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A Year Changes Everything

imageToday is my sister’s birthday. It still takes my breath away knowing she is no longer with us. She was all about living, loving and just being. Last year was the first time since our move to the Carolinas that we were able to spend her birthday together. Our brother and his wife joined us for a simple day of just hanging out, talking and sitting in the rocking chairs on her porch. None of us had any idea it would be the last birthday we would spend with her.

This year, we are celebrating her birthday by spending it with her granddaughter, Joelle. We started the day with pancakes and blueberries and now we are watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It is just the kind of morning she would love. Later we will make chocolate cupcakes with sprinkles and have an Angel Birthday party to celebrate her grandmother….my sister. We will laugh and have tiny adventures in the mountains – just the kind of birthday my sister would enjoy – loving and laughing and staying in the moment.

Life really is precious and fleeting. There are no promises of time so it is so important to enjoy every tiny spectacular moment. the tiniest moments really are the biggest gifts.

Happy Birthday, Sis. I miss you every day. I guess I will always feel like there were not enough days, not enough hugs, not enough ‘I love you’s’. But today, I will stay in the moment, enjoy the little miracles and you will be with me in every thought, every smile and every little miracle.

 I love and miss you SO much.

 

 

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My Heart is Breaking

As the rest of the world struggled with what to have for dinner or what clothes to wear or what movie to see, you struggled to do something much more basic. You struggled to open your eyes, to form a word, to lift your arm.

You, my beloved sister, have always been my strength and it is beyond difficult to be so helpless knowing how much you must yearn for someone to help you say what you want to say and do the things you want to do. It is hard to see the tears roll down your cheeks and to sit with your children and not be able to comfort them because you are their mom. Their hearts shatter into tinier pieces each and every day.

We are all witness to the journey of this life and the road is so difficult at times. But every time I think about how difficult it feels, I think about how damned hard it is for you. That is the only place I find any strength.

I cannot talk about this – the words choke me. It seems so unfair to me after all you have already been through. This morning an indigo bunting came to our feeder. It brought me to tears because I wanted to call you and share this simple little joy with you. I cannot call you and that one simple pleasure gone is tearing me apart. I don’t know how many years we have talked almost every day without fail. Today I could not call you.

Today I feel weak, but tomorrow I will be better and try to give you what you need from me. I do not want to fail you now when you need me most. I love you with all my heart and soul. You are the best sister anyone could ever ask for – 62 years of undying friendship. We have seen each other through a lifetime of ups and downs, trials and tribulations, joys and celebrations. We have always been there for each other every step of the way.

I know God has you in His care. I hope He is keeping watch over all of us, too, because we are feeling lost right now. I am not giving up – I know you too well for that. I have witnessed your strength fighting for your very life for over 10 years and I know that if anyone can get through this, it will be you.

God, I hope this isn’t the angel you are looking for right now. I am not ready. None of us are ready.

I love you, BJ.

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Thanksgiving 2015

File Nov 25, 3 45 40 PMTomorrow is Thanksgiving. My husband and I will be together this year without any other family. We are both recovering from a cold and plan to have a scaled back meal instead of the annual production that normally accompanies this holiday. So instead of baking pies and making my grandmother’s cranberry salad, I am texting with my daughter who is making it for the first time ever and wants it to be perfect. Perfection on Thanksgiving is not something I ever aspired to. I am sure it will be perfectly delicious!

Someone asked me if I was sad to spend the holiday alone. Well, that’s funny, because I am not alone. I am with the man who has loved me for the past 20 years. No, we won’t have our parents or children or grandchildren or siblings with us, but we are not alone.

I imagine it must be similar to couples who get married and talk about their dreams for a future family over their first Thanksgiving meal together. For us, we will sit and talk about all the wonderful memories we have shared over these 20 years together. For me there is no sadness in knowing the people I love have other people who also love them. And as for my husband and I, well, we still have dreams for our future, too and they will be part of our conversations tomorrow I’m sure.

The memories have been flooding my mind all day. So many Thanksgivings, so many memories and so many blessings. The bottom line is I am SO thankful. Just having a few quiet days to reflect on the life we’ve shared is good for us – especially as we move into the next phase of our life together. Doesn’t mean we do not miss everyone – oh, goodness, how we miss them, but their happiness and their joy is everything to us.

This Thanksgiving the world is in such chaos and it is hard not to get overwhelmed. So many staunch ideas and opinions it is hard to just stay steadfast in your own beliefs sometimes. In a time when our country should be coming together as this crazy-quilt of different ethnicities, we are letting the world tear us apart. The hatred of Americans is all-encompassing – we all fall into that same bucket like it or not. Seems we would be better served to pull together rather than fueling the flames of hatred within our own people. I do not understand it all, but I think I would be insane if I did. How can you understand what is unfolding in front of us?

So, tomorrow, we will start our day with coffee and the traditional Thanksgiving breakfast of sausage balls. It will be a quiet but joyful day. We know we are blessed and we know that even with our own problems, we enjoy so much that so many people only dream of. Remembering that helps keep us balanced in an unbalanced world. And we will give thanks.

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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.

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On Being Alone and Defining Yourself

I spend about 80% of my time alone. It is not something I choose, but it is the hand I have been dealt for the last 10 months or so. I have always been a bit of a loner I suppose. I was the youngest of four children and often a pain. The one that everyone else had to feel some responsibility for. Again, a situation not of my choosing. I adjusted to being alone. I learned at an early age how to entertain myself. As I sit this morning and gaze out the window, I realize my tendency to label myself. My first labels:  the baby, a loner, quiet, shy. Funny how I never chose the label self-sufficient.

As I grew up my siblings went in their own chosen directions and eventually, I became the last child at home. Being the last child at home (label: only child) meant more time alone. Of course I was older and more social which was nice. Summers were long.  Mom and Dad worked and I cleaned house, did laundry, washed dishes and cooked some. I dated and had fun, don’t get me wrong, but there were no siblings to share my adventures with. My good friend Cindy became my adopted sister of sorts and we shared most everything. Even so, at night, at the close of the day, I was alone.

Fast forward through the labels of wife, mother, photographer, intern, manager, divorcee, manager, artist. I do not wish to revisit those years here today – suffice it to say it was a time of change and re-labeling myself. I start to see the pattern labeling myself with what I did, rather than who I was.

Happily remarried, I relocated to Florida with my husband – as a newlywed (label). It was a glorious time – one of the best in my life. I was able to own a home for the first time in my life. We decorated, we took classes, we rode bikes, we took trips, became grandparents! – we really enjoyed our lives together. We even worked at the same company – dare I say co-worker (label).

Then 9/11 hit. What a horrible time. I had a team of people who boarded a plane that morning to fly to Atlanta for a one day meeting. I don’t think I took a breath until I knew they were okay. Stranded from their homes, spouses and children, but okay. The economy eventually bottomed out and I found a new label for myself – unemployed. Two jobs gone in less than a year. I kept that label several years. It was a difficult time. There were no jobs.

Eventually I went on a very awkward interview for a job I didn’t think I really wanted – of course I was offered the job. For five years I was a ‘teacher’. A label I came to love. I worked with at-risk children teaching art and photography. It was fulfilling until politics got in the way of the work. 40% of the staff was eliminated. I looked into my past and dusted off the ‘unemployed’ label. It did not fit me well, so I worked hard through lots of red-tape and was able to go back to school. For 12 months I became a student (label).

Now I work from home as a web designer (label), so the majority of my work time is at home, in front of my computer solving problems. During this time my husband took a job out-of-town, so I am again, spending the majority of my time alone. I know it will not always be that way, but for now, it is where we are.

IMAG1640Why did I sit down to write this blog this morning? It all started with the coffee cup I chose for my morning coffee. I purchased these from Jane – a talented potter and friend. I bought one for me and for my two sisters (label) to celebrate our annual trips to a cabin in the mountains. It is so symbolic to me. It is a reminder that even though I might spend a great deal of time alone, I am not lonely. I am blessed.

I am going to work on putting aside the need to label everything in my life. If we are not careful, we fit ourselves into those labels. That’s not who we are. Those are our jobs, our roles, our situations, but nothing to do with the core of our being.

For today, I will celebrate the time I have been given to reflect and remember what is important in my life. I will celebrate the artists that create vessels that hold such beautiful memories. My thoughts have now shifted from my labels to examining and remembering who I am. Though I have met many, many people – have had friends walk in and out of my life, have a husband, children and grand-children that I love with all my heart, who I am is something different. I want to find a connection to who I am without labels. It isn’t easy – try it. I feel a future blog about this, but not today. Today I will enjoy a ‘free day’ with no expectations — a day with coffee and memories and no labels.

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Grief Anniversaries

I knew this day was coming.  Every day I looked at the calendar and watched the date grow closer.  It would soon be two years since I lost my sister, Rosie.  The morning started out okay.  As each minute ticked off, I felt little pieces of me crumbling away.  When my daughter called, I could finally let go.

I say I’m sad, but that is such a small word for the intense grief I feel.  I feel pain for my loss, but even more, I feel pain for my niece and nephew and their beautiful children who are growing up without their  mom and their ‘Teedle’.

My beautiful daughter and her beautiful fiance gave me a locket for Christmas that has pictures of Rosie in it.  The front is engraved with a rose and the words ‘forever in my heart’.  Those four words tell the story.  For the last couple of weeks I have remembered childhood memories, thought about our ‘sister’ time we shared in the mountains of Georgia, and looked at old photos.  I want to remember every little thing about my sister.  I want her with me.  I still have a message on my answering machine but today I wasn’t brave enough to listen to it.  Maybe in a few days.

Family is a funny thing.  The people who know how to push your buttons.  The people who drive you crazy.  The people who come to your defense and stand by your side.  The people you will protect with all the strength you have.  I am blessed to come from an insanely passionate group of people.  I’m one of the ones that lives ‘away’ and that is so hard sometimes.  So hard.

Today I have gently remembered the little ripples that make up the waves in our lives.  The gentle moment.  The kind word and the passionate disagreement.  The look in the eye.  The honest revelation that brings you to your knees.  Without these things I would be just a shell of a person and I am so thankful that is not who we are.  I am so thankful we LOVE SO HARD!

Rosie, being without you was especially difficult today.  I know you are here, but I want ‘more’.  I read my friend Erica’s blog and it hit home.  She talked about her own grief and how the one thing we all wish for when we lose someone we love is ‘more’ of something.  Today I love my sister even more.  I miss her more than ever.

I love you Rosie.  And I miss you so much it hurts my heart.

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Whispering Prayers

Yesterday my sister went back into the hospital.  I am in constant prayer for her and wish I could be there to hold her hand and ‘just be’.  I know this has been such a hard road for her and my heart breaks to think how tired she is and just how much she wants to return to her ‘normal’ life.

It’s been a month since I wrote here.  I just wanted to say my prayer out loud.

God, take care of my sister.  Please.  For her more than for me.

I love you, Sis.