Monday, December 29, 2014

Mama,

Saturday night, I drove down to Montgomery to spend the night with my sole remaining grandparent in the hospital.  Marzee is 92 now and is more than ready to join y'all in the Great Beyond.  She's so tiny now, only 91 pounds, just like Grandma Norris did in her final days.  It's so sad to see someone I've grown up loving decline so drastically.

So I made my way to the 6th floor, and immediately I remembered being there with my other grandmother a few years before and you, as well, when you had to stay there overnight with the brain tumor incident.  So I was already flooded with emotions, and when I was helping my grandmother in and out of the bed, I started crying hysterically.  Thank goodness she is 92, because she had no idea I was having an emotional breakdown right in front of her.  But the poor hospital tech walked in as I was standing there trying to force the tears to stop.  She probably thought I was losing it.  On second thought, though, I'm sure it's not the first time she's walked into a hospital room to find a family member wiping their face with a grainy paper towel.

I got my grandmother settled into bed, and she was out for the night.  So I lay there on the tiny vinyl love seat dozing in and out of sleep all night.  Around 4:00, I woke up (I think that's when they came in to do a vitals check) and was having a hard time dozing back off.  Random thoughts were popping in and out of my head like they usually do in the wee hours.  And then it hit me, though I had to go over it again and again in my mind.  We were in the very same room you stayed in that night almost three years ago.  The very same room.

So my emotional breakdown became more understandable.  Funny how the body and the brain work subconscious together all the time behind the scenes, ever more aware at the primal level than we are in the moment.  It's both amazing and frightening that even when I don't want to be aware, I am, and my body will react accordingly all outside of my control.

Anyway.  When I was standing there crying, I had this urge to run.  I just wanted to get out of there.  But that's not the most adult reaction.  So I thought about who I could call that could talk me down from this heightened emotional state, and my first thought was my bestie.  But she was in the mountains with her family.  So I realized there wasn't a person, so I prayed.  Eventually the tears stopped and my heart rate slowed and I felt in control of myself.  If you weren't dead, I wouldn't have had to stop to think about who to call.  But then again, if you weren't dead, I wouldn't have freaked out the way I did.

I'm raw right now, Mama.  Just plain raw.  Like someone has removed every square inch of skin from my body.  Everywhere I go, I feel like people can see inside me, and I don't like it.  I don't know where to turn or which way to go, really.  Lost and raw.  I guess I am missing the stability of you in my life more so than ever.  My grandmother is dying, which is a natural thing at 92 years old, but with her will fly away yet another piece of my history, of who I am.  I sat there watching her sleeping the other night thinking about who she has been in my life.  She taught me how to tie my shoes and cut paper snow flakes.  She took me and the cousins on nature walks and could name every single tree by its leaves.  She showed me how to use a typewriter and how to draw a proper stick man.  She wasn't a lovey dovey grandmother, but that was okay because she was spunky and active.  And now she's someone I don't recognize.  Sure, it's been a slow process, but this last part has come on all the sudden.

It's harder having lost you amidst all my grandparents.  You were such a huge chunk of who I have always been that the little pieces my grandparents have made up all these years feels that much bigger with your loss added to them.  It really sucks.

Anyway.  They are admitting grandmother to Crowne nursing home today, same place where you took your parents.  And I am glad they got her in quickly.  It's so hard to care for someone around the clock. It's physically and emotionally trying, and being at home without all the proper equipment and tools makes it more challenging.  I know they will take good care of her there even though a nursing home is never the ideal situation.  And now the family can focus on visiting her instead of caring for her.  It's been hard on them all.

As usual, I miss you much.  Just can't put into words how much different things are without you here, Mama.  Love always.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mama,

Today is Christmas Eve.  I woke with a heaviness in my chest as though the weight of your death is trapped inside my rib cage.  Funny how the body does this to me from time to time, and there's simply no preventing or controlling it.  I can plan and prepare and think I will be just fine, but then I wake up at 7:30 and my first thought is, "It's here."  That pressure and sinking feeling, the burning in my stomach, the physical manifestation of Christmastime grief.

I started thinking about Christmas when I was little on Croydon Road.  Back when Grandma and Granddaddy Tew would come on Christmas Eve, and we would open gifts with them.  I remember one year sitting right by the tree and Grandmother had given me Little House on the Prairie books.  I remember the add-a-bead and Barbie Corvette year.  I remember going to Grandma Norris's house on Christmas Eve night and eating all the fixings with your side of the family.  I remember laying in bed even after I knew the truth about Santa and thinking that maybe, just maybe, it was still possible.  Maybe there was magic after all.  I miss the days when I believed that magic was still possible.

I ran out to Target this morning and picked up a couple more things.  I just didn't feel like what I had for the kids was enough.  Sad to feel that way.  To think that my kids, who live in a nice house and have most everything they want, might look disappointed with what awaited them tomorrow morning.  But I have set the bar high, so it's my fault.  But I feel pleased now, and I am hoping they will be, too.  I'm sure they will.  I don't know why I fret about this from year to year, but it is a lot of pressure.

I'm just weary today, Mama.  Plain weary.  I feel so empty and lonesome.  And I know that this feeling will pass after Christmas is over, but I wish it would go away and never come back.  When will it leave forever I wonder?  Probably years from now, but I am ready for it.  Very much ready.

I'm about to put on makeup.  And then Madalyn and I will bake some cookies.  And I will go on with the day.  And I will try to play my part as best I can.  But you will be spinning in my mind all day.  All day.

Merry Christmas to you in heaven.  Love always...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mama,

For the past two days, I've wanted to talk to you more than ever.  We are having some middle school issues, and I never dreamed that middle school would be much more difficult the second time around.  It's harder to be the parent than to be the kid.  That's something they don't tell you when you embark on the parenting adventure.  It's something I never dreamed possible as I remember middle school and most of high school being pretty terrible.

So we've had these issues, and I find myself talking to a lot of people about it, mulling over details and exploring ways to handle things.  And every time I finished talking with someone about it, I found myself thinking the same thing:  Mama would know exactly what to do.  

And you would.  You would have listened, absorbed the information, talked it through with me, and helped me figure out what to do.  And even though I'm positive I came up with the same conclusion that we would have come to together, I desperately miss the process with you.  On top of that, you always had a way of making me feel sure of myself and my decision.  Now that you're gone, I second guess myself way more than before.

This is going to be a lot harder than I thought it would be.  Just like parenting, grief has proven to be way more difficult than I expected.  No one prepares you for the tears that hit at the most inconvenient moments or for the loneliness that wells up inside you when you're in a crowded room.  But no one can.  Just like parenting, if it's something you haven't experienced, then you just have no clue.  And it's almost better not knowing before hand just how hard it will be, just going into it completely blind and clueless.

It hit me in the shower yesterday afternoon as the hot water rinsed away the grime of a day's worth of living that parenting will be harder now that you're not here.  You were my sounding board, my confidant.  You always gave me the best advice and helped me find the answers I needed.  And there are so many parenting experiences ahead of me in which I will find myself thinking Mama would know what to do.  They will drive, and I will fret.  They will fall in love, and my heart will ache.  They will start out on their own, and I will have a hollow in my soul.  And I always thought you would be there helping me sort it all out.  But you won't.

I know I can do this.  That's not at question at all.  But it's hard, and I wish I had your voice in my ear just helping me through.  That's the way it should be.  Daughters should have their mothers much longer than I had you.  But we can't change that.

So I am thankful I have enough of your spirit inside me, enough words stored up to know pretty much what you would have said or suggested.  That's what keeps me sane these days.  And I can hear you tell me that I am doing just fine.  I can still hear it sometimes.

Miss you much.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Mama,

I've hit that harried spot of December, the one where my head never stops spinning and I am constantly counting gifts and making lists in my mind.  Oh and calculating how much money I have left to survive until next paycheck.  Oh and thinking about what to cook to take where.  Oh and then there's laundry and housework to stay on top of.  My stream of thoughts is always followed with, "Why does it have to be this way?  I don't think this is what Christmas is about..."

This world is so strange, isn't it?  We've taken the birth of Jesus and turned it into turkey and dressing and Santa and presents.  And though I don't want to fall into it, I already have.  And though I promise myself I won't let myself get stressed out this year, I already am.  And so I will try to take a deep breath and stay calm.

Did you feel that way?  Cause I don't know if you did or not.  You never seemed to feel that way.  So if you did, I was never aware.  But then again, maybe my kids aren't aware of the constant tornado of thoughts spinning in my head.  I hope they aren't.  I hope I don't appear to be as stressed on the outside as I am on the inside.  I do hope.

We are doing our Christmas tomorrow at your house.  I made divinity yesterday, and I will make the cake today.  I texted dad and told him that if he ever doubted your love for him, he should know that if you made divinity for him every year, you loved him more than can be expressed in words.  It's a challenge.  And I think I will be cleaning splatters of white off everything in my kitchen for months to come.  Of course, I got it everywhere!  And this time, I think I cooked the syrup too long during that last part, but it still tastes good.  It's definitely not for the faint at heart in the kitchen, but once it's done, the feeling of accomplishment is overwhelming.

We are doing a traditional dinner tomorrow, and I am so glad.  I'm doing the dressing and some veggies, and dad got a ham and turkey breast.  I like going back to a traditional Christmas.  It will be weird cooking in your kitchen without you being there, but I think we will enjoy the meal so much better than takeout from somewhere.  There's love in cooking, you know.  That's something that I learned early in life from Grandma Norris.  She loved it so much, and now I understand why.  To sit back and watch people filling their plates and bellies with food you've prepared is so heartwarming and gratifying.  To be able to do it is an honor.

On Sunday, we go to be with Scott's family, so this weekend is busy, busy.  And maybe that's why my head is spinning at warp speed.  I've never had two back to back Christmases, so hopefully once I get through this weekend, my mind will simmer down a bit.  I think it will.  I hope.  One day next week, I've got to get all the kids' stuff out a have a look.  I don't feel like I have much of anything for them, but yet I've spent plenty of money.  Nothing is cheap these days.  I think Madalyn is on to us about the whole Santa thing.  She lost the magic sprinkles to her little elves, and she hasn't even freaked out about it.  And I think it's because she's figured it all out... if Mama and Daddy are behind the whole Santa thing, then they must be the magic behind the elves, too.  In a way, it's a relief.  But in a way, it's sad.  It's a feeling that we will never have back.  The magic.  The excitement.  The innocence.  But they are growing up, oh so quickly growing up, which has its perks, too.  Somedays, I wish I could freeze time with them.

Tomorrow just won't be the same without you.  I am starting to realize that it will take several years for anything to feel normal.  It feels weird to think that one day it will feel normal for you to not be here.  So we are just kinda stuck here in the middle, in between what used to be and what will be in the future.  We are stuck here in the I'm trying to accept this phase.  And it's hard and emotional and exhausting.  But it's reality.  I hope we can all make the best of it.  No matter what, we will never have this year back.  And who knows what tomorrow holds in store for us.  I'm trying, Mama.  I'm trying to enjoy each day even without you.  Some days are easier than others.  But we will make it through somehow.  We will make it through.

With Love,
Your Daughter


Friday, November 7, 2014

Mama,

Tuesday was my birthday.  It's a weird day without you here.  I find myself wondering what we would have done, because we would have done something either on the very day or on the weekend before or after.  You would have bought me a card and gotten daddy to sign it.  We would have eaten at either Panera Bread or Olive Garden, the two places you like to eat but dad doesn't have a taste for.  We would have gone to Belk or Hobby Lobby (or both) and walked around and looked.  You probably would have bought me something while we were out, saying, "Do you like it?  I'll get it for you for your birthday..."

That's what we would have done.

Instead, I played it out in my mind all day long while going about my activities.  I had lunch with Scott, and then I decided to run by Lowe's and get some pansies for the pots on my front stoop.  I bought the most unusual little flowering plant, its petals bright red.  From a distance, it looks artificial because the leaves are such a deep green and the petals so bright.  If you had been with me, you would have bought one, too, since it was unlike anything we had ever seen before.  I picked out a few different colored pansies and headed home to get them in the pots.  I always feel close to you when I have my hand in the soil, so it was especially nice to do this on my birthday.

The leaves are all turning their beautiful autumn colors, and my Camellia is full of buds.  Oh, and the Christmas Cactus is loaded with buds as well.  Last year it didn't flower much, so I was wondering what it would do this year.  Around Easter, it produced one single flower.  I thought that was pretty funny.  It bloomed like crazy the spring you died; I remember busying myself by picking up the dead flowers off the ground while you lay in your bed fading, fading.  Honestly, when I brought the cactus home, I was terrified I would kill the darn thing, but it's still going strong.  I miss having you to ask questions about plants.  That's one of the weird things you don't expect when you lose your mama, not having someone to call to ask all the odd questions.  But it's part of the drill, so I make use of Google or put it on Facebook, and those two things usually give me enough information to go on.

I don't know what I would do without my sweet Sadie Girl.  I don't think I've even told you about her... oh, how you would have loved her!  She's got those big, sad, love-me eyes, and she comes and cuddles in my lap when she gets tired of playing.  And she snores.  And she gives Buddy a hard time!  They romp and play and growl and tumble around in the grass.  I think it will make Buddy more active, which is good for his health.  That Sadie has brightened my life, I tell you.  And I tell her all the time how much her Gammie would have loved her.  Her puppy breath is pretty much gone, but she still generally smells like a puppy and definitely has a puppy personality.  She's so full of life and curiosity, so vulnerable and innocent.  She needs me, and what she doesn't realize is how much I need her, too.  I didn't know I needed her until I had her.  I sat outside telling Scott how much joy she had brought me, and I cried.  I cried over a puppy.  I cried because she brought me something I didn't know I was missing.  I cried because she makes me feel so close to you even though you aren't here.

So, things are moving on, Mama.  I have a new puppy and have made it through three birthdays without you.  You are still gone, and I am still standing.  Still standing.  This grief thing has thrown me for a complete loop, and I had no idea that I would still be working my way through the maze.  But I am.  And I am still working.  Still moving.  Still your daughter, even though you aren't here.

I will always be your daughter.  And I will always be proud to call you Mama.  With each day that passes without you, I reminded that I am so fortunate to have a mama worth missing.  Oh, you are so worth missing.

Love you forever with all I have.

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.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mama,

Gosh, the summer is just ticking away.  Crazy how fast they go by now.  I can remember you telling me when I was young not to wish my life away, that time moves faster the older you get.  I thought you were insane then, but now I understand.  Now I see it.

The kids have really reached the age that it's not hard having them around all the time, not like it used to be anyway.  They can make their own sandwiches, fix their own drinks, and basically take care of themselves.  Of course, they never seem to want to do those things when it's convenient for me, but that's normal.  Madalyn gets a thrill out of being as difficult as possible (nothing new there!), and David... well, he will always be my little boy.  I find myself wanting to take care of him.  Funny how different the two of them are.  Night and day.

Madalyn is much easier to deal with, though, now that she's a little older.  I can talk her down out of her frenzy most of the time now with logic.  But she wants everything.  Everything.  That's hard on me, because I don't want to raise a selfish or materialistic person.  So I am working on making her wait, on flat out telling her no about certain things (even though it causes much grief between the two of us), and letting her work for things.  Funny, though, about a month ago, when she was doing chores to earn something, she came to me with a bag of spare change I had downstairs.  She had counted it all, and written the tally on the outside of the bag in Sharpie.  She asked me who it belonged to, and I told her it was mine.  But I had to let her have it.  There's no telling how long it took her to count it all, and I admire her creative thinking.  I really do.  There's so much I admire about her spirit, so many strengths I didn't have at her age, and so, I let her be most times.  I just let her be who she is with a gentle guidance  in her ear as much as possible.

My David is growing up so quickly.  You wouldn't believe how tall he is now, Mama.  Five feet even. Only a few inches shorter than me!  Oh how I wish I could see him stand beside you and show you how much he's grown.  He's a good kid, too.  Impartial to cliques and has a generally kind heart.  Oh, of course, he's a complete poo poo head to me sometimes, but I think he's got his head on straight.  He's playing in a summer golf tour and really enjoying himself.  His natural talent amazes me.  If he could only be a tad bit more disciplined!  That's what he lacks, the drive to put it all together (yikes... sounds a lot like me, huh?).  Perhaps that will come with a little maturity.  But we have learned that nothing can be forced on him.  It's best to gently guide him as well, provide the opportunity to do whatever it is he wants to do, but we don't push him to practice every day and don't put a lot of pressure on him.  I hope we are doing this whole parenting thing at least mostly okay.  It's hard, but you already know that.

One of my trees died in the yard.  Just boom, dead.  And I would have loved to call you and talk to you about it.  It was my favorite tree!  The one by the driveway that had the tiny long leaves.  Such a pretty tree, and now it's covered in crispy brown leaves.  We've already had a knock on the door, someone wanting to cut it down.  Such an expense!  I'm hoping, since it's not very large, that we can have a friend help (he's started working for a company that has a tree service, so maybe at least we could get a better price).  My knockout rose bush is struggling, and so is one of my hydrangeas.  Of course, I don't have a clue what to do, and you probably wouldn't either, but dang it, I would like to talk to you about it.  Oh well.

Just carrying on, Mama.  Just carrying on.

Love and miss you more and more every single day.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mama,

Dad is in the cleaning out mood.  He's been going through drawers and closets that haven't been touched since you died.  And so, yesterday, I drove down to look through some stuff he didn't really know what to do with and to see if there was anything that I wanted to keep.

The contents of the extra bedroom closet pretty much consisted of stuff you had saved from your parents' house when it was sold.  There were little bird figurines and old sheets and the things they saved from their big 50th anniversary party.  I found a box full of cards and letters, so I brought that home and sat down in the floor to sort through it all.  There were a few letters that grandmother had written to grandaddy when he was away in the Navy in 1945, and that was cool to read.  And then I found this bundle of stuff held together with a rubber band.  So I took the band off and found a small white envelope full of those little cards that come with flower arrangements.  Immediately I knew what it was.

She saved it all.  She saved every single floral card from every plant and arrangement from Aunt Kitty's funeral in 1978.  And there was more... every single card that had been mailed to her, the list of addresses she had used to send out thank you notes with each name checked off in precise order.  She saved it all.

It doesn't really get better, does it, Mama?  The missing of someone lost.  The holding on of certain things, the letting go of others.  Finding that bundle made me realize that it will really never feel any better.  I have the same collection, you see, of every single card from every plant and arrangement that was sent to your funeral and every single card that was mailed to me.  In place of the rubber band, I selected the more modern form of holding things together, the Ziploc bag.  They are neatly tucked away, and I doubt I will ever be able to part with them.  And, so, one day in the very distant future (I hope) Madalyn will probably find them in the cleaning out of my things, and she will, in that moment, realize what I have come to know.  That the missing of people we love doesn't go away.

I opened every single card and looked at the signatures.  There were a couple of names I recognized, but most were completely foreign to me.  But I could imagine my grandmother receiving each card, opening the envelope, reading the words on paper that really don't make the grief any better, but feeling the support in knowing that someone cared.  And I imagine a lot of lonely tears, quiet and heavy.  And I know all the years that she couldn't even talk about her daughter that died so suddenly, tragically.  I hope I am grieving better than she knew how to do so long ago, keeping your memory alive while showing that it hurts so deeply.  My children need to know it's okay to keep you in the present and still miss you so much.

On a lighter note, Mama, I sure do wish you and grandmother both hadn't saved every single sheet set you ever owned.  I understand the keeping of an extra old sheet here or there, but have mercy.  Please know that the Olivia and Patricia desire to save every single thing that may, may, may be of value some day has been passed on to my Madalyn.  The pack-rat gene has been preserved for future generations.  I spent four hours in her room on Saturday holding things up and saying, "Keep or give away?"  We filled a trash bag full of toys and things to donate, praise the Lord.  And we cleaned out and we rearranged and made way for the media cabinet that used to be in your bedroom.  When we were down a few weeks ago, dad mentioned to me that he wanted to get rid of the cabinet, and Madalyn's ears perked right up.  She wants anything that came from Gammie.  Even when I mentioned painting it white or black to better match her room, she said she wanted to keep it "just like Gammie had it."  What do you say to that?

So here we are, right in the midst of summer, living it all out.  The 4th is Friday.  Gosh, how I would love to here my sweet grandmother's voice saying, "Let's barbecue some chicken."  And her homemade sauce and sweet tea and pound cake.  I hope there is pound cake in heaven.

I love you.  Always.



Friday, June 20, 2014

Mama,

It's been a while.  I haven't been able to complete a letter to you or a post on my blog in quite sometime.  Some kind of grief induced ADD, I think.  I have a lot of grief induced issues, though, that I really wish I could rid myself of.  But I will save that for another time.

It's not just the grief.  I will sit down to pick up my laptop only to find that it has been confiscated by Madalyn to watch videos of girls playing with American Girl dolls or to browse the website looking at over priced doll clothes and accessories.  And then, when I finally get the laptop back in my possession, it's almost always dead.  So if I had the notion to sit down and write, it is gone after all the trouble it takes to find the laptop.  I have now officially reached the point in motherhood where I understand that it is much easier to parent babies and toddlers than older children.  They are more easily contained and controlled.

We took a vacation a few weeks ago.  A family cruise stopping in Key West, Nassau, and Freeport.  It was fun, but we spent more money than I dreamed we would, and I got off the boat feeling completely sick to my stomach of what we could have done with the cash besides a cruise.  I stood on the beach in Freeport watching a woman peddle handmade necklaces and bracelets for a few bucks a piece while I paid $4 for a bottle of water.  Something about that doesn't sit right with me, and maybe not many people would understand that, but you would.  It feels like an injustice.  I talked with another man on the Freeport beach as he poured a cold beer into a plastic cup, the table in front of him covered in beautiful wood carvings of various shapes and sizes that his own hands had made.  As we talked, he smiled to reveal he had no front top teeth.  I asked him how he learned his craft, and he told me his grandfather beat it into him, literally beating him when he did something wrong.  He said it in jest, but I knew there was more than a grain of truth behind it.  And so I told him he was amazing and how his talent was obviously a gift from God.  He smiled the most genuine smile I had seen in a long time like he felt understood, and it was a beautiful moment.  I haven't told anyone else that story, but you would have loved to hear it.

And one night on the ship, I think maybe the night we got back from Freeport, I had gotten ice cream with Madalyn (her favorite part of the cruise, by the way... the free ice cream), and we were waiting on Scott and a couple of others to come down on the stools in between the pool and the bar.  And there was this group of couples, no kids with them at all, and one of the men was sporting his Carnival plush white robe and was obviously in charge of entertaining his friends for the night.  So I started talking to a couple of the ladies, and I asked them how it came to be that they all were able to vacation without their kids.  One woman pointed to her friend, hair very short, and said she had just finished treatment and this was their celebration.  And then I talked about you, and there were tears and hugs to go around.  I sat there on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean crying with women I will never see again.  It was such an amazing moment.  Painful, but lovely.

I went to the mailbox yesterday, and there it was.  Dad had mailed a birthday card to David who will be thirteen tomorrow.  Thirteen.  And I stood in the driveway and cried because you won't be a part of him turning thirteen.  Nor will you be a part of any conversations in the next several years about teenagery things I will have a bazillion questions and concerns about.  That really sucks, you know.  It does.

I feel like I'm treading water right now, Mama.  Like my soul is stuck out there on the ocean with no cruise ship.  I am living and doing and cooking and cleaning, but that is about it.  I'm trying to read more as it tends to preoccupy my mind.  I am just still stuck in this weird place, and the strangest of things set my heart off.

A young woman I know has been sent home with hospice care.  Just sent home to wait to die.  It's such a crazy thing thinking back on our week of waiting, what a blur it all was, how painful it felt and still feels.  And that's just it.  Every single day, we live out our course of life not knowing how today will affect our tomorrows.  Not realizing how today may actually be a day that we think about for the rest of our lives.  That family and her friends who are caring for her have no idea that in a few years they will look back over quiet painful moments and cry about them still.  They have no idea how their life is about to change.  No clue.

But I do.  I'm writing my dead mother a letter, for goodness sake.  This grief thing... it sucks.

I wish I could feel you more around me lately, but I find myself shutting off my senses trying not to feel anything at all.  But I still see you in the birds.  You have left the birds for me, and there's a lovely pair of Cardinals living in the neighbors yard.  They perch on our fence quite regularly, and I love to watch their brilliant red flash back and forth across the yard.

I love you, Mama.  I always will.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mama,

The house is quiet today.  Scott and the kids decided on a whim to go to Six Flags with some friends, and I stayed behind since I had so much to do to prepare for tomorrow.  Scott's mom, grandmother, and his brother and his family will be here for Easter lunch.  I've already got my mashed potatoes ready, and put together the banana pudding poke cake and popped it in the fridge to sit overnight.  You would love that cake.  It's all the goodness of banana pudding, but better.  So now I just need to clean the bathrooms and run the vacuum.

I didn't buy any Easter outfits this year since we won't be doing the church thing in the morning.  I'm just not in the perfectly-coordinated-pastel mood this year at all.  I do have a bunch of eggs to hide for the kids, and David is so excited to have family coming.  You know how he always loves having people in his house.  He always has.

Every thing just feels so strange right now.  I saw a man walking down the street yesterday dressed like Jesus carrying a cross on his back.  People were waving to him from inside their cars, and I did the same.  And I thought it crazy how numb I am to the meaning of anything here lately.  The sight of a pretend Jesus didn't bring up any emotion in my heart.  All I could think to myself is that you are dead.  And then I started to cry, not about the pretend Jesus with the cross but more about the fact that you are still dead.

Still dead, aren't you?

It's funny how I still have to question that.  I would think by now I'd have accepted it, but I guess there's still some tiny little speck inside of me that thinks I will pick up the phone and hear your voice, that we will go to Belk again and look for Madalyn an Easter dress, that we will go have lunch at Olive Garden.  But you're still dead, so we can't.

So I will cook a big lunch tomorrow.  Ham and mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese and green beans and purple hull peas.  I will butter store bought rolls.  I will try not to eat too much of the kids candy from their baskets.  I will try not to cry in front of anyone.  And I will just get through another day without you.

Tuesday will mark two years since you've been gone.  I can't believe it.  It just doesn't seem real.  I think it feels less real to me now than it did when I touched your cool body.  How is that possible, Mama?  How have I not gotten used to this yet?  And when will I know what to do?  When will this new life become more like normal?

So today, I've got some music playing as I cook and clean.  And I think when I am all done with my household chores, I will run to Lowe's and get some flowers for my pots.  And I will think of you in nearly every second of what I do this weekend, remembering our last Easter together, remembering you and all you were to me.

I miss you so...
Tamara

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dogwoods...

I found myself in the middle of the woods despite the threat of rain.  They are beginning to fill in with new life, above my head and below my feet.  Green bursting forth, changing the bleak grey of winter into the brilliance of spring.  And there I saw them, white and lacy, as though someone hand-painted them into the scene.

And suddenly I am back at the kitchen table.  It's the wee hours of a Sunday morning, but one unlike any I've experienced before.  My whole family is there, but it is awkwardly quiet.  She is there, still, but not the way we wanted her to be.  She was in another room with two strangers, with each passing moment her earthly body losing its natural heat.  I sit with a pamphlet in front of me.  My father had passed it to me and asked me to fill as much of it out for him as possible.  I filled in the blank spots.  Date of birth.  Names of parents and siblings.  Name of spouse, children, grandchildren.  I looked over options for head stones, some more plain, some a little feminine, one perfect.

Dogwood.  A simple design in bronze.  A few delicate dogwood flowers at each corner.  She always loved dogwoods.

I remember the one in our front yard on Croydon Road in Montgomery.  At the time, her sons were younger, more rambunctious, still enjoying an intense game of wiffle ball or football in the front yard with friends.  And she was so protective of that dogwood tree she had planted.  I remember when I moved into my home I live in now and she first noticed the budding tree line behind my house.  She pointed out the dogwoods.  I think she even joked about digging one up for herself.

So there they were, white and lacy.  The dogwoods littered the woods in the same magnificent way my memories of her permeate each day.  And suddenly the weird blend of sadness and peace rushed over me.  Only those that have grieved deeply can understand this specific blend, one occurring only upon seeing or hearing something that reminds you so much of someone who is no longer alive that it brings about an equal amount of connection and sadness.  The bitter reminder of love and loss.  It's the most bizarre experience.

And it's in the simplest things.  Dogwoods and Cadbury Eggs and Christmas ornaments and recipes.  It's not limited to the traditional holidays and the birthdays and the anniversary days.  And now that I have lived it and felt it and grief has breathed its ugly hot breath in my face for so long that I want to scream every single day of my life, I will love differently because of it.  It's all different from that one point forward in a way I wasn't prepared for, in a way I could never be prepared for.

Dear Lord, I thank you for the mother I mourn, as I know she was a gift You gave to me, one in which some are not blessed to have in their lives.  I pray for those around me every day who are hurting in this quiet lonely way I have come to understand, for those that see the dogwoods and fight back the tears, for those who carry on with the bandages over their open wounds so no one can see.  I pray for them though I know not who they are.  I pray Your peace and comfort and patience rain down on them, sustain them.  In Your Son's Holy and Precious Name, may it BE Lord.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mama,

It hit me today in the seasonal aisle at Walmart as I walked among the pastel colored M&Ms and little bunny shaped chocolates.  I saw them, the Cadbury eggs, and the tears welled up inside my eyes unexpectedly.  All I wanted to do was pick up a few things for the kids Easter basket, a holiday that, for some reason, this year I would just rather skip over all together.  But I thought if I went ahead and got the things I need it would just be out of the way.

So I stood there looking at the Cadbury eggs remembering how we used to call each other at the first sighting.  How you or me, whichever saw them first, would buy a pack and share them with each other.  How we both loved chocolate so dearly.  York peppermint patties, Snicker bars, Three Muskateers, and Butterfingers.  And it's like all these memories come flooding in all at once.  And suddenly I am 18 again, and we are sitting at the counter at our old house eating together.  Or we are at the Dairy Queen eating a Blizzard.  It's nothing all that special really, but the fact that it was you and me, mom and daughter, enjoying one another so much... that's what made it so unique.

Damn, I miss that.

Easter is two days before the second anniversary of your death this year.  And, to be honest, Mama, I don't even know if I can handle going to church this year.  I just don't thing I can bear it.  There will be music, and I will lose my composure.  And I just don't want to feel anything right now.  I just want to let it all pass.  To buy the candy for the baskets, to fill them up for the big fake bunny, and to move on.  Just move on.

Someone told me that after the second year mark of losing their dad, things seemed to get easier.  I hope that's true for me, too.  I have tried so hard to keep my head above water, to honor your strength and integrity while you were fighting cancer, but the past several months, it's just been harder.  I miss the way things should be.  Even though I am all grown up with kids of my own, I still feel like I need your wisdom and support.

I bought two Cadbury eggs today.  I ate one on the way home.  It was so good.  And I can't help but think you're enjoying lots of tasty sweets without this stupid worldly worry of gaining weight.  And I can't wait to be there with you some day enjoying a perfect place with no grief or sorrow.

I love you still even though you're gone.

Always,
Your baby girl

Friday, March 14, 2014

In dreams...

I grew up in a house full of music.  My dad would pull out a stack of LPs, power up the turntable, put the needle down, and crank up the volume.  The air was full of emotion, notes, voices all melding together in beautiful harmony, and I would spin and twirl in the middle of the floor of our den like I was the only girl in the world.  For the most part, the voice I heard was Roy Orbison, a musician my father followed from his adolescence.  This was music unlike what we hear now days; it was real, unaltered, pure and full of humanity.

This morning, one particular song came to my mind, and Roy himself sang every word in my mind.

A candy colored-clown they call the Sandman,
Tiptoes to my room every night.
Just to sprinkle star dust and to whisper, 
"Go to sleep, everything is alright." 

I dreamt of her last night.  I've only had a handful of these type dreams of her since she's been dead.  Most of the ones I had shortly after my mother's passing were about her dying, that we were in a room around her, or that I was trying to find her in a hospital.  They were stressful and unpleasant, so any dream I have of her that is pleasant is such a welcomed blessing.

I close my eyes
And I drift away
Into the magic night
I softly say
A silent prayer
Like dreamers do
Then I fall asleep
To dream my dreams of you.

Last night, we (meaning me, my mother, and my children) were at a store that seemed somewhat like Target.  We walked the aisles of makeup looking at lipstick and blush.  And then I moved over to the card aisle looking for a birthday card for someone.  And after we left the store, my mom and I went to a church to attend a wedding.  It was strange; I didn't know who was getting married, but my mother did, so I was just along for the ride.  And once this wedding was over, we went back to her house and the whole place was decorated for Christmas.  There were trees everywhere, lots of trees, filled with lights and ornaments.  There were even trees hanging upside down from the ceiling and ornaments strung on clear wire hanging down all around us.  It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  I walked around looking at everything, and I finally asked my mom who had done all the decorating.  She said, "Felicia had it done for me."  And then I found myself riding a horse around our old neighborhood in Montgomery, riding down each street.  And then I woke up.

In dreams, I walk with you
In dreams, I talk to you
In dreams, you're mine
All of the time
We're together
In dreams, in dreams

But just before the dawn
I awake and find you gone
I can't help it, I can't help it
If I cry
I remember that you said
Goodbye

And I woke, lying still under the warmth of my covers, eyes shut.  And in that tiny fraction of a second, I felt like I had really been with her, that her very presence was still there, holding on to me.  And it was the most beautiful moment I've had in a very long time.

Perhaps she chose to come to me.  Maybe my Father knew I needed her and so he placed her in my mind as I slept.  I don't know; I never will understand the concept of dreams.  But I needed that time with her so desperately, and it felt so real.  So real.

It's too bad that all these things
Can only happen in my dreams
Only in dreams
In beautiful dreams.


Friday, March 7, 2014

684 days...

It's been 684 days since my mother died.

Sometimes, I do a quick google search to find out how many days it has been since I lost my mother.  It's part curiosity, but mainly I guess I do it to remind myself of how many days I have made it through without her.  Because before she was gone, I didn't think I could make it one single day.

Six-hundred, eighty four.

There have been good days, filled with laughter and fun.  On those days, somehow I manage to push her loss to the back of my mind, or maybe I find myself doing something that reminds me so much of her that it brings me joy.

There have been days black as midnight, so dark with grief and sadness that I wished them away, for the promise of tomorrow brings about a hope not found in the depths of grief.

Most days have been in the middle, though.  Not too happy, not too sad.  The burden of grief evenly yoked around my neck, not too cumbersome.  It's there, and it's heavy, but it is manageable.

Someone asked me recently how I was doing.  I replied, "I'm doing okay... just getting by."  To this person, my statement sounded sad, and they immediately expressed I needed to do more than merely get by.  But what they don't understand is that I consider it an accomplishment.

To them, I am just getting by.  To me, I have made it 684 days without going insane, without giving in to complete despair and depression, without drinking myself into the ground.  There have been many days I've wanted to curl back up in the bed after my husband and kids have left for the day.  But I haven't.  There have been days I wanted to make a drink at noon and just wash it all away for the day.  But I didn't.  There have been days when the grief and the memories strangely mix together and swirl around in my head in such a way that I think I will go crazy.  But I am still of sound mind.

I have lived in the world 684 days without my mother.  And it has been so hard, probably the hardest days of my life.  And as I look back over them all, I know I have had a Power on my side.  I can't make sense of why He even bothers with me sometimes as much as I let Him down and screw up.  But He hasn't let me go.  And it has been a while since I've just taken a moment to thank Him for what He has done for me.

Jesus... I so graciously thank you for holding me up, for loving me, for saving me in so many ways even though I will never deserve it.  I could not have made it through one single day without You on my side.  Thank you.  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Glancing back...

The soul inside me is constantly aware, whether I would like to be or not, of her, of the story we lived out in real life.  The battle.  The up and down movement of energy and hope and faith and fear.  It all melded together and became distorted after she died, and now I live it out in vivid memories left imprinted in my mind forever.

Some memories are unpleasant, but they connect me nonetheless to her soul, her life here.  And I am thankful for every memory I have of her whether good or bad.

Two years ago today we learned my mother had a massive brain tumor.  It was an awful day.  I have no other word in my humble vocabulary to describe it other than awful.  I remember my brother's voice on the other end of the line.  I remember hitting my knees when I hung up the phone, hitting my knees and pressing my forehead to the carpet below me in complete despair.  Complete despair.

There are few times in life that one feels that sort of pain.  Only the deepest love can produce an equal amount of pain.  I had experienced the shocking news of a diagnosis, of the ups and downs of my mother's cancer treatment, but nothing had prepared me for that very moment, the one in which I thought we were losing her, that this was that moment I had been afraid of all this time.

I look back on the weeks that followed the discovery of the brain tumor and her surgery.  The roller coaster we rode in the three weeks that followed that tumor diagnosis were heart wrenching, exhausting, unforgettable.  And two years out from the experience, I see things a little more clearly.  I see little moments in which God was preparing me for the last week of mother's life.  I see tiny specks of beautiful.  I see love unlike I've ever experienced before.

And so, I am reminded, that no matter what battle we find ourselves in the middle of presently, there are tiny specks of beautiful.  Tiny, tiny, indeed, but there.  It may takes years to notice them.  Perhaps when flipping through the memories in our minds we notice little details we had missed before, and we see the beautiful then, and only then, once we have been removed from the pain of the moment.  And we begin to view things from the place of the little flecks of love and hope we had to wait for.

For we know that all things work together for the good of those that love the Lord.

We know that, but when we are asked to live it, to accept it...  it's hard.  That's not an incredibly poetic statement, it's hard, but it happens to be true.  Life is hard and full of hardships, both big and small.  But we can rest in the knowledge that if we have faith in the unseen, all these things begin to form the lovely picture of our life.  Even the ugly things have their purpose.  My mother's brain tumor and surgery prepared me to take care of her in her final days of life.  It conditioned me to the things I would need to do in caring for her physically, conditioned my heart to rely on God for strength, conditioned my brain to focus on what was important in the present moment and not think too far ahead.

We know.  We are certain.  That every little thing will work together.  And it will be hard, at times unpleasant and ugly.  But when we glance over our shoulder at the past, we will find it glittered with the little bits of lovely He brilliantly intertwined.  And we will turn our heads forward and carry on.

It hurts and feels so wonderful at the same time, carrying on.  And today, I glance back two years ago when life looked so different from my today.  And I believe that things will continue to fit together brilliantly if I can only keep my eyes on Him.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Squeaky doors and other broken things...

I opened the squeaky door and trailed in behind David, pulling it closed behind me.  And I wondered, as I have every single time I have stepped into this orthodontist office, why they don't have the door fixed so that it doesn't squeak and would actually close on its own as it should.  David clicked his name into the computer, and we sat down on the leather sofa against the wall waiting for him to be called back.  The braces were coming off today.

He went back, and I knew I had a while to wait.  They said it would take about an hour to remove the braces and fit the retainer, so I pulled my phone out and began to piddle around.  And her voice carried across the room even though she was trying to be quiet.  She was on her phone, and her intensity permeated the atmosphere of the room.  Though I couldn't make out most of what she was saying, I could catch a phrase here or there.

No... it's my fault.
I can't make you happy.
I've tried and tried.
It's my fault.
I accept you as you are.
I just can't please you.

I tried to be inconspicuous about my attempts to eaves drop.  It was heartbreaking but fascinating, the same way I feel if I pass a wreck on the interstate or see the brightly painted lines showing where one has been.  I feel the need to know more though it's none of my business at all.

The only other person in the waiting room was a young boy, maybe my son's age or a year younger.  He had lovely blonde hair that looked kissed by the sun at the tail end of this brutal winter.  He will be a looker one day.  His narrow nose and high cheek bones along with the blonde hair will turn heads.  He sat alone in a dark brown leather chair with a sketch book in his hand.  If he had a pencil, it must have been in his pocket, because I never saw it.  The woman and boy didn't look like they belonged together in the way most moms and sons do.  She had hair as dark as the deep brown leather furniture, and his was the beachy blonde, and they looked completely unfamiliar to one another.  And so I studied them both trying to piece the scene together.

The woman's conversation continued, and I felt increasingly uncomfortable.  Why did she continue to argue over the phone?  Was it not something that could wait until a private conversation could be had?  But then I noticed her wiping tears from her eyes behind the long dark hair she was trying to use as a curtain.  And I realized that she was so broken, hurting, hopeless that she didn't even realize there was anyone else in the room.

She finally got up, walked outside the squeaky door, and I saw her face through the window.  Tired.  Weeping.  The boy never looked up or moved.  Others came in and checked into the little computer, little sets of braces going in and out to be tweeked and tightened.  I fixed myself a cup of complimentary coffee and sat back down.

The woman came back in, done with her conversation and pulled together.  She checked the screen of her phone and then pulled out her laptop and began working away at something.  One of the ladies from the back came and got her to come talk to the orthodontist about her son that was still in the chair. The woman finally addressed the blonde boy asking him to watch her stuff, so that confirmed to me that they were indeed together.  He sat down in her seat and waited until she walked back, and then he pulled up the top of the computer to see what she was typing.  He put it back down and just looked around the room never making eye contact with anyone or uttering a word.

Have you ever empathetically hurt for someone you don't even know?  I did in that moment, for the woman, for the boy, for the man at the other end of the phone call, for the family falling apart.  I have no idea what the details to their situation are and never will, but they are painful.

I can't make you happy.
I just can't please you.

Her words echo in my mind still this morning.  I have been that broken before.  Maybe our situation was not the same, the details different, but the brokenness the very same.

I'm not good enough.
I can't do anything right.

And when you begin to say them long enough, out loud or inside, you begin to believe them as utter truth.  And once the lies become truth to you, the hope seems so far away that it's untouchable.  And when hope is that far away, you can sit in a room of people and activity and never realize you're not alone.

I thought about trying to pray with her, but the opportunity just didn't present itself, and the overall situation just didn't feel right.  So I decided to pray for this woman and the blonde boy and anyone else effected by this situation.  And I can't get her off my mind, the look in her eyes and on her face.

Broken.  There are so many of us broken, each in varying degrees.  Some have superglued and patched things up and try their best to hold it all together in shape.  Some have just let it go and lie in a pile of rubble.  Some are in between those states, missing a piece here or there.  Truth is, if we are living in a sinful world, we are broken.

And, most times, all one broken spirit can do for another is pray.  And, thankfully, He intercedes for us and interprets our meager attempts at pleading for another spirit into beautiful petitions.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for.  But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will.    {Romans 8:26-27}

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The angry part...

These moments come over me, completely unexpected and uninvited.  An anger rushes over me followed by a wash of sadness, and then the tears flow.

It can be anything, any big or small situation that I would have talked over with my mom.  It didn't matter whether she had advice to lend or words of wisdom.  Her listening and her reassurance always made everything seem better.  Even though the situation at hand hadn't changed one bit, just talking to her about made it feel more in focus, conquerable, smaller.

I miss that.

I'm angry that I don't have that anymore.

My person is gone.  There's not a person out there that fills this spot for me.  And I doubt there ever will be again.

And that's what brings the sadness.  The grief wells up again like it comes from some eternal spring, and I find myself wanting to scream, to throw something against a wall and watch it break into a million pieces, to hit the floor and sob, to do all these things at the same time.

Instead, I find a quiet corner.  I cry a little.  I blow my nose and return to my daily functions hoping no one will see that I've been crying.

Is this a normal way of dealing with loss?  I don't know.  It's the pattern I am in, though.  Whether or not it's healthy or normal or right, I certainly don't know.  But it's what I do to get through these little inner temper tantrums of grief.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

And the snow came down...

This winter has perhaps been the coldest, most brutal I have ever experienced here in the south.  I have worn gloves more times in the past two months than I have in the past five years.  I have discovered the value of the heated steering wheel feature in my car.  Even the wild life in my yard realizes the depths of our cold... I watched a squirrel remove the cotton stuffing from a chair cushion on my back deck, filling his cheeks with it, and scurrying off to pad his nest.

And so, last week, when the forecast called for bitter cold and a stretch of a few days without peaking above freezing, I think we all collectively rolled our eyes and sighed heavily.  We southerners are not made for this sort of thing.  And to add insult to injury, the forecast called for snow in the southernmost regions of our state with a mere dusting here.  

"Good," I thought as I watched the weather man show off his fancy computer generated model of accumulation predictions.  "They can have the snow.  I don't want any of it."

While regions south of here cancelled school, we woke up and went about our normal routines on Tuesday morning with the weather man reiterating his forecast of a light dusting of snow with little to no accumulation.  Around 9:30 that morning, I sat writing out a shopping list for an afternoon Publix trip, and I noticed the little flakes beginning to fall.  Within thirty minutes, I stood at the window with my head cocked to the side wondering if my eyes were deceiving me.  Not only was our dusting accumulating, it was accumulating on the streets and concrete.  

The school put out the call by 10:15 for early dismissal at noon, a time they quickly bumped up to 11:30 as we all watched, puzzled, the snow sticking to everything it touched and the number of flakes falling multiplying exponentially.  

Our region was perplexed, completely caught off guard, and unprepared for what would become an infamous winter storm.  

Bus routes were cancelled leaving thousands of children at school waiting on someone to pick them up.  The busy downtown area and surrounding outskirts of Birmingham were a gridlock as thousands of people tried to get home.  News anchors were perplexed, and lots of them were a part of the madness on the streets, broadcasting live from their positions all over town.  People took to Facebook for all kinds of reasons, some trying to find rides for their loved ones trapped by the snow and ice, some complaining and blaming and dissatisfied with the state of unpreparedness.  Our local meteorologists were slightly embarrassed.  

But in the midst of the literal paralysis of our region, there is much to learn.  

We, collectively as entitled Americans, have gotten used to fancy weather models and computer generated forecasts.  We have apps on our phones that can give us predictions of what our day will look like down to the very hour.  We can view radar in the click of a link.  And we feel that the weather gods, if I may be so bold as to name them that, those who study and analyze and report data and information to us and receive a paycheck for those duties... that said weather gods feed us the right forecast every time.  And when things don't go as we've been told they will, someone is to blame.

Now, I'm not a big political person, but I love what our governor said about the event of Tuesday, January 28th.  He reminded us that "only God knew what would happen" that day.  How simplistically refreshing.  And that is precisely what I hope many will learn from the string of events of the unexpected snow day in Alabama.

I remember a time when I accepted science as fact.  In school, I memorized laws and rules and equations, and I accepted them as truth.  But what those textbook definitions and explanations don't factor in is reality, the unexpected, unanticipated.  When I listened to a weather man on a local station here explain that it has never snowed in our region with this low of a temperature, I thought to myself, "Fascinating."  All the conditions have to properly align for it to snow in Alabama, and they weren't lined up in the way that science says is necessary to produce snow, and so we were caught off guard.  Because in science, some things don't follow the expected course.  Not everything in nature follows the rules all the time.  

I think back to a phone call during my mother's battle with cancer, a time in which I learned painfully that science is not exact.  My mother's cancer had spread to her liver despite the fact that she was on a non-chemo medication to basically starve out her disease.  I remember being angry... angry at the doctor because how could he have not anticipated this, and angry at the medicine that was supposed to work with data and research and trials backing up its efficiency.  Someone was to blame, and they should pay, because now that the cancer was in her liver, she was terminal.  And it had to be someone's fault, someone's mistake, something that we could have and should have controlled.

I had a lot to learn.  I listened as my father told me that, for some reason, my mother's cancer didn't react to the treatment in the way that the majority of patients reacted.  She was in that minority of unpredictability.  Her cancer did not respond in the same pattern as the majority of other patients with the very same type of cancer as hers.  And the doctors didn't know why.  

Oh.  I didn't realize that was an option with all the millions of dollars poured over research and computers and modern technology.  I just didn't take into account that there would still be the huge surprising unknowns, and that the unknown would be affecting my life in such a real way.  Like my mom's cancer and ultimately the loss of her life.

Like that snow storm.  The continuous sheet of unexpected ice over every paved surface.  The families separated, parents sleeping in churches and grocery stores and kids sleeping on the floor of their school library.  Waking up on Wednesday morning and looking over the contents of the pantry and fridge and getting creative because you won't be making it to the store.  Schools being closed for three days.  Everything was completely thrown off by the unexpected.  And there was nothing anyone could do about it.  You could either accept it or complain about it.  

Here's the thing about when good people, people with character and belief in something bigger than themselves, are met with the unexpected.  They do what they need to do without any thought.  They are of service to the people in need around them.  They take care of the necessary and don't waste time on the things they can't change.  They look around and say, "What can we do to make this better?" 

I saw that in my mother when she got the news that her cancer had spread.  I remember her voice on the other end of the line, "This is not good news, but I don't want you to worry about me.  I'm going to be okay."  Because, truth is, someone without faith would say she's not okay, she died.  But she knew that no matter what came her way, God would equip her with what she needed to make it through it.  And He did.  He did that for us all.  I look back and think of days and experiences and I know in my heart it was Him who carried me through it... I would never have been able to make it through so many of those painful experiences without His presence.  

And that's just it.  A life of faith in God is not perfect.  It is still a victim of the unexpected storms that life throws our way.  But,if in the midst of any situation of life we can stop and say, "I'm going to be okay.  Because of God's strength and mercy, I will be okay," I think we've begun to comprehend what living this life is all about.  And I say begun to comprehend because I don't think we can ever fully arrive at a complete understanding of life until our life has ended.  So much simply doesn't make sense here on earth.  And that's okay, too.  I don't have to get it all to know that I will be okay.

I'm a living breathing testimony to the fact that His peace is not only available to the perfect, shiny, church-going Christians that seem to have all the answers and appear to be more worthy.  It's available to anyone who wants to believe and embrace it.  It's a choice, one you have to make every single day.  Some days, I choose wisely to believe that He can give me whatever I need to make it through the trials of my day.  Other days, the not so valiant ones, I choose to try to tackle things myself by planning and controlling and worrying.  It's no surprise which days turn out the best for this imperfect and undeserving soul.

Choose to have faith in Him that He will carry you through whether it be a snowstorm, cancer, divorce, financial stress, disappointment, whatever the problem may be.  He is big enough.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Nine years old...

Madalyn,

You turned nine yesterday.  Nine years old.

Seems like yesterday I held up in the tiny examining room crying my eyes out after my doctor told me you weren't ready to be induced yet.  It was just a day or so until your due date, and I was so ready to not be pregnant anymore.  And when he left me in the room to get dressed and leave and go back home, still pregnant and no induction date on the books, I wept like crazy, this ugly kind of cry.  And I had to get myself together so no one in the office would know I had been so upset.

Seems like yesterday but such a world away at the same time.  Things were so different then.

And you were born.  On a frigid day at Brookwood hospital.  It was raining outside.  I had laid in that hospital bed all day watching, of all things, the Food Network despite the fact that I couldn't have any real food.  Sometime around 5:00 or so, you entered the world all perfect and crying and pink.  We were all smitten with you from the very start.

I was so young, insecure, still so uncertain of what I was doing.  And I was so scared of having a girl.  And there you were, bright eyed and beautiful.  And somehow I knew it would all be okay.  And I hoped I wouldn't mess you up too much.

At the time, I had no idea that I would be raising you without my own mother by my side, helping me, giving me advice, encouraging me along the way.  But here we are with that reality.  I know that she is still with us, especially when you talk about her at the most random times.  I hope that one day you will realize how hard she fought to stick around for her grandkids so that you would all remember her.  I hope that one day you will look back, hear her story, and realize her strength and grace.  I hope that you will be more like her than me, because she was so much better a person than I have ever dreamed of being.

Some think you look a lot like me.  And I guess you do.  Only prettier than I could ever be.  And sassier and more sure of yourself.  And I hope you stay that way.  Don't ever doubt who you are.  Ever.  Don't ever believe someone if they tell you that you aren't good enough or smart enough or enough of anything.  Because, believe me when I say that someone, someday, will try to convince you that you are not enough.  But don't you dare believe a word of it.  You are greater than anything in my mind.  And in the Lord's eyes.  You are amazing, and anyone who doesn't believe that is not worthy of your time.

Remember your roots.  Strong but quiet women who loved from the depths of their soul.  There's nothing quiet about you now, my dear, but I have no doubt that you will learn the benefits of gentleness one day.  You will learn the value of picking your battles and using words sparingly without ever having to bow down to a necessary fight.  Beyond all this, remember you are loved by those on earth and in heaven.  I believe that our loved ones in heaven are able to intercede for us, and that gives you a special advantage as you have two amazing angels watching over you from above.

Oh, my sweet daughter, this world you live in is crazy and confusing.  I fret about you, think about your future, wonder if I am getting this parenting thing even half way right.  And in the quiet moments of life, you remind me that things are okay.  In the way that you do something so simply thoughtful or say that you love me when I least expect it.  You are such a handful and a mess at times, but you are a lovely little person.  And I hope that we will be thick as thieves one day, that you will see me as a woman who so desperately loves you and wants the very best for you.  I hope that we will be as close as I was with my mama, that I can be your soft place to fall, your calming force.

I love you more than I ever dreamed possible to love another living thing...

Love,
Your Crazy Mama