An epiphany and the 2nd layer to The Life of an Angel
Updated: Jul 5
Today in meditation, I had an epiphany or two and added a second layer to my upcoming book, which has now been titled "The Life of an Angel."
While the book remains, a layer of perspective has now been added. It will be told by the main caricature, Beth (my mother) from where she exists now, in heaven. Chapter 1 has been edited and the perspective has been added. It will take me a while to re-work the rest, but here is a little teaser for you.
She had wondered on what heaven would be like during her life, and as it turned out, it was not too far off from the way she had imagined it would be. In fact it was pretty close to what she had longed for in her material life. She, herself, was an energetic projection of what her physical self used to be, when she had been at the height of her beauty. Everything here was connected, yet also decidedly independent at the same time. She traveled with only a thought through the series of events that had occurred in her lifetime and beyond. Between each journey she returned to here. This place was the home base of her soul. It was located somewhere close, somewhere connected to earth and all other places in the universe. Some days she would travel to places that her body had never been before. Time was an anomaly here. It only moved as slowly or as quickly as the journey itself and she had found that she could rewind, speed up events, or even slow them down at will.
Finally, she resided in her dream home. It was a monstrous sized castle containing a modern twist of luxuries, some of which were not invented yet during her lifetime. This particular section of the castle was hers. She had a bedroom at the top of one of the towers, and on the floor below was a sitting room and kitchen. There were other souls present too. They came and went from each other’s rooms as their thoughts and energies connected. In the periods where their connections were not in sync, it was as if nobody was there at all with her.
Presently, Beth stood looking out of the window in the tower. She gazed over the top of the wooded trails below, each pathway lead down different directions of her thought processes, and one to the ocean and beyond. The decor of the castle in her room and the rooms below shifted to mimic the time periods of her life and that of her ancestors. Some things remained static, like her mother’s ring on her finger and a white porcelain lamp with hand painted blue flowers on the nightstand. Both of which had been with her in one way or another her most recent entire life.
Today, her bedroom was nicely arranged with furnishings she’d had as a child. Her old chestnut wooden headboard with a daisy carved in the center had greeted her when she woke. The corner of the room had a bookcase with each shelf lined with hand made dolls. Her mind floated back in time to the many things that had occurred during her lifetime when these items that had been hers. Visual snapshots of the past danced before her eyes.
The souls of her mother and father appeared in the doorway of her room. She saw them in her periphery and turned around to hold out her hands so they could join. Edward opened the window. Ann took a deep breath of the fresh air that flowed in. The sound of the tumultuous waves entered the room, they could hear them crashing against the shoreline. The sound drowned out everything else, dissolving the silence.
Their forms moved forward into what looked like a very real and tangible three dimensional movie set. They merged then, with their former bodies. What had happened here was already over. The events were set in stone. They could not go back and change anything. All they could do was replay their roles with the new perspective of looking back and less intense emotions attached.
They sought to understand. For all new understandings would expand the vessel that held their soul and therefore the process result was that they could hold more love. Love was the only emotion available to feel here. They could reexperience past emotions to a lesser degree, but the emotions passed completely, each time they returned and were never at the same level as what they had been before. The lack of intensity allowed new doors to open for understanding.
Beth squeezed each of her parent’s hands and it began.
Summer was almost over, it was the year of 1967. Bethany was 17 years old but felt like she had already become an adult. With a feeling of impending doom in her heart, she knew that she was about to go through a certain rite of passage that made her feel much older than her true age. Having reached her full height when she was only 14 years old, Beth stood at 5’7” and towered over most of the other girls since then. She was thin but shapely, her physique was on the athletic side but her slight curves were still feminine. The boy’s whispers this summer had been about her legs and how they went on for miles. Her straight and smooth yellow blonde hair fell just below her shoulders and was always perfectly curled, turned up at the bottom of the strands in big wide rings, thick with Aquanet hair spray. They stayed in place perfectly after she heated them with curlers. She would have been accused of being doe eyed, except that her eyes were a brilliant sky blue. Her mood was often apparent in her eyes and today no matter how hard she tried to hide it, she was sure that her sadness was viewable by the world. She kept them cast down to her hands as she sat in the back seat occupying her mind and her fingers by practicing the string game with a piece of red yarn.
Sitting in the back seat of the car, she was half listening to her mother sing along with The Turtles on the radio while her father drove. Beth’s bottom rubbed against the hot leather seat of the Buick LaSabre as her navy blue mini skirt rode up from underneath her. “hmm hmm hmm Happy together… ba da bop bah bah” her mom’s voice sung along with the chorus, her voice an audible whisper just below the volume of the radio.
Beth struggled to be fully present, to thoroughly listen to her mom’s voice, and burn it into her memory but her mind wouldn’t obey and went somewhere else, somewhere darker. Her fear of the future and forgetting creeped in. In an attempt to snap herself out of it, she leaned forward and put her string filled hands over the center of the front seat. “Mom, your turn.” She said. Beth was the spitting image of her mother, Ann except for one thing. Ann’s hair was a deep chestnut brown. Not a single gray hair had yet to arrive on her head. They shared an astonishingly similar face. Their height and weight matched, the only difference being that Ann’s hips were a bit wider from having bore a child. Ann smiled and turned sideways in her seat to face the string in Beth’s hands, wrapping her pinkies around the corners while her pointy fingers and thumbs grabbed the middle. “ha-ha I got it! I remember that one. Your turn Beth!” Their eyes met and they both smiled. Ann held her daughter’s gaze. Time froze for a moment. She felt a rush of love for her mother. Suddenly Beth’s eyes misted and tears threatened to fall. She was lost in a flood of memories, swinging in the park, picking blackberries in the backyard, giving Charlie, their Border Collie with one blue eye, a bath with the hose and watching him shake the suds all over her mom, and the smell of baked goods flowing from the kitchen all the way out to the front porch as she came home from school. She wished that good memories wouldn’t make her want to cry. But with each beautiful memory came the pain of knowing that she would soon be unable to make more. Beth pulled at the strings in her mother’s hand, managed to make a new configuration and returned to the back seat.
Beth was considered the first female boy scout of all time. Her father Edward was a scout leader and every summer she went with him to camp. From the time she was 9 years old she had spent her summers learning to survive in the woods, how to fish for dinner and twiddle sticks into useful tools. This however had been the last summer she would go. Beth would never ever be allowed at the Boy Scout camp again, because the boys had stolen a bra from her cabin and raised it up the flag-pole as a joke. Her father, Edward, had been furious. In truth it could have been her bra, but it might have belonged to her friend Carrie. They didn’t know for sure. His face had flushed with so much fury that it had nearly turned the same shade as his red hair. Beth took the boy’s prank to mean that she was finally considered one of “them.” After all they were always pranking each other. She had often felt left out of the comrade experience. She had tried to tell Edward that the prank meant wonderful things, that she was considered to be an equal by them finally, that they trusted her enough to play a joke, but he had not wanted to hear that. His conservative and protective mind held only mental images of boys rifling through his daughter’s drawers and fondling her undergarments while they imagined her breasts. Instead of listening to Beth’s opinions on the topic, he had confined her to the cabin, along with her friend Carrie for the remaining days of summer.
He knew the minds of young men much better than his naive daughter did. Edward had always wanted to have boys. He knew after all what to do with boys, how to act around them and all sorts of boy things to teach them. Girls on the other hand were a constant source of worry. Other than follow his protective instinct, he had no clue what to do with them.
Edward had grown up alongside his sister Ruth, brother Donny, and father Edward the first, hunting and fishing in the woods every chance they could. Ruth was a petite tomboy through and through, who knew as much about survival skills as he did himself. About to assume sole responsibility for his daughter, Edward, was just terrified. As his eyes watched the road, his hands gripped the wheel and he thought of the million scenarios in life that Beth may need womanly support in as she moved into adulthood. He feared that his fatherly skills would be inadequate. How would he manage to both protect her as a father should and groom her as her mother would have, had she been able to, all on his own?
Ann was a proper lady through and through. He didn’t turn to look at his two ladies playing the string game over the back of the seat to his right. He knew what they were doing and saw them slightly in his periphery. His jaw tightened and he kept his sharp blue eyes focused on the road. He couldn’t let them know how truly worried he was, he had to be strong now. This would be a difficult day for all of them.
Edward was tall, 6’4” and most often had a neatly combed orange-red mane. Her mother sometimes called him “my lion.” His personality was stoic. People often commented that he was a little aloof. Underneath his cool exterior he cared deeply, and would pounce on anyone who threatened to harm anyone he loved. As a WWII veteran, he was a former medic who had carried wounded soldiers off the battlefield. He never spoke of it, but if you spent enough time with him it was easy to see that he had seen nightmares that affected him on a soul level. A vision of horror, one of dying men who were riddled with bullet holes and missing body parts from bombs lived in a dark corner of his mind every waking minute. Scraping wounded and bloody soldiers off the battlefield while an occasional stray bullet flew over his shoulder had changed him, witnessing so much violent death had cost him his innocence.
Beth would miss going to Boy Scout camp. That was for sure. The boys loved her, though for the past 11 years they had treated her like a girl. Their scout leader, Edward, had always used her as an example of how they should respect the opposite sex. They had only just begun to accept her tomboy nature when her female figure had started to emerge. Beth had developed into a beautiful young woman, who naturally triggered the hormones of every teenage boy at camp. Her father knew it would only get worse if she were to return, and therefore it was no longer safe for her to spend the summers sleeping in a cabin in the woods, with so many rambunctious young men nearby.
He had loved to watch Bethany explore the trails in the summers. He was equally saddened that their summer Boy Scout camping days were over. She had the most beautiful voice and it was so distinctly heard over the boy scouts when they sung songs around the fire pit at night. They all sang together but her perfect pitch soprano voice along with the sound of her strumming the guitar had just made each day of summer camp perfect for him. Boy Scouts was the one place Edward had been able to connect with his little girl. He could hardly believe that this blonde beauty had come from his seed. From his wife he could understand. Ann was like a flower in bloom when he had first met her on his parent’s farm before the war. At the time, his red hair and awkward height for his slender shape combined with his big, floppy hands and feet made think he looked more like a Great Dane puppy than a man.
The summers had always been a break from mom, a short one of 8 weeks. Not that anyone needed a break from Ann, but rather from dealing with her illness. For the past few years, Grandma Belle had been coming to stay with Ann for the summer while Edward and Beth were at camp. More correctly, Belle came to be her caregiver because Ann could no longer be trusted to be alone as she might forget to lock the door or not turn off the flame on the stove. Ann had problems. Mainly with her memory, but in recent years it was more than just her memory, at times it was full blown confusion. She had even forgotten a few times recently that Beth was her daughter. Ann had looked at Beth with a blank stare and then asked odd questions like “So, you’ve enjoyed spending the afternoon with my husband have you Missy?” Beth didn’t understand initially, that Ann didn’t know who her own daughter was.. She thought her mother was teasing. The first time it happened, Beth and Edward came in from working in the garden together, drenched with sweat and laughing with Charlie running in behind them. Ann had thought that Beth was some mysterious woman, perhaps a young girlfriend for Edward, maybe even someone named “Missy,” here to steal away her husband. As Ann observed her husband and daughter, her hands and body trembled badly. Insecure feelings rose within Ann when she was unable to participate in family activities. At only 39 years old, her hands shook so terribly that when she did simple things, like hold a fork, it would clang against her plate over and over, tapping, and the food slipped off into her lap. Trying to get a fork into her mouth and look somewhat normal doing it, had become such an embarrassment that she didn’t want to leave the house anymore, certainly not to eat. When she did leave the house it certainly wasn’t alone. Beth was her most common escort. When she was aware, Ann didn’t know how Edward could stand to be near her. She didn’t want her husband to see her this way. When he had married her they were so in love and had been so impressed with her ladylike manners.
Ann’s manners had been as perfect as her health. Her chestnut locks always perfectly curled tightly against her head, her appearance was always well groomed and neatly dressed. Ann wore the most beautiful dresses, even when she was doing housework. She felt it important to a marriage to maintain her appearance. She baked the best breads, grew the sweetest strawberries and canned her own jams. They had a root cellar full of jellied and pickled treats with homemade labels on each jar. There was enough to last years longer than she would perhaps.
Edward loved his wife. He would never leave her. But going to camp every summer had given him the time he needed to think of something other than her illness. While he was away, he could miss the good parts of their marriage and ignore the travesty of who she was when the Parkinson's Disease rose it’s ugly head. How unfair that it struck her, struck them. He took Bethany with him to camp and there they bonded annually in the only way he knew how to bond with her, by teaching her the same survival skills he had learned as a boy. Plus since she enjoyed being outdoors, they had at least some mutual ground to stand on. Sharing outdoor activities was, in reality, the only way he knew how to spend time with his daughter, even though in recent years she had more interest in “listening to the forest” than in catching fish for dinner. He shook his head visibly at the thought of the hippie culture Beth had embraced.
The rest of the year Edward worked for General Motors, engineering automobiles. He had been employed there since returning from the war and he had worked hard for so long that he was able to take a full eight weeks off all summer. It meant he had to work through the winter holiday week when most of his colleagues had off, but he didn’t mind, not one bit.
Edward’s thoughts returned to his daughter’s future. The level of impending change in her young life held much fear for all three of them. Today they were driving Beth’s mom to a nursing home. One where Ann would live, from now until she died a death where she would remember no one. Edward worked 50 hour work weeks often, and Beth knew that he probably would not come visit Ann as often as he intended right now. Beth feared that her mother would not fare well if she became estranged from her father. Afraid for her mother’s welfare, and struggling with grief caused by losing her mother, Beth’s stomach churned.
They lived just outside of the Hartford city limits. At 17 years old Bethany was not ready to let go of her mother. She was angry that her mother would likely miss the rights of passage that would lead her into womanhood. Ann had a very kind and gentle way about her. She had been the kind of mother who had read stories to her daughter until she was completely asleep and kissed her on the forehead and eyelids so gently as to not wake her before leaving the room. The relationship between mother and daughter had been incredibly loving. Beth had always been able to talk to her mom about anything, but one day she would have questions about life that would never be answered by the person she trusted the most. She wouldn’t be able to talk with her mother about dating, marriage, birthing children, breastfeeding, and so much more. Beth’s heart ached with grief, not only for losing daily contact with her mother, but also for the lost conversations of the future.
Beth would rather have mom ail at home, she had even argued the point with both of them. She didn’t mind feeding her and caring for her mother, after all, Ann had changed her diapers and taught her to use a fork to begin with. Edward on the other hand had a hard time even looking at Ann her lately. Ever since her once beautiful smile had become twisted sideways he averted his eyes from her face. Ann’s head often bobbled back and forth, especially when she tried to force her lips together to stop herself from drooling out of one side. Edward thought that Beth deserved to be a teenager instead of a caregiver. He didn’t want his daughter becoming her mother’s nursemaid. This was a sound decision in his mind. Ann was embarrassed to be coddled like a child by her only child. It cost her dignity. Ashamed to be seen this way, she felt it would be much better to be cared for by strangers.
As Beth’s hands went back to playing the string game over the bench seat with her mother, her thoughts reached into next summer. What would happen then? With mom in a nursing home and no more summer Boy Scout camp, what then? Would dad be leaving her behind, heading off to romp in the woods with the boys without her? This would be her last year of high school, next year she would be college bound. What would life be then?
Why did everything have to happen all at once? She thought, it is just too much. Beth was overwhelmed. It caused a constant tightening in her chest. It was like all of her prayers had been un-answered all at the same time. Her mood irritated, her tone was unintentionally caustic, “Dad, this is too far from home, don’t you think?” His eyes looked into hers through the rear view mirror. He was a man of few words, always. As if saying too much would expose an emotion and he was not interested in such a risk. Though her words had exemplified his sadness, and in his heart he longed to find a way to make her understand that he was doing what was best for all of them, “No Beth, it is the closest place that’s any good.” Was all he said. He knew that she was looking for comfort, to be reassured that everything would be ok and they wouldn’t let go of her mom. He was a realist and not the type to give false hope. Love Ann as he did, he was also sure he would have to let go of his connection to her at some point. This is what hurt him the most. It was worse than a divorce. He was not the kind of man who did well on his own. He thrived with companionship. He needed someone to keep his mind busy so that memories of the war didn’t overtake him.
Edward had seen plenty of suffering on the battlefield. The suffering of men was ugly and hard, but a necessity that provided freedom and being a part of it had been necessary. Engaging in war was a sacrifice that he and all the dead and maimed had made willingly to serve his country. He had bared it like the man he was taught to be. He saved those that he could, as was his job. But to see his bride suffer was different, less bearable. She had not volunteered for this illness. It was certainly not what he had expected to be rewarded with in life. He didn’t want to look at Ann anymore, for every time he did, a sort of disappointed anger rose up in him. He could not save her and unlike the men on the battlefield that he had lost, it tore at his heart every second of every day and night.
In fact the entire journey leading up to the nursing home had been a series of painful moments. He knew, as they pulled into the driveway of the Amberwoods in Farmington that Beth would never let go. How could a young girl close the door on her heart to her mother, impossible he thought. He wished that they could carry on without missing her. He feared that his handling of his bride’s condition was about to become a thorn between him and Beth. His struggle to let go and Beth’s struggle to hang on, may even become an irreparable wedge, but he didn’t think that he could do anything about that either. He grappled with feelings of defeat.
At Amberwoods everyone was nice. It was an expensive facility as these places often were. The entryway was quite grand with two, wide marble steps in the front and a wheelchair ramp coming up on each side. There was a courtyard to both the left and right of the entry door. Each was filled with flowers and vines that grew up on the stone walls. There were a few stone benches scattered throughout, and large oak trees in symmetrical positions to one another on opposite sides. In the center of it all a large white wooden oak door.
When they walked in, Beth and her mother held hands. Edward followed closely, his hand barely rested on the back of Ann’s waist, making sure she didn’t slip on the steps. Ann knew that this would be where she would live out her days as she lost her entire life and every memory of it. Ann had helped Edward make the decision, even encouraged him. She didn’t want her husband and her daughter to bear the burden of caring for her; even more than she didn’t want to leave them. It had been a joint decision and a tough one at that. Ann felt as though she was leaving them both behind. She took a deep breath and squeezed her daughter’s hand tighter, silently hoping that would make her shaking fingers cease but it did not. She turned her head and looked Bethany, gazing deep into her blue eyes. They sat together in the waiting room. “It’s going to be ok Beth-baby, this is what is best for ALL of us. I may not remember everything, but I will always know deep inside how much we all love each other. We are going to let these people deal with the tough stuff so we don’t have to. You know I helped pick this place with your father and I like it here. Doesn’t it smell so wonderful?” Beth looked back, directly in her mother’s hazel brown ones. The mist in them gave her away as she pushed a brave smile onto her face. “Yes mom, it does smell wonderful, like soup.” Was all she could manage to say. In fact it did. It smelled like the most marvelous things were coming from the kitchen. Today, the air was laced with garlic. Beth was angry then, that she had not been included in the decision making. It’s not the best for me, she thought, but nobody cares about that. There is no scenario in which leaving my mother is best for me.
The nurse manager appeared in the waiting room and escorted them to Ann’s new bedroom. Edward followed in tow, carrying two suitcases he had retrieved from the car, and wheeling a box on a cart behind him. Finally they came to the last room at the end of the hall. It was a nice size suite with an adjoining private bathroom. There was a full size bed with a cherry wood headboard. A dresser was at the foot of the bed, and a nightstand on the side by the window. On the other side was a floral print chair with pink roses and green leaves. On the opposite side of the room there was a cherry wood square table with a pink marble top and three wooden chairs each with a pink cushion. In the corner, a matching wood bookcase. The bathroom had all of the appropriate safety railings in place. Being that it was on the corner there were windows on two sides of the room. One of the windows could be pulled ajar for fresh air to come in. Out the window was a view of the side garden, which had beds of pink roses and was full of chirping birds. Ann stood and looked out the window, having roses everywhere made her relax a little and feel almost at home. Together they silently unpacked her clothes into the dresser and Beth hung some framed photos of the three of them up on the wall. Edward had left the room to go fill out some paperwork. Beth stayed to help her mother get situated, organize dresser drawers and place her things around the room to help her feel at home. Truthfully, Beth was glad that her was being filled. She was the only one who had not yet seen Ann’s new living quarters. It was slightly comforting to actually know what it looked like. Together they put Ann’s floral sheets on the bed, and a quilt they had brought from home. A few classic books were placed on the shelves along with the cribbage board Mahjong, and a deck of cards.
Ann planned to have something to do when her daughter came to visit, but now she was getting tired and the forgetfulness was creeping in. She started to recall that when her energy wore thin, everyone would suddenly appear as a stranger and she knew she was heading in that direction. “Beth, I think it’s time for me to take a nap, would you mind letting me rest?” “Sure mom” Beth answered fully knowing the cycle. “I’ll go get you some tea from the kitchen and bring it back.” Beth handed her mother a bath robe and exited, softly closing the door. She followed the smell of food to the kitchen and found a walk up counter just outside the dining room. She peered inside and politely asked for some hot water. Holding a tea bag in her hand, without a cup and looking a little bit lost. A nice woman of about 30 years old appeared at the food pass window with a cup and saucer in less than a minute. “Lemon? Sugar lumps?” she asked. “No thank you.” Said Beth. “Momma is pure English, she takes it plain, um I’m Ann’s daughter. She is new. Room 303” And dropped the tea bag into the cup. She gazed into the cup and watched the stain of tea swirl it’s color into the white porcelain cup. Beth remembered how her mother used to read tea leaves and wished she had learned before Ann had forgotten. Somehow it was soothing to know that her mother would easily be able to have her afternoon tea. Routine was important for Ann, somehow having expectations of what was to come next helped her to keep her memory together better. “Um, could I have two more cups?” she asked, as a second thought. Perhaps Dad would agree to share tea before they left. “Certainly, are you helping your mom get settled in?” “Yes.” Beth answered averting her eyes, she didn’t like the idea of a stranger witnessing her sadness. She wished she could appear as stoic as her dad. “Let me help you carry these, my name is Henrietta by the way, I met your mother last week when she came in, we got along famously. I do believe she is going to teach me how to make jam in this kitchen one day”, the woman responded with a chuckle. She came out from behind the window and followed Beth down the hall, she was still talking, but Beth only caught some of what she said. Henrietta rambled on with reassuring words, about how well they would take care of her mother, who whe had apparently already dubbed Miss Ann.
When they returned to the room, Edward had already come back. The two of them were sitting at the table. Henrietta placed two cups of tea down on the table and Beth the third. She touched Ann on the shoulder and winked before heading out the door, saying something over her shoulder about being excited to learn Ann’s recipes before closing it behind her.
Once the three of them were alone, the silence was deafening. Nobody moved, as if trying to preserve this moment, to remember the three of them together having their Sunday afternoon cup of tea, just in case it was never to happen again. Edward stood and gathered his two ladies into his long arms, enveloping both of them. He squeezed so tightly that Beth’s breathing was almost constricted, it was tighter than he normally would, as though squeezing hard enough could make everything all right again. He rested his chin on top of his wife’s head and sighed. Beth closed her eyes and stayed suspended in his arms with her mother, wishing this moment could last forever. She tried not to cry, but her eyes betrayed her and tears started to fall. She excused herself and went to the bathroom to cover up her crime of emotional outburst.
The ride home seemed to go much slower than the ride there. Both Beth and Edward were silent. When he pulled up to the house the two of them sat in the car, in the driveway just looking at the house. The sun was starting to go down, and just a sliver of light rays rested over the rooftop. The bright white wooden planks, the porch railing and wooden steps with the red rose garden edged out next to the stairs, they sat and gazed at all of it. Home. It would never be the same again. The black shutters that edged out each window now seemed foreboding instead of welcoming as they had before.
When Beth finally got out of the car, Edward followed, they walked in the door the silence. When he unlocked the door the sound of the latch opening went through her like a knife. Once inside, she fell to her knees on the living room carpet and sobbed, no longer feeling like she had to be strong for her mother, she released all of her tears. She couldn’t hold back anymore and she cried out loud, wailing for her mother. Edward didn’t know what to do. He felt the same inside but thinking that he needed to be strong for her, could not allow himself the luxury of tears. After a few minutes of holding her in his arms with her face pressed against his shoulder, he gave in to it too. They cried together, letting out the emotions that had been locked inside all day, missing the woman who had once made their lives full of love, their bellies full of good food, their tea hot, garden full of food and made everything right with the world. “I just can’t stand that she is alone there.” Said Beth. “She’s not though.” Edward responded. “She likes the nurses and the staff. We will visit, a lot, you’ll see Beth. It’s not that far.” He meant for his words to comfort his daughter but the tone of his voice expressed the doubt they both felt. He knew it was really fruitless. For him it was a total disappointment that it had come to this. Neither of them could change anything. They could only wonder at why this had happened, what to blame and worry what the future would bring, as they had for so long. Only this time it was different, because she was no longer here with them wondering.