Yesterday afternoon on his day off Wayne and I decided to drive to Kennebunkport to see our beloved St. Ann’s Episcopal Church before stopping at the antique shops in Arundel on the way back. I wasn’t prepared for the heartbreaking news that was to follow.
The gates were closed as expected so I took this pic through them. The setting and mood is so different from the summer!
It can be easy to believe in late January that gentle days filled with flowers and warm sunshine will never come. Sometimes winter-like temps will persist into late May, but even then, winter gives way to regeneration. It’s powerful to witness forlorn landscapes with trees that cast shadows teem with life once again for another season.
This isn’t death–just rest. It’s the wonderful cycle of the seasons in New England.
Heading back to Arundel we saw a lone man walking. Up close we were pretty sure it was just your everyday nicely dressed apparition marching along Ocean Avenue, and by nicely dressed I mean if it was 1750. He was a weird but welcome sight when everything else was frozen in time.
Not long after as we pulled into the lot at Arundel Antiques I looked for my friend Margaret’s car. She’s an antique dealer with a large presence there so I hoped to bump into her. I hadn’t seen her since the summer when Wayne and I were at the flea market. She was there with her brother who sold me a wonderful vintage wooden crate with tomato advertising. They gave me a good deal, of course!
She and Wayne finally met at that time after hearing a lot about the other from me, and we were all smiles on that beautiful early Sunday summer morning. Wayne took this pic of me standing in front of #notmyride minutes after we had said good-bye to her.
It wasn’t unusual for months to pass during the winter without us calling the other, but this past year I had gotten extra busy. Once inside Wayne and I were having fun and feeling light until I looked up at the end of the aisle.
That’s Margaret’s booth!
That was Margaret’s booth.
It felt like a punch in the gut because she wasn’t the kind of person to retire; it was a dreadful sight. I asked the owner’s daughter how Margaret was doing since I noticed her empty booth.
“I’m sorry but she passed away two weeks ago.”
I tried to maintain my composure but I cried anyway. What? How? What?
She had been unexpectedly hospitalized.
“She’s with her husband now! She missed him very much!” I said to them. They agreed. She was never the same after he passed a couple of years ago. They were childhood sweethearts and maintained a strong marriage for over fifty years.
We left shortly after and I told Wayne I wanted to go to the other antique store instead of home. I needed to distract myself as I processed that she was gone.
This particular antique store is huge, and other than the front doors it has absolutely no windows. We were close to the very back of the store. I commented to Wayne that I was feeling not just shocked and sad but vulnerable, because when someone we love passes unexpectedly it reminds us of how fleeting and uncertain life is.
Seconds later the overhead lights flashed and flickered a few times and then went out completely. Wayne was inches from me and I couldn’t see him! I don’t think I had ever experienced such unexpected darkness. Thankfully my phone was handy and I activated the flashlight app. We walked through the many aisles until we were able to see the light through the tunnel formed by the glass encased displays. The timing of the power outage and the metaphorical relation to what we were discussing was beyond eerie!
Is that what it’s like when we go? Is it lights out until moments later we see that promised guiding light at the end of a tunnel? As a Christian I do not believe that death is the end. Even so, the car ride home, last night and this morning have been filled with deep and teary discussions with Wayne. We spend our lives cultivating ourselves and we have these wonderful gifts to share as we age, only to then die? Wayne immediately replied that’s why we share our gifts with other people, so that they live on through them when we pass.
My friend’s gifts to me were her sense of humor, acerbic charm, and gumption. She took me under her wing in 2001 when I met her at an auction hall where she worked. She taught me so so much about the world of an antique dealer. Her stories and our misadventures together over the years rivaled any staged episode of “American Pickers.” Most importantly she taught me how to laugh at myself.
But, I asked Wayne, how do we know what our gifts are?
“Just be yourself” was his reply.
It was only about a year ago that I shared with Margaret the challenges I live with and that I am in long-term recovery. I used to hide myself from people out of fear. She was so accepting and praised me for what I had overcome. “I thought you were kind of spoiled. I really had no idea.” We laughed and I learned that the meaningful moments in life are when we’re not self-editing from a sense of undeserved shame. Those things we’re keeping to ourselves just might be the very gifts we need to share with others!
RIP my feisty friend.