I’m a sappy mess when I leave my parent’s house. I’ve always been. I’ve cried nearly every time I’ve left their house for, well, most of my life. Wayyyyyy before my momma passed.
For years, they’d stand in the doorway or on the porch, waving and watching as I pulled away and I cried for miles.
This afternoon, my son and I will start making our way south and east. It’s 8 hours up here to my dad’s. We’re going to split the trip and stay overnight half way. Then, home tomorrow for bowling.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my home, too. I don’t mind going home, even. It’s just the leaving here that starts the waterworks.
If you’ve lost one parent, you may understand this need to want to see and be with the other one. It’s such a gift to be here. I thought I’d have my momma 20 more years. As they say, ‘time is not promised.’
For my miracles and gratitude today, I’m going to share my momma’s flowers. She LOVED flowers. All kinds- wildflowers, roses, irises, morning glories, and more.
Miracles and Gratitude Day 8:
I’m grateful for these past few days. There’s miracles all around.
Feel free to share your gratitude and miracles if you’d like. What I’m beginning to see is, the more days I do this, the more miracles show up.
Yesterday, while traveling to my parent’s house, we stopped in a town to do a little shopping.
When we pulled into the parking lot, I spotted a van with a couple of people standing by it. A closer glance revealed that it was a mom and dad and two kids.
My attention was immediately drawn to a sign the dad was holding. I couldn’t read it all, but past experiences seeing signs told me they may have been needing help of some sort.
After we came out of the store and got in our truck, I got a good look at their sign. They were traveling and needed some help with gas, food, and a motel. I found myself opening my wallet….
My momma was a giver. Her heart was bigger than the size of the word generosity itself.
She’d buy overly priced popcorn and baked goods that kid’s clubs were selling. She donated items, gave food to families, gave money where it was needed. She gave.
In her 75 years on this planet, she helped many. Not just people, but animals, too. I can’t even begin to tell you how many sweet, random dogs made their way to our house.
Not a bunch at once, but one here and there. She kept them and they’d become part of the family. One time, several kittens showed up on the back step during the winter.
She nursed them all back to health and kept them until they went on their merry way.
I think watching her give to and help others all my life, rubbed off. I’ve always been a giver, but recently, since losing her, I’ve really had the urge to give.
A couple of weeks ago, about sunset, I went to the grocery store in a town 25 miles from home. When I parked, I saw a KITTEN at the edge of the parking lot by the weeds.
It was alone, no other cats in sight. Strange, I thought. Kittens are usually together. It was black with white feet and about half the size of our kittens.
When I came out, I saw it again. My heart ached. I went to the Dairy Queen next door and ordered some rotisserie chicken. After it cooled, I tore it into tiny bites, and took it to where I saw the kitten.
The kitten wasn’t there, but I put it on the ground, called “here kitty kitty” and got back in my truck. A minute passed and it saw the chicken. Full belly that night.
I went to the same grocery store last week. I was praying that the kitten wouldn’t be there and that it had found a home. Heart crushed again, it was still in the same spot.
I came out of the store all ready to go back to Dairy Queen for more chicken, but I didn’t see the kitten anywhere. Maybe someone took it home? Where was it? I was torn about what to do.
While driving home, I began thinking about that kitten. What if it stepped down into the weeds and I just didn’t see it? What if it was hungry? Should I turn around?
I actually pulled over and thought about if I should go back. That may sound extreme for some kitten in a parking lot, but that’s what we do, you know?
Compassion just shows up where and when it’s needed. Kitten or human or anything else, hungry is hungry.
It was dark and I ultimately, I decided to wait. Logic started kicking in. The kitten had survived a week. I had also talked to a store employee at the checkout who said he had been trying to get the kitten to come to him.
I went on home.
Back to the store parking lot yesterday. I found $10 in my wallet, pulled up near the van and stuck my arm out the window. The mom came over offering all kinds of thank you’s.
I pulled away with tears in my eyes.
My momma was a giver. So am I. No wonder I miss her so much.
A WordPress notification popped up just now. Apparently, it’s my 7 year anniversary on this blog. Whoa, that seems a bit unreal. 7 years?
Back then, I was one of those, “Blog?? Oh no, not me! I’m NEVER going to have a blog! No sir! Ugh uh. Hard pass.”
A sudden week’s worth of hospital days/ mystery illness changed that. In the midst of night time hours, while my family slept, I started this blog.
I was sooooooo nervous. I’d spent a lifetime doing what I love doing- writing and taking photographs, but put them out into the world? Umm, no.
My mom was not onboard. She couldn’t really get her mind around what a blog was or why in the world I thought I needed one. It reminds me of the movie, “Julie and Julia” where Julie’s mom has the same sort of reactions.
I carried forward anyway and mom became one of my top readers. She signed up for email alerts. She got notified and read all my posts.
It didn’t seem to take long for her to understand my sudden urge to blog. She stepped right up and into this blogging adventure.
She stood by me when I had zero WP follows and stuck with me when I had 100.
She’d comment on my posts, a few words here and there about what she learned or liked.
Heck, she’d even welcome me back after I had long dry spells in writing. And, I have had some looooooong dry spells!!!
Last week I considered quitting this blog.
I have been so absolutely torn about HOW to write about loss, carry forward with other writing, and circle back to loss if I need to. It is absolutely exhausting trying to figure out how to write right now.
Being totally open, to a bit vulnerable, then switching to regular stuff, only to need to write more vulnerable stuff?
It’s like a teeter totter that’s lost it’s balance.
“Forget it,” I thought. “This is too hard. No wonder people don’t write about this! I’m quitting!!!!!”
But, teeter totters don’t get up and walk off the playground, so neither will I.
When I started this blog all those years ago, I did it on the premise that if I could help one person, I’d keep on writing.
ONE person. That’s a pretty darn good reason to write.
And, you know what?
I didn’t see this until RIGHT this second, but dang, maybe that one person, for today anyway, is me.
Remember “Tears at the Table?” My post about how we went to that restaurant and I cried?
We went back there yesterday.
The atmosphere was a bit different. It was a Friday afternoon, instead of a busy Saturday lunch. We were seated in a different room, at a high top table. I faced a window, but my back was towards the door, so I couldn’t see who came in and left.
My heart got moved a bit, when I saw a man about my dad’s age, standing outside on the sidewalk. I still have my dad, eight hours away, but I miss him every day.
We ordered. Our appetizers came. Our food came. We ate. A pretty ‘normal’ eating out.
That is, until we were waiting on the check.
This time it wasn’t a group of women, someone who resembled her, or a kind stranger that started the steady stream of tears.
Instead, it was a familiar tune that kicked up on the speakers. Stevie Nicks.
Fitting actually. My momma loved Stevie Nicks. This time the tears at the table prompted a bit of a smile, too.
Six months ago today my momma made her heavenly trek. Six months? Where the heck did half a year go?
Sometimes it feels like half a second and sometimes it seems like an eternity since I’ve seen her. My eyes get all gushy with tears when I think of that.
I have learned a lot about myself and the capacity of others, in the days since.
Others have stepped up and shown up. In the beginning, there were cards, flowers, food, visits, hugs, gifts, and prayers.
As time went on, there were check in’s, texts, “how are you doing’s”, comments on blog posts, and hand holding.
Still, there is hand holding and support.
I don’t have many friends who have lost their moms, so in a way, I’ve had to go first. In the beginning, I leaned hard on the ones who’ve traveled this road before I did.
One friend in particular held me up, before my momma even passed, through the services, and afterwards. She’d been there. She’d lost her momma, too. Miles apart, she gave me the strength to keep on walking.
So, here it is, the anniversary day. I find myself reflecting on some of the hardest days I’ve ever had to go through.
Did I want to or was I prepared to lose my momma? Heck no.
Beginning to end, it was 10 days.
Am I over it? Heck no.
Will I ever be? No clue.
But, here I am, doing it.
I thought I’d share some of my personal insights, in case you’re in parent loss or are supporting someone who is:
parent loss feels like it’s own kind of grief
when loss is sudden, it can feel very hard to understand
for me, understanding all of the medical stuff didn’t happen until a few months later
the shock can be huge
grief shows up when it wants to
sometimes tears will fall in public places
the missing can feel like an ache
music can kick up memories
laughing and stories about them can help fill up the heart space
being with family was critical for me in the beginning because they “got it”
it’s a hard reality that there will be no more texts, calls, visits
suddenly the last gift received becomes sacred, there won’t be anymore
hearing about other people’s moms, in the beginning, was sooooooo hard when I suddenly didn’t have one
the ‘firsts’ of the first year can be heart-crushing: birthdays, holidays, special day, even anniversaries
getting used to not having them here is tough
This grief journey has certainly been a process. Here are some things I’ve learned about myself so far:
I am stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.
This grief has never been just about me and my loss. I have been able to support loved ones through this, too.
I understand now, how to help friends through similar things. I mean, I tried to before, but now I truly get it.
Writing about it is ok. Talking about it is ok. Reaching out to friends about it is ok. Sitting in it is ok. Working through it is ok. It is ok.
I will be ok. That sounds tiny, but in parent loss, it’s enormously huge.
Some of you that have lost your moms have reached out and told me you think of them every day. Same here. I think of my momma daily.
Here on the ‘reminder day’ that she passed, it’s no different. In fact, the blessing in that is, today I’ll probably think of her more. There’s a grace in that, you know?
A few weeks ago, I shared one of my posts about my momma on my social media timeline and wrote at the top, “I know loss gets old…”
My point was that:
I understand that my momma passed months ago.
I understand that I’ve already talked about it.
I understand people have already read about how this feels.
I understand that in a world full of ‘lots of sad’ no one wants to be reminded of sadness, grief, and loss. I get that. Who wants to be reminded again?
I wrote that at the top for a couple of reasons. It was a heads up for what followed or an ‘I know you probably don’t want a reminder of my momma’s loss.’
It was also a buffer for me, in case not one single person wanted to read it. If I warned them about what it was, they wouldn’t have to start and stop reading, like it’s old news.
As a writer, who is knee deep in trying to keep my sails straight in this momma loss thing, there seems to be this fine line: write about it, but don’t write about it ‘too much.’
So, what constitutes ‘too much?’ Honestly, I have no idea. And, who’s fine line is that anyway? I have a feeling it’s mine…
A friend commented on that social media post. Her response was simple, but huge:
“Loss never gets old.”
Loss never gets old? As in never? What about next Thursday? Will it be old then? How about 5 weeks from now? Will it be old then? Two years from now? Will it be old then?
Not with her! Is that testament of true friendship or what?
And, we do that, don’t we? We drop the anchor when our friends and loved ones are going through stuff. We stick around for them for however long.
And, I tell you what, for the person on the other end of ‘however long’, that is pretty monumental, you know?
‘However long’ allows some wiggle room. Not healed yet? Take your time. It is open ended. Expectations are dropped in however long. And, there’s no cap on the amount of support or the time of support.
However long, may be exactly what someone needs.
This summer, we’ve been in a drought, aka, loss of rain. Our yard was brown and crispy. There was no need to mow and no weed eating was needed. Did the trees and grass give up? No, they stuck it out for however long.
The trees didn’t uproot themselves and say, “forget it, I’m going somewhere where there’s less crispy and more rain.” They stuck it out, however long.
The healing of the drought rains came. Lots and lots of rain. And, with them, our trees bloomed.
Thank you, Melanie, for “loss never gets old.” I will remember that always and carry it forward for someone else.
Being at my parent’s house feels wonderful to my heart. As soon as we pulled in the driveway, the ache of being homesick subsided. It came to a screeching halt. There, H O M E.
Familiar, especially after loss, feels like a peace I can barely describe. It’s almost as if bouncing around in the tides of grief for the past four months has calmed a bit.
The house is the same. The yard is the same. The closets, the kitchen, and the flowers outside are the same. The sun rises in the same place. The stars grace the same sky.
But, you know what’s different? The calendar. It’s nearly August now, so it’s not any of or all of the months before March. My momma passed in March…
Home is different, but the same.
It’s comforting. It’s meals. It’s cookies baking in the oven. It’s birds on the feeder and grapes on the vine. It’s trees full of apples and peaches. It’s magazines and puzzles my momma loved. It’s sunsets on the back porch. It’s corn rows by the yard. It’s my dad’s old tractor.
It’s this and that all mixed together in times of past and present. People always say to me that they can’t imagine my loss. Amen to that, I can’t imagine I’m walking this path either, but here I am. And, this week, I’m grateful to be home.
I was told that grief can happen suddenly in random public places. It’s true.
For example, the first month after my momma passed, I was in the chiropractor’s office and saw a woman about my momma’s age at the counter. Suddenly, in that brief second, I realized that my beloved momma would never be at a counter again. I silently cried.
Seems like that happens, you know? The reminders can appear out of the blue on some random day, at some random place.
Like, yesterday. We took a road trip and ended up at a new-to-us restaurant. There was a 20 minute wait, so we sat by the door.
Pretty soon, a group of women started heading out the door. A few went out, while one would hold the door for more coming. They looked to be about my momma’s age.
I could not contain the waterworks. Cheeks wet. In a restaurant. On a Saturday.
What’s the big deal? Well, you see, my momma was a part of a group similar to that. She and her besties from high school stayed friends through the years. They traveled together, ate together, and hung out together.
Seeing the group of women was like the scene from the chiropractor’s office. A sudden realization that she’s not here and won’t be out to eat with her besties again.
A few minutes after they left, my cheeks dried.
We were seated, placed our order, and I glanced around the room. Nearby was a couple, about my parent’s age. She had beautiful clothes, short gray hair, and when she smiled at me, there went my tears, at the table.
I tried to contain them, I mean, who wants to see a woman crying at a restaurant? I gently wiped my face, thought of something else, and turned my attention to the baseball game on the tv.
The reality that hit? My parents won’t be eating at a restaurant again. That my momma, with her short gray hair and fancy clothes she loved, won’t be offering her smile to a family sitting nearby or to me, again.
I can tell you this, I had zero intentions of walking into a place to eat and crying. It was not on my agenda and I never would’ve guessed it.
It happened anyway.
The couple left and we are about done eating, when a young gal sat down at a nearby table. She was alone and was writing. It brought to mind a movie I’d seen where a music writer sat in a diner, writing.
She had a kindness to her. She complimented my son’s shoes and shirt. She smiled my way, often. It reminded me of that saying, ’you may be entertaining angels unaware.’
My husband and son went outside while I waited for the check. After a moment of silence, she spoke to me.
“You have a beautiful smile. It lights up the whole room.”
Huh? What? ME??? Me, who had been trying to hold back tears for an hour?
I thanked her. Like, poured on the thanks. Then, I continued to wait for the check.
I paid, got up to leave, and found myself pausing at her table. I told her that I’d lost my momma recently and that I’d had tears while there. Clearly, I was surprised she noticed my smile.
I was met with complete grace and understanding. If compassion could be bottled, the run over would’ve been making a puddle on her table.
It’s not that she knew what I was enduring there, but it was that she understood it. She mentioned a significant loss herself a few years ago. She told me I have a beautiful family.
I didn’t even see it until just now. Here I was, noticing women my momma’s age, because I lost my momma. And, maybe she was noticing me and my family, because she lost her husband…
Oh my goodness, the tears today, I think I’ll just let them run.
If you have gone through any sort of loss, my heart goes out to you.
About ten years ago, my friend Kristi said something to me that has helped me a billion plus times in all the days since.
She said, ”keep on walking.”
Walking? To where?
A country road? A hiking trail? Around a lake?
Maybe. But, her reference was to life. I don’t know about you, but I seem to have a tendency to get stuck and stay stuck.
stuck in habits
stuck in routines
stuck in grudges
stuck in whatever it happens to be
Fine and fair enough, I mean this is life we’re talking about. In all of those instances, I’ve grabbed onto her advice with both hands, and have pulled myself along, eventually gaining on getting un-stuck.
But, what about grief with its raw and real ride? There are numerous potholes, substantial downpours, and giant ruts.
When I was in high school, my friends and I would venture out on a dirt road, west of town. When we had lot of rain, the road became a sloppy mess. Guess who got stuck almost every time? And, guess what we did.
Cell phones weren’t even invented then. We stepped into slimy mud, sometimes up to our knees, but we’d didn’t stay sitting in the truck, just waiting. We walked.
Today, I find myself thinking about if it’s even possible to keep on walking through grief.
In past losses, I long-jumped my way over all the hard stuff and right into the missing. Other losses I didn’t even deal with until years later. Forget walking, I ran right around those, straight to the finish line, whew, done.
This time, it’s not the same though. It’s my momma. I’m trying to approach her loss differently. Instead of skimming right over it, I’m sitting in it. Like a potato in a stew.
I don’t want to face all this in ten or fifteen years, I want to do it now. So, is the ’sitting in it’ of grief comparable to being stuck?
I don’t think so. Those things are what make a loss fluid and moving. We don’t stay in say, replaying what happened forever, we might move on to thinking about or sadness or memories. That’s not what I call stuck. To me, that’s growth and healing.
I do think it’s possible to keep on walking through grief and I also think it’s possible to ’keep on walking and growing’ through it, too.
This blog was started in 2015. Mostly its been filled with some nature photographs, some lessons on acquired wisdom, and things about family.
Lately, my writing feels somewhat scattered. A post on this, a post on that, then bam, a post about my momma.
What I am figuring out is, grief is not linear.
It doesn’t start on such and such day then make a straight line to an end date. Mine, anyway, feels like more of a zig zag or perhaps like some winding mountain road. Calm on the straight aways, yet intense on the curves.
Another thing I’m learning is, the path of losing someone isn’t all encompassing. Sure, in the beginning it can feel like that. It did for me. At that time, every passing moment was a reminder that my momma wasn’t here.
Now though, instead of grief being a constant aching, it comes more sporadically. One moment fine, the next moment tears. Two days fine, the next one tears. Like waves.
Oh my gosh, waves. For weeks I’ve been trying to remember a song my momma loved. It just now came to me: ”Wave on Wave” by Pat Green.
Now that I think about it, mountain roads and waves have something in common: they go back and forth. They have this beauty and calmness that seem to balance out even after rockslides and storms.
Maybe life is similar. Maybe writing is, too. Maybe instead of me thinking my words have to be all organized into a certain category, I could just let them show up, whenever and however they do.
My back field is full of thorns, stickers, and stumps. Some spots are a mess to walk through. Sometimes my skirt gets snagged and my ankles get scratched. Hmm… that sounds a bit like grief.
But, you know what? My back field is also full of wildflowers and there’s a doe and her baby living back there, even in all those stickers and even in all those weeds.
Perhaps me writing all this on a random Sunday morning is a reminder that the beauty in my writing will prevail, even if the subject matter is out of order and things feel messy.
And, maybe it’s even a reminder, that there can be a beautiful-ness in grief, too. Not on the wind raging, hail filled days, of course, but maybe in the quiet, “a memory brings a smile days.”
What I’m going to do is just trust my writing. Scattered posts or not. I see now that the switchbacks can allow for some amazing scenery and the waves can bring solace.