Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter solstice

"Embrace the darkness", she exhorted.

She had just completed a mini-lecture on winter solstice; it's origins, history and how (WAAAAYY back in the day - 1400-1500's) Christianity combined it's beliefs with established pagan traditions as a way of ensuring it's acceptance by the early Celts and Druids.

It was informative and she was knowledgeable... but I couldn't help but think of an experience I had with GI Joe shortly after the death of his father.

The first Ash Wednesday after his dad died, GI Joe was attending a sermon for kids at the altar about what the imposition of ashes signified and why we did it.
The Rector giving the lesson was a woman he'd known for years, one of my best friends.

Right after she got through the explanation - that it's a way for us to remember that God formed us from dust of the earth and to it, we will return - GI Joe stood up and started to walk away.

When Susie asked him where he was going, my 5 yr old replied "Thanks, but I just saw my father put dead in the ground; I don't really need another reminder".

I understand today is the day when daylight is at it's shortest since our planet is in its furthest rotation away from the sun. I appreciate that 'the ancients' (why do I feel uncomfortably like I could fit into that category!) feared that the failing light would never return unless they intervened with anxious vigil and antic celebration.

Did you know the Mesopotamians are believed to have been the first to have engaged in a 12 day festival designed to help the god, Murdak, "tame the monsters of chaos" for 1 more year.
To which I say, "Nice try, but it didn't work!"

I've seen several monsters of chaos in the past few weeks and, not only have they not been tamed, they're still going strong!

We have all kinds of wonderful ways to ward off the darkness this time of year and many of them work, at least, temporarily.

When I was a child, confusing, scary and hurtful things happened when the lights went out.

I have worked VERY hard to overcome a lingering fear of the dark and have succeeded all too well, according to family and friends - many of whom ask for a miners helmet when they enter my house since it's generally so dimly lit.

(Can you say overcompensation?)

I don't think there's a single person working in the ER who isn't painfully aware that there are forces of darkness at work in the world.

And, for all the beautiful ways we try to fool ourselves and keep it at bay, it's still there.

The darkness that lives within human beings makes itself known in both blatant and insidious ways.
So, for now, I'll continue to combat the darkness with the only means that I've found to be effective.

I don't understand 'solstice worshippers'.
Do some folks really need a whole day to recognize, honor or celebrate the darkness?

"Embrace the darkness."
Thanks, but I've seen children beaten to death by people who supposedly 'loved' them.
I don't need another reminder.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Every school had one...

you know who I mean...

the girl who wasn't really all that nice but she was rich enough to buy her 'friends' all kinds of treats and, because she did, everybody wanted to hang out with her which made it seem like she was the most popular girl in the class?

I have just one word:


OPRAH.
'nuff said.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Parents: MIA

Two recent events have left me wondering where all the grownups went?

A recent class action lawsuit was filed by a mom claiming that McDonald's was encouraging her children to eat lousy food "by luring them in with toys in the Happy Meal".

I don't mean to enter into the whole sodium- laden, fat- saturated, artery-clogging debate that is fast food in our country.
Been there, ate that, licked my fingers afterward to get all the salt...and I think the toys are darling.

IF however, you're of a different mind and don't want your children to start down that path, what happened to saying NO?
What happened to telling your kids you don't want them to eat there and driving on by?
And, if there's not another restaurant in a 25 mile area, and your children are seeing stars from impending starvation, how about ordering them the carrots, apple slices and milk to go along with a plain hamburger?
Or just buy them a yogurt.
You DO have choices.

How is it McDonald's fault that you have no spine?
How 'bout actually being in charge and being a parent.

Likewise, our ER was clogged this week with 15 kids who had been maced at their school during what amounted to a food fight.

Again, leaving beside the issue of whether resorting to chemical restraint was really necessary by the Security folks with boots on the ground, I can tell you that if the adult behavior in our ER was anything like what Security at the school dealt with, then the kids are lucky the nunchucks didn't come out.
Instead of the parents reading their kids the riot act, using this as 'a teachable moment' and a lesson in guilt by association and the stupidity of getting caught up in mob rule, the parents wasted no time in congregating together in the hallway, leaving all their kids unsupervised, shifting the blame and bitching about how the school didn't notify them soon enough!

Hello, someone must have called you; you're here in the ER within 15 minutes of your kids being brought in... and if you'd stay off your damn cell phones long enough to actually talk to the doctors, you'd know that not one of the darlings has anything close to potentially life threatening injuries.

But our society, being what it is, rewards this Lord of the Flies scenario with TV cameras, 15 seconds of fame and new scrubs to wear home.
Why?, you ask.
Because they couldn't possibly wear the same clothes home in case, God forbid, they have a molecule of irritant remaining on them.

How 'bout you go home and get a change of clothes for them?
How 'bout you make them wear their clothes home and if their skin gets irritated, maybe the discomfort will drive the lesson home and, maybe next time, they won't act the fool.

Obviously, tough love is NOT in the current parenting lexicon.
It's a shame it's not.

Friday, December 17, 2010

No holiday cheer tonight


At the start of my mothers recognizable journey with Alzheimer's 15 yrs ago, a journey which led to her being placed 7 yrs ago in assisted living, I prayed for the strength to walk this path with her with patience and a modicum of humor.

I'm humbled to say that God apparently DOES answer prayers - only, sometimes, the answer is "NO".

I've never found patience with her- answering the same questions a bazillion times in ten minutes, over and over and over again - and there's nothing funny about it.
It's like being trapped in a nightmare version of Ground Hog Day!

I recently read that some theologians consider that movie to be One of the Top Spiritual Movies of our time; a perfect example of how God keeps giving us opportunities, over and over and over again, to learn compassion and more loving responses.

Oh good, so I'm failing not only Daughterhood 101, but Religion 101 too!

There's a reason I don't keep guns in the house.

BTW
I've stopped praying for the strength to get through this with patience and humor; I'd settle for strength to get through it alive.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Trying to hang on to the glow...

finally home after covering the night shift for a sick colleague...

Glad I had a GREAT day yesterday to balance it out!


We all can forget...

My antidote?
Spending time with my kids on a walk this weekend in Loose Park in Kansas City .

My visits with Art Boy and GI Joe together are never long enough but, at least, we had lunch and a walk on a beautiful day before Thanksgiving.


SO much fun to have all my 'kids' in one place.
The dogs were in heaven to have both their boys with them!



Which word do you see?
I have troubles or triumphs of my own?


I've had my share of both...and love that both get recognized in this painting - one of several currently on exhibit at the Dolphin in Kansas City - the gallery where Art Boy works and lives.

More to come...but I have to get to sleep so I can get up tomorrow -at some point - and go back in to do it all again!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Upset the Fruit Basket

Y'all would have loved it!
Cracked me the fuck up!
It was quite the scene.


A gunshot wound to the chest - and the driver - the victims 'friend' - who was so 'upset' he couldn't tell OUR ER from the adult hospitals ER right next door!

Poor guy was really planning on a 'dump 'n dash' but as he was unloading the victim from the front passenger seat, one of our nurses, no doubt trying to be helpful and exhibit the healing presence of Christ, took his car and valet parked it in an undisclosed location on the parking lot, leaving the 'friend' stranded on the sidewalk, having to talk to the ER Social Worker - that would be MOI!

Not only that, but as said SW was walking to talk to him, she called 911 from her mobile work phone and had police respond before he could retrieve his keys, locate the car and get the hell out of Dodge.

It was priceless!

When family and police showed up and we confirmed that our patient was an adult, a felon and had probably just been wounded in the commission of a crime - a shoot out a few blocks away in which another 'victim' had been shot too - I was the one elected to ask his mom some of the tough questions.

Such as - does your son have a history of being a sexual deviant, as well as a drug dealer, since he has the word RAPE tattooed across his knuckles?

Mom's response: Oh no, you misread it. That's his gang tatoo; it says GRAPES. He's been in it since he was a kid.
RIGHT!
The Crips, the Bloods, the Jets, the Sharks and the GRAPES!

PLZ, woman!
I know I'm just a middle aged white tool of the system but no way in hell does your boy belong to the Raisinets!


(Plus I'm a REAL good reader!)

She DID redeem herself in my eyes when her son came out of his drugged state long enough to be pissy and demand that I call his 'wife'.
When I had the nerve to do a reality check with his mom and discover he had no wife, he then informed me she was his girlfriend and his baby's mama.

To which his mom responded, "She might be two minutes pregnant but I don't know nothin' about it and they're not callin' your bitch; You're on VOV lock down - again!"

Mama knows best.

So do the docs who stabilized and then transferred his sorry ass to the adult side - under arrest - while they took his pal to jail too!

All in all, a good afternoon!
Definitely worth the half dozen pieces of candy the Detectives scarfed down in my office!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Note from the monastery


We were down to fewer than 500 nesting pairs of our fierce national bird when it went on the Endangered Species List in 1967.
The list was turned into a comprehensive law protecting its members in 1973.

Say what you will about the man - and I could say plenty; he's why I have an FBI file - but let it be remembered that this was ONE good thing Richard Nixon did.

The protection worked; today there are more than 10,000 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles in the Continental United States.
You can see them in South Dakota, along the Mississippi River and along the Hudson River on the way to upstate New York.
Rivers are a gold mine for them, and they patrol it from high in the sky, swooping down in an attack that must leave a fish not knowing what hit it.

The Bald Eagle has been removed from the list, something that doesn't happen to most animals on it; most of them continue their march toward extinction and, on one disconsolate day when nobody is around, the last one crawls under a bush to die.

What must it be like to be the last one?
To find no one else in the world who knows what you know; no one else who sees things as you do?
What must it be like to call and call for a mate and hear no answering call?

Human beings know something about that last one: many of us have called and called for love, to no avail.

Wondered where to go to meet someone wonderful.
Wondered if there is something repellent about us: What is it: Am I not thin enough? beautiful enough? rich enough? too snarky? too funny?

Many of us have longed to speak first and been too shy, and so nobody spoke and the chance was lost.

But we are endowed with a quality that other species would envy: we can expand our passionate search for love and companionship beyond the hope of being part of a pair.

Our capacity for love can be poured into many things: into a posse of friends, or one best friend; into art that satisfies the soul; into nurturing plants and creating our own gardens of Eden and always, of course, into the experience of God and being part of a servant community comprised of those who have dedicated their lives to serving and loving ALL rather than the exclusivity of loving ONE.

Eventually, every living individual passes from the scene, taking our feathers and our fur with us into the fecund earth.But we don't take our love with us.
That stays here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Self portraits

I hate pictures of myself.

When seeing one, the only things I can focus on are all my physical flaws which are too numerous to have to face (no pun intended).
Trust me, I know exactly how shallow that sounds, but there you have it.

I have tremendous admiration for those people who have deformities beyond my understanding and limited capacity for self acceptance - like the woman whose face was literally ripped off by her friends chimpanzee.
Thanks be to God, I have not been tested by something so horrific because I can tell you right now, I would fail massively!

That being said, a recent assignment by a photography mentor was to take at least 3 self portraits and the Abbey was a wonderful place to fulfill that requirement with minimal pain!

And, since it was a time for personal reflection, what better way to symbolize that than by having all the images be reflections?
Genius, right?
The critic inside my head is hard to shut off since my immediate reaction to this one was - socks with sandals, what a dork! As self justification, it was cold, late at night (by monastery standards -probably 8:15pm or so!) and, if it's good enough for the monks who are far holier and wiser than moi, it was good enough for me!

The last one though is the one I love and, I suspect, it's an image I'll 'ponder' for quite awhile.

I caught a reflection of myself in the window going downstairs one night; a window looking out to the front of the Abbey with the BVM lit up - and I knew I wanted to try to capture what I saw.

As someone who has a fractured and wholly imperfect relationship with her mother, the realization that I could have, within me, the love and protection of Mary, is a real comfort.
(We Episcopalians are not known for our veneration of Mary; it's too far on the Catholic side of the Anglo-Catholic tradition blend to suit many of us - although we all know what an outlier I am!)

A friend looking at all these images shared his perceptions that my 'shadow' image (which is the first one I took) is eerily similar to the silhouette of the pure 'lit' Mary in the last one - and that none of us should be surprised to discover 'the holy' that has been inside us all along; we just have to see it.

These are images I not only can live with but be happy with too - and that feels like a start.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Note to self: remember this

So many people have asked me if I got what I expected from the retreat and I'm truly at a loss for an answer since I don't know what I thought I'd encounter.


If I'm honest, I can say that part of my fantasy included foggy walks amongst dew soaked ruins of a Gothic cloister (hey, I'm nothing if not dramatic!) so the stark unadorned limestone walls of the Abbey with a complete lack of ornamentation was a contrast to be reconciled.

I envisioned time for reading (got that), long periods of silence (check) and lots of opportunity for prayer (double check).

What I hadn't counted on was the pleasurable company of other travelers on their diverse spiritual journeys, being stretched by artwork and different ways of 'seeing', hearing words of instruction during workshops that reframed not only the human experience but my disordered relationship with food and being drawn into 'mystery' on an emotional level through music and 'traditions of being' that have endured for centuries.

Celtic spirituality speaks of 'thin places' - those places in which the boundaries of time and space become blurred and movement between the dimensions becomes more fluid than we usually perceive.
For me, the Abbey is a thin place.

I'll relate one experience, although I was blessed with several.

I don't wear a watch or use an alarm (either clock or cell phone).
I tell myself what time I need to wake up and, generally, within 5 -10 minutes of the appointed time, I wake myself.

One morning, my intent had been to sleep through Vigil (@ 3:30) and go to Lauds instead.
So, when I woke up at 2:30 am, fully awake, I was both surprised and curious.
I chose to take it as a sign from God that I was meant to get my ass out of bed and go down for Vigil and that I might as well even go early since I was already awake.

I stumbled down three flights of stairs to the guest chapel, located at the back of the Abbey; space shared with the main sanctuary but separated by a wrought iron rail defining 'guest' and 'monks' space.

I entered and found a solitary light illuminating the entire space.

I was alone.
The cavernous sanctuary, with choir stalls, organ and altar, was in complete darkness; a blackness that was impenetrable to my eye.

I knelt and was immediately and unexpectedly overcome with a sadness and sense of being utterly alone.
I began to cry; not the dainty moist eyes and sniffles of a heroine in a Jane Austen novel but the gut wrenching sobs of one from whom everything has been stripped away.
It was a feeling of nakedness before God and total vulnerability that bordered on being terrifying.

How long this state lasted I can't say.

All I know is that just as inexplicably, I was flooded with a warmth and the knowledge that I wasn't alone.

I felt a palatable presence; the silence had substance.
It wasn't the absence but the presence of something.

The silence had a density, a richness and it began to pervade my being, comforting me.
I raised my eyes and peered into the void, almost calling aloud, "Is someone there?"

Within minutes, I heard a soft sound on the tile floor, followed by the creak of wood yet my eyes were still unable to discern any other human form in the church.

It was a full 5 minutes before I saw the white cowled robe of a monk enter their portion of the sanctuary and turn on a small light, revealing that we were indeed the only two people in the space.

During Vigil, I sat listening to the monks chant the Psalms of praise to start the day and I wish I could say my thoughts were holy.
I was instead filled with a sense of my own importance, delighting in how special I must be to have been given this experience.

I mean, come on... it was a sign, right?
I didn't have to pay for airfare and go to Lourdes or Medjugorje
I felt like the character in the movie Field of Dreams who asks: "Is this heaven?" and hears the reply,"No, it's Iowa."

In fact, I was so blinded by my own sense of being chosen that, after Vigil, I completely overlooked the tile step going out of chapel, tripped up and fell flat on my face.

Gotta love that about God; he's got a way of reminding us about our place.
Quite literally, Pride goeth before the fall.

Made me feel right at home with Bernard of Clairvoux who said that "personally, he was more acquainted with the ways down than the ways up".

Work will give me plenty to kvetch about all too soon.
I needed to journal about this experience because I don't want it to be lost in the haze of my 'normal' existence.

I want to remember that in the silence was a presence.
At the heart of the silence was Him who is all stillness, all peace and all poise.

My soul can definitely use all three.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

where to start?

I'm back and, as usual, re-entry has been hard.
I can't seem to get motivated to get on with my 'real' life!

I've been wide awake since 4 am and now, several hours later, it feels odd that I've not been chanting the Psalms in chapel at least 3 times!

It seems I'm more at home with this reflection, contemplation and silence thing than I ever would have thought.

Not that it came naturally.
In fact, the first night I was at the Abbey, it felt like I had car loads of screeching moneys driving around in my head on a NASCAR track!

The decision to push myself out of my comfort zone was more effective than I thought.

I have frequently said, in jest, "it's not pretty inside my head". I was never more keenly aware of it than the first night at New Mellary!

My thoughts would NOT quiet down and I slept poorly, which turned out to be a good thing since day begins at 3am with Vigil in the chapel.
Although, trust me, it does not look like this at that hour!


Here's a typical schedule:

3:30 - Vigil
4:00 - Lectio Divina
6:30 - Lauds
7:00 - Mass
7:30 - Breakfast (in silence)
9:15 - Terce
9:30 - Conference session (abut an aspect of Contemplative living in a busy World)
10:30 - Break
11:45 - Sext
12:00 - Lunch (in silence)
1:45 - None
2:00 - Conference session
5:30 - Vespers
6:00 - Supper in silence
6:30 - Discussion (optional)
7:30 - Compline and Grand Silence

My first thought was that there was NO way I was going to bed before 9pm!

Wrong; I probably didn't last beyond 8:30 any given day I was there!

There's much to think and pray about, on several fronts, some of which I'll bore you with and others, not so much.
I know I will privately be continuing the deepening dialogue between me and God.

One pictorial insight, if you will, for this post: these pictures were taken within minutes of each other from my room, looking across the courtyard into the monastery/the monks quarters.

The rooms seemed vacant and lifeless, then I noticed the light within.

It's always there.
If you lose sight of it, maybe you just need to consider changing your viewpoint!


I did - and it made a world of difference!

In fact, by the time I left, I was feeling all glowy and warm inside!

And if, or should I say when, it starts to fade...at least I know where to go to find it again!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What goes around...


I'm trying to take the high road here...
but being the better person is SO taxing.

I only have one request: next time you write me up for "not revealing the healing presence of Christ"(and honestly, who the hell actually talks like that??!) could you at least be honest enough to include YOUR role in the process.

Maybe it's me but demanding that a Social Worker come to the NICU immediately on the weekend to clear a baby for discharge when that child has been there for 10 days, the NICU social worker didn't do her job and write a consult on, or anywhere near, Day 5, and the mother isn't even in the damn building, isn't exactly the best way to start off an interaction.

And, when you call again, with a snarky voice and tell me to "get over here now", do you really think I'll have NO reaction when I jump through your hoops, only to be told that mom was "in the middle of a breast feeding lesson and I should come back in an hour"?

Lady, you're lucky "an eye roll" (which you apparently found so offensive) was the only physical reaction you got...

Especially when, after doing the consult which, let me remind you, was conducted ONLY to facilitate a discharge, the mom informs me that you think she should have another breast feeding lesson, stay overnight again and go home in the morning...would that be the morning on which the NICU SW could have been contacted to do her damn job and done the consult herself??

I've been told they're the money makers of the hospital and that's why we suck up to them but I'll say it now and say it loud - I HATE the NICU!


How's THAT for a healing presence??

Give me the ER any day!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Just one more story from Rosebud - for now!

The other 'glimpse of grace', if you will, that we saw this past weekend concerned Alan.

Let me say right off the bat that I think all children are gifts from God.


I can say that even after 3 decades of working in a pediatric hospital!

My immediate association between watching Alan last Sunday at the give away and the story of Jesus in the temple talking to the elders is in no way meant to imply that there's anything 'messianic' about this 6 yr old boy.

However for me, the connections of these stories, once made, was very strong in that both scenarios involved a feast, a 'journey' with extended family and being 'found' among men generations older than the boy in question: a boy who seems to exhibit knowledge and skill far beyond his age and formal training.

I can't tell you the number of times Stacy (the grandmother who's raising him) turned to me or Ieshia (his sister), saying "Where's Alan?"

It felt that one minute he was sitting next to us and the next, he'd be gone.
And while other children his age were running around the back edges of the circle, playing in the South Dakota sky, Alan was drawn, as though magnetized, time and time again, back to the gathering of male drummers on the far side of the arbor.

Stacy even had to ask Ieshia to take a plate of food to Alan and remind him to eat, saying "he gets so lost in the music and drumming that he forgets."

A number of us have commented before, over the past two years as we've watched him dance, about the natural ability he seems to possess; how his movements and internal rhythms seem synchronized to the drums we've heard at wacipis (pow-wows).

That night, back in their home, Alan was asked to lead the prayer before we split a pizza.
He took out a wind instrument he received at the give away and said he was going to use that; then several seconds later, he seemed to change his mind and disappeared.

When he returned, he carried a small hand held drum, saying he wanted to use that instead.
For the next 2 minutes, he chanted and intoned in the Lakota tradition and I honestly can't say if he used 'formal' words or not.
I have no doubt that, in his fashion, he asked for blessings on what we were about to receive.
I also have no doubt that his invocations were heard and bestowed.

To those of us who observed him that day, his special abilities, passion and drive seemed divinely ordained.

It's easy to believe we might be witness to a very special gift for the Lakota people.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Now for the 'what HAPPENED' which is always subjective and therefore more powerful.

I'm not even sure I'll be able to find the 'right' words to sum up all we experienced this weekend but I wanted to attempt a post before the immediacy wore off and things returned to 'normal'.

At the moment, the only word that comes close to summing it up is 'magical'.

But then again...

I believe in 'signs'.
I believe that God and the universe He created are not silent and that, even in this age, there are 'messages' and 'reminders' to be received if we open our eyes, minds and hearts.
I believe there are forces at work beyond our understandings of time and dimension and that it can be terrifyingly awesome to be reminded of all we don't know and understand about how God works.

I believe we were allowed to witness several of them this weekend.

It started with the crack of dawn:

beautiful sunrises are nothing new in South Dakota. But this one was followed within 20 minutes by the sky filling with dark storm clouds
and, with no rain yet, a double rainbow filling the western sky.

On a day that was sure to include both laughter and tears, being blessed with a visible sign of Gods faithfulness was an auspicious beginning.

Rain clouds continued to decorate a blue sky even at the cemetery and, while the Episcopal clergy person was praying, fat raindrops began falling. Not a downfall or even a shower, but the definite presence of rain that threatened to build momentum and create a problem.

Minutes later however, as the medicine man began chanting in Lakota accompanied by the drum, burning sage and waving its perfume over the grave and mourners standing nearby, the rain stopped, the grey clouds dissipated and, as if on cue, a lone eagle flew overhead and hovered over the cemetery!
(this is not a picture from the cemetery since it felt intrusive to bring a camera to the spiritual/worship component of the day; I promise however, the effect was no less dramatic than this!)

Don's Lakota name was 'Warrior who stands alone' and the solitary eagle presenting itself to all of us as we stood on that hillside seemed to be incontrovertible evidence that his spirit was still with us. There wasn't a single person who was unaffected by such a powerful symbol.

We reminisced as we drove to Don and Maggie's farm for the giveaway, and talked about the wisdom of the Lakota tradition of mourning for a year and then celebrating the life of the one who died.

The 'give away', while it seems to have changed over the years - in that people no longer give away ALL their possessions, instead making many of the 'tributes' with which they'll honor people who have helped them - is still an important vehicle through which to channel much of the grief of loss.
For this whole first year after Dons death, Maggie and their daughter have been forced to stay engaged with other family and community members, coordinating who's making what, spending nights together working on quilts, planning quantities of food, making lists of who they want to acknowledge and honor, etc. I can only imagine that, during these events, stories and remembrances of Don and his time among them were shared, laughed about and wept over. It seems this tradition allows those in mourning, place and opportunities for sharing that grief and prevents them from sinking into quiet despair within their own dwellings.
It's as if they recognize the sleeplessness, the late nights and the unfocused grief that can plague after a death and intentionally have channeled those realities into productive and creative expression.

The custom of the giveaway and 'feed' is also a very dramatic way of enacting the reality that it is only through our vulnerability and dependence on our 'tribe' - and the grace of the Creator- that we get through the hardest times of life; it's a concrete way of expressing gratitude through feeding those who have fed us.

In the midst of the giveaway, Maggie pointed skyward and there, with a collective gasp, we saw TWO eagles - a male and female, according to those sitting next to me -flying over the farm and arbor.

I can't tell you what a gift that felt like, to me and those friends and family members sitting around me. I can't begin to imagine how it felt to Maggie.

The solitary eagle at the cemetery seeming to reveal that Dons spirit was still present and now two eagles, a 'couple', at the farm where so much of Don and Maggies life had been shared and lived in partnership.

Through tears, when one of the women sitting nearby proclaimed it was Dons way of telling Maggie they would always be together, she didn't need to work hard to convince me!

I don't know how frequently eagles fly around in South Dakota.
My collective time there, accumulated over 2 decades, would amount to no more than a few months.
But I do know that I've never seen an eagle before; let alone 3 in one day - in two places, miles apart, in circumstances and timing so perfectly suited to conjecture and interpretation.

It felt extraordinary at the time; it still does.