Today has been a special day for me for the last 23 years. It is the day of my dad's funeral and burial. I remember it being a frigid March day, the ground still frozen with snow flurries chilling my bones in the graveyard. Maybe there were specs of spring budding from the earth, but otherwise, it was extremely grey. Before the burial, I remember my husband and I walking directly behind the casket to the altar with my mom at our center. I remember reciting my parents' favorite poem in front of a packed church of mourners right before the final blessing. For many years, the poem hung in a special spot near the family room of the house I grew up in before my mom found its current home outside her bedroom door.
During one of my recent visits to my mom, I met up with an old friend who reminded me that my mom's favorite flower is the daffodil. How convenient that the grocery stores here in the midwest in March sell bunches of daffodils thirsting to bloom while many people are defrosting from winter craving signs of spring. Supermarket daffodils know just when to arrive. I took the nudge from my friend and returned home just a few days later for the weekend with some of my mom's favorite things: Danish pastries and lamb chops from my local bakery and meat market, and a few bunches of daffodils to brighten her kitchen.
My mom didn't miss a beat with her old routine of cutting an inch from the bottom of the flowers' stems before placing them in water, although she had me do the cutting. As she carefully touched each stem to arrange them in the vases to her eye's liking, I read the poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth. When I read this poem at my dad's funeral, I read it in honor and as closure to my parent's physical life together. When I often read it now, and on this lazy Sunday morning as my mom and I awaited the blooms to inch open, it has renewed meaning for me. It is but a glance of how I have navigated living without my dad, who had a gentle, supportive, and positive influence on my life, and how I have traveled with my mom through her widowhood and as a caregiver during her Alzheimer's disease.
Throughout the years and in the recent ones under the great mysterious umbrella of dementia, I haven't had a map which is perfectly fine because, in reality, there is no easy, straight forward, or one way to navigate through death, grief, or caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's. Mostly, I have wandered because after all, I am a Sagittarius, which is said to be the most prominent wanderer of the zodiac. I wander with intention and curiosity, many times taking risks and venturing into the unknown. I wander in nature shooing senseless noise away to make space to hear the truth. I stroll by the seashore, and I hike into the woods. I wander in the rain and with snow beneath my feet. I roam around the city, along the river, and to a solo seat by a window where I witness the beauty of life in all its diverse forms. I wander to gain knowledge especially from people who continue to learn themselves and admit they don't know everything either. I travel to spiritual and writing retreats with the hope of connecting with an everyday God who meets me where I am and guides my hand with writing. I wander to cultural events to find inspiration when my spirit is weary. I find my way to panel discussions and conferences on Alzheimer's and dementia. I wander to find peace and love.
Today especially allows me the space to wander in my memories and connect with the merry dance of the daffodils.
All this wandering and exploration in solitude offers little notes of ease and gentleness that harmonizes my life which encourages me to be the best person I can be for the greater good. I do believe the authentic nature of life composes a pulsing rhythm of people, places, and experiences that bloom at just the right time to feed and restore a soul in need and open to it. I am grateful for this because as a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's, some days can feel like a solo flight bouncing through a turbulent territory in a long-lasting winter. I remind myself that the disease is harder on my mom and she can feel just as alone. She has been fully aware, especially back in the early stage, that things were changing and beyond our control. When I ache to feel the dance of joy or stretch to remember that spring will indeed come, I know my mom does too.
Unlike 23 years ago, today arises with a vast blue sky giving way to the glory of the sun. The hope of a new day. Birth of a new season. An offering of fresh air in which to journey and discover simple pleasures.
"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" also known as "Daffodils"
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such jocund company:
I gazed- and gazed- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.