loss

Loss(t)

I told you I had good news.

Or hard news.

Or sad news.

I don’t know, I have lots of emotions today.

It’s good news. It’s good news.

For the last few months, I’ve been working on another version of my story. One that involves support groups, Jafar, and french fries. I think my dad would be proud of the end result as it went live today on Hello Humans.

I’m thankful for the absolutely beautiful opportunity to share my story. They don’t tell you how odd it is to see your dreams in print, your heart on the web, your past aches laid out for strangers to read. I’m into it, just emotional.

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Sam Lamott is a dream to work with. This platform that encourages real, honest, funny, gut-wrenching portrayals of real human life is so refreshing in a world that masks it all.

So take a glance, click here to read, and please share with anyone you know who may be grieving. Thanks for patting me on the back with reminders that bravery pulls off.

xo

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So I…

This week was a heavy one. I’ve been thinking  about grief, and loss, and recovery, as these things seem to be themes in my life right now. I feel I make progress, then wham, terror on the national news breaks and I can’t help but think hundreds of others have now been pushed under the deep waves of grief. I’m enjoying community in my small group when a young teacher shares that her student lost her mom to suicide this week. I get pushed back under. I can’t watch CNN anymore, and I’m kinda nervous about my access to birth control, let alone how we would afford to have a baby on our perpetual IN 5 YEARS plan. GAH! Things can seem bleak. So I write.

Every single time I click the blue Publish button on WordPress my stomach lurches. Will people judge this process I’ve chosen to be so public about? Will people care? Do I turn others off because I should just be done already?

I dwell in that black space for a minute or two, and then I say screw it. I’ve got things to say, and I think there are people to read and hear those thoughts on this imperfect, beautiful mess we live in called life.

So I keep going.

I came across this image yesterday from Brian Andreas. I didn’t know he had a story called Beautiful Things. Just like me.

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The small print brought me to tears, right there in the tiny art gallery. “This is my purpose”, a little heart voice whispered, “and it may never be my 9-5 job, or make me very much money, but it matters, this pursuit of beautiful things.”

This is how worlds change.

So I whisper into the internet. I share my voice. Although, I’m starting to yell a bit more too.

Here are a few of my recent guest posts that kind, caring, hopeful people have chosen to allow me to share.

Cara Meredith’s Author Tuesday Post

www.52beautifulthings.com

This Glorious Life The Photo I’m Thankful For

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These beautiful things matter more now than they did a week ago, a month, or even five years.

So I wait. And connect with other people who think things could possibly, maybe get better, are better if we look for the good.

I also watch these videos, and listen, and find healing things to laugh about. I make pumpkin bread from a box, and I hug my husband tight.

What do you do?

 

 

ps. I have a VERY exciting announcement that goes live on Tuesday. Stay tuned.

A Tequila Toast

I stood at the edge of the stone pit, toes warming as flames licked the burning wood as it spat and sputtered to a start. I stuffed my hands in my pockets, the sounds of laughter rolling around behind me in the cold mountain air.

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Belly digesting rehearsal dinner food, I was having one of those moments where I felt full. Not just my stomach, my heart too. We had gathered for a wedding weekend for one of my oldest friends. All around me acquaintances chatted, laughter bubbling on the waves of pre-marital promise and bliss. I felt reminded of my roots, where I came from, and how these people shaped me at age thirteen, eighteen, twenty-two, twenty-five. Love for people with whom you have history.

I received a friendly slap on my back and I was invited into a loud conversation with my girlfriend’s dad. I used to spend weekends at his house, stealing Cokes and bobbing in the pool in his backyard. Summer afternoons on his ricksha, and movie nights in his basement. Time passed. I haven’t seen him in at least ten years.

With a big smile and a tip of his cowboy hat, he asked a perfectly normal question.

“How is your family?”

Oh…. shit… he doesn’t know. That question isn’t normal for me any more.

The warmth in my toes disappeared, and I shrank a bit into my puffy North Face jacket.

“Well,” I started, ” my mom is great. She’s working at a pre-school and my brother is still in town.”

Pause. How far do I go? Does he know? Gulp.

And then I jumped right in because I realize the burden of my grief often oozes out when I have to tell people who don’t know, over and over again, that we lost him.

“Not sure if your daughter told you,” I said, “but we lost my dad a year ago.”

Damnit.

I hadn’t had to say that stupid euphemism since I got a new job. I have exited the insurance agency, and the phone calls from his old clients stopped haunting me. I don’t remember how many of his clients had to hear the horrible news from me. Not many, but enough to make it no fun. A strength I didn’t even know I could possess, handling those calls.

The dad’s eyes softened. Chin dropped. Smile faded. He didn’t ask questions, and instead offered sympathy, jumping into his own story about the loss of his sister.

“Oh good,” my little, squeezing heart whispered to itself, “he kinda gets it.”

After mumbling a bit, said dad quickly bent over, grabbed a fancy glass bottle, and offered to toast to my dad. He poured the golden liquid. A couple fingers worth.

Strong, expensive tequila on ice in a styrofoam cup. Raised to you my papa, with other dads who wish they could still know you.

I drank it all down.

This is the space I’m living in now. A mix of integration, acceptance and painful memories. In being present in really happy moments, taking deep mountain breaths, and reconnecting with old friends. In telling people who don’t know and telling myself (who really ought to know by now) the damn truth. We lost him.

Yet, I haven’t lost these things:

  • I haven’t lost my friends. The ones who knew me when I was chubby and awkward with braces, who went to Prom with me, who stood by me when I got married, who I have had the privilege of watching walk down the aisle. They know me and they knew my dad and will continue to walk with me forward, out of this hell of sudden loss. Life long friends, a beautiful, beautiful gift.
  • The importance of laughter. Belly laughs. Make fun of yourself, dance, put on the cowboy boots. Show up. You will feel better when you get there.
  • The symbolism of toasts and celebration. Honoring memories with tequila makes sense. Standing and raising a glass to a friend of fifteen years as they make the biggest commitment of their life. A privilege.
  • Peace. It comes in waves and whispers and mountain breezes. A long hug. Fog rolling in, lapping your arms in cold, wet, kisses, the universe wants to bring me peace. If I am willing to accept help, people are there making me hot cocoa and offering an extra pair of socks.

Humans are funny, friendly, cheerful, present, and unsure. Death is inevitable and soul sucking for those left behind. Living in these real intersections of the choices to be in relationships and the quivering vulnerability that it can all go away – a beautiful thing.

 

 

Thursday Reflection

Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. Stop on Gold.

I saw this poem in my Facebook feed and just wanted to share it. I love it and I think it is thought provoking. Thinking deeply and critically can be beautiful things. What do you think?

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“Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.”

Naomi Shihab Nye

 

Streams with a Pulse

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Every summer my family drives south on Highway 285 towards Creede, Colorado. Each time we drive past the majestic Great Sand Dunes and glance out in the distance someone suggests, “Hey, we really should stop by and see the Dunes.”

“Next year,” someone replies, “we will make it a point to go.”

Well this year, when life drastically changed, my family made it a point to go. Rather than combining our always postponed adventure with our annual trip to Creede, my mom, brother, husband and I went down to Salida and spent Memorial Weekend resting in the beauty of Southern Colorado. While the Dunes were not our primary destination, the Park did become a highlight of our trip.

When you arrive at the Dunes, you have to cross over the Medano Creek before you can explore the sand itself. There is a phenomenon that occurs in this natural space. They call it Surge Flow – Streams with a Pulse, and describe it like this,”Three elements are needed to produce the phenomenon: a relatively steep gradient to give the stream a high velocity; a smooth, mobile creekbed with little resistance; and sufficient water to create surges. In spring and early summer, these elements combine to make waves at Great Sand Dunes. As water flows across sand, sand dams or antidunes form on the creekbed, gathering water. When the water pressure is too great, the dams break, sending down a wave about every 20 seconds.”

As my mom and I sat on the banks of the creek, taking off our shoes and socks in preparation for our crossing, we shed tears in remembrance of my dad. This was our first family vacation without him, and his absence was tangible in our aching hearts and our photos. Mom and I held hands as we ventured into the shallow water together, and made it half way across. I looked up, into the valley, and the moment my eyes moved away from where my feet were headed, the sand beneath my toes shifted. A giant surge flow was gushing water towards us, sifting the foundation beneath our feet. The pressure was too great on the creekbed, a small dam had broken.

I found this moment to be incredibly spiritual. The pressure of loss, of grief, of previously held stability had built up in my life, and has continually caused my feet to shift in incredibly confusing ways. Standing in the water I was experiencing the physical manifestation of high velocity and little resistance. Spiritually though, I was tugged to ask, ‘what am I resisting?’

The answer included the resistance of the change that comes with loss, the reinvention that comes when family dynamics morph without a figure head. Huge questions of direction and purpose and the point of ‘all of this’ when things you had built crumbled to pieces. Standing in that shifting sand made me remember that I need to allow the dams to break, and the waves to flow – to let my foundation rearrange itself to make the beautiful mountains next to me.

As the water flowed past, and the speed of the water slowed, I could again look up. I remembered I have loving hands to hold, and my own ability to lift my eyes to the mountains. I realize I am still standing and that is a beautiful thing.

Psalm 121:1 – “I lift up my eyes towards the mountains – from where does my help come from?”

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Let the surge flows break you, let them change you and shift you, and mold you into the beautiful person you are meant to be. Natures healing powers are beautiful things.

 

 

To Dad

One of the last questions my dad asked me was, “What’s with the Jiff in the cupboard?”

My dad was loyal to his peanut butter. Skippy brand. Super Chunk. No other way.

“Sorry Dad,” I said, “I think it was the cheapest option.”

That is one thing we have in common. Being cheap – or rather, as we prefer to call it, being “bargain hunters.” Dad and I, we love a good deal.

There are a million things to remember and miss about a love one taken too soon. I’m sure this list will grow as I continue to get older and I hope that the space my dad fills in my heart continues to expand, rather than shrink over time. For now, in the tsunami of emotions that come with this perplexing event, here are some of the things I will forever love about Dad.

He has this horrendous hat that he would wear on the weekends. The black fabric was bleached with sweat and salt from mowing lawns, or cleaning house. He refused to get rid of it though, because it was a gift I gave him during my freshman year of college. He wore the baseball cap with the University of Colorado logo often, and would cheer along with my alma mater proudly. In a family of Rams, Dylan and I are going to miss his Buffalo solidarity.

In fact, he refused to get rid of a lot of things. Our Disney VHS collection still exists, my artwork from elementary school, a ticket stub from a Rockies game, toys from his childhood, swim noodles to keep because you just never know when you may need to go for a dip in the lake. I love his appreciation for the little mementos that others discard. These collections have made up his life.

I’m going to miss ordering his tall Pikes Place cup of coffee when making a Starbucks run. Black – no cream, no sugar. I’ll miss making fun of his dance moves, and the way he would text us informative articles from Yahoo.com as he perused the internet each evening. I’ll miss snacking with him as we cooked meals together, filling up on chip crumbs and cheddar cheese before the main entrée ever made it to the table. Cinnamon ice cream and cookies for breakfast will forever be eaten in his honor.

You can’t end a reflection like this with a best, or a favorite, or even a most prominent statement. The things I love about my father continue to blend, and meld together, swirling to create beautiful images of the man God gave to me to be my dad. When asked the question, “Will you love your dad forever?”, I have to answer with his default Minnesotan response, “Oh, you betcha.”

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