My mom was reincarnated from St. Francis and moved to a little brick house in the Midwest, outside of Chicago.

 

Our house had a small pond complete with cattails, water lilies and turtles.

First thing in the morning, my mom would stroll down the grassy hill wearing her blue housecoat yelling in a high-pitched voice “you who, you who”.

Turtles would magically come up to the shore ready for a snack.

“How did she do it?”

In the late fifties a friend of my dad’s from Florida sent us kids a shoebox with a six-inch alligator inside. He didn’t last long even though my mom and Ollie exchanged a strange guttural conversation everyday as she laid down for a nap not far from his cage. My brother and I would stand with ears to the bedroom door and listen to this foreign dialog. Guessing most mothers did this boring banter with alligators we went out to play.

 

When a huge white tomcat showed up he knew he was not allowed to kill birds. Everyday he sat against the warm brick wall of our house, posing as a furry ottoman. Quietly watching while sunning himself.

Whitey was smart and unbeknown to us only hunted at the next-door neighbors.

One day, our neighbor said, “Agnes your cat is killing my birds”. My mom said, “That’s not possible, Marge”, he’s a good cat.

 

A few days later mom opened the screen door and there was Whitey with a bird in his mouth. As my mother and Whitey “big-eyed” each other across the OK corral patio my shocked mom screamed.

Whitey’s mouth sprang open and he viewed his prey take off.

 

We watched as mom gave showers to our parakeet Pretty Boy in the kitchen sink and, taught him to say, “God bless you”. When she got mad at the mess he made or when he escaped to sit on top of the drapes and wouldn’t come down, she would curse, “Goddamn that Bird” and he would answer in his little bird voice, “God bless you” as he flew back down to greet her.

We had cats, dogs and even a horse.

All those years of watching our mother taught us about kindness and care.

We were taught about the continual cycle of birth, life and death and how suddenly out of nowhere things change.

We were pupils of a teacher who loved God and showed us how to mourn when any of our pets died. We had small services in our backyard for birds, goldfish and our alligator. We stood together in silence then whispered words of gratitude and love through our childlike tears.

 

As we got older many tragedies knocked at the door of that little brick house. Two tragic car accidents, a child drowning in our pond and as years passed I lost a son.

No matter how prepared you are for a tragedy you are never prepared.

I would lie in my bed at night trying to figure out the “why me?” of losing a child. I was on a journey to learn how to listen to the silence. I needed to force myself to turn away from the constant chatter and rehashing of the words in my head.

Your loved ones reside in the pauses between the chatter, in the silence, that is when the spirit arrives.