Surrender 85: Tolkien Reading Day Helps Me to Release a Friend

Today is Tolkien Reading Day, a global celebration of the writings of JRR Tolkien. Begun by The Tolkien Society in 2003, the event is intended to encourage people to read and discuss this amazing author’s work.

I discovered this holiday last year and I’ve looked forward to reading from a selection of my Tolkien books today. There is a different theme every year. Life, Death and Immortality is the theme for 2016.

I enjoyed a quiet time this morning, reading from The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion and a beautiful leather Tolkien Dictionary that my grandson Dayan gave me for Christmas. Tolkien is one of my favorite authors and his words have the power to stir me deeply.

The holiday and theme of Life, Death and Immortality carried greater significance for me today. A dear friend of mine died five years ago this month. He possessed a beautiful soul. He was also a beautiful mess. Big-hearted, fun loving, one of the best huggers in the world, he appeared to be a happy, successful man.

However, like so many others, inside he was a broken man, full of angst and deep wounds. To him, there was no healing from his inner pain, which descended upon him at unexpected times, robbing him of joy and hope. During his last bout with despair, he ended the pain by taking his own life.

I have carried that memory for five years. It has been a very solitary journey in which I have worked my way through shock, grief, and anger to acceptance, forgiveness and finally gratitude for the impact he had on my life. My journey now is what it is, because of his life and death.

I have also been the caretaker of my friend’s cremains, his ashes contained in a large brass urn. Many times during the last five years I’ve thought of spreading his ashes in a beautiful place that he loved. There was one problem. I couldn’t get the urn opened.

Recently, it has felt like the right time to release my friend, to symbolically free him and free myself, to let him go. If only I could get the urn to open. A week ago, I asked him for help, from the Spirit realm, if this was indeed the right time to do this. Tuesday, in an unexpected turn of events, the urn was opened. It was time.

This was a gorgeous day to say “I’ll see you again some day.” I walked along the river, which is my symbol for this year. The river also symbolizes Life and Transcendence, Flow and the Passing of Time.

I found the perfect spot to release the ashes. I played his favorite song. His wristbands adorned my wrist. I spoke quietly to him, thanking him for touching my life. I invited his shining spirit to visit me anytime. I wished him peace and joy and love. And scattered his ashes along the river.

The sun was brilliant upon the water. And the air was perfectly still, yet charged with energy. I suddenly noticed yellow wildflowers growing all around me. I felt peace.

I read a quote of Tolkien’s, which was so right for the day. And headed home. As I walked to my car, I sling-shot the wrist bands deep into the woods, where they can rest among the flowers, reminders of his presence in this place that he loved.

“End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path. One we all must take. The gray rain curtains of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it. White shores and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”


Surrender 74: Putting the Keep in Keepsakes

Today was another Monday spent in Arkansas. While Greg worked outside today, doing some needed repairs, I had the inside of the house to myself. The children have taken the items that they want, or tagged the bigger pieces for later delivery. Greg and I have also picked out the mementos that have significance for each of us. 

Today I started the task of the final pass through. Beginning in the spare bedroom, I once again sorted through boxes of items, creating three stacks: sell, keep, throw away. By far, the two largest piles were in the throw away and the sell categories. 

In the still house, in this stripped down room, I felt a mix of emotions. Is this what’s left at the end of life? Piles of stuff that no one wants or needs? I threw open windows and let sunshine and warm fresh air in, to dispel the gloom and chill, of the room and of my thoughts. 


I know, in my heart, that Bob and Leta Moore leave a much greater legacy than these boxes of knick knacks, piles of papers and stacks of photos. And those memories and stories and character qualities are passed on to their surviving son, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  

I sorted through the items, hauling out four more large bags of trash. From that room, I only toted home one small box. But, what interesting items I found. The tiny gold ring, a baby’s ring or a pinky ring, pictured above, obviously belonged to someone. The little wooden frame is handmade. Unfortunately, there’s nothing written on the back to tell the ring’s story. And now, no one to ask about it. Into the Keep Box it went. 


My grandson Dayan helped me properly identify this cow bell! I sent him a pic and an inquiry about the country of origin. I was thinking Peruvian. It’s Swiss. He’s such a smart young man. One of Peterson’s world traveling sales reps must have brought this piece home to Leta. Her home is an international bazaar of goodies. I kept this quirky bell too. 

This cute little chick, made from modeling dough allowed to hardened and then painted, brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. On the bottom is scratched “EM”…Elissa Moore. There’s no date but she was a just wee girl when she made this for her Mimi. And Mimi loved it and kept it. This big-eyed guy went into the Keep Box, to be given to the artist. Elissa was happy that I found him. 


I found this unusual item, made of brass, that I had never seen before. I picked up the duck head, wondering where the rest of him went!  On closer examination, I discovered it is a pencil sharpener. That made me laugh. I can use this conversation starter with my colored pencils, and think of Leta every time I use it. 


As I was finishing up in the spare room, I picked up one last item. I didn’t want it. The kids didn’t either. It had no value at all. The beach ball, still inflated, had been hidden away, in the closet, for at least 25 years. That’s no exaggeration. My children are all in their thirties. It has been many, many years since they have batted this colorful ball around. 

As I held the somewhat squishy ball, a thought struck me. Papa Bob, or perhaps even Mimi Leta, blew this ball up for the grandkids, long, long ago. I was holding their breath, literally in my hands. Breath…air exhaled from the lungs…synonymous with life. 

In that quiet, now sacred space, I slowly pulled the plug on the ball. Hesitating for just a moment, holding my breath, I squeezed on the beach ball, releasing the air within, releasing so much more. Fearing the air would be stale, I nonetheless directed that pent up breath into my face, inhaling deeply. The air was cold, sweet, with no hint of staleness. 

I stood there, eyes closed, breathing in the air that Bob or Leta used to inflate that ball for my kids. Their beautiful grandchildren. What fun and loving grandparents they were. What precious people who enjoyed life. I breathed in the essence of their lives, spent now as this ball was spent, an empty shell. 

The tears started. I surrendered to them. Releasing tears. Cleansing tears. Grateful tears. It was time to go home. 


Surrender 23: Truly, Madly, Deeply

In the ten days since Alan Rickman passed away, I’ve spent time reading about his remarkable life and watching film clips on YouTube. I greatly appreciated this versatile actor, who portrayed villains, lovers and even aliens with equal portions of grace and skill. I didn’t know him, personally. But I’ve certainly felt his absence from the earthly realm since his death. 

While processing his absence, in my own way, one film has come up repeatedly. I’ve seen many of Alan’s films, but not this one from 1991, Truly, Madly, Deeply. I made plans to eventually watch all of his movies, over the next few months, as a celebration of his talent and life. And this movie, although not the one I had selected first, kept catching my attention. For me, that’s a nudge. The repetition is an invitation to surrender to the flow to see where it goes. When a free version of Truly, Madly, Deeply appeared on my recommended list on YouTube yesterday, I knew this would be the first of Alan’s films that I watched. 


Truly, Madly, Deeply stars Juliet Stevenson, Alan Rickman and Michael Maloney. This romantic comedy, rated PG, was written and directed by Anthony Minghella and has a run time of 1 hour and 46 minutes. 

Nina (Stevenson) is dealing with nearly unbearable grief after the sudden loss of her young husband, Jamie (Rickman). In spite of the best efforts of her family, friends, coworkers and therapist, Nina is struggling with swirling emotions, including anger. She just wants Jamie back in her life, and in that longing, during times of need, she imagines that he’s there beside her, speaking to her, giving her advice. 

One night, as Nina plays the piano, mourning her husband, she hears Jamie accompanying her on his cello. They were both gifted musicians and often played duets together. When she slowly turns to look over her shoulder, Jamie is standing there, impossibly present. 

Nina fears Jamie is a figment of her imagination, but she doesn’t care. Jamie, her Jamie, is back and that’s all that matters. They laugh together, play the word games they invented, dance, sing and play duets again. Nina asks questions about dying and the afterlife. Jamie fusses about the condition of the flat Nina has purchased and expresses his continuing dislike of the government. 

This strange new life should have been ideal. Except Nina and Jamie shift into who they truly are, not just their best versions of themselves. Jamie, who is dead after all, is always cold. His attempts to get warm cause Nina to be too hot. Her messiness inspires Jamie to tidy up, and rearrange the flat, which displeases Nina, who was learning to create her own space. 


And then there are the dead friends Jamie begins to bring home. They accumulate in the house, watching classic movie videos all hours of the day and night, and they too are freezing cold, collecting piles of blankets to warm themselves under. Nina exclaims that the rats that plagued her home are gone, apparently terrified of spirits, but she now has a ghost infestation. 

In the midst of the growing chaos at home, Nina finds herself dealing with a blossoming attraction to a living man (Maloney) that she seemingly met by chance. When she and Jamie have an argument over the guest ghosts helping him to rearrange the living room once again, Nina asks if this was really what their life was like before. She had remembered the wonderful times, the fun times, and had glossed over the ways they could irritate each other. 

As life rights itself, Nina realizes the real reason that Jamie came back to her. 

Oh, this was a beautiful movie, and Minghella’s directorial debut. I’m not sure how I have missed this one, but the poignancy and timing of this film were not lost on me. Minghella wrote the screenplay with Juliet in mind and asked his friend, Alan Rickman, to star in it as well. That depth of friendship between the director and two performers is evident in the intimacy of the movie. 

There were many teary-eyed moments for me, because of Alan’s recent passing, and due to the nature of the film. And yet how powerful the story was, and the lesson. The living must go on living, even as they miss their loved ones. Cherish the memories, speak to the departed, for they are listening, but don’t get stuck in bereavement. Live, laugh, love. The ending of the movie was a heart breaker, and absolutely right. 

Because I keep thinking of Alan’s absence here on earth, I was particularly struck by a poem Jamie and Nina recite to each other, near the end of the movie. Called Absence in the film, the use of the very word that resonates within me concerning Alan made me realize this was why I was guided to watch this movie now. In part it reads, 

Forgive me. If you no longer live, 

if you, beloved, my love, if you have died, 

all the leaves will fall in my breast, 

it will rain on my soul night and day, 

the snow will burn my heart, 

I shall walk with frost and fire and death and snow, 

my feet will want to walk to where you are sleeping, but I shall stay alive, 

because above all things you wanted me indomitable. (by Pablo Neruda)

I am grateful for many things around this experience, not the least of which was, that I surrendered to the flow of events that brought this movie to my awareness. It is an excellent film to watch to process grief and the pang of missing someone…even a man who has touched my heart in countless ways, without ever actually meeting me. 

Every part of me that longs for more, that soars over art of all kinds, that hopes and dreams, that misses someone I never really knew…all of me matters to the Divine. How do I know? Because even the small and seemingly insignificant trifles of my heart stir the Creator, who responds with love and grace and invitations to grow. I matter. All of me…truly, madly, deeply. 


Journey 15: A Tiny Treasure

tiny treasure acorn

A week ago today, my cousin Mindy left us, following a different path on her journey. It’s been a busy week, interspersed with sadness and joy, celebrations and reflections. She’s never been far from my thoughts. I’ve been able to spend time with Mindy’s son Harry this week as well, watching this bright, soulful young man literally grow up overnight as he has assumed responsibilities most 19 years never imagine.

I spent time in Neosho today, staying at the house while Harry was at school. These early anniversaries of loss are tough. Every Thursday, for a while, Harry will remember. I will remember. Mindy’s friends will remember. It’s part of the grieving process. Then the 8th of each month will bring a fresh wave of sadness and memory, and finally, each year January 8 will be a day of sorrow, mixed with more and more fond memories as time marches on.

Today, the loss is still fresh. The house was quiet and yet Mindy’s presence was strong and signs of her life were everywhere….the wool hooked rugs that she crafted so beautifully, her coat flung casually over a chair, a box of tea in the kitchen. Mindy’s pugs, which were her fur babies, watched me with big eyes.  Mindy loved these little dogs, calling one Bella and the other Rudy.

tiny treasure bella and rudy

It was a beautiful day, cool but with brilliant sunshine and just the tiniest promise of spring. Gathering leashes, I took Bella and Rudy for a long walk, savoring the warmth and the bright light that slanted through the trees in the park near Harry’s house. I let the dogs set the pace, so we ambled, stopping frequently, and that was fine with me. It fit perfectly my somber, reflective mood. In my heart, I talked to Mindy, telling her how proud I was of Harry. The dogs snuffled around the base of a large tree and as I stepped forward, something crunched beneath my feet. Looking down, I saw the ground covered in acorns. I was beneath an old oak tree and acorns and their tiny “caps” were scattered in a wide circle around the tree. My heart beat a little faster and I searched among the dried leaves for a perfect acorn to pick up.

The dogs came over to see what I had found as I at last spied what I was seeking. Smiling, I held the small brown nut in my hand. There is a deeply moving scene, in the final Hobbit movie, that made me smile even as tears filled my eyes. Thorin sees Bilbo holding an object in his hand and demands to see it. Bilbo opens his fist to reveal a small acorn. He picked it up in Beorn’s garden, he tells Thorin. He intends to plant it when he gets back to the Shire. Bilbo says he will care for the tree that grows and every time he sees the oak tree he will remember his journey, all of it, the good and the not so good. Thorin says it is a poor reward for his adventure but to Bilbo, it is a precious treasure and one he has carried and cherished for a long time.

That scene flashed through my mind as I cupped my own small acorn in my palm. What a significant find today. I will cherish this treasure as a reminder of my journey this year…all of it…the good and the not so good. I won’t plant the seed, as Bilbo did, however every time I see this acorn, I will remember, and smile. Bilbo’s treasure grew into a mighty oak tree that later in the story, became known as the Party Tree. Bilbo hosted his birthday party each year beneath that tree and memory and celebration become entwined.

And so it shall be for me. The memory associated with this small acorn, with the passage of time, will sprout into a mighty framework beneath which, I will celebrate… this year, this journey, Mindy. On January 8, of each future year, I will hold my treasure, and remember and rejoice. The pugs gave me quizzical looks. However, I felt Mindy’s approval, and the light around me shifted and brightened and the warmth was surely from a source beyond the sun. With quiet joy, and an acorn in my pocket, we headed home.

tiny treasure memory