As a verb, to muse is to consider something thoughtfully. As a noun, a muse is a person who is a source of artistic inspiration. What follows is a thoughtful consideration from an inspiring source.

The Muse

| May 3, 2016

Number 3

The Wheel of Life Just Keeps on Turning…

It’s May 2nd. In our household, we’re frankly glad that the previous month is over. As months go, April was just too much…of everything. Planets collided. Stars exploded. New ones made an entrance. Or, at the very least, appeared on the radar. Perhaps I’m over-dramatizing. But we did spend entirely TOO much time in the car. Driving hither and yon and feeling like we were going – or getting – nowhere in particular. Fast. (Insert “Big Sigh!” here.)

But, indeed, the month brought home the fact that life proceeds inexorably, no matter what. Sometimes painfully, sometimes memorably, sometimes happily, sometimes marked with the kind of sadness none of us likes to experience. But it’s Life, with a capital L, and there’s no escaping it. Well, there are ways, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s the chronology, starting with…

Birth. We’ve had a lot of them in our family in the past few years. No, none in this particular month of April. But there was a baptism: an extension, of sorts, of birth that is intended to launch a relative newborn on the road to grace. Another great-nephew, the latest addition to our group of eight such girls and boys. And surprisingly, the first (I’m fairly certain) to smile through the entire ceremony. Water on the head and all that. Pretty neat, right? Smiles all around, definitely.

And then, the clouds rolled in. Dark ones. Ugly ones. Worse, much worse, than those Charlie Brown ones. This part will sound familiar to regular readers of the weekly William A Sloan blog. First, the sudden, difficult-to-fathom or -process death of a talented and totally unique contemporary. A longtime, close friend of Bill’s (William’s) since college. Much, much too soon. Especially from the perspective of our concurrent ages.

This, sadly, was followed closely by the news that Bill’s Mom was in a decline. One that, after a few close calls, they just didn’t see her surmounting. Over the next two weeks, there ensued almost daily trips to the hospice in the middle of Pennsylvania by one or more of her three adult children, their spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchild. But Shirley was 95 and things had finally started to shut down. And by her own admission, she was just tired.

Our family had the benefit of her love, compassion, encyclopedic intelligence, carrot cake and larger-than-life laugh for a long, long time. My own mother died almost 21 years ago. But I got to have Shirl as a stand-in for all the time since then. Lucky me. Lucky everyone whose life she touched.

I don’t mean to prolong this part of the story, but her send-off (euphemism) was appropriately loving, moving and, at the same time, joyful. You see, Shirley was not just loved; she was adored, by many, many people. So it was all too fitting that it was a beautiful, sunny, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky spring day, filled with flowers blooming and birds swooping and chirping. There was a chapel and a resting place that were, simply, movie-set perfect. (Cue those birds.) There were words spoken that elicited not only a “soupçon” (Sorry – inside, family joke) of tears, but laughs and smiles, once again, all around. And it was a day, too, of faith in one another, and of hope for the future. Just as Shirley would have liked. (Cue the angelic voices.)

That was a Wednesday. On Friday, Bill and I and his sister switched gears and trooped up to northern New Jersey for a blow-out celebration of the engagement of my sister’s youngest, gorgeous daughter (one of three) and her fiancé. Cocktails, dinner and dancing into the wee hours. That’s the way they roll in Jersey, according to my sister. Great fun, to put it mildly.

Sunday found us in the car driving west toward the middle of Pennsylvania again for a final service and salute to my brother-in-law, at the church he’s led and grown for the past 28 years. And to close out the month, this past weekend, Bill and I and my sister made another road trip to and from Washington, D.C. for a 65th birthday party honoring Bill’s sister. (Obviously, we love our sisters!) Once again, lots of laughs (and cocktails) with the Funsteins…

So here we are on the second day of a brand new month. I woke up (thankfully), took a handful of pills (I am of an age, you know), went out to the kitchen and made some coffee (always essential). I glanced at the front page of The New York Times, checked for any new texts or e-mails, then punched in the number for my longtime florist in the Big Apple. Lou picked up the phone, asked who he was speaking with, I answered and he replied with an enthusiastic “How are you, _______ …how is everything in PA?!?” (Heartwarming.) I ordered flowers, as I have for nearly three decades, to be sent to the woman who gave me my first job in New York City almost 40 years ago. It’s her 86th birthday. And before we hung up, Lou encouraged me to drop by the shop, next time I was in town.

So you see, this is life in all (or, at least, many of) its iterations. Some good and some not-so-good. Of course, we can hope for more of the former and fewer of the latter. But, all things considered, we should count ourselves lucky to experience them all. Because the wheel just keeps on turning…


Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
(The more things change, the more they stay the same.)

– Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr – January 1849

The Muse will be making quarterly appearances on this site.

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