Set me a seal upon your heart,
As a ring upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death...
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
A flame of the Eternal.

Song of Songs viii 6-7

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Journal Entry
Saturday 09/4/2004
London, England

Max’s sister, Char, met me in London. My first trip abroad, and oh, what a trip! She told me they’d had nothing but rain and cold weather for weeks on end. But the day I arrived, the sky was clear, the air balmy, with temperatures climbing “high” into the seventies. Char said I must have brought the desert heat with me. I chuckled because the air seemed a tad brisk to me. In any event, these delightful conditions certainly satisfied both of us.

What a great landing. It took me less than an hour to fall in love with London: people promenading in the streets and that catchy tune, “England Swings Like a Pendulum Do” reverberating in my brain. It was an ice cream, popcorn and beer kind of night. After all those years, I was finally learning first-hand what the hullaballoo is all about.

Despite that residual case of “balloon toe,” I silently applauded myself for keeping up with Char. I’m sure she thought differently, because every so often she’d turn around and holler, “C’mon, let’s go!” You see, we had to run-limp to get to the theatre on time to see “The Mousetrap,” an incredible play, held over for fifty years. No, not fifteen, fifty! Things like that just don’t happen in the States. We are all too ready to throw out the historic hubs of yesteryear in favor of a couple of catchy sound bites and the must-have toys of today, all of which lose their luster as soon as we’ve had our flimsy fun with them. But England doesn’t strike me that way. Most people seem rather unassuming and perhaps a bit more appreciative of what they have. Was it World War II and the bombing of London that had such a strong and lasting effect? Or maybe it’s their form of government. On the other hand, England’s hefty tax structure would probably cause any inhabitant to be more appreciative of their possessions, material or otherwise.

Amazingly, we arrived on time. What a great show – enigmatic, powerfully performed and funny. I could have seen it three more times. That’s because my eyelids kept drooping, but not because of the play which was brilliant! It was because of the “all nighter” I pulled while crossing the Atlantic. With a newborn crying next to me, I caught maybe a half hour of sleep all night. But it didn’t matter. I certainly couldn’t stay mad at the little darling, stuck up there on the plane like me. I mean, we had a lot in common. I was just about ready to bawl too. Let’s face it, we were all in the same boat, er ship, er contraption that attempts to fly in the air.

Thank goodness, it did!

For these reasons, my descent into oblivion began not long after the curtain ascended – as I settled back into my seat. Yes, Char did her best and gave me a couple of nudges… or more. Lucky for me, she wasn’t hardnosed about it. And yes, I did try to straighten up, but my body had other ideas. I’d sit up straight as a post and soon find myself drifting off… again.

During the intermission, I begged Char to pour vast quantities of coffee down my throat. “Oh, their espresso should work just fine!” I said.

She just smiled dubiously.

Well, the stuff did help, for about ten minutes or so. Never mind, if I hadn’t been punch-drunk, I’d have been mortified by my own behavior.

After the final curtain and copious rounds of applause, Char was finally able to slip into the powder room and tend to herself for a change. I hoped she wasn’t too annoyed with me, but I decided it best to wait outside.

Maybe the brisk night air will clear out this brain fog.

Ah, taking in the smells of the city, I thought, where’s all the soot they kept telling me about? Smiling, I savored the richness of the extraordinary evening. Yet, as I watched the passersby, I was beginning to feel like a kid at the zoo. Something strange is going on, I thought. Maybe it has happened already… a dash of déjà vu… or as Max would say, déjà went. Had the play made me giddy? Perhaps it was the coffee, or just a lack of REM; or maybe it was the narrow buildings, pitched at an angle (like me) as if they might topple over at any moment. No matter, I just stood there, enthralled by the sights and sounds of London.


Then, without warning, a blast of cigarette smoke sears my nostrils.

“What the hack hack… heck?” I rasp. Sensing the perpetrator to my right, I turn, about to say, “You ridiculous fool, how dare you blow smoke in my face!”

I look hard, expecting to find the joker doing his dirty deed. But, oddly, not a soul is there.

Perhaps I’ve stymied the very word. For my eyelids start to flicker and no sooner than you can say magical mystery tour,(1) a hologram-like figure takes shape before the leaning towers… no more than a few feet from my nose. I can almost make out the image, translucent yet diffuse in color… then, a maroon jacket emblazoned with a crazy Rupert the Bear insignia…

…the one so dear to me. “It’s you!” I gasp even as I think, So you’re the culprit I’ve been looking for. And I watch him glide around London in that juvenile jacket of his, incongruously smoking one of his favorites… flowing toward me like the cloud of smoke he’s exhaling.

A design within a design – Chaos modeling at its finest.

“Max,” I smile and say, “you’re like a Lorenz attractor, but wavier.”(2)

Swept up on the wings of a profound sense of awe, I try to gather what’s left of my earth-bound self – if only for the benefit of the lingering few who might think I’ve lost it, talking to the air and such. Then, going deep, I step back into the shadows and breathe in the spicy scent of a wayward city: London, the cacophony, the ultimate harmony. And, in the stillness of the deep, a trace of sandalwood and a smile… he comes ripping through. Max.… home, at last, I merge with the heart of him. For here, time has no measure. Here, we turn together in silence, marveling at the mind-boggling slopes in the sky. Here, my sight softens into the sliver of a moon and a star. And in this singular moment, I know the meaning of forever.


1. From the “Magical Mystery Tour” Soundtrack Album (compilation) by The Beatles, released in the United States on 11/27/67.

2. From Chaos Theory, in this case for small values of the Rayleigh number, ρ. The Lorenz attractor, named for Edward N. Lorenz, is an example of a non-linear dynamic system corresponding to the long-term behavior of the Lorenz oscillator. For pictures, plots and further details, see Lorenz attractor online in Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 8-2011.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Journal Entry
Sunday 08/29/2004
Mid afternoon
Day before full moon

Today I began to rummage through some jewelry bins and boxes to prepare for my trip abroad. Though I still have a few days left to pack, I decided to polish my rings, earrings and some other sparkly pieces. Moving at a leisurely pace might even help heal my toe, I thought. So I hobbled to the kitchen and made up a tray of tea and cookies and set it on the coffee table. Then slowly, I lifted my bandaged foot onto the table.

“Ouch… there.”

“Once it’s steady, it’s fine.”

Soon, my attention turns to an antique basket of rings and I start poking around. One by one, I turn them over in my hand; the golds and silvers, the shapes and colors of each gemstone remind me of days gone by. Brushing back a little tear, I rummage around till thumb and forefinger hit something large and seemingly out of place.

Lifting it up with my index finger, I smile.

“It’s yours,” I say to my alter ego. “You used to call it your ‘Turkish wedding ring’.”1 I lift up the interlocking chain and spin it around on my finger. Why did I think I’d stashed away it in my velvet pouch?

So many memories…

I’m no longer able to contain the water so I just let it flow and grab a tissue off the table. “It’s oxidized,” I say, puffing away. “Time for a good buff.” So I reach for the silver polish and a soft cloth. It’s a stubborn one, but soon the tarnish begins to wear thin, revealing the natural gleam of silver. Hey!

Still, something’s gnawing at me. “Why do I have two of your rings? I don’t need to keep more than one. “Giving it a final buff, I say to myself, Most widows get rid of their husband’s things after they die. Some of them even do it in the first few weeks.

But I can’t seem to… I just…

Sighing, I try to resolve this by saying what my friends keeps telling me, “Maybe you just need a little more time, dear.” Regardless, one thought leads to another, and soon I’m remembering my wedding ring and the interlocking band matching his own. No more than a few minutes before Max’s friends and loved ones began to arrive at the funeral home, I put my ring in his keepsake chest. “Take this with you, darling,” I said. Then, smelling the sweetness of the lonely rose, I placed it softly beside the ring.

Now, I look up at the ceiling as if my dearest friend and husband might still be hiding there, somewhere, like a charming caracal. I cry out in sadness, and yet with the greatest of joy, “Hey Max, I’m on my way to England!”

“Will visit your family first, of course. Then, guess what, I’m going to take a bus to Wellington. You know, the headmaster’s taking me on a tour of your old school. How cool is that?” The room is getting warmer as evaporation tickles my cheeks, so I scratch my face, but nothing can stop the babbling stream. “And guess what else, I’m going to Windsor to see your cousin Nate, and… and…” and in a flash, comes the roar of an engine, gaining in speed and might! I look around as if I might suddenly find myself sitting on the scary railroad tracks of yesteryear. As the clamor rises up, Tiggi darts in from the hall and stops short. I watch her in disbelief as her eyes practically pop out of their sockets as an ungodly sound emanates from her mouth.

That’s the first time I’ve ever heard a cat snarl like a salivating pit bull.

Still, she’s ogling something at the east end of the house. Fear crawls like thorny branches up the back of my neck. “My God,” I cry, “it’s coming from the dining room!”

Not considering my toe, I can’t even get myself to budge.

Soon, a crackling sound, an electrical pop and a crash… “What’s happening!” I scream. Despite the little mallets beating at my chest cavity and a deep-seated desire for self-preservation, curiosity conquers all reason. I hobble to the dining room doorway, only to watch in horror as books, candles, flowers, and my purple vase “hurl themselves” from the table to the floor – well, this is exactly how it looks! I make a lunge for the purple pot, but it’s too late, I’m no match for the velocity of this mighty projectile. I can only look on in indignation as my lovely vase smashes against ceramic tile…

…slivers fly everywhere in slomo.

I scream, “My God, this can’t be happening!”

And, as the objects stop spinning and slowly settle in place, numbness fills my body and my brain.

This is not real.

Now there is no sound… no movement… nothing. My ears are ringing as an eerie calm descends upon the room. I’m sitting in a crumpled ball on the futon, staring at the clutter before me. Tiggi mews disconsolately, attempting to coil her trembling body around my arm. I want to stroke her but my hand feels like a fossil, petrified… and soon my brain lapses into a freeze like I have never known.


After who-knows-how-long and shadows skulking like trolls along the dining room wall, I come to the dim realization that I had lost consciousness. After viewing what I had always considered to be impossible – a manifestation made only for moviegoers – I must have blacked out. Then after awhile, in an effort to get my bearings, I come to the vast conclusion that I must do something, anything. After all, the clutter on the floor is not going to get up and walk away.

Still, I am gratified to see that nothing more has moved. “Well, that’s a start!”

And so, with the heartening mews of one courageous cat, I pull Tiggi up and give her the bear hug she deserves.

By and by, I turn on the high beams and, like an inspector, conduct a sweep of the area… from the now-bare table to the incredible mess on the floor. All the while, I’m shaking my head in stupefaction. It is incomprehensible to me that all the things that cluttered my dining room table for an entire week now reside on the floor. Under normal circumstances (hmmm, like when would that be?) I keep my keys, books and other things on the table so they’re handy for me when I go out. Maybe I’ll read a chapter between appointments, I think, as I grab my keys and dash to the car. Now I’m staring at the daunting mess. What to do? What to do?

Thankfully, in due course, this (all too familiar) state of bewilderment starts wearing off; perhaps brain cells are beginning to form once more. And so, with a renewed sense of purpose, I focus my attention on the bits and pieces amassed at the west end.

“Wait a minute, my lace tablecloth….” As if draped by a decorator, the cloth has come to a perfect point on the floor. “How strange, it seems to be pointing to the plant.” Soon, like a jolt from a super-sized espresso, I’m alert and scrutinizing the tablecloth, the shattered glass and other remnants scattered about.

No, I see. It’s pointing to…

Bending down, “What?” I ask, quizzing any imp that might want to play.

Making little worried “wookie sounds,” Tiggi jumps off the futon and wriggles around like a bunny. She’s now sniffing my hand and the shiny object at the tip of the tablecloth.

I pick it up. “Hey, it’s a coin!” I say, tossing it in the air. The Tig rears back on her hind legs, ready to go for it. (Sometimes I don’t think she’s a cat; more like a cross between a dog and a rabbit, a dabbit?) Still, I’m taller of course, so I catch the coin before Tiggi can possibly reach it. The poor thing mews disconsolately. I’ll have to give her a big treat tonight.

“Good girl for trying!” I say.

Now I must have a look at this coin, so I take off my glasses and set them down. Oddly, I can see things better if I put them up to my face.

So, where did it come from, hmmm? I stoop down to examine my find. The Tig zeroes in like Watson nosing the prize, as if she can determine its value in a couple of sniffs.

“The markings are strange.” I must sit down and look at both sides.

“Oh, wow! There’s no date on it.”

I pick up my glasses and put them on. “Well, it’s not a quarter.”

A few days ago, I had dusted all the knickknacks and sundries setting on the dining room table. And one thing I know for sure, I have never seen a coin like this before. I tap the piece on the table and put it in my purse. Soon, I come to a rather strange but obvious conclusion:

“This coin bears no date. It would never spend.”

Hey Max, what just happened here?


Post Script 1

The day I left for England, I received the answer to this puzzling question. Yet, because of what Max used to do when he was alive, I realize now that I should have figured it out sooner – much sooner. The answer is contained in a poem I wrote entitled, “A Shining Piece of Silver,” published in our book, For the Time Being, (Authorhouse, 2007). I wrote it in a style reminiscent of one of my favorite periods, the Victorian Era:

A Shining Piece of Silver

Gath’ring up my courage with my clothing
For a voyage I knew that I must take
All purpose had died along with you, dear,
Oh Lord, it was a time I couldn’t shake.

Packing jewelry, thinking and rememb’ring
My wedding ring you carried to your grave,
When before me, a quaking at the table
And the tablecloth flew off with a wave!

Before I knew it, clutter crashed on ceramic ~
Books and orchids, my lovely purple vase.
“This can’t be happ’ning!” I said in sheer amazement,
Then sat and stared at the remnants, in a daze.

Befuddled, I picked up all the pieces,
And the tablecloth that was so elegant,
Lay pointing to a shining piece of silver
Hidden shyly beneath a blooming plant.

Perplexed, I sat down with the silver
Not knowing from where the coin had come.
I studied that shining piece of silver
Most certain it wasn’t from that room!

So simple, it looked just like a quarter,
But it wasn’t ~ the coin was something else!
I shook my head, returning to my business,
And slipped the piece safely in my purse.

The day arrived when I’d venture on my journey
And a thunderbolt hit me through and through ~
I locked the door, keys landing on the silver,
And remembered something that you used to do.

“You’re trav’ling, my sweetheart,” you would tell me,
“And to ensure that there is no blasted curse,
Take this coin along with you on your journey
And keep it tucked away inside your purse.”

“And when you’re weary and your trip is over,
Fly back to me and I will see you through,
But don’t leave behind this little piece of silver;
It will guarantee that I’ll be seeing you.”

‘Though we’re parted and you’re so far away now,
I keep your silver coin tucked away inside
To remind me, again, we will be meeting
When my journey takes me to the Other Side.


Mandy Berlin


Journal Entry
Sunday 08/08/2004
Around 6:30 a.m.

In a twilight sleep, I found myself weaving in and out of the dream state as Allie purred and curled up in the crook of my arm.


Out of the blue, my eyelids start to quiver and blink. I try to hold them but soon give up because I’m unable to control this curious movement. Then, at once, I find myself staring at two silvery-blue balloons that look like butterfly wings, or perhaps the wings of a bird, yet way overblown. Suddenly, the being plummets from a white ceiling fan that is, in reality, nowhere in the room. Abruptly, he freezes, a tightwire artist in midair! Radiant light shines a spotlight on the creature as he descends in slow motion. Now I hear the whirring sounds again (see Journal Entry dated 8/6). His enormous wings flap and swoop down as if he’s coming to raise me up, to be a partner in his dazzling aerial show. Strangely, I’m not afraid. I am bowled over by a stunning array of silvers and cobalt blues – an incandescent peacock flitting right before me.

Then the awesome being flaps his wings, working them into a deafening thunder, and at last, begins his ascent. I shout, “Yes, you are here!” but I’m thinking, don’t go, take me up there with you!

Still sensing traces of his vibration, feeling very much at peace, I slip into a deep and abiding sleep.

Post Script

I am blown away by the beauty and wonder of the visions and dreams I’ve been having of late. This morning’s vision was clear, lending a compelling sense of realism to an otherwise unfathomable exhibition. Were my eyes open when the being appeared? I don’t know for sure, but I do believe they were, though they were quivering at first. The room looked the same except for the presence of the ceiling fan, the bright light, and the phenomenal creature, whether bird, butterfly, or spirit being.


Journal Entry
Friday 08/06/2004
Around 6:30 a.m.

This morning on awakening, I hear a loud whirring sound in my right ear. The humming gradually softens, as if descending… then turns strident, ascending… and softens again (decrescendo… crescendo… decrescendo….). This reverberating hum lasts about a minute, if not hours. Now in a synchronous state of mind, I close my eyes and merge with the boundless stream of consciousness.