Wednesday, June 17, 2009

April Bead Journal Project Complete

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.


Brenda said...

I think we will all remember that you love tea. You were right I should have bought a tissue with me!

What a beautiful post.

Ingrid Mida said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing such a tender moment about your mom. My mother is also a tea drinker and my most treasured gift from her was her set of mismatched china tea cups. Each one tells a story.

Mary-Frances said...

You may have converted me to a tea drinker - what a lovely post and what a beautiful project.


Denise Felton said...

Susan, thank you so much for sharing this lovely piece and touching story. I just put a link to this post on my blog. Perhaps a few folks who otherwise would have missed the post will get to enjoy it.


Maureen said...

OMG!!! It is wonderful!!!! What a great post, what a great piece, what a great presentation. You have out done yourself again. I have to read it several more times.

PS Sorry I was late and it was nice you were there before me.

beadbabe49 said...

Just another thank you for sharing this very special story behind your's changed the way I look at it...I'm really looking at all the details.

Ati said...

You made me cry... My mom died also of cancer after 5 weeks care from me and my sis.. she died at 8 am and all what we needed then was a cup of tea......
14 years ago.

Ati said...

I forgot to tell you how terrific the journal page is. Wonderful work!!

Robin said...

Your river of tea flowing along the beautiful banks of life carrying S.S.Tea and Mini-You with a peaceful face and playful pants is now forever in my heart. By association, your mother, though I never met her, is in my heart too.

You wrote the poem too, right?

Your many, diversified talents are such a gift to the universe. Bless you! Robin A.

Vicki W said...

Absolutely beautiful. Everything - the bead journal, the story about your Mom and that perfect poem! Thank you for sharing that today.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

My Gram and I (and Kiddo too!) share a love of tea - Gram is from Ireland, so of course that's where we all learned it from. :)

I think this is my very favorite of all the projects you've ever done. Way to go!

Marty52 said...

Such a powerful post, Susan. I'm sitting here drinking a cup of PB tips myself as I read it. Such a lovely ritual to bind your family together in good times and bad. Thanks for this.

Judy S. said...

Wonderful post, Susan! I LOVE your BJP as well as your mini-me.j

Denise said...

Oh my... those words, those pictures and that sentiment is so kind and thoughtful. Thank-you so much for such a thoughtful gift, really, what an incredibly kind gesture.

Vicky aka Stichr said...

I love your tea-bead, though it got rather tough to see through the tea-rrrs....oh, I had to liven my moment here.

Beautiful beading! Oh, and tell Jack, congrats on finishing the swim! {you think your mom is embarrassing? you should ask my daughter about me!!}

verobirdie said...

I was at work when the phone rang to tell me my father was dead. My office pal Irene got me a one a cup of warm tea, I mean a real cup of real tea (she is british...). It was long ago, and I still remember that cup of tea.

Your post is a very sensible one. Thanks for sharing this story.

flyingbeader said...

Susan, this is probably one of the best pieces I've seen this year. It really touched my heart & YEAH! you made a doll...a wonderful fabulous doll. My Father & I were coffee drinkers. We rode together to the hospital every night the last year he was alive. He'd get to my house & I'd have a pot on ready for both of us to have a jolt of caffeine before we rode down the rode to work. In that one short year, my Daddy became my friend sharing stories, and telling me secrets. He had cancer & was too proud to stop working. Some days he'd cry on the way home because he was so tired. So you see, your piece did touch my heart & made me see that sometimes just a beverage can connect us. Thank you. dot

Anonymous said...

lovely post. lovely bead journal - especially the little 'you' doll. but please can you add a blubber warning at the start of these posts, so i dont cry all over my breakfast and keyboard...again!

KV said...

Well done, Susan! Your poem, your story, and especially your beading are as beautiful as your soul.

In my family, it was coffee -- but I love tea as much as coffee any day!

Kathy V in NM

Sheila said...

Your BJP and post are WONDERFUL!

Unknown said...

Whoa. Bead journaling are you. This is a very special piece and story. Thanks for sharing yourself so deeply.

Tracey Leeder said...

I am so choked up reading your beautiful post. It touched my heart in many different ways, from the memories of losing my Father to cancer, to also being one of his caretakers. I remember when about 3 days before he died, he clearly asked for a piece of chocolate cake. We knew he couldnt eat it, but we made it anyway, and each of us ate a small piece for him. I am also a tea drinker and find it to be so calming and soothing. Much more so than coffee. I will think of you this evening when i make my last cup of tea for the night. Cheers my friend! You are a beautiful human being.

Anne Marie - Toronto said...

Wonderful piece and stunning post. I agree, you just keep on getting better. I'll toast to you with my own cuppa tea. Alas, it's unleaded for me, as in Tetley decaffinated. The bonus is that I save and empty the tea bags and use them for mixed media backgrounds.

LindaSonia said...

What a heartwarming and lovely memory. Thanks so much for sharing. LindaSonia

Unknown said...

Beautiful story and gorgeous project. Thank you for sharing your amazing talent! :)

Jo in NZ said...

Susan, you are such a wonderful writer. Every word speaks of how much you love your mother.
I am a tea drinker to, all day every day. I will think of my tea differently now...

You touched many hearts today.

Cathy said...

Another masterpiece! (and the pictures of your BJP are beautiful, too). 111
Big hugs, Cathy

Wanda said...

Maybe you will never know how sharing your story, so personal and so private, affected others. Everything happens for a reason.

pam T said...

OH Susan! you were right, glad I had the Kleenex! Thank you for sharing this incredible story. It is beautiful, the story, the beading...
you have touched many, many people with this, including me.

Debra Dixon said...

Thank you, Susan.

Anonymous said...

You are such a wonderfully talented and diverse artist. I LOVE your work and how well you communicate your thoughts and simbolizm (sp) of your work. I am always encouraged by your blog.

Elizabeth said...

Susan, What a masterpiece- the post and ,oh yeah, the beading too!!! you are a marvel- a writter , an artist , a philosopher, a wonderful daughter and mom, and a friend!! Simply amazing. i am going to share this post with several friends who treasure tea and art and life!! thank you so much for this!!
Big Warm Hugs!

JoWynn Johns said...

It's all been said, but I want to add my word of appreciation for this splendid work of art--all of it. Very, very moving.

Barbara C said...

What a lovely piece, and a great post to accompany it.

Lisa Boni said...

Beautiful, beautiful work. Such a lovely and touching story about your mother and her last cup of tea. I'm sitting here reading through blog posts with a large cup of tea ~ Scottish Breakfast for me ~ tea is woven through my life too, as I think it is for many of us who do handwork!

Padparadscha said...

Oh, what a wonderful piece, and what a touching story !

This is very very moving to the tea drinker I am. Thank you so much for sharing.

robin michelle said...

Beautiful project! You have an amazing talent. I loved the story & you were right about the kleenex!

Patti G. said...

Susan, A friend sent me over to read your post and see your gorgeous beading. What a heartfelt and dear exchange! I am sorry for the loss of your sweet Mom, but thankful that you have a family that shares love, support of eachother and tea!

moi said...

This is a touching post. Thank you for sharing it. As a Brit, tea is a way of life. Thanks for the reminder. said...

I cannot believe that i missed this post, Susan. Thank you to Robin for writing about it this week!!! What a glorious story of transition and life and love. Your piece is so very beautiful in all ways...what a lucky mother you had and have and are...One day, i will be there to have tea with you as well!



artandtea said...

What a lovely post and journal piece. Thanks so much for sharing your art and your heart.
Tea has been a very special part of my life for years now and has brought so many wonderful things with it.

Saraqan of Vulpine Reach said...

What a wonderful way to celebrate your mom... such a lovely post.

stringplay said...

This is such a fabulous beaded piece and I love your post of the inspiration behind your lovely work. I'm definitely bookmarking your blog so I can follow your Summer Charm School posts. The first ribbonwork piece is beautiful.

Lindah said...

This post was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing such a lovely tribute to your Mom and to your family.

I came over on the recommendation of Vicky W. I'm glad that I did.


Chris Daly said...

Sounds like the perfect cup. Your project is so lovely. Your story breaks my heart and yet fills me with joy for the love you share with your family.

allie aller said...

Pictures, writing, sentiment, all telling a beautiful truth.
Thank you, Susan....

coral-seas said...

Susan, you have produced another beautiful BJP page and a moving post to share it. You'll be surprised to know that this one did not have me in tears. No, I found it rather comforting.

I too come from a family of tea drinkers. Tea starts and ends the day, greets guests, refreshes the weary and provides comfort. I am surprised that I never recognised the ritual of tea, I guess that it has been too engrained in the fabric of my life.

I enjoyed reading about this tender and treasured moment with your Mother. I feel priveledged that you shared it with us.


Art4Sol said...

This is a beautiful story to read of your mom...while I'm having my morning tea. Of course your bead journal is exquisite too.

anne said...

I don't have much time to read the post of the blogs I try to follow. But you are the one, I always read, because of you beautiful big photos, your artwork and your way of writing. Not only this art skills, you also swim, bike and run. You are an amazing woman.
Everything was said about your lovely and touching story, I would like to add that I've notice the fantastic teapot on your photos. It's a beautiful piece.

Bo Breda said...

I found your blog while looking for pictures of b. michael's clothing. Just an accident, you might say, but the coincidence of interests astounds me. I am a clothing designer, educator, and bead artist. My mom (began teaching me to sew and embroider and love books when I was 5), who died 1½ yrs ago of pancreatic cancer was a dedicated tea brewer. No teabags were allowed in our house. Dad drank coffee but she and I only tea. Every kind of tea - especially good pekoe, strong Assam, and herbal ones for every ailment. Crochet and knitting came later from my aunt Mary when I was about 12. Born in Texas, grew up in NYC, summers in Louisiana, have lived in Washington DC, Illinois, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and now am running the fashion design program at the Art Institute of California/San Francisco. Currently reading Paid and Loving Eyes by Jonathan Gash. Thanks for the lovely, thoughtful blog.

Susan Lenz said...

Absolutely a wonderful piece...of beading, prose, poetry, and life! Thanks for sharing!

Leslie said...

Thank you! How lovely it all is and now I need a hankie.

Sherry said...

I have been a header for twenty years and found your blog researching tambour embroidery, I always wanted to learn embroidery, thought I would have many years to do so. In Sept of 2013 I found out I have an aggressive form of lung cancer and am told even with all the treatments I can only expect a year or two at best. Thank you for sharing you beautiful work and the story of your mother. I hope when the time comes I have the kind of love she had surrounding her, around me.

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