Melancholy

Grief knows no calendar.

I guess I will always feel a little melancholy in January.

I lost my mom two years ago this month, and I continue to be surprised at just how much harder it is to move on from her death than what I’ve experienced after losing our other parents.  I don’t know if it was the fact that she was our last living parent, if it is because I was closer to her than any of our other parents, or if it’s something else.  Without a doubt, though, grief is taking it’s sweet time with me, it seems.

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I think most people tend to give a lot of leeway to family members and friends in the first year after the loss of a close loved one.  Tackling all those “firsts” can be so, so hard, and I certainly found that to be true after losing my mother, just as it was after we lost our other parents.  I had quite a bit of support, especially from my closest friends, and I’m grateful for the love shown that truly helped me through that first year.

Grief didn’t care about that calendar, though.  Not one bit.

Last year was my second full year without Mom, and I swear it was just as hard on many occasions as it was in year one.  Understandably, most people assume that after that first year, all is fine… or at least better, so I started to just keep my feelings to myself and not burden others with my continuing feelings.  Friends have other interests in their lives and suffer their own heartaches.

Life moves on for all of us.

But, as Shelby’s mom said in Steel Magnolias after the graveside service for her sweet Shelby…

“I’ll tell you what I wish. … That’s what my mind says, I just wish somebody would explain it to my heart.”  (Steel Magnolias… 1989)

Oh, how very true that statement is.  So, so true.  (I’m not sure a movie ever truly captured such a true manifestation of grief as this particular scene at the cemetery.)

I have no sage wisdom to share today, except to simply acknowledge that grief doesn’t stick to a one-year calendar, despite that conventional viewpoint these days.  Acknowledging the ongoing grief helps a bit, and that’s why I’m writing today.  Simple acknowledgement.

I hope this lesson sticks with me and reminds me to have a tender heart toward others in the future, perhaps by simply marking my calendar and letting them know that I’m thinking of them and offering a heart-felt, sympathetic prayer for them on their own hard anniversaries.

I want to make it count, this often hard path I continue to find myself on without my Mom in my life.  (The article linked is absolutely fabulous.)

During this anniversary month of Mom’s passing, I’m reading The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, and so far, it is quietly speaking to my broken heart.  Ann’s writings are best savored slowly and deliberately, and every day, I’m slowly “getting it.”  Perhaps if you find yourself with a broken heart right now, this book might offer some insight to you, too.  If not right now, perhaps make a note of this great book for a time you might need it in the future?

Ann is “explaining it to my heart,” and I am grateful.

 

A Piano in Heaven

We’ve lost a true treasure.

The water has been flowing freely in Texas over the past few days from the rain clouds, but today, the water is coming from the tears of many fellow West Texans over the loss of one of our true treasures, pianist and composer Doug Smith, who died in his sleep this week(A complete list of Doug’s albums can be found at the end of the linked article.)

My family heard Doug play in person on several occasions, usually at church, and I also heard him in concert on another occasion, too.  I’m not sure if any music has ever moved me so much as Doug’s music did over the years, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, especially today.

The news of his death also hit me yesterday as I remembered what a fan my mother was of Doug and his music.  I remember taking her to buy some of his CDs at a local store here a few years ago and remember how thrilled she was to have them and listened to them so often.  People young and old alike loved Doug and his music, it seems.

As an avid lover of both music and photography, I found his artistic collaboration with Texas State Photographer, Wyman Meinzer, to be a truly rare work of art that I probably won’t see again in my lifetime, and I think it will go down as one of the best representations of my West Texas home that will ever be created.  Any visitor to our area can benefit from first watching this magnificent video to try to first understand the soul of the area and its people that these two gentlemen managed to capture so beautifully.

Often, when we go camping, we listen to Doug’s music.  It is such a perfect fit when out in our beautiful Texas State Parks.  Many scenes in the “West Texas” video are from those state parks that we visit so often, too.  Today, I broke down in tears watching the video again and knowing that half of the artistic duo that created it is now gone from us.  That speaks to the impact Doug and his music had on so many of us.

Please take a few minutes today or sometime soon to watch the two videos below.  One is the video I spoke of above, the famous “West Texas” video, and the other is an eight minute documentary by Doug himself following his tragic car wreck in 2007 that paralyzed him and took away his ability to play the piano… temporarily.  It is an epic story of overcoming adversity and is one that I think you will remember going forward, too.

You will see the West Texas video in its best quality by watching it in full screen mode.

Wyman Meinzer’s West Texas from Wyman Meinzer on Vimeo.

I’m going to listen to Doug’s music this week as I go about my daily chores, and I will pray for his family and all that loved him.  They are legion, and some of us feel that we’ve lost part of ourselves in his passing.  We mourn both the man and his music today.

Today, it gives me comfort to know that the hands that Doug said he missed a few years ago are once again restored and that there is a piano in Heaven that is once again singing the tunes of the soul of West Texas at the hands of a master with a true gift from God who learned to play the piano by ear.  And for all the many, many hours of enjoyment Doug’s music has brought to me, and will continue to do in years to come, I wanted to offer my own little tribute today in gratitude.

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Another Loss

We just lost yet another loved one in our life, this time very suddenly and definitely unexpected.

Late last October, we spent a very quick weekend camping with some friends.  We all needed a little break from our everyday lives, and I really needed a couple of nights away to refresh a bit as we were dealing with the hard situation of slowly losing my sweet cousin.  These long-time friends gladly joined us, as they had just purchased a brand new fifth wheel, and we shared their happiness as they took their new trailer on an inaugural trip with us.

Hubby worked with this man for thirty years, and they were good friends.  Sadly, we just lost this dear friend to a tragic accident.  One day, this friend was at work with Hubby, and the next day, he was gone.  He did not survive but a few brief minutes after the horrible crash.

Over three decades, this friend and Hubby grew very close.  They had a lot in common and helped and supported each other in ways other friends could not at times.  He and his wife were looking forward to their retirement years very soon, and they were especially looking forward to camping regularly with family and friends and even meeting new people on the road.  We were looking forward to being a part of that with them in coming years, too.

My heart is truly breaking following this tragic news that we received while on a drive around sunset with the dogs in the car.  Hubby completely broke down in tears, and it was all I could do to keep some composure myself to try to comfort him.   I drove us home as he wept and called other friends to share the sad news, and I remember seeing one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in some time as I drove.

We memorialized and buried our friend, along with many others who loved him.  He ended his life well, after many years of heartache, and for that healing, I am very grateful today.  He will most definitely be missed.  So many times in situations like this, I struggle to see how his family will go on without him, but I also know that in every situation I’ve known in the past, they always find a way, even though it is seldom easy for them.

I’m sure I will remember our friend every time we revisit the places we camped with him and his wife and enjoyed their company in some beautiful scenic spots, and I hope that over time, I can remember in gratitude and not in sadness.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
– Marcel Proust

The photos shared in today’s post are from our last trip with our friends back in October, a trip that I remember so fondly.  We had a great time acquainting them with this particular park a little more, and these photos represent some memorable moments we shared together.  It was a lovely time enjoying good friends, beautiful scenery and more than a few much needed laughs.  We also loaned him an extra HDMI cable to use, since he forgot to buy one, and Hubby had great fun teasing him about it.

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Memorable sunsets
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Hidden lake that few people know about
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Beautiful fall colors

 

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Seeing lots of bison and their young up close
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Hiking around the lake

I am feeling fairly guilty right now as I mourn the fact that this is the fifth loved one we have lost in the past fifteen months.  We lost three family members and a good friend last year, and now we’ve lost another friend.  The more I think about being a little resentful of this fact, the more guilty I feel.  Perhaps it is time to quit looking at death in this way and start being more grateful for the blessing of having these people in my life for the time they were here.  As we grow older, we will no doubt continue to lose loved ones like this, and I don’t want the pity party to only grow within me.

This is a very hard loss for many of us, and if you are a praying person, please say a prayer for his family and friends.

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The Last First Anniversary

My first year without Mom and without any living parents

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.

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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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Wordless Wednesday – One Year Ago Today

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Wordless Wednesday – Rest in Peace

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“When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am.”

To my fellow bloggers/writers, I hope this inspires you as much as it inspired me today. RIP, Maya.

The Daily Post

Maya Angelou by Spanglej, CC BY-SA 2.0.Maya Angelou by Spanglej, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.

Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin — find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that it was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.

When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how…

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