Home Sweet Home

Sometimes in life there are moments that are truly indescribable.  This past weekend had many of those for me. It was the first time I was back at the family compound since both Mom and Dad died.  Driving up the driveway I could feel the emotions starting from the pit of my stomach, holding in my throat then finally making it out of my eyes and running down my cheeks.  There are some places you see that after they owners have died, that place just loses its soul. It looks sad and lonely.  It wasn’t like that at the family compound.

It was extraordinarily strange to be there when they were not in residence. Before I even got out of the car I was crying.  After taking a moment to sob, I stepped out of the car, and I could feel them.  They were everywhere.  They were in the air, in the crickets, in the sound of the frogs, in the grass as I walked to the front door.

And stepping in the house was an experience in itself.  I remember my dad talking about how he went in it was like Mom gave him a huge hug.  I had not felt it until I stepped through the door. And it was as if both rushed over to embrace me.  I took a moment to look around, feel them, have all the wonderful memories that flooded my mind and heart.

And that night I slept so good, knowing they were there with me, watching over.

My sister arrived the next morning and the next two days were spent going through Mom and Dad’s things with so much love.  Who else would they want sorting through, deciding who should have what?  Who else would they want to have laugh and talk about all the memories? I felt as if they were delighted to know that we loved most of their things as much as they did.  I felt that they were pleased at the legacy.

The hardest part was Dad’s office.  And my sister and I both cried as we saw all his work, accomplishments, degrees and records.  We loved him so.  And then his workshop, which was as sacred as his office.  So many tools and memories of him making this or fixing that.  I will forever thnk of him when I smell sawdust.

It was a bittersweet joy. Ne we all must experience at one time or another.. going through the belongings of parents and loved ones.  A few items we wondered where they came from and what was the history.  Mom and dad were so private that we would never be allowed to search through when they were alive.  And we wanted so bad to call them and ask what they story was with this piece of that item.

But maybe in a way it is better to not know.  Our parents and people and have lives long before we come along.  And maybe those items with unknown stories are a good reminder of that.  And to always ask questions and hear stories when you can.

The Just Me Celebration

To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. – Shakespeare

It occurred to me this morning that it is just me.  Usually when I think about this, it is a lonely feeling.  Mom and Dad are gone, I have no children, so it is just me.  And it will be just me at the holiday season.  But something else happened, I realized that this can be a celebration rather than a pity party.

This morning while talking to the counselor, she asked what the roots I am looking for look like.  I told her family and friends.  She said no who, what…And to think about that.  Those core values and things that are important to who I am, what I want my life to be and what I want it to feel like.

Beyond family and friends, there is service, faith, love, adventure and travel, and writing. Because it is just me, I can make my roots, my life what I want it to be. That statement and task can seem very daunting and overwhelming in its bigness.  It’s the entire world, the whole universe, how can I choose? How can I possibly comprehend an expanse that vast?

But when you define who you are not only by people, but by values, then the focus comes into sharper view.  It is still the universe, but by defining those core values that are my roots, I know where to look in the world to follow who I am and hope to be.

What if during the holidays, for example, I fill myself with these roots, so that I can serve and give to others?  That way I can celebrate it just being me and that options are open, instead of it being such a lonely time.  I have always wanted to be home on Christmas Eve, in my own bed.  What if this Christmas I am?  What if on Christmas Eve I snuggle up with my furry babies or what if I have people over?  What if I celebrate and carry out Mom and Dad’s legacy that way?  What if I follow how I want life to feel, and fill myself with love, faith, service…so that my friends and family can enjoy my fullness? What if I am true to myself and bring life to me? what is that old saying about change your attitude and change your world?

When something happens that shakes us to the core, whether it is a divorce, loss of parents or child or other loved one, loss of job, love or whatever, we can struggle to figure out who we are afterwards. OK, this event happened, now what?  What do I do? where do I start? Who am I?  We can get depressed.  And that is normal. We have to grieve what we have lost, and that takes time. It takes a lot of heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching searching and figuring out.  We have to turn ourselves inside out and take a good look in the mirror, then try to turn ourselves right side out again – without strangling ourselves in the process (which for a klutz like me can be hard).

When bad things happen, when our world is torn apart and put upside down, we have a choice: Let it drag us down like a ball and chain, making us bitter, OR using it as a stepping stone to rise above.  I choose, and will always choose, the latter.  But how?  And once you make that decision, what does it look like?  I don’t know exactly, but I am in the process of figuring it out.  And I think that defining what my roots are, who I am at the core that will not change, is a start.  And then staying true to that core, that is how you do it.  We can find out together. So stay tuned…

In the meantime, I celebrate.  I am not alone in this world, but whatever my life is to be, it has to start with just me.

The First Mother’s Day: Watching Over Me

We all have those times were we just need to get away, step outside of our little worlds, take a break and see things from a different perspective.  That was this weekend for me.  The grief counselors told me that Mother’s Day would be a trigger. It would be an emotional day, so plan for it and do something meaningful.  And indeed it was.  Oddly enough, I loved seeing the all the posts and pictures of everyone with their Mother’s.  It made me grateful that I had mine for 43 years. It was reassuring and made me feel good that the world had not stopped just because my mother was gone. But I still did miss her deeply.

The plan was to go to the beach, relax, have a good time, eat, drink and be as merry as possible, while remembering and honoring my mother.  As it turned out, she had a gift for me too. As I sat in a restaurant Friday night, I saw an older lady facing me in the next booth over.  We caught each other’s eyes and connected, looking at each other smiling for several seconds, maybe 15-20 or more.  This happened several times during dinner.  We could not stop or keep our eyes off each other when this happened.  And I thought her eyes and smile look just like my mother’s.

When she and her family got up to leave, I had to go over and just tell her that she reminded me so much of my mother who had passed away last year, and that is why I kept looking at her and smiling. That my mother was my best friend. I said thank you so much and wished her a happy Mother’s Day. She just smiled and took my hands.  Her family said she was 92 and she shook her head yes.  And smiled at me again. Then she looked at me and said she loved me and gave me the most wonderful hug.  And for a moment, I had my mother back, I had my last hug and I love you with her.  For a moment, my mother was there with me.  And it was wonderful.

That lady and her family will never know how wonderful that moment was, how much it meant, or what a gift it was to me. But my Mother knows.  I think that was her gift to me. Yes, she is still looking after me. But then she always did.  I remember in 2013, after my last court date concerning the attack.  I had to face the man who attacked me in court.  And at the end of the day I was emotionally distraught and exhausted.  When I get like that, my body temperature drops and I cannot get warm.  That night, she turned the heat up as high as it would go, wrapped me up in blankets and stayed up all night watching over me in the hotel room to make sure that I slept and did not have nightmares.  She didn’t sleep at all, just watching over me, like only a mother could.

On Mother’s Day, I sat on the beach in the sun for a long time.  It was a bit crowded with families and young people enjoying the mild weather and sunshine. And when it was time, I took the envelope with the cards and letter to my amazing mother, walked to the water and started swimming out to were the water was deeper.  And as I swam, the water was cool and washed over me, caressing my heart as I made my way out deeper with the envelope.  It started to come apart as I swam, my mother anxious to read what was written inside.  And when a big wave came towards me, I let it go, for the waves to carry to her so she could open and read it.  I watched the envelope as it disappeared into the water. And I whispered that I loved her now and always.

It was a beautiful moment, soft and gentle, in the ocean, with people swimming and splashing around.  A private moment between mother and daughter, only seen by God. It was perfect. And as I eventually swam back to the shore, I heard her whisper to me in the wind, a message only for me.

Today is her birthday, she would have been 76.  I miss her so much, but I also feel her love around me, watching over me now just like she did in that hotel room four years before.

Kisses From Mom

A year ago I was celebrating what would be my last Mother’s Day with my wonderful Mom.  She was very weak and frail at that time. I was shocked at how she looked and that she had trouble moving around, so weak as she pridefully insisted everything was fine. I knew it wasn’t, but there was nothing to be done. She was stubborn, because what I didn’t know at the time, she did.

And now it is my first motherless Mother’s Day.  this weekend will be full of memories, love, laughter, tears, wine and water.  And she seems so far away now, as I make my way in this world world without my best friend. But then I saw something the other day…something I know is a kiss from her, my wonderful mother.

It is still early spring, even here in the south, or at least this far north here in the south (confused yet?).  As I was driving to work one morning, I saw it out of the corner of my eye.  A flower, a day lily, beautiful bright and yellow.  But it is far too early for day lilies, isn’t it?

Summer two years ago, Mom gave me bulbs to plant around my then house.  Day lilies, she said, though she didn’t know the color. She had ordered extra for me when she made her spring time order.  She told me when and how to plant them so that they would grow. Instructed me that they would need a lot of water, good sun and attention.

I planted them along the back where we would sit outside, talk and drink wine.  When I moved, I went back and dug all of them up, not willing to leave them behind. I put them in a bucket and planted them in a special spot in the yard at the new house.  And they withered away, brown little clumps of stems and eventually withered away completely during the winter.  Then slowly, I saw little green clumps of their leaves sticking out of the ground and my heart leaped…could they have survived?

And two days ago, I saw that they are high and tall, with so many buds on them already blooming.  And I know this is my mother sending me kisses from Heaven. Letting me know that she loves me, that she is close, that she is always near.  And on this Mother’s Day, I know she is with me. And I love her all the more.

Moms Flower

 

Honeysuckle Road on the Run

I set out to run, putting one determined foot in front of the other.  It’s hard, as my breath gets shorter and shorter, but I must push on.  And I go on my route for the run, breathing in and out, listening to the rhythm of my body.  It is a beautiful afternoon as the sun shines and my muscles remember their place.

Along the way I pass a wall of honeysuckle, their fragrance reaches me almost a block before I see them.  And I am reminded of a sweet childhood memory of my first taste of honeysuckle.  The boy next door, who was my best friend and playmate, told me about these fragrant flowers and the nectar you could eat. I didn’t believe him and told him he was lying.

Eager to prove the truth, he took me to a huge bush full of these wonderful flowers, took one apart of ate the drops of nectar.  “Try it,” he said smiling.  I did and they were delicious. There we stood, for a long time, laughing and tasting the flowers.  Such a wonderful childhood memory. And I breath in deeply as I pass the bush on the running route now.

I keep running, until my legs are weak and I can go no further. I must slow down.  Panting, barely able to breath, I start to walk, still smelling the delicious honeysuckle that is now behind me.  And when I catch my breath, and my legs are recovered a bit, I start to fun again.

And it is that way with life.  We go, we strive, we work, until we can go no more. And we rest. We play, we laugh. And then we start back up again, after catching our breath.  Along the way, we have sweet memories and people to help us, to remember what is important.

Mother’s Day

We all have our triggers, or buttons.  I have been told that by my grief counselors that Mother’s Day will be a big trigger.  So just know that, expect it and plan for it.  They said to do something meaningful.  This Mother’s day I will be at the beach, where Mom loved to be.  She loved hearing the waves splash on the sand, loved the rhythm of the ocean.  Loved it’s beauty and mystery.

There is something about the ocean, where earth meets God’s sea, that is healing.  To let the salt water wash over you is cathartic.  To play in the ocean like a child is to embrace life and all that it can be.

My mother taught me, among many things, that life is bigger than any one person or any event.  No matter what happens, you remember that your life is bigger.  And you don’t let whatever happens stop you.  You keep going, keep praying, keep believing, keep loving and keep living.  This has been hard.  Losing both, so close.  But my life is bigger.

And on this weekend. I will take a card and a letter, and I will let them go out to the sea, where my mother will get them somewhere on the other side.  No doubt I will cry, as my first motherless Mother’s Day comes to pass.  As I cry and my tears will join the ocean, they will also reach her, someone out there. My love, my heart, my memories of her and all that she taught me.  Somewhere, in the sunset, in the ocean spray, in the rainbows in the sky…she will be there, returning my love to her daughter.

And she will also be there in the laughter, in the fun, in the wonder of the sunrise.  She will be there, in my smile and in my heart.  She will be there in the wine I drink and dances I dance and songs I sing.  She will be in the joy of the weekend, and in the stillness of contemplation.  Because, as she taught me, life is bigger. It must be, just as our faith must be.

This is the start of the celebration, the appreciation, the respect, the complex beauty in the pain of the last Year.  It is the recognition that I am not the same, in the sadness and grief, but now I am deeper. The love and compassion I feel is much more than when they were here. And that is their gift to me. Their loss has carved deep spaces into my being, and those spaces can be filled with whatever I choose. And I choose love. I choose life. I chose joy. As I go through this journey of grief, that is the goal: To thrive.

And that is what this Mother’s Day is to me.

Love Life

There are moments in all of our lives where we are acutely aware of how blessed we are in life.  How fortunate we are.  Yesterday was one of those moments for me.  I was sitting on the deck, having a glass of wine, listening to the birds and sounds of the wind in the trees, and I just felt such contentment.  There was a joy, creeping up from my toes all the way up to top of my head.

Mom would love it here, I thought to myself.  She would be out there, sitting and smoking, drinking wine or coffee, depending on the time of day, and happily relaxing.

And right there, on the deck, it dawned on my how filled my life is with love.  It is everywhere, and more is coming.  I am still getting my feet under me, still a little wobbly at the knees, but the foundation is being set.  And that foundation is love.  The life that I want, so full of love, is forming right before my eyes.

There are many TV shows and movies out there with the theme of building your own family.  For eight years, I have been living for my family as I helped my nephew, sister and parents.  They were a part of my every decisions, from where I lived to where I worked.  But now…Mom and Dad are gone, my sister is on her own two feet and as are my nephews.  This is my time.

But what about family?  Well, I still have them, they have not gone anywhere.  But now is the time to build my family of choice – my friends with whom I want to be surrounded.  Those who have been with me for years, they are and will continue to be my family, growing closer with each year.  I will make a life with them.

Most people think that a life well lived and well-loved just happens, but that is not the case.  If you want a good, happy life, you must work hard at it.  That means following the good, making sure you go where you are loved, fulfilled and wanted.  That means getting rid of the negative – whether it’s people, places and things.  That means only allowing what is good and loving and gentle in.  Because negative, hatefulness and anger will only suck the joy right out of you.

I have always said that which brings you peace will lead to happiness. And right now, things are peaceful.  We all have free will to make the choices we want.  But we also must live with the consequences of those choices, good or bad.

I will work hard and be vigilant to let in only that which is good – to make protect the the peace of my life. A happy life is no accident. And that brings new meaning to the words Love Life.  Because if you love something, then you respect it. You cherish it. You want it to flourish. And I do.