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.

Blog, Death, memories, mother

Tactile Memories

Day 148

We are out of town staying in my mother-in-law’s home. She passed away in December and we came down so hubby and his sister could address some of her affairs.

The first thing I noticed when we came in was the house still smells like mom. A wave of mixed emotions washed over me remembering how much she loved this place and how quickly cancer had taken her life.

The ladies from the church left us a gift of a prayer blanket. It was such a sweet and appreciated gesture. These ladies were her dear friends and confidants for the last 15 years and I know they saw her through some difficult times. It was so telling that they thought of us and how this loss would affect us.

The house remains decorated with her things. Her dishes, her artwork, and her furniture all evoke memories of her. We have been here two days now and of course she has been uppermost in our thoughts and our conversation. Our talks are filled with memories and wishes that she could have been with us just a little longer.

That’s how it is with those we love, isn’t it? There is never really enough time. Today I sat and read through her text messages remembering the daily struggles she had the last few months of her life. But always buried in the midst of messages from the hard days were messages full of life and determination.

Tonight as we went out to get dinner, the sun was setting behind her house. She would have enjoyed the colors of the sunset. Being here brings back a lot of difficult memories, but also brings back the wonderful memories. They far outweigh the painful memories.

Rest well, Mama. We miss you.

Blog, Death, illness, loss, memories, sister

When Memories Slap You in the Face

Day 122

Grief is sneaky. It sometimes waits until the wounds have slightly scabbed over. It waits for you to let your guard down. Then the memory comes and you are slapped in the face.

Today it was in the form of a song. I looked for it intentionally. I was planning to use it in my blog, but not this way. It brought me back to a time when my sister, Rosie, was told there was nothing else they could do to treat her cancer. The memories of her telling me she cried in the night so no one else would hear. The sadness she felt knowing she was leaving the children and grandchildren whom she loved so much.

This song made me ugly cry. I didn’t see it coming. I wrote about this song once before, but I thought I was strong enough to listen. I was wrong. Instead I have picked all the scabs off and now I am raw.

I miss you, Sissy.

Blog, memories, mother, Writing

Today Was a Mixed Bag

Day 91

Today was quiet. I had a few hours by myself which I spent listening to YouTube videos of favorite hymns. I started thinking about my Dad singing Steal Away and tried hard to find an arrangement that was similar to the one he often sang when we traveled in the car. I finally settled on a Tennessee Ernie Ford version which was almost identical. I think that must have been the version that my Dad had heard many times.

Flipping through many of the other hymns Ernie Ford sang put me in a bit of a melancholy mood. I sat here alone for a time in Mom’s Carriage House apartment and listened to old hymns — one after another — and just cried. Sometimes, I would ask mom if she remembered an old hymn and she would sing it to me. Such a special memory and one I hold dear to my heart.

All this took place while my husband and his sister met with the minister to make final decisions about the memorial service. Today was one of the difficult days, but full of such wonderful memories. Mom and I had many intimate conversations and I feel blessed that she trusted me with the things she shared with me. I will take them to my grave. That is the bond we had — one most people never realized.

On to Writing

One of the assignments for my class was to eavesdrop on a conversation as part of an exercise in studying dialogue. It sounded very sleuth-like and I was game to go about listening to other people talk to each other.

Hubby and I decided to go to Barnes and Nobel — one of our favorite destinations. We each ordered a peppermint latte (before the holiday season runs out) and I sat down next to a table immersed in conversation. It truly was revealing to listen and apply what I learned in Margaret Atwood’s class.

Afterward, I browsed through books and read jacket flaps. I was suddenly intrigued by what publishers write as the synopsis of the book. Now I am comparing what I write to what others have successfully written and also try to think about how my work would be summarized on the dust jacket of a book.

Self-Induced Homework

img_8332I decided I needed a short book to read. I flipped through books looking for examples of first, second and third person writing. I am learning so much! I came across Stephen King’s new book Elevation and decided it was the perfect size for occupying a few hours of emptiness.

Tonight I read about 1/3 of it. I may need to re-read it, though, because I am hyper-sensitive to writing style, dialogue, and character development to fully absorb what I’m reading.

Social Media

I also decided to create a GoodReads account and start giving myself some reading goals for the year. Stephen King made the first cut as my ‘currently reading’ bookshelf.

All in all, it was a full day — a mix of fond and difficult memories and a look to the future. Now it’s time to read a little more, then think about hitting the hay.

“There’s nothing more intimate in life than simply being understood. And understanding someone else.” 
Brad Meltzer

Blog, christmas, Holidays, loss, Love

Finding Christmas

Day 80

Tonight I am thinking about Christmas. This is the first Christmas in a very, very long time that Christmas is arriving in an unfamiliar way. We normally would have our presents purchased and wrapped and under the tree. This year it is not so.

IMG_8181We walk into Christmas Eve accepting all that has transpired. We are suffering a tremendous loss and having a Christmas that sets that memory aside in favor of shopping and exchanging gifts seems wrong.

We will do that a little later, but on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we will simply enjoy each other and give thanks for all we have and yes, all we have lost. We are both looking forward to just sitting with each other in front of the Christmas tree without any concern for gifts or expectations. We will just be together and focus on why we celebrate this holiday.

I have experienced a lot of loss in my life and this Christmas comes on the heels of another devastating loss. We will take our steps slowly with great reverence. And that’s okay. It is the way we will regain our footing and move forward into the new year.

For all of you who read here, I wish you a Blessed Christmas. It will be filled with moments that will become memories — hopefully more good than bad. For those of you who do not celebrate this holiday or who also find yourself in similar circumstances, I encourage you to just embrace the time to find peace within yourself.

“This Christmas mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love, and then speak it again.” 
Howard W. Hunter