Posted by: Brenda Kula | April 19, 2008

Broken Wings

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Last week as I aimed my car toward Tulsa, I thought about all my blogging friends for whom I’ve grown so attached. You are all smiles that fill my day.

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And then, as usually happens when I drive long distances, my mind wanders. The CD played in the background, lulling me into the past.

Carly Simon singing: Blackbird. In her throaty, unique, and mellifluous voice.

"Blackbird singing in the dead of night…"

Memories of another drive, to central Oklahoma that day: May 2, 2006. To see my best friend and former mother-in-law, who had been quite ill for several months. I knew she had little time left, and hoped I’d get to see her alive one more time.

We had not always been so close. Really for only the past six years. She helped pull me from a horrible depression that began in May of 2000. Mother’s Day. A hard day for me, still. She called me from 90 miles away every day and helped pull my heavy, slack body from the black hole. One phone call at a time. Encouraging me to put one foot in front of the other. I had been divorced from her son for 20 years. But somehow, we came back together, sharing my adult girls. And she became a surrogate mother.

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"Take these broken wings, and learn to fly…"

She’d literally blown up the balloon that was my limp, broken soul. Forcing life back into me. Where apathy, and the powerful force that is genetics bridging generation upon generation, hung about me like a shroud.

The last coherent words I’d heard from her via long distance were, "I’m going to go take care of Pepper for you." Pepper was the rescue dog, sweet little fellow, who’d died in my lap at the end of March. One week later, my dear friend fell ill also. I felt like something had boldly knocked the wind out of me.

"All your life…You were only waiting for this moment to arise…"

When I arrived at her beloved home in the country, her sons and daughters-in-law were there, as were two hospice nurses. She was lying in a hospital bed set up in her living room. Her body was twisted and stiff, the stroke having taken most of the vibrant woman I remembered all these years. As much as I wanted her to live, this was no longer living. She could not communicate with me. She could only stare blankly at me, trapped inside her body.

"Blackbird singing in the dead of night…"

I asked the nurses if it would be okay if I crawled up into the bed and lay next to her. They encouraged me to do so. I did not want her to die alone. Her words of encouragement had literally brought me back to life. This was the least I could do.

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"Take these sunken eyes, and learn to see…"

I held her and told her how very much I loved her. The others had gone into the next room, giving us some time alone. The nurses hovered nearby. I told her that the girls were on their way. Please wait for them. I was answered by these agonizing attempts to breathe. A stroke had been her greatest fear. And now she would succumb to it. I felt so helpless. I would just have to watch and wait and let her go.

"All your life…You were only waiting for this moment to be free."

I cried and felt comforted by the warmth that emanated from her body. Kept repeating myself, over and over. I told her she’d been like a mother; and my best friend. The best grandmother the girls could have had. Their only grandmother. Please hang on a little longer. They are driving as fast as they can to be here.

"Blackbird fly, blackbird fly…Into the light of the dark black night."

I cried as I remembered on this April day driving to Tulsa, less than one month shy of the second anniversary. I have a memorial garden dedicated to her in my yard. I have tried to keep her memory alive by making my little grandson photo albums showing her playing with him. Showing the love she so clearly felt for him. But he was only two. He will not really remember Gigi. The road blurred before me and I lost myself in the gray asphalt that melted the miles underneath me.

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"Blackbird fly, blackbird fly…Into the light of the dark black night."

But she could not wait for them. She, who had played with them so exuberantly when they were children. She, who had taken my two year old daughter and loved her just as sweetly as the one that came after. Who had taken her into to her classroom, where, as the education professor, she encouraged my child to make her students laugh with her precocious flights of fancy. She, who had helped me dip the youngest in cool bath water when fever dangerously spiked and scared us senseless.

"Take these broken wings, and learn to fly…"

She took her final breath. I lay there with her for another hour, wanting my children to get to see her in the home where they’d spent so much of their lives. Her youngest son gently encouraged me to leave her side, to let them make the call to come get her body. I know they needed to place the inevitable call, to make final arrangements. But I just couldn’t bring myself to leave her yet. Not until my daughters were there to say goodbye.

"All your life…"

And then they finally arrived, her death as yet unbeknownst to them. I agonized and cried with them, grief setting in. The disbelief came that swiftly follows the death of a loved one. And yet, one can only truly feel this grief in a solitary fashion. Alone.

As we come into the world. And as we go out of it. Ultimately alone.

"You were only waiting for the moment to arise."

"You were only waiting for the moment.." 

"…To be free."

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This is the garden I created in her memory. I planted brightly colored flowers to symbolize her love of painting. The plants all had meaning, such as the red rose for love. She was a talented painter and educated many school teachers at the University of Oklahoma in her tenure as a professor.

I come here and remember Charlyce, our fun-filled times laughing over the girls’ antics as children, and the friendship we shared. The sign I had made says, "Charlyce’s Garden Of Love."

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Responses

  1. What a wonderful posting. You were so lucky to have had such a special person in your life when you truly needed a friend. The memorial garden you made for her is lovely. It is nice to have a place to go and remember a loved one.

    Jan Always Growing

  2. Dear friend–
    I teared up with this moving post. What a powerful, honest writer you are! And I think of my own beloved mother-in-law, one of my best friends. I also think of the day my father-in-law, who had been the father I never had, passed over. Thank you for reminding me, and giving me the inspiration to write of them sometime.

    I’m so glad you blog, Brenda!
    Hugs,
    CurtissAnn

  3. Oh, gosh, I always have one more thing– thanks for the pictures of the bits of your beautiful memorial garden. I have painted on rock, and seeing yours encourages me to give myself the treat soon.

    CA

  4. Great blog. I found you from Rosa’s site. Thank you Rosa! Congrats ont he drawing, too.

    Abigail, Charlie, Bonnie and Clyde are adorable. I would love a Yorkie, but my husband isn’t too keen on it. Are your precious ones very yippy?

  5. Brenda, the beautiful garden you’ve planted in memory of Charlyce, is an amazing remembrance, to someone who was so very special to you.

    Wonderful post.
    Pat

  6. Beautifully expressed, Brenda. I have tears in my eyes. But what a tender memory for you to share.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  7. I honestly don’t know what to say – this was so moving. It truly touched my heart.
    Written so beautifully!
    The garden is beautiful as well.

  8. Good morning Brenda,

    This was such a touching story. I think it’s wonderful that you had a friendship that special. The garden you created for her is absolutely lovely.

    Rue


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