Gone But Not Forgotten

Today is the anniversary of the death of a very dear friend. We became friends in 2004, right after my daughter turned one, and her son (her first child) was about six months old. Our lives were intertwined for years. Dynamics changed as our kids got older. My friend took a job. She moved to the west coast. She and her husband divorced. They moved again to the east coast…New England. But we always remained friends. Was our friendship always perfect? No. She was hurt when she took her job and our playgroup didn’t envelope her kids the way we should have. We didn’t always agree with each other’s decisions. But we were friends. We were the kind of friends who would have always been friends…and then she died.

And here’s what I always hear…”Life goes on.” But what exactly does that mean? Her life didn’t go on, but the lives of her children, family, and friends have gone on. Because she had moved away years ago and never answered her phone, she wasn’t a part of our daily lives in Charlotte anymore. But she was a part of my life…and she was a part of the lives of others. I’m not going to say all that sappy stuff like “she lit up a room”…or “she was always good.” People were drawn to her, and I was flattered that she picked me as her friend. But she wasn’t perfect, just like I’m not. But dang it…she was my friend. And she was the mother to two children…now aged 13 and 15. She was the daughter of two wonderful parents who loved her beyond measure, and her sister and brother….well, they adored her too. She loved her family more than anything, and they were always active in her life. But her life stopped on June 4, 2018. Gone too soon. She was just 46, even though the priest at her funeral kept saying she was 47…that actually made me chuckle during the service, thinking of what her response would have been, “Are you kidding me?! Don’t make me older than I am!”

She was active. She exercised all the time and ate really well most of the time…even though we did love eating Doritos together late at night when we vacationed in Maine. She loved red licorice, Zotz candy, and Spree candy. Those were her weaknesses…her guilty pleasures. She didn’t eat them all the time, but she sure enjoyed them when she had them! There was a candy store in Kennebunkport, Maine, that sold the perfect red licorice for her, and we were regulars there. Once, she was going to another store, so I went to stock up on candy. I had forgotten my wallet, so she gave me her credit card and her drivers license. I laughed, saying, “Ummm…if they ask for ID for the credit card, there is no way they are going to believe this!” She was tall, dark, and Irish/Italian. I’m short, fair, and Anglo. She said, “Just take it!” Luckily, they didn’t ask for ID, so I was able to stock up on licorice, Zotz, Spree, and good old-fashioned candy cigarettes for us. Go ahead. Grimace. We didn’t care. Candy cigarettes were old school, and we liked them.

My friend had suffered since she was a teenager with various types of cancer. Lymphoma, breast cancer, leukemia…life wasn’t easy for her, but she kept living it…till she didn’t. I think I always believed she would continue to beat cancer…till she didn’t.

Her children, a boy and a girl, are being raised by their very capable dad. He’s a good dad, exposing them to the world while also making sure their souls are nourished. They go to camp with other children who have lost parents to cancer. They have loving grandparents, and they have aunts and uncles who love them too. But they don’t have their mother. She’s not there every day to encourage them to finish homework. She’s not there to hug them when they need it. She’s not there to guide them, listen to them, help them, parent them.

So yes, life goes on…but it goes on without my friend. For her children, life goes on without their mother. For her parents…without their daughter.

Things happen all the time that make me think of her. Every time I go to Dunkin’ Donuts and order an iced coffee with extra cream, I think of her. Every time I drive past her old house in Charlotte…at least twice a week (I do it intentionally)…I think of her. Every time I think of summer on the beach in Maine…I think of her. Or summers at the pool…all our friends had memberships at different clubs, so we would alternate the pools we visited during the summer. Every time I eat Spree or Zotz, I think of her. I even saw a Santander Bank in Cancun and thought of her…she had worked for them at one time. I was talking with someone last week about Mike’s Pastries in Boston…thought of my friend; she introduced my daughter to cannolis at Mike’s Pastries. Every time someone mentions the Virginia Creeper bike trail, I think of her and the time we took our children…it turned into a comedy of errors, but we survived. Every time I pass the hospital, I think of her, because we actually spent quality time there together, when she was having chemo. Mention California Pizza Kitchen, and I think of the time she almost died from an anaphylactic reaction when we were having lunch there. When I think of my daddy’s cancer diagnosis, I think of her too, because I was on my way to dinner with her when I found out Daddy had pancreatic cancer. And every time I hear about a young person who has cancer, I think of her and how long she fought.

My friend hasn’t been forgotten. She is still a part of our lives and our regular conversations. She taught us a lot about friendship. Tonight, our playgroup friends will gather for dinner, sans kids, to drink a toast to our friend who is no longer with us…one year gone. Life goes on…but it goes on differently.

 

 

 

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Poking The Bear

animal animal photography bear big

Photo by Photo Collections on Pexels.com

My husband and I were talking last night about the losses we have had to endure since we were married. He lost his beloved grandmother in 2005. I lost my dad in 2006, and then I lost my mother in December 2017. We were devastated over every single loss, and honestly, it sticks with us. I don’t walk around in a state of sadness. I’m generally pretty happy, but occasionally, the sadness will break through, but I never know when that will be. And the interesting thing is that sometimes, the grief doesn’t manifest itself as sadness. It manifests itself as forgetfulness, indifference, or anger.

The forgetful part of grief just can’t be explained. I don’t know if my brain went into pure survival mode after each loss, but in the first six to eight months after each loss, I couldn’t remember anything, and I’m known for having a good memory. With the loss of my mother in December 2017, it seems to have lasted longer. It has been 16 months (to the day) since she died, and I’m still having trouble with my memory. Obviously, I loved my mother, but I think the loss of a second parent is more difficult, even in my 50s, simply because I know I don’t have a parent anymore. It does a number on the brain. My brain seems to have channeled all its energy into survival mode, and a lot has fallen by the wayside, including my memory. In fact, I’m hoping my memory is in recovery mode now, but if I forgot something that was important to you…I’m sorry. I’ve even forgotten things that were important to me.

Indifference comes into play when I hear someone complain about something that I think is not a big deal in comparison to losing a loved one. Indifference comes into play when I think someone is making a mountain out of a molehill…and I tend to think that a lot. During the past week, my bank account was hacked, and I had to set up a new checking account. Ugh. Also, during the past week, an angry driver, who mistakenly thought he had the right of way in the Target parking lot, clipped my car. It was annoying. I know people who would have cried and would still be crying about both events, but I have the perspective of grief. I know those things aren’t small problems, but they aren’t as big as losing a loved one. Seriously, grief changes your perspective. A grieving person might even be indifferent about something that is important to you. Planning a party? The grieving person might not care about coming to your party. Don’t be offended.

Anger is a whole different beast. I’m not really into astrology, but anyone who knows I’m a Gemini would say I’m a true Gemini. I’m happy-go-lucky most of the time, and I truly want to be happy-go-lucky all of the time, but if I’m cornered or pushed too far…not so happy-go-lucky. In grief, the “not so happy-go-lucky” part is more easily triggered. It’s not something I’m proud of. It’s not something I want to continue, and I work really hard to keep it in check, but I think, in grief, we tend to wear our hearts on our sleeves. Well, maybe I shouldn’t generalize. Maybe I should say, “In grief, I wear my heart on my sleeve.” I’ve never been one to “get my feelings hurt,” and I’m still not. In grief, I don’t “get my feelings hurt,” but I do find I’m more quickly angered. That doesn’t mean I’m always angry. It means I don’t want anyone to poke the bear.

The one emotion everyone expects from grieving people is sadness. And yes, I’ve had profound sadness. For a month after Mother died, I went to bed. I barely functioned. I’ve written about it before. I gave myself permission to stay in bed for that month…crying whenever I needed to. After that, I forced myself to get up and get moving, but that doesn’t mean the sadness didn’t creep through every now and then…it still does. In fact, on the 30th of every month, I find myself calculating how long Mother has been gone…just as I did for years after Daddy died. Now I don’t have any parents. I don’t have a mother or daddy I can call for advice. Fortunately, I have some trusted family members, but they’re still not my mother or daddy.

So here’s what I’m telling you. A grieving person might be wearing their emotions on their sleeves for a long time. We all grieve differently, but don’t be surprised if your grieving friend is emotional for longer than you expect. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get the reactions you expect. Don’t be surprised if they forget things…even important things. Don’t be surprised if they are quick to anger.

In fact, I think of the grieving person as a bear. A bear lives in survival mode, except for the hibernation period, which was also part of grief for me. If there is something you wouldn’t do to a bear…annoy it, anger it, corner it…then don’t do that to your grieving friend. Look at the claws on the bear in the picture above…that’s what grief can bring out.

Simply put…don’t poke the bear.

***Please note: if you are grieving and having difficulty returning to regular life activities, please seek professional help. ***

 

 

 

 

 

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My Top Ten Reasons (Excuses) To Stay In Bed

I don’t consider myself a low energy person. I like to be busy. I like to have things to do. But sometimes, I like to have nothing to do. In fact, one of my hobbies is doing nothing, and sometimes, I look for any reason (excuse) to stay in bed.

How did I marry a man who hates to sleep in? I love sleeping in! I remember when “sleeping in” meant 10am or 11am, but now it means 8:30am, and it’s rare. My husband is a morning person. Every morning at 6:00, he jumps out of bed, opens all the drapes, and starts his day. He usually asks when I want to get up, and rarely I say, “Now.” And when I’m awake, he  brings me a cup of coffee in bed (yes, he does!). Lots of times, though, I say I’m not ready to get up yet, and I feel the need to give him a reason (excuse) for me to stay in bed. Some of my reasons (excuses) for staying in bed are good, and some are lame, but here they are:

  • “I was up late last night picking up teenagers from friends’ houses while you were sleeping.” I’m really a night owl, so I don’t mind driving kids around at night, but I use it to my advantage the next day, if I can. Sometimes it buys me an extra hour in bed.
  • “It’s raining.” Or snowing…either would apply. Yes, I’ve actually used this lots of times. Who wants to get out of bed when it’s rainy and gloomy outside?!? You can either let that rain ruin your weekend, or you can use it to your advantage…be happy you get to catch some extra  Zzzzzz’s.
  • “We’re out of coffee.” This one is pretty lame. I admit it. But it worked. When I told my husband I didn’t want to get out of bed one Saturday morning, because we were out of coffee, it bought me another 45 minutes of sleep. He actually went to the grocery store and bought more Keurig cups, and on the way home he stopped at Dunkin Donuts and picked up an Iced Coffee for me.
  • “We don’t have anywhere to be.” Fortunately, our daughter gave up club soccer a few years ago, so we don’t have to get up at 5:00am to drive three hours for a soccer game on weekends anymore. There have been lots of Saturdays my husband has jumped out of bed and started to open the drapes, but I’ve interrupted him by saying, “Don’t bring my coffee till 9:00, please. We don’t have anywhere to be.” He sighs, but he hears me.
  • “I’ve gotten up early five days in a row…no more.” Yes, there’s a limit on how many days in a row I’m willing to get out of bed early…five days. I do it because I have to, but don’t ask for more than five early mornings in a row. I might cut you.
  • “It’s cold out there, but it’s warm in bed.” I’ve honestly quoted Wham!’s song, Wake Me Up Before You GoGo, as my reason (excuse) to stay in bed. It’s my favorite line in the song: “It’s cold out there, but it’s warm in bed. They can dance; we’ll stay home instead!” I love sleep, but I don’t do it very well anymore…despite the fact that I used to be a professional sleeper. If it’s really cold outside, for some reason, it’s easier for me to sleep. Thus…the line from the song.
  • “I didn’t sleep well last night.” This one is a good one. Lots of times, it’s legit. I rarely sleep well, since I usually wake up at least three or four times a night. Most people would consider my average sleep night a terrible night’s sleep. For me, waking up several times is normal. A bad night is when I wake up and can’t go back to sleep, or when I am awake more than I’m asleep. A good night is when I wake up two times or fewer. So, I could use, “I didn’t sleep well last night,” as a reason to sleep in on almost any given day…legitimately.
  • “The Barometric pressure is off.” Lol! This means absolutely nothing to my husband, but it totally sounds good. In reality, barometric pressure changes can trigger migraines, but for me to use this line is a total ruse. Yet, I’ve used it on more than one occasion. Like I said, I enjoy a little extra sleep.
  • “I spent the whole weekend at our daughter’s sports tournament.” This one goes a long way, because there is no way he wants to be the parent who has to go to the out-of town sports tournament. He knows if he lets me stay in bed a little longer after a weekend in Rocky Mount, NC, for a lacrosse tournament, he won’t have to go to the next one either.

If you’re like me, and you consider sleep a hobby, you might want to keep this list next to your bed. Or maybe you have your own reasons (excuses) to stay in bed?

Happy sleeping!

Decide To Be Happy

Sometimes, life hands us lemons. We’ve all heard it…we need to make lemonade. My mother used to always say, “You have to decide to be happy.”

Every single day since I lost my mother in December of 2017, I remind myself that I have to decide to be happy. It’s not that I haven’t experienced any happiness, but sometimes, when I get sad about having lost her, it’s hard to bring myself out of it. And every time, I hear her say, “You have to decide to be happy.”

I try not to write about death and loss very often, because I know people don’t want to hear about it. I know it’s a downer. I know that sometimes, I feel better if I think of something happy. But right now, it’s OK if no one wants to hear about it. It’s OK if everybody skips over this, because right now, I need to write about it.

I’m in the process of closing out Mother’s estate. No, there were no loose ends to tie up. She made it as easy as possible. She had a will. She listed survivors on bank accounts. She didn’t have any debt. She made it easy. Maybe if she had made it complicated, I could have gotten angry with her and been in a bigger hurry to close everything, but nope…she made the division of assets easy. Yet, I still haven’t closed out the estate, and it’s time for me to do it. I should have done it six months ago, but it’s downright depressing.

In fact, I feel more sad now than I did immediately after her passing. Weird, I know, but I guess I feel like closing out the estate is like closing the final chapter on her life. There have been days that I knew would be difficult…my parents’ anniversary, Mother’s Day, her birthday, Christmas Eve (the anniversary of her hospitalization), Christmas Day, the anniversary of her death (December 30)…but I never expected this part to be so difficult. I thought it was completely transactional, and being a tough chick, I thought I’d be able to treat this as a transaction. But I can’t. I realize that now, because I’ve been delaying it…and I’ve been sad.

And I’ve been off my game. Sure, I’ve gone through the motions of regular life, but deep inside, I’ve been off my game since she took her last breath.

And now I’m faced with closing the book on the estate.

But something occurred to me today: Maybe…just maybe…it will be freeing. That’s all I can hope. Maybe I will feel a little sense of freedom, like a weight has been lifted, when I sign all the papers. Maybe closing the estate will actually make me feel better. We’ve all had times like that. We put something off because it’s scary, but once it happens, we feel a sense of relief or freedom. I have friends who put off signing divorce papers, because it was depressing, but once they did it, they felt like the albatross had been removed from their necks. Maybe the estate is my albatross? That sounds terrible. My mother would not like it that I referred to it that way, but she doesn’t get a vote in this.

After my daddy died, mother was talking with her doctor about anti-depressants, and she said, “My husband wouldn’t like it.” The doctor, very calmly, said, “Your husband’s not here anymore. He doesn’t get a vote in this.” And he was right! She knew it, and she actually laughed! For the record, she started taking the anti-depressant, and it made a big difference in her approach to life. Sure, she was still grieving Daddy, but the anti-depressant helped her decide to be happy.

As soon as I receive all the paperwork, I’ll sign off on closing the estate. In fact, I’m going to invite friends to a brunch at my house for that very day, so they can come over and drink some champagne with me to celebrate the closure…the freedom.

Mother would laugh about that, and she would be happy to know that it’s done.

I will decide to be happy…just in time for spring!

 

 

 

The Moon Belongs to Everyone

The moon belongs to everyone…the best things in life are free.

That line is from the song, The Best Things in Life Are Free, which was written in 1927 for the musical, Good News. I wrote it down a few weeks ago when I was watching an episode of Mad Men in which the ghost of one of the characters, Bert Cooper, sings the song and dances in front of Don Draper. It’s one of the most memorable scenes from the series. You can see the clip from Mad Men here.While I was on vacation this week, I was reminded of it.

We were in Cancun for Spring Break, and every night, the moon was glorious over the water!img_1689-e1553395245246.jpg

Years ago, my parents lived near Mobile, Alabama. I live in Charlotte now and lived here then too, but whenever there was a beautiful moon high in the sky, Daddy would call me and tell me to walk outside and look at the moon. We would talk on the phone while staring at the exact same object while we were hundreds of miles apart.

Daddy died in October of 2006. That night, as I drove from my parents’ home to our bayside condo, I looked up at the moon in the sky and thought, “Daddy will never see the moon again. He won’t be here to see anything that happens after this date.” It made me sad to think about that, but it was also comforting to know that every time I looked at the moon, I would think of him.

After Daddy died, my brother started referring to a big, full moon as Big Ken’s Moon. Both our parents are gone now, but every now and then, my brother will send me a picture of the moon high in the sky, and I know he and I are thinking of Daddy at that same moment.

When my brother was helping with cleanup efforts after a tornado wreaked havoc on his town in Alabama, he sent me a picture of the moon in the background while the were working. I knew what he was thinking…Daddy was with him in spirit.

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Moon over tornado damage. Big Ken’s Moon

Yes, the moon does belong to everyone, and yes, the best things in life are free….including that moon. You know some more great things in life that are free?

  • Sunshine. Yep, it’s free. It warms us up and helps flowers grow…and it’s free!
  • Love…also free. I love my family and friends, and I expect nothing in exchange for that love. It’s free.
  • Faith. Faith is free. I won’t get into the meaning of faith, but if you have it, you know  you have it…and it’s free.
  • Rainbows. Also free. Walk outside after a storm. Sometimes you’ll find a rainbow. God’s promise…it’s free.
  • Laughter…free. Nothing makes me feel better than laughter. Having a good laugh is “the best medicine,” and that medicine is free.
  • Hugs…hugs are free, and somewhere I read that hugs help lower blood pressure and decrease stress.

There are lots more great things in life that are free. Get out there and enjoy some free stuff. I’ll be looking for the moon.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Moon Belongs to Everyone

The moon belongs to everyone…the best things in life are free.

That line is from the song, The Best Things in Life Are Free, which was written in 1927 for the musical, Good News. I wrote it down a few weeks ago when I was watching an episode of Mad Men in which the ghost of one of the characters, Bert Cooper, sings the song and dances in front of Don Draper. It’s one of the most memorable scenes from the series. You can see the clip from Mad Men here.While I was on vacation this week, I was reminded of it.

We were in Cancun for Spring Break, and every night, the moon was glorious over the water!img_1689-e1553395245246.jpg

Years ago, my parents lived near Mobile, Alabama. I live in Charlotte now and lived here then too, but whenever there was a beautiful moon high in the sky, Daddy would call me and tell me to walk outside and look at the moon. We would talk on the phone while staring at the exact same object while we were hundreds of miles apart.

Daddy died in October of 2006. That night, as I drove from my parents’ home to our bayside condo, I looked up at the moon in the sky and thought, “Daddy will never see the moon again. He won’t be here to see anything that happens after this date.” It made me sad to think about that, but it was also comforting to know that every time I looked at the moon, I would think of him.

After Daddy died, my brother started referring to a big, full moon as Big Ken’s Moon. Both our parents are gone now, but every now and then, my brother will send me a picture of the moon high in the sky, and I know he and I are thinking of Daddy at that same moment.

When my brother was helping with cleanup efforts after a tornado wreaked havoc on his town in Alabama, he sent me a picture of the moon in the background while the were working. I knew what he was thinking…Daddy was with him in spirit.

img_2067

Moon over tornado damage. Big Ken’s Moon

Yes, the moon does belong to everyone, and yes, the best things in life are free….including that moon. You know some more great things in life that are free?

  • Sunshine. Yep, it’s free. It warms us up and helps flowers grow…and it’s free!
  • Love…also free. I love my family and friends, and I expect nothing in exchange for that love. It’s free.
  • Faith. Faith is free. I won’t get into the meaning of faith, but if you have it, you know  you have it…and it’s free.
  • Rainbows. Also free. Walk outside after a storm. Sometimes you’ll find a rainbow. God’s promise…it’s free.
  • Laughter…free. Nothing makes me feel better than laughter. Having a good laugh is “the best medicine,” and that medicine is free.
  • Hugs…hugs are free, and somewhere I read that hugs help lower blood pressure and decrease stress.

There are lots more great things in life that are free. Get out there and enjoy some free stuff. I’ll be looking for the moon.

 

 

 

 

 

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One Year of Blogs

I say it all the time, and the older I get, the more true it is: time flies.

It has been one year since I started “blogging.” I started it as my own form of therapy a month after my mother died, and I do believe it has helped me cope with her death. If you had asked me about that this past December, I might have said otherwise. The first anniversary of her passing was extremely difficult for me…maybe harder than when she actually died. I think I was in so much shock after her death that I didn’t fully digest what had happened. At the one year mark of her death, I was heartbroken. Fortunately, the holidays are a busy time, so I could find lots of things to occupy my mind: shopping, parties, wrapping gifts, spending time with family, spending time with friends. I still grieved throughout the year. There are still times I think I’m losing my mind with grief. But the blog was also a big help.

The blog has morphed somewhat over the year. Originally, I wanted it to be a place where I could share great things I had found and share the stories behind them. There has been some of that, but sometimes, I find myself just sharing stories. I love a good story. I also have a pretty good memory, so I have a story for lots of things that happen. I don’t profess to be a great storyteller, but I appreciate folks who are.

I love writing about my favorite products, but my favorite pieces are stories about my life, my friends, or family members. Yes, I have favorites. I’ll list them at the end of this piece.

Just when I think I’ve run out of stories or new things to share, something else pops up. Lots of times, I see someone or something that reminds me of something else. I make a note in my phone, and then, when I get time, I sit down and write about it. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Some things are easier to write about than others.

But here’s the thing: I write for me. Do I like that people read it and sometimes reach out to me? Of course I do! Does that make it more fun? You bet! But I’m really writing it for a selfish reason: my sanity. It’s a great outlet. If I’m mad, sometimes I write about it. I might not ever share it, but it’s saved in my “drafts” folder. If I’m sad, I write about it, and again, it might not make it past “drafts.” If I’m happy or amused, I might write about that too! In fact, I just took a look at my drafts folder and found that I have about 240 blogs in that folder! And I’ve published just over 140. And hopefully, one day, when I’m long gone, my daughter will still have some of my stories.

Thank you for reading me. I never expected this to become “the next big thing.” I expected it to help me get through the first year without my mother. And it did. Now, I hope it will help me through the second year without my mother. Readers have sent me messages about how some of my stories remind them of things that have happened in their own lives. That’s what I enjoy. I enjoy the feedback. I enjoy the interaction.

So thank you. I’m grateful.

***Some of my favorite pieces from the past year (click on title):

 

 

 

 

 

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