Posts Tagged With: grief

a long week

This week has been long.
And I mean the kind of long that bites at your soul with a putrid maw full of razor sharp teeth.

One of my colleagues and her family are experiencing horrors no one should have to live through. Their four moth old daughter became inexplicably sick. At the hospital, she went brain dead without warning or reason. She continued breathing on her own, but that only lasted for a precious few hours. She has left us now.
Pain and sorrow are palpable in the school building. You can see it written plainly on the faces of all the adults. There is nothing to say or do to bring their family comfort. All we can do is love them.
We will rally around each other with love and peace, and hope for better days.

But, we are also experiencing joy!
Another colleague just gave birth this week to a precious little girl. Another has a baby is due then end of the month. Another was named Teacher of the Year.

We are a school family.
We look after one another through joys and sorrows. We give each other the high sign when we know it’s about to go sideways with the kids. We celebrate each other’s joys! We have each other’s back when we struggle. We love, and weep, and pray together.
That’s what you do when you’re a family.

This was a long week.
We need a break.
Thank you, Friday for showing up in the nick of time.

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Categories: death, loss, love | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

not for comparison but for inclusion

I’ve been reading loads of end of- and beginning of- year posts. Some written after giving real thought to what 2018 looked like to the writer, some filled with new hopes, thoughts, or ideas for 2019. Some written to stimulate real thought from the readers.
I got a text from my friend Nora yesterday, it was her adorable bitmoji carrying to the curb, a leaking, stinking garbage bag labeled 2018.
I’m not sharing the pic because I’m making a point about using words. My initial response was to laugh. I even replied “Amen, sister!” But that’s because I reacted to the picture I saw.
When I started describing it just now, I realized I have mixed feelings regarding 2018. And not all of it belongs in that stank trash bag.

There was so much death in my world in 2018.
From Thing 1’s miscarriage to YBW’s precious mom, our beloved sister in law’s mother, friends at work lost parents, YBW even lost one of his colleagues, a man in his 50s. One of my oldest friends lost her mother, a woman who was dear, close friends with my own mother. And another part of childhood dies.
So much loss.
But in 2018 we celebrated anniversaries of birth for our collective children, we celebrated the graduation of our youngest. We celebrated at the news of a baby joining our family.
We experienced teeny little victories, and joys throughout the year. Some personal, some collective. Some meaningless to anyone other than me.

As I consider the close of one year and the start of another, my main take away is I must pay better attention.
Life is fragile and precious.

I spend so much time eyeballing everything from my own point of view.
Well, I guess we all do that.
Remember that show, Ally McBeal? Courtney Thorne Smith’s character asks Ally something to the effect of why her problems are more important than everyone else’s. To which Ally replies, They’re mine.

Looking at the world through your personal lens, your stuff is so much bigger, more important than everyone else’s. And that really does make sense.
I see the world through my point of view because it’s my life.
I’m not suggesting I’m as selfish as Ally McBeal.
Though I’m suggesting I can choose to look past the end of my own nose.

If I broaden my scope, I will see at least some things from a more inclusive point of view.
And in my heart of hearts, I believe that will benefit me.

Pay attention.
I do more than I give myself credit for. However, in general daily life living I spend a great deal of time on autopilot, and that surely narrows my point of view. I think so many of us live that way, just doing what needs to be done without really stopping to see. To engage.
By actively paying attention, we’re naturally more engaged. And being engaged in the world around us is the best way to foster connections with other humans. And even the most misanthropic among us longs for human connection.

YBW and I had a conversation the other day that went sideways af.
I got my nose out of joint and left the room.
I tried to step outside my own irritation and went back to him asking why I’m always the bad guy.
Turns out that the way I asked my question triggered something in him. He felt “backed into the corner” and that I was “wagging my finger at him”.
I asked if he’d expressed something specifically to Thing G. My intention was to talk with Thing G about it if he hadn’t so YBW wouldn’t feel disappointed later on.
So after a heated and somewhat defeated (on both sides) conversation we came around to questioning how to close the gap between intent and perception.
From my point of view, his perception is that my intent is to be purposefully hurtful.
So how can we communicate in such a way that perception and intent are reflective on one another?
We sorted to the best of our abilities the practical aspect and agreed to try different language on both sides.

It made me think though.
Am I paying enough attention to how what I do impacts others?
Am I paying enough attention to how what others do impacts me?
Am I paying enough attention to how what I do impacts me?

Focus on self while paying attention to the bigger picture.
How does what I do impact me and the world around me?
How does the way I look at the world around me impact me?

At first glance, these questions seem big, and perhaps tricky to answer. But if I break them down, they’re simple and I already a good portion of the answers.
Answering them feels simpler than executing the answers.

How can I pay a different kind of attention in the coming year?
How will paying that attention change my world?
Y’all, I’m setting out to answer these challenging questions because I know however lovely my life is, it can be even more so if I choose to see my life in this world from a broader point of view.

I think Ally’s response makes sense. Her problems were more important to her because they were hers.
I feel the same way. I suspect most of us do.
However, by simply shifting the way I look at things, I will remember to see how much bigger the world is than just me.
Doesn’t mean my stuff will stop being important to me, just means I’ll see it from a broader point of view.
By paying attention, and looking at things differently, I’ll begin to see the importance of other people’s stuff.
Not for comparison, but for inclusion.

Acknowledging the importance of others does nothing to negate my own, and does everything to create stronger relationships.
I’ll have moments of narrow view.
But that won’t stop me from trying.
I’ll have moments of paying attention.
I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to more of the latter.

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

chaos and the need for ‘normal’ life

When I look back at the last six weeks I’m honestly amazed that we came out the other side as well off as we did.

Two deaths in two weeks.
Three birthdays in the same two weeks.
A mother’s day when there are no mothers.
Projects, exams, last month of senior year with senioritis in full swing.
Graduation.
Party.
Girls here.
(P.S. there’s still a hole in our house)

Now when read in a list, it may seem as though I’m exaggerating the impact each and every one of these things had on us. I’m here to assure you I am not. And while some of these things are in the biggest ‘Yay’ column, it was a stressful time.

Last week when YBW and I had our therapy appointment, we each talked about what we needed as we moved forward.
I wanted to take a break. Go away for a few days. Breathe new air. Get out of this house. Be near water. I was looking at it as kind of a reset, have a break to rest before we returned to normal life.
YBW wanted to get back to normal straight away. He expressed his weariness at the starting and stopping and starting he’s been doing for the last six weeks. He also expressed his desire to sleep.
Our therapist was on point, and while we didn’t settle on one or the other, we each began to consider the other’s point of view differently than we had before.

Later in the day I scribbled a note to myself.

The more I considered it, the more I began to feel that just saying what I need might be enough.
Which actually may turn out better as YBW is on call the last week of June which means we can’t go anywhere anyway.
We haven’t talked about it again. I did tell him my thoughts on expressing the need vs having the need met. I asked him how he was feeling about getting back to normal life. He remarked it didn’t feel like normal life.
Does he need to discover what his new normal is? I don’t know the answer to that. I do know he still isn’t sleeping all through the night.

What I do know is that from a very early age I learned not to express my needs because they wouldn’t be met. So to avoid that disappointment, I get vague af when it comes to expressing my needs. I actually think the phrase, ‘it doesn’t matter what I want or how I say it, I’m not going to get it anyway’. (Sounds pretty pathetic, right?)
I guess it’s the way I learned to defend myself.
Anyway, that’s where I am.
Desire to rest and recharge after the last six weeks before returning to ‘normal life’.
Only, here I am today, knee deep in normal life.
Blogging, GOOB with Lula, prob and stats, and instructional planning homework, hole in the house repair, teaching Thing G to drive, and just regular household maintenance stuff.

I don’t feel short-changed or whatever. I feel like being specific regarding my needs is a big deal and even if I don’t actually get what I said I need, I suspect I got some little bit of what I needed just by saying it out loud.
Go me!
I’m growing as a person and all that.
I mean, sure being near water would be perfection. But so far, on this first day of ‘normal life’ since the second day of May, I’m feeling fairly content.

Categories: death, loss, love, peace and wellbeing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

celebration of a beautiful life

We laid YBW’s precious mother to rest yesterday with one of the most beautiful funeral services I’ve ever attended.

Her grandsons, Thing C and Thing G, and Nephew J welcomed us all and thanked us for coming to celebrate the life of their grandmother.
Pink and white carnations (her favorite flower) and family photos as far as the eye could see. Friends and family together to celebrate the life of this quiet, lovely woman who raised two kind and loving men.
Both her sons spoke of her with such adoration.
It was one of those rare experiences when every wonderful thing being said about the deceased was the absolute truth. We daughters in law also spoke and here’s what I shared:

“When I set about to find the words I would share as prelude to YBW, I knew it must be somehow related to stars. The first thing that came to mind was lyrics written by Joni Mitchell.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

And then I remembered The Little Prince:

All men have stars but they are not the same things for different people.
For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides.
For others they are no more than little lights in the sky.
For others, who are scholars, they are problems.
But all these stars are silent.
You-You alone will have stars as no one else has them.
In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars will be laughing when you look at the sky at night.
You, only you, will have stars that can laugh!
And when your sorrow is comforted (for time soothes all sorrows), you will be content that you have known me.
You will always be my friend.
You will want to laugh with me.

Thing G suggested we need an observatory from which to see the stars and I stopped for a moment. Because he reminded me of a Hebrew word I love.
Mizpah
The original meaning is watchtower.

But, mizpah has a more commonly understood meaning in the modern world:
a strong emotional bond between people, especially those separated by distance, or death

Mizpah is a sacred blessing:
The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.

Think about that for a moment.

Let it fill you completely.

For whatever star dear E is laughing from, we are content to know her, we are always her friends, we will continue to laugh together.
And we have Mizpah, the ancient word of inspiration and protection.”

Thing 2 wrote the following in response to my request for her opinion:

Wow. You could not have written (or quoted) better words. I read it in your voice. I know that it will bring everyone comfort and peace. Those boys and their families/loved ones are blessed to have you in their world.

I think we’re all blessed to share the same world.

After the service, everyone came back to our house where we celebrated each other with love and laughter, and a fair amount of wine. YBW’s and his brother’s friends, our sister in law’s siblings, friends of mine, our neighbors, even Thing C’s closest friends he’s had since middle school.
I feel as though I’ve been going at a full-tilt boogie since Tuesday last. I kept saying, If I can just get through Wednesday.
In this time, we lost a beloved woman. Celebrated YBW’s birthday. Planned and executed a beautiful funeral service. Fed and wined friends and family.
Today after school, I cleaned the mess I couldn’t handle last night. I did dishes. I moved flowers to every possible place in this house. I returned borrowed items.
Tomorrow YBW and I are playing hooky. We’re both going to skive off work to spend the day together in celebration of his birthday Friday last, and mine Saturday two days from now.
As excited as I am to spend the day in DC, honestly, I just kind of want to sleep for a really long time. It’s been a hell of a week and I’m worn slap out.

Categories: death, loss, love | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

our revels now are ended

My precious husband has joined me in the least cool club on the planet.
The Orphan Club.
We are adult children with no living parents.
Please send him healing love.

YBW’s darling mother died quietly in her sleep Wednesday afternoon. She was 87 and lived a life full of love and joy. In her last few years, she suffered with CHF (congestive heart failure) and her health declined rapidly in the last six weeks.

Today we went about dealing with the business of death. YBW, his brother and his wife, and I met with the funeral director and cemetery personnel. I used my mad organizational and list making skills to plan and coordinate. It’s my way of being helpful.

Tomorrow is YBW’s birthday.
We’re keeping our plans for dinner with friends in the evening, and celebrating with his boys Saturday afternoon. He deserves to be celebrated in the midst of our grief.

He is brave and strong, even though he doesn’t feel like he is. I watch him. I see what he experiences written on his face, in his body language. He is exhausted. He is anxious. But he is grounded in the love of friends and family. And he is grounded by me.

Our family is feeling quiet in our grief, but the love coming at us is truly overwhelming in the most beautiful way.

I am reminded of Prospero’s words in The Tempest:

You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
As if you were dismayed. Be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
Yes, indeed.

Categories: love | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Husband N

I’ve mentioned before my daughter Thing 1 is married to Husband N. Now, Husband N is a patient human being, God love him, he has to be to be married to my daughter. He’s rather adept at accepting her for who she is without ever really “letting her off the hook”. I like that about him. They’re giving each other a run for their money, that’s for sure. But they’re doing it with so much love!

I received this text from him this morning.

When Mo died, I was choked by my own grief. I was in mommy mode about my girls and their grief. I was grateful that Husband N was there with Thing 1, but I never stopped to consider his grief. That man welcomed into their home, with open arms, the dogs of his wife’s childhood (well, teen age anyway). He was working with Mo to develop a healthy relationship, switching over from the Things father being Mo’s “father” to Husband N being Mo’s “father”.
He cared for Mo. He moved his lifeless body to the grave he and my daughter created. He did this out of love for their dog.
Their dog.
Even though Mo started out being all of ours, in the last five or six months he truly became theirs. Husband N loves Thing 1. He loves Thing 2. He loves me. But he also loves Mo. His grief was just as real as ours.
He was strong and brave for us.
I don’t have the words to express how strongly I felt the love for him this morning when that text came. I just hope he can feel it.

Now, it took me longer than it should have to decide to like, and then love Husband N. That had almost nothing to do with him and mostly everything to do with me (and Thing 1).
Thing 1 met Husband N when she went away to school. They met in a math class, bonding over their sarcastic senses of humor.
Now this is a meet-cute I can get behind.
What I struggled to get behind was her dropping out of school and shacking up with this guy.
That was not my plan for her! That wasn’t the life she was meant to have.
All I could see what that he’s older than she is, by more than a decade. That she left school because of him. That we didn’t know him from Adam.
I was frightened she was making all the same mistakes I made… a guy so much older than she is…no education…no way to support herself. I wanted more for her than the life I’d lived. I wanted her to be healthy and content and able to take care of herself. I didn’t want her to suffer and struggle.

Of course, what the hell did I know?
A whole lotta nothing, I’ll tell you that.

Turns out, Husband N is a kind and loving man. An intelligent man. A helpful and sincere man. A man who loves my daughter and would do (and has done) whatever it takes to make sure she’s safe and sound.

Y’all know that when YBW and I got married, his Things and my Things were our best men and maids of honor. The girls even “gave me away” that day. Thing 1 remarked to my friend and mentor, Jessica, that she had no idea how (emotionally) hard it would be to give her mom away.
Well, (not yet) Husband N and Thing 2’s then boyfriend were here too. And even though it was busy and a bit chaotic, I got to spend some good time with Husband N. And when YBW were driving to the airport to go to Barbados for our honeymoon, I turned to him, and said, “I like Husband N!” YBW was so relieved! He was waiting for me to decide to like Husband N because he very much liked him.

Then they came back for Christmas that year. And I got to spend even more time with him. I love his childlike enthusiasm! I listened to him and my daughter talk about what kind of life they wanted. And I realized it wasn’t the life Husband N wanted that Thing 1 just accepted, neither was it the life Thing 1 wanted that Husband N accepted. They had really thought about this. They had talked about it. They were planning this life that they wanted together!

They are truly each other’s best friend. They are both great big nerds about books and movies and comics and D & D and video games. They’re learning from each other how to appreciate these things the other brings to the table. They are so loving. They are also quick to get after each other. Each one feisty in their own way. They fight. They laugh. They play. They love. They do these things with the entirety of themselves. They give everything to each other and their relationship.
How could I possibly want more for my daughter? Or her sweet husband?

When they married, I was joyous for them! It wasn’t a big white wedding, but it was them. There was love and laughter and genuine joy surrounding them. This man is the husband of my very first girl. That was hard yet simple all in the same moment. I knew they could marry and build a life together and I wouldn’t have to worry about their ability to work together. I wouldn’t have to worry about their ability to love each other and embrace each other’s families.

Husband N just might love Thing 2 as much as her big sister does.
I know Thing 2 adores him.
They have such a special friendship.
I believe he’s been instrumental in helping my girls rebuild their relationship.
One more thing to love about him.

When his grandmother died and there was talk of them moving to her farm. Thing 1 was all for it. Husband N was a bit more hesitant. He called me and we talked for a long time. He shared his concerns. He asked my opinion. We talked about how he didn’t want to disappoint Thing 1, but felt so strongly that he didn’t want to raise (future) children where he grew up. He wanted more and better for them. (I can SO relate to that.)
I made some suggestions. I offered to speak with his wife. I promised to have their backs no matter what choices they made for their future.
I was touched he wanted to have that conversation with me. I was honored that he valued my opinion. I was pleased to be his (mostly) impartial sounding board for that important process.

I talk with my girls frequently. A phone call at least once a week, but there are texts and snapchats, emails and social media posts mixed in there too.
Husband N and I also text, snap and share things with each other’s social media. We sometimes even talk on the phone. It’s fun. He makes me laugh. He shares information he thinks I’ll be interested in. He expresses his concern for my health.
He expresses his love for my daughters and acknowledges how hard I worked to help them become the women they are.


Dude loves my girls.
Respects my hard work to help them become those ‘epic legends’.

I’m so grateful.
My girl chose well.
For herself.
For her sister.
For her Momma.
Husband N has his hands full with we three girls, but he takes it in stride.
Y’all we are so damn blessed!

Categories: on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Godspeed, Mo

Yesterday at 11:16 I received a text message from Thing 1.
This photo and these words.

Look at him just chillin! Sweet boy 🙂

Yesterday at 3:44 I received a phone call from Thing 1.
She was crying. She said, “Mo’s gone.

She said after they took that pic of him lying in the yard, they went for a walk, and over by their pond he wandered off into the woods, as he sometimes does. A bit later on she went to get the mail and found him in the road. He’d been hit by a car.

Mo was a miracle for our family at at time when we were in great change. The Things dad and I had just separated and the girls were living in two different places for the first time in their lives.
Thing 2 was obsessed with going every Saturday to adoption day at the pet shop. We went religiously. Never to “get” a pet always to look at the dogs and cats.
One particular Saturday we were walking past the dog crates in which all manner of dog was barking or acting a fool. With the exception of one dog.


This sweet dog was lying quietly in his crate completely ignoring the chaos around him. He looked up when we stopped and his little nubby tail started to wag. We three girls were enamored by this sweet boy.
(Y’all don’t know this about me, but I don’t like dogs in any way shape or form. I’m not a hater or anything, I just don’t like dogs.)
But this dog. This sweet boy. I feel in love with him. So did the girls.
There was much conversation about how we might adopt Mo. We liked that his name was Mo, not only did it suit him, it also went nicely with our last name.
I walked away from the girls and called their father at work. I told him that the girls were going to call him about a dog. He heaved the greatest of sighs. Then I said, “We need him.” That gave him pause. He knew that if I said that, this must have been some dog.

Well, we ended up adopting sweet Mo and he became part of our family. He mostly lived at their father’s house, but sometimes he lived with me too.
He was the sweetest, most neurotic thing you’ve ever seen. He had mad abandonment issues and fretted when we’d leave him to go to school and work.
Thing 2 took quite a shine to him, she researched online, and in books from the library, how best to love this quirky boy. She was enthusiastic to take him to the dog park to play with other dogs.

She was enthusiastic about taking him for long walks, especially down to the riverfront park where we could walk along the canal. One time, Thing 2, Mo, and I arrived just in time to watch the authorities pull a body from the river. Good times.


Mo was such a good loving dog. He was happy to belong to our weird family. We loved him so.
When it was time for me to move from SC to VA, Mo would lie on his big green pillow (which he stole from Thing 2’s bed) and keep me company while I packed box after box of books.


Just this fall, Mo and his “little sister” Sweetie moved from the Things father’s house to Thing 1 and Husband N’s. Being on the little farm gave them so much more freedom. They were able to rip and race and be silly doggies without disturbing any neighbors.
Of course, it was an adjustment. The dogs missed their dad. They missed Thing 2. But they were so happy with Thing 1 and Husband N. They were happy to be together and loved.

I’ve been hit by waves of sadness since I talked to my daughter yesterday. The tears come out of nowhere and choke me. I couldn’t breathe for the weeping when I told YBW the news last night. I’ve cried alone, I’ve cried with YBW. I’ve cried on the phone with each of my babies.
That sweet dog was more than just a dog we adopted one day. He was a gift for our family. We were able to love him and each other through the worst times and come out the other side better off.
I really do not like dogs. Mo is the only dog I’ve ever truly loved. He was so special.

When I was more calm after sharing the news with YBW, he got angry. He wanted to know how fast one must drive down a dirt road to hit and kill a dog. What kind of “stupid Georgia hillbilly” didn’t stop to help, but just kept driving.
His anger surprised me.
But he’s right.
There’s no excuse for that kind of driving. There’s no excuse for Mo’s death.

Thing 1 felt so responsible, felt that she failed at keeping Mo safe for our family.
I told her that it wasn’t her fault. That none of us blame her. That we’re so sorry it happened and she has to live through it.
Turns out Thing 2 told her the same thing…nearly verbatim.
She told me her father said that Mo was an old dog, thirteen or fourteen years old. And wasn’t it wonderful that he’d had such a lovely day? That he was healthy enough to run and play and lie in the sun. That he left this world a strong dog, not an old sick dog.
My heart thanks him for being a good dad to her in that moment.

Thing 1 and texted a bit last night when we no longer had the will to speak.

I called her a little while ago to check on her.
She told me she wished she hadn’t found him. That it would be easier for her to deal with if she hadn’t seen him. I understand that on the deepest level. I told her how proud of her I am. I told her she was a real adult yesterday, and that I understood it sucked more than anything. But she did it. She’s doing it now. She’s living though the grief and pain. She’s not looking around for someone more “adultier” than she is. She’s just doing what it takes to get through. That’s adulting.
She asked me to hug YBW and thank him for his anger. She said she wants to hang signs on the road. “Thanks for killing my dog, you f**king asshole.”
She has moments of tears, and moments of anger.
Mostly, she has love.
We all have love.
The love of a dog called Mo.

Categories: love, on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

lifting them up in love and light

They say death comes in threes.
I don’t exactly know who “they” are…but that’s what they say.

I find it is true.
In the last two weeks, three people I love very much have experienced death.
Now, I was only truly close to one of the deceased. The mother of a girl I grew up with. Amy’s mother loved and taught and mothered me just as she did her own five children.

The other two deaths are further removed. Each of them is the father of a guy I love. I never met these fathers, but I love their sons a great deal.

My friend Jack’s father left a whole in his world and he’s been struggling so. It pains me to know this, to know that I really can’t help. He has to heal in his own way.

I got a message from Thing 2 this morning, she wanted me to know her arrival time might be delayed. The young man who is her true and dearest friend has to bury his father some time in the coming week. I’ve know the young man since he was an awkward preteen in middle school, with an unhealthy crush on my daughter. He grew and matured as a young man. I loved to watch as he took the stage with both my girls in high school. Turns out he and Thing 2 were meant to be the best of friends!

My heart is heavy for my friends. Dealing with this painful grief. So if you don’t mind, would you all join me in lifting them up in love and light?
Love and light to you, Amy and Jack and Lane.

It just occurred to me to wonder if I’m feeling this love so strongly on this particular day? Today is the anniversary of my own father’s death.

I’m going to love and light myself a little bit today, too.

Categories: death, loss, love | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

my mom

Today is the fifth anniversary of the day Mommie died. I’ve been thinking of her so much lately. I miss her in ways that sneak up on me and hit me upside the head like a baseball bat. I’m momentarily stunned and then I feel sad. Or I laugh uncontrollably. Or I get a warm fuzzy feeling. Or I get so angry I grunt and stamp my foot. I firmly believe that all daughters feel these things about their mothers.

I’ve written about my mom before, But I’m not going to talk about our unpacked baggage, or our love of robin birds, or the gift of silly memories. I’m just going to share my mom.

I love this photo!
This is my mom when she was sassy AF. I think she’s so beautiful. This photo was taken in the mid 1960’s. I think my mom stopped being sassy when her mother died. She looks different in any photo taken after 1969, like something’s just a bit off…or something. Now, this is just my theory…but I do know that death of her mother changed her greatly.
20161118_213846-1.jpg

This was taken at our house on Barton Street in Arlington. I suspect my dad took it. It was before I was living in that house, but I don’t know how long after they were married this was taken. Some time in 1970.
I think she’s beautiful in this photo too, but she looks different.
20161118_213734-1.jpg

This photo was taken in April of 1971. The month before I was born. I think she looks tired. But I’ve been that far along in a pregnancy twice in my life and I remember feeling tired.
I’m so glad that the middle part went away for a long time…does it really look good on anyone?
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So, my parents were pretty freaking strange. And quite possibly they shouldn’t have been allowed to bring me home from the hospital. I’m the weird little alien looking baby. My mother is holding me inside my father’s boot (he was a motorcycle cop) as he takes the photograph.
Obviously, I wasn’t a very cute baby…though in my defense, I’m kind of crammed into a big leather boot. That makes for some uncomfortable faces. Summertime 1971.
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I went through years and years of photographs trying to find some of me with my mom. There are tons of photos of me with my dad (before he left) and even more of me with Grandaddy. But few with my mom. She was always behind the camera.
Being behind the lens is something that must run in our blood. I’m a photographer. Thing 2 is a photographer. Thing 1 is kind of a photographer too. Luckily, there are other people with cameras who’ve taken photos of me with my girls, even though I’m almost always behind the lens of my camera.

This is Grandaddy and Mommie and me. I’m not sure why Mommie and I are dressed up and Grandaddy is wearing a sweatshirt. Maybe we girls were going somewhere just the two of us? I don’t know.
I was probably in sixth grade so that would make it 1982…maybe?
(note my awful middle part)
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I did find this one of us working a WETA telethon. (taken before we were actually on the air) I had this mad skill of sticking out my tongue just as the shutter clicked. And our hair is really terrible. This was the next year or so. My mom hated my long hair and cut it all off one afternoon under the guise of giving me a “trim”. Circa 1983?
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This one was taken in November of 2000 by Thing 1. We went to see “Grandmommy” for Thanksgiving. This photo was taken sixteen years ago this same month. I love this photo because we look happy to be together. I recently removed it from the album and put it in a frame.
Positive reinforcement of love.
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Five years ago this day, my mother’s life ended. She died the Monday before Thanksgiving. The girls and I drove down to see her body (before it was cremated) on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.
The little bit of my mother’s ashes that belong to me are in a tiny enamel heart shaped container.
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Sometimes I take it out of the blue velvet box and hold it in my hand. Sometimes I hold that heart to my own heart and imagine that we can feel each other’s love.

A small stuffed robin bird sits atop the blue velvet box. The blue velvet is on a small cedar box filled with memories. The small cedar box is on my bookshelf below my collection of journals. This is the side of the shelves that face my work tables and comfy reading chair. So I can see it whenever I want.
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In some ways, five years is the blink of an eye. In others, it’s a long, dark eternity.
I’ll always have a complicated relationship with my mother. It wasn’t sorted before she died, but that’s because of who she was. And I guess that’s OK too.
I know she loved me. I know I loved her.

Categories: loss, love, me | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

specific example of love and strength

I’ve known Catherine since I was eighteen years old. We developed a deep and everlasting friendship. She was a bridesmaid in my first wedding. She has woken up at my home on Christmas morning almost as many times as Thing 1 and Thing 2. She would have been the one to raise my children had something happened to me and their father.
We know each other’s families, have been there for each other through thick and thin. Laughed and cried together, and loved like crazy.
We sometimes go months without speaking, but that never matters. We simply pick right back up where we left off as though a moment hasn’t passed. So when I got a message from her Thursday that said, “Bob passed away this morning, will you please come to the service with me?” My only answer was, “Of course I will!”

Catherine was married to Bob for twenty years. They’d been married a year or two when I met her. They were a curious couple, but that old adage about opposites attracting seemed truly embodied in these two. The girls said their names almost as one long name: “CafferineandBob”. To this day, if I say something to one or the other of them about Catherine, they’ll say, “Cafferine Catherine?” To which I smile and reply, “Yes, Cafferine Catherine.”
As I say, they were happily married, and they suited each other. And they were an important part of our life.
But one day twelve or thirteen years ago, Bob disappeared. I mean that literally. He just left. No explanation. No information. He literally disappeared off the face of the earth. Left Catherine holding the bag of their life. She suffered from the unanswered questions. She suffered with the pain of loss. She suffered doubt and confusion. She suffered from the barrage of questions coming at her that she simply couldn’t answer. Then she suffered financially as folks came out of the woodwork to collect on random Bob debts. She was blessed to have good people around her. She suffered, but she had love and support to keep her safe and sane.
What that man did to her was inexcusable. I could never accept his behavior. I never forgave him for what he did to her. He had no idea what she went through. That woman is made of the toughest stuff. She moved forward in grace and gained strength from that pain, but never got hard. She has a deep and all-encompassing love inside her.

Then, a couple of years ago Bob showed back up. He’d been on a soul searching journey. He’d suffered great pain and loss and didn’t know how to deal so he simply disappeared.
He showed back up on the arm of the widow of his recently deceased cousin announcing they were to be married and wanting his things.
Catherine provided his belongings and promptly told them to…well, I’ll just say she bid them adieu.

She had real love.
She had real pain.

Bob was sick with cancer and died quietly at home Thursday morning.
Catherine not only went to his funeral, she spoke eloquently about love and life and peace. I have always been proud to call her my friend. But in that moment, standing in the tiny cemetery in the warm sun and cool breeze, I was witness to another specific example of the love and strength inside Catherine.
She is and extraordinary woman. How fortunate for me that we love each other.

Categories: death, loss | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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