Tag Archive | Biography

The Exit…

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The Exit

Marilyn McLeod

Life is full of stops and starts so to speak. The most emotional of these is birth and death—-the ultimate beginning and ending. Every family goes through them and each member seems to have their own perspective on the event.

My mother in law Harriett has been failing for months. At the age of 94 we all knew her exit from this world was near. Surprising us all, she met each threat to her health with a fierce rally and appeared to be on course to complete another year with us. She’s a sturdy soul; full of spit and fire. That personality at the retirement home has presented some big challenges to the staff. The necessity of having a roommate emerged when she moved into the nursing section of the facility. Finding the perfect “roomy” was quite a trick. It seemed the TV was one of the main sources of contention. Being head strong and sure she should rule the television, she warred with several roommates over what they were going to watch. She preferred sports and loved football and golf. One roommate loved only Shirley Temple movies and could watch them all day long! This would never do and Harriett would take control of the remote whenever the opportunity arose. The home tried to please them all by moving several ladies in and then eventually out of Harriett’s domain. They finally settled on a sweet little lady who was comatose. This was the perfect choice. Harriett could now watch whatever she chose!

In late October as the weather turned cooler Harriett came down with what she labeled “a flu”. We called to check on her and she did sound like she had “a flu”. She sounded very sick indeed. The family remained on watch with members who lived close by checking on her several times a day. We live in Texas and she was in California so our contact was by phone at that point. Sensing the end may be near, our daughter Michelle wanted to say goodbye to her grandma in person so she got on a plane to take that four-hour flight into LAX. Because his mama was going, my grandson Atticus was sure he should go as well to bid adieu to the great-grandmother he knew as “Mimi”. Now, he’s seven and we felt death had no clear definition in his mind. He had been told it was final but does a child understand that concept?

With her health declining, Harriett was put on oxygen to keep her comfortable and Hospice was called in. As the reality of her up-coming demise set in, Harriett made plans to get her hair done. At 94 and on her death-bed a woman still has her vanity!

When Michelle and Atticus arrived at the nursing home Harriett had been sedated. They sat by her side and waited for her to wake up. Five minutes of sitting is about all Atticus was good for and he asked if he could play a video game. He quickly engrossed himself in his DS tuning out everything around him. Harriett’s daughter Jeanne arrived on the scene and joined Michelle in a vigil that soon turned to a talkative visit. They were deep in conversation when a nurse from the home came in to check on Harriett. Much to their surprise, they were informed that Harriett had passed. Looking up from his DS, Atticus confirmed the diagnosis and said, “Yep, she’s dead”. He quickly turned his attention back to his game.

So in the eyes of a seven year old death was very matter of fact that day. “Yep, she’s dead” pretty well covered it. Since that experience Atticus has been rather preoccupied with questions about death. He asked if his dog Huckle would die some day. His mother told him yes and that they would bury him in the back yard. Attie’s reply was, “Can you dig him up once in a while so I can play with him. I know I’m really gonna miss him!” Everyone smiled at that one.

A death in the family brings on a lot of nostalgia and we got out old pictures to reminisce over. There was Harriett as a cute six year old with a huge bow tipping slightly to the right, bobby pinned into her short hair. Then there was Harriett the young bride appearing to weigh a slight 100 pounds at best. (Why is it we get rounder and fluffier as we age?) More pictures revealed me in my 20’s with Harriett and the family. Atticus took a look at that picture and said, “It’s Granny with a fresh face!” Out of the mouths of babes—so cute! It was Granny with a fresh face and I’m glad he recognized me!

They’re planning a celebration of life ceremony next month for Harriett. Well, really I should say Harriett has planned that ceremony. She wrote out every word of this event in her last years of life with details such as, “Deanne will sing Amazing Grace and then everyone will stand in a circle and say The Lord’s Prayer.” etc. This lady left nothing to chance regarding her exit plan and how she should be mourned.

She had also planned her burial which was attended only by family and very close friends. It had a few glitches she would not have approved of. For one, she arrived in the wrong coffin. She had specifically wanted a coffin just like her departed husband’s. When she arrived in what appeared to be a white Styrofoam box we all knew we were in trouble. Well, it turned out not to be Styrofoam but a metal coffin covered in white fabric. This was absolutely not what her husband had been buried in. After some tense moments and more investigation by the funeral home we were told this had been her first choice until she found the one that her husband had been buried in and then her “first choice” changed to that one which was steel grey and very sturdy—-much like her I must say! The trail of paperwork had taken them back to her other “first choice” which we left as it was in hopes she’ll rest just as well in the white one. The other glitch involved her choice of preachers for the funeral. The man she preferred and who had done her husband’s ceremony had recently left their church and signed a “non-compete” contract stating he would not do any weddings, funerals or events for his past church members for the next six months. So, her planning had to be altered to accommodate this new legal glitch and the man who performed the funeral had no first hand knowledge of Harriett.

I wonder if planning and control are really ours in the end. It appears to be a time to let go and let God. As a family we did our best to give her a good send off all in all. Hopefully that will suffice.

As the youngest member of our clan, Atticus has given us some wonderful quotes to lighten the days of his great grandmother’s illness and departure. “Yep, she’s dead” bypasses the sugar-coating we often affix to death and puts it squarely where it should be—a reality of finality—-the ultimate exit as seen through the eyes of a child.


Returned From Break…

Thoughtful Readers….

In all of our lives there comes a time when “things” seem to get in the way of what we perceive as normal routines. The past weeks have been one of those times. It is not necessary or even important to relate the events, but it seems somewhat important to acknowledge the fact that it occured. So that is what I am doing.

While writing this blog, and reading many others, I have been struck by the number of authors who have run into similar constraints on their time and been forced to slow down or stop writing for a period of time. Invariably, they post an “apology” of some sort when they return, relating an event or incident or series of them that required their attention somewhere other than on the pages of their blog. Some of the stories are quite interesting and sometimes I find myself relating situationally to them. In my case however, nothing in particular strikes me as noteworthy, so I will just say that my family and personal issues contributed to a “slow-down” in writing. Most of those issues have been resolved and things have returned to normal (well….almost..).

In any event, I expect that my blog will return to a more normal routine over the next couple of weeks. And, I hope that you continue to find something worthwhile in these pages.

Be well…


Diamond Lil

Diamond Lil


Marilyn McLeod

Photo courtesy of http://stockfreeimages.com © Barndog | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

My father always called his sister Lillian, “Diamond Lil”. When I heard that as a child I pictured a queen dripping in diamonds from head to toe. My imagination played all sorts of sparkly scenarios through my head. Dad said she was coming for a visit and I really couldn’t wait to meet her!

When he pulled into the driveway after picking up “Diamond Lil” at the airport, my sister and I peered out the big picture window in the living room with great expectation. Slowly a large lady emerged from our 1950 Willys Jeep which, by the way, was hardly the vehicle you’d expect someone with the name of “Diamond Lil” to arrive in. I have to say we were sorely disappointed in what we saw! She looked very ordinary and not at all like we thought a “Diamond Lil” should look. She was rather round in the middle with pink cheeks and short grey hair. During her visit with us I found out those pink cheeks actually turned bright red when she laughed and we ended up laughing a lot with Aunt Lil. Of all the aunts we had met to date, she was without a doubt the most fun. We spent numerous hours with her thoroughly enjoying her company.

I noticed she had an impressive collection of rings. She carefully chose different ones to wear each day. Most of these were covered in large clear stones that sparkled when the light hit them. She revealed to us that this was why our dad called her “Diamond Lil”. Weighing the evidence, we felt it quite appropriate. Sometimes she would even let me wear one of her rings for a while and I felt very special knowing that she trusted me with such a treasure. Years later she told us they were all costume jewelry but that still doesn’t dampen my memory of those awesome jewels.

When company came to visit it was traditional for Mom to fix big meals using her best china dishes with the pink flowers around the edge. This occasion was no exception. She’d been cooking all afternoon and the table was beautifully set with great care and attention. She called us to help place the food on the table and we grudgingly stopped playing and went to work. I remember I was eyeing the mashed potatoes and gravy I had just set down when I heard a fluttering of wings. I turned to see Pretty Boy the parakeet coming in for a landing. He made a direct hit in the scoop neck of the china gravy boat! The bird was squawking and fluttering and mom was yelling and the rest of us were hysterical with laughter—-especially Aunt Lil. Pretty Boy flew off splattering gravy around the room as he went. Mother was totally mortified. She reached for the gravy boat to throw out its contents but Aunt Lil quickly interceded. Being a lover of food and no perfectionist, Lil saved the day telling mom, “There’s nothing in the world wrong with that gravy. Let’s sit down and eat.” Mom protested but Lil insisted and she and my dad exchanged a wink.

That was one of our favorite stories to reminisce about when we got together years later, and it still brings a smile to my face. Aunt Lil has long since passed from this life but she left a sweet legacy of fun and laughter I treasure to this day.

Please help me welcome Ms. Marilyn…

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Thoughtful Readers…

Over the past few weeks I have been giving some carefully considered thought to adding a guest author to my blog. I think initially it will seem different to me, but I believe it will work out well. I think my blog needs an infusion of supplementary thoughts. I currently have something on the order of five blog entries almost complete and several others in various states of preparation. While reviewing them for release, I realized how similar a lot of my posts have become. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, you understand. You are frequently remembered for your ideology or your “slant” as much as for your content…..So I’m not complaining. I just wanted to freshen it up a little and provide a bit of different style material for your perusal here.

So, let me introduce my first guest author. Marilyn is a wonderful lady and a great mom. She hails from Arizona and currently resides in the wild west state of Tejas (that’s Texas to all of you English speakin folk..!!!) I have known Marilyn for many years and can say without any qualms that she can write! She writes a little for a newspaper and is currently caught in the throes of getting a manuscript ready for publication for a historical association. That along with being a focus individual for a current naming/renaming issue down there (Texas..) gobbles up a lot of her time. Somehow I managed to convince her to contribute here in this space once in a while. My current sense of all of this is that this will be a drop by and post something every so often. She has full access to my blog, so you could see something at any time and then it might be….who knows….when the next post will show up. I happen to know that her first blog post will be appearing soon….real soon!!

In any event, I thought I would introduce you to each other because you definitely will not recognize her stories as something I would have written.

Oh, I almost forgot, Ms. Marilyn is my niece! I hope you enjoy what she writes. I know I do!!

An open letter to a friend..

Dear D.C.

It was early in 1984 and my mind was occupied with thoughts of Germany, my next assignment. Having completed flight school, the Army was going to extract its payment…..my service was required in Germany. I was to fly attack helicopters, gunships, in support of the deterrent mission.

The airliner was at thirty thousand feet winging its way across the Atlantic headed for England….Gatwick I suppose. I was trying to relax a little; there were a lot of hours in front of me. I reclined my seat a little trying to get comfortable but it wasn’t really possible. Standing up, I turned and bumped into someone who was returning to their seat behind me. I apologized for my clumsiness and stood there enthralled. You were young, and pretty, and so very polite. Introductions complete, we settled into our seats and immediately drifted into a comfortable conversation. I discovered a lot about you. You were English, returning home from the United States. You lived in Thornaby, Stockton-on-Tees. You were busy thinking about your future, and worrying, I guess, about things that all young women contemplate at that age. You spoke quite elegantly I thought and were not afraid to talk about things that were important to you. More importantly, you were a good listener. We talked and laughed and enjoyed the company on that long flight.

Arriving back in the United States later, I was impressed to receive a letter from you. I had sent you a postcard or two from Germany but hadn’t really expected an answer. You were as busy as ever but just as willing to talk. You told me about your life and how you had settled back into a routine at home. I think you were anxious to get on with your life. I wrote back to you and told you some of my experiences. You were always polite, and interested in what I had to say.

Christmas, 1984. Another letter….and a Christmas card. You were seeing a young British serviceman. You seemed happy and life was good. Trials and tribulations though….there were always things to think about and problems to overcome. I never doubted that you would find what you were looking for……happiness, I suppose.

Letters were infrequent, but neither of us had forgotten. Things were always in the way…..some pressing matter to attend to. 1987 now….midyear I guess. Another letter from you has tracked me down. I am at Ft. Bragg when your latest missive arrives. Same cheerful attitude and another wonderful long story to read. You always seemed to be doing the things I wanted to do. This time it was a tentative trip to New Zealand. You had your reasons, and your plans. I knew only that I wanted to do those things too. I never found out how that trip turned out. Was it fun? Did you find a job there or just visit? I still want to know…..

The truth is, I have missed your letters. I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was just time. Maybe it was time for both of us to get on with our lives. Time to make a clean break with the past and forge a new future. I suppose that is what has happened. Time…..

My wish for you is fulfillment and understanding. I hope that you have a caring, loving person as a partner in this life. I hope you have experienced the joy of children. I hope that you have found joy in your life wherever you are. And I hope you are well…..There isn’t much else worth talking about.

Your friend,


So, why now? Why after twenty-five years? That’s an easy one. I was cleaning out a safe drawer yesterday and found this bundle of letters. I knew they were there of course, but hadn’t looked at them in many years. Why did I keep them? I am not sure. I guess because these moments, hidden in old letters and pictures are important. They are important because they help define who we were, and who we have become. In any event, I will re-read them and look at the pictures. Then back they go into the safe–just moments captured in time.

Comments welcome…