Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Join Mom's memorial page on facebook.

Share your stories, and post pictures!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Our darling mother passed away yesterday morning, at around 10:30am. Both of her children were at her side.

There will be a service at Dimnent Memorial Chapel on Sunday, August 14th, at 2pm. Further details to come.

Love to all,
Annie and Jon

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Annie Post: Mom is Back Home

Good very early morning to you all. Thanks so much for all your kindness over the past few days. Mom received so many flowers while in the hospital that we ran out of places to put them. Thankfully, we're back home and they're decorating every room of the house. We also have more food in our fridge than we could ever possibly eat - but that is also a wonderful blessing, as none of us have any interest in thinking about grocery shopping at present.

Hospice had come in and decked out one of our bedrooms with all the equipment and gear to keep her as comfortable as possible, and Kathy Thornhill and Carolyn Gundrum kindly found some appropriately hippie (peace signs!) sheets to throw on her bed.

Because she is very weak, we would prefer to limit visits to the house. If you'd like to see her, please call in advance, and we'll let you know if that will be possible. You are more than welcome to relay messages to her through me or Jon. If you feel the need to "do something!" as so many of you have so kindly expressed, we often need errand-runners for supplies and/or prescriptions, and Jon and I will graciously welcome any gifts of beer. Or wine. Seriously. It's needed, trust me. We might also need a place for out-of-town visitors to crash, if you have an extra room nearby.

Deborah Mack (my dad's sister), my grandpa, and our cousin Ashley will be coming into town tomorrow, and we eagerly await their arrival.

Thanks once more for your concern. It's no wonder that my mom has touched so many lives that we're now overwhelmed with your generosity. Please continue to keep her in your prayers and thoughts.

With love,

Monday, August 1, 2011

From Jon

Hi everyone,

I'm posting on mom's behalf with an update. The cancer in her liver has made her extremely dehydrated and as a result she's spending a few days at the hospital while they rehydrate her. They're also treating her for an ammonia build-up resulting from her liver's reduced capacity to filter it. The ammonia has made her a little confused, but that should clear in the next day or two.

For anyone who wants to send a card or flowers, she's at Holland Hospital in Room 411, Bed 1.

Please send all the thoughts, prayers, and positive energy you can her way.


ps - Mom needs a lot of rest while she's recovering, so if you have any questions send either Annie (ahagar at gmail dot com) or me (jonhagar at gmail dot com) an email and we'll do our best to fill you in with the latest.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Evansville Wednesday
Have been here for a week now and we have well-established rhythms to the days. My bed is the couch in the living room, a somewhat formal room full of paintings and decorative accents chosen by Geneva, painted yellow, tall windows, pleated drapes, oriental rug. My luggage, two bags, sit on a couple of occasional chairs, mouths open and displaying my stuff. I roll up my jammies and tuck them in their place, then make some coffee and take it out by the pool. Since I have been waking up very early, the sun is barely up, and the birds are in full voice, their calls somehow blending into a beautiful morning song, chirping, trilling, cawing, all at once, saying good morning. The mama bird who I have named Geneva is already out looking for breakfast and the babies are still asleep. The sun rises over the back fence at about 6:45, when I am on my second cup of coffee. The sun seems to target my face directly, though I smile at the self-absorption of that thought: God aiming the sun at me for my individual pleasure.
Within an hour or so, Geneva comes down, all sweet smiles, in her Glory Gown (so named because she says when she puts it on at night, she says, “Glory Hallelujah.”) We chat by the pool, start puttering around the kitchen, share our stories about the night and our predictions for the day ahead. Dad appears in the kitchen doorway an hour later; he loves to peek his head around the corner, his hair neatly combed, smelling good, like Dad, with his shirt all tucked in and his sandals velcroed around his Gold Toe socks just so. He favors polo shirts or short-sleeved woven ones, but the other day, sported a t-shirt reading MICHIGAN GRAMPA. He gets the paper, and gradually, the business of dressing and washing up and doing the dishes gets done. Geneva drifts upstairs to put some clothes on and roll her hair; I smoke in the chair by the pool and watch Bella trot with such a sense of purpose around the yard, barking sharply toward the fence and whatever she hears on the other side, her stomach contracting and her front legs leaving the ground with each bark.
Sometime in the afternoon, there are naps, and dinner is a bounty of fresh vegetables and fruit: sweet corn, tomatoes, peaches, asparagus, all so delicious and somehow decadent in their simplicity. After dinner, a movie from Netflix and maybe some of geneva’s delicious strawberry cake. Bedtime early after carefully locking the doors and turning off the lights. The door keys are on old keyrings and have special places in the room. I am comforted by the sense of order in this house. It is the feeling of older people who have figured out a lot of things that are still a mystery to me.

For the past couple of days I have lost my appetite and am wary of eating much of anything because of the consequences. I understand that this is because my liver isn’t able to do its job correctly. I feel apologetic asking it to do more that necessary. I miss my robust appetite. I miss stuffing my face. It isn’t like me to pick at my food or even to hesitate.
My gut is sore and distended and only loose things feel good. Bella snuggles up to it when I lay down and acts as a puppy-heating-pad, soothing the irritated feeling.

Tomorrow, we return to Michigan and to the house I said goodbye to nine days ago. I look forward to seeing my flowers and sleeping in my bed. Next week we talk to a doctor at the University of Chicago who specializes in treating melanoma. In the meantime, the rhythm of the days will unfold.


Sunday July 10, 2011

In Evansville, one can really experience a midwestern summer. I used to escape here to my dad’s comfortable old colonial house, at the end of the school year, in mid-June, and recover from the end of the year crazies by sitting by the pool and reading a good book. Little by little I would feel the brittle, tired, stiff effects of stress slowly melt into the warm animal of my body (as Mary Oliver described it): skin getting browner, sitting further back in the chair from my usual perched position, easily succumbing to a nap just about anywhere.
Last week my dad brought me down here in his seventeen year old white Lincoln continental, driving all the way down Indiana on old 41, stopping at the Subway and the Cracker Barrel, because of the cancer, because he needs to have me within his sight. Just too scary to talk on the phone with 499 miles between us right now. He needs to see for himself that I can function allright despite this giant mass of tumors in my liver, that every night I sleep and all day long I eat fresh tomatoes, sweet corn, peaches and Posey County melon without too much trouble beyond the occasional mild protestations from my digestive system. He needs to see me laugh and watch movies and help out of in the kitchen and put some makeup on the morning, which any woman knows is a sure sign that you aren’t too despondent. There is some kind of healing quality to going through the rituals of doing one’s hair, putting on the mascara and the shadow, dabbing on some cologne and showing a little cleavage. I don’t want to look like the sort of cancer patient that I grew up seeing on TV. The thing is, this isn’t all that difficult right now since I feel pretty much like I always have. I still have some kind of na├»ve protection from what I already know about this cancer that says, “yes, take those vitamins and supplements. Eat the yogurt, good for your liver.”
Dad brings me food and iced tea and offers me a blanket on the couch. He pats me on the head and on the arm and gives me such sweet, reassuring smiles that it nearly makes me cry.
There’s a birdhouse right outside the back door that has a GO BLUE license plate for a roof. Inside there are baby birds, whose wide-open mouths you can see as the mother bird comes and goes, her jumps off the edge of the little house creating a soft, swinging motion, back and forth, like a cradle. At night, she sits inside with her head framed by the round opening hole.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

cancer, the sequel

Some of you know that this blog began when I had ocular melanoma, a particularly nasty tumor in my eye that led to it's removal in February 08. Recently, questionable liver work raised a red flag and it has been determined that this cancer has now spread to my liver in a big way.
For the past few weeks, I have been thinking about writing this post and going back to reporting updates/progress through the blog once again. My family and friends have once again rallied around me and I feel the results of prayer and thoughts coming my way. They are a great comfort to me and hold me up from the pit of negativity and fear. I thank all of you for your energy and love.
I am being treated at St. Mary's Laks Cancer Center in Grand Rapids, MI, and my oncologist is Dr. Gribbin. I will be having a specialized form of treatment which will hopefully reduce the size of the tumor and allow for it to be surgically removed later, when I have enough healthy liver to handle the job later on.
I have been through the anger, the denial, and the bargaining. The Buddhists say that all suffering comes from resistance, and that makes sense to me. Taking it a day at a time has never sounded like such a good idea.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Today I wonder what and who my mother would be at 86 years old and realize that when it comes to matters of the life of the soul, neither past nor future matter and the living and the dead occupy equal places in our hearts. It doesn't matter that she has been dead for over thirty years or that she had so many dreams and wild imaginings locked deep in her heart that she felt that she could never share. What matters is what I know of her and the ways in which she lives in me and in my children.

When I found her wooden paint box yesterday, while going through long-closed boxes from another life, I was struck by how clean and orderly the brushes were and the care with which her painting cloth was folded. I pictured her hands caring for them, having watched those hands so many times in my life. I used to sit by her vanity-a little desk-like table, French Provencial, with a mirror on top that lifted up to reveal her cosmetics, bobby pins, cotton balls and the like. After her shower she would don her bathrobe and sit on the little padded bench, smiling her dazzling smile at her image as she checked the angles and the makeup application. I watched her cook and clean, sew and embroider, paint and draw. Always her beautiful hands moved with care and precision in whatever she did. Watching her write, her tiny slanted letters gracefully moving across the page, I noticed that she had her own way of making the cursive capitol letters, different than I was learning in school. I liked that about her, her originality, that little bit of rebellion against all of the things in her life that were so perfect...the model-thin figure, the perfect hair, the air of elegance, the long cigarette holder, the jewelry chosen just so, the impossibly slender feet in the high heeled shoes that were returned to box and tissue paper at the end of the day.

I am trying to remember her hands on me as she braided my long hair, tied the sashes of my handmade dresses, wiped my tears. I am aching to remember her voice and her smell. I wish I knew what she was thinking on those late nights with the book open and the scotch in her hand but her eyes looking out somewhere that I couldn't see.

clearing spaces

Sometime a couple of months ago my house began talking to me, much the way my body does periodically when it is in need of some nurturing. The greatest gift of available time and space in my daily life is being able to stop, listen, and respond to those spiritual nudges and whispers that eluded me for so long as I forged ahead being busy and responsible and whatever else it is that I thought I was being....not dancing to my own drumbeat all too often (hell, I couldn't even find the drum) but jumping through hoops someone else arranged for me in some kind of hellish obstacle course of money, job, addiction, love, and all the other things the ego counts on for a little ratings boost.
The storage room has been where my shame has been stored for the past 12 years, since I moved in to this house post-divorce with my seventeen year old daughter, two huge dogs, and a couple of cats (as is true for many older people, they all blend together in my mind now in a collage of fluffys and bonkies and lizzys and sams). A number of large packing cartons went straight down to this room unopened and were lodged under the stairway on the cement floor, after which additional items accumulated around the room's edges, with shelving erected and boxes stacked, some overflowing as time went on.
Also added were lots of canvases and drawing pads from Annie's time in art school, my own art supplies from my fits and starts as a painter, bins of holiday sweaters, a gradually growing collection of Christmas stuff, boxes of books that I didn't know what to do with, and then, bins with items from my dead mother, items from my dead sister, brought home after funerals in the back of the car. I could see the old VCR tapes of my children's school concerts and our family vacations, books I read to them at night. I began to feel that there were the faintest stirrings of ghosts in that room: ghosts of my children, my family, my life.
Stinky the cat was a casualty of the move, maybe, and also of the revolving door of huge dogs that were a part of my household. Never a very outgoing cat, Stinky retreated more and more to the confines of that storage room, making a sort of home base under the stairs, way back in the corner, where she undoubtedly felt safe. Over time she began to reject the litter box in favor of that little corner. Attempts to bring her into the rest of the house were not very successful; though she tolerated a little snuggling it was obvious she was always anxious to run back into her little spot.
Although I tried to keep up with it, the storage room gained a life of its own, and eventually,
I just tried to pretend it wasn't there, but that corner of my house, the bottom corner, felt heavy and dark, thick, oppressive. Over the years I confided in friends about my shameful room and they always reassured me that everyone has a room or a garage or a basement like that. It was small consolation; it didn't comfort me to know this and my discomfort with that room lived with me in this house every day. I knew that this room represented much more than accumulated clutter; it was literally my baggage, an outward symbol of inner weight. Attempts to make a dent always failed. I began to relate to the poor souls on reality shows whose stuff begins to overtake them. I understood. This was my hoarder room, the sludge of my past swirling through it.
So, with Annie agreeing to help, I rented a dumpster, bought masks and gloves and a shop-vac and attacked. My idea was to throw those under-the-stairs boxes directly into the dumpster, but Annie insisted that every one of them be opened and its contents viewed. "I want you to see, Mom" she said, "that there are no ghosts in there."
And I did see. What was in those boxes? Mostly toys-Annie's extensive Barbie collection (houses, garages, soda shops, furniture, jeeps, corvettes...), childhood favorite toys, baseball mitts and cards, and lots of other tiny toys that made Annie squeal when she saw them. I saw my sophisticated daughter become a little girl again. It was joyful work.
We filled the dumpster, somehow, with I don't know what. It seems that these items disappeared from my memory in mid-air as we heaved them in. Piles of things to keep and things for the Goodwill truck emerged and later were relocated to new homes.
With the help of a great book about feng shui and clutter, I performed a space clearing ceremony, clapping in the corners to release the stagnant energy, burning incense, doing some yoga moves designed to flush out the old and invite in the fresh and new. It is important to remove jewelry and shoes and feel the space with outreached hands. Through them I could feel that the heaviness had lifted and the energy was now flowing. I am keeping the door open for the time being, enjoying inviting the room into the rest of my house and often wandering in just to stand there and feel that space embracing me and dancing around me. Annie was right about the ghosts.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


It was Friday afternoon and I had just grabbed my bag off the turnstile and headed outside for a post-flight cigarette. Shivering a little in my denim jacket and already missing the warm breezes and hot sun of Palm Beach, I fumbled in my bag for my lighter near a concrete bench, when out of nowhere, I heard a voice and sensed a presence in front of me. I looked up to see a tall young man with his hand out. "Do ye have a cigarette?"
As I looked up, he added, "Is that ok to do in America?"
"Of course...."handing him a Virginia Slim and lighting him up, "we are friendly people here in America. Smokers always like to help each other out."
He took a deep drag and I sized him up...probably 34 or so, strawberry, close-cropped hair, a preppy vest and button-down shirt, khakis, a wardrobe bag over his shoulder, broad shoulders hunched against the Chicago wind.
Making conversation, the kind fellow smokers make in their little approved smoking areas when traveling, I asked him where he was from.
"Dublin....here for a wedding. And, fucking Lord (excuse me), I am so drunk! So fucking drunk, by the Christ. Can the TSA arrest me?" he asked with real concern.
I assured him that I didn't think so, unless he made a scene, but that he seemed ok to me.
Turns out he was in Chicago for a wedding. Turns out that he has a sister in Palm Beach. He told me his mother has red hair like me. Robert was the best part of my trip home.
I gave him a couple more cigarettes before I left and as I headed for the train hoped he would be ok finding a cab and making it to his hotel. This guy, drunk after nine hours on a plane and too many beers. I imagined that he was quite a hit on the plane. I imagined toasting and bawdy jokes. I regretted that I didn't think to take his picture.
I really love to travel. Besides drinking in the new sights, sounds and smells of a different place, there is always the random encounter with other beings who you will never meet again, who are strangers but in some way familiar, with connections to you, who remind you of someone, somewhere, a memory, a wish.
At Jensen Beach I tried out the telephoto lens of my camera on some gulls and other shore birds. One brave bird circled our blanket with his mouth open, looking for a handout. There he was, seemingly out of nowhere, hoping for something. Like Robert.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Blanket

I first saw it on a trip to the antique mall last July.
The blanket was folded and hanging from the rung of an old ladder that was leaning against the wall of a booth in the back of the mall-a booth filled with old wooden tools, chairs and shutters. I was drawn to the color first-my favorite color, somewhere between a pink and a peach, a color I struggle to label. "Salmon" doesn't sound right, but "cinnamon" conjures a darker hue; at any rate, it was beautiful and soft and it drew me to it at a most visceral level. You had to touch it. I looked at the price tag: 48 dollars. It wasn't in the budget, especially in July, especially with my commitment to be mindful of every dollar: 48 dollars was a week of groceries, after all. Better to visit the blanket once in awhile and appreciate it without having to own it. I walked away that day and on several other days over the coming months, never removing it from the ladder rung and unfolding it, never daring to become more in love with it.

On New Year's Day, the antique mall had a big sale, and I returned, hoping that my blanket would be marked down. It was a festive occasion, with dedicated antiquers feasting on homemade treats laid out on tables, drinking coffee and feeling the comradarrie that always wells up when people of like interests gather. I walked straight to the back of the mall and it was still there. The sign on the booth said, "20% OFF", but the blanket's sign said, "FIRM" below the price. I removed the blanket from the rung and draped it over my arm, feeling the thrill of a successful stalk-and-win situation. If the booth's owner would give me the 20% off, I would finally buy it.

As i rounded the corner, a woman browsing with her husband noticed my treasure. She said, "Oh, I love that blanket. I have seen it here before. How lucky that you found it...I was going to go back and get it!" We admired its softness, beauty and pristine condition together for a few minutes before I moved on. A few steps later, another woman, younger, exclaimed, "that is my sister's blanket! She always talked about it!" Another woman, proprietor of another booth, joined us and chimed in, " I love that blanket! And, it is in such good shape! Did you look at it?"
We unfolded it together and held it up; we all cooed and smiled over the lovely design, which appeared with the colors reversed on the other side. It was, I realized, pristine indeed. The delicate blanket stitch around the edge was perfect and there were no stains or worn spots. I began to realize just what a find this blanket was through the eyes of the gathered admirers. I wondered why I had not thought to inspect it before, and I felt a silly sort of pride that it was going to be mine. When a worker asked if she could take the blanket to the register for me, I declined. I was not going to let that blanket leave my arms.
I never did barter with the blanket's owner. I paid full price and I paid it gladly.

I put the blanket on my bed and for the first time looked at the label delicately sewn on to one of the corners. It read, "Orr Health Blanet. The colors of this blanket were inspired by the Holland Tulip." So, a connection to my adopted home town of 40 years. Another sign that this was destiny, this was intended to be my blanket.

I have slept under this blanket on all of these cold winter nights. I have draped it over me while reading in bed. I have spread it out over the bed every morning, carefully smoothing out the wrinkles, my hand delighted by the thick, rich softness of the wool. I now know, through some online research, that it was made in about 1930. With its lack of wear, I imagine that someone got it for a wedding present and, thinking it too expensive a treasure for everyday use, put it in a chest or a closet. Too expensive to use, to fall in love with, to deserve to own. I understand that.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Therefore, tell me:
what will engage you?
What will open the dark fields of your mind,
like a lover
at first touching?

-from "Flare", by Mary Oliver



My face catches the wind
from the snow line
and flushes with a flush
that will never wholly settle.
Well, that was a metropolitan vanity,
wanting to look young forever, to pass.
I was never a pre-Raphaelite beauty
and only pretty enough to be seen
with a man who wanted to be seen
with a passable woman.
But now that I am in love
with a place that doesn’t care
how I look and if I am happy,
happy is how I look and that’s all.
My hair will grow grey in any case,
my nails chip and flake,
my waist thicken, and the years
work all their usual changes.
If my face is to be weather beaten as well,
it’s little enough lost
for a year among the lakes and vales
where simply to look out my window
at the high pass
makes me indifferent to mirrors
and to what my soul may wear
over its new complexion.

–Fleur Adcock