Grief

Still Exposed

I sat in the cold office and stared at the posters on the wall across from me. I could feel wisps of cool air on my shoulders, ivory skin poking through the open-backed gown as I waited for an ordinary nurse to come and do an ordinary procedure.

A knock at the door brought my eyes back into focus and I traced my toes, still in socks, across the tile floor.

In walked a tall woman with kind eyes, her blond hair gathered tall on top of her elegant head.

She started asking me ordinary questions and then it happened again.

“Does this run in your family?” she asked with open eyes, her chin tilted up towards me.

“Yes,” I responded “but I can’t remember which kind.”

“Mhmm,” murmured the nurse “Well, it’s pretty common for dad’s not to share their medical histories with their kids.”

I paused. I had choices in this moment.

“More common for the dead ones not to share,” I thought to myself as I dug my gripping hands into my plastic chair.

“Yup, probably true,” I said, looking the nurse straight in the eyes.

Mouth shut, I could feel my jaw clench.

Poor girl – she doesn’t know. Better keep this one to myself. Breathe.

Boom!

Another grief bomb exploded at my feet and I gathered scratchy fabric around my thighs as I turned my face back towards the wall.

“Ready?” she asked.

I said yes and she began.

Shouldn’t they put this kind of information in your charts?

Dad dead. No father references please.

But that’s not how the medical system works and his blood and his health history influences mine.

So we move on. We go about our days.

This last week was full of birthday celebrations. The month of August is a big one for Huey men.

I planned dinners and boiled big pots of salted water to cook refrigerated ravioli.

Mom put candles in cannoli dribbled with chocolate chips and we sang along.

I hid gifts and revealed surprises inviting beautiful smiles of delight and excitement.

We walked through plazas holding hands and wiped at strawberry ice cream dribbling  out of their cones and onto our chins.

We took in a baseball game and bought new fan gear.

Ducked our heads into bars and sat to listen to the woman with radical hair and high-wasted pants sing tunes with soul.

We celebrated and we kept going about our days.

This is how it is now.

A beautiful mix of joy and celebration and plenty of encounters with clueless people who say seemingly innocent things because they don’t know.

I’m still exposed.

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Photo by Hadis Safari on Unsplash

I may never have it any other way.

Is that a beautiful thing?

For Sarver

I went to a show last night. We entered a big dark room filled with eager fans. I shuffled to claim my space and looked up to see rows of massive speakers suspended overhead. Lucky for me, my friends were keen to lean against the grubby wall with torn purple wall paper. How do you know you’re old at a concert? You wear tennis shoes for support and seek out hidden spaces to rest your legs already aching from eight hours at a standing desk.

As the singer screamed with passion, I nodded along in the back hiding from the rays of yellow flickering from the wands of light on stage.
It felt good to be in that room.

As the musicians emoted and the twenty-somethings jumped to the beat, I stood with my feet planted to the concrete floor. I swung my arms and let the intensity pulse through my body causing my knees to bend and shake. With each drum beat I absorbed the reverberations and welcomed, over and over again, the pounding reminder – I am beautifully alive.

There were times the audience’s screams of admiration caused me to plug my ears and I felt, once again, embarrassed to be an introvert in a loud space. I reminded myself it’s a radical act to care for oneself and while I left my ear plugs in the car, I pushed my hands to my head and my fingers in my ears. Sometimes, the noise and the darkness became too much.

While the band may not have been my first choice, they are my husband’s old favorite and I knew he was standing behind me, screaming well-known lyrics and smiling ear to ear.

This morning, my ears are ringing to prove it. I’ll never again get return to yesterday’s base level of hearing capabilities.

And this morning, I woke up and scrolled through my Facebook feed and found out again someone we knew, someone my brother loved, has died.

There is too much darkness haunting our young people. Hurting kids are turning to the wrong things to help ease their pain. And I swear to God it never gets easier to hear the truth that people we love will leave us. That one kind, searching kid just did.

Peace be with us.

We stand in darkness, there are flickering rays of light, and we bend and shake with the magnitude of our choices. We can lean on walls, hold hands, show up to support the ones we love. We can shake our heads and scream and pound and let the pulse move through us. And we can weep when people hurt.

A swirling mess of fog and noise and joy created in big, emotive sounds exists – this is what the world asks of us. I want to be affected. I refuse to go numb.

For we are still alive and we can choose to move toward the light.

If you know someone who is struggling, reach out.

If you are fighting demons, get help.

I want the pulse and the verve to continue on through me and through you. Lean on walls if you must. I want your ears to continue to hear the beautiful music. Please continue to live loudly. To see beauty. To run towards the flickering light mixing with the screeching feedback. Get on stage and help find your voice to sing.  I’ll be with you to help plug your ears when it all feels to much.

Here’s to the ones

To the ones who pick up the phone, send the texts, check in and ask how you’re doing.

To the ones who whisper and tell us on repeat, “We are ok. We don’t have to accomplish anything.”

To the ones who are seeking validation and a space to share your story.

To the ones aching for community.

To the ones who want more, better, beauty.

To the compassionate ones crying in your cubicles.

Our world makes you small when your heart beats so big you don’t know how to handle it.

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To the ones listening and leaning in.

To the ones who are haunted and hoping and hurting and here.

To the ones who bend and smell the roses and fill your arms with blooms in the garden, sorting weeds from the tiny blossoms of potential.

To the ones who buy themselves the peonies and bring their friends bread.

Caring for ourselves and our friends is a radical act.

To the ones who sit on blue benches whispering this just sucks.

To the ones who have loved and lost and to those who are waiting.

To the ones swirling to make sense of things.

To those who want to be seen.

Tonight, you are beautiful to me.

In Denial

I got an email from Nordstrom Rack this week. A classic promotion and the subject line read, “Which type is your dad?”

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A dead one – I thought to myself.

Oy

I wanted to send of a snarky reply but I didn’t.

Sometimes it’s easier to keep those little remarks to yourself. Advertisers are not often in the business of being sensitive to these kind of pain points.

Here we are. Another calendar year rolled by and I find myself clicking delete on promotions in my email, in the accounts I manage, and ignoring blatant ads on social media.

These Father’s Day triggers are everywhere.

After reading some of the pieces I published last year on the holiday I realized I’m at year number four, not three, of this holiday without him.

Four seems so much bigger than three.

You can ask the toddlers who have become bigger children in his absence.

I’m in Father’s Day denial. I was hoping to keep it at an arms distance.

But Nordstrom and Macy’s and Apple and even Starbucks are telling me I better prepare.

Sigh. Deeeeeeeeep sighs.

I’m missing him and breathing in his scent found in the hot popcorn popped fresh at the hardware store. I finger his sweatshirts hanging in my closet, next to my work blazers reminding me of how his fibers felt when brushed against him as I rushed out the door.

I’m in denial this year and so I turn my attention here. To the …

White walls painted fresh in a completed basement.

Slices of crisp dill pickle on dry crumbly bread.

Ham spread with mayo, no Minnesota butter to be found.

Small floating bubbles in spritzer.

Peas sprouting up in the garden.

Translucent squirts of lemon juice easing their way down into glasses full of cool water.

Coffee beans grinding.

Fitness instructors reminding me to tend to my back.

Encouragement from bosses.

Kisses on the cheek with an old friend. The ones who knew him too.

Red lipstick marks on coffee cups.

Baby Opal just one miraculous week old.

Maintained eye brows.

Dinners with grandmas and aunts and mother-in-laws.

Lottery tickets scratched clean.

These are the beautiful things this week is made of. And I’m focusing on them instead.

 

Rising Waters – You Can Help

I met Heather when I was 23. I sat next to her in a big leather booth drinking cocktails at a girls gathering we liked to call “Philoso-tini”.

We’d discuss life and the women older than me discussed their kids and careers and the mystery that is faith.

Heather looked right at me that night as I was lamenting about my next job decision and she said, “Honey, it’s just a job. You don’t have to take it so seriously.”

It’s taken me five years to realize she was right.

She lost her dad a year before me and while we weren’t close at the time, I watched her handle the complete suckage of cancer with grace and honesty. She met with me at high top tables and was one of the first people to nod along as I started practicing processing my grief.

Heather is funny and hopeful and optimistic and has a big heart. And over Memorial Day her childhood home was flooded in Oklahoma. Her parents and her family need some assistance as they navigate insurance, adjusters, travel in flooded areas, and getting basic supplies in an area destroyed by rising waters.

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Today, dear friends, I ask you to help my friend Heather and her family. They are hoping to raise $6,000 to cover the costs of the following things:

– mitigation costs (clean up, dumpsters, haul off, drying, air purifying, etc.)
– supplies (masks, boxes, gloves, etc.)
– assist with payment of insurance deductible
– cost of accommodations when couches and spare rooms are not available (insurance doesn’t pay a dime)
– help offset costs when people host
– food (no food storage available)
– fuel and travel costs (driving back and forth to the house from wherever sleep happened; helping a daughter get there to help)
– storage costs for items that are salvageable
– eventual rebuilding
*while we don’t know what the insurance claim will be classified as, regardless, nearly all furniture was lost. there isn’t a couch to sit on or a table to eat at. even while clean up is happening.
– a little bit of help with travel costs (daughters trying to rotate through to help – flights, rental cars, time away from jobs)

Please consider giving financially here.

 

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I’d also like to collect gift cards to support her family still in Colorado. She has two kiddos and a husband who also need to eat and be cared for while she is away. If you can donate a gift certificate to King Soopers, restaurants, Target, or Amazon to provide for the family while she is back in Oklahoma, please let me know by Wednesday, June 5th.

Here’s a chance folks. To reach out and give and serve someone I know who is very much deserving.

Learn more about Heather’s family story and how to donate by clicking here. Please spread the word.

Let’s rally in support and give big. One of my favorite beautiful things.

To believe this is possible.

Sixteen seasons. And the producers renewed for three more years.

“You still watch that crap?” people ask me.

Yes, yes I do.

“It’s not crap,” I say, sticking my tongue out in their general direction.

The wisdom and wonders found in the writing of Grey’s Anatomy have woven their sentences and story lines into my life, into my traumas, and into my recovery.

As the sixteenth season came to a close, Meredith encourages Jo through a dark time. Jo’s traumas are not mine. Not similar in any way.  But Meredith’s words touched a tender place in my heart.

Especially seconds 38 – 1:07.

 

“You’ve taken all this darkness and used it to help other people who are walking through the same,” says Meredith.

I hope so.

“You’ve turned the darkest experiences that life gave you and you turned it around and you turned it into light.”

Yes!

I’ve spent a few years soaking in my own grief process, writing things for strangers to read. I now seek an outside perspective, more tools to help me process, label and understand so I can continue transform my darkness.

This week I started therapy.

I tell you not to get your sympathy nor to get your pats on the shoulders. I tell you because this world is hard. I tell you because I’m not ashamed. I tell you because if I can do it, so too can you.

Being human is hard. Talking about our negative patterns, our dysfunctional relationships, our emotions, our traumas, our hopes, and our potential is hard. There are kind and compassionate professionals trained to help us with the scary process of facing ourselves. They are ready to welcome you onto the sofa when you are ready to walk in the door.

Today, I walked in the door. And I believe therapy will help me continue to turn my darkness into light.

To believe this transformation is possible, for me, and for you, and for all of us aching out there – what a beautiful thing.

Joy on Jumbotrons

I spent over eight hours at the ball park this weekend. Sitting in the stands as the sun beamed down on my shoulders, memories of ball games past flooded my brain. I’ve been going to the same stadium for over twenty years.

Each summer my family set aside one or two afternoons for a day in Denver.  If we got lucky, we ventured out for a night game. I sat in the squeaky green seats watching the sun set over the mountains and only occasionally track the score or notice the activity happening on the actual field.  I was often busy people watching. We’d buy ice cream and foam fingers and my brother would convince my dad for just one plastic container of nachos overflowing with gooey fake cheese.

Over the years, my tastes have matured. I’ve gone from asking for Dip-n-Dots and cool lemonades to cold beer and peanuts. My obsession with foot long hot dogs shrank and I now can stomach a mini-one (they still cost over five dollars) without too much pain.

Now, more than ever, I miss my dad in those squeaky seats next to me. We’ve started a tradition and go to a game as a family near his birthday. Our new memories mix with the absence of him and I come home fingering the stitches sewn on my healing heart. Red thread, white skin, circling over and over like a pitcher readying to throw the ball.

Despite my aging, his absence, our new stories, and my awareness of caloric consumption possible in one afternoon as a fan, some things about baseball games never change.

The concrete stairs and metal stands. The smell of onions and spill of mustard on my white t-shirt. The thwack of a ball hitting a bat. The announcers voices, deep and booming. Fountains launching foamy water into the air after a home run. The joy found on the jumbotron.

Spectators of all ages light up when they find themselves on the gigantic screen at the back of the field. Older women with expensive blow-outs nod their heads along to the music. Dads holding babies start dancing and flail their offsprings chubby legs to the beat. Young boys wave their hats. Old men raise their beers to the air and slug their buddy or son sitting next to them. Young women in too-short of shorts flick their hair, kiss their partners, or blush and wave.

Spectators caught on screen may pretend to be embarrassed. Really, they’re delighted. They’ve got their phones out to capture the moment. They tag a friend.

If you’re feeling down, think of all the ball parks all across the country and all the baseball games happening at any given time. Then think about all the people who will be highlighted on those mega-huge screens and all the joy those appearances will create.

Hold that positive energy  in your palms. Capture their smiles.

Tuck that beautiful delight into your heart pocket and beam.

It’s not all bad. Think of all the joy found on jumbotrons. It’s a beautiful thing.