Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mama,

Today is the first day of October.  There will be pumpkins and goblins and ghosts and candy everywhere I turn.  And there will also be pink.  Lots of pink and ribbons and awareness and survival.  But in our experience, survival wasn't the end result.

I was watching the Today show this morning, and they were doing a big thing for survivors, and they were all laughing and smiling and sporting the show's hashtag for this month: Pink Power.

Pink Power.

Today is only the first day of October, and I will have 30 more days of pink power.  I know it's all for good, for awareness, for raising money for research so that hopefully, one day, women won't lose their battle with breast cancer.  But it hits me in the chest and makes me a little short of breath that this whole month will be devoted to a war your body didn't win.  I wonder how many others feel exactly the way I do this morning, staring blankly at a television and thinking, "But this isn't truly the face of breast cancer..."

America clings to the catchy, to the pretty of all things, and they create phrases and mantras to match.  The worst I think is Save the Tatas.  Seriously?  How about save the Gammies and moms and sisters and wives and friends?  How about save us from sickening chemo and painful radiation?  How about save us from burying someone we love so dearly far too soon?  Oh, I don't know, Mama... maybe I'm just bitter right now.  Just plain bitter.  Why do some survive while others don't?  Why do some bodies react so positively to treatment protocol while others don't?  It's hard to swallow, that cold reality of life, that not all will be survivors.

If you were here, you'd tell me that's not the point, that the survivors should celebrate, that we should all keep on fighting.  Cause we're all fighting breast cancer in some way, whether in our own bodies or trying to get through a loved one's diagnosis and treatment.  Or like me, who is fighting the grief of losing my Mama to the ugly disease of breast cancer.  We are all warriors, all of us at war to keep our chins up and stay strong in this world that doesn't make a lot of sense.  A world where not everyone survives.  A world where mother's die.

You were such a strong woman, Mama.  The strongest I've ever know.  You endured so much in the last two and half years of your life.  Drug studies, brain tumor, pleural effusion, surgeries, and procedures.  Oh and let's not forget the completely unrelated broken arm!  That one was like salt on the wound!  But you took it all in stride.  You never complained, never lost faith.  Even in your final days, you didn't think you were dying.  You fought every step of the way and found a way to make it look graceful and effortless.

There will be no segments on the Today Show about you this month, Mama, because the story didn't end pretty and all wrapped up in a pink ribbon.  But you... you went down battling, and for that, you are and always will be my personal hero.  And I hope to carry on the legacy of your strength as I live out my life, no matter what lies ahead of me.  Even though your physical body is in the grave, you are Pink Power.  You may have lost the battle, but the cancer never had power over you.

I long to be with you in a time and place where there is no need for awareness of any kind of cancer.

Love always...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mama,

I just took your glass pumpkin dish out of its box and filled it with candy.  Butterfingers and M&Ms.  Funny thing is that's probably exactly what you would have filled it with when you were alive.  I obtained the glass pumpkin in the last round of cleaning out that dad did.  In fact, I obtained quite a fair amount of things from that last cleaning out... most of which is still sitting in the floor in the extra room downstairs.  It's so hard to deal with the stuff.  You don't think it will bother you, don't think pulling an inanimate object out of a box or unwrapping it from tissue paper would affect you emotionally.  But it does.

Today, as I took the glass pumpkin out, I realized you were the last one to touch it.  Three years ago, you pulled it out, filled it with candy, and then packed it away when pumpkin season was over.  Just three years ago, you were still here, still fighting, still breathing in and out, still actively my mother.  And now, I find myself staring at glass pumpkins and wondering what that simple moment looked like when you packed it away for the very last time of your life.

So the leaves and pumpkins and witches have made their debut in the stores along with ginormous bags of candy for us to purchase and consume long before Halloween.  And the seasons still change and the world still turns and life moves on.  And I miss my mother.  My mama.  A being that will never be replaced.  A void in my heart that will never be filled.

Some would probably tell me all Christianly and trite that God can fill the hole.  But He cannot.  He is not my mother, nor will He ever be.  And He knows that.  God can't fill those holes.  He can work on the hurts and disappointments, but He doesn't try to jump inside the holes where loved ones were.  He works around those, pruning and nurturing the areas that need to be stronger to support the grief.  Sometimes, I just tell God that I can't right now.  I can't talk to Him, can't feel Him much.  But I still believe Him, His promises.  I still believe that I am His, and that you are with Him.  But I don't have energy for much more.  It takes all I can do to make sense of this place and the fact that now I have your glass pumpkin.  Now it's mine to fill, to place on the counter, to see the kids enjoy a chocolate treat from its hollow core.  The smallest things take the most energy.  The very tiniest parts of you that still linger take the most energy to process, to accept.

I'm in this weird space, a place where I find it hard to remember what it was like to have you in my life.  It's been almost three years, and so I've fallen into a new routine.  I miss you, but I can't remember what it's like to be able to pick up the phone and call you to discuss a pressing matter in my life.  I can't remember what it's like to walk into your house and you actually be there, sitting in your spot on the couch, the dogs beside you, HGTV on in the background.  And even though I can't remember what it was like, I still don't know how to do this.  This.  This being here without you.  I long to have my person back, one I can call just to say that I'm thinking about getting my fall stuff down from the attic and ask if you think it's too early.  I long to be able to talk to you about who David wants to ask to Homecoming this year.  I want to talk to you about Madalyn; she's getting so big, you know, growing up right in front of me faster than I would like.  And even though I can't remember what it feels like to have you, I still miss your presence, still miss your just being here on this earth with me.

Well, this turned out to be quite depressing, this little letter to heaven.  Sometimes I don't even realize how sad I am until I write it out.  I wonder, mama, does the sad part ever go away?  I'm not quite sure it does.  And this is why I find it so hard to write these days.  It's easier not to think at all.  So much easier.  And if you were still alive, you would look at me and smile and say, "And that's okay."

So I will just remain okay for quite a while.  Quite a long while.

I will eat a Butterfinger for you.

Love you always.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mama,

The other day when we were out riding, David was on his four wheeler just in front of us.  He had his shirt off, of course.  That's his big thing right, going shirtless while he rides and when he sleeps and when he's just around the house.  He thinks he's so big, you know.  Funny thing is I can remember that Trey and Todd spent a lot of time shirtless when they were teenagers.  I guess it's just a teenage boy thing.

Anyway... so David is in front of us, and I can see every little vertebra in his back, arched beautifully and in perfect symmetry.  And my mind went back to the day of my ultrasound when he had been in my belly for just 20 weeks.  I remember how the lady showed us his spine, and she said, "Look at that beautiful little spine.  It's just perfect."  I didn't understand then how special it really is to have a beautiful, perfect spine in your womb, but now I do.  And how special it is to have it growing so perfectly.  He wants to be taller, of course, but he doesn't realize how just-right he is.  He's on the brink of something that will alter him forever, turn him from boy to man, shift him from carefree into a barrel of conflicting energy.  Oh I wish they could stay little forever, but I'm afraid that is not to be.  It just doesn't work that way.

Oh and he is paranoid about his teeth, how they are discolored.  Even googled to find ways to whiten the teeth at home, and he came to me showing me a "recipe" for home whitening he found: lemon juice and baking soda, mixed.  I am not, however, putting lemon juice and baking soda on my little boy's teeth, I told him.  His go-to answer these days is reminiscent to the toddler years, WHY?  So we talked to the dentist about it, and unfortunately the discoloration of his teeth is just a result of how they formed, probably from having too much fluoride, and there's not a lot that can be done about it.  He is disappointed, but I explained to him that there will be many little things he will want to change about himself along the way (MANY things!), but he has to learn to accept himself the way he is.

I just never dreamed I'd be having a conversation with my thirteen year old son about teeth whitening.  This world we live in.  It's so crazy.  Everybody seems perfect all the time, and it's so unrealistic.  And I have to battle it with my son and daughter.  But I will keep battling.  I won't give in to the concept that we should look perfect all the time.

I wish you were here so we could talk it over a bit.  I know you would agree with how I am handling things, but it would be so nice to hear you say it.

Miss you more and more each day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mama,

So I decided to change things up on my blog.  To make it what it has already become... a one way communication with you.

Do you remember Bruce Almighty when he thinks he can do God's job and then logs in to check the prayer requests.  That's what I wish was true.  Like we had an email system, a way to chat back and forth.  That would be so nice.

There are so many little questions to ask you.  Dad was cleaning out a couple weeks ago, and, of course, I came home with boxes of stuff.  And as I am looking through things, I realize that I have no background story to so many things you saved.  And since my grandmother is gone, too, there will never be answers to so many questions.  There's this red elf doll you saved, and I remember seeing it all through the years, but I have no idea where it came from or what its meaning is.  I most likely asked you at some point or another, but I can't recall it.  The memory is so frustrating.  I want to remember certain things but can't.  Want to forget others but can't seem to push them out of my mind.

The kids and I have settled back into the school routine.  Homework is still no fun.  But luckily, David is doing so much better and keeping up with things independently.  Madalyn is as dramatic as ever about all things.  In fact, I have to make her sit down tonight and work on some homework and begin studying for a test on Friday, and I'm not looking forward to it.  Not at all.

I'm trying to make myself do some little things around the house I just kept putting off.  We found this long piece of slate when we were out riding one day and brought it home.  So I've started painting it, making it into a sign for outside.  I need to finish it up before this weekend.  Scott is off, and football begins, so hopefully we will have a good time.  Fall is just around the corner, though it's hotter now than it has been all summer.  But the leaves are beginning to rustle and brown a bit.  Another fall without you.  Hard to believe.

Love always...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mama,

I feel like I'm treading water here lately.  Doggy peddling in the ocean, flipping over on my back to rest by floating every so often.  I'm just so damn tired, Mama.  Tired of the ups and downs and all arounds.  Nothing major is going on.  The kids are healthy and back at school.  We have everything we need and most of what we want.  We are living in the blissful bubble of suburbia.  But all I can think about lately is that I just want to talk to you.

Robin Williams committed suicide the other day.  And if you were alive, we would have sorted out the whole deal over the phone.  We would have reminisced about all his movies we loved so dearly... Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, and What Dreams May Come.  Remember that one?  The one where the daughter dies, and then husband (played by Robin Williams) dies, and the wife just can't go on and ends up killing herself.  We watched it together.  It was weird, but I liked it.  Sadly, I can't remember if you liked it or not, and that bothers me so much.  Anyway, I would tell you how ironic it is that he was in this movie about going through the gates of hell to retrieve his wife so they could be together in heaven, and now here he's gone and killed himself.  It's so sad, him being so talented and amazing and at the same time so desperate.  My heart breaks for his family because I can't imagine how much more complicated it might be to mourn someone who chose to end it instead of mourning someone who fought so hard to stay.

I feel a little isolated, like I'm hiding in a closet somewhere for a little while.  I wouldn't say I'm depressed, but rather I feel I'm just wandering with little to no purpose.  I used to be abustle all the time working on this and that and completing projects around the house.  Even shortly after you died, I kept myself fairly busy.  But lately, I just don't have the energy.  Or the motivation to start anything.  Well, maybe I am a little depressed, but isn't that a part of grief?  I don't know.  I am so very sick of grief.  It's a lonely thing in and of itself, and the further time goes on, the more lonely a feeling it becomes.  No one wants to chat about how much you miss your Mama who's been dead for over two years, how you have to stop your mind from spinning, how your chest feels so heavy sometimes you wish you could take it off and sit it to the side just to get a break.  No one wants to chat about this heaviness, this emptiness.  How can something so empty feel so heavy at the same time?

Surprisingly, I miss my little Millie kitty way more than I thought I would.  It's quiet in the house.  You know how loud and talkative that cat had always been!  And now, no matter what, when I sit down there's no Millie to come and purr in my lap.  I do miss that.  I don't miss the throw up and litter box, but I do miss Millie.  But no one really wants to talk about that, either, except the kids.  We talk about her and how we miss her.

Oh well.  Life moves on.  It moves and moves and moves whether you'd like it to or not.  And so it goes.  But I wonder if there will ever be a day in my life that I don't long to talk to you just one more time... I doubt.

Love always.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mama,

I hope Millie is with you now.  Everyone always says that all dogs go to heaven, but no one ever discusses cats.  Not many people like them, you know, so I think that's why folks would rather not discuss their eternal life in heaven.  How could you ponder heaven if you couldn't stand cats and would be stuck there for infinity with them?

Anyway... Millie is gone, and she is wherever cats go after they leave the earth.  And I hope she's with her Gammie.  She always loved you.  Remember how if you came to my house, no matter where she was, if she heard your voice, she came running and talking and rubbing her little self against your legs.  Sweet Mill-Mill.

For so many years now, I've been dreaming about the day there would be no more cat hair, litter, puke in various dried-up states all over my house, and no more loud deaf kitty cat meowing at all hours of the night and day.  But, I tell you, the past two weeks have been tough when faced with the decision to really end it all.  It's hard to look at an animal and say to them, "It's time for you to go."  My emotions were so torn about the whole thing.  But I knew that she was failing terribly, and, honestly, I couldn't handle finding her dead.  I had reached the point that I was checking on her all day long, putting my hand on her belly or squatting down to see if her chest was moving.  I was so afraid of when it would happen, what it would be like.  It wasn't like she had any quality of life at all in the past few weeks.  She had stopped coming and sitting with me when I drank my coffee in the morning.  Even her meow sounded different.  She was isolating herself in my closet a lot, and I knew all these things were signs.  All of that combined with some other things going on just let me know it was time.

The kids have taken it well.  Madalyn rode with me to the vet.  She held Millie in the car for me, and she didn't even cry.  She is so much like you, and I guess like me, too.  She held it all together for me because she knew her Mama was emotional.  I told her she was so brave and that I was proud of her.  If she hadn't been with me, I would gone back with Millie for the process, but Madalyn didn't seem like she wanted to see it.  I just felt kinda bad letting a stranger take her off like that.  That was the hardest part; I do wish I had done that for her, but I know that she's okay.

So the house was quiet this morning.  And I still think I can hear her little claws clicking across the kitchen floor the way they did.  I do miss her, but we won't be getting another cat.  I can't say I will ever have one in my house again.  David is allergic, after all.  And now we know we will have to get another dog before Buddy gets too old.  We will all need therapy and medication when he leaves this world.  I can't even let my mind go there.

I miss you, Mama.  Decisions take more of a toll on me than they did when you were alive.  I miss talking things over with you.  I miss your reassurance.  I miss nearly everything about my Mama.

Give Millie a big hug for all of us.

Love always.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mama,

We had a crazy weekend, let me tell you.  It was one of those times in which I was so painfully aware that you are gone.  All I wanted to do was call you and talk to you about what was going on.  David fell off of a car... I know, I know, it sounds insane.  But I wasn't there to talk reason into the heads of any person involved, that sitting on a moving car is not a good idea at all no matter where we are or what we're doing.  You know, as a mother who has always, always, always stressed to sit down in chairs and be still so you don't fall, to wear your seat belt, to brush your teeth so you don't get cavities, to do all those little things we can to protect ourselves... well, being one of those moms, I never believed David would sit on a moving vehicle.  But he did.  And he has a staple in his head and a back of road rash to prove it, along with a story he will never forget.

I kept my calm, honestly.  I talked David down out of his frenzy a few times.  He was terrified he may have to have stitches (which I knew he needed the minute I looked at it) and that they would use a needle.  He was irrational about it all.  For goodness sake, HE HAD JUST FALLEN OFF A CAR, but there he was freaking out about the possibility of a needle.  Go figure.  So I was able to keep myself all together, staying tough for him, not shedding a tear.  Even when the doctor at the ER said she wanted to do an x-ray of his head to check for a fracture, I kept my cool.  Calm on the outside, hurricane force insanity on the inside.

But I learned that from you.  I really did.  You were always so calm as my mother, and I really don't remember you losing your marbles while I was at home.  And so I played tough, got-it-all-together mom, and then I got home and went into my bathroom and wept.  I felt like my chest was about to split open.  All the what-ifs and possibilities of how things could have been so much worse ran through my head without any control.  And I began to think of what my life would look like with more grief piled on top of what I already carry for you.  And it was too much to even think about.

I'm still fighting those visions of how things could have been worse, but I keep reminding myself that he's okay.  He is okay.  And I guess I am realizing that with every single day that goes by, I lose a little bit of control over him.  That one day, sooner than I would like, I will watch him pull out of the driveway and will have nothing else to do but pray for God to keep him safe.  Being a parent feels so helpless at times.  It's scary.  I want to wrap them in big fat bubbly wrap and pack them away.  But I guess that wouldn't be enjoyable for anyone.  Then again, the fretfulness is not much fun for me.

We had a good talk with David, and I think he has learned a valuable lesson, one in which there really aren't any words to describe, one about doing what I've always told him to do.  Slow it down and listen to that voice inside of you that tries to guide you with reason no matter what is going on around you.  Think, think, think.  Your mama is not trying to make your life boring when she says, "BE CAREFUL!"  She knows a thing or two about this world and what can happen.  And I looked him in the eye and told him, "We've already lost our Gammie to something we couldn't prevent; I can't handle losing you to something stupid that could easily be prevented."  And I had that twisted bipolar desire to both strangle and beat him and scoop him up in a bear hug all at the same time.  I think this is an emotion purely unique to motherhood.

Oh, Mama.  I've had an interesting opportunity arise to be directly involved with a local charity organization.  I'm set to have dinner and meet the other folks involved next week, and I'm really excited about it.  I feel like I've been so wrapped up in my own grief lately that I forget there are so many others out there still fighting the fight, so desperately in need of help and encouragement.  It's so easy to focus inward and turn your back on the rest of the world, especially when every single day hurts so much.  I have tried to keep patient with myself, to accept me for who I am and where I am, but I can't help but think there's more for me to do.  There's always more I can do.  To have the opportunity to love on people and share with those who need it most, well, I can't think of a better way to honor God and honor your memory.  So I am hopeful about this opportunity.  Really hopeful.

I may as well change my blog all together.  I am thinking of changing the title and layout since all I ever do anymore is write to you.  I just don't have much desire to write anything else.  I used to have grandiose ideas of writing something big and life changing.  Not so much anymore.  I've got a ton of characters in my head, and maybe they will come together one day, but for now I am content to write my little letters to you.  Writing to you seems a little less crazy than talking into the air at you, don't you think?

I wonder what you see of this place.  I wonder if you get to see the ones you love through the very eyes of Jesus, complete in His grace.  I hope so.  I hope you can't see how truly an emotional mess I am these days.  It's hard to believe I'm still a wreck over your death some two and half years later.  Hard to believe you're not here.  Still so hard to believe it all.  But I am making it.  I may be forever changed and scarred, but I am making it.

Love always.