After All the Firsts……

“How long will this last?”

I remember asking Thomas those words as we brought mom home to be welcomed into hospice. We had brought mom home to die, and even though I knew that, there is nothing that could really prepare me for it.

My family flooded in and we all filled her house with bodies and comfort food. At times, we filled the home with laughter. Other moments, her home was filled with tears. The day time was busy, the night time was quiet, but the anguish was there 24/7, sun up and sun down.

2014-08-12 15.05.37-1I knew she was dying. We all did. But as she battled those final days, I couldn’t help but wonder how long she would have to fight such a gruesome fight, struggling to breathe, frequently moving to try and find the most comfortable position in which to rest, only to find nothing of the such existed.

“How long will this last?”

Turns out, there is actually a little book that exists that can help families gauge and discover that answer of “how long.” “Gone From My Sight” is the offical name, but my memory recalls it to be “Fading from my Sight” which I think is actually more appropriate. Fading……still present, but not….fading from the ones that love you.

I remember the hospice nurse coming in to talk with us. We sat down at mom’s kitchen table, mom in her room, a few family members in the living room. I sat down on a stool, which really didn’t make much sense, cause there were vacant chairs, and it made me higher than the dining table. I hovered above the nurse and my brother John as we began to talk. I remember it being an odd feeling for me, cause at barely 5 foot tall, I rarely look down on another adult. It was like I was perhaps trying to float above the reality before me.

She was pregnant, the hospice nurse. And she had a big, sparkly wedding set on her finger. She was kind.

She slid that blue booklet my way, showing us some stages that are listed in the back. And by stages I mean the stages of dying. I was asked to tell her what mom was doing/feeling.

Immediately I realized that mom was exhibiting most all of the “days or weeks out” behaviors. While telling the nurse of mom’s “burst of energy,” she nodded compassionately. “Can you tell me a little more about that?” she asked. I began relaying how mom had said the night before, “Maybe they are wrong!” in a somewhat hearty voice. “Maybe who is wrong mom?” “The doctors. Maybe the doctors are wrong. I feel great right now. Maybe they are wrong.”

That didn’t fit what she thought was the “burst” but she listened to my point of view. I shared a few more tidbits while my brother nodded in agreement. The nurse asked a few questions, some which I didn’t know, so I texted my other brother, Damien, telling him to hurry up and get to mom’s to speak with the nurse. He had stayed the night at his house while my brother John and I spent the first night home from the hospital at mom’s.

The questions were done, and the nurse left to check on mom. I sat, hovering on the stool, grabbing my phone to text my husband about the blue book and the nurse. Soon, the nurse came back, sitting down at the table.

“So, after looking at your mother, I believe she has hours, not days, left to live.”

I can’t even type those words above without my eyes filling with tears, my hands are trembling.

“How long will this last?”

Turns out, it is hours.

Hospice can be sent into a home up to 6 months out. Mom made it back to 250, her house number, on a Tuesday afternoon. She died in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Hospice didn’t even send in a caregiver until Wednesday lunch, which is when they told me hours. Just hours left with my mom. Hours.

The next time a hospice care nurse showed at mom’s would be to confirm her death and destroy her high level pain narcotics.

“If you have anyone that needs to say good bye they need to come now.”

I remember barking an order to my cousin immediately after the nurse said those words. I had been so cool and calm, matter of fact, information sharing. Now, I was emotional, scared, shaking. “Ann! Go get my boys from school now. You are on their pick up list. Go now and get them.” And with that, she left out the door.

I could barely see to text the words to Thomas. . I couldn’t hold the phone still to hit the right words. I told him to hurry back to mom’s. John came over and hugged me. I couldn’t believe the clash of emotions I was feeling. A wave, tossing me down suddenly, not allowing me to get back up, when only moments before I was watching the tide roll in on me, floating up with each wave rather than being at its mercy.

There was no part of me that thought I had long, but hours? Where do you even begin when all you have is hours?

We sang hymns to her, ones which she requested. She made fun of us for forgetting the words to one. “You did real good with that one!” she told us after “Amazing Grace.”

Damien had a hard time being around her; he had been there at all the appointments and all the visits previously, but this was too much. John took the role of being present and available; he had been unable to be at all the other events. I am not sure what role I took. I remember, however, that I felt like I was the one that had to call the shots.

“Summer, if you want everyone to leave, tell me and I’ll get them all out.”

“Summer, where do you want me to put this cake from Mildred?”

“Summer, would you like for me to hold Hazel?”

I didn’t know. It was too much. Most of it didn’t matter anyway. I appreciated the do-ers during this time. The ones that just took Hazel, shoved food around in the fridge to make room, and any matter of the like.

With all the last minute good byes, mom hung on a little longer than we initially thought. I think there was too much energy and movement for her to settle, rest, breathe fully, and welcome in her new home. All three of her children, my sweet Hazel, and our God-sent helper during the darkest time, our cousin Shelia, all stayed the night.

Apparently, mom tried to get up in the middle of the night, and my brothers had to convince her it wasn’t a good idea.

Around 430 or 5 in the morning, I heard shuffling and mumbles. Next, I hear foot steps on the stairs. John opens the door to tell me what I already know.

“Mom’s gone Summer. She’s gone.”

It may seem like the most absurd response, but I put my hand in the air, right level to my face. I closed my eyes, lifted my face toward Heaven, and uttered the words, “Thank God.”

Cause knowing she wasn’t feeling the pain she had felt was a relief. Knowing she didn’t have to fight any more was peaceful. The earthly end meant a heavenly beginning.

Next, came the days of life without her, and all the firsts without mom were quick to follow.

First Christmas without her excited gift-giving.

First birthday for me without the woman who gave me life.

First steps of my baby that couldn’t be enjoyed by her.

So, so many firsts. And as the day that she went home comes creeping in on me, I wonder what comes after all the firsts have happened and the first year anniversary hits? Do you keep track of seconds? “This is the second Thanksgiving without mom.” Or do you just morph into a person who is less and less impacted by the grief?

I don’t know yet. Maybe I can tell you in another year. Alas, after this year of the grief journey I don’t know if I really have anything figured out. After talking very recently with a friend that lost her mom several years ago, she told me about how at a year after the loss she remembered thinking, “Why am I not doing better than this? I should be so much farther!”

True words.

Why am I not farther healed? Why do I now not have a better grip on grief and sadness? I know it will never be okay, but when can I walk comfortably in the new normal?

“How long will this last?”

I don’t think there is an answer, and even if there was a little blue book to tell me, the hours will feel like years, even after all the firsts I suppose. The years will feel like seconds. Until then, I’ll cling to what is good, looking for what can build me.

“Sometimes the darkest times can bring you to the brightest places, your most painful struggles can grant you the greatest growth, and the most heartbreaking losses of relationships can make room for the most wonderful people.  What seems like a curse at the moment can actually be a blessing in disguise, and what seems like the end of the road is actually just the realization that you are meant to travel a different path.  No matter how difficult things seem, there’s always hope.  And no matter how powerless you feel or how horrible things seem, you can’t give up.  You have to keep going.  Even when it’s scary, even when all your strength seems gone, you have to keep picking yourself back up and moving forward, because whatever you’re battling in the moment, it will pass, and you will make it through.  You’ve made it this far, and you’ve felt this way before.  Think about it.  Remember that time awhile back when you thought the world was ending?  It didn’t.  And it isn’t ending this time either” source

That’s what I am looking forward to now, after all the firsts.

Back to School!

My boys are back to school for their 2015-2016 year! 

I can’t believe that I’ve let the little ol’ blog go so long without an update, and even though I am “behind” on my thoughts and life happenings, I couldn’t let this little moment pass. I did post this picture the other day on Instagram with the following words:

Yesterday was the first day of 1st for Wesley and 3rd for Daniel. Already they are being little #worldchangers !! Daniel is the first in his class to reach the top behavior wise for helping classmates unsolicited on more than one occasion. He’s also been trying to help the new student from Mongolia that doesn’t know much English. Wesley has clipped up as well. He’s even helped a classmate “make a 5 when he forgot how.” To change the world you have to be in it, not of it, even from the start. #backtoschool #lovegodloveothers

IMG_7704I’ll also make time to steal these thoughts from my back-in-the-day co-worker from the info desk at college, Laura, the amazing artist that made my memorial piece about mom over at Pitter Patter Art, cause there is no way I can say our current public school decision better than this:

Education is important.  I know it is…I was a teacher, but more than grades and learning to further their future, I want them to learn to be kind and loving and compassionate and generous and respectful.  I want them to learn this world is not easy, but Jesus is constant…never wavering.  They are faced daily in their school and classrooms with opportunity after opportunity to love and love big.  They will be surrounded by all kinds of peers who are similar and different than them.  They will be faced with a plethora of situations…easy, hard, fun, sad, intimidating, exciting, etc, etc, etc…so many things they will face…so many things they cannot control.

We want to raise kids who are warriors for Christ…we want to raise children who will fight the good fight right along side us.  We want to raise children who in all circumstances look to Jesus first.  We want to raise children who know more than anything in this world…grades, success, looks, accomplishments, money, all the things the world tells us are the most valuable…that the 2 most important things are to love God and love others.  I want them to know they are world changers.

I want them to know they will make mistakes…we all do.  I want them to know only Jesus was the perfect person.  I want them to know how their actions can speak so loud and how their words can carry life and death.  I want them to realize the weight a sincere apology carries.  I want them to know compassion so deep in their hearts and how much a smile and a kind word can brighten a friends day.  I want them to know they are Christ’s disciples and can show His love everyday to their classmates and teachers.

As I walked through their halls this morning I just felt thankful.  Thankful for all to come in another new school year.  All the important life lessons we’re going to be a part of in their little lives…the good and the bad…the easy and hard.  All the hope and trust and faith God promises if we just rely on Him.  They are His and He is good.

So we pray.  We pray over their lives, their hearts, their classmates and their teachers.  We offer ourselves up in any way we can…we open our hands wider.  And we talk…we talk about their days, their feelings, their choices, their emotions…about the good and the bad and we acknowledge we are never going to be perfect, but Jesus is!  And we choose to see His goodness and mercy and grace and how He alone changes us and deserves all the praise and glory for His mightiness.

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Brothers, true and strong.

High hopes.  We have such high hopes for this new school year.

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Hazel did not want to stop eating her eggs to be in the picture. So two brothers with an egg eating toddler sister it is!

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Y’all, this is a GENUINE real smile from Wesley, and it is just beautiful. He is so, so excited about 1st grade!

And He Clothed Them (Repost)

thevfamily:

Although I am the owner of a ton of chapstick, I possess just two tubes of lipstick.

A week ago, Hazel found one of those tubes inside my purse. As we sat together on my bed, She was babbling away about something and I was playing on my phone a game of Words with Friends. I look up from my phone to see our bedspread covered in a reddish/pinkish color. Immediately, I uttered, “oh God!” cause I was at first thinking it was blood. Turns out, it was one of those tubes of lipstick. She was stripped of clothes and thrown in the tub while I snapped a quick photo and Googled “lipstick stains” while sitting next to her while she splashed away. I quickly called Thomas and told him to bring home alcohol. I specified the rubbing kind, although the drinking kind was strongly needed too.

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Surprisingly, the stain came out, and I was ridiculously pleased. The second tube of lipstick was placed in my purse and life went on as normal.

Today, Hazel was quiet. And as any mom knows, quiet means “up to no good.” I hunted her down in our bedroom (why oh why can we not 100% remember to close the doors!?!?). There she sat on our carpet, in a puddle of that same reddish/pinkish color. Repeat the tub scenario, minus the Googling, cause this time I already knew what to do, being she just did it a week before.

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I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry. I ended up texting a few friends the pics, cause it helped soften the aggravation. We all chuckled together.

Both times, however, I was reminded of this oldie but goodie blog post. With the second incident being so close to the first, I figured I better share this post again, in order to remind me of the truth…….so as to not lose my sanity with this precious third child!

Originally posted on The V Files:

Have I told you about the time Wesley had woken up from nap and Daniel asked if he could go and play with Wesley, which meant throw stuffed animals into the crib so that Wesley could throw them back out, only to repeat time and time again with large amounts of laughter? No? Well, that is how it started……..and then I realized how much laughing was going on and how long it had actually been, so I went upstairs to check on them. Turns out, the copious laughter was nothing when in comparison to the amount of baby powder sprinkled all over the room, along with every item of clothing taken out of Wesley’s dresser and all toys from the book shelves thrown on the floor. Oh, and diaper rash cream was rubbed all over the carpet.

All this with giggles galore emitting from the room. Let me just tell…

View original 560 more words

Kindergarten Graduate! 

Our Wesley is done with Kindergarten! He had a great year, meeting all his needed milestones and more!

Wesley popped into a first grade classroom for reading for the majority of the year, which was a good challenge. He knows more than he should, but most of that is because he refuses to be left too much behind his big bubba. I think I’m the only mom in the world that ends up saying, “Absolutely no more math problems at the table!” during dinner. The two boys quiz one another, or me and Thomas, with every bite! Wesley continued his speech services all year long and it is rare that we notice a problem at all with his abilities.

He never, not one single day, didn’t get his sticker or his smiley face for behavior. He once had a blank (his teacher forgot by accident to mark it) and he was very upset, assuring me he had been nothing less than great that day. He wanted to make his teacher and us proud by listening and responding to things as he should. 

He is a secret favorite of a few support staff, and he’s quite the goofball, but only when it’s acceptable to be one. 

As far as his classmates go, he loves them and cares for them. He has one best buddy, Grafton, who has come home from school to our house a few times, and together they’ve went to a few birthday parties/outside of school events. (Grafton’s parents are both over 6ft tall, thus Grafton’s splendid height!)

  

  
He had his first crush, Cassie, but “her parents won’t let her have a boyfriend,” so he patiently awaits. 

  
(He gets his photo taking skills from his Daddy)

We celebrated his graduation with the small ceremony at school and a trip to the Lego store for his graduation box! 

   
       

Wesley, we’re so proud of you! Keep being a people loving, God trusting, information seeking, funny little boy! It is a blessing to call you ours. 

Mother’s Day 2015

My Mother’s Day was great this year. I seriously can’t convey how wonderfully it went, and I know I owe that goodness to all of my friends and family that handled me with care and checked in on me in the days leading up to Sunday, as well as making a tiny bit of time in their Mother’s Day to say prayers and share love with me. It’s pretty amazing y’all, so thank you!

I only had one small tear up moment, and that was when the lady I (and mom) buy my make-up from once or twice a year, that I have never met, sent me a text on Mother’s Day sending me love and prayers. A make-up lady, That I’ve never met, shared her concern for ME and shared a love for my MOM. Wow! That’s how loved she was. That’s how loved I am, that even random make-up ladies take time to pray for you! (Thanks Vicki with Beauty Control!)

I got to sleep late, awakened with an ommlet in bed. Thomas had worked the Saturday before, and he had brought me home flowers that night, which were beautiful. 

The kids showered me with homemade cards and some crafts they made. 

 (Wesley made this in computer class. He typed in Mother’s Day and chose what he wanted. This is what he settled on LOL). 

The Friday before Wesley made me “breakfast in bed” from school, but he couldn’t wait until the actually day, so we ate it on a Friday afternoon on the couch. 

  
Our plan for Sunday was to have no plan, to do what my heart felt like doing with no pressure to do it if my heart changed. We debated on going to see Thomas’s mom, but his wisdom to just let me gently walk through Sunday prevailed. His mom understood. In fact, my mother-in-law encouraged him and me about this day. She has lost her mother too, so there was/is an understanding there that this first would be hard. 

  I truly did want to go to church, but for only about 3 minutes! Our church takes family portraits on Mother’s Day and I wanted one, but I didn’t want usual Sunday social interactions. So, we got dressed up and walked in, only to basically just walk back out. 

  
I am glad we got our portrait, even if my head looks a little squished and distorted! I don’t know how I managed that look. Talent, I suppose. 

  
We’ve traditionally eaten Cracker Barrel to-go on Mother’s Days past, with my mom coming over after church, my brother picking it up and hauling it all in, and no mother having to cook or clean. I still wanted to do that, cause Cracker Barrel makes hearts happy, right? But we thought since we were skipping church we might be able to actually go inside…….ummmm no! Crazy amount of people waiting to be seated! So we called in a to-go order and only had to wait 10 minutes! 

  
After eating at home, the kids took naps/rested and I went shopping. I found some great deals at one store, and I stocked up on some items for Hazel and my niece, which will eventually make it back to Hazel :). I felt connected to mom, cause she aways loved a fantastic deal. At the outdoor mall, I saw this momma duck with all her babies, and it seemed fitting for Mother’s Day. 

  
I then went for a run on the greenway.  Before I took off, I had an internal conversation with myself on what to do about my car, the key, the location of my car, etc. Before I wrecked it, my explorer had a keypad on the outside for access. I LOVED it when it came time to run. Lock the keys inside and go, unlocking with keypad upon return. Well, the van doesn’t have that, so I took my key, placed it in a section on my shorts for such, and took off. Right at the turn around point, I realized I had lost the key. Running back in a panic, I retraced my run on the path, eyes peeled. No such luck finding it. So no key…..But also no cell phone because that was locked inside. Spare keys at home, valet key under passenger seat, no ability to get in or contact the hubby, I felt my fantastic Mother’s Day slipping away. 

Enter a suspicious but nice man with a prepay phone from Pensylvania and a load of car picking tools in his trunk. I tried calling Thomas but he didn’t answer (par for the course. He doesn’t answer numbers he doesn’t know). Meanwhile this guy tries breaking into my Honda with no luck. He says “I don’t know why I can’t get into this car. I am normally good at this……cause my niece always needs my help getting into her car, you know…..” A few more calls to Thomas he finally picks up. He will load the kids up and be on his way. 

The man kindly offers to take me home, but I declined, for multiple reasons, but played it off on that I didn’t live close (which was true). He offered to walk with me on the greenway, but I declined again, playing that off on not knowing exactly when my husbandwould  arrive (which was true). So I waited for Thomas, and I sat quietly under a tree and worked on sitting correctly and correcting my awful posture and just prayed about life. I chose not to get upset over my flub and keep the day positive. 

He arrived sooner than I expected and brought my keys. He wasn’t frustrated or mad that he had to drive 25 minutes to come bail me out.  The boys somehow managed to convince us that  they were thirsty and needed slushies. We drove home (in separate  vehicles!) and ate leftovers for dinner. 

We capped off the day with light saber fights in the yard, while also enjoying sandbox fun and swinging. Thomas didn’t stress on work that needed to be done and I didn’t worry on any tasks that needed completing either. We were just a fun little family, which is perfect for Mother’s Day. 

This Is Not Our Home

In the middle of March, we closed on my mom’s house. It was St. Patrick’s Day and a whole bunch of crazy on my part. Even though I had Power of Attorney for the house closing transaction, it was quite the signing extravaganza. Rather than me signing one signature for her estate as I had hoped it would be, I had to sign a ridiculously long phrase for each of my brothers and myself. It was as follows: My name, Heir-At-Law; My first brother’s name, Heir-At-Law by My Name, his Attorney-In-Fact; My second brother’s full name, Heir-At-Law by My Name, his Attorney-In-Fact. Every. Single. Time…….times about 30-ish times. All this while one of the amazing realtors that I worked with put my baby girl to sleep for her nap out in the lobby. Oh, and did I mention that the lending company for the buyers wanted extra proof that we were my mom’s only kids? Well, they did, so last minute they sprung on me the need for two people to verify and swear to the fact I am her daughter and that she only had me and my brothers, no living spouse. It had to be notarized. And they had to know our family for 5 or more years, And they couldn’t be family. Good thing I know a lot of people, right? I had spent so much of my days there after she passed cleaning it out, setting it straight, checking on it, and all the other type of things that go along with a house. It was a massive amount of time and energy. My kids were neglected at times, being left to figure out something to entertain them while I cleaned, or there was copious amounts of attempting to not suffocate them from the piles of Goodwill donations that surrounded them in the van while on one of our bajillion trips. Before I said my final goodbye to the place, I took one final picture on those blue steps, as well as one of the outside: IMG_5219 IMG_5217When all that was done, what I viewed as the last and biggest step from being able to fully breathe and consider my mom and her passing was over. Yeah, there were some things in my garage from her home that I couldn’t find or figure a location for, whether it be physically or emotionally, but really that was it. Her estate was basically done and could be closed. I could begin, to me, what was the true beginning of healing. One night, while sitting with Thomas on the couch, I told him how I wanted something to signify that this phase of the grief journey was over. I wanted something to represent that stage of estate closing, house clearing, emotional strife, etc. I told him “I want something to represent this moment, just like people do with jewelry….but I don’t want any jewelry.” He suggested I commission some artwork, and he suggested a girl I went to college with who has quite a beautiful business and ministry with her passion in art. I told him that was perfect, and although I didn’t know what, I knew I wanted something from Laura. A quick Facebook message later, I had told Laura of my desire to represent everything that was the cleaning out and selling of my mom’s home, the house where I mostly grew up, the home where she died, a place that will always have a small piece of my heart, but also a place that is now no longer mine or hers. Laura, having lost her mom to cancer a few years back, shared with me a picture of what she made for herself when she closed on her mom’s home. I told her it was exactly what I wanted, without even knowing I wanted it. She asked a few questions and then she set to work. IMG_6044Can you see it? There are so many layers here. It’s just amazing really. First, the fact that “This Is Not Our Home” is writing over a home on a canvas that will sit in my home is just brilliant. It’s not mom’s home, cause now she IS home. It’s a hard fact to swallow, but it’s one I believe to be true. Away from this world is a believer’s true home. It’s not hers, it’s not mine, and if you believe, it’s not yours. No house is your home, not even this world. “This Is Not Our Home” Hebrews 13:14-15  While cleaning out mom’s, before I knew I was going to have Laura create this piece, I had sent her some old hymnals that mom had collected. I knew they would be fitting in Laura’s artwork. When we decided on this concept, I had asked if she could use some of those hymnal pages to create my piece. So, the hymns you see that create the white house were actually my mom’s possessions. The ones chosen here were songs sang at her services. The green roof, the letter T, the #250, all perfectly crafted to represent “the house that built me.” I had secretly hoped to have this custom piece by Mother’s Day, and it turns out I do! I don’t know yet where it will reside, for I am still just so happy about it and everything it represents. I also take great comfort in the fact I know the hands that made it, and I know that she prayed for me as it was designed, knowing all too well the hole that losing a mother can leave. Thank you Laura at Pitter Patter Art. It’s simply perfect. Although it’s true that “this is not our home….”, I will truly miss her until the day comes that I get to go home and see her again, and I am grateful to have such a depth filled piece to remind me of her and this journey.

Tender Hearts and The Grief Journey

I am realizing that some days, my heart is more tender than others about my mom. I really do think of her every day. On some days, it’s just a small thought, a quickly fleeting one. On others, it is a heavy weight, a sinking feeling that persists. Although my dad has been gone since I was 4, I find myself thinking of him more since she has passed than what feels like all the years before. Anger builds in me when I think that I have no parents. I know I’ve said that before, but that’s the thought that goes through my mind over and over. Neither one is here with me any more, neither can see my children grow….I have no parents, and I feel too young to have that status. I am the start of the living in my family lineage. No parents, no grandparents……it feels heavy to me.

2014-04-20 00.07.50When Easter approached, I kept thinking of the Easter before. Last year, mom was still with us. In fact, she looked great, seemed to feel good, and was all-around seeming as if she was winning this cancer fight. Even though she had just recently been released from the hospital, she had energy. Her hair was growing back, her face was round, she smiled a lot and her smile was still hers, not the one where a stroke had robbed her of its normalcy, and her voice was vibrant, not one burdened and crackled by tumor pressure.2014-04-19 23.47.14

I have a voicemail saved on my phone from my mom from last Easter. Although not a message filled with fluffly thoughts, it is still a recording of her voice. It’s preciousness to me is extreme. On it, she tells us to come to her house and get our Easter baskets. And by OUR, she meant everyone, even me and 2014-04-20 00.06.44Thomas. She just couldn’t leave anyone out, grown adults and all. At the close of her brief message, she said “love you” before hanging up the phone.

When we went to retrieve our baskets a few days after Easter, we took this picture.2014-05-25 15.00.44

It was almost right after this that everything began to fall apart.

I wrote that first half of this blog post, everything above this point, and then I paused. Now, I can’t remember my train of thought. I can’t seem to find the vein of those emotions that got me to begin writing it. Yet, I’ve never stopped thinking about it. Somehow, that seems extremely fitting, for as I wade through this grief process, that’s how everything seems to be to me. My heart feels one way, and then it is changed, on a whim. A pressure on my mind and heart. My spirit feels one emotion, and then it is adapted, placid to a storm. Everything swirls from okay to horrid. It affects all things, and the worst part about it is that you don’t know it until its too late and it’s already happening, and those around you feel ashamed to want to blame your actions or feelings for the day on grief. It’s almost like that cliche of the man wanting to blame his crazy wife on it being “that time of the month.” You don’t want to say it, but you think it, and it’s usually right, and you can’t claim it to be true, cause it feels like a cop out to want to excuse your emotional whirlwind on grief.

I wonder when it will stop.

Nothing about the grief process is linear. You don’t go from one stage to the next and never back to that stage. One isn’t conquered to never be experienced again. I’ve always taught this about the writing process, encouraging students that even once it is “published” or turned in to me, changes still need to be made, ideas revised, errors adapted, materials deleted. It’s never “done” as a piece of writing, hence multiple editions of a book. That’s the grief process it seems, and it is troublesome. You feel like the loss shouldn’t have that effect on you. But it just does. Eventually, I will hit a year without her, which will mark making it through most all the “firsts” without her. After that though, I assume it just turns into something else that can bring the sadness.

This Easter just enters into another one of those “firsts” without mom. I wouldn’t have ever thought “yeah, Easter is going to be hard without her!” but yet it is. I didn’t know it mattered so much, yet apparently it does. I think the contrast of the two is what hurts so much. My littlest is a whole year bigger, which is extremely noticeable at her age. She’s grown so much and mom can’t enjoy it.

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DSC_0008My boys have grown so much and she can’t participate in that either.

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DSC_0040In my mangled sadness, I occasionally have the foresight to grab my emotions and ask for help.  I asked one of mom’s friends that spoke at her funeral to pray for me on Good Friday. As we traveled to get Wesley’s cast off, I knew mom would be excited about that venture. She would be likely right in the middle of our day, lavishing love on our littles. On Saturday, our church’s Children’s Pastor, Bridget, texted me that when she saw me at our Saturday night Easter service, she nearly cried. She wondered if she was in tune with something, channeling mom. I shared with her how it has been such a hard few days, cause I keep thinking of the extreme differences from this Easter to last.

I stopped by the graveyard this week, which I normally think is a stupid thing to do. It just seems like a waste of energy to me, and I have never cared to ever do it before. I find myself now wanting to take pictures with my kids standing next to her and my dad’s grave, just like she use to make us do next to my dad’s tombstone. What it profits, I have no clue, yet I feel like I want to or need to do it.

But this Easter weekend, there were a few things that really stood out to me as “she’s still here and loves you” moments.  After coming home from eating Easter lunch with my family, I put the spoon which I had used to serve our green beans on the counter. And there it was, faded but still present: Boyd.IMG_5643

It had actually been her  spoon. It was one from her house that I had brought into mine, and that was the spoon, out of all my spoons, that I took with me that day. It made me crack a smile.

Then, a picture of me holding Hazel. One that a my cousin’s mother-in-law took of me at the close of Easter Sunday service. My sweet Hazel had fallen asleep on me, and I just sat and lingered at the close of service in order to let her get as much snoozing as possible. And at that moment, on the empty pews, me, Hazel, and my mom’s rings on my fingers. The way I am holding my hands, I could have had my left on top, hiding hers and showing my wedding set……but I didn’t. That makes my eyes fill with tears.

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Little moments, sweet elements of her.

I know she’s not still here but when I say “she’s still here,” it is the whole “her memory is alive and that love never goes away” type of here.

Just like the name on that silly spoon, “faded but still present.”