1

Kicking 2016 to the Curb

To say 2016 was a difficult year is not giving enough credence to all that transpired. I have felt in upheaval almost all year. So many things have happened I can scarcely recall them all. Of course, life has a way of allowing sparkling moments in the midst of heartache and I must acknowledge there have also been some truly sparkling moments!

The year started with a dramatic change in lifestyle. It was a chosen change, but dramatic nonetheless. I was so excited to be near my sister after being so far away for so long. She had been fighting cancer for years and just being close meant the world.

img_2740Unfortunately, five months after I relocated, my sister lost her battle with cancer. Losing her was devastating. Her passing came at the end of a difficult hospital stay and all the family was lost. For me, this was the second sister we lost to cancer, so every sad memory from before resurfaced again. I still have not grieved the loss of my sister even after all these months. I have built a very big and ugly wall that keeps me isolated from my feelings. I know when the moment comes it will be extremely difficult. The funny thing when you lose a sister and there are ‘closer’ family members, I think some people may not realize the depth of the loss. I do not want to diminish the impact her passing had on each and every member of our family – it was SO hard for everyone. Maybe it is my wall, but I felt isolated and alone in my grief – I still do.

A few months prior to my sister’s passing, my brother was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was in treatment but did come to see her in the hospital. I know this loss has had a tremendous impact on him as well. Again, as siblings, I don’t think people understand the impact. We all lost our mother to cancer when we were young adults, and that witnessing and experience never leaves you. My brother and I talk almost every day and his wife is taking such good care of him. I am witness to yet another fighter – strong and defiant – but I know it has not been easy on him.

We also had another cancer diagnosis in my husband’s family so it has been a pretty tough year where family health has been concerned. We are steadfast in our love and support – the fight goes on.

img_7433We were fortunate enough to find a place we loved near the mountains. It has been glorious but even this had it’s challenge. This year we had a long drought and the mountains near us were burning. We had smoke, but thankfully we were never really at risk – others were not so fortunate. The good people of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN, suffered tremendous losses. It makes you realize just what’s important.

My sparkling moments were spectacular – all my children and grandchildren together for the VERY FIRST TIME to help me celebrate my birthday. It was more than I could have dared ask for.  I watched them talk and play and just be here and that was all I needed. It was truly beautiful.

Another sparkling moment occurred when I met four beautiful souls I had never met in person. You would not believe the amazing connections we all shared. It was beautiful. SARK brought us together ages ago and the relationships were built over many years. Such long-lasting connections were not unusual in our group of online friends. Luscious and succulent and even more so in person! It was a beautiful blessing.

I was able to attend a family reunion this year and see cousins I have not seen in – oh – say 40 years or so. My brother was there, too, which made it extra special for me. I’ve learned so much about our family as I have taken the plunge into genealogy, so seeing everyone again and remembering our parents and grandparents was so rewarding. Looking forward to seeing everyone again in 2017.

Then there was the election. No political discussion on my blog other than to say my wildly beautiful and culturally rich family and friendship circles are worried about what lies ahead. If you are in my circle and love me, I expect you to stand beside me and fight for the rights of those I love if the need arises. Enough said. I have faith – for without it I would be lost.

And let’s not even talk about all the amazing musicians and entertainers we lost this year.

But back to the sparkle – I still get the sparkle.  Some of my most sparkling moments are very personal and very private – those protected moments are blindingly beautiful. They involve my heart and soul.

So, I prepare to say goodbye to 2016. It is with a heart that is both heavy and overjoyed at the promise of what the future holds, that I say goodbye to this year of my life. I look forward to 2017 with hope, love and unfailing faith in the inherent good in people. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I just know that I need to focus on the promise of a better 2017. Bring on the JOY!

Cleanse is my word for 2017.

“I dismiss _________ in favor of _________” is my phrase. (There will be a LOT of those phrases!)

theothersideOut with the bad – in with the good. Here’s to crumbling my emotional fortress and allowing myself to feel and grow. And in saying goodbye to this difficult year, I say goodbye to my sister. I really miss you, Sis. More than I think you ever could have imagined I would. My life is forever changed.

4

The Loss of a Child

IMAG0806My blog will be emotionally heavy today because my heart is heavy. If you prefer to walk away and read another day, I understand..

This morning I logged onto Facebook to complain about the last few days. We had a tremendous storm Friday night. Our house was struck by lightning. The transformer for our landscape lights was literally blown to pieces. Our answering machine was fried as was our router. The network card in our computer and the battery in my husband’s laptop was zapped. We were both upbeat when we discovered a way to salvage the messages left by my grandson over the last few years and a single message from my sister Rosie who lost her battle with cancer. The messages mean so much – we were elated. We took a break to go to dinner with our children and came home only to realize the lightning also struck the water line from the city to our house. We are now without water until Monday or Tuesday – very long story which really isn’t important.

Angel-199x300So, feeling very sorry for myself, I logged onto Facebook only to see the status of my dear friend who lost her beloved granddaughter to a very tragic auto accident this weekend. Suddenly, nothing going on here mattered. I thought of my dear friend, her children and her precious granddaughter.  (Our grandchildren share the same name which hit me hard.) I have been overwhelmed with sadness for her, understanding all too well what that relationship is like and what a difficult road this beloved family has ahead of them. There were other children in the accident as well, so the grief is far-reaching.

How do you come to terms with the loss of a child? We always associate death with illness or age. A young beautiful child with a bright future losing their life leaves me at a loss for understanding. I just know I will pray for this young girl who was taken too soon and her family left to try to make sense of such a tragic accident.  Why, why, why?

Tonight as I write this I do so knowing my children and my grandchildren are safe. This knowledge is bigger than any annoyances I could possibly have in my life. Life is so precious and so fleeting.

My thoughts go to my sister Rosie and how hard it was to lose her – how difficult it was for our whole family. I understand all too well what tremendous grief feels like. Next week I will think about my sis when her birthday rolls around and maybe I will listen to her 30 second message we managed to save. The presence of a beautiful spirit is long-lasting.

Bless you Pat and your beloved granddaughter. My heart breaks into a million pieces, but I know I feel nothing compared to what you and your family are going through. My prayers are with you all.

I love you, my friend. You are in my constant prayers.

1

In Memory and Honor of Michael

Michael was my brother-in-law in a prior marriage.  He was gay.  Once a long time ago, he stood by the river alone.  Who knows what he was thinking?  We just know he committed suicide.

I have such mixed reactions about suicide.  But today it seems appropriate to honor his memory when the world is wearing purple against homophobic bullying.  I’m not saying Michael was bullied.  I just know he took his own life and it makes me so sad to think that he must have felt helpless in that one moment.

There were lots of rumors – some factual – some I’m not sure.  I think that angers me even more to know that once he had taken his life, some people felt the need to label him.  I don’t want to talk about all that here.  I want to honor Michael and let him know that we think of him and miss him and wish he had held on.  The world has become gentler and a bit more understanding since you made that decision standing on the bank of the river.  I know he was loved by his family.  I won’t say everyone understood completely – Michael’s approach to approval or his ‘in your face’ way of fighting against disapproval was sometimes difficult.  That’s all I will say here for each of us have our own thoughts and memories – especially when we look retrospectively.

One of the last times I remember seeing Michael was at Christmas.  He went down in the field with the family to ride the snowmobiles.  I remember thinking how happy he was to be doing the thing that his family always loved together with them.  It is a beautiful memory that I will never forget.  Michael loved antiques.  He brought gifts for my children.  Beautiful porcelain faced dolls for Melissa and an antique chair for Ed.   He really stayed in touch.  Cards, letters, phone calls.  He tried so hard.

Now, this, Michael is for you:

I remember so many phone calls with you.  I sometimes got angry, but more because of the alcohol.  I know now you may have used it as a crutch.  Who knows really.  I just know it was hard sometimes to talk to you.   I know you felt like you could not talk about your life much because you often met with disapproval.  I know that sometimes people ‘used’ you because you would do ‘outrageous’ things to make them laugh or just to fit in.  Oh, I hope you see the world today.  It’s not perfect.  It’s a long way from perfect, but it is so much better.  I hope you can see that being HIV positive is not an ultimate death sentence now.  The research and drugs are helping.  I wish I had the opportunity as an adult woman who has cast off her own burdens to sit and talk to you about things of substance.   If I had any part in making you feel out-of-place, I hope that you will forgive me.   Your death affected us all in so many ways.  It’s hard to lose someone you love – especially knowing it was at their own hand.  Most of all, Michael, I hope today you are at peace.  I hope you look down and laugh at the struggles we all have and take comfort that your worldly problems are behind you.   Most of all, I want you to know you are not forgotten.  God bless you, Michael.  We love and miss you still.

7

Getting Back in the Game

I am allowing myself to finally step out of grief a little and start enjoying my life.  Each and every day my heart still misses Rosie and wants for her.  I am gobsmacked at how different I feel knowing my sister is not here to talk and laugh with.  I know her spirit is here – I feel her presence all the time.  Is it the same?  No, of course not, but it is comforting.  One thing I know about Rosie is that she lived fully each and every minute within whatever boundaries were imposed upon her.  I know it is time to focus on reclaiming my joy and living life fully just like she would have.  So, Rosie, I miss you more than I can ever articulate.  It physically hurts sometimes.  Just know that even though I am moving through this life, I am moving through it a changed person knowing I will never feel your presence here again.  I know there will be a lot more tear-filled days ahead.  Please hold my hand and walk with me and watch from above.  Just be with me as I move back into life.  And I know that when we do see each other again it will be a joyous day!

I am so thankful that BJ’s results were negative for cancer.  I think I held my breath waiting.  When she called me and told me, I finally let myself bawl like a baby.  My walls came tumbling down.  God does indeed answer prayer.  Maybe not always in the way that we want it, but we do get an answer.  I am so very thankful that His answer was what we had all prayed for.  We never know what tomorrow may bring.  I guess that makes it doubly important to live every moment to the fullest.  Love and embrace every person and every experience.  For all of those things are the building blocks that create this life and they are there for each of us to take.  It is as simple as putting out your hand and accepting what is given.  BJ, I cannot tell you how much you mean to me.  Where there were three, there are now two.  At some point one of us will leave the other and then there will be one.  Until that day (and I hope it is a hundred years away) I will breathe you in and out with every breath I take.  We are as one.  Like it or not.  I love you to the moon and we have a lot more memories to make, you and I.

Of course, there is also the job loss.  All of these things have had me so overwhelmed.  I am trying to re-craft my life as best I can, but it is a slow process.  It’s tough out there and you just have to grow a pretty thick skin to get through it all, but get through it I will.  And I know that in some way, my life will be better for having gone through this.  It is just another step along the way.  I have never looked back and I’m not about to start now.

So, what’s ahead for me?  Joy, Simplicity, Love of Life, Faith, Love of Family, and Determination…..just to name a few.  I have a little fictional short story churning in my mind, so I’ll be publishing it on my A Little Big of Soul blog in the coming days.

Life is worth living.  I started this blog when we lost Bella.  It was so hard and I was in such disbelief.  I had to remind myself – Life IS worth living.  I guess after the past few weeks I needed to remind myself again.  It’s all part of the process.  Life IS worth living.

Get on board with me folks – it’s full steam ahead.  As my grandpa used to say…time and tide wait for no man…  Boy, oh, boy, was he smart.

Did I mention it won’t be long until Christmas?  🙂

6

Things I Cannot Tell You

Seventeen or eighteen.  That’s about how many times I have started this entry.  And also the number of times I deleted it.  Somehow, the words and the emotion do not match.  The reality and the impossibility are in constant conflict.  I cannot pick up the phone and call you, but I find myself talking to you all day long.

It’s been almost a week since I lost you, my sister.  This week has been one of the longest of my life.  I cannot imagine what a month or a year will feel like.  I cannot imagine never hearing your voice again, or your laughter, or your direct criticism or your unearned praise.  You were definitely a bouquet of so many different qualities.  I feel like I’m standing in the middle of New York City and all the lights have gone out and the city has gone silent.  How will I make it with the thunderous quiet your passing left me with?

So many funny little things have happened and I know they are signs from you.  I know some will scoff at the notion of such a thing, but it doesn’t matter.  I know it to be true and that’s really all I need.   The night you passed away the sky opened up and cried for you.  I was in Colorado, lost knowing I would never see you again.  Then the biggest rainbow I’ve ever seen stretched across a dark and dampened sky.  Rosie’s rainbow.

There were signs before.  The whisper in my ear two weeks before.  I knew you were in someone else’s care that night.  I think I quit listening because I did not want to face what I knew was coming.  I was steadfast in my denial.  I will never forget when you told me you were tired of being tired.  I knew then, too.  But I still did not want to listen.

After your funeral, I don’t think I felt much.  Until we walked into the bookstore.  There on the table was a book of Appalachian History.  Of course I picked it up and thumbed through it.

When we lived in Ohio, you had that white and whiskey colored cat.  T-Solly (or so I thought.  To be honest, I never really gave it much thought).  As I picked up the book, it opened to a page that talked about ‘The Trail of Tears’.  Knowing how much Native American History and Native American Rights meant to you, I started to read.  There it was – the story of Tsali and his family.  That was the cat’s name and all these years I never knew where the name came from.  It was so obvious.  Then I read on to see that General Winfield Scott had ordered that Tsali and his family be shot.  The twist?  Of course, General Winfield Scott is part of our family tree.  No wonder you felt so conflicted.  And the translation of Tsali?  Charlie, of course.  Your best friend’s name all these years in Cherokee was Charlie.

As our plane took off out of Knoxville, I was overcome with sadness.  I felt I was leaving you behind.  I felt like I was somehow abandoning you and I just wept.  I could not help but remember that you are now at rest beside Mom and Dad, Mam-Maw and Grandpa and Great Grandma as well.  So much of my family gone and I was simply overwhelmed.

Grief is such a strange creature.  I move around in my life like everything is going to be okay.  Then a fleeting thought whirls me around and I fall into a puddle.  I am overwhelmed with sadness and I know that for months and years to come, I will be pulled in and out of this sadness.  I won’t get to come home and hear your familiar message on my answering machine, ‘Hey MagCindy, it’s Rosie.  You don’t need to call me back.  I just wanted to say hi.’  I find myself wanting to scream, “CALL ME BACK!”

A friend called me today to see how I was doing.  As I talked to her I felt myself spiraling in disbelief.  I think it hit me when I realized that you have been in my life longer than either of our parents.  56 years is a long time to love someone, but it still isn’t long enough when that person is you.

On the plane home, this song came on.  It brought me to tears again, because I always thought of you as this friend:

Let It Be Me
There may come a time, a time in everyones life
where nothin seems to go your way
where nothing seems to turn out right
there may come a time, you just can’t seem to find your way
for every door you walk on to, seems like they get slammed in your face
thats when you need someone, someone that you can call.
and when all your faith is gone
feels like you cant go on
let it be me
let it be me
if it’s a friend that you need
let it be me
let it be me
feels like your always commin on home
pockets full of nothin and you got no cash
no matter where you turn you ain’t got no place to stand
reach out for something and they slap your hand
now i remember all to well
just how it feels to be all alone
you feel like you’d give anything
for just a little place you can call your own
that’s when you need someone, someone that you can call
and when all your faith is gone
feels like you can’t go on
let it be me
let it be me
if it’s a friend you need
let it be me
let it be me

Rosie, I know you knew I loved you.  I knew the last time I saw you it would be the last.  I didn’t stop hoping and praying, but sometimes you just know.  I hope tonight you have a pillow filled with stars.  I’m on my way outside to see the Perseid meteor shower.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it happens tonight.  I want to look up into the heavens for I know you are up there.  I’m still down here, a little girl, missing her big sister in a very big way.