Today is Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom. Less than an hour ago, we had our two minutes silence. According to the Wikipedia definition, it is also called Poppy Day or Armistace Day and is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries to remember the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War. And I just discovered (wow I've lived here a long time to have forgotten) it's Veteran's Day in America.
While it wasn't intentional, I feel that the red of Roz's lipstick - which I sent in a little get well package because I know how a bit of colour can cheer someone up - is a nice tribute to 'Poppy Day'.
Last night we had our annual Executive Committee Meeting for our beautiful garden square, and one of our members, Major Bobby Collins, couldn't attend because walking the steps to where the meeting is held, at my dear friend Barbara Clapham's home (she is 98) is becoming more difficult for him. I will call him soon as I send this, to arrange a visit. I feel we honour those brave people who have made our lives safe every day, but am moved to tears by the collective power of specific moments like this morning: people in different places, coming together in Remembrance.
There are many kinds of courage. There is physical courage: walking into battle, whatever form that battle takes (sometimes, it's simply showing up at work, or school, knowing that what you're facing that day is not going to be fun). The courage to face our fears, however small or silly those fears might be to others. The courage to CHOOSE to view even the most horrible things by finding something - anything - in that experience to be grateful for. The courage to choose to be happy, or to feel lucky, regardless of the circumstances.
What I have seen in recent weeks, watching the courage displayed by not just Rosalind, aka Roz, of Clothes, Cameras and Coffee, has been so inspiring that I haven't been able to write about my experience. If you go to Roz's post you'll be able to read her account of the complications that happened after the surgery. As the events were unfolding, her amazing mom, Polly - who is now a good friend - was keeping me posted by beautifully eloquent emails. Can you imagine how terrifying it was, for her family: she was home from the hospital (at her grandmother's beautiful house in London), walking, and suddenly crashes to the ground and has to be rushed back to hospital.
Or, imagine: the day after surgery, when her organs, having been stretched to fit the newly lengthened spine, started freaking out and she had twelve hours of her digestive system reacting to the shock by involuntary gagging. Apart from a brief mention by her that 'it was the worst day of my life', the things she wanted to talk about - such a wide range, she is such an intelligent girl - we all about the most positive things. I find there is a direct proportion to how happy - and popular - people are, and to how much their interests lie outside their own self and their own problems.
She spoke of luck, over and over again. How wonderful everyone has been. There is something incredible - I know from my own experiences - about surviving what is the worst thing you can imagine. Each day after that feels like a miraculous celebration.
I waited this long to post photos because I simply couldn't choose, and couldn't find the words to describe my visit, which was actually in three magic acts: lunch, cake, garden. These shots are from the garden. The light was going and she still had a walk with her dad planned to the top of Primrose Hill and back, and it was cold and wet but the light was magic as we walked in the secret garden behind her grandmother's house. Roz was saying how lucky she was to find this cape really cheaply at a 'car boot sale'. But especially, how proud and grateful she clearly was to show me that her twisted pearl necklace, designed to echo her once twisted spine, was a gift from the most generous spirit: Maya, of Bye Bye Soccer Mom. Soon as she read about Roz, she asked for her address and went to the post office and sent her gift from America. She also sent me a cookbook from her home country, Georgia, which I cherish (an ex boyfriend was from Georgia, his mum was an amazing cook, and I love that cuisine). It is these generous souls: the people who take action to help other people, rather than wallow in self pity, who inspire me.
Sorry to be waffling so long. Better to read her post 'wrapped in support' as this is her and her family's experience, not mine. I'm just bearing witness. And feeling so nourished and in a way, healed, in the process.
This post is also dedicated to my father, Art Carin, who died in 2003. He was a Veteran of the United States Army, and he, with my mother, taught me, by example, everything I'd ever need to know about courage, generosity of spirit, and seeing life in the best possible light.