An overheard conversation

Recently I was in a local museum, walking from painting to painting. There was a couple ahead of me admiring the paintings.

“I will tell you, Carla. The woman does not look happy,” the man said.

“But, George, that’s cause she’s dead,” Carla said, then pinched her friend.

“Ouch! Why did you do that?”

Carla laughed. “Checking to see if you’re alive.”

“I’m alive? Of course, I’m alive,” George objected.

“You wouldn’t be happy if you were dead either.”

He stuck his tongue out at her, then said, “Then I wouldn’t have to put up with you.”

Carla puckered her lips. “Give us a kiss.” Her lips came close to George. He tried to move away. “C’mon. Give us a kiss, then I can bite that tongue off.”

He backed away from her. “You’d do that.”

“Course I would cause you’re such a downer.”

They took one final look at the Roman matriarch, then moved on.

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Soon

Another lyric for your enjoyment.

Rigor mortis is setting in
When it does I’ll be stiff as a board
Just another corpus delicti
Part of a great skeleton hoard

Crossing over the River Styx
On I go to another side
Hoping to be one of the picks
Through the Pearly Gates to reside

Soon I’ll be in the grave or bust
Soon I’ll be ashes and rust
Soon I’ll be nothing but dust
Soon I’ll be part of the crust

I’ve done my share of roaming
I’ve got trav’ling shoes to prove it
Picked up a bit of sea and sand
Been to the sunrise and in the pits

Took on the valleys and mountains
Over rainbows and under bridges
Never sure where I was bounding
When I made my jump off the edges

Soon I’ll be in the grave or bust
Soon I’ll be ashes and rust
Soon I’ll be nothing but dust
Soon I’ll be part of the crust

Near 500 words: Life goes on

Cora was much too young to be a widow. Married only six months and already a widow. Gani, her husband, wasn’t a soldier who went off to war. He didn’t have a dangerous job. He simply ran into a truck. Or should I say, the truck ran into him.

So here she was, wearing black and trying to hold back the tears. But they just wouldn’t stay behind the the dam. Nineteen years old, and a widow. That was all she could think of.

At the funeral, folks came up to her and offered her their condolences. They offered them to Gani’s family as well.

After the funeral, she went to bed and stayed in bed for several days, getting up only for food. The house she and Gani had bought was now empty. And she wasn’t even pregnant. That, at least, would have been something.

Her mother-in-law came to see her. “Get out of bed,” she said. “I will make you a nice breakfast, and you’ll feel better.”

“How can I feel better?”

“But you will,” her mother-in-law said.

As Cora ate her breakfast, her mother-in-law sat across from her. “You know, I lost my first husband.”

Cora put some eggs into her mouth and chewed, then she said, “You did?”

“I did. And I cried for weeks. Then I realized I was still young and life needed to go on.  Whether with me or without me. My son is dead. You are still alive. Put a smile on and go out into the world and enjoy yourself. The house is paid off. From the insurance.”

“But what about Gani?”

“What about Gani. He is in someplace wonderful and he doesn’t want you quitting life. He loved you. Do you think he wants you dead too? He doesn’t.”

“But I can’t.”

“You can. And you have too. Remember the wonderful days you had with Gani. They were a gift. Now you have permission to go on and live your life. You’ve had some great times. And you are going to have some great times in the future. Life is too short to waste it on the dead.”

“What will everybody think?”

“Who cares what everybody thinks? The important thing is that you get on with your life.”

That night Cora put on the new dress Gani had bought for  her. She put on the new shoes she had bought herself and went dancing. Dancing made her feel alive. At the dance, she met someone. Someone who became her second husband. Little did she know that he would die from an accident with a truck too.

Near 500 words: The nurse and Mr. Smith

Charlie had been a nurse for twenty years and had seen all kinds of patients. Few patients gave her the satisfaction she received from Mr. Smith. Though in a great deal of pain, he bore the pain like an old trooper.

She got the call from her service Tuesday morning three weeks earlier. “You’ll be with a Mr. Smith.”

Charlie almost laughed but she didn’t. Smith was quite a common name and she had served her share of Smiths. And Joneses as well. Little did she know this Mr. Smith was going to be different.

On her initial interview, she remembered Sarah, his daughter, telling her about her father. Tears filled Sarah’s eyes. Seems he had been in pain for much of his whole life. How he managed it Sarah wasn’t sure.

Charlie began her work, administering the drugs prescribed, adjusting his body in the bed, taking care of his bowel movements. As she moved through her work, Mr. Smith did not complain. Most of her patients did, but he did not.

As she watched Mr. Smith sleep, she saw his body struggle for the peace he deserved. When he was awake, he sometimes spoke through the pain. There was a peacefulness in his voice as he struggled through that pain. During these times, he told stories. His stories were funny and often dirty. She did not mind. His stories had a life in them that few writers had in their books.

One day Charlie got an idea. “Mr. Smith, can I record your stories?”

He smiled as his words struggled to get out. “If you would like.”

She turned on the recorder and he started a story. This one was about pirates.

Over the months, Charlie sometimes wondered if the old man’s stories were recollections of an earlier life. Or were they dreams or imagined?

After six months of attending Mr. Smith, he let go of life. Charlie had been reading Dickens to him that night. She went into the kitchen and made herself a cup of tea. When she returned, she looked over and realized her patient had left her.

She walked over and closed his eyes, then reverently kissed him on the forehead goodbye.

She left the room quietly, tears in her eyes. She called his daughter. “Sarah,” she said. “Your dad has left us.”

“I’ll be right over,” Sarah said.

Sarah came and she saw her father and she smiled. “He had a good death, didn’t he?”

“He did. I have something for you.” Then Charlie handed Sarah his stories. “These are for you.”

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Artist: Charlotte Salmon, Painter

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. In honor of Hanukkah 2017, this week’s Spotlight is the artist, Charlotte Salmon:

It is the Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. And I have chosen the Jewish artist, Charlotte Salmon, as a Spotlight. She is a reminder that in the darkness, light can shine. And boy, did her light shine.

Despite the tragedies in her life and her family, Charlotte Salmon is an inspiration. Many in her family committed suicide. Her grandfather sexually abused her. She lived during one of the worst periods in human history, the Holocaust.

For quite some time, she had walked the tightrope between suicide and life. At the suggestion of a friend, she began painting and chose life. From 1941 to 1943, she let her creativity shine. She spoke out against the terror in the only way she knew how. She painted 769 works. Then she was sent to Auschwitz where she and her unborn child were gassed to death.

Overcoming the great suffering, and in the midst of the death in her life, she brought great beauty into the world.