Bringing Him Home

There is nothing like bringing a parent home, both in the literal and figurative sense.  I have done both.  And there are few times as quite as heart breaking.

I knew today was going to be hard, but I had no idea just how hard hard could be. Until last night, I had not been in his room since he passed, except a few minutes to get a picture for his service.  When I went in, everything was still in place.  His clothes.  His toothbrush. His desk, his TV.  The sheets and pillow that he laid on when he passed even.

And the room still smelled like him.  That is what hit me the hardest.  As soon as I walked in, I started sobbing.  I am 44 years old, and I was on the floor sobbing, in my father’s room. It was simultaneously comforting and heartbreaking to be in his room, where he took his last breath, where I held his hand and sang to him, stroked his hair, told him it was OK to be with Mom, if he was tired I understood.

After sobbing I got up and packed his things in boxes.  No matter the label as there is now no hurry to unpack.

Today was the day the movers brought Dad’s things back home from the assisted living facility. All of his clothes, this computer, his glasses, his towels, his sheets, his socks. his dresser and nightstand, his desk…all were packed up and loaded into the truck. Then unloaded back into his room here at the house where his lived with me after Mom died.

There is nothing that prepares you for bringing a parent home in this circumstance – taking their things from the assisted living back to the house. It was harder than the day before.  Seeing everything of his, of where he was, loaded up and moved out.  The movers worked so fast, and in no time at all, the room was bare and empty.  And that was the hardest moment.

While he was only there for 3 weeks, it is still the last place I saw him alive. His room was the last place I talked to him, laughed with him, ate with him, spent any time with him.  It is the last place I saw him breathing, the last place I heard his wonderful voice, or held his wonderful hands.

And so to see that empty space, where my father was, is beyond my vocabulary to describe.  It broke my heart.

And so his things were unloaded at the house, and I sat on his couch and cried.

I talked to several friends who have done the same things, and they talked about how devastating is was for them too.

When you have a parent die, it’s like you become part of a very sad exclusive club. And only those who have had a loved one pass will talk to you about it- no one talks to you about these things until you are a “member.”  It is kind of like Fight Club, except even more exclusive.  And then you find out that you have been living side by side with other members for years.  Yes, you may know that a friend lost their parent, but you don’t really know until you too are a member. Then the information and conversations you are privy to are both poignant and consoling.

And so it is, as I go forth, a full member now. And those who have brought their parents home will understand.

 

The Accidental Good Time

Man plans, God laughs. – Yiddish Proverb

Many times in life things do not go as planned.  Plans When this happens we have two choices: Get mad and upset, or make the best of it and try to have a good time anyway.

Picture it, a beautiful Saturday morning.  Not too late, not too early.  Just right for sleeping in a bit but still being able to get a lot done.  A call from a friend came in.  Meet for early lunch?  Sure.  There is always time for good friends and good food.

So, it was planned, an early lunch, then off to the assisted living place where my father had previously stayed. Boxes were in the car, as his things need to be packed up.  The movers are coming this week and everything must be ready.  A friend was meeting me there for emotional and moral support, since it will be a bit emotional.

And then…and then after lunch my car wouldn’t start.  A dead battery, and neither my friend nor I had jumper cables.  Not great.  Instead of getting upset though, we made the best of it.  We were at a shopping center, so if we had to stay there for a while for a another friend to show up with jumper cables and a jump, then we would do it.

Several pairs of shoes, many laughs and two margaritas later, my car was running. What is the point of getting upset? While it was not the day I had planned, and somethings had to wait a day or two, it all worked out.

In life, we cannot loose our ability to make the best of the situation.  Life has been so hard lately, so heartbreaking.  And when this happens, it is easy to just slip into a dark abyss of anger, fear and pain. But the Human Spirit, our souls were not meant to live in such dark space.  We were meant to rise, to fly, to get through and over the bad. But sometimes, especially in the beginning, you have to search for it.  It may take effort.  But oh it is so worth it.

There is never a bad time to accidentally have a good time.

Opportunity Knocks

I have always heard that you know you are on the right path because things just line up.  I have also always heard that once you get negative things and people out of your life, the positive starts happening.

It can be hard though, at least it is for me right now.  But sometimes you have to be selfish enough to take care of yourself first.  Sometimes (most times) you have to not care what others think, and just do what is best for you. After eight years of taking care of others, it is my time. And as I move forward, figuring out the new normal, getting my feet under me and my toes wet…I feel relief.  At this  moment, even though life is hard right now, I am OK. And there are good things brewing in life for me. Because I am trying, so very hard. And all that hard work has to pay off.

I am so very fortunate that I get to do what I love every single day.  I love my work, love my job and I work at one of the most amazing places in the world.  I am a writer, and the fact that I get to do this every day for a living is amazing. And my job has been so wonderfully supportive of me during this time. Making sure that I am OK, asking if I need anything. I have never had a company be so wonderful to it’s employees.

As a writer, I also do freelance work. And yesterday a wonderful opportunity came to me. A top woman’s author, life couch and speaker asked that I help edit her book. First to be asked by such an amazing writer and person is in its self a wonderful compliment.  It is an opportunity for which I am truly grateful. This is exciting and I am thrilled.  We talk and plan in the coming weeks.

To have the best job, to have an amazing and fun freelance project, to finally not have to take care of everything  and everyone else….Opportunity knocks. But I am wondering if opportunity is not just Life its self?  It is spring. It is the season of the new. And I will turn my pain into power.

All the hurt, all the lies
All the tears that they cry
When the moment is just right
You’ll see fire in their eyes
‘Cause she’s stronger than you know
A heart of steel starts to grow

When you’ve been fighting for it all your life
You’ve been struggling to make things right
That’s how a superhero learns to fly
(Every day, every hour, turn that pain into power)

She’s got lions in her heart
A fire in her soul he’s a got a beast
In his belly that’s so hard to control
Cause they’ve taken too much hits, taking blow by blow
Now light a match, stand back, watch them explode – Superheros, The Script

 

Sometimes Counselors are Wrong Micheal Mule’

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better. — Anne Lamott”

This is not going to be a nice post.  This is going to be the truth about Michael Mule`. I was willing to give the ex  a chance to clear the air between us, since he seemed to be so hurt. He lived with me and took care of my father for 7 months, all the while dealing with me grieving, or trying to grieve my mother’s death.  It was hard. Very hard.  And while the relationship ended, he did a lot of good things…

The pressure of taking care of an ailing elderly man took it’s tole on the relationship, which ended horribly Valentine’s Day night.

After talking to my grief counselor, (Mom died in July, Dad 3 weeks ago) she said that because he helped take care of my Dad for seven months, because he dealt with me lashing out constantly because of grief…he deserved to have his say.  He deserved to vent and get his hurts off of his chest.  It would be healing for both of us, the counselor said, because it would allow us to get it all out, and walk away without regret.

So I get home a little early, took a hot bath, drank some wine and some chamomile tea.  I even meditated and used “healing love and grace” as my mantra. I was calm.

After two minutes of arriving, he indeed launched into an angry tirade of everything I did to him, and against him.  For 45 minutes I took everything he said and simply said “I’m sorry.”  While it was very hard, I thought I was doing the right thing.

And then that wasn’t enough.

He wanted me to make public statements and call people…prove that he wasn’t bad guy. He was particularly upset about a blog I wrote about the break up, because his family members saw and apparently called him out on it. (read said blog here). And when I said things were getting out of hand  – he had already stormed out of the house once -he accused me of not trying, of not meaning it, of not wanting to make amends and of lying (because this is how every girl wants to spend her evening, note the sarcasm).

It was supposed to be listening and talking and mainly me apologizing so he could get his issues out…but as usual he took things too far, got too angry.

In an error of judgement, I handed over my mother’s wedding band and cross she gave me, that both parents were wearing when they died…”I am serious, and you can hold onto these as my proof. Hold onto them in good faith, then we can talk again, when things are not getting out of hand and so heated. I don’t want to fight.”

He took the jewelry, and continued to text insults to me after I left. He sent text messages threatening to sell the jewelry to replace 3 things I accidentally broke while we dated. After seeing that he was spinning way out of control, and would not calm down,  I asked for the items back. “Obviously I made a mistake and this wasn’t a good idea.  So, just give the jewelry back, and we go our separate ways.”

I continued to beg for my mother’s ring and cross for over an hour. First he said he left them at the table, then that he gave them to the waitress…  Then he admitted that after getting back to his parent’s basement, he threw my mother’s wedding band and cross, that he knew meant the world to me, down a very steep hill in his parent’s yard. The whole time taunting me because I accidentally 3 broke things of his while we were dating (I am a klutz). And then further demanding that I take my previous post down about him because you don’t write that kind of thing up about someone. (Censorship much? I am still in the USA, right?)

First, let me say that if you date a writer, that is a risk you take. Anyone who has ever read my blog knows I post the good, the bad and the ugly. I write my life.  Don’t want to be in my blog? Don’t be in my life.  Do not mistreat me and then whine about what I write.  If you wanted me to write warmly about you, you should have treated me better. You sure weren’t complaining when I wrote the good things about you.

And definitely do not betray my trust by emotionally blackmailing me with my mother’s wedding band and cross. That only shows your lack of class, not mine.

My counselor was wrong. Some scum of the earth people do not deserve anything…but seeing my sweet cheeks as I walk away.

(And yes I am willing to show anyone the text messages…just ask.)

Editors note: After talking with the counselor, I naively thought that while it may be a difficult evening, it would ultimately be healing for both. We could talk, vent, apologize and even if we weren’t best friends at the end, we could walk away with peace. I thought if I apologized and validated, we could hug each other at the end. All with love and grace to each other. But it takes two.  Never did I think he would betray such a basic trust…and cause more drama that could have so easily been avoided. “Hey, obviously this wasn’t a good idea…no harm, give me my jewelry, and we will say goodbye.”…

I prayed that God would give me a sign, show me if I had made the right decision or not with this man. I got the message God was sending.

Micheal Mule’
Micheal Mule’
Micheal Mule’
Micheal Mule’
Micheal Mule'
Micheal Mule’
Micheal Mule'
Micheal Mule’

When someone shows you who they are the first time…believe them. On the advice of my grief counselor, I tried to make amends with the ex – give a chance to say his peace so we could walk away with the air cleared and move on. BAD IDEA. He took my mother’s wedding band and the cross both my parents were wearing when they died. Where are those items now? After he took them, and refused to give them back to me, he said he threw them down a hill in his parent’s yard in the middle of the night (He lives in their basement.) Who does that?!?

The Grit

I wrote this back in 2000 after having a particularly bad day.  For me it is about reaching deep down, deep where the soul meets the heart, and the heart feeds the spirit. When you just don’t know if you can keep going, when the heartache seems insurmountable…but you tap into that inner strength, the steel frame and you push yourself. And by God’s Grace, you pick yourself up and make it.  Then you have the Grit.

GRIT

I am determined.
Sweat on my brow.
Heart in my Throat.
I am at the starting line.

The sound of my heart
Pounds in my head.
Cheers ring in my ears.
They say I can’t.
But I won’t let them win.

I will defy all expectations.
All definitions.
All Doubt.
All Rules.

The naysayers will walk away.
Head Down.
My Will silencing them.

They don’t know the steel frame inside me.
I am determined.
My will pushing me to succeed
Down the hard
Long.
Rocky.
Road ahead.

Ada 06/2000

Garden Memories

These two pieces I wrote showed up in my Facebook Memories. The first was written in  2010, the second in 2014.  Still very good today.  I learned so much working in the garden with my Mom.

In the Garden

When I was a child I would work in my parents garden, helping to plant seeds, making rows, and helping to water the vegetables.  We always had a garden, always bursting at the seems with fresh garden goodness.  There were beans, broccoli, corn, potatoes, peas, tomatoes, and squash.  One summer I ate so many carrots that my skin turned orange. Do you know how many carrots you have to eat for your skin to turn colors?  An entire garden full.

Then there was the ant bed incident.  When I was about 4 I was walking around the garden and tripped into the largest any bed I had ever seen.  I started screaming and my Mom came running over, stripped the ant-ridden clothes off me and (I think), started washing me with water from the hose.  I still hate ants.

The past two weekends have been spent at my parents house getting the garden ready for planting as Spring arrives.  We did a lot of yardwork, tilled the garden and planted corn and beans.  We measured and made sure the rows were spaced evenly, that everything will have ample room and space to grow.  As I packed to leave they gave me seeds for my own garden.

There is is something very comforting about planting seeds passed to me by my parents…the same seed that are planted in their yard are now planted in mine as well.  And Monday night, as I planted by the light of the moon (and the outside lamp), there was a joy that I swear came up from the ground and crept in my bones.

Planting is methodical and grounding (literally).  There must be attention and patience, tenderness and diligence. I am like the garden, like the soil, like the seeds I plant.  We are one in the same.  The seeds of my life are being planted, and what it grows to be requires patience and hard work.  My life is growing, the possibilities are growing, even my thighs are growing (have to get to the treadmill!).

And while my life grows into what it will be, I will plant and tend my garden.  and be grounded by the methodical pace of nature.  I will learn from her and let her show me the virtues of taking my time…letting things unfold. And I look forward to the day the vegetables are ripe on the vine.

***********************************************************************

I remember helping my Mom in the garden a few years ago. We were sitting, taking each one of the little bean plants she planted, and slowly winding them up on a string, so that they would grow up on the string and be easier to pick. We started in the morning, as we drank coffee, each of us working in peaceful silence next to each other, in complete comfort.

 

After so many plants, you actually get a rhythm going. And gently, without breaking the tender baby vines, you wind them up and move on to the next. All day we did this, breaking only for more coffee. And it that gentle morning, I was deep in thought. And it occurred to me that life is very much like winding those little bean sprouts up the string. There is a process for everything, and it takes time to naturally unfold.

 

This past week is the first I really feel like I have my rhythm and groove back. I am taking care of myself, getting rest, unpacking, eating healthy(ish). As soon as it’s warm and not raining, I’ll take a good run/walk in the hills of the neighborhood. I have been taking the time to enjoy and relish in those little perfect moments, taking time to cry when the emotion hits me, and being honest enough to say I am a bit vulnerable right now, so handle with care. It feels good to admit that, it’s actually very freeing to not have to be tough all the time, to allow myself to be “soft.”

 

And surprisingly, at least to me, it is received well. There are hugs, holding hands, kind thoughts and words, well wishes, and sincere smiles.

 

And the result, is more laughter, more smile, more feeling alive than I have in about a year. To really allow myself to just be, whatever it is I am at that moment, is wonderful.And in doing so, I let go, with each heartbeat, all that I have carried. Yes, I am getting my balance, my rhythm, my life and spirit back. Yes, the spring in my step has returned. It is spring, and just like those little bean sprouts, it is time to grow, to bloom and to be magnificent. I am coming alive again.   I am returning to my life, returning to enjoy all accomplishments my hard work has brought to fruition. I have come back to have what is mine.

 

All I l have to do is trust, believe and follow the natural process.

 

And that is how this girl gets her groove back.

 

http://youtu.be/6xjLS6gYujU

 

For Peace and Comfort

In light of what how I feel in my own soul – a  Read this slowly and thoughtfully. And let htere be peace where there is chaos.

Blessing in the Chaos – Jan Richardson

To all that is chaotic in you,
let there come silence.

Let there be a calming of the clamoring,
a stilling of the voices
that have laid their claim on you,
that have made their home in you,
that go with you even to the holy places
but will not let you rest,
will not let you hear your life
with wholeness or feel the grace
that fashioned you.

Let what distracts you cease.
Let what divides you cease.
Let there come an end to
what diminishes and demeans,
and let depart all that keeps you in its cage.

Let there be an opening into the quiet
that lies beneath the chaos,
where you find the peace you did not think possible
and see what shimmers within the storm.

The Conclusion

I wrote this almost two years ago and found it as I was going through old notes I had written.  It still speaks as strongly today as it did then.

The Conclusion

Know why  I am, so hard on you? Because I have  walked through the fires in the pits of hell and by the grace of God, I have come through. So if you are going to be in my life, be fucking present.
I have earned the right have someone present. I have earned the right to be loved. I have earned the right to matter. I have earned the right to be comforted. I have earned the right to be cherished.
There is so much you take for granted because you do not even see the brilliance in the human being in front of you.
I have done all of this with no comfort. No arms, or kindness to hold me. It has all been alone. I did handle it, but it was so hard. So very hard.
So this is me, the good bad and the ugly. But I am me. This is me.
Ada 6/17/15

What I Learned in My First Grief Counseling

Grief. It’s kind of like Space – at this point it seems infinite and like the final frontier. It’ massive. And I need help navigating…because I am not Han Solo and this is not the Millennium Falcon. This is life. My life and I am dealing with death of my parents.

My Father was in the care of Hospice when he passed and there are a lot of benefits for not only a patient, but the family. One of those is 13 months of bereavement counseling. Today was my first session, because I need it. And maybe this might help someone else too. So here is what I learned today:

  • You have to grieve and you have to face it head on in order to do so. Those who don’t and who run away from it often become bitter and angry. I won’t let that be me. I would rather do this head on, no matter how hard or crippling, than become a bitter shell of a human being.
  • Let yourself grieve however you need to every. Day. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to yell, yell. If you need to do whaever to get out those emotions, do it.
  • Respect your grief. Let it out, work through it, handle it.
  • Feeling guilt, shame and like there are still things left to say are normal. I went through a list of things I want to say to my Mom, and what I feel very guily for when it comes to me Dad. She assurred me that I am not alone and I do not need to beat myself up for these things. I did the best I could, I served my time and honored and took care of my parents well. They know this. I need to know it too. If you do not come to terms with whatever shame and guilt you are feeling, and accpet that you did the best you could, then it will make you bitter, angry and depressed.
  • It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be very painful. There is no way around this part, you just have to accept it.
  • This time is precious and sacred. Hold this time as precious and know that this is your time.
  • Lean on your support system. She told me that I am a strong person, but that there is nothing wrong with others taking care of me right now. That others need to take care of me right now, as that is part of healing. I learned that it is part of the process and we need others to take care of use while grieving in order to heal properly.  Those that do not allow others to take care of them during this time, are often bitter and grieve a lot longer than they have to. I never knew that. I thought I was being weak to lean on others too much. She said no, not at all. So let your friend take care of you.
  • Find an outliet – whether it is exercise, crying, writing, or whatever…find a way to channel the grief and stress of this time. I run and exercise. I hike and am out in nature.It helps sooth me.  However, with the weather this cold…
  • Eventually, replace the sad feelings with happy memories.  She told me that after a while, I will be able to think of certain times and memories that will make me laugh, smile and feel good.  It will come eventually and even then I will have good and bad days.  But that at some point, those memories will being me more comfort than sadness. And that is what we are working toward.

There is more but that is all for now. Hope this might also help those others as well

Finding the Sunshine

Since last May, life has been full of doom and gloom. Knowing, seeing that Mom was declining and her eventual; passing.  Dad moving in.  The harsh reality that you pretty much have to give up your own life to take care of an elderly parent – through no fault of theirs. It is just the situation, and you take it on, because you love them more than words can say. Seeing Dad decline and pass. And then the demise of the relationship.

But that is just life…and you deal with it. The universe doesn’t play favorites.

But in between the grief and the heartache there has to be some…fun.  Somewhere, out there, before all the tragedy, I had a life.  And I had a lot of fun.  I think part of getting through grief is reconnecting with the life you had before.  While life will never be the same, it can’t be all sadness and doom.  There must be smiles, and laughter and shared good times.

Somewhere out there, there has to be a fun class to take, or a fun date to have, or a fun experience to enjoy, a fun day, a fun something.  I want to go on a fun trip somewhere warm and wonderful.

I have put in my time, I have done my duties and done them well.  Now, it is time to enjoy this life.  I am exhausted from sadness. I want to see the sun, feel it on my skin, feel the fresh air on my fingertips and just shed this skin of the last year.

The Service and a Pillow

I have long known that a funeral or memorial service is more for those who are left than for the person who is gone.  A good funeral is the last thing we can really do for our loved one. It is the last send off, the last honor, the last “right” thing that is left.

And so it was with my father’s memorial service this past weekend.  The church service was beautiful, an Easter service of celebration. He passed away on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, one of his most cherished religious seasons. Dad respected Lent as a time of quiet introspection. And he had made peace with his situation, so it is fitting that this Lenten season is about grief and grieving.  Forty days to reflect on the past 7-8 months. It is as if he knew. And maybe he did.

At the service there was the family including all of my siblings.  It was truly wonderful to have us all together along with aunts and cousins. My three longest and best friends were there for me, sitting behind me to give me strength, catch me if I fell or make funny faces at me if it looked like I couldn’t make it through the service.  They are the reason I could breath.

And when the service was close to and end, the Honor Guard came, played Taps and presented my father’s flag to me.  If you have never seen that presentation, it is beautiful.  They march out, at attention, then Taps is played.  When that is done, they slowly, silently, purposefully, unfold and refold the flag.  Every movement is crisp and marked by a click of their heels. And when the flag is folded, and they give the proper respect to it, they march, at attention, and kneel down to the next of kin. They say thank you, on behalf of the President of the United States, and of the country and of the Air force (or whichever branch).  I sobbed. I  gently accepted his flag as tears ran down my cheeks.  And my tears fell on my fathers flag before I could get a tissue. That flag is sacred to me.

And then the celebration of life, and the stories and the beer and the food.  I heard the food was delicious and what little bit I ate definitely was.  I spoke, as well as several other friends and family members. And I learned a few things about this humble, quiet man I called Dad.  There was laughter, there were a few tears and there were a lot of hugs and much love.

The siblings got together afterward, along with  my Angels, and we had a great time talking and taking time to decompress after the last several days.  And there was a lot of wine.

And then there was quiet.  And there is still quiet. A silence that is a bit uncomfortable as the finality of the situation sets in.  They are really gone.  And life moves forward. But what life is this that lay before me?  For the first time in 8 years I am taking care of only me.  And I am not sure I know what to do with myself.  One part is very liberating – knowing that you have done right by your parents and loved ones. And another part is terrifying, not remembering what you did before.

It is the blue after the storm. That time after the service, after the commotion, after the shock, after the after…where things are quiet and you are left to figure out the “new normal.” No doubt I will be fine, as everyone goes through this at some point in their life. But it is unsettling and strange.  A person is still delicate in this time.

There was no quiet after Mom passed; it went straight into Dad moving in and me taking care of an elderly parent. It was chaos for 7.5 months. So this in new. And if I am honest, it is a bit scary. The empty nest…but I am sure I will find my way, awkwardly as always. But eventually I’ll get the hang of this thing called life. The fact of the matter is that they are gone. I am here.  Life is here.

In the meantime, as I learn to sleep alone in the house, I am wrapped up in the peace and knowledge that I did right by the Bible and honored my parents. When they are gone, having done right by your parents is the most comfortable pillow in the world.

When it Gets Real

Waking up this morning was a check in reality. Today is the day I leave for my Dad’s memorial service.  All of the planning is real now.  The fact that he is not here is real now, as I prepare to say goodbye with all of our family and friends.

If you are objective, a service is really for the people who are left, not for the person who is gone.  The person is gone, but the service helps us say goodbye, to honor that person one final time, in the best way we know how.  We gather, we pray, we tell stories, laugh a little, cry a little…

That is the end. Except it’s not really.  There is still grief to be dealt with, going through things, deciding what to keep and what to donate.  There is a big lonely house.  There is figuring out the new normal in my life, without my parents and without the man I thought I would be with.  What does that life look like?  I don’t know yet.

What I do know is that this morning, things got really…real.  This is really it, we are really saying goodbye. He really isn’t coming back.

And I wonder what next Christmas will be like? I wonder what the rest of the year will hold?

And that is the thing about life; love and loss don’t actually kill you.  And sometimes all you can do in bow your head, pray, have faith and just hold on.

 

The Most Precious Gift

Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.  – Walter Anderson

It has been one week since I sat at my father’s bedside, held his hand and watched his last breath. It hardly seems real.  So much has happened since then. Family has stayed for a visit, so many papers have been signed, things collected, thoughts shared, tears cried…A lifetime has been lived in each heartbeat of the last week.

Both of my parents died on Wednesdays. And if you count by weeks, not by the date, they died exactly 7 months to the day apart. That cannot be a coincidence.

Even though I handled everything for Mom’s passing, it is still strange to do things like this for Dad. You are never really prepared to do these things for another loved one.

And as the weekend nears, plans for my father’s service are falling into place. The locations are secured, catering, flowers, guests, donations. Who will speak during the celebration has been chosen, where out of town guests will stay has been determined.

Messages of love and support still pouring in from wonderful friends and loved ones.  And while sleeping in the house is still a bit iffy, I do not wake up crying.  No waking up shaking either.  But this week is a whirlwind and it makes me apprehensive about what it will be like once the activity dies down.  Next week, when there is no service to plan, and no guests to take care of…what will that be like?

It will be the calm after the storm, so to speak. Yet there will still be plenty to do.  Real estate, lawyers, planners and going through his things.  Working and figuring out the new normal. It is still a lot to take care of alone, but I remember who I am, and move forward. You can travel miles with baby steps.

Taking care of me and my needs, making sure that only people who give are in my life, not those who take.  Making sure that all in my life is good and nurturing. And already I can feel joy seeping in…just a little, drop by drop now. I look forward to getting settled after such a tumultuous time.  And that hope, that optimism, that curiosity will carry me through along with my faith. And I have learned that is the most precious gift.

happy

 

Hard Times and Strong Women

I once saw an interview with a man who had suffered a tragedy. The reporter asked him how he was and his thoughts on moving forward. His answer was one I will never forget:

“It is what it is and it ain’t getting no isser”

Bottom line is that life is life, and it really doesn’t matter of we like whats going on or not. We just have to deal with it as best we can.

And so, with shaky knees, I move forward. I hear the whisper in my ear “Always remember who. You. Are.” Because at the end of the day, whatever you are, you have to live with it.

And so I remember who I am. And I hold my head high, even when I don’t feel like it. Because in life, you can’t just stop. That’s not an option.

So it’s going to be hard, it’s going to hurt, it’s going to be the most difficult thing. And so what? None of us gets a pass on this one. We tend to want hide it up, wash it down and turn off the light.  But then there it is, staring you right in the face, in the mirror. So instead, here it is raw and unpolished in all of it’s beauty.

There is strength in blood. There is strength at the bottom of your heart that goes deep down into the deepest parts of the soul. And that is where the good stuff is, the gold. That is from where our strength comes.

My brother came down this weekend, with his two sons. And as we all sat down around the table or outside on the deck, it was truly good to see them. Good to laugh and and share their memories of our father and enjoy the company of family.

And as they are here, my family, I find that sleep is sound at night. A house, a home, should be filled with family and love. Faith, laughter, tears, and everything that comes with it.

Because when things get tough you have to get through, you just have to. You reach deep down, where the soul meets the heart, and you pull yourself up. You remember who you are and from where. You rise, you pray, you claw, and you stay persistent. Because it won’t always be this hard. And you take million baby steps, one heart beat at a time, and keep your faith.

It can be so hard though, when you are exhausted.  It can be hard when you are perpetually taking care of someone. It is brutal when the house is quiet and still and lonely. And you just want to curl up under a blanket and have someone help you, gently, softly, kindly. When you want a cup of tea, but don’t want to get off the couch or out of the bed to make it.

This week has been indescribable.  But the obituary is done, the flowers and plants are ordered, the caterer has been notified, the service has been picked out, complete with bible verses, songs and scriptures that I have carefully chosen. I should get the final word on the reception venue tomorrow.  And almost everything has been done, while hosting and taking care of a house full of people. It is difficult to plan an entire memorial service by yourself. The, upside is that I have slept well , with people here filling the house.  But I am exhausted burning both ends and the middle of the candle.

Because you can only take care of others for s long before you become an empty vessel.  It is time for me to take a break from all of this care.  With the sad and exilerating realization that I no longer have anyone to take care of in my life but me, I wonder what am I going to do?

Refill.  Not sure how yet, but it is coming.  It must. First thing is to go up to Blue Ridge with a gift certificate left over from the holidays.  Pampering.  And being in the mountains, maybe renting a little cabin, where I can relax, breath and reset. I can go hiking for the first time in so long, and reconnect with nature.

I am tired of takers and those who don’t give back, tired of being the strong one, tired of taking care of everything myself and tired of running on an empty tank.   I need to be looked after and cared for for a while in companionship and friendship. So much has been lost, it is time to find those parts of my soul again. It is time to pray and feel the answers. It is time to have a normal life, like I had before when I was so blissful. I have done right by my parents, now it is time to do right by me.

I was told that I must take care of myself during this grieving process which is something that has been hard up until now, because it seems that everyone else needed everything first.

And as friends help me, hold me and make sure I am not alone while I sleep, I can start the process of shedding this weight.  All of the responsibility, the expectations, the Q&As, all of the everything. And it starts with arms around me as I sleep.

And I know, I will be OK. Because of who I am. Because of who they taught me to be.

Note: I am so very thankful and blessed for my friends at this time. They are my saving grace right now. Cards, calls, messages, visits, thoughts, prayers and so much love.Thank you and much love.

James Burch Obituary

James (Jim) Lamar Burch was a man of few words, but was known for his quick wit and one-line zingers. Even more so, he was known for his love of God, his country and his family. Most notably, Jim was known for his love and devotion to Geneva (Genny), his wife of 49 years until her passing in July 2016.

Jim was born September 2, 1936, in Jasper, FL, to James Oswald Burch and Martha Agnes Green. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1959 with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. He also earned an Electrical and Communications certificate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

In 1958, he married Byrne Booth with whom he had three children – Carie Burch Quigley, Pleasant Hill, NY; James Oswald Burch, II, Wilmington, NC; and Boots Burch Quimbey, Bethesda, MD.

From 1959 to 1963 Jim served in the Air Force Reserves and was a certified value engineer in the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command. Jim was employed at the Department of Defense in Washington, D.C., where he worked on the Nike Zues and Atlas projects designing ballistic missiles. He also designed phone systems for The White House.

He later married Genny and they had two daughters, Rita Lynn, Marietta, GA, and Ada Lamar, Dunwoody, GA. Jim and Genny also fostered 63 children.

In 1969, Jim and Genny moved to Ontario, Canada, where he was an electrical controls engineer at the Atomic Energy of Canada.

He also worked for several other companies, including AT&T,  Martin Orlando, Miller Brewing Company and Kun-Young Chiu & Associates. Jim and Genny moved from Wauchula, FL, to Valdosta, GA, in 1985 where they were members of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. Jim partnered with Ed Locke to start an engineering firm, AEC in 1990.

Jim loved classical music, WWII history, beer, and hot dogs.

In 2001, Jim and Genny moved to Donalsonville, GA where they built their dream home and lived their last years enjoying gardening and fishing. Following Genny’s passing, Jim moved to the Atlanta, GA, metro area where he was cared for by his daughter Ada and a dear family friend Michael Mulé.

On March 1, 2017, Jim reunited with Genny in heaven after succumbing to a long illness.

He is preceded in death by his parents, his brothers Brent, and Billy and his sister Margaret. In addition to his children, he leaves to cherish his life nine grandchildren – Patrick, William, Karl, Coleman, James III, Tyler, Allen, Thomas, and Brian; two great grandchildren, Finely and Bexley; sisters Lena Mae and Nelma, and a host of extended family members and friends.

A memorial service will be held Saturday,  March 11 at 1:pm at St Barnabas church, 3565 Bemiss Rd, Valdosta, GA 31605. Celebration of life will immediately follow at Park Place, 2215 N Patterson Street, Valdosta, GA.

Daddy

My father passed away this Wednesday, March first.  He did not suffer. I was there with him and it was my honor.  I had the honor of sending both of my parents off, and I also have the comfort of know that they are together. I have the peace of knowing that the circle is complete, and that I know I did right by them.

Yet I cannot sleep at night. There are no words to describe what it is like to loose both parents in 7 months. The grief is crushing. The loneliness is palpable.

Everyone is so wonderful and nice, offering help and asking what they can do.  Except I cannot tell them.  When in so much grief you can barely breath, much less tell everyone else what to do and what you need. And this house is so big. It is stifeling.

All I know is that I need comfort. I need love. I need understanding and compassion.  I need someone to stay with me in this huge house which my father lived in too. I need big shoulders and strong arms around me.  Because I cannot sleep in this house alone at night now.

And everyone praises me and tells me how strong I am.  And I just smile and they thank you.  But I am not strong. I am weak and fragile right now. Everything takes tremendous effort. Breathing is hard.

And I have a wonderful support system with so many willing to help, all of them being so nice.

In many ways, this Dad’s passing was easier than Mom’s – Mom suffered so much, for years. And she was in so much pain at the end. And at the end, there was no one to tell us what was normal in the dying process (and it can be very bizarre and unnerving). Terminal agitation, vocal grunting, no sounds in the gut, the death rattle…no one to help her labored breathing and air hunger.  It was not peaceful.

Dad’s was. Hospice was called in. The continuous care nurse that was dedicated to only him, was amazing and made sure he did not suffer and was in no pain. Even his final expression was one of peace, and he was almost smiling.  There was so much support for us as well, in the amazing assisted living facility he was in.

And yet, here I sit at 4:31am because I cannot sleep in this house alone. I wake up crying, shaking, and when sleep does come it is strange dreams about death.  My mind races as the list of things that need to be done grows. Memories of my parents flood my mind as tears roll down my face.

I sang to my father as he was dying, held his hand.  I had combed his hair and clipped his nails before.  Gently placed drops of water in his mouth and lips as he wanted it.  Broke my own heart to once again to tell a parent that it was OK if he was tired and wanted to go home. He could let go.

The realization that he, they, are both gone weighs heavy on me.  The knowledge that when I do get married, I will have no one to walk me down the isle.  That there will be no mother daughter advice as she puts her pearls around my neck. That there will be no more Mother’s day or Father’s Day celebrations.  No more birthdays or anniversaries.  No gifts at Christmas.

He is happy. He is with the Lord and with my Mom.  My rational mind knows that.  My heart however, bleeds grief  at saying goodbye to my parents so close together. My Mom was my best friend, but a father is always a girls first love.

And as the sun rises, I hope and pray for myself: That this hurt and ache in my heart slowly get better. That I can rise up to what is needed, even when I don’t feel like I can get out of bed. That eventually, I will be able to sleep, even alone, in this big house. That soon the sorrow is less and the joy is more. I have a feeling that these next 6 months are going to be long and hard.