Monday, November 29, 2010

Quote for the Week

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the gray window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colors,
indigo, red, green
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

John O'Donohue, Irish priest

Saturday, November 27, 2010



Do you ever dream about the one you've lost? I do. This piece, written a couple of years ago, is about my favorite dream of Ralph.

Last Tuesday night, as I often do, I dreamed about my husband. The dreams are usually of his absence, the longing to have him with me, the breadth of the chasm that separates us.

But in this latest dream he appeared beside me, his face unlined, his body firm and his eyes alight with happiness and humor. He looked nothing like the gaunt, frail man with white wispy hair and hollow eyes who had lain unmoving in his hospital bed for so many months. This vibrant man looked thirty years younger than he had even in the days before leukemia took over his body and his life.

Amazed by his sudden presence, I blurted, “What are you doing here?”

“I came for a visit. I wanted to be with you for a little while.”

“Where have you been?” I asked.

“In the other world,” he replied.

A Jewish woman who was married to a man raised an evangelical Christian, I longed to know what Ralph’s heaven was like. A pure white world filled the sounds of angels’ harps? A green Elysium where the Good stroll among flowers, a misty place where souls dwell unbound from earthly cares? Whatever it was like, I knew we wouldn’t be together there. When we married, he abandoned Christianity and, although he didn’t convert, he became nominally Jewish. But as his condition worsened and death loomed, he returned to the religion of his boyhood and died a Christian once again.

“The other world is nice.” A typical Ralph response. He’d never been especially verbal, preferring to communicate with actions rather than words.

“What do you do there?”

“I drive a bus.”

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A bus? This wasn’t my vision of heaven, nor, I imagine, many other people’s either, regardless of their religion. I imagined Ralph at the wheel of a lumbering yellow school bus, but the idea didn’t make sense. In life, he was a computer specialist with his own business, and bus driving, as far as I know, was never one of his career goals. Perhaps in “the other world” you don’t get to pick.

“I enjoy driving,” he continued. “I like honking the horn. If you ever hear a bus honking, you’ll know it’s me.” He hugged me. “I won’t be visiting you again, but you can call me.”

“How?” I asked, but he had disappeared.

The next morning and every day since I thought about the dream and what it might mean. On Friday when Gabriella my nine-year-old granddaughter began talking about her beloved Popo, I told her about the dream.

Her brown eyes widened. “Popo is sending you a message.”

I don’t really believe in communication between the living and the dead, but I had been thinking the same thing.

“Nana,” Gabriella said, “every time a bus honks, we’ll know Popo is thinking of us.”

Remembering that dream--and every school bus I pass evokes that memory--makes me laugh and cry. If you have a dream you'd like to share, please leave it as a comment.

Sweet dreams,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turkey Day

No Thursday review. Instead it's over the freeway and through the traffic I go-- first to my daughte's boy-friend's house for lunch, then to my son's for dinner. No sleigh--no snow. It's Texas after all.

On Thanksgiving, I can be sure of the following:

Dinner will start later than scheduled.

There will be way too much food at both meals.

Of all the guests, I will probably be the only one interested in watching a football game.

Since the meals aren't at my house, I won't have any leftovers. Hooray!

I will miss Ralph. When I get home, I'll be lonely for him but thankful for the day spent with friends and family.

And here are some lighthearted Thanksgiving quotes:

What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving? ~Erma Bombeck, "No One Diets on Thanksgiving," 26 November 1981

An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day. ~Irv Kupcinet

On Thanksgiving Day, all over America, families sit down to dinner at the same moment - halftime. ~Author Unknown

Thanksgiving is America's national chow-down feast, the one occasion each year when gluttony becomes a patriotic duty. ~Michael Dresser

The funny thing about Thanksgiving, or any huge meal, is that you spend 12 hours shopping for it and then chopping and cooking and braising and blanching. Then it takes 20 minutes to eat it and everybody sort of sits around in a food coma, and then it takes four hours to clean it up. ~Ted Allen

The thing I'm most thankful for right now is elastic waistbands. ~Author Unknown

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quotes for Thanksgiving Week

From Quote Garden, a site with quotes on everything you can think of, here are some to inspire you this Thanksgiving week:

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice. ~Meister Eckhart

Remember God's bounty in the year. String the pearls of His favor. Hide the dark parts, except so far as they are breaking out in light! Give this one day to thanks, to joy, to gratitude! ~Henry Ward Beecher

Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day. ~Robert Caspar Lintner

Thanksgiving comes to us out of the prehistoric dimness, universal to all ages and all faiths. At whatever straws we must grasp, there is always a time for gratitude and new beginnings. ~J. Robert Moskin

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

And here's my favorite:

We give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. ~Author Unknown

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Here Come the Holidays

Thanksgiving already? How did it sneak up on us? Actually it didn't; it came with a bang. The day after jack o'lanterns and witches vanished from the shelves, Santas and Christmas ornaments appeared. Within a few days the malls were decorated and Christmas carols were playing. Too early for me, when our Houston thermometers were still pushing ninety. One of these years they'll probably start Christmas on July 5.

By the time the holidays arrive, we're innured to them. Or we're depressed from all the messages that say, "Be joyful! Celebrate!"

Being joyful and celebratory is tough in the widowsphere. The holidays don't feel right any more, with your spouse missing. No one to gripe to about the high prices and crowded stores, no one to share a glassw of egg nog with in front of the fire. Even with people around, we feel alone.

It's normal to feel sorry for ourselves in the midst of other people's merriment. I'm pretty sure it's okay to cry and to have a long (one-sided) conversation with our absent spouses. But we might also want to add a thank-you for all the good times we had together and a promise not to ever forget them.

Since Ralph died, I've spent my Thanksgiving Days with my daughter-in-law's warm and welcoming family. It's not the same. The turkey isn't a Ralph-cooked one and his jalapeno dressing is missing. But I do have fun, and this year my granddaughter's birthday, the 26th, is the next day so we'll be celebrating that, too. I wish her Popo could see how she's grown; she's a feisty 12-year-old, still as chatty as ever, who makes videos with her American Girl dolls and has 1000 subscribers on YouTube (Eat your heart out, Nana.) She's made the leap to middle school. No boyfriends yet, although she confesses she's been asked. Ralph would be proud of her. She was the last person he asked to see before he died, and his doctor made special arrangements so he could leave the transplant floor and say goodbye to her.

This year I'm thankful for my family and friends, for the work that still fulfills me (How can anything be more satisfying than teaching a child to talk?), for my two cuddly cats, for learning new things, and for making it through to another Thanksgiving.

And to all my friends in cyberspace, may you stay upbeat during the holidays and think of the good things in your lives.

With love and thanks, Thelma Z

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Website Review: Renaissance Artist

I first met Susan, a true Renaissance artist, through her beautiful blog, The Art of Grief. Like me, Susan is a widow and like me, she mourns her lost love. She turns her grief into art. She's a talented artist in many mediums. If you visit her website, you can see her memory quilts, sock art and other textile creations. Each memory quilt is a memorial to someone who has passed away. Each is a personalized work of art.

Being a doting grandmother, I was drawn to Susan's embroidered jeans. I bought a pair of jeans and sent them to her, and here's my granddaughter Gabriella, my favorite person in the world, in her new jeans. And below is a close-up of the embroidery on the leg.

I've also discovered Susan's lovely photographs on Flick'r at abandonedsoulsphotography. I ordered three tree pictures that spoke to my heart--one in spring, one in fall, and one during a winter sunrise.

Please visit Susan's sites, including her blog, . I'm sure you'll be as impressed as I was.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Quote for the Week

“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief -
But the pain of grief
Is only a shadow
When compared with the pain
Of never risking love.”
Hilary Stanton Zunin

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thursday Review:

is a website for widows
of every kind--young widows with and without children, gay widows, straight widows, Christian widows, Jewish widows, boomers, seniors, remarried widows. And widowers as well. There are lists of books, suggestions for the holidays, answers to all sorts of questions a widowed person might ask. Check it out. It's well worth your time.

And The Winner Is...

I wish for a do over.

All the memoirs were heartfelt. I wish I had more books to give out, but I don't so I numbered the memoirs, put the numbers in a bowl and drew one out. Please stop by to claim your prize.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Quote for the Week

"To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die." ~ Thomas Campbell

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Widowhood: What's Next? Input Requested

Two years ago, as a fairly new widow, I taught a couple of courses called "Going It Alone: Resources for Widows and Widowers." Not a grief group, it addressed all sorts of resources for widowed people to access as they began their journey through life without their spouse. I talked about books, financial resources, maintaining health, managing those nagging jobs around the house that you didn't have to do because s/he did them, cooking for one, activities that might be interesting, ethical wills, and making a bucket list.

Now I'll be teaching the course again. Now I'm a more experienced widow, so I have more to add. But is it right? Is it enough? I'd very much like input from readers. What would you expect in such a course? Any resources you think are useful for widowed people?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

Still want to write a six-word memoir? Contest runs for two more days.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Readers' Memoirs of Widowhood

Here are the 6-word memoirs posted by readers.

Left behind; must find own way.

It is Painful. Scary. Lonely. Unwanted.

Tested by fire, surviving by love.

I wish for a do over.

Not what I planned for us.

Life is short. Make it count.

Miss everything about us, my love.

Gotta kill my own bugs.

I love hard and mourn harder.

Six words? Can't touch my loss.

He is gone; I am here

So lonely, he shoud be here.

I'll not let death define me.

I'd do it all over again.

It's not too late to post yours. I'll be drawing a name for the book on Wednesday next week.

Houston Chronicle Features Bernice Dickey

Congraulations to Bernice Bright Dickey, author of My #1 is Still My #1, who was featured in this week's Belief section in the Houston Chronicle.

Check my archives to read my review of her book and later interview with her.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thursday Review: Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen

"Everybody is a story," says Dr. Remen early in this insightful and inspiring book. "When I was a child, people sat around kitchen tables and told their stories...It is the way wisdom got passed along. We may need to listen to each other's stories once again."

A physician, therapist, and survivor of chronic illness, Dr. Remen passes on those stories that we used to tell each other aloud.

Her book is divided into six sections: Life Force, Judgment, Traps, Freedom, Opening the Heart, and Embracing Life.

I have owned this book for many years and have given copies to friends on special, life-changing occasions. I re-read it while Ralph was hospitalized, and it gave me courage. I re-read it often.

Highly recommended

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Hope you'll drop by Susan Katz Miller's blog to see her interview with me. She's at


“Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don't vote.”
William E. Simon

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