So, tomorrow I go to say goodbye to my Aunt Vicki. Vicki was a sweet, hilarious, great person. A best friend to my mom and my cousins, Tanya and Jodi – she outlived all predictions. Another death from cancer – far too soon. When I woke up to the text on my phone Monday morning – simply saying “she’s gone” – I knew exactly what it meant. I got up – made myself some coffee and cried a few tears. But only a few – I went through the day knowing what came next. Trips to the airport – arrangements at the funeral home – lots of food and family. Chris and I have become experts at the funeral slideshow – pictures, music and even special backgrounds and effects. We have done this too many times – dealing with a family death has become a predictable routine. I count back over the last 10 years – my mom, my dad, Gramps, Grandma Jennings, Aunt Jan, my sister-in-law Elise, my best friend Chris, even my most treasured pets. This doesn’t count other aunts, uncles and friends lost over this time-frame either. As I went through yesterday, I didn’t feel much – I went to work, did my household routines, got the guestroom ready, watched Dallas lose Monday Night Football. I began to think that something inside me had finally broken – some emotional barrier had been erected that would not ever be taken down again. Surely it’s abnormal for someone in their 30s to lose this many friends and family. I remember my Gramps always had a suit ready to attend funerals – he seemed to go to one at least once a month. Now that’s how I am – prepared to go to the next funeral. Of course, he was in his 80s.
Still in a state of calm acceptance and cool disengagement, I drove to the familiar funeral home in Noble this morning so I could see Vicki and my family could do her hair and makeup. We looked at each other in dismay – here we go again. Each time not only brings the pain of the current loss but all of the others before. As I walked out the door, the numbness wore off. A crack formed in my emotional fortress and I drove down the highway with tears streaming and heart aching. Now that it has started, I fear it won’t stop. I fear if the crack gets any bigger, I might totally collapse. I wonder how strong I can be and how much more I can handle. I fear then next phone call telling me someone else I care about is sick or dead. These are not my best moments, but I look down the road a bit to better times and happier memories. I feel more motivated than ever to make those happen – to create a life that is aimed at fulfillment and fun. If these losses have made me weaker in ways, they have made me stronger in others. Perhaps the crack in my armor lets in light as it lets in pain.
We will say goodbye to Vicki tomorrow – she was loved and will be missed. We will continue to hold our family and friends closer. Keep my family in your thoughts – we appreciate your love and support.
So, I haven’t been writing. I don’t know why – probably just something that hasn’t yet moved from impulse to habit. I do, however, often think about things as if they would be written down. For a month or so I have been thinking about perfection. I read Cindy Maddera’s recent post on the subject and it just keeps circling around in my brain.
First and foremost, I have a real love of order and organization. Looking through a Martha Steward catalog makes me feel calm and happy. I love all of the neat rows,monochromatic and complementary colors, perfect lines and designs. I like things to be clean and in their place. Over the past 10 years, though, my husband and son have worn down a little bit of my compulsiveness. I can go to bed with the knowledge that there are a few dishes in the sink and Legos on the floor. I even planted a little garden this summer – I always read about people’s fresh veggies and see pics of their cute gardens and so I decided to give it a shot. I could hear Chris encouraging me to just do it and see what happened. Three months in and it’s been pretty much a success, but I say that only because I have decided to embrace its inherent imperfection as well as my own. Some things have outright died due to over-watering, under-watering or forces I didn’t understand. Other parts have grown like crazy and taken over more than their allotted space. Some have gotten a slow start, but have haltingly grown after I had almost given up hope. I kept thinking that this garden is just like me inside – there are parts that are overdeveloped, some that have died and others that keep struggling to grow and survive. I love this little garden – it’s not laid out in perfect, ordered rows but it is growing and creating in the environment it’s been given.
So tonight Quinn wants to watch “Into the Universe.”Guess what?According to Stephen Hawking – “In the universe, perfect simply doesn’t exist”. The fact that it doesn’t is responsible for the existence of all we know and all we are. I find that notion so amazing and freeing. If you make a mistake, that’s a good thing – mistakes are why we are all here. Mistakes and imperfection are responsible for all creation how simple and beautiful is that? I think that notion can give us all a reason to be just a little braver.
Today we lost a most precious friend – our dog Autumn. She was a wonderful dog and a constant companion. I can still vividly remember the day I picked her up – she was the only girl in the litter and the only red one. We played together for a few minutes and she came right over and sat in my lap, like she knew we were supposed to have one another. I spent almost every day with her from that day until today – what now seems a very short 17 1/2 years. As I think about all of the changes my life has gone through in that time, she is the one that was there through it all.
She loved frisbee, begging and – most of all – camping and hiking. The first time I took her to Billy Creek Campground she blazed trails, swam in the stream, warmed in the campfire, and ate camp food. On the way out of the campground, she jumped from my car window and sprinted back to the campsite – it took some convincing for her to get back in the car to go home. This is how I will remember her – at her most happy and free.
I am so grateful for having such a wonderful dog for such a long time – I already miss her so much it hurts terribly. Autumn you were so loved and will be so missed.
The last week has been so very nice – Quinn has a 2-week Spring Break, which means I pretty much have too. The winter is over – sooner than usual, but I’m so thankful because – let’s face it – this winter sucked so very much. I have been able to do many of the things I enjoy – I read Eragon, watched season 1 of Game of Thrones, worked in my yard, went to the movies, museum of Osteology, etc, etc. Quinn and I have had brunch every morning and just let the day go however we want. I was jogging around the neighborhood last week and tried to savor the perfect weather before the stifling heat and ravenous mosquitoes descend. There was evidence everywhere of people cutting away the old, dead things and replacing them with fresh, vibrant life. I could have just kept going for hours, listening to my 80’s alternative station on Slacker and soaking in the sights and smells of the Spring. OK – it wasn’t totally Disney – I still had to avoid some scary stray dogs and watched a homeless man on a bench guzzle a big bottle of mouthwash. The thing is, though, this week everything feels possible – feels more positive than negative – feels like the pull toward something good. I look forward to upcoming adventures and the ability to somehow keep this good feeling going. Happy Spring Break everyone!
Most people know that Florence Nightingale is the founder of modern nursing – she was a pretty impressive lady for her time. One of her famous quotes goes:
“I attribute my success to this – I never gave or took any excuse.”
It’s inevitable to do a little reflecting about the course of our lives, habits, etc. between New Year’s resolutions and Lent. I don’t really go in for either, but I also recognize that I could always do better – always be better. So, I’m going to give not taking or making excuses a try. I’m not sure my students will like it much, but I feel it could help me focus on what I truly want to accomplish. Here goes….
So, I have to say that this is one of the worst months ever. Now that I think about it, I have always hated February. When I was in high school and living in New Hampshire, February always marked the depths of my seasonal affective disorder – aptly named S.A.D. I didn’t know that’s what it was until much later, but the cold and dark sent me into a depression that didn’t lift until around April. Over the years it’s become a month of more terrible events, such as:
- The death of my mother
- The death of my best friend
- The death of treasured pets
- Family members having terrible health related events
As if this month weren’t bad enough, this year there’s an extra crappy day added. I hope for the strength to get through these next few days and look forward to the light, warmth and renewal of Spring. You suck, February!
I was talking to my husband last night about starting this blog – I wanted to name it something that related to Chris and our friendship. During our first camping trip together, I woke up in the morning with terribly messed up hair – somehow between my shortness and hair sticking up, Chris thought I looked like Woodstock. Over the years, it just kind of stuck. When we talked about hiking the Appalachian Trail, Woodstock was to be my trail name. It’s funny, because when I look at pictures of Snoopy and Woodstock, I see Chris and I. They are a perfect example of best friends – together through all kinds of experiences. They laugh together and cry together. They camp and write, they complain and love. I don’t know where this will lead or if I am even clear in my purpose for writing it- to connect with others? To work through my grief? To remember what my real priorities and dreams truly are? Maybe it will last for a week, maybe for years. It doesn’t really matter. Whatever comes – whenever I write here, a part of me will be thinking of Chris.