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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.

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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.

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.