... 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

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

It Helps to Know You’re Not Alone

Last week, I posted an excerpt from my book, Breathing Again, that talked about some of the reactions I have had to the rampant negativity that seems to permeate today’s society. Wow! I think I must have hit a nerve. The many responses to that post surprised me. Most of them agreed with me, but even more beautiful was the outpouring of love and support I received.

Now, I have to confess that I wrote that piece quite a while back, but it is as pertinent today as it was when I first wrote it. We do live in a stressful time. Anger, isolation, and even hatred seem to have become the new normal, none of it healthy for someone in the depths of grief. But in talking about it, I discovered something magical that we all too often lose sight of. I am not alone. None of us are.

When all the crap out there starts to get to you, when you feel most alone, remember there are others out there who are dealing with the same things. When you weep, know there are others who are weeping as well. And there are others who have found a way out of that well of despair and hopelessness. You are not alone.

Sometimes all it takes to find help is to just open the door the slightest crack. Whether you are grieving the loss of a love or struggling to overcome the stress of living in this world of ours, others who have been where you are now are waiting just outside to lend a hand, a sympathetic shoulder, or simply a non-judgmental ear to give you space to release what you have been holding inside. No two people will have the identical experience with loss or the identical reaction to life. Those experiences are as individual as snowflakes, but grief is grief and stress is stress. And whether you are reaching out for help, or back to help another, it helps to know you are not alone.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Surprising Boost from Stranger

“Sometimes a stranger—not a friend or a loved one—can significantly improve our day, providing comfort or helping to broaden our perspective.” This Wall Street Journal headline and statement resonated with me today. I sometimes find myself sharing information, such as my point of view or perhaps a poignant memory or two, with a person who was a stranger just a few minutes before. Perhaps the freedom to do this random act is encouraged by the knowledge that I will probably never see this person again. And sometimes Spirit moves me to comfort, offer a level of compassion, and a few words to instill hope in someone needy of this exchange. I love the lasting smile on my face when we depart ways, often with a goose-bumpy feeling of warmth, and I usually offer up a small prayer of gratitude for having this encounter.

I recently had to receive a regimen of antibiotics by IV infusion at the local hospital. On Day 5, my treatment location was changed to another floor, and a volunteer was dispatched to show me the way. As we waited for an elevator, the scent of freshly brewed coffee reached both of us at the same time, and we sniffed and remarked on how nice it was to have a kiosk available to deal with our caffeine needs. The volunteer went on to tell me that she spent about $15 a day between coffee, lunch, and sometimes a visit to the gift shop. She said her husband would tell her that this was not a well-paying job. I laughed and said my husband would have said the same thing if he were still here. Tears came to her eyes, and she asked me how long ago he passed. I told her and asked if she also had a loss. “Four months,” she replied. “Oh, you poor newbie,” I said. She proceeded to ask questions, and I answered as succinctly as our time allowed. When we arrived at the infusion center, we exchanged a nice-talking-with-you goodbye.

As I sat for the next 20 minutes watching my medicine drip, I replayed the encounter in my mind and thought about how I could help this lovely woman without being intrusive. I decided I would try and give her one of my books about surviving the loss of a soulmate. You must realize that telling strangers I wrote a book and recommending they read it is way out of my comfort zone. I returned upstairs and fortunately she was still in the volunteer area. I told her I had a gift for her in my car and would be right back in. She insisted on walking out to the car with me. When I gave her the book and explained how I came to write it, she hugged me hard three times, cried, and told me she would never forget our serendipitous meeting. Instead of fuming about another wasted hour on medical issues, I drove home with a smile on my face, thanking God for once again letting me be in the right place at the right time.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Today is a good day to die!

"Today is a good day to die!"
As a faithful Trekker, I always attributed that phrase to Worf, the resident Klingon. It was a cry used by all faithful Klingon warriors as they engaged in battle.
But as I researched this article, I found that - as much of Star Trek lure turns out to be - it is based on our own human history.
This call to battle is actually attributed (although this is not 100% certain) to Crazy Horse as he led his men into the Battle of the Little Big Horn way back in 1876.
As Spock would say - "Fascinating."
But seriously, that phrase gave me pause. I recently had a discussion with a very good friend about death. Specifically, how would I feel if I knew death was not only inevitable but going to happen in the very near future?
And then we added the premise - what if we had a choice about the timing?
What if we could literally decide to go or not go at that specific time? 
Would we? 
Would we bargain for more time and then what would we do with that newly gained time that we are not doing now?
How would it affect how we live now?
And the logical progression from that thought was - why do we need imminent death to make us take stock? 
Why don't we live every day as if it were our last?
Treasure every encounter.
Reach out to friends and family.
Get up early for that glorious sunrise.
Sip wine while we bask in a beautiful sunset.
Go on that vacation.
Read that book.
Love ourselves.
Love our neighbor.
The list is endless and different for each of us but you see my point.
The death of my soul mate and my own recent health crisis has made me see things differently. I have seen Death and I know how life changes in an instant.
And that certainly put things in perspective for me.
But we are human. And humans are a forgetful species. When the crisis is gone, we tend to go back into our old ways.
We shouldn't.
Today may not be your day to die but you can treat it as if it were and take the lesson from it.
Cherish each moment of every day. 
It's a gift that won't come again.
Q'apla! - sorry, I slipped into Klingon.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Choosing Love

Over the last couple of weeks, I have become aware that I am grumpier and more negative than I think I have ever been before. I think I have been absorbing far too much of the anger that seems to permeate the world around me. I watch the news, read the newspaper, and follow posts on Facebook daily. And frankly, what I see is not happy. I’m not even sure why I keep doing this. It is somewhat like having a sore tooth that I keep poking at to see if it still hurts. It does. Always.

If the world around me wants to go that way, so be it. However, I am making a choice to check out of the anger, the negativity, the pessimism, as much as I can. Why? Because I want to make the best of the time I have with those I love. I do not know how much time I have left with them. I do not know if I will transition first or they will. So why should I waste the precious time we have together reflecting a world angst that makes me unhappy with everything and everyone?

I find myself thinking of those who have left us. I am confident that all of them left when the world was in the midst of one crisis, one controversy or another. That is the way the world works and it always will. Crisis and dissention are a part of life. I also believe that all of those who have passed left behind someone who grieves deeply and wishes he or she just had one more hour, one more day together to spend in some lighthearted connection, some time when the most important thing was how much they cared for one another.

Those who are gone are no longer wrapped up in the petty differences that tend to consume so many of us in this life. Who is or is not President is not their concern. Who fails to follow through on their promises is not their concern either. Nor are they really worried about who lives where or believes what. They have a much deeper understanding of this life than we do. Their perspective is, I believe, more global. They see the larger picture.

I know our loved ones are now in a place where one emotion and one emotion only rules. Love. If love is the end result for us all, then why not start now?

Excerpted from Breathing Again … thoughts on life after loss

Monday, July 22, 2019

Laugh Hard Every Day

Do you laugh hard every day? I mean that bent-over, gut-busting, right-from-the-belly laugh! The laugh that brings tears to your eyes, and just when you think it’s over, you are racked by another spasm of hilarity and it starts all over. I was trying to remember the last time I experienced that cathartic sort of a laugh. I mean, I laugh. However, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the biggest laugh, my laugh world is usually on a scale of 2 to 3—sort of between a chuckle and a he he he. I’m mildly amused and often slightly bemused by my peers and pets. They’re entertaining, yet the scale doesn’t seem to move past 4.

When mom came to live with me several years ago, one of my goals was to make her laugh every day. I have fond memories of mom and her sister, Aunt Patsy, cracking each other up so much that mom had tears running down her legs. I wanted to make her laugh that hard but was never able to. I came close a few times like when we were eating dinner one evening and I caught some watermelon in my brassiere. She could barely get the words "Good catch" out between her laughter. Or the time I accidentally carried a roll of paper towels on my lap into a restaurant and it rolled off my wheelchair and quickly gained momentum as it unrolled across the dining room floor.

Some scenes from Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein bring me to a 6, which is a laugh out loud, but how often can you watch those classics, especially, alone? I’m not sure laughing out loud alone even counts when you know where the “Excuse me while I whip this out” line or the “Oh, sweet mystery of life at last I've found you!” lyric starts in the scripts. And I admit to encouraging a friend to name her dog Abby Normal.

Lately, I’ve tried binge-watching comedies on Netflix. Will and Grace was funny, but I hated the endless games of charades. Friends was just too sleepy for me even though many scenes took place in a coffee bar. I love coffee, but they weren’t really drinking enough of it. And it took me forever to get the “Smelly Cat” song out of my head. Both of those series earned a highest laugh score of 5.

My husband Jerry made me laugh every day. Every single day, he said or did something that made me laugh, and it was usually somewhere between 6 and 10 on the laugh scale. Sometimes, it was just some witty repartee. Another day it might be a physical act like showing how slowly you need to move to trick a motion sensor light. Or doing a Mr. Magoo imitation. Or reenacting a dance he had performed in high school to “Some Enchanted Evening” complete with hand gestures. Or moon-walking across the kitchen with the dinner plates in his hands. Today, if you asked me what I miss the most about time spent with my husband, I would have to say the laughter we shared.