Daily Prompt: Home and Heart – A Lesson in Love and Promises Kept

100_0334Since my daughter was born in 1996, my mother and I had a very, very close relationship.  We either lived together or our doorsteps were within feet of each other.  In 2005, I made a huge career move and relocated myMom and Allie - The Early Years family from Kentucky to Florida.  My mother was right by my side.  I can’t say that things were always peaceful.  Both of us were strong, opinionated women.  We would but heads, but never stayed angry for long.  My husband and daughter were the peaceful ones of the house.  My mother loved both of them dearly.  I often told my husband that she likely loved him more than me.  They would sit and talk for hours. I believe he would have given his life for her had she asked.  When I think about the two people in my life that made my career possible, these would be the two.  It doesn’t matter how smart or successful you can become, without a supportive family, life in my line of business is not possible.  It also doesn’t matDSC_0896ter where your head rests at night, home is truly where your heart is.  My heart belonged with my mother, husband, and daughter.

No matter how my life changed, my mother was my life force.  No matter where we were or how far apart we were, I knew and could feel her force in my life.  In 2008, my sister, still living in Ky, gave birth to my niece (Emma-Marie).  My mother faced a dilemma, she wanted to have the same relationship with Emma that she had with my daughter.  I was sad to see her go back to Kentucky, but completely understood.

Later that same year, my mother began having tingling sensations in her left hand.  She went to the doctor and physical therapy to work through what they thought was a pinched nerve.  In February 2009, we received terrible news that the pinched nerve was a symptom of a serious type of lung cancer called Pancoast’s Tumor.  As heartbreaking as this was, it was a miracle that she was back in Kentucky.  The medical treatment possibilities in Louisville were endless while the offerings in our area in Florida was fair at the very best.

Gatton LadiesShe began a very aggressive regime of treatment in an attempt to beat the cancer.  During this time, her spirits were amazing.  She continued her role as the comforter of the family, even though we should have been comforting her.   My life on the road continued.  Though she was in Ky, I could still feel her life force in my soul.  My mother and I would talk everyday, several times a day.  In the summer of 2009, she chose to stop all treatments in order to live the remainder of her days making the most of the time she had left.

During this time, we were living apart. She was in Ky with the rest of our family and I was in Florida. I went to visit her quite often. We would sit and talk about anything that crossed our minds. Every time I left to come home to Florida, I had to say my goodbyes in case it was the last time.  Each time I visited with her, saying goodbye was harder.  I knew we were getting closer to the day when goodbye would be forever.

Angels in our midst

Picture provided by
Andrea Patterson-Flaherty

I always let my mother drive our conversations.  This was her condition and her life.  She needed to go through the stages of grief at her pace, hopefully eventually coming to accept the cards as they were dealt.  During one of the last visits, she wanted to talk about dying.  There were several times she would speak of seeing angels around her.  My aunts would roll their eyes thinking that she was delusional from the medication.  What did it matter, if she was comforted then who cares.

She would talk about the angels and even describe them in vivid detail.  There was one time in particular that gave me chills because she actually knew the name of the angel.  This particular angel she had spoken of was a lady named Pauline, whom we both knew.  Pauline was a member of our church in Florida.  My mother and Pauline wrote letters fairly often.  What my mom didn’t know was than Pauline had passed away the week prior to this conversation.  So when my mother mentioned the angel looking exactly like Pauline, I knew she was not delusional.  God had sent angels to comfort her while she was in transition.

She was coming to accept that her time was limited.  She began to talk about the things she needed to accomplish before going.  Everyone has things that they have to do before dying.  There are times that these “things” actually keep us going until we can be assured that our jobs are finished.  This was how it was with my mother.  She was always thinking of her kids.  Her need for me was to be able to let go of her and know that I would be OK.  This was tough especially since I had no idea of how she would be on the “other side”.  Would she be truly happy and pain-free?  My entire life to this point had told me that she would be in Heaven and that it was great.  How could I know for sure?  It is not like I could go there and check it out.

DSC_0192_2So, I did the next best thing.  I asked her to promise that she would come back and tell me she was happy.  That would be the only way, I could let go.  This request made her laugh harder than I had heard her laugh in a while saying that I was always the one to place conditions on everything.  She replied that she wasn’t sure if that would be possible.  I told her that she must demand that God allow her to come back.  If she promised, it would be so.  She had spent her life rejoicing in the glory of God’s will for her life without ever asking Him for anything.  How could He refuse, right?  Well she did what any mother would do in this situation, she promised that she would come back after her death and let me know she was fine.

Time went by and we never spoke of this request again nor did I mention it to anyone else for fear that they would really thing I was loony.  My visits continued as her condition deteriorated.  As my last visit was coming to an end, I was coming to realize that this was quite possibly the last time I would actually speak to my mother.  As I left, I knew that in the coming weeks, we would be making the trip for a much different, much harder reason.

My daughter’s spring break was around the corner.  It was important to get her up to Ky to say good-bye one last time.  The day her break began, we jumped in the car and made the drive back to Ky.  We arrived at my aunt’s house at close to 9 pm.  Mom was not awake and possibly not conscious.  We went in to see her.  She stirred a bit as though acknowledging our presence and the presence of my daughter.  We then left to settle in for the night at my sister’s house.

Several hours later, we got the call we were dreading.  The end was coming and it was a matter of hours.  My brother, sister, and I along with my aunt’s and uncle went to be by her side.  As difficult as this was to endure, I cannot tell you how blessed I felt to be able to hold her hand in an effort to comfort her as she crossed. She was not afraid of death. She knew where she was going and who was waiting for her to arrive.

DSC_0189_2Several months later, I had the most amazing and comforting dream. I dreamed that she was with my father (who passed away in 1989). They were standing together, hand in hand. They were dressed up, him in a suit and her in a light blue pretty dress that was cinched at the waist with a floating skirt (kind of like what June Cleaver use to wear).  Anyway, they were together holding hands and very happy.  They were standing in my doorway, with the most warming light completely surrounding them.  My mother summoned me to her to tell me it was time they left and where they were going was the most magnificent place I could ever imagine.

When I woke from that dream, I felt a sense of comfort I had never felt before. Later that day I realized there was even greater significance because it was my parent’s wedding anniversary. Not only kept her promised, but God allowed me to see my parents together again for the first time in over 20 years.

Now I still miss my mother dearly.  There is often not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her and wonder what she would think about this or that situation that I come across.  Most days, I can think of her with a smile or a laugh unless I am spending time writing about my loss of her (like now), in which I am crying like a baby.

Since my dream, I have done a lot of research on death, dying, and dreams.  One thing I found that provides the most comfort is that our deceased loved ones can sometimes visit and communicate with us in our dreams as we sleep.  There are many, many opinions on this subject.  To me, the only thing that matters is my mother made one last promise and was damned sure he was going to keep it.  Even in death, she kept her strength of character.

As I sit and reflect about my time with her.  The impact she had on my life is unmeasurable. Though she is no longer part of this world, a potion of my heart belongs to her.  As long as I can remember her, the home we created can be anywhere I desire because home and heart cannot be separated by time or plac

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beignets, the Mysterious Helene, and the LaLaurie Mansion

It wasn’t that long ago that my travels took me to the city of New Orleans.Image What amazes me the most about this city is how you can feel the soul of the city as soon as you step off of the plane.  The history, the legends, the mystique of the city is glorious but can be quite overwhelming. During this particular visit, I played the diligent employee and spent most night at my desk in a corner room of the J W Marriott overlooking the magnificent downtown skyline.  Occasionally, I would wonder out to Canal Street for dinner, a quick stroll, or to browse through one of the many eclectic gift shops.  On the last night of my visit, I decided to delve a little deeper into the city and indulge in the city’s fine fare.

ImageOur first stop of the night was Cafe Du Monde, the home of the legendary beignets.  On this particular night, the tourists were out in force at Cafe Du Monde.  Of coarse it didn’t hurt that the evening was gorgeous and the moon was full.  As we stand in line at the outside carry-out window, I can’t help but to watch the bustling waiters/waitresses in their green, white, and black attire delivering fresh from the fryer beignets, drenched in powdered sugar, to the masses.  There are more waiters/waitresses here than I think I have ever seen at an establishment and most are extremely busy.  Their uniforms are very reminiscent of the style from the 1960 soda fountain clerks would wear, including the paper triangle hat.  (Of coarse you do realize that I was not around in the 1960’s so I can’t do an official comparison, but this is the feel of the place.)  We order our beignets “to go” so that we can be good little people and eat dinner before desert – all the while listening to our beignets call out to us begging to be eaten.

With our beignets in hand, we head down the street in the search for a restaurant for dinner.  One thing I have learned when traveling, is that you should pay close attention to the number of patrons at a restaurant in order to determine whether it is worth chancing fate.  Using this, we pass up several establishments that were empty during what should be a bustling dinner time.  We walk up to a third restaurant and peer inside the window to see quite the crowd.  Looks good, so we take the leap and ask for a menu.  The server informs us that they “have no menu” but instead offer a 5-course dinner with a small selection of entrees (beef, fish, duck, lamb, and something else I cant remember).  Why not?  We take our seat at a table, where our dinner begins to turn a little odd.  The waiter arrives to take our orders, yet we don’t really know what is on the menu or the price points.  It seems strange and uncomfortable that we have to actually ask for the prices.  Do people just come into this restaurant and trust that they will be charged fairly?   In any case, I choose the filet as my entree, as it seems like the safest choice.

Now the fun begins.  Our 5-course meal includes:

  • a strange form of shrimp cocktail
  • leek and potato soup – This was actually very good.  A bit too spicy for my palette but very good, nonetheless.
  • a one square inch cut of beef brisket – I believe they actually used a ruler as it was almost in perfect cube form. This was very tender and flavorful also.  I think I could have enjoyed another cube.
  • the entree was served – My choice was Filet Mignon with seasonal veggies.  I will say that I have had much better filets at much cheaper establishments.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t even close to the best.  Definitely over-rated and way over-priced.
  • banana bread pudding – Very, very good.  I am not a fan of anything banana flavored (except the fruit), but this was mouthwatering.

Along with our meal, we were offered the privilege of enjoying a hotel sized glass of water and ONE (that’s right ONE) glass of tea.

The best part of the entire dinner came when I spotted a picture on the wall of a young woman who “appeared” to be a movie star from the 1950’s or 60’s.  I asked the waiter/bus boy who the person in the picture was.  He responds that he thinkImages the picture came with the frame.  After inspection, I don’t think so.  He takes the picture down and written on the back was the name ‘Helene’.  On the face of the picture, there was once a handwritten note and autograph.  While the ink was no longer visible, there was a clear imprint of the message that could only be seen when holding the frame at the right angle.  The message read something to the effect of “my love for the boy is as much as the family will allow. Love  Helene.”  I take a quick snapshot because I feel destined to uncover this picture’s true identity.  I have searched and searched and searched to figure out who this person is.  No luck.

Our last stop of the evening is probably the most memorable.  Earlier in my visit during one of my nightly strolls, I found a book about the history of a very famous house in New Orleans, the LaLaurie Mansion.  This house is said to be one of (if not the) most haunted houses in New Orleans.  As the legend goes, Delphine LaLaurie chained her servants in the attic where they lived in horrible conditions until the house burned down.  As the house burned, the servants perished because she refused any attempts to rescue them.  It is believed that the spirits of the servants still inhabit the house to tImagehis day.

After reading about the history of this house, there was no way I could leave New Orleans without visiting the house for myself. So off I went in search of 1140 Royal Street.  A few minutes later, we see the house.  In the moonlight, it appeared very majestic and quite beautiful.  I have no idea who the owners are but they seem to be doing quite well at maintaining the exterior of the building.  It is evident that this house is on the agenda for every ghost tour available in New Orleans.  There were at least four large groups of people walking by and listening intently to their guides as they told the lore of the building.  I snap a few pictures and then decide to call it a night heading back to the J W for one last night.

I don’t think twice about my pictures until I get home.  That weekend I’m syncing my phone to my desktop and take a look at the various pictures I had snapped throughout the last couple of months.  I pull up one of the shots of the LaLaurie house and in two of the windows, it really looks like someone or something is peering back at me through the window.   Very spooky!!! Could this be my imagination after reading the book or is this evidence of a ghostly world inhabiting the legendary LaLaurie Mansion?  You be the judge… I would love to hear your thoughts.