Tag Archives: loss

A Letter to Mumsy

Hi, Mum. We haven’t talked in a while and there is so much to catch up on. It has been such a crazy year filled with really great things, and things that worry and terrify me. I miss our chats. We didn’t always agree, but we could always talk. Well, at least once we had sorted our roles out and found a space we could share.

You didn’t know, last year, but I had lost my job. I didn’t want you to know because, well, you didn’t need the worry. Things worked out, I was able to cobble things together, keep the bills paid, and find my way to you. I think you knew something was stressing me because, even though I asked repeatedly if you wanted me there, you wouldn’t say yes. I am told that you made sure our customary teddy bear was with you constantly in those last days. So many people had so many wonderful things to say about you. I treasure those thoughts even now.

I’ve missed our talks. So, this Christmas Day, well, I’ll write you a letter.

Last fall, I had patched together an arrangement of contract work, tax returns, and part time work to get me through to another permanent position. As sometimes happens, the timing was impeccable, and I found a new job that I love dearly. It is challenging, but not stressful. Although I’m still the number cruncher, my work contributes to an organization that helps a lot of folks manage and recover from mental health issues and substance abuse. The team I work with is amazing and, although the salary started lower than where I had been, the benefits are quite juicy. I’m doing some of that doctor stuff I was always hounding you about. Oh, and I have a raise coming in a month, and a retirement account starts growing in two. Sigh, such a journey I’ve been on to reach this point. I’ve even started the renovations on the house

I do so miss our talks about what is happening in the world. Again, we didn’t always agree, and you were often more forgiving than me. Well, sometimes not so much. As we often discussed, the things happening in my country are crushing my heart. It’s not that I don’t understand that we need to protect ourselves and that we need to make sure that agreements are advantageous. I just don’t get the venom. It hurts. So very much.

Even you would be angered by the constant re-writing of history, of the seeming unwillingness to check on the most basic of facts. We allow ourselves to be influenced by the waves of social angst and rarely stop to question, to research, to make a choice anchored somewhere in reality. So, we accuse people fleeing a disaster we helped create of being terrorists. We talk about mowing down populations simply because they represent something we were taught to hate. Although for months I have been talking about the instability of the markets – I was told the economy was the best it had been in years. Farmers are going bankrupt, there’s barely a place in the country where minimum wage can provide decent shelter, food, and clothing. The money so graciously given to our largest companies was spent reacquiring stock, rather than investing in people and material growth. Our infrastructure is collapsing, and we want to build a wall – a wall where one already exists where it is feasible. Border patrol wants technology, yet there are those that are pushing to give them a monument.

Health care is going through the roof and people are dying because they cannot access drugs that have been around for decades. You were diabetic. I have no idea what your drug costs would have been had you survived. Even if your cancer treatments were still working, could we have afforded them? That is a heartbreak I’m not sure I could have handled. You, in your stoic way, would have trudged on through. We seem to have no will in this country to care for people in an efficient and cost-effective manner. The whole system is a mess. Thank God I have a job that provides the coverage I need. I am one of the lucky ones.

The international scene is a mad man’s ball. We have no idea from day to day who our allies will be, or who is now our enemy or competitor. Yes, I know we were in a place where we needed to push back and rearrange some of our agreements – but kicking the whole world in the balls was probably not the best idea. And the people we have always known were not our friends – well, evidently now they are. They can do no wrong. No friend is a true friend if there is no room for accountability. I hope our boat can float long enough to survive this storm. I honestly do not believe we are in a position to respond to another Pearl Harbor or 9-11. Many of the folks that could have guided us have left or been excused. I know from experience that no matter what your intentions and other skills may be, learning the job in the middle of a critical event is not the best idea.

I do have hope. I really do. Each day I meet people who, like me, continue to work toward the best moment for now. I find people who are kind, who believe in the underlying ethics of seeing the best in folks whatever their gender, sexual intent, faith, race, or personal quirks. I see people who genuinely care without being naive. I have no notion of what the next 20 years will bring. Thanks to you and my maternal genes I have a pretty good chance of finding out. I do know that when things appear to be heading into a catastrophic train wreck, I hear the voices of two people I know and care for the most. Two people who managed through depression and war. Two people I love. You, and my beloved husband.

Merry Christmas and sleep well, Mum. You’ve earned the rest.

Mumsy Memorial

Memorial for Delores Troxell, December 2017.

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Reflections ~ On what friendship means

Ahh, yes. My keyboard and me; working out the hurt, the loss, the discouragement of life, and sometimes the celebrations. Today I look closely at a treasured friendship which ended in tragedy Friday, July 19, 2018. It was the kind of friendship that had seen rather intense events in our lives, and yet had drifted a bit in the last year. I fully acknowledge that drifting was caused by my need for space from something we shared; at least until I could find my way forward. I wish, as we all do, that I could have one more chat, one more I love you, one more cyber hug. This is my tale, my take on friendship.

Stacey Haggard Brewer and I met in the early days of a small publishing company I was involved with. To be quite honest, I don’t recall the specific link that brought us together, but we were instantly comfortable with each other. Stacey contributed to PDMI as an editor as early as the fall of 2013, not long after we had formed the LLC.

As I grew to know her, we began to share the more personal bits of our lives. She was searching at the time, trying to understand several emotions she was experiencing. Within a year or two she lost her father to cancer. The experience unsettled her at levels she was not accustomed to and the two of us grew very close as she talked through her feelings. She was finding it difficult to complete projects, to be motivated, to make decisions. Her search for a satisfying spiritual experience seemed to grow deeper and broadened in its focus. We spent hours in chat talking about our faith, what windows we wished we could open, what it would take to return to the origins of the faith where concern for our fellow man was paramount, rather than how many rules were kept or broken.

Stacey and I also shared writing projects, thoughts, dreams, troubled moments, and bits of joy. We worked together on several projects, one of which was an article I wrote which was published in the Eastern Iowa Review. The piece was accepted without change or edit – a testament to Stacey’s skill and kind advice.

Through the years I listened as she dithered over life changing decisions. I was sometimes impatient, but still willing to listen. She was traveling paths I had already journeyed; and I was prepared to share my experience – however deeply I had buried those years in my mind and heart. She was one of a very small circle of friends who walked with me through the final months of my husband’s dementia. She surrounded me with love as I watched him deteriorate more rapidly each day.

As our publishing venture began to unwind, some of the hard business decisions made me feel isolated from those that I had worked with. Somehow, Stacey understood, and she gave me space. It was one of the hardest decisions I have faced, but it was also obvious that I needed to withdraw myself and my support. Again, Stacey understood my pain and had only recently begun to reach out and reignite the more frequent exchanges that we had so often depended on.

I received the news when I returned home from work on Friday. A private message written by a mutual friend who did not want me slammed with some announcement blasted through Facebook without warning. Just as she did, I checked for the story – it was just too unbelievable to accept without question. Once I knew for sure I contacted a few individuals and then created a chat group so I could grab those who I knew would suffer from the loss. Then a bit of Stacey-magic was recreated. People that don’t often share these days came together to express their pain, their love, their community. To express how tight the bond between us was, even if we had never physically met. Whatever our joint adventure into the publishing world created, the most critical piece is mutual respect and a choice to care. That was Stacey, an unrelenting optimist and believer in the humanity of mankind. She held firm to the belief that if we could just learn how much alike we were, we could and would learn to thrive together.

This blog of hers pretty much says it all. https://staceyhaggardbrewer.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/iamlove/

There are many in our author group that worked with her on so many projects, or that beta read her pieces. We will be gathering all those pieces together and see if we can compile some of the magic that was Stacey. It will take a while, but I think we could all use the process, a way to remember a very special lady. Stacey Haggard Brewer: a writer, a photographer, an artist, an editor, an explorer… a friend.

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“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“He thought about this for a second. “True. But if you never really make friends, you probably don’t have anyone to be your 2 a.m. Which would kind of suck.”
I just looked at him as he stirred his soup, carrots spinning in the liquid. “Your what?”
“Two a.m.” He swallowed, then said, “You know. The person you can call at two a.m. and, no matter what, you can count on them. Even if they’re asleep or it’s cold or you need to be bailed out of jail…they’ll come for you. It’s, like, the highest level of friendship.” — Sarah Dessen (What Happened to Goodbye)

“The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends. Where the truthful answer to the question “Do you see the same truth?” would be “I see nothing and I don’t care about the truth; I only want a Friend,” no Friendship can arise – though Affection of course may. There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travellers.” — C.S. Lewis (The Four Loves)

We love you, Stacey. You were an incredible fellow traveler with much to share.

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Yahrzeit: A Day of Remembrance

In Jewish tradition one observes the passing of someone close to you four times a year. Yom Kippur, Feast of Tabernacles, Passover, and Feast of Weeks. And then there is the annual remembrance, Yahrzeit. Yahrzeit is observed on the anniversary of a person’s death, using the Jewish calendar. In my case that would be April 17 of this year. My husband was half Jewish but I know his abhorrence for that time of year, so I choose today; the anniversary of his departure on the Gregorian calendar.

To understand the tradition you must know something of the Jewish approach to such things. There are periods of grief, but there are also periods during which the memory of the person is preserved in all of its living grace. A way of learning to treasure those that went before us, and a hope of the path we will follow into some unknown “then.”

I’m not terribly good a formalized prayers, so I have chosen to write a poem. If memory serves it may be the first in a year.

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He left me in the spring.
Not in the dead of winter,
When cold, gray skies surround me.
When days are short,
And love itself,
Huddles ‘neath the rain and snow.

He left me in the spring.
Not in the chill of fall,
When brilliant colors oft betray
Arrival of the frost.
And love itself,
Feels the bite, and seeks the warming hearth.

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He left me in the spring.
Not in the heat of summer,
When days are long and hot.
When the grass grows brown,
And love itself,
With thirst, seeks cool and breezy shadows.

He left me in the spring.
When birds sing, and trees grow green.
When flowers bloom and life awakes.
Perhaps to show me future hope,
When love itself,
Becomes the strength
– to face life on my own.

Deer

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My Tree of Memories

The season is upon us. All of the celebrations that our species has come up with that center around the return of the sun are swirling around us. A carefully tracked and joyful expectation as the giver of life begins its slow journey back to warmth and longer days. Solstice this year is the 22nd of December, a few brief days before the sun will reach 1 degree along its return path, the mark of the ancient day of Saturnalia.  Many Christians do not realize that this time of year was chosen for the celebration of the birth of Christ because the Roman Saturnalia was an excellent cover for gift exchanges, celebration of the renewal of light—the return of the Son. It is, however, quite appropriate.

 

It is also a time of reflection. My tree is a tree that hubby and I purchased in Canada. A great deal offered by Canadian Tire that served us well for a number of years. This is number seven, I believe. There were years when all he really wanted was the small white lights that glowed in our darkened living room; and years when he wanted us to hang everything we could load onto the poor thing. It is a tree of memories.

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Hanging from its branches this year is a hodgepodge of years past. There is even an angel from my very first Christmas, handmade ornaments, gifts from friends, bits from office parties, ornaments that I don’t even remember where they came from – souvenirs from sharing. That, I think, is what Christmas trees are all about. The excitement of Christmas mornings, the quiet of warm evenings with hot tea or cocoa and music—memories captured in the glow of Christmas lights.

This will be the last year for this tree. Somewhere along the line this year I made a non-decision to avoid additions. This is a year for memory. A year that has gone relatively well, all things considered, even though I still step on landmines; and find myself somewhere else, somewhen else.

I have learned, in this journey, that there are friends you never realized were there. There are families made of caring people who suddenly, without prompting, check to see how your day is going. There are people that smile at you for no particular reason. I try very hard to be one of those people. I know how much it means.

This is a time a year that I find both joyful, and sad. This part is nothing new. While we all run around and try to ensure that our version of the season is first and foremost in everyone’s mind, we need to remember that there are those that really don’t care what you call it; their days are the same, lost, hungry, cold, or afraid. On that scale, I am a very, very lucky lady.

So, I must ask my friends, my readers, to take this time of year to seek the magic moment, the moment of sharing. It doesn’t have to be much – it just needs to be human. When asked how to tell a child who God was I suggested this. When you see someone reaching out to help someone in need – when you see a smile that draws a smile from someone else – when you touch a heart that is aching – in that moment – when you see the connection – that is the face of God. (and not that breakfast sausage guy) Be a spark that creates that moment.

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Please accept our condolences…

Complements - Pixabay

Complements – Pixabay

As a freshly minted widow I am suddenly thrown into the world of public grieving. As a caregiver you grieve, but it is a more private process. An ever present minor chord in your life. The missing of someone there – but not. This, however is different. Now, as I go through the motions of dealing with the many, many tasks that must be completed to wind up my husband’s affairs, to manage the last bits of a move, and to somehow find a guiding star to lead me forward, I must deal with the public acknowledgement that he is gone. No longer a physical presence in my life.

My life is filled with landmines. Little memories that explode in my face as I hear a song on the radio — unpack a box that was packed before I knew he would not be with me — wake up in the night alone — talk to people who knew us, or him, or me. Memories. Memories that refuse to remain “pressed between the pages of my mind.” At least not yet.

This adjusting, this “moving forward,” this, “getting on with things” is something so many have managed with varying degrees of success for millennia. However, as my friends and followers know, I can’t leave anything alone until I pick it apart for myself.

So, I already have a pet peeve. “First, let us offer our condolences for your loss.” Really? You are a bank/credit card company or whatever business/legal connection on my list of “things that must be done.” Unless you are truly concerned about my specific loss, or you have some personal, genuine feeling for what that loss may mean, then please, perhaps you can find some other way to express whatever feelings you think you should have. Really.

When did we become a society that rattles off meaningless commentary because, well, it’s on the disclosure sheet in front of you? How about, “We understand this may be a difficult time for you and so we have established ways to take care of requirements as efficiently as possible.” Or, “We are in no position to know what this loss may mean for you so we will make this as easy as we can.”

For some reason I have developed a peculiar cringe when complete strangers express their “sorrow.” This may come from my personal philosophy on the whole concept of “I’m sorry.” My dear departed husband and I had many a discussion about the phrase. It always irritated me. I sincerely felt that a person should not use “I’m sorry” unless they made a personal contribution to the situation, or said person was in a position to truly have some level of empathy. Or, they actually meant it. “I’m sorry,” in my world, was supposed to mean something. Condolences, of course, is a word that wraps up sorrow into a specific situation. All the more personal. It’s all part of that family of “I know how you feel.”

No, I’m sorry, you may know something close, and from that we can both benefit. But, please, don’t rattle off platitudes just to make yourself feel useful.

Maybe I’m being over-reactive. But somehow I feel that if we persist in the easy, boilerplate responses to the heartache around us we can maintain the delusion that “we did our part.” Don’t ever avoid approaching someone who has suffered loss – don’t hide from the pain. I know it’s hard to think of something to say, but sometimes it really doesn’t take much. Even a call in the middle of day to see how a person is doing. An offer to mow the yard, wash the car, have a bite to eat. Or, an offer to provide the information necessary to wrap up one more item on the endless list of things that must be done.

You don’t have to know someone well to be “real,” but you do have to take the time to be human and to find in yourself genuine responses to the hurt and suffering around you. Let’s start a revolution. No more soundbites. What do you think?

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