Archived Post April 2009

April 2009

Sausalito Sunsets


Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year, I felt a door opening in me and I entered the clarity of early morning.
One after another my former lives were departing, like ships, together with their sorrow.
And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas assigned to my brush came closer, ready now to be described better than they were before.

~Czeslaw Milosz~

My trip ended with a thump – a very hard thump.  An hour earlier, we had been feet from touching down, when the pilot suddenly and sharply pulled up, heading back into a pitch black sky, and out to the ocean, without saying a word.  I thought I must have been confused, but the man traveling next to me, said: “Now that’s not normal.”  He was right.  After a few minutes, the pilot announced that there was an issue with the landing gear, but that we should not be concerned.  Excruciating long minutes passed and we were told that the first officer, would be coming back to utilize a periscope to view the landing gear.  There was a series of sharp right hand turns, as we continued traveling between the Everglades and the Ocean.

          The plane chatter focused on our survival rate in the ocean.  I looked out the window and wondered if this was it.  What would happen if we crashed?  I had taken my laptop out; I wanted to finish the short story I had begun a week ago, inspired by my holiday in Sausalito.  I was excited to be writing fiction, it had been a long slump. I had not sent it to Kate, as I wanted it to be perfect.  If I lost my computer, the silly story would go unread.  I chastised myself for thinking of the story – what was wrong with me?  The skies had never seemed so dark and the ocean so uninviting.  Looking out through the small airplane window, I felt confused and unable to identify what was below.  Which direction were we going?   

My trip had begun a few weeks before, as I sat in my Florida room speaking, over the telephone, with Shahnaz, one of my California friends.  Shahnaz and I had met through our mutual friend Lia, more than twenty years ago.  Of late, since Lia’s return to Greece, Shahnaz’ move to Sausalito, and my move to Maine and then Florida, Shahnaz had also become my connection to Lia.  Shahnaz faithfully Skyped, while I sent unimaginative emails.  It was okay, as the one thing I was always certain of with Lia was that when we did reunite, it would be as if we had only just seen one another, the night before. 

During our conversation, Shahnaz had asked me how I was feeling, and I truthfully answered that I was feeling blue.  We spoke of our woes for a few minutes, and then she said:  You should just leave your house, and go get on an airplane.  There was an enthusiasm and clarity in her voice which I found difficult to ignore.  Our conversation continued with chit chat about life, family, friends, and work; concluding with Shahnaz inviting me to come see her, as she had so often in the past.  We said good-bye, and I noticed I was already feeling better.  There was a sense of possibility, and that brought me hope. 

I approached Kate, telling her of my conversation with Shahnaz, and her invitation.  Kate immediately suggested that I go.  I very much know that Kate had grown as tired of my gloomy self, as I had.  She began searching for tickets.  I had thought of taking a train, but the price was prohibitive, which I think ridiculous.  I settled on a flight.  The next day, I called to confirm with Shahnaz, whom I suspect, imagined I would not come.  There had been so many conversations about getting together that had ended without a visit – a shared experience between her and Lia, as well.  Her enthusiasm was palatable, as I gave her my itinerary.

During the next few days, as I prepared to leave, I felt much more alive.  The prospect of the unknown continues to draw me and invigorate me, as it has all of my life.  I did not have a long list of things I wanted to see or do; after all, this was not my first trip to the Bay area.  I was however, looking forward to rekindling friendships and feeling carefree.

Yes, deep breath – I wanted to feel carefree.  I wanted the sensation of waking up without a single demand.  I wanted to be able to simply step out of the door and see where the road led me.  I know I can hear it: You want to feel young again.  I refuse to embrace that notion.  It is not time which bogs us down, it is our choices.  I was feeling lost in a suburbia jungle of garden clubs, volunteer work, and errands. 

 At the airport, I instantly recognized Shahnaz, who is a timeless beauty.  She was warm, loving, and nurturing.  There was a feast waiting for me, which required nothing but that I sit and enjoy the delicate and delicious Iranian meal of saffron infused rice and stewed meat with vegetables and walnuts.  The conversation flowed quickly and easily.  How did I feel about belly dancing?  Shahnaz takes a class with the brilliant and talented Tina, in “The City”.  The city was San Francisco.  Tina and her students graciously allowed me to join them, despite my noticeable lack of talent or ability.

 (By the way, if you are looking for uniquely infused liquor, check out Dimmi, created and marketed by Tina and her family.

The next day, Shahnaz dropped me off in downtown Sausalito, where I set off to explore the bay side village.  As I strolled along the winding shore, and then back to the center of the town, I began to feel as if I had been set free.  There was a warm, familiar rush that sent me diving into conversations with strangers and steered me forward to the unknown, which I had been missing.  Safe and familiar are good, but occasionally the spirit longs for the new and exciting. 

As the days progressed, Shahnaz and I visited some of her favorite restaurants, and found at least one new one to add to her list.  Several days, I took the ferry into San Francisco, exploring and reclaiming her streets, and enjoying the breathtaking beauty of the bay and her surroundings of skyscrapers and mountains.  I met some of Shahnaz’ very dear friends, whom I had heard so much about – a pleasure each and everyone of them.   I was even able to speak with her brother, David, whom graciously called, and I met his lovely wife and most beautiful children, all via Skype.  It was all good, but not as good as gathering around Shahnaz’ computer bank and being able to visit with her and Lia, as if we were once again living in Southern California, in apartments furnished with orange crates and boxed IKEA creations.  

Lia called, suddenly appearing in a small box, on the computer screen, as her voice filled the room, and magically we were all together again.  Those were priceless hours spent talking about our lives, dreams, hopes, and fears.  There were discussions of politics and religion, holidays and literature, families and friends, and a determination to have a real reunion, which in no way lessoned the semi-virtual gathering.  I have missed these moments.  How delightful to hear Lia discuss visiting Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s homes, which she recently did in Russia and of course his writing.  She is also reading Chekhov and Wilde, and Hislop, and a half a dozen other people – I feel a need to take notes, and catch up – oh how stimulating! 

Lest you think us limited, our pursuits are not all intellectual: “What are you eating?”  Through the little camera, which unites us across oceans and continents we share chocolate, fruit, cardamom infused tea, stale crackers, and Easter eggs that have been dyed red, in the Greek Orthodox tradition.  Lia also wonders if it must be vary warm as Shahnaz and I are sitting in our sleeveless sleepwear, hair piled high atop our head, and make-up washed away.   There is much laughter and a bit of self condemnation that we have let so much time go by – these conversations are most assuredly the highlight of my trip. 

I am not ready to leave.  I am ready to continue.  If I must go home, and unload my bags, fine; but I miss my adventures.  I miss exploring.  Is it really youth?  No, I stand with the notion that it us and not time which has changed us.  Our lives become too busy with things which other people tell us must matter.  I have grown weary of keeping house, yet somewhere I must house my books and dishes.  This is our conflict as we totter between these years when we are finally able to do what we like, but do not seem to have the time.  Too much death, in these last two years has shaken me.  I do not want to simply travel along the path of least resistance.  I fault Kate for telling me that I was careless before our meeting – that I put myself in danger.  She is right, but I do not care.  There are risks which must be taken.  Is it not better to live a life of failed attempts; than to sit safely back successfully observing life as others live?

I am about to be confronted with my convictions.  I am shaken, as the plain circles and my thoughts whirl around my head, but I am not afraid.  I pray.  I always pray, but now I prayed more.  I did not want to die.  I reassure myself, things would be fine, but what if they were not?  I had called my mother in Atlanta, as I waited for my flight. She would be flying to Florida, in a few hours.  I was bringing her Boudin’s sourdough bread, from Fisherman’s Warf, in San Francisco, and their clam chowder, both of which she loved.  I left a message, there was no answer.  Kate and I had spoken several times about silly things like mango sorbet and why it was fat free.

While in California, I had lost the use of the screen on my phone, and therefore access to numbers which I did not know by heart.  My darkened phone left me unable to call anyone.  I wondered if I would turn my phone on, and how long I would wait.  If we were crashing, I was at least calling Kate, the only number I had memorized.  Kate would have to be my messenger. 

A passenger helped the first officer.  We had spent more time circling in the dark than we had flying from Atlanta.  Kate had gone into the airport to meet me, and grown weary of seeing the “In Range” sign, which had replaced a landing time.  She wondered where the plane was.  She had stepped outside, to the view deck and seen a plane shoot up oddly, but not known that I was sitting on that flight.  Time had passed and she worried as she saw the fire engines, ambulances, and police cars heading toward the tarmac; but no one answered any questions. 

Kate needed to put gas in the car, and wanted to go to the store, that I might have flowers waiting for me, and mango sorbet, which she could not imagine me wanting to eat.  She rebuked herself for not talking with me longer, in Atlanta, and she too prayed. 

Finally, the first officer stood up and smiled, it was going to be okay.  The pilot announced that the problem had been fixed and we would be coming in for a landing, it was a hard landing with a definite thump and a round of applause – just like in the movies.  As we taxied toward the gate, we saw the awaiting emergency personnel and I thought about what might have been.  It had been worth the risk – yes, I know, had it turned out differently I might not feel this way, but it turned out fine.

The short story is finally finished.  I am pleased.  Life is short and unexpected.  It has to be lived in the moment.  I shall not speak for others, but for the Christian, the constant conflict is how to live in this world and not be of this world.  How do we store our treasures in heaven, while still enjoying the gift that is life?  If we live only for others we lose ourselves, yet if we live only for ourselves we are also lost.  I suppose, as in all things, it is moderation which we need and at least an occasional burst of excitement.  That is all for now.

 ~ M ~


April 2009

The Vigil

 1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2 a time to be born and a time to die.

~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 ~ (Courtesy of

43Y una mujer, que tenía flujo de sangre hacía ya doce años, la cual había gastado en médicos toda su hacienda, y por ninguno había podido ser curada, 44Llegándose por las espaldas, tocó el borde de su vestido; y luego se estancó el flujo de su sangre. 45Entonces Jesús dijo: ¿Quién es el que me ha tocado? Y negando todos, dijo Pedro y los que estaban con él: Maestro, la compañía te aprieta y oprime, y dices: ¿Quién es el que me ha tocado? 46Y Jesús dijo: Me ha tocado alguien; porque yo he conocido que ha salido virtud de mí. 47Entonces, como la mujer vió que no se había ocultado, vino temblando, y postrándose delante de él declaróle delante de todo el pueblo la causa por qué le había tocado, y cómo luego había sido sana. 48Y él dijo: Hija, tu fe te ha salvado: ve en paz.
~Lucas 8:43 – 48 Reina-Valera Antigua~ (Courtesy of

My father, Ignacio Mosqueda, died on April Fool’s Day.  Among other things, Daddy was the life of the party.  He was quick witted, and always had a story or joke to tell.  I suppose dying on the first of April was his last bit of humor, or at the very least irony. 

Tomorrow will mark the 23rd anniversary of his death.  He was hospitalized with his third heart attack, and his doctors told us that he was going to be just fine.  We were crowded around the doorway, to his room, and the doctor came out and told us that we should go home, my father needed to rest.  I very clearly asked the doctor if he was certain, which he said he was – leave, let your father rest.  We awoke the next morning, to a ringing phone.  My father had taken a turn for the worse.  Those are the worst words I have ever heard a health care professional use.  What did that mean?  The worse turn was a fourth heart attack, which had taken his life.  He died surrounded by the strangers who had been pounding his chest and injecting him with life saving drugs, which did not save him.  It was his time to die. 

I remember standing by his bedside, after he was dead.  He looked peaceful, in his blue hospital gown, with his glasses, on the bedside.  I kept waiting for him to wake up and begin to weave one of those funny antidotes, which might take thirty or forty minutes to reach a punch line; but he did not wake up.  If my father were hospitalized today, I know things would be quite different. 

Now, it no longer seems like doctors tell you that everything is going to be fine, instead, modern medicine has advanced sufficiently that doctors can now tell us, with absolute certainty, that at some point, your hospitalized loved one is going to die – as are we all.  I vacillate between feeling like it was a lifetime ago, since we lost my father, and a mere few moments. 

We now live in the age of the vigil.  Hospital corridors and waiting rooms are populated by people waiting for someone to die.  The scenario usually begins when doctors decide that there is nothing else they can do for your loved one.  In imitation of Pontus Pilot, the doctors ceremonially washes their hands, of the person who is sick, and tries to place the burden of life and death into the hands of the family.  Without the benefit of medical school, the family then begins to explore a series of agonizing scenarios, regarding what should next happen to the loved one.

Families make choices about turning machines on and off or administering drugs for pain and comfort, which let the hospitalized individual float into a state of unconsciousness, as they are surrounded by their families and friends, who gather around to wait, for a last breath to be drawn.  I have not had to make these choices, but I have been party to too many of these vigils and it is a horror I wish on no one.  There is no way to find peace when we think that we have wrestled life and death from God’s hands.  Instead, families sit tortured, wondering if they have made the correct choices, with their only comfort being a nurse who continually reminds them that their loved one is not in pain.  I wonder how the nurse really knows?

You wait.  Phone calls are made, people rush to the hospital, goodbyes are said, a prayer is uttered, and still you wait.  I being either cursed or blessed with a Pollyannaish optimism, repeatedly find myself believing that perhaps this latest loved one will be the one who gets better, who rises up from their death bed.  I always seem to be wrong. 

The patient struggles for breath, with every movement of their chest being monitored by those around them, who try to make some sense of what it might mean.  As the hours painfully pass, life interrupts death.  One wonders if they can step away, from the vigil, to go to the restroom?  What about getting something to eat or walking the dog?  The living begin to tug on our pant legs – children need to be put to bed, homework has to be finished, bosses need to be notified, appointments need to be changed, and bills need to be paid.  The needs do not seem to understand that death is waiting in the wings.

Days pass, and turned off cell phones go back on, computers are brought to the waiting room, so that emails can be answered, and conversation begins to drift away from the dying.  Grief and guilt bring you back to the slow or fast, hard or easy, deep or gurgled breathing of the dying.  You debate their color and temperature, share antidotes and comment on their character, and inevitably discuss what will happen next, all the while trying to comfort those who have made the decisions which have brought the loved one to this stage between life and death.  There is no comfort, but there is conflict. 

Life and death are in constant battle; and life will allow death only so much room and importance.  No matter how much we grieve, life calls us back.  It seems that the living have only an allotted time for the dying.  As much as we would like it to be different, our lives stop mattering as we begin to draw our last breath, for there really is a time to be born and a time to die, and I do not believe that man can control the moment when the soul is released from the flesh, and the path between the living and dead is separated.  The dead and the living do part ways, and they must for the living can not follow the dead into the grave.

(Yes, I know.  I can hear my mother protesting:  This life is of no value, except for what you do for God.  The only thing which matters is the soul.  Are you ready for eternity?  Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal savior?   I shall not argue with her voice, as I do not disagree.  But I will confess that I have never been anxious to get to heaven.  I know how awful that sounds, especially from a Christian, but my attitude has always been it is for eternity right – that is forever.  I will be in heaven forever, which is certainly better than the alternative, but I am simply not in a hurry to get there.  My words are not sacrilegious, I promise.  I know heaven will be fabulous; but I am also attached to earth and my to do list is unfinished.  If life and death are at war, I want to stand with life.)

Last night, we received a phone call telling us that we had lost yet another neighbor and friend.  Sid Liss, the keeper of the neighborhood pool had passed away.  Sid, one of the few gentlemen, of a certain age, still remaining in our neighborhood, would spend his afternoons sitting at the pool, keeping company with the many widowed ladies, of the village.  Sid sat on our board, taught English classes, in the neighborhood, and drove like a wild man.

Kate answered the phone, and I could tell by her tone that something was wrong.  I could almost not bring myself to ask the question:  Has someone died?  But I asked, and she nodded her head and mouthed Sid’s name.  My heart dropped.  At Camille’s memorial service, someone had mentioned that Sid was in the hospital, and we had sent our best wishes, and told each other that we would have to get over there; but this week belonged to Jean, and Kate’s last week of the quarter, and we did not see Sid or witness his vigil.  We did lament his passing, shed tears, and go and buy too much junk food, which oddly offered comfort.  It was late, and we decided we would not make any calls last night, but did plan what we could do for Alan and Beth, Sid’s best friends, who sat through his vigil.  I am tired of death. 

I think of my father everyday, but I do not think of him on his death bed and though through three heart attacks we certainly spent a fair amount of time, at his hospital bedside, I do not remember him dying.  I am grateful that we did not have to go through a comatose vigil.  I remember my father as being full of life, even in the hospital, with a captive audience where he would tell his tales.  I miss him, and I wish that he were here and that we could talk – talking was our thing. 

At the moment, I would like to ask him about the Biblical passage which deals with a woman who had an issue of blood, for twelve years, who in faith, reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, and was healed.  It is a powerful passage, (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-47), which ends with Christ recognizing that he has been touched, and that healing power has left his body.  I well remember my father preaching from this passage, favoring the verses in Luke.  My father would sing a song, whose lyrics were based on these verses – he had a lovely voice, both for singing and speaking.  My question, to him, would be that in Spanish, Christ tells the woman that her faith has saved her, while in English; the translations have Christ telling the woman that she has been healed. 

Does it matter?  Is there much difference between the two?  I would say yes.  I would say yes, healing and salvation have nothing to do with each other – what of the meaning of the words, in English and Spanish?  I would so very much like to know what he thinks.  (Yes, I have put him in the present tense, as agreeing with my mother, I believe him to be in heaven.  It is a comforting thought, which I highly recommend.)  Nevertheless, I will not be hearing from my father, on this passage.

However, among the living, perhaps my mother or my sisters will play with me?  I am sure Kate would be happy to offer her opinion, and Glenda might also have a thought or two on language and translations.  But it is Luis which I finish these pages thinking of – not because he would offer a deeper or more insightful Biblical perspective, I dare say that would not be the case, but rather because of the way he would weave his ideas into a long, flowing, train of thought which would repeatedly digress, into various tangents, before coming back to whatever point he had wanted to make.  All the while, I would have disagreed with him, argued his logic, laughed at his stories, been amazed at his concluding thoughts, and entertained at least one or two fleeting thoughts about how much Luis reminds me of my father’s love for a well told story – even if the punch line was long in coming. We honor the dead, but here is to the living.  That is all for now.

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