Grief is a sacred journey

A Book Launch, an Engagement, and a Pyramid

E and pyramid-001My family enjoys extravaganzas. It was my husband Vic’s style. If you can’t celebrate in a big way, why bother? I remember my surprise birthday party staged by Vic in 1968. Friends walked down the hill toward our Cayuga Lake house with candles, food, gifts, and a birthday cake. Vic had rented a tour boat, so after the feast, we all went for a midnight boat ride.

October 3 was book launch day for Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief. Enough action, wouldn’t you think? Not for my family, but then I hadn’t imagined them traveling from North Carolina and California for a two-hour event.

“It’s important, Mom,” they all said. “A big deal. We want to be there.”Book-Cover-Lg

“You don’t have to. It’s such a long trip,” I said. Their enthusiasm was stronger than my resistance.

My younger son Anthony called a few weeks before launch date. “Hey, Mom. I want to ask Veronica to marry me on our land. Is that too much on your big weekend?”

“Wow, does she know?”

“No, it’s a surprise, but an artist is making the ring.”

“It’s OK with me. Go for it.”

Anthony called again a week later. “Hey, Mom, I want to do an art installation in the woods, a piece by the artist who made the ring. Is that OK with you? It won’t be a big deal. Veronica and I will fly to Detroit and drive home with Keenan and the art work.”

David, Liz, Artist Keenan Nielbock, Anthony, and Veronica

David, Liz, Artist Keenan Nielbock, Anthony, and Veronica

“I trust you,” I said with no idea what I was trusting. An art installation? What would it look like? Probably beautiful. At least unobjectionable. I admit my trust was tinged with doubt.

They all arrived Thursday evening. I made a pot of their favorite minestrone soup and bought some wine. I met the artist Kenan Nielbock before falling asleep near midnight.

Veronica Christina after the proposal with her ring

Veronica Christina after the proposal with her ring

On Friday morning, I prepared notes for the reading while everyone slept. As they ate breakfast, I heard them mention the pyramid in my barn with a Wadjet Eye. Really? Keenan didn’t know I studied Egyptian Goddesses for three years with my women’s mythology class. He had no idea it would have such special significance for me. We did a high five and went to view the pyramid. Exquisite. Creative. Powerful.

I left for the book party early to give myself plenty of time. I was almost at Damiani Wine Cellars when I remembered my red shoes. Who cares? It’s only shoes. Ignoring the voice of practicality, I turned around and drove back up the hill. As I pulled the shoes out of my upstairs closet, Veronica walked out of the bedroom she and Anthony shared.

“Anthony asked me to marry him,” she said between sobs.

DSC08438

Ready to launch in front of the crowd

“Was it a surprise?” I asked.

“Yes. Completely.” I didn’t have to ask if she was happy. We wrapped our arms around each other and wept while Anthony watched. He was teary, too.

Plenty to celebrate that night. Glad I remembered my red shoes.

***

DSCN0503-001How does your family celebrate life and each other? You’ll enjoy reading about the spectacular wedding extravaganza created by family and friends for David and Liz. For more about Anthony and Veronica’s first visit to my home, read Cooking a Bowl of Italian Heaven. I’ll write about the art installation next time. How could I possibly resist?

If you live near Ithaca, NY, please join me for a Leaning into Love reading and book signing at Buffalo Street Books on Oct. 12 at 3 p.m. Buffalo Street Books will donate 10% of profits to Hospicare and Palliative Care Services of Tompkins County.

24 Comments
  1. Why am I not surprised, Elaine? Your beautiful family is a reflection of all that you (and Vic) are. What wonderful experiences you’ve all created for yourselves ~ and what precious memories! My warmest congratulations to you on the official launch of your amazing book ~ and I hope it sells a bejillion copies! ♥

    • My family is loving–and they have a wild side. That’s what I get for marrying a man who raced motorcycles in his youth! It was a wonderful weekend full of hugs, surprises, and projects. Everyone pitched in with cooking and cleaning up. Yes, precious memories and an auspicious launch. I also hope the book sells, but I’m trying to be curious rather than having high expectations. When I hear Pema Chodron speak about curiosity, I know that’s the best way for me to approach anything. Practicing! Love and gratitude to you, dear Marty.

  2. What could be better than your wonderful family together to celebrate!

    • Hi Patt, I’m not finished talking about family and this event, so stay tuned for next week. Jim and Cameron were here but stayed in a hotel. They didn’t come to the house until Saturday late morning, so they saw the pyramid before installation. Jim brought a huge container of baklava from Beirut, and it was devoured by the end of the weekend. Good party fuel, it seemed. Best to you and here’s to family, Elaine

  3. So glad for your red shoes! Click your heels together. This is what it feels like to be at home in your new life. Vic’s presence was palpable in the room Friday night. Naomi Shihab Nye’s opening poem: People don’t pass away. They die. And then they stay. Meeting these wonderful “characters” in the flesh was a privilege Thank you for sharing your real life story of leaning into love.

    • Thank you, Jill. A number of people told me they felt Vic’s presence. I’m used to feeling his inner presence. Yes, Naomi’s beautiful poem says it so well. I’m glad you met all the “characters” and wish you’d met the new family member Veronica, too. You and she would have lots to share about your work. Clicking my heels this morning with a few days ahead of me with no deadlines. Thank you for everything.

  4. The romance never dies in your family- in fact, just keeps growing stronger. I love those signature red shoes. Of course you see mine on my banner every time you visit my website. Heart-warming story once again and inter-generational too!

    • We must remember to wear our red shoes, Marian. Yours have open backs and 2 inch heels–very grown up and shiny. I met a writer Kim Kluxen Meredith at a recent conference, and she wore her red shoes when she gave a workshop.

      As of today, my outer world should calm a little. I’ve been so caught up in my whirlwind of talks and deadlines that I had no time for much else for two weeks. Hope to visit your site and a few others this week. The family romance seems to always involve a big project with plenty of effort needed, but that’s our style.

  5. Elaine ~ I wish I could hang out ~ in person ~ with the girl in the cool, red shoes! Our online friendship is the next best thing. Thanks for sharing glimpses of your family, friends, pooch … your life. It is delightful to feel part of it all. XO

    • I wish you could, too, Lynne. These are my “widow’s shoes.” I bought them for my first celebratory event when my nephew got married. They are my dancing shoes, too. I’m glad to be in touch with you the way we are, but maybe someday… Love, Elaine

  6. This brought tears to my eyes, Elaine! The party must have been so wonderful, and how amazing that Anthony had some art created in your honor. (The Wadjet eye is a favorite symbol of mine too.) Everyone looks happy, and clearly they were all so happy for YOU. What blessings!

    • Thanks, Kirsten. It was a wild weekend and I’m still recovering–but it was wonderful. I haven’t read your recent blog, but I will. I’m pedaling fast but haven’t caught up. Looking forward to your book–I hope you’re getting close. Noah needs to celebrate with you.

  7. Amazing party. So much excitement and good news. I felt so comfortable sitting with your family, especially Virginia, your mother-in-law. Looking forward to the rest of the festivities coming up this next weekend. Cheers!

  8. What a beautiful heartwarming story Elaine. How blessed you are to have wonderful family to surround you to celebrate your accomplishment. Congratulations again on your book. I can’t wait to read it! 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Debby. Yes, I’ve had good fortune in love and my family loves a celebration. I’m so behind with everything and pedaling fast to keep up. Hope to visit your site soon and see what’s cooking with your third book. You’re a wonder woman.

  9. Oh Elaine,

    I’m so glad you went back for our red shoes. This is such a heartwarming piece.

    You capture every moment so beautifully. I love how you accept your sons and their friends and loves.

    You embrace LIFE!!

    Kathleen

    • Thanks, Kathleen. I love wearing those red shoes. May have to wear this weekend for the book reading at our local independent bookstore. I’m grateful for the hometown crowd, because there won’t be family here this weekend. I try to embrace life and love. Seems the best way to live. I loved seeing flowers from the front.

  10. Wonderful story – so many happy moments in one BIG weekend! I have to tell you, I finally made some time to read this weekend. I read about 75% of the book in one sitting… just a bit more to go. It is fantastic. Just as I had imagined, it transported me to another time, another place. Your writing is magic, Elaine! And the picture that accompanies this post is terrific. The smile on your face is so real – I’m glad to see you filled with joy! You deserve it!

    Much love,
    Ann

    • The weekend was packed, and by Sunday, I was exhausted. Mostly because I stayed up too late with the young ones. I couldn’t resist, even though I knew I’d pay a price.
      Thanks for your delicious and nutritious feedback about the book. I’m so glad it touched you. And it was a magical weekend and book launch, so I was happy. I can remember feeling that I’d never be happy again, so I’m grateful.
      And grateful for your love and support,
      Elaine

  11. Love it from beginning to end, Elaine. Your red shoes, your trust, your love, and your growing family’s continuation of the values you and Vic demonstrated to them –ingredients for a great story! Wish I could have been there and all the best as the book continues to find its readers.

    • My family keeps me flexible. I’m wearing those red shoes for the TEDx talk, too. They’re my power shoes! I loved watching my older son and his wife embrace the latest family member. Just what I wanted and just what Vic would have wanted. I hope everyone will be here again for Solstice/Christmas.

  12. thank God for red shoes, eh? What a moment you were blessed to witness! Congrats on your son and new daughters happiness and huge congrats on your book launch. I’m looking forward to reading it as it came highly recommended after recently losing my husband of 23 years. These happy stories of your loving family and life going on have made me smile. I hope you document the big day with many happy photos in love!

    • Dear Katherine,

      I’m so sorry your husband died. And you said “recently.” Ouch. My words are inadequate for the magnitude of the loss and the changes required of you. Yes, life somehow stumbles along. I let life stall for the first year because I needed time to cry and grieve. I spent time in nature with my dog and time with friends and my sons. Our family life goes on, but there is a big hole for all of us. We go on together and that is worth smiling about. No recent wedding photos (the engagement fell through), but here’s the 2013 wedding of my oldest son: https://elainemansfield.com/2013/sunshine-on-the-wedding-june-2013/ In the post before this one, I wrote about holding a quiet five-year ritual of remembrance for my husband two days before the wedding. We were all upset he wasn’t there, so it seemed best to share our grief so we could then share happiness. It’s amazing to me how the two feelings of love and grief coexist. (None of these recent blog stories are in my book which ends 2 1/2 years after my husband’s death. Thanks for your interest in Leaning into Love. It’s available at Amazon or on my website. Many find it helpful, so I hope you do, too.)

      Yes, I love my red power shoes. I wrote about them again recently because I had to buy a new car and chose red.

      Best to you. I hope you have a strong network of support, friends, and more. Please feel free to stay in contact here.
      Warmly,
      Elaine

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