October 21, 2012

Slice of PIE: Real Life Story

The past week has been the strangest week of my life and has sparked more ideas than I currently know what to do with. As well, it has caused some growth in my heart that will, without doubt, appear in my writing.

The event that looms largest is the death of my wife’s brother, Daniel Richard Mooney.

As my wife is the youngest in her family, and I am younger than she is, I have the unenviable position as “baby of the family”. This gave my brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law endless opportunity to pick on me. Danny, ever the practical joker and the driest of humorists, often led me on with stories and jokes and comments. I rarely knew if he was being serious or sending my mind after some other tall tale – after which he would laugh at me and go on his merry way.

Being a jokester was in stark contrast to the life he had to live. Born a hemophiliac in 1952, he suffered often from procedures that we would call tortuous and gruesome today in order to save his life. In the early 1980s, a whole-blood transfusion gave him AIDS. No, he was not “only” HIV+. He had full-blown symptoms that included a half dozen opportunistic infections. But working with the University of Minnesota, he was subjected to numerous drug regimens to combat the disease. In the late 1990s, his doctors declared him HIV free and he began to gain weight and grew healthy again.

A double knee replacement gave him mobility he’d had only as a child.

Then came the news a few months ago: liver cancer. Again, there were treatments and for a while it seemed he was getting better. But his body couldn’t take it anymore. Brutalized by genetics, ignorance and disease; he surrendered to the inevitable, went home, saw as many friends and family as he could, saying his good-byes; then early on a Tuesday morning, he shuffled off the mortal coil – and (as I see it) leaped off the Olympic starting blocks to run a sprint he’d never been able to do in real life!

We had a day of numb rest while much-needed rain fell most of the time.

Thursday, we had a wedding rehearsal. Danny’s nephew was getting married! From grief to mounting anticipation, we HIKED (yes, hiked) to the wedding spot – a small shelter in the center of the park reserve in an outer suburb of St. Paul. After the practice, we dined Mediterranean style at my OTHER brother-in-law’s house. The next day was the wedding and after a long day of rain, drizzle and chilly temperatures, we stood in full suits, the women in long dresses as we awaited the arrival of the judge and bride. The ceremony was simple and brief – and abruptly crowned with a sunlight pouring through a rent in the clouds. Oak leaves shimmered mocha brown, poplar and aspen flared with lemon light, and singular maples blazed scarlet. The effect was glorious.

From the woods, we trekked to the JJ Hill Reference Library in the very living heart of St. Paul. The theme of the wedding had been “A Love Story”, so the bride had fashioned all the bouquets and boutonnieres from newsprint. Each table bore a tower of elder hardcover books topped with a few newsprint blossoms in a vase. Surrounded by three stories of bookshelves and marble columns, we toasted the bride and groom; ate tacos in celebration and salivated with stunned gluttony at the Sweets Table, which held a small wedding cake and countless petit fours, “cake suckers” (some with edible glitter!), bonbons, and truffles.

Saturday was a recovery day in which the glory of the wedding drained slowly away. Prosaic events replaced significant ones: leaf raking, getting the dog’s nails clipped, grocery shopping, housecleaning, filling bird feeders, responding to an editor’s notes. Normal stuff. Every day stuff. Early Sunday morning as I write this, we face the funeral – or celebration of the life of Danny. Somber. Likely graced with tears of grief as we say our good-byes and comfort one another.

To say this week has been a roller coaster ride of life would be an understatement. To say that I have grown in unexpected ways would be an observational truth no one but I could confirm. I have grown though, and the events of the week will be added into the mill of my writer’s mind and will come out in the stories I write from this day on.

Spiritually? I’ve not felt this deep in some time. It’s good to step into His pool of grace again. Very good.

Image: http://cdn.c.photoshelter.com/img-get/I0000KV_0DO9pGkE/s/700/700/A-Walk-in-the-Fall-Woods.jpg

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