There are some movies that no matter how many times you see them, if they are on as you scroll through the TV, its in all probability that you will stop scrolling and watch whatever is left of it. There are many of these such movies for me, but the #1 at the top of the list and has remained there since the first time I saw it is The Shawshank Redemption. I am not sure that I could adequately explain to you WHY that is the case or WHY this particular movie, I just know that if I was looking for something else to watch, whatever it may have been goes right out the window if that movie is on. I cannot recite the movie line for line. I have only been able to do that with one movie in my lifetime; Pretty Woman, which may or may not surprise you. I know the outcome of the Shawshank Redemption. I know Red cannot handle life on the outside. I know it all. But there is a line, a very simple line that has sat with me from the moment I first heard it and a line I used to say to my Mom. And I used to say it a lot. Especially when I was frustrated with her. That line is as follows: “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”
There were many reasons that I decided to become a Life Coach. One of them was that I watched how thoughts can terrorize and paralyze a person to the point of leaving them almost completely and totally broken. I watched how a person can get so attached to their limiting beliefs that they felt as if there was no possible way to change that attachment or the outcome it was sure to bring. I watched anxiety and depression debilitate someone to the point that they barely left their home. And in all honesty, if I had not made this career change, those things probably would have eventually happened to me. We can latch on to a belief or a thought or a feeling and we can get as attached as Velcro or Superglue or a leech or whatever kind of analogy you can conjure that would express an almost impossible detachment. We hold on to that thought for dear life. Even if it is the worst possible thought we could have. We cannot possibly let it go. Sometimes we hold so tightly we could not even imagine our lives without that thought. And it is when we do this that we get busy dying.
My example of watching this happen to someone is an incredibly personal one. I watched my Mom become a shell of a human being and tried desperately to reroute the course she was on. A route that I never put her on but felt obligated to steer her away from. I tried physically, mentally, emotionally and financially to redirect her to no avail. I have more tools in my toolbox now that may have been beneficial and could have worked, unfortunately I am far to late to actually be able to save her life. However, I can still save my own. And am certainly more equipped than I have ever been to help someone else detach their own terrorizing thoughts.
This entire concept just came to the forefront of my mind because I was at a crossroads in trying to make a personal decision and if you know me at all, you know that I weigh all of the scenarios and possible outcomes, especially when it comes down to BIG decisions. The decision may not have been big to everyone else, but that is where we get in a lot of trouble, when we start worrying about what “everyone” else thinks. Who cares? Ultimately, when I was struggling to make this decision, the line of this movie came in to my head and I instantly felt sad, because the last time I used it was with my Mom, almost pleading her to get busy living. And then I felt a tremendous amount of guilt. It was not that she didn’t want to, trust me on that, it was because her mind would not allow her to conceive of experiencing joy, no matter how bad she physically wanted it. And that reminder, the remembering of the last time that sentence came in to my head and out of my mouth, was the very thing that helped me make this decision. It is a simple choice really. Get busy living or get busy dying. In this case, I chose to get busy living.
If you are faced with things like that or any of that rings true or you are also stuck on a limiting belief or a thought that causes you suffering, I would simply say, how can I help?
Sorry it has been awhile since you have heard from me, I have been a bit busy reinventing my life! About every 10 years it feels as if I need to shake things up a bit, mostly because I have never really fully understood who I was or what I was meant to be or do. It is really sad to me how many of us spend lifetimes trying to figure this out. If we could have just known earlier in life, how much more gratifying would life be? OR if we could have been told it doesn’t matter what you want to be right now, it may not be what you want to be some day later down the line and that is OK if it changes. I cannot say that I have not enjoyed every one of my “reinventions of thyself,” but definitely some more than others. If you summarized my life’s inventions in a headline it would look something like this:
Woman manages corporate fitness center, community fitness center, bartends and waits tables, paints houses, paints government ammunition tubes, handles steel fabrication bids, buys a bar and builds amazing pizzas, works on a cruise ship for two weeks, takes pictures for county taxes, orders art supplies and becomes a Life Coach.
That is an awful lot of reinventing but enough about where I have been.
It has been one year and 4 months since my Mom left this earth and while I think about her every single day in some capacity, there are some days more than others. Kristina and I have traveled out of town the past few weekends and with each trip, my heart got heavier and heavier almost to the point that I would describe myself as melancholy. I did my best to enjoy the trips, the visits with friends and family, the sights, but through all of them something was missing and I could not put my finger on it until we arrived home from our last trip. In the past, whenever we would go on these adventures of ours, my Mom would require I let her know when we were leaving, she would check in at least multiple times of the day, “where are you now, what are you doing, who are you with, where are you staying…” and she would insist I let her know when we were coming home and when we got home. Not in town. Home. “Do not text me that you made it to town, text me when you are in your house.” I realized that I was no longer doing that. That there was no one out there who cared about any of these things the way she cared about them. There was no one on this planet who cared like that. And it made me wholly and completely sad to my core. And I find myself, when I am in a place that she loved, feeling about as sad as a human can feel and it should be the opposite. I should be remembering the moments and finding joy in them. We recently went to Galena, IL, one of Kristina and I’s favorite places on the planet, and all I could think about was her. The times we have taken her, where she liked to eat, how she would have spent hours in one store and been upset when it was time to leave stating she had only been able to go to one store. This is not the first time this has happened. Me being in a place she loved and not getting that memory out of my brain long enough to enjoy the moment. I know it requires work. To remind yourself to be happy in the moments that may make you sad. Its hard work. I just know that when I am going somewhere, when I arrive somewhere, and when I leave somewhere, it is no longer the same for me. There is a vacancy in my life that cannot be filled by another person. For the record my Sister likes to have my itinerary and to know when I get home, but God love her (and she already knows this) it is not the same. It will never be the same.
We currently have a teenager and two young adults who get wildly annoyed that we like to know their comings and goings and I want so desperately to tell them to cherish this, to appreciate that someone is that vested in their lives because someday that someone will be gone and you will be left with nothing but a vacancy.
On March 26th, 2020 my life as I knew and understood it to be prior to this day, changed forever. On this day my Mom took her last breath. My Mom could easily be described as the single most important person in my life. I had spent at least half of my life trying to keep her well, something that proved to be impossible. I was asked recently in one of my therapy sessions why I felt this was my responsibility…to take care of her. The answer I thought was simple. She had always taken care of me, is that not what I was supposed to do? Take care of her back? But it proved to be deeper than that. The answer turned out to be because no matter what the circumstance, no matter what the problem, no matter what had happened, my Mom always chose me. When I came out and told her I was not going to ever have a traditional relationship for the rest of my life and crushed her soul, not right away, but eventually, she chose me. Over family, over friends, over all of it. She chose me. And once she did, she never looked back. If she did she never told me she regretted it. She would choose any of her kids over any of that, any day of the week. Taking care of my Mom was an honor and a privilege even if it was the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life and even if the end result meant I failed.
It took a year of intense self reflection, a lot of therapy, practicing mindfulness and gratitude, just a lot of inner work, to process this grief. It will never, ever go away, but it can become more tolerable. In the middle of that work my wife urged me to take an online college course called The Science of Wellbeing. (I can officially say I passed the course and have a graduate certificate through Yale!-if you knew my Dad you would know what a great time he would have had spinning THAT tale.) It was during that course that I had many major epiphanies. The most important being, I am not doing what I was put on this Earth to do. Do any of us ever really truly know what that is, probably not, but I knew for SURE it was not what I was currently doing. So I went to work, albeit very quietly, to become what I was truly destined to be.
My last day at my current employment is this Friday, May 28th. In a decision that I am sure will stun and shock some, I am giving up a well paying job with excellent benefits to pursue a career as a Life Coach. I have been coaching for several months now and trying to do that outside of my 40+hours a week was becoming too overwhelming. I want to devote all of my time and energy into completing my certification. While certification is not mandatory to start a practice, it is important to me to complete one and I should have that done by the end of this year. I am accepting new clients with the caveat that this business is a work in progress and it will only continue to grow! If you would like more information about this, please don’t hesitate to reach out! After the 28th, my personal Facebook page will have plenty of information!
I am not a person who is into burning bridges unless I am using them to light my way, so you will not find me bashing my current employer or saying negative things about them. The job no longer served me, it is that simple. I worked very hard at it, I gave it every ounce of myself and more but at the end of the day it brought me more heartache than joy. I decided to choose joy and therefore chose to let go of something that was secure, that I was familiar with, that I could rely on. It is a giant leap of faith but one I know my Mom would say, this will work out. A very, very good current classmate of mine said to me “take the leap…the bridge will appear after you jump.” It was and is 100% true.
Yes I am scared, yes I may be a little crazy, but I have never been good at being in a box. When I am coaching my clients there is a fire in my soul that has maybe never, ever existed. It is an incredible feeling to be able to help someone else sort out their own roadblocks and stuck thoughts to help THEM move past an immovable moment or situation. I feel alive again. And there really are no words to explain that, I just know a part of me died when she did. And for the first time since she passed, I believe the part of me that died is the part that was holding me back from living a life that honored me and my own integrity. We spend an awful lot of time living our lives for other people…our spouse, our children, our friends, our employer. It takes a lot of work to realize no one is living ours for us…so we have to. We are truly all we have. I just know that when I work with a person and truly learn how to walk a mile in their moccasins or what it would even be like to…it makes me realize I made the right choice.
I look forward to answering any questions about this change and am prepared to hear a little bit of everything, just know I am right with myself and very happy and at peace with this decision. I also want to thank my wife, in ways I will never live long enough to thank her for, for her unwavering support in this decision and her always making me believe I had something more to give the world. Without her I doubt I would have ever even entertained this idea. Thank you Kristina, I love you to all of the beaches (and mountains) and back!
It is inconceivable to me that you are gone. It is inconceivable to me that you have been gone a year. It is inconceivable to me that I cannot see you. It is inconceivable to me that your light no longer shines. I have spent an entire year trying to figure out how to reach you…touch you…hear you. I have spent an entire year trying to find the little girl who got lost, I mean really lost, without you. I have spent an entire year convincing my grown ass self to tell that little girl that is was OK to be lost. I have spent an entire year justifying why this felt different than losing Dad. It just does. It just did. I have spent an entire year trying to comprehend the word orphan or how or why I became one.
My therapist said something to me today that I will carry with me for awhile. First she asked what I thought of how far I have come this past year. I responded with, oh you know, I feel pretty good I guess…feel like I am on the right path…feel like I am going in the right direction blah blah blah. She said, “well I feel like you have crossed thousands of miles. Thousands of miles from where we started, from where you started. You are not the person you were when you came here that first day.”
I knew that, I mean I felt it. But the transition happened so quietly, subtly, almost incognito. Stealth like. It was very gradual. It was very slow, it was very painful. I learned very early on to embrace that pace and feeling. Otherwise I doubt miles would have been crossed. Inches maybe, but not miles. It reminded me of my favorite excerpt from one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost:
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening- “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.“
Grief feels like that. That you have miles to go before you sleep. They have been really long, awful painful miles. But I had to cross every single one of them, or quite simply the “chapters after you” just could not exist. There will be many chapters, some of them easy, some of them hard, most all of them will have this lingering sense of absence as every single thing your kids or grandkids did was important to you so I know you would not want to miss a single thing. I promise you however, that you will be deeply missed.
Tomorrow it will be one year since you left this world. I pray that you are on the other side, YOU HAVE TO BE right? Just through a dimension I cannot see or feel, but right freaking there? You have to be…just right…freaking…there. It is inconceivable to me that you would be any other place.
I have spent a lot of this past year beating myself up for not saving you. I made you promises that I did not fulfill. I know now it was not my job or responsibility to do so but I still carry a tremendous amount of guilt over not being able to accomplish that. I would have walked to Texas and back to make you well.
Since we did not yet get to have a service or celebration of life for you (I promise it is coming and I promise it will be as grand as we can muster) I will leave you with a song I know you would have loved at your service. It represents your Irish roots but also so very much of what Dee Dee Jarod and I feel…(and you can thank Dee Dee for it. She found this gem.)
You are so missed. You are so loved. Your absence has left a hole in my heart the same size as the 7th wonder I just visited. Its big, its vast, its scary and it doesn’t feel real.
Your absence is inconceivable to me.
Men of Erin-The Elders Fare thee well me boy as you wonder this night Be not feared in the darkness my heart is your light As you go brave Men of Erin Faith and love by your side I will dream of your peace in the night
Please don’t cry my Mother as you sit by the hearth I will dance your memories with joy in my heart I will go now and pray as I travel this land And live by the lessons you gave
Fare thee well my boy as you wonder this night Be not feared in the darkness my heart is your light As you go brave Men of Erin Faith and love by your side I will dream of your peace in the night
Please don’t cry my Father as you sit by the hearth I will dance your memories with joy in my heart I will go now and pray as I travel this land And live by the lessons you gave
Fare thee well my boy as you wonder this night Be not feared in the darkness my heart is your light As you go brave Men of Erin Faith and love by your side I will dream of your peace in the night
Please don’t cry my Children As you stand by my Grave I have danced your memories all of my days I will go now and pray as I travel this land And live be the lessons you gave
I had never in my entire life watched a human being fade away. It is unreal. If you have ever watched a sunset, I mean really watched it, from the time it reaches the horizon to its complete descent, it is sort of like that. One minute its bright and warm and beaming and the next it is just gone. At the beginning it looks like nothing is happening and then it disappears…as if your mind made up that is was really even there to begin with.
March 12th, 2020 was not the same for all of us. Yes it was the beginning of a world wide lockdown for a global pandemic, (something I could not fathom would happen in my lifetime,) but for some of us it was also the beginning of two of the hardest weeks of our lives. I had started a journal on this exact day one year ago…I only wrote in it for one day…here is an an excerpt…
“My Mom is currently in the hospital dying. Ready to go home to die. I am not sure I am prepared to do this. I cannot believe she has spent her whole life in misery and she will die that way too. Unfathomable to me. I can only pray that her journey is quick and peaceful although I know it will not be.”
Several times this week I have had a lump in my throat. It comes out of nowhere, I have no idea when it will happen. Grief is definitely an uninvited guest. Shows up whether you want it to our not. Ironically there are certain times of the year this happens in regards to memories of my Dad too. This lump is Mom. This lump is a memory my mind will forever hold on to. Our brains are really good at that. My therapist says it is because “the tissues hold the issues.” Meaning that our bodies hold on to the pain, the suffering. Like a forever memory that comes in and out. It is amazing to me the ways in which it can manifest itself and when it chooses to do so. It will not matter where I am in the world or if I even knew what day it was, my body will remember this forever. I won’t need a journal entry or a Facebook “on this day last year,” my body will remind me. I may be smiling on the outside but it literally feels like my heart could explode in a thousand million pieces.
A year ago today the fading of the most profound being in my life began. The next two weeks are going to be very painful. I have a few things planned to try to help with that but it will be there, this memory, going along for the ride. There are so many things I wish I had done with her. So many places I wish I could have taken her that she could have seen, that she could have done. I can only carry her to those places in my heart now.
This fading…this disappearing…it is an uncomfortable dance of holding on and letting go.
For reasons I cannot explain, when I hear this song, it reminds me of the fading. It is achingly painful and beautiful at the same time.
One of the hardest things about losing my parents and trust me when I say it has all been hard, has been removing parts of their lives from mine. For example, their personal affects. I still have Dads not so smart flip phone. I laugh when I see it but try to keep it somewhere I don’t see it very often. I still have his watch, a camo flannel shirt I will never wear in a million years…the contents of his pockets in the last pair of jeans he wore, jeans he considered his “going out jeans.”
I have some slippers mom used to wear… entirely too small for my feet but I put them on anyway just because I know at some point she had them on her little feet. A tube of lotion she never opened but must have wanted to at some point because she bought it. A pillow case she used to lay her head on. Her favorite blanket. I cannot make myself get rid of them. Any of it. Even if I have them places I cannot see. I just need to know they are there. And maybe I will have them forever and that will be ok too.
But I have held on two things that I am afraid I am going to need to let go of. Their phone numbers. At some point I removed Dad from my “favorites” which if you are like me, your favorites contain the only 5 people you probably actually physically talk to on the phone anymore. I was so sad when I did that though. Out of sight out of mind. And sometimes his absence can escape my reality and that makes me sad too. A couple days ago my Brother sent my sister and I a screen pick/grab, whatever you call them, with a notification telling him that Dad’s Cell had joined snapchat. If he is anything like me that was like a giant punch in the gut.
Today, while moving my phone I called my Mom. Who is still listed in my favorites. When I noticed my phone was dialing someone and noticed it was Mom, I almost threw up. This is not the first time I have done this either. But a sensation I cannot really describe overcame me, with an almost “what if she answered” thought tagging behind the gut wrenching sensation. I hung up as fast as I could. Now scared because WHAT IF SHE REALLY DID?
What happened next was sad on every level of sad. 50 shades of sad. Mom called back. I almost could not answer, but at my core knew I could not live with myself if I didn’t. I answered a very trepid “hello.” The caller said “hi this is Courtney, I missed your call.” To prevent Courtney from getting what would surely sound like a lunatic having a meltdown I simply said, I am sorry Courtney I dialed your # by accident. And that was it. It was sadly not my Mom saying “I was in the bathroom (always where she was when she missed a call) what did you need.” My heart broke all over again. For many reasons but the most important one being I now have to remove her from my favorites and really need to remove her from my phone book entirely but I just can’t. I also can’t be accidentally calling Courtney either. I also secretly wished it would be one of those stories where I could start calling or randomly texting this person just to see “Mom” come up and then thought that would require extra grief counseling and also Courtney didn’t sound interested in having that kind of relationship with me.
I wish when someone passes that we could retire their phone numbers like we retire sport stars jersey’s. These people that leave us are legends too, why should anyone get the opportunity to use a number that someone else has had for years? Until that happens I will remove Mom from my favorites…but “Mom” and “Dad” will probably remain in my phonebook to infinity. I just cannot let go of them.
The month of March has officially begun today. For all of my life until the year 2020, the month of March was my favorite month of all. At least in the top 3. I am a huge lover of St. Patrick’s Day. Huge. It is/was my favorite holiday. However…last year the month of March was the last month of my mothers life. And just like that, it was no longer in my top 3.
That being said, I just finished reading a book that stated we need to laugh NO LESS than 30 times a day. This came as quite the shock since I am confident that for a very long time now I have not managed to laugh even HALF of that amount. How pathetic and sad is that? But seriously, there is not much humor out there right now. In fact, we went to the comedy section of Netflix to watch something to help remedy this yesterday, only to have it play Kodachrome, which was in no way shape or form funny on any level. Fantastic movie, nothing funny about it though.
This brings me to my point. In an effort to again, remedy that sad state of affairs my laughing situation is in I thought I would go back and find some really great stories involving my Mom that will make you laugh. Make ME laugh actually. And the first one that came to mine was in regards to my niece Bella’s guinea pig. This story originally appeared in my first blog (Totally In A Tiff-dated August 23rd, 2011)
If you can read this without laughing, you too need to seek serious help with your LPD (laughs per day) as well. This picture is not of that night, but one where my Sister and I were laughing as hard as I was laughing that night. (Kindly disregard the gentleman in the back who clearly needs to improve his LPD’s as well.)
Jasper was Belle’s friendly Guinea Pig. Jasper died of Cancer. Shocker. Like we didn’t have enough of that in our lives with humans. I am not sure how Sister knew he had Cancer, she can’t remember. She claims she took him to a vet, and he had an impacted bowel or something. She can’t remember what she had for breakfast so I don’t know how reliable these facts are. Truth is we don’t really remember when she got Jasper, or how long he lived or what year he passed. I was back from Minnesota, so some time after 2002. Bella wanted a pet so bad. Anything. Really she wanted a dog, but she would take a hamster, gerbil, guinea pig, whatever. Her Dad told her she could have a guinea pig but the first minute the house smelled like his cage, he was gone. She promised she would take care of it. She, as she would prove later in life as well, stuck to her word and religiously took care of this thing. This guinea pig had the cleanest cage in the tri state area. Jasper became Bella’s best friend. She confided in him. He never talked back. She could tell him all of her troubles and secrets and he wouldn’t judge her. They were pretty tight. When Jasper got sick, it was a very tense two weeks around the Compound. The Compound is what we call where we live, because we all live practically on top of each other. My Brother lives up the street two blocks, my grandparents live across the street, my Aunt Joyce (my dad’s sister) lives right next door. Down the hill from her is her son Neil, my cousin, and in front of Neil’s house is my Sister. There are a few people who aren’t “family” scattered in there. I am not totally sure how that happened…but anyway…the Compound was electric with the news that Jasper was not doing well.
For two weeks Bella was a mess. I guess it was a blessing that Bella had a heads up because when he did actually pass, she was only slightly prepared, but completely devastated. Two problems. Her Dad was still at work. My Dad was still in the field. It was fall, harvest time. That left Ethan to prepare a burial spot for Jasper. She wanted him buried out by the Apple tree I believe. Some fruit tree, or maybe it’s not a fruit tree at all, it’s behind the house for the love. It’s dusk and my mom comes to my room and says “get dressed, it’s time.” “Time for what? Good lord it is almost dark and I am in my jammies.” “Jasper didn’t make it. We are having his funeral now. Your Dad probably won’t make it in time. Bella is a mess and we have to be there for her.” Oh dear God is she serious? Are we getting dressed to go out in the freezing cold to go to a funeral for a guinea pig at dark? Yes, yes we are. And I start laughing. Laughing so hard I am crying. I am trying to convince Mom she has finally gone off the deep end, she is yelling at me to hurry up. What I am about to tell you is as surreal to say today as it was to experience way back then. We arrive at the Boyers just in time to be asked if we want to include any special memento in his casket, (shoe box.) Oh my hell, they have all lost their minds. A memento? I never spent a “momento” with this thing, I sure as hell don’t have something to put in his box to remember me by. My Mom says, “Belle what do you have so far?” Well, she had his water bottle, his food dish, his log house, something to wrap him in and her school picture. I do not recall what Dee Dee put in because I was too busy feeling like I had entered the twilight zone. Ethan said “I am putting in a chunk of apple, he loved apples” and Mom, like she was the only one with the brilliant idea, screams “CARROT!!! Put him in a carrot, he loves those!” The procession proceeded out the back door to the burial site that Ethan was so kind to prepare just minutes before our arrival. What happened next I am sure will be discussed at my judgment day, but I couldn’t help it. Dead silence. Mom says, “Everyone hold hands. It will also help with the cold.” Are you serious right now with this nonsense? Dee Dee says, “Would anyone like to offer up some words of love for Jasper.” I start laughing…get an elbow to the gut from mom. I am sure Bella said something to the effect of I love and miss you Jasper, you were my best friend, I can’t believe you are gone. Dee Dee’s went something like we will miss you Jasper, have fun with your other guinea pig friends in heaven. Mom’s was to the degree of her being so glad he was no longer suffering. How much more at peace he would be. We get to Ethan. And I swear straight out of National Lampoons Vacation came his eulogy. Clark Griswald delivering Aunt Edna’s eulogy: O God, ease our suffering in this, our moment of great despair. Yea, admit this kind and decent woman into thy arms of thine heavenly area, up there. And Moab, he lay us upon the band of the Canaanites, and yea, though the Hindus speak of karma, I implore you: give her a break. Ethan Boyer delivering Jasper’s eulogy: “Dear God, he was a good pig. The best really. Couldn’t ask for a better guinea pig. Jasper, give our love to the sweet baby Jesus and Grandma Rosie when you get to Heaven. I hope they have lots of apples in Heaven. Mom piping in, “and carrots, don’t forget carrots.” “Yes apples and carrots, he loved them both, but apples more.” Take care Jasper as you travel to where all the pets go and find Belle a new best friend. Please. Amen.” Dee Dee says, “Tiff, would you like to say anything?” At this point, I lost it. I had held it in the entire time and was literally about ready to pee my pants, in fact, I think I did. I am talking doubled over, gut wrenching laughing and everyone is screaming at me to be more aware of Belle’s time of need and not to make light of the situation, this is not a laughing matter. Quite possibly the hardest I have ever laughed in my life. I cannot write this right now without literally laughing myself to tears. We have flashlights…it is dark…it is cold…we are burying a guinea pig and they asked Clark Griswald to reside over the funeral services? I think I have officially deemed my family as certifiable at this point. Who does this? To make matters worse we are still holding hands and my mother asks us to recite the Lord’s Prayer. And. We do. I was asked to leave promptly after the services and not to stay for the light menu that was being served. Cheese, crackers, apples and carrots. I was also never asked to attend another Boyer pet funeral again. The following was an addendum added the day after the original post. It was brought to my attention late last evening, once Bella had a chance to read it, that I only forgot one really key, but yet hysterical, fact in the story of Jasper and his services. Bella missed his death, meaning she wasn’t present for it. Her mother forced her (and this I believe) to serve pizza at the Maquon Methodist Church for the Halloween party. She thinks she was in the 5th grade. There is a lot of irony in that she was serving the Lord, while Jasper was heading to him. This however, still angers Bella, as she should have been there. And frankly, after the ordeal we went through to send him off, yes she should have been there when he went into the other world. This also explains why Mom was so excited to leave the house. She hated Halloween, not when we were little, but we never had any trick or treaters and she would much rather shut the porch light off and sit in her bed and inhale ice cream cones. This gave us a reason to shut the light off and leave. I think that sums it up. R.I.P. Jasper, I hope your little log home is still doing well. P.S. Dee Dee brought carrots to work today.
I do not know who “they” are, as I have personally never met them, but “they” say that it is believed that the last sense to go before we die is our hearing. That you are supposed to talk to your loved ones as if they could still hear you. To expect that they still can…that they are still listening. I find a lot of irony in this, if this is true, because while we are living, we are very very bad at it.
I was listening (no pun intended, truly listening) to a podcast the other day about well, listening. More or less about how no one is anymore. Our children are not, their heads are in their phones. Our spouses/partners are most likely not listening either. Bills to pay, errands to run, chores and work to do. Our bosses, managers and co-workers are not, there is too much to do, deadlines to meet. The world is loud right now. It is loud on the TV, loud colors, shapes, sounds. It is loud in public. It is loud at work. It is loud on social media. If you have a bunch of personal emails like myself, it is loud there too. Our pets are loud. It is loud outside. Everyone wants something from you, but no one is really listening. And I mean no one.
Everything is so damn loud. To the point that when you try to shut that off, to truly listen, to turn off the noise, the actual sound of silence can be deafening. And I mean brutal. In practicing meditation this past year I struggled greatly with this. I could not turn off the noise. I even practiced at different times of the day (do my best work in the AM by the way.) It is getting better, but to put it mildly, the struggle was real. At the most quiet, it had never been more loud. The further I went with this the more I researched and there is something to be said about paying attention to what the noise is actually saying, but that is for a different blog. Our “quiet” noise actually has something to say and can give us some great intuitive clues if we would only pay attention and listen.
What the podcast made me realize is how accustomed to the noise we have become. I know when our power goes off and the natural hum of electricity that is there (but you don’t know it is there until the power goes out,) stops…when that shuts off, it is very very painfully quiet. And it is painfully quiet because we have grown so used to the noise. That feeling, that phenomenon is similar to what mediation feels like for me. What in the hell am I supposed to do with this silence? What am I supposed to resolve with this nothingness? A lot actually…if you listen to it. But since no one is listening, including myself, a lot of really great stuff gets missed.
In my Moms last two weeks on Earth I mostly bossed her around. I was not listening. And when she stopped talking back and I had nothing to help me know what she wanted or needed, it was then that I really had to start listening. And it was then that I heard nothing. Moms passing was not text book and to this day, to this very moment, it has driven me insane. The handy fliers they gave us, thanks, not her. The books friends have given and suggested. Nope, that was not how it went down either. She did not follow the script. She didn’t profess some dying secret. She didn’t bestow some enlightened words of wisdom. She didn’t rehash old wounds or mend broken fences. She didn’t mention dreams or visions, or speak of anyone who had passed before her. She didn’t talk about going on a trip. She honestly didn’t talk. She wholly, completely and totally said NOTHING. The week before it got real bad (and they were both bad) I asked her if she had seen my father. She was irritated and said, “No, and I hope I don’t. I am not entirely sure how I would start that conversation.” And that was that.
The day I realized that she was listening was the day she uttered the last full sentence she would ever say to Dee Dee and I. We were checking her vitals, changing her clothes, getting her to the bathroom, talking about her “progression.” She point blank said “I am not dying today.” She also pointed to my shirt (Magnolia Silos) and said “I will not make it there.” I did not know at the time it would be one of the last things she would say or how sad it would make me to remember it. I just remember thinking, I better be careful, she is listening. I know shortly before her last few breaths Kristina and I laid with her and played Frank Sinatra’s My Way and just watched her. Of course I told her I loved her and had no earthly idea what I was going to do without her and I told her I was sorry. Of course I have always left that moment, that experience, hoping she was still listening, hoping she could still hear me.
If it is the last thing to go, the last sense that we have to leave our body, then my Mom spent the better part of two weeks just listening. And I am telling you she heard a lot. She didn’t respond, she didn’t argue, she didn’t laugh, she didn’t cry. She just listened. How quiet that must have been for her. But also sad for me, because in her quiet she didn’t give us any insight into the magical quiet place she was residing. I hope it is where she found some peace, I will personally never know.
I say this to you now. Implore you really. Please start listening. Start listening while you still have the chance to respond and react. Listen to all of the things and all of the people and all of the places that matter to you that are trying to tell you something. Put the phone down. Turn the TV off. Close the laptop. Put down the book. Stop the car. Take out the ear buds and listen. Honest to God wholeheartedly listen. Don’t tell me you can hear. Tell me you are listening.
I used to think wishing someone a happy heavenly birthday was silly. Until my life depended on it. Until it was the only way I could say it to two of the most important people in my life. Happy Heavenly Birthday Dad. On Earth we would have taken you out to eat. It was probably your favorite thing to do on your birthday. And there would have been a yellow cake with chocolate frosting…and we would have fought over the middle pieces. In Heaven, I am not sure what you are doing but I somehow do not think there are places to eat or cake to be had, maybe I am wrong, but I just do not feel like you need all that up there…I think its magical without it. I watched a documentary the other day called Surviving Death. A show for all intents and purposes proving that there is in fact, life after death. I have always believed there was but often times have questioned if I believed that only because of the faith system I was raised up with. Or was I just at some point in my life TOLD there was, therefore I believed it? Either way, I am now more convinced then ever that there is. That there is just too much energy to a persons soul for it to just merely fade to nothing. I know in my heart I will see you again someday. I know it will be amazing when I do. For now I am choosing to believe that you are literally just on the other side of this one way glass. Since I know you can see I us, I don’t have to tell you the following, but I will anyway. I know you see me suffering, losing Mom was a lot. Too much some days. In my dreams you guys are young…vibrant, full of life. I guess that is how my own soul wants to remember you. I am OK though. And starting down a path that will be life changing for me. I know you are watching and guiding me and I cannot wait to get there. I know you see Dee Dee doing really well. She is insane right now with her own health and fitness journey and we both know she would have tried to get you on it! You would be very proud of Jarod, his life too has changed in many directions. He has a beautiful home and has finally reached some incredible peace. You would most definitely love going on his boat ramp tour. You would probably spend a lot of time in NC. Ethan David is moving right up the ladder at Menards. So much so it is probably the only place that you would shop now. He has his own place for the first time in his life and while I know you know how hard that was for DD, you also know it was necessary for both of them. Bell Ree is moving and shaking in Nebraska. While she is often incredibly homesick and misses Mom terribly, you were a huge inspiration and continue to be to her. I know how proud you are of her right now. Dalton James is going to Grad School. Is that not crazy? Remember when we didn’t know if he would ever leave his room? He is going to do great big things in his life. Kolbie Jordan is currently doing some self discovery, to which you would have no qualms. You would assure us all that she will be fine and figure her stuff out…that she is more than capable of taking care of herself. I am sad for all of them that the did not get to spend more time with you. I hope in some place in their hearts, they know how big a fan you were of them all. I do not know what Birthdays are like in Heaven, I just know you are having one. Maybe every day is your birthday up there…either way, I hope wherever you are, whatever you are doing that you know how much I love you and what I would I would give to tell you Happy Birthday to your face. I love you Dad.
I have tried to sit down and collect my thoughts for several weeks now, but in what can only be classified as one of the most challenging years of my life, I have really struggled to put those thoughts in to words. When my Mom started her hospice journey the world began to lock down due to a global pandemic. I walked in to her home knowing my life was about to drastically change, I was just never prepared for how greatly it would. Life as I knew it ended the moment she took her last breath. The next morning when I woke up not only was one of the most important pieces of the puzzle that is me gone, but life as we knew it outside of that was gone too…simply disappeared. I heard the word quarantine in my life, I just had never had to apply it. Had Mom chosen hospice just a few more days, hours later really, we may not have been able to spend her last days on Earth with her. I think about that a lot. How one choice, one decision, one move in a different direction could have changed the whole ending.
A song, a person, a gesture, a face, a noise, a light, any number of these and other things can trigger that catastrophe of ugly crying that can ensue if those hit at just the right moment. You have no idea when that will be or what will do it, but it is physically impossible to stop once it starts. My Aunt Michelle shared the song I am including in this post with me, simply saying “it reminds me of your mom.” It took me several weeks to listen to it, but once I did I knew why.
In the moments that I really struggle with her death, I try to imagine this very scene. That when God took her back, he most certainly said Hallelujah, You’re Home. I try to imagine this very intently because I cannot conceive of any other scenario. I do appreciate people who say she is in a better place (but honestly cannot confirm that because I have never been.) I do appreciate people who say she is at peace (but honestly I have no idea, she had very little peace on Earth and a very unpeaceful death.) The people that say these things say them because they believe. I believe too, some days are harder than others. I cannot imagine a soul like hers just ending. Just disappearing in to a big black void. Her soul was too big for that. It had too much energy.
The truth of the matter is that we had been watching my Mom die from the moment her mother did. My mom was never the same person after my Grandma Rosie died. Whatever pieces of my moms puzzle that my grandma held together (because that is what Moms are supposed to do, hold your puzzle pieces, its up to us to put them together…)whatever those pieces were, they fell apart when my grandma took her last breath. Mom was never the same. If you knew her before and you knew her after, you knew there was a before and after and after was brutal. She did her best to find the beauty in things, but it was never the same for her, not one single part of her life. So in all honesty, as my sister so eloquently put it once, we have been grieving the loss of her for as long as we can remember.
I have struggled since March with this knowledge. That the same thing may happen to me that happened to my Mom. That Tiffany “before” will not be Tiffany “after.” And that is a fact of life honestly, I cannot possibly be the same person I was before this loss I know that. I just can’t. But my biggest fear is that my puzzle pieces would be scattered and I would not know how to put them back together. It takes enormous amounts of effort some days just to keep all our puzzle pieces in the same box. And then it dawned on me that my entire life I have been trying to put those pieces together, to see what the picture would show. We don’t come with a picture on the front of a box to tell us what it “should” look like, but we sure have it in our head what it is “supposed” to look like don’t we? If I close my eyes, our puzzles look like one giant horizontal landscape. The pieces fill in as we go through life. The picture becomes clearer. To the right of the puzzle is a big pile of pieces. The important part is knowing all of those pieces will show us something. It is not what it will show us that is the key, but keeping all of the pieces together so that it will. There are parts of my puzzle that are incredibly painful to see put together. My accident, the loss of my father, the loss of my beloved Brodie…the loss of my Mom. It takes enormous amounts of effort to look at the put together parts some days, and it takes even more effort to get yourself to understand that what is coming can be beautiful or it may be brutal, but you have to keep building it. And my biggest fear is that I would just put the box away and stop. It would just stop, right here, right now. This is it. This is enough.
We are all puzzles. Odd shaped pieces just trying to find the space that we fit in to. I know my Mom would not want me to put my puzzle away. I know she would be excited to see the next part of the picture. I know she would be supportive. I know she would have an opinion about it.
Sharing this song with you. I did have an angel in the shape of my Mom. God did say Hallelujah, You’re Home when she came in. She loved it here, for reasons I am not sure but man she sure did. I do know that one of her favorite things to do, even if it hurt, was to watch the 3 of us put our puzzles together. I know when she had to let us go to start building the puzzles on our own was one of the hardest days of her life. I know because when I had to let her go to start keeping track of my own pieces was the hardest day of mine.