Audrey's Christmas Letter "2007"
|Today is the day after thanksgiving.
I am starting to write my annual Christmas letter. This has been a year
of sorrow, of change, an ending and a beginning. Through all the events,
ups and downs I've sailed, like being on an ocean where one has to experience
the storms, the wind, the calms and fog, without being able to get off
the boat until one has traveled many miles. All I could do was live the
experience and move forward day by day. Strange it is to me that through
this voyage I felt a peace, that everything happened as it should and that
I was being looked after, a presence I could not see but felt. These feelings
were comforting in a way I cannot explain, for there was no one to hold me
when I wept at night, no companionship when I felt lonely. There was synchronicity
so many times during the year that I knew everything was unfolding in a way
that was best for me and everyone involved in the events we were experiencing.
Last year's letter was finished the day before Christmas, so I will continue the saga from there. The Christmas Eve party was enjoyed by all, Doug and Christine, my neighbors and their son and family and Roxanne a friend from California who was staying with me through New Year's. I was sick with bronchitis and could hardly speak, but I was also very relaxed and happy.
Christmas day we drove to Portland to visit Charlie. He was making progress, taking a few steps and able to feed himself with his left hand. When Charlie was in the hospital in Damariscotta, a feeding tube was put in because he could not swallow; a month later, he could move his tongue and say a few words. On the way home we stopped at LL Bean to see the Christmas decorations. To our surprise, the parking lot was filled with cars, so we went in and walked around. It wasn't crowded, but a surprising number of people were out shopping at ten o'clock at night. It was a fun side trip.
Roxanne showed Doug how to get good prices on airfare, and Doug found a ticket price of $180.00 roundtrip to Portland, Oregon, so I visited Chris for three weeks. Since Charlie's stroke I had little time to paint, so in Oregon I painted almost every day. On arriving back on the East coast, Doug said Charlie had been moved back to Damariscotta to Coves Edge for continued rehab.
You may remember last winter was very mild. It was 45 degrees right through December. I was very thankful for the warm weather, because the pellet stove was not working and I was heating the house with a small wood stove. The part needed for the pellet stove had not arrived before I had to leave for Oregon, so Doug shut off the water and we put all the plants in the bathroom with a small electric heater. When I got back home, Doug turned on the water and all was well. The part for the pellet stove came, and Doug got the stove working. Then the temperature fell and the water pipes froze. I was able to thaw the pipes without any breaking, and after that I let the water drip if the temperature went below 10 degrees. The pellet stove kept the house warm, and all was well.
I visited Charlie every other day so that I had time to paint. Doug came up once a week. Charlie reached a plateau. He could walk 15 feet with a special cane. He could get into a wheelchair with a little help. Then Charlie got an urinary infection. His immune system was failing; the antibiotics were not working. The hospital food had all nutrition cooked out of it, and Charlie didn't eat much. I got them to give him yogurt, but it was a commercial brand full of sugar. Some days Charlie had more energy, and then he had his down days. On his poor days, I also felt sad, and I would cry as I walked Mocha. I had to stay focused on what I was looking at and enjoy my surroundings and try not to let my mind create situations about Charlie. And so it went, emotions strung out. I would say Charlie was well cared for. I liked the nurses and aides. Charlie would go to the dinning room for meals. There were about five or six other patients there, mostly elderly men. All had to be watched while they ate, and some had to be fed. Some had been there a long time. They had lived interesting lives that I would get inklings about. One day I brought in a pumpkin pie and real whipped cream and they all had a piece.
Doug came up with the idea that we could help Charlie by giving him juices made from raw vegetables, so I bought a juicer. We read books on a raw food diet, and I made juices from kale, collards, and other greens. The doctor gave permission to put the juice down Charlie's feeding tube. I also made thicker fruit smoothies that he could swallow. We didn't want to believe that Charlie was getting weaker. He was moving less and sleeping more. As spring approached and the weather got warmer, I bundled Charlie up and took him out in his wheelchair for fresh air. In my heart, I knew Charlie was dying, but I couldn't accept that. The infections sapped him of his strength. Dr. Clark sent him to the hospital. Tests results said he had more clots. I kept telling Charlie that Christopher was coming the first week of May. Chris came and we were altogether. Again Charlie went into the hospital. Charlie's sisters, nieces, and aunt came to see him. He was glad to see them and understood everything. His family sat around him with tears rolling down their cheeks. How do you let go of someone you love? They took good care of Charlie in the intensive care unit. He knew the nurses from having been there in November.
On May 6th Doug, Christina, Chris and I visited. We talked to him and he would listen. He was all wired up to machines that read his blood pressure and other stuff. We stayed all afternoon into early evening. We would go home and eat dinner at 10 o'clock at night. The next day, we got there about 11AM. He was asleep. A nurse came in to check on him about every twenty minutes. She was adjusting the oxygen and said to us, "Charlie is breathing slower. This is it. You can talk to him. He will hear you." So we told Charlie we were all there and loved him and watched him take his last breath. There was a peaceful expression on his face.
We went outside into the beautiful sunny warm spring day and sat in the little park, weeping. The social worker came out, the doctor came, the minister from the church where Charlie played the piano came and then we went home. What do you do when someone dies? We hadn't even thought about it.
Everything fell into place and five days later we had the service at the church in Waldoboro where Charlie played the piano for eighteen years. The memorial was a combination of Charlie's music played by musicians he knew and readings by his sister, neighbor and myself, and poems by Walt Whitman. The minister read everything because we were in no shape to do so. We played a song called "Audrey," a recording of Charlie playing the song he wrote for me when we fell in love. After that there was not a dry eye in the place. Over 100 people came to the service. Some people came up to me and said it was the most beautiful service they had ever attended. A reception was held at the theater annex where the monthly jazz jams take place. All the food was made by church members and friends. It was a great celebration . Charlie's ashes are under a blue spruce we planted in the yard. He is with our pets Jazz, Puff , Kegger, Spunky, and Claus. The weather was beautiful the week Charlie passed on. Chris and Doug rototilled the dirt in the garden and we had most of it planted by the time Chris left for Eugene.
After everyone left, I felt more lonely than ever. Sympathy cards were coming in every day with personal notes, and I cried as I read each one. Some people only knew Charlie from hearing him play the piano. As the expression goes, time heals, and it has. Actually I'm doing very well but as I write this letter tears are in my eyes. Every person must experience the death of loved ones. It is part of our human experience. I wish it weren't so final. To have a phone to the other side would be nice, to hear his voice and have a conversation, just a few words once in a while.
The summer season came and went; the garden did well. I had plenty of food to eat, to juice, and to give away. It wasn't too hot and there was just enough rain and fog. I enjoyed my swims and walks with the dog. I painted, had a watercolor workshop, sat at Tidemark Gallery in Waldoboro, went to the once-a-month jams and visited friends.
Chris came the last week in September. On this visit Doug and Chris set to work to re-shingle the roof and rebuild the mud room. After taking off the old shingles on the back of the house they found a lot of rot and had to replace timbers. The weather was warmer than usual, good for working outside. One day we went to the Common Ground Fair; the rest of the time was work,work,work. My dog Mocha had hound in him and could not be let loose because he would take off. He was getting out, because everyone was going in and out so much and forgetting to close the doors. Early evening one day he got out and I was in bed and he hadn't come back. Then a neighbor came and told my sons a dog was dead in the road by our driveway. Mocha had been killed by a car. We buried him next morning near Charlie. In the last year I've lost Claus, Charlie and Mocha.
I must tell you of an event that happened to me in October. Every year for years I have participated in the Wet Painting auction in Newburyport. A few days before I went to Newburyport, I made a painting of the Plum Island marshes just in case something went wrong on Wet Paint day. I went a day early to avoid driving in a storm that was coming through. Friday it rained, so I painted inside looking out one of Doug's windows. Saturday, the day of the auction, I discovered I had left my other blank canvases in Waldoboro; however, I had the Plum Island painting and I delivered it to the auction in the afternoon. The organization encouraged the artists to stay for the auction because the auctioneer said bidding went better when the audience knew the artist. Bidding began at 8 o'clock, and to my surprise, the paintings were selling for gallery prices. The audience was really into it and having a good time. A couple behind me asked if I was Audrey Bechler, and I said yes. The wife said I knew her mother and told me her name. I said we had worked at Russ Craft together and she had been to many of my shows in Newburyport. Then I learned her mother had been dead for ten years. My painting was the last to be auctioned and most of the audience was still there. I was confident my painting would sell for a gallery price of $800. I was called up and introduced and the bidding began. Almost every hand went up. The price went up and up and I was excited. It got to gallery price and kept going. The final bid was $1700. I couldn't believe it. Nothing like this had ever happened to me in my life. My painting brought the highest price of all the paintings in the auction. It was bought by the couple behind me. The wife said her mother liked my work and they did too. I was so excited I couldn't sleep all night and kept going over the event and thanking everyone, guides, god, my inner self, that great energy that made it happen. Not only was there the synchronicity of that couple sitting behind me, but the painting had been made from a photo I took when a couple I knew from art school days visited me at one of my shows and we went out to the Plum Island reserve.
Friends kept in touch and I got asked to dinner quite a few times. Not only did I have good meals but I also enjoyed the company of the people and we had wonderful conversations. As long as I had Charlie's companionship I didn't need to be with other people. Now I'm learning about other people's lives and it is very interesting.
Everyone's life is lived by the belief system, each created based on the society, time and culture they are raised in. Most people have faith and hope based on religious or spiritual beliefs. Forever humans have searched for the divinity. There have been many gods prayed to through the ages. Now in the dawn of a new age there are many books and teachings that say that divinity is in us. And it is not new, for Christ tried to tell us that. He was ahead of this time, understood by a few. He was a marker , a light in the dark. Here is one quote by Kryon: "Divinity is hidden inside every human being alive. That's where the love of God is. I AM that I AM the circle of words that describe the human being as god. The most divine scripture ever written came from human beings. The most profound thoughts ever thought came out of the core of human beings. So say the words, they are powerful. I AM that I AM"
What I believe is that god is not out there but a part of us and a part of everything. Everything is alive because the life force is the energy that moves, that makes neutrons swirl around a central unit, like the planets around the sun, macro, micro: the energy that vibrates through the universe and to infinity. This life force is conscious and intelligent. I believe there is a duality on earth, and we humans are mortal and immortal. We are finding out we are angels in disguise. We are learning to balance the dark and light. We have an inner self that knows the truth. I believe we are in transition and moving into a new age, a time of peace, and the pace is picking up moving faster. It works as each individual acts in a responsible way adding to the collective. We all have a dark side to change, worry, fear, guilt, feeling of unworthiness ,selfishness, greed, you know the list. These feelings are brought forth in our experiences of living each day, so be aware, and when one comes up, stop and think about it . Be conscious of the thoughts that run through your mind. We create our reality and we can change it.
I have focused on the present, keeping my mind open and not cluttered with thoughts. I ask my inner-self, Give me what I kneed to know, and then I don't worry, because what is best for me will happen. I also look at everything happening in a positive way even though it might not seem so at the moment it occurs. Thoughts form reality and thoughts are inter-dimensional, not bound by time or space. So my beliefs and faith have helped me through a tough year.
I have always liked to be alone. I've never been one to socialize much. I kind of ignored people. (Well that may be extreme. ) Nature gave and gives me inspiration and comfort. Well thankfully we have a lifetime to learn and change our ways. During Charlie's time in the hospital and since Charlie's death, I have found how kind people are when one is going through difficult times. Living alone now, I find I need to be with people and they make me happy. I learn about their lives and have great conversations.
So here it is my favorite time of year. It is Dec 12th and I am on my way to Oregon to be with Chris and his family. Right now the plane's altitude is 31, 907 feet and there is a screen on the back of the seat in front of me that gives the statistics, speed of the plane, wind speed, etc. I know right where we are as the plane crosses the country. Technology makes the world a small place. To think I can cross the country in seven hours!
Because I would not be celebrating Christmas in New England, I started early after Thanksgiving, put the candles in the windows and put up some decorations. The weather got cold and it snowed and it remained cold. ( I was lucky to cross the country between storms.) I settled in and enjoyed the pre-Christmas, even getting in a small dinner party. As you know, I love the Christmas stories, the magic and miracles, the message of light, love, hope and forgiveness. In the cold and dark my house was warm, light and full of peace. All the people I know are wonderful people, easy to be with, lovable, huggable, and I love hugging. Christmas is the time of being together. We need to share our stories, our trials and good times. We need to cry and laugh together, to sing and dance and to prepare wonderful food and eat together.
What is it that draws us to light in darkness, candle light, tree lights, firelight, star light? Darkness is the absence of light. Think how powerful light is. A small amount of light dissolves darkness. It is in the darkness that it is easier to see light and where it is. We can follow it to safety, to warmth to shelter. It is a guide, a strength, the story of Christ's birth: born in darkness, a beginning, potential, growth, understanding, wisdom.
It is now December 16th and I will finish my letter sitting in Chris's home. Everyone has gone to bed, so I sit here in the silence enjoying the tree and the warm light that radiates out from the tree lights. The stockings are hung by the mantle and greens decorate the rooms. Yesterday Haley, Diane's youngest daughter and her boyfriend came over for dinner and we decorated the tree. It sits in the corner bushy and tall as the ceiling with a big gold star at the top. I love the tree best of all. I could never celebrate Christmas without a tree. Most important is to celebrate with friends and family. To be together with the people you love makes Christmas the most joyful time.
The more love you have for humanity the stronger the light inside you. The more light in the world the less darkness. Peace is coming. We are angels. We can change the world. We will change the world. Believe.
For more information, please contact:
Audrey Bechler 968 Backcove Rd. Waldoboro, ME 04572 1-207-6832-6806
Layout, Design, and Revisions ©2005 by Douglas Bechler...... Revised, January 6, 2011