Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Program…

It’s true, I am back. It might be a day (or two) before you see a real post from me. I’m sure I will mention this in future posts, but for now I will keep it simple.

My grandma had dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s. With the rate of decline, we were expecting her to pass, which is why I took a break from writing. I couldn’t focus (at all) and quite honestly, I didn’t want to. Being with her the last couple months was really all that mattered. What we didn’t know is that Grandpa would go first.

Grandma and Grandpa were both in a nursing home with an awesome staff. Grandpa hadn’t always been easy to handle, so when he was his sweet, funny and lovable self, the staff grew close to him. Grandma, even with dementia, was a sassy as ever. She continually beat all the odds leaving the staff and hospice workers baffled at her continued stability.
“She’s a fighter!” They would say.

Her and Grandpa had been married nearly 60 years. Those years weren’t always fantastic years; they had their fair share (maybe more) of arguments mixed in. One thing is for sure every moment was memorable. In the nursing home, they found each other again. He was the one person Grandma always could remember. As long as he was there, she was never lonely. She’d walk with her walker and he’d follow her in his wheelchair, if he could keep up. They started sleeping in the same bed together again. They went to church together. They ate every meal together. They talked and remembered together. Now, don’t misunderstand, they still fussed at each other, even so, it was like they had rediscovered the love of long ago.

Unfortunately, no one could convince Grandpa to take his medicine–his very important medicine–not even Grandma.  His body had lasted as long as it could. We believe (have no proof) that he probably suffered a stroke (maybe many, but this would have been a big one) sometime on late Friday or early Saturday morning. He was unresponsive for the weekend and on Monday we were told he probably would not make it through the night. They were right, he passed Monday afternoon.

We made arrangements, but given certain circumstances, waited until Sunday to have the visitation. We spent the week with Grandma. We wondered what she knew, or if she knew anything at all had happened. We spent the week visiting with guests what would drop in. We talked to her and loved on her until Thursday came and once again we were told she probably wouldn’t make it through the night. She passed at 12:20am late Thursday/early Friday. And just like that, in less than a week, two of the most important people in my life were gone.

Grandpa was one month exactly, to the day, older than Grandma. After nearly 60 years of marriage (three months shy of that mark), he passed just three and a half days before she did. That visitation on Sunday turned into a double visitation, followed by a double funeral on Monday. Some visitors had noticed both obituaries in the papers, others were shocked to walk in and see them both together. Through unbelievable circumstances one thing was clear: their love and dedication to each other.

There is beauty in everything. They were both amazing people in life. Loving, funny, tough, hardworking, and ever loyal–even when things stunk. I haven’t enough words to express how much they meant to me. I have no measurement for how much they taught me. What I do know is this: I do know how lucky I was to have them. Believe me, I miss them terribly. Even so, I know this, the pain will lessen, but the lessons, character, and love will always remain.

Unfortunately, grief doesn’t wait for us to be ready and it doesn’t give us a good dose of pain and disappear forever. Grief finds us all every now and again. This grief is fresh, the pain is sometimes intense. I know being sad is okay and I know I will get better; we will all get better.

My rhythm in life has changed and I need to learn where I am and how this all works–just like many of you. Even though this is still fairly new, the initial fog is clearing and I feel this need to get back in a groove, which includes writing. I don’t know that I will feel like writing every day, or that I will have time (I am still catching up on my stuff around the house that was left untended for months now), but I will be here often. I will try to write a few times a week and if I am not writing, chances are I am reading, so please drop me a line or two.  Keep reading, share with friends–we all could use a helping hand because no one should have to do this alone.

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Hiatus

I am taking a little hiatus while I see my grandmother through the last of her days/weeks. My goal for now is to comfort her and be there for the kids as much as possible. But then look out, I will be back with fervor. This will not be easy for my mother and I, but we will get through it. See you in a few weeks or so. 

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Be a Tree

Now that I have your attention, let me explain.

When my two oldest kids were still mini-people they were great kids (still are, just bigger now). They were generally kind and usually good listeners. It never failed when I needed them  quiet the most, they would go crazy. Rather than yell and scream or try to talk over them I’d say, “Be a tree”. That meant stand still and silent. Generally, they complied because it was a game. Don’t let life make you kick and scream. Sometimes even as an adult it is beneficial to stand still and silent; take a second to breathe. Life has a tendency to be complicated and messy, but if we can force ourselves to take a step back we can see a bigger piece of the puzzle. Be a tree.

While trees do stand tall and still, there is much more to a tree. Think about a tree for a minute. The roots steady the tree and collect nutrients so the tree might grow tall and mighty. It’s trunk wide and ever-growing. The trunk gives way to thick branches that ease into delicate boughs reaching for the sky; tender extensions that sway with the ebb and flow of the wind. For a tree to meet its potential, its roots must be planted firmly in the soil. If the roots are loosely planted the tree will lean and give way to turbulence. A tree needs sunlight; if it remains solely in the shade, it will never grow to its expected height. Does the tree just stay in shade, satisfied in its state? No, the tree will lean and even grow crooked to find the sun it needs to thrive. Don’t be afraid to lean in and find what you need, even if it means changing your intended path. Be a tree.

Trees don’t just wither and die when seasons change; they adapt to their new situation. In the summer, trees have bright green leaves that rustle in the summer breeze. As the season fades into fall and the temperature begins to drop, the chlorophyll production slows. Leaves turn colors and let go; the tree sheds its dead and weak branches. A tree lies dormant in the winter, no growth nor blooms. Eventually, the tree will see a renewal as spring pushes winter aside and the tree will once again grow and flourish. It’s okay to stray from the plan if it means you will be whole. A tree branches in many directions as it grows. Be a tree.

Even strong trees with flexible limbs experience storms or disease that leaves them broken and wounded. There are two possible outcomes: if a tree is not strong enough, it will die; if a tree is strong enough, it will heal. Sometimes trees do succumb to damage, but more often than not, the tree is strong enough to make it through. The interesting thing about a tree is how it heals. No matter how hard a tree tries, it will never be exactly the same. It forever wears visible scars. The scars fade over time, but if you look close you can see the old wound. The tree does not quit trying though. It doesn’t shrivel up because it wears scars–it still stands tall, it still continues to grow, and it still blooms. Sometimes that tree will even sprout new growths right in the middle of an old wound. Those scars are part of the trees history. They tell a story of a long life that was worth living, even through the pain. Those scars are not what we notice when we see a tree. When we think of trees, we think of its long branches, beautiful leaves and fruit, and its majestic stature. You do not have to wear the badge of pain. You are much more than this one awful event. This loss is part of you; it is part of your history and story. What you do with this terrible experience, how you grow from this, and who you choose to become is what will amaze people. Don’t be afraid to keep going; don’t be afraid to heal and flourish. Be a tree.

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Day 54: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

Courage

Courage (Photo credit: Pete Reed)

 

 

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.  –Ambrose Redmoon

 

There will be few times more terrifying than this. Sometimes the fear is intense and sometimes it dies down to a low rumble, but it rarely leaves. Courage is there too, waiting for you to call it by name.

Like everything, this too has a designated time: when you say so. One day you will wake up and realize that no one lives in fear. You will call on courage and it will rise up, carrying you with it. The world doesn’t stop being scary–no, not at all–instead, know when you sit on the shoulders of courage, fear can never pull you down. You have made the choice to do what you should do, what you want to do, what you feel is right to do, knowing that life isn’t always sunshine. No matter what life is, courage will carry you through.

 

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Day 53: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.  

–Anais Nin
American Author

English: A Magnolia tree blossom. Français : F...

Blossom.

Not many would equate healing as a widow with beginning to blossom and I certainly don’t think this quote was written with that in mind. I can’t think of a better way to describe what happens. It doesn’t happen immediately. There is no exactly timeline that it follows. The only thing that is for sure is you will know it when you feel it.

This healing is hard and it hurts every day. It hurts so bad that it leaves us in a sort of frozen state: can’t move forward and life won’t let us go backward. As we heal, we change and develop until the point comes when you cannot grow anymore without leaving that frozen state.

Stepping out into the world again is terribly scary. The world was scary enough with a partner. You have lost the partner and life has shown you exactly how ruthless it is, so moving forward with life isn’t all that appealing–for now.

The day will come, when it will be too painful to remain inside this box and you will take the risk–when  you need to take the risk. When you do, it might feel awkward and confusing, but if you keep moving you will feel the sun on your face again. Don’t be afraid to  step into the light and blossom; the most beautiful things come after darkness.

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Day 52: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving Table (Photo credit: CodeFin)

Expect problems and eat them for breakfast.  –Alfred A. Montapert

Today will be hard. It will be hard if it happened yesterday. It will be almost just as bad if it was five years ago. It gets better, but holidays will always feel different from this point on.

If it happened recently, the wound hasn’t healed. It is swollen, red, and painful. If it happened years or a decade ago, chances are your wounds have healed; those wounds, even when healed properly, leave scars. Where ever you are, it is okay just to be there.

Don’t feel pressured to be someone you aren’t today. Don’t feel pressure to be who you were before this life altering event. I urge you to find some company because it helps. If you don’t want to stay long, don’t. If you feel like you would like to talk, but sitting at the table for a formal dinner is too much, skip dinner and go for the conversation. If the normal routine was to sing songs or play games after dinner, hit them up for some good food and then head on home–content with your progress. Everyone will understand. If someone doesn’t understand, forgive them and then forget it–they truly just don’t know.

Whatever happens, wake up and know today will not be as it once was. It won’t be the same tradition and happiness you have felt in years past. Wake up and know today might suck, and then do today anyway. Do it your way, but do it. And when it’s over, know that you won.

 

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Day 51: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

“If you can’t fly, then run.
If you can’t run, then walk.
If you can’t walk, then crawl.
But whatever you do, keep moving.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

We don’t all start in the same place and that’s okay. We don’t all travel the exact same path and that’s okay too. Start where you are and make your own way. Our journey is ours and ours alone. There will be help from experienced people, people who care about us, but this is our time. Time to do what we need to. Our time to heal and become whole.

This was never meant to break you. It was never meant to stunt your growth. Now is no time to sit and stew, worry and waste away. Instead, move and grow. No big rush; there is no race. Slow and steady, just keep moving.

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Day 50: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

“Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.”
–Unknown Author

People will ask you, for years to come, “How did you get through that?”

 

You will tell them you didn’t have a choice, you just did it.

They will follow it up with, “I don’t know if I could have done it.”

You will tell them that they could have because in life, you just do what you have to do.

It really is exactly it. Life doesn’t ask if you are ready. It doesn’t knock gently and wait for you to answer the door. Life barges in, knocks you down, and raids your fridge.  And just like any intruder, you would be mad, sad, feel out of control and then you would dig deep, find your strength and pick up the pieces

People may not understand how to help you or how you manage to get up every morning–and that is okay. The important part is you do.

**one more thing to note: you will have days when you fall apart and you can’t find the strength to get out of the house, or even out of bed. That’s okay–it happens. Take that time to reflect and muster your strength for the next day.

 

 

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Day 48: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

We all need to grow continuously. –Les Brown

This nightmare broke you. You are in pieces, a portion of your soul has disappeared. It has left you on your knees searching for answers. The answer is simple, the journey is hard. The answer is you live, you work towards your once shared dream, and most of all, you do not give up.  The journey means you must rise up and take a step. Don’t give up on your dreams–your future–because part of  you has gone. That is even more reason to keep moving, keep living, and keep growing. So whether it is hard, slow moving, or yes, even if it’s painful, we have to keep growing. 

 

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Day 49: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

“Perhaps I am stronger than I think.”   –Thomas Merton

You bet! It is hard to imagine what you are capable of until you are faced with it. Here you are, faced with what once seemed impossible. You have the skill to get through this. What skills you lack can be learned. Books/blogs/webpages, support groups, counseling, and friends with experience all will help you navigate through the crisis. One thing is for sure, your life will be different, but it will also be worth the effort. So, buckle down and go to it. 

 

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