"She stood in the storm; and when the winds came...she adjusted her sails" Elizabeth Edwards
Easter Sunday-A day to reflect on so many things. It is the point in the story of the Bible where everything morphs. A mystical man walked the earth 2000 ago, and stories were told of the miracles that had happened during his days on earth. He was tangible. People were able to see, touch, and feel his love. He died and inhumane death on the cross,and in a moment of relentless pain, prayed "forgive them, for they know not what they have done."
According to scripture, he arose from his death and came to others to be "tangible" just one more time.
It was the moment when true "faith was born. For centuries, the people of the world found their faith, not by, what they saw, what they did, or who they were, but the spirit that lived in their souls.
I am a widow...Nothing is tangible about my husband now, except the tennis shoes in his closet that had green grass stains on them from yard work. He was here and cut the grass....tangible.
He has been gone 8 years. I have written a book on grief and loss, witnessed the marriages of my three daughter, and the birth of 5 grandchildren. My life also found its way into a gambling addiction to numb the pain. A life that almost destroyed me. Crazy..."forgive her, for she knows not what she has done.
The journey of recovery has been rocky and yet wonderful. I held on every day to find a way to love myself...to understand that it is OK not to understand death. It's not my job. God's working on that one. My only job is breath and have faith. Easter; the great miraculous "Do-over, mulligan, and unconditional love"
My reason for sharing this story to tell you all, that YOU all are my tangibility. We all have Band-aides on our hearts and understand each others fears and pain. Easter....it is the seasonI feel some hope, whatever that means for you. Take a walk, look into your own eyes in the mirror for three minutes...and love what is staring back at you. You are tangible and loved. My heart is with you my dear friend. Happy Easter. Enjoy what is "tangible" for you. Eat some chocolate and hug a loved one.
The "TO DO" List. They are good for the bereaved brain most of the time. For me, grief made me forgetful. Oh crap, I didn't put out the trash, or where are my car keys!! The "To Do" list became a bit necessary. Then I found one day as I looked at my list, that the thought of doing any one of those things staring back at me was overwhelming, and I felt I was becoming a "drone" 'In a world that I didn't understand anymore. I had hit a wall with the "to do" list of life. It felt like a train putting on the brakes and the wheels came screeching to a halt. There was nothing that important TO DO in this empty shell of a life. I sat there staring at my list crying, "What am I gonna do if I can even attempt my to do list anymore?" But then it occurred to me, I need to change the name of my list.
The TO DO list was going to now be called the To "WANT" To Do list. Some days my Want To Do list consists of...LAUNDRY..WATCHING BIRDS..TAKING OUT THE GARBAGE...READING A GOOD BOOK..GOING TO THE POST OFFICE....EATING CHOCOLATE. My To Want To Do list became filled things that "Drones" could not do, but those with hearts, even though broken can do. Self care...it is the most important thing on your list everyday.
Somedays I think of my friends and people in my life who are recovering from loss. For me the hardest part of the grief process in my own emotional changes. I don't feel the same. I feel rocked to the core and it has become hard on somedays to look in the mirror.
One day, I looked into the mirror as I was preparing for my day. The mascara wand was in my hand and the curing iron light was blinking and I just stopped cold as I looked in the myself.
Who is that woman? I looked deeply into my own eyes. They were still green. I had the same nose, mouth, freckles and laugh lines that I had looked at everyday, but for the first time but I looked like a stranger to myself.
It was a surreal moment. I just stared into my own eyes.. Was I in there? Where did I go? I just kept staring and staring as if I stared long enough some wonderful understanding would fall on me. I didn't that day.
Every day after that I decided I would spend time looking into my own eyes trying to figure it out. One day the world "Dignity" came to me. Although I felt like such a puddle of nothingness, dignity was what I saw. Whoever eyes that I was looking in the mirror at, was working hard every day to put the pieces back together. She still had virtues hopes and dreams. She was digging deep to make sense of the world.
Whoever I am now, no matter how happy sad or confused I am, is still deserving of hope and moments of self discovery.
Grief is not a perfect process. Especially this time of year. There is not a right or wrong way and no one gets to do your grief but you. It was your relationship and memories. Others who loved the one you grieve had their memories, but they are not yours. There is no beginning, middle, or end. Your heart is just on this continuum of emotion. It is especially hard during the holidays, you know when everything is supposed to be perfect. You know, the Currier and Ives holiday of blissful happiness. How should I act when I am with people? Do I try to get that damn tree up? I suppose I "should" make some Christmas cookies...blah blah blah...when all you want to do is be a puddle
The best thing in my opinion is to step back and breath. Perfection is not the yardstick for success of getting through this time of year. Learning to be pliable, step back to reassess life and adjust accordingly is the ultimate success.
This picture I took the day of my father's funeral last year. Besides my husband, it was the most devastating loss . I went for a walk that day and shot this picture. I didn't really know why I took that picture. But the beauty of the snow made me feel good. When I got home and looked at the pic I saw this cross. A cross.....A cross! I keep this picture close because it reminds me of the light that comes in those moments when I am calm, completely imperfect, allow myself to feel....and know I am OK...Successfully imperfect.....beautiful "
I am finding the stumbling and tripping in my world, has subtly turned into a cautious look down at my feet before I step. My inability to understand a new day, has subtly turned into a deep breath, a smile, and patient courage. My life has been spattered by an occasional visit from the Welcome Wagon; new and wonderful people who have entered my life, and has given me opportunity say hello to the world again, and the people it. “hello!”
I believe one thing with all my heart now. When people die, there is a great exchange that takes place. I believe that no one takes the journey alone as they leave this world, and no one walks the journey of survival alone. Those who have kindred spirits, and have shared the gift of love, exchange a bit of their souls at the time of death. It’s as if there is a Golden Thread of love and energy that keeps us all on the this amazingly powerful and strong continuum. I believe we are all inter woven. It’s why it takes a village to raise a child, and why it is said. “When two or more are gathered in His name” there is love. It’s why we get to feel those we lost in our hearts, It’s how they make their journey into heaven and most importantly, it’s how we make our journey back to our new world and find our joy, because we get to bring a thread of them with us.
The greatest gift we receive in this world is that of love. It is our connection to others souls. The Golden Thread; it keeps us all connected , the ultimate “pay if forward” that continues to reinvent the cloth of our heart
I don't know where my path will lead, but I know I have one. We all do. And for you and me they have taken us through deep dark places. But we are still on the path. And that path is a gift..even though we cannot see past the horizon, we have learned to find a strong walking stick in others who help us along the way. Every day we put one foot in front of the other. And with every step we become stronger because of those friends who become our walking sticks. I am profoundly thankful for the power and strength of my walking stick. Although the horizon is indeed unknown territory, I walk my walk one step at a time. Fear thrives in what is unknown, but it is what we do know and have learned along the way that gives us strength and the ability to keep moving forward. And placing one step in front of the other turns our fears into hope, and it is in that hope we find the ability to celebrate the journey.
Widows and Dining....I have been thinking about this for a couple of days. I have gotten into a horrible habit since my husband died. I live alone so its just me...all day...every meal. I have this awesome place on my couch that screams "safety zone". I write books there, make phone calls there, crochet there, and cry there. But the thing I do the most is EAT all my meals there. My dishwasher is full of Tupperware...no plates. I use to make huge dinners for my family and friends and my kitchen table was the center of the universe...now it is bare. Since I am recovering from a scary shit depression, I've decided to make subtle changes in my life and leave the couch and force myself to sit at the table again. Last night for dinner I had a bowl of soup in a bowl, with a placemat....and a flower on the table just for kicks and giggles. I made myself find a moment of normalacy. It was hard but it felt nice for lack of a better word. We deserve a table setting, a table, and an understanding that we are all capable of small changes when we are ready.
Thank you everyone for being my friend. I have shared a lot with you, intimate and personal things because I know you are the ones who will always be "safe". I truly felt I was the only one who could fall down the rabbit hole of "self sabotage" that badly. I saw my therapist and she told me that perhaps it was safer to hurt my self than let anyone or anything hurt me again.Sort of beat them to the punch if you will. hmmm. From all the posts I read I realized there is a silent epidemic in our world of widows who suffer from serious chronic ailments to to stress and trauma. Did you know that there are 11.7 million widows in America and 1/3 of them are diagnosed with severe clinical depression the first year after loss , 1/2 of those women are still clinically depressed 3 years later. Thats ahell of a lot of women and a hell of a lot of rabbit holes. The medical/mental health/church community need to step up. There is no rescue team year 2, or 4, or 10, to come help you when you have devoured a gallon of ice cream or drank a fifth of scotch, or haven't gotten out of bed. I don't know if there are any answers accept to reach out when you can. The whole visual of it all just saddens me. Being a friend is free, having a friend is priceless. Take care of yourselves
PRECIOUS CARGO-A MEMORIAL DAY CELEBRATION
By Catherine Capra-Leaf Excerpt from "And Therin Lies the Grace"
As I drove into the cemetery this morning, the air smelled fresh as if it had been preparing for company. The bright sun reflected off beautiful flags adorning the roadside leading into the gates and it took my breath away. This would be a day to celebrate the bravest of the brave, who lie in the fresh air of this place; their permanent “home” of the brave. Memorial Day is a day for cemeteries visits and remembrance. In my passenger seat were three small American Flags, one for each of our daughters, and a beautiful pot of flowers to mark the beginning of the season of “summer in the cemetery” I sat in my car for a moment to catch my breath; it was never an easy visit for me. I looked at all the granite stones emerging from the ground with names, dates, and artifacts adorning them, then I looked at my own three artifacts and understood the importance of putting something intangible in the most intangible of places. A lesson I learned in a moment watching an old gentlemen holding a handful of flags, who taught me one of the most important lessons of my grief. “Death is a part of life, and so is remembrance, and it what keeps those we have lost in our hearts forever”.
It was a beautiful spring day, the kind we all wait for after a hard and long winter in Minnesota. I was driving down the street in my home town of White Bear Lake, where there were hundreds of American Flags lining the streets. Patriotic Pride is an emotion that is hard to describe, yet when it comes upon us, our eyes always steam with tears.
I parked my car and found a park bench near the lakefront and local VFW. The day was too beautiful not to stop. The park was a Veterans Memorial Park. It was beautifully ordained with statues, memorialized quotes of great Americans carved into granite, and in the back round there were fathers fishing with children of the rod iron fishing dock. I caught an elderly uniformed gentleman out of the corner of my eye walk out of the local VFW hall with his veteran’s hat on that was full of pins and embroidered patriotic words. He looked very frail and was walking slowly, but with such a sense of purpose. He was carrying an arm full of flags, and a heart full of emotion. This was a soldier. Although his body had long ago given way to old age, he was a brave man who served his country during a war in time when his body was young and strong. It was a time when he saw unthinkable things and spent the rest of his life trying to remember Old Glory when faced with death and the unthinkable. And ironically, a lifetime of trying to forget. He was walking toward a young man waiting by a car for him who wore a uniform from a much different war. He was a young man whose plight and sacrifices were evident when he walked over to the old soldier. The young man greeted him with a big smile and a handshake. His titanium legs seemed unimportant as they shared a moment that only soldiers understood. The young man took the flags and respectfully and painstakingly laid them in the back seat of the car, careful not to wrinkle them and keep them safe as they took them where they needed to be. He then carefully and respectfully helped the old man into his car. Precious cargo.
As the car drove away, I couldn’t help but wonder where they were going. But I knew it was an important moment. They were preparing for the “day of remembering” I thought in that moment, that I would never truly understand their “remembering” All of us, who never served, will never understand the truest meaning of sacrifice. The truest meaning of the American Flag, and what it really meant to fight for it. It was an incredible moment of awakening for me. As I watched these two soldiers, my eyes filled with tears, and I thought of my father who was a quiet survivor; a highly decorated veteran and a very personal reason for celebrating this day.The handshake of these two soldiers impacted my life. Although I find myself with a new found compassion for our heroes, I will never fully understand the dichotomy of the importance of a hero’s remembrance, and their lifetime of trying to forget.
As I looked down at the passenger seat, I saw three little American flags, my own precious cargo waiting to be put into a beautiful pot of flowers. I thought and smiled to myself, I too, carefully brought important little flags to where they needed to be. With my husband and my children’s father. An important remembrance of my own. And so on a weekend that welcomes the start of the summer, backyard parties, and grave site visits, all we can really do is remember them, their sacrifices, and hold them near to our hearts. I love you Dad…God Bless America.