Tag Archives: grief

Acknowledgement

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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)

 

 

Not Yesterday’s tears

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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)

 

 

 

Is there alcohol in heaven?

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Today has been a hard day.  No particular anniversary, minimal physical pain with the exception of that place that resides in my chest and harbors my heart.

My sleep schedule has been largely disrupted, but that’s okay, I am getting A LOT of work done.   What happens, however, is a crash and burn.    But it’s the best sleep next to anesthesia!  I am one who loves being knocked out.  LOVE it!   When my time comes to die, I hope to be wide awake, waiting for that light.

As I slept hard, and what feels comatose, my dreams consisted of people and places in my past.  People who have passed.   Normally I wake up, can shake off the initial pain (remembering… realizing…  reality) and be grateful that I saw their face, eyes, smile, heard their voice once more.  But not today.  Today I am lingering in a world that no longer exists.  My head knows this, my heart doesn’t want to hear it.

A friend, consoling me said “It doesn’t matter how long it’s been”.    I thanked her for that.   No, it doesn’t.    Last night’s dream still has me walking on shaky ground, many hours later.  I know I can’t go back, if I could, I would’ve by now.  Someone I need to walk through this day, embrace what is, be grateful for what WAS and is, and let it go.   But that’s much easier said than done, at least today it is.

I wonder, is there alcohol in heaven?    Hiss at me for suggesting such.  But when you’ve loved and lost someone who is or was an addict, there is some peace in knowing, their fight, their plight with their demons has passed.

We drove past a church where a service was being held for a young man who died of an overdose.    My heart hurt for his family and friends.   “His mother said there is some peace in knowing, it’s behind him”.  I nodded, thinking about what I said above.   Yeah, I said to myself, and I pray that it will carry her through the hard days ahead.

To grieve, to mourn is not anti God.  It is not a horrible thing to do, and while it is hard, for me, apparently today, it is necessary.   For those who have on occasion suggested differently or in a bit of kinder, less harshful words than “Move on”, I bid you, how the hell does one do that?

Last night I visited the past.   A past that ended tragically, but one that was also filled with immense love, memories, and some of the best times of my life.   Today I’m trying to get back to acceptance, beyond the pain of loss that revisits on occasion.   I know I will find my way, but right now?   Right now my heart hurts.  I am longing for acceptance, and soon.  I know why I’m feeling this way, I know that I have to face one of my own demons…. fear.  Fear of being hurt again.     But will I?

Missy Higgins “Scar”

Sensitivity, mental illness AND being right brained

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I read a LOT of self help books.     My mother said to me one day last year “I think it’s great that you want to improve upon yourself, but Donna, what about fun?    Well, I read art books, that counts for fun.  And I read articles online, a lot about cancer, guess that isn’t too fun…    But this comment of hers “came back” in my head this past week.

Thinking about sensitivity.   I have always been very sensitive.   Cry easily (ask my siblings, growing up with me, my parents didn’t know what to do with me and my emotions, so to eliminate stress for all, they would omit sharing things with me!   Now, this works, to an extent, but not all that great after that.   I found myself in my 30s and 40s before I started to really learn how to sit with stuff, how to deal with things that otherwise “hurt”.    Hey, they did their best, no blame there, just thinking about what it would be like to NOT be so sensitive?

I remember sitting in a 12 step meeting, an addict was struggling.  He shared how his newly found sobriety was good, but it was also overwhelming.  He realized booze helped numb him from his “oversensitivity” (also labeled that as a child).    He was an artist, and part of who he was was this beautiful sensitive soul, and he didn’t want to lose that.  But he was going bat shit trying to figure out how to cope with life on a daily basis without a numbing agent.    I sat there, shaking my head with understanding.  I thought EVERYONE cried at the end of Casper?!?   And a whole lot of other things.

Where is the balance?   I don’t know.   The older I get, the easier it becomes to screen or throw stuff out that I just don’t want to cope with.  I’m not talking about responsibilities, but others drama and things that frankly, bring me discomfort or discontent.   I have heard, numerous times, that most mental illness (including addiction) comes with an undiagnosed dual diagnosis.   I think about this, and I have many many friends who have been treated for one, and who still struggle.   It was like being diagnosed with ADHD just two years ago at 51.  Holy crap!    Medication made my life SO MUCH BETTER.  I was the first to judge another if they put their children on ADD or ADHD meds.  Now?  I encourage.  If this gives their child an opportunity to function better (and it will if they are truly ADD/ADHD), their life will be improved upon so much.  Mine has.

Most people my age are only diagnosed because their children were, first.     The things that I once thought were “normal” and that everyone shared, and now I realize, a big part of my self esteem and confidence being lower than it should.   Because I felt stupid, or lazy, sometimes crazy.   I have always known I’ve been wired different from others, but I always attached a negative connotation (just listed above) to it.   The truth is, I’m not stupid, nor lazy, nor crazy.   I’m not!  I struggle with mental illness and this isn’t fun.   But I’m not insane.

Most important thing for me to do has been and will be to learn how to cope….     I believe I have good self awareness, and I strive, I really do, to be a good person, do the right thing, one day at a time.    I’m not special in my struggles, I’m far from alone.   But you know what is worse?     It HAS to be having an undiagnosed, untreated mental illness.  And the stigma that is attached and has been to mental illness sadly keeps many lives struggling, with little quality.

I recently went off five medications after I was discharged from my outpatient therapy because I had missed too much time.  Another blog.   I weaned myself off, and started to pay attention to my body.   I believe I was overmedicated.   Now, I am starting to “feel” again, and my hands do not shake anywhere near what they did, which is part of why I stopped painting, teaching.   I’m doing well.   I’m focusing on the physical problems that need attention, and keeping a close check on my depression with close friends, through blogging, and a lot of prayer.

I want a quality life.   I want to feel peace, happiness.   I want to feel grief without losing myself to it, or several years of my life.   This means I have to learn to coping skills, and I have and am.     I need to accept that part of being me is being sensitive and to accept myself for who I am, and may very well always be.    I remind myself that God doesn’t make junk, and that I was designed to be perfectly imperfect.   We all were.

Today I’ve had a nice day, a peaceful day, a productive day.    I’m very grateful for this.   I’ll deal with tomorrow when it gets here.     Just want to say one more thing.  If you have never been diagnosed or treated for mental illness, educate yourself.  Read articles, peoples blogs, etc.   Only a very small percentage are really insane.  Most of us struggling with learning disabilities and mental illness are just trying to find our way out of the chaos that can ruminate in our heads.    I share on my experiences to help others know, they are far from alone.  I know it helps me to know this, too.

Happy Mental Health!

My kid sister

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51 years ago today, a beautiful soul was born into this world.    She was as cute as a button, and a very happy baby.darlene3 001

My sister had an old soul.   She was chronically wise.  A natural observer, she would often sit back and watch me open my big mouth, or do something that would inevitably get me into big doo doo’s.   We were 2.5 years apart in age.   When it came to common sense, she was born with it.

She had the biggest brown eyes, beautiful woman.   She had a great smile and she wore it more than most.   She was a happy person.  A hard worker, who equally played hard.   She lived wisely, she lived well.

It has been twelve years, maybe more since she was taken out of this life, too young.   Too young.   But when I say that, and I do feel that way, I am reminded of one of the many trips to Dartmouth Hitchcock for treatment, when we walked into the chemo ward and there was a child, a baby really, being infused with toxins to save his life.   “I guess I don’t have anything to complain about, do I now?”    I think of those words often, not to dwell, but to remember her strength, and to learn from her courage, her wisdom.

She died 10 months to the day of diagnosis, ovarian cancer.   She was 37 at diagnosis.    As I sit here typing this, all these years later, the journey through treatment, the painful truths that were worded carefully, revealing her fate, fills my chest cavity with void, with pain.    I don’t believe I will ever “get over” this.   And that is okay.   Death is a part of life, an important part.   I have come a long way in my grieving.   I seldom cry anymore, tonight I am.    Because I’m remembering the difficult journey she walked, and she did it amazingly well.  I never heard her complain.  Ever.  Please don’t say “I’m sorry”.    I was so fortunate to have known her.

I remember walking into Higgins Hospital in Wolfeboro NH, she was getting a transfusion.   I walked into her room, and she was white as a sheet,  double fisted in pain.   I asked when her meds were due.   “I could have them at 3pm” (it was 3:45)   “They’ve been really busy”.    I stood up, walked out into the corridor and down to the nurses station.   “My sister is in pain, her meds were scheduled for 45 minutes ago”.   “Yes, we’ll be right there”.    5 minutes later, 10 minutes later.  I walked back out into the corridor, this time offering no kind tone “MY SISTER NEEDS HER MEDS….. NOW!”     Within a couple of minutes she was given her meds.      I sat beside her bed, rubbing her arm, talking to her, trying to distract from what was obviously horrendous.  But you don’t really distract from that, do you?  Can you?    “Donna?”   Yeah, I said.  “Thank you”.    If you knew my sister, this spoke volumes of what her pain level was.   She didn’t like discord, and certainly didn’t want to ruffle any feathers.   She would roll her eyes at me when I would.   Night, day.

This woman meant the world to me.  If you have sisters and are close, I needn’t say more.  She lives on, in my heart, and my memories have faded some, but not drastically.    I can close my eyes and envision her sparkly brown eyes that lit up our fathers eyes, soul.   I remember that she didn’t like to try on clothes, so when we shopped, I would slide the pant leg up my arm.   If it came to the end of my fingers, they would fit her.   Laughing now.

Sometimes I think about the loss I have experienced, and I am not seeking sympathy, but reflecting on my life, on the lives of those I’ve loved and lost, and I just cannot believe I survived it.   But when I wrote her eulogy, I vowed to live every day of my life to the fullest.  I wanted to live a good life, to live a purposeful life, in her honor, in her memory.   Sometimes I think I’ve fallen short, I don’t think she would agree with that.  Sometimes I feel my best isn’t good enough, and it is.   I can hear her saying that to me.   “It is!   All you need is encouragement”.

So on this day, her birthday, I am going to do something kind for another, randomly, for her.   And I am going to do something kind for myself.    I am a better person for having her in my life for 38 years.   I know I, we, truly were fortunate to have her in our lives at all.   She was everyone’s favorite.

If you want to do something kind for another today, in her memory, I would love that, she would love that.  Remember, kind can be just a smile!   I will light a candle, and I will follow the ritual I have done since she passed.   It is a special day.   Today, 51 years ago, a beautiful soul was born into this world.  I know, because I was fortunate and blessed to call her my kid sister.  Today I, my family, will celebrate her life.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥

The large lobby

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I sat in a chair that was designed exclusively for industrial use, staring at the vending machines across the room from me. The “out of order” sign that was on one of the machines was still displayed from two weeks prior.  As I watched, out of the corner of my eyes, others walk randomly up the corridor and by the lobby where I sat, memories from a decade before came flooding back. The scrubs, surgery cap dressed the bearer of news that would and did change our lives forever. Would the expression on the face of this most recent “bearer” tell another painful story? If I avoided eye contact, would the news be fathomable?  Is that a word?   I took a deep breath, rested my head against the wall and closed my eyes. I know all too well the agony that can ensue while playing the waiting game.   Thankfully I’ve learned that worry does not, nor will it change any outcome. I   said a prayer asking for strength, focused on my breathing for a few minutes until the wave of calamity passed. “I can do this”, I told myself. “I can do this”.

I was thirsty.   It had been hours that I sat in the lobby that was described by hospital staff as being “large”  . On first sight I laughed. This lobby is about the size of 4 bathroom stalls at Massachusetts General.   But in a small hospital nestled deep into the mountains, no doubt it was their largest lobby.  My cell reception kept fading, as I tried to access my facebook, email, text my sister and girlfriends.    Any distraction would help. I opened my purse and pulled out two wrinkly dollar bills, walked over to the vending machine with the out of order sign. There was only one other person in the “large lobby” and I could feel his eyes on me as I reached down and plugged the machine into the closest outlet.    On it came!     I slid the dollars into the slot  . Flavored water, yes, that is what I want.   I pressed the relevant number and watched the water drop to the collection bin. “Wow, it worked!” I looked over at the gentleman who sported a large grin. “Should I unplug it?” I asked. He replied “That’s up to you!”  Pleased as punch that I got a drink, I left the machine plugged in, walked back to my seat and resumed earlier position. Suddenly there was a very loud clunking, clanking noise coming from the vending machine.  It sounded a bit like the machines from Terminator2!    The gentleman who had no opinion now had one,  “I think you’d better unplug it!”

I was not in a mood to socialize, though I wanted a distraction. I put the book that I had been reading for a couple of hours down when I found myself reading the same paragraph over and over and once again resumed position with my head resting against the wall behind. I closed my eyes and took another deep breath thinking about how long a minute can seem when playing the waiting game. Equally short when involved with something enjoyable.

I was impressed with the manner in which I was handling things. I thought about how grateful I was that I have learned powerlessness. I cannot change what is happening. The only thing I have/had control over is how I handle the situation at hand (and sometimes not even that).

I hear the familiar sound, stride of clogs on the tile floor coming down the corridor.   As I look up I see the doctor walking towards the lobby towards me. When our eyes connected I looked away. I will know soon enough what is happening. If I look away, perhaps I can hold strong to those few seconds, and things would remain normal, status quo.   I take another deep breath, stood up as she approaches me.   “She did well, Donna.    She is in recovery”.    I immediately close my eyes, said a prayer of thanks. One thing at a time. One thing at a time.

As the conversation continued she said “The questions you are asking, the unconfirmed truth you are seeking is not common. Your family has been through this before?” I nodded my head. “A few times” I replied. “A few times”.    Arrangements were made to chat next week when she had results of the tests.  With this, I know better than to expect concrete answers.  It doesn’t work that way.  The wait and see game gives you only pieces of the 50 piece puzzle you are working on.  Only time will reveal or unveil the journey itself. Only time will tell.

“Why’s” are meant for children…..

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For the most part I’ve been doing very well.  Have been under the weather for a couple weeks, and this wreaks havoc for me.  Still, I’ve managed to keep a positive attitude and focus on all the good in my life, and there is much to be grateful for.

Today I’ve been thinking about someone I loved very much.   We were very close to a decade when things progressed with his drinking, I chose to say goodbye and I learned 4 months after he passed that he had passed the day after he turned 46.  To be perfectly honest, I think of him everyday, typically I can smile when I think about something he did, but today?  Today my heart is wrapped around questions that will never be answered.  I know better than to ask the infamous “WHY?”.   It only leads to more pain, endless tears and a heart that hurts so much, callousing seems to be the only relief.   That is no way to live.  At times I think it’s necessary to block off our heart until we heal, but to be longstanding, I don’t think it’s healthy.   In some instances, in most, asking “why” serves to push myself into a pit of pain, to which coming back from is harder each time I go there.   I have done this.  I am not living this way, I do not feel this way everyday, but today?  Today it’s a challenge to not go back to the second to last letter in the alphabet!

Life has a way of throwing us curve balls, doesn’t it?   I remember going through divorce, feeling hopeless, helpless, and comically (now) that my life was over…My feelings and thoughts were FAR from the truth.  My life began again.   My life got better, I got healthier, I was able to expand my horizons and open my heart again.   “We’ll make new memories”, he said to me as I worked through the crap.  And we did.  We made some wonderful memories.  Little did I know that they would have to sustain me the for the rest of my life without him.  Plans, yah, I’m here to tell you that plans have a way of falling down in midflight.  If you believe that everything has a reason, a purpose, then it does make the whole grief process easier, once you can get past the initial suffocation.   “Just don’t think about it”, I’ve been told repeatedly over the years.  I nod, sometimes I silently walk away pissed off, sometimes I turn my head and cry.   Sometimes it’s okay to think about painful parts of our past.  For me, it serves as a progress report of where I came from.   In sharing with a friend today I said “I know my life has gotten progressively better, I know this, I should feel nothing but gratitude”…True, I should.

The thing is, I never thought it would be forever.  I thought our lives together had come to a halt, but would eventually turn the corner and back around again.  Yet this is foolish thinking.  How many psychiatrists tell you “If it doesn’t work the first time it surely won’t the second”.  But what if?  What if?  On and on and on.    My life changed the day we parted ways and it changed further the day I learned of his death, a mere 4 years after we split.   To his parents I guess I was far gone.   For me, I sadly realized I had never left.  Still, life goes on.

Was watching an episode of 24 the other night and Jack (my hero) was asked by a very distraught agent “How do I live with this?” having acquired information that sent her into sadness and guilt.  “You just do” he said.   I nodded.  Yeah “you just do”.

Today my mother was told she was “legally blind”.   She can see things, but not well.  She shouldn’t be driving.  Fortunately they believe it’s all cataract related and she will do fine after surgery(ies).  Her first being next Thursday.   My comment to her “Well no wonder you haven’t been telling me how beautiful I am!”   Where would I be without a sense of humor?

For those who have and think there is nothing to mourn.  An alcoholic, an addict drinks himself to death, what’s to feel sorry for?   Having gotten in touch with the severity of my own addiction, learn more everyday how deeply rooted it is, all I can say is “You’ve apparently never lost someone you love to such an awful disease”.    Yet who am I to say that?  Perhaps they have?  Perhaps that is why they feel this way?  Still, it will always serve as a solid oak tree covering part of my heart.  Protection.   If that’s what you can call it.

Letting go, accepting doesn’t mean you never revisit the past.  A very intelligent man said something to this effect the other day, and it has stayed with me…”Every step you take, your past changes too because you see things differently than you did the day before.   Every step you take your future changes, because again, you see things differently than you did the day before.  Life is about a series of steps, not leaps, bounds, steps…”  I find that profound.  I can look back now without the intensity it once had, seeing things differently, and sadly having more compassion now for what I could not tolerate then.  That doesn’t mean anything would have changed with us, that the chapter of us wouldn’t have closed, but to see things differently means growth, perspective.

I’m off to get ready for a fun day tomorrow in Boston.  Am very excited about this.  Spending time with girlfriends, meeting new friends and getting reenergized to dive into my new business.    Very excited about this.   The decision to do this changed everything for me.  My situation hadn’t changed, but my perspective did and has.  Hope, it’s called hope and it’s a wonderful thing!   Life isn’t always fair, it isn’t always easy.  It is, however, worth living.  It’s about reaching out to others when you need encouragement, help.  It’s about helping others when they need it.   I’m starting a new chapter in my life, a fun one, one that I know is good for me and one that I know I will succeed at.  I need this.  I need this challenge, I need this newness.  I am grateful for this opportunity, and more grateful that I’m open minded and willing to go on this ride! ♥♥♥

My Walmart Story -All I wanted was service!

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This blog is “back by popular demand!”

Jim & I had stopped into Walmart in Keene, NH for our normal supplies.   Being only weeks since losing my kid sister to cancer, I was deep into grief, no where near “myself”…   I headed for the fabric department to pick up some batting for a project I was starting and Jim took the cart as he kindly offered to gather all the household/animal/food stuff we had on our list.  Upon arriving in the department I noticed a woman my age and her daughter waiting for service.  “Have you asked for help?” I asked in a kind tone.  “Yes, 10 minutes ago” the woman replied rather grumpily.   I walked up to the Customer Service Desk, requested help.. they paged someone as I was walking back to the department.

About 5 minutes later we were still waiting for help.  I thought to myself, hmmm I wonder if I could figure out how to page!  (Now mind you, if you have ever walked the difficult road of grief you know you are not in your right mind!).  I walked behind the counter and found a sign beside the phone “To Page press #1”, which I did.  “Customer Service in Fabrics Please, Thank you!”.   As I walked back to the front of the counter I saw the grumpy woman shake her head in disgust and her young daughters jaw hit her chest as she smiled at me. 

10 minutes later, still no help.  I went behind the counter again, picked up the red phone and started to page… as I was doing this Jim came around the corner with a full cart.  One thing I loved and miss about Jim was when he saw me he always smiled brightly, I felt like the most important person in the world.  Now as a beautiful redhead he would turn red from head to toe at times too….  As he came around the corner pushing the cart he smiles that big old welcoming smile, then his face turns to confusion as he sees the red phone up against my ear, and me BEHIND the counter, then his face flips over to pure horror as he connects the voice he is hearing over the intercom to his fiancee that he is looking at… “There have been customers waiting in fabrics for over 15 minutes now, could we get some help here please???” 

Now red from head to toe, and actually picking up speed, he whizzes by me with the cart and utters “You need a wheel barrel for the set of balls you are carrying girl!” and kept on going up front where he quickly paid for product and left the store, not wanting anyone to know he was with me… (I’m laughing as I’m writing this).  I in the meantime went back to the front of the counter waiting for service.  This girl, probably 17 or 18 shows up, I pointed to the woman beside me “She was here first”.  She was chopping her fabric to shreds, literally.  I was thinking about saying something but thought, nah, this woman needs to learn to speak up for herself, but if she does this to mine, that’s another story.  Then she looks at me with the look that can only be described as “Carrie” and said “Did you do that?”  I looked innocently at her and said “Did I do WHAT?”  “Did you Page?”  I said “Why yes, I did!”.  “You AREN’T supposed to do that!” she said in a rather harsh and scolding tone.   Without hesitation I said “Who are you going to call, the Paging Police?”.

With that the sweetest Southern Belle came down and apologized for my having to wait for service, measured out 3 extra yards of batting for me, and I was on my merry way.  When I got out into the car Jim was fit to be tied.  He said “Donna, I can’t believe you did that!”  We had been together for 7.5 years, this made me laugh… to the point where I was laughing so hard I was in a belly roll, now at risk of wetting my pants.  This was the first time in weeks that I had laughed, and the first time IN MY LIFE that I didn’t give a shit what anyone thought of my actions.   It was so healing.  I was laughing so hard I was crying, in a scary insane manner lol.  The more I thought about what I did, the disgusted look on the face of the clerk, and how I DID NOT CARE…. I would laugh harder.  It was so FREEING!   Have you ever experienced this?  That freedom?

We had to stop at my brothers house on the way home because I needed to use his bathroom…as I ran into the bathroom I could hear Jim telling my brother “You will not believe what your sister did!”… My brother was disgusted with me too.  He said “If you were my wife I would have hit you!”… That made me laugh all the more….  (My brother is a very passive person).

So for days I laughed over this incident and for months Jim refused to go into Walmart with me, but the thing was… All I wanted was service!

On loss

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My uncle died this morning.  He was my mom’s youngest brother and only living sibling.   His life was far from easy, having been in a very bad automobile accident in his teens.   I have been thinking about how hard it must be to be the last survivor of your siblings.    I do not have a death wish, but I do not care to walk through the pain of losing my surviving sister or brother.

It feels like I have lost 20 years of my life.   I find myself reflecting back to what seems a couple years but reality, now 10, 15, 20.   My parents are in their 70’s, my dad will be 80 this year.  The older I get the “younger” the years become.   I remember thinking I would never make it to 21…31…41…51 and I’ve surpassed all.

My parents found relief when my oldest sister, Karen died 2 years ago next month.  Karen’s life, like my Uncle’s was not easy either.  I am so not “up” on what is politically correct, both severe handicaps, both experiencing brain damage.    I heard the same relief in my mom’s voice tonight as I did when Karen died.   I know it is that she can die knowing he is okay.  She had promised her mother that she would watch over him, take care of him.  My mother did her very best.  My Uncle wasn’t always an easy person to get along with.   He could become belligerent, defensive when there was no threat to him.   Because of his mental and physical challenges he, like my sister, were in harms way of others.  I remember too well, the gifts we bought my sister, only to have them stolen from staff who were taking care of her.  Pitiful.  What kind of person could take from the handicapped?  Pitiful, may God be with them.   My Uncle, too, was manipulated many times over in his life.   Very sad to think about but sadder to think of the person(s) who did so.

My mom was with him, holding his hand when he passed.   I can’t help but think about all the defensive actions he took against a woman who loved him, who was only trying to help him, because he was persuaded by the greed of others.   I can’t help but think that when he opened his eyes this morning, my mother was the only one with him, he understood her efforts.   I can’t help but think how he felt when upon opening those eyes he gave her a great big smile.

My Uncle could squeeze the poop out of a buffalo nickel.   At one point when he was getting food from the local food bank, he sold the huge bars of cheese for $4.   When my mother found out she was aghast.   How could he do that Donna?   We laughed.   We found this out one of the many times he was in the hospital.  My mom gave his neighbors some of his food so that it wouldn’t go bad.  A male neighbor said to my mom “You mean, I can have the cheese for free?  I don’t have to pay $4?”    You couldn’t blame him, however.  His limitations played a part in his entire life.   When we were talking today we shared this memory and once again, laughed hysterically.  What’s worse?  He selling the cheese or the man who didn’t know it was available free to him as well and paid him $4?

I remember my Uncle fondly.   I remember as a youngster being “afraid” of him because it was obvious he was different.   I think back on that now and feel sad, yet I was just a kid, what did I know?

A couple of years ago he had a broken hip (?).   My mom wasn’t able to do for him as much as she did because she, too, had physical limitations at that time.  I would go to my Uncle’s, pick up his grocery list and try to pull the $20 bills out of his hand that he didn’t want to let go of.    He still owes me $60 from the last time I went.   I had forgotten this, my mom hadn’t.   Again, we laughed.

I saw him 2 weeks ago when I was leaving a doctor’s office and he was walking in.   My mom and he looked so much alike.   He, of course, had more hair on his face.    I kind of chuckled when I saw that he was finally wearing the new glasses my mom had arranged for him to get a few years ago.  He wouldn’t wear them.  He wanted to “save” them so he wouldn’t have to buy another pair in his lifetime.   As comical as I find all of this, I also saw the pain, the anguish some of this caused my mom.   She only wanted to do right by him, and she worked hard to do so.   I think she did great.  There were times when her patience was truly tested and she had to walk away to maintain composure.   She loved him.   He was her kid brother.   As difficult as he was, as stubborn as he could be, she loved him.    She really did love him.

When I think of some of the things my mom has had to endure in her life I am in amazement of her strength.   A strong willed personality, a strong intelligent woman, it doesn’t settle well within me to see her aging, to see my father aging.   I realize how fortunate I am to still have both my parents, I also realize if they die before me I will feel like an orphan.  I depend on my parents moral support, their advice.   I guess you know when you’ve grown up when you realize your parents DO and DID know what they were talking about.   Ahh, if I only knew half, now, of what I thought I knew then.

I will go to bed tonight envisioning my sister’s welcoming my Uncle on the other side.   He loved all of us kids and was particularly close to Karen, my oldest sister as he spent a lot of time with her when she was little.  My mom and he lost their mom too young, but older than many.  I suppose we all think of those we have loved and lost that it was too soon.

With teary eyes I just looked up into the sky to see if there was a particularly bright star.  My heart is in my throat at the moment as I think about life, as I think about death.    I’m not afraid to die, I am, however, afraid of losing others.   I barely made it through the grieving process with my sisters, with Jim.   Yet, death is a part of life, just as birth is.   The old adage “there are 2 constant’s in life…. death and taxes”.    I

I meant what I said earlier.  I do not want to be the last sibling to die.   I don’t know what is in store for us, for me but I hope that I will not live through another siblings death.  It will be hard enough accepting my parents.   One of the three of us will be the last to die, it’s a fact of life.  Not easy, but a fact of life.    My girlfriend lost her mother unexpectedly and quickly a few months ago.  She is a mother, a grandmother.  She struggles still.   I’ve said before, I don’t think we ever really heal.  I think that times teaches us how to coexist with the pain.   I’ve watched my parents lose their oldest and youngest daughters.  My heart hurts at the thought of it.   That has to be one of the most painful things in life, losing a child.    It must truly suck.  I think sometimes that my mothers strength was not only out of need, but faith.   Like my Uncle, my mom’s life hasn’t been easy either.   There are times I want to smack her, but those times are few and far between.  I value her opinion, and trust me, she is more than willing to give it!  I value her advice.

Rest in peace Uncle Hank.  I want to believe you are reunited with your parents, your brothers, your nieces.   You deserve to be walking in the house of the Lord, it’s time to rest, the dense path you carved through your life has come to close but you will not be forgotten.   I will always laugh at some of your antics and smile at the thought of you.    Rest in peace….  ♥

A decade later …

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It has been 10 years this week since my kid sister, Darlene, took her last breath.   It seems like a life time since I have seen her, but just yesterday, the trauma.    I hear so often that time heals.   I don’t agree.   A large part of my heart was ripped out, it has never healed.  I do believe that time teaches us  how to coexist with the reality, the pain.

Diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 37, she died 10 months to the day later at the age of 38.  It was a travesty for all who knew and loved her.    After she died I remember thinking “How am I supposed to stop loving her?”   I think now what a senseless question because I have since learned… you NEVER stop loving them.  In fact, for me my love for her has grown.

My sister was an old soul.  She was an observer of sorts.  As a kid she would stand back and watch while my cousin Marie and I would do something, lip off, for example… She and my cousin Tina would look at each other, look at us and just “watch”.   I think, in family, she was most like our cousin Steve.  Again, quiet, observing… they would shake their heads and watch out of the corner of their eyes, sometimes with raised eyebrows…  I’m sure they were thinking “Are you nuts?  You’re going to get in big trouble!”

Darlene was a good person.  She was honest, a woman of her word, kind and had a great personality and sense of humor.   She loved to fish, snowmobile, play hockey…  A natural athlete.    She loved water and lived on a lake for the past decade and a half of her life.    She worked hard and played hard.  She loved outdoors.  She enjoyed life.

Ten years and the tears still fall.   I haven’t mentioned this anniversary to anyone in my family, as I’m hoping they could skate by it without the painful memories.   My sister, Karla, was one of her caregivers for the last few weeks of her life.  She was with her when she left this world.   I know she has thought about it, she does every year.

Next month will be the 2nd anniversary of my oldest sister’s passing.  She died at 56 of ovarian cancer.   In my almost daily talks I have with my sister I told her today I knew she was there waiting to greet Karen.   That was who she was.   She did for others and had respect for herself as well as others.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her.  Some days are diamonds, some days are stone….   Sometimes I laugh out of control, other days, like today, the tears fall.  Still, today I am also able to smile and laugh at aspects of her, of our life.

For me, I have learned that there isn’t anything quite like siblings.   Most of the funniest times of my life were with my siblings, or family.

Say “I love you”, say what you need to say today as you never know what tomorrow will bring.   As mentioned earlier, I still talk to her almost daily, but I miss her eyes, her voice, her hands, her short athletic legs that in the summer looked like spoiling bananas from all the bruises from activities.  I miss her guidance, encouragement, I miss her laugh, her sense of humor, her view points.  I miss her, all of her.