“She’s in intensive care, not expected to live.”

I called the hospital to ask if we could see Janie. “Yes, but you’d better hurry,” the nurse said. “Where are you?” When I answered, her voice faltered. “We think ten or fifteen minutes.”

Stunned, my husband, Wally, and I slumped into our chairs. We couldn’t be there in time. Would we go anyway? We talked, agonized, then calmed ourselves, deciding to be with Janie in spirit, and sat in silence, holding her in love and prayer. Year before last when Janie was hospitalized for the entire summer, she asked me to bring my Native American flutes. As I played, she listened, eyes closed, smiling, an occasional tear slipping from beneath her closed eyelids. I knew she would like my flute music to accompany her now.

From our living room, I faced the beautiful snow-covered Mt. Sopris Janie loved, and played as if I were by her side, breathing with her as she made her transition, each flute tone fading, each breath shallower and farther apart, until the music drifted into a brief moment of silence, then exploded into a joyous burst of ascending arpeggios as I envisioned Janie’s soul releasing. Wally and I sat prayerfully in the peaceful stillness for a few minutes, then decided to go on with our day.

About a half an hour later I was in the middle of a business call and Wally was standing in the kitchen when suddenly the television set blared on. Startled, we looked at each other. Wally rushed to turn off the TV. Neither of us had turned it on. The electricity hadn’t flickered. Fifteen minutes later I was on a second phone call, Wally was typing on his laptop, and the television blared on a second time. I slapped my hand over the phone. “What’s wrong with that thing?” I grumbled. Wally turned the remote over and over in his hands. “Maybe there’s some sort of timer.” There wasn’t. A while later when I had finished my calls and he had finished typing, the television blared on for a third time, and I froze.

“Wally! Could that be Janie?”

“Could it?” He looked stunned. “I think it is. It is!”

At 10:30 we received word that Janie had passed at 7:30, about the time I was playing the flute. I spent the morning alternatively crying and laughing, not from deep wrenching grief, but rather from a "light" grief , and from awe. In joy.

I’ve heard stories of visits from loved ones who have died---whose bodies have died---, but until today, that had never happened to me--to us---in such a dramatically physical way. I believe Janie was totally aware of our love and our presence, and came to say, “Hey, guys! I got it. Thanks. I’m fine.” By the second visit, I imagine she was a bit ticked off that we weren’t getting it, and by the third she was telling us, “Pay attention! I’m not hanging around here all day. I’ve got better places to go!”

Janie, Janie, Janie, what a gift you have given us---evidence that boosts believing into knowing, a gift that will change our lives forever.


The Wedding Veil

I made my wedding dress myself, forty years ago. I made the veil, too.

During the wedding the veil spilled out of the matching pillbox hat like a waterfall, isolating me from the world five inches beyond my nose. My dad’s crooked bow tie, the wilting wild daisies clutched in my hand, the rows of candles boosting the already 100 degree temperature another ten degrees, and the heady pot-smell of the alfalfa dehydrating mill all seemed far, far away behind that shower of cascading fishnet.

I hated that veil!

But I kept it. The dress, too. For thirty-nine years, that dress and veil moved from house to house, hogging closet space until I reached the down-sizing stage of life. The wedding gear marched in tight formation from house to condo. One day, I threw the dress in the washing machine. If it survived, I’d cut it up and make a pantsuit from the fabric.

It didn’t survive. But I kept the veil. Recalling biting flies, I stuck it in a plastic bag in an overhead cupboard in “Dolphi,” our little camper.

In August, my husband and I celebrated a quiet fortieth wedding anniversary. We took Dolphi—or Dolphi took us---to our favorite campground. The campsite with a magical reading cove surrounded by trees was waiting for us, unoccupied. We carried our lawn chairs past the fire pit on the first level, and down the stair-step roots of an ancient Ponderosa on a second plateau half way between Dolphi and the stream. Assured of uninterrupted solitude, we began to read---I, for the fourth time, Harriett Doer’s Stones for Ibarra, a book that permanently lives in Dolphi as insurance against reading deprivation.

In spite of “Off” and “Cutters,” squadrons of mosquitoes and biting flies attacked. Just me. They never bother my husband. Quietly, not to disturb his reading of This Cursed Valley, by Larry Meredith, about the beautiful area surrounding Mt. Sopris where we were camped, I returned to Dolphi, covered my shorts with a full-length wrap-around turquoise blue and white flowered Hawaiian skirt, replaced sandals with long socks and hiking shoes, and slipped into a long-sleeved shirt. I returned to the cove and Harriett Doerr, but the winged terrorists reconnoitered, narrowing their targets to my neck, ears, face, and the slightly balding spot on my head. It was then I remembered the veil.

Again, quietly, I ascended the ladder of tree roots back to Dolphi, slid my hand through the stack of linens in the cupboard and felt the plastic bag containing the puffy and slightly yellowed pill-box hat and veil. The three combs I’d carefully sewn inside the lining were still there, and as I clamped them into my hair, the scent of forty-year old hair spray flooded over me.

At the top of the tree root staircase, I fluffed the veil around my face and shoulders and stopped, no dad by my side this time, no churning dehydrator perfuming the air, no wilted daisies, but I stood, poised, until my beloved looked up. His expressions? Indescribable! And our laughter? It was the best, most therapeutic laughter, the best, most wonderful gift that could possibly celebrate our forty years together.

Now I love that veil! Interrupted by only an occasional guffaw from the lawn chair beside me, I read for hours without another bite.

What have you done with your wedding veil? I'd love to hear your story.