The Last First Anniversary

My first year without Mom and without any living parents

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After losing three parents in previous years, I always came to dread the first anniversaries of their deaths each year.  Without fail, every first anniversary was a hard day emotionally for me, especially the first parent, Hubby’s father, who died on Christmas Eve just a few days before our son was born.  Each of our four parents endured a fairly long and hard illness prior to their death, and each illness was brutal on them in the process and excruciating for all of us to watch.

Each year when those first anniversaries of losing our first three parents came around, the day always seemed to bring back the emotional pain of those terrible illnesses, as well as a reminder of the gaping hole left in our lives.  We learned over subsequent years that this pain begins to subside as time goes on, but that first anniversary is always hard.

Mother ribbon sm

Following Mom’s death a year ago, the next four months were the hardest times for me as I tried to grieve while also having to deal with immediate estate matters amid sometimes tense family issues and moving her things out of two separate living facilities.  For these reasons, I don’t think that I truly grieved until the estate business was finally settled in May.  Tears flowed numerous times during those first months, but I’m not sure I grieved as I needed to do.

Finally, in early May, the last estate matters were settled.  Hubby and I took a postponed anniversary trip to Maui, and our first full day on the island was Mother’s Day.  We opted to take the trip over Mother’s Day so that we could change our routine for that day that would be hard no matter where we were, but would be especially hard if we stayed home.

I woke up a couple of hours before my husband and just sat on the lanai with a cup of coffee, overlooking the ocean and the sunrise, and that is when my grief really came to the surface rather unexpectedly.

It was my first Mother’s Day with no mother.

I’m glad that Hubby slept in upstairs in as I sobbed to the point that I got a terrible headache, but somehow felt joy and some relief at the same time, a truly remarkable feeling.  It felt like grief and closure all at once, and I even took a few photos and a video of the stunning beauty around me afterward with my phone to try to capture this memorable moment when God felt so close.  There is really no good way to describe that time, except that a tremendous burden felt like it had finally been lifted from my shoulders for the first time in many years.

Ever since that special sunrise experience on Mother’s Day morning, I’ve felt much better in how I’ve handled Mom’s death.  We still had two more deaths to go with other close family members last year, and while those were also very hard, I remained at peace with Mom’s passing for the most part.  Still, I dreaded the first anniversary of her death, based on past experiences.

This last first anniversary came and went on Wednesday, and just like all of those other first anniversaries, it was pretty hard, with some of those same old feelings I felt when she suffered so much for an entire month and passed away making an appearance once again.  I felt more prepared this time, though.  I deliberately kept that day free from appointments and times with friends, and I’m glad I did.

Sometimes we need to simply recognize that at times like this, we need to be gentle with ourselves as we can and give ourselves a pass on some things without feeling guilty. We can’t help our feelings, but we can have a say-so in how we deal with them.

Wednesday was an uneventful day of simple household chores, reading and jotting down a few thoughts privately and on Facebook to commemorate the day and honor her life, and a few tears once again found their way back to my eyes again while Hubby was at work.  My best friend sent a simple text to just say she loved me and was thinking about me, which meant so much, as she also lost her father early last year.  Hubby and I just opted for take-out from Chick-Fil-A, dining at home with the pups keeping us company as they always do in the evenings, and this was exactly how I needed to spend the day.

There is truly a beautiful blessing in the normal.

This last first anniversary also brought home once again the significant difference in our lives now that we have no living parents.  Even after a full year, we are both still learning to adjust to this reality.  Once again, we took some sage advice to change our routine during the holidays, which was interesting and actually helped us get through Thanksgiving and Christmas pretty well, even though Christmas morning still brought a few tears.

Lastly, I have found myself quite unprepared in some ways to now being one of the elders of the family, even though we are only in our 50’s, which is not the norm for most people our age.  All of our friends still have one or more living parents, and perhaps this would be a good topic for another post sometime.

If there is any consolation right now, it is this simple fact…

No more first anniversaries for us. Ever again. (At least for our parents.)  It should get a little easier from here.

Note:  In my previous Wordless Wednesday post, I shared a simple photo of a CD.  “Stained Glass” by Doug Smith has some of the most beautiful Christian piano music I’ve ever heard.  I took that photo just a few hours before Mom passed away as I sat with her, both of us listening to this beautiful music in her peaceful, private bedroom.  It was such a beautiful, yet emotionally hard, time.  I will never forget our priceless time together as she transitioned from one life to the next.  God’s presence was so real and strong in a truly remarkable way that day, and I continued to feel that strong presence throughout the coming days as we dealt with her arrangements.

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June Joy

As of June 16, we have been married for 35 years! ❤

Hubby had to work on our anniversary and also had to leave town on business early the next morning to travel to Tennessee, so we just enjoyed a nice dinner at a local steak restaurant that we both like a lot.  As usual, the food was wonderful, and I even managed to stay on my diet, too, opting for a steak, fresh grilled asparagus and a small tossed salad.  We enjoyed our nice relaxing evening together, especially immediately after a fun weekend trip to the canyon with our son for the Father’s Day weekend.  It does not seem possible that 35 years have passed, and I grew quite teary as I posted about it on my Facebook page that same day.  You see, our days have not always been easy ones, but the growth we have both experienced as a result of the really bad times is something I would not trade for now.  We are both able to help others in their own time of difficulty now as a result of that growth, and that will forever be a part of our mutual life ministries, for sure.  God has seen to that already, even when we least suspect it.

I deliberately postponed my big spring cleaning push of the year at home until the “dust finally settled,” literally.  We have had so many days of blowing dust this year that is was honestly pretty pointless to embark on deep cleaning until it settled down with the summer rains and planting of the cotton fields in the area.

Haboob at Sunset
Haboob at Sunset earlier this year

Happily, that time has now come, and I have made some good progress on cleaning over the past few weeks.  I also had the carpet and tile professionally cleaned once again, and that is always a real treat for us.  I am taking my cleaning efforts a bit more slowly this year, as there is really no rush to kill myself to get it done.  Deep cleaning is definitely not one of my favorite things to do in life, but it is so nice to make progress and just “git ‘er done, ya’ll!” 🙂

Since we received our first big rainstorm that dropped over five inches a few weeks ago, we have been continually blessed to continue receive even more beneficial rain almost weekly, spaced just far enough apart each week to keep our lawns and trees watered regularly.  Our area has now received 9 inches, which is such a huge blessing!

Backyard Flooding
Backyard flooding

To bring us out of the drought, though, we still need about 30 more inches, especially for our water sheds, so the prayers will keep going up.  Since we are now in stage two water restrictions, the rain has been especially wonderful, as we have been able to refrain from watering the lawn completely.  However, we also received some hail, and we had to have a new roof put on the rent house two weeks ago.  The major damage likely came from a big hail storm that hit while we were away over Easter weekend, and the damage was made worse after a smaller hail storm recently.  Anyway, the new roof is done, and we will have an adjuster out in a few weeks to also look at our roof, too.  We have also had a reprieve from 100 degree temperatures so far, and this, combined with the wonderful rain, has kept our climate pretty much perfect in June, if not a bit unseasonably cool.  Cooler temps may now be coming to an end, at least for a few days, as the temperature should near 100 degrees this weekend, but I’m still so very grateful that we’ve had such a great weather month so far.

Our entire area is so green and beautiful, and it almost feels like I’m on a little vacation right here at home after months and months of dry and windy weather and dirt that literally seemed to be everywhere.  It’s not hard for anyone in our area to enjoy being outdoors among all this dirt-free greenery, and it makes me wonder if people who live in more temperate areas grow complacent with their beautiful scenery over time.  I can bet that will seldom happen for me, and I’m just so happy to be here right now.

I make it a point to spend time outdoors each morning these days, sipping my cup of Hazelnut coffee, reading my bible, working through my bible study homework and playing with the dogs a bit.  The dogs are happy to be out with me to explore the yard, look at the birds, lay in the soft green grass and chase each other around the yard.  Having two large, young dogs is something new for us, and it is so fun to watch them play with such energy, especially when they chase each other round and round the new tree in the middle of the yard.  If I get involved in the mayhem, I really have to watch them or they could knock me down, but it is still so much fun!

2014-06-20 15.28.21
Girly Girl and Red (aka The Complainer!) He did not like sitting still to have his picture taken.

My cannas are blooming with their pretty red blooms, and my Red Rocket crape myrtles are also starting to bloom right on time and should be in full bloom by the 4th of July holiday.  My little vegetable garden of tomatoes and peppers is making good progress, and I picked the first ripe tomatoes last Monday, just in time to serve to my girlfriends on Monday evening when they joined me here for a salad dinner outside.

2014-06-20 15.26.27
Our Red Rocket crape myrtles are in bloom once again.

I’m also cherishing travel memories of trips I’ve made over the few weeks, too.  I have been especially blessed to have seen so many cherished family members and friends in a thirty-day period.  I even reconnected with one of my best friends from high school recently, finally meeting her for lunch at a nearby restaurant on Wednesday and visiting for three hours.  She recently retired from her job and contacted me out of the blue to meet for lunch, and I hope this will just be the start of many more wonderful visits with her.  She was, and still is, a beloved sister in Christ and holds a special, unique place in my heart to this day.

I’m glad to finally be done with my posts about our big trip back in May, and I still have posts to come about my epic road trip with my 93 year-young mother and my 83 year-young aunt to Oklahoma, as well as a quick Father’s Day weekend trip with our son to the canyon.  We also have a longer trip planned for the 4th of July weekend back to a nice private campground with full hookups in northern New Mexico with some friends in our RVs, and we are definitely looking forward to going back there with them once again, just as we did twice last year.  Having full hookups is always a special treat for us, since most of the parks we visit only have water and electric hookups on site.  That is fine for a weekend trip, but for anything more than two or three days, having the sewer line is a real blessing.  Ah, the simple things to be thankful for on vacation now, including unlimited showers in our very own RV.

The last news of the past month is our purchase of a DISH Tailgater satellite system for the RV.  Even though we took our wonderful trip to Kauai and Big Sur back in May to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, we also decided to finally purchase the satellite as our gift to each other, too.  We do not intend to sit around at camp watching television too much, but it will be nice to have it for the times we are inside the RV and would enjoy having some decent programming to watch, especially on hot summer afternoons and cold winter nights.  Also, most places where we camp on the weekends nearby have no cell phone or over-the-air television signal available, and one issue that results from that fact is not knowing if we are at risk of severe weather or tornadoes headed our way.  Up until now, we had no way of knowing if we were at risk, except for our NOAA weather radio, which travels with us wherever we go and stays alert for us overnight when we are at home as well.  Now, we can tune in to local television news and know exactly what is happening most of the time and if bad weather may be headed our way soon.  We also camp in the RV in the winter months, and we will enjoy having some viewing options at night for a change, as I think we have now watched every DVD movie we own several times.  We just subscribed to a pay-as-you-go plan for the satellite and will only pay for the months we want to use it.

Married for 35 years to my sweet hubby.

Having a clean house, almost free of dust.

Rain, rain, rain!

Green grass. Green trees. Flowers blooming. Vegetables growing.

Hazelnut coffee. Bible study.  My sweet dogs.  Cool mornings.

Getting to see special family and friends again.

Seeing the Oklahoma City area without fear of blowing away in a tornado for the first time.

Father’s Day weekend with my two favorite guys.

Satellite TV when camping.

Looking forward to a trip with good friends very soon to the mountains of New Mexico.

Sharing my joy here.

My heart is filled with such joy on days like this!  Isn’t God wonderful to bring us to these times where our “cups” can be filled up once again?  Such are my days right now.  Life is good, and I am blessed!  😀

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