May 31, 2013
I grew up loving dance. Taking any classes I could from the time I was about 2yrs old, until, well, I’m still taking ballet now whenever I can. I’ve always had a great deal of flexibility, turnout, a decent amount of strength . . . but lacked a fair bit cardiovascularly speaking. More than a fair bit, really.
I remember dreading having to do a run every year in P.E. One where we had to do a certain number of laps around the 400m track . . . I can’t remember how many – and probably not even ‘that’ many, but I was NOT a fan. And though typically rather competitive by nature, I really only cared about not coming in last when it came to that run.
Somewhere over 10yrs ago, a friend and I started dong a walk/run program together. We wanted to work our way up to some sort of distance or time, though I can’t recall now (have I mentioned how bad my memory is these days??). We met a few times at a track near home, and would run 30seconds, then walk 4 1/2 mins, etc. Slowly building up the running time and shortening the walk.
But, we didn’t get very far, before she got pregnant. My brief foray into running came to a grinding halt. Of course, it didn’t have to, but I’ve never had much motivation (or perhaps found it too boring?) to go on my own. A few other times in my life I considered picking up my running shoes again, and that was also always fairly short lived.
* * * * *
After Elias died and I was searching out others ‘like me’ through blogs, I discovered a blog by Matt Logelin. From there, I heard of the Liz Logelin Foundation. A charity formed by Matt in honour of his wife Liz, who died the day after giving birth to their first child. A charity to help widowed parents fill financial needs, and to just give them overall hope in their time of deep grief and despair.
Suffering the loss of your love, soul mate, best friend and co-parent is hard enough – believe me – without having to worry about financial burdens that can come from the loss. Times have not always been easy for me financially, I worry a lot and watch every penny I spend, but I feel very fortunate that I have never faced the possibility of losing a roof over my girls’ heads, or food on their plates. There are many who are not so fortunate.
The LLF is a charity that is very close to my heart, I know people whose lives have changed because of it, and I’ve seen first hand the positive impact it makes.
That is why, two years ago I decided to participate in the Run, Walk, Hope to help raise money for the LLF. My Dad joined me, and together we did a 5k in their ‘Walk Around The World’ option (the actual event takes place in Minnesota). I decided to create a fundraiser with that run, and was beyond excited to have raised over $200, and then my amazing Brother-In-Law matched the amount!
I hadn’t prepared for that run at all, but I did fairly well, and it was just great to be out there with my Dad, and running for a cause that I cared about and raising some good money along the way.
Back around January this year, I figured maybe with a little more ‘training’ under my belt, I could run that 5k a little better, as I knew the event was scheduled for early June. And I figured maybe I could get into this running thing a bit more and finally improve my cardio a bit. One of my best friends (and all around amazing and favourite people), Sian, had also started running around that time.
Then, I learned the Run, Walk Hope had added a 10k option . . .
I know that for the charity, no matter how far I go it’s all the same (for registration fees and therefor the donation), but I do enjoy a challenge now and then.
As we started to improve our times on our 5k runs (though I know I slow her down!) and challenged ourselves to go a little further, we figured maybe we could pull off the 10k.
Unfortunately, as I got so busy getting the new location of my store reno’d, my old location packed, moved, and a new grand re-opening (all good, but still crazy busy!) I didn’t have much time for anything, let alone running.
Things are just now settling back down at the store (and I LOVE the new location!), and though she can kick my ass even more now, Sian has been wonderfully patient as I’m trying to get back into it, and hopefully still be ready to try a 10k by June 8th!
* * * * *
A great deal of running is a mental challenge for me. Sure, my knees don’t seem to be made for it (or my hips, or ankles, or much else for that matter!) but getting through what I think I’m capable of (or not) can be tough (having a great, motivating running partner sure helps though! especially when she can run WAY faster without me…..). I NEVER imagined I would even attempt a 10k at this point in my life (if at all. ever). I know for many it’s not much, but for me it’s a fair bit. I like to think Elias would be pretty damn impressed. And happy about the cause I’m running for. And, I’m pretty proud too.
There aren’t a great deal of flat, smooth areas to run around here (not to mention my fear of bears and cougars!), and it’s pretty impossible to find a route without at least a few decent elevations to climb. Though there are points in a run where I’ll feel pretty good and as if I could keep going no problem, there are many times in a run – in particular when facing an incline of any kind – where I really struggle. Just knowing they are coming is tough for me. I want to stop and walk (or just quit entirely), think I can’t run it, etc. I find myself just wishing that I could run nice, long, flat, smooth stretches all the time. SO much easier.
But then, that’s not really life either, is it?! Though you get the odd, nice smooth stretch for a bit here and there, much of this life is bumpy, rough terrain, and there sure are hills to climb. Sometimes very steep hills. And, seeing them looming in the distance is daunting.
And, as with running, getting through those rough stretches and up those hills takes strength, and builds it – even if, at times, you feel as if you don’t have any, you need to slow down or even walk, you still move forward. It makes the smooth parts that much more enjoyable. And, in time, those hills get a little easier to face. Muscles, heart, breath, and mind – all work together to get you through. A few of the hills on our route that I used to dread and needed to walk up, I can now run up without stopping. Some still challenge me, but I know I can face them, and bit by bit I will get stronger.
Not unlike facing life as a widowed parent. Hope is a crucial part of surviving this road.
I’m happy to have my registration fees going towards a great charity like the Liz Logelin Foundation, that helps give that kind of hope to other widowed parents. And, again this year I’ve decided to do my run as a fundraiser for anyone else who wishes to donate towards my run for the LLF and help provide that kind of hope. I know the kind of difference it will make . . . .
Yesterday I took my tax return and treated myself to a new pair of runners to help me get through the next week of training and beyond (I still have to find a way to add 2 more kilometres to my run!) as I’m pretty sure my ‘old’ runners were the ones I had bought with my first attempts at running over 10yrs ago. And, while I am usually greatly adverse to wearing ANY bright colours, let alone pink – the ones that fit me best (and of course weren’t on sale =p) just happened to be fluorescent pink! Almost identical to Sian’s, but she swears they help her go faster. I’m still not sure how I feel about wearing them, but at least you can’t miss us!
(and for whatever reason, I can’t get the photo of the shoes to upload, so I’ll have to try again later . . . perhaps in an ‘after’ shot if I end up making it through the 10k!)
I’m sure at times you’d be equal parts proud and mad at me – mad for not taking things a ‘little’ easier sometimes. But still, the proud would edge out the mad. At times when I struggle through a run, I think of all you went through. Your surgeries, radiation, chemo, and more. As well as what I’ve been through since you’ve been gone. With that, I know that I can push through a little knee pain, ankle ache or cramp.
And, I know when I run the 10k, no matter how much of it I end up walking (likely dependent on how much my ankle heals in the next few days!) you’ll be cheering me on.
P.S. I Love You
February 26, 2013
Good things DO happen to good people.
I have a number of other things I’ve been wanting to write about. January/February has been such a blur it seems – the girls started the year struggling like never before with their grief, I’ve been trying to decide on the idea of moving my store, spent a few weeks short on staff . . . but, there was some happy news for a friend of mine recently, and I wanted to share.
This is a friend I’ve never actually met in person. A ‘widda’ friend. Someone I’d written about here before, as she had been going through an extremely difficult time. She only ever asked a few of us for some good ‘juju’ along the way, but we could see more was needed – so we did what we could for her, from behind our computers, from our hearts, and with the help of our kind hearted readers as well. And it turned out right. When I wrote, many of you out there offered help in the form of good thoughts, prayers, and even financial support. And, I wanted to write again today, because that help HAS made a difference. A very good difference. An important difference.
It’s been a long road for Cadi. An extremely difficult road – at times almost too difficult to continue the struggle for what she knew was right. And she still faces the challenge of raising a little girl who will never know her father, alongside her own grief of losing a man she loved.
But recently, a few great things came together for her as she needed them to. Things for Cadi and her daughter are looking so much brighter. Her perseverance, her kind heart and compassion for others involved (so amazing), and her willingness to struggle for what she knew was right for their daughter is nothing short of inspirational.
And I was beyond proud to be a part of that little group of widdas who all ‘virtually’ cheered her on, and celebrated how far she has come with her this week. Cadi is a beautiful person, a loving Mama and SO deserving of this good news.
I know she has plans to pay it forward. I also know how incredibly grateful she is to those that offered help in whatever form it came – I know how deeply it touched her, and this is the other reason I wanted to share the news. How do you begin to say thank you? Well, my post will be a start, to my readers.
Thank you. And wishes of plenty of good karma and ‘juju’ your way, just as it came to Cadi.
And, my thanks again to Cadi for the gift of a couple of beautiful, and well loved felted bunnies that my girlies have enjoyed so greatly . . .
It’s so, very nice, when good things happen to good people.
P.S. I Love You
February 16, 2012
I came to write a new post tonight, but got a little side tracked looking at my drafts. I found this one, incomplete. A ‘recap’ of the 2yr ‘anniversary’. I gather I ran out of steam to try and finish it properly and get the photos and videos posted, and probably, eventually, felt it was too late to put out there. But, for some reason, tonight I decided to scrap my initial plans for the post in my mind, and put up what was written here so many months ago. Not long now before anniversary #3. I will leave it written as far as I managed way back in May, but will add at least my video of the lantern ceremony, and a link to another from the night (I wanted to post the photos too, but if I try to do that, this will *never* get done!)
* * * * *
Well, over a month later but for whatever reason (perhaps the funk I’ve been in?) writing about the 2yr anniversary has been difficult. I have a lot I wanted to write (more for myself to be able to remember it years from now – considering I’ve already forgotten some of it). Apologies in advance for the length of this and kudos if you can read to the end!
I can say it wasn’t ‘all bad’ – much of it was quite the opposite, but it wasn’t all that easy either.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, the 21st is an extremely difficult day as well. I was fortunate to be off from the store that day, and though I still had to get the girls to and from their respective schools and dance class, I managed to keep the hat and sunglasses on, head down, and moved fast. Not much was accomplished that day – though a friend took the girls for a couple of hours in the afternoon so I had some time to myself . . . mostly taken up with going through the photo trunk in the office, attempting to find one photo in particular, but of course spending who knows how much time looking at much of everything. A LOT of memories in that trunk (and, I never actually found the one photo I was looking for). I pulled out a number of photos for the next day, as people would be gathering at my house and I wanted to have a number of photos of Elias around for people to see.
Getting to the trunk was a bit of a challenge as well – as it was buried under a pile of ‘stuff’, much of which included an array of ‘cancer’ paraphernalia – medical reports, bills, books, passes from Brain Tumour Awareness day, etc. A number of memories here as well.
I tried not to replay too much of the timing of the night over in my head as the clock ticked by – the time he fell asleep for the last time, jolted awake before going unconscious, the time the ambulance came, my parents came, the ambulance left our house in it (with him leaving our home for the last time, etc, but these things still come to mind whether you track it by the actual time or not.
I put the girls to bed that night and at some point decided that – since there were a number of ‘events’ planned for the next day with other people, I needed something to do on my own for Elias. I decided I would plant the weeping cherry tree by myself just after 2am – close to the time he took his last breath.
I prepped most of the ground, etc. around 8pm while it was still somewhat light out, but at 2am went out there (hoping not to see any neighbours of the human or animal variety) with a candle, some ashes, and the tree. I was working slowly and deliberately. I didn’t want to rush through it – I wanted to take my time and concentrate on what I was doing, who I was doing it for, and have a little time for just Elias and I. It was a bit chilly, but clear, quiet and beautiful out.
I had left the front door open with just the screen door closed so that I could still hear the girls if they woke, and Cali was clearly feeling she needed to be out with me as she pushed the door open and crept out. I was just in the middle of something important – I think it was likely pouring some of Elias’ ashes at the base of the whole for the tree – when she came out, but I figured she would stick fairly close by until I was able to corral her back into the house. I’m sure you can see where this is going . . .
Of course, I was concentrating quite hard on the task at hand, and my few verbal commands to keep Cali nearby were forgotten for a few minutes – who knows how long – but clearly long enough for her to wander off completely. No sight of her (though she is dark chocolate brown and it was rather dark out), and I couldn’t hear her anywhere.
I tried to still finish what I was doing with the same intent with which I had started – figuring the goof would make her way back – but of course now I was not as focussed as I had wanted to be on the task at hand. I rushed a bit more than I would have otherwise and started wandering up the road with my giant candle, ‘whisper-shouting’ to Cali. Still no sign of her. I couldn’t go far because of the girls (and fear of bears), so I went back to take a few more photos and hope she would show soon. I went inside to grab a flashlight and sent a quick message to a friend who is a notorious night-owl like me, hoping she may be able to pop over if she was still awake. I waked up the road a bit more with the flashlight but still no luck, and it was then I heard C crying.
I went back to the house – she only wanted a sip of water. Still no message back from my friend, and after a few more minutes outside, I realized I was going to have to drag the girls up and out of bed and take to the car (now almost 3am). Fortunately, since they had both just been awake moments ago, it wasn’t too hard. Initially they were excited, but of course their excitement turned to worry about not getting Cali back (I worried about this too, and though I hate to say it, the thought also occurred to me that I hoped my recent expense in saving Cali’s life was not going to have gone to waste only to have her hit by a car . . . ).
Fortunately, we didn’t even get to the end of our road before the goof came round the corner off the main road – looking like a deer caught in my headlights. I hauled her into the car, relieved (though also worried she was going to end up like this) and the girls were back in bed, excited by the adventure of it all (and of course the happy ending).
So, my attempt at planting the tree in the middle of the night to be able to ‘focus’ was thwarted, but I suppose I’m not really all that surprised.
The next morning was for the girls and I. We woke up and had omelettes for breakfast – one of Daddy’s specialties (and since the waffle maker was broken), then packed up a lunch and headed down to the beach as we had done last year. We took some time finding treasures, writing messages on rocks and stick to throw into the ocean for Daddy, and had our lunch.
At one point, just as I was taking a moment to throw one of my rocks into the water, C announced she had to go pee. I took my moment and threw the rock and decided I would throw the rest after helping C. As I turned around to see where she was at, a white butterfly flew past right behind me. I almost had to do a double take, and called to E to see if it was my imagination of if she could see it too – which she could. I watched it for a few minutes as it paraded along the waters edge, before it went up over the ‘big rocks’ which is where we always go to explore tide pools and to take our family self-portraits. It was the first butterfly I’d seen this spring, and found it interesting to see it right at the waters edge.
I quickly had to change focus once again, however, as C was making her way back to the path to leave as she said she wanted to go home to go potty. After a little work to convince her to just pee in the bush as she usually would. This gave us a little more time to spend there. As it had been the year before, it was a beautiful day yet we had the place to ourselves.
After heading for home we had a couple more hours to ourselves before people were due to arrive. I was pleasantly surprised at how many of my family members decided to make the trip over for the lantern ceremony. I wasn’t sure any would come, seeing as it would have to be at night and meant they would have to stay overnight – and it was the Easter long weekend, but almost all the Cotter side came. Elias’ aunt Caroline came with her family as well, so it was nice to have some representation from his side too.
Everyone started arriving sometime after 5, and we shared some pizza and snacks – then it came time to decorate the lanterns. I encouraged people to share stories of Elias as we decorated. Of course I couldn’t get through this, and telling everyone how much I/we appreciated their participation without crying, and though somewhat surreal, it was comforting to see my house scattered with lanterns – people hunched over with their sharpie markers and felts, writing messages to Elias. It was nice to see people taking the time to think about what they were writing, pictures drawn. Some funny, some simple, some more serious – but all filled with love for a great, wonderful man. I didn’t get a chance to even see them all myself – but as they weren’t actually for me, that was ok.
Of course I wanted the conversations to be 100% Elias, which didn’t happen, but I have to try and understand that it was also a chance for people to be together that aren’t often together.
I did two lanterns – one for Elias from the girls an I, and one to commemorate the lost loves of some other incredible people I know.
Once the decorating was done, we all headed up the road to the field at the nearby school to launch them. A few other friends met us up there as well, so we had about 14 or so lanterns to launch (many people launched them in groups – especially with the little ones). Once again I got a little teary as I got everyone grouped together to light them, and it took a little trial and error to get them ready to go – but once they were up on the sky, it was amazing. We launched them just before it was completely dark out, and to see the lanterns against the twilight blue sky was gorgeous.
One of the things that was so wonderful about it as well – was how joyous it was for everyone there. There were cheers, clapping, children squealing – a real celebration – which is what I wanted for Elias. I had to have my time to be sad and alone that day too, of course – but I want his life and who he was to be celebrated. I want our girls to see others who loved him come together and share his stories with us and share the joy he brought to their lives as well as ours. This is what the lantern ceremony was for, and it served the purpose even better than I could have hoped. There were moments here and there where the crowd would pause – almost in unison – with quiet reflection (which was nice too), but the energy was perfect.
(this is the video my Dad took . . . it was a little ‘trial and error’ to get them going, so you may want to fast forward to the 2min mark for when they finally start to go. I love my Dad’s commentary though)
Lantern Ceremony (my video of the lantern to represent Elias and the loved ones of all my widowed friends)
When the last lanterns had burnt out and had fallen back to earth (to biodegrade 100% – and we managed to get one that had landed back a nearby parking lot that I put in the garden to see how long it takes), those who met us at the park departed, and those who came from my house returned to share in our excitement and joy from the lanterns before everyone went to their respective sleeping places for the night (much of my family stayed at my parent’s home, Elias’ aunt and family stayed with me, and a few stayed at a nearby inn).
The next morning we had a little more time with Caroline and her family. It was the Saturday of the Easter weekend, but we thought it would be fun for the kids to do an easter egg hunt together (her two kids are the same age as my girls, and they had been over last year around Easter when we built the arbour, so we had done the same). She had gone out the night before to hide them. The kids were up bright an early, and one egg was ‘hidden’ in fairly plain sight by the door, so as soon as it was spotted, the four of them had shoes on and baskets out ready to hunt. The adults had to get ready – and as we headed out, it was quickly realized that a number of the eggs had already been ‘found’. It seems about 20 of the small ones, and 2 of the 4 large eggs were more than likely eaten by rats. Ugh.
* * * * *
And that’s as far as I wrote.
P.S. I Love You
January 13, 2012
A number of years ago Elias and I were watching a fundraiser for cancer research on tv. Stand Up 2 Cancer.
I’m pretty sure it was there that I heard this song for the first time. Originally written about a break up – but this video and version of the song was done specifically for SU2C. They wanted the video to convey the feeling of being supported by those around you, and I think they did a great job. The people in the video were simply fans of a relatively unknown artist at the time, and I was immediately a fan of the song, and of the artist. Elias too.
Ingrid Michaelson became a regular on our playlist.
I played one of her songs at his funeral.
I’ve posted them here before, but I don’t believe I had posted this one yet.
I was watching the video again yesterday, and it caught me in a different way.
Before I watched it from the ‘cancer’ perspective. We were supported by people around us – friends, strangers, family, other cancer patients – all putting positive energy towards Elias’ health and survival.
After he died and the initial rush of supporters had faded (not at all long after) I was left with a few friends and family close to me helping me along the way – but I felt very much alone. So. Very. Alone.
With some distance now I can see a bit more clearly – going from that huge sea of people to only a few, and of those almost no one knew what I was feeling – it’s no wonder I felt that way.
In time, however, I found a new community of support. My widdas.
Who would’a thunk it?
All these other men and women who were suffering their own gut-wrenching pain, barely finding the ability to breathe, were there to support me?! And (hopefully) I to support them?! But somehow it works.
So, I post this today for all of those widdas (and my other friends and family) who have helped to hold me up the past (almost) three years. Helping me know that I will Be Ok (broken parts and all).
And so will you.
P.S. I Love You
November 7, 2011
*I wrote this over a week ago, and I guess I was a little too ‘stuck’ to get it posted . . . things have settled some now and I’m coming out of my lurch, but I figured it was worth posting anyhow – as it won’t be the last time I’m sure, and perhaps others have felt the same once or twice . And, thanks to U2 for the reminder (not that widowhood is really a ‘moment’ by any means . . . )
I’m feeling somewhat stuck these days.
Life never stops moving between work, school, dance, house, yard, blah, blah, blah – but, I feel as though I have.
I don’t feel like I’m ‘that’ much busier than last year, but I certainly don’t feel like I’m keeping up with it all as well. I think before I used that feeling of being overwhelmed as my motivator. But, sometimes, it’s all just too much. Then, I shut down and just do the minimum.
And this is where I get stuck.
Because it’s easy to just say how hard it is and let it all continue to pile up. Then I end up missing Elias around more than usual, and I get stuck deeper.
I feel like I make attempts at ‘moving forward’, and when roadblocks are hit, it throws me back and gets harder to pick myself back up.
It doesn’t help that I’ve been working too much and not sleeping enough this past couple of weeks. Walking around in a bit of a fogged over glaze.
I’m not even really sure where I’m going with this post . . . . sigh.
I know I’ve snapped out of these ‘lurches’ and ‘slumps’ before. Maybe it’s time to read ‘Oh the Places You’ll Go’ again for a little more inspiration (I’ve written about my feelings on how this book relates to widowhood in the past . . . )
And, the thing I know now, that I didn’t know 2 1/2yrs ago, is that I ‘will’ move forward. No matter what. I get stuck, but it won’t be permanent. Just as it says in the book – “Unslumping yourself is not easily done”
I’m so thankful for the widda friends in my life – along with a few of those who aren’t widowed but I have met because of it. I’m continually amazed by the value of the connections I’ve made. Having those who will drop a note, even just to say nothing more than ‘Hi’ and letting you know you are thought of at a time when loneliness is at it’s peak and getting through the day is more of a struggle then you could begin to let anyone know. Being able to send off a huge vent of an email and knowing it will be met with an open heart, listening ears, understanding, and knowledge you are not alone. It would be amazing to live a little closer – one day we’ll get that commune going….
Slowly but surely, this helps me feel a little less ‘stuck’.
P.S. I Love You
October 6, 2011
Blessings to the grandmothers and the grandfathers who had been looking forward to so much joy, and who then had to witness the pain of their children in addition to loss. We lean on you, we look to you.
Blessings to the big brothers and the big sisters, and to the nieces, nephews, and cousins. Please know that even though we’re all grown-ups – and we’re supposed to know the why of things – we don’t understand either. Let’s just keep getting muddy together because somehow, I think that helps.
Blessings to the friends who felt like there couldn’t possibly be the right words, but who just sat with us anyway, abiding. Just being there. We won’t forget.
Blessings to all those who couldn’t – or wouldn’t – abide with us. Who turned away from the spectacle of our sadness because it made them uncomfortable. What happened to us served to illustrate how we all walk along the edge of a precipice. Some people don’t want to be reminded. This turning-away was not because they didn’t care, but because their own histories and fears were, for the moment, overwhelming. Forgiveness.
Finally, blessings to the babies. I don’t know what to say of them… I wish I did.
For a while I felt watched-over, close to the fantastic. He is with kind gypsies in a tent, I’d say. They feed him chocolates and they let him stay up all night long on sheepskins, until he drifts off to laughter and woodsmoke. Or if I were feeling uncertain I’d just say He is safe, I hope. Somewhere, safe.
For a while, I was able to hypothesize, to dream. I felt exquisitely aware of every beautiful and every tragic thing. And now I feel kind of tired and plain. We must concede how ordinary we are in the extraordinary experience of loss. Some people have missing babies. Some have missing parents, lovers, friends.
And there it is again – we’d be wise to stitch a few Buddhist threads into whatever we believe. All of us wish for more peace, more certainty, and more faith – and for less emptiness.
The human baseline is to not be as grateful as we should for how our lungs just … work. For our eyes showing us things; our kidneys cleaning our blood; our arteries and capillaries, ribbons that move our life around; our ears, for giving us whispers and bluegrass music; our skin for sheltering us, our muscles for holding us up, and our brain for being uninjured, despite all its illusions and ego.
Here we all are, working. Functioning. Miraculous with every breath, with every sneeze. But a lack of gratitude is just as human as suffering, and so we tend to forget.
Blessings to you and to all your longings, all your imagined faults, all your nightmares. Deep breath, and forgiveness.
You don’t have to be good at grief.
You don’t have to be good at grace.
You don’t have to be good at recovery.
Anais Nin wrote, “Most human beings acquire the truth fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic. There are very few who receive it, complete and staggering, by instant illumination.”
Bereaved mothers and fathers are among the very few. You have been illuminated.
Right and wrong, fair and unfair. Love, fortune, time. Parenthood. I thought I knew what all those things were. And then he died and I realized that all my life, I’ve never known anything at all.
And so now I devote the rest of it to learning, because I have a humility now that I didn’t have before.
When you’re humble, that’s when you learn.
Thank you, sweet love.
You might say, My Baby is gone, and I don’t know how to feel. I don’t know how to breathe, I don’t know how to walk, I don’t know how to exist when my baby doesn’t. I don’t know what to do.
Four years into this, I don’t know either, to most of it.
But I can tell you what to do.
In the last moments, you looked at your baby and you thought the same thing I did.
Please live. I don’t mind if you dye your hair kool-aid blue. I don’t mind if everything you believe turns out to be different from what I believe. I don’t care who you love or how you love, as long as find some and give some. I don’t mind what you’re into, as long as you’re safe. I just want to support you. I want to witness you. I want to see the things that make you smile. I want you to have the chance to be. To be happy.
And then your baby died, like mine, and unconditional love was illuminated for you. You might have thought you knew what it was before, but you probably didn’t. Now you do.
Carry it with you. Every single day, turn that into compassion for other people, all of whom started out as somebody’s baby.
When you’re moving through the world, you’ll come across people with blue hair, who live differently and love differently and speak and think differently, who are perhaps in every way — aesthetically, spiritually, culturally — the opposite of you. Or maybe they’re not sure what they are yet. Maybe they’re struggling. Maybe they have nightmares too.
Extend them the same compassion that you would have given your baby, had you been given the chance. Regardless of how they align — or don’t align — with you.
It’s one of the only things you can do, after a loss like this. To treat others the way you would have liked to treat your child. With care, with hospitality, with humility.
It’s a daily practice, and it does bring some peace, to look at every person and think, There goes somebody’s baby. Could have been mine.
And before you’re finished, extend some of that compassion to yourself.
That’s what you can do.
July 6, 2011
Why do we come here? Why do we write, or read what’s written on blogs like this – blogs that deal with pain, death, loss, grief?
I have a few ideas . . .
I had a blog to keep people updated when Elias was sick, and when I started this blog it was also in part to keep people up to date on how the girls and I were doing, but it became so much more. For me personally, it felt much better to get the thoughts out of my head than just letting them swirl in there alone, driving me mad. It can’t take away all the pain, but it helps. I (thankfully) never tried numbing the pain with any form of substance, and as that would just create another world of problems (and not just for me) – so this was my release.
When Elias died, I lost far more than just Elias (though I have another post in mind for this). Some people took issue with my writing, and let me know it. Some people found it too painful to read and stopped. My life represented fear brought to reality for some, and they drifted away. I lost family and friends when Elias died too (again, perhaps I’ll write more of this one day).
What I didn’t expect, was to gain so many new friends through it. I didn’t expect to make such strong, valuable connections with complete strangers, when people I had been so close to before Elias died, and turned away.
These new people in my life – even though for the most part they are not people I can see, hear, and hug on a regular basis (if at all) – are connected with me through grief. We have been connected by death. And, we are all willing to expose our vulnerability. Our pain. Our fears. Our losses. Our grief.
Of course I still have a number of family and friends who have stuck by me and still read here – which I am beyond grateful for. And, it took some time, but I am coming to terms with the fact that those who have left had their own reasons which didn’t really have much of anything to do with me – and though still painful, perhaps it was a sign that I didn’t really need them in my life in the first place (though this is tough, as I valued what we had before . . .).
And, though I would take Elias back in less than an instant if I could, I am thankful for the opportunity to have made some of these life-long friendships since he has been gone.
And, I am beyond excited for the fact that I will be attending Camp Widow once again this year, and will get to connect with some of these beautifully, wonderfully vulnerable, loving people . . . though hopefully more on that soon too.
I know there are some who read these blogs out of interest (one friend was told that he was actually ‘more interesting’ right after his wife died than in recent posts that were less focussed on grief) – but for the most part I think that it’s the vulnerability that brings connection on some level. I always appreciate reading comments from people who, though they have not experienced a loss of any kind, let alone one as devastating as a spouse or child, tell me that reading about Elias and I have given them a new appreciation for life and the people they love. Nothing warms my heart more, as this was one of the reasons why Elias and I shared our story before he died, and I have continued to do so since. It was important to him that people didn’t have to face death in order to appreciate what they have, and when I read these comments it helps me to feel his death was not strictly in vain.
I watched this amazing video a few months back on the power of vulnerability. The last half in particular speaks of how important it is to avoid numbing the ‘hard stuff’ in life, for we can’t selectively numb. If we numb the bad, we don’t fully experience the joy and the good. I want to experience all the good in life. All the good my girls bring me. All the good that life has in store for the future.
When Elias was sick, if I chose to numb and ignore what was happening, I would have numbed the joy and love we shared in our life. It was not easy to stare death in the face, but it was the only way. And it hasn’t really changed in his absence. His death continues to stare me in the face. It occupies every moment of every day and it still hurts, but I continue to try and use that to ensure that my time here is spent well. He, too, had the courage to be vulnerable.
If you have 20mins to spare, I promise you it is worth it. You can also read the transcript here, but if you can, at least read her last few words:
“This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place I believe that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”
I am enough. And so are you.
* * * * *
Thank you for sharing your vulnerability with those who were willing to face it. You made a difference in the lives of so many.
”How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach…I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears of all my life! And, if God choose, I shall love thee better after death.”~Elizabeth Barret Browning
P.S. I Love You
April 11, 2011
As the weather has been improving (somewhat) these days, we’ve been fortunate to be spending more time outside. I’ve been trying to fit in a little gardening – which I enjoy more than I ever thought I would, it’s just tough to find the time and still have a lot to figure out. Along with the time on the swings and trampoline, the girls have been doing a bit more bike-riding – though this isn’t always the most relaxing activity for any of us . . . .
Both the girls can be quite the ‘nervous nellies’. I’ve noticed how, when riding their bikes they see something they perceive as a ‘danger’ up ahead – and I’m thankful they are conscientious, however they go into complete panic mode LOOOONG before they are anywhere near the ‘danger’, if it is even really a true danger (like a parked car). They may franticly wiggle the handlebars (which sometimes causes them to fall), scream, cry, stop moving all together, or some combination of any of these.
I’ve realized, this isn’t too unlike how things can be in the world of the widowed. For anyone who has been on this crappy ride for very long, I’m sure you’ve experienced many times where you have a ‘big day’ up ahead, and start to completely shut down, panic, cry, scream, will it to stop. When the day comes, NOT to say that it’s easy by ANY means, but afterwards you find yourself saying ‘the build up to the day was worse than the day itself’.
It’s just under two weeks now until the two year mark. I’ve definitely noticed the anxiety creeping in. I’ve noticed a more difficult time with sleep. My diet hasn’t been the best as I’m consuming more sugar. I’m easily distracted. Forgetful. Feel less productive.
I know I’m not in as rough shape as I was at this time last year, but it’s still hitting me – and it’s still hard.
But, I do have something much different planned for this year’s ‘anniversary’ (I still have a hard time figuring out exactly what the hell to call it). Last year, I wanted nothing more that to be on my own with the girls. I didn’t want to face anyone. I couldn’t.
I was at peace with how we spent the day – friends helped the girls keep their routine going to ballet and preschool, then the three of us went down to the beach for a couple hours, writing messages on rocks and sticks, then throwing them into the ocean to send to Daddy. Simple, peaceful. I felt Elias all around us. Not the way we want it, of course, but it was nice to feel him close.
There is a large part of me that still wants to hibernate this year. I would love to stay in bed ALL day and do nothing, see no one, or do the same as last year with the girls at the beach – but, as hard as it is, this day is not just about me and my grief. So this year I was inspired to do a little more.
I was reading a blog posting by Supa in early February, where she noted a scene in a kids movie where they released flying lanterns in memory of a loved one who had died. It peaked my interest, and I started looking into the tradition of this thinking, “Wouldn’t it be lovely”, though I didn’t really think it was possible.
Then, a friend of mine, Boo had posted in March that she was sending up the same type of lanterns for her Cliff’s birthday, along with a few others. I wrote her right away to find out where to get them, as now my ‘if only’ was looking to be a real possibility. Initially I was hopeful to get them in time for Elias’ birthday but it was just a little too soon, so it was then that I decided it would be a perfect fit for the 2yr mark.
At first, I figured the girls and I could go down to the beach and send one up with our messages on it, but as I looked into buying them I came across a number of amazing videos with mass launches.
The more I thought about it, the more I was drawn to the idea of trying to get a number of people to come together and honour Elias in this way (of course we won’t have ‘quite’ as many people as in the video, however =). It’s also extremely important to me for the girls to really see, in a beautiful way, that we are not the only ones who miss Elias. We are not the only ones who love/d him. Plenty of people do. And, I know it’s also important for my girls to have this type of outlet for their grief.
After a fair bit of research, I found a supplier where I could get them wholesale, as I figured they may make a nice addition to the store as well – something people could use to celebrate a baby’s birth, child’s birthday, or a wedding. I am now just anxiously awaiting their arrival.
Last month, we had a visit from Elias’ aunt and uncle, and their two kids who are (basically) the same age as our girls. It was a busy weekend, but so lovely – the kids had a blast and it was wonderful to spend some time them. We even got a chance to go to the pool, which we hadn’t done in years. The girls can be quite nervous in the water and just cling to me, so I find it too stressful to go on my own.
One evening, I was sharing my plans for the ceremony with Caroline, and she thought it was a beautiful idea. A bit later that night she suggested we do another ‘yard work party’ as we did at Easter last year, where a number of Elias’ family came out to help build and arbour in the yard – one that Elias had always planned to do – along with some other heavy duty yard work that is too much for me on my own. We figured it would be great if everyone could come over on the 22nd, we could have a potluck and take time to share stories of Elias and decorate our lanterns, then walk up to launch them at a park nearby our home after dark. Then, the next day we could all work in the yard together.
So far, it seems that they are the only ones from Elias’ family who are going to come over, so the potluck and yard party isn’t looking too likely, however my parents will be there, and I do have a number of friends who are planning to come and share in the evening lantern launch with us.
As life has rolled on in these past two years, it feels strange to have made new friends who never got the chance to meet Elias. Some of the people who have been my biggest sources of support, barely knew him at all. I know there will be a number of them there that night – and for that I am so thankful. Even if they didn’t get a chance to really get to know such an amazing, beautiful, incredible man, it’s wonderful for them to come out and honour Elias too as I know how happy it would make him, and for the girls (and myself) to feel that support at the toughest of times.
We will still take some time to ourselves to grieve as well, of course. Perhaps down to the beach again in the morning first, and then the tree. How lucky was I to find the tree . . .
Sigh. It’s getting late, and I’ve tried to get this post done for so many days now – so I’m going to post ‘as is’ and get to the part about the tree shortly (I hope!).
* * * * *
Almost two. whole. years. It blows my mind. I miss you as much today as I did day one, if not more.
P.S. I Love You
March 18, 2011
I can’t believe how much time has passed since my last post – I feel bad for not up dating earlier, but the post will explain some of that. I will also say how much I appreciate the comments and caring for Cali that came from my last post . . . SO very much. Hopefully the speed in which I write this (there’s a wee bit of caffeine in me just now) will still allow for some coherence – but here we go!
After bringing Cali home that Friday, there were definitely a few moments where I was uncertain as to how she would fare over the weekend. She was drinking excessively, and once or twice that evening she went into the backyard and was going behind bushes and under trees, digging at the dirt as best as she could. Now, I should also mention that she has never been a ‘digger’. She does not bury things in the yard. The only time she has ever done any type of digging in the yard was if she was trying to cool down in the summer, or if she was having what we call a ‘spaz attack’, where she runs madly through the yard and excitedly digs for a second before tearing across to the other side of the yard and doing the same. This was much different, and my fear was that her instinct was telling her it was time to find her ‘final’ place.
She was by my side almost all day Saturday – thankfully I was able to have help at the store so I could stay with her. She stopped with the digging, and even started to show a bit of interest in her food, but she would often get ‘shivers’ for a while, which gave me concern that she was uncomfortable/in pain. I also thought she may have been cold so I cranked the heat in the house, to be on the safe side. But, as the day wore on I just ‘felt’ she was going to be ok. I kept giving her the vitamin supplements in her water and on her food too.
By Sunday, she started eating more and seemed to be getting stronger. I had a call from the emergency vet to see how she was doing. He was going by the reports of how she was at the clinic (he had not seen her before) and he was fairly fatalistic, even with the positive reports I was giving. He was also still ‘encouraging’ me to get the x-rays. At one point he asked how old the girls are, and when I told him he said something about how ‘they are too young to see a sick dog, they need to have good memories of a healthy dog’ to which I angrily sputtered something to the effect of ‘Yeah, and their father too’. Not many 6 and 3yr olds understand sickness and death the way mine do.
We were able to give her some time alone while we went to E’s birthday party on Sunday – which was great, and in large part wouldn’t have happened at all without the help of my amazing friend Zoe and the way my mom pulled out a fantastic cake, even though she didn’t feel well. I’ll hopefully get around to posting more about the party later – but she even greeted us at the door with a wag in her tail and a shoe in her mouth, as she usually would when we get home. She was still a stubborn mutt when it came to taking pills (I’ve been trying to decide who was more difficult to deal with administering meds to between Cali and Elias) so the illness didn’t affect that – no pill pockets or cheese can fool my dog!
When I took her back to the vet on Monday, they were amazed at how improved she was. They wanted to keep her that day for more iv fluids, but I didn’t want to lose the ground I had made with her at home and opted out of it. Same story on Tuesday when I took her back. I was getting a bit stronger at going with my gut (and my wallet). Not only that, but the Tuesday vet was the same who had called me on the weekend. I had already decided I wouldn’t like him, based on the comment he made, but he was actually great. Cali loved him and even kissed him on the nose, and as I tried to explain why I didn’t want to go for the extra steps he wanted to take, that I just wanted to keep going with the antibiotics that seemed to be working – he came back a few minutes later to tell me that he wouldn’t charge me for that visit, for the one injection he wanted to give her, and it would only be another $30 for the pills he wanted her to take. I certainly wasn’t trying to use the ‘widow card’ by any means, and I don’t know if that’s what came into play here inadvertently, but I was grateful (and then felt a ‘tad’ guilty . . . ).
As for now, short of still limping on her back leg, it seems that Cali has made an incredible recovery and she is back to her usual, slightly neurotic self. We still don’t know the cause of the infection that almost did her in – the vet would be happy to run more tests (for more $$ of course) to figure it out, but for now I’m just happy she survived, and it ‘looks like’ she’ll be with us for a while to come!
It was definitely a wake-up call, and of course if we don’t find out/fix what caused it there is a chance it could happen again and this time without good results – but should that be the case I would have at least been prepped a bit (I hope). For now I’m going to chalk it up to a mysterious infection that was (barely) caught in time and the antibiotics took care of.
I can’t even begin to explain how much stress that all caused me, and so of course when Thursday hit, my streak of bypassing all the illnesses floating around came to an end. An abrupt end, as I threw up at work.
When I initially felt the nausea earlier in the day, I thought it was because of something else. I’ve written in the past about how I’m considering reworking my rings to make a new one for myself and one for each of the girls. I finally worked up the courage to at least meet with a local jeweller to get a quote and talk about ideas. Little did I know, that to get an actual quote, I had to leave my rings behind. I managed to get through the whole meeting fairly well, but once I heard this news I started to falter. The jeweller was wonderful (has dealt with this before) and they offered to bring my rings back to me in a few hours at my work. I still tried to keep at least one of the three, but as that wouldn’t work, I agreed. It was as soon as I was out the door walking to the car that the nausea struck. I spent the next few hours thinking this was a sign that I was not ready to change my rings.
Well, the rings were returned not much later and I still threw up a number of times that night, followed by each of my girls 48hrs later (C first, then E 48hrs after her). So, this made the next few days rough to get through. Thankfully, again, I a few wonderful people step up to help with the store and with childcare on Friday when I was still feeling awful, and my parents helped out with looking after E so I wouldn’t have to drag her to the store with me when she was at her worst (for C it was Sunday, so we were able to stay home anyhow).
It was a difficult couple of weeks, and with such little time between this and when my dad had his health scare in December, I’d love a little peace for a while – but I know too well that this just doesn’t happen so easily. It also helped me realize how beneficial it would be to have at least one hired staff person to be able to call on in emergencies, and though things are quiet at the store right now, I’ve got someone lined up who I think will be a great fit.
* * * * *
In other news, I had been meaning on posting for a while about a great weekend the girls and I had, but so much time has passed now it seems a bit silly . . . in short, I had to take my car into town for work one Friday, and was able to go on my own. It gave me a couple of hours to meander around the nearby mall – unplugged. No email, internet, kids, work. No one to need me. No one to watch over. It was great. Of course they took a good hour less then expected and so when they called to say they were coming to pick me up I was a little disappointed. I didn’t get some of the things I hoped for – I am in desperate need of some new shoes (Elias would kill me if he knew I had started wearing a certain, terribly leaky pair again), but it was just nice to have that bit of time to myself.
The following Sunday was for the girls. I had plenty of things I ‘could have’ done around the house, but instead we had a day which included a bike ride to the park, playing at the park, exploring various ice formations, glitter tattoos, a dip in the hot tub & smoothies. I’m mindful that I need to do this type of thing more often. As a ‘lone’ or ‘only’ parent, it’s easy to get caught up in all the ‘stuff’ that needs to be done, and when my girls play well together and entertain themselves well, I can easily forget just how much they still need that time with me, and likewise how much I need that time FOR me. Slowly. S.L.O.W.L.Y., I am working on finding more balance. . . .
I know this has been a long, ramble (not unlike much of my other writings I suppose), but I just wanted to get it up asap as so many thoughtful caring people were asking about my lovely little Cali. Thank you!
* * * * *
Oh, My Love.
Yes, the recent weeks without you have been beyond rough. Yes, the weeks ahead are looking tough as well with your birthday next week and the 2nd yr mark fast approaching. And yes – somehow through it all, we just keep ticking. I credit you for much of this, but I like to think I have at least a ‘little’ to do with it, and I like to think that you’d be pretty damn proud.
P.S. I LOVE You
January 31, 2011
This widow life – it’s hard. So very hard. It sucks. I hate it. It’s lonely. So very lonely. Sad. Confusing. Dark. Overwhelming. Impossible to fully explain.
If you ask me, I won’t tell you. I can’t. No. I use that dirty little 4-letter ‘f’ word . . . . Fine. I’m ‘Fine’. Or my other favorite, ‘OK’.
Its just faster and easier on everyone involved.
Yes, there are aspects of my life that I love and it’s not like this 24/7 – there are moments of ‘fine’. Even ‘good’ now and then, but those are so often railroaded by grief and the next thing you know you’ve gone from spending a boring night at home watching tv, to having something on said tv trigger a wave of grief leaving you in a heap of tears.
And, there are even things – such as Love – that are clearer. Brighter. More breathtaking. Because we know just how valuable it is, how fleeting it can be, and how to truly cherish it.
Though this is a wonderful gift, it does not make the journey any easier.
So, this is where we all come to try and let it out, and to lift each other up. Hold each other’s hearts from across countries/provinces/states. To listen. Care. Understand.
I feel like I’ve even been in ‘hiding’ from here lately too, however. Keeping it in. Not wanting to share just how hard it still is. And, it seems, most of my widowed friends are feeling it too these days.
Is it the new year? Is it the grey days of January? The cold? The wet? The dark? The post-holiday slump? Who knows, but I see it all around the blogs right now.
I try not to put too much emphasis on the new year as any kind of ‘fresh start’, but Jan 1st was such a great day that I have to admit it gave me a spark of hope. Mid January I finally decided to take down my 2009 calendar. ‘Move forward’. Then, BAM! Stuck on the back of it was one of Elias’ brain MRI scans and the word ‘apoptosis’ (apoptosis is basically cell death – cells are supposed to die eventually, and ones that don’t become cancerous). The scan was the ‘clearest’ one we could get our hands on (from Jan ‘08). At one point we had these ALL over the house (and carried them with us) to use as positive visualization – law of attraction type thing – we wanted to try everything . . .
It was really hard for me to remove all of them after Elias died, but at the same time I hated them. I was shocked to see it stuck to the cover of a calendar that’s been up for almost 2yrs. It was such a punch in the stomach.
One step forward, one giant shove back. It seems any time I ‘try’ to do something like this, there is always a negative consequence of some sort. It makes it so much harder to take those steps.
‘Fresh start’ or not, January was not a particularly good month for many reasons. I’ve cried more than I care to admit (though not so much the ‘big sobs’ but rather frequent yet brief ‘bursts’ – even once in public the other day, which I haven’t done is quite some time). I’ve wasted a fair amount of time staring blankly out the window. Been less than motivated to get things done that need doing. I’ve complained over and over in my head that it’s just too hard. I’ve repeatedly forgotten E’s backpack for school. Dance outfits. You name it – but I’m still making it work, somehow.
A positive light out of the month was that our family grew once more . . . my brother-in-law and his wife had a baby a few days ago. Another niece (number 6!). I am beyond thrilled for them – they are already such wonderful parents to a beautiful little girl and I had tears of joy to hear Anthony tell me about her, to see the photos, videos, and for our brief ichat with them today – but over the past few days I’ve shed tears of sadness as well over the fact that Elias is not here to be a part of it.
Half of his nieces he will never meet, and they will never know him (though I have no doubt my sister and Elias’ brothers will do him justice as they tell their girls all about their Uncle Elias). I don’t want to take something so wonderful and put sadness on it, but it’s impossible to ignore.
I’ve heard far too many stories from my widow friends that are on a similar timeline as me that ‘friends’ are telling them they should be ‘over it’ by now. They should be ‘better’. That they ‘can’t let everything in their lives’ be about their lost love.
I am fortunate that no one has said this to me directly about it, but it’s hard not to wonder if people feel the same. There have been those that have all but vanished from my life. And, of course it doesn’t matter what others think, but trying to not let things like this get to you is extremely difficult, especially when we are often already so hard on ourselves. Then, to have friends disappear on you on top of it all . . . people just have no idea what it’s like to live with this.
Perhaps just another reason to say everything is ‘fine’.
* * * * *
Hello My Love,
Uncle Elias once more . . . I’m sure you’ve already kissed her tiny forehead in your own way and don’t need me to tell you, however. She’s beautiful.
We visited the beach today. I had my feet soaked by a rogue wave, and we all had quite a good laugh feeling as though ‘you’ got me once again. Later, E was running back and forth to the water, and as the waves chased her back she giggled ‘No Daddy!’ Then she said to me, ‘Do you think Daddy is playing gorilla with me?’
She always says that is her favorite memory with you. I know she’s seen the photos plenty of times, but I’m sure she remembers. She misses you deeply. She drew a picture of herself with tears the other day. It was beside a picture of you, smiling, and the words “Daddy I miss you, 2011”, and she addressed it ‘To Mama’. I’m so happy she can use art to express her feelings, and that she’s sharing them with me, but it’s tough.
In recent days C has started making up Daddy stories again . . . she went through a bit of a phase with this a while ago. She misses you too – more than you ever imagined she would have.
As do I.
P.S. I Love You