Tag Archives: loss

Mothers day

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Today we celebrate Mothers Day.  This will be the first time celebrating this since my mom passed two months ago.    I’ve been thinking about how I could honor her, how I can transform the emptiness in my heart that I feel for her.  My world will never be the same, and that is okay.  Death is part of life, I have learned this and have had plenty of opportunity to practice it’s presence.

My mom was the strongest person I know.   A friend said to me the other day “I remember your mom’s stance, that alone told me how strong she was”.    I nodded, and spent some time pondering this.    Without a doubt her stance was tough.   She was unafraid to address anyone or anything, and that was pretty amazing.  Sadly it was because she had been through a lot in her life, she knew pain intimately, and at 80 she didn’t mince words.   At 80 years old her demeanor, her stance could easily be interpreted with these famous words “Go ahead, make my day!”

I have a cousin who was born with cleft pallet.    Medically the professionals were ready to insert a feeding tube (60’s small town care).    My mom stayed up for two nights designing a bottle that would work for her.    She succeeded.  I did not know about this until after she had died.   I wasn’t surprised to hear this.  My mom was a very intelligent woman who read constantly, chose books and reflection over television.    She could’ve been so much more than just our mom, or somebody’s wife.  In fact, she was so much more than that.

She was a voice for those who didn’t have one, or who were too weak or afraid to talk.  She was a pillar of strength and determination when it came to solving difficult problems, and a force to be reckoned with when it came to her family.    She instilled in us the importance of family.    She was benevolent when it came to her skills.  She loved to bake for others, surprise them with pies, and she made a kick ass crust!    She would do “whatever it took” to get things done, and help her children with whatever they were dealing with and in a way that she would inevitably take over, which today I can think about and smile, at various times in my life I sometimes wanted to smack her!   (I am a passive person, trust me, if I hit someone it was because they deserved it, but I never hit my mother).

Spring was her favorite time of year.  She had a green thumb, loved the outdoors and nature, and would come in to tell me every Spring which plants survived the New England winter, with a childlike wonder that always brought a smile to my face, she was joyful when gardening, grooming the yard.  Once a year, when the budget allowed, I would take her to her favorite nursery for Mother’s Day and she would run around with a cart and choose whatever she wanted.   She LOVED this.  These times were wonderful, though the dogs would be bored waiting in the car, and then highly annoyed with how little room they had to maneuver in after we loaded all the plants!     Then there was the planning of where to plant all that we bought.  She would ask my opinion, and then do whatever she wanted anyways.   Again, today I can laugh at this, but there were times we had words, and I would ask why she wanted my opinion when she never considered it?    It’s amazing to me how humorous I find this today.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder?

I often would  pick her up for appointments or visit her with a Dunkin Donuts coffee and two old fashioned donuts, her favorite.   She would eat one and feed the dog the other.    The other day my side kick and I went to Dunkin’s and they informed us when we ordered an old fashioned donut that they were no longer making them!     For me this was a sign that my moms time to die was right on schedule!   I say this lightly, honestly.   I know an average person would shrug it off, not me!

In my early 20’s I was going for a job promotion and was feeling nervous about mathematical testing for such.  My mom met me in a bank parking lot, with pad of paper and pencil, and taught me (retaught me) about fractures.    I aced the test!

She loved her grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchild.  But her first loyalty was always to her children.   It would upset her if she saw inequities or any of us being taken for granted by their children, or mistreated by them.     I was childless, so the focus was on the spouse or partner, and believe me, after 3 long term relationships with alcoholics, there was plenty there for her to decipher or dislike!

If there was only one thing (which is not the case) she taught me, it was every day you get up and dig in, get busy and do what is in front of you.   I think about this everyday, particularly when I’m trying to talk myself out of bed!

She swore like a sailor, and one time my sister and I were counting how many times she said “the f word”, she asked what we were counting… “26, 27, 28, 29….”, the usage quickly added us as we exited the house!

I am my mothers daughter.    She taught me by example so many things, a few that I’m going to pass on sharing, but for the most part today I will think of my mom and smile, welcome the tears that will fall, and are falling, as I face this first “mother’s day” without her.

Happy Mothers Day, to all you mom’s out there.  Hope your children do something kind for you, and if they aren’t able to for whatever reason, I hope you can find joy in their memories, or the love that being a mom taught you!    I”m a mom only to four legged critters, and I am a good mom, at that!

 

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Grief 101

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It’s just over three weeks since my mom died.   A good friend asked me if it’s harder than I thought it would be, the answer is NO.  I always knew it would be hard.  But what has surprised me is the areas in which it is affecting me.

For one, self confidence.   I consider myself to be a fairly brave, very strong independent woman.  And I just realized a couple weeks ago that I’m old enough to be classified as “Senior Citizen” on Wednesdays at JoAnn’s Fabrics.  I’ve traveled up and down the East Coast, all over this country and others by myself.  I would think very little about driving an hour or two here or there to score a good find from Craigslist, or the like.  I don’t feel comfortable doing this right now.  I don’t feel confident enough to do this.  I’m really shocked at this.

I don’t feel safe in this world, since the death of my mom.   I always knew, wherever I was, went, I could call her and she would come to my rescue.  For a couple of decades we have been each others main support, both single women living on little, we helped each other.  My mom was a huge help to me in areas that I many times lack or slack in.   I cannot attribute this to anything else, believe me, I’ve tried.

In every room in my house, there are memories of my mom.   She always rolled up her shirt sleeves and jumped in when it came to cleaning, repairing, maintaining, and a couple years ago, renovating and ultimately redecorating again.  It is s hard for me to fathom that she will never again step foot into my yard, my house, nor spend hour upon hour working in my yard, her flower gardens, because they really were hers.  I haven’t worked in my flower gardens for a couple of decades, she did it all.  Now she loved doing it, and she was very good at it.   Will I take care of them?    Can I take care of them?  Will I know how after all these years?   There’s a little bit of fear here.  I am feeling fear.   Because many things that she did to help me, I had to stop doing so she graciously took over.

I find my tears come in waves, and triggered by many simple things.   I pulled out a folder of my decorative painting designs and my heart sunk.   My mother was a huge part of my success here, she made e prepping surfaces or house or dog and cat sitting.  Back in those days I had five animals for her to care for!

Another thing that is happening that I didn’t expect.  I feel like I need to know everything, because she is gone.    I identify with these feelings when I found out many moons ago I was pregnant.  OMG I need to get my act together so I can be a good parent!  Only now, I need to get my act together because my mom isn’t here to help or assist

Sleep is being affected.  I wake up every hour, only early morning hours offers good sleep.  As a result, I am plum pooped.    I was so tired the other night after finishing things up downstairs that I slept on the couch.  I didn’t have the energy to go up to my bed.   I have been on this journey called grief many times, and I know it’s a hard hard walk.   I either forgot or the loss of my mother is proving to be one hell of a challenge.

I miss my mom.   I miss her voice, her outspoken manner, and more.    I know in time it will get easier adjusting to this new life, life without my mother.   While grateful I had my mom for the first 56 years of my life, it doesn’t matter at what age you lose your mom, for me, anyway,  it’s a colossal loss.

 

 

 

 

 

Familiarity

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My sister left for home last night.     On my arrival home from bringing her to the airport, I found tears running down my cheeks, I had felt it coming, there was nothing I could do or tell myself that would deter this, so I just let it happen.    My mother is gone.  She will never again step foot in my home, we will never work on another project together, we will never fight again, she has passed into the unknown.   I had to DO something, I had to get my hands busy because my mom wouldn’t like for me to get lost into grief again, so I pulled out a frame I had found at a thrift shoppe and filled it with pictures of family members we’ve lost, my mom and my two sisters.   I was happy with the way it turned out, even though it took a couple hours longer than it should’ve, but what else was I going to do?   I cried my eyes to sleep last night while watching Frasier.

The world seems foreign to me now.   Just like it did when we lost our kid sister.   It isn’t nearly as kind or caring, and I have one less source of unconditional love, one less person I could depend on if I needed her.   Everything in my world has changed, again.

Today I drove to Walmart for a few things today, and found myself walking aimlessly around the store.  Going from one end, to the other, back to the first.  I had my list on my phone what I needed to get, and I looked at it at least 4 times while there, and still came home with one thing I forgot to get.   What is this?  What am I feeling?  Why am I feeling like this is “Scatterday?”, I felt familiarity, and as hard as I tried to distract myself, engage myself in things like $1 a yard Waverly fabric, or yarn clearance, I just couldn’t get into it.  My creativity was on strike, and I found myself doing stupid things, unable to focus, unable to make a sound decision on sachets for my bureau.  What the hell?   Looking at things I  had no idea why, and dodging people I knew, it finally hit me.   GRIEF.    This is grief!  Of course it feels familiar.   No wonder my stomach was upset, and when i heard the screaming child in the next aisle over, I felt as if every nerve ending in my body was exposed to this, breathe, breathe, breathe.  I was talking to myself, and found myself saying, thinking “GO, GO NOW!”  Like Hannibal Lechter said to Jody Foster’s character in “Silence of the Lambs”.  Harshly, forcefully.  I went right to the self check out.

It’s been 13 days since my mom died.   Today is the first day I’ve been on my own without the security of siblings since we said goodbye to her.   Today was no longer about the end of my moms life, today is about the beginning of my life without my mother.

I filled the basket with sugar related items, this is how I feed my hurting heart, my aching soul.   It will only last a day or two and then I’ll get mad at myself for doing so, and hopefully, with the help of a tight wasted, uncomfortable pair of jeans, will walk away from sugar and seek water, food, nourishment.  I know there is absolutely nothing I can eat that will take away this pain, or sorrow.   But I will still do it.   Because for a few minutes I feel normal, I feel peaceful, I feel nothing.Spent some time on the phone today with my cousin and sister, also texted with my brother.  We’re all “checking in” on each other.  I’m grateful for that.   And while the list is short today, I did do one kind things for another, which always makes me feel better.  I delivered some lemon frosted shortbread cookies to a friend who is in rehab for a broken hip.  She said “I’m sure you’re in a hurry.”  I replied “No, I’m really not, I’m just not right, and I just want to get home to my cat, my beads, my brushes, my comfy clothes, safe in the confines of my humble little abode.

So now, post sugar fix, my energy level has been depleted, and I will either take a nap, or engage myself in a project like I did last night.    Whichever I do, whichever I choose, I will be kind to myself, and allow myself to feel this pain, to face this loss, this significant loss.

 

 

In celebration of she

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Today we gathered as a family to celebrate my moms life.   My sisters and brothers families were there, we were minus only a handful to make the gathering “whole”.  My mom would’ve loved to have seen us all there together, and as I watched the “goings on” of all,  I know she would’ve been so pleased that so many came the long distance, and at great expense, to honor and celebrate her life.    My parents divorced many decades ago, but my dad and his girlfriend came.   I saw my dad physically choke up once or twice,  particularly when he was watching the slide show that my niece’s husband put together from our combined collection of pictures of my mother.  My parents were married 27 years, they had five children, built two family homes from scratch to finish with very little “contracting” out.   At one point I walked up to my dad and hugged him, told him how lucky we were to have him.  His reply?   “No, Donna, how lucky I am to have all of you!”

Alongside the pictures of my mother playing on the screen, depicting happy times, a playlist I had created for my mother a couple years ago played in the background.   The choice of flowers, white mums, roses, and a spray of blue delphinium, were absolutely beautiful.   My mother would’ve absolutely loved it.  Filling the inner circle of this wreath sat a beautiful urn with mother of pearl enhancements that contained my mothers remains.   My mom loved mother of pearl, abalone, it was her favorite stone.  On the same table were “keepsakes” that mom had saved, postcards, letters, cards, pictures.  It was so tastefully done, and I know my mother would’ve approved.  I know she would have!  Also included were pictures of my youngest and oldest sisters, whom I hope and pray mom is reunited with.

Last night my niece made dinner for all of us, including my dad, his girlfriend, three of my brother’s four children, daughter-in-law,  My sisters husband, both of her children, son-in-law, and two of her grandchildren, my brothers friend, and her daughter.

One of the nicest things for me to hear was “young cousins” playing, laughing.   It was magical for me, and reminded me of my own, our own childhood gatherings with cousins.  It helped give sense to my moms passing – New generations making memories that will hopefully last them a long lifetime.   Oh the truly innocent and silly things they were doing, like making farting noises down a heat vent from the second floor of the farmhouse into the  first floor kitchen where the adults were gathered.    It was their laughter that I hope to never forget, I hope THEY never forget!

I could not be happier with how nice today turned out, the last couple of days actually.  I’m writing this blog so that in the days to come when we are all back to our busy lives, and feeling the loss of my mother, I can come back to this to recall, relive, reunite with the love that flowed, commonality, my family.

My mother was the strongest woman I’ve ever met.   I will always love her and be grateful for giving me life, and teaching me all she did.  I will miss her love, her encouragement, her help, her care when I was ill, her sense of humor.   I will miss her!

Now, personally, the events of this past week, up to and including my mothers passing, has made me realize that I have some work to do on myself.  I will likely share about this in future blogs, because writing is a valuable, helpful tool for me.   But it’s going to be okay, I will be okay, because I know I’m still teachable!

My daily goal, first and foremost, is peace.   In order to achieve this, I need to learn some new skills on how to handle my own emotions, particularly “anger”.    This is probably something most learned in childhood, but I was such an “emotional child” (annoyingly sensitive I’ve been told!)  it was easier for my family to not deal with my emotions, to perhaps “pacify” me.   I am NOT blaming anyone, I believe my parents, my family, myself, we all did our best.     But what worked then (well, it really didn’t even work then either), no longer works and is not appropriate.

I have spent the last couple months stuck in anger.  This wasn’t the first time this has happened, the last time it was this severe was a few months after my sister died.   I ended up hospitalized with such.  I have made many changes in my life, I have consistently improved upon myself, and the quality of my life, my choices, the people in it.   I’ve created a safe, loving, peaceful (for the most part) life for myself.   But what good are these changes,  learning how to set boundaries, recognizing when I’m being taken for granted, standing up for myself, and all the changes I’ve made if I don’t go “all the way” and change my OWN inappropriate behavior?!?    I am the only one who can do this for myself!   Anger scares me – my own and others.    Certainly I can learn new skills!   My life, my relationships will improve.  Particularly when circumstances and opportunities to which the only control I have is how I handle myself!       Yup!   It’s time.

Tell those you love how much they mean to you.  Forgive others who trespass against you.   Forgive yourself.    If you can’t say it, write it, or say it with flowers, or sweets.    To quote Nike…..     Just do it!

Rambling grief

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My siblings have graciously and generously taken care of all the necessary final arrangements.  My mother did not want a service, she was adamant about this.    So they have generously arranged for a private family dinner in which we will celebrate her life.   My brother has offered his home for family and friends to stop by afterwards if desired.   I want to share that I am overwhelmed by all the thoughts and messages, prayers being said for me and my family.

The reality that she is gone hits me sporadically and infrequently.   It’s still not real yet.  If that makes any sense.  I’ve been practicing self care, resting the past few days, working on her obituary, which I must say hasn’t come easily.  I remember an obituary of someone who I knew, and despised, and my jaw was sitting on my chest throughout the whole obituary because it was so uncharacteristically her, and I had thought about becoming an obituary writer after reading it.   Clearly, you can say anything you want, make up things, be anything you want or want them to be in an obituary!   For me, I wanted it to be an honest assessment of my mothers life.   I wanted to touch upon the things that were most meaningful and important to her.  Doing so required sorting through many memories and feelings. and spanned the last five decades of her life that I was aware of.

I look around my house and I’m reminded of how much my mom did for me.  We tackled projects together, including painted furniture that she would strip, fix, and I would paint.    She rarely sat, she was always busy.  Sometimes that used to drive me nuts.  And the things that she did that used to irk me, like leaving cleaning agents in nooks and crannies around the house, today made me smile.  My house will NEVER AGAIIN be as clean as it was then when my mom was staying here or house sitting!   Last night when I did the dishes I remember her saying to me “the warmth on your hands is healing, Donna, let it nurture your hands”.   For the record, my dishwasher also died, and I haven’t yet nurtured my hands today!  And for over a decade now, my mom took care of all my flower gardens, and yard.   Her and my friend Joe who took care of the lawn, both of whom will no longer be doing that.   I will deal with that when the snow is gone.  Perhaps I’ll get back into gardening?

My mother and I couldn’t be more opposite in some ways, and in others we were side by side, I echoed her.  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but I know that both of these things were obvious in our relationship.  Sometimes it’s because you are very much alike that personalities clash!

I’m not liking this particular journey of grief.   Actually, I haven’t liked any other either.  But this loss, this is vast.     I can’t even comprehend it yet.  Am I saying it is greater than my other losses?    I don’t know, I just know it’s seemingly different, in the short time since she passed.  As I go through pictures to share with my siblings, I’m also sorting through memories.   My mother would surprise me many times I was away teaching.  I’d come home and she’d have not only cleaned the house but also did extras, things that I was meaning to do just hadn’t yet found the time.   I remember the first time I traveled after my ex boyfriend and I split.  I have mentioned on numerous occasions he was an alcoholic, a binge drinker.  Well, when I started to travel teach, I was weary when I’d pull out of the driveway on a Thursday or Friday to travel to my gig.   I didn’t trust him, and was afraid that he’d get drunk and would lose one of my animals (accidentally) or burn my house down.  So when I came home the first time after we split and my mom had stayed at my house (with my 4-5 animals), I was delighted to come home to a super clean house, new scatter rugs, and other small things that really were appreciated.  Although, she was far more excited over a toilet bowl brush than i was!    Seriously!  I remember thinking how nice it was to have someone “on my side” or working with me with housework and goals.

I am afraid of grief.   I am afraid because it can be such a deep dark hole, an emptiness, a seemingly endless journey of sadness, at least it was for me when my youngest sister died, and when I learned Jim had died.  I’ve been reading articles online how to help yourself, things you can do to help move your grief along if you are feeling stuck.  I haven’t felt stuck because I haven’t yet accepted it.  But I know from experience that there will be a time that I do, and it will probably be when I get angry.  If you’ve never read any of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross work, her writing was amazing, her work with the dying was ground breaking.  Both my mother and I enjoyed her books, and my mother doing hospice work shared many things with me.   It’s time to pull back out the book written by hospice workers that I cannot seem to recall  its title, but I will.  I will probably have to buy it again, which I have done probably five times, because I always seem to pass it along to someone else who was in need of comfort, understanding, who was walking the difficult path of grief.  I want to say “Final gifts”.

I’ve kept fairly alone this week, which works for me.  Once an extrovert, I have long since moved over to the introverts side, and I heal, process alone.    At one point in my life I was afraid to be alone, as if it said something horrible about me that I wasn’t “in love”.    Those days are long gone, and while I long for loving touch, I am comfortable with my life.  I think each person has to define whether coming home to an empty house evokes loneliness or freedom!    And that can vary day by day, certainly when walking through grief.    I’ve gone from having 5 pets, two dogs and 3 cats, down to one geriatric cat who at the age of 18 years old has the whole house to herself.  She was always low man on the totem pole.   All the other animals would pick on her, but now she’s showing them!     I thought I was losing her a couple months ago, i mean, she is obviously showing signs of age, she sleeps a lot, but she had stopped eating, and had become alarmingly thin.   I’m pleased to say she is doing much better, and I love looking over at the second chair in my living room and seeing here there.  I’ve resisted offers and desires to get more animals because it’s just so expensive to have them, and I have been fortunate to have friends who helped me get their flea and tick stuff, shots, and also in putting them down when their quality of life became unacceptable to me.

I don’t know why I’m struggling so with second guessing the pain meds I kept asking for with my mom.    As close as I can come to the fear of it, is that it silenced her.  And my mother was hardly the quiet soul.     She and I had a pact when it came to my animals.   She really was good to them, and my dogs lived at her house half the time because of how much I traveled.  But I digress.   The pact was, if I was letting one of my animals live in a manner that was less than quality of life, she would tell me.  Because I never wanted them to suffer, ever.   So in recalling this, why would I question doing the same with my mom?  It isn’t as if we euthanized her, but my mother has always responded drastically to the smallest dose of most meds.  Was there more she wanted to say?  The fact that I, we had the last word with her offers little comfort from a strong woman who always seemed to have the last word.

Back to being alone, one with myself, tomorrow I am going out to get my hair done. I’m looking skunk (ish) with roots.   I tried doing this the other day, but I couldn’t sit in my own skin while I was waiting for my girlfriend to finish with her previous client.   I bowed out, leaving her a note, because I just wasn’t doing well physically or emotionally.     I hope tomorrow goes better.

Hope you had a nice day, hope you smiled today and shared with loved ones how much they mean to you.  It’s important, and in the overall scheme of life, it goes by so fast.

Love and good thoughts being sent to you .  Thanks for reading!

 

My mother died

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My 80 year old mother died Sunday evening at a local hospital.  Six days before that I had brought her into the hospital via the emergency room, at her requested time – 9pm.  I had been with her earlier for blood work, and the day before I brought her prescription over.  However, before that, I hadn’t spoken to her in a couple of months.   I was really quite hurt and angry with her.  But that wasn’t new, throughout my life we had many times we weren’t talking, what was different this time was, it would be the last fight.

A very intelligent, highly humorous and entertaining and skilled woman, my mother was very strong willed woman.  She rarely spoke of her childhood, and we weren’t close to her brothers or their families.  It was just the way things were.  Her parents both died before I was born, so I never met them.   However, just because we weren’t close with her family didn’t mean we weren’t close to others.  MY MOTHER was awesome at planning family outings.  She and my Aunt Fran always planned the family gatherings.  Both of whom were “inlaws”.   When my Aunt died and my parents divorced, that, of course, stopped.   Pleasantly enough, Facebook has been a way for me to reconnect with cousins and aunts and uncles I lost touch with, and some that I really never got to know.

This blog is not going to be about the things my mother did that upset me.  I will just say, she was a difficult woman to love, and I did love my mother, very much.   I know I was a good daughter, I know what I did for her, and that I was always there for her when she needed me, except for the few scattered months here or there when we weren’t talking.  This blog is also not about pointing my finger at my mother.  I will say to you, as a teenager my grandmother, aunts and friends of my mother would pull me aside and ask me if I was okay.    My sweet grandmother (paternal) once told me she thought my mother treated me the way she did because I was born at a time when my oldest sister became very ill, life altering ill.  I don’t know.  And I don’t need to know.  I have long since accepted her behavior, and learned ways to avoid it, and still be present in her life.  Because I always wanted her in my life, she was fun to be around, helpful, and offered incredible insight and help.

My mother was a hard working woman.  I truly believe  (as does my sister) and know she worked hard to provide her children (my dad too) with more than she (they) had.   Even as an elderly woman, she wanted to do what she could to help improve the quality of her adult children’s life, mine included.   She was a work horse.   When something had to be done, she jumped right in, even if physically she wasn’t feeling well, she stepped right in to help, which she would inevitably take over.  Sometimes that was great, other times not so much.  I have spent a large portion of my life talking very loudly hoping to be heard.  This also happened in relationships I was in, because I repeated this “come close, go away” behavior with partners, husbands, lovers.  I am 56 years old.  I am not blaming anyone for my choices, I am simply pointing out that I have done A LOT of therapy, of self seeking in effort to get beyond frustration, pain, hurt, and a desire to be loved.

My mother loved me.  I know this.   She loved all five of us children, in different ways.   Her love was “fierce”.  (This word was stolen from a post of my sister-in-law who had a love hate relationship with my mom throughout her marriage to my brother).  Even if we weren’t talking, having one of our “bouts”, I knew I could call her if I needed her and she would be there if I asked.   It was the manner in which she conducted herself, and how she got her needs met instead of humbly asking for help that I found disturbing.

In the 80’s when I went to my first “ACAP” 12 step meeting (Adult children of alcoholic parents), my therapist kept pushing and pushing for me to go.   So I finally went.  There I found a list of 20 characteristics of “adult children of alcoholics”.     I remember identifying with 19, in time I learned the one I didn’t identify with was just denial!  “Did your parents drink?”  My therapist would ask on a weekly basis.  “Once a year, New Years Eve” I would reply.   And she would ask me again the following week, in hindsight perhaps wondering if I was in denial of such, too.

My parents are/were both good people.   They were NOT alcoholics.  Though I’ve long suspected that my mother grew up in an alcoholic home, or certainly dysfunctional.  That is not to imply my mother’s issues were the only ones in the childhood house!  I have often wished my mother was raised and was willing to be treated with antidepressants.  I think her life and my whole families lives would’ve been drastically improved upon.  I know this from my own struggles with chemical imbalance, and severe depression.  “Mood stabilization” meds have improved the quality of my life, and allowed me to be present in my moms life for 7/8’s of mine.   12 step groups and therapists helped me learn how to identify feelings, and how to cope amidst these feelings.   Maturity has also brought me a split balance of learning how to deal with such, or the older I get, walking away from it, because I just don’t have the desire or energy to involve myself any longer.

I want to tell you that the day my mother died, I was there with her.  I held her hand, I stroked her head as she took her last breath, and I am so grateful her passing was peaceful, because her life was usually anything but.  Incessant worry, I believe we were actually raised to believe that worry could and would change the outcome of whatever the challenge was.  It doesn’t, nor will it ever do anything but add further injury to my already abused adrenal system.  Years of living in “fight or flight”, dodging the elephant in the middle of my living room, I believe reared me “fibromyalgia” at the young age of 29.  And by that age I already had two hospitalizations for depression.   My 10 year marriage with an alcoholic to my second husband, and 2 year marriage to my first alcoholic husband had both ended.  At 33 I fell madly in love with a guy who was “sober”.  It took only 6 months to learn that his drinking was hidden, that he was a binge drinker.  I can relate to this now because I’ve identified myself as a binge eater.  I painfully ended this decade length relationship 4.5 years before he died of the disease.

When it became clear that my mother was “actively dying”, I had to ask her some difficult questions, many of which I already knew the answer to because frankly, our relationship was one where I shared almost everything with her, everything except for addressing her behavior which I opted to do four months before she died.    In the short time since her death I’ve wondered if I hadn’t done that, if I hadn’t been at my wits end with her and being taken for granted by others close to me, would it had changed the ending?  Would it be easier on me facing her death now?  The answer is, No.   The truth is, I was long since burned out from being my moms primary caregiver in the 17 years which she dealt with five cancers.  My two siblings stepped up to help out a couple years ago when I conveyed that I was just tired, exhausted actually, and needed a break.  That is not to imply they weren’t “willing” before, but 78% of her illnesses I believe I was solely responsible for her care.  Ask me sometime how I came up with that number!

The problem was, I had my own health problems, and challenges.   And it was my mother who was there for me through these.  When I got cancer, (my brother was diagnosed 2 weeks after I was), she moved in and took care of me, going back and forth between my brothers house and mine.   Looking back, I am not sure how she did this.  And when I went through my last severe clinical depression and couldn’t be alone, she came once again to my rescue.  I will always be grateful for how good she was at nursing me (my siblings and her hospice patients) with incredible knowledge, strength, and love.

Let’s talk about the word “Strength”.  I had friends who met my mom and later laughed and said “No wonder you are a strong woman!”     I had no other choice.  And like the long difficult day she died, I was able to be her voice when she couldn’t.  I was able to love her, and ascertain she was being treated with utmost dignity and wasn’t in pain.  She taught me how to do that!   She always taught us about the importance of family, and I love my family, all of them, all of us flawed individuals!   I had a few hours alone with her that day, so I was able to share some things with her (She really didn’t have any choice but to listen! ha), and I had sensed for days that she was going to die, even though her doctors were not saying that, not at all.   So I had asked my facebook friends who had lost their mom “If you had a chance to say something more to her, what would you say?”   I asked this Saturday night.  Contrary to what some may think, I’m not a drama queen.   I ask for prayers from my facebook friends because frankly, it works faster than any other way I know.   I do not belong to a church, but I do have HUNDREDS of friends who pray for me (and I them) when asked.    My painting career has gifted me with quality people, friends, close friends.  I am so grateful for this.

I wish my moms life had been better.  I wish she hadn’t had to deal with the serious illness that stripped my oldest sister of a normal life and forced my parents to make painful, heart wrenching decisions for her care, and for the safety of their other children.  I wish my mom (or dad) didn’t have to bury their oldest and youngest daughters of a disease that one or both of them passed down to their children.   I wished my parents marriage had somehow worked out, because I believe they did love each other, and we could’ve had some nice family time the last few years…if only she would’ve considered treating that which I believe caused so much distress to my family, that to which was “the elephant” in the middle of our living room.

My mother was my friend.   She really was.   We are ALL perfectly flawed.  I have shared a lifetime of memories with her, both good and bad, but always, ALWAYS good when I was sick and needed her.   I think had she not given her life to raising a family, she would’ve made an incredible lawyer, or doctor.  She was passionate, educated herself of things that were important to her, and never failed at anything she put her mind to.  I mean that!   Other than the failed marriage, she had things she started and didn’t finish, for whatever reason, like hair styling school, but that was her choice.  She was a pillar of strength when she made up her mind to do something, and what an example she was for us this way.  “You CAN, and you WILL”, and she would roll up her shirt sleeves, or put on her work clothes, and make it happen.

My mother really did care for others, and she gave particular attention to troubled teens or giving a voice to the elderly or needy.   And that was and will always be honorable.  It’s unfortunate that that she plowed over those closest to her, but I don’t think it was out of anything but love.  A bull in a china shop comes to mind!  But even this has gifted me with my own strength, my own voice, and I, too, plow people over when I feel I’m being silenced.  Perhaps that was her button, too?   Who knows, I will probably never know and that is okay.  Why?

Because my mother had good morals and standards, she knew right from wrong, and she asserted all of these onto her children.  And she loved us.   She loved us with a fierceness that would scare the crap out of others or others who were treating us wrong!   She wanted more for us than she had  or wanted for herself, and she believed we could do or be anything, and she was proud of each of us, but she just couldn’t say that to our face. I’m astounded when friends or people I meet tell me things my mother has said to them about me.  I really had no idea she felt proud of me or my accomplishments.

And I wish my mother had the ability to admit when she was wrong or offer apologies for when she plowed us over.    Her life, our life would’ve been so much easier and better.  But it was what it was, and I’m left with this hole in my chest, with the loss of my mother, my friend, my confidant.  I am going to miss her, I already do.   All the friction that was between us for those few months has been set aside.  I will have to somehow deal with these on my own, and the minute I walked back into her life to be there to help her when I knew she was sick, it became unimportant, and serves now to only help me define and identify areas of my own life that need honing.

I am grateful she was my mom.  And though I hated some of her actions, I was able to share things with her in her final hours, that needed to be said.   And those were NOT about her faults, but about her strengths and her love.    Because you see, I too wasn’t able to tell my mom to her face some things, some good things.   Intimacy was a no no!   So I’m glad I asked the question I did to my facebook friends, and I used them as guidance of things I wanted to say to my mother, knowing from experience that when someone you love dies, the love doesn’t disappear.  It miraculously expands, a true and amazing gift it is!  I made my amends to my mom, and she, with her stoic and ailing self, acknowledged and did the same to me, just before I had to take over her voice for her end of life care.    Everything happened so fast, and my sister was enroute from TX to get to NH, and my brother was in and out,  running to get my sister when she arrived.  We all worked together, via text, to make her last day as painless a day as possible.  I’m trying to work through the aftermath, and second guessing medicating her to a point where she didn’t have a voice, but I did so knowing I was her voice, and with her strength and love and support of my siblings and their love for our mother, we did it, and I’m proud of all of us for that.

I am left exhausted, broken, in a fibromyalgia flare, but very grateful for this difficult woman, difficult mother, my strong willed, flawed mother!    Rest in peace mom.  I love you, I always will, and I know not how to walk this earth without you, but I’m on Day #3 and survived thus far, because of all you taught me.   And as I think about this, I realize, she was also able to teach me how to be humble, how to apologize, even though her own fragile ego didn’t allow it within herself, for whatever reason.      We are ALL flawed.  And a friend said to me something I saved, and this is where I am going in my life.  It isn’t about being “my best” . It is about being at my functional best, without regret, no matter what life throws me!

This too, shall pass

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I fell on the ice a few days ago.  I don’t think I broke any bones, I can brag about my bone density but I know better.     I’ve never really thought about falls.   I mean, I’m a klutz, and fall more than I want to admit.    The black and blues are all colorful, in various stages of color.   The one on my leg is this ugly yellow.     Then darker ones above that.  My leg looks like a spoiling banana!    I was lucky and am grateful that two hoods cushioned my head, so other than a sore neck, my noggan is fine.  Think I’m going to have an xray on my left wrist though.  It’s swollen and isn’t getting any better.    I wrapped it up in my elecrtic blanket the last few nights, which helped the aches and pains.    I went down quickly and right under my car door and car.     A friend had told me about his friend who fell hard the same day and it caused a detached retina in his eye! UGH.  We have a lot of ice this winter.   Grateful I wasn’t seriously hurt.

So today my dad, his girlfriend and I finished installing the sump pump.  And did some repairs on holes in the foundation.  I have a lot of work to do to clean up the cellar, and also my wool rugs and floors upstairs.  As careful as we were, there is no way around tracking mud.  So the floors and rugs will need to be cleaned too…but not today!  Today I’m going to spend some quality alone time, work on a few needlecraft projects I have going, and perhaps an art project.    What will be, will be!  And my ankle will be elevated and the opposite side wrist will be positioned comfortably, so that I can find some peace today, physically and emotionally.

I’ve had a lot going on the past few weeks, and taking time for myself is the key to get back to tranquility.   It’s been one thing after another.  Looking forward to it’s leaving my space and visiting someone else!    The day after the fall I broke a tooth in half.  So tomorrow I’m heading over the mountain to go to the dentist and will probably have the tooth extracted.  I’m really not looking forward to it.  Let’s see what the dentist thinks.   You know how things happen all at once?  Or seem to?  It isn’t so much the seriousness of the event(s) as it is totality of all, and frustration.  It will pass.  Seriously thinking of sage-ing my home tomorrow.  I’ve been saying suggested prayers to try and rid all the crap that’s been happening.    I do well on a one by one challenge, but when given multiples within short time period, not so much.

Yesterday I shared on  my dad.  Today when he was here I took pictures of his hands, he didn’t know I was doing this.   And today I was able to thank him, them, and tell them him that I loved him and appreciated all he has and does do for me.    We had a few minutes alone in my living room, resting, and he told me he knew he was on his way out.  I asked why he felt that way, or had a dr told him?  He said his memory is getting very bad, and he’s losing strength and abilities on a daily basis.   I just listened.  He spoke of his youngest daughter, my kid sister who we lost to cancer 15 years ago now.   And also of his oldest daughter, my oldest sister who we lost to cancer six years ago.    He told me how upsetting it still is when he thinks of particularly, Darlene’s life cut so short, she was young, not as young as some, but not as old as you’d want someone to be when they learn their life is almost over .   My dad and my sister were the best of buds.   They did things together, fished, camped, they had a very special and unique bond.   It was one of the hardest things I’ve experienced in life, losing my sisters, and watching my parents lose their daughters.    I was watching “Blue Bloods” the other day and there was a scene when a woman asked Erin Reagan whether it gets easier, after losing someone close to you.   She said softly, honestly “No”.  I nodded to her reply as if she was sitting in the same room with me.    Time may teach you how to coexist with the loss, but it doesn’t take the pain away, nor do I think you ever really get over it.  You just have no choice but to trudge on, forward.    If there was one thing I could change in my or my dads life, it would be that Darlene lived a long life and that we never had to know what it was like going on without her here.  But if wishes were horses, we would all ride, yes?

So as I sit in my chair resting my lame body, watching the boob tube and working on projects, I am surrounded with pictures of those I love, and two whom I’ve lost.   Not a day goes by that I don’t think of them, or miss them.   I am always grateful for the time I had them in my life.  I’m truly a better person for having known and loved them, and been gifted with their love.  What I find amazing, really, is how the love for them continues to grow.  It’s really an amazing thing.

Hope you are finding enjoyment in peace in whatever you are doing today, and if not, hang on, “this too shall pass”, and if you’re where there is cold weather and ice…. be careful!!!!

 

 

Keep walking forward

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As typical of having been on vacation, I came home to a to do list longer than my arm.   Included in this was standing up for myself in a couple forums.  One with someone close to me, who is aging, and not a force to be reckoned with, another being the car rental place who tried charging me $179 more than what was contracted for.      I’m a passive person by nature.  I hate confrontation, but I’ve learned that in order to be in business for myself, and in order to take care of myself, I have to learn to do so.

Prayed the whole time I was handling both situations.    The first one was hardest, telling someone what they are saying is false, untrue,  no matter how strongly they rebelled against it.  And keeping my cool when I was being accused of something that I didn’t do, or would never do!   I think we were both shocked at how I handled the situation.  While I will lose some money in the deal, it is nothing compared to what could have been lost, had I not stood up for myself.  I will recover from this.     And I took NO satisfaction in having to tell someone I care about that what they believe to be true, was in fact, untrue.  But I did it.

Alongside that is the realization and reality that they are losing ground.   It’s easy to take others for granted, I mean, we do that to live.   We assume when we leave our yards, that all drivers we come in contact with are sober, able, and alert.    We have to drive defensively, and consciously, but we can’t leave our yard on a daily basis and think about the possible dangers of accidents, and sadly, more recently terrorists.

I was cleaning my studio and heard gun shots.   Now, I’ve lived around guns my entire life.   In past I wouldn’t think even twice about it, but not anymore.  I stop what I am doing and listen.   Say a prayer, and then try to move beyond what could be disastrous fear.    We have to have faith that we will go do our errands, go enjoy our vacation, if we are fortunate enough to have that opportunity, and know we will be home afterwards, tired, cranky, but alive and well.

I have heard some very painful, painful stories this past few days.  People that I know and care about are hurting, some with physical pain which in itself is a life changer, and some experiencing tremendous loss.  It’s always unfortunate when someone passes around the holidays.  The holidays are tough enough for most of us anyway.    And November has bee notoriously a very difficult month for me.  No matter what I focus on, and plan to counter the anniversaries of some very painful life changing events, it still comes up to smack me across my face, and try its best to rip my heart out through my throat.        I know this too shall pass.   It does.   But not without feeling it first.  I know I have no choice but to keep walking.   I think it was Churchill who said, and I quote “When in hell KEEP WALKING!”     Exactly.  Because we give in to the challenges, we stay right there in hell.     But sometimes it’s hard to forge ahead, and in the direction of where we need to go.    Sometimes the best part of a day is knowing you survived it.  It’s just a fact.

I have numerous things going on in my life, mostly all good, but not without stress.   The November crap hit me yesterday, and while it’s only Tuesday, I feel like it should be NEXT Friday!

The holidays are soon approaching.  Time to practice more patience with others, time to go the extra mile to help a neighbor, family member or friend.  Time to make time for someone who needs a hug, or a smile.    Time to let people you know how much you appreciate them, and even though we naturally take things for granted, many of us will experience difficulties that will remind us of how we do just that.

Here’s hoping your day is good, your life is going in the direction you want it to, and that you have a warm, comfortable bed to retire in tonight.     The older I get the more I come in touch with the fact that life really is about the little things, not the grandiose plans or dreams.  It’s about putting one foot in front of the other regardless of the terrain, and doing our very best on days when we know we aren’t feeling our best.    It’s just a fact of life.    My father used to tell us “to pull ourselves up by our boot straps!”      “You’re the only one who can do it for yourself”.     Today I can say, gratefully, that I did what needed to be done today, and while it wasn’t all pleasant, I did great.   Hope you did, too!

 

Walking through grief

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The past couple days have been rough, with migraines and frustrating bitchiness.   This morning I was allowing myself to get really bent out of shape over nothing, when I sat down and jumped on facebook.      I hope the migraine(s) are behind me, I think it’s related to barometric pressure, my head feels like it isn’t attached to my body.  Strange, and adding to the Bitch of the Year award!

As I surveyed my facebook feed, I read a post from a friend who is really a very lovely woman, a woman of faith, ridiculously talented, and kind to the core.     She posted about two children who touched her deeply today, and made her smile while she was gassing up her car.    It lightened up my mood, until close to the end where she spoke about telling the kids mother how much their kindness and friendliness meant to her, and today or all days, as her sister died early this morning of cancer.   Tears flowed down my face then.

I immediately sent her a message, offering condolences, and thanking her for her share.   My mind swept back to the very days my sisters succumbed to cancer.    I was broken, and I was angry at God for allowing this to happen.  And so began a war between he and me, for months on end.   I defied my morning praises, and no longer prayed at all.   How could he allow this to happen?

In time, I learned and accepted that death is a part of our life, and that fairness doesn’t really play a role here.  But my friend, who had just said goodbye to her sister, was talking about how good God is, and how much this experience helped her, and made her smile.   I cried as I reread her beautiful, lovely, words.    How amazing that she was at peace, or I should say, more peace than I had when my sisters took their last breaths.

I sat in silence, trying to compose myself, get my emotions into check, and while I would like to say the bitchiness melted away, it did not, but I was so moved by her share, and her eloquence, awestruck with her compassion and faith.     When she replied to my message she spoke words I understand too well, about not knowing how she will do this without her sister, her first best friend.    Her words lent clarity to me of how I felt, too.

I remember thinking how cruel it was that the birds still chirped, that life still went on, even though my sisters lives were over.   I remember people telling me “time will heal”.  I also remember being firmly (and probably belligerently) adamant that NO ONE would tell me how to grief, how to walk through this atrocity which had been handed down to my family.   Grief is a journey, a necessary journey that is so individualized.   There is no right or wrong way to grieve, though I hope I handled it with even a small portion of the grace that my friend did this morning.

At this time another friend texts me that she knew and was related to the pedestrian who was hit in Brattleboro yesterday and who died later from her injuries.    Many eyewitnesses have shared that she walked right out in front of the car, the driver was not at fault.  But that driver?  Is devastated.    I saw pics of him with his head in his hands, crying.  Of course he was.  What person wouldn’t be?    And then she shared that this person had also just lost two siblings to cancer.    I was relaying all this to my mom, and we shared how grief is an alternate existence, if you will.   You’re not in your right mind, your preoccupied, sad, emotional, and that may be a part of why she aimlessly walked into traffic.  How incredibly sad.

So, tonight, as I write this, I’m thinking about all that transpired this morning and how it changed and altered my piss poor thinking.   I am still working through some crap, but for the most part, I’ll be crawling into bed very grateful that my day may be frustrating, and my head may ache, but I had a fairly uneventful day given two other peoples lives that changed drastically in a moments time.

I wish you a restful nights sleep, and an uneventful (almost boring) day tomorrow.  Life can change on a dime, and it does.  We find ourselves walking through life without those we love most in the world, and I have since learned that the birds still chirping as we walk through grief is really a gift, because life does go on for some.    How easily, how naturally we take things for granted, at least I do.   And I think I’m a pretty grateful person, but obviously imperfect and still learning about life.   Aren’t we all?

 

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)