Monday, April 25, 2011

Time Remembered

For winter's rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

- Algernon Charles Swinburne, Excerpt from Atalanta in Calydon

Blossom by Blossom the Spring Begins
Wishing Well at The Elms

 Well, I could easily end my post right here. How could I ever attempt to express my weekend better than Mr. Swinburne did?
I suppose the best I can do is give you my general impressions to go along with just a few photos of the beautiful, poignant, joyous, fun, and precious time it was with my siblings and other relatives as we celebrated a life well lived.
The weekend was full. It included a magical place to stay...
The Elms Resort & Spa, Excelsior Springs, Missouri
Grand Foyer and Fireplace
Built from native limestone and imported marble, one can still feel the opulence it once displayed.

The huge hotel is placed on acres of manicured lawn and gardens, making it appear perfectly sized after all.

View from the Gazebo

Grand dame that she is, she has a vibrant history, and like the most fascinating of women, she has an air of mystery about her...
and some secrets she'll never share.

We had no trouble filling this great space with laughter and love...

On Friday night, we held a family cocktail party...

(with relatives coming in from California, New York, Maine, and all around the state of Missouri.)

Followed by an intimate dinner for thirty...

After dinner we had an informal gathering about the memorial to be held the following day.

My older brother, The Patriarch, passed a gift to each of us...

Each bag contained a gold chest engraved with our parents' monogram, and contained purple velvet pouches containing their mingled ashes...enough pouches for each member of that sibling's family.

It also contained a personalized packet of photographs, letters, cards, and other mementos from Elly and Bob, including a letter from Mom to Her Children. ♥

After that, we toasted Mom with her favorite drink...Squirt soda and vodka.  Agent Theunemann was responsible for this mission...

Late that night, many of us went on a ghost tour of The Elms Hotel with Jay The Maintenance Man...

Jay had lots of stories about strange happenings in the wee hours of the morning
while working in the hundred-year-old hotel.

His favorite phrase was "Can't explain it."

Just as we were leaving the basement pool area, I saw this painting in the hallway...

I think Mom just wanted to say hello,


I can't explain it.

On Saturday morning, a local Boy Scout Troop planted an Elm tree on the grounds of the hotel property in honor of Earth Day. After the tree was in the ground, The Elms hosted an Easter Egg Hunt for children. The intrepid cousins and second cousins from our family took part...

 All children should be permitted a period 
of fun distractions and fresh air and
running and laughing as their parents prepare to mourn a passing.

It was the perfect way to spend the morning before the memorial.

After that we went back inside to greet the rest of the relatives arriving for the gathering. When the last of the egg hunters had left the hotel grounds, and the last of the cousins had arrived in the lobby, The Patriarch led the way down the path to the wishing well...

...where he led the family in a celebration that was personal, poetic, and absolutely perfect.

When it was finished, everyone took their velvet pouch and went to the wishing well, where we spread some of the ashes, the "days dividing lover and lover" being over.  We then each went our separate ways out onto the hotel grounds, where we chose spots that felt right to us to spread more of the ashes...

Among the lily-of-the-valleys...

At the edge of a walkway...

Beneath the lush trees...

Or in the picturesque little river.

I found a quiet and beautiful archway of old trees along the path leading down from the gazebo. The moment I walked under the grand trees (which had surely been bare in the winter of 1945 but now were leafing green and luscious), they whispered a secret to me, one that I'm sure they'd witnessed many times over the span of their lives. 

Bob and Elly had walked along that path one romantic, starlit night, and Bob had teasingly pulled her into the protected archway and kissed her. Elly laughed her glorious laugh and gave him a loving slap on the cheek in return.

"Oh yes," I heard from the trees. "Leave their ashes here."

I said a final, tearful goodbye to my mother, but rather than feeling empty, great love and happiness rushed in to fill the void.

I looked and saw that, indeed,

"in green underwood and cover, 
Blossom by blossom, the spring begins."

The day proved to be the perfect closure for us all, I think. I know I felt that "Winter's rains and ruins are over."

Today I wish you the light of joy.

The musical selection today was very difficult for me. So many lovely pieces ran through my head. I woke with the music of Edvard Grieg on my mind, and thought I would post his joyous "Wedding Day at Troldhaugen" but now I think I'll save that for another day.

I've decided instead to go with something more contemplative from his Lyric Pieces,  his Op.43 No.6, "To Spring." This version, played by Sviatoslav Richter, is elegant and perfectly paced. Grieg is one of my favorite composers because he can be dramatic and heavy-handed in some composistions, but serene and light in others. This one falls into the latter category. Please enjoy.

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