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

I Can Write Another Poem Tonight

450px-Tango-Show-Buenos-Aires-01After Pablo Neruda …

I can write another poem about the distance tonight.
Something about chants over shivering seconds and stolen lights,
about his mahogany eyes and forgotten Milonga dance.

But the night burns with treacherous sparks,
with thousand butterflies over cliffs and tides.

I can write another poem about him, how I craved
his lips, his words, his hands and sometimes he did too.

In nights like this, within crested dreams, he desired me
and sometimes I did too. And how couldn’t I?
The world in his eyes, I was the only one allowed inside.

I can write another poem about love and passion under
the never-ending violin sounds and voluminous skies;

when I know that everything is bound to break,
even the perfect curves chasing the ocean.

To feel that with every crash of the waves I have lost him.
To hear the whispers of his soul, faraway whispers,
even more without him,

when the night ignites under the moonlight and
poetry drops heavily on my heart, just like
the rain that strikes everything dead or alive.

And that’s all there is. In the distance someone plays
Morricone on the piano. In the distance.

My mind does not know harmony. My heart searches for his.
My voice longs for the breeze that would carry my secrets to him;

how I no longer hate the darkness of the night without him,
it’s true, but maybe I still do. Longing comes so suddenly, settles
comfortably in the shape of a precious hug and never dies.

Because in nights like this he always held me in his arms,
through the imaginary miles apart,
while poetry drifted into the distance, silently, lilac like and sad …

– Blaga Todorova

© 2014, poem and protrait (below), Blaga Todorova; photo credit ~ Dancing Tango in Buenos Aires by Jenny Mealing and licensed under the CC A 2.0 Generic license.

unnamed-6BLAGA TODOROVA (Between the Shadows and the Soul) ~ was born in Bulgaria, lives in Greece and doesn’t stop dreaming about finding new country for herself. She doesn’t consider herself a writer, but just someone who sometimes is lucky enough to be at the right place, with the right person, with the background of the right music that will bring the right words.

Blaga has been blogging for many years now and has won the friendship and following of other poets and writers for her insights, humor and sense of romance and of justice. English is not her first language, but she uses it well and it is her favorite language for her favorite artisitic persuit, writing. She has a novel in progress. She is also a rather accomplished photographer.

Although we believe Blaga was named for a relative, it is interesting to note that she shares her lovely first name with Blaga Dimitrova, the Bulgarian poet and former Vice President of Bulgaria (1992-1993) who was the inspiration for John Updike’s short story, The Poetess. We have invited Blaga Todorova to write about Blaga Dimitrova and hope to present that work on The Bardo Group blog one day.

Finis

I was there.

Weeks of waiting, watching,
wondering how you held on,
how you defied
the inevitable.

You clung to life,
her tenuous tendrils
all that kept you here.

I’ve watched the change
death brings
when so slow—
the fragile, fading
waning of vigor.

A life unnoticed—
when not a mark is made
or sound is heard,
you die alone.

But I was there.

This morning,
you let go
and fluttered to the ground
among so many others,

and I was there.

– Victoria C. Slotto

Photo Credit: Mayang.com
Photo Credit: Mayang.com

I’ve been watching the tree outside the window where I meditate. One leaf, glorious in the height of autumn caught my attention and I kept an eye on it until it dropped. For me, this is a metaphor. In my “past life,” I was in an religious order that watched with the dying 24/7. So often, the person had no one. So many lives go unnoticed. I think of this often when looking at all the leaves on a tree, or a field of sunflowers. And so it is.

© 2013, Victoria C. Slotto, All rights reserved

Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer's Expo March 2012
Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer’s Expo March 2012

2940013445222_p0_v1_s260x420VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~ is an accomplished writer and poet. Winter is Past, published by Lucky Bat Books in 2012, is Victoria’s first novel. A second novel is in process. On Amazon and hot-off-the-press nonfiction is Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage Dementia. Victoria’s ebooks (poetry and nonfiction) are free to Amazon Prime Members. Link HERE for Victoria’s Amazon page.

51tBOKHnyZL._AA160_Editor’s note: Congratulations, Victoria, on that the long awaited publication of print copies of Jacaranda Rain, Collected Poems, 2012, Beautifully done.

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.

Battle Horse

Lonely_by_Sylwiaa
[I’ve heard Ekphrasis* described as one of the ugliest words in the English language. In writing this poem, I would like to try and make it ironic]

In this, another war poem, at the same time I both celebrate and mourn the destiny of millions of horses in the front lines on World War 1. Here, I may talk about a strong stallion with great heritage from the same lines as pure bread battle horses that served knights of old before war became so mechanised.  The first world war was the turning point between the old and new ages of war, in which the military cavalry masters of the old order clashed with the new; and the result was an unmitigated armageddon, an unprecedented tragedy of slaughter in blood and mud … there is no undue irony in this great stallion’s story, insofar as it’s consequences, though its life is spared, its mental health is not, like so many human members of the armed forces who serve on or near to the front lines, who physically survive but who are consumed, through trauma, by some degree of mental illness.

Her gentle hand enwrapped his nose
and pulled it to her face.
Behind his nostril, where there is
the very softest place,
she kissed him tenderly and smelt
the scent of peerless blood
that coursed his veins and caused his mane
to tremble with a power
that came from generations of
highbred aristocracy.
This kind of power was visible,
it rippled like a lake
that caught a sudden gust of wind,
and shimmered, glistening.

He’d knightly strength for greater things
and so it proved to be.
A friend of friends, an officer,
had visited to see
and beamed at his magnificence
there was no doubt for him
that this beast was set to ride
for glorious history…

…until his inglorious return,
a sight that broke her heart.

His eyes had depth of understanding
she knew too well. Their look,
injected as they were with fear,
but not the normal kind
– the kind that came from healthy gallops
over his favourite fell.

No. This fear, its source was made …
(what she saw then choked her eyes)
… made from inner visions of
an unspeakable kind of hell;
mud-filled craters’ stench of death,
through endless shock of shell, but
unshakeable loyalty to his charge
despite his spirit’s knell.

In time the empty frame that stood
motionless in the field,
with timeless care she tended him,
though never fully healed
the scars that stiffened weary spirit
that caused him so much pain,
but filled with love and trust once more
the noble steed regained
a hint of what he used to feel:
excitement for the day,
security in his domain,
where once he held full sway;
desire that burned in his dark eyes
to lead her in his way
back to the stable where he’d sink
his nose in soft sweet hay.

– John Anstie

© 2012,2013 introduction and poem, John Anstie, All rights reserved
Illustration ~ Lonely by SylwiaS Digital Art / Photomanipulation / Surreal©2009-2013 SylwiaS

Ekphrasis or ecphrasis, from the Greek description of a work of art, possibly imaginary, produced as a rhetorical exercise, and is a graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art.

John_in_Pose_Half_Face351bhS0cThKL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_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 (UK).

product_thumbnail-2.phpJohn 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.

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.

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

From Father to Son to Daughter

After my dad passed away several years ago, my mom gave me possession of the family collection of photo albums and scrap books, and I made the solemn promise I’d keep them safe.

It was an easy promise because I adore all the family artifacts. As a kid, I used to dive into the scrapbook pages and smile at photos of my hot young mom (she was stunning!) and my smart young dad (he was geeky!).

My mom was a great scrapbooker and I have mountains of artifacts to explore including photos, family letters and souvenirs.

The hand written letters are what I cherish the most. Reading words inked out in the strong hand of my great grandfather on his official stationary gives me a sense of connection to a man I never knew, yet his very DNA is alive within me. I can learn who he was by the choice of language and the surety of his pen stroke.

My grandfather on my father’s side was also a good letter writer. He had a keen sense for telling the mundane facts while inserting a good dose of wry humor. He was close to all eight of his children and since my father had moved a good distance from home, the two stayed close by writing letters.

Among the piles of correspondence I found a gem in an envelope from my grandfather to my father. It was typewritten using carbon paper, so perhaps my grandfather was making copies for all of his kids.

Because the photo (below) of an old letter may be difficult to read, here is what it says:

12 Things To Remember

* *

1. The value of time

2. The success of perseverance.

3. The pleasure of working.

4. The dignity of simplicity.

5. The worth of character.

6. The power of kindness.

7. The influence of example.

8. The obligation of duty.

9. The wisdom of economy.

10. The virtue of patience.

11. The improvement of talent.

12. The joy of originating.

The handwritten bit up in the corner says, “Read weekly, a good guide – Dad”

Such simple words that encapsulate such very strong values. This is endearing fatherly advice to a son and it is timeless. This was written in 1949, but is just as applicable 64 years later.

This advice was passed from father to son, and holding it in my hands it passes again, now from from father to daughter.

This guide has meaning to me and gives me much to ponder as I wade through another busy work week and think about who I am and who I came from.

And who I want to be.

To all fathers and grandfathers, I wish you a very joyful Father’s Day. May your own good words find their way through the generations.

***

© Karen Fayeth, copyright 2013, all rights reserved. The family photo of the author and her father and the image of the letter are covered under copyright. Please be respectful.

webheadshotKAREN FAYETH ~ is one of our regular contributing writers. She is our new tech manager, site co-administrator along with Jamie and Terri, and fiction and creative nonfiction editor. She blogs at Oh Fair New Mexico. Born with the writer’s eye and the heart of a story-teller, Karen Fayeth’s work is colored by the Mexican, Native American, and Western influences of her roots in rural New Mexico complemented by a growing urban aesthetic. Karen now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. When she’s not spinning a tale, she works as a senior executive for science and technology research organization.

Karen has won awards for her writing, photography, and art. Recent publication credits include a series of three features in New Mexico magazine and an essay with the online magazine Wild Violet. Her latest short story will be published in the May edition of Foliate Oak. Karen’s photography is garnering considerable attention, her photo titled “Bromance” (featuring Aubry Huff and Pat Burrell) was featured on MLB Network’s Intentional Talk hosted by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar.

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

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.

A MEMORIAL FOR OUR FRIEND …

“We’re all just walking each other home.” Ram Dass

For Trekker …

Ann, Rob, and I attend his memorial today.

·

WALKING HOME

by

Jamie Dedes

·

his leathered skin a shroud, crinkled

furrowed from his wild mind and dry

explorations under our California sun

where he wondered with his students

·

and friends, the outdoorsmen stand

by him as he rests dying by an oak

table, a jelly glass, childhood fave

sits with his preferred gin, taking it

·

by the spoonful from the kind hand of

a hospice nurse until he rests, sleeps

then walks on, in the doleful blue of

of our tears: a soft fairwell dear friend

·

© 2012 poem, Jamie Dedes All rights reserved

Photo credit ~ Vera Kratochvil, Public Domain Pictures.net

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

OF DYING

OF DYING

by

Victoria Ceretto-Slotto (liv2write2day)

That pain surrounds our birth, there’s no denying,
though worse, the fear that comes with thoughts of dying.

For life’s sojourn is pierced by sounds of crying,
as day-by-day we creep unto our dying.

Absorbed by fear of loss, we turn to buying
mere toys to mask remembrance of our dying.

And as our days grow long we know dark sighing
of friends and those we love. We watch their dying.

Perhaps, at length, we will eschew defying,
instead, embracing death: Victorious dying.

·

© poem, Victoria Ceretto-Slotto, 2011 All rights reserved

© photo, Dead Tree in Sepia from Grumpy-Puddin’s Photostream via Victoria, some rights reserved

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Victoria Ceretto-Slotto ~ A former nurse, Victoria is a novelist, poet, artist, and a docent at Nevada Museum of Art. Currently she is hard at work with final edits on her novel, Winter Is Past, recently accepted for publication. A second novel is in progress. Victoria finds inspiration in the mysteries of life, death, art and spirituality. She lives and writes in Reno, Nevada and Palm Desert, California with her photographer husband and two canine kids. Victoria shares some of her poetry on liv2write2day’s blog, where she also provides writing prompts and offers coaching with Monday Morning Writing Prompt and Wordsmith Wednesday.

PERSPECTIVES IN CANCER #16: Parvathy

PARVATHY

by

Jamie Dedes

You are the one I most hoped would make it

You of the vibrant colors, the valiant heart

You young with laughter, wise in sadness

Winging your way past the river of forgetfulness

Several years ago a brave and kind man started a local group for those of us with life threatening illness and our caretakers. Through it, it has been an honor and a privilege to meet people who remain heroic and funny and compassionate in the face of life’s great mystery, death.  We want the same things: more life, less pain, less fear. We fear the same things:  the unknown, will it hurt, will I feel cold and lonely, is there something, is there nothing, will I loose my “I”. We suffer remorse for the loss of ourselves and the time we won’t get. We wonder if in the end anyone will remember us. We fear separation from the people we love and of not being able to finish our work. We fear for our children and grandchildren if we are not here. Quite a number in our group have gone into remission or otherwise improved and moved on. Others we have lost to ALS . . . old age . . .Now we have lost Parvathy, the youngest, I believe, to cancer.  I don’t think she made it to thirty-five.

This summer before Parvathy died, I spent a day with her at Filoli Gardens.  The flowers were stunning, but dull beside the glow of Parvathy’s inner grace and enjoyment of the day and its wonders, which are many at Filoli.  We talked of life and of hopes for the future.  She still hoped for a healthy resolution and a future that would include a child with her new, young husband. She had pursued a successful professional career, and there were things she wished to accomplish. We got tea in the cafe and then sat in the gardens to drink it.  We were good company, I think, despite differences in age, culture, and education. We did have a bond, after all.  It is a bond all humans share, but not all of us face up to or are confronted with in the context of terminal illness.

For many of us, death comes slowly.  First we give up a bit of our hearing, then a bit of our sight, then more than a little of our agility, height, and memory. Eventually, we heave a sigh and off we go, shedding the fleshy capsule.  We have time to do things, to say good-bye slowly, to savor, to say to ourselves and others, “Hey, it was a great ride. No regrets.”  Parvathy didn’t have time. It was all much too fast and much too painful.  Her life had its high moments, certainly. She told me about some of them. But she did grow up in a war torn country.  She lost a brother to war.  She suffered from a terrible illness.  She struggled with anger and remorse over these experiences.  She tried to understand them and to understand a God who would do this to her and her family.  In the end, she may have decided that her life had been good. I hope she did. I hope she could focus on the joys and find some peace. I wasn’t there.  I don’t know. I just wished for her nothing less than what she wished for herself: a long life and less painful one.

© Jamie Dedes 2008-2011, all rights reserved

May your soul find peace, our dear, beautiful Parvathy. You are not and will not be forgotten. The warmth of your spirit lives on in our hearts.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Jamie Dedes ~ Jamie is a former freelance feature writer and columnist whose topic specialties were employment, vocational training, and business. She finds the blessing of medical retirement to be more time to indulge in her poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction. She has two novels in progress, one in final edits, and is pulling together a poetry collection. Her primary playground is Musing by Moonlight. She is the founder and editor/administrator of Into the Bardo. Jamie’s mother was diagnosed with cancer the first time at thirty-six. She went three rounds with breast cancer, one with thyroid cancer, and died at seventy-six of breast and colon cancer.

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #3: All Is Not Lost

ALL IS NOT LOST

by

Naomi Estment

We each deal with death in a unique way. I can’t speak for my father; whose hand I held when he succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 1998, aged 62. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if his disease was exacerbated by anguish about my brother’s inexplicable suicide almost fourteen years earlier. Although that type of trauma is tough to come to terms with, I’m certain that acceptance is the key to healing – which is why these quotes resonate deeply:

“Throughout history, there have been women and men who, in the face of great loss, illness, imprisonment, or impending death, accepted the seemingly unacceptable and thus found “the peace that passeth all understanding”.” – Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks

“Acceptance of the unacceptable is the greatest source of grace in this world.” – Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks

In line with the wisdom shared by Jamie in this blog’s About section, I aim to “live fully yet learn non-attachment” while exploring “the meaning of life in the light of death”. My experience is that the peril and passing of those close to us offer a gift of potentially releasing us from the fear of loss, through facing and transcending this (without implying that we bypass grief).

Being married for over sixteen years to an ex-professional superbike racer, who I love with all my heart, has challenged and blessed me in a similar way. For Dave, taking physical risks is as natural as breathing, and has almost cost his life more than once. Through it all, he remains a radiant example of how to live fully. I, on the other hand, have been learning how to “let go to grow”*.

This subject forms the underlying theme of my second novel (in progress), which is encapsulated in the following poem by the same name:

LOST IN LIGHT

Embraced by love
beyond her dreams,
a formless fear
arises inside

What if it all
vanished tomorrow,
never to return her
into the light?

Yet love’s power
beckons her deeper
towards the heart
of the sun

Where she feels the fear
but has to follow,
in order to learn
that there is no loss

Only change –
and pain is caused by
the simple illusion
of holding on

Acceptance
is the answer
to receiving the gift
of grace.

©Naomi Estment

My prayer is that we all find our way back into the sunlight of our soul connections, without melting our wings trying.

*Quote from phenomenal women’s wealth coach, Kendall Summerhawk who shares how the traumatic loss of someone extremely close triggered her own powerful transformation.

Naomi Estment ~  Naomi is a freelance writer and photographer and, with her husband Dave, is the co-owner of  Outdoor Video & Photographic and the Johannesburg-based OV&P Studio. Qualified in portraiture, fashion & glamour photography and master lighting, she’s passionate about the latter, particularly as it pertains to nurturing talent. She is a magazine journalist and has one completed novel (see My Books). Naomi also blogs at Naomi’s Notes where she charms readers with her stories and photographs of South Africa and safari. Occasionally she treats us to one of her very polished poems.  Naomi and Dave share their home with a Norwegian Forest Cat (Jina) and a beautiful German Shepherd (Quest).

Photo credit ~ Brown Sanke Eagle in Flight, Okavango Delta, Botswana by Dave Estment.