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Archive for February, 2010

Losing Dad hits me at the oddest times. The latest was yesterday as I was itemizing the mileage log for my business taxes. In order to do that, I had to review my 2009 calendar. Once I got to November, all I could do was think about Dad, and I found myself tearing and progressively bawling as I went through this exercise. I paused and marked my calendar with all the important dates about Dad in hindsight, and found it was strangely comforting.

To start Nov 6 was my last flight to my parents while he was still alive.  He was in the hospital then, and I was praying we could get him home where he could die in more comfort without the noise of hospital life. My prayers were answered as I accompanied him home from the hospital on Nov 9. He didn’t even wake up in the ambulance.

On November 14, he declared he didn’t want to eat any more, and drank very little. We made calls to our family members and I sent out a emails to warn our loved ones that Dad would probably die within a week. My dear husband flew in on Nov 19. Dad was so happy to see him, and was lucid enough to express his warmth and love.

Our dear cousins decided they would love to see Dad before he died and made arrangements to visit. They flew in on Nov 20 and 21. My cousin who arrived on Nov 20 had a nice conversation with Dad who was closing in on death, yet expressed happiness and love with his nephew. My cousin who arrived on Nov 21 wasn’t as lucky. Dad was a few hours from death and no longer talking. He was hooked up to oxygen to calm him as he journeyed towards death. Fortunately she had spoken to him on the phone earlier in the week, and was comforted by that. I was grateful that he was still alive when she arrived.  We are a small, caring family and were blessed to surround Dad when he died at 16:45 on Nov 21.

Nov 28 was Dad’s Memorial Mass followed by a lunch he would have enjoyed. Dad’s body was flown to Manchester, NH on Nov 30. We kids and Mom flew to NH on Dec 1, and Dec 2 was his interment in Concord, NH, his childhood home. We stayed with our one of our cousins who had flown in before Dad died. It was greatly comforting to be with family, and I enjoyed an early morning walk in the full moon the day Dad was buried.

I flew back to Colorado on Dec 6, having spent an entire month at my parents and feeling very empty and tired. My brothers spent Christmas with my Mom, and I flew out on Dec 30 to ring in the New Year with her, and celebrate her birthday on Jan 4. This was the first time I had flown out and Dad wasn’t there: the house was so quiet with just Mom and me.

When you lose a loved one, you just never know what will trigger those memories. My taxes was the last place I thought this would happen. However, I am glad that I gave myself the time to reach into my feelings, and I hope this sharing helps you with ideas to grieve over your loved ones.

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A number of friends have told me that grieving comes and goes for about a year after you lose a loved one like your Dad, Mom, a spouse or sibling. In a cooperative vein I would like to share a recent experience.

Rodgers and I just returned from Washington, DC, a 1,750 mile drive. During those couple of days we caught up on our lives as we often work so furiously just before these long road trips. We were away 3½ weeks. Our excuse was Rodgers’ art show at Susan Calloway’s in Georgetown, but we spent most of our time with our Moms and our siblings which was great, especially as we had lots of beautiful snow fall, and to clean up after!

We were so grateful that not one snowflake fell the whole way home. As we drove, we spoke about how great it was to be with our families, and we enjoyed the views of the states we passed through: Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and home sweet home, Colorado. I particularly enjoyed the dreamy scenes in Indiana. It was a gray day and there was snow everywhere, veiny tree branches, and that kind of fog that keeps you from seeing much more than a quarter of a mile. There was so little color that I felt like I was seeing in black and white, like an Andrew Wyeth painting.

The phone rang periodically and we spoke with our families. Rodgers was so excited as he got a call from Evergreen Fine Art to do an art demo on April 30th. We both knew that day wouldn’t work since that would be the Friday before the Cottonwood Art Festival in Richard, TX, so we would be setting up that evening. So Rodgers spoke with the gallery’s management and changed the date to the last Friday in June.

As I listened to Rodgers negotiate a new date, all I could think of was, “April 30th is Dad’s birthday, and this is the first one where he won’t be here.” It felt strange and lonely to think about April 30th without celebration. I suddenly felt so sad, and I deeply missed his presence, and the opportunity to express my love and care for him which the dear man so appreciated.

I comforted myself with a drive down memory lane in Boonville, MO where my Mom spent most of her youth. I took a bunch of pictures to share with her. She is 92 and too weak to return there again. I will surprise her in a couple of weeks when I return to DC and show her the pictures. The party is over for our Moms, so we seek small ways to make them happy.

Boonville MO Thespian Hall

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We drove 2 long days covering 1,750 miles to get to the DC metro from Colorado, and were blessed with no snowfall during the entire journey. We have been in Washington, DC for almost 3 weeks and arrived shortly before the two major snowfalls that have hit the area this year.

We had planned to stay here for 3 weeks, but we didn’t expect Rodgers’ art opening reception would be postponed two times due to snow! Rodgers often markets his art at outdoor art shows, and we expect to be at the mercy of the weather then!

I am so inspired by Rodgers, who is now in his third career! He started as a geologist, and then ran the contacts group for a major corporation. By the late 1990s, he was focused on developing his skill as a fine artist. He tried several forms of art, including various forms of print making, linocuts, water color and oil pastels before choosing oil paint as his favored medium a few years ago. He paints almost every day for most of the day, and has an incredible passion for painting. I am so impressed that he had the confidence to try something that was so different from anything he had ever done before—and that he has developed his skill as a successful fine artist who is now represented by galleries!

On Friday, Feb. 19, he will be the featured artist at the opening reception at Susan Calloway Fine Art Gallery at 1643 Wisonsin Avenue, NW, in the Georgetown area of Washington, DC. His art will be displayed on the second floor of the gallery, in the display window and on the stairwell leading upstairs. The reception will be at 6-8 p.m. although wink, wink we’ll be there at 5 p.m. On Saturday, Feb. 20, Rodgers will do an art demo from Noon – 3 p.m. I will be with him at both events.

It’s hard for me not to seek and develop my passion in life since I am so happily married to Rodgers, whose love and energy around his art passion is infectious. As you can see his art resembles Impressionism and he has a great talent for depicting light and shadow in his work.

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A Glimpse of Spring

This weekend I took a walk down memory lane as I accompanied my husband to his family’s farm in Maryland.

As many of you know, we have had a record amount of snow in the Washington, DC area over the last couple of weeks. I had been feeling somewhat stir crazy along with most of the local population, since other than shoveling we were home for the duration. My family lives on one of the last roads to get decently plowed in Fairfax County. In fact, it’s still not great!

We had to walk down the driveway to the farm since we didn’t get it plowed. It’s a ¼ mile driveway, so not for the unsteady of balance or heart! It had been several years since I had visited the farm since I have spent all my time caring for my parents at their home during my trips to DC.

The farmhouse is full of counted cross-stitch projects that my Mother-in-Law has created over the years. One in particular is a handsome, large tapestry which hangs in the dining room. Numerous counted cross-stitch pillows are scattered all over the house which gives it such warmth. Family pictures are the other prominent theme, and most of them date back 20 – 30 years when we were all much younger! There is a lot of caring, love and laughter in that home.

The family had a new well installed since my last visit as well as a new roof. One of the large barns had blown down in a storm, and a smaller replacement barn had been erected.

But mostly it was the sameness of the place that stuck with me: the house, the farm buildings, the barns, the garden plots and the sense of peace that I feel whenever I’m there. We could hear geese flying off in the distance, presumably to the nearby Patuxent River.

Here is something really sweet which I almost stepped on as we were leaving. The daffodil bulbs are coming up, just as the snow is beginning to melt. I am so grateful for the small things in life. I guess Spring is coming after all!

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This is my second trip home since Dad died. It’s easier than the first trip since I was so overwhelmed by his absence and the first trip was only 4 weeks after his funeral. I still dreamt about him every night. I couldn’t think beyond the last couple of weeks of his life, and how he had steadily declined until he died. The dreams were vivid and I awoke in a heavy sweat. 

My Notre Dame sisters from my class, friends and family have been so supportive through prayers, notes, phone calls, and many shared their experiences about losing their parents. My husband listened to me talk about Dad over many dinners like a broken record: I just couldn’t stop. One classmate had a particularly hard time with Sunday church after she lost her Dad, which she attributed to the healing process. It helped to hear her perspective as I was having a hard time getting through Sunday church too. I was numb and felt sad and disconnected at the same time. I feel less sad now.

On this trip, I knew I had to deal with my Mom, her loneliness and her pain. Her physical pain is bad so we don’t think about Dad as much since we’re preoccupied with keeping her comfortable. God knows we love her, and hate to see her wincing. We help her with daily living and it feels good to give back.

A number of friends have said, “Make sure you grieve fully for your Dad.” “Take time for yourself.” “Be kind to yourself.” It sounds good, but who really has time for this when you still have your Mom to care for who grieves after 62 years of marriage with this man?

I have a business to run, and yet I want to take care of my Mom as best I can and I live 1,750 miles away. When do I have time to grieve? When do I have time for myself? When do I have time to run my business? I don’t even have children…how do my friends with children listen and cope with all these emotions and the realities of life?

After I put my night owl Mom to bed, I come upstairs where it is quiet and peaceful as there is no TV noise. I need quiet to do my work as most of it is cerebral. I need to be creative to execute what I do and yet I am so tired!

I want to write e-books, and know that I write best at the wee hours. But while I visit Mom, I postpone this since I have to catch up on business during this time.

It’s cold here in Virginia and we just dug out from two feet of snow and it is snowing again. Like the weather, I know my feelings are temporary and fleeting. I am an optimist and things always work out. Eventually I will take time for myself and continue the process of grieving for my Dad. This blog helps. In the meantime I am grateful for the love and passion Dad instilled in me.

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I am blogging from Virginia where we just had a major snowstorm. It was so beautiful and peaceful to have such a quiet weekend where scarcely anyone could drive past my Mom’s home. It is in this spirit of peace and gratefulness that I share this poem I wrote.

The Art of Life

The most precious Art I know of
Is the art of life.
It can be expressed without
Hammer, brush, banjo, pen or clay.
Yet whoever shares this art of life,
Brings a sparkle to other’s lives.
He sees and doesn’t draw;
She listens and hears, yet doesn’t sing or strum.
Theirs is the art of listening and caring,
Choosing to be present for friends and strangers alike.

I shared this poem in my cooperative intelligence blog as a new year’s wish. This epitomizes the way my Father was. He was present for friends, family and strangers alike. He was not an artist in the way Rodgers, my husband a fine oil painter is. Life was just simply art due to his attitude towards other people as well as his actions. He had time and love for us no matter how busy he was.

My intention during 2010 is to get better at listening generously to the people who cross my path regardlesss of my relationship to them. I hope this poem engages you to be all you can be this year!

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