Wednesday, September 2, 2009


“One crowded hour of glorious light is worth an age without a name”

I sit in silence sometimes revisiting that day, August 24th, 2008. I sit remembering those last few hours and the many days that have followed. The remembering is painful. However, with the memory of Mom, today, Mother’s Day, May 10th 2009, I grasp for the rich wonderful moments of who she was and, by her life and spiritual endurance, taught us to be. And I am grateful for this memory and for the mindfulness that God exists and embraces us through our trials. I am grateful for the simple instructive on how to live life best: to know Him and to love Him. And that is what Dorothy Kathryn Riley Campbell, my mom, through her faithfulness and steadfastness, taught us to do.

When faced with life’s challenges we can never be certain of their outcome. But of one thing we can be assured and that is everything and everyone comes to an end. Does scripture not give us this promise? And is this part of the Divine Plan? Quietly, within an instant, we just slip away. There are no alarms. There are no songbirds heralding our departure. There is just the peace and stillness of transitioning from one plane of temporary existence to one of permanence – or so we hope. And we make the journey alone.

I sit in silence sometimes revisiting that day. I wonder how alone Mom felt after living a life where companionship and love meant so much to her. Would she have been more comforted knowing that her two sons were standing by her side? I wonder if she heard me as I stood at her bedside just a few hours before her transition telling her how much I loved her. Was she able to hear my thoughts when I questioned why she had a tube going down her nose and throat when I knew she had trouble swallowing pills? Did she want to tell me to have the doctors take it out? How could she tolerate this? Was she afraid being so alone? Did she awaken, I wonder, at any time between my visit and her passing and look around the room for me and Guy? Did she awaken just long enough to say goodbye but we were not there? I keep struggling with this and the thoughts about it that seem to make me feel guilty. Did she feel abandoned? Could I have done something more to ease her anguish, her pain, her fear?

Hours before her passing as I was returning from Sag Harbor, I suddenly began to cry without any provocation. The tears seemed to flow ceaselessly. There was no connection to thought, memory or premonition, as I recall. I just cried without a sense that it would ever end. It was like a crying for cleansing. It ended less abruptly than it began amidst my apologies and my attempts to make sense of it all. As I look back, however, I ask myself if it could have possibly been Mom's Spirit coming to me to say goodbye. Or was it during those moments that they were putting the tube down her throat - that her Spirit was calling out for help? Whatever the reason, the crying came forth and left. Hours later, after my visit for what would be the last time, my brother and I stood before her looking down on her now swollen body which for 50 years had been constantly tormented by pain. "Finally, there was stillness and with it, that long awaited peace".

The questions never seem to end as I reflect on those last moments day to day. Sometimes as I sit in silence revisiting that day, I question how someone so good, someone who suffered in life so greatly could come to such a lonely end. It seems not fair for one who, despite the never ceasing pain most of her life, should endure a departure void of the love and compassion that had been her pastoral mission in life. Just someone to have been there in those last moments to have looked in her eyes, to have held her hand and said “Doris - I love you. God loves you. Job well done”. But then, of course, she seemed to have supernatural FAITH. Perhaps her journey home was far from lonely. Perhaps, her departure was a flight of angels - calling her name, holding her hands, kissing her cheeks and reassuring her that all was well, they were taking her home to be with her Jesus. And that He was awaiting her with open arms and blessings for her steadfast endurance and love and for the comfort she gave to so many others despite her own situation.

I used to wonder why Mom would lie in her bed and watch the same romantic movies over and over again. She knew how they would end as we all do when we have already seen the end. But, time and time again, she would watch them. She would cry through them. She would exclaim her favorite part when it arrived. She would smile with joy when the end finally came. I tried watching some of the movies soon after she passed. It took awhile but, then, I got it. With all the movies I had watched before, always knowing the end and that it could not change, I would sit and desperately wish for change so that the end would be different. With Mom’s movies, though, the endings were always happy and acceptable - no need for change. Once, again, she taught me a lesson. Practice your happy endings. Find calm within your Spirit rather than fury within your desperation. And when your time comes, sit in silence and revisit only beautiful memories and, quietly, slip away into a paradise of peace.

Thank you Mom! I love you! I will miss you!!!

And, thank you, my dear friend Bari for teaching me to look deeper. I love you too!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

First Ham, Then, First Clam

It wasn’t quite spring but you could tell that it was on the way. There was that light, sweet air that caught your nose, made it itch, and filled it with all the fragrances of fresh things slowly popping their heads above the ground. It was Friday, late afternoon, and the sun was just beginning to stretch its arms to hold back the cover of night so that it could catch a longer glimpse of us hurrying to make the last mail boat to the island.
This was about to be a weekend of firsts – like my first time to Maine, my first ride on a mail boat below the Acadia mountains and my first visit to my uncle Ashley’s new home on an island that was so small that I couldn’t understand how it had lasted so long without a giant wave washing it away. Why hadn’t the sea surrounding it swallowed it up one day, forgetting it was there? Islesford or Little Cranberry is about one mile long and less than a mile wide. Imagine that! It was my first time to such a small place. Was it safe? It didn’t matter. I was with my hero.
It took about 25 minutes to cross from Northeast Harbor to Islesford. When we arrived, the fog was begin-ning to settle in around us. There he was! At the dock, looking very tall and menacing, was this man from out of a scary story. He had a strange red hat cocked to the side of his head. It seemed to go along with his jacket that was old, dark, rain proofed and, typically, New England. He barely smiled and stared deeply with his eyes into yours as if ready to pounce upon you as if you were his prey. Behind him, though, was a strange cart about the size of my bed with colorful flowers painted all over it. The vision seemed so contradictory.
We stepped off the boat to be greeted with “the crossing was easy going, wasn’t it?” from a man who seemed like a smile was something foreign to his face. We moved on to the house, slowly walking behind this man whose every footstep seemed to be four of mine. Never a word was spoken. Just silence. We reached the house 10 minutes later. He turned and said “goodnight – sleep tight- don’t let the bed bugs bite”. Somehow, coming from him, it didn’t seem like a wish for safety through the night. This was my first time meeting Emerson Ham. This was my first time meeting anyone that strange.
The next day, just as the sun was rising above the horizon, there was a knock on the door. I jumped out of bed and ran to open it. There he stood, same hat, same jacket, same stare, and same smileless face. “You’re ready aren’t ya?” he said. “Ready for what?” I said. “To go clammin” he said. “Climbing?” I said. “No clammin”, he said as he handed me a pair of tall boots. It was then that I noticed his boots. So over my pajamas, I put on my coat and my boots and went with him. I was too afraid to stop and brush my teeth or go to the bathroom, even. But, somehow, I knew I would be safe.
We walked down a narrow road. He was several paces ahead of me. Not another word spoken. Finally, after what seemed to be forever, we reached the shore of the cove. It was then that I noticed he had two buckets and two shovels. We walked along the shore for a distance until we, finally, stopped. Mr. Emerson Ham looked down at the sand and pointed to some small bubbles. “Ya see them there bubbles, don’t ya?” “Well, that’s where there’s a clam.” Gently he dug into the sand, reached down and pulled up a clam. He pointed to more bubbles and showed me once again. I dug, I reached and I pulled up a clam. When I turned to show Mr. Ham, he, finally, smiled and said, “clammin, first time?”
Each time I visit Islesford, I go to that spot on the beach and remember that very special day. I remember, vividly, that special time I spent with my friend Emerson Ham. I don’t go there without thinking about him. Once in awhile, though, I think I see the remains of his footprints a few paces ahead of me being washed away by the tide.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Introduction - Pentimento

Many years ago, I read An Unfinished Woman, an autobiography by Lillian Hellman and came across the word pentimento. It had a wonderful dancing rhythm as it played out its syllables between your palate, the tip of your tongue and the soft ridge behind your front teeth -pen~ti~men~to. The term is defined as an alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work, showing that the artist has changed his mind as to the composition during the process of painting. Ms. Hellman, though, suggested that once in awhile when the surface of a painting begins to crack, fade and/or chip away, there is revealed the color, pattern or subject matter that previously existed. Sometimes this hint of another painting, another time, may blend with the new to give another meaning. For me, it is that way with memoir writing. As we fill our pages with wonderful memories, there are those that tell the immediate story but richer are those that tell the story that lay beneath. This is the beauty of memoir. It provides a basis and moves on to embrace another story, and another story and another.
Memoir is not an autobiography. It is autobiographical in that it takes a small moment in time and stretches and polishes it into a precious treasure. We hide the treasure until that special time when we need to pull it out again, hold it up to the light to receive its blessing and give hope to our spirit.
This blog has been designed for memoir writing to be shared with our many companions who also want to treasure their memories. We want to feel encouraged to write, reflect and share. We want to look beneath the surface of our memoir, our own or others, and find rich tales to tell and embrace. We want the depth of our memories to reach the page and inspire, trigger and nurture wonderful writing.
"And because life is not linear, we want to approach writing memoir sideways, using the deepest kind of thinking to sort through the layers; we want reflection to discover what real connections are. A bit of brooding, pondering, contemplating, but not in a lost manner. I am asking you to make all this dynamic. Pen to paper gives muscle to your deliberations." - Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend from Far Away.

I dedicate this blog to my wonderful, loving and mother, Dorothy Campbell, who has taught me how important it is to create and treasure memories.

I also dedicate this site to two of my other mothers, Roma Freeman (left), the guardian of my spirit and Ernestine Bryan Haskins (right), the caretaker of my reality.