Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Intangible Rewards

People ask me often how the book is doing. I answer that monetarily, I’ve not recovered what I’ve invested yet. It’s no exaggeration when people say authors don’t make money. They really don’t. But the intangible rewards have been outstanding!

I love hearing how the book has effected people. I love hearing that someone has been helped in some way. I’ve heard myself having a couple of conversations lately with brand new widows and what I keep saying is “No, you are not having a nervous breakdown.” They feel such relief knowing that their grief is “normal” because they feel anything but normal. Crying over a pair of shoes is NOT over the top. It’s just what we do.

As I work on the second book and keep pulling out the journal entries I wrote the first months after Tim died, I find I am torn. There is such an edge to them. They are so uncomfortable to read sometimes. My instinct is to tone them down. Make them sound less dramatic. Make me look less crazy.

But I haven’t been allowing myself to do that, at least not yet. One of the wisest pieces of feedback about the first book I got was from a counselor. She said the punch in the first book is that it was written originally in the moments it was happening to us. It wasn’t just our best shot at remembering how it was. They were real-time entries. That is why people can really identify with it.

So I imagine that people who are truly grieving will want to read the true, unadulterated and raw emotions that I went through. Because those that are brave enough to admit it, will be grateful to know they aren’t crazy after all. At least with this round of editing, I will let the pain stay expressed as it is. And it is truly comforting to know that two and a half years later, you do somehow feel better. You really do!!


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Music

“Music is my life and I want to sing it, Music is my life and I want to share it, Music makes my life worthwhile.”

I will get into copyright trouble for quoting that without the author’s permission, but those are lyrics I remember from fifth grade chorus and it still pops into my head.

Frankie had his first band concert last night. He plays the tenor sax. It’s almost as big as he is. He was in the back row behind a snare drum and warned us we probably wouldn’t be able to see him. He was right. Couldn’t even see a hair on his head. But I recorded it all and loved every minute. I have such warm memories of concerts and music growing up. Who would have thought I’d be watching my own kid someday? And yes, I wondered a couple of times if Tim was watching from wherever he is. I just came across a journal entry I wrote in 2011 where Frankie said he thought his dad lived in a castle with lots of windows. Each window represented someone Tim loved. So if Tim wanted to watch Frankie’s concert, he just had to look out the “Frankie window.” I was imagining that last night as I recorded the concert.

A couple of years ago, I resigned as a music director from a church I loved very, very deeply after seven years of working with them. It was ridiculously sad and I’ve done nothing but flounder around trying to find a place for Frankie and I to attend since then.

Our neighbor is a pastor of a Baptist church. While I’m not a Baptist anymore in a theological sense, we have enjoyed going there. They have been slowly and patiently trying to get me to participate over the last year. The band has actually agreed to alter their practice schedule to accomodate mine. After a long talk with the pastor about all my fears, I finally agreed to a six week trial.

Music is such a deeply spiritual activity. I know I’ve missed it. As I watched all those kids on stage last night, I was very grateful that someone has pursued me again and encouraged me to use my gifts. He predicts in six weeks I will no longer be fearful, but actually be excited to be going to church again!

So our house is going to grow musically again and I think that’s a great thing. Music does help to make life worthwhile!


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What’s Important

Overall, things have been ok. I have fleeting moments of being tired of the routine. Every day doing the same things. Wishing I didn’t have to work so much. Feeling a little sorry for myself if the truth be told. Then some life event happens and I get a splash of cold water in my face. I remember how terribly lucky I am to be where I am at.

Last night, I found out that a family I love very, very much had their house broken into. Trashed just about everything. I was amazed and humbled at how they were dealing with it. Upset, but grateful they weren’t hurt. Upset, but knowing that material things can be replaced.

What’s awful is the things that can’t be replaced. You put all your important papers- from your entire life- in a firebox because you are so responsible and organized. Who would even think that someone might take it someday? Papers and memories that can’t be duplicated.

They haven’t left my mind. I keep picturing them trying to clean everything up. Closets ripped apart. Beds torn apart. Each room violated. I don’t want to go on and on becaue they will probably read this and I don’t want them to feel even worse (if that’s even possible). But just take a moment today and imagine what that would feel like.

And say some prayers for them. Trying to make a list of everything you think has been stolen for the police and the insurance is probably maddening. And you know that for months they will be discovering more things that are missing.

So today I am grateful for my boring routine. I will be praying for them that someday soon they will regain some feeling again of routine and normal. Prayers to them for peace, safety, healing. Join me in those prayers if you can.


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Holidays

Did I say I don’t like Mother’s Day? Not sure I’ve actually blogged that or not, but I know I’ve definitely said it. Here’s more fickle: Today, I LOVE IT!!

Frankie came home from school today with a purple flower (my favorite color) and a People magazine spoof for Mother of the Year. I won’t write it all, but here are some of the highlights that shock me, surprise me, warm my heart beyond belief.

She should be mother of the year because:
She doesn’t make me spoiled.
She gives me good advice.
She is cautious about my health.
She works three jobs to put food on my table.
She comforts me when I am sad.
She supports me when life throws problems at me.
When I’m sick she stays up all night to make sure I’m okay.
She supports the school by coming in class every once in awhile.

What do you love most about your mom?
She cares about my feelings.

What’s the smartest thing your mom has ever told you?
Don’t sing during class.

What kind of stuff is your mom really good at?
Singing.

What’s one thing your mom should do more of?
Go to the bar and have a good time. (And I feel guilty when I get the chance to go out!)

What do you think your mom was like before she had kids?
She was probably happier. (That’s an ouch!)

Complete this sentence. “I know my mom loves me because she thinks I am funny.” (I think he’s hilarious, actually)

And last but not least, drum roll please….

If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?
Nothing, you’re amazing!

I love Mother’s Day!!!


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Flashbacks

So I’ve started writing the second book in the last couple of weeks. The title is “Life After Death, on This Side of Heaven.” I found quickly that I have to limit how many days a week I work on it, and how many pages I do at a time. I’ve forgotten how difficult it is to encounter all those journal entries for the “first” time since I’ve written them a couple of years ago.

I’ve found myself saying to my friends and family a lot lately that its been two and a half years and I think I’m still stuck in the same place. They vigorously shake their heads no and say that I am not anywhere near where I was back then. Now that I’m reading what I wrote back then, I know what they mean. Man, was it hard then. The “bitters” sure overpowered the “sweets” on a daily basis.

I just reworked a section about Frankie. I will give you a sneak peek so you can see what I have been remembering in May of 2013, three years after Tim’s initial diagnosis. This was originally written in January of 2011.
__________________________
A half hour later when we (Frankie and I) were laying in bed, I was almost asleep and thought I heard sniffles. I asked Frankie if he was crying… he answered with a downpour of thoughts and feelings that broke my heart.

“Yes, I’m crying. I miss daddy soooooooo much!

“I hate cancer! People should be able to smoke or do whatever they want without having to worry about cancer.”

“If dad had been here tonight, he would have yelled the whole night because we were so loud.”

“If daddy were here right now, he’d be laying right next to me and I would lay on top of him and be his Frankie blanket.”

“I just wish daddy were here right now.”

“There’s so many changes, so many changes.” I asked him “Like what?” and he paused and then said “Everything!”

“It’s so sad that daddy missed seeing his granddaughter.”

“Daddy was given the wrong medicine. Maybe he would still be here right now.”

My heart broke, but I was also beyond relieved that he was showing emotion and opening up to me about it. I let him know the smoking didn’t directly cause daddy’s cancer. I reminded him that he quit smoking as a present to Frankie for his 5th birthday because he loved him so much. I told him that daddy wasn’t given the wrong medicine, the chemo just didn’t work because the cancer was too strong.

But mostly I just laid next to him and cried with him, telling him how much I missed daddy too.
___________________________________

Kinda took my breath away. We ARE doing ok. And we ARE smiling more these days. But it’s ok to remember too.


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Memories

Last night, we had a friend over and Frankie allowed me to get out a dvd of his dance recital when he was three. He was the only boy in his group and he totally stole the show. He doesn’t usually let me watch it so I jumped at his agreement. We laughed and laughed and he kept having me rewind it.

Of course, it was also past his bedtime, but he kept getting me with his manipulative comment of “But Mom, we hardly ever get family time together.” Smartie pants.

We got another dvd. This one he was about 8-16 months old. We had a riot. I forgot that even back then he did an awful lot of performing. He squealed almost continually and Frankie finally asked “How did you guys ever get any sleep?” My dad was getting more quiet the crazier we got. I figured he was annoyed that it was getting so late.

But then it hit me.

I’m sure he was annoyed at the time, but it was also an evening that was BITTER SWEET to the nth degree. In living color, there was my mom, my husband, and our kitty Oreo, all still living and breathing. Wow, how fast life can drastically change.

We lost mom about six years ago. I can’t even believe it was that long ago. She was crazy, like me, and encouraged Frankie’s craziness. She would get such a kick out of him now.

A couple of particularly poignant moments that took my breath away. The first one was on Frankie’s first birthday. There sat Oreo on the chair with Tim standing next to him. It was a shot of the two of them. Who would have ever dreamed than in seven years, they would both pass away within a couple of months of each other? Both from cancer. Weird. Sad.

The second, was of Tim crawling around our living room floor on all fours. Frankie was sprawled on his back, flat as a pancake, giggling at the fun ride. Then he would slip off and scramble clumsily to get back on. Tim looked into the camera and said “This footage is for 15 years from now. When Frankie is a teenager, he can look back at this and remember how much his Dad loved him.” I looked at my friend. She looked at me. And I swallowed hard.

Overall, it was a great night of memories and laughter. Sweet. Very, very sweet. Laced with a background of bitter. Ah, such is life, right?