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.

1

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.

3

Rosie, today I lost you all over again

Just when I pretend that I’m moving through this all, I find a beautiful reminder of you.

Today that reminder came in the form of an old friend’s website.  He’s a photographer and I just wanted to catch up on his work.  One of his documentary projects was following a dear friend through her battle with cancer.  She went through surgery, chemo, having a port in and out, nausea, pain….it was the path you walked the last months of your life.  Pete’s dear friend lost her battle, too.  And today, I broke down and cried.  It was as if I lost you all over again.

I miss you and it hurts.  I try to move along…doing what needs to be done.  Sometimes I am okay.  And then there are days like today when the reality hits hard and fast and I crumble.  You were such a big part of my life and I miss you so much it hurts.

I just wanted you to know.

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Hello, God. It’s me, Margaret.

I come to you a tired and weary child.

As we come to terms with the end of Rosie’s life, today we are handed another challenge.  I know you will not give us more than we can bear, but sometimes Lord we just need a helping hand.

My sister, BJ, is a four-year survivor of kidney cancer.  She bravely underwent surgery 4 years ago and had her kidney and her adrenal gland removed.  Today, the doctor told her that her other adrenal gland is enlarged.  The doctor is scheduling her for a CT scan and a biopsy.  Barb has been so strong for Rosie.  She made countless trips to help her as she underwent treatment.  She wanted to just rest for a while.  She wanted time to grieve for our sister.  Now, we  know she will not rest until she knows the truth.  It is so hard because I know she is so scared and she’s angry.  Our family has been through so much already.

So, to you God, please raise BJ up.  Giver her strength.  Give her the faith and the hope to believe in a positive outcome.  Our family is strong and our faith is strong.  We will be there with hearts full of prayer and ALL THE HOPE IN THE WORLD.

To all my friends who have held us up over these last months, please, take our other hand.  We need your prayers and your support once again.  We do not choose to go to battle again and we ask that you remember us all in your prayers.  We will do what we need to do.

Sometimes being strong is the most difficult thing we are asked to do.  But when you have a sister like, BJ, being strong and having faith is easy.

Barb, hang in there.  I love you to the moon and back again.  We will get through this, I promise.

“..If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” [Mt:17:20]

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Being Strong While Shedding Tears

My sister, Rosie, is battling cancer.  She had some tremendous setbacks this week – I think it may have been one of her toughest yet.  Last night she told me something that broke my heart.  She said she tries to stay strong, but in the night, when no one is looking she cries.

We sit on the sidelines and watch the battle.  We are helpless.  We want to take away the pain but it is not within our power.  It hurts so bad to see someone you love hurting, but last night I think I understood for the first time what pressure she was feeling.

I know sometimes I cry alone.  Sometimes I don’t want others to see me.  I can only imagine how hard it must be to battle the biggest battle of your life and not be able to express how you are feeling.  I felt ashamed.

I understand all too well the value of laughter in this fight.  The value of positive thinking.  But if I can have a bad day and feel like I need a good cry, then my beloved sister deserves no less.

Rosie, I love you with all my heart.  I ask you to forgive me for always wanting you to be strong in this fight.  I will be here for you no matter what your mood, no matter what you need to say or how you need to say it.  Do not misunderstand.  I want to keep my sister with the sharp wit.  I want to hear you laugh.  This fight is not over.  You and I are NOT giving up.  But let’s be fair from now on.  Cry when you need to cry.  Laugh when you need to laugh.  Fight when you need to fight.  And know that above all things, you mean the world to me.

I love you with all my heart.

2

Relationships, Sisters and the Value of Macaroni Salad

These days, we really seem to underestimate the value of family.  We are a broken nation, so content to flee rather than to hang on and fight.  No more kissing and making up.  It’s easy to stay mad.  We feel justified in our anger.  We’ve lost the value of longevity in our relationships.  I can’t say I’ve represented picture-perfect relationships in my life, although I’m certainly blessed to finally have found the love of my life.  I’m just saying, even in the best of times, it takes work.

We lost our mother way too early.  It was life-changing for all of us.  We struggled to maintain our balance when our world was being flipped upside down.  Slowly, over the years, we drifted back together after realizing we didn’t have the same substance apart as we did together.  Relationships had failed, succeeded, ebbed and flowed.  But the current of family still ran deep below the surface.  Then we lost Dad.  Another devastating blow.  This time as adults with children of our own, we had to be strong for them.  And still we drifted.  Then we lost our step-mom, who we all loved with everything in us and she loved us all in return.  It felt as if no one was left.  We had lost all our anchors.

Floating….floating….nothing to anchor us…..each adrift among success or failure, happiness or sadness.  Each adrift in life….and still the current of family ran deep.

166323_10150135118191057_7055742_nOne summer, three sisters decided to leave family behind.  We trekked to the mountains of Georgia just to remember what it was like to be sisters.  It wasn’t easy at first.  We had different memories.  We had different triggers.  We got angry with each other as we tried so hard to understand.  We worked jig-saw puzzles often times in silence….it didn’t hit me until months later how symbolic it was that we were putting the pieces of our lives back together…piece by piece, twisting and turning – trying to make sense of it all and trying to find where each little piece fit into the whole.

Then came the macaroni salad – the kind we grew up with.  We each did our part, cooking, chopping mixing…..little pieces again making up the whole.  For the rest of the week, this magical symbolic salad nurtured and fed us.  And we started to laugh.  We played games.  We challenged each other.  We stayed up late and didn’t shower.  We just hung out as only sisters can.

I think we all learned how much we loved each other.  Not that we forgot really, just that we were each leading independent and valuable lives – separate from the whole.  But sometimes you just need to be with people who have always been there.  People that have known you from day one.  People that love you even when you don’t shower.  I’d love to tell you more, but we made a pact – WHAT HAPPENS AT THE CABIN, STAYS AT THE CABIN.

In the midst of the trips to the mountains, both my sisters were diagnosed with cancer.  One sister had a kidney removed.  I was terrified for her and for me.  Then my other sister was diagnosed with cancer that she, too, seemed to overcome.  Last fall she was diagnosed with lung cancer and she’s fighting a very difficult battle.  Again I find myself terrified for her and for me.  But I refuse to give up.  Prayer.  Love.  My sisters are a huge part of me.  What I’ve learned through this process is that when you come from the kind of stock that we did, you never really fully lose that connection.  We may argue with each other and get frustrated, but you see, YOU don’t have the right to say ANYTHING disparaging about my sisters.  They belong to ME.  They are the links that make me whole.  Without them I would not feel the deep down honest to God love for anyone the way I do.  They taught me so much.  They still do.  They are part of me.  They are the parts that have always been.

If you have been as fortunate, stop tonight and reconnect.  Don’t let old hurts and disappointments take away what connects us to our very essence.  Make a call.  Give a hug.  Write a note.  Then thank God that you were blessed with the miracle of sisters.

And if you are doubly blessed by having a brother, remember that he may have been taught not to be soft.  Not to be nurturing.  Find the pieces and fit them back together.  We all need each other…sister or brother.  Mother or father.  We don’t come into this world alone….and if you look closely, someone ‘has always been’.

If you weren’t as fortunate, I give you my heart, because you deserved to be loved, too, as much as I am.

To my sisters and my brother – I love you to the moon and back again.  Now and always – you will always be a part of me.