My mom, Dorothy Stenstedt, died on May 19, 2022, and we had her Celebration of Life on August 14—first a church service, then a party. Here’s what I said at the service.
I’ve received two beautiful ones in email, and I’m sharing them here. If you know of more, please send them to me. I find them helpful and comforting during this strange time.
A friend requested “I am from” poems for her birthday. This is mine.
A few years ago my inner critic was not only speaking to me a lot, but it was also easier than usual for me to “hear.” What I mean is that I was able to notice my critic’s voice in real time and write down what it said. During that time I always kept a few outdated business cards in my back pocket so I could pull one out and write on the back of it at a moment’s notice. I’d write something like, “That scene you wrote yesterday is stupid and pretentious,” then put the card back in my pocket. Ha, caught ya, little voice! Just writing these nasty things down and getting them out of my head provided helpful objectivity. I could examine the cards in a clear light and see them for what they were—absurdities, lies, and sneaky half-truths: “You should be exercising all the time.” Absurd. […]
The image on the cover of Shirley du Boulay’s An Extraordinary Life is from an 18th c. painting, and as in all famous images of Teresa of Avila, Teresa is lovely, and maybe 17. So when I read what she looked like when she got to the point in her life where she had real authority, it made me wish there were icons of her looking like this:
In “The Bowl of Roses” (full text below), the poet Rilke spends eight lines painting an ugly picture. And then:
But now you know how these things are forgotten:
for here before you stands a bowl full of roses…
Thus begin sixty-four exquisite lines of instruction on how these things are forgotten.
(for Cookie the neighbor cat)
I gaze at the heavens,
searching for you, my God.
(Ps. 123:1, ICEL Psalter)
Early this year I had a short episode of almost-but-not-quite depression, and it arrived along with an image of what happens for me during the worst of those times, which hasn’t happened for almost 20 years: A giant boot descends and plants itself on my chest, and I’m unable to move or negotiate. It’s enormous, it’s simply there, and it’s heavy enough to crush even the cheeriest and most optimistic of mortals. For me depression isn’t really about sadness. If sadness is warranted, I can sit with the sadness and even welcome it, but the boot is different. The boot can’t be sat with, snapped out of, or “moved through.” The boot stops life from being lived. In May I painted the boot, and it turned out to be an image of my own ongoing change, learning, and redemption. I’m warding off the boot, and its color is way more […]