Seeking Paradise OR Grieving Does Not Have A Time Schedule

Vegetables in a grocery store, Paris, France.

Vegetables in a grocery store, Paris, France. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m lying in my bed, still in my pajamas, it’s almost three o’clock in the afternoon. My husband and I had planned to go out to dinner tonight but there is no way in hell I’m going. He thinks I will change my mind. He tries guilt “but I’ m going to be disappointed….” Apparently he doesn’t know me as well as he thinks he does. I do not like to go out when I  feel blue.  I will not step out of my house today unless there is a fire, even then, I would find a cozy corner for me and my red dog that seemed safe enough. I would protect her.

Sometimes I get delayed reactions to things, things that I THOUGHT I had handed well, or maybe this is just a blip in the radar. I used all the right buzz words, “when one door closes another opens” I was practically playing Mother Abbess role singing out loud to “Climb Every Mountain” from “The Sound of Music.” Not now. I’m stuck in mud, not the kind that you can joyfully wade through and play in but the one you feel where you feel trapped in cement and cannot move. Yes, it will change eventually, Patience is not one of my virtues.

This is too familiar we’ve gone through this before. My husband got laid off from his job, I know it’s not his fault, the state of the economy is horrific. His age, doesn’t help, I’m quite sure. He is probably competing with 22-year-old youngsters, bright and bushy-tailed. that will accept less money. It’s those of us who are in-between that suffer the most.

Call us “Baby Boomers,” call us “Empty Nesters” but pretty much, call us what we are: F—ed. We’re taking care of or worrying about our remaining living parents, we have children in college, and we have no idea what to do ourselves. Where should we live? Should we stay, move twice, do nothing? Stress! I live in a town whose school systems excel, one that my kids both graduated from. The taxes are high but the thought of moving twice makes my blood curdle at the thought. I like a town that is peaeful, not divisive, where we help each other, not fight.

The only good thing for my husband and me is that we ARE open to moving, anywhere. If my husband got a job offer in California we would definitely consider it.(Sorry, kids) But, what are the chances?  Right now not very high at all. Besides, no matter where we end up, our children will ALWAYS  have a home. That’s one thing they never, EVER, have to worry about.

The days now are dreary, cold and grey. Wind is chilly and goes right through my winter jacket. I despise going out when the sun sets around four pm, even the grocery store is dull with its flat vegetables and fruit. I miss plums and peaches, cherries and magnificently bright-colored fruit that made summer so cheery. The ripe taste, juice dribbling down your chin, laughing. I’m stuck, we’re stuck and there really is nothing we can do about it.

I know, I’m procrastinating on writing my book. True. That is one thing I SHOULD do. It’s one thing I COULD do and have in my control. That, and what I eat. Food you can also control. I don’t have an eating disorder but it feels good to be able to control something. Yes, things will change, I need to be patient but it is okay to be sad. Dwelling on it, that’s a whole other story, I don’t want to go there. Tonight, I dearly miss my children, I can’t wait to see them in a few weeks, even when they make fun of me, especially when they make fun of me. At least, I will laugh.

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Carry on Tuesday: A ray of hope flickers in the sky, Newtown, CT.

Infrared Background Light from First Stars

Infrared Background Light from First Stars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been said that when a child is born, with all their innocence and sweetness, that a ray of hope flickers in the dark, dark sky. That if you look up at the time of the child’s birth, you too, can see the bright star of illumination descending to earth as all of us above are around him or her. We surround the baby with joy and laughter, we murmur and sing with happiness and grace and a quiet round of applause. We welcome your child, every child to the world so each child born already feels special, like the unique miracle they are.

But, when a child dies, we weep. You may not hear us, or feel us amongst your grief, but we are right beside you, holding your hand, touching you and never leaving your side or your child’s side. We know about the tragedies that happen in your world and don’t think it doesn’t upset us because it hurts us too. We must stay calm because we know how beautiful the other side is and it is our job is to take the physical body of your child and guide it to the other side. The love for your child and the child’s love for you is never taken away, please know that. The spiritual side of your child is with you forever, love never dies; it is always around in different forms. Some of you may need to get used to that, others take to it immediately. If you are open to it, you will receive messages but it may take time.

Of course you will miss the physical body of your child, that IS gone forever and nothing can change that, not even a miracle. But know, with the same joy we have delivered your child to you, we have brought them home to heaven and there they are safe, and happy and know that both us angels and you love them very much. They are watching over you now, and telling you not to be sad, to try to remember their memories with laughter and happiness when you are ready. They don’t want you to be sad anymore than you wanted them to feel pain. This lifetime is over, but a new one is beginning, the children have been laughing since they arrived. Move on from the past, look forward to the future, do this for your child and for your family.

Please know that when a child is taken from his/her family they do go to a better place, they are no longer in pain. But, also know, it does not go unnoticed in our world above; the star that flickered bright when your child was born to you is extinguished in the sky to commemorate your child’s loss. It is how we grieve your loss. We are always at your child’s heavenly side but we will never forget about you either.

The Apple Tree – (It’s Really Not About The Turkey- Part 2)

English: An apple tree loaded with apples in i...

English: An apple tree loaded with apples in its upper crown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Children leave you, like everyone leaves you; you know it is true. Ultimately that’s our biggest fear and the only one that we can’t deny because we know it’s true. We are born alone and we die alone. Children have been leaving us as soon as they take their first step.  Dying is just the last step, in this world at least, but people and pets have gone ahead of us all our lives. It’s the one thing we cannot control, the one thing that causes us the most pain and grief yet we can’t prevent it nor can we heal it. We can’t make it better for others nor can we help ourselves. For me, the only solution I have found is time and letting my pain out like a bursting dam, writing about it helps but it takes a great amount of time to wrap my head around the fact that I will never see that person again. We all grieve differently. Don’t let anyone tell you how to grieve or that you are not grieving the “right ” way. Time does heal, but you can’t expect to forget. Eventually, the memories become sweet reminders of the past.

My children, who have been home for Thanksgiving, for four days, are excited to leave for their other “home” tomorrow morning at ll:00 a.m. They are going back to their respective colleges.  I was surprised to hear how early they were leaving; I know they have a very long drive but deep down I knew that wasn’t the reason. They were ready to go home to their friends, their college family, their parties. I was not surprised at how much they wanted to go back but I was a little disappointed.  I am glad they are their own people now but deep inside my empty womb I felt a pinch of disappointment, of grief. They have left us for good.

Like a sturdy tree, we have stood as a family for twenty years. Now, the tree that once stood so solidly is dropping its apples and the apples are good, they are tasty, juicy and we as parents are proud.  We have made them but they are not our apples anymore, they do not belong to us. They belong to the world, to the men and women who take them home, who love them. Surely, they will remember us, but we will never be their first priority again. It’s a true fact, one you can’t deny and one parents everywhere have to accept. It’s not easy, I know.

So, yes, it was wonderful to watch them grow and to keep watching them, every step of the way. Deep in our hearts, we know, that it will never be the same as it once was. Never. Sure, they will love us in they hearts but they will no longer need us the same way; our goal was to make them independent, remember? I forget too sometimes. They go out into the world to find their own place, to meet their own loves, to start their own families.

We are alone, like when we were born. We will probably die alone, which I know, is a scary thought. Maybe we will be lucky and someone will be there to hold our hand or to whisper “I love you” in our little, paper-thin, shell-like ear, but no one can promise that. We die as we are born. All the steps along the way are lessons to be learned on separation. Be your own person, as much as you can. Love yourself first before you love others.

Untitled

Dog on the weir

Dog on the weir (Photo credit: Steve-h)

Everything I try to write seems awkward. Nothing flows like water winding down from a river or a stream. I am thinking in short, staccato, choppy sentences even though I am feeling more in harmony. Maybe different parts of me have to catch up with each other, I don’t know. I feel that I don’t have anything to write about but I’m sure I do. Or do I?

The grief that I have gone through the last three weeks over my dog dying has been intense but it is better now. People grieve in different ways; I need to cry and let it come out and I need to look at my dog’s picture and have a conversation with her ( it’s easier than saying she had a conversation with me because most people think I’m a nut case) but we did talk. I am cherishing the ten amazing, pain-free years we had together which were nothing short of a miracle, all hugs and kisses, warmth and happiness. We both had a very good life. Change, especially shock, is NOT something I am good with but we all learn to adapt, we have no choice.

Of course I still look for her to give her the remnants of my hamburger and yes, I do wait for her at the blue front door but she is not there. I keep wanting to say “Up, Up” for her to come on my bed and lie next to me, her most favorite place, but ten years is a long time to automatically forget things like that. I don’t feel the stabbing pain anymore which is good. I will love her always but I know I can love another dog too, I also know she would want me too.

I look through the pages of the ASPCA, I drove to the shelter I brought Callie home from to pay my respects; my husband is adamant he is not ready for another dog. I do not live in a vacuum, I must respect my other family members on the other hand, they need to respect me too. I’m in a bit of a quandary. I don’t want to adopt a dog this second but I have to admit looking at adoptable dogs is making me happy, the thought of adopting a homeless dog is giving me a reason to smile.

However, ten years ago, I did not have Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis; I was also ten years younger and I really need to think about that, seriously. Will I be too weak, as I am some days, to take this as yet unnamed dog for a walk? Will my joints hurt so much that all I want to do is lie on the bed and sleep? I don’t have an honest answer for that. Callie was a dog that was gentle and she was a homebody, she didn’t particularly like being away from home so a small walk was fine, being in the backyard was even better. I know if I had an energetic dog that had to run for miles I would be unhappy and so would he/she. That would not be a good match and not fair to either of us. Of course I would try to be matched up with a gentle dog but that possibility of chance is always there.

I’m a little scared.

I also really miss having a dog in my life.

Any thoughts, comments or advice appreciated.

Saltwater Tears

dog fetch

dog fetch (Photo credit: mallix)

I decided that if I cried while swimming in the ocean, it wouldn’t count. I knew there was no logic behind this but it felt like tears would just blend in with salt water. So, while swimming in- between the high green Florida waves, I would cry, sob sometimes, because my dog had died a little more than a week ago.

Many years ago I used to be the kind of person that saw a sympathy card for a dog and I would roll my eyes and think to myself ‘it’s just a dog’ for goodness sake. That was before I ever had a dog. Once I had a dog, who became so ingrained in our family’s lives, things changed. I am grieving the loss of our dog; more emotionally, of course, than the rest of the family.

When I think back on the night before she died I could kick myself. I wasn’t open to receiving her messages like I usually was because I was too upset. But, she told me in the blinks of her eyes that she would be leaving, she was saying good-bye only I wasn’t ready to listen. I know now. Thank you, sweet girl.

Before we took her for surgery I gave her the talk I had given her many times before. I cradled her soft face with my hands and whispered to her my same speech: “You know I love you Callie, I love you so much, we all do but I promise, not to let you suffer. I know you don’t want to suffer pain and I don’t want that for you. I love you too much.” Once I kissed her and nuzzled her she happily went off with the technician at the veterinarian, I didn’t know I would never see her again. I felt optimistic, not a feeling that comes naturally to me.

When the veterinarian called, from surgery, my heart stopped. He had opened my dog up and told me that the mass he had found did indeed turn out to be cancerous. Not only was it cancerous but it had spread to 75 percent of her body. He said “thought what we had said about not wanting her to suffer and this is what he would do personally if she was his dog, he would not wake her up.” I agreed, rationally, as did my husband. In no way, did we want our dog to suffer; I had made a promise to my dog and I was determined to keep it.

After that, reality set in. The healthy looking dog I had cuddled with this morning was dead? How could that be? She had no symptoms at all except for two very quiet little yelps, that I hadn’t even heard, two days before and then she returned to her old,  self. She ate, she played, she climbed up the stairs and jumped on the bed in her usual position right next to me. By moving her neck around she showed me where she wanted to be scratched and I obliged. The only sign that something was different was that for a brief period of an hour or two she wouldn’t look at me and she hid under my husband’s desk and her eyes would not meet mine; she looked away.

I had kept my promise to my dog, I had not let her suffer any pain. I told her how much I loved her and what a great dog she was. I told her how the whole family loved her. All the right things were done. I understand that it was a shock, I understand she is dead. I cannot understand WHY my mind keeps forgetting that when we come home from the airport tomorrow she will not be there, on the other side of the door,  barking and whimpering, eager to welcome us home with her gentle, wet kisses.

I don’t know how to handle that, I think it is just one more thing to get through and yes, I will probably cry.

Haiku Heights – Endurance

Rainbow bridge

Rainbow bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(In Memory of my dog, Callie)

Tears spill from my eyes

Cascading grief, come undone

Spread, advanced cancer.

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

Pain unfolds anew

Stab wounds in my broken heart

My world is dead black.

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

Because Love Has No Religion

Roses

Image via Wikipedia

I am slowly, very slowly and intensely taking off pink nail polish from my finger nails as if it was the most important task in the world. I feel like a surgeon scrubbing in to make him/herself totally antiseptic. It feels like that to me but I don’t know why exactly. I don’t know the codes or rules for going to a wake but I know, for myself, I have to wipe away every sign of sunshine from my hands because that feels right. My hands look plain, wrinkled, weather-beaten and bare. I’ve stripped off every clue to color because my friend Dawn is dead and the world feels color-less and grim.

I didn’t know what to expect at the wake; I had only been to one wake before in my life and that was thirty-five years ago. We arrived before the official hours and already the room was packed. I saw her husband, John first, and I hugged him, then their oldest daughter who hugged me as if to comfort me. Her middle son  sat tall and straight next to his friends and did not move, his eyes riveted to his mom’s casket. The youngest child was the most heartbreaking of all, he belonged to no one in that room. He was in his own world, going to the casket, returning to his seat, going to the casket and returning to his seat, his eyes on no one, alone in his private world. He sat neither with family or friends, he was in his own fragile bubble, looking younger than his years.

I thought in death, Dawn would look more like herself than she did in the last stages of her life. I somehow expected to feel comforted that I would see my friend as I had remembered her. I went slowly  up to the coffin although I was terrified; I knew it was something I had to do. But, inside my head, like an unrestrained child, inside my head I was screaming with disbelief and anger “this is not OUR Dawn” I thought, “THIS IS NOT OUR DAWN.”  In the coffin lay a woman I didn’t know, an old woman, with too much makeup. They had prayer cards with a picture of Dawn at her finest: natural, loving, with one of her great big smiles and that is what many people said they wanted to remember her by. Even though I felt the same way, the images for the next three nights when I tried to sleep were of Dawn in the open casket, someone I didn’t know, a stranger.

There were flower arrangements everywhere. A huge arrangement made from roses, dark, crimson roses that formed into a heart; it must have stood six feet tall. There were many other flowers, yellow, white, pink, every color you can imagine and as tall as one can dream.

Her husband John, then came over and put his arm around me to show me something. “I hope you don’t mind” he said but we used your letter to Dawn as our prayer.” In front of me, I saw a piece of paper with the words I had written FOR Dawn, many months before she died. It was called “Praying For Dawn” and somehow after writing it, I thought I would take a chance to drop it off at their house. It was meant for Dawn and her family, and yet here at the wake hundreds of people clutched the piece of paper that I had written.

Her family members wanted to meet me, they said they had all read it many times, I had no idea. I do remember that after I dropped it off I got a voice message in the back of my answering machine from Dawn, thanking me and telling me she loved it. I could barely make out her words but I never erased that message.  I gave my condolences to Dawn’s mom and she said “Oh, do you like that prayer, one of her friends wrote that!!!”  Somehow through my trembling lips and tears I managed to say that ‘I was that friend.’ I swear her eyes lit up and she thanked me and told me how often the family loved reading it. She asked ME if she could introduce me to Dawn’s father who had wanted to meet the friend that had written that poem. After the introduction, he hugged me, and then took my face in his hands and said “God Bless You”  “Thank you for writing that about Dawn, you captured her the way she really was. ” He told me he had wanted to meet the person who wrote it and knew I was a neighbor but didn’t want to walk into the wrong house and be embarrassed.”  I told him where I lived and told him that he and his wife were welcome to visit me at any time.

The emotional intensity for me was overwhelming. I was honored that they used my piece of writing at the same time I was in total emotional shock. People were complimenting me on something that I forgot about since I have written many pieces about Dawn in my blog. I looked at many of my earlier blog posts and I practically have a whole book about Dawn.

My husband practically had to drag me out of the door since we needed to get our daughter to her afternoon class. I saw an old dear friend that I hadn’t seen in a long time and we wrapped our arms around each other crying. “I feel so lost” she said, “I just feel lost.” We all felt that way, I think. Lost without a piece of sunshine in our lives, deprived forever more of this gift of a person who brought enjoyment to everyone she met. Dawn was our fighter, never giving up yet she still lost the fight to this horrendous disease. Dawn was our light, she was our strength, there was no one she didn’t like…..well, with the exception of a little dog in the neighborhood….We all laughed remembering that and it felt good.

Two days later I arrived at the church forty-five minutes before the service and again, there were many people inside. The church was beautiful, I had never been there before. The stained glass windows shone from the morning sun, the polished wood seemed inviting and homey. There were many new flowers, everywhere. So many people from our little community were there, every religion was represented, people from all parts of Dawn’s life were there to show their respect: sports teams, education, friends, family, neighbors, some of  the neighborhood kids, friends and their parents for all three children and the middle school Principal. Our community sometimes gets a really bad reputation but when something happens to one of our own, we come together as one. Our little town becomes so protective and so loving of one of its own; it’s happened before. Many years ago when a young boy had cancer, the town rallied together as well.

Both Dawn’s daughter and husband spoke at the funeral. Her daughter is a young woman with the most grace and poise I have ever seen. This young woman will be famous one day, I guarantee it. Everyone was either wiping their eyes or just letting the tears stream down their faces like leaks out of a rusty, old faucet. After the service the pallbearers brought the coffin out to the hearse. I saw a random pink flower on the ground that escaped and as much as I wanted to pick it up and touch it I couldn’t. It didn’t seem like the thing to do, it belonged to Dawn.

One thing I did not know was the tradition of the hearse and all the cars attending the cemetery making a final good-bye to the house where Dawn lived with her family. We drove around the loop as well and all I could think of was Dawn’s enormous Christmas wreath that she was always so proud of, hanging still around the front door. It seemed to me so heart-wrenching to do that, to watch her family ride in the car passing their house where their mother would never again live. Maybe it’s for closure too, I can only guess.

After that, we all went to our individual homes, sighing, looking at the ground, crying, solemn and gloomy and still, feeling that we were in a different world, a new reality. I don’t know how long it takes before the death of someone really hits you and takes its toll but I do know that it does take a while. After the company, the distractions, the food and the flowers, the only thing that matters is that there will be an empty chair at their kitchen table that no one can ever replace. And, at all her children’s’ games, their mom will not be there to encourage them and support them. Whatever condition Dawn was in, good or bad, in a wheelchair or not, Dawn was always there for her children, rooting for them, happy for them until the very last breath she took to say a peaceful “good-bye.”

To Have Loved and Lost

I wanna hold your hand

Image by Josep Ma. Rosell via Flickr

Is There Any Question?

 
YES, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I remember asking my mother the same type of question when I was a teenager as we were walking from the hot, steamy parking lot to the beach’s entrance. I was 14 and I will never forget her answer. I asked “but what if something bad happens to the person you love?” She replied calmly: “You can’t be scared of everything. Some bad things will happen, but you have to take the chance. You don’t want to be alone forever.” She was right. Years later I went on to date my then boyfriend, now husband of 22 years. We have many wonderful memories together, we have two teenage children that we adore. I live in fear that something will happen to him or the children, the same fear that I feel for all the people I love. I worry, too, about my darling 8 and a half-year old dog.

There will be pain in our lives, devastation, loss. It comes with the territory. My father died almost 9 years ago. Do I miss him? Yes. Have I forgotten him? No. Is it still painful? Definitely. What I try to do now is focus on the good times we shared and the amazing love we had for each other. It takes time for pain to dissipate and really, it never goes away completely. As we all know, life is not safe. We all need to be grateful and appreciate what we have, every day, every moment if possible. Health is the most important thing we have, not money or fame or status. Love. True, unconditional love. It can be scary, it does mean you are taking a chance, it also means you need to trust. Sometimes, you just have to shut your eyes tight, take a chance, hold on tight to your loved one’s hands and jump.

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Happy Birthday Daddy

Wiener Schnitzel

Image via Wikipedia

November 13th is my dad’s birthday, he would have been 88. He passed away almost 9 years ago but the pain on holidays, birthdays, Father’s Day, is the same raw pain as the day he died.  It’s a pain that is hard to describe for people who have never lost a parent. Believe me, I know.

Instead of wallowing in depression this year I am going to try to remember and honor the man I loved so dearly. His blue-gray eyes, child-like qualities, generosity, pep-talks and his warmth. I miss the soft yet sturdy hugs as if a limb of my own had been amputated. I miss the familiar smell of his after-shave cologne that he sprayed with enthusiasm. My dad and I were very similar; he and I had an amazing connection and a strong emotional bond. We thought alike and we completely understood each other. The day he died, my heart was gauged with intense pain, my heart missing an essential beat.

My dad and I had so much fun together when I was younger. We traveled to  Vienna, Austria, where my grandparents lived. We ate sugary-sweet meringues that were shaped like delicate white swans and sipped hot chocolate with “schlag”  (whipped cream). We ate exploding red-berry sweet and sour tarts in Viennese cafes. My grandmother would fry up her famous wiener schnitzel,  served with plump lemon wedges every single night.

I was in first grade when my mom couldn’t come to open school day but my dad came. I think he was the only father in the class and I was so proud, so happy that he was there. I remember sharing my milk and cookies with him and I felt so important. At a shared birthday party with a friend he surprised me by coming home from work early, sneaking into the party like a secret surprise. It was a joy so innocent and so intense that I remember the feeling to this day. I was shocked and delighted as I wrapped my arms around his tall legs like a clinging, furry animal. Back then dads’ weren’t as involved in their children’s’ lives as they are today but he always had time for me; his little one, his mouse, his baby.

We had adventures, the two of us. My mother worked a great deal, she traveled the world being a tour director and translator. One night my father and I went out to a Spanish restaurant and sipped sangria, with glistening, beaming chunks of bright oranges and green apples bobbing in the rich, red wine. We toasted people we knew with every sip we took. The more we sipped the stranger the toasts were. I remember we toasted a wall -paper hanger guy that never showed up to our house, people we barely knew and random people from the past.

We went to the bagel store together, early on a Sunday morning and the store was closed. However, the fresh, warm, doughy bagels had already been delivered to the store in huge paper sacks. My dad happily took some and we left, an experience a teenager doesn’t forget! We would go grocery shopping at a huge Pathmark store with my mom and he and I would find the biggest size jars of silly things: three-pound troughs of peanut butter and dill pickles, tubs of mandarin oranges and hide them in the cart as a joke. My mother would roll her eyes and shake her head, clearly not amused, but my dad and I would laugh hysterically. Often, there would be open boxes of cookies or candy and we would help ourselves to free samples. Back then, we weren’t worried about poison or germs or anthrax.

My father spent his entire life working for TWA,  getting free airline tickets for our family.  My father, mother, older sister and I flew to: France, Greece, Portugal, Israel, Switzerland and Germany. First class seats were a mere eight dollars extra but that was a lot of money years ago and a very special treat.

This Saturday on my dad’s birthday my husband and I are going to visit my mom and take her out for lunch, we don’t want her to be alone. I know that spending the day with my mom would make my dad very happy.  He loved my mom more than anyone else in the world. Later, that night, my kids and I will remember him with his own, signature and messy concoction, “Papa’s game”: a “mixture” containing  little bits of everything that is leftover on our plates and in our glasses, swirled together with a spoon and a smile. This year, I will toast to his memory.