Billy Joel famously sang “Leave a Tender Moment” alone back in the 80’s and I thought about that phrase this week as I tried to push feelings away.
Hey! I’m busy! I don’t have time to get all misty right now…
Ah, but I am alive. And so are you.
We are not machines, though it can feel like it sometimes. Especially when you realize hours have passed by and your to-do list isn’t any shorter than when your day started.
We zero in on “get it done” mode and pay no attention to those pesky feelings behind the curtain.
Despite trying to ignore the interruption, sometimes a feeling visits you. One that is tender and swathed in lovingkindness. It nudges your soul, penetrating your stonehearted busyness so inconveniently.
So easy to push it away.
My Google mini takes one song suggestion and regales me with a day’s worth of music; some are songs I haven’t heard or thought about in years.
I plug away at my computer making work happen, largely ignoring the background noise.
Then, involuntarily, I felt my heart squeeze. A tender moment interrupted “machine-mode.”
It was this song by Stevie Wonder:
It’s a tender song, evoking all the feelings of the love we have for family and friends. And since Aunt Mary’s transition, the need to say these three words while we can is top of mind.
When you stop and let a tender moment breathe, your heart swells. Tears can spill. But oh, how alive you feel!
And then you make the phone calls. Or texts. The “these three words” messages that let someone know they starred in your tender moment.
I’m with Billy Joel.
Leave a tender moment alone.
Thank you, Mark (and so many of you) who “hold up the light.”
And if you’re experiencing a setback, don’t forget to consider the comeback!
I can only imagine her brothers and sisters, her husband, and the many who loved her just waiting to welcome her into glory.
I needed to write about Aunt Mary because I couldn’t say a proper goodbye and my heart was full of feelings.
As a kid, I looked up to her daughters Carol Ann and Mary Beth because they were older and so much cooler than me. Our families often camped together in the summers, taking road trips to Point Sebago, Maine or closer by to Dutch Wonderland. Aunt Mary and Uncle Pete had a truck camper and it was so fun to switch to THEIR ride so we girls could play cards or talk about Bobby Sherman or David Cassidy during the drive.
Once camp was set up, there were so many memories to be made! Teenagers going to the pavilion to play pool (and letting me tag along); the smell of hibachi’s cooking burgers and communal dinners at the picnic table. Roasting marshmallows until the charred skin burnt the roof of your tongue.
Such happy times…before our world changed forever.
Our world was rocked and we were all teetering on the edge of this unknown new life without my father. My mother, suddenly a single mom of a 15 and 10 year old with a host of decisions to make.
In the midst of that madness, Aunt Mary came to stay with us.
I started to write “swooped in” but Aunt Mary wasn’t a swooper.
Her greatest charm was her calm, and oh, how calm was needed in our horrible storm of loss.
She left her own family for almost a month. Sat at our dinner table. Played the piano. Gently reminded us to have faith, without saying a word.
Oh, Aunt Mary’s presence at that pivotal time meant so much to us.
The years passed and as happens when you get older, it’s easy to get caught up in your own stuff. I sure did.
I’d see Aunt Mary at family reunions in my teens and twenties. There’d be weddings (I’ll never forget Carol Ann’s in the garden at Smithville Inn) and funerals.
When her sister, my Aunt Helen, passed away, I was in the thick of church life and determined to take advantage of this opportunity to “preach the gospel.”
I asked to speak at the services.
Aunt Mary, in her calm and kind way, suggested that I could honor Aunt Helen without making a case for each person’s salvation. At first, I was confused. Aunt Mary was a devout Christian; a true believer!
It wasn’t until years later I realized that a true follower of Christ need not shove their version of the truth down anyone’s throat.
Aunt Mary embodied Christianity, because she embodied love.
She didn’t judge.
She was an accepting, sweet woman whose love deeply touched my life.
Many years after leaving the church I learned that she had breast cancer. All the memories of how she had been there for me and my family over the years washed over me and I made a committment to write to her every week.
I’d print out photos from Facebook or tell tales about my latest adventures in travel. Sometimes I’d just write to let her know she mattered and that I loved her.
The following year, I saw her at my niece, Deena’s, wedding. We had written back and forth preceding the wedding and she voted that I should go with the red dress, which I did.
At one point, she called me aside and said, “I’m all recovered from the breast cancer now, so you don’t have to write to me every week.”
I looked into her sweet, kind eyes and said, “Aunt Mary, I didn’t write because you had breast cancer. I wrote because I love you.”
And that happy ritual – sometimes not every week – but at least every other, has been a dear part of my life ever since.
I remember being a little afraid to write to her when my marriage ended. She – and all of my family – were “’til death us do part” kind of people.
Would she be disappointed?
“I’m proud of you, Brenda.”
Oh, Aunt Mary! Such healing words at such an important time.
I will miss you so much, yet know you are another angel watching out for me.
What a privilege to be your niece.
I was torn about going to her services because she meant SO much to me.
Jumping on a plane isn’t something any of us do lightly these days, so I prayed about it. I felt her calm and loving presence say, “It’s okay. I know you loved me.”
My wonderful sister, Shirlee, represented our little family at the memorial. She told me that Aunt Mary’s favorite song was sung. Oh how lovely…she now walks in glory with her body and spirit whole…
How glad I am that I have no regrets; I left no words of love unspoken. She deserved them all while she was here to hear them.
With my enthusiasm level running on empty this week, and since I’m learning to take cues from my feelings, I encouraged myself to disengage from my regularly scheduled life.
My office looks out over the apartment pool, and I love seeing the palm trees sway and hearing the soothing drip of the water spray.
I look, but I never venture OUT there during the week.
I’m something of a machine when I’m in work mode, and I don’t take kindly to interruptions when the highlight for me is crossing off items from my “to-do” list.
It was lunch time, though, and I was weary. Nothing on that “to-do” list beckoned me.
So I broke from tradition, put on a swimsuit, grabbed a towel and sunglasses, and gave myself a half-hour to refresh.
Within five minutes, I was sound asleep.
Those of you who know me understand that I am a world-class napper, and can zonk out in even an upright position.
After what was about 15 minutes, I felt a tickle on my foot.
It was as gentle as a feather, and I didn’t awake with a start. No, it was more like a sleepy eye-opening that revealed the culprit.
The most adorable three year old boy in the history of forever.
I actually thought HE was a SHE at first, because his hair was halfway down his back, all black and curly. He was trying to get from his mom’s chaise lounge to his dad in the pool, and I was in the way.
So he held on to my foot to find his own footing.
When I looked at him, he just grinned.
I was in love.
I then observed him splashing with abandon, and I couldn’t help but smile.
Next, a family with four little blonde babies came strolling in. Three were little girls with bows in their hair to match their swimsuits…and Jack.
Jack was ALL boy.
Once he was fully entrenched in his safety gear, he proceed to jump. Up and down. And up and down again. Then into the pool, squealing with joy.
There was no second-guessing or self-conscious “Who’s looking at me and do I look/jump/sound okay?”
This was pure, childlike enthusiasm.
Jack flirted with me as he splashed around the pool, knowing he had me at hello with the mischievous glint in his eyes.
But he didn’t know how he affected my heart.
Oh, to return to that place of childlike glee!
Did I ever even have it?
I remember being so self-aware of my 100-pound self as a child, I don’t think I ever HAD a moment that I wasn’t self-conscious.
But my word of the weeks – and my word for the entire YEAR is ENTHUSIASM.
And by George…or, by Jack – I want to be like a child in my approach to life.
Children were my teachers this week, as you can see and hear from this week’s video:
In the spirit of authenticity and NOT being self-conscious, I am less than a week away from my first-ever open-to-the-public event in Sarasota. I have 80 seats to fill and think that three tickets have been sold.