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Archive for the ‘grieve’ Category

I recently celebrated a birthday and it was in a beautiful snowy spot in the mountains and woods of Colorado.  I particularly love this picture of the Spruce trees surrounded by the Aspens.

In a cooperative and loving spirit, I want to share a poem that a dear friend handwrote to me for my birthday in 2009 written by John O’Donohue. The theme behind this message is that you are loved, and makes me grateful for friends, my many blessings and what I continue to learn through my mistakes and disappointments.

Blessed be the mind that dreamed the day
The blueprint of your life
Would begin to glow on earth,
Illuminating all the faces and voices
That would arrive to invite
Your soul to growth.

Praised be your father and mother
Who loved you before you were,
And trusted to call you here
with no idea who you would be.

Blessed be those who have loved you
Into becoming who you were meant to be
Blessed be those who have crossed your life
With dark gifts of hurt and loss
That have helped to school your mind
In the art of disappointment.

When desolation surrounded you,
Blessed be those who looked for you
And found you, their kind hands
Urgent to open a blue window
In the gray wall formed around you.

Blessed be the gifts you never notice,
Your health, eyes to behold the world,
Thoughts to countenance the unknown,
Memory to harvest vanished days,
Your heart to feel the world’s waves,
Your breath to breathe the nourishment
Of distance made intimate by earth.

On this echoing-day of your birth,
May you open the gift of solitude
In order to receive your soul;
Enter the generosity of silence
To hear your hidden heart
know the stillness of serenity
To be enfolded anew
By the miracle of your being.

In an odd way this poem evokes life and death as I think about praising my mom and dad who loved me before I was…and trusted to call me here with no idea of who I would be.  The miracle of life is so incredible, and in a similar vein the pain we feel when we lose our parents evokes such feelings of grief.

I think this is a contemplative poem to recall once a year, and I imagine depending on my life’s events, different sections will speak to me.

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“When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
Khalil Gibran

A few days ago when I read this on Robert White’s Extraordinary Minute blog, I skeptically thought, “yah, right”.

Well yesterday I awoke to a new experience of my dad since his death. I awoke with the vision of my dad, albeit just a quick mental glimpse, as a younger, middle-aged man! Wow, it was a warm feeling that drifted through my body. I could feel the energy of his younger body and spirit as I peered into his face and his soul, almost disbelievingly.

You see up until now, I only dreamt of my dad as a dying man, and often had flashbacks about what he looked like in death. That experience was just too much out of the ordinary and somehow got sketched and implanted deep into my visionary and emotional memory. While intellectually I am certain that this must be a normal, human experience, I know it is up to me to move past it, while not denying it. I was blessed to be with my dad and our family as he crept towards death and died in our midst, surrounded by love and care.

Just last week I had received an email from a dear cousin who had lost her dad a few years ago. She said when she suddenly thought about her dad, she still cried for him.  However, she now remembers him as a younger, more vibrant man, also without Alzheimer’s, the disease he and my dad shared in their later years.

I wanted to share this since dad had been dead for 4 months and 10 days before I had this gift of life, of who he was most of his life! As this was my first emotional glimpse, my feelings aren’t that well developed. I just saw a happy man which my Father was! This is a good start and I am grateful that my grieving process is progressing and I got to feel and see dad as the more vibrant, happy and intelligent man that he was for most of his life! After all isn’t it better to remember someone you love—more as you saw and felt them—before they became so weak, old and memory poor?

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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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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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