Pondering the Pavement

April 8, 2016

Heaven’s Kitchen

Filed under: Uncategorized — cfilius @ 12:11 am
Tags: , , ,

I’ve been trying to come up with a way to describe our dad. My mind reels at the wide array of adjectives swirling through my head. Do you know what I’ve discovered? It’s not an easy task to just “sum up a person.”  Summarizing our dad is like saying the Himalayas are just a couple of hills. When I was a kid, Reader’s Digest—the IDEAL publication for those with ADHD—ran a regular feature entitled, “The Most Unforgettable Person I Ever Met.” Well, let me tell you, if Everett Kitchen is ANYTHING, it is ‘unforgettable.’ His warmth is an inferno. His generosity extends beyond a vanishing point on the far horizon. I could go on and on about his loyalty, his genuine heart, his devotion to family and friends, his sense of humor. All of the traits that we already know so well, and are already missing.

There are several things I will miss, of course. His hugs, for example. He would just engulf you in those massive arms of his. You’d struggle, but only in jest. Once there, you just didn’t want to leave because you were home. Another thing is his “seal of approval.” I’m sure we’ve all heard it at one point or another.

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Everett “Kitch” Kitchen (1938 – 2016)

Someone would ask, “Hey, Kitch, how’s that bowl of chili?”

He’d answer excitedly, “WOOT! I mean to tell ya!”

 “Is this OK?”

“Woot! I mean to tell ya!”

“Isn’t that funny, Kitch?”

“Woot! I mean to tell ya!”

He is his own man with his own style.

His surname couldn’t be any more appropriate. Seriously, what that man could do in a kitchen was something wedged between a miracle and a masterpiece. A stove and a spatula were his brushes while an empty plate and stomach were his canvases. As you can see, I’m quite the accomplished art collector… He did everything in his power to make sure no one left his home hungry. And, if he went to YOUR place, he’d bring the food to you or make it there himself. And, if by some freak of nature, you DID go away hungry… well, it was your own damn fault.

Kitch brought a lot to the table, both literally and figuratively. Whether it is the dinner table or to whatever relationship you had with him. Parent. Family. Friend. Co-worker. Partner in Crime. It didn’t matter because any table setting with him was as beautiful as it was memorable. It overflowed with all and more than you needed, let alone expected. And, if by some random hiccup in the Universe, you couldn’t find what you wanted, then he’d find a way to get it for you.

017He was a father and an unconventional one at that.  He didn’t raise us as a traditional Ward Cleaver sort. But his love for all of us was never hidden or denied. He bubbled over with love and pride for his kids. He was always willing to offer a helping hand, a kind word, a flick on the back of the head if we’d wander too far off the expected path. He gave us room to breathe, to falter, to experience life as WE saw it and to learn from our successes as well as our failures. He always encouraged each of us to stand and evolve on our own, and that included falling as well. He graciously and generously offered advice, encouragement, and unending love. He also had absolutely no problem serving up his completely unedited opinions. His views, like his love, were given freely, without hesitation or reserve, whether you wanted it or not. If you asked him a question you’d better be willing to hear the answer!

I am an adoptee. My birth mother was not in a position to care for me properly. She felt I would have a better chance if she put me up for adoption. My mom who raised me, who is a hair shy of 93 and feisty as ever, has always been upfront with me about my adoption. She was very supportive when I began my search for my biological families—my roots—over 30 years ago (By the way, I began my search when I was 8…). I was 33 years old when I spoke to Everett the very first time. I first spoke to my birth-mother three weeks earlier. I was welcomed by her, and her family, with open arms. However, I honestly believed I would NOT have a relationship with my birth-father. I expected to be denied and turned away. In my experiences, birth fathers are more likely to shun the whole idea while birth mother’s are pretty much the opposite. I had a great reunion with my birth mother so I certainly did not expect lightening to strike twice.

Kitch proved to be the wild card. Lightening struck with a blinding intensity and started a fire that burns brilliantly to this day and beyond. Way to go, Dad…

The first five minutes of our initial phone conversation were cordial. Friendly, but understandably guarded. I explained I didn’t want anything other than some answers, a peek into on my own history. He told me that he would be happy to tell me what he could.

He then asked, “What’s your blood type?”

I fully understood why he asked. We did not have the luxury of having Maury Povich exclaiming, “Everett! You ARE the father!”

Well, he asked so, being the naturally born smart-mouth that I am—thanks, Dad—I simply replied, “My blood type? Red.”

Then we both howled in laughter. This disruption of the sound barrier was immediately met with our abrupt silence. For the first time in my life I heard my laugh echo back at me.

If you know Kitch, you know THE LAUGH. That garish, glass shattering cackle that has been known to make babies cry and land masses shift.

After a moment of silence Kitch said, “This is real, isn’t it?”

I merely answered, “Yea. I guess it is.”

That ended any discussion of blood type right then and there. Paternity proven through laughter. IN YOUR FACE, MAURY!

04_FamilySo, yes, I have the laugh. My brother, Markis, has the laugh. My sister, Carletta, has THE LAUGH. Hearing this laugh spew upward and outward from someone standing a petite five-foot-four is, honestly, just plain spooky!

I don’t mean to stand here and tell you he was perfect. He wasn’t and he’d be the first to admit it. He didn’t even meander in a suburb of the gated community of perfection. He was bull-headed. The man took stubborn to a height that any accomplished mountain climber would covet. He was a cut of the ‘my way or no way’ jib.

On my first visit to his home in Colorado, he had the gall to announce to this City Boy, “We get up at 4 o’clock in the morning around here.”

I replied, “Good to know. When I get up at 10 be sure you tell me all about it.”

See? I got a little more than just his laugh.

If he didn’t like something, whether it be a situation or tuna, he’d let you know about it. He wouldn’t shirk away from his opinion and he respected anyone who did the same. He shot from the hip and ricochets be damned. He told me, more than once, “I always speak my mind… when I can find it.”

He had zero tolerance for anyone who wallowed in their own self-pity. “If you aren’t willing to help yourself,” he said, “how can you face yourself in the mirror?”

I looked at him and said, “I sold my mirrors. They were defective.”

Once again, that laugh echoed in stereo.

He didn’t believe in regrets. Instead, he preferred to own up to what was, focus on what is, and look forward to what may be. An eternal optimist wrapped in a tortilla of sarcasm. Again, unforgettable.

He was a giver. He didn’t ask for anything other than honesty and love in return. He received so much more joy when giving to another than getting a glamorous holiday gift himself.

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In order of appearance: Carletta, Sandra, Charles and Markis.

Honestly, if I had to sum him up, I’d have to say our father is about laughter. He instilled that in all of us. He is about joy. He is about giving. And, I mean to tell ya, he is about food! Preparing AND eating! He is about bringing people together. The turnout today surely proves that. He even managed to wrangle his kids together for the very first time. Talk about being a control freak!

His passing has been such a shock to each and every one of us. How someone so full of life—even BIGGER than life—can be gone so quickly is just a mystery. We’re all still trying to wrap our minds around referring to him in the past tense. My sister, Carletta, summed it up best a few days ago. She stepped groggily out of her bedroom one morning and said, “Do you know what I was supposed to be doing today?”

“What’s that?” I asked.

She simply said, “Not this.”

Boy, Sis, ya got that right.

It’s only fitting that Dad passed ON  April Fool’s Day. If anyone would appreciate the humor it that, it would be him. The real kicker for me is that the very next day, April 2nd, marked the 22nd anniversary of the very first time he and I spoke. The first time I ever heard OUR laugh.

Because of my work as a medium, I know that life never truly ends, that we don’t really die. We simply move on. With that in mind, someone recently asked me, “Where do you think he is now?” Honestly, this is how I picture it: Dad makes his way through a field of billowing clouds of dry ice like we see in so many Hollywood movies. After walking for awhile he finally sees a glowing light off in the distance. Instinctively, he begins to walk toward it. As he draws near the light he is is immediately greeted by a multitude of hyperactive drooling black labs. Amidst the jumping, licking and yelps of excitement, they manage to lead him to this massive set of pearly gates. The gates open effortlessly because they have WD-40 over there. The opening gates resemble what can only be described as large arms reaching out for a loving, long overdue embrace. The kind that he, himself, always gave. As Kitch’s brown eyes adjust to the intense bright light, he finds himself standing in His presence.

The Big Guy standing before The Bigger Guy.

So, Kitch just flashes that crooked smile of his, and simply drawls, “So, did I do OK?”

And God, in whatever form you see Him, in whatever way you believe, looks at Kitch, reflecting that same crooked smile that He, Himself, created, and exclaims, “Woot! I mean to tell ya!”

We love you, Dad.

Eulogy Delivered Thursday, April 7, 2016
Wayne, WV

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November 21, 2015

Gabriel’s Return

GabeDanielleApplesI’ve easily read thousands of people over my years as a working medium. And, by sheer logic, I’ve connected with even more spirits. For the most part the souls I’ve encountered—both of the pulse-steady and pulse-impaired variety—have melted into one colossal blob. It’s nothing personal, I assure you. Seriously, do you remember each and every person, upright or not, that you encounter?

I always explain to my sitters that I rarely retain any information brought forth in a reading. It’s the difference between telling your own story as opposed to telling the tale of another. You recall the vivid details of your own life but only bits and pieces of the tale of another. Some highlights will stand out along the way. Something that strikes your funny bone, makes your stomach turn or even makes the hair on your neck stand on end, turn white and then fall out. Our lives are the Main Feature while everyone else’s is merely a pre-matinee trailer. I bet THAT realization makes you feel so gosh-darn special.

Don’t let this worry you. The vast majority of the ones I remember are because it’s something really funny, weird or, honestly, just plain stupid. What’s that? You want an example? Well, OK, if you insist…

I vividly recall a time when I informed a sitter, “Your father is here.”

She immediately jumped in feet first to correct me. “No, he’s not!” she exclaimed. “He’s dead!”

After a very well-timed pause, I said dryly, “How closely did you read my business card?” Trust me when I tell you she turned a shade of red that I will never forget.

I once connected with a man who passed tragically at only 50. He was engaged and already to start another chapter in his life as a married man. I felt a huge slam in my chest, the sign given to indicate a massive heart attack. I relayed this information to his fiancé. She exclaimed, “Oh, yes, he DID have a heart attack! He was sitting on the toilet and just fell over dead!”

I heard the Spirit say, “Oh, great. You had to tell him THAT, didn’t you?” At the end of the session he showed me an innocent looking item—I won’t say what—indicating it was something he loved and it meant a lot to him. I was clueless as to what he was really saying. She screamed, “Oh, my GOD! I can’t believe he’d bring THAT up!” She was laughing so hard I thought she was going to have her own coronary. The mysterious item in question, while a commonplace thing, is also slang for a very specific sex act. One, I then discovered, was a favorite in his repertoire. As she calmed herself down, her late fiancé said, “That’ll teach her to tell people I died taking a crap.” I’m not forgetting that one no matter how much I try.

So, as you can see, some stick out in my mind. There are also a few who make quite an impact on me. Not only on my career as a medium, but simply as a human being. They go beyond the call of duty to remind us of the strength of unconditional and unending love.

I have had those in Spirit assist me in readings for individuals they didn’t even know in life. They have helped the other spirits make a better connection with me. They have shown up to serve as an example of what another soul was truly about in their own life. In essence, I help them and they help me. And, of course, all connections originate from one place and for one purpose: Love.

Out of all of the Spirits I have happily encountered, I have to say that a man by the name of Gabriel has claimed a secure spot in the top five. Look up “determination” in Webster’s and you will likely find “See Gabriel” as the singular definition.

I first encountered Gabriel on a flight to Wisconsin in 2014. He literally stalked me across half the country, making his presence unmistakable time and time again. He kept piling it on until I finally found myself with his fiancé, Danielle, and her mother at one of my group demonstrations. I wrote about it all so others could absorb the experience and his powerful message. You can refresh your memory by clicking here to read it once again.

* * *

I am often directed by Spirit to purchase small trinkets and bring them to my group demonstrations. I never know who will receive the item. It is soul-ly up to “them”. I’m Spirit’s Vanna White. They turn on the light and I just reveal the letter. Fortunately, Spirit makes this very affordable by leading me to area Thrift Shops or homes of vacationing families who don’t bother turning on their security systems. They send me off on these little scavenger hunts in my hometown as well as cities and centers where I am traveling. I merely walk into the brick and mortar building and wander around until something strikes me. I am not sure how I know what to pick up. I can’t describe it any better than saying, “I just know.” I don’t get anything clairsentiently or clairvoyantly. It’s a feeling of all knowing that I personally refer to as “Clair-YuhHuh.”

My annual trek to Wisconsin has made me quite familiar with the Dime and Dollar Thrift Store, a fun little shop in Stevens Point. I know the lay of the land quite well now. If my cast-in-stone routine was any more predictable, the world would use it, and not the sun, to check their clocks. My normal route takes me through the glass door and passed the display case doubling as a checkout counter on the right. My first stop is a rack of bric-a-brac on the left. I circle it with the same dogged determination as I hover over a bin of chocolate pudding at any semi-respectful buffet.  Something will just grab my attention and I grab it in return. It’s almost as if it flashes at me, like one of those Instamatic Camera Cubes from the 70’s. I then circle off to the right to graze through any CD’s that have, for any range of reasons, found themselves there. Retreating to the back room, I swoop down on every book I can find strewn over a span of several mismatched bookshelves. Then I flip through a bin of LP’s just so I can feel really old. A walk on the wild geriatric side will bring you right back to earth whenever you’re feeling exceptionally good about yourself.

With the Bay City Rollers echoing in my head, I will meander through small electronics and kitchen accessories. Then I wrap everything up looking through a hodgepodge of tumblers and coffee mugs. I see everything from #1 TEACHER to DOLLYWOOD OR BUST spewing before me like a marquee on crack. I will then take my haul, no more than 2 or 3 items, and amble my way back to the checkout counter. A couple bucks later and I’m the temporary caretaker of the bounty until each is passed on to the intended recipient.

My latest sparing shopping spree, however, paid no attention to my well-crafted routine. Upon entering, I made an immediate sharp left and found myself immersed in a jungle of book bags, clothing and doilies. I was in foreign territory. Clothing? Really? If you know me then you know my sense of fashion makes no sense. I own two pairs of shoes for crying out loud. TWO. And I cannot, for the life of me, fathom why anyone would EVER need a third. I buy a pair of sneakers. I wear them every day so they last about a year and a few months. When they show their signs of wear-and-tear, I buy an identical pair to replace them. I own four denim long-sleeve shirts. They’re identical. Variety is not in my spice rack, lemme tell ya.

So, completely out of my element, wondering if I need a passport, I took a 360 degree view of my surroundings. I figured I was there for a reason so off I trudged into the sea of racks and hangers. Turning a corner, I spied a backpack on the floor leaning against a chrome set of shelves. This grabbed my attention because my own needs replacing. I picked it up and gave it a once-over. I placed it back on the floor while making a mental note to ponder the purchase prior to my departure.

I returned to my traditional pathway and, indeed, was lead to two items along the way. Remaining true to myself, I sought out the backpack once more. I placed my soon to be purchased items on a shelf in front of me, paying no attention to its contents, and turned my focus on the backpack once more. I picked it up and inspected it with more scrutiny. The bubble of my initial inspection burst with a deafening dose of disappointment within a few seconds. Holes, frayed straps and a cracked coating joined in a rousing harmonious chorus of the “Don’t Buy ‘Dis, Dufus” Boogie.

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I shrugged as I bent down to return it to the floor once again. In mid-bend I glanced up to see a stack of well-worn satchels staring me down. I dropped the backpack as my jaw fell open. My eyes widened as I remained frozen in the hunched over position. I then uttered the only thing an enlightened sort like myself can in a moment like this… “Well, son of a bitch.” Emblazoned in black marker across the side of a bag was the name GABRIEL. I straightened up and just laughed aloud. Of all the bags in the stack of 10 or more, only ONE had a name written on it.

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I knew Danielle was planning to attend my second group demo the next evening. I loved the fact that I already had a story for her. Sometimes Spirit just makes my job all the easier with stunts like this! I snapped a photo of the bag as I said, “Thanks, Gabe!” I then retrieved my other items from the shelf above my head. It was only then that I realized that I had placed them on top of a large crystal dish. Not just any dish, you know? It was in the shape of a heart. I picked it up and gazed into it, slack jawed. Then I heard Gabe say, in a most serious tone, “Give it to her with my love and my blessing.”

I shook my head in wonder. No matter how many times I experience moments like this, I am always blown away. There’s nothing routine about this! I nodded and said, “You got it, dude.” My California Surfer Guide sneaks out from time to time…

I take my responsibility to Spirit very seriously. Unlike many mediums, however, I manage to have a lot of fun with it. I gave Gabriel my word and that IS my bond. If my tongue happens to be firmly planted in my cheek while I carry out my welcomed obligation, then so be it. (Cue diabolical twirling of my mustache) Little did I know at the time, but I was going to have to really work a bit to pull this one off. I hate when They make me sweat.

Saturday came and went. The sold out demo was a rousing success. An evening of both healing laughter and tears brought everyone together. There was only one little hiccup in this otherwise perfect evening: Danielle was a no-show. I was quite perplexed, as was Gabriel, I’m sure. Danielle’s punctuality was never questioned. If she said she was going to be there, she was going to be there. She may burst through the door at the last second but, by Golly, she was THERE. But not this time. Once I returned to my lodging, I emailed her just to ensure all was well. The email went unanswered. So, I lugged her heart to my next group demonstration. Again, she didn’t show up. I drove to my home away from home, entered my room and was immediately greeted by Gabriel’s tell-tale cigarette smoke. “Dude,” I said aloud, “Get her here! I don’t know what to do!” The smoke dissipated and I finally calmed myself enough to catch some Z’s.

I took a couple of days off from my rigorous schedule to visit a dear (live) friend near Chicago. While there, I received an email from Danielle. Way to go, Gabe! Something came up at the last minute and she was unable to attend. She asked for info on my other appearances and events. She assured me that she would attend one of them.

Again, she was as visible as Big Foot. And, yes, I found myself accosted by cigarette smoke. Oh, joy. The dead are, if anything, determined…and dead. After my final group gathering, on November 3, I sent her a text asking if she could meet me for breakfast the next morning. I told her I only had one day left in town and it was imperative that I see her. I didn’t tell her, but I really didn’t want to continue my journey with this Pig-Pen cloud of smoke hovering over me the whole time. She promptly agreed to our getting together over syrup and powdered sugar at ten the next morning. I had reached the end of my patience with Gabriel’s second-world-second-hand smoke. I guess you can say I just couldn’t HACK it.

Ahem.

I snagged a table in the back of the South Point Restaurant. I love this local diner. You get a gluttonous mound of food nearly obliterating your plate from view for a price that makes you look for the Fonz in the corner. They’ve also dedicated an entire wall to the miracle of bacon. I’m on board with anyone who worships Meat Candy.

Danielle dashed in with her twinkling eyes and a smile that can make you forget ANYTHING has ever been wrong in this, or any, life. After a hug and a laugh, we scanned the menus and placed our orders (both of which would piss off any cardiologist worth their weight in lard). Once the formalities were cast aside, and I knew we wouldn’t be interrupted by a waitress hell-bent on refilling any and all containers on our table, I proceeded to the heart of the matter. I ran through the whole story. My trek to the Dime and Dollar, my diverted route inside, the backpack. Everything. Her doe-like eyes widened even more when I showed her the photo of Gabriel’s bag (I honestly didn’t think they COULD get any wider!). Then I saw the very same windows of her soul glisten slightly when I handed her the crystal heart. I didn’t permit my gaze to linger beyond a cursory glance. That was their moment, just between them.

GabeDanielle01aShe sat there, looking at it, running her fingers around the edge, retracing the shape in her own heart. Then she smiled. She looked up at me and said, “You have NO idea what this means.” She nodded her head slightly. “You see, I collect cut crystal exactly like this. And, in my whole collection, I don’t have anything like this one.” She held it up with her right hand and waved it slightly. “I understand the message, too. His telling me he gives his blessing…you see, I met someone. I met him ON Valentine’s Day.” She smiled again. “I’ve always said I knew Gabe sent him to me. It ALL makes sense.” She returned her smiling eyes to the crystal heart and, for a moment, to Gabriel. And I haven’t smelled his smoke since.

Again, we don’t die. And, logic tells us, that if WE don’t die then our love certainly can’t, either. For whatever reason, Gabriel chose me. He sought me out and entrusted me, of all people, to help him help his lady love. He has an open-door policy with me. This sort of access is my equivalent of joining the Five-Timer’s Club on SNL. He has joined the ranks of other Spirits that I hold near and dear. I’ve never met any of them in the physical but I sure feel like I know them now. Gabriel is now hobnobbing with Jason, Alex, David and, my forever #1 gal, Dana. They have all allowed me to observe such perfect examples of unending love and I am grateful beyond words. And I cannot think of a better time to acknowledge that gratitude as Thanksgiving approaches.

Take a moment to acknowledge the loves in your life, both here and there. They never leave us. As long as there is love there is that eternal connection. Send them your prayers, your gratitude, your hugs, your laughter, your high-fives. Express it in any way you want and it IS received with open arms and crystal hearts.

It’s an honor, Gabe. Truly an honor. And I thank you.

 

Copyright © 2015 C A Filius, All Rights Reserved

September 11, 2014

Even In the Darkest Times We Will Shine Through

Filed under: spirituality — cfilius @ 3:26 pm
Tags: , , ,

Copyright © 2001, Charles A. Filius

You will always remember where you were on that September morning more than a decade ago. That morning when all of our lives changed. The maddening range of emotions, the realization of the devastation, the quiet mourning both public and private.

As the anniversary approaches it is truly safe to say that emotions are running high. It’s hard not to experience the need to reflect on what has happened over the past decade, not only as citizens of the world but in our own personal lives as well. As I hear all of the stories regarding the events of 9/11 I can’t help but wonder about those that we are NOT hearing. We hear reports of the phone calls to loved ones with a final “I love you.” How do you sum up so much passion in a few short moments filled with uncertainty and fear? Why do we sometimes only return to a place of love when we face some form of finality?

What about those that did not get that last comforting message? Take a moment to think about the ones who, sadly, had cross words with a loved one prior to that morning or the individual whose last words were merely routine and indifferent. “Don’t forget to pick up milk on your way home.”

So many times we forget to let our loved ones know what they mean to us; how we cherish them in our lives and the fact their voice can be as sacred to us as their touch. How often do you whisk out of a room or end a telephone call with a habitual, “Later!” We assume we will be seeing that person again. September 11, 2001, made us realize that that isn’t always the case.

Not on this level of existence anyway…

This thought pattern lead me to a note written to me several years ago by a past love. Although written well over 20 years ago I find it most fitting considering the circumstances and I want to share it with you now. I hope she doesn’t mind…

“My soul needs to see you, to hear your words, feel your touch. It’s been a lifetime since we’ve exchanged voices. Come to me; find me and tell me you are thinking of me just one more time.”

Don’t let a lifetime pass between exchanges. Cherish those you love and make sure they know it. And, never, under any circumstance, ever lose your humanity.

God Bless the World. No Exceptions.

Peace.

 

 

“We think too much and feel too little.
More than machinery we need humanity.
More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness.
Without those qualities life will be violent and all will be lost.”

– Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin

August 2, 2012

Rejoicing Joyce

Filed under: Uncategorized — cfilius @ 5:20 am
Tags: , , , ,

Book Portrait “Do you hate me?” Those were the very first words my biological mother ever said to me. Do. You. Hate. Me.

I had already been warned of her sense of humor so, as my grip on the telephone receiver tightened oh-so-slightly, I quickly replied, “That depends. Are you rich?”

Joyce chuckled and answered, “No.”

“Then I hate you,” I said.

And we laughed. Hard.

Joyce and I marveled in the odd quirks that we shared. For example, we had a peculiar fascination with office supplies. We could easily spend hours in Office Depot just roaming the aisles like kids loose in a candy store. Oh, the simple joys of paperclips and hanging folders… We firmly believed that Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pies were the perfect food. And we also held to the belief there was nothing nearly as important, or necessary, as laughter. We had never encountered a situation that didn’t scream for a joke. Of course, we couldn’t guarantee anyone else would find something funny but, thankfully, that just didn’t matter. Humor was the way to deal with most of our own tragedies. We saw it as a universal language and we were fluent in it. She was a painfully funny woman. My birthfather is, too, but in an entirely different vein. Joyce once told me that I was such a perfect meld of both of them that I could never deny them even if I wanted to.

When I attended my first family reunion I wore a t-shirt that read “Have your picture taken with the orphan! $5.00! Makes a great gift!” Joyce laughed so hard I thought she was going to fall out of her chair. Never wanting to be one to be outdone she demanded 50% of my profits. “If it weren’t for my initial investment you’d have nothing!” she laughed. Can’t argue with that logic.

She loved helping others. She was often donating time, as well as her exceptional baking skills, to anyone in need. This Joyce-Of-All-Trades would do anything from writing ‘skits’ for her church to helping her nursing home roommate with her hair. Whatever was needed. And it seemed like she was always baking a pie or cake for some sort of shindig or another. I once remarked, “You do a lot for people.”

She smiled shyly and shrugged, “It’s what you’re supposed to do.” Then she burst out laughing and said, “Besides, it gives me an excuse to taste-test the pies I make!” Did I mention we also shared an infectious sweet tooth?

Joyce had been in failing health for quite some time. In October of 2011, she lost her left leg to diabetes. She was blind in one eye and could barely see out of the other. To help protect that eye she would often wear a medicated eye patch. She told me, after her leg surgery, “Well, I have one leg and I’m wearing an eye patch. Looks like I have my Halloween costume all figured out!” I laughed until I cried. There’s no doubt about it, Joyce had a hard life. But she faced it with a smile on her face, laughter in her heart and a pie or two within reach. Whether the pies were for eating or throwing is yet to be fully determined. My guess is it would depend on which would get the bigger laugh.

I exhausted the first 33 years of my life wondering about her. I spent nearly 10 of those years searching for her. And I was only able to share 18 years with her. For those of you keeping score that’s the span of time measuring from birth until high school graduation. In the big scheme of things it’s not even a fraction of the blinking of a bastard’s eye. But I am blessed to have had that time with her. Every. Single. Second.

Joyce made sacrifices for me and my younger brother, Joe. She made choices that were not easy in the hopes of her ‘lost boys’ having better lives than she could possibly provide. If that sort of selflessness isn’t being a mother then I don’t know what is. And you cannot possibly hate that form of generosity. You hear me, Joyce?

She quietly passed, with little fanfare, on July 16th. I last spoke to Joyce the Tuesday before her passing. When I asked her what she was doing in the hospital she gave me an answer that was vintage Joyce. “You know me,” she drawled. “I was bored at the nursing home and just wanted a change of scenery.”

And we laughed. Hard.

How fitting that our last conversation, just as our first, evolved into a joke. Her first words to me spoke of self-imposed guilt. Her final words, “I love you,” were those of self-acceptance and joy. Trust me when I tell you there was a lot of laughter in-between. And for that I am truly grateful.

Copyright © 2012, Charles A. Filius

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