On the Woo-Woo Side

Two events occurred on my trip to Southern California that might catch your attention. The first was at the funeral for Kay’s (a high school friend) mom. Family and friends drove in caravan with a police escort to the cemetery after the service at the Mormon Church up the road. As I’m standing behind where the family is seated, I notice “Memory Garden” imprinted at the top of the shade tent. I ask Kay’s cousin standing next to me, “What town are we in?” He says “Brea.” I turn to him and out of my mouth comes, “My mother is buried in this cemetery,” and I look behind us at the buildings on the hill, “up there.”

Brea cemetery wallI was at Memory Garden in 1968 when my siblings and I gathered to inter my mother’s ashes, and again with my brother a dozen years ago when I was working on a never-ending family memoir. Considering who I am in the world, I’m amazed that I somehow sensed where I was. I took leave of the group and slipped away for a moment to find her niche, way up high on a wall. I snapped a picture and asked her to watch over Kay’s mom, now that they were neighbors, and to intervene on my behalf with whoever is mad at me on the other side that keeps holding up the finishing of my book.

After the reception I headed two hours north to Camarillo where I was spending the night at my cousin’s, a Chatfield (my grandfather Isaac W. Chatfield was her grandmother’s brother). Joanne (age 89) had fallen on her patio nine months ago, cracking her head on the cement, was taken to the hospital, and never came home. While in recovery she broke her leg tumbling out of her wheelchair, then dementia crept in and stole her mind, too. I was staying with her husband, Lee (also age 89). He sits with her, heartbroken, for three hours every other day as she lies in bed staring at the ceiling, her one broken leg bent crookedly over the other.

Joanne had pictures of our ancestors that I’d seen from a prior visit that Lee was letting me borrow. The only one we couldn’t find was a 6 x 14 inch sepia on cardboard (circa 1890) of her grandfather, Josiah Small, in a Civil War re-enactment. It was not in the boxes we’d gone through.

In the nine months that Joanne had been in the hospital, bills, letters, and magazines had accumulated, taking over their dining room, piled on the table, chairs and floor. I needed a bigger envelope to fit some of the larger pictures in, and Lee went into the garage to look for one. Next to me on the chair about an inch down in a foot high stack, I spotted a thin brown bag that they’d fit in. I slipped it out, hoping it was empty, but found two pictures in it. One of them… hang on… was the missing Josiah Small. It was a Kinko’s bag, and on the pictures was a sticky note with my email address. Joanne fell before she could get them to me.

Military line-up Josiah Small crop

I’d no inkling about that bag, any more than I had a sense in the beginning that I was in the cemetery where my mother was—but these things happen to me, especially around working on our genealogy or writing my book. I’m quietly led to the next piece I need, and out of the ethers, it appears. It’s like a cosmic consciousness opens and allows me in. It used to weird me out, but I’ve learned not to question grace; now I simply bow to the mystery of it all, filled with awe and appreciation.

September, 2014

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  1. Thanks for these wonderful “synchronicities”, showing how the Universe (or our guides, ancestors, or whoever!) is totally ready to support us when we know what we want and move in that direction. And I agree we have to slow down and be open to these gifts. I love Robert Moss’s book about this, “Sidewalk Oracles”.

  2. Sandy Martin says:

    It is so nice when we finally figure out that we have been ‘guided’. Thanks for the wonderful story!

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