Gifting Stones

I’m not very good at receiving gifts. I recall when I was a teen, I much preferred giving gifts than receiving them. I suppose I took the quote “’tis better to give than to receive” more seriously. Or perhaps I didn’t feel worthy of receiving. I remember there were times I’d criticize the gift itself to hide my discomfort at receiving the thing.

I’ve gotten to know a few folks in my life who’ve helped me look at receiving gifts more graciously.

So when I opened up the little bubble mailer I received yesterday, I was pleased and touched. It was a small, beautifully painted stone. (I could call it a rock, because the artist, Laurie, rocks!)

With the art came a message of hope. And, really this didn’t come out of nowhere. I first became acquainted with Laurie’s “rockin’” art in March of 2018.

My friend Jan had come to visit me after the Yountville murders, and we met Laurie and her friend at the impromptu memorial on grounds. Laurie had created hand-painted stones for each of the murder victims, including one tiny stone for the unborn daughter who had also perished.  Jan and Laurie hit it off right away. (Jan can talk to anyone — once a reporter, always a reporter, or maybe she just loves a good story, like I do.)

Later, in that dark March, I received a large, lumpy package. It had four lovely painted stones in it.  The stones have mandalas on them. Colorful, meditative. When I hold them, I feel grounded, focused. 

Now, in 2020, I have my Yountville stones on a shelf in my home office, where I can see them. 

Just this week a stone caught my eye and triggered a memory. It was a good memory. One of a friend who cared to reach out to an artist who sent me a gift of color and weight. A tangible piece of hope, of caring.

It reminds me that there are good people in the world. People who have compassion. People who give with no strings — just because they feel like giving.

I’m saving my Yountville stones for the day we move into a house of our own. I want to incorporate them into the landscaping somehow. SO they can be admired and enjoyed by others. So they can become beautiful splashes of color, integrated with other things, but part of the larger design.

Just like the experiences and memories I associate with the rocks. They become part of my emotional landscape. 

A set of positive reminders of human grace, kindness, friendship. Of compassion and care. I’ve learned how to receive gifts, now. I’m getting better at it, more open to it.

And every gift, be it of art, of time, of a hug or an understanding nod, of a poem, or a snippet of text that shows the giver’s heart–it touches me.  I’m thankful. My new quote is “Tis good to receive.” I am worthy of this gift. At least someone thought so. And for this as well, I’m grateful.

On the Approach of March 9

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Photo taken by Ursula in March 2018

This week is going to (and already has started off as) a tough week of memories as we approach the first year anniversary of unspeakable tragedy. There are so many people who impressed me forever with their bravery and resilience. I will acknowledge them here, whether they ever hear it from me or not, I still feel this way. To the Admin building staff: thank you for keeping it together during the longest hours of our lives.  We all wanted to get out there and do something but were repeatedly told to stand down. It was very hard to sit there, knowing our residents were facing additional and perhaps life-threatening trauma by not having access to their medication and by being stranded in between buildings.  Thank you to the one employee who shared news when she got it. We knew the standoff ended badly before it was announced on the news. I still remember the gut punch when we were aware “they’re all dead. All of them.” Thank you to the then Chief of Plant Ops and another manager who donned bullet proof vests to make food deliveries to our stranded elderly and disabled. Thank you to nursing and medical staff — some of you were in an even more traumatic situation that I pray you can somehow come to terms with. You are courageous and amazing.  Thank you SNF Administrator Steven Cope. You kept me sane during the aftermath. God bless you. Thank you Napa County Sheriff, but most specifically, thank you Deputy Lombardi. God bless you and may you have strength as the trauma continues its way through the legal system. Thank you Jennifer Brusstar for sharing information and resources, as you so often did–without personal fanfare. Rabbi Book, thank you for your infinite spiritual support to anyone who needed it. Thank you unnamed CHP officers who spent time explaining things to me and the Sergeant who implicitly understood why I broke down in tears. Thank you for not making me feel weak. Thank you to the Napa County Schools. Principal Tara Bianchi. Other folks whose names I don’t know.  School counselors and personnel who knew our children were there, went out of their way to make sure our children were safe, when we couldn’t get there to take them home. Thank you Yountville staff–Steve Rogers, you were a rock, on this occasion and so many others. John Dunbar, thank you for your friendship and strength in the face of this. You are stronger than you know. And a forever thanks to Jason and Carol Galbraith, part of our veteran family, who stepped right in for our children when we couldn’t. You blessed us one hundred times over with your grace in keeping our children safe, when we couldn’t. I will always be grateful.

Thank you to the landscapers, artists, veterans, public servants and to the public at large, for acknowledging the service of those who died. Mike Chiurco. You are gifted. Thank you for your art.

Thank you crisis counselors, first responder debriefers, and all the “after” helpers. God bless those who came and helped us try to return to a semblance of normalcy. Although I don’t think any of us close to those events will ever return to “normal”, I am grateful for those who lent a shoulder, listened, brought their therapy pups, and spent time with those who needed it most. Thank you, staff, who guarded and cleaned up and kept things going. In the quietest of times, the job out there is tough. This incident threw us a terrible challenge. But you were tougher than the trauma. Thank you. You have my respect.

Finally, thank you, Christine. Jennifer, Jenn. Your service, your sacrifice, will never be forgotten.

I miss you, Christine. Sometimes I still hear your laugh.

God bless us all.


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