Lydia and the Little Dish in the Freezer

I’ve read a few good books lately, and one of them is The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver.  I enjoyed it immensely, though it required quite a bit of suspension of disbelief.  Which I am okay with, as I often feel like my own life is better when I apply that mechanism.

However as I read, I found myself struggling with some of the decisions Lydia made.  I pushed through because if there is one thing I have learned in the past thirty years of my life, it is that we all grieve differently.  And that is OKAY.

Grief comes in and out, intertwining in our lives, in almost as many ways as there are people who grieve, and for those who say “Well I’d never…..” I seriously wonder if they’ve ever lost someone they loved.  Grace is most needed when grief is in our lives.

After cringing a little at one choice Lydia made in particular, I continued reading, emotionally invested in the story, because I remembered the container in my freezer that I found a few weeks ago.  Any sane person would likely judge me and be disgusted, grossed out, or say I needed help.

And all of that would be valid.

But still…..

The weekend of March 14 our dancer was supposed to go with her competition team to perform two numbers in Atlanta.  The decision was made by the organizers on March 12 to postpone due to the governor’s decision to limit gatherings to groups of no more than 50 people at that time.  So I found myself with a Saturday morning free that I had not expected.  It was a pleasant day outside, so I decided to defrost my freezer.  There are no incriminating photos, but suffice to say it’s been quite some time since I did this and IT NEEDED IT BADLY.  I had a grocery pickup for later that day, and I wanted to have room for everything.  I listened to music and loaded things into a cooler and turned on the blow dryer and watched ice melt.

It was actually quite pleasant.  And I felt productive, having no idea the long road we had ahead of us.

In the midst of my moving things to the cooler, I found an old small plastic container.  I saw my Mama’s trademark masking tape she used for labelling things before I saw her red Sharpie handwriting with what was in it and the date.

Y’all.

As some of you may know, Mama left this world in February of 2013.  The label was for June of 2012.

I have most assuredly cleaned out this freezer many times before this year, and so each time I have, I guess I made the conscious decision (though I don’t recall) not to throw it out.

Because–grief.

My Mama used to make barbecue when I was growing up.  She cooked the pork roast and shredded it and made her sauce from scratch.  I still have the recipe here somewhere, and while I might have tried to make it a time or two, to be honest, I was never a really big fan of it.  It was tangier than I liked back then (though now I have different tastes), so at some point Mama started putting some aside and making a gravy so that I had pork roast and gravy sandwiches instead of barbecue.  This was not a common occurrence in our home.  Picky eaters were not indulged, as we were a family of six and could ill afford to cater to everyone’s individual tastes and preferences on a regular basis.  And while it might not have been every time she made barbecue, it is a precious memory for me that Mama took the time to do this on occasion.  I felt seen, heard, and loved.

Never mind that it was delicious.

The label on the small container said “PORK ROAST W/GRAVY” along with the date in June of 2012.

A date of no significance.

It wasn’t my birthday or any other celebration.  Just an everyday.  Regular plain old get up and do the daytodailies kind of day.

But Mama made it special by making me this pork roast with gravy.

Feeding folks was her love language, you see, and I felt so loved by her.  When she’d eat my mushrooms off my pizza (only as an adult–as a child I had to learn to eat some things I wasn’t exactly crazy about), when she made my quiche without bacon (it was a phase), when she made every single meal special somehow…..I felt loved.

And so that’s why I found that little container with my Mama’s handwriting on it seven years after she passed.

Because it reminds me I am loved.

And while I’ve had to let her go, I didn’t want to let go of that feeling.  Or of the reminder, the symbol of being loved for all my quirks and both because and despite of who I am.

And remembering all of that, I forgave Lydia her choices and really loved the book.

Finding that dish reminded me we all have weird and off the wall and outside what might be deemed socially acceptable ways of handling loss.  ~Loss-such a funny little word for something that encompasses every breath and fiber of our being.~

As our lives have all changed so drastically, some more than others, since that day five weeks ago when I was cleaning out my freezer, grief is bound to come.  I encourage you all to let it.  And–as Mama used to say sometimes–“as long are you aren’t hurting anyone, I’ll allow it.” Grieve however you need to.  And allow others to do the same.  Grief and grace are best served together.

One more thing about that dish.  As parents or anyone loving someone else through this new way of living we find ourselves in, please know you don’t have to make big gestures to show someone you love them or to make precious memories.  And it doesn’t have to be a “special” day.  What that little dish with my Mama’s handwriting on it reminds me is that everyday, the “every” ordinary day is just as good as any special occasion day to show someone how much they are seen, heard, treasured, and loved.

May we all find a way to remind someone of that and to be reminded.  Make memories in the midst of the ordinary and the extraordinary.  Today is a great day for that.  In the words of my Mama, “Happy Everyday!”

Love to all.

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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

Catharsis

I’ve been having some trouble with my left shoulder for a few weeks now.  I tell you this not for sympathy, but to explain why I was where I was today.

It’s bothered me so much lately that I’m not sleeping well, because I tend to flop a couple of times during the night, and now I wake myself up when I do.  I am coping fine.  Getting things done and all that.  It’s just I’ve had to compensate for it being out of whack.  And I’ve stopped doing planks with Justin every morning.  Enough is enough.

Finally I decided to do something about it.  Me + lack of sleep = unhappy me = Unhappy Family.  It’s the new math.  Or Mama math, as I like to think of it.

I made an appointment with a very skilled massage therapist.  He has helped with our Princess’ leg issues to the point where she rarely has the leg aches anymore.  He has straightened out my neck and shoulders and LOWERED my shoulders (stress, I know where you live) more times than I can count.  I knew if it could be fixed, he could do it.

When folks hear about massages, they picture relaxing and gentle with calm music, candles, lovely scents.

Just no.

This guy is kind and compassionate, but it hurts, y’all.  He chases those little knots around and pushes them out of you.  And it hurts like the dickens.  Until it stops.  And he releases the pressure, and you feel like a new person.

End result is awesome, but it takes some work to get there.  (Hmmmm, that reminds me of something I like to call life…..)

I walked in today, and told him the news that my neck was actually fine.  He listened to me whine for a couple of minutes and nodded.  He said he knew just what to do.

And he did.

But oh me.  I bit my lip and made fists and my feet came up off the table a time or two.  A couple of times I was worried my reflexes would kick in and I’d punch or kick him.  Each time the knot released and he let go, I could tell it was working but the pain got a lot more intense before it let go and felt better.

About halfway into it, he found a spot at the top of my shoulder, one of the instigators of all the trouble I’d been having.  When he went after it, it took my breath for a second.  As I remembered to breathe, I felt tears welling up in my eyes.

But they weren’t from the pain.

I was sad. And the tears welled up and dripped to the floor where I was looking through the hole in the table.

Oh the brokenness.

What.  on.  earth.

I couldn’t figure out what was going on, and then I remembered a wise doctor telling me that we carry our stories with us, even on a molecular level.

Ah.  So that’s where all the stuff has been hiding.  No wonder I couldn’t move my arm easily.  I’ve been holding onto some things.

I wasn’t sure if it was worries over future plans or the grief of my friend’s passing or the stress of spending a night on anaphylaxis watch with our Princess a few nights ago…..but I knew it was all in there.  Hiding in these little knots.  When he finished, I felt a weight had lifted.

Off my arm.  Off my soul.

Last Saturday night I sat listening to my cousin’s husband play at our favorite coffeehouse.  He shared his stories through song.  I laughed and listened and really enjoyed the evening.  He is talented and so open with the stories he shares.  It was all going really well, and then he played the song he wrote for his daughter.   The one about their connection at her birth and how he hopes he will see her as he takes his last breath.

It hit me at once all over again.  And the bandaid was ripped off, and the pain of my Daddy dying was raw and new, and I wept.

And it was good.

I don’t want to ever think about that and not feel, you know?

It was good to shed those tears.  It opened up something in me, I think.

Silly, isn’t it, what can bring us catharsis?  A release of all that is pent-up inside.  Of all that is screaming to get out.  We sometimes tell ourselves we have to pack up all of those emotions and feelings and tears and push it in a corner and keep on going.  Because we have things to do, people to see, places to be–we’ll get to it later.

Only we rarely do.  There’s no spot on a calendar for grief work or meditation, is there?

And so when we sit in a darkened theater and see a movie that moves us beyond tears, the box gets opened a little bit.  Or when we have to pull over to the side of the road because Colbie Caillat’s “Try” has us sobbing all of a sudden for some strange reason, a little more escapes.

It’s important not to stuff it all in and push it out of the way, I’m finding out.  At least for me anyway.  My arm and shoulder are begging me to keep working on taking a little bit out of that box everyday.

I don’t think it will every completely be empty.  Our hearts and souls rarely work like that.  But if I don’t stuff it down and keep sitting on it to keep the box shut like I’ve had to do on occasion with a suitcase, that’s progress.  If I can take a moment or two each day to take a little out and let it go, I will have done something.  Something cathartic.  Cleansing.

And that is a good thing.

Wishing you all a sad song on the radio just when you need it most.

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.