Blog, grandchildren, healing, memories, sister

Memories Past and Memories in the Making

Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Day 319

Yesterday was the 9th anniversary of my sister Rosie’s passing. I think this is the first year I had not been counting down the days and dreading the arrival of the day. This year I didn’t remember until later in the day. That is how I want it, though. I want to move beyond the grief and celebrate all the days of her life rather than dwelling on the days of her illness preceding her death. She deserves more than that.

I wrote a lot about my grief and the loss of my sisters in my prior blog. I do not want to repeat all of those feelings here. If you care to read, you can read Things I Cannot Tell You by clicking here. I am holding her life in my heart today. She lived out loud for sure.

Yesterday afternoon our oldest grandson came up to spend a little time with us. He is going into his senior year in two weeks and will be applying to college soon. This age is remarkable. So mature in so many ways, yet still that little boy we have loved from the very start.

Last night we watched two Pink Panther movies (the remakes with Steve Martin). We picked up Thai food (I was pleased he wanted to try it) and ate in front of the TV which he is not allowed to do at home. Then we progressed to the dining room where we laughed while playing three games of Yahtzee. We each won one game so it was well balanced. When he was little, he was such a poor loser. He and Grandpa loved to gang up on me when we played strategy games. As he grew, so did his mind. I remember one game of Risk where he took over the world!

We played what he calls the Wikipedia Game. It is a six degrees of separation type game. The play entails all players starting at a given Wikipedia page. Then the goal is to follow links through Wikipedia until one player wins by finding his or her way to a very dissimilar Wikipedia page. One example was going from the Wikipedia definition for space to the Wikipedia definition of cat. It was a lot of fun for someone with nerdy tendencies like me. I was trying to explain the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game until he said he couldn’t play that because he did not know all those old actors. Ha!

We offered snacks before gong to bed. He declined. He just started training for cross country so he is very focused on what he eats. So disciplined!

I am up but he is still sleeping up in the guest room. We will hang out today and he will head home in the afternoon sometime. It is so nice to have him here. This is another visit to place in the memory banks.

Hubby is waiting on a call about our whole house generator. Yesterday the top literally blew off the battery. He was outside and it sounded like a gun going off. I ran outside to see him standing beside the generator. Luckily everything was contained, so he was not hurt. Neither of us had ever seen anything like that happen, so we will have someone come and check it out before just simply replacing the battery.

Just another day in the life here. Memories past and memories in the making. I would not want it any other way.

Blog, Family, memories, sister

Remembering My Sister With Love

Day 288

This morning I woke and decided I would drive the 3 hours to the Valley where we grew up and where most of my family have been laid to rest. I decided I needed to go alone, so I would feel comfortable to feel whatever emotions presented themselves.

I stopped at the first scenic overlook after you cross from North Carolina into Tennessee. It is always so beautiful and I can feel myself breathe a little easier when I see the expanse of the mountains.

As soon as I saw the mountains and the skies I thought of this poem.

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

By Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/do-not-stand-by-my-grave-and-weep-by-mary-elizabeth-frye

I finally understood the poem. I felt her breath in the air and saw her spirit in the clouds that swept across the skies. I knew she was with me every day and not confined to a grave.

I continued on, stopping only to pick up some roses to take to the cemetery. This was my first trip to the cemetery since my sister was buried there. As I drove up to the cemetery, I was surprised at how I was feeling. I walked around the cemetery and left a rose on each headstone for each family member interred there. I took a few pictures of the view and remember feeling for the first time, that the view was very different from the view I remember as a child. I thought being there would overwhelm me with emotions, but it did not.

When I left the cemetery, I drove through this little Valley realizing it was a part of me that had passed. It wasn’t the same anymore. I visited all the wonderful memories I held with my sister.

She started her life there as an only child, but that would not last long. There were three more to come. This is the house where we all lived and experienced some of the best years of our lives:

We hung our heads over the porch and washed our hair in rainwater. We snuck into the cellar and sampled my grandfather’s grape wine made from the little grape arbor we had out back. BJ was the first child here and she remembered the house when it was just simple tarpaper shack. She was there when the septic tank was put in and when several rooms in the house were added on.

She went to school across the road from that house in a one-room schoolhouse where my mom taught school. One day during recess, the kids were playing hide-and-seek and she did not return to class. My mom was worried sick, but they found her curled up in the high grass fast asleep.

When it rained, she would put her hands and face against the glass and just say ‘pouin’ down rain‘. We repeated this phrase her whole life every time it rained hard

As I pulled out onto the state highway, of course, I had to stop for a turtle crossing the road. My sister was famous for stopping to rescue turtles so they would not get hit on the highway. It made me chuckle. This is where my day started to turn. I knew my sister was just laughing at me. I could feel she was going to have fun with me.

I took a detour so I could stop by the school we all attended as children.

This is the school my sister attended until her senior year when the new high school was built. The ‘old rock school’ was built entirely from rocks pulled from the creek bed. It stands today, renovated and revitalized as an apartment building for the elderly. We had some of the greatest times at that school. She was my big sister and looked out for all of us.

I continued on and stopped by a favorite burger joint we all frequented with our parents when we were kids. Of course, it is abandoned now, but the menu is still standing and makes a perfect place for the police to set up their speed traps. The cement tables where we ate our burgers are now hidden by tall grass. It is a place that holds great memories for me but the people are no longer there. The people I carry in my heart and that is much nicer than getting upset by abandoned places that no longer hold much of anything.

After this stop, I decided to stop at Starbucks and ordered a nice hot latte for the drive home. When I left Starbucks and started the car it made a horribly loud noise. This is what I get for car shopping. It turns out the fan for the A/C was making all the noise. I was fortunate it was not any worse but that meant I had to drive all the way home (three hours) with no A/C. It’s been a long time since I’ve driven on the highway with the windows down. Talk about loud, especially with the tractor-trailer trucks on either side. I know my sister was laughing that my emotional trip to see her, took this turn — and with a hot latte — I could not have ordered an iced latte, could I?

After stopping for gas, I proceeded on. The first hour and a half were uneventful, other than the obvious — it was hot!!! Temperatures were ranging between 87 and 99 for the entire trip. Then I hit Asheville. There was an accident which clogged every highway. The major thoroughfare was down to one lane. I ended up weaving my way off the highway and decided to take the backroads home.

Now you would have to know my sister to understand the significance of this. No matter when we were together, she always managed to find her way on to the backroads and turn an hour trip into an all afternoon adventure. I just had to laugh.

My three-hour drive home with no A/C turned into a five-hour drive with no A/C. I spent the day remembering wonderful stories about my sister. I realized that I did not need to drive all that way to spend time with her or to be in her presence. I realize I carry her with me everywhere I go.

I will always miss her presence here but today I realized her essence is part of me. It is like the poem. She is inside every moment of every day.

It was a long day, but a very worthwhile day. I recalled so many wonderful memories and I’m not sad. I’m filled up with the spirit of my sister and it is a glorious feeling.

 

 

Blog, Death, sister

Remembering What We Want to Forget

Day 287

The last few days have been difficult. I have been deep in thought about my sister. Tomorrow is the anniversary of her death. Losing her was hard. She fought the good fight and I admired her strength so much.

Today I am remembering the events I wish I could forget. The experiences I shared with her that I have never shared with anyone. They were hard and I do not wish to put those memories in anyone else’s mind.

I wrote a blog after she was admitted to the hospital. She had a stroke which left it difficult for her to talk. I remember her trying to say something she could not get out, stumbling over every word. She finally took a breath and said one word crystal clear. “Shit.” That was just like her to express her displeasure so clearly.

She was so frustrated trying to talk. And I tried so hard to understand what she needed to say. I feel like we were both cheated out of those final conversations. But it was not meant to be.

There have been a lot of unexpected triggers over the last few days. I was not expecting them and I was not expecting this wash of grief. I have done well celebrating her life and remembering the fullness of her life in favor of the difficulty of her passing. But the universe had a different idea this year.

I wrote a blog about BJ when she went into the hospital. I posted it below if you care to read. I would not write another blog until the year came to a close.

My Heart is Breaking

I wanted to write this blog today because tomorrow, I want to tell you about my sister before the word cancer was always associated with the telling of her life. She was much more than that.

birthdays, Blog, Family, sister

Happy Birthday, Sis

Day 278

Today is my sister’s birthday. I have thought about her all week knowing her birthday was coming up. It is still hard not having her here physically, but I feel her spirit everywhere. I am not sure I will ever get over missing her, but I try to focus on the joy that celebrating her life brings to me.

My sister was a spitfire. Very politically minded and very family-centric. She never met a stranger. There was always someone who had fallen on hard times living with her family. Both my sisters had that trait. I always used to kid them and tell them I was born without the ‘come live with me gene‘! She would literally give you the shirt off her back.

She loved a debate. Especially concerning the two things most people try to avoid — religion and politics. She called them like she saw them and would argue her point until her last breath.

When the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky debacle was revealed, my sister always wanted to see Hillary throw Bill’s clothes on the White House lawn. Of course that would never really happen, but that’s how she said she would have responded.

Political news was her drug of choice. She would watch C-SPAN any time she could. I could never argue with her — she was well armed with knowledge and had a proclivity toward the politics in our country. She could tell you anything you wanted to know about Watergate and she always thought Ted Kennedy should have gone to prison for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.

For me, however, she was my big sister. Our relationship ebbed and flowed over the years, and thankfully we were really close in the years preceding her death. I look at this photo of her on Easter morning. She sat on the porch beside my grandfather ready to take on any challenge. When I think of her, my heart always remembers her this way. Dark hair, happy-go-lucky, and full of a zest for life. This brings me great joy.

There is a great sadness in losing someone you love. Grief can be a viscous taskmaster, but if we allow it to run its course, there is great joy in remembering their life rather than their death. I am so thankful I have reached this point. There is a lot of love, joy and memories in sixty years. She was much more than her death.

I am forever grateful knowing she was my sister and my friend.

birthdays, Blog, loss, sister

My Sister’s Birthday

Day 137

67. That’s how old you would be today. We would have already talked but I know you would not be focused on your birthday. Not today. Your heart would be elsewhere.

My Sister

IMG_5631
One of my Favorite Pictures of You

Not all sisters get along which makes me even more thankful. Your love and support were all that kept me afloat during certain times of my life as I know my love and support were for you. That’s what sisters do.

I was determined to celebrate you today, to cheat grief out of a day. It’s hard. There would never have been enough days but I wanted more. We both did.

I think in some ways you tried to prepare me for a time without you but you did a shitty job with that.

I do celebrate the love and the memories — there were so many but why does it still feel they are lacking?

I can feel that I’m not doing well at celebrating. Grief is trying to win, but then so am I.

Ta-Da.

My Friend

This was a role you took seriously and you were damned good at it. There are many people who should take a page from your book.

Friendships are living and breathing relationships. Yes, you were my sister, but you were also always my friend.

With you, things were never one-sided. It was give-and-take. If you had not heard from me in an acceptable timeframe, you called me. Sometimes I would turn inward and close up, but you were not about to have any of that. I never had to cry alone — until now.

turtleSo many people don’t understand that two-lane highway of friendship. With you, it was a curvy country road. Sometimes there were no lines on the road and no road signs. That’s when you just felt your way. And sometimes you needed to cross the center line when I was about to fall off the cliff — oncoming traffic be damned. And when the road was just too difficult to maneuver, there was always a place to pull over and just be.

And if there was a turtle crossing that road, it must be rescued! I was the turtle more times than I like to admit.

Anger

There is still anger. There are things I am not over. It’s hard to know if you would have been right there with me or if you would be telling me to just let it go.

My daughter called this morning to see how I was doing. We talked about anger and unresolved thoughts. She suggested I call on Mr. Rogers. So here you go.

Video courtesy of YouTube

Moving Forward Without You

It’s almost been three years. It is not easy. I am thankful your voice is still clear in my mind.

I love you and I miss you. That will never change.

Happy Birthday, Sis. I hope somewhere, somehow and in some way you know your little sister is here still loving you and missing you just like always.