Read more from A Rite Of Passage here.
Read more from A Rite Of Passage here.
Those wonderful fall days.
It’s an honor for SevenPonds to share with our readers the story of the Monday Hearts for Madalene project, a true account of the power of love in the midst of death.
The project’s origins take us to 2005: the moment Page Hodel encountered Madalene Rodriguez and fell “instantly, dizzyingly in love with her.” The couple’s first meeting was electric, and Page felt inspired to do something unique for the woman who captured her heart. So, she began leaving handmade hearts – made from flowers, leaves, and other materials – on Madalene’s doorstep. The hearts became a ritual, and they were there to greet Madalene as she left for work every Monday.
“To start her week with a visual reminder of our beautiful love.” – Page Hodel
Just seven months later, Madalene was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and passed away on June 20th, 2006. But Page’s love for her hasn’t ceased, and she continues to make a heart for her every Monday in celebration of her life.
If you would like, you can also receive Page’s “Monday Hearts for Madalene” by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org with “subscribe” written as the subject. Images of the hearts can also be purchased on individual cards and in her beautifully compiled book, Monday Hearts for Madelene. Please also visit her website and Facebook
See more Monday Hearts for Madalene here.
This is Emma’s story, as told by Sandra Fish. Our “Opening Our Hearts” stories are based on people’s real-life experiences with loss. By sharing these experiences publicly, we hope to help our readers feel less alone in their experience of grief and, ultimately, to aid them in their healing processes. In this post, we tell the story of Emma who lost her stepmother to ovarian cancer when Emma was just 16.
When I was 16 years old, my stepmother, Carol Ann, died from ovarian cancer at age 55. Although it was a long time ago and I haven’t talked about it in years, vivid memories and feelings still pop up. If I hear of someone with cancer or especially if I hear someone gagging or throwing up on TV or wherever, I just cringe. I have a visceral reaction—it’s uncomfortable, sad, scary.
Her sickness wasn’t directly discussed with me. My father was trying to keep an upbeat demeanor.
It was hard enough being a teen, living through my parents’ bitter divorce. So when my father remarried about a year later, it felt way too soon. They were only married one year when his new wife was diagnosed with cancer—talk about too soon. Her sickness wasn’t directly discussed with me. My father was trying to keep an upbeat demeanor. The household was more strict than at my mother’s. I had to make my bed in the morning. I thought, “Who does that?!?!” I was still an angry teen and had nicknamed my stepmother, my “stepmonster.” Although she tried to be really friendly, I wasn’t ready.
The worst was when I would hear her throwing up all night long—that’s when I realized, “God, she’s really sick.”
She had surgery and chemo. She had trouble sleeping. The worst was when I would hear her throwing up all night long—that’s when I realized, “God, she’s really sick.” Then came a reprieve, she went into remission for a year. Everything seemed fine, but it came back really hard. More chemo, more throwing up, but since no one really talked with me about it, I just assumed she would go into remission again—she did before, right?
Dad was always trying to keep positive. We did trips together. I remember when she didn’t have any hair and wore wigs. We went to visit my grandparents in West Palm Beach. We’d hang out at the beach, have 5 PM cocktail hour, just trying to laugh. My stepmother would allow herself to enjoy smoking and they’d let me have a cocktail. She’d laugh and just try to have fun amidst it all. These were the times the wig would come off.
But she got sicker and sicker. I could see her losing weight. At a certain point, I realized how sick she was. You’d hug her and you could just feel her bones. We went on a car trip to visit her son, who had more anger issues than I about their marriage, and he was a grown man with a family! Driving down to visit her son who had refused to come up, we had to keep pulling over for Carol to vomit. I don’t think he realized how sick his mother was. Soon, she couldn’t get food down. All she could have was tea with honey.
I hate hospitals, but I didn’t want to regret not going, so I went. When I got to her room, I looked at her. No life was left in her. I was too scared to go near her, or touch her, someone I saw alive just a few days before.
I remember her calling me into her bedroom to just talk. She opened her jewelry box and picked out a few things to give me. I think she knew it was our last time together—literally two days later she was gone. That was when she slipped or maybe fell in the bathroom and passed out. My dad freaked out. She had wanted to die at home, but he didn’t know what to do so he called paramedics who took her to the hospital. My dad called me at my mom’s to tell me Carol was dying. I hate hospitals, but I didn’t want to regret not going, so I went. When I got to her room, I looked at her. No life was left in her. I was too scared to go near her, or touch her, someone I saw alive just a few days before. My stepmother was 55 and dead, and I was just 16. It was surreal. She was cremated. I actually didn’t attend the small ceremony. My father and Carol used to hike in the Los Altos Hills. He scattered her ashes there.
And when other deaths came into my life, it wasn’t so shocking. Having someone die is sad but not totally foreign, like the first one.
In retrospect, I kind of wish they would have explained, been more honest. My dad had offered me therapy, but I thought, “Who wants to talk to a stranger?” I had a boyfriend at the time I confided in. That helped. It wasn’t fun. It stressed me out. The older I got though, when I would hear other people’s stories, I could connect, relate living through it—seeing the hair fall out, seeing them lose weight. And when other deaths came into my life, it wasn’t so shocking. Having someone die is sad but not totally foreign, like the first one.
My stepmother went to church every Sunday. My father went with her to please her. One of the pieces of jewelry Carol gave me during our last conversation was a little gold cross. I don’t wear it, but I’ve kept it all these years. I’m really glad she called me into her room that day. I’m really glad we had that time.
Were you touched by this story? Read more Opening Our Hearts stories here.
When we think about end-of-life plans – settling an estate, finding an estate lawyer – we think of our home base. But what about the individuals who have the burden of estate planning for a foreign property? What will become of their Alp lodges and Tuscan villas—should they be so lucky? If careless, one can land in a juicy quagmire.
If you’re thinking about getting property overseas, be sure to equip yourself with excellent, local legal advice. It’s naïve and not uncommon to disregard the inheritance laws of other countries (ex. the Gandolfini property was meant to go to his son and daughter when they turned 25, but it turns out that Italian law may be able to inject a share for his wife, overriding his intentions).
Explore more of SevenPonds’ tips through the Practical Tips page, in which you can discover everything from memorial craft ideas to help with end-of-life planning.
Estate planning can feel like learning a language in and of itself – so when making the decision to invest in foreign property, consider the exigencies that will come from a different culture and a different set of rules.