A Gift

This month two of my friends will mark the first anniversary of the death of their husbands.

Anniversaries are hard for many reasons. It’s been my experience very few people remember these types of uncomfortable dates, especially after the first year has passed–even fewer remember as time moves slowly on.

In fear of doing something wrong and/or dragging up more pain, most will opt to do nothing.

If, like me, know someone who has had a difficult loss, I believe the best gift you can give them is time.

With all the modern technologies literally at our fingertips, it’s so easy to pick up the cell phone and leave a voice message or send a text. This type of non-intrusive message gives the person the space and luxury of answering immediately or waiting until he or she is ready. Plus, in a matter of minutes, your grieving friend knows someone remembers and is thinking of them.

Reach out, my friends, because it’s a road we will all walk down in one way or another.

Help me, God, to listen with my entire being. When I am in pain, give me the courage to trust others enough to bare my heart to them. And when there is no one to listen, hear me, God. Hear me and heal me. Amen

Rabbi Naomi Levy, To Begin Again

I am…

B…simply being.   

~Peace be with you.~

 

Remembering

“It sucks that we miss people like that. You think you’ve accepted that someone is out of your life, that you’ve grieved and it’s over, and then bam. One little thing, and you feel like you’ve lost that person all over again.” 

Rachel Hawkins, Demonglass

I don’t think time means much when it comes to grief.

Twelve years ago last week I said good-bye to my sister, Beth, for the last time. Even after all this time I miss her every day.

A prayer written by Rabbi Naomi Levy fits days like these perfectly.

A Memorial Prayer  

I haven’t forgotten you, even though it’s been some time now since I’ve seen your face, touched your hand, heard your voice. You are with me all the time. I used to think you left me. I know better now. You come to me. Sometimes in fleeting moments I feel your presence close by. But I still miss you. And nothing, no person, no joy, no accomplishment, no distraction, not even God, can fill the gaping hole your absence has left in my life. But mixed together with all my sadness, there is a great joy for having known you. I want to thank you for the time we shared, for the love you gave, for the wisdom you spread. Thank you for the magnificent moments and for the ordinary ones too. There was beauty in our simplicity. Holiness in our unspectacular days. And I will carry the lessons you taught me always. Your life has ended, but your light can never be extinguished. It continues to shine upon me even on the darkest nights and illuminates my way. I light this candle in your honor and in your memory. May God bless you as you have blessed me with love, with grace, and with peace. Amen.

Levy, Naomi. Talking to God: Personal Prayers for Times of Joy, Sadness, Struggle, and Celebration (p. 222). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

I am…

B…simply being. 

~Peace~

Patience

“Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.” 

David G. Allen

Life lessons come whether you’re ready or not–I’ve been reminded of that important fact this past month.

I’d become very comfortable with the status quo. I’d had this illusion of what my future held and I’d assumed things would follow that path.

I was pretty much 100% wrong.

I’ve been reminded life can change in a fraction of a second and in ways I’d never imagined. I’ve been reminded loss takes many forms, making it so important to love all those in your life without reserve. I’ve been reminded how one loss can change so many other things I’d never realized were intertwined. I’ve been reminded to pay attention to my word for the year–awareness–prompting me to stay mindful, slow down, and appreciate all aspects of my life. I’ve been reminded to stay in the present because those planned tomorrows are never promised. I’ve been reminded of the importance of my tight little cluster of friends as I’ve experienced the amazing kindness of strangers. Once again, I’ve been reminded of the depth and darkness of grief along with the renewed knowledge my faith is resilient and strong.

Most of all, I’ve been reminded to trust in myself, in my family and friends, and most of all–in God.

“No matter how close we are to another person, few human relationships are as free from strife, disagreement, and frustration as is the relationship you have with a good dog. Few human beings give of themselves to another as a dog gives of itself. I also suspect that we cherish dogs because their unblemished souls make us wish – consciously or unconsciously – that we were as innocent as they are, and make us yearn for a place where innocence is universal and where the meanness, the betrayals, and the cruelties of this world are unknown.” 

Dean Koontz, A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

“People leave imprints on our lives, shaping who we become in much the same way that a symbol is pressed into the page of a book to tell you who it comes from. Dogs, however, leave paw prints on our lives and our souls, which are as unique as fingerprints in every way.” 

Ashly LorenzanaIMG_1457

 

Acknowledgement

“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” 

Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

Today I watched short video today on Facebook Watch by Megan Devin. In this short animated video Megan talked about how to help a friend going through difficult times.

I’ve watched this video several times today because it helped me understand a lot about my own story. My stories have cleverly evaded me all my life. By sharing them I hope to understand myself better. Some experiences are difficult to share but I share to help others who may have had similar experiences. Unless I sort through all the baggage I’ve been carrying around with me all these years, I don’t think I’ll ever be at peace. As I unpack I pray others will find a way to lessen their own load.

Here are some of the things Megan mentioned that helped me understand my own feelings about loss and grief.

We’ve all been in situations where someone we love is hurting. It’s a hard thing to watch because we feel helpless. We’ve been taught we need to find a way to make things all better–we need to fix it.

Megan discovered it’s actually better to stop trying to cheer them up. Contrary to what we believe, it is better to allow that loved one to feel their pain.

Megan quotes Palmer Parker:

“The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. 

It simply wants to be witnessed exactly as it is.” 

We cannot make someone feel better by trying to lessen the pain they are experiencing. What does help is letting them know we understand, we know their pain is real, and the pain they feel is just as bad as we think it is.

For me, the grief I’ve suppressed over the years has become a monster. After my mom died no one ever talked about her again. She’d completely disappeared. Even as a kid I could tell people didn’t know what to say–so they said NOTHING.

I wonder if my childhood would have been any different if someone had been brave enough to ask me if I was really okay? How was I doing without my mom?  Did I want to talk about her?

If someone close to you has lost a loved one, reach out to them. Be patient and allow them to be in their pain with you. Listen to them with the knowledge you cannot fix anything but you are there and you can help them heal.

” I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later, when somebody says your name for the last time.”  ~Banksy

I am…

B…simply being…

God bless.

~Peace~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expectations

“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.” 

Margaret Mitchell

For many, this week has been a nightmare. The stories that continue to emerge are heartbreaking.

As I sat down at my desk this afternoon, it was raining–hard. Each drop dulls my mind and weighs down my heart.

There is something different about this rain now. It makes things feel unfamiliar and uncertain–no longer stable or safe.

We’ve watched our community and our neighbors lose so much in a matter of hours. We gather in groups at the store to talk about what we saw and how the entire landscape around us has changed. Our tears flow–as does the rain.

Tears shed for another person are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart.” 

José N. Harris, MI VIDA: A Story of Faith, Hope and Love

Many tears have been shed all across our country for years. For me, the things I’ve witnessed this week have added a much deeper understanding of natural disasters. It reminded of when I lived in Colorado and saw wildfires explode, taking all that was in its path. All in Colorado cried as we helplessly watched walls of fire destroy the homes of neighbors and friends.

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life. 

” Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope.” 

Alexandre Dumas

Our world seems to be filled with much misery. I don’t know–do you think maybe we are given these experiences as some last-ditch effort to help us find some common ground in order to understand each other better?

A prayer for the weekend with my thanks to St. John Fisher Catholic Church:

God of compassion,

You created a world for us

To know your love and peace

Yet amidst the beauty of creation

We encounter pain and hurt

And forces beyond our control.

At times like this our hearts are shaken and ache with sorrow.

At the destruction of our lives, homes and livelihoods.

Hear our prayers for those affected by the floods

And for all those working

To bring relief and fresh hope.

Amen  

I am…

B…simply being…

God bless.

~Peace~

 

 

Cinderellie

“He died that day because his body had served its purpose. His soul had done what it came to do, learned what it came to learn, and then was free to leave.” 

Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain

In July of 1985, I walked away from my old life and home, packed my car, and headed from Waterloo, Iowa, to Denver, Colorado. My two sisters took vacation time to travel west with me to help me settle into a duplex I had not seen in a town I wasn’t even sure how to spell–was Englewood spelled with an I or an E?

I did learn how to spell my new hometown and we did make it to my new address without any real problems. There was that scary guy in Sterling, Colorado who ran a stop sign. In a nano-second all our futures were in question–thank God our guardian angels were near and attentive.

The three of us arrived, tired, but quickly unloaded the car and moved what we had into my new home. As the sun rose and set, we waited for the moving truck to arrive.

We waited…and waited..and waited. My entire house had been in storage for weeks because there was a high demand for moving trucks in Iowa at that time. I was part of many who were heading west.

As time passed, I was learning how expensive it was to move to a new city in a new state where you had no established credit. My savings dwindled away and we were all still sleeping on the living room floor.

When the moving company returned my many calls, the news was not good. They could not locate “my stuff.”

What? I’m a thousand miles from “home” and I’m being told the moving company has lost all my stuff? And…I’m scheduled to start my new job in a week.

I learned a lot during this time in my life. I learned a cashier’s check does not clear immediately. I learned that the cost of living in the Denver area was MUCH higher than I’d expected. Seven to ten days is a very long time to pinch pennies. I learned even though Denver was a mile high and the nights often cool down, it is still very hot in July. I learned that three women living in an empty duplex for a week with nothing to do lose patience with waiting and with each other.

My lessons continued to come fast a furious. I can’t say it was easy–I struggled. I can say I did eventually learn to trust myself and I survived–alone. There were no cell phones–long distance phone calls were expensive. I had no extra money for phone calls. I had my kind and generous friend, Cindy, who was there for me. The problem was Cindy lived quite a distance away and she had a young daughter and her own new job. Being on call did restrict us but thank heavens calling her was a local call.

My first day at my new job was a whirlwind. My co-worker lived a short distance from me. In order to make it easy for me, she offered to give me a ride that week back and forth to Children’s Hospital in Denver. Lucky for me, both our department and the hospital at the time were small. The cardiology department and cardiovascular surgery shared the third floor of Tammen Hall, expanding the size of my work family. That first day it seemed I met dozens of people, all of them were talking about the Huey Lewis and the News concert they’d all gone to that past Sunday.

As I stood listening to snipets of their conversations and enjoyed their bursts of laughter, I knew I’d found my new spot. My gut told me, with time and patience, I’d find my way into this exciting group of people. I wasn’t sure how. I only knew that they represented a large part of what my new life would hold–I was soaking up their energy and the genuine love I felt they had for each other.

By the grace of God I DID become part of this amazing group of people. We were all the same age or close to the same age. Our work was important to us and we worked extremely hard doing it as well as we know how. We worked long hours and covered call–our time off was precious. We played as hard as we worked. Because we were older, we’d all been “players” in the past and most of us had experienced “being played.” We were done with the games–we wanted people around us we could trust. We encouraged each other when we had bad days, when we made mistakes, when we lost patients, when we had relationship issues, and when we experienced those times when we felt lost and alone. Through it all, we knew we would be there for each other…

I’ll never ever forget how this group of people took me in and made me feel loved and always welcome.

This group I knew I had to join earlier this month–to be with one of our own and comfort her during her time of loss as only old friends can.

The best way I can think to talk about Julie and John is to retell a story she shared at John’s memorial. I’d heard the story before but it’d faded from my memory.

Both John and Julie worked at Children’s in Denver for years–Julie in the heart room in the OR and John was a radiologist. Even though they’d most likely walked by each other daily, they’d never really met. Now they were both newly single meaning there were several people making it their mission to get them together. As we know, timing is everything–throw in a little bit of luck and you have a grand plan. The date of the annual hospital gala was rapidly approaching. All those great minds came together to nudge John, suggesting he ask Julie to the grand event. He agreed to ask her and the plan was in motion.

John asked and Julie nervously accepted.

John arrived at Julie’s and rang the bell. Carol, Julie’s roommate, rushed to answer, and as Carol describes it, she opened the door to this tall and handsome man, dressed in a black tuxedo, smiling, and holding a single red rose. Carol quickly admits she wanted to say she was Julie but, alas, knew he knew better. Welcoming him in, she ran upstairs to tell Julie he was there. Opening the bedroom door, Carol sings out:

“Cinderellie, Cinderellie, your Prince Charming is here!”

For the next 26 years, John was her Prince Charming, standing beside her through all their trials and tribulations. It wasn’t easy. They faced many challenges and they both found ways to make it all work. They were a good team and they had three amazing sons who will help us all take care of their mom.

It has been an honor, privilege, and a blessing witnessing and being a small part of this grand story. Like so many of our childhood fairy tales, we watch helplessly as the ominous music crescendos, signaling the wicked witch has released her evilness out into our world. We prayed the witch would be foiled. If we could find a way to defeat her our hero and heroine would live happily FOREVER after. Reality strikes again. This time, cancer proved to be the greatest and strongest Witch of the West and that damn clock chimed midnight much too soon.

I love you, Julie. My John rest in peace knowing we will all take care of you as we’ve taken care of each other for all these years. You will not be alone–none of us will be because we all have our memories to give us comfort and eventual peace.

Abba Father,

You hold time within your hands, and see it all, from beginning to end. Please keep and carry these precious people in their sadness and loss. Cover them with your great wings of love, give their weary hearts rest and their minds sound sleep. Lord, lift their eyes so that they may catch a glimpse of eternity, and be comforted by the promise of heaven. 

We ask all this in the precious name of Jesus.

Amen. 

I am…

B…simply being…

Reach out to those who may need you today.

~Peace be with you~

I am so fortunate I have an amazing photographer in my circle of Facebook friends. Thank you, Mr. Chuck Hackenmiller, for allowing me to use your wonderful photos as part of my blog. You can see many of Mr. Hackenmiller beautiful pictures on the Facebook page, I grew up in Iowa. Please note, no re-use of this photo without permission from Chuck Hackenmiller, Boone, Iowa.  

 

 

The Good People

“The good people never die.” 

“What do you mean?” Sky glanced at Leon. He was staring straight ahead and he looked really sad. She wondered if he’d lost someone too.

“They live on in the things they said and did – they live on inside of us.” 

Siobhan Curham, Tell it to the Moon

Late yesterday I learned my friend, Margie, lost her husband, Paul, after a long battle with cancer. Margie, I send you my love and prayers. May your memories comfort you as your family and friends surround you with their love and care.

As my good friend Judi reminds me, the longer we live the more people we will say good-bye to.

I never have been so good with reality.

Treasure those you love, my dear friends.

It certainly has been a month filled with not so gentle reminders.

“I am always saddened by the death of a good person. It is from this sadness that a feeling of gratitude emerges. I feel honored to have known them and blessed that their passing serves as a reminder to me that my time on this beautiful earth is limited and that I should seize the opportunity I have to forgive, share, explore, and love. I can think of no greater way to honor the deceased than to live this way.” 

Steve Maraboli

I am…

B…simply being…

May Tom, John, and Paul all rest in peace. What a picture that thought creates in my mind!

Yes, God does have a marvelous sense of humor.

Take time to be kind and may God bless us all.

~Peace be with you~

My Little Sister

This is my story from a year ago–edited so I can share today.

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” 

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

I lost my little sister eleven years ago today.

Beth Ann Burton was the best person I ever knew. She loved me and most people she met unconditionally.

I love you, Beth Anna, with all my heart. One of the clearest memories I have is hearing her tell me she loved me bunches and bunches.

I miss her every day–Sundays are, by far, the worst–even after all these years. I still find myself looking at the clock around five thinking it’s time to call her. Those Sunday calls began when she moved to Des Moines from Waterloo–I’d call to see how she was doing with her new job in a new city. The calls continued after I moved to Denver. Both our lives were busy–she worked two jobs and my job demanded a lot of my time. Regardless of what was going on in our lives, I don’t think we missed a Sunday call.

“Childhood memories were like airplane luggage; no matter how far you were traveling or how long you needed them to last, you were only ever allowed two bags. And while those bags might hold a few hazy recollections—a diner with a jukebox at the table, being pushed on a swing set, the way it felt to be picked up and spun around—it didn’t seem enough to last a whole lifetime.” 

Jennifer E. Smith, This Is What Happy Looks Like

I am…

B…simply being…

I love and miss you, Bethie.

~Peace~

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday’s Thoughts

“From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that we are here for the sake of each other – above all for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.” 

Albert Einstein

It’s been an interesting week.

Returning to the everyday life is always a challenge after a vacation.

I guess I imagined it would be easier once I retired. The problem is this–I know I have time to get things back in order. This thought begins a steady tickling of my ever ready procrastinator button. Nothing productive will ever happen as long as this button is activated. If I don’t act quickly, a series of excuses begin to fall all too naturally from my mouth and that old program begins to play. I was not making very much progress with getting things back to normal.

Then I went to get my hair cut.

God does not always work in such mysterious ways.

My stylist recently lost her husband after a long battle with cancer. She has a daughter who just turned eleven years old and is described as being a “Daddy’s Girl.”

Long story condensed–at least for now–is this. The daughter is failing in school. This little soul who was a good student is no longer interested in much of anything. In fact, she is in constant motion–not listening to her music, not reading, and obviously, not studying.

Unfortunately, I don’t know my new stylist very well. As she spoke, I could feel my own heart began to speed up as my emotions began to build as my mind flashed back to my own life at eleven years of age. I knew this little one was struggling with the loss of her dad and life as she knew it before he became ill and died. I was grasping for words because I knew I had very little time before her next appointment arrived. What was the most important thing to share and say right now?

It was a God Wink–I knew I was where I needed to be talking to a woman who needed my help.

As quickly as I could, I shared my story and asked her to take some extra time with her daughter. I asked her to set aside the school issues long enough to ask how things were going–what else was happening in her world. I asked her to take time to not only ask those questions but to be very still and quiet, allowing this young person time to steady herself and answer as fully as she is able.

I shared some of my experiences while trying to convey how grief is different for kids. Kids don’t know how to express how sad they are or how hard things are–I know I didn’t. I was the oldest kid so I just stuffed it all deep inside so I could move on and somehow survive.

I talked and met her eyes in the mirror, praying I’m coming across sympathetically. I wanted her to know I understood how hard this is for her and how it’s okay to still be sad and anxious. I hope she heard my heart as I stressed to her how this was something that was going to take them both a long time to work through. None of this was  going to go away or really get a lot better for some time. Even now, some fifty years later, I am still working through the loss of my mom.

I left unsure I’d helped but felt good that I’d been brave enough to step up and share my story.

Whether it made a difference or not, I’ll know when I see her next time. I know it certainly impacted me by reinforcing my need to read, learn, and share my stories.

I guess I’d been hopeful that today people were better at communicating with kids when there had been such a major loss to the family. I now know there are other little girls out there in need of someone who understands. I’ve been given a new incentive and I know I will be able to help–not just the kids and their families, but myself as well.

I am…

B…simply being…

God bless.

~Peace~

 

 

Missing in Action

I have a confession to make. Our latest trip has worn me out–mentally and physically.

For my mental health, I know writing is the best thing. Try as I might, I could not make any words make any sense yesterday. I was missing in action.

A big part of my exhaustion comes from feeling so helplessness as I witness the losses my fellow Texans are experiencing as a result of Hurricane Harvey. My heart begs to go help. My brain argues, at least for now, there is not a lot I could do. Never to be left out of the debate, my little inner voice reminds me of the good relationship I have with God. She urged me to use that gift and put in some extra prayer time.  So, I took her wise advice and did just that–said many prayers. If you can grab an extra minute here or there, join me. You may be as surprised as I was at how saying those few extra prayers will help you as well.

A follow-up to the refrigerator saga. Our Sears approved service technician, Paul, arrived early this morning to fix our Sears Kenmore Elite. Paul got five stars because he came prepared with a replacement compressor. He dropped down to 4.0 stars because he initially hesitated to replace the compressor due to the fact he was sent to do a diagnostic evaluation. After listening to our story, which was strongly and whole heartedly shared, he agreed to do the replacement IF Michael would help.  An hour and a half later, the new compressor was in and Paul was on his way to his next call.

Some advice for anyone considering a new LG refrigerator. Paul told us that LG compressors do not have a good service history. He has replaced many compressors on new refrigerators. Some units he’s replaced compressors twice with one customer waiting for their third compressor. He confirmed what we had heard from our salesperson at Home Depot–the wait is long because there are very few service people who have the knowledge to do the work needed and of those workers, very few are willing to do the hard work needed to get the job done.

Today is the 54th anniversary of the day my Mom lost her long, hard battle with cancer. Today’s page was supposed to be all about her. Try as I might, I could not pull it together well enough to share.

After this amount of time you’d think it would not be so difficult. Well…it’s not that simple. I’ve learned grief is sneaky tricky. You think you’ve mastered it or at least moved on long and far enough it can no longer create an undercurrent in your life.

Wrong.

I’ve also learned the older I get, the more questions I have about that time in my life. Over the years, I told my stories and believed I understood what had happened during the time of her illness. I now understand I know very little. My memories of that very critical time in my life are all based on observations made by my eight to ten-year-old self.

There has always been an uneasiness, sparked into life on anniversary days like today. I kept that at bay by staying busy. If I was busy, I avoided any discovery that did not match my safe little collection of memories.

It’s now time to put on my detective hat.

As I make my discoveries, I’ll share what I learn. That is the whole point of this blog–sharing my life lessons, in hopes I’ll help someone else along the way.

I am…

B…simply being…

Love and peace, Y’all.

Please keep Texas in your prayers.