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“Hello, Liz! May I come in?” North Carolinian origins warmed her voice as she pulled open the screen door and stepped inside. “We meet again,” she said, smiling and extending her slim hand toward mine. “From what you shared on the phone, you’ve come a long way—More settled with the lower dose of Dexamethasone.” It was Eunice, the hospice chaplain. She was so right. The steroid had tripped Swiss-cheese brain and runoff of my mouth, both messing with our first visit.

“Yes, thanks, I’m much better.” She looked so serene, settling into her chair and crossing her feet.

“I gathered as much from reading your blog—a window into your world.”

Her willowy appearance exuded simplicity: a single gold band on her left hand, her only adornment; her brunette hair caught in a ponytail; her lavender long-sleeved shirt downplayed any vestiges of drama. She was simply herself.

“It helps slow down what’s happening—Ever since I retired from hospice, I’ve been preparing for this critical time—My patients taught me lots.” I still cherished the memories and loved to tell their stories.

“That explains your readiness to participate in this process. Most patients are still reeling from their doctors’ decision to stop treatments.” I, too, had had that experience.

Then, I said, breathing deeply, “Let me share more fully how I got here—It’ll help to hear myself speak.”

Beneath rimless glasses, her dove-like eyes began tracking each word that brimmed from my fullness. Instantly, we were in seamless dialogue, our inner worlds playing off each other. On her spiritual path, too, she was a seasoned explorer.

 

Recently, a single red balloon found its way into my backyard, its bottom booted by trickster winds under brooding skies; its redness plummeted me within the experience of Pascal, the kindergartner in the Academy-Award winning short, The Red Balloon (1956) by Albert Lamorisse. Filmed in the run-down Ménilmontant neighborhood of Paris, still recovering from the war’s devastation, the mood is somber, its grayness pervasive. Spare is the dialogue amidst the noise of street life.

On the way to school Pascal happens upon a red helium balloon snared within the crook of a streetlamp, frees, then, tames it: its brightness emboldens his fragile sensitivity, easily bruised by the crimped world of adults and hooligans around him; it becomes his confidante. A playful lei-motif traces their developing relationship, with its pranks, foolishness, joys, and grief.

But The Red Balloon is not just an ordinary movie. Its opening scene engages our imagination and plunges us into the world of symbols; some of the following are notable: grey clothing: mourning; the Cosmic Suffering Christ: red balloon; wetness: cleansing; the Divine Child: innocence; stone stairs: heights and depths; and redemption: the cluster balloon ride—thereby imprinting this story upon viewers for decades.

Even today, eyes quicken with smiles whenever the story of Pascal and his red balloon is shared.

Do treat yourself. Both the book and the short are still available on Amazon—even a freebie on YouTube.

 

“Her name is Millicent—She’s nine weeks old.” Her voice trills, her dark eyes flash, her rounded shoulders stand tall as my neighbor shifts the short leash to her other gloved hand. Around her heels teeters her new poodle, its blonde scrimpy coat unlike the tawny one of Fredericka, her predecessor.

For long years my neighbor had cared for Fredericka: groomed her meticulously, walked her mornings and evenings, attired in appropriate rain or snow gear; and when younger, coached her to prance on hind legs to the squeals of kids. Even her hair color and loose fitting dresses complemented Fredericka’s. They were inseparable.

However, this spring brought change. Heavy were the steps of both my neighbor and Fredericka. Their walks were shorter, their spirits lagging. It was just a matter of time. And then my neighbor climbed the hills alone, her head bowed as if still searching for Fredericka, her black pointed shoes plodding resolutely upon the sidewalk. Somber was her attire and mood.

But no longer—winds now tease strands of blonde hair across my neighbor’s forehead and whips open her cream-colored long coat. Vibrantly alive, she bursts with news and the Universe is listening. We are too.

 

Available on Amazon

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