THE NEWS…

So today at 4 pm marked one year since I got the devastating news and knew my life as I knew it was over and the life I envisioned was not to be. It was the night I told my precious daughters that once again they would lose a part of who they were and travel again down the loneliest road imaginable. It was the night I would watch my granddaughters cry and at the same time try to comfort not only me, but their mom and their aunt. I could physically see and hear the hearts breaking in that room. It was also the night I would deliver the news to Rick that he had an incurable Cancer. It was a night I will never forget.

The time since that fateful night has been filled with life. Going to work, school, getting groceries, playing with the dogs and grieving. My family is no stranger to grief. We have been migrating this road for almost 10 years now. It has twists and turns and ups and downs and sometimes even spirals. It is like a gymnast doing floor exercise, you never know what is coming next. Time passes, sometimes slowly, sometimes you can’t keep up, but it passes. Days into nights and nights into days, sometimes you don’t even know the difference. Sometimes you are good, sometimes you’re a mess, but always you are still you. The challenge is “who are you now?”

Getting acclimated to life without someone you love is the most difficult thing I have ever done. It is a journey like no other. Life can be tough when everyone is ok, but if all are healthy and have what they need, you can work on the rest. When someone dies, you have no second chances at anything. Whatever the circumstances, their physical presence is gone and with it a piece of your heart.

So is there ever a happy ending to a story like this? I think that is an individual choice. For some, things never get better and for others they seem to find a new and different life. It’s as if you are afraid to heal because somehow you will forget them. I am certain of one thing in my life…YOU NEVER FORGET LOVE. I believe that you are who you are because of your experiences. If you are compassionate, then somewhere in your life, someone showed you compassion. If you are a loving and caring person, then along the line you were probably loved and cared for. Now if you are unsure, cautious, afraid and distrustful, then somewhere, someone let you down. It is never too late to find some form of happy. It may not be what you had with your loved one, but a different kind of happy.

I truly thought my life was over when Lindsey died, but with work, determination and a tremendous amount of support, I discovered life could indeed be good again. If you have doubts, take a moment and look into the eyes of a child. The gleam you see is promise of the future. I have always believed things happen for a reason and I believe that more than ever. It is proven to me every single day.

Today while I wore my mask at work, keeping my feelings very private and wondering how I would handle the day, this happened. I was giving a tour in a hospital room to a couple getting ready to have a baby. As I tried hard to concentrate, I looked over the woman’s shoulder and there looking in the window was a big, bright red, beautiful Cardinal looking straight at me. It took my breath away.

Most of my readers know I’m training a therapy dog, something Rick and I had planned to do together. On her first observation, it was snowing mixed with rain, it was cold and dark and it was lonely because he wasn’t here. I was standing inside and as I looked to my right, there was someone I had gone to high school with and Rick and I had double dated with in the 60’s. It made me breathe and realize I wasn’t alone at all. Then to my left I saw one of the first faces that greeted me in my first meeting of Compassionate Friends. She hugged me so tight, I felt all the tension release and for the rest of the visit I felt Rick and Lindsey all around me. It was a comfort I can’t explain and I sobbed all the way home.

On Friday, I decided to tackle the Social Security office and in that visit was able to accomplish what I needed, except after a decent wait, I was missing one document. Dreading the wait again, I waited until Monday and went before work. Waiting outside there was a chill in the air and I started talking to a woman in front of me. As she shared her story, I realized she had been through some devastating health issues. She explained it had affected her sight, her ability to work and earn a living and had left her virtually dependent on someone to help her with daily life. As I shared my story, I realized that I was so blessed to have my health even though I had dealt with so many tough things. We ended up sitting together inside for a short time and the tears flowed as she continued her story. All I could feel was compassion for her and her journey and all I could feel for myself was grateful, grateful for wonderful times and memories made, grateful for good health and grateful for my life then and my life now. As I left, I gave her my phone number and told her if she needed to talk to give me a call. I got a text from her the next day and I think I have found a new friend.

This day, though filled with tough memories, is also filled with gratitude. I am grateful for all of you who take your time to follow my journey. I am grateful for life and health and Cardinals and new friendships. I am even grateful for the maze because a maze always has a way out, a light at the end of a very long and lonely tunnel, but a light nonetheless.

More scrapbooking.
God really knows what he is doing.

BITTERSWEET…

I am now 302 days into living, for the first time in my life, alone. I lived with my mom and then became a wife at the tender age of 18. To say it has been a challenge is an understatement. I have always functioned very independently and took pride is my ability to conquer anything I set my mind to…but this is different. For 302 days I haven’t had my person to come home to, to share with, to confide in.

I believe, with all my heart, it isn’t the initial shock or the funeral or all that goes with these catastrophic events, but the learning to live without the one you love that is the most difficult. It doesn’t matter what the loss is, but your life will forever change without them in it. I do believe the loss of a parent is one of the most difficult because they are the first people you look to for virtually everything. They teach you to use a spoon, read, ride a bike, basic math and every single life skill that becomes your compass. If you grew up with both parents, you probably saw them as a team, running the house, working and providing what the family needed. Many had only one parent at home and that mother or father did the work of both. Some grow up with aunts, uncles, grandparents and they become the parent figures. These are the first people you learn to trust and that filters into the rest of your life. The loss of a mom or dad is like losing your foundation. The challenge is to see if the rest of the structure can stand alone. Tall order I think, but we do because honestly we aren’t given a choice.

Child loss is a loss that destroys something inside of you. It’s a deep, searing pain that you honestly don’t know if you can survive, but you do, because we aren’t given a choice. Your child is a part of you, two people who come together to create something extraordinary, a human being. If you don’t think this is a miracle, you haven’t been fortunate enough to watch a baby enter the world. It is without a doubt, the most miraculous event you can witness. I have seen this thousands of times in 40 years and it is the same feeling every single time. It’s pure unadulterated joy. So when something starts with pure joy and ends with pure devastation, it is a challenge to even get out of bed. The highest level executive, the most famous actor or actress, the highest political offices, the clerk at the local grocery, the truck driver, or the nurse, it doesn’t matter. We are all equal when it comes to grief. I remember when Lindsey died that I felt the same as Carol Burnette, Marie Osmond and even Barbara Bush. We were all moms and that put us on equal ground.

To lose a child is to lose a piece of you. It is part of your identity, it is who you are. You don’t know how to be anyone else, you don’t know how to go on. There is a real thing called “Broken Heart Syndrome” that many believe is a depth of grief that actually causes physical illness leading to weakening of the heart and symptoms of a heart attack. This is actually written in medical journals and is very real. It can be treated and if not can cause damage that can follow that person the rest of their life. Valentines Day made me think of this a lot. When everyone was talking about love and buying heart shaped everything, how many had a broken heart? This, like everything else, has to be a process, one of work and eventually healing. It doesn’t mean you don’t love and miss your child the same as the day they died, it just means you incorporate the loss into your everyday world in a way only you can do. Memories become treasures and you change, because you are not and can’t be the same.

This brings me to my 302 days of being alone. I think I miss not being able to share news, good or bad, more than anything. If something happened, my first thought was to call Rick and that’s exactly what I did. He would listen intently, sometimes having no real idea what I was worked up about, but he was always there and always supportive. He was my person, good or bad, in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, we had many challenges, but in the end, we always had each other. That, I think, is the hardest part for me. When you lose your spouse, it feels like half of you is missing. You no longer feel whole. In a marriage, each person takes on different roles and each marriage is different. It becomes like a well choreographed dance as you move through life. When one person doesn’t show up, the dance is not the same and although the show must go on, the dance is not the same and will never be the same.

Yesterday was one of those days. I stopped in the maze to call Rick to share my news that our precious Lucy passed her test for The Alliance of Therapy Dogs. This had been a goal of ours since before we got the dreaded news that changed everything. This was a retirement goal for us, to bring smiles and maybe moments of joy to those in poor health, nursing homes, hospice care etc. We wanted to give back and use retirement not only for us to have fun, but to fill voids for others. I made it my mission to follow through, although many tears were shed along the journey. It’s official now and as exciting as it was, I felt alone. I miss him, but this is the way it is everyday. I miss those I shared so much with, my mentor, a piece of my heart and my other half.

That being said, I’m doing ok. I live life everyday with an appreciation of even the tiniest things. I have my girls, my grandchildren and countless people who check on me, send cards, remember me when the world keeps spinning and a wonderful work family. I am touched when others share their loss with me. I am constantly meeting someone who is struggling, whether it be recent or in the past. I have Facebook friends and readers of this blog that I don’t even know, who send messages of encouragement to me as well as telling me how I helped them. That, my friends, is a gift. Feeling like I have touched someone through my experiences is a blessing and one I do not take lightly. Thank you as always for taking your valuable time to read my thoughts.

Lucy and I strolling through the maze, sometimes slowly, sometimes at a brisk pace, but always, always going forward.

CHUTES AND LADDERS…

The young girls stood excited at the city bus stop, anticipating spending their day downtown. Downtown consisted of Miller & Rhoads and Thalhimers, beautiful brick and mortar multi level department stores. They were iconic to Richmond, Virginia, boasting the “Real Santa Claus” at Miller & Rhoads and the most beautifully decorated windows at Christmas. Both had tea rooms and bakeries and were places to gather with friends. There were ladies with hats and women in fur, men in dress shirts and ties and yes, even teenage girls out on a Saturday afternoon. It was the centerpiece of Richmond and “the” place to shop. The girls stepped onto the city bus, dropped their coins in the slot and headed out for the day. This particular route required a bus change and they made that without a hitch. Arriving downtown, they walked to their destination, usually starting with a little shopping, sometimes taking in a movie at the three old movie houses on Broad St., ending up at the tea room for lunch. Usually there was a stop by the bakery for eclairs, cream horns, mints or seven layer chocolate cake. It was a simpler time.

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s was very different than today. There was limited access to world events, no social media and limited resources for many. Many moms remained at home caring for the family while dads went off to work. Family roles were defined in a different way. In my case, my mom was on her own when I was just shy of 4, so going out into the workplace was not a choice, but a necessity. She worked hard and did whatever she needed to make ends meet. I don’t know how she did it, but my memories of childhood are nothing short of perfect.

We played outside whenever we could, in the yard, in the woods, building forts, collecting treasures. In the evening we returned for dinner, home cooked meals, sitting together at the table, sharing our day. As the light began to fade, we would return to the yard for Hide and Seek or Kick the Can. Catching lightening bugs was a highlight and we would make little lanterns with them. Baths and bedtime were next and as our eyes closed and we drifted into another world, memories of that day became etched in our mind. It was a simpler time.

I remember the excitement of playing board games. That may seem lame today, but there were no electronic games or computers or even access to movies outside the theaters. No cable, no Netflix, no tablets, and the phone was attached to the coiled cord which was attached to the wall. Board games were a staple of family life. Monopoly, Life, Candy Land and of course Chutes and Ladders. Families sat for hours around the table, talking, sharing, laughing and competing for everything from real estate to wealth.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Chutes and Ladders and it kind of imitates the journey of grief. You roll the dice, living each day as it comes and every now and then, you land on a space that either you find yourself sliding rapidly backwards or you find yourself climbing, going forward, embracing the changes. Each space, each day, each moment is filled with uncertainty, much like the roll of the dice. Will you climb today or will you slide back? It’s a minute to minute thing we call life.

You get used to the ups and downs and almost anticipate them. When you are able to land on the ladder, you relish the moment and remember the good times with your loved ones. Problem is, you know the chutes are always coming. It may be a special occasion, vacation, a place you spent together, the smell of a favorite cologne that causes you to land on the chute and rapidly free fall until at some point you grab on and hold tight trying not to go back to the beginning. You right yourself, roll the dice and once again take those steps, hoping in your heart, a ladder awaits. It sounds so simple.

As I continue to find my way through the maze, I find myself wanting to climb the ladder. I find myself wanting to be happy again and contented. I believe, with all my heart that the reason for this is because I have been blessed with a wonderful life. Although life is always a challenge, my life with Rick and my three daughters was so worth it. I sincerely want to find my ladder. I know the chutes are out there and I know there are huge ones in my near future, but I’ll take them as they come. If I slide, I will get up and look for a ladder, because only continuing to try will help you reach new heights. I think I’m up to the challenge.

Live and Love today like tomorrow will never come. Hold tight to your loved ones and the memories you make. You will never regret it.

GLASS HALF FULL…

The young couple carried their baby girl away from the Emergency Room of the local hospital. They were both very familiar with it as she had been working there as a nurse since graduation. It was home to her and she had total confidence in the care given there…until tonight. She looked at her husband and said “I don’t feel better. We’ve done all the right things, but I don’t feel better.” He agreed as he always depended on her for medical decisions, especially in this new father role he was still getting used to.

They arrived home and decided to put their precious little girl in their bed, her breathing was still abnormal, but better than earlier. She still wasn’t talking much and looked so vulnerable with her blond curls hanging loosely around her face. She was disheveled from the fever and from the last few hours of ER. Her eyes were tired, not the spark she always had. Being their first child, she had been very active and an overachiever from the beginning. This was not her, but the ER doctor had sent them home and he knew much more than they did…or did he?

The young mother lay beside her, eyes open, watching her breathe. It was still labored, but color was good and eventually she fell asleep. A few hours later she placed her hand on her forehead, best thermometer in the world, and the fever had returned. She crushed the baby aspirin in a tiny glass dish until it became powder and placed it in her cheek, rubbing it until it was completely dissolved. Minutes later, the three year old jumped out of bed and ran to the nightstand on the other side, picked up some ginger ale, drank it and immediately threw up. It was the first time she would stop breathing that night.

The frightened father grabbed her up and by this time her mother had the Pediatrician on the phone. Phones then were attached to long cords so it was very limiting. By this time they had been instructed to take her outside on a chilly December morning. On the front porch stood a fearful father, wondering what was happening. She immediately rallied and her breathing became less labored, as she lay there, her head on her daddy’s shoulders.

It was then the Pediatrician asked if they could get to the office right away. It was 4 am.

Jumping in the car, only taking time to put her in a car seat, they headed to the office, about 20-25 minutes away at this time of morning. They were both frightened and relieved. Arriving at the office, the doctor was waiting at the door. They placed her delicately on the exam table, trying not to scare her. The doctor looked at her for a matter of seconds and said she needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. He felt it was faster to go by car than to await a squad. He would be in the car behind and off they went.

On arrival, the nurses took her from the car and disappeared behind the double doors. The young parents could hear screaming and wailing and tears fell like a torrential rain. The little blond haired girl, so full of life was now in the hands of strangers and the people she trusted most sat in the plastic chairs in the dusky old waiting room, helpless.

In the next few hours the little girl would be admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of Epiglotitis, an infection of the epiglottis, a small flap that covers the trachea when swallowing so as not to allow food to enter the trachea. It was the #1 emergency in small children and they were told 20% of these children did not survive even with treatment. A tracheotomy would be the next treatment and the tray lay open by the bed.

Now the curls were falling over her daddy’s shoulder, once again, as she lay in his arms,head on his chest. This would be the second time she would stop breathing. IV meds, a call to the Pediatrician and gentle guidance for the parents and the little blond girl with the curls was flying down the road at 95mph to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in a downtown hospital. Her mother at her side, her dad in the car behind, trying to keep up, they arrived once again relinquishing their prize possession to the strangers in the scrubs with the understanding eyes. It was December 6, 1980.

I sit here this morning feeling grateful. Not sure where it came from, but I have this overwhelming attitude of gratitude. The last few weeks have been difficult and I know, without a doubt, that more are around the bend, but with that in mind I still have this peace. It is a peace I haven’t felt in a long, long time.

Maybe it is my intimate relationship with traumatic and indescribable loss, maybe it’s since I’ve been here before, maybe it’s what I’ve learned, maybe it’s me. I don’t really know, but what I do know is this. What a great life I’ve had. How blessed am I to have had the people and experiences I have had. The little girl with the blond curls is now 41. One different event could have changed the course in the story above, but as it played out, it was a happy ending. Not all events have a happy ending, life is not always rainbows and unicorns, but most of the time it is what you make it. I choose to make the rest of my life the best it can be. I know there will be mountains and valleys, but the mountains aren’t near as tall and the valleys aren’t near as deep. We don’t always get to choose our path, sometimes life goes in a different direction than we had wanted. It’s a choice to stay on the path and follow it to see what’s at the end or sit down, give up, and stay right where you are forever. Forever is a very long time.

I was almost finished with this blog when I heard the horrible news of the helicopter crash claiming multiple lives, some children. Today feels like the end of the world to these families. I’m sure the air around the crash site is thick with grief. In this case it is someone famous, but I can assure you there are others right now feeling that same seering pain of loss, those without fame or fortune, no notoriety, but they are feeling the same feelings and shedding the same salty tears. As they enter the maze today, please think of them, their families, their friends and all of those hurt by life’s twists and turns. If you pray, say an extra prayer, if you don’t send them good thoughts for healing.

The maze was very sunny today, bright and hopeful. Tonight it feels dark again as I empathize with all of those hurting. I am slowly but surely finding my way through the darkness and seeing that light of hope. Hug your kids tonight extra tight, tell your family you love them one more time, call your parents, visit your grandparents, forgive those that hurt you, kiss your dog on the nose. End your day on a positive note because tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. Love, laugh, have fun, be kind, notice those around you, say hello to strangers and that is what will change your tomorrow.

This week I have been able to refill my glass, not all the way, but it is definitely half full again. I hope everyone reading this has a wonderful week.

THE COLORS OF GRIEF…

She was a little unsure about renting something sight unseen, but everyone was doing it these days. Besides, there were so many people it would be much cheaper. On a whim, she looked up Airbnb and there it was, The Skittle Shack. The pictures were precious, bright and cheery, good location, plenty of room and just a few miles from the grandson she adored. She placed the deposit.

The vacation with the family was good, but harder than she anticipated. The absence of her husband and soulmate was much more painful than she imagined it would be. She thought everyone having fun would help her get through it, but actually that’s not how grief works. Now they headed the van north to spend the last two days with her grandson. The trip was easy and they reached their destination a little early. Everyone piled out and before them sat the most adorable little White House with chairs on the front porch, table in between. The door unlocked just as the directions had said and before her was every color of the rainbow, decor, furniture, and everywhere they looked were Packets of Skittles.

Her daughter was immediately drawn to the coffee table and reached for a book lying there. Her mother noted the quiet and then the tears welling up in her daughter’s eyes. “Read this mom, wow” was all she could say. Her mom took the book and started to read about a beautiful little girl that had died, leaving these thoughts about life. Her mother compiled it and it is the centerpiece of the house. That mother also lost her husband after losing her daughter. Was this a coincidence or was the Skittle Shack exactly where she needed to be?

The Skittle Shack was not only precious, but full of personality. Everything there was done in bright colors of the rainbow just as the candy reflects. I realized they are the “colors of grief”. First you are drawn to the reds and in grief, this reminds me of the realization that someone is gone. Red reminds me of being upset and distraught and it almost screams at you that life is forever different, forever changed and nothing you can do will change that.

The purples reflect the sadness that comes with losing someone you love. It’s a somber feeling that washes over your entire being. Some have feelings of depression and sadness that don’t even allow them to function. Others, the hues are a little kinder and they manage to work through it a little easier.

The greens generally show growth and this is necessary for grievers. We have to start to sprout again, although very slow, the seeds must be planted for that to happen. Planting the seeds means doing the work and the work of grief is difficult. It requires tools, perseverance, patience, and stamina. The Earth is scorched so the seed must be placed delicately in the ground to eventually flourish. It has to have water and nutrients and plenty of sunshine.

Yellow is, to me, the color of hope. It is sunshine against a blue sky. It makes the world brighter in the darkest of days. It brings flowers and rainbows and overall makes everyone feel a little better. To look toward the sun is to look toward the light and following the light is what we want to do. The darkness is frightening and makes us unsure of our next step. When pursuing light, the steps are easier and more confident.

Orange is the color of patience. You must be patient with yourself and with others. The grief journey is long and hard and most of all worth it. Orange is bright and cheerful, but not stark like yellow. It reflects the time it takes to absorb the news, let yourself be sad about the loss, plant the seed and wait for the sun to help the sprout peek out from beneath the dark ground.

The rest of it becomes softer and the colors start to blend, just as the colors of the rainbow that appears after the storm. It’s the promise of tomorrow, of something else waiting to be discovered, adventures yet to be revealed. It is said you must walk through the storm to be able to dance in the rain. I’ve walked through the storm and although I am still playing in the puddles, I haven’t drowned yet.

A twelve year old girl wrote “A Guide to Life” and left behind her wisdom through simple everyday thoughts and behaviors. We could all learn a lesson from this precious life taken too soon. Her mother shares this journey and donates some of the proceeds to the local Children’s Hospital, not too far from The Skittle Shack.

This is the note I left for the owner and note it is written in colors.

Just like The Skittle Shack, I choose color in my life and although it gets dark at times, I will always continue to look toward the light.

THOUGHTS ON 2020…

Who knew that 2019 would again bring me to my knees, barely able to process day to day life. The pain of loss is a seering pain that affects you to the very core, something that you cannot possibly prepare for, a depth of hurt you did not know existed. Sometimes I feel like I am in a burning building and with flames all around, I wonder if I will get out ok. Will I be whole when this is over if I am lucky enough to survive. Honestly, I’m not sure you are ever whole again, more like pieces of glass being held together by Super Glue. As I contemplate 2020, I realize more lessons I’ve learned and more important, things I need to work on. Here are my top 10 and I’m guessing if you are reading this you may recognize some also.

1. Stop, don’t look too far ahead because it is frightening and can get in your way. Thinking about the big picture without the person or persons you loved is like an abyss. It is dark and endless because you really don’t know what is going to happen today so worrying about the future is wasted energy.

2. Set your goals in a way you can accomplish them. Don’t set the bar so high that you can’t achieve it. It is a possibility that you will never be that happy again, but it is also a possibility that you will, just in a different way.

3. Don’t depend on anyone. You are the only person that knows what you need and only you can make it happen. No one can do it for you, you must do the work yourself. Others may not be pleased with how you do it, but you have to make the decision that works for you.

4. Sometimes life sucks and sometimes it doesn’t. Try to glean what you can in the good times so when the bad times come, you have enough stored up to get through, much like a squirrel prepares for winter.

5. Life is not and will never be the same. You and those around you are forever changed. You can’t carry their burdens nor can they carry yours. People will handle things in their own way and not necessarily the same way you do. Let them clear their own path just as you clear yours.

6. Try to find things to be grateful for every single day. Some days there will be a lot and some days you’ll have to dig a little deeper. Life is a gift and that is never more obvious than when you lose someone close.

7. Find your niche. It may not be what you expect and you may be surprised what doors open for you. Sometimes you have to turn away from the familiar to find your way. It is scary, but can be worth it in the end.

8. Sometimes you have nothing left to give and that’s ok. People who walk with you understand and when those times come, they can be your eyes and ears, they can help with simple things until you feel better. There will be a time when you will return that for someone else.

9. Look around you every day and see the opportunities before you. Open your eyes to the rest of the world and see what others are challenged with. There are those with no food, no roof over their head, no job, bad health and hundreds of other things that we take for granted, not on purpose, but because we know no other way. Help when you can, it feels good and helps you too.

10. The most difficult part of losing someone you love is living without them. No one can tell you how to accomplish this. The collateral damage created by loss can have a rippling effect forever. Be ready to ride the waves because you won’t know they are coming and you can easily tip over and be swept away.

I think I’m on target with #4, 6 and 9, but everything else here is a work in progress. I miss my life more every day. I had just gotten my footing from Lindsey’s death and then another hit. I stood in lines this week with hundreds of couples, old and young. I watched older couples dance and hug and hold hands. I watched them wait on each other in the buffet lines and sit side by side at the shows. I watched them save each other seats and hold onto each other’s arm as they walked along, depending on that other person to be there if they stumbled. I missed “my person”. I missed being a couple, I missed Rick.

The maze is lonely tonight, no lights, no sound, no holiday crowds in the distance. I think I took a few wrong turns and have found myself lonely and confused. I’m not sure which way to go, but I know it needs to be toward the light. I’ll keep trying to find my way.

To all of you who take the time to share my journey, I hope you will have a kind and gentle 2020.

WORTH THE RIDE…

It’s here, the happiest time of year and although I don’t feel like I used to, it really is very special. There are memories of 65 Christmas Seasons for me and to be completely honest, most of them were amazing. Grieving in the holiday season is a challenge, but it also makes you realize the part of life that is really important.

It has been my experience that the actual holiday is no different than any other day, but the days leading up to it are filled with anticipation and mixed emotions. I find myself feeling increasingly sad as I navigate this holiday without Rick. I have a beautiful family and lots of support, but that does not camouflage what is missing. My daughter asked me this week “Why do we lose everyone we love?” That is a question I couldn’t answer because I don’t think there is an answer. What I can answer is this.

Life is not and will never be…perfect. There are ups and downs, sometimes side to side turns much like you feel on a roller coaster. The ups can be extreme like graduation, marriage, having children or they can be simple like getting a raise or even buying new furniture or simply having a good day. There are times that you want to sit in the first car, throw your hands in the air and scream with delight and there are times you approach that upcoming drop with great anticipation, white knuckling and hanging on. Then there are the times you can’t see around the bend, there is no preparation and the surprise drop takes all the wind out of you. These are the same feelings you experience in loss. What I have discovered is that whether you are prepared or not…it still takes the wind out of your sails and it still hurts.

How can you tackle this thing we call life and not get hurt? I don’t think you can. That’s just my opinion, but you have to be willing to take the ride, never knowing what’s around the next bend. I believe love is the greatest gift we can give or receive. I believe even when it isn’t perfect, it is worth the risk. What would life be without having someone to love and to be loved. I think it would be like the roller coaster with no riders. There would be no screams of joy nor screams of fear, no hands in the air, just emptiness. An empty theme park is very different than one filled with people. The empty one is sad, no lights, no sounds, no smells and no happiness, just an empty shell. Once the gates open, there are sounds of laughter and pure joy, the aromas of fair food, the eye catching exhibits and rides. Everything there is intended to bring joy, but once in awhile even a theme park has a tragedy and it leaves a mark. After that, it takes time for the owners and the participants to feel comfortable again and to feel safe. In the meantime, everyone behind the scenes works hard to assure that safe feeling returns, hoping it will never happen again., but there are no guarantees.

This Christmas is like that closed theme park, it’s like DisneyWorld without any people. I didn’t decorate or put up a tree. I didn’t bake or plan dinner. I didn’t listen to Christmas music. I didn’t enjoy the season. I want it to be over, not for anyone else, I just need to get to the other side. It’s all about survival this year, plain and simple.

What I did do this season is reflect on my 65 years of life. I was blessed with an amazing mother, who I thank God for everyday. I was blessed with a best friend and husband for 46 years. I had an intact family for 29 years with three incredible daughters. My 29 years with Lindsey was and continues to be a blessing. My career has blessed me in innumerable ways, from the people I have met along the way to allowing me to adjust my work life to raise my three daughters. I am blessed with good friends, many of whom have suffered my losses with me. I am blessed with two brothers, who love and support me in everything I do. I am blessed with a sister-in-law who has been more like a sister over the years. I am blessed with a half sister, who shows her undying support over the miles. I am blessed with becoming a part of Rick’s family and experiencing life at the river with family all around. Rick’s parents demonstrated what a happy marriage looked like. My continued blessings come from my grandchildren who check on me constantly to make sure I’m ok. I have been blessed with co-workers and friends who have taken their time on Christmas morning to let me know they care. I am blessed to have found a new church family that is starting to feel like home. It goes without saying that my greatest blessings call me “mom”, my daughters Amanda and Tiffany.

The maze isn’t decorated today, but that’s ok. I have it all boxed away to bring out when I’m ready. It’s quiet here and that’s ok, sometimes quiet can be good too. The theme park has to be quiet in order to prepare for the next new and exciting adventure. I am resting now, but I will be ready to take on that new adventure when the time is right. You can’t rush grief. It has to simmer like a succulent sauce. Everything has to blend in order for the taste to be right. Grief is like that because there are so many parts that must blend to create healing.

Thank you for reading, thank you for your comments, and no matter what you believe or what you celebrate, I wish you peace and hope for your future. In order to celebrate Rick this year and his life, we made his famous BBQ sauce and are currently distributing it to friends and family. What you leave behind is really what’s most important, memories and love are forever.

“May love be what you remember most” Darcie Sims

Note she is wearing a Perrin’s BBQ shirt.

Our last Christmas together.