The Collected Thoughts and Musings of an Aspiring Political Philosopher

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It was a Tuesday, like any other

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Chantelle and her baby daughters in San Jose, CA, 1966
It was a pretty typical Spring day in western Oregon. The sky was its usual overcast gloom, the birds were yanking up handy worms, and the squirrels were fighting over peanuts in our back yard. Darn cute little squirrels; why can't they all just get along?

Well, for everyone else, it was probably pretty typical. For us, it was the day we said goodbye to Chantelle (in the body) for the last time. We'll get another chance at the memorial service in a few days, when we all, family and friends, gather to cherish and celebrate the glorious meteor that lit our skies for so long.

Born, died. How droll. Chantelle Alaine Princeton, formerly Delores Alaine McLendon, formerly Delores Alaine Ray, wasn't born, nor did she die. She leapt onto the stage of life October 22, 1943, careened and pirouetted and two-stepped through 65-1/2 years of vibrant life, and danced off the stage to a round of thunderous applause at 5:12 p.m., March 24, 2009. Before and after her performance, the stage curtains hide her from our view, but we know she is still there, basking in the applause and continuing to dance to the sounds of music only her ears can still hear. That was Mumzy, always dancing, always stepping out to her own tune, and inviting those around her to join in her celebration of all that life had to give.

Among the minutia left behind such a life is the inevitable "now what?" when it comes to her belongings. Oh, of course there is the will and all the legal stuff. Bills will be paid, her affairs put in order, but what do you do with the accumulated collections of 65 years? Chantelle was really big on her "crafty things", all sorts of really obscure knick-knacks and clutter and debris that she was always planning on "doing something with". She really loved to sew and create with fabric. She has hundreds of yards of fabric of all colors and kinds, bits and pieces she'd collected over the years to create aprons and Kleenex box covers and stuffed animals and pillows and and and... jeepers. She was a one-woman sweatshop. And the paper towel rolls, the pine cones, the popsicle sticks, the fragments of colorful wrapping paper, the shiny beads, and so much more. We could open a craft store and make a mint.

Julie inherited her mom's love of sewing, thank goodness, so some of those (to borrow from Carl Sagan) "billions and billions" of patterns won't go to waste. And so much more will go to good use in our own and other's "crafty" projects. Chantelle's gift to all of us includes a burst of creativity among the putterers and hobbyists in the world. Someone, somewhere, will finish that pine cone centerpiece, and the popsicle stick spice rack, and the wrapping paper and dried flower collage. And from Chantelle's careful collecting will come a cascade of beauty and function throughout the flea markets of the world. She'd have loved that.

I've been along for this ride for a little over five years. Julie of course has been at it for 43. They have been in the Portland area for all of those five years, but before that they had moved all over the country. Chantelle and Julie both worked at Disneyworld in Orlando (where employees are known as "cast members"). From Boeing in Seattle to GTE in Dallas, McDonnell Douglas in Orange County to Marion Merrill Dow in Kansas City, JPL in Pasadena to Kaiser Permanente in Portland, she and Julie have traveled the length and breadth of this country (with the exception of the New England area, which I had hoped to introduce to them both). The only time Julie has been apart from her mom for any length of time was when she went off to Navy boot camp for nine weeks; othewise, they've been not only mother and daughter but lifetime companions. I imagine that few people who saw them together would have realized they were parent and child, but instead mistaken them for older and younger sisters. The way they giggled and stuck their tongues out at each other, finished each other's sentences, gawked together a cute guys (and made lewd suggestive whispered comments), and shared their own little common language and private jokes, the mistake would be easy to make.

Maybe that's why Julie has been taking this so well. She knows her mom better than anyone. She knows Chantelle wouldn't want anyone to mourn, but to celebrate her life. Inevitable, of course (the mourning part). When Julie finally has a few moments of peace from handling all the details and making sure everything is taken care of, I fully expect (and hope) that she lets the thinking stop, and lets her heart have its say. She has a lifetime of mommy to express, and I'm prepared for her to be a basket-case for a while. She needs it, to clarify and purify her soul, and I'll be there for her when the dam breaks.

Doubt. That darned human thing, y'know. For all that we have faith and belief and trust in the Spirit-nature of ourselves, simply because we are human we have that disconnect, that tiny part of us that is unsure, that wonders, that scoffs and tells us to grow up. No matter how deeply-held our faith, there is bound to be some of that very real worry... what if there is nothing "beyond"? But I think I saw these last four days a real-life example of how the beyond is very, very real. Julie and I both felt it. No, not felt, that's the wrong word. We were both immersed in it. A sense that although Chanty was no longer with us in her body, she has been very much present, guiding us, comforting us, directing us, and helping us through all this. Her body was lying in a hospital bed with tubes and IVs everywhere, but that ineffable something that was the real Chantelle has been (and still is) with us every moment. It's not something you can really describe as a feeling, I think, because it's more of a knowing. Like when you step into your children's darkened room, and just know without even seeing them that they're safe and sound and tucked in bed. She's here, now, everywhere all at once, now that she's escaped the human shell, and truly is once again pure Spirit now. She has rejoined that which we all truly are, and which we all will once again become; untethered and eternal Oneness.

Chantelle is in the realm from which poetry and music spring, where she can dance to her heart's content, awaiting us to slip free of our human shells and come join her and her daddy, my mom and dad and grandma and grandpa, all laughing and happy, as we all leap from star to star to the music of the spheres.

I'd better get busy learning how to bust a move. See you when we get there, Mumzy!


Kevin Mayo said...

Julie and John,

Thank you for including me in this posting the past few days. My prayers are with you both and the celebration of a life well lived has just begun.

Chantelle will live forever with the memories of my own life's special people.


rayleen said...

Thank you John for keeping everyone informed during the sad, tragic and, unexpected event. I've know Chantelle all my life, she was always my favorite cousin and we always kept in touch, even on her adventures across the country. When together we were transformed into girls once again.
I will always cherish my memories of our childhood, family get togethers. Home sewn aprons made by our Grany Ray, playing on the farm in Oregon, spending time with the family and listening to "Delores" and Donna practicing the violin, ouch!
What a swimmer, she was like a fish in water! Happy, vibrant and loving life, I will miss her gentle soul. Tears of sadness have flowed yet I know that she would want those she left behind to honor her by living.
Your memory will always have a special place in my heart and I will miss you dearly.
Your loving Cousin Rayleen