See You Tomorrow

Mama

Exactly one year ago today, I hugged my sweet Mama for the last time.  I still remember holding on tight to her and not wanting to let go, scared and uncertain of how exactly I was supposed to do that.  I soon came to realize that it’s not until the physical body is gone that you truly begin to hold onto the soul.  At that moment, when there is nothing left to grasp onto, the best part of a loved one’s soul holds tight to you instead and helps guide you through the most difficult moments of your life.  It is at that time that you begin to feel the magnitude of love that has ebbed and flowed between the two of you.

There is not a day that passes that I do not think of Mama all the time.  Her face is at the forefront of my mind as I rise and her words of wisdom comfort me at night as I try to wind down from the challenges of the day.  She is in the stories that I share with friends and the advice that I offer to my students.  Her words lift from my tongue without realization until the thought pops into my mind that it is exactly something she would say.  When I’m feeling sad, thoughts of her kindness comfort me.  When I’m feeling angry, memories of her strength and perseverance enter my mind.  When I’m feeling happy, recollection of her laughter envelopes my heart.

She is with me today just as much as she was all the years before.  I cannot hug her tightly in my arms; but, I can feel her arms wrapped around my heart.  I cannot share in conversation with her; but, I can sense her words of comfort daily.  I cannot taste her food, ask her a question, or comfort her when she cries.  But there is one thing for certain I can experience…..each time my chimes ring….which tends to be often these days….it sure feels like her voice rising just above all the other angels on high to sing a song of happiness and support.

One of the things that stands out so strongly in my memory of Mama in her final days is how positively she acknowledged her final visits with friends and family.  Instead of saying goodbye each time someone came to visit her during that final week, Mama tended to say, “See you tomorrow.”  It remains as one of my most cherished memories of her final days.  I love that goodbye was not an option for her, but instead a simple statement reminding us all that we will enjoy a loving reunion somewhere later on down the line, was.

Miss U!  Love U!  Mean it, my sweet Mama!!

 “See you tomorrow!!”

Mama and me

 

 

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Popcorn, Orange Slices, and Jerry

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Ahhhh…the ease of a beautiful Saturday!  I don’t think there is anything better than a relaxed, carefree, sunny Saturday.  As a kid we lived for this day.  This day represented freedom, family, friends and Jerry Lewis.  Yep, you heard me right….Lewis….Jerry Lewis!

In our household, bribery was often incorporated into the daily workings of our homestead corporation.  To give you an example, we could enjoy television at free will, daily, as long as none of us kiddos received a “C” on our report card.  As luck would have it, I could typically be counted on to ensure that we never saw the glimmer of the illustrious, illuminated box; therefore, consistently guaranteeing no television for eight more weeks.  Not sure if this brilliant notion was swiped from the whole Punxsutawney Phil Groundhog phenomenon, but it sure felt that way.  So starting Friday nights we had a pretty packed viewing schedule; but Saturdays, oh glorious Saturdays, now those were the day’s dreams were built on.

Pajamas, popcorn, orange slices and a good Jerry Lewis flick.  That’s what Saturdays were made of in our home.  I can’t rightly recall if it was Mom or Dad that loved Jerry Lewis.  My guess leans towards Dad though. It seems to be a little more in his wheelhouse.  Regardless, we all began to love Saturdays with Jerry.  It represented laughter and popcorn tossing competitions.

As you know, my life on the child labor market started pretty early on and popcorn vending sure seemed to fit right nicely into that realm.  Dad initially was the master of popping, but he more than willingly seemed to pass that torch onto us as soon as feasible.  Unlike laundry duty though, no hard feelings were harbored when popcorn vending came into play.  We all seemed to love that job.  We had a pot that appeared to have fallen off the back of a chuck-wagon traveling along the Trail of Tears that we used to pop corn in.  It was a dull metal, dented and charred from excessive use.  I really have no idea what might have come out of that pot prior to our popcorn days, but it was surely seasoned well and produced popcorn the likes of which you can’t find today.

The popcorn was delicious, but it was Mama’s fine palate that decided to marry the taste of buttery popped corn with juicy orange slices and that, my friends, is beyond compare.  There was nothing fancy to it, oil popped corn with melted butter and perfectly cut orange slices used as chasers for each buttery bite of puffed corn.  I don’t know why, but those two scents and tastes, ’til this day, cause my mouth to water, eyes to sparkle, and a certain feel of home to enter my heart.

Now back to Jerry Lewis.  If you’ve never experienced an afternoon of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis films, you must.  At first, you might question why you are even watching them.  They can be a bit over the top at times….okay…most of the time.  But as time progresses, you start to realize this is truly depicting what life is all about.  We live daily adventures, accepting life’s ups and downs as they come, developing the ability to laugh at ourselves and bring a smile to the face of others all along the way.  It’s about lasting relationships that provide support and love, whatever form they come in.  Jerry Lewis may play this type of loving, loyal character in his movies…but he very much encompasses this belief in his own life as well.  We saw ourselves in his fictional character and wanted to emulate his overwhelming compassion in real life.

I can’t help but compare his bright personality and abundant empathy with Mama.  Maybe that’s why his films resonate so profoundly with me even today.  Long after our popcorn and orange slice Saturdays have since ceased, each one of us still embodies the desire to contribute to charitable foundations through activism.  We learned this from both our parents and I can’t help but think that Jerry, popcorn, and orange slices had a little to do with it too.

 

 

The Time Has Come

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Lately, I have been coming home so weary that I find it quite difficult to even enjoy my evenings.  I know that the stress of losing a loved one has a lot to do with this.  The constant wave of emotions that sneak up on me, cloaking me in sadness one moment and then swinging to joyous revelations of just how lucky I have been in life to have known a person so marvelous are extremely draining and leave me feeling depleted of all energy.  I also realize that, like many of you, my job is more than demanding, oftentimes, by the completion of the day, having sucked all vitality from my being.  So as the days roll on and I am made more aware of just how expended my spirit becomes by the end of the day, I understand clearly there needs to be change.  Something has got to give.  I love my job.  I love the people I am surrounded by every day.  I must embrace the fact that taking care of myself more right now does not mean loving them any less.

This weekend as I sat pondering just how to do this, a clear vision of what I want for myself developed.  I love what I do and take great pride in the impact that I have on the future of our society.  It is a most important contribution and I realize the responsibility that comes with it is great. So as I sat in a reflective state, beginning to fully understand the goal forming in my mind, I struggled with how to balance the two worlds of their needs vs. mine.

I began to really analyze what I felt was happening and I believed I discovered how things might be altered.  I noticed that my day, like most, begins with the responsibilities of my job and then eases into my personal time just at the point in the day when my body just wants to give out.  I know I must alter my thinking and behaviors in order to achieve a greater balance.  My job is not my life.  As it stands now though, it does take the most invigorated, prestigious time of my day, if only because it holds the coveted spots of morning and afternoon.  I became increasingly cognoscente of the fact that I was losing my own time to pure exhaustion.

I’ve now decided to approach my day a little more differently.  I need to embrace the fact that my job is a job and should not demand the coveted position of center of my mind and spirit.  It will have to shift to something just outside of that coveted spot.  That spot is now being perfectly balanced for the “my best interests” moments of my day.  These moments are what must be made the central point of my life.  I think as we age, we begin to truly realize this.  I guess the fact that I am on the cusp of turning one year older has me reevaluating my priorities.  I’m finding I’m okay with that.  I may even be….possibly…..totally…..excited about changing my belief that morning is not necessarily the beginning of a “my” new day…..but…..afternoon might just have to take that title…..effective…..immediately!

 

Nostalgic Jubilation

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I knew that Easter might be a bit rough this year, and it was.  Luckily, my most difficult moments were in solitude and I allowed my tears to flow freely without an ounce of self-consciousness.  Sometimes, a good cry is really all that can help with the sadness.  I needed a few days to get my thoughts together enough to relay my memories of the holiday.  I had wanted to do it on Easter day, but found that when I sat to write, my emotions were still a bit too raw to think clearly.  So I waited, until it felt right.

Thank goodness for loved ones because, although there was an absolute absence within my heart, I was definitely well taken care of and included in the true essence of Easter in its most traditional sense.  I adore Easter and all aspects of it, including the commercial aspect.  I think it’s one of those holidays where there is a nice balance between recognizing one’s faith and enjoying the simplicity of family fun.

As a child, Easter was always a pretty big deal.  Mom was a seamstress and for years made us new, crisp, white dresses.  To add to that were hats adorned with pastel ribbons and shiny shoes squeaky enough to demand all the attention one might need when dressed in their finest.  In preparation for the big day, I can remember all the fittings and adjustments needed, which just added to the anticipation.  Mom was really good about allowing us some say in which dress patterns we liked so that on the actual day, we were always pretty excited about our new outfits.

I don’t know how she did it.  She managed to always find time to do it all.  We dyed eggs until our fingers were little multicolored shriveled up prunes.  The image of aprons and wire scoops balancing delicate, wobbling eggs with pink, blue, green, and yellow cups of brilliant liquid to plop them into is such a vivid picture in my mind.  It was always so exciting.

Easter morning we would quietly sneak to the living room to see what kinds of goodies the Easter Bunny had blessed us with, knowing full well our bellies would be ever so delighted with the delicacies we would soon be engulfing.  We were never disappointed.  Whether it was hollow chocolate bunnies, old school jelly beans, or the creamy smoothness of specialty chocolates, we were in complete heaven.  Also hidden in our baskets, at least for us girls, would be a fun little piece of jewelry and a book that we might have been longing for.  The sweet simplicity of it all was what makes it so endearing to me now.  I often wonder just how some of our holidays have lost that nostalgic feel and are now so much more grandiose and pretentious.

For some reason, on this special day, our lovely little church always seemed so much brighter and more full of light than on any other day.  It was always buzzing with laughter and happiness on Easter day.  Right in the middle of the aisle stood a big white cross with holes all over it specifically meant for freshly picked flowers from the garden.  The simple act of finding the perfect hole so that my flower stood out among all the rest was part of the fun.  The sermon was uplifting and the hymns always joyful.  Having an exceptional voice, Mom was certain to sing in the choir.  Even today, if I close my eyes and make still everything else….I can hear her singing.  She sang without reservation and enough jubilation to fill an entire room.  I believe it will always be something I can hear.  I don’t imagine it will ever go away.

So this weekend, as I sat in an unfamiliar church listening to a service a bit foreign to me and mostly hymns I had never heard before, I was comforted by the fact that I was with amazing people, experiencing what Easter has always meant to them through the years and it warmed my heart to know that we are all different and yet so much alike in so many ways.  Although Mom was not with me in person, I felt that she was there.  Of all the hymns sung that day, I only knew of two of them, both being hymns that Mama used to love to sing.  Luckily for me, they were the processional hymn and the recessional hymn….they guided me into the service and lead me back out into the sunshine.  I think she knew I needed something to get me there and then a little nudge to get me back out to enjoy the rest of the day and the company of those with especially big hearts and open arms.

 

Bucket List

Church Top

 

Some of my most treasured memories are those traveling with my parents as an adult.  The experience is completely different than that of when I was a child.  The dynamics shift and there is sense of “friendship” that evolves.  Over the years, I have been lucky enough to travel with them numerous times to all sorts of different places.  One such trip was through the Northeastern states just a couple of years back.

Once Mom discovered she had cancer, she added one thing that I can recall, to her bucket list.  She was bound and determined to visit all fifty states.  Mind you, my parents were extensive travelers and had already journeyed to most.  It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary to call them up and discover they were on the road or in route to their next destination.  Which is probably why I enjoyed hanging out with them so much?  They had more energy in their seventies than I ever did.  I admired them for their thirst for adventure and commitment to staying connected with friends.

There were but two final states that we needed to visit to complete Mom’s bucket list wish that year, New Hampshire and Vermont; but, my parents don’t tend to do things minimally.  We conquered fifteen states and Niagara Falls that vacation.  This is where both of my parents’ true character shines through.  We only needed to visit two states to fulfill Mom’s bucket list.  However, the same wish was on my bucket list as well and my parents made sure we visited a chunk of states to add to mine.  Their generosity to help others fulfill their dreams is something I will always be grateful for and strive to emulate myself.

Lake Sunapee

The sunset pictured below was taken the final night of our visit through the great states of New Hampshire and Vermont.  It was breathtaking and left us with a feeling of peace that Mom’s final bucket list wish had been achieved.  The image of that moment remains in my memory as vividly as Mom’s colorful personality.  It was as glorious as she and left me longing to visit again, much like the effect Mom’s infectious personality had on others.

New Hampshire

Mama’s “invite”

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Yesterday, as I was looking at my list of friends to send an “invite” to for my Facebook page, I stumbled upon Mom’s name again.  It took me aback, as it does every time, and soon I was fully enveloped in sorrow.  I know without any hesitation that Mama would have supported me and that her “like” button would have been the first one pushed.  I found myself wanting to click on it, even knowing that there was no one on the other end to receive it.  It is moments like these that are so difficult.  It’s when there is a flash of a picture, or a flash of a name, or a flash of a moment and that ever so brief flash turns into hours of pain, tears, and loneliness.

I cannot precisely explain the feeling that washes over you, other than genuine shock.  But much more of a confused, baffled shock than typically occurs when upsetting events present themselves.  I think most often when I am stunned by something, it affects my brain.  I tend to sit in wonder of the how and why of it all.  Strangely enough, when the shock comes from a picture or lost moment of Mama, it affects my heart.  It latches onto it and squeezes so hard I can barely breathe.  I know of no other shocking situation that does that, only the death of a loved one.

There is no time for rational, only time to react to the agony of it all.  What I have learned in these bits of heartache is that if you just take a moment to sit in it all and cry out the loneliness, anger, frustrations, and feelings of deep loss…..there is always a sense of relief and a glimmer of light in the end.  It’s as if our loved ones that are watching us from above are guiding us through this and have opened that door at the end of a very long, dark hallway.  There is something about that idea and belief that I genuinely “like.”

 

Quote ~ Friendship

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Each friend represents a world in us,

a world possibly not born until they arrive,

and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.

~ Anaïs Nin