grief

Grief

I’ve come to hate the grieving process.  And I’ve come to hate my particular languishing slog through it.  Why does it take me so long to get to the actual sad stage sometimes?  And why do I find myself moving so slowly through it?

We lost our Birdie (black cat) to a rapid case of feline leukemia this weekend.  She was a good cat, probably the best one we’ve ever had.  Always sweet and gentle with the girls, always outside ready to greet me or any guests.  In fact it was her quietness that made me first realize she was ill.  I hadn’t seen her around the house, not climbing in the windows to meow at me in the mornings or afternoons, not there to greet us when we opened the garage door in the morning.  I went looking for her and eventually found her in the barn, quiet and still, looking at me but not respomding to my call.  She let me pick her up, but only let out a low purr, not her usual violent one that lets me know how happy she is to to be loved.

Together we examined her and couldn’t find any noticeable cuts or evidence of a fight.  She drank water but was uninterested in food.  We hoped she had eaten something foul and would just need a day or two for it to pass.

But it didn’t.  Nate called me this weekend (I was out of town) to let me know she had not improved and in fact only gotten worse.  It was time to put her out of her suffering but I asked him to wait until I got back home so that I could say goodbye and be there with the girls when he told them.

As cats usually do when they are dying, she disappeared sometime on the Sunday of my return.

I dreaded coming home to see her suffering and to give her a final goodbye, but now I think it is worse that I didn’t have closure and can only pray that her death was quick and painless.

As I’ve had a chance to start processing this, and with the death of my grandparents at the end of this summer, I’m coming to realize (late of course), that I am far from the peaceful acceptance stage.  Nope, I’m still stuck in sadness, and sometimes, regretfully, bounce back all the way to denial, which feels cruel this many months removed.

Today I’ve found myself envying the girls’ grieving.  MG lets hers out in one cathartic hour of sobs, but then is able to peacefully move on.  Bea, being blissfully unaware, asks to visit Birdie and calls for her when we are outside.  I reminded her that Birdie is sick and that we won’t be able to see anymore.  “Okay” she says with a hint of a sad face, but that is all.  She moves on.

Tonight I used my grandmother’s hot glue gun to finish a project.  It was one that she gave to me many years ago and it is outdated and the trigger is extremely squeaky, but it makes me happy to have sometime tangible of hers in use.

Where I am in the grieving process with their passing is thinking about their house.  The house that they had lived in for as long as I’ve known them became a constant in my childhood, as we moved several times, but we always made our way back to there for summer vacations and winter holidays.

This house was a white farmhouse, 1920’s style, with a big yard, old trees and a long, black driveway.  It had a screened in front porch with two swings and several rockers that we spent some of my favorite hours in.  I’ve written countless letters and thank you notes to its address and probably won’t soon forget the order of numbers and letters as I’ve had 31 years to memorize it.

It sat next to a field on one side and another old house on the other (home of my grandfather’s late parents), and in the 60+ years they lived there, they watched the developments go up around them.

Behind the house was a dog pen alive with hunting dogs, a weathered hay barn, and soulful cows.  During the better part of my childhood, there was a grape vine, a huge garden, and the best tasting apples I’d ever had that sprouted from several golden apple trees.  All of this was cut down in later years and only the cows were left when Grampy started on his last illness.

The inside of the house starts at the back of the house.  No one ever entered through the front door.  Up until about 5 years ago, Grampy always anticipated our arrival and met us at the back door with a “how yall doing, get in here!”.  Many a roast beef sandwich for lunch and a peanut butter cracker for a late night snack were eaten at the round table in the kitchen (late night snacks were always encouraged at this house, much to my delight).

Nanow was a wonderful cook, much like you imagine most grandmas to be, and cooked for us every time we came until she physically could no longer.  They always made sure to have our favorite cereals and snacks when we came, and there was always ice cream in the freezer.

The dining room was the next room you entered and the gathering of many, many family meals.  Anytime we had more than 4 people, the dining room table was set up, the appropriate amount of leaves were placed in, and we sat around the table breaking bread.

There was a guest room and a living room that held their tv-facing recliners.  They had many recliners over the years I visited them, but they always sat side-by-side, facing the same direction.  Whenever I picture my grandparents, I always picture them sitting there.

Their bedroom was off the hallway, along with Nanow’s sewing room and the “apartment” in back that was an addition built by Grampy when Nanow’s father became ill and came to live with them.  They cared for him, even up until he became unresponsive for his final 18 months. They kept him nourished and flipped him side-to-side to prevent bedsores.  Grampy rigged a doorbell for him to ring whenever he needed them.

Now this apartment serves as a guest area and where we spent our extended stays when visiting them.

I’m so thankful N was around for some of their better years and got to know this house as intimately as I did.  It does ease the loss a bit to know that it is carried by both of us, and really many of us.

Anthropomorphism is a literary word that describes when an inanimate object takes on a human like personality.  In the story of my childhood, this 1920’s farmhouse became anthropomorphic to me; personifying love, goodness, and family.  May we all be so lucky to have a little white house in our lives like this someday.

R.I.P., Biride,

-smk

Striving

Welcome to my new blog!  I’ve made some exciting (for me) changes as of late.  The address is still the same (sweetmamak.com) but if you have my website bookmarked, you’ll probably need to re-do that with this address. 

If you want to receive all of my writings delivered to your email, enter it on the right sidebar.  (If you’ve already done so, check your email to make sure the move didn’t take that subscription away-sorry!)

************************************************************

Life lately has been, well, hard to describe.

(disclaimer: I’m going to attempt to honestly lay out my current feelings below. No need to be concerned.  Just want to share in case others can relate)

Things have been hard.  It has felt like work.  There has been a cycle of good news and bad news that we just can’t seem to escape from (or has life always like this?  Sometimes I wonder if the mellow life I remember prior to becoming a mom actually existed.)  Good news for our family immediately preceded by bad news for our friends.  Excellent news for our friends immediately followed by a crushing blow for us. 

There has been a lot of rejoicing amidst mourning.

I’ve been scared a lot lately this year.  Like sick to my stomach, heavy cloak around me, scared.

There’s a special kind of fear that surrounds your children being sick.  I’ve become well-acquainted with that fear this year.

I’ve caught myself holding my breath, anxious for this week to be over, that news to be delivered, those situations to resolve.  And just when I exhale, it seems, a new sucker punch leaves me once again breathless.

I feel very unsettled.  Despite the work we’ve accomplished on the house, there is something about living amongst “projects” that messes with your psyche.  It is hard to find rest in something that constantly screaming you, “paint me!  decorate me!  finish me!”

My heart has been pushed closer to Heaven’s presence.  While I once looked around at the life I had amassed on earth and thought, “I am really going to miss this someday!”.  Now I find myself aching for the day when I no longer have to fear a stomach bug, when I won’t sleep restlessly over the fear of the unknown, where all of our relationships will be completely restored and we will never miss another’s presence.

As the days grow shorter and the cold seeps in, I dread the darkness.  The time change always comes unexpectedly and leaves me reeling for a bit. The trees and bushes look sad and shameful; their former glory amassed in piles around their feet.

Winter always carries a foreboding and melancholy feeling for me.  Will it be bitter and sick and long?  Will it close in on us and imprison us in our homes?  Will we crawl out from hibernation in April starved, blinking, and weary?

Today I found myself falling into a dark cycle after yet another round of illness.  I rallied my instincts and took the girls outside for an hour of play when the sun was still bright.  MG drew suns and skies with smiley faces.  I gulped the oxygen that had just a hint of winter in it and I’m going to try to make it last until April.

IMG_2849

And if it doesn’t?  Well you know where to find me.

-smk

If you decide to sell your house…

If you decide to sell your house,

Maybe you will have to mourn a little before you can go on to experience the wonderful things in your new life to come. Much like welcoming a new child into your family, you will recognizance it as a parallel experience to your second pregnancy. The wait, the exciting promise of fulfillment, the morning sickness, the mourning period, the labor pains, the beautiful birth and the promise of new life.

Much like it did in your second pregnancy, the grief at the end will surprise you. You know that something wonderful is coming but that something is new and unknown.  And it will be hard to imagine because you realize in order to get it, you will have to give up something  in its place.  Something that is already beautiful and wonderful on its own.

Perhaps you will go through a period of great excitement.  You will envision all of your shiny things perfectly positioned in your new house.  They will be arranged to your liking. You will begin packing boxes with care and imagine where the contents will be at rest.

You will uncover treasures.  You will find forgotten pictures, receipts, letters.  They will have been placed there from an earlier time, perhaps so that you  would discover them in this moment and say, “I remember”.  “I remember the life we had here in all its fullness, it was wonderful.”  You will think about the secrets this house holds and you will reminisce and cry and smile.

Maybe you will go through a period of regret. It comes somewhere in between the first packed box and the moving of your bed.  You will question everything about this decision and wonder why you put yourself through this.  “Isn’t this house good enough?” you will ask yourself.  And it will smile back at you all clean and spacious and empty and it will be.

You will put on a brave face for your family because you hope they don’t feel the same way.  The last thing you need is to be the cause of a mutiny.  But eventually it will come out.  All gushing out.  And they won’t feel the same way, at least not now, and they will talk you off the ledge and into the good days to come.  You will feel better.  You will come to the realization that a very important part of your life has been lived there.  One you will go back to often in your mind.  You smile when you think of the sweetness that he been shared there and you will wonder what it will be like to live in a place that has no memories.

Maybe then you will walk through your house and look around at its nakedness.  You will be sad that it is no longer full of your things though it still holds so much of your memory.  You will walk to the nursery and think about how many times that path has been walked before and be sad that you will never be able to do it again no matter how much you may want to for the sake of reliving.   Your girls will never sleep again in this room you so carefully decorated for them. You will not get to sit quietly and rock in it on their first day of kindergarten when all you want to do is go back to the day you brought them home form the hospital.  There is some pain in that stinging but you will work through it.  You will just keep packing boxes and you will probably save that room for last so that it will stay with you the longest.

You will look at the picture in your frames of the candid smiles and you will feel heavy in your heart.  You will ask yourself, “will I ever feel this happy again?”  Which is funny because you are actually really sad.

Perhaps you will wonder if you took enough pictures and recorded enough video.  Because you feel that someday, after the dust has settled, you may want to temporarily return here and you don’t know if that will be entirely possible.

For a while your new house won’t feel like home.  You will continue to forget where you put the oregano and the vanilla. When you fill in your address you won’t be able to remember your new zip code.  When the hot water doesn’t’ work, you will have a wistful longing for your old house.

You will be sad because you will be half here and half there and fully no where.  Your new house, though lovely and great, will lack this and that from your old house.  At first you will miss those things.  You will miss them badly before you realize you’ve forgotten about them and come to love this and that about your new house.  At that time, you will be able to look back on your old house with a fondness.  A soft sigh, a quietness on your heart that reminds you of a sweet life that was once lived there.   In that moment, you will realized you have moved forward.

Though you haven’t fully understood it, your life will go on to greater things.  The place you call home will not be left behind.  It will carry on with you to erupt with more joy and love than you an ever imagine.

But should you ever decide to sell your house, you may feel this way.

Maybe you will, or maybe it’s just me.

I just thought maybe you should know,

 

Goodbyes

“Most people now are looking for ‘a better place,’ which means that a lot of them will end up in a worse one…There is no ‘better place’ than this, not in this world. And it is by the place we’ve got, and our love for it and our keeping of it, that this world is joined to Heaven.” Hannah Coulter

Lasts have always been important to me.  I suppose firsts have too: first steps, first birthdays, first kisses; they’ve all been appropriately celebrated and documented.  But lasts have their place in this life too.  I remember senior year of high school when I became almost obsessive about commemorating.  “This is our LAST PROM EVER!”,  “this is our last lunch table together!!”,  “this is our last time to walk down this hallway to our Spanish class together!!!”  It always came after a brief catch of the breath and a before a collective sigh. It was important. It made those moments tangible and real and worthy of setting apart. I’ve always been about “moments” and somehow saying them aloud has made them all the more memorable.

Life has been filled with a lot of lasts lately.

photo(1)

Tonight we say goodbye to our first house.  Our home.  The house we grew our family in.  The place where our love magnified and changed.  The kitchen where we communed with family and friends. The place that was built for us and with our comforts in mind.

As we have waded through the daunting process of packing, our eyes and hands and hearts have been full of remembering.  It has been a cathartic process, almost as if our house wants us to remember every last drop of life that was drunk here. Many memories have been evoked in the process: Handwritten letters from deceased grandparents, files and paperwork from my job that is no longer, thank you notes from my little students who are all grown up now, pictures that tell stories of a life long forgotten.  Each one saved, possibly with the hope that someday (this day) we would come across them and have this very moment.  A reminder that our lives have been very full here.

The walls have seen life for only 6.5 years, but oh the stories they could tell:

The outfits anxiously picked out for first days on the job, anniversary dates, baby dedications.

The number of tvs, sofas, rugs, tables, and lamps that have made their way in and out, up and down.

The rooms that were changed and then changed again to make room for the coming little ones.

The hallways that were paced in the wee hours, hoping for the babies to stop crying, the temperatures to go down, the contractions to subside.

The neighbors we met.  The life we shared.

The meals we relished, the cookies we baked, the laundry we cycled.

The sounds of home: of the creak at the top of the stairs, the dishwasher after a pleasing meal, the tick of the clock as I write this.

The way we picked her out 7 years ago and dreamed of all these things.   It was here they came true.

There was a lot of life that was lived here in 6.5 years.   A lot of life.  She was very good to us, we will miss her.  Not for the way she looked but for the way we kept her.  The loved that was shared here and the life that was lived.

It was in this place that our little, created life joined to Heaven.  Becoming itself, a sacred place.

“There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.” Wendell Berry

Appropriately, trick-or-treating was city-wide moved to tonight due to inclement weather last.  It will be a fitting way to go out: in a blaze of festivity, sugar, and a last goodbye to each of  our neighbors.

Goodbye, dear house, you were as good as can be to us.  We will treasure the memories we have of you and not soon forget the sacred times we shared among your walls,

Friday

This past Friday, I was on top of the world.  MG and I had spent the morning at the local Y for open gym time and she loved it.  Plus, my little Mommy heart was tickled when she went over to a baby’s mom and began asking questions about him, when she shared sweetly with her friends, and then when she spontaneously helped clean up.  After, we ran about an hour’s worth of errands, which can be trying on us both, but spirits remained high as we dashed from store to store.  On top of that, N and I had a baby-free night to look forward to, eating out at a new Mediterranean restaurant and finishing up the last of our Christmas shopping.

And then around 1 o’clock pm, I happened to turn on the tv and everything stopped.
For hours, I refreshed Google News, read status updates as friends verbalized their feelings, and let myself feel everything until my heart physically ached.
I’m sure you have a similar story to mine.
What happened on Friday affected me (and us all) on so many levels.
First as a parent.  During the four school shootings in recent history, I’ve yet to experience one as a parent. It is a whole new and terrible dynamic. My grief for those affected families (both who lost children and those who had children witness it) is profound.   That could have been any of our babies in that school.
Then as a (former) teacher.  I was once asked, early, early on in my career, “Would you take a bullet for these students?”.  I was reminded of that indelible moment as I read the heroic stories of the teachers, administrators, and staff who saved lives at great risk to their own.  There are so many educators in my family, not to mention friends and coworkers. It could have been any of them.  And I know beyond a doubt they would have done the same.  A hundred times over.  Today had to be a very hard and emotional one as they returned to their jobs with this tragedy so fresh in their minds.
As the world grieves, we look for hope.  In the past days since the shooting, I’ve noticed more than ever people drawn to MG.  Like the elderly lady at the grocery store today who patted her little hand with tears in her eyes.  And our neighbor who said, “It’s just nice to see a sweet little one on a day like today.”  It is no wonder that the Savior of the world came to us in such a tiny, innocent package.
There have been many wise words spoken and I really don’t have any to add, but my favorite words have come from a prayer attributed to Max Lucado:

Dear Jesus,

It’s a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately. These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated. The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?  Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod’s jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.  Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.  Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.
This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.
Hopefully,
Your Children

 

Come soon, LORD Jesus!