Looking for Love

This morning pretty much every single one of us got up on the wrong side of the bed.  You name it, it was frustrating us.  Whine was the flavor of the day for everyone, including me.

I walked outside to take Miss Sophie for her morning walk, and I felt the need to stay out in the heat and the sun a few minutes longer.  I didn’t like anyone, including me.  I found myself looking for someone to be angry with, and my parents came to mind.

Because they aren’t here.

Sometimes emotions make no sense, y’all.

I was immediately ashamed of those emotions and chastised myself for being angry with people I love, who had to leave this world through no fault of their own.  My heart was immediately trying to make up for where my mind had gone, and I was overwhelmed with the love I feel for them–the people who taught me better than to walk around angry like this.

And then I saw it.

A heart with wings on the fence that Miss Sophie and I walked by this morning.

A heart with wings on the fence that Miss Sophie and I walked by this morning.

The heart.  The heart with wings.

This. This was no coincidence.  I was taught to love and carry love with me everywhere.  To give it wings.

The thing is that just because someone does something well, it does not mean that doing it is easy.  Quite the contrary sometimes.  Like my oldest, she is very good at school.  Some parts of it ARE easier for her than for others, but the truth is that she applies herself and she works hard when she needs to.  Her grades and success are because of her efforts.  My Uncle is good at gardening.  He winds up with such a bountiful harvest, and for that we are all very thankful, but it is in NO WAY easy.  He’s good at it–I hope he enjoys it.  But he works very hard at it.  Sowing and reaping and everything in between.  My Cousin makes eating right and taking care of herself and her family a priority.  She does it, and she does it well.  This is not something she learned just through reading books and websites or the backs of essential oil bottles.  She learned it the hard way.  Through living it, because she had to–for the sake of her own health.  Her wisdom and knowledge that she shares is hard come by.  And yet, she’s always gracious and generous and encouraging with all that she knows.

My Mama was good at loving folks.  She could find something lovable in pretty much everybody.

But I am realizing as time passes that it must have been hard at times too.  Just because she made it look so easy, doesn’t it mean that it always was.  I wish I could tell her thank you for loving me all the times when I wasn’t very lovable.

There is grace in knowing it wasn’t easy for her.  That gives me hope.  I want to love like she did.  Each day, though, I find myself struggling.  I am trucking along, all loving and kind and trying to be helpful and then {BAM}, I have this emotion of not liking someone.  The realization eventually comes that the dislike is more about me than them.  I usually need to get my heart in order.  The emotions that are counterproductive in my efforts to love can be anything from jealousy to fear to insecurity to misunderstanding.  Love has so many emotions that are out to get rid of it.

And lots of times they are easier to feel.

Love.  It’s something to work at.  Takes effort.  Focus.  Concentration.  Sure, sometimes the warm fuzzies bubble up and LOVE IS IN THE AIR.  But love was never intended to be fickle.  Or one-dimensional.  Or judgmental.  Love was meant to be all-encompassing.  Through thick and thin.  Good and bad.

And that takes some doing.

I have often thought that I would like to be thought of as a noted authority.  On something.  I mean, I’ve been on this journey for a while now.  Surely I have learned enough about at least one thing to where I can speak intelligently about it.

Or not.  And so I read.  And listen.  And watch.  And upon reflection, after watching people who are really, really good at loving folks and make it seem so easy–I’ve noticed something.  They also seem to have a peace that passes understanding.  I decided maybe I want to be a master at love.  Like my Mama. And the others who are good at it.

But first I am an apprentice.

And so I look to those around me.  Those who love.  And love well.  Or love hard.  They work at it.  Like with me, some days are better than others.  But each day these folks I look up to make a conscious effort to love, even when every fiber of their body says otherwise.

They love by reaching out.  They send messages or make phone calls.  Just to “see how you are doing.”  And they listen.  Sometimes for hours.  Or they text back and forth until the anxiety eases.  They are patient.

Grandma has been at it again.  This was a total surprise--this beautiful shawl she created for me.  I will be able to literally wrap myself up in love.

Grandma has been at it again. This was a total surprise–this beautiful shawl she created for me. I will literally be able to wrap myself up in love.

They love with gestures.  Of kindness.  Invitations.  Even when they hear “not today,” they ask again.  Until the time is right.  They love with thought-filled gifts.  With things they created.  Or found.  They love by showing they thought about the person and who he or she is before they picked it up or made it.  They love by showing another he or she is KNOWN.

My oldest, Aub, texted me from her latest GW Boutique trip.  She said I was going to love her so much.  Really what she did in finding these treasures and remembering that I LOVE Raggedy Anns is show me how much she loves me.  These girls are a symbol of love for me just like the hearts on their chests.

My oldest, Aub, texted me from her latest GW Boutique trip. She said I was going to love her so much because she had found me a surprise. Really what she did in finding these treasures and remembering that I LOVE Raggedy Anns is show me how much she loves me. These girls are a symbol of love for me just like the hearts on their chests.

They love by remembering.  By giving thanks.  By writing notes and saying words like “You matter” or “Thank you” or “How can I help?”

A thank you and remembrance for something that I enjoyed doing so much I feel like I should be thanking them for letting me do it.  The note that came with it was the real treasure.

A thank you and remembrance for something that I enjoyed doing so much I feel like I should be thanking them for letting me do it. The note that came with it was the real treasure.

They love generously.  By sharing what they have.  Vegetables.  Clothes.  Toys.  Books.  Thoughts.  Ideas.  Wisdom.  Knowledge.  Time.

The love without judging.  These people are the ones someone can tell her deepest and darkest thoughts and feelings to and they don’t blink.  Or they blink and call her out to be her best self.

And these folks who know how to love, they remember how short life is.  And they know how powerful it is to take someone’s hand, look her in the eyes, and say “I love you.”  They love and remind others that they are loved.

I am an apprentice.  But what I finally remembered this morning is that I need always ALWAYS to look for love.  Especially when I am tired.  Angry.  Hurting.  Sad.  Worried.  Stressed.  Overwhelmed.

I need to look for love.

And it was like the scales were removed from my eyes.  And I saw the heart with wings.  And then I looked at the ground.

The second heart I saw after I opened my soul to look for love this morning.

The second heart I saw after I opened my soul to look for love this morning.

And then this one.  Love is there, if only we look for it.  I saw all three of these hearts within the span of about 3 minutes.  And maybe ten steps.  Is it any wonder that I was weeping?

And then this one. Love is there, if only we look for it. I saw all three of these hearts within the span of about 3 minutes. And maybe ten steps. Is it any wonder that I was weeping?

Hearts.

I began crying.  Realizing that just maybe these were messages from my Mama.  Reminding me that love is a process.  A work in progress.  And to always look.  Even underneath the hot Georgia sun, with a hurting spirit, love can be found.

If only we look for it.

May love surprise you today.  Open your eyes.  You are worthy of being loved.

You ARE loved.

Love.  Love to all.

A Legacy of Loving

Thursday evening as we pulled into the middle school parking lot, arriving for the littles’ gymnastic recital, Cooter piped up from the backseat, “I wish Maemae weren’t dead.”

Oh my heart.  Bless him.  Me too, baby boy.  Me too.

I’m not sure what prompted him to feel that, but maybe it’s because she was there for his very first gymnastics recital in 2012.  Maybe he was seeing her walking down that sidewalk with us after it was all over, her face beaming and telling him how wonderful he was–I know that memory kept playing over and over in my heart as we drove in and parked.

His sister agreed with him.  My Mama had a special gift of making the one she was talking to feel extra special.  Valued. Loved.  Wanted.  A treasure indeed.  And she never accepted you putting yourself or anyone else down.  Not ever.

She also told me when I needed to get off my pity pot.  But that’s a story for another night.

So this is for my children–the ones she loved, the ones she said made her life “grand”–

Maemae loved you.  She still loves you.  You never failed to put a smile on her face and a song in her heart.  She wanted you since the moment she found out you were on your way.  And she never stopped wanting you–as her grandchild, in her home, sitting next to her, in her heart.

She never stopped, and she sure shooting hasn’t stopped now.

There are going to be these moments in your life when the pain of her being gone is going to be a little harder than normal, like these past few days–special events, moments that make you think of her, or sometimes, for no reason at all.

And here’s what I want you to remember.

Maemae left you a legacy.  A legacy of love.  She loved you so strongly that when you sit and think about her and all you did together, I hope it puts a smile on your face.  Because you never failed to put one on hers.

But she also left you a legacy of loving.  She spent years and years building relationships with people who loved her back and who now love you.  Because you are hers and because you are pretty amazing people all on your own.  Look around at who is there when you have special events.  Look at who answers the phone when you have something to share.  Look at who blesses your heart when times are hard.  Look at who comes and moves you out of your dorm room or listens to you play piano over the phone or on a video.  Look at who listens to your stories and plays with you.  Look at who comments on your posts or sits and makes you laugh.  Look at Who. Shows. Up.

You were loved.  And you still are.

None of those who are here loving you now could replace her, and none of them want to.  But what they can do and WANT TO DO is love you and celebrate you and bring you comfort when you are sad.  And remind you that you are a treasure.

How lucky we are that Maemae was so good at loving people that she left us with all of these folks who love us too!

Our Princess’ dance teacher retired last year.  She returned this afternoon to watch “her girls” perform in their recital.  It was a loving gesture, and the girls were so excited to see her and for her to see what they have learned in a year’s time.

As she and I stood backstage watching them perform, it struck me how fortunate we are that Miss B did such a wonderful job of loving and teaching our girls.  These girls love her and were sad when she decided to retire, but because she passed the love of dancing along to them, they had what they needed to continue with dance when she wasn’t there.

See, if she had empowered them only to love her, none of them would have returned.  What a selfless gift she gave them when she made it bigger than her…..these girls’ love of dance is her legacy.

Maemae was like that with love.  She loved us fiercely and taught us to do the same, but instead of always wanting all that love for herself, she taught us to send it flowing outward to others and others and more others.  It didn’t stop with her, and because of how she loved, it never will.

That is her legacy.

Tonight I am thankful for women who teach and love in such a way that their absence doesn’t stop all the good things they have taught us.  I give thanks that my children remember and miss their Maemae, but even more I am thankful for those who continue to love them in the here and now.  I know she would be the last one wanting them sad on special days like these, and I love her so much for building relationships that feed our souls and warm our hearts and celebrate alongside us.  I don’t know what I would do without those smiling faces in the audience, those loving voices on the phone, the laughter and the willingness to step in and help.  I don’t know what I would do without those who show up.

And I’m thankful I don’t have to.

May we all love and teach the ones around us such that we don’t have to be around for the words and lessons to still matter and guide their hearts.

Love to all.

IMG_8127

Order in the Chaos

In the midst of a week of realizing, once again, just how much is out of my control, I tried to keep my hands busy. If my hands were busy, maybe I would focus on the task at hand instead of my heart hurting or the troubles of my friends and family.

Or not.

But it was worth a try.

It was funny what brought me the greatest comfort. It wasn’t the nap. (I know, I was shocked too.) It wasn’t bingeing on Netflix or picking up a book.

It was tackling Mount Washmore that had collected on Cap’s couch. With all the comings and goings of the past few days, clothes got clean but not folded or put away.

It was time. As I matched socks and sorted out each child’s clothes in stacks by pants, shirts, and unmentionables, I found peace. In the quiet with the melee of the house in the background (because it is rarely ever completely quiet around here), I folded and just “was.” No thought train running through my brain, no emotional rumination, just quietly picking up one article of clothing, folding it, deciding where to put it, and then moving on to the next piece.

One piece at a time. Slowly the pile went away.

My Mama used to say loading the dishwasher for her was like playing Tetris. Trying to figure out how to place each dish in just the right spot to fit all of the dirty dishes in there.

Making order in the chaos.

That’s what I did yesterday. I can’t fix all the things that are rolling in around me, but that pile of laundry? Folded, sorted, and put away. Done.

That I could do. That I could control.

And it felt good.

Sometimes it’s the simple things to help us swing back toward “balance.” And balance is what I long for.

May you all have a load of laundry to fold just when you need some peace the most.
Love to all.

“Well, What About Them?”

Today as the crew and I began the work of coming to terms with our shock and grief, we did what we have done in the past when the pain has been great. We circled the wagons and hung close together.
Aub had a couple of things she needed to do at school and I had a couple of errands to run as well, so we all loaded up and headed out.  Together.
This meant that when we got home, there were a fair number of things that still needed tending to.
I asked different children, usually in pairs or all three, to take care of one task or another.
Not once, but twice, I got the blank stare, no action, and I heard the “Well, what about _______? She/He isn’t…..”
Y’all.
No. Unh uh. Not even.
I will turn this house. Upside. Down.
Not even joking.

We are all a little tender right now, so I tried to give some grace, but just no.

What if WE ALL waited to tend to what we could do on the list of what needs doing in our world–what if we all stood around waiting on so and so to do THEIR part first, and then we’ll get on it?

I am having none of that, I tell you what.

My dear sisterfriend who left this world on Monday was having none of that either. She saw a need and she got on it. She didn’t wait on you or me to get in there and stand alongside her. She fed people, and then the rest of us joined her. She loved all, and we learned to do so too. She kept on standing up for folks who weren’t being heard, and we began to see and hear them and follow her example.

She didn’t let any dust settle around her feet. She was always moving toward the goal of following in the dust of the Rabbi,  loving and caring and speaking out for folks.

Tonight I am thankful for her and the life she lived. I am thankful for this zany bunch I get to call mine for a time.  I love them dearly at the same time that they make me question my sanity. As they stare at me, wanting to know why their siblings aren’t being called to task, I remember that we are all on a learning journey, works in progress, and I have hope. And patience. Just like my Mama and my sisterfriend and my Aunt and so many others have had with me.

May none of us ever sit around waiting for another to step in and get things started…..
Love to all.

One Life I Loved

A beautiful soul has left us, and my life will never be the same again.

In the midst of a day of tending to school and grocery runs and appliance repairs, I got the call that broke my heart.

My dear sisterfriend is gone.

Suddenly and unexpectedly gone.

And I find myself feeling very, very lost.

My friend was a colleague, a mentor, and a trusted and much beloved friend.

"Lasso the Moon Together" by Wyanne

“Lasso the Moon Together” by Wyanne

She loved elephants.  Last year when I found the print, “Lasso the Moon Together” by the very talented Wyanne, it had her spirit written all over it.  She has helped me reach the stars, and I love her to the moon and back.  She has lifted so many up to reach their full potential, by believing in them and empowering them and putting them in touch with the right resources.  Most of all she has loved us all, just as we are.

Little did she know when she toted leftovers from church to the downtown area to share with folks who might enjoy them all those years ago that she was starting a ministry.  One that would be far-reaching and change all of our lives for the better.  Because of her being interruptible and unselfish and giving on a Sunday afternoon way back then.

She and her family moved to downtown Macon to live among the folks she cared so much about.  The folks she loved knew it.  She was not just about the words, she was about action.

I remember one day in particular that she made herself interruptible, taking time away from her job and family to join me in a trip to be family for one of our friends who had finished his rehab program in Statesboro.  We laughed and cried together, and if I didn’t know it before that day, I knew it then.  She was a kindred spirit.  We were sisters who needed each other.

An elephant never forgets, they say.

My sweet, dear sisterfriend, I love you and I will never forget.

I won’t forget the song that plays when I call your number and get your voicemail.  “One Life to Love” by 33Miles:

You only get just one time around
You only get one shot at this
One chance to find out
The one thing that you don’t wanna miss
One day when it’s all said and done
I hope you see that it was enough
This one ride, one try, one life to love

I won’t forget how you loved, girl.  And how much.

I won’t forget your patience with my littles when we were together.  I won’t forget the lessons you taught me about compassion and tough love and how to empower without enabling.  I won’t forget how you were a voice for those whose were unable to speak for themselves.  Or how you gave so much of your time and hugs and resources to make our community a better place for all of us to live. I will remember how you encouraged me to write my first letter to and later visit our friend who was incarcerated.  I won’t forget the smile that the mention of your sweet grandson put on your face.   I will always remember how you changed my Aub’s life, not once but twice, caring so much about her future and where she is heading.  I won’t forget how generous you were with your thank you’s and that you took time to write handwritten notes to so many of us, an expression of love we will always have.  I will remember your wanting to come to Daddy’s funeral and getting lost, bless your heart–but that you wanted to come, that was such a comfort to me.  One of the books you suggested I read is one of the big reasons I finally started writing again. (I wish I knew what book you were reading last month that you said I needed to read.)  I won’t forget your hugs and your generosity and your words of wisdom.  You have taught me so much.

And yet I still have so much to learn.

I’m not ready to let you go.

And yet I must. You have ridden off into a better place.  One where no one is hungry or homeless or weeping from the brokenness.  I hope you will finally understand and won’t ever forget how precious you are to us.  To me.  Thursday I will keep our lunch date.  I will remember what you have taught me, and I will try to figure out what you planned to say about all that is going on right now.  What a jewel you were in our midst, a beautiful, unpolished gem.

"Come Dream With Me" by Wyanne

“Come Dream With Me” by Wyanne

Our world seems a little dimmer now, but tonight, as I stand out beneath the sky and look up at the stars, it seems brighter where you are.  My life will never be the same, my friend, but know this, you changed me for the better.  You not only dreamed of a better world, you got in there with your hands and your feet and your kind, precious heart and made it so.

And that I will never forget.

Love you, D.  Well done.

 

 

 

*****Many thanks to my friend Wyanne, a brilliant and talent artist and dear soul, who allowed me to share her artwork with y’all.  

 

In the Midst of the Sorrow

This morning I awoke to an email with some very sad news.  Leroy and Mess Cat’s sweet kitty Precious had five kittens yesterday afternoon.  They all died during the night.  The story we prepared for the children is that they were born too early and just didn’t make it.  The truth is that nature can be cruel and deadly when marking out its territory.  Tomcats are a menace.  And that’s just too much for them to grasp right now.

As I was brushing my teeth, I missed my Mama so much.  Her gentle ways with the children would have been welcome as we told them what happened.  Her loving touch and saddened voice would have acknowledged the pain but reminded us that this is what can happen sometimes.  There’s just no help for it.

I craved my Mama’s spirit.  I miss her.  It was then that I figured out what I’d like to invent.

A camera that takes pictures and captures the scent of the moment as well.  For me smell is such a trigger for memories, and I just know I would feel like Mama was closer if I could smell her or home or the scent of sunshine in the freshly washed sheets.

After I told Cooter and our Princess this morning, there were tears.  And questions. And they immediately asked about their cousin, Shaker.  How was he?  Was he sad?  We talked about how he must be feeling, and they both set to thinking about what they could do to lift his spirits.

Because they know grief, and they know people have been kind to them in their grief.

Our Princess quietly slipped away to get dressed for the day.  Cooter had seen her first, and he came into the room where I was, shaking his head.

“What?”

“You’ll see.  She takes the deaths of kittens very seriously.”

“Oh.  Well, don’t you?”

“I’m sad, yes, but well–you’ll see.”

And I did.  Our Princess was wearing a black dress.  She looked at me with a question in her eyes.  I nodded and so did she.  I get it.  Later in the day, she said, “All life matters.”

Yes, baby girl, yes it does.

This afternoon she suggested we fix a meal for Mess Cat and her family.  “Because you know Mama, I’ve heard that when a family is grieving, sometimes they don’t feel like cooking.”

Bless her.

It brought back memories of all the kind folks who prepared food for us–after Daddy and after Mama left this world.  So kind.  And appreciated.  Yes, my children know about death and grief and how our people do.

Bless all their hearts.

Tomorrow we plan on seeing Precious and her people and giving them all a big hug.  And maybe we’ll do what Shaker did with Precious today–sit quietly with them in the hopes of sharing the sorrow and making it even just a tiny bit palatable.

Tonight I’m thankful for sweet, tender hearts who know that all life matters and understand the pain of grief enough to be compassionate.  I’m not thankful for the reason, but I am thankful they seem to get it.

Love to all.

Saying Their Names

Our Princess loves to check the mail.

I don’t blame her.  It was my thing once upon a time too.

Yesterday she brought in a stack of mail.  A bill, unsolicited advertisements, a catalog, a magazine, and a package.

An unexpected package, I should add, which sent tingles of delight and anticipation surging through us all.

Inside was a treasure.

Well, there were books, so yes, that was a treasure in and of itself, but there was also a letter.

But not just any letter.

This was from a dear soul who knew my Mama and my Daddy.  Daddy talked with her and listened and let her into his world, when everything seemed to be falling apart in his fight against Goliath.  She was such a comfort to us all in those days.  Especially for Mama.  I am convinced she is the reason Mama found her place after Daddy died.   Our friend invited Mama on an outing, and from that Mama found a place to be, a place to serve, and a place to love and be loved.

For all of the fifteen months she lived after losing her best friend.

And this dear soul was there when Mama took her last breath.  She was also there when our cousin, Miss B, took hers.  I don’t know what I would have done without her through all of those days.  A comfort to be sure.

This letter she took the time to write was no ordinary one.

It was a remembering, an honoring of the lives of the two people I love and miss so much.  I laughed and I cried as I read the two handwritten pages front and back.

What a gift.

Grief is an odd duck.  I’ve said it before, and this probably won’t be the last time.  The thing is I can go a day or a few without tears.  The missing them, the holes in my life, doesn’t go away, but I can cope.  I can function and I can go on.  (Which shocks me to be quite honest, I never thought I’d be able to.) Then a day will come and the thought of something I want to tell Mama about or a question I want to ask Daddy comes to mind, and I’m a weepy mess just as I was in the shower night after night those first few months.  The tidal wave washes over me, knocks me down, and I am LOST once again.

And in this, though there are so many others who loved them and miss them, wrong or not, I wonder if I am the only one still struggling like this.  It’s been two and three years since their passing on, and time heals, so they say, so maybe I’m the only one, so I don’t bring it up…..because I don’t want to upset anyone or because I figure I’m just crazy.  All depends on the day.

This letter was timely and purposefully so.  She remembered it was the anniversary of us saying goodbye to Mama.  And so she wrote.  And she called them. by. name.

I miss hearing their names.

Tonight I am thankful for the grief.

That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

But the thing is, I fear a day will come and I won’t have the tears.  The memories might fade such that I don’t weep with the pain of missing them.  I never want their passing to be just a thing in my past.  I want to remember.

And I give thanks for the others who remember.  Who tell me they do, and who share their memories.

That right there.

That’s a gift.  I clung to the phone as an older friend shared the story of my Daddy driving home from work as a young man, making the turn onto his road on two wheels.  That was it.  Nothing else to the story, but my knuckles were white and my heart listened to every detail and etched it into my memory.  Because she told me about Bill.  From long ago.

And the letter.  The paper is a little warped from the tears, but I won’t let them go willingly.  On it are the names of those I love.  And memories I don’t have, but that were shared with me. About Bill and Barbara.  I cling to those.

So if you’re ever wondering what you can do for someone who is missing someone they love, call them up, sit down over a cup of coffee or a glass of sweet tea, and call those folks by name.  Share your stories and listen to theirs.  Even if it’s been a year.  Two.  Ten.  Talk about the person.

Say their name.

May we all have someone who walks alongside us to remember and share stories with as we traverse this path of grief and loss and this whole journey of life.

Love to all.

IMG_6971

The Next Couple of Days

And so it’s time for the pages on the calendar that carry me away to a paradoxical place for a couple of days.

The days that are so full of emotion and good and hard things that it’s difficult to reconcile them all together in my one heart and mind.

February 10, 2007  My baby, my third and last baby–first son, was born.

February 9, 2013 I took my oldest, Aub, to my alma mater for Scholarship Day.  The beginning of her college life.

February 9, 2013 My Mama’s 24th day in the hospital and the date of her third emergency surgery.

February 10, 2013 I celebrated my baby boy’s 6th birthday with him for about thirty minutes.  The rest of the day I was at the hospital.  That night I signed the papers to let my Mama go.  And sometime after 10:30 p.m. she left this earth and headed on up to the House.

The precious church and cemetery out at Little Union.

The precious church and cemetery out at Little Union.

The paradox of welcoming (my baby) and letting go (my first born).

The paradox of life (my baby boy) and of death (my sweet Mama).

Yeah, it’s a lot to take in.

On the day that my baby boy came into this world, as they wheeled the two of us to our own room they stopped my bed.  There was a button on the wall that the nurse asked me to push.  When I did, a beautiful little tune played all over the hospital.  I remember hearing that same tune many times while staying with Mama at that very same hospital.  Though she wasn’t conscious, I still smiled and told her, “Mama, a new baby!”  I know she was smiling in her heart too.  Babies and little ones were her very favorite people in the world.

There was no button on the wall to press when Mama took her last breath.  Only more papers to sign.  And tears to shed.

On the same day six years apart, these hands of mine stroked the face of one so loved–first my little guy and then my Mama.  One hello, one goodbye.

I wondered if the Universe had a lesson for me when my Daddy’s battle with his Giant ended the day after our Princess’ seventh birthday in 2011.  To go from joy to sorrow so quickly as we remember and celebrate and honor is hard–but it’s something we do.   Every year.

And then this–to lose and gain all on the same day, years apart.

Oh, my heart.

And though it seems paradoxical and hard, it is actually also very beautiful in its brokenness.  This is my fragile time of year.  I am beginning to give myself grace and not set any expectations on what I should do or feel or think.  I just do.  Am.  Be.  And really, these days of love and loss and laughter and tears are the epitome of what Life is–joy and sorrow, life and death, tears and laughter.  And hugs.  Hugs of joy and hugs of sympathy.

And oh my, all of the stories.

As the ones who loved Mama so very much gathered around her bed that night, stories were shared.  Laughter was heard, and tears were shed. But most of all, the love in the room was palpable–so much so that if there had been an instrument to measure it, I am certain it would have set off all kinds of alarms.  Nurses would have come running, and oh, what they would have seen!  Love like that, the reflection of the love Mama gave to each one of us, doesn’t come along very often.

Earlier today I read this, part of today’s sermon given by Hugh Hollowell at Love Wins:

“It isn’t the man’s actions or even his faith that bring him healing – it is the actions and faith of the man’s friends. We don’t even know if the man has any faith of his own. We don’t know if the guy is even conscious. Was he a good man? A bad man? We don’t know. All we know is he has friends with faith, and that that is enough. And it is there that I find hope in the story.” – From today’s sermon on Mark 2

This story and Hugh’s thoughts have stayed with me today.  There have been times on this journey of letting my parents go that the ONLY thing that has kept me going, the ONLY healing thing in my life, has been the faith of my family and my friends.  They have carried me and given me hope, and for that I offer my gratitude.  My faith has waxed and waned over the past few years, even more so in the past two.  That my babies have lost the people who loved them so much–that breaks my heart.  Each time I think on it.  That there is a gravestone in the cemetery with my child’s birthday on it–there are days I just.  can’t.  even.

But there are those who love me who can.  And who have.  And that’s how I’ve kept going.

Tonight I’m thankful for all of it.  Every single “feel” I had then.  And every single one I’m having now.  I’m just as comfortable with the weeping as I am with the laughter. And I think that’s okay.  I miss my Mama and my Daddy every single day.  I look around me at those who know the story and still listen as I tell it over and over as many times, in as many different ways, as I need to–and I am thankful beyond measure.

And so tonight I’ve told it one more time.  One more way.  The story of saying hello and saying goodbye and the years between them that were way too few.  And I thank you for reading and hearing it.  Tonight I had to write this, because I need to let it all out–the wracking sobs and the heartache.  Because on Tuesday, I will make it all about my baby boy. Who isn’t so much of a baby anymore.

Because I know if I don’t, I will be disappointing my Mama.  My Mama, who never would have chosen to leave when she did, and who adored that little guy like he was the best thing since sliced bread.  Or chocolate milk.  She loved all of her grandchildren that way, and I’ve felt her pushing me the past few days to go on and get this out.  So that we can party on Tuesday–and all the rest of the month.  Because that’s how she celebrated the day that those she loved came into the world–long and hard.  When she loved, she loved fiercely and with a love that was (and still is) unsurpassed.

Tonight I leave you with a song that my sisterfriend shared with me about a month ago.  This song is my heart right now.  I hope that Mama, Daddy, and all the others who have gone before us are dancing in the sky…..

that brings me comfort and makes me smile.

Because my Mama sure did love to dance.

Love to all.

 

And the Award Goes To…..

What a beautiful day!

I hope it was a sunshine-filled day where you are too.  We’ve had our fair share of cloudy/cold/gray/rainy days, and I love those too, to be quite honest, but today the sunshine and blue skies just suited.

It’s been a day of taking care of business.  (More cleaning out of things that belonged to those I love.  Today it wasn’t as hard as it has been, and that tells me I can do this.  It’s not easy, it’s not fun, but it’s doable. Which is good, because it has to be done eventually.)

It has also been a day of laughter.

My sister Mess Cat and her little guy Shaker mixed in with this crew?

A blast.

While my Fella and Leroy were hauling the heavy things from over yonder back to the house, we watched the children.

Ahem.

Well, we did.

And we talked about silly things like TV shows and things our children have been up to.  We talked about serious things like worries and the like.  And we talked about books we have been reading.

Mess Cat and I both LOVE books.  We both love to read.  Over the years we’ve shared many a good book back and forth and enjoyed talking about them.  (Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor, I’m especially looking at you. #tearsofsorrowandjoy )

Hey, Mess Cat, I think we’ve had our own little book club going and didn’t even know it.

But that was before.

Before the heartbreak and pain and grief.

It was interesting and somewhat comforting to me today when Mess Cat said that she really hasn’t been reading like she used to.

I was worried it was only me.

And since she’s making a concentrated effort and being intentional about picking up a book and reading it, I am encouraged.  Maybe we will get back to being the avid readers we were before the grief and anxiety took over.

IMG_6735

As we were talking, I hopped up from my Roost and found the book I picked up for a bargain price the other day.  I had to buy it for the blurb on the back alone.  HILARIOUS.  I shared the first chapter with Mess Cat and my oldest, and we were all three laughing until tears were rolling.

Good stuff that.

I’ve missed it.

Aub said that her Psychology professor has used some of this writer’s material in her classes.  I found that fascinating, so I read the author’s biography on the book jacket.

And this grabbed my attention.

IMG_6736

I read it aloud to my sister and my firstborn, and again we laughed.

It felt so good.

Mess Cat said through the laughter, “Self-awarded!”

And then the question came that simply had to be asked.

“So what award would you give yourself if you had that power?”

We laughed some more and batted around ideas.

After much contemplation this evening, I decided I would give myself the “most likely to compliment a stranger in a checkout line, at the grocery store, or anywhere else in the general public.”

In addition to this, I also award myself, “Mama who can frustrate her children in 10 seconds flat using less than fifteen words and no body language.”

I’m just that good, y’all.

Tonight I am thankful for the laughter.  For the feeling of not being alone in this journey of raising children, missing parents, cleaning house, and not reading books, I am especially grateful.  I’m also happy that I could find some things about myself that were “award worthy.”

What about you?  What award would you give yourself if you had that power?

(and here’s the thing–you do have that power)

So go ahead.  What’s your award?

Wishing you a day of appreciating all the wonderful and quirky things about yourself.  Name them.  It’s a good thing to love the person you spend most of your time with.  It just makes you a kinder person with everyone else.

Love to all.

 

farewell to a friend

lives joined one October day

so many years ago

with friends gathered round,

smiles on the faces of all

but none bigger than their own

 

years spent with laughing

and loving and cheering on their

favorite football team

rolling tide every chance they got

and cheering each other on as well–

if there were ever two greater

dream builders

for each other

I cannot imagine

 

love, laughter, and a whole lot of sass,

teasing and compromising

that’s what I imagine from behind

the closed doors of their life

 

but I do know what I saw–

a man who loved a woman

and she who reflected it and gave all that love

right back to him

 

and now the mirror is draped

in darkness

as are our hearts

for this fine man took his last breath

and was healed

as all our hearts broke

 

so many lives

all the richer

for having known his

gentle, strong spirit

 

the girls he loved will miss him

all the babies and family he adored

the memory of his laughter and smile

with bring both comfort and tears

and all the stories will be told

and told again

to keep him close

 

this Gift, the Gift my sisterfriend was given

as she gave him her heart

she deserved the best

and she had him–

only for way too short a while

 

################################

RIP, BP.  You are loved and missed, and I am better for having known you.