the permission of Bill Cook, Poetry Matters. Bill is an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, serving a wonderfully diverse congregation.

  • His church: St. Paul UMC, Willingboro NJ.
  • BA. English Lit., Rutger’s, the State University, New Brunswick NJ.
  • M Div. New Brunswick Theological Seminary New Brunswick NJ.
  • D Min. Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC.

Although Bill’s had a life long love of reading poetry, he’s relatively new to writing and publishing it. In addition to his poetry blog, Poetry Matters, he has three other blogs that address spritual matters. Most recently his poem Lost was picked up for publication by a regional poetry magazine.