Grief and Gratitude

9 08 2017

When we lose a loved one, there is an enormous hole left in our hearts – in our lives – that we know will never be repaired.  What we don’t know until it happens in us is that, while the wound  is never healed, it does get filled up with the love and support of our families and friends and even people who were strangers before we were so grievously injured.

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the day we lost our dear daughter Jessica.  The pain of that loss will always be with us, but the kindnesses shown to us every day by all of you helps keep it manageable. It keeps the rest of our lives in perspective.

I have said it before, but it bears repeating, especially today:

When we lost Jessie, we lost the person we loved the most in the world, but we did not lose the only person we loved, so we continue on. We celebrate her joyful (too short) life and we celebrate the life that we continue to live with the help, encouragement, and comfort of our friends.

Love one another.

Be kind, always. 

Don’t miss a thing life has to offer you.

Smile from your heart, like my Jessie did.



With best cousin ever, Katy Little, when they were both little.


Happy. Up to no good. Happy.

March to your own drummer – Be your own drummer!

Ready to roll with Grandma – always.

Not spoiled, just loved!


A Month of Thanks – Chapter Four

23 11 2016

You know that it’s never wise to tempt Fate; she always rises to the challenge. A Month of Thanks has surely energized her, but the duel’s not done yet,  so here’s my final thanks of Turkey-month 2016.

This week, I am thankful for:


Take THAT, Fate!

Fate gets a big middle-finger salute; the rest of you deserve an explanation.

A little more than six years ago, I lost my daughter. She was murdered by Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  It was the worst thing that ever happened to me, because Jessica was the best thing.  No one could have told me how much she would affect me – that she would make me a lot stronger, a little smarter, and immeasurably kinder than I would have been without her brief and sparking twenty years.

Am I saying I am glad I lost her?  Of course not.

Would I change the course of history to have her back? Absolutely.

But, I can’t.

We all face terrible abuse at the hand of Fate. She is capricious and feels no pity for any of us. She does not care about our broken hearts, so railing against her is just a waste of energy. It’s like yelling at the wind. You’ll grow hoarse, but it will blow until it is ready to quit of its own accord.

When the wind stops, that’s the time to assess the situation. What have we lost?  What has been damaged?  What remains?  What has been uncovered?  Was some wonderful something hidden revealed?  Look.

This week, I am thankful that – not in spite of, but because of loss – I understand more deeply and appreciate more fully the wonder,  joy, and love of family and friends.

Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Good Grief

30 12 2015

Here we are, about to turn out the lights on another year. For some of us, that means it’s closing time and we are heading home alone and forlorn. For others, it means we’re headed for a good night’s rest and a brilliant start to 2016. Some of us are just afraid of the dark.

I’d like to talk about the dark, just for a moment. It’s not something I often discuss, especially not here, with you, on Wednesdays, but I hope you will indulge me.

This has been a hard year for many of you, my friends. I understand, better than I want, how it feels.

Since losing my beautiful daughter in 2010, I have done my best to honor her brightness by celebrating life, by finding joy, by being happy.

I’ll bet you understand that.

I’m pretty good at it, but it takes a lot of energy. It is unsustainable without taking a short break, now and then, to honor Grief.

I’d like to tell you how I do that. I hope it might help you.

I can’t deny Grief’s existence, but I do not allow it to gallop wildly through the halls of my everyday life, so, in the mansion that is my heart, there is a room where Grief lives.

12-30-15 a

Grief is messy and dark and ugly, but I must look in on it, from time to time, to be sure it is not bothering its neighbors. The room where Grief lives has no chairs and certainly no bed in which to wallow, so my visits are brief. I feel Grief’s essence; I respect that it is alive in me; but I do not stay with Grief. I leave that room and close the door firmly.

This next part will sound mad, but here goes – Grief is good for us.

It makes us appreciate life.

There are times when feeling the depth of our grief is like shooting dangerous rapids. We are drenched, exhausted, half-drowned, but still alive.  We are sputtering and shaking, a bit disoriented, but still alive and we are reassured by this proof that Grief does not kill us.

Grief ‘s sole and important purpose is to remind us that we are fortunate to have known love and that more love remains to be given.

For 2016, I will, of course, renew Grief’s lease on the space it occupies, but I will continue to build beautiful joy-filled additions onto my heart with cherished old friends and family and ones I’ve yet to meet. You’re all welcome.

Peace and Love and Health and Joy.

Happy New Year.

12-30-15 b


A Different Christmas Song

10 12 2014

Ho! Ho! Hum.

Everywhere I look, there is someone bemoaning the season.  Folks are out of sorts because they’re out of work, out of money, out of energy . . .

For many, just plain out of gratitude.

This will be the fifth Christmas without my beautiful Jessica. She was only twenty when she left us. She still believed in Santa Claus.

When I think of that enormous loss, the un-healable wound, I think I need a different Christmas song: Everything I Own  sounds about right. Then I remember what a magnificent gift it was to have had such a wonder-filled twenty short years.  I also remind myself that there is no going back, only going on, and that to accept the sadness but refuse all the goodness that still surrounds me is just wrong.

It stinks not to be able to fill your child’s Christmas stocking. It is lousy that you can’t get off work to visit your friends.  Things were better before you lost your job.  I don’t dismiss ANY of these kinds of problems.  I must, though, take exception to the idea that you let your holidays be defined by what you can’t do or don’t have.  In spite of the hardships, which visit every one of us, I wish you a happy season, filled with the celebration of what we DO have.

Don’t find yourself singing a different Christmas song.  Sing FA-LA-LA-LA-LA at the top of your lungs, even if your gay apparel is a few years old and your holly’s a bit wilted! Consider the people in your life who make you smile and warm your heart. Tell them.

Joy to the world.

Boy, am I Full!

16 07 2014

My heart is broken. That’s surely an odd phrase; what does it mean?

For me, when I lost my sweet Jessica, it meant I needed to wear a cast made from the love of my family and friends and a sling of fond memories until it healed.

My broken heart has mended. There is still a big nasty scar and I find I rely on that sling when it feels particularly heavy, but it works.

My heart works.

When we feel the wound of great loss, for a while, it surely seems as though it could be a mortal blow, but it isn’t. Our hearts are not meant to die with our loved ones; they are meant to rebound with renewed appreciation for what we had, what we have, and what is yet to come.

My heart is full.  This is an equally interesting one.

To me, it means to be so aware of all the love around and within us that, like a toddler with a full glass of juice, we can’t help but slosh some out and get it all over the people around us. That’s why hearts full of love always have the ability to hold more.

Splash that love around.

Jump into it with both feet.

Litter your neighborhood with it like cosmic confetti.

Even if your heart is broken, the exercise will do it good.

My broken-mended heart is full.  If your heart needs some love, I hereby give you some of mine.

purple pavement a 6-24-14

This post is dedicated to a dear friend and his sweet mother.  Love and strength and peace to Big Henry and his family.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

25 06 2014

Tomorrow, my dear husband Ken and I will have been married for twenty-nine years. So far, we have shared lots of laughs, a few very rough patches, and one enormous gaping hole of a wound that will never heal in either of us – the loss of our daughter.

The constant through all these things is that we love each other.

The change over all these years is that we love each other.

“What is she talking about?” you are likely wondering. How can she claim the constant is the change?

Because it is the absolute truth.

I remember the moment I first met my husband. My mouth went suddenly dry, I lost the ability to focus, and I was really sure I did not like him; he made me feel uncomfortable.  I tried desperately to talk myself out of accepting the only reasonable explanation, but, I had to face the fact. It was scary, exciting, dangerous, unpredictable, and tempestuous.  It was not easy, but, there it was.

Yes, I am still glad to hear his car in the garage.  I still smile at the thought of him coming through the kitchen door.  I really do like him; he makes me feel happy.  There is no other explanation for this. Here are the facts.  It is lovely, steadfast, still a little unpredictable, and magnificent. It is easy and it is forever.

So, this is how our love is both the constant and the change:

The love that is the constant is the continuation of the love we had since the beginning.  While fierce and true, it does not compare, though, to the love that’s the result of twenty-nine years of burnishing by mutual respect, shared trials and joys, matching senses of humor, and kindness.

The love that has been the change – that’s the love that outgrew its fears; the love that is confident and strong. If you are fortunate, you will understand, because you will have the same wonderful experience in your life.  I hope you do.

Don’t It Always Seem to Go, You Don’t Know What You Got ‘til It’s Gone

29 01 2014

Sing it to me, Joni!

For years, I felt the truth and the sting of Ms Mitchell’s anthem to blown opportunities, ruined relationships, ships that sailed without me. Well, I have changed my tune. Matter of fact, my tune just decided to change itself, thankfully. I don’t know whether or not I’d ever have been smart enough to do it, consciously, but I am grateful for the change. Here’s why.

A whole lot of grief and aggravation is caused by stuff we should let go:

Stuff that has outlived its usefulness (if it ever had any).

Stuff that clutters our view of a brighter future with shards of the past.

Stuff that, if we are honest with ourselves, was never worth what we thought it was, at all.

I clung to my job, for example, longer than I needed, out of fear that, without some external entity verifying my worth, in dollars and cents, that I would have none.  I clung to relationships that had run their course, out of fear that I would lose “friends.”  I clung to ideas about my place in the world, my limitations, and my weaknesses, because they were ready excuses to stay comfortably and predictably unsatisfied.

Not anymore!  I am singing a very different song.  As I admitted, this was not the result of some act of conscious soul-searching – I just lucked into the revelation.  I wish you the same stroke of luck.  By saying goodbye to the stuff that does not really REALLY fit who you feel like being – and that is completely up to you – there’s room to explore stuff that makes your heart sing, and that’s a song that even Joni Mitchell can’t improve.

Sing it to yourself.