Last Daisies

Angelic music from her voice, as I accompanied her, moved me to tears at times. Familiarity with the grace in every Greta-graphite picture I witnessed etched a memory into my soul. Through her patience, she loved, admired, and respected all that surrounded my life. With strength, she fought through until her body could no longer handle what appendiceal cancer threw at her.

Tuesday evening, Greta died. A very significant part of my life slipped away from me, … from us.

I miss her. Those three words have been repeating over and over in my head since Tuesday evening. No amount of distracting sunshine walks or meals with friends these past 24 hours seem to ease the pain. Brain tears have been happening behind my mask of pushing through the “need to be dones” in my life.

This is what death looks like. I don’t appreciate not having Greta to take care of today, or tomorrow, or … ever again. It’s painful to know there’s no more of that beautiful voice in front of my piano. Loss of this breadth is almost incomprehensible.

I’ve had loss, but not like this. It’s surreal. I’m on an unending carousel of memories with Greta. On this ride, we’ve been experiencing fun, exciting things together. Lunches at SAMA, picnics, Doug’s Dawgs events, pizza with my dad, … Seems like if we weren’t rehearsing, food was a major contributor to our experiences?🤔.

Life with her was an unending, somewhat unpredictable, fascinating twist of energy, love, compassion, heart, and fun.

Without her, it seemed as though that mix was no longer possible when I sat alone late Tuesday night on a dark patio.

Then, a few hours ago, I walked by where Greta made her graceful last curtain call from this world. Over on stage left stood the last vase of daisies I bought for her. She loved daisies. There in that vase, supporting cast members stood applauding a life filled with what she loved: her dogs, Rex and Murphy, music, art, her immediate family, close friends … and me.

Yes, me. That piano guy she decided to fold into her life with, maybe, two years to live. We got less together. But, overall, I got significantly more.

In a nutshell, I have a better understanding of who I am. My personal growth, with Greta’s tugs and halts, found a path forward. As a few stubborn rocks took some time to navigate around, she waited (somewhat) patiently for my opinions and behaviors to change. Some did, others didn’t. There are live-alongs in my life that will be with me forever.

In the end, I am a changed man because Greta took the time to love me.

We were all changed if Greta smiled in our direction. Our lives will not be the same without her here. Tuesday evening, the world lost a beautiful person. Our community lost a gifted singer and artist. Her family lost a daughter, aunt, and sister.

I lost a connection. A partner in that magical, mysterious, musical world where a pianist and vocalist could live without fear, anxiety, and judgement. A lunch date who helped me laugh at myself … and at her. She was a lover of my life and one who accepted my love of her life.

Yes, absolutely incomprehensible right now. I loved Greta. Her contribution to my life will never be forgotten.

If reading this as a friend of Greta’s, may your memories be wonderfully fulfilling as mine … and may her love for you extend far beyond the horizon of every daisy patch you see.

Greta, we miss you. Spread your energy to the world – be that guiding light to others as you were to me. Sing. Echo your songs across the cosmos. Paint the skies your favorite shade of purple for us sometime.

You were, simply the best – and still are. “Smile, though your heart is aching. Smile, even though it’s breaking.”

I will every time I think of you, Greta. I most certainly will 🎙️🎹💕

Corner Room, Corner Table

I had to reach back into my archives – four months, or so – to relive a blessed feel good moment in my life. It was an afternoon I will never again get with the lady who sat across from me during that beautiful, lovely afternoon in State College, Pa. A limited menu was offered to us. Two. A pair with unlimited possibilities for humor, music musings, and sweet couple words. The restaurant, “The Corner Room”, wasn’t aware of our silliness. Half-drapes in the window, overlooking a lightly attended summer session sidewalk, kept a summer sun off our tea as Old Main sat off in the distance.

We waited patiently for sandwiches and appetizers. What else was there to do? An afternoon in May. Two wonderers sitting comfortably among others who had their own wondering to do. I looked around, but nothing … no one … caught my attention more than the one sitting across from me in a high, dark vinyl booth.

I think it was her hair this time, although not always the case. Her eyes and smile could hook me in, too. Against the backdrop of a very accomodating, hugging booth (one I was becoming very jealous of, for the record), those golden locks bounced off my afternoon delight. Leaving me no choice, I parted from a semi-sweet tea to imprint this picture on my late spring, early summer’s soul:

Black and white. Simple. Complementary colors holding my hand during pre-lunch moments. Sandwiches hadn’t arrived yet. We were hungry. Even the appetizers were somewhere different than in our prior two-hours, walk-around town, empty bellies. Still, with those grinding away inside, we chuckled the time away.

There was no time limit on my preoccupation. It could have been two minutes or two days. She sat across from me before that day in other restaurants … in other cities … patiently caressing the time with me for meals taking longer than normal. Those times were endless fascinations as well.

Yes, no finish date at all on any of the words, at any time, with any fare on any plate in front of us. As far as that May day, I can smell the chicken sandwich with sides finally arriving along with roast beef au jus. Appetizers did come – spinach dip with chips – prior to those lunch munchies. A waitress, seldom seen, blessed us with her absence. Teas didn’t need refilling, plates were full until they weren’t, and two booth dwellers had a glorious feast … one for his eyes, the other for her tummy.

During this long exhale of our time together, a “today memory” I adore had to be written.

I will never have that chance again with Greta. Hundreds of pictures, but not bubbly-blonde booth dates from now on in familiar towns and restaurants. I will see nice, sunny days through café curtains again, for sure, but not across from someone like her. Smiles, eyes, hair, voice, and personality wrapped up in her is a once-in-a lifetime menu choice.

A corner room and corner table I had to revisit today. Life is black and white when it comes to a sweet woman I love and adore. Color through a camera lens and street window frames an afternoon I never want to forget.

Choose your moments wisely. Four months, or so, goes by quickly when you think more time is easily within your grasp.

Maybe our lunch was good? I don’t remember.

Time spent together that day? I will cherish forever.

MPH

Endings.

Those three images usually close out a thought of mine on Facebook … in the order they appear. “M” for microphone, “P” is certainly obvious, and “H” … well, of course, right?

Miles Per Hour is more appropriate, however. Facebook musings aside, life the past month or so has seen a different application of MPH along a single-focus highway of missed exit ramps. Turn-offs I willingly didn’t take, in order to help care for someone who is dying, can wait until I circle back around later. Sure, there have been – and will be – some chances to exit and do necessary things; overall, though, life has been moving rapidly. For me.

Not so rapidly for sweet Greta who is dying. This is an ending we knew was coming – it just will come sooner than expected.

She is the vocalist, I am the pianist, and our hearts make wonderful music together.

This evening, I have quiet moments to watch her sit on a very familiar tan recliner five feet from me. The room is small. She’s protected by many books and miniature owls resting on two bookcases behind her. Surprisingly, she has some energy left in her body to look over my way at times. This day has been a busy one with friends and family buzzing about her already tired soul.

I don’t know from where her drive and determination comes. These are traits I find fascinating as her days linger on through pain management, sleep deprivation, and a determination to soak up every available blink on the clock. A wonderful, full, young life experience coming to an end is slowing her time down to a breathable crawl. Every second counts.

Last hugs from an only brother this morning forced time to stop. As a niece and nephew said good-bye, the early morning sun stopped to cry just a little and its tears were seen as dew on the grass in the rear view mirror on their hearts. Driving away slowly – with a 7 hour’s drive ahead – had to be the most difficult beginning of a trip … and ending … a family ever had to endure.

This afternoon, many friends stopped by for a rather nice patio visit with Ms. Greta. Pictures were perused, memories visited, and conversations had. She laughed heartily through a veiled smile – one that is barely half of what was once full-voiced and warmly engaging. Eyes beautifully sparkling, however, and no less attentive to everyone sharing some Sunday time with her.

Time well spent today. Exhausting for her, of course. She is the Captainess of this Cancership, I’ve always said, and when a post of today’s 11-4 plan was discovered (by me) on her Facebook feed last night at 9p.m., I was surprised, but not startled.

An exit ramp I may have missed last night, but sure as tooting would have backed up and taken at 11 a.m. today once folks started coming.

There is an ending. Just not today. I am moving at a certain MPH on a single-focus road for now.

That’s only one side of this story. The other side is pretty easy to explain. I am doing what I am doing on this road because of the Microphone, Piano, and Hearts.

Greta is a special woman. She connects with me. Musically, as a pianist, I’ve accompanied no vocalist in my career who has moved me to tears. Her depth, passion, and commitment to excellence pushed me beyond my 50 years experience behind a keyboard.

We had fun together apart from music. Loving life together. Eating out, working at my concession business, sitting around the local parks, watching game shows, etc …

Thinking we had more time together is where we are right now. Time is slowing down for her, yet fast for me. Endings are never easy.

Since they aren’t easy, let me finish by inserting a paragraph posted on Facebook by my friend Rick. He came by today. His words will be mine until we meet again. Hug a loved one today. 🎙️🎹💕

“(Landslide) is a very special song as of this moment. I had the pleasure of visiting my friend Greta today and this is one of her favorite songs. I visited her on her patio with other friends, her Mom, and others there. Today, this very special woman decided she was not going to die today. She was determined to welcome friends for a last visit, a goodbye. My friend is soon to be lost to cancer, but she knows it, has thought about it, accepted it. A very strong, charming, witty, and talented woman with a heart as beautiful as a sunrise on a beach. If this is farewell, I am a better person for have having her in my life if only for a short while.”