Friday, May 31, 2013

This blog is brought to you by the number 72.....

My Dad was 72 when he lost his battle to cancer in November....
72 is the number of laps I walked in memory of dad.......
When Amy and I decided to form our own team for this year’s Relay for Life event we never expected it to be something we would do in ‘memory’ of dad.  It was intended to ‘honor’ dad and his second courageous battle with cancer.  Last year during Relay he was finishing up Radiation treatment.  We watched with hope as the Survivors and Caregivers walked the opening lap.  This year's Relay found us  marking 5 months without our precious dad and watching.  The same opening lap was bittersweet to watch.
The days leading up to the Relay were filled with anxiety.  I tried to prepare myself mentally, physically and emotionally.  Things were looking promising last year and the tears took over so I couldn’t imagine how we would hold up this year with the grief still so fresh.   I decided to set a personal goal and make that my focus for the night.  It had to be something meaningful and I quickly decided on 72 – one lap for every year of dad’s life.  While sharing that goal with mom I realized that would be 18 miles…yikes!  Mistake, scratch that, make it 45 laps.  That would be one year for every year of my life that I had my cherished dad in my life.  That would be doable.  I could manage 45 laps over the course of the night.  Second mistake, announcing my goal on FB and having my little sister insist we could meet the original goal of 72 laps.   I wondered how long it would take her to figure out the total mileage of that trek.
The night of the Relay came and we were supported by a wonderful team of people including family and friends.  I must say that my sister has some of the most amazing people in her life.  Perhaps that is because she is so amazing herself.  They were creative, friendly, thoughtful and encouraging!  I wish I had spent more time getting to know some of them better but I had a mission in mind.   The first mile came easy for me—-perhaps because of the sweet lady, EJ, who kept me company on the track—that I decided to keep up the momentum and 10 laps turned into 20.  Hey this isn’t too bad, iPod playing and making good time, 30 laps down and soon it was 40…still feeling no pain, sweaty but not winded.   I was soon met by a fellow walker—presumably military and toting a backpack—who inquired what lap I was on.  He shared his goal of 80 so I blurted out my goal of 72.  I was too far in not to give it a shot…and give it a shot I did.  The feet and knees began to question my sanity about lap 59 so sister and I decided to take a short rest.   Soon we were back out on the track and those last laps were by far the hardest and also the sweetest.  I was finishing up with my sister, my best friend, my confidante, my encourager and my inspiration!  Counting down the final laps I think we both let a heavy sigh of relief as we rounded the final corner.  Dad was surely smiling down on his ‘Daddy’s Girls’ with love and pride.

72 is the number of laps I walked in memory of dad.

I would gladly walk 72 laps every day just to have another day with him…..

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother” -Ephesians 6:1-2

Friday, April 26, 2013

When I least expect it....

I have learned to expect the unexpected.  What I haven’t learned is how to deal with it when it occurs.  Sometimes it happens in private and I can let the tears roll freely.  Other times it happens in public or in the company of others which presents a challenge to maintain my composure.
The five month anniversary of my dad’s death passed ever so quietly last Friday.  It wasn’t until the following day that it was spoken of.  We all remembered the day.  Each of us mourned the day.  Perhaps in our efforts to cope we each chose not to speak it aloud to one another.  Personally, I never want my hurt or pain to contribute to that of another—particularly my mother or sister.  So, we each acknowledged the day privately and alone.  Looking back now, I see that might have been a mistake.  My mom asked the following day if I realized what the day before had been and sadly I told her I did. Yes, in hindsight I think it was a mistake not to acknowledge the day with each other.  It’s so hard to know how to move forward in grief without looking back at the cause of it.  When I think of the hurdles and obstacles we faced during dad’s last year I get mired down in details.  I can vividly recall the many days we were in the hospital…sometimes down to the detail of what we were wearing on certain occasions, or who took the time to visit dad, and the hope that we all carried with us each time we left the hospital.
Moving forward is hard.  Not just a little.  A LOT.  I don’t like it.  I want my dad back.
By now, I know most of my grief triggers.  The ones that will bring the tears, the depression, the yearning to have my dad back.  Some I avoid, some I can’t.  Memories come flooding back with pictures of him, songs on the radio, and physical pieces of his life.  Those are things that I expect to touch me and stir the ever present feelings of grief.
Then there are the things I would not expect to affect me….those are harder to cope with.  They can sneak upon me quickly and without warning, leaving me little time to mask the tears or prepare for the hurt that my heart will feel.  As I walked through the neighborhood this week enjoying the sun shining on my face and the breeze against my skin I also noticed the sweet smell of flowers and a fresh mowed yard.  Tears began immediately.   The smell of freshly cut grass instantly reminded me of my dad and the great pride he took in keeping the yard mowed, edged and looking nice. The sweet scent of the flowers conjured up the images of my mom’s beautiful flowers she carefully tends each year.  The memories take over and soon I can picture my mom and dad sitting on the patio after a morning in the yard taking a ‘coke break’.  I want that life back.
The reality is that my mom is now tending to those flowers alone and moving forward in life alone—maybe not alone, but without her husband.  And reality for me is that I am moving forward without my dad.   My heart still breaks….and sometimes it is when I least expect it.
All you who put your hope in the Lord be strong and brave...Psalm  31:24

Friday, March 15, 2013

I will see you in my dreams.....

I’m not a great sleeper these days.  Actually I haven’t slept well in a very long time, but that hasn't interfered with my dream life.  For as long as I can recall I have had a very active and vivid dream life.  All kinds of dreams…the good, the bad and the ugly….you name it I dreamed it!  I have had the common dreams of falling and being chased where I normally wake up breathless from all that falling and/or running. Or one of my faves…needing to be able to shoot someone and the bullet just falls out of the gun with no pep, no zip, no speeding towards the intended target.  Please, no anti-NRA comments here.  I have a right to a gun and if someone is trying to hurt me I reserve the right to use it.  I would however like it to work correctly! 
 As a kid I had a few recurring dreams that looking back must have been due to my fear of something happening to my parents.  Often they have partial truths to them.  One included my parents going camping on the Arkansas River with several family members---truth.    Amy and I were left behind with the grandparents because we were too young—truth, or maybe we were too obnoxious…nah!  Anyway the point is that I dreamed my mom cut her hand and no one would help her.  Not a band-aid to be had in that camp!  Seems silly now but I remember being very concerned about her possibly being hurt and not getting the medical attention she needed at the time.
Bad Dreams and nightmares are not as common as they used to be but I also know the triggers to help avoid them.  Scary movies and horror shows are not my friends.  They are guaranteed to bring on a bad dream.   Actually watching some of today’s crime scene type shows can be enough to let a bad dream slip through.  What is up with TV today?  The actual news is not much better!
As it happens I took a Human Relations course in college where we dabbled a bit in Dream Analysis and Interpretation.   The instructor was very interested in the subject and challenged us to journal our dreams.  She did some amateur analysis of those brave enough to share their dreams….that would NOT include me.  Some of her theories proved to be true….one of course being that your subconscious can play a role in the dreams that you have. 
Not long after dad died I had a dream that he was the only one at home and he told me that he thought it was best that he went on ahead first.  Since that time I’ve had several dreams of him.  Dreams of him as a younger dad, dreams where he spoke, dreams where he didn’t, dreams of him smiling, dreams of him working around the house and I have cherished each one……until I wake up. An intense ache fills my soul when I finally awake enough to realize it was only a dream.   I miss my dad.  I miss him terribly.  What I would give to have one more moment with him.  One more smile, one more hug, one last  ‘I love you!     That is not to be. 
In the meantime I look forward to seeing him in my dreams…..
“The best thing about dreams is that fleeting moment, when you are between asleep and awake, when you don't know the difference between reality and fantasy, when for just that one moment you feel with your entire soul that the dream is reality, and it really happened.” - Unknown

Friday, February 15, 2013

Navigating the Potholes....

Grief is a strange journey.  While I am not alone on this journey I sometimes feel as though the path I travel is different.  Every day is different yet every day is the same.  I wake up each day and one of my first thoughts is that dad is gone.  Some days I can deal with the sadness quickly and move forward to start my day and other days the sadness drapes over me until I can find a release.  A good cry in the shower often helps.  So there are good days and not so good days.  This is to be expected. 
I am doing the best I can to navigate through the potholes that seem to fill this journey.
Here are just a few that I have tried to avoid—unsuccessfully so far.
Grief eating….Yep, that’s right.  I know there must be a medical or scientific term for it but I have moved on from stress eating to grief eating.  I have managed to eat my way through the grief and my pants are suffering greatly.   The daredevil that I am, I decided to check in with my rude and unfriendly scale this week.  What a mistake, twelve pounds in twelve weeks.  Sigh…
Tracking time… Yes it has been twelve weeks since dad’s death.  Could it be a coincidence that I have managed to pack on twelve pounds in those twelve weeks?  I cannot move on from counting the weeks and days since dad’s death.  I am sure it’s not healthy but I feel the overwhelming need to mentally track how long he has been gone.  Almost every Monday at 10:15 he comes to my mind and I remember our last moments together.
Memories….  A trip back to Arkansas to celebrate a beloved aunt’s 93rd birthday this weekend was bittersweet.  Mom, Amy and I have made several ‘girls only’ trips to Arkansas over the years.  Dad was typically content to stay at home during these two day there and back swift trips.  This time as we pulled out of the driveway I mentally recalled the normal banter that would have taken place had he been here.  Have you checked the air in your tires?  Oil change recently?  Filled up with gas?  Be sure to watch your speed.  (By the way, I never speed.)  And my favorite…keep an eye out for the idiots on the road!  Several times on the trip I felt the impulse to call him and report the details of the trip—how many troopers, the number of pit stops, the unbelievable amount of road kill we encountered and how fast we made it there—all without speeding of course. Wink!
Music…. Dad’s love of country music influenced both Amy and I.   A few years ago I gave him one of the Time Life Collection of Country hits.  I borrowed a few of the CD’s before he went into the hospital the last time and they are still in my CD player.  It’s a sure way to bring the tears but I love listening to the artists and songs that I know he enjoyed.  It makes me feel closer to him. 
Dad’s Things….Seeing or being around his things naturally invokes certain memories.  Dad almost always drove trucks as I was growing up.  Save the time back in the 80’s when gas prices were so outrageous that he decided to go super economical in a tiny car to drive back and forth to GM.    Dad’s last vehicle was a white Chevrolet truck.  It is super low mileage.  The majority of the miles are the result of the many trips he made to Arkansas to take care of his dad and to vacation with his family.  He was meticulous with the cleaning and maintenance of his truck.  It needs to be started and driven occasionally so this week I took it to give it a much needed bath.  Imagine my shock as I pull into the car wash and the song that comes on is ‘I drive your truck’.  Let’s just say that it’s nice that the car wash provides some privacy….the tears came rolling.  The gist of the song is that someone drives the truck of a loved one sometimes and that’s how they cope. 
I can’t say that driving dad’s truck is my way of coping but I hope to find a healthy healing way to do so soon!   How does ‘I am fat and I drive your truck’ sound for a new tune?
So all in all, the journey is long and there is no map to follow but I’m thankful for my fellow passengers who support me!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Baby steps....

On a personal note...  I am back.  I took a brief hiatus from posting my blogs because frankly they were not all sunshine and butterflies.  I know the heaviness of some of my recent posts were not choice reading for some indicated by a sweet family member who shared that they could no longer read my blog because it brought tears and sadness.  I understand.  Really I do.  I often fight through the tears and sadness to get the words out.  Writing is my personal form of 'therapy' and helps to process my with this blog, just as in life, expect to find both the good and the bad here.  Hopefully, with time, the good will outweigh the bad...

When I went to review the last post from my blog I noticed it was dated 12/19.  For now the 19th is a representation of the date dad died.  For the better part of my earlier blog postings I dated events based on the date of dad's diagnosis and now I find myself with dating them from the date of his death.  A distinct 'before' and 'after' has now defined my relationship with time and life in general.  Oh how I wish to re-visit those 'before' days. 

The holidays have since come and gone and as imagined it was a quieter and more surreal 'celebration' for our family this year.  I think we were champions in our efforts to keep most of our traditions alive while keeping the tears and sadness at bay, but that was mostly a public facade.  Privately we all dealt with our own grief and mourned the loss of dad realizing the reality of our first Christmas and New Year's without him.  I have my doubts that holidays will ever be the same for our family but I am hopeful that with time and healing the joy will be restored. 

For now everything is baby steps for me.  Starting over in a new, yet definitley not improved, life is where I find myself.  Realizing this is final, his death is final.  There is no going back....only moving foward.  Stumbling through the grief and wondering not if, but when the next pang of heartache will present itself.  Will it be when I wake in the morning and realize my dad is gone?  Will it be when I see his picture or hear an old country song? 

 So many times it is in the little everyday things that I find my throat constricting, chest tightening and the tears threatening to flow.  The heartache comes when I pick up the phone to call dad to see how he is, when I pull up to the house and see his truck sitting in the driveway and when his chair is empty at the dinner table.  When I can't dial the phone I try to imagine what dad would say if I could vent to him about the horrible traffic or fill him in on what the boys were up to.   I see his truck and I think of the last trip to we took to Arkansas.  He tossed his truck keys to me and told me to drive and we chatted almost the entire way.  I sit at the dinner table and have to make myself focus on the people that are there and not that his chair is empty or is now taken by someone else.

I am still sad, I am still hurting but I am also trying my best not to stay wrapped up in a blanket of grief. Admittedly there have been days I would prefer to stay mired down in my own self-pity and ignore the rest of the world but I have chosen not to wallow in my sadness. 

Staying busy and keeping distracted have proven to be my allies when it comes to navigating the challenging days.  The quiet and alone times that I once yearned for only yield time for my mind to wander and think and question all that has happened so busy equals sanity for the time being.
I am sure I could probably pay a professional to tell me that I am in denial (or some other stage of grief)  but I have managed this journey on my own with the love and support of my family and my faith thus far and I plan to finish it that way.

It won't be a race, it will be a long journey to be certain.  It will be filled with hills and valleys, good times and not-so-good times, and most importantly with my family.

So a day at a time, a step at a time, here we go.....

My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.    
Psalm 121:2

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The 19th....

Today is the 19th. 
One month ago I held my father’s hand and softly whispered my final good-byes to him.  I searched for courage and strength to tell him it was ok to let go, that he didn’t have to keep fighting and that we would all be ok.  I gazed at his face and kept my hand clasped in his once strong hand trying to preserve every detail of our final moments together.
One month ago I watched as my father drew his last breath as the pastor prayed with our family.  I watched and waited already knowing that he would not draw another.  I watched, seemingly as if outside my own body, as the grieving for our loss began to unfold in that room.  The overwhelming and immediate heartache seemed to swallow every one of us in that single moment.
One month ago I watched as my dad left his home for the final time.  Covered by a homey blue quilt and looking to be in a peaceful sleep, we each took turns saying another good-bye.  As he was wheeled from the house the awful realization of what was happening brought increasing heartache.
One month ago today I shared in the task of calling those closest to us, our family and friends to let them know about dad.  There was no easy way to share the news about dad but it had to be done.   Some were shocked, many were surprised, but ALL were saddened to hear of his ‘passing’.        
Today marks one month since my dad died.  Attempts to soften the word with phrases like ‘passed away’ do nothing to lessen the hurt and pain that comes with the word.  That is because one month ago when our lives were forever changed by a single moment and our realities will never be the same.
 It’s only been a month.  The hurt is still so raw and real.  Some days it seems like it was only yesterday that we were keeping vigil by his side.  Perhaps that is because I can so vividly recall the details of that day.  Other days it seems like longer.  I think that may be because I feel like I lost dad twice.  I lost my strong, healthy and clear-minded dad months ago.
Time will heal…this I have been told.  It’s only been a month.  The pain hasn’t lessened… I think I am going to need a lot of time for a lot of healing.
God has my dad in heaven but I have him in my heart…..
I love you dad!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Moment to moment.....

Grief you are neither my friend nor foe,
Just a necessary path I travel on the way to letting go.

Letting go of the fear, the heartache and the unbearable pain,
To face the fact that my life has been forever changed.

Time, faith and love are the only things that can serve to heal,
To mend the brokenness and hurt that are still so raw and real.

Hearing that he is in a better place does little to ease the ache
Though it's true, from that some comfort I should take.

Moment to moment is how I travel your path today,
Never knowing what may be coming my way.

Overwhelming sadness, heartache or tears....
Prayers or encouragement of loved ones near.

So grief you will likely follow me for some time
Until the missing piece of my heart I somehow find.


When your world crumbles and shatters into pieces around you it makes it time to keep up with time or days.  Everything for me is now measured in moments.  With the exception that it was three weeks ago today that he took his final breath, two weeks from last Friday that we laid dad to rest.  Last Thursday was what should have been his 73rd birthday.  I am afraid  I will now forever mark time by his date of death. 

The year of the 'Firsts' are the hardest, or so I have been told.
We spent our first Thankgiving without him...It was obviously not a time for celebration for our family this year.  We visited his grave on his 'first' birthday away from us.  We now have Christmas peering around the corner.  I'm not certain how to navigate the rest of this holiday season.  The music, the movies, the general atmosphere has not stirred me this year.  Decorating the tree...that stood unfluffed and undecorated for over a week in my living room is a testament to that.  I'm not saying that I could be confused as the Grinch right now but it wouldn't be a far leap.

As I dare to edge back into some semblance of normal routine with home and work life I have tried hard to keep my emotions in check and find balance within my day.  Admittedly there have been some very near brushes with a breakdown that easily would be equal to a Steal Magnolia moment.  People mean well and I understand that, however, it is neither reassuring or comforting to be repeatedly told that dad is no longer suffering or is in a better place.  Of course he is.  I told that to myself repeatedly the first few days after his death.  My head knows heart?  Not so much.  I am selfish, I am spoiled and I would rather be here with and forever.  See now the reason for the movie reference?
I can so easily identify with the emotion as probably anyone can that has experienced the loss of a loved one. 

This blog may not reflect it, but I am truly trying to find some peace and at least find some contentment in the season.  Daily, I try to realize the many blessings I have surrounding me and be thankful for each of them. 

I would love to be able to mold some of the sadness into gladness.  To that end I have decided that each year on dad's birthday I will make it my goal to do something in remembrance of him...something positive, a good deed or gesture, big or small, it will be done in honor of him. 

Missing you on your birthday and every day dad....