... 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

Monday, July 31, 2017

Keeping the Connection Alive

As we move through life with someone we love, we develop small traditions and rituals we associate with that person more than anyone else. But how do you keep those traditions alive once that person has transitioned and is no longer with you?

Over the last few years, I have lost too many close loved ones much too suddenly. First was Norm’s mother Esther. Then his brother Stephen. Then my precious soul sister Anita. And now, our much-loved son Dale. We were not prepared to have them gone. One day they were here with us. The next, we were facing the rest of our lives without them. I have mourned each and every one and having them gone from my life has left huge holes in traditions unique to that person.

Esther was our matriarch. As such, she was back yard barbeques, birthdays and holidays. And still, whenever we gather together as a family, we feel her presence with us, very much in our thoughts and in our hearts. To this day, whenever I eat strawberries, her favorite summer food, I think of Esther.

Stephen was Christmas. Oh, how he loved Christmas! Generous soul that he was, he loved giving gifts most of all and delighted in watching them opened. Oh, he loved receiving gifts, even simple, practical things like socks and underwear, too, but being able to give was so much more important to him. Despite that, we always tried to give him something special – a favorite game or, always, Old Spice Cologne. To this day, when I smell Old Spice, I think of Steve.

And Anita was my confidant, a sympathetic ear, a gentle critic for my writing, wise counsel, a sister of my heart. She was meditation and fragrant flowers, elephants and puppies, gurus and new age, white wine and hot tea. To this day, when I write something new, my heart wants to read it to her. And, to this day, when I see elephants with their trunks raised for good fortune, I know Anita is near.

And then there was Dale. Dale was family breakfasts on the weekend, Nascar and ball caps, beer and Dr. Pepper, crazy, fun toys and rock and roll. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but when we differed, it was always with love and humor. He was a son to be proud of, a man of generous nature and unconditional giving. To this day, when I smell or taste Dr. Pepper, I think of Dale.

So, how am keeping these amazing people alive? Sometimes with simple, silent toasts. Other times, I invite them to join us when we are doing something I know they would have loved. You see, I believe they still live among us. We just cannot see them, but they are here. As spirits, they know when we are including them.

So, to honor them, I eat strawberries for Esther, I give Old Spice to homeless men at Christmas, I include a wine glass on the table for Anita when I am out to dinner with our other soul sister Elaine. And for Dale, we have committed as a family to meet every month for breakfast. It is something we did as a way to stay connected when he was alive. It is a way we will stay connected with each other and with Dale now. And maybe, just maybe, that small connection will help heal our grief. Yesterday was our first breakfast together since we had to say goodbye to him. His death is still far too new and we are all still grieving deeply and so it was a bittersweet morning. But I knew Dale was with us. We invited him there. In the center of the table was a glass of Dr. Pepper. We all took a sip and toasted our sweet Dale. I think he was there and he was smiling.

Friday, July 28, 2017

If I could save time in a bottle... by Betts McCalla

I saw a story in the news recently where a dog tracked his owner, a dementia sufferer who had apparently wandered off, by a bottled scent. The bottle had been prepared 2 years previously and contained a gauze pad swabbed from the underarm of the dog’s owner. It had been labeled and set aside for just this type of emergency. Hearing about this almost miracle made me think of the scents we associate with the people we love. Scents I miss and wish I could replicate.

I will always associate the scent of Canoe, an inexpensive cologne readily available at drug stores throughout the land, with Jerry. When I leaned my head into the crook of his neck and inhaled his essence, he smelled spicy, masculine, comforting and a little bit sexy. Months after he transitioned I would sprinkle drops of this elixir on a cloth and tuck it in my pillowcase to soothe me as I fell asleep.

Every couple of years, our oak furniture apparently required the application of several coats of Formby’s tung oil to protect its gleaming finish. The astringent odor would linger in the house for days and anytime I encounter it now, I immediately envision Jerry industriously applying it with a paint brush to our treasured wood pieces. 

The rich aroma of a bouquet of freshly cut and artfully arranged roses interspersed with delicate sweet peas often greeted me when I arrived home from work. And the recollection of us sitting on a white painted bench in the backyard gorging ourselves on tree ripened sweet juicy peaches or just picked off the vine big boy tomatoes raises waves of remembered smells of summer and hours of life shaping conversations until twilight and mosquitoes drove us indoors.

I miss walking into the house in the evening and being greeted by a proffered tablespoon of sliced mushrooms sautéed in butter with fresh dill backed up by the heady smell of steak au poivre and roasted potatoes. Some people eat to live and some of us live to eat. The fresh pungent smell of segmented oranges will always remind me of our final days together. It was the only food my husband would eat his last few days as his body shut down and food no longer held any appeal. If I could save time in a bottle it would be bottles of scents that I could open and have instant whiffs of our life together
If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you…Jim Croce

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Now what?

Cathy's post on Monday addressed how grief has touched her - deeply.
I think we can all relate. Grief is hard. And no matter what you think you know about it, when it finally hits you, you are knocked off your axis in ways you never expected. 
I know I was. And I coped - or thought I did - by falling back on what I had heard about grief.

In time, I would be “better” - but it would take about a year.
In time, I would feel less sad - probably in a few months. 
In time, I would “move on” - and be back to my old self.

But the reality was far from any of that.
Grief and mourning do not fall into any set pattern or follow any clock that I am aware of.
And there was no “old self” to go back to.
This is new territory and we are being made into new people forever changed by our grief.
Know too that grief has no timeline. You will mourn and heal and travel a very circuitous path from loss to making peace with your loss. It’s a crooked little dance.
Never in a straight line.
Two steps forward, three steps back, one to the side and then forward again.
Use whatever means you can to cope.
I’m a list maker and I found that got me through.
And sticky notes. God bless them. I still rely on them, plastered all over my day planner that sits beside me in my office. Not to mention the calendar in my cell phone.
Keep in touch with friends to the best of your ability. Your true ones will listen and encourage you to talk about your loved one.
But put no hard and fast expectations on yourself.
Honor your grief in whatever path it takes you.
Honor the love it represents and know that you will get there in your own way, in your own time.
And it is okay.
And you’re okay.
It’s all okay.