Grieving


Happy birthday, mom. I miss you more than you know. I so wish my children had the opportunity, the pleasure of knowing you. Of talking, laughing, and learning from you.

And I wish you had the opportunity to touch, to hold, to hug and to kiss the kids. They are both amazing. But you already know that, don’t you?

Thank you for being our own special guardian angel. Please continue to watch over all of us and help guide us. Especially your grandchildren.

We love, love, love you.

Like clockwork, no sooner did the month of September come to end so did my depression. Might be because I only allowed myself that particular month to mourn, or it might be because October is my favorite month of the year, or perhaps a bit of both. But I kid you not, on Sunday, September 30th I was depressed, depressed, depressed yet somehow I woke up on Monday, October 1st ready to tackle the world. And on a Monday! Who’da thunk?

Yesterday – the 2nd day of October – and I have to tell you, I had a fabulous day. I actually enjoyed life again and I can’t tell you how relieved I feel. Relieved and exhausted, actually.

Exhausted because I’ve re-discovered my love of reading. I used to be an avid reader. I always had at least one, typically two books going at once. After V was born, the reading came to a screeching halt – mostly because any down time I was spent catching up on my sleep! But nearly four years later, and I’m reading again. And I’m exhausted because I picked up a book that I can’t set down. This book, I believe, actually helped to pull me out of my “September Mourn”. It’s inspirational, it’s funny, it’s fascinating. It’s Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert … and considering it’s a best seller right now, I’m sure many of you have read it.

Last night, after V was tucked snuggly in to his bed, I spent my evening sewing a darling little outfit for a girlfriend’s baby shower this weekend. Finished up with that at about 11:00pm and tried to go to bed, but couldn’t get that book out of my mind.

Just a half hour, I told myself.

Nearly two hours later, I forced myself with every fiber of my being to put the book down, turn out the light, and get some much-needed sleep.

And I just discovered that Elizabeth herself will be on Oprah this Friday discussing the book. The race is on. I really, really must finish it before Friday. Well, not really. I do have Tivo, after all. But I’m too excited about it and really want to see the show on Friday!!

Excuse me now while I go and read some more …. Ahhhh, life is so sweet right now!

It has happened to me every year since 2001. September … the month during which I was born. The month during which I was married. The month during which thousands died in the 9/11 attacks. Senseless death that I cannot wrap my brain around. And since that day, the month during which I become depressed.

This year is no different.

I guess it’s my own way of mourning, which might be more understandable had I known someone who died that day. But I didn’t.

And then just this morning I learned that the one-year old nephew of a good friend of mine died yesterday. Completely unexpected. On Tuesday he had flu symptoms and yesterday he stopped breathing. Another senseless death that I cannot wrap my brain around.

I will return. Soon. But for now, I just need some alone time …

Over the years I’ve attended many funerals. All four grandparents, many aunts and uncles, several cousins, close family friends and of course my mother’s. Too many funerals to count.

Each time I’ve been faced with the death of a loved one, I find myself sitting in silence thinking about the person who has just passed. And watching the birds. For as long as I can remember, I have found some sort of peace in watching birds while thinking about death. I don’t go searching for birds … they’re everywhere, but they come in focus in my life when I am faced with death. They are a reminder that life goes on. And that with death comes life. The sun continues to shine, days continue to turn in to nights, birds continue to fly and life does go on.

Yesterday, seemingly out of nowhere I found myself watching a bird and thinking about an old family friend, Ernie. Ernie lives across the street from my aunt and uncle – about 3 hours from where I live – and I have known him for about 30 years. Every time I visit with my aunt and uncle, which is often, Ernie and his wife, Anna, come to see me and say hello. A man in his 80’s, Ernie has always been full of life with a smile that lights up a room. He’s passionate, he’s funny, he’s always got a fascinating story to tell. I liked him right from the moment I met him because back then he worked for a living selling cookies. What child wouldn’t fall madly in love with a cookie salesman?

Over the last several months Ernie has battled cancer. Regular reports from my aunt have indicated that it’s a battle he won’t win this time around. During a visit with my aunt and uncle about three weeks ago, Ernie was feeling strong enough to come over and join us for a glass of wine. My aunt warned me that I may not recognize him. He had lost all of his hair and a significant amount of weight. I was expecting the worse, but didn’t see any of that when he walked in to the back yard. I saw a man with an enormous smile, a fashionable hat, and plenty of life yet to live. We had a most enjoyable visit.

It was that visit that I was thinking about yesterday as I was sitting in my car at a stop light, watching a blue bird in a tree. I knew at that moment that Ernie was gone. Hours later, it was confirmed. He passed away in peace, and once again I found myself thinking about the cycle of life. With death comes new life. And yesterday, that new life was one I found out about when I saw the following:

Positive!

Dear Mom:

Born Judith Germaine, in April of 1941. I never did learn the story behind your middle name. A regret, for certain. After your mom (Grandma) passed away, we discovered that she had been writing her memoirs. It was such a wonderful gift for the family, and something we each cherish to this day. I am so grateful that her gift to us touched you in such a way that it motivated you to start writing your own memoirs. And just as with your mom, we didn’t find your memoirs until after your passing – and although you didn’t get very far in writing them, I cherish them so very much.

Growing up, your passion for all things school-related was evident, but until I read your memoirs, I never understood just how much you truly loved learning. You excelled in your school work, even spent your spare time playing school. You were student council president in high school, a cheerleader and often acted in plays. I guess then that it came as no surprise to your family when you became a teacher.

During the summers when I was young, my brother and I would accompany you as you taught summer school. We were your teacher’s aides, a job we were proud to have. You taught severely disabled children – in elementary school – and I’m here to tell you that that was one of the greatest gifts you ever gave me. It taught me patience, understanding, and acceptance. It didn’t occur to me until just now, but perhaps that experience was one of the driving forces behind me working for the Disabled Student Services department while in college – the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

Your career began teaching the severely disabled, and then moved to teaching the hearing impaired, and ultimately you taught the special education classes – all at the elementary level. You learned basic sign language and taught the alphabet to my brother and I when we were quite young. I, in turn, taught my cousin – and I can remember sitting through church signing to my cousin the entire time! We thought we were so cool because we could “talk” to each other without using our voices!! I loved being able to sign and eventually took American Sign Language classes while in college. At one point, I gave serious consideration to becoming an ASL translator.

No one would argue that you were a very giving, very generous person with a heart of gold. And philanthropic to the core – very active in a local philanthropic group, becoming both the local chapter president and the regional west coast president. It was your passion, and so it’s no surprise that philanthropic work is so very important to me as well. I had such a great teacher in the example you set.

Now that I’m a mom myself, I am in awe of you, my own mother. It’s funny how our appreciation for our mothers doesn’t fully bloom until we become one ourselves. I don’t know how you did it … you worked full time, yet came home and put a full dinner on the table, which we ate at the dinner table – together as a family – nearly every night of my life. And dad – bless his heart – was no help. He didn’t clean, cook, or run us around to our various lessons. It was all you. I believe my dad regrets that now, but times were different when I was young.

There is so much that I don’t know about you that I regret not learning before you passed away. Thankfully, I had an opportunity to learn bits and pieces through the memoirs you left behind – but I still have so many questions left unanswered.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with V that I learned about the tough time you had in your quest to have a baby. Several miscarriages, followed by a pregnancy that ended at six months when the baby suddenly died in the womb. Soon after, you became pregnant again and gave birth to my sister, Diana, who sadly died at 2 days old. You never talked about either. I can remember finding out about Diana after my dad’s mom passed away – I was in my 20’s. My grandmother kept a box full of newspaper clippings – wedding announcements, birth announcements, funeral announcements, etc. It was in that box that I found Diana’s death announcement. I remember being so very sad and wanting to visit her grave. But I couldn’t find the courage to ask you about her because I was afraid to upset you. I never did fully understand the pain, the grief, the depression that you must have suffered until, of course, becoming a mother myself. I regret not telling you how sorry I was to learn about Diana and the other baby. I regret not asking you questions about how you survived such heartache. How you found strength.

Looking back, even though I gave you a VERY tough time when I was a teenager, I know now that I was blessed with one of the most amazing moms on Earth. Many of the lessons you worked so hard to teach me didn’t become clear to me until after V was born, and I’m so very grateful to you for them. I regret that I never told you how amazing of a mother she were. I regret that I didn’t realize how amazing you were until after becoming a mom myself – and, by then, it was too late for you were gone. I know that you know … I do tell you every day and I know that you hear me. But I would give anything to be able to tell you face to face, to hug you tightly, to somehow show you my appreciation.

Mom, as my fourth Mother’s Day approaches I want to thank you. Thank you for the attention to details you paid as my mom. Thank you for the years of ballet lessons, of piano lessons, of life lessons. Thank you for all of the very special shopping excursions. Thank you for the unwavering support. Thank you for believing in me and expecting nothing less than what you knew I was capable of. Thank you for calling me each week just to check in. And thank you for understanding when I wasn’t in the mood to talk. Thank you for my love of cooking, which you developed in both my brother and I. Thank you for my love of travel. Thank you for instilling the importance of family. Thank you for your patience, especially during the 80’s when I know I tested it on a daily basis. Thank you teaching me the importance of an education. And how to respect money. And although I never did quite learn to “manage” dad the way you tried to teach me, thank you for teaching me that when it comes to him, “no” means maybe and “maybe” means yes!

Happy Mother’s Day, mom. I am so proud to be your daughter. Thank you.

judy-teacher-photo.jpg
Today is difficult. Depressing. Upsetting.

I’m angry. Pissed off. Sad.

Three years ago today I got that terrible phone call and my life has been forever changed as a result. I’m not the first person ever to lose a parent. Nor am I the last. I’m not grieving any more or less than anyone else in my position. I know that.

But I’m still angry. Angry that she’s not here. That I can’t call her. That she can’t give me the motherly advice I so crave since becoming a mother myself. And that she didn’t get the chance to watch her first and only grandchild grow.

She does visit, which I appreciate. But I want more. I want my son to hug his Grandma. To learn from her wisdom. To cuddle in her arms. To love her.

I plan on sitting down and writing a tribute to her – my memories of her – that she’d be proud of. One that is fitting for her. Not this. But I’m not yet ready to do that. I’m not sure when I will be ready. Maybe later tonight. Maybe later this year.

I’m not sure what made me do this, but out of the blue I googled her name. She was very active in her community, so I just thought maybe I’d find something and learn something I didn’t know about her before. I did find something, but not what I expected. I found my brother’s blog and an entry he made shortly following her death. My brother’s a guy that never has much to say. He’s immensely private and never shows emotion. I never saw him cry a tear when my mom died, although I knew he was in tremendous pain. Finding this made me happy today, on this otherwise unhappy day:
—————
Dear Mom,

Knowing how much you loved to surf the ‘net, I’m sure you’ve got a high-speed connection in Heaven. I hope you know what a great mother you were. You were always there for me, even when I didn’t deserve it. Your love was always unconditional, and always appreciated.

As much as I will miss you, I know you’re in a better place. The past few months have been very difficult, and I’m just glad you’re no longer suffering.

Love always,
Your Son

Someone sent me this today – and it’s fitting my mood exactly. It was sent as part of an urban legend chain letter … so, if you’ve received this in a chain letter before, beware that it is, in fact, an urban legend. That aside … with the upcoming anniversary of my mom’s death – and the recent passing of her birthday – I’ve been a bit depressed the last few weeks. This poem hits home and is a fantastic reminder for all of us. A quick google search tells me that this poem was written by a Dr. David Weatherford – a child psychologist.

Slow Dance

Do you run through each day
On the fly?
When you ask How are you?
Do you hear the reply?
When the day is done
Do you lie in your bed
With the next hundred chores
Running through your head?

You’d better slow down
Don’t dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won’t last.
Ever told your child,
We’ll do it tomorrow?
And in your haste,
Not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch,
Let a good friendship die
Cause you never had time
To call and say,”Hi”

You’d better slow down.
Don’t dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won’t last.
When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift….
Thrown away.

Life is not a race.
Do take it slower
Hear the music
Before the song is over.

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