Rambles…

Hey All,

It’s been a really tough three days for me, this week has not been at all what I hoped it would be. I did accomplish something on Saturday past by getting my beloved Boston Terrier back from his foster mom after almost 6 months without him. I had been so focused on getting him back for so long that I truly had no idea what it would do to my emotional state. I feel elated and defeated all at once. Elated to have my constant companion with me, but defeated because I have nothing left to look forward to right now. Monday was so hard, I cried my way through the day suffocating in my loneliness and despair over missing my husband. I hate not being allowed in to the hospital to see him and feel so left out of his life every day. I know I am no different than millions of others not allowed to visit their loved one in a hospital, but that knowledge provides little comfort. Logically I understand, emotionally, well, the heart wants what it wants. I know I can’t be with him, but that doesn’t make me feel like I shouldn’t be there to support him. My heart breaks for the thousands upon thousands of people who are having to say a permanent goodbye to their family members who are dying alone. It’s so sad, more sad than anyone should ever have to be. I know that death is not something that any of us escape, but having to die alone because of this damn virus seems unusually cruel. I pray daily for the world to begin healing, and also that we be a kinder, more compassionate and loving society when all of this is over.

Having something to look forward is paramount to maintaining our sanity, no matter what is going on in the world around us. I have decided to take solitary road trips in my car to different areas of Virginia where my husband may possibly be moved to for further rehabilitation. I can’t sit within the 700 sq. feet of space I call home and only take my dog out. Or watch TV. Or cry. I may not be able to go inside the facilities, but I can at least get some idea of the surrounding areas, learn my way to and from, and get out of the apartment that all of a sudden seems too small for me and my dog. It’s not, it’s fine, but I guess I just need to expand my horizons as much as I am able right now. Life is so hard when it’s “normal” (normal is nothing but a cycle on the washing machine) I feel like I am making my own life harder by not only living in this apartment, but by living in my head… A dangerous place for any one of us to dwell too long. It’s time for me to push back against the noise in my own head and do something that needs doing. Get up, get going, and push forward.

Since my husband’s stroke I can’t remember being this down. I’ve cried and raged and prayed and begged for so many things, none of them for myself. I had been so solely focused on him and his needs that I pretty much put myself up on a shelf and shoved me into the shadows. The past three days of self imposed darkness have been the hardest days I’ve experienced in such a long time, especially since they seem to be so self induced. Sure, the circumstances surrounding the separation between my husband and me are completely warranted, totally understandable, and necessary, but even knowing this doesn’t help all the time. People tell me to be strong, I’m trying. Even the strongest among us have breaking points, I think I reached one of those breaking points on Monday. Now I start the daunting climb to reach a place of light, and I know that it won’t be easy, but it is doable. A little determination, a lot of faith and a ton of tenacity is all it should take. I possess all of these traits and more. I decide what determines my course, and I just need to re-focus, re-group and look to the light. Where I am now reminds me of the darkest days after losing my oldest child because she decided I wasn’t to be a part of her life anymore. Those first months were horrible. I survived. Losing my grandson is still so damned painful, but I manage it. Our child’s cruelty does not get to define us, no one does. I miss our grandson, our step granddaughter and our son-in-love, but I’ll be okay. My husband needs me to be okay. I need me to be okay. I’ve survived and carved out a decent life for myself since May of 2018, in spite of all the loss and heartache experienced, and I can’t let a few dark days erase the years of progress. I won’t let that happen.

When you find yourself sliding down that steep slope into the dark pits of your mind, I hope that you can recognize the decline and put the brakes on. I pray that you can stop the fall and find your way back up to a happier place. To peace. It’s hard, and every single one of us does it differently. That doesn’t matter. Do whatever it takes to find peace and happiness. It’s beyond difficult, the struggle can be excruciating. What works for me may not work for anyone else, so keep trying until you find your way. People are not meant to be unhappy all the time, and learning to make yourself happy, without depending on someone else, is really tough. It’s also really rewarding. When I sit and write this blog, I am making myself happy. If what I write makes just one other person happy, or shows someone that they can live through the darkest of times and smile afterwards, that’s more than enough for me. I am not a materialistic person, and the longer I live the more this serves me well. So much has happened in the past 29 months of my life that I look back and see where the lessons learned got me to where I am tonight. Many of those same lessons have helped others. Where would I be if I hadn’t shown myself some grace and given our marriage another chance? Loving my husband is the easy part of this chapter in our life together, but it’s also beyond painful. Not being able to touch his face, hold his hand or laugh with him is troublesome, but I still have the opportunity to do so. I think of my sister-in-love every day and how heartbroken she is since losing the love of her life. She will never get to see her beloved again, or hear his voice, nor feel his touch. I ache for her, and she knows this. Knowing that others feel like this doesn’t take away the sting of death, though I hope knowing does bring her comfort. Life just isn’t fair… We can seek fairness in most any situation, but it’s just not easily found.

In closing, I ask that anyone who has taken the time to read this knows that I appreciate it very much. I don’t claim to be an expert in any area of life, I just share my heart. It’s hard to admit to a world full of so much negativity that I feel defeated by the same world, but it’s also important to me to share what helps me get beyond the negativity and find hope. Without hope we have nothing, and without hope what’s the point of being here? I continue to remind myself to seek joy, and I just wish I had reminded myself of this on Monday instead of letting the noise and darkness take over. Another lesson learned… I hope.

Morgan
photo by Barb Enos

Today…

Hey All,

Today I feel like I can finally write something from a positive place in my heart. Life is hard, we all know that. Life may be harder right now because of COVID-19, but I find that I am learning how to appreciate the slowing down that is being experienced in some ways. I am more appreciative of the people on the front lines of the pandemic. The health care workers that cannot stay home, the grocery store workers that have to risk exposure every time they clock in, the essential personnel that have been trying to keep us all safe and healthy. So many people deserve recognition… Civil servants, police officers, fire fighters, EMT’s. The people behind the scenes that we all need, but rarely acknowledge. Thank you, from the bottom of this transplanted Virginian’s heart, thank you.

I had a therapy session today with my favorite therapist, via phone as always, and it helps to have someone to talk to during these trying times. I am not afraid of contracting the virus, I do fear that the self isolation will grab me by the hand and walk me towards a depression that will be long, dark and most unwelcome. After all the life altering events of the past 2.5 years, walking into a depression seems inevitable, even possible. Not gonna happen to this girl!!! I have been given so many tools to help me cope with any situation over these past months, and I fully intend to utilize them. Feeling sad? Cry, then blow your nose, wash your face and go for a walk. Feeling angry? Scream at the top of your lungs, then take a deep breath and release the anger on the exhale. Feeling alone? Call your best friend, call your mom, call someone and be sure to laugh. Laughter is still the best medicine, it brings a simple joy that is missing in these trying times. Feeling confused? Shut off the TV, stop looking at your phone and pick up a book. Watch an old movie. Listen to your favorite music. We are responsible for our reactions to what is going on around us, and those reactions can be positive. We all have the desire to feel good within us, and we have to tap into those feelings and be resolved to not be defeated by events, people and the world around us. Yes, we will sink from time to time, but bouncing back and becoming stronger can happen if we decide to let it.

People need to know they matter. People are not disposable and love should never be used as weapon, one against another. Sadly, we human beings use love as a weapon every day and we probably don’t realize how often this happens. Think about it, and be honest with yourself. Did you stop talking to someone because the words they said hurt your feelings? I’ve been guilty of this very thing myself and in some ways I still live this. I no longer speak to someone I once loved more than life itself. I know that I never will again as long as she makes it so. This particular person has demanded that I never speak to her and she is having that demand met. It’s a classic situation of being careful of what you ask for because you just might get it. I find that I can no longer fathom speaking to this person, and were the opportunity to present itself to speak to her, I would politely decline. People need to know they matter, and like I stated, we are not disposable. I am not disposable. In defense of this woman, she is not either. I have not disposed of her, but I will never be able to let my guard down again and rebuilding this particular relationship is not possible. Nor is it wanted or necessary. The foundations of the past have been destroyed and the time and determination it would take to rebuild don’t exist any longer. On either side of the fence of life. Closing the door on something is much different than tossing someone out like the scum at the bottom of a trash can, I’ve closed the door. And when I finally closed the door, a window opened. Wide. I am enjoying my life because of the gentle breezes that come through said window, and while I will always miss what could have been, I am moving forward.

Today the sun shines here in central Virginia, but I do see grey clouds on the horizon. Just like life, the grey days come and go. The sun will shine again and we will once again learn to appreciate that which we take for granted. I could continually lament about the condition my husband is in, but I choose to focus on the strides he has made over these past five months. He has had 7 surgeries in the past five months, 2 major, and one just this past Monday. A major one. He did well, and it was terrifying to know he had to have a surgical procedure done with a weakened heart, and that he would be under anesthesia for hours. I was allowed to be in the hospital both Monday and Tuesday, but not since. Grey days are upon me, but not just me, millions of people around the country are forbidden to see their loved ones. Thankfully we live in a time of teleconferencing, Skype, Duo, Face-time, etc… so I can see my beloved. Not all of us are as lucky. Remember that. People need to know they matter, so remind those that you love and care for in any way you can that they matter to you. It’s up to each one of us to help chase away the grey that life brings, not just to us, but to others.

Today I feel as if I could write forever, I feel like the words inside my head just keep coming. And they keep coming. I guess it would be safe to say that I am feeling my feelings up close and personal, and those feelings are mostly positive and good. I have much to be thankful for. I’m part of a family that accepts me and my quirkiness without condition and I have survived being broken, shattered and shamed. I have picked myself up more than once to keep going and am blessed beyond measure. My cup runneth over! I have a husband I love and that is my very best friend. I have a daughter, two sons-in-love, four grandchildren, and a dog that mean the world to me. I have friends that know my deepest, darkest secrets and love me anyway. My circle is small, that’s okay. My circle is at it should be: full of trust, love and compassion. I am very aware of all that I have lost, but I am also very aware of all that I have and thank God every day that I breathe, laugh, cry and love. The older I get the more I realize just how much we unintentionally hurt ourselves and those around us. Because of this realization, I strive to not hurt people intentionally, but I know I still do. I am sorry that this happens, but I am also thankful that I am able to forgive myself. I am big on forgiveness, and I know that granting forgiveness is intrinsically tied into the fiber of who I am. Being able to forgive others is so much easier than forgiving oneself, but forgiving ourselves is just as important.

Today I hope to smile a lot, cry a little, and love without condition. Self isolation sucks, that’s for sure, but it’s not all bad. Maybe it helps bring that which is most important into focus. Tell someone you’re thinking of them. Mail a card to an old friend just because you can. Say I love you to your kids. Hug your spouse and remind them what it is you love about them. Find a way to convey a message of happiness and love, the world isn’t all bad. I plan on watching a little Outlander, cooking something yummy and maybe taking some of my own advice and mailing a card to an old friend…

Be well, stay safe, and smile!!!

Photo by Barb Enos

And it Happens, Just Like That…

Hi All,

And it happens, just like that. What happens, you ask? Life. As you know, my life has been a challenge for a long time, and most days I can reasonably roll with the gut punches, and I was gut punched yesterday. Thankfully I was somewhat expecting the punch, so it didn’t take me by surprise. It still knocked the wind out of my sails so to speak, but I’ll be okay. Yesterday word came to me via the Veteran’s Administration I would no longer be allowed to visit my husband while he’s there, and while it sucks, it’s not about me. I miss him, and he misses me, but this change is for all the patients safety, and I’m okay with that. The COVID-19 pandemic has become personal to me, and I am not going to fight against not seeing my husband since I know the VA is just trying to do what they think is best. I support the decision, I just don’t like it. And it happens, just like that.

And it happens, just like that. Your life seems to be gaining traction in the right direction and something comes along to upend everything you’ve worked for, dreamed of, and had within your grasp. Moving to Virginia was never part of our plan, but it happened, just like that. We had lived in Eastern Virginia in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and we enjoyed our time here. Heck, my favorite place on earth is the Shenandoah Valley, right here in Western Virginia. I plan on taking a day trip out that way soon since I am self isolating, what better way to spend a day than with my camera, my car and the Blue Ridge Mountains? Just because life happens and it doesn’t happen like you thought it would, it doesn’t mean you can’t make the best of whatever situation you find yourself in. I think the ability to make lemonade becomes second nature as we age, and if it doesn’t, keep trying. Lemonade is sweeter when you make it yourself, even if you’re not quite ready to make it.

And it happens, just like that. You begin to believe that you’re making strides towards personal peace and acceptance, and someone decides to that they are okay with hurting you even when you beg them not to. Let it go… It’s on the person that does the hurting, not you. If you made yourself and your reasons clear, if you’ve begged, pleaded, screamed, cried and all other manner of trying to get your point across and the other person still hurts you intentionally, forgive them. That forgiveness is for YOU, because hanging on to hurt and bitterness only hurts you, not them. As Elsa says, let it go, let it go, and let the storm rage on… you know the song. I’m never going back, the past is in the past. Leave it there.

And it happens, just like that. You begin to accept that you can’t keep trying to make someone love you. Sooner or later you realize that the person(s) you are trying to connect with simply don’t want you, or need you, or even want themselves. Keep your face pointed towards the sun, even in the harshest rain storms, because the sun will shine upon your face again. The loss of love is not the end, though it sure does feel like that when it happens. When someone deliberately throws you away, you hurt. Let yourself hurt. For a while. Don’t let the hurt consume you forever, it’s not healthy nor is it worth it. The person(s) whom hurt you, they’re the ones that will reap what they have sown, and even if you never see what happens to them, you can live each day knowing you did the next right thing.

And it happens, just like that. You reach the end of your blog entry and say good day to your readers. I am humbled each time I think about making a difference in just one person’s life by sharing my heart. And my experiences. I ache to get back to the me that felt like I was able to encourage people to get through the trials of estrangement. I want to feel like I am writing again from a place of light, but am not quite there. Be patient with me as I work to repair and clean up the shards of my heart; after so many shattering events it’s almost impossible to pick up the pieces. Until next time, stay well, social distance as much as possible and turn towards the sun if you are able.

Photo by u5609u6dc7 u5f90 on Pexels.com

Spring is upon us…

Hello again,

Now that I am about 90% settled into my new place, I am hoping that I am inspired to write more frequently. Being settled is just a small part of my new life here in Central Virginia, but small and settled is so much better than the chaos, turmoil and uncertainties I have faced over these past five months. So. Much. Better.

Today it has been three weeks since we lost a beloved family member and my heart is sore. It aches for my sister-in-love, her girls, and the entire extended family. We miss you, dear one, we always will. Just today your baby brother said he wasn’t the same without you. None of us are. Even when the miles separate people physically, the heart connection is ever present. It should be this way… Memories are the gifts you left us. It shouldn’t be this way… You should be here, loving your wife, hugging your daughters and making people smile with your quick wit. Life is a little less bright without you here, but we are beyond grateful that we had the chance to love you, that we have the laughter and joy to remember you by. We will never forget…

Everyday I drive about 15 miles to the Richmond Veterans Medical Center, and for the past two weeks I have been watching Spring make its’ way into the greater Richmond area. There is a section of Hwy. 10 that I drive every day and it reveals a gorgeous and tangible reminder that life not only continues on, it blossoms, grows and keeps reaching for the sun. I’ve been watching the trees go from bare, to bud, to white, flower filled branches. Now the flowering branches are turning a luscious green, and it appears to be snowing when the breeze blows. I love knowing that the Earth is waking up again, it reminds me that nothing is impossible. Even when I feel defeated by circumstance, all I have to do is go for a drive on Hwy. 10 or 288, or just look out the window of my husband’s hospital room to know that the promise of renewal is within reach. Heck, just watching my husband work so hard at his recovery is more encouragement than I deserve. He is a champion, he’s my champion. He is the epitome of spring. He’s been cold, dormant and withered; now he is standing (with assistance, but standing,) he is regaining memory and he is reaching towards the sunlight. I am reminded every day that renewal is possible, even if the season of our individual winters last much longer than the winters of the calendar.

I’ve been told countless times by so many that I am strong, and though I don’t feel it, all I have to do is look back to October of 2019 to see my own strength. My strength is not my own to claim, it belongs to so many. It belongs to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It belongs to the love between my husband and me. It belongs to our younger daughter and her family. It belongs to my best friends, to the friends I’ve made here in Virginia. It belongs to the staff at the VA who have held me while I’ve cried, to the therapists that encourage us and to the Chaplain that prays with us. So many people have helped make me strong and without them I wouldn’t be able to find my way. I am so grateful to the paternal Gma to our oldest grandson. She is a strong and wonderful woman who has not only let me cry, rage and rant about the unfairness of everything, but she has fostered my beloved pup since NOv. 2, 2019. Her love and devotion inspire me. To all of the people that have held my hands, driven moving trucks, carried boxes, unpacked boxes and made sacrifices in large and small ways, thank you. Thank you so much.

Spring is a promise of growth, a time for refreshing, and an opportunity to reflect on the darkness of the winter, all the while seeking the light and warmth of the sun. I have lived in such a dark and dank place these past five months, though if I am to be totally honest it’s been more like 2 years. We were shunned by our oldest daughter almost two years ago, though that pain pales in comparison to the events of the past five months. I truly thought I would never hurt more than I did when she threw us away, but I have. I still hurt from time to time over her and her disregard for her parents, but I really don’t have all that much time for that hurt anymore. I pray for her peace of mind every day, that’s all I can do. I don’t seek, expect or even want reconciliation. Reconciliation would require trust and trust is not possible anymore. I am focused on the fact that the Spring of 2020 will bring growth and restoration for my husband’s brain and body, the rest of what I think about will have to wait for now. Spring this year is full of the goodness of God, and of love, therefore I will not open myself up to something that I know will hurt me. I am learning, as always, to protect my heart from that which I know will hurt it. Like spring plantings, I will plant the tenderness of my heart in the richness of the soil of love. Life is too short to plant your heart among the weeds and thorns that want to strangle and hurt you.

Tomorrow I will again drive east towards Richmond and take notice of the growth of the trees lining both sides of the road. There will be less white and more green, and I will be reminded by that green to keep reaching towards the sun, and the heavens, for my own renewal and growth. May you find moments in your own day to welcome the warmth of the spring sun into your own heart, and may you know that spring is a time to shake off the cold, the grey, and the heaviness of your own winter.

Until next time…

Photo by Louis on Pexels.com

I’m Still Here…

Hey all,

I’m still here in Richmond with my beloved and continue to pray for healing and progress. Progress has come to a halt this week as he has a terrible infection that has affected his good hand and he can’t grasp anything with it. The infection is a pus filled sack on the first knuckle of his right hand and is slowly creeping up his arm. He had to have the hospital ID cut off his wrist today as the swelling is pretty significant. No one seems to know what happened, and with the brain injury he’s dealing with, he can’t really shed any light on what has happened. He’s in terrible pain and it breaks my heart to see him so. With everything else going on, he really doesn’t need this…

Today there was a “gun rally” in Richmond and I stayed as far away from downtown as possible. The media spin on what Virginia is doing is pretty inaccurate as far as the truth of the legislation is written, but no one seems to know how to hold a civil conversation about any type of hot button issue anymore. I am not a gun person, but I honestly have no issue with anyone going through the proper channels to own one of their own. Criminals are always going to find a way to break the law no matter what, and the idea that Gov. Northam is trying to take away anyone’s legally owned guns is spin. Fox News says one thing, MSNBC another, CNN still another… Enough already!!! Common sense gun laws? How about just common sense? Be kind, stop the hate, love your neighbor, and stop all the crap. America really is morally corrupt, be the change this country so desperately needs. Enough about politics.

I’m still here in the same place my heart has lived over the past three months, and I am still broken. The loss of my husband as he was is ever present and I miss hugging him. I miss holding his hand, I miss him driving. I miss the man who I’ve spent my life loving, but I love the man that is. He has the sweetest nature (when he’s not in pain,) he loves me still and we will get through this with each other and our village. I am physically alone here in my room at the Richmond Fisher house, but I am never truly alone. I am loved by my family, my friends, my husband and by my Father. I lean not on my own understanding, because I don’t understand any of this. How is it that the man I love is here, but not? How is it that I can still smile, even with a shattered heart? How is it that I am not bat shit crazy by now? I don’t know the answers, but I do know that I don’t have to know the answers. I have learned over these past three months to take one step at a time. It’s not one day for me, it’s one step. One step is as much as I can handle and one step at a time gets me through the days as well as one day at a time. It’s all the same at the end of the day… I have become more patient in many ways, though I’ve also learned that I have little patience when it comes to things that make no sense. I don’t waste time on that which drags me down, I can’t. I don’t have the mental fortitude for frivolity and bullshit, they serve no purpose. At all.

I’m still here in terms of seeking joy, though I am not as able to find it in every day as I was before my husband’s hospitalization. I look for joy in spite of my pain, it’s a deliberate action. If I fall off the path of seeking joy, I hurt myself more than my life and its trials do. I refuse to give in, and I will not give up. I want to give up at least a hundred times a day, but I will not. I deserve better. I am better. I need to have something good in my life and I am responsible for my joy. No one else is. I flat out refuse to give up. I have been beaten down, rejected, accused of horrible things, tossed out like the most disgusting trash, yet I refuse to give up. Just because other people may treat me like I am less than, it doesn’t make it true. I am a daughter, a mother, a grandmother, a wife, a friend, a neighbor and a woman that still loves with a bruised and battered heart. Those who would seek to malign me would do well to remember that how they treat me (or don’t treat me) is nothing but a reflection of how they feel about themselves. I am not defined by any one other than myself, and my heavenly Father, and because I know this, I am still here.

I’m still here to hopefully encourage even just one person somewhere in this great big world that they matter. I don’t have any answers as to how to make this world a more kind place, I just believe in being the change I wish I could see. I believe in asking if someone needs help. I believe in holding the hand of the person sitting next to me if they need a friend. I believe we are meant to love one another, even when it’s not easy. I believe love means forgiving those that hurt us most. Love doesn’t hurt people, people do that out of pain and hate and anger. Love forgives. I forgive. I move forward against the storms of the past three months and I turn my face to the sun, seeking warmth. I’m still here… and I will be here again tomorrow. Be well, friends. And be the change you want to see, because in that change you will find joy.

selective focus photo of gerbera flower
Photo by Manuel Alvarez on Pexels.com

Getting Vertical…

Hey World,

So, I’ve started this blog post without a title and hope to come across it somewhere as I type out my heart’s musings. Today was a decent day, the weather here in Richmond, VA was sunny, cool and a bit breezy. I love when the sun shines in the wintertime, it always feels so good to face the sun, close my eyes, and lift my face towards the warmth it gives. I love soaking in the vitamin D. Winter is my least favorite season, I always get more melancholy and these days, melancholy is not what I need to invite into my life. I have enough on board already.

As I’ve written before, I try to not get religious when I write, so if this post seems too religious for you, please forgive me. I have been to three different church services in the 13 days we’ve been in Richmond, and all three have been quite different. The first was on Christmas Eve, the day after we arrived here. There were easily 600 people in the auditorium, every single one of them a stranger. I cried through the entire service as the pastor spoke about “something missing.” For me that something was, and is, my husband. He was lying in a hospital bed across the city, he was my something missing on Christmas Eve. I still raised my hands in worship, because I was moved to do so. Without my faith, I would become a shell of who I am, and having been that shell just a year ago, I don’t want to go back there. Not ever. The second service I went to was the first Sunday we were in Richmond and I went to the hospital chapel. That service was very different for me as I had never been to a chapel service in a hospital. The chaplain focused on the word “yet.” YET in this storm will we believe? YET in this trial will we hide? YET in this time of our life, we will still trust? My answer to these questions is yes, but that yes is not said with ease, confidence or assurance in self. I have lost so much of myself these past nine weeks since the event that has altered so many lives. Today I went to a church on the northside of Richmond and it was a beautiful blend of traditional and contemporary worship styles, and the congregation is a beautifully diverse group of believers. The pastor is from India, is a Princeton educated man and so humble. He spoke about the blessings we are afforded when we come to Christ with an open heart and mind. He spoke about loving all people, being inclusive as a nation and living peacefully. I cried again when the people in front of me prayed for my beloved husband and again on my way back to the hospital as I thought about how thankful I am that someone invited me to attend. In a city where I know not a single soul, I felt welcomed, safe and filled with the Spirit. It was just what I needed. I felt hopeful, and at this point in my life, hope keeps playing hide and seek with me. I will be seeking hope again next week at this same church and listening for the voice that gives me that hope.

We never know what lurks around the corners of our lives and when things happen that have a catastrophic effect, we usually have no idea how to react to said events. My husband’s stroke has changed our lives, and the lives of so many people, right down into the DNA of who we all are. And were. I miss my husband, yet he is still alive. How can I miss him? How can I not is more the question. We were living the life we had long looked forward to, and now that life is gone. We were simply happy in our little house in South Carolina, we had our beloved grandchildren close by, our daughter and son-in-love, friends and a community that we loved. So much has changed, and so many more changes are ahead. I hear you should never ask God “how much more can I take?” and I believe that wholeheartedly. In just two years we have as a couple endured a separation, a reunion, months of therapy both together and individually. We have lost a daughter and grandchildren. We sold a home and relocated to be closer to our youngest daughter and her family. We bought a home that I actually loved, but I know that’s because we left the spirits of hate and discontent behind us when we sold our home in NC. We were so happy in our new home in SC. I found a job I loved while Steve quit his job and dabbled in the retired life. He was going to go back to work not a week after his stroke and we were both looking forward to making plans for our 40th anniversary (2022.) Now we look forward to completely different things, as he can’t remember the plans we had started for going to Alaska, Ireland and England. Not all at the same time, but we were making plans nonetheless. Now my plans are to find an apartment I can afford, feel safe in, and that isn’t too far from the VA Hospital here in Richmond. MY plans. My husband isn’t able to process the information that so many of us take for granted anymore. I am beyond grateful that he is still alive, but he is not the same. He can’t help me make plans, he can’t process the thoughts it takes to make plans and he can’t enjoy the joys those plans would’ve brought. He may be able to some day, and I pray for that healing every day, but reality is what it is and today, at this moment, he is just not able.

I ache for the life I had just 3 months ago and I want it back more than I want to move forward alone. Moving forward alone is not what I want to do, but it is what I will do. I have many people supporting me, so many people I can call and cry with, or rage with, or just talk, but at the end of the day I go to bed alone, and I wake up tomorrow, still alone. I remind myself over and over and over again that I am never really alone; God is with me. Even when I can’t feel Him, hear Him or see Him, He is there. Without this assurance I would be so much more of a basket case than I am currently. I know that the Lord is watching over me, that He is with my husband and that He is with all of those I love. I miss my family so much, and not being near our daughter and her family is beyond painful. I miss my friends. I miss hanging out at our favorite Mexican restaurant and eating esquites, drinking a margarita and just enjoying each other’s company. I want to watch my youngest grandson run to his Poppy with abandon, not hesitate because Poppy is “different.” We have all lost so much. Our daughter has lost her Daddy, the strongest and most loving Dad she could have asked for. I have lost my husband as he was. My protector, provider, and lover. I want to hug my husband again, and feel him hug me back. I haven’t hugged him fully since October 5th, 2019, and I may never be able to feel him hug me like that again. My mother-in-love has lost her baby boy, but I am ever thankful that he did spend a month with her right before this happened. Time is lost, love is forever different and life holds little joy right now.

I pray that someday, and someday very soon, I regain my positivity and my strength to keep moving forward. I know that there is a reason for this, but I can’t see it through my pain. I don’t really try to. Getting vertical each day is about as much a task as I can handle and I find myself battling with my mind on days where I am determined to stay in bed and feel sorry for myself. Feeling sorry for myself is not going to help in the long run, but damn… I’ve run more marathons in the past 9 weeks than the most experienced runner I know. As I learn more about the human brain and what it can do, I am encouraged. Getting vertical happens because of that encouragement and because I still breathe. Some days that’s all we get… I’ll take it. Tomorrow brings joy as the grands and their parents will be in Richmond, so I’m going to work hard to be fully present in the joy and not dwell on the fact that they have to go home to SC. Some is better than none and I will take a few hours with them over zero.

In closing, I hope that my rambling hasn’t gone on too long. I am trying to “shine brightly” as the name of my blog states, but the clouds are dense and heavy right now…

sea dawn nature sky
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Humbled

October 20, 2019. This was the last time I took time to write and I’ve missed having the time ever since. Ten days later, on October 30, my beloved husband suffered a catastrophic stroke and he’s  been hospitalized since. As I sit and compose this entry, I am saddened by the turn of events in our lives, but ever grateful that the man I have loved all my life is alive. He’s very different, but he’s alive.

My husband left our home on October 5th to drive to New England to visit one of his brothers that had been in the hospital and I stayed behind in South Carolina. I was working and encouraged him to go without me. His mom is still alive, though elderly, and I thought he may see her as well. He had no restrictions as to returning to SC, so being in New England was all about what he needed, and wanted, to do. The last day I blogged was the same day he called me to tell me he had an excruciating headache for no apparent reason. I begged him to go to an emergency room, and I mean no offense by this, but being that he’s a man, he just blew it off. And again the next day, and the next… you get the picture. He left New England around noon on the 28th of October, drove 1000 miles south, and made it home on the 29th around 10am after getting lost in NYC. That’s a post for another time…

As I read back over what I had started 10 days ago, I know that there is a story to tell. I have since closed up our home in South Carolina, moved to Richmond,Virginia and started over. Again. Seems these past two years have been all about starting over. I’m currently sitting on an Amtrak train heading to Washington, DC to spend time with family, and my beloved husband is back in Richmond at the Polytrauma Center of the Ricmond VA Hospital. He will know I am gone, but he won’t be able to discern for how long. I miss him and I desperately miss the man he was. I feel cheated in many ways, robbed of a future that included us being grandparents together in the most simple of ways. We had planned to be the type of grandparents that took our babies to a zoo, to the beach, to the movies. Now I am a MiMi on my own in all the ways that matter. Two of our four grandchildren are very young, they won’t remember their Poppy later on down the road as he was, just as he is now. He’s unable to walk, his personality is altered and he has no filter when it comes to speaking. He can turn mean in the blink of an eye, rage without cause and is prone to aggression. So much has changed…

I have been told over and over and over again to take care of myself, and I try, but I am consumed by guilt, grief and anger. Guilt because I have the ability to keep living a joy filled life, and I feel terrible for leaving him in a hospital bed. Grief, because the man I love is not the same, and anger… Anger over many things. Why didn’t he go to the doctor when the headaches started? Why didn’t he quit smoking? Why was he so freaking stubborn? Why? Why? Why? So many unanswered questions. I am learning to move forward, though the steps I take can’t even be considered baby. I cry, a lot. I pray constantly and I write. Finally, I write again. Though my original intent was to make this blog positive in nature after surviving the loss of our daughter, I don’t feel very positive right now. I know it’s important to look for the silver lining, I am… I just haven’t found it yet.

I hope those of you reading this will know that I appreciate you and taking the time to read. I am hoping to write regularly again as I am settling in to my new life, the writing and sharing is such a release for me. I hope to not only inspire others, but to encourage others through the pains and trials of life, and share the joys and triumphs along my way.

In closing, please accept my most sincere wishes for a happy and safe start to 2020! May you and yours be blessed and all your dreams come true…

Hunter Holmes McGuire VAMC Richmond, VA

Why would I want to say thank you?

Good morning! It’s a crisp, autumn morning here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and I am so thankful to take my dog out and not be instantly wrapped in humidity. What a wonderful change! It brings to mind the words that have been rattling around in my head these pat few days and it’s time to get them on the page…

Why would I want to say thank you to someone who has hurt me to the point that the pain blinds me and tears me apart? I would tell this someone thank you for showing me that I am not who or what you seem to think I am. I am grateful you hurt me and gave me the opportunity to learn and grow from the decisions about MY life you made. I am a constant work of progress, strong, broken, and far away from that which you cast upon me with no regard to the long term affects your actions would cause. You taught me that I am not alone, even when I am physically alone. You gave me back the desire to forge a deep and lasting relationship with the God of forgiveness. The God of love. The God of patience. I believe again because of what you did to me, so thank you!

Why would I want to say thank you to someone who feels the only way to “win” is to deny me a relationship with them? I would say thank you because I have finally come to realize that whatever this person thinks of me, it’s not really any of my business. I learned that chasing people isn’t what I want or need to do, it’s not healthy. I mourn the loss of your presence in my life, I finally accept that it is YOUR decision to shut me out. It hurts to know that you are too busy for making time for me, it hurts to wait and wait and wait for a promised response, and it hurts to accept that the response will never come. With that acceptance comes healing, and healing is paramount in the desire to live joyfully.

Why would I want to say thank you to someone who has been so cruel, not only to me, but to others I love? I would say thank you to this person because I see traits in them that I work hard to erase in myself. The cruelty cast upon me isn’t exclusive to me, it has a rippling affect on those whom I love with all my heart. So, thank you for being cruel and showing me that kindness matters so much more than cruelty ever could. Thank you for helping me recognize that cruelty breeds bitterness and that bitterness breeds destruction. I will not allow bitterness to destroy the compassionate heart that beats within my chest.

Why would I want to say thank you to someone who has essentially left me in the dark? I would say thank you because I have learned that the darkness, no matter how dark it gets, or how long it lasts, is only temporary. There is a light at the end of every single dark tunnel, and the sun does rise again after the most tumultous of storms. The darkness you tried to leave me in led me to the most beautiful of lives. Even though I left pieces of myself back there in that dark tunnel, those pieces were left willingly. I left behind the pices of a pride that was much too heavy to carry. I left pieces of the most profound sadness I have ever know. I left pieces of hatred, rage and selfishness as I walked toward the light with the smallest of baby steps. Baby steps eventually led to larger steps, and larger steps to a comfortable stride. Because you tried to leave me in the dark, I walk with confidence. So, thank you!

Why would I want to say thank you to someone who thinks I don’t deserve love? I would say thank you because what you tried to accomplish actually failed. I have found love that is pure, unfettered and given without expectation. Expectations unmet kill love like a wildfire can consume the hills of southern California, and the loving relationships born out of your actions are the firefighters of my heart. I am grateful to you, beyond measure, that you helped me find people that will stand beside me, hold me up when I fall, and celebrate with me when I am filled with joy overflowing!

Why would I want to say thank you to someone who remains stuck in their own life at the precise moment they tried to destroy mine? I would say thank you for teaching me how NOT to be. I have lived a bitter, angry and rage filled life just like everyone else does from time to time, and those negative aspects of being human still rear their ugly heads. When those times visit, I have learned that I do not want to be like you, so thank you for that. I pray for you, I pray that you find peace, and that you let go of the darkness. You will always be on my mind and in my heart, and therefore I will pray that someday you will see the light that shines for you. It’s hard to change course and let go of your pride, I know this to be true. I also know that you can do it if you want it bad enough and are willing to keep moving forward…

Accept the things to which fate binds you…

Hi,

The title of tonight’s blog is a partial quote by Marcus Aurelius, and I saw it at the end of a movie my husband was watching when I got home from work this evening. It gave me something to think about and kind of tied my thoughts together in a weird sort of way. Let me explain…

I have fought so hard these past 17 months against the loss of not only our daughter, but against the loss of our son-in-love, grandson and granddaughter. I realized this morning sitting in my car in the parking lot at my job that I was and am fighting against that over which I have no control. I am done. Done. Done giving away parts of myself in the most minute of ways to where no one else can see what it costs me to keep hurting. I am done giving away any part of my heart to anyone other than those to whom I choose to give it to. I will always love the little girl I gave birth to and mourn the woman we lost almost 35 years later, though as far giving away any more contol… Done. I have to be. It’s time to accept the things to which fate has bound me, and the loss of our daughter is one of those things.

Fate has also bound me to accepting pain. Crushing pain. I’m okay with this as I know the pain I experience has been, can be and will be able to help another parent somewhere come to grips with the cruelty of being thrown away. Or of being accused, however falsely, of terrible acts against their own child. All I can say to another hurting parent is to remember that the burden of proof lies with the child doing the throwing away. It sounds simple. In essence it is simple. In reality, it’s anything but simple. Anything but easy. It’s a tough pill to swallow. A bitter tonic to drink. No matter the metaphor used, being thrown away by a child that you created and nurtured is cruel, mean, and very often without grounding. My husband and I were not perfect parents, but we were and are damned good ones. I cannot change that which fate has bound us to, but I can rise above it all and hold my head high knowing that I tried my best to be a good and loving mommy to both my little girls.

Fate has shown me that love isn’t enough for some people, but that it is enough for me. I have wonderful friends and the most amazing family that any plain and ordinary person could hope for. My husband of almost 38 years loves me. Me. The unlovable monster that has been accused of heinous things. I am not a monster. I am not evil. I am not unkind. What am I? I am broken. I am shattered. I am loved. I love. I have friends that know the darkness that I find myself in at times, and they shine a light into that darkenss so I can find my way out. Fate would try and have me accept the things of which I have been accused, and this is where I mock fate. I know better. Sorry fate…

I accept that fate has been a powerful and exacting teacher in my life, though I struggle with such an admission. Why would fate choose such a life for any mother? Father? Sister? My place is not to question why, but to figure out how to keep moving on. I am only responsible for what I do. How I act. What I say. I’ve learned that no matter how hard I try to turn the other cheek, it takes more strength than I myself possess. I don’t try to stand alone anymore, I’m not strong enough to do so. I lean on my husband, my friends, my faith and my family. I am but one, and it takes a village…

So, in closing, remember that Marcus Aurelius was a very wise man. We have to accept that to which fate binds us. We can push back against it, we can fight it with everything inside of us and we can turn and run… It won’t matter. Fate is what it is and we learn from it or let it take from us. I have nothing left to give Fate, I accept this.

Goodnight…

We Are Not Expired Concert Tickets…

Hi,

Have you ever thought about what you miss when you have concert tickets that you misplace and they’ve expired before you find them? That feeling of disappointment? That feeling of utter disbelief? You think to yourself “how could I have lost these?” I had seats front and center to see my favorite artist and I blew it! This is the train of thought I have been riding on today, and I have to get this out of me. I used to love to go to concerts with my oldest daughter and we saw some fabulous shows over 20 or so years before her dad and I became the expired concert tickets that she threw away. I’ve kept ticket stubs and programs and pictures of a life that no longer exists and the memories of good times with her are held on to by choice. I try very hard to let go of the anger and disbelief of the loss we’ve experienced since being ripped up and tossed to the wind without care; I fail. There are still days when I think of a Kid Rock concert, seeing Garth Brooks, Papa Roach or whomever, and I scream my pain out in the car…

Life is not a concert, or a play, or a production for anyone to make light of, nor is it an invitation to sit in the front row and clap your hands when something happens to someone that causes pain. I am not a performer, nor is my husband. We are two people that created two lives together out of love and we are broken. Better to be broken together than to be acting for the sake of acting. We have been broken, crushed and rebuilt. Through strength, determination and sheer will we have picked up as many shredded pieces of torn concert tickets and taped them back together as best we can to try and live. What our oldest child stole from us 15 months ago was never real in the first place, but we didn’t know it until now. Our daughter never loved us, and we know that to be true now. Why did it take us losing her to realize that we never mattered to her? I can’t answer that except to say that we loved her so much that we denied seeing what was right in front of us. We. Loved. Her.

Going to a concert is not like real life, but it is a place where you can lose yourself for a little bit of time and pretend that your life is better in a darkened arena than it ever is, or could be, at home. I think back to all the times I would get tickets for us and maybe whatever guy she was dating to go escape real life for a few hours. How I fooled myself into thinking she wanted to be with me, she just wanted to use me. The last Kid Rock concert we attended together was a disaster for me, and I will never forget the feelings of angst I experienced the day after when I left her behind and drove the 225 miles back home without her because she refused to get out of bed. I knew then that the “bonding” I thought we shared was bullshit, it wasn’t bonding at all. She actually bought those tickets and we had so much fun at the show. I hold on to that now, and leave the dark memories behind me. I don’t listen to KR any more, I prefer a different drummer so to speak.

I still love going to concerts, though I have less desire to attend a rock concert or a LOUD concert. I also choose to attend with a more appreciative partner. Not like I have much of a choice on that though. When you accept that you are nothing more than fluff, dirt or invisible to someone, I believe we have a tendency to do one of two things. We either become fluff, dirt or invisible, or we become someone who stands up and digs down deep to recover their self-worth. I have spent the better part of the past 15 months trying to dig down deep to be able to stand on my own again and be as whole as possible. I will never be whole as a mother again, how can I be when 50% of my heart stopped beating last year? I can, however, stand up and let the other 50% of my heart keep beating to a different kind of music. My younger daughter brings music and joy all her own to my life and I am ever grateful. Through all the loss, all the tears, all the self-recrimination, here stands a woman that holds new and up to date concert tickets for events yet to come. I don’t tell her near enough how much she means to me, but I think she knows. She too has suffered so much in losing her sister, and I am proud of how determined she is to make a happy, safe and fun life for her own children.

I feel like the music of life can at times be like a crazy Grateful Dead concert. Or quiet and stately like seeing Jim Brickman. When you see Jim Brickman, you leave his concerts feeling blessed, relaxed and appreciative of what music can do for your spirit. When we first lost our daughter, I could barely stand to hear Elton John’s “This Is Your Song.” My husband danced with our daughter to this song at her 3rd wedding and it was beautiful to watch him hold our creation in his arms. Now I can seek the song out and not cry. I can listen to The Zac Brown Band’s song “Colder Weather” and not ball my eyes out. I can seek the memory of a New Year’s Eve concert with ZBB in Atlanta a few years ago and let the joy of that night (what a friggin’ long drive home!) sustain me through my dark moments…

I miss the blonde-headed, blue-eyed girl that we so wanted to have with all of my heart. I am saddened by the tremendous sense of loss and injustice I feel. I am at times beyond frustrated that my beloved husband stares off into nothingness with the sheen of unshed tears in his eyes. I feel anger rise like bile when I think how easy it had to have been for her to just throw us away like those expired concert tickets she found in a drawer somewhere. I am forever and irrevocably changed by what has happened to us, but not so much that I want to hide anymore. I want to tell my story and let other parents know that they too can survive the loss of their own flesh and blood, they just have to walk through the pain. The anger. The disbelief. The confusion. It may seem like just noise in the first few months following the loss, but I promise you will hear a beautiful melody, a simple harmony, a verse that opens the door to a heart that is different, but healing. I have learned much about myself over these past months, and the lesson most valued to me? I matter. To myself, to my husband, our daughter, our grandchildren, my friends. The list goes on.

Does the music sound the same after such loss as we have experienced? No. Think about the significance music has played in your life… What does your soundtrack sound like? Mine is full of variation. From the Bee Gees in my youth to Jim Brickman in my later life, and all that’s in between, I keep turning up the volume and listening to the words. I seek comfort through music and when I hit rock bottom in my grief, I listen for the positive messages I can find by listening to Casting Crowns, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and many others. Our youngest daughter has introduced me to Andy Grammar, I love him! What about Bruno Mars, Charlie Puth, Lady Gaga? Find your inspiration to heal through any means you can, and let the music lift you up. I have tickets that will get us in to see Jim Brickman in December, and I am looking forward to enjoying myself. My husband will be seeing him for the first time, and I am excited to share my love of JB music with him in a live setting… 

I know this has been a lengthy post, I’m in a writing mood tonight and I want to share hope with those of you that need to know it does exist. When an adult child decides that we aren’t good enough for them anymore, that is on them, not on us as parents. We lost our only daughter completely last year, and we can accept that now. We have found peace even though we don’t understand. We seek joy even when it seems impossible to find. We listen to the music of our lives and pray for others experiencing senseless loss. I pray that you all know that you are not alone, not ever, and there is someone somewhere that believes in you. You deserve to heal, you deserve to be happy, and you deserve a life filled with concerts that make you want to dance with abandon and freedom!!!

macro photo of piano keys
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