... a voice for those who mourn the loss of a soul mate
"He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began." - Leo Tolstoy

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Looking for the gift

As I mentioned in my last post, I am experiencing a health challenge right now. And I would be lying if I said I wasn't concerned and a little scared. In the past, John was always here to hold my hand and erase my fears with one of his wonderful hugs. So, traveling this road alone is new for me and not without some anxiety.
But I have been determined to soldier on. And because of that I have been forced to look elsewhere for support. And that has led me to some new insights that I do not believe were just coincidences. In fact, I now think that was a hidden gift in this experience.
Let me explain.
After John transitioned, my need for connection with him led me to a new level in my spiritual life that I would never have attained had it not been for his passing. In my book, I spoke about how that was just one of the gifts he gave me.
But I admit, over the years, even though I still learned at every opportunity - and there were many - there have been times in the last couple of years that I may have gotten a bit complacent. I know in the last few months, for example, I was not meditating as much as I had been before or should be.
And then "this" happened.
In my quest for answers, I turned to God and to John and my Team. I started meditating again.
I took a step back and evaluated what was important in my life and what needed to be let go.
I asked John for advice and the message I heard in my head was "Get purer."
Hmm...an interesting comment. John was very fond of saying "Things are happening the way they are supposed to." He didn't push against things. Instead, he let things roll off his back. He was very forgiving. He prayed. Often.
Then I started meditating again and I asked for answers there too. The message was loud and clear.
And very similar.
Don't worry so much.
Let things go.
Practice the Serenity Prayer.
Do more of this (meditating).
Grief takes many forms. In this blog, we have talked most often about grief as it relates to losing our soul mates but we grieve other losses too. Losing health is a loss that surely shakes us up and puts potholes where once we had a straight safe path.
So, once again, being shaken up has forced me to reassess and while I am not happy about my situation, I am trying, as I did when John passed, to look for a hidden gift in all of this.
No, I am not turning into Pollyanna. When a bad thing happens, it sucks. No getting around that.
But I am also not going to waste the opportunity to use this experience to my advantage. I am going to go back to my spiritual path and aim for serenity and peace.
It's a work in progress.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

"I'm still here."

I'm going through a bit of a health challenge right now. What it is exactly isn't really important. What is important is that I am shaken by it and desperately wish I had my Honey here with me to help me through it.
Don't get me wrong - I have some wonderful friends who are giving of themselves to support me. But, as all of us who have lost a dear one know, nothing can really replace the hug of your soul mate, the kiss to make it all better, the words of comfort that only he or she can give to soothe your soul.
So, in my stress, I have turned to John in the ways I have since he has passed. I talk to him almost constantly and I receive signs on a daily basis. Granted, most of them are small signs and very subtle. But that doesn't diminish them in any way. A sign is a sign and I will take whatever I can get.
But this challenge is a big one and I wanted and needed a big sign from John to show me that this was going to be something we would handle together, that he is here for me as he always has been.
I needed a sign that would knock my socks off, so to speak.
Well, let me tell you - John came through.
The first one came on Wednesday afternoon.
I was walking from the bedroom to the living room [why doesn't matter - I can't even remember why now] and I heard a familiar chime. It caught my attention. I have lots of electrical equipment in my house - the computer, my iPhone with dozens of apps that chirp and burp occasionally, Alexa, etc.
And so for a millisecond my brain was trying to locate the reason for the chime. Then I heard a distinct voice coming from my house security system saying "Alarm Stay - Exit now".
I immediately became first confused and then tremendously impressed.
There are only two ways to set the house system on like that - by pressing a 5 digit code on the keypad itself or by opening the app in my phone, inserting a 4 digit code, waiting for the app to wake up [it takes several seconds] and then setting the alarm stay mode [another two taps on the phone].
I had done none of that!
Yet, when I checked the keypad it was now in alarm mode and the indicator light was red. I had to manually turn it off.
Okay, John, you have my attention.
But he wasn't through.
The next night I fell asleep watching TV. I often do that. I woke up to reruns of Frasier and watched for a few minutes until I got drowsy and then used the remote to turn the TV off.
I rolled over to go back to sleep but heard a strange whirring noise. At first I thought it was the pet water fountain but it was too loud.
I sat up and couldn't believe my eyes.
The electrical fireplace insert had turned on - all by itself! Yes, it is controlled by a remote control unit but that unit was sitting on the mantel yards away from me and out of reach of any cats. I had to get out of bed and grab the remote to turn the fireplace off. My first thought was maybe the TV remote had done it but it had never done that before in the year since the insert had been installed.
No, there could only be one answer.

I don't know how this health episode is going to work out for me in the next few months but it really doesn't matter.
I know what I need to know. Just as in the old days, when something was bothering me and I needed a hug or a kiss or words telling me John had my back, he is still doing that now in the ways he can.
I had wanted a "big" sign and John had sent me two.
I smiled and said Thank you and because I am feeling needy right now I asked John to keep doing this.
Reach out to your loved ones who have passed. They won't fail you. You have to be aware but if you work at it, you will learn this new language.
They are here. They still love us.
Love lives on!

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Tribute to Best Friends

I have heard it said that you find out who your true friends are in the most difficult of times. I think that is especially true when there is serious illness or death involved. Sometimes, it is that very adversity that strengthens a friendship.

Almost anyone who has lost someone close to their heart will tell you that in the first days, so-called friends and many acquaintances come out of the woodwork to help you in your grief. But days, weeks, months later, who is still there? Who are the people who still call, who spend time just being present for you, who somehow become an integral part of the warp and woof of the fabric that is your new existence? Those are the people you know are true friends for life. Those are the ones I think you can call best friends.

What is a best friend? To me, it is that person who stands with you as you grieve – for however long it takes for you to heal and find peace. They are there when you cry, when you laugh, when you rage against the cruel gods who stole your love from you, when you can finally begin remembering happier times. They are there. A best friend is someone who will rush to your side when you are weeping hysterically but unable to articulate why. And they are the ones who will sit beside you, holding your hand as you listen to a doctor’s grave words. They are there when you need them, and they are there when you do not even admit to yourself that you do need someone. They are there.

Now, I have had friends for as long as I can remember, many of them good friends, but only a very select few have ever attained the status of best friend. I don’t know what is true for little boys but as children, girls go through a succession of best friends. I did too, but today I doubt I could name more than one or two of them. They were friends of my childhood before I could discriminate the difference between good friend and best friend. I think that as we mature, we become more cautious about who we allow to be that close to us, who we let in to our most sensitive selves.

But what, I hear you say, about husbands or wives, lovers, soul mates, significant others? Are they best friends? I would like to think so, but the truth is, that relationship is different. Somehow, the physical intimacy complicates it. The connection is different. They are an entirely different type of best friend.

As an adult, I have had five best friends. Only five. And I have reached an age where I doubt there will be any more. So, it is very distressing to me to realize that only three are left. I mourn the ones who are gone. I pray for the wellbeing of the ones who are left. All five of them fit my definition of best friend but only three are still here where I can touch them. Drawing on each other’s strength, we have battled grief, illness, emotional trauma, life. And we trust one another to always be there when life starts throwing curve balls as it is wont to do regularly.

I need these friends. They are my stalwart companions in the face of life’s challenges and have saved me more often than I could ever have imagined. I pray they will be with me should I again have to find my way down grief’s rocky path. It is not a road to be followed alone. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A New Resolution … Each Day a New Beginning

As the Holidays wind to a close, the real world begins to reassert itself. Sparkling lights come off the houses leaving them just houses rather than magical palaces. The shopping frenzy is behind us, but the credit card bills are not. Trash bins are filled with sad remnants of gift wrap and the Christmas decorations are returned to their year-round home, sometimes with regret, often with relief.

This year, for me, relief wins. 2017 has been one of the most difficult years of my life. A year that started with a focus on growth and positive changes quickly gave way to a focus on cancer treatments, worry about my children’s health and then a funeral and settling an estate. Sorrow and worry seemed to dominate this entire year. I am deeply grateful it is over and do not ever want a repeat.

Our Christmas was a sad, diminished affair. Dale was gone from us forever. Dennie was still fragile from her cancer treatments. And a third of our family stayed home with the flu. Our annual gift exchange game lacked the joy and fun of previous years. Sometimes, I felt as though I was on autopilot, simply going through the motions of a mom doing Christmas. Is this what happens when grief takes hold of a family? I suspect the answer is yes.

I started 2017 with the same optimism I always bring to a new year, serving gallons of blackeyed peas to family and friends for good luck and making unofficial resolutions in hopes of improving my life. But in hindsight, I don’t think the peas worked and I am not sure making resolutions for 2018 is such a great idea. They didn’t work out all that well in this nightmare of a year. All I want is to not repeat what we experienced in the last 12 months. My wishes are far more basic than in years before. I want good health for all those I love. I want peace on earth and barring that unlikely event, I want peace in my own heart. And most of all, I want my son back. The last, sadly, cannot be and so I must content myself with finding ways to heal the grief his loss has left behind.

Every year, the world celebrates the birth of a new year with fireworks, libations, parties, and global celebration. The very term is rife with hope for a fresh beginning. We make resolutions in hopes we can change whatever did not go well in the year just passed. This year, we say, I WILL … lose weight … exercise … stop smoking … get a new job … go back to school … and so on and on. By February, most of us have started to slip back into old habits and the resolutions become a thing of the past.

I am hoping for a different type of new year. First of all, I had thought to eliminate my blackeyed peas open house in 2018. But old habits die hard and I found that everyone was just expecting to be here tomorrow. I guess we will try one more time to create good luck via a bowl of humble peas. Maybe this time, the Universe will hear our prayers and they will work.

And I have resolved to make no resolutions. Rather, I plan to change my focus on the year. I think I will, instead, try to see every day of 2018 as a new opportunity to get life right, the start of another new year if you will. Do you think that might fool the fates? Just as a new year spurs us to start anew, perhaps seeing each day as a fresh start will do one major thing for me.  It will allow me to live in the present, viewing every new morning as time I can release regrets of what I can no longer control and instead focus on gratitude for the things large and small that enrich my life. Perhaps that is a path to healed grief and the inner peace I so desperately crave.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Happy holidays - or not

The holidays are hard for those of us who are mourning the loss of loved ones.
My advice for you is to honor that feeling. Allow yourself the space to do what you need to do for yourself.
It is all right to do so. In fact, it is necessary.
Almost two weeks ago, I lost my beautiful Aunt Mary. Aunt Mary was my mother's sister, my aunt, my Godmother, my second mother - and in some respects, my true mother. She was always there for me, showering me with unconditional love.
The loss I feel at losing her is rivaled only by the pain of losing John, my soul mate.
So, Christmas is going to be very understated this year.
And that's okay. People will understand. And if they don't, it's not my problem.
I have made plans to do essentially nothing this holiday time. I will go to Church, rent some movies, and surround myself with my furbabies.
My soul needs TLC and that is what it will get.
If you are mourning and the holidays feel like just too much for you, I urge you to do the same - whatever that means for you.
Go out when you want to.
If you are around people, feel free to honor your loved one - share memories, say their name, don't feel guilty if you want to laugh - or cry.
Or stay home when that feels right.
Eat ice cream in front of the TV.
Curl up with a good book.
Watch cheesy holiday movies on TV.
The holidays are only days. You will get through them.
We all will.
Soon it will be a new year and we will march forward, carrying our loved ones in our hearts and helping those who also mourn.
That's my plan.
I will most likely be on Facebook over this time - who am I kidding? Of course, I will. :)
Reach out to me if you feel so inclined.
But most of all, know that you are not alone.
Your loved ones are with you.
Those who care about you are with you.
You can do this.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

New Traditions

I can think of no time more steeped in tradition than Christmas. When I was growing up, Thanksgiving marked the beginning of the season and I learned to celebrate it with the Macy’s parade. Seeing Santa Claus come down the street on his sleigh meant it was time to kick into high gear preparing for that one big day. I still tend to tear up when I see this year’s Santa waving to the crowd. It is tradition.

Immediately after Thanksgiving, we started with cookies. My step sister and I would pull favorite recipes out of their year-long storage and then ransack Woman’s Day and Family Circle magazines for new ones. With our list close at hand we would spend the first couple of weeks making and freezing cookie dough. The week before Christmas meant baking dozens of delicious and creative cookies. It was tradition.

The tree always had to be large and fresh and generously strung with carefully placed strands of silver tinsel that seemed to find its way around the house. In those days, we did not have the option of artificial trees but I’m not sure we would have ever gone that route in any case. After all, it was tradition.

Shopping meant lots of presents under the tree, most of them very inexpensive and some, like underwear and neckties, necessities. But, wrapping those simple gifts in on-so-creative ways (ideas culled again from Woman’s Day and Family Circle) transformed each one into something very special. That was tradition too and I spent hours at it.

At some point, the family would pile into the car and my dad would drive us around to see all the lovely Christmas lights. This was a carry-over tradition from my earliest days in Texas when the highlight of the season was walking around downtown Dallas to see the exciting displays in all the store windows, especially the animated ones at Penney’s and Neiman Marcus. Yet another important tradition.

Is it any wonder that when I married, I brought those traditions with me? The tree always had to be large, fresh and smothered in that insane silver tinsel. I drove myself crazy trying to bake cookies while holding down a full-time job. Shopping in December became my second full-time job. After all, I needed, really needed to let my new family know I could make Christmas something truly special. I so was exhausted from all the preparation that I forgot the important part of Christmas when it finally arrived – family.

Well, as I have gotten older and our family has changed, I have started allowing some old traditions to fade away and some new ones to creep in. Some of the old ones are easier to release than others.
The cookies and tinsel went first. That was easy. I realized I did not need the extra calories contained in too many Christmas cookies and my family did not seem to care one way or the other. And frankly, the tinsel went because it not only took forever to put on the tree, one strand at a time, but was also most unwelcome when it kept appearing in the house – in August!

The drive to see lights never caught on. After all, when you live in the country as we did for many years, it takes forever to find anyone who has decorated outside.

As our family scattered and grew with new spouses, grandchildren and then great-grandchildren, I eventually learned to curb the obsession over too many gifts and creative wrapping. Quality, I found, matters more than quantity. Instead of having a gift-opening frenzy, we introduced a new tradition. Rather than buying gifts, the adults now have a spirited gift exchange game that we all love. And, rather than ship gifts out of state, our far-flung families now make donations to favorite charities in the name of the family.

Eventually, the tree, that centerpiece of the holiday, changed too. It was the hardest tradition to change. The year we left on December 26 for a cruise, I was reluctant to leave a fire trap unattended in our house and so bought our first artificial tree. But at 7 ½ feet, it was still massive! Several years ago, I threatened to have no tree at all as that heavy tree (the second one I had bought) was just too much to drag out of storage and set up. A new tradition started that year. Our kids insisted we had to have the tree with all the very special ornaments I had collected over the years. That was the year Dale and Dennie started coming over early in December to assemble the tree for us.

This year was to be no different. Until cancer took our Dale in June and our Dennie spent most of the year fighting her own cancer. As we approached this holiday, celebrating in any way just did not seem to matter. I think we are all still grieving too deeply. I was torn. Do I soldier on, keeping to all the old traditions as though nothing has changed when in fact, everything has? Or can I get away with doing nothing, which is what would be easiest? Please, can’t we just ignore Christmas this once? Traditions be damned!

Still, tradition is a powerful beastie. Too many others are invested in continuing as we have before. One by one, they have let me know they plan to be here as always. And so, in honor of the son we have lost, we are keeping most of the old traditions alive. We will come together for Christmas Eve. We will have the same foods, the same drinks. We will have the gift exchange and it will be raucous. Christmas lights already adorn Dale’s house. His widow and son made sure of that because he always loved them so. It is, after all, tradition.

This year there is something new, however, driven by necessity. For the first time in my life, the tree is not only artificial, it is also a mere 5 ½ feet tall. It is lightweight and easy for us to handle without help. I have it decorated now, but my most special ornaments will remain in storage. The ones on the tree are lovely, just not the oldest or most meaningful. Perhaps this new, smaller tree will become tradition in time.

And in the gift exchange, there will be an extra gift, a ball cap, to be given to someone who would not otherwise get anything for Christmas. That will be in honor of Dale.

Changing the way things have always been done is never easy but it is inevitable, and we must somehow find a way to adapt. I think there can be comfort in the old ways, but sometimes, as it is with grief, they can be painful reminders of what has been lost, what will never be again. For me, a smaller Christmas tree and a simple ball cap are new traditions and adaptations to the changes this year has brought. They are small ones to be sure, but still they are changes I will have to get used to. It is one small way I have found to keep moving forward when all I want to do is stop.

Friday, December 1, 2017


Remember that song made famous by Barbra Streisand about memories?  The Way We Were?
Or the song about memories in the play Cats?
Both of those songs reminisce about times gone by and how precious those times are now - living on, if only in our mind.
Which begs the question - if we don't remember them - did they happen?
Would it matter?
What happens when there is no one left to remember?
Why am I waxing so philosophically?
I suppose it could be because of the holiday season that is now upon us but I suspect it's more than that.
This past week my Christmas present from John arrived. No, I know he didn't buy it. But every year I buy something special for myself that I know he would have purchased for me if he were here. This year it was an Amazon Echo Show. I'm a sucker for gadgets and John knows that so yes, he would have succumbed to all my hints and bought me this.
One of the things that this particular device does is play songs with lyrics and videos which is something the Echo Dot [yes, I have those too] does not do.
So as soon as I had it all set up and functioning I told my device whom I named "Computer" [I am also a Star Trekkie] to play songs from the 80's - the time that John and I were in our early years. I wanted to go down that memory lane.
Computer did not disappoint. The first song she played was Randy Travis' "I'm Gonna Love You Forever" which I also took as a sign from John [my post about that].
I have been listening to that station a lot this week since then. And, yes, the memories have been flooding, as you can imagine.
But there is more to this post than that.
As I sit here now, widowed, all I have now are my memories. And when I forget them, then what?
Already there are things that I fear I am forgetting or not remembering correctly and I don't have John to ask.
My aunt and my mother are both suffering from advanced Alzheimer's. They no longer remember us - my cousins and my siblings - their children. Our family memories are now entrusted to us kids. And we too do not know everything or may remember things differently from each other and we have no one to ask.
After my mother-in-law became ill and subsequently passed away, it was up to me to clean out her house and decide what to keep, what to discard. There were boxes of old photos as you can imagine. Some people I knew. Most I didn't. I kept all the ones I knew and a good portion of the ones I had no clue what or who they were about. There was something about them that just compelled me to keep them. These were people who were important to other people at one time. It felt sacrilegious to toss them away. Consequently, I now have a box of photographs of strangers that I am safeguarding and I don't know why. Somebody after me will most likely toss them out.
But memories are important.
They evoke feelings, emotions, tears, smiles, heartbreak, laughter...
When all is said and done, they are the last of our personal histories that we cherish, even more than things. Photos disintegrate, things break but memories live on as long as we do.
So, I cherish my memories, even if sometimes they bring a tear.
Because they also bring a smile and feelings of love.
And I will cherish that until my last breath.