... 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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Are you a gift card or a promo certificate type? by Betts McCalla

A gift card is usually bought with money or maybe with earned reward points and it has unlimited purchase possibilities. A promo cert is usually a freebie, a sort of consolation prize, and its use is restricted to certain products.

As you move through your suddenly single life are you paying your way with legal tender or are you always looking for the promos, the freebies, the handouts, lunching on Costco samples? Are you engaging wholeheartedly in your daily life or are you miserly limiting yourself to the restricted activities from the freebie list. The things you feel you deserve. It’s sort of the difference between electing to pay to climb into the hot air balloon gondola and enjoy the vista spread out before you with the champagne toast or just waving up at a balloon as it passes overhead. Can you experience full heart racing exhilaration or do you question your right to even laugh out loud?

Do you remember the first time you laughed out loud after your loved one passed? I do. It was exactly a month later. Several friends I knew from my disbanded writer’s group invited me out for a special lunch. I really didn’t want to go but felt obligated because these were my peers and they cared about me. When still active, our writers’ group usually met once a month and a handful of us would get together before the meeting for a light lunch. Often JT would join us for the meal so he became sort of an honorary member. On the day I first laughed out loud, the lunch table bore a gift of beautiful and very fragrant  roses in a lovely glass vase. Roses were my husband’s favorite flowers. We used to have 86 rose bushes in our southern California backyard so in my mind the vase of flowers represented him. During lunch my friends took turns recalling conversations and telling funny anecdotes about my charming, intelligent, full-of-life man. I had been present during some of these conversations but others were new to me and I was delighted to hear them. These generous women also presented me with a blue memory box from Hallmark. I recall thinking it was way too small to hold my memories and wondering what I should put in it. I ended up using it for the notes and condolence cards I received. We had a lovely lunch and I laughed a little bit with my friends. I remember thanking them and telling them it was the first time I had laughed out loud since August 10th. When I got to the car, I drove around to the back of the shopping center, parked and sobbed. I wanted my husband back.

If you have lost your soul mate you probably have repeatedly experienced the fear and despair eloquently played out by Beethoven’s No.5 also known as Death Knocking at the Door. Initially, your existence is shattered and you feel shell shocked. But in a year, or maybe 5 years or even possibly longer, you will start to feel alive again. You will abandon the shotgun approach to hobbies- some grievers take on multiple craft projects, or sign up for a variety of classes, or buy real estate. You will eventually crave the company of your peers, albeit with possibly new faces and you will regain an appetite for food and camaraderie. You will start to seek out worthwhile activities that will enrich your soul, and give you a sense of purpose. You will stop restricting yourself to the promo certs and realize still being alive is not wrong. Maybe you won’t feel the happiness and sense of security your life held before your soul mate passed but you will feel good again. I promise. And you will laugh out loud. I promise that, too.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I miss cooking

I miss cooking. Not the every day type of cooking. Not the "We're home from work and it's late and we're starving and what can we throw together?" type of cooking or even the usual run of the mill every day cooking.
No, I miss the cooking days John and I used to have every so often. There were some Saturdays that we would decide to make soup and it would literally take all day. There was one particular soup that was our favorite - potato soup.
Potato soup started out early in the morning by peeling a mound of potatoes. Then we made what was called Garbage Soup. This was a soup that was simmered for hours by making a soup of the potato peels and lots of garlic and spices. This made a broth to base the potato soup on. Some of it we saved and froze for minestrone on another soup Saturday.
After the garbage soup was just right we made the wonderful potato soup. Its aroma would fill the apartment, making us hungry and impatient. To tempt our taste buds even more, I would bake some bread to dunk in the soup. In the early days I made the bread by hand, kneading it on the kitchen counter top, getting out any frustrations from life in its bulk. Later, when we had more money, we bought a bread maker and just timed everything to be ready together.
Then - then! - that evening we would sit down and feast on our day's work - potato soup and crunchy bread. A feast for a king.
Was it an especially tasty meal? Yes, because - potato soup. What's not to like about potato soup? But there was more to it than that.
Making potato soup is one of my favorite memories about my earth life with John. I go back to it often. And I talk about it to my friends with fondness. Making soup with John was a treasure because we spent happy time together. We laughed. We talked. We played with our fur-babies. We hung out in the kitchen all day together. Nothing else mattered on those days.We lived in our own world surrounded by good smells, good food, and love. Lots of love.
There were other meals that we made that took all day, too - lasagna and fried chicken are two that I remember. Each of them reside in my heart for the same reason - more for the love than the actual food.
Today I eat a lot of frozen dinners, usually in front of the TV. Dinner for one just doesn't have that appeal. I could make the soups and lasagna again but it's not the same. I'd rather just cherish the memory of the days I spent with John.
But I miss the cooking - and I miss him.

Friday, March 24, 2017

My Soundtrack by Betts McCalla

This is the soundtrack of my life. Can you hear it? Do you know the words? Come sing along with me. Better yet, write down your own soundtrack and share it. I’d love to hear yours.
Chapter One – Becoming
Bridge over Troubled Waters
Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.
She Works Hard for the Money.
Hold On.
Hard Headed Woman.
Chapter Two – Seeking ♂
I Want to Know What Love Is.
I Love Rock N Roll.
Good Golly Miss Molly.
Wake up Little Susie.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The Jack.
Chapter Three – Finding ♥
Joy to the World.
I’ve Loved You Before.
Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything there is a Season).
Unchained Melody.
Somebody to Love.
Chapter Four – Loving ♫
You are My Best Friend.
Don’t Stop Me Now.
When a Man Loves a Woman.
In the Midnight Hour.
Pearl Necklace.
A Kiss to Build a Dream On.
I’m Confessin’ that I Love You.
I’ve Had the Time of My Life.
What a Wonderful World.
Chapter Five – Breaking ♪
You Can’t Lose a Broken Heart.
Live Like You were Dying.
Bad Moon Rising.
Stormy Weather.
Life Support.
Angel Down.
Time for Miracles.
Why Me?
I Ain’t the Same.
To Know Him is to Love Him.
Calling All Angels.
Chapter Six – Grief ↓
Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.
You Feel So Lonely You Could Die.
Ain’t No Sunshine.
My Hero.
Wind Beneath My Wings.
Chapter Seven – Healing ☼
Kickstart My Heart.
We Are Family.
If I Ruled the World.
Because of You.
I Can See Clearly Now.
Taking Care of Business. 

Music is truly our universal language. Each song we recall can remind us of who we were with when we first heard it. Some songs bring forth fizz and some underscore drama. As long as I breathe I will continue to hear music and remember.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Bonus Time … Memories Are Made of This

Betts calls it bonus time. The bonus time clock starts when you wake up one day and realize that life IS finite and the ones you love might not always be here with you. All too often, it is that time you are given after a dire diagnosis is handed down by any number of doctors. It can be anywhere from hours to decades. But most importantly, it is a gift that gives us permission to let go of the many unimportant things that far too often fill our hours with those we love. Instead, we are given some measure of time to clean up relationships, to cherish sunshine and joy and love, to immerse ourselves in the beauty and richness we have been given in this lifetime.

This month, the bonus time clock began ticking for me when two of my three children were diagnosed with cancer a mere two weeks apart. They are both fighters so I believe to the depths of my being that there is hope they will win not only the battle but the war. I have suddenly become warrior mother and will do all I can to fight for them but they are adults with lives of their own. Difficult as it may be, I know I must be content to stand beside them rather than try to lead the charge.

But filling the supportive role is not the only thing I can do. It is time for us to treasure every moment we have left together. And I pray that will be years, that I make that final transition long before either of them. Regardless of how much more time we are given, time together is the most important thing we can share. Nothing mundane should be more important than time spent doing the things we enjoy as a family. Meeting for breakfast, playing silly games, sharing hamburgers cooked on the grill, movie outings, just playing together. I know these simple things that require such a small investment of effort return a bounty of loving memories for us all. When they were younger, we built family memories that way. But then life happened, they grew up, and one family became four with all the responsibilities that entails. Somehow that took precedence over bonus time.

I have a friend who, when her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer, joined with him to create memorable last days together. They traveled. They laughed. They spent quality time with each other and their children. And yes, they cried for the inevitable end they could see on their horizon. But the thing is, they LIVED every moment they had together. When he transitioned, my friend knew that his last days has been as good as they could make them. Does she grieve his loss? Of course she does. But having had those bittersweet bonus days together has let her move forward now that he is gone. His memory lives in her heart and every time she remembers the wonderful times they shared, she is wrapped in his love once more.

So now is my bonus time with my kids. I plan to make the most of it but just want to remind you all that with or without illness in the picture, life itself is bonus time.
(photo by Rita Sherman, Captured Moments)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hello from Heaven

I know I blog a lot about the ways that John continues to stay in touch with me and I hope people are not rolling their eyes and saying "Not again!". But I have to tell you that even I - no matter how many times it happens - continue to be amazed at how our loved ones can communicate with us across the veil. And it seems they never get tired of it.
And that makes sense. Do we get tired of saying Hello to those we love on this side? Of course not! I'm sure it's the same for them. Probably more so because of the circumstances and the fact that they know we are missing them.
For me, every nugget from John is precious.
Yesterday was a perfect case in point.
As I mentioned in another blog post, my birthday was March 1. I purposely didn't ask John for roses. He has sent them to me in one form or another in the past since he transitioned and I didn't want to be a glutton. I did send flowers -with roses - to myself because I know he would have if he were here and I like flowers. I was content.
So yesterday a dear friend took me out to lunch for my birthday to a restaurant both of us like. Our waitress was very nice and very attentive. Shelley - my friend - told her it was my birthday and she brought a candle over with dessert so I could make a wish.
But then she took it a step further.
Totally unbidden by anything we said or did, she showed up at my table with a beautiful single rose and wished me Happy Birthday again.
Shelley and I were both blown away and we looked at each other and said "John!".
We just knew. It had to have been him.
Even though I didn't ask, he sent me a rose. A single beautiful rose that meant more to me than I can express with mere words. My Love is alive and still loving me. He knew I was in a restaurant in Phoenix celebrating my birthday and he was there with me. How wonderful!
My point is simple. Keep looking for the signs. Never stop. The more we are open to them the more we will see them happening.
It's like any other relationship. If we keep investing in it, it grows. If we don't, we lose touch and the communication stops.
The joy it brings cannot be measured.
No, nothing is the same as having our loved one here with us in this three-dimensional life. But if a rose, or a feather, or a penny is what we have, I'll take it and I know you will, too.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I don't wait well

I decided to treat myself this week. Last week was my birthday - a big one! I turned 69 which means technically I am now in my 70th year and, frankly, I am having trouble wrapping my mind around that.
And I thought a new iPad Pro would make me feel better because - why not?
So, off I went to the local Apple store and traded in my old iPad for a new one. Everyone was very helpful getting me set up. An hour and several hundred dollars later I was the new owner of an iPad Pro 9.7. When I came home I ordered an Apple pencil and a beautiful new keyboard to go with it. I'm a geekaholic and I love gadgets.
Then I decided to message my friends and partners Cathy and Betts to tell them of my good fortune and I quickly noticed a problem. My texts were not synching across my iPhone and new iPad. No big deal. I can fix this - or so I thought.
I fiddled. I Googled.
I fiddled again.
I went online with Apple and found no solution I hadn't already tried.
So I found an Apple technician to chat with and after an hour she gave up and scheduled me for the Apple Genius Bar in Scottsdale for the following day.
On my way there the next day I stopped at AT&T to make sure the SIM card was in working order. The AT&T consultant was sure he could solve my problem, adjusted some settings and got me up and running in 10 minutes.
O happy day! Home I went, delighted that I did not have to go back to Apple.
Except I did.
Once home [a 30 minute drive] I realized I was back to square one. Same problem again! No text synching.
Cursing and muttering, I drove back to Apple in Scottsdale. Once there I was put in "the queue" and told it would be an hour.
The end to my story is a good one. I finally made it to the head of the line and a savvy technician solved my issue and all is well in my new iPad universe.
But it brings up a larger issue for me.
I don't do waiting well. I never have. My entire problem and solution took several hours spaced out over two days. By the end I was very frustrated. And that hour waiting for my turn at the genius bar was torture for me. But I think I am getting a teeny tiny bit better at waiting.
I don't know why I am like this. I just know that I am.
And when I combine that impatience trait of mine with my grief journey it's not a good combination.
I like to finish things. I like to do it, make things right - quickly! - and wrap it all up in a bow.
But grief isn't like that. Grief is not tidy and time defined. And if you are short on patience like I am on most days you will find this additionally hard.
Grief is teaching me many things. One of the big ones is to slow down and be accepting and to realize that grief's timeline is not mine and never will be.
It is almost 7 years since John transitioned. And this past Sunday I was texting with my cousin, reminiscing about John, when a grief surge hit and I found myself not only feeling sad but sobbing as I had done back when my grief was new. Granted, the episode did not last as long as it used to but it caught me up short.
And it made me realize once again how I am not in control of this.
Despite my best intentions I can't hurry grief and I can't make it end.
And I have to be patient until I am reunited with John again.
So grief is giving me yet another lesson.
One of these days I'll get it right.
Baby steps.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Is Your Bucket List for Someday or Today?

Do you have a bucket list? Most people do have one, formal or not. For years, my list included finishing my pilot’s license until I realized that goal no longer held the same attraction it had when I put it on the list and so I let it go with no regrets. But then seeing Neil Diamond perform live remained on the list. I have tickets to see him in August. And someday I will organize my boxes and boxes of photos and declutter my house – not exactly bucket list entries but still important to me. My list grows and shrinks in keeping with my interests and my abilities but there always seems to be something I want to do “someday.”

Perhaps your somedays sound a little like mine. Someday when there is enough money. Someday when you have enough time or lose enough weight or are stronger. Or someday when you are not grieving so deeply. Someday.

But if you are reading this blog, chances are someone you love reached the end of their somedays and someday will never come again for them.

This week I saw my youngest son come face to face with his own mortality. Realizing all the things he had left undone, he cried, “I never thought this would happen to me!” His anguish broke my heart as I thought of all he has yet to experience in life. His prognosis is good so we have high hopes that he will overcome this challenge he is facing and be able to live all the somedays he has saved up for later. But tomorrow is never guaranteed. So, I have told him that now is the time to start living, to embrace his dreams and make the somedays into todays.

You see a bucket list is just that – a list. It serves no purpose if you cannot start marking items off and adding new ones. It must be a living document. And know this. The fact that you actually have some form of bucket list means you have hope somewhere in the depths of your heart. Cling to that and one day you will look up and realize you have started to live again.