I Wanna Come Back As…..

Growing up I remember Mama being in the middle of her day to dailies, blowing upwards to move the hair out of her eyes, sighing, and saying, “When I come back, I’m coming back as a show horse.  This work horse deal is for the birds.”

Oh Mama.  You’re so funny.

I thought she was.  And yet, now I get it.  Bless her, she worked hard on loving us and proving that she did with good food, a clean house, clean clothes that fit, and all the hugs we could handle.  We never lacked for anything we needed.

Walking Miss Sophie

Walking Miss Sophie

Yesterday morning as I took Miss Sophie out for her morning constitutional, I was wishing she would hurry along and let the spirit “move” her.  Of course all she could think about was sniffing every square inch of grass and sidewalk and keeping tabs on the bricklayers as they worked across the street.  All I could think about was how cold I was.

My hands were frozen.  My toes were like ice.  I could no longer feel my nose.  And I looked down at my little ball of fluff and wondered, How are you not freezing?

I mean, I know she’s covered with a nice winter coat, but those paws–really?  How was she NOT in a hurry to get her business done and let’s go settle by the fire?

And I thought about how amazing a dog’s paws are.

Tough enough to withstand walking on all kinds of surfaces–hard, rough, soft, rocky, slippery–and in all kinds of temperatures–hot, cold, and everything in between.  She wasn’t crying or whining about the temperature or conditions.

And that’s when I decided–

I wanna come back as a dog’s paw.

All this winter, my feet have been frozen.  It’s almost more than I can bear–cold feet.  And it goes all the way up and chills me to the bone all over.  When Miss Sophie decides to lay on my frozen toes, I stop and give thanks, I’m so happy.

So yes, coming back as a dog’s paw might help with the whole being cold problem, but it’s more than that.

A dog’s paw is resilient.  And keeps on moving–even in the worst of conditions.

It holds up no matter the heat or the cold.  And it’s flexible.  Have you ever pushed on your puppy’s paw?  Amazing.

Because I know in this life, things are never predictable.  Our lives can go from hot to cold in a heartbeat, and THEY DO.  Tough times ARE going to happen.  Being flexible is the key to survival in a lot of my days.

To be able to hold up under pressure, no matter the circumstances, and keep on putting one foot in front of the other.

Yes, please.  THAT.

Tonight I’m thankful for my ball of fluffy love.  She’s quirky just like the rest of us, and I love her.  I’m thankful for walks and that we have a safe place to do that.  I do not take that lightly.  Most of all, I’m thankful for the memory of Mama and her laughter that has echoed in my heart and head today.

(I know this was a far-fetched train of thought, but I’ve been thinking a lot about being resilient and strong, especially when life throws you curveballs like rain and cold and really hard things.  Also, cold feet.  And puppy paws are really quite amazing.) 

Love to all.

the heartbreak of addictions

Just to be clear.  Addictions do not discriminate.

Two men.

Two very different lives.

Both losing their lives to this disease.  And yes, addictions are a disease.  That’s non-negotiable.

###########

Born to two who had been longing for him for years.

Raised with everything he needed and many things he wanted.

Born to a woman who couldn’t or wouldn’t

with his bag packed he became a part of a new family

A family where his needs were met, but love looked different

He took his first taste of alcohol at thirteen

and he liked it

He took his first taste of alcohol at thirteen

and he liked it

He had friends and they played football, had good times,

worked hard, played hard

and hung out at the pool on the weekends

He graduated top of his class

and made the highest score even though he was hung over when he took the test

He had friends in the neighborhood

They were full of mischief and mayhem and laughter

He dropped out of school as soon as he was able to

He went to college, graduated

moved back to his hometown

He married, had a precious child

became president of the company,

grew apart and divorced

He moved out on his own, lived hand to mouth

paycheck to paycheck

Worked construction

Severe injury and a settlement

Lived it up for as long as the money would hold

Bought a place, a motorcycle, lived with his love

He worked, he built up the business,

he married again, had a beautiful child

the drinking became harder to say no to

He started hiding it, morning, noon, and night

Passing out sometimes

Entered politics, wore his mask well

For a while

He lived it up, as did his friends,

until the money was gone

Then he moved home

He drank, his father died, his temper flared

He had nowhere left to go

He went to the woods

and the streets

and wherever he could find a place to lay his head

He made poor choices, judgment clouded by the alcohol

Divorced again, mask and business crumbled

Found another job, a good one, and somehow made it work

Landed on his feet, surrounded by friends and co-workers

who loved and cared and didn’t know

or turned a blind eye

He made poor choices, begged for food

Found a community of friends who took care of each other,

shared what they had

including the alcohol

His parents watched, hearts broken, but faces looking forward, hopeful

When his father died, his voice cracked and his heart broke

He married a third time

They drank together

He was trying to rebuild his life, but relationships fell apart

His mother watched and loved from afar, heart aching

Meeting him for breakfast, giving him a few dollars when she could

Taking him to get things he needed sometimes

He camped out in one spot until the police told him to move it along

So he found another place until the next time

In and out of jail, public drunkenness, loitering, panhandling

Jail was hard, detoxing each time, but there was food and a roof and warmth and air

He got sick

Scary sick

He was told his life was at risk

No more alcohol, no more, he was poisoning his body

He.  Must.  Stop.

And he tried.

As long as he could.

No one knows why he faltered.

He was in court-mandated rehab.  Once.  Twice. 

It was the third time that a door opened.  

One of the best programs in the country. 

He went there, he got stronger, he succeeded.  Made wise choices.  Sober.  SOBER.

Then a transitional program. 

But he couldn’t work for pay. 

His former injury or all of the drinking–who knew which? or both?–

had rendered him unable to work 

He wanted to do more, like all the others

He struggled with it

He came home for a visit, staying in a hotel, as he wasn’t allowed back home

And he drank just one.  And then another. 

Back on the streets. 

Hard.  Cold.  Hungry.  He was allowed to come back to the transitional home. 

Another visit home months later. Doing so well. 

And another visit.  And he made the choice. 

Powerless over the disease. 

He reached his hand out and took it. 

Sobriety thrown out like week-old bread.  Almost without a thought. 

Members of clubs, titles like president, treasurer, trusted friend, respected co-worker

Such a good mask wearer, even when his own body was betraying him

Smiles and handshakes and an aching pain

He went back to his life on the streets,

depending on the missions and the kindness of strangers

He is alive but he must bow to the whims of others

To those who turn away when they see him,

to the police who chase him from his safe places,

forcing him to leave his few precious belongings

with the hopes that he can return later and retrieve them

to the alcohol addiction that has such a strong hold over him.

So many things he has lost over the years

So much life he has lost

So many dreams

He wanted more, he still does,

he just can’t connect the dots–he can’t put it down for good. 

The disease is in control and taking his life. 

In the end his body could take no more.

The damage had been done.

He had dreams that never came to be.

He wanted more, he wanted to do more.

But it was over.  Way too soon.

The disease was in control and took his life.

###########

Addictions do not discriminate.  They take the educated, the well to do, and the poor.  The charming and the loners.  The good friends, the fathers, the sisters, the children, the brothers, the mothers, and the ones no one seems to know.  The only difference between the addictions’ taking the successful and their taking the forlorn is that more people mourn the loss of the successful–they seek answers and make up excuses for what happened.  The loss of the forlorn somehow makes sense to people and they don’t struggle with it as much.  If they even hear about it.  The truth is that every loss to this disease is tragic and awful and a heartbreak for all of humanity.  And it won’t change until we recognize it as a disease and start treating it as such.  It’s not easy.  In fact, it’s a very complicated disease, and it hurts not just the person who has it, but all those who care about him or her.  We have to somehow separate the addicts from the disease, love them, and assist them in finding the help they seek.  In the words of my Daddy, “You can want it for them, but you can’t do it for them.”

This is an equal opportunity disease.  Folks from all walks of life are vulnerable.  It must be talked about and prevented and treated.  The best way to begin is to love and offer understanding and support.

Great thoughts on other addictions can be found in this great post here.

Overwhelmed by Question Marks

This morning at the grocery store, I worked my way through, thankful that they have restocked the shelves since the rush on groceries earlier this week before the snow hit.  I was standing in front of the Chobani Greek yogurt cups that I get for my crew, when I realized that a quiet, elderly woman was waiting patiently for me to make my selections.

“Oh! I’m so sorry,” I said, moving my cart to one side.  “I am sorry for holding you up.”

“You didn’t,” she said, staying in the same spot.  She was holding a tub of plain Greek yogurt, seemingly mesmerized by it.  “I’m just trying to figure out if this is the right kind to get or not.”  She held it up to show me.  “I found a recipe for a smoothie that uses frozen cherries and Greek yogurt.  It’s supposed to help with pain. I don’t know.  I wish I could remember which kind they used.”

I looked at the yogurt she had.  A different brand from the tub I had just put in my cart, but how different could it really be?  Her bag of frozen cherries was starting to form those white ice crystals on its surface.  She’d been at this for more than a few minutes.

She pointed at the lid, “This one says it’s probiotic.  That’s good, right?”  I told her I thought so (but then I thought all yogurt was probiotic, and I just read that they’re not, so, ummm, maybe I shouldn’t have been standing there giving this sweet lady advice).  We compared the labels between the two tubs.  Hers had more sugars and calories, which we finally figured out was due to the difference in the milks used–hers was from whole milk and mine was made from skim milk.

She shook her head.  I could tell it was overwhelming her.  She put the yogurt back into the refrigerator case on the bottom shelf.  “I’m just going to wait and see which one is the right one.  I know it said, I just can’t remember.”

Oh bless her.  But seriously?

We have recently gotten “into” smoothies around here.  I so wanted to tell her it wouldn’t matter that much.  That she could use the one in her hands, and it would be okay.  Better than okay.  She was so overwhelmed by this one decision, it made me want to cry.  I wanted to hug her and tell her to take this yogurt, that it didn’t matter, that she should trust herself.

But I didn’t.

Who am I to question her questioning?

I haven’t made a decision without struggling over it for a long, long time.  It started a year ago.  I haven’t been able to make a clear-cut decision since I had to make the hard decision about life support for my Mama…..and then again, for our cousin one week later.

I’m not offering excuses or seeking sympathy.  It’s just that it hit me today when I was willing with all of my heart for this sweet lady to realize that it was okay to make a decision, choose a yogurt, and take her defrosting cherries home and make that healing smoothie she has so many hopes pinned on.  It hit me that I AM JUST LIKE HER.  I must look just like this to a casual observer.   The least little decisions wear me out.  It took me quite a while to decide to even go to the grocery store this morning.  Fortunately, the decision kind of made itself since we were out of so many things.  It became a necessity.

Yesterday I made simple decisions like scheduling eye appointments, checkups, and paying a bill or two.

And I was exhausted.

Some days the decision of what to feed folks around here is almost more than I can bear.  I am thankful for the one night a week that we know what we are having.  Every single week.  It takes such a weight off.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  But it is very real.  And don’t get me started on getting dressed.  This morning I actually went and found Aub so she could tell me what I was wearing looked okay, that it matched.  Some days I struggle to trust my choices, just as my new friend did this morning.

This is one of those side effects of grief that I don’t remember many folks talking about.  Or maybe they did, and I just didn’t grasp the reality of it.  Until now.

As she pushed her cart on past the yogurt, this sweet lady said, “I will just check the recipe and get the yogurt another time.  I really want to make it.  It’s supposed to help with back pain.  And I have that pretty bad.  But I’d rather try this than…..” she looked back at me, “…..a pill.”  She made a face.  “Anything rather than a pill.”

Bless her.  I understand that feeling too.  I don’t know whom she has lost, but I think it must be someone real special to her.  It’s written all over her walk and her face and the way she is thinking.  Tonight I’m holding her in my heart.  I hope she finds her recipe and that she can find the yogurt straightaway.  And more than anything, I hope the smoothie does help with her pain.

Grief is such a roller coaster of emotions, isn’t it?  Some days are like this.  Hard.  And some days are not quite so much.  But the important thing to remember as we walk through this is no matter how “off” our decision-making may seem to those around us, sometimes it’s okay to put the yogurt back in the bin and say, “Maybe another day.”  Some days that’s the best we can do.  And you know what?  It is.  It’s okay.

 

 

Always a Mama

Yesterday after dinner I was sitting with another Mama as stories of her children’s misadventures and mischief were being shared around the table.

She smiled the most beautiful smile, with a tinge of weariness in her eyes, waved her hand, and said, “No.  No.  I really don’t want to know.  Don’t tell me.”

The knowing laughter only increased, and in the midst of the laughter I heard her words that still echo in my heart, “I don’t want to hear, because I keep asking myself, ‘Where was I?'”

Oh.

She kept chuckling, but I could see it in her eyes.  She does ask herself this when she hears these stories shared as each story tops the one before it.  She’s not ignorant of them, nor has she buried her head in the sand.  She herself shared a story of a high school prank that made the national news.  She was just thankful her son wasn’t expelled.  Or arrested.  She was very thankful the principal knew her family situation and gave her family the grace they needed.

I felt her heart in those moments.  There have been times I have asked myself just that question.  “Where was I?”  How did my child go through this and me not know?  How was I so unaware of what was happening with this being whom I carried and loved from the moment the test was positive?  Do I walk through life with my eyes closed sometimes?  This precious woman spoke for her heart and mine.

You know that saying, “Once a mother, always a mother”?  (I might have made it up.  Hope that’s okay, because it is TRUE.)

I know it’s true because this sweet and delightfully funny woman…..this Mama’s in her 80’s.  She has great-grandchildren and her own baby is heading toward middle age.  And yet she still cannot bear to hear the stories of what her sons (and daughter too?) did thirty or more years ago.  She asks herself where she was, how they could have possibly done all of those things without her knowing.

Well, let’s see.  She was a young widow, trying to raise four children all by herself.  Her husband had been sick for nearly seven years before he died, so she was also learning to let go of the role of caregiver, which very likely broke her heart and gave her relief at the same time.  None of it easy.

She wanted what was best for her boys and that sweet girl.  She even tried changing schools.  She welcomed their friends, friends of all races and backgrounds, during a time when that was not so easily done without reproach.  She talked to their teachers, up close and personal, not even taking time to change out of her housecoat when time was of the essence, insisting on knowing what was going on with her child at school.  She knew the principal well, and when in doubt, she went to her pastor for help with this journey, a road she would not have chosen for herself.  A road she didn’t choose for herself.

And here she is, living in a retirement community, wishing they didn’t cook the broccoli so much–she really prefers it a little firm.  She loves to talk and visit and share stories–she’s most likely always been a people person, bless her.  She gets a bit discombobulated sometimes, especially when calling out a specific son’s name–“It only gets worse as the day gets on,” she says, laughing at her own mix-up.  And when her youngest grandson comes up unexpectedly and unprompted to give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek, she turns gracefully away from the conversation, closes her eyes with gratitude and appreciation, reaches for him, and says, “Y’all excuse me for a moment please.”  A moment she wishes would last forever I am sure.  Her face says it all.  She wears her heart in her eyes, that one.  And I hope I will never forget that look of peace and love when she turned into his little hug.

I was reminded of something yesterday, visiting with this special Mama.  I remembered the looks on the faces of my Mama and Daddy when they met each one of my children for the first time.  I can feel the tug on my toe as Daddy walked by the foot of my hospital bed after seeing his Aub for the first time.  I can recall the worry in their eyes and hearts when things went awry in my life.  The game planning they did and what they made happen to make sure we’d always be okay.  How even in the midst of all the sadness and sickness, there was laughter and concern for our well-being, and I remember my Mama’s words when I told her about meeting my Fella.

“Well is it serious?” she asked.
“Mama, for real?  We only just met.  Anyway, he’s military.”

“Military?  You know you’d have to move, right?”

“Mama, I don’t even know.  We’ll see, okay?”

“Well, you better get yourself situated.  I won’t be around forever, you know.”

And as I heard those words in my heart and my memory, I thought again of this Mama I had the privilege of being with on New Year’s Day.  Someone who also loved my Mama and knows the pain of losing someone you love dearly. She knows loss.  Very well.  And survival–good gravy, this woman knows all about surviving.   And I realized, not for the first time, but definitely through a different lens–you never stop being a Mama and worrying over your babies and your past choices regarding them and wondering if things really will be okay.  If my babies will be okay.  No matter how old they are.  Or how old I am.

Once a Mama…..

…..always…..

As Promised…..hello January

Here’s hoping you will behave yourself this year, dear January. Let’s be friends, shall we?
And for all of you, as I promised

20140101-212509.jpg

Yes, my friends, we made it.  Way to go.

And while I realize this won’t have the impact or cause the excitement that the announcement of American Girl’s new Girl of the Year doll has created (oh yes, we live on a street with several girls ages 6-10–this is BIG news in our world, y’all), all the same, here is my word for the year…..

*with*

*with*

With.

And the thoughts that touched my soul and put this word on my heart can be read here.

Being with people means I can’t leave messages for them on their phones, at a time I conveniently know they won’t be there.  I can’t do good deeds for them and go home.  In fact I can’t do anything for them: I have to abide with them–even if for ten whole minutes–and allow them to abide with me. 

–Sara Miles

That is challenging and uncomfortable in a whole new way.  Yep, I need to do some stepping outside of the proverbial box.  Abiding with.

It reminds me of a quote I heard years ago in my Spiritualty class.  I fell in love with it then, and it has come back to me over the past few months.  For a reason, I suppose.

When sitting, just sit,

Above all, don’t wobble.

         –Zen poem

Just being with is pretty powerful, I think.  Sometimes that is the greatest gift we can give another person–our brothers and sisters in this world, the ones we know and the ones we don’t–just being.  With.

Contemplating what that will look like in my moment by moment life–

Love to all.

(and yes, it’s still Merry Christmas!  Merry Eight Maids-a-milking!)

if you’re not feeling the whole new year party thing…..

Here it is.

December 31.

I’ve been asked so many times, “Big plans for New Year’s Eve?” or “What are y’all doing for the Big Night?”  (and they say it just like that, capital letters and all)

Ummmm, not so much.  Hope to be in bed before the ball drops.

Then there are the well-intentioned folks who ask about New Year’s Resolutions.

Yeah, I don’t do those either.

Sometimes, when I share that I don’t make resolutions, I am then asked the question, “Well, what are your plans and dreams for 2014?”

No.  I once did that, but not anymore.  It’s just too much.

This year I am having to treat today and tomorrow as just another day.  Because that’s how I have to take things to cope, to be able to keep breathing.  One day, sometimes one moment, at a time.  If I sit down and reflect over this year or wax poetic about the turning of the calendar, the ticking of the clock, Father Time and all his ways, then I will break down.  I just cannot go there.   Not and be able to get back up again.

I used to make a big fuss over New Year’s Eve.  One of the best ever was on NYE of 1999.  That’s right, ringing in the Y2K.  Quite exciting actually, not being sure if the power would still be on or our identities would be wiped clean at 12:01 a.m.  Just to be safe we’d stocked up with every snack imaginable–mostly in the beige food group so loved by people age five and under.  That’s right, it was me and my Joyful sisterfriend partying like it was 1999 with our three girls–two who were age four, and then there was Baby J, who had just turned two.  I’m talking serious partying, people.  So much so that at 10:00 p.m. we told them it was midnight, gave them some sparkling cider, rang in the New Year with whistles and cheers, and sent their precious little selves to bed.  Best night ever!  Me and my sisterfriend and our girls–just the way it was so often during that time of our life.  That is a memory I will always treasure. Another favorite NYE celebration was in 2005.  It was me, Mess Cat, and my two girls–one ten and one a year old– partying with the Disney Channel countdown.  We partied right that year too, y’all.  I miss those Disney countdowns.  During the Times Square one tonight I kept having to ask Aub who the artists were…..so I finally gave up.

Last year, I was hopeful.  Literally–filled with hope.  We had made it through a year without my Daddy.  It had been a hard year, but Mama was making plans.  Plans for the future.  And I felt strong enough to do some of that too.  I had my “word” for 2013 picked out, and I was ready, if not eager, to move on into the new year–2013.

So much for that.

2013 came at us, after us it seemed, with twists and turns and pains and heartbreaks that we could not have anticipated.  Yes, there was some joy too–a real, not very much fun roller coaster of a year.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that.  I’m not reflecting on the year tonight, remember?

So no resolutions.  No plans.  No dreams.  Just a day to day coping.  Some days that’s as good as it gets.  And I’m okay with that.  I will honor the traditions of New Year’s Day that I was raised with–I won’t do laundry AT ALL, I will eat blackeye peas and greens, and I will try and love on folks because whatever you do on New Year’s Day, you’ll do all year long…..y’all knew that, right?  But other than that.  Just.  Another.  Day.  It just has to be.

This and homemade guacamole--our attempts to make it a party.

This and homemade guacamole–my attempts to make it a party for my babies.

For the sake of my littles, I tipped my hat to today and its significance with a little party fun, and they decorated their ice cream cone trees tonight.  (Yes, we are a week behind, thank you for noticing.  It’s been that kind of Christmas season.)  They laughed, they decorated, they snuck candy, and they are STILL AWAKE.  I am thinking a replay of NYE 1999 might need to come into play.  *sigh*  This Mama is ready to call it a night.

Tonight I am thankful for sisterfriends and sisters who love for a lifetime, who remember, and who show up when you need them most.  I am thankful for the freedom to not celebrate tonight–the gift of another quiet night at home with my family, even though the homemade guacamole was worth a whoot whoot or two, if I do say so myself as shouldn’t.  Most of all, I am thankful for the good memories I have that I can wrap myself in like a blanket to keep me warm in the cold days of January.

As my Mama often said, “Happy Everyday!”

 

When I still lived at home, I would always point out on New Year’s Day that I hadn’t had a shower since last year, so I’d better go take one. *insert your uncontrollable laughter at my razor wit here* Since moving away from home, each year I would call Mama on New Year’s morning and say something cheesy like, “Mama, I haven’t talked to you since last year!  Hey, how’ve you been?”  I will miss doing that.  So if your phone rings and it’s me and my cheesiness on the other end, please don’t roll your eyes or sigh too loudly.  It’s a tradition, after all. 

Inappropriate to One, Survival to Another

pic of survival doodle
When my Daddy left this world, his two sisters, my Mama, my two sisters, and I were all right there with him. Less than thirty minutes later, my aunts and I were in the other room. We’d been sitting vigil since before daybreak, and we were all emotionally and physically exhausted. One of my aunts teased me about something, trying to lighten the moment. I looked at my aunt and offered an exaggerated pout, “I can’t believe you’re giving me a hard time…..my Daddy just died!” They laughed softly. “Oh, that was good, Tara. Good job.”

Inappropriate? Maybe. But they understood. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been inappropriate in my grieving and it probably won’t be the last.

A couple of months after Daddy died, I was so bogged down in the loss that I was crying in the shower regularly and just missed him so much. I was talking with my sister about it. She said, “You know Daddy wouldn’t want you being like this.” And without even thinking about it, I replied snappishly, “Well he ain’t here, is he?  So he doesn’t get a say.” Just the other day I told my Aunt that I kept doing things, half expecting Daddy to come back and stop me. And that I wish he would. I am pretty sure that if I don’t get my act together about some things, Mama will figure out a way to come back and set me straight. She’s always been resourceful like that. I told someone that and wondered if I really should have said it.  I do that a lot.  I say the first thing that comes to my grief-stricken mind, and then later think, “Uh oh. That sounded just about sacrilegious and downright disrespectful.” If any of those comments have fallen on your ears, I am sorry. I don’t mean to be disrespectful or offensive at all.

You see, in the past several years, that has become our relationship. Mama and Daddy knew I loved and respected them more than anything.  I ma’amed and sirred them right to the end.  But I would play at sassing them and they’d play fuss back. It was never about anything serious, just goofy stuff–like me giving them a hard time at letting my children have treats or watch a movie, all of which I was totally okay with. Or when Mama would want to send home the leftovers with us, and I’d sigh and say well, if I have to for goodness’ sake, but don’t expect me to do this again. Good-natured sarcasm was a mainstay. We lived for the playful banter.

And I miss it.

I was thinking about this the other day when I remembered a particular family I worked with in Hospice shortly after I was hired. A young mother, metastasized cancer, they waited until the very end to admit her to our program. I was at the house a lot, especially in the few weeks after her death, spending time with the children. The patient’s brother stayed in town for a little while after the service. One day he was trying to convince his brother-in-law, the grieving widower, to take a day off from work and go play some sport with him. The widower was reluctant; I think he’d taken a lot of leave over her several year battle with cancer. The young woman’s brother said, “Come on man, you can play the ‘my wife just died’ card. It’ll be fine.”

Quite honestly I was shocked and appalled. All at the same time. How could he even think such a thing, let alone say it out loud?

Ah, the indignation of youth and ignorance.

Because I get it now. I look back now through the lens of my own grief and realize that it was his way of dealing with losing his sister. He was flippant and irreverent and some might say inappropriate. I know I did back then. But he was surviving. He was making light of a horrible, tragically sad situation in order to hold it together. Because if he–if I–really shared any of what was in our hearts, the floodgates would open, and there would be no turning back. All of that brokenness, shattered and scattered like a mirror that has been shot clean through, would be so far gone there might be no putting it all back together.

And so we joke. We kid. Around here if someone says “Maemae wouldn’t like that,” it’s quite likely a “Well then she needs to come back here and tell me to my face” will follow.  We miss them. We miss their laughter, their wisdom, their love, their hugs, and just being with them. Being with them and taking their presence for granted, that would sure would be nice. Because, unfortunately, that’s how we lived…..before the cancer, before the illness, before the surgeries, and the sadness. We took each other for granted. It sure was good.

It has taken a dozen years and tremendous heartbreak for me to look back and understand the words and reaction of a young man whose sweet sister lost her battle with a horrible disease. I wish I could go back now and whisper in the Tara of yesterday’s ear–“Hey, cut him some slack. It’s not inappropriate. It’s survival. Give him the grace he needs. Because one day, sooner or later, we’re all going to need that grace.”

Survival and grief are gritty and hard and raw.  Not pretty.  Or easy.  And the only way to find that out, unfortunately, is to go through it.  Which is why I didn’t get it twelve years ago.  But today, today I understand.  All too well. What looks like indifference or irreverence is often just a way of holding the pieces together.  One moment at a time.  Sometimes that’s just the best you can do.