0

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.

 

 

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.

2

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.

4

The Lies Women Tell

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, but felt it was important to have my niece and nephew read it before I put it online. I love them both for they are extensions of my sister. I dedicate this blog to them and the love I hold in my heart for them. Thank you for letting me express these thoughts of your Mom. You mean the world to me.

dandelionIt has been such a long time since I have written here. I guess it’s because I write for a living now and it makes writing for pleasure a little more difficult. Finding the right time and the right temperament and a smidge of creativity is a concoction I have not been able to muster for a while. I am inspired to write to tonight because of a movie we watched last night. I had it earmarked knowing it would remind me of my sister, Rosie, but I had no idea just how much it would impact me.

A little history is in order – my sister passed away several years ago.  I want the world to know I am not telling tales out of school. Rosie was the most honest and upfront person about her life as anyone I have ever known. The subject that follows is one we discussed many times and one that she discussed with her children.

When I was in high school, my parents told me my sister was pregnant. She was not married and in 1970 you would think having a child out-of-wedlock would not have the gravity that it did in the 1940’s and 1950’s and even into the 1960’s. Perhaps in my family it did.

I was not privy to the conversations between my sister and my parents; all I know is that my sister ‘went away’ to have her baby. She was fortunate I guess in that she lived with our sister, but I know the emotions took a toll on both of them. This blog is not about the details of that time, but more the outcome. Rosie gave her baby up for adoption. I would not know until years later just how that decision impacted her life.

Fast forward many years. We had all married, had children and even grandchildren. We were a long way from those years as very young women.

I went to a summer photography conference at Duke University. One evening they had a reading by a woman who had written a book: Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler. Ann was an adoptee who did not meet her biological mother until she was 56 years old. The room was packed with people who came to listen. On the small stage sat Ann and three women whose stories were in Ann’s book. They would read their own stories from the book that night. There was not a dry eye in the house. After the readings, the session was opened to questions from the audience.

It was not until that moment that I realized the audience was filled with young people in search of their birth parents. In search of their history and looking for answers. Were they not good enough? Were they unlovable? Why did my mother give me away? Most had loving adoptive parents who supported their desire to look for their birth mother. There were also women in the audience who were forced to give their children away and were searching for their child. Were they hated? Would they understand? Did they know they had no choice? There were tears and anger and hurt. Barbs were thrown and hugs were given. It was a difficult night for everyone.

I left that session with an understanding I never had before. These young women had their civil rights violated. They were forced to sign legal documents without representation or without any knowledge of what they were signing. It is a sad statement of our society. They felt shame and all were told to just ‘put it behind you and move on’. They would be forever changed. The young fathers were rarely, if ever, involved or held accountable. For boys, sex was a right of passage. For many women, that first sexual encounter would change their very being.

Rosie’s situation was different in some ways. I know she had an attorney, but I am not sure she understood fully what it would mean to give this child up for adoption. Regardless of the circumstances or her age or the year or the surroundings, my sister could have been on that stage. So much of her story was similar and it hurt to realize how hard it must have been for her.

For the children, many never found their biological mother because so many records were closed. Such was the case for my sister. Rosie had a baby boy. He was born in Charleston, SC. From all the stories we were told, he was adopted by a minister and his wife – or someone to do with the church.

After the reading, I called Rosie and we talked. I am ashamed to say it was the first time she and I had ever sat and talked about what happened to her. This is part of the fallout from secrets. Everyone is expected to keep them. You don’t talk about it. You just move on. Did any of us realize what we were asking of her? I don’t think any of us had any idea. Rosie read the book and told me it was the first time she had realized just how many young women went through similar circumstances.

Rosie reached out several times to try to find her son to no avail. The doctor was long retired, the judge could not be found. When she was diagnosed with cancer, she wanted to put her information on a registry should her son ever need to find out anything about his medical history. Through the years I think she did come to terms with the fact that she would never know her son and yes, she died without ever meeting him. I can only imagine the questions and heartache she felt over the years wondering if she had indeed given him a better life. She would never get those answers and he would never get to know his biological mother.

Last night we watched Philomena. If you do not know anything about the movie, it is about an elderly woman in Ireland who kept the secret of her pregnancy and the forced adoption of her son for over 50 years. I will not discuss the movie or the outcome, because it is a movie everyone should see. For me, it just made me think of Rosie and it made me sad all over again.

I think it is time for women to stop keeping secrets. Sexual or physical abuse, violation of civil rights, rape, pregnancy, abortion, divorce, multiple marriages – no matter the issue, secrets are unhealthy. I once read that secrets are just little lies. We need to stop lying to ourselves, to our families, to society. As a woman, I hope that I can always be there for anyone who has a secret that is a burden on their heart.

Rosie, I miss you so much. Each day you cross my mind and each day I wish you were here. I miss our talks and your laughter and your edge. I miss our trips to the cabin and all that we learned about each other.

Today I am wondering if I should reach out and try to find my nephew. I wonder what you would say? Would you ask me to try or would you ask me to let him be? I wish I knew.

0

Another Father’s Day Without My Dad

IMAG1694Dear Daddy,

I miss you so much.  It is Father’s Day weekend and Sunday I will think of you so often, wishing I could again pick up the phone and call you. The year you passed away, I was a week away from our vacation – a week away from Father’s Day when the call came in.  I could not believe it. I can still remember the disbelief of hearing someone tell me over the phone that you were gone. I was so angry and felt so cheated that I did not get to hold you one more time and tell you face-to-face how much I love you. To this day there is an empty place in my heart that only that last hug could have filled. I find myself thinking ‘What if this is the last time I do this?’ a lot now. I guess it helps me find the blessings in everyday moments and for that I am grateful.

Having you as my father taught me so much. You were not perfect, but then again you did not profess to be. You were always open about the mistakes you made in your life. Funny thing about having a parent that you love so much – forgiveness comes easy. Did I tell you I have a teddy bear – a gift from “Annie” and Jillian – with your voice recorded inside? To hear you say my name brings me to tears, but I am so thankful for that bear! Every father and every mother need to record messages for their children. It will be a great comfort someday. I know it has been to me.

I hope you can see the wonderful fathers I do have in my life. You would be so proud! The hearts made of gold, the firm hands and gentle spirits. The children growing up in our family – your family – are blessed with wonderful fathers. Someday I know, as adults, they will look back with love in gratitude for their Dads – just as I do today.

I love you, Daddy. I think about you more than I think you would believe. I would love to have you here – to hug, to laugh with, and just sit and visit with. I would love for you to meet all these great-grandchildren. They would love that deep bass voice of yours. I can close my eyes and imagine the wonder in their eyes – just like the wonder my children had in their eyes – just to be with you. You would have loved every moment of it. So would I.

Daddy, I am always a little girl in my thoughts of you — fragile, small and needing her father. On this Father’s Day I am thankful for all you gave me. I miss you more every day if that is possible. I think back to tiny, private moments we shared. Meaningless to some perhaps, but to me, they mean the world. You occupy a special place in my heart that will never belong to anyone else. I love you and miss you more than I can adequately express.

Sunday, like every day, I will miss you and sometime during the day I will whisper to myself ‘Happy Father’s Day, Daddy’. I hope you will look down on us and know we are missing you – especially this little girl who never imagined a life without her father.

I love you.  Always and Forever.
MagCindy

2

It’s Been So Long

So long since I put my thoughts down, I almost feel like I have forgotten how.  So much happening it almost makes my head spin.

BJ had surgery – twice in one week.  It was hard to be away from her while she went through this again.  I was so glad to go and spend a week with her after she came home.  We just hung out and talked and laughed and even cried a little – okay, I cried a little, but anyone who knows me knows that is perfectly normal.  We had so much fun.  It was good to be in the mountains, but especially good to be there with my sister.   We are all thinking positively and have put our faith in God and believe He will have a hand in her healing and in guiding her doctors.

I got to spend a couple of precious days with my grandson and they were far too short!  He didn’t quite understand why my sister got so much of my time and why he got so little.  Such a kid.  I love him so much.  Now I need to put my sights on Charleston and Nashville to visit three precious little girls that I miss so very much.

Now I’m home, back at school and trying to keep pace with all that is going on in our lives.  It just seems like the time flies by.

Writing here is harder than I imagined.  Shame on me for taking such a long break.  Maybe I can get back in the swing of things before long.

For now – I am content to know my sister is home and recovering and I am looking forward to her visit – maybe she will even dare to come during hurricane season if I tempt her with gourmet cheese and a nice warm pool…..

Whatcha say, BJ?

Later.