Category Archives: Loss

Acknowledgement

Standard

For those of you who have experienced the loss of someone close to you, you will understand what I am writing about.     It never goes away, at least not for me.

Fourteen years ago today my kid sister died at the young age of 38.   She had been diagnosed just ten months before with Ovarian Cancer.   I’m not sure what hurts the most.   The journey through it, where we did our best to comfort her and bring her to any treatment allowed, or the endless missing.  I think it’s the missing.

Fourteen years and I still cry when I acknowledge this.  But if I don’t, it makes its way through illness or pain, so it’s best to nod to the memory than deny it, at least for me.

At 37 she and her partner had just bought a house and had moved in just two weeks prior to the emergency surgery that was previously scheduled a week or two later.   I remember it all so well, and I’m trying hard to not go there today.  To just honor her, and tell you what a great person she was.

I can tell you that she worked very hard and knew how to play.  She had a boat, snowmobiles, a toy for every season.   She loved to fish, to play sports, and was a natural athlete.   She had an old soul, I think about this often, wondering if this played a part in her short life.  A natural observer, she was always warning me when to shut my big trap, or when I had gone past “obnoxious” she called it.   Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.  It’s one that I experience a lot when I think about her.

One would think that after fourteen years you wouldn’t on occasion say to yourself “I have to call her, and tell her this!”    It happens less each passing year, but it still happens.

She was my dads bud.  I mean that with every part of my being.  She loved hockey, she loved fishing and shared these things with our dad.   We all share memories of this with her.   It was rather comical last year when my father admitted one day “Okay, Darlene was my favorite”.   The three of us laughed until tears came out of our eyes.  “What?”  “I’m sorry” he said.   “Um dad, we have known this FOREVER!”    I think he really believed it would shock us.   NOT.   I was sitting beside her on her couch the day she learned she was not going to recovery from this, and she called dad to tell him.  “I’m sorry, dad, I’m so sorry”.

So it was on this day that my, our lives changed.  For years I described things as “happened before she died, or happened after she died”.   I didn’t mean to.  It was just a game changer.    My life changed.  I changed.

I remember asking my cousin Marie, who came down to sit with me just hours after I learned she had died “How am I supposed to stop loving her?”   “You never will, Donna” she said.   How did she know?    It was through my sisters death and living life without her that I learned, love doesn’t stop just because someone you love died.   Nor does life stop, as cruel and vulgar as it seems at the time.   “How can the birds still sing?  How can people laugh, how can anything go on when my life has just come to a screaching halt?”   But it does.  But I have learned something beautiful within all the sadness and that is that love doesn’t ever stop, for me it continued and miraculously grew and still does, all these years later.

So on this day, I acknowledge that hope changes.   At first you pray for a cure, you pray for treatment to work, and then when that stops working, you pray for strength and a new doctor, another treatment, and more.   That is until you realize the suffering is going on too long, and you start to pray for God to be merciful with her, with them.  Please, take her soon.   Yes, hope changes.

I miss you every day.  There hasn’t been a day in fourteen years you’ve been gone that I don’t think of you.  You are part of me, you always will be.    I can still close my eyes and see your face, the little tiny mole above your eyebrow, and see that beautiful smile that radiated wherever it was shown.

Time does teach us how to coexist with such loss, but it doesn’t heal the broken heart.  I think because even when you pray for an end to the pain, and there is relief when that happens, the missing?  It never stops.

 

(end note:  I wrote this and posted it on 4/8 but for some reason it’s showing the 9th which I find interesting, because I actually found out about it just minutes after midnight on the 9th)

 

 

Advertisements

Not Yesterday’s tears

Standard

It’s been a long time since I’ve written.   I’ve been holding things within, things that I don’t want tarnished by another person’s view, or comments.   I have had what some would call “wild” experiences, but they bring me tremendous comfort.   I am not ready to share them, and I may never be.    But I have so much gratitude for these signs, times.

I’ve had an eventful year so far, two days in San Juan, Puerto Rico, followed by a 7 day cruise with my best girlfriend.  It was amazing.   We visited St Croix, the place where someone very special to me took his last breath.   It was comforting to see such a beautiful place, I could easily visualize him there, and happy, and that is a gift, a true gift when someone dies too young.   It brought me peace.  We also visited St. Kitts (swam with dolphins), Barbados, Dominica (tubed down a river in a rain forest) and St. Maartan.

I returned home to my house in repair, and new windows.   I’ve been asked on numerous occasions if I hit the lottery, if I had a sugar daddy, or a new boyfriend who was footing the bills.  My answer is all the same.  No!    I have been blessed with good people in my life, good friends, family who look out for me.   For some reason, this year I scored, and big… I am again, very grateful.

The past few days have offered no restful sleep, and high pain levels.   I am tired, beyond tired.  I know I’m not alone here.    I’m reminded of a quote a friend told me many years ago “Fatigue makes cowards out of all of us”.   I wouldn’t quite describe myself as cowardly, but my body is clearly not cooperating with my desires or plans.  I don’t like it.  Today, after a couple of weeks with high pain levels, I want to raise the white flag and surrender.   I want to give up.    Today I called my dad, and during our conversation I unexpectedly starting to weep.

A couple of weeks ago I had a similar experience.  It was a sleepless night, I was scrolling through facebook and read a post that shared hundreds of ugly, vile comments on homosexuality.   At first I was in shock.   Then I got angry, and I wanted to respond, but I recalled a post by a friend who experienced something similar, and it helped me.  To my credit, I knew I was tired and could never hold a candle against people with such harsh views.  Instead, I cried.   The tears just flowed down my cheeks until the sheet I had tucked myself into needed to be replaced.    I am not gay.  My late sister called me “pathetically straight”.    I thought of her, and all my dear family and friends who are gay, and cried for them.  I cannot imagine being judged so harshly because of who I am.  I then cried for those I didn’t know who were being judged so harshly, so cruelly

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve also been witness to a friends “religious friends” judging her and her actions.    This instills so much anger in me.  Really?   When did God put you in charge of another person’s life?  Religious beliefs?  Spirituality?    I am not slamming ANY religion, but I am so dismayed by people who claim to be so holy, and yet they only portray to me and to many others, that this is NOT what I want in my life!  I have religious people in my life who treat me with respect, allow me the space for my own beliefs, and who are and will be there for me without judgement.  One cousin I am close to, who helps me more than he will ever know.  Who will, when asked, share his views and beliefs, and interpretation of the bible, but does not judge me or others.   Do I know which of these two examples is “right?”  No, but I sure the heck know which person I would like to hear more about his God from!  The paragraph is not about religion, but the lack of love, respect for others.   We are living in some pretty hard times, and frankly, I’ve run into some pretty cold people.

This afternoon I dug into my bureau that holds my most prized possessions.   Love letters, favorite toys of my aussie’s, pictures, emails, cards.   One of the items is packed neatly into a box with Bugs Bunny characters on the outside.  I opened it, and there was my sisters cap and gown, and the paperwork that we were handed when we went to see her graduate with a Criminal  Justice degree.   I pulled out the cap, the tassles that signified the year, and her graduating with honors.    I have had this neatly tucked away (and I have taken it out many times before) for almost 13 years.   She died April 8, 2003 at the age of 38.   Something fell out of her cap.  It was a pair of her sunglasses.   I wrapped everything back up, and then found an email from my older sister who gave us updates on how Darlene was doing.  This was 6 days before she died.   In the email she wrote “She seemed to have some unfinished business with Donna.  We had a hard time understanding her.  But it was a simple as ‘Tell Donna I love her and will miss her’.   I don’t think Darlene was able to say those things when Donna was here and it troubled her.”     Talk about tears.  I fell to my knees, sobbing.   Where was this email for the past 13 years?   Why had I not seen nor remembered it?    But you know what?    It was just what I needed, today, on this difficult day.  It was like having been penned and sent from heaven, itself.

And one last thing I’d like to share.  It was written in a card from the beautiful soul who I mentioned earlier who died in St. Croix.   “Dear Donna,  Being away from you has made my feelings for you and about us even stronger and clearer than before.  I know today that I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  I love you, Jim”    I love you too.

I am not living in yesterday’s pain, or dwelling on my past.   Today it helped to revisit these momentous beautiful times and people who were once very prominent in my life (understatement).  It has helped to remind me that in spite of all the pain and shit that happens, love never dies.  Even when someone has crossed over, love can continue to grow.  And that perhaps, I may experience this amazing journey of love again, with someone new.   And as I looked at the MANY pictures of my sister, there were only a handful without her smiling.   She lived life well.  She worked hard, played hard.   She was just an awesome person.  I miss her everyday of my life, and to think ill of her because her sexuality, well hey… guess what?   If you do?  It’s on you.   I’m so glad I didn’t miss a moment with her.  She taught me so much and one thing she taught me by example?   Live your life, be true to yourself, and pay no mind to those who judge you!  It was a nice “visit” down memory lane.   It helped me gain new perspective (now through my sisters sun glasses), and those who have brought me dismay of late, have no more power.  I am reminded of all good.  I am reminded of why sometimes it’s so hard to carry on, because life was indeed much easier with the presence of those who are no longer with me, but just to be back there mentally, gives me the strength and desire to fight on.  Today it was nice to revisit the warmth of yesterday.

Go have yourself a great day.  Sending you all love and light,

Donna (pronounced, DonNUH)

 

 

 

It’s all small stuff….Gratitude is the Attitude!

Standard

When my sister died I vowed that I was going to start living differently, to live each day to its fullest, to not take my life, others, things for granted…to be more grateful.   The grief process and what followed for me was extremely difficult.  I remember thinking about that vow and feeling like I had failed at that because I wasn’t happy, the challenges seemed too insurmountable and more times than not I wanted to just give up.  What I have learned, however is that the storms  of our lives test us, teach us and show us what we are made of.  While it appeared to me that I had lost my way, that I was not being true to the vow I had made to myself, I was indeed.  Why would I think that the trails would be without sweat and tears?  Each step walked in rocky terrain with hopes of greener softer turf was in fact dangling that commitment to myself like a carrot in front of a horse at a race.    Fortunately for me, I have reached a softer time, an easier time, gratitude comes more naturally and it is typically my first choice.   I am  living my life in accordance to that vow I took several years ago at my kid sisters funeral.  I wonder sometimes if  it has been the accumulation of disappointments, difficulties, or the tried and true manner that no matter how dark times had gotten, I was blessed with more days, opportunities to start anew.  What was it that brought me to this point?  Why is it that for many of us, it takes trauma, life altering illnesses or events to truly appreciate our lives? Yet I realize for some, they never get here.

I have stated before that I am no longer tolerant of “drama” and I have little patience now for what I call “luxury problems”…a broken nail is a broken nail, it will grow, it is not the end of the world.  I remind myself not to compare with others but to relate.  I have and do live my life one day at a time because for one, I am easily overwhelmed with the possibilities of tomorrow that may NEVER come.  The things I fear and found myself fearing in the past?  Typically never came to fruition.   I have not only survived, but grown through the very few things I feared that did come true.   I was always given the strength, the people, places, the fortitude I needed to prevail.

When trespassed or violated, harmed by another I have learned to forgive as quickly as I can and move on.  I need not tell the other person that I have forgiven, as selfishly this internal act is really not even about them.  It is a gift to myself.  It frees ME from the torment, the rage, the victimization that all keeps me from the very state that I so desire in my life…. peace, serenity.

I heard the expression last night in my cancer support group “Who do you pray to?”  While this was asked more as “Who is your God?, Higher Power?”  I ask myself daily “What are you grateful for?  What is more important to you?”   Getting pissed off about something that happened to which I am truly powerless over, allowing something to snatch away my peace, serenity is giving away the one thing in life I DO have control over, and that which is most important to me.  Because without either of these, my decisions, choices, the manner in which I view my life, love myself or others all goes to shit.

There are so many gifts in being diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease… you begin to look at what is important in your life and start to pluck out the weeds and invasive plants that threaten your personal “yard of life”, you learn to protect it at all costs.  You learn that in doing so, things take a natural order, they work out as they will, without your giving up hours, days, weeks to worry, without your trying to unsuccessfully control that which you truly cannot, thus you realize you are blessed with time to just enjoy the very essence of your life, your existence, others existence.    The white picket fence goes up to protect your new found discovery that your life really is very fragile, it has nothing to do with how pretty it looks, that is just a bi product.  The veil of denial drops as you realize, you ARE touchable, you are not bulletproof, oh how dear the simple daily things become.    And you begin to focus on all that is right in your world and spend time in the quiet solemn of knowing…Gratitude is in fact an attitude…and where you place your focus, “who you pray to” or not, will either guide you or dislodge you.

I am so grateful that I know enough to BE grateful for the little things in my life.   Everyday I am granted more opportunities to let go of the small stuff, and you know what?  That little book is right, it’s ALL small stuff!

Eventually this cold winter will pass…

Standard

I am a natural fixer.  I want to make things better.  If someone is hurting, I want to fix whatever is wrong so their pain goes away.  But I am not God, nor do I have magical powers that can do this.  I am just Donna.  I can tell you that I spent years of my life trying, however!  I tried so hard to help others, that I neglected and lost myself to the point of near ruin.

Five years ago I had to make a choice to save myself from a downward spiral.  This required saying goodbye to someone I really cared about, loved.  Someones whose life was now being ruled by alcohol, consequently our lives.    Not an easy thing to do when you still care , and you feel that your actions to date have somewhat protected him from himself.     This to many, and in Al Anon is described as “enabling”.   To shield, protect, defend the alcoholic of the consequences of his own actions.    So I did just that.  I stopped all protecting, and I watched from the sidelines and heard descriptive details (small town gossip) as his life quickly became more and more unmanageable, and I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed…   I had always feared that he would die of this disease, or worse, that he would end up imprisoned or killing someone else under the influence.  And on, and on, and on.  As much as you see it coming, as much as you fear it, as much as you detach yourself from it, you cannot grieve.  Because as long as they are alive there is still hope.  Hope that they will seek help, find sobriety, return to their senses, themselves…and behind that hidden somewhere for me was a hope that he would one day return, that we could resume our life together from what it used to be, long before alcoholic took over, long before progression. Yet you go on with your life, you move forward, new relationships, a new life, yet you never forget, and you never stop praying for the recovery and health of the person you once knew.

When you hear that your fears have come true, that they have died of the very disease that tore the two of you apart, and took nearly your life too, it is still a shock.  At least it was for me.   On one hand there was relief, that the downward spiral, the battle, the hell was over, yet on the other the reality that though the disease is now gone, no longer present or prominent in your loved one, it has in fact stripped you of all hope, and of the person you loved, or once loved.   Now I start to grieve.  I grieve for the person I fell in love with, I grieve for the man who was once sober and whom alcohol had NO grip on during that time.  I grieve for his life that touched MANY including mine, for his parents, his family, his many friends, I grieve for myself for all that was and could have been, and sadly what was hidden, what I had hoped would be again.  I grieve like my heart has been bludgeoned because for all intensive purposes, it has.

Eventually this cold winter will pass, acceptance will come and all will be placed in its proper perspective, place, which will not be in the fore front, but placed behind all the positives of today.  Will it ever go away?  For some yes I suppose.  For me, no.  It is a lesson, an experience too deep into my flesh to ever fully forget, but that does not mean I will not go on to live a happy full life.  This is my goal, this is my promise to myself.   To love fully again, to trust, to begin anew  not with the grief of yesterday but with the knowledge and the strength that yesterday has given me.  My heart is an amazing entity…