Thursday, October 1, 2009

Raw Silk

Last night, my heart broke when I read a text that had come in a few hours earlier from a dear friend, letting me know her mother had passed away in Tucson where she had been fighting, and I mean fighting, cancer. I gasped that immediate, tear-invoking "Oh, no!" that we all do when we've just found out that in spite of our earnest prayers, someone we care about - or someone loved fiercely by someone we care about - didn't get to be one of the 20%'ers after all; rather, they had to join the ranks of the 80% who fought valiantly and with spirit, but whose bodies were just too tired after relentless battle.

I had just had the chance to sit down with this friend last week, for the first time in probably 9 months, and we had talked about her mom and my Tan. We were able to laugh, roll our eyes and make what others would probably have thought of as horrifically shocking statements and jokes; unless, of course, those eavesdroppers had dealt with a loved one's critical illness completely standing their lives on end and rearranging every facet of what they had once thought of as "normal." We laughed one minute, railed the next and fought tears a time or two before we laughed again. And, I was so impressed by the strength, courage and perspective I heard coming from this amazing woman.

Today, I was waiting to pick up lunch for Mike, Tanner the Boy On House Arrest, and me, and I was wondering what I could send my friend to let her know I'm thinking of her. My mind settled on a raw silk handkerchief. I could envision giving her this soft, dove grey handkerchief that she could use to dab her eyes during the funeral and feel close to her mom. And I thought that it was ironic that it would have been at an elegant little boutique like the one her mom had once owned in Scottsdale where I could have found the perfect hankie.

Her mom owned a shop called "Valerianne's," and it proffered the finest, most luxuriant linens. There were other beautiful things there, but the linens were what defined the experience. They were exquisite, sometimes fragile in their beauty and of only the finest materials. There was no question they were of highest quality. From the few times I met her, it struck me as entirely appropriate that my friend's mother would spend her time among such beautiful things. She was a beautiful woman. She was one of those rare beauties who are timeless; I would say she reeked of refinement, but there is no way the word "reek" should have been used in a sentence describing her. She simply was refined and gracious. I know from anecdotes my friend would share of family get togethers that she wasn't a shrinking violet, but I'm sure even in repose or at play, or even in a quarrel, she didn't quite shake that indefinable quality that she had.

I thought of raw silk today because in our conversation the other night my friend remarked that here was this woman who had always taken such good care of herself, liked things just so and took great care in her appearance, yet she had long since lost her carefully styled hair, had ports and tubes attached, and wasn't even fully aware of the marring scars from recent surgery. But, this friend told me, "In some ways she isn't the same person right now, but she's still my mom. She's still beautiful."

Silk can certainly be treated to smooth out the wrinkles and imperfections, allowing it to shine and exude its highest levels of refinement. But when it's raw, it has texture and there is beauty in its very being, and in the way the light catches its slightly uneven facets. While finished silk is uniform and smooth, the raw silk reveals nuances and shades in its unvarnished state that cause you to examine it a little more closely and appreciate its complexities.

My friend's mother's name is Gloria. She was beautiful - both when she was able to present herself exactly as she wanted to, and as her life and her appearance became more complex and raw. There was a certain fragility to her beauty that might have obscured her hidden strength from those who didn't know her well; but to those who fought alongside her all these many months, it was the innate beauty of her raw strength that left them in awe.

I don't know if I'll find that raw silk hankie in time for the funeral. But I'm not sure I'll see one again without thinking of my dear friend and her beloved mom.

Love from the farm,

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