Friday, October 21, 2011

Missing My Elixir

For the last 11 days, husband Jim and I went through a "detox" program, eliminating all sugar, glutens, additives and caffeine from our diets in order to cleanse our bodies.

And I hadn't had my beloved tea for 11 days.

I missed it desperately.

So, this morning as I type this, I'm having my first cup after my 11-day absence.

Heaven. Bliss. Comfort. My old friend is back.

My elixir of life.

In honor of this day, I re-print the one of my favorite blog posts I've ever written here at Plays with Needles.

I'll see you Monday when I'll tell you about my trip to Winterthur.


Reprinted from June 2009:

The Elixir of Life

Today, I wonder

Are you bad as me?

And drink too many

Cups of tea?

Two in the morning

when I first awake

A third in an hour

When the first two don’t take.

And by mid-morning

I slake my thirst

With one more cup

That rivals the first.

Two cups with lunch

And then none ‘til four

When I take down my pot

And give it a pour.

For late afternoon

It’s time for High Tea

So I drink the whole pot

Just myself, I and me.

Happy Hour is next,

And rather than wine

I choose to have tea

Before I dine.

And after I’ve supped

All sweets I forsake

I choose tea for dessert

And skip all that cake!

At the end of the day,

I’m warmed by my cup,

And have my last sips

To wrap the day up.

When at last I sleep

Away I float

On a river of tea

My cup for a boat.

And so, I ask you,

Are you bad as me?

And drink too many

Cups of tea?

I first began my April BJP with this poem. And then, as I beaded my river of tea day after day, I began to ruminate on the important role tea plays in my life. How tea is a constant in my life, A river that runs through me, carrying me through every day and every moment.

I come from a long line of tea drinkers. My grandmother drank tea; my mother drank tea; my father drinks tea; all my siblings drink tea; my son drinks tea, and I can't get enough of the stuff.

The ritual and routine of making and drinking tea has carried me through many of life's joys and sorrows. I can't tell you how many gallons of tea we must have consumed while planning baby showers, graduations, weddings and funerals.

Tea is a great eraser, a salve, a remedy to the ills and the trials of every day life. My mother would often say to all of us, as we plopped exhausted in a chair after a hard day of school, and later, after a long day of work having just picked up our children from daycare..."Have a cup of tea and two Tylenol. It will make you feel better." And she was right. Only I save the two Tylenol for those really rough days.

Tea provides a segue from one event to another and is the excuse to sit around for hours the night after a big party and do a post-mortem on the event -- who was there, what did they say -- didn't everyone have a good time...

Tea provides a welcome mat, an opener for friends and family who stop by to visit...It says "Welcome to my home. I'm glad you are here and let us begin again to know one another"...

For my family, it's a way of demonstrating love and we each know how the other likes their elixir prepared...some with two sugars, some with none...And now, I have Jack and I'm proud to say that Jack is firmly ensconced in the ritual of tea. And, he knows without a shadow of a doubt, that when I make him a cup of tea, it means "I love you."

One of the last things my mother requested before she died was to have a cup of tea. The day it happened, my family and I were at home taking care of her. Mom had an aggressive form of leukemia and when the disease finally overtook her, she wanted nothing more than to die at home and so we took care of her there.

Mom had reached the stage of dying where she couldn't really converse anymore, her speech was difficult to understand, she was bed bound and she hadn't had anything to eat or drink for about two weeks except water. We knew we were getting close to the end.

So, this day, it was a shock when Mom was adamant about wanting to sit up in the recliner -- we hadn't done that in weeks either. So we moved her to the chair and she was trying to say something and I was struggling to understand. "Water?" She shook her head no. "Pillow?" No. And then, I couldn't believe what I thought she had said...

"I'm sorry Mom, I'm trying to understand. I think you just said that you wanted a cup of tea?" I asked incredulously. And she nodded and a smile touched her eyes. "You want a cup of tea?", I repeated with delight and wonder and hope in my voice..."Really?" And she nodded yes.

It was an awakening of sorts. Imagine having had a couple of weeks of minimal communication from Mom and all of the sudden...this! She wanted a cup of tea! It was a moment of joy amidst many moments of sadness.

So I walked out of the bedroom and when I did so, my father looked up and asked with his eyes..."What does she need?" And I told him, with a big smile..."Mom wants a cup of tea!"

"She what? A cup of tea?" "No....Really?" He asked repeating the request to make sure he had understood. And I said it again. Then a big smile spread across his face and he said, "Well, then, let's make a cup of tea!" And he hopped up and busied himself putting on the water, getting out the cups, etc.

And, as we helped Mom to hold the cup...her shoulders began to relax, the tension dropped from her face, and she settled back into the moment as the warmth spread from the cup to her tired hands...and she just held it.

After a few minutes, I could tell she wanted a sip so I helped her bring the cup to her lips. Mom hadn't sipped from a cup in weeks and I was overly optimistic and believed that she would actually be able to sip like she used to -- I mean, amazing things were happening this day...

Well, she couldn't manage it very well. She sputtered and coughed as some of the liquid went into her lungs and the tea dribbled down her chin. But she smiled. She smiled and croaked out, clear as day, "It's good..." which made us all smile together.

Her shoulders relaxed a little more and we sat there for quite a while helping her to hold her cup and to take little sips of her final cup of tea. She died about another week or so after that and never requested another thing.

And on the morning that she died, after we had made the important phone calls and we had that intermittent silence, waiting for the world to show up...realizing that we were in transition to another ritual that would carry us through our grief, waiting for it to start. Because we, the care team, had nothing left to do. She was gone. This woman whom we had loved and cared for to the best of our ability no longer needed us.

The silence was tangible; it felt threatening. Every sound, every tick of the clock was amplified and deafening.

So, I got up and started moving just to take the silence away. And I walked into the kitchen, and there on the counter, were the cups all in a row, hot water having just been poured into each one. My brother Mark had made us tea. And so that's how we beat that powerful silence, that void. We filled it with tea while we drank our last cup with our Mom and waited for the world to show up.

Tea is powerful. It's an Elixir of Life. It is the cheapest therapy I know and it is a universal language of love.

And so, when I have reached the end of my journey, and I can no longer express it for myself --

I hope someone will remember how I like my tea.

Plain old Lipton, one level teaspoon of sugar, steeped for 6 minutes with a dollop of skim milk.

That'll be all I need. Thanks
. [Reprinted from Plays with Needles, June 23, 2009]


FlowerLady said...

Oh Susan ~ What a lovely post about your family where love and tea are important ingredients.

That bit of needlework is absolutely wonderful.


Carol said...

Yep, that was one of my very favorites of your posts too.

So, I am wondering how you felt during and after the cleansing. I have read several of my blog friends have done this over the past couple of years. When you eliminate all that, what the heck is left? And how ARE you doing on your path to a healthier you?
xx, Carol

Cari said...


flyingbeader said...

Much braver than me. I don't think I could ever give up my addiction to caffeine. Loved the piece before & love it again.

Mary Ann said...

Lovely post:) I don't think I could give up tea for 11 days. We are a family of tea drinkers so much so that my youngest son took a night school course about tea at a local college. He received a certificate as a tea sommelier and has taught a few courses on tea. I love my cuppa:)

Mouse said...

just lovely.... I raise my cuppa to you all :) white with no sugar :) love mouse xxx

Vicki W said...

I recently discovered that I am allergic to tea. I miss it more than wheat, dairy or eggs. What a lovely memory of you mother. Thanks for sharing.

Moonsilk Stitches said...

Oh, what a lovely post. No one in my family "gets" my love of tea--it's so nice when someone understands so well. My favorite times were tea with mom (she prefered coffee but would sometimes drink tea with me).

MosaicMagpie said...

Here I am at work...crying. My father had a different drink of choice, Grape Koolaid! The last thing he asked me to fix for him, Grape Koolaid. I think of him everytime I see it in the grocery.
Lovely beaded piece and I can see your emotions in the movement and choice of beads.

Marty52 said...

Just as beautiful the second time around... do you ever make your tea in a teapot?

Wendy said...

What a great post about family and your love of tea!.....your needlework on this little project is so awesome, did you needle felt the little doll? Just beautiful!

Nancy said...

Thank you so much for sharing such a lovely post.

Wendy said...

And now i cry.
This was a beautiful post, Susan.

...and i don't even *like* tea! But the ritual and the togetherness? *That* i understand. I am glad you and your family have that.

OH! And your beading is absolutely GORGEOUS!!! Thanks for re-posting. I hadn't seen it before.

Createology said...

Oh Susan your story has touched my heart. I also am a tea drinker and never coffee. My mother never drank coffee either. Your bead work is stunning. May your memories keep you in comfort...

Miriam said...

Ohh, well done on going 11 days on a detox! I don't think I could manage 11 hours without a cup of tea!!! Lol!

I love looking at all that beading!

Hold your memories close.

Catherine said...

Thanks for sharing this post again. It was new to me! It was beautiful.

Goldylox99 said...

I love your story and your stitching - so exquisite! Your imagination shines in your needle art creativity and in your posts. I plan to save your photos for inspiration. You are remarkable!

Barbara C said...

A great story (again) and it's wonderful to have the accompanying images of your beautiful work. The brown beading is especially wonderful.

Claudine brodeuse de perles said...

Vraiment un très beau texte sur votre maman et le thé. Et puis cet ouvrage est vraiment magnifique. Bisous et très bon dimanche

Dianne said...

oooh a cup of tea!! It is certainly the elixir. I could not go a day without a cuppa. When stressed, feeling down, suffering a headache, a good cup of tea always helps. A beautiful post about your Mum - tears filled my eyes. Never give it up!!!

Teresa said...

Love the tea cup beading.
I enjoy a cup of tea, no coffee. My daughter is the real tea drinker. I took her twice to the big tea convention in Las Vegas. She was in pure heaven with all those teas.
Teresa's Heartfelt Stitches

Teresa said...

Love the tea cup beading.
I enjoy a cup of tea, no coffee. My daughter is the real tea drinker. I took her twice to the big tea convention in Las Vegas. She was in pure heaven with all those teas.
Teresa's Heartfelt Stitches

Connie Eyberg Originals said...

This is such a beautiful post. Your tea cup block is gorgeous and your story of your mom brought tears to my eyes. God rest her soul. Thank you for re-posting since I did not see it the first time around. Definitely one worth re-posting!

Elizabeth said...

This is one of my all time favorite Plays with needles posts as well!! I always have to get a few tissues when I read it- it is so beautiful ! you know how much I love your writing style!!!!
Good on both of you for going thru a Detox- I think of it every once in awhile but that is as far as I get!!!

JoWynn Johns said...

Just as moving the second time. Thanks. It is especially meaningful to me, as I have just finished reading "Rethinking Aging", a new book that focuses on the years after 60 and ends with the dying process. Would that we could all have your mother's and your family's experience of the end of her life here.

Anonymous said...

I cannot think of adequate words - touching, beautiful and moving.

shirley said...

Susan, what a beautiful story, I read it with tears in my eyes remembering the last night I spent with my father in the middle of the night he wanted a cup of tea as well, and with it a vegemite sandwich....he had been asleep for a 3 days, and then in the morning he awoke, and all he wanted was mum...after he had seen her for one last time he quietly passed...but it was that cup of tea in the middle of the night that revived him enough to see her again.

Sandra Henderson said...

So beautiful. I drink a LOT of tea also...

lifemyway said...

Simply beautiful This post brought tears to my eyes.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post, Susan. You have a gift for seeing blessings even in sorrow, as well as a great gift for needlework!

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