Get Your Brave On

When I was at my lowest after first Daddy and then, fifteen months later, Mama passed, my baby sister Mess Cat sent me the song “Brave” Sara Bareilles, and said, “I just want to see you be brave.”

Brave?

BRAVE?!

I love her, but I just couldn’t hear that.  I wasn’t ready to.   Being brave was the furthest thing from my  mind.  Anger?  Yes. Despair?  For sure.  Pain?  Absolutely.  BROKEN and shaken to my core?  One hundred percent YES.

I was fairly for certain sure I had nothing remotely brave left in me.

And yet–

Today the song came on the radio.  I was singing along.  Where I once almost loathed the song because it required something of me that I just didn’t feel prepared to do, I now really, really like the song.  It was uplifting.  I was dancing along as I tidied up around here.

And that’s when it hit me.

All those days that I spent crying as I washed the dishes or stopping in the middle of moving clothes from the washer to the dryer, lost in thought, or the nights that supper was a sandwich and applesauce–all of those days, I was brave.  We all were.  We woke up to the knowledge that things had changed and would never be the same again, and yet–we didn’t run.  I might have stayed in bed a little longer.  Some days I didn’t change out of my hoodie and sweatpants.  Some days I left dishes in the sink until the next day.  (Okay, most days.)  Once I broke down crying in the middle of the grocery store and had to stop and check out and go home without getting most of what I was there for.  And as the years stretch out, the “some days” are farther apart, but they STILL happen.

But I haven’t given up yet.

I might have felt like it, I might have closed my eyes and taken afternoon naps for a week straight, but I never gave up.

And I think maybe that’s what my sister was saying.  She didn’t like seeing me give up.

Today I read the lyrics.  Not all apply to what we have gone through, but these lines stand out for me:

Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

I have some dear friends who are going through dark times and hard things–some of the hardest–right now. Today is our first time remembering my sweet friend’s birthday without her here.  I’m thinking about her family and how brave they are today and have been for so long now.  Another sweet friend is remembering her husband she misses with every breath.  She is so very brave. And yet another friend just said goodbye to her sweet Mama.  How brave is she, remembering her Mama with pictures and stories and loving on her children, smiling through her tears.  And then there’s my friend whose son just passed.  I hold him and all of his son’s family in my heart as they are all kinds of brave, doing the unthinkable.

You are brave too.  All those things that might have taken you down, but didn’t take you out–BRAVE.  There’s a meme going around about how you’ve made it through all of your hard times 100% of the time so far–YES.  YOU.  THAT.

BRAVE.

Mess Cat, I’m sorry I didn’t hear what you were saying back then, and that it has taken me three years for it to sink in.  But thank you.  It has indeed sunk in.

Listen, y’all.  We have all made it through 100% of the hard things–the broken and sad and devastating ones.  We are all still on the journey.  Even if you are sitting on the bench taking a break, YOU ARE DOING LIFE.  Let the light in.  We all have earned the right to wear this badge.

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Go forth and get your brave on.  You are amazing.

Love to all.

The Boy Who Loved the Stars

A few days ago I was waiting to meet Aub, so I walked over to the GW Boutique for a few minutes.  I was basically window shopping and admiring the way all the blazers were put together and noticing how the styles of coats over the past thirty years were all hanging in one spot on the outerwear rack.

I was walking by the rack with jackets and vests when I spied a grey hoodie. A grey NON-zip up hoodie.  Y’all know how I love me some hoodies, so it won’t surprise you that I was drawn in, and I pulled it out to look at it.  When I saw the horse on there in a rag quilt style (which impresses me all kinds of ways), I figured someone had put a lot of time and love into making such a unique creation.

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And then I thought about that horse.

I was once a little girl who loved horses.  Everything horses.  For my birthday, I had a carousel cake and Mama made me a book bag with an appliqued horse in it and a book about the rodeo was tucked inside.  Every time the Scholastic book order form came home with me I scoured it for horse stories and equine books.  When one was the 95 cent special that month, I was the first to turn in my order form.  I asked for Breyer horses for Christmas and birthdays; they sat on my bookshelf in a particular order when I didn’t have them down naming and appreciating the qualities of each one.  I loved shirts with horses and when I was in the third grade, my dream came true.  My Daddy got me a horse.

Her name was Betsy given by me, because it was close to Bess, and Good Queen Bess had been Daddy’s horse he had loved so much.  I also loved Betsy Ross, so it was a tribute to her too.  I learned to take care of our horse and I rode bareback and I talked to her about all kinds of things.

I was a little girl who loved horses.

The little girl who loved horses had a friend who loved science fiction and books by Tolkien.  He spoke of worlds not yet seen except in the imagination of great people, and he was funny and kind.  He even loaned her one of his science fiction books, and she tried to read it.  She really did.  He was a good friend, and never once did the girl I once was question her love of horses or the friendship she had with the one who talked of hobbits and adventures and a future that was beyond comprehension.

Somewhere along the way that little girl forgot she loved horses so much.  She grew up to real life responsibilities and adventures and hard and beautiful things.  She forgot a lot of things from way back then, but she didn’t forget the boy who was funny and imaginative and smart and kind.

Who grew to be a kind man.

The other day at the GW I took the horse hoodie to the counter and I paid for it and brought it home.  After I tossed it in the washer I drove to the hospital to see my friend whom I haven’t seen in a long, long time.  I didn’t know until I got there that I was really there to say goodbye.

Today the boy who loved the planets and thinking about all the what if’s left us to soar among the stars he loved and to hug folks he loves whom he hasn’t seen in a long, long time.  Today the boy who was so kind and whose story was intertwined in mine for all of our school years left the pain and brokenness and is finally home.

I am sad.  But as I sat here thinking and taking all of this in, I came upon the girl who loved horses, sitting by herself, weeping into her hands, unable to contain the grief she feels at stories that have ended way too soon.  The horses forgotten, the hopes and dreams that used to lull her to sleep at night, and the friend whom she will never see again in this life.  Who I am now is very sad, feeling this in my own “I suppose I have to get used to grief and losing people I love” way.  She, however, is 9 again, and the empty shelf where the horses once sat and the empty place where her friend lived is baffling and breaking her heart.

Tonight I’m thankful for a reminder of who I used to be.  How the joys of good and long friendships and horses’ tails flying in the wind used to give me peace and comfort and make me smile and so happy.  I’m thankful for the reminder, as hard as it is, that life is short so we need to grab hold of who and what matters to us and let them know that.

Tell someone you love them today.  If that’s too much, tell them they matter.  Thank them for being a part of your story.  Sit down and ask them what they dreamed about when they were 9.  Or last night.  Share a book with them, or let them borrow your pencil.  Toss out a thread to intertwine your life to another’s, because in the end, that’s where beauty comes from–the reflection of our hearts in the eyes of someone who cares.

RIP, BBC.  You will be missed.  Thanks for helping me see the stars way back then.  And today.

Love to all.

 

 

weaving memories

img_1370there are days when things are hard
when the beeping of the machines reminds me
of days long past
and goodbyes I wasn’t ready for

and the one lying in the bed
is holding a piece of my heart
I happily gave away long ago

it is on these days
that I am especially thankful to come home
to the brightly colored yarn
and hook
resting where I last placed it
waiting for me to pick it up exactly
where I left off

and with each stitch I remember
and weep
and dry my tears with the blanket
that I’m making with the
memories

over

it’s over, they said
nothing more that can be done
they tried their best
and so did we
but it just couldn’t be helped, they say

that one word I couldn’t wrap
my brain around
the one word that was to change my life
for always
over

in a fit of frenzied fury
I took everything that had been
and all the dreams of what could have,
should have been
and threw them out
GONE
nothing left to remind me
of it all
except the gaping hole in my heart
and the tear stained cheeks
and swollen eyes staring back at
me
in the mirror

how many times have I looked back
as I closed the door
for the last time
of a place
filled with memories,
turned the key in the lock,
and walked away
over

how many times have I tossed an acorn
or a flower
or a single leaf
into an open grave
and whispered “thank you”
before turning and walking away
over

how many times have I said goodbye
to ones I came to love
because our paths diverged
in the woods
our journeys separated us
and time took us apart
over

I look back at the bin of memories
and the dreams not known
and realize in my haste to let it all go
so nothing could pain me anymore
I also tossed in something that I fear
I might never
get back

hope

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the memories beckon

there is a hole
where she once was
and one for him too
a hole once filled by their love,
their stories, and their spirits
and oh, those smiles and laughter,
music to my soul

quiet now, empty and hollow
and dark
and I miss them

she misses her Love too
the one who once filled her heart
where the gaping hole is now

most of the time
we go through our days
and we are fine and okay

until we are not

then the tears flow and our hearts
break open,
we cannot speak
so we go to stand in the dark
next to these holes in our hearts

we weep in the darkness,
with our arms wrapped around us tight
trying to hold ourselves together

while others walk by
barely noticing the safety pylons
and rope blocking off this area,
because it’s just not safe
for others
who have never known it
to come close
to this kind of pain

but what if it were only made safe
by the presence of others
the ones who would venture near,
build a fire to keep us warm
and pull up a stump to sit with us
for however long it takes
waiting in the silence for the stories
we need to tell
one.more.time.
and the names we need to say,
to shout,
just so the world won’t forget

because we are so afraid they will,
that they will all forget this precious soul
and that one,
whom we loved and who loved
and made the world a brighter place
before they left, leaving these massive holes
in our lives

sit with me in the dark
please
and with her, the one over there
who misses him
and hold us close
until the stories we share
lift the weight a bit and we can walk again
and please say their names,
etch them on your heart

and tell me your stories
about the ones you loved
I will listen and say their names
and we will call out to the stars
for them to remember the ones
whose lights once shone so brightly

and we’ll walk close as we make our path
back into the light
once again

for a while
until the memories beckon us to them again

By F.A. Mac Donald, Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By F.A. Mac Donald, Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

complacent-sea

out in the middle of the oceans
there exists a turtle,
the leatherback turtle,
a grand creature
who can grow as tall as a man
and weigh nearly a ton
and who dives deeper and
migrates further than any other
sea turtle in the world

this turtle which has seen the mysteries
of the dark, murky waters
that I will never witness
can live to be the age I am
now
but for many that never happens

the lovely, gentle giants of the water
have a favorite treat–
jellyfish
and they swim looking for the delicacy

all too often
though
a leatherback will come upon
a plastic bag floating in the water
and, trusting, mistake it for his favorite
food–
ingesting it
is the last thing he will do

a rainy Sunday evening in September finds
me weeping in the dark
over the fate of a turtle

and all of us
who seek the good
only to be mistaken
and taken in by what can
ultimately cause our demise
and break our hearts in two

cast of stones

there are times
on this journey
when the path is covered with brambles
and the way is almost indiscernible

this is when I miss your voice the most
and the wisdom
you shared as easily as the
stories from days gone by
and sometimes they were the same

you seemed so assured
of right and wrong
and yet I wonder if it was
always so clear to you

because frankly, the mud confuses me
and I’ve lost sight of the tracks you left
in the midst of it
I cannot read the compass you gave me
in this unchartered territory

and the Light you were as you showed me the way
seems a little dimmer right now
as time passes and the memories fade
and stories wander off on their own
with no one to tell them

and so I sit here
all alone
on the side of the trail
I can hear the people moving along at their busy pace
to and fro

listening to the buzz of their words
none of it really making any sense to me

I shiver in the darkness
hiding in the shadows
unable to go on
perhaps I will just stay here forever
as though I am broken
and have been given a cast of stones

with a heart too heavy to go on