This was shared with me by my dear friend Susan Page Tillett whom I first met during my time at the Ragdale Artist Residency Program in Lake Forest in 2010. At the time she was the executive director and "guardian of the muse" at Ragdale, her mother was living with Alzheimer's, she was supportive of me and my journey with Gregory and Alzheimer's, and it turned out we had many mutual close friends.
CONVERSATION BETWEEN JEAN PAGE AND GREG MAIRE, OCTOBER 4, 2015
NOTE: Today is the anniversary of my mother’s death five years ago, as well as the day of Greg’s passing, also of pneumonia, also after years of Alzheimer’s. The one has made the other very poignant.
They meet in Heaven. I see my mother sitting with her feet up on her Eames chair, in her house on P Street in Washington DC. Gregory comes to her front door. He is so tall that he needs to bend slightly to cross the threshold.
J: There you are. I’ve been waiting for you! Can I fix you a drink?
G: I would enjoy a glass of wine red wine. It has been a long time since anyone has offered me one.
J: Well, you finally decided to join us here in Heaven. What do you think?
G: It looks more like Earth than I thought it would. I was expecting more Pearly Gates and clouds.
J: It looks like that sometimes, but sometimes it just looks like a glass of wine between old friends on a Sunday evening…and I feel we are old friends. We have my daughter Susie in common.
G: Yes, really she knew Michael better than me, but I saw her warmth and her beauty at Ragdale. She also extended great kindness to me, being comfortable going out for dinner with me when I couldn’t remember what a fork was for or how to eat my salad. She was unrattled by that.
J: You have me to thank for that. I gave her a lot of experience watching Alzheimer’s patients.
G: Yes, I know she felt the pain of your long stay very much.
J: She has a tender heart, my girl, which means that it is frequently broken, but it makes her who she is.
G: It makes her a great woman, Jean. I am not sure you always saw that in her. She loved so many people at Ragdale. She made that a welcoming home of creativity and possibility. She held the heart of that place, welcoming each person. I know that Michael talked about how kind she was to him.
J: Yes, I think it is true in many ways that I didn’t see her great compassion and kindness. She didn’t need me to as much as her sisters did. Despite her father’s wounding of her, she was always a pretty healthy little chicken, but I’m glad to hear it from you. It makes me proud as a mother and I do watch her and I did come to greet her when she came to Heaven. I was in her vanguard, but perhaps its always been a bit more about me than her. We are who we are Gregory…you and Michael, Susie and me, we are all as we are.
G: So, what will I do here in Heaven, Jean?
J: Well, you will see, it is very much as on Earth. You do what you do, you love what you love, but we let go of so much striving. As an architect, I know you love beauty. You will find great beauty here and harmony and wholeness and peace. I think that peace has been the greatest gift to me here.
G: I don’t know what that will look like for me. I know that I will want to spend a lot of time watching Michael and seeing how he does.
J: Yes, you will at first. You will want to see how he memorializes you and how he gets on with life. The ties do lessen, as they must, in order for them to go on and us to be fully here. Just like on Earth it all takes time but it all works out, so just give it time.
G: OK, I can do that.
J: You know there are wonderful books to read here and people to talk to. I mean everybody who is anybody who has died is here and you can talk to them. It is better than a book club or the Sunday paper to encounter them directly! And we have things that we work on, things we didn’t get right in the last life, or we didn’t get finished.
G: What are you working on Jean?
J: I had a lot of issues with my parents. I loved my father and I lost him. I never forgave my mother for his death, so I’ve had to learn to see them in three dimensions rather than two, to see my father’s foibles and my mother’s gifts and to review my own foibles as a mother. To watch my children and my grandchildren grow.
G: Thank you for welcoming me this Sunday evening, Jean. I appreciate it very much.