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A Samhain prayer

On this Samhain Eve

I stand at the head of a long line

The last of my bloodline that there will ever be

I look back at the face of those that came before me

I see my nose and my chin

I see the red of my hair

I see those who went gray and white as I am changing

I see those who walked like me

I see those who loved trees and plants

I see whose who taught me to see the faeries

I see those who taught me to see life

I see those who taught me love

I see the ones who hurt inside so they hurt me

I forgive them

I see the friends that have gone through the veil

Before me

I see those love imprinted on my heart

I see all the shining ones who stand there

It is not my turn to join yet.

This year taught me how close it came to joining you

Some day I will see your shining hearts and faces

I keep you close to me

You taught me so much

I am grateful to have been loved

I am grateful to still have love around me

Hecate, this is your day

You are holding the veil back for us

To send love through

Faerie Queen, you sparkle on the other side

We bow in your honour

And we dance

Brighid, we turn our heads toward winter

And know your quiet strength

Is there for the asking

Elen, your swans pass over

Taking the new souls to Tir Na Nog

And we listen for the sound of wings

This Samhain I honour all those

Whose feet trod the path I walk

Walk with me

Teach me

Tell me stories

Let my ears and eyes be open this night

Let my hands and heart know what is important this night

I wait for the Dark Goddesses

Teach me

Tell me stories

Let my ears and eyes be open this night

Let my hands and heart know what is important this night

I wait for the dead

Teach me

Tell me stories

Let my ears and eyes be open this night

Let my hands and heart know what is important this night

2016

Beloved Dead

Goddess, I miss him so much

Some years are worse than others

I miss my shadow

I miss my near twin

I miss his huge smile

I miss his hugs

Oh Goddess

Why does it not getting any easier?

He’s gone and he always will be

I miss his humour that was different from everyone else in the family

I miss when he didn’t get our jokes

I miss him trying

Goddess, grief is an unfillable hole

Yes, grief reminds us we loved

But oh, it hurts sometimes

It hurts to stand alone in the memories

Memories that only he and I held

I miss him hiding behind me when dad hit me

I miss being his protector

I miss him in the audience when I sang

I miss being his audience

Goddess. I’m selfish

I miss his love

I miss his smelly feet

I miss knowing I could call him if I needed

I miss the secret names we called each other

I miss seeing his eyes when we came out to each other

I miss the wonder of knowing he was gay too.

I miss knowing I wasn’t alone with my secret

I miss that he will never know how Harry Potter ended

The last book he read was number 6.

I miss that we can’t share Star Wars rebirth

He kidnapped me to the very first one

Insisting I would love it.

Goddess, I miss my baby brother

And it hurts so much…

Dem Swedes in the woodpile

Going through these old photos of my great grandparents makes very conscious of how much loss they went through just to have a family. Their first two sons died 2 days apart, Axel at 3 and two days later George died at age 1, the next child, Ella (Veldma) survived until she was 18. Then came Hattie (Hatta or Harriet), Della (Lilly), my grandfather Carl, William Blaine who died at less than a year, Elsie (Alla), Robert was the last one. So three sons and one daughter died as children and three girls and two sons lived. The ones who survived Hattie made it to 73 and the others were all over 80. Great Grandma died when I was 5 at 95 in 1959.

I’m thinking my mom advocated for us all having Scottish names after growing up with the Swedish ones. All the girl’s names were suspiciously like the names of the Borden cows in the commercials when I was little. The names in parentheses are the first names they were born with and the other name is the American name they went by after they moved to LA. They started out in Minnesota when it was a territory and then Hilda (Halda) moved them all to LA around 1900 because she swore she was not going to live someplace colder than Sweden. I found the citizenship docs for the kids but Minnesota became a state in 1858 so I have no idea why they needed them if they were born here even if Isaac and Hilda weren’t citizens.

It must have hurt to lose 4 children. I can’t find any death certificates that say what they died of but they were living in Duluth at the time so maybe there was an epidemic of some sort in 1890 when the first two boys died. What killed Ella/ Veldma in 1908 at the age of 18?

Hilda is listed as a Smeddotter on her emigration report in the church records in Sweden. (Why church’s had emigration records I have no clue) Smeddotter means blacksmith’s daughter. So I have smiths on the Swedish and Scottish sides, probably where I got the urge to whack metal with large hammers. Funny, how things you like to do can maybe travel along your genes as well as what you look like. Kind of cool.

I know they all spoke Swedish until Hilda made them join the Presbyterian Church because it was the only church that has services in English and she wanted the kids to learn English because now they were in a America. There was one problem with this. When she got very old when I was little she would slip back into Swedish. I can remember my Uncle Don trying to get her to say “Jam and Jelly” and she’d reply “Pass me the yam and yelly” which used to reduce me to giggles.
Hers was the first funeral I ever attended. For some reason I spent most of it with my grandmother in the car. That was fine with me because Grandma could tie a handkerchief into a rabbit and make it hop up and down her arm and she kept Livesavers Chocomints in the handbag. I wish they still made those.

The biggest change after she died was the unanimous refusal to ever serve lutefisk at a holiday meal every again. Everything else Swedish was fine but no lutefisk, ever!

I got so much from them. My love of photography, grandpa gave me my first Brownie camera so I could be like him with his Leicas. Most of the photos I have of us as kids are from him. Dad took slides and so far they resist copying because they are too colour saturated for my scanner.

I got my boobage from my Great Aunts. I’m built like them to my mother’s horror. She would look at me and say, I don’t know where you go those but I look just like her aunts so it wasn’t hard to figure out.

I got my love of milk and pastries at breakfast from them. And some of my baking talent comes from them.

And I got my nose and I think my enormous hands from them. I bet I have bigger hands than Donald Trump, I had to wear men’s gloves when I was a bell ringer. Women’s gloves were way too small. My piano teacher in college loved them. I could reach more than an octave. Dad called them farmer hands. My sister has these long graceful thin fingered hands but even when I was skinny my hands were not but it was great for doing gymnastics because I rarely missed if I could get my hands on the bars. And it tickled my ortho that even when I had horrible tendinitis I had a grip strength of 80lbs in my left uninjured hand. Most women have a grip strength of 30 lbs or less. The right was only 70 lbs injured. And more than a few men that tried to give one of those handshakes they think are going to crush a women’s hand to exert dominance regretted it immediately when all I did was grin and bear down back. LOL! So dem Swedes were good for a few things. I think it’s the blacksmith’s fault,

Oh Hecate

Hecate

Now is your time

You walk among us as the veil thins

Please be with your Priestesses

Wherever they may be

They are called to ease the loved ones

The ones that are choosing this time

To pass through the veil

Let them know what is needed

Be with their hearts

They are breaking

Be with the ones leaving

Ease open the curtain

Let them pass easily

Surrounded by those that love them

Let them know that love awaits them on the other side

Comfort those left behind.

Stand with them

Hold their broken hearts

Let them know that love lasts

And is not gone

It’s never gone

Only harder to see

Hecate

Be with us at this time

We turn our faces to the veil

It is not our time

Heal our hearts

Let us know peace

Let us know there is no end

Only endless beginnings

Be with us and to the hour of our passing

Be here now,

Grief before someone dies is natural and nothing to be guilty about

What most people never talk about is the grieving you do before someone who is ill dies. I suspect most people feel guilty for grieving before but it’s real and it hurts just as much to watch someone die as after, sometimes more. More, because you feel alone because you don’t want to burden the person who is sick or the other family and friends.

Grief before can feel like a never ending tunnel that is only going to get worse. And it isn’t just the grief, it’s the tasks you are performing too. If you can get yourself into a head space of service it’s wonderful but sometimes you just can’t get there. Watching someone deteriorate before your eyes is hard and the physical things you have to do can make you resentful and grossed out and then you feel guilty for that and the losses mount up.

You think if you have to change one more diaper or change the bed one more time that you are going to run screaming down the hall and you get mad at them and at yourself. If you have to listen to one more delusion from someone in dementia or one more whine, you are just going to yell shut up!

You worry every time they bruise and they bruise at the slightest touch that you have done terrible harm even if the nurse or doctor tells you it just comes with it, you see the spread of purple and red and worry. They will stop eating and you want to try and make them even when told that it is a sign of their loosening of the ties to their physical body. And you go some place like your car and cry or just stare at the sky trying to gather yourself for another round.

I’ve been there now way too many times, now. This is your tax for loving. This is your tax for living and unless you are terribly narcississtic and selfish you do it and you keep on doing it. There is no reward for it except love. You have become a priestess of Hecate and no one asked you if you wanted to be a priestess of Hecate.

Hecate stands at the crossroads and waits for your loved one and you are one of the midwives that will hand your loved one to her. Brighid stand with you too and you are wrapped in her cloak ready to help you heal your heart.

It is natural and human to grieve before. Reach out and grab hands and hearts with people who are there to catch you. You may think you are alone but many people have been there before you and can be a light in the tunnel you see before you. Death is healing as much as any medicine. It is the end of pain for the person you love. It is not the end of your pain unfortunately but it can be shared. Let people help, Let people love you. And know that it is alright to grieve before and to keep going and you don’t have to be strong, you already are because you are there. You are not alone.

 

 

It’s going to be a rough week.

July 30th is always a hard day for me, thank heavens it’s not a weekday this year because I tend to turn into a sieve while also turning into my own version of a pensieve, so many memories. July 30th is the 11th anniversary of my little brother’s death.

Today the pensieve is serving up music which is always hard since music was a bond our whole family has. I remember lying on the floor with him, playing 78s from mom and dad’s collection of records. Everything from the Mikado and Victor Herbert to Bozo and the Birds and Danny Kaye telling fairy tales and Hans Christian Anderson’s stories and a lot of Scottish folk songs and Harry Lauder.

He was a year and half younger than me, so I had a shadow whether I wanted one or not. We were in choir together, and in bell choir and in school choir but he took a left turn and took up the trumpet after torturing us for a semester on the violin, it was not his instrument. He joined band and orchestra and I stayed firmly in choir but played my guitar and recorders at home, you can hide in choir.
Mom and dad took us to concerts and musicals from the time we were little. Some of my earliest memories are sleeping in dad’s lap at the Hollywood Bowl under a starry sky and watching deer creep down the hillsides. I think our first musical was Brigadoon but it may have been Peter and the wolf too.

When we got to college we took voice class together and I was always more terrified for him than me even when we had to do recitals. He went on to do musicals and I was stage security and prompter. I did take piano but had to drop out because every time I had to play in front of the class I spent the hour before vomiting from stage fright. When Cam took piano the professor recognized him by his hands. He told Cam I had the best piano hands he’d ever seen. Wish he’d told me that but I just couldn’t do it.

I have a rather eclectic music collection and I put my Kindle on shuffle today, I shouldn’t have. It started to play Broadway musicals and the switch got flipped. I remember him singing in Fiddler as one of the sons, I remember him in the chorus of Hello Dolly but most of all I remember him in Babes in Toyland.

He played Barnaby and had a grand time twisting his moustache and trying to scare small children. That was the show I did security because some idiot had designed the stage door to open onto the main hall and not into the dressing rooms. Cam had to navigate the hall to get to his dressing room and the first time he got kicked all the way down the hall by small children with hard shoes since you used to get dressed up to go to the show and tennies are not dress shoes. His shins were black and blue. Cam was the bad guy in the black cape lined in bright red and with his top had and moustache he was easy to see especially since he was 6’4”. After that night I was his protection and since I was really good at the death stare, no kid dared kick him. Pretty funny 5’8” me staring down 5 year olds and sending them running. Cam was a big teddy bear, I am not! And I’d already been camp counseling for 5 years so I was good at the death stare. He hated scaring the kids in real life,on stage it was funny, I thought it was funny, period. I wish I had a picture of him in full makeup. I’m sure there probably is one back at school but I would have no idea how to get something from the mid 1970’s from them.

He ended up getting his BM in Music, in Opera, the one kind of music besides rap I’m not that fond of and one in computer science after his brain cancer went into remission the first time.

So this is going to be a hard week and Saturday was Mary’s birthday so the fun just keeps coming. Sigh…

Today would have been my grandmother’s 126th birthday

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Today would have been my grandmother’s 126th birthday. My mother always referred to me as her mother’s birthday present since I was born just after midnight on June 2. I always thought that was a complement. Now I wonder if that was just another way to distance me as her changeling. Another thing she called me when I was little or her fairy child.

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I’m a lot like my grandmother and my mom greatly disliked her mother. Grandma was adventurous, curious and always learning new things, all the things my mother wasn’t. Grandma and my Uncle Winn were the only ones in the family that wasn’t always judging me for something. My eye disability, or because they considered me homely, my lack of athletic ability, something, and I was well aware of it early on by their tone of voice. I still react to people’s tone of voice when they speak to me, not what I see.
But Grandma saw me and not just as a mini me of her. Her gift to me after my eye surgery was not a stuffed animal or a toy but a beautifully illustrated version of Grimm’s fairy tales and not the Disney versions either, the original gruesome ones. I adored it and I still have it and one of the few times I outright tried to kill my little brother was when he coloured in it. A homicidal 7 year old is not a pretty thing.

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I spent most summers with her in their house in Leimert Park where I was the only white kid on the block and to be truthful I never noticed I was, until someone pointed it out. My grandparents never said anything to me. They were just my friends. But most days I spent lying on the wide front porch watching ants or we took drives and we went places like Marineland to talk to the whales or one of the many piers in LA or we went to see all the buildings my grandfather had designed for Hunt and Chambers. We went to the San Diego Zoo where she talked the bird keeper into letting me hold and feed the toucan. She taught me to talk to trees and to listen to nature and we took walks around the neighborhood every summer evening. She taught me divination with her gypsy deck and told me family history stories. She taught me to embroider and cross stitch on gingham and hoe to make clothes for my collection of troll dolls. She taught me chants to do when I was learning to weave paper. She taught me Scottish fairy stories, all our clans and Scottish folk songs.

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She taught me to be curious and to always keep learning. She had gone to the Alaska Gold Rush in 1906 when she was 16 by steamer with her best friend. She gave me a bracelet of wolf teeth on gold wire that she had brought back. It’s way to small for me to wear and it was way before conservation so she wouldn’t have thought about killing the wolf but it sits in my drawer and is one of my treasures. She was a member of one of the first women’s groups in the US called the Friday morning club.

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She taught me to listen and try to make good decisions based on information and logic and to always want to know WHY? unlike most of the other adults I had contact with. She taught me what other people thought of me didn’t matter, what mattered was how I felt about me. She was really my best friend and when she died when I was 17, I was totally bereft. Even though I had lost a lot of my great aunts and uncles and my great grandmother, it was the first time I knew what grief really was. I still miss her.

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She was born in Ontario Canada near Hamilton in 1890 and came to Los Angeles at the age of 11 on January 1, 1901. Her parents were born in Scotland and Northern Ireland and they went by train across Canada and down the West Coast, evidently they wanted to go cross country but couldn’t because trains were being attacked at the time going through the Southwest. She married my grandpa who was 5 years younger which I guess was a huge scandal at the time and graduated from what is now UCLA with a teaching degree in 1910.

She was an expert silver smith and leather worker and I have a trash can she made of wood and then covered in worked copper covered in woodland scenes and a table with a leather table top.She was taking Japanese cooking lessons when she died.  I just hope I measure up to her someday.

Jesse Alexandra Cumming Sjoberg, my great grandmother didn’t want a kid and was busy making jam when my grandmother decided it was time and when my great-grandfather wanted to know what to name her, she said name her after yourself, so he did.