Rhonda Cagle

Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

Bits and Pieces

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm

My column, Bits and Pieces, as seen in The Arizona Republic. Be watching for it every other Wednesday in the Southwest Valley section.



The List

In Uncategorized on January 15, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Perfect days begin with a cup of coffee and a long soak in my hot tub. Watching the sun peek over my roof, its light wakes up my garden and the warmth of the light and heat of the swirling water brings life to me. It’s one of the pleasures of calling the West Valley home in January.

This New Year began with one of these perfect days, allowing me quiet time to reflect on what I want to accomplish this year. Tumbled, tangled mental lists of everything I’ve failed at began to spill out. Resolutely, I determined to put them at the top of this year’s list. The more I drummed up, the dimmer the day became.

And then I stopped; realizing my fists were now tightly balled and my muscles were tense, despite the warm water and pulsating jets. Resolutions are supposed to make my life healthier and better, not give me a stomachache. Thinking long and hard for a moment, I opened my hands and let my list go. I watched the tangled mess swirl and drift away from me; it’s troubles eventually dissipating like the bubbles in my hot tub.

I allowed my mind to drift through moments when I’ve felt good about myself, proud of my outcomes. More of these moments should comprise my list. So this year, creating everyday graces in the lives of those I love makes the list. So does kindness. Civility. Compassion. Quietness. Mindfulness. My to do list became a “to be” list. And the day grew bright again.

Soaking in this concept, creativity and joy bubbled up, unbidden. And my hands, tightly balled just a few minutes earlier, were open and relaxed, eager to embrace what this New Year holds.

Puzzle Peaces

In Uncategorized on January 7, 2012 at 4:27 pm

I find them everywhere these days, these pieces to a puzzle. Little bits of colorful cardboard, their uneven edges speaking of a picture that is incomplete – missing. Each of them serves as a metaphor for these past few days and I find myself trying desperately to pick up the pieces. Fit them together. Make sense of the colorful chaos. Give to grieving parents, family, and friends – to myself – a picture that makes any kind of sense. But key pieces are missing. And no matter how hard I try, I can never find or replace them – never complete the picture. Never answer the questions of “why” and “what if.”

Shaelee, my goddaughter, loved jig saw puzzles. Her mom, Susie, and I are best friends and our daughters – our only children – have been best friends since they were five. Susie and I would often find our girls in Shaelee’s bedroom, lying on the floor, working puzzles together. Their little brows furrowed in concentration, their attention would center on a hole in the picture, and their fingers would move piece after piece, trying to find the right fit.

Little girls grew into young women. Little difficulties grew into large problems as Shaelee and her parents grappled with a new puzzle known as mental illness. Each diagnosis of a new disorder brought new medications and new psychologists and therapists. Susie’s hands never stopped moving as she worked to help Shaelee put the puzzle together, trying to find the corner pieces that would give some structure and stability to a picture that had yet to emerge. It never quite did.

One last time, Shaelee laid on the floor, surrounded by her puzzle. One last time, she tried to put the pieces together. One last time, she gave up in despair – the gun in her hand forever ending the possibility of completing the puzzle.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Shaelee’s room these past few days. Her grieving parents have wanted pieces of their daughter back – pieces of her life. The ruby necklace passed down from her grandmother. The new dress she had just bought and her favorite pair of shoes – something to bury her in. Her iPod and phone charger so they can listen to her voice and her music one last time.

The room remains just as it was when Shaelee left this earth. Standing in the midst of it, it’s not the blood and carnage that holds my attention. All I can see are the pieces to her puzzle, outlining the area where she last laid, symbolizing the jagged pieces she could never quite make fit in this life.

I wish to God we had been able to help her put the pieces together here on this earth. I know with equal certainty God now holds her and has helped her complete the picture that eluded her in this life.

But there’s still a mom who will never again hold her baby girl. There’s still a dad whose last image of his child is where he found her body, surrounded by pieces to a puzzle left unfinished. Shaelee – her beautiful singing voice, her blue eyes, her laughter, and her impetuous quest for life – are now missing pieces in their own life puzzles. And there are so many pieces now scattered and strewn about.

There is only so much a best friend – a godmother – can do. Planning a funeral and meals, calling family and friends, only goes so far. All I can do is pick up what I can. And I can pray, asking God, in His mercy, to help them make peace with the pieces. It’s not enough, but it’s all there is.

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