Thursday, June 14, 2018

Dear Grant,

Dear Grant,

You came home today from your writing class with a funny look on your face. You told me you’d read my blog and that you were surprised I felt so sad. I apologized that you were upset and sent you off to play, but after some thinking I feel like I left some things unsaid. 

Grant, what you’ve seen with my actions and read on my blog isn’t me keeping a secret. It isn’t me being fake or disingenuous. What I’m doing is called
grieving. I know you’ve heard this word before. Grieving is messy and complicated and nobody does it the same way. Sometimes it takes people a long time to feel better after someone dies. Sometimes people don’t grieve at all. This isn’t smart. Don’t do this. It will make you miserable later, sweet boy. Most people grieve like I am. We have moments of feeling really really icky and moments of feeling almost normal. The rest of the time we feel mostly ok and we do the best we can to get thru the really icky times when they come. The tricky thing is we never know what can bring on the icky moments. That’s why sometimes you’ll see me start crying out of nowhere or I’ll be happy one second and sad the next. 

When you grieve it’s important to find something to help you feel better when those icky moments hit. Some people paint or draw. Some people exercise. I write. I get out all the yucky feelings and try to make sense of my jumbled thoughts. This is called processing. When you’re sad or angry your thoughts get jumbled a lot. Sometimes you don’t know what it is that is making you feel bad you just know you do. Processing and writing help me figure it out so I can begin to feel better. Confusion = unhappiness  Clairty = peace Remember this... it can help you even in situations other than grief. 

Grant, something else I want you to know is that I always write the truth. Always. BUT, when I write it’s always at emotional times. It’s when I need to figure things out or I want to get something off my chest. This means that what I write is going to sound very very dramatic. This could be confusing to you (as it was today).  When you read my blog please remember this:  It’s how I felt at that moment, but it’s not how I feel all the time. 

Ganky, you are a writer. You’re a great writer and you have gotten so much better this year! A piece of advice from one author to another: to grow as a writer you’re going to have to read. Reading things that make you think and push you to feel will bring out a new depth in your writing. I’m sorry that my post shocked you, but if you felt something new then maybe it was a good thing. Maybe one day you’ll write an essay about the day you learned how to grieve. 

I love you. 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

One Month

You took your last breath one month ago today. I haven’t heard your voice longer than that. Your last words to me were: “I’m really sick, Lissy”.  They were over phone. Daddy holding it to your ear. So proud that you were conscious and alert enough to talk to me.  I could feel the hope radiating off of him through the distance. You were gone less than a week later. 

This month has been an odd mix of beauty and despair. My grief has taken me on a journey back in time. It’s brought up forgotten memories of my childhood. Times full of laughter and innocence. It’s made me grateful for your mothering in a whole new way. It’s brought my relationship with Laurel into a sharper focus. She will reach for my hand and I’ll dissolve into tears. Her sweet voice says she loves me and I choke back sobs. It’s as if I suddenly understand what is at stake. The sacredness of the mother daughter relationship has moved onto a whole new plain having now given birth to a daughter and witnessed the death of my mother. 

Losing you has unearthed a sense of envy that I haven’t experienced before. I find myself watching families. I watch the hugs, the waves, the familiarity- all knowing that it will break my heart a little more. I just have to see it. I have to see what I once had. What my children won’t have. Am I a glutton for punishment or am I peeling off layers of hurt to find my new normal? I don’t know. 

I still reach for the phone to call you. I have so much to say. I find myself keeping a list like I do for my friends when we haven’t seen each other for awhile. “Tell Mama...”  I wonder how much you’ve seen? I had a moment of anxiety when I was getting rid of something of yours. “Is she watching? Am I making her sad that I’m not keeping this?” Then I decided that you and Aunt Pam were probably giggling at my
angst and I shook my fist heavenward. It felt good to share a joke with you, Mama.  I miss laughing with you. We did so much of that. 

Dad brings me loads of your things to sort through every few days. I now have your beloved Franklin Covey planner that you carried for years. The last inserts are from 2013. They are full of reminders you’d given yourself as your memory started leaving you. Your home phone number. Directions to my house from yours (even though it was only 3 minutes away). I also have the planner I made you a few years ago. The Franklin Covey had become too complicated and I made a simple one in hopes it would help you not forget birthdays, Christmas shopping etc. It didn’t help. Your dementia was too advanced by then. It didn’t have one mark from you in it. It broke my heart that my help had come too late. I am finding so much comfort knowing that you are now whole again. You don’t have to have reminders or help. You aren’t embarrassed anymore. You are perfect and healed. 

Mama, I love you more than words. I miss you every single day. Be happy. Be whole. 


Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Grief is the by far the biggest dichotomy I’ve ever experienced. 

It’s only been two weeks that we’ve been without you, yet it’s already been two weeks. 

I feel raw, exposed, and wounded. Always seeking cover. Happiest when it’s finally dark and I can find asylum under the weight of my blankets. Yet I’m almost offended when my sadness isn’t acknowledged. The cashier chirps “Have a nice day!” and I want to snap at her “My mother is dead. YOU have a nice day”. 

I won’t circle the wagons. I won’t call to my sisters to lean into and cry on. Yet when they come anyway I cling to them as if they are my very breath. Desperate for the light they provide and greedily taking the balm they offer my torn spirit. 

I shun the things that remind me of you. I trim back my rose bushes. I put the photos on the highest shelf. Yet I look for signs everywhere: feathers, cardinals, butterflies.  I dream about you. Frantic plays full of jail cells and chains. I’m being kept from you. How do I get you out?  How much do I owe? I wake up sweaty and sick. 

Oh, Mama. I’m dizzy with the need of wanting you. Yet I’m dizzy with the want of needing to forget. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


Today has been a rough day. It was Muffins With Mom at preschool. I’ve been telling  myself I didn’t have to go, but I woke up feeling like I needed to. Laurel and Rhodes have been so excited about it and I really didn’t want to disappoint them. So with a few deep breaths and lots of prayers in we went. 

I took one look at the crowded room and knew I’d made the wrong decision. I could feel the tears welling up as I prayed that I just get through this breakfast.  I moved us towards the buffet line and asked each twin what they’d like like on their plate.

“Muffin? Strawberries? Yogurt?”
Blank stares 
“Laurel. Rhodes. What do you want to eat?”

Oh, heavens. I might as well be asking them to MAKE me breakfast. 

I fill a plate and we venture out into the crowd to a table. When we get settled they both refuse food and commence to just stare at me. I’ve never felt awkward around my own children but this really was. I pick at a muffin and chat with a few friends who stop by to offer sweet words of condolences (which brings my anxiety way down) and it’s finally time to take the wonder twins to class. By the way, they have never spoken or eaten this entire time. 

After dropping Rhodes and Laurel off in their class I reach for my phone to call mom. It’s my habit to call her after drop off and I know she’d think the awkward muffin breakfast was funny. She loved twin stories. As I’m pressing the button labeled “mom” it hits me that I won’t ever make this call again. Nobody will ever appreciate my stories like she did. She would ask me to repeat parts just to be sure she had the details right for her retelling to daddy later. 

I let the phone fall back into my purse and finish my drive in silence. Tears are streaming and my stomach aches in a way I’ve recently become refamiliar with. It’s taken me awhile to realize what it was. It’s the same feeling I’d get at camp and when I went away to college.  I’m homesick. 

Mama will always be home. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018


The numbness is wearing off and the pain is settling in. I wonder if grief is like surgery. F always tells his patients day three is the worst. 

I find myself at times gasping for a breath I didn’t know I was holding. The tears begin and my chest contracts with an ache I’ve never felt before. Sort of like a charlie horse in my broken heart. It surprises me  mirroring the middle of the night leg cramps I used to get growing up. “Eat bananas” you’d tell me. If only you could give me advice on how to get through this. 

Sleep and Hunger evade me. I force myself to eat but everything tastes like I’ve burnt my tongue. Grief even has a flavor. I try to sleep. I get into bed and stare at the celing. I can hear the cat purring above my head and feel the cool air from the fan. My mind wanders to what the calendar holds tomorrow and I realize it’s the day you will be cremated. I have a fleeting thought that it’s good you won’t be cold anymore. That you hate to be cold. 

I can tell that the kids are starting to wear thin of my tears. Laurel sighs when she catches me crying. I refuse to hide my grief  from them.  You are worth grieving for. Your death has left a space in my heart. In my daily life.  I want your grandchildren to see what mourning looks like. What filling that space with peace and tears and gratitude looks like. They need to learn how to pay tribute in the small corners of the every day. How to honor a family member who sacrificed and suffered. 

Oh, Mama how I miss you. I see you everywhere. In Laurel’s long thin hands. In my climbing roses. In my hot tea in the mornings. I know these small things will bring me comfort in time, but for now they are the salt in my very new raw wound.

I know you are finally whole and complete and it is my turn to ache and be broken. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018


I never knew death was catered until today. After you were gone I heard the nurse tell her trainee “after a patient dies we always call the cafeteria...” I remember being surprised that canceling lunch was their first priority (especially since you were being tube fed). Sometime later I find a cart next to your door. It’s apples, carefully arranged napkins, and tiny creamers on ice look out of place. The chocolate chip cookies are especially jarring. Were we supposed to eat this? Offer it to the funeral home picking you up? Was it a consolation prize for the doctors - better luck next time infectious disease team... have a tangerine? 

The last breath you took looked as if you were getting ready to say something really important. I will always wonder what it was. 

Telling Daddy you were gone will haunt me forever. 

Memories I’d suppressed to guard my heart against the dementia came flooding back: white birthday cakes with pink touch-me-nots; sunburnt shoulders and sandy toes eating sweetened condensed milk out of the can; fresh flowers by my bed every time I came home; planting flowers in the rain  

Mama, who will call me Lissy now? 

Monday, April 2, 2018


To my friend.  You know who you are. 

In life we are all asked to be ambassadors.  Sometimes we choose our cause based on our passions and interests (like my obsession love for fostering kittens) and other times our cause chooses us.  

I always say that I cried for three days when I found out I was pregnant with the twins. This isn't a joke. I literally cried for three days. I started when I saw two perfectly round sacs on the ultrasound screen and I didn't stop until I heard a calm voice in my head say "For I know that plans I have for you..." In case you aren’t familiar that's the beginning of Jeremiah 29:11, a verse that I have relied on more than once in my life for comfort and peace.  I'm convinced that voice was God speaking to me. From then on I accepted that I was now a mom of FIVE and I had two babies coming. As soon as my bump became visible I'd Unknowingly and Unwittingly become a spokesperson for both multiples and large families. Unwanted questions, stares, judgements, and advice are still a part of my daily life. For an introvert this can cause a lot of stress and I'll admit that during my pregnancy and the twins’ infancy I spent a lot of energy figuring out how to avoid the unavoidable. The twins are now four (!) and I've settled into this role. I enjoy comparing notes with other moms of large families and LOVE talking to new moms of multiples.  I might not have chosen this cause, but it's one I've embraced and now enjoy.  

I vividly remember the way the feeling in the room changed when she first brought it up.  Her normally confident- always on the verge of laughter- voice became timid and soft.  I swear I felt a draft. 

"X brought up killing himself last night"

I had no words. Her precious son.  The one who loves my twins and will play with them unasked.  The boy who makes me throw my head back with laughter.  The sweet soul who can "read a room" and intuitively knows when someone is upset or stressed. No. Just No. We talk and text for days.  She and her husband come up with a plan and work hard to get X the help he needs.  They put aside their own fears and ask the hard questions. There are ups and downs, but throughout My Friend remains steady. She is the touchstone X needs.  

Then one afternoon My Friend takes X to the dr.  The nurse is new and isn't aware of X's struggles. She asks for a list of X's medications. When THE ONE is mentioned there is a great pause of judgement.  Eyebrows are raised. Throats are cleared. Awkwardness is felt by all. But my friend, now the ambassador for youth mental health, didn't let the nurse shame her or X. She realizes that she too would have felt concern or even confusion by this a few years ago.  She resists the urge to smack the nurse, and instead shows her usual grace. My Friend repeats the list of medications while hugging her sweet X.  Peace was restored in small exam room. 

Friend, I am so very proud of you.  I know you didn't ask for this role. Nobody would- it is one filled with fear, anxiety, and sadness. You have accepted it with a grace and peace that most would be incapable of. You have used God as your compass and prayer as your balm.  It amazes me how your family continues to thrive and move forward despite this tremendous struggle. This is because of you, sweet friend.  Please know that I am always here and I love you.