Whenever sorrow comes, be kind to it.
For God has placed a pearl in sorrow’s hand.
I think that pearls were one of Laureen’s favorite things. Although, truth be told, Laureen had lots of favorite things. In typical crow fashion, she liked just about anything sparkly and especially jewelry. It did not have to be fancy, high-cost jewelry. Just well-made and unique. Indeed, even with pearls, this would be true. It was not the perfectly round, or perfectly matched set of pearls that interested her. No, she wanted unique colors and unique shapes. She was always one for texture! Texture and color – those were two very important qualities to her.
My education with jewelry began in November 2001 when I attended the first International Gem & Jewelry show with Laureen. We had officially been together about 3-1/2 months at that point, with no real idea yet of where we were heading. The jewelry show was a bit overwhelming. I knew nothing about jewelry really. It just had not been on my radar screen. There was so much to see and so much to learn. That was really the story of my life with Laureen. There was always so much to learn because she was in the world in such a different way from the way most of us live. I quickly realized that it was this unique sense of perception that gave her the ability to create art. Indeed, she was driven to create art as a way of expressing what she was seeing and perceiving in the belief that it might help other people to understand a bit of the world as she was perceiving it. She said as much in her own artist’s statement which I have come to view really as her life’s mission. And Laureen was always true to her mission.
That said, Laureen was all too human too, as we all are, and she had her foibles. She often said that normal life – the life most of us take for granted – just didn’t make sense to her. She struggled with things that we might take for granted – like filling up your car with gas at a self-serve station. Because of things like that, and because of messaging she had received for a good part of her life, she struggled with feelings of inadequacy, of not being “good enough” and of being too strange. She often told me that she simply did not belong in this time.
The truth is – none of us belong in this time. It is simply too messed up, too disconnected, too frenetic, and basically insane. And it is only becoming more so. In a world gone mad, I often quietly reflected that perhaps Laureen was one of the truly sane ones. A reflection of this was Laureen’s sense of time. She called it Crow Time. She lived in a different time and again, it was sometimes a source of frustration for her because once again, she felt that it made her different. You could not rush Laureen. It was kind of like watching a flower open up. It just happened in its own time and no matter what the task, or what the appointment or event, Laureen moved and prepared for it on her own time. I confess it took me many years to synchronize to her sense of time. And I can say that what I almost always observed was that her sense of timing was impeccable.
Perhaps one of the most outstanding examples of this was that Fall in which my mother was dying. We had gone out to see mom one time over the summer I think. At that time mom had been in a really bad way, having a really bad pain day, and had not wanted Laureen to see her like that. I know that both my mother and Laureen were distraught at not seeing each other because they really enjoyed each other’s company. Fast-forward a month or two and I wake up one Sunday morning (October 6, 2013) and look at Laureen and she just simply said, “We need to go see your mother today.” I had long since learned that when I got a pronouncement like that from Laureen – well, that was it. So we went to see our mom.
Mom was sleeping when we got there so we sat and talked with my sister. Laureen and Ellen were talking and I was standing by my mother’s bed when suddenly my mom opened her eyes, saw me, recognized me, grabbed my hand and said my name. And then Laureen came over and she reached out for Laureen and said her name. And that was the last time we saw my mother alive. She passed away the next day. And it was only because Laureen had decided that today we needed to go and see mom that we had that final moment of acknowledgement, and that last opportunity to say goodbye. It was such a beautiful, amazing gift that Laureen gave to all of us that day.
A year ago today I wrote to close friends and work mates that an angel was born. At approximately 7:45 AM, one year ago today, my beautiful, beautiful wife and so much more, gently slid away from this life. I know that for Laureen it was a release. I confess that for me it has been a challenge. But it is a challenge that I have not had to meet alone. There have been so many people around me, giving me love and support and caring. I have met a lot of new people this past year as well. Good people. People of the highest sort. It does give me some hope for our world that there are so many good people in it. I have tried to be open to my intuition and to the gentle and subtle messages that Laureen no doubt sends to me, of where I am supposed to be, and when I am supposed to be there. There have been times when I know she has blocked a path or two and I have accepted that it must be for my highest good. And, like water, if I find one path blocked, then I look for a different path in which to flow and thus far I feel I have moved in the direction I have been meant to follow.
In that sense I am blessed, both for Laureen’s gentle insinuations into my life as it is now, and also for the many, many teachings that she imparted to me during our years together. I walk this journey now, with a heart full of Gratitude for the many people who have assisted me and who have cared for me – for every hug, for every word of encouragement, and for every word of commiseration, and for every expression of sympathy and sorrow, and for every tear they have shed. It all has meaning. Laureen always said, and often reiterated the message, especially as we talked during those final weeks and days, “It is the small things that are the big things.” And when I might be fretting over whether we did enough “big” things in our life together, she would always remind me that it was all the small things that we did that were the important things.
And so now I am becoming that pearl out of sorrow. I feel changed. I am changed. I feel touched by sorrow in a way that has deepened my sense of compassion for others. Indeed, it has deepened me in other ways that I cannot even express other than knowing that there is “depth” to me now that was not there before. And while I may sometimes feel alone in my sorrow, I understand that I am not alone at all. Sorrow is a part of the human condition. I have given myself permission to grieve this past year, and to be openly vulnerable in doing so. But I have also been growing on the inside and I understand that a time is coming when I must grow out of my grief and give back in a way that is just simply what you do.
I believe that it is a matter of living with intention and living authentically. That is what Laureen excelled at. Everything mattered – everything had a purpose. And her life was a life of focused intention and authenticity. They are simple lessons, but in a world so intent on distraction and destruction, it is not always easy to live by these principles. By her example, Laureen showed me that it can be done. It was one of her many gifts to me. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Laureen was that change.