My Brother

Hi all, I’m afraid I need to ask for your support in the form of prayers and good thoughts again. My brother, who had a kidney transplant in 2010, is back in the hospital again and not doing very well. They are seriously considering starting dialysis, and he is back on the transplant waiting list. He is only 55 years old and still has so much life ahead of him if only he can get through this. I think that our mother’s death put such a strain on his body that this is the result. I just can’t believe we are faced with this stress and emotion again so soon after my mom died and yet here we are. They say God never gives us more than we can handle, but I’m starting to question that at this point.

Happy Birthday, Lilly

I can see it so clearly in my head. A pink birthday cake dotted with candles in the middle of the table. Big, bright balloons hanging from the ceiling gently blowing in the summer breeze. Party hats, streamers, toy horns, confetti finish the party tableau. The only thing that is missing is the birthday girl. She’s eight-years-old today, my niece’s daughter. How can she have been in this world for eight years now and I’ve never set eyes on her? I’ve never spoken to her. I have no connection to her at all except through blood. Her mother, my niece, was my heart growing up. She and I were so close and then she turned 20 and for whatever reason decided to move across the country to California. She changed her phone number. She unfriended the entire family on Facebook. She did everything she could to tell us to stay away. She didn’t need us anymore. She didn’t want us in her life anymore. And she broke my heart in ways I didn’t know were possible. And now, for the past eight years on July 27th, I wish my grand-niece Lilly happy birthday and make the same wish. A wish that I get to see her one day. To meet her and to talk to her. To be able to tell her everything I’ve wanted to but I couldn’t because her mother made the decision that we weren’t worthy enough to be in their life.  I hope she is happy. I hope she has a great life. I hope she has a happy birthday and many, many more like them. But most importantly I hope, in some way, she knows that she has a family who has never met her who love her so very much. Happy birthday, Lilly.

To Push or Let Go

My mother passed away nine weeks ago now, and my siblings and I still have not gotten around to writing an obituary for her. I’ve been anxious to get it done for five weeks now and the response from them, at that time, was “There is no timetable for submitting an obituary so what’s the rush?” One of my sisters admitted she was avoiding working on it. I understand there is no timetable for publishing one, but I can’t help but feel like the longer we wait to write it, the less of a chance we ever will write one as a family. I am so torn between pushing them to start working on it and just waiting until they are ready. We are all processing this immense loss that we are all experiencing. After much contemplating about it, I decided this morning that I’m going to go ahead and write a draft of one and e-mail it to them just to see what they say. I can see one of three things happening if I do this. One, they will tell me that it’s okay and that I should go ahead and publish it. Two, my siblings will say to me that it’s a good start and they will edit it and make suggestions. Or three, they will react with anger and tell me that they will work on it in their own time. But, I can’t let their possible reactions stop me from doing what I feel my mother would want. When she could still read the newspaper, she would always look at the obituaries, and one thing that would drive her crazy was when she came across an obituary that was printed months after the person had died. I know in my heart how upset she would be to know that over two months had passed and there still wasn’t a published obituary for her.

I’ve also found that deciding to write an obituary and actually creating one are two substantially different things. How do you summarize the life of your Mother in less than 300 words? How do you take over 80 years of experiences and life and compress it into a newspaper-friendly size? Over the past several weeks I have tried to write one in fits and starts, but nothing ever sounds good enough to honor her. Nothing has even come close to capturing the magic and grace that was my mother. I can feel my resolve waffling again. I just want to follow my siblings lead and put it on a shelf somewhere and not work on it or think about it. Knowing that’s not what my mom would want though, won’t allow me to do that. The bottom line, in all this, rambling, is that I know what needs to be done. I need to push through this apprehension and feeling of inadequacy and do what my mom would have wanted. This obituary needs to be written sooner rather than later.

The Paintbrush

My hand hangs suspended in the air

Paintbrush dipped in blue paint

Clasped in trembling fingers

It’s just a test swatch

I tell myself for the

Millionth time.

But still brush has

Yet to meet wall.

It feels wrong to do this

It is still Mom’s bedroom

I’m looking for approval

From someone who can

No longer give it.

And yet the need to

Take that first step towards

A future without her

Feels so critically important.

A primal instinct to not get

Entrapped in my grief

And enshrine her bedroom

Never to be touched

Or changed.

I can’t let that happen.

Taking a deep breath

Brush meets wall in

Broad strokes.

Color shall lead my way

Towards an uncertain future.

I only hope I choose

The right one.

Historical Excavation

There’s a spot in the woods up the way from my sister’s old house. From the dirt road it looks like the surrounding forest but walk in about fifteen feet and you start noticing stones in the ground. From underneath the dirt and leaves that cover the ground like a tattered quilt, an old foundation materializes. Who knows how long it has been here. Long enough for the wooden structure to have melted into the forest floor. What remains must be hunted for. My nephew and I have our weapons of choice: shovels. We scrape away the soggy leaves and uncover the damp earth underneath. We slop a pile of leaves off to one side to clear away a larger section. From the surface there is nothing noticeable, some rocks emerging like miniature mountains. My nephew picks a random spot and pulls up some dirt.  We eagerly look through it and find nothing. Repeating this process three more times our excitement begins to fade as we continue to find nothing. Sitting on a nearby stump we wonder if my sister’s husband has sent us on some goose chase to keep us out from underfoot. My nephew wants to go back home. I don’t. I stand up and kick some of the dirt in the last hole we dug and notice something. A glimpse of something whiter than the surrounding brownish black. I crouch down and he comes over and we start clearing away the filth. A face appears and a shoulder and an arm. It’s the head and torso of an old china doll. Who knows long how long she has slumbered here. Suffocated by what had buried her. It is like we have resurrected her from the dead. We find a nearby stream and cleanse her like a Baptism. The sun is sinking behind the trees and I decide we must go home. As we look at each other, and share the same expression, we both know we will be back here tomorrow to see what other treasures lurk beneath our feet.

Surprise Visit

Yesterday my niece and nephew surprised me with a visit. They have been absolutely wonderful during this difficult time. They lost their dad in 2011 and their mom in 2016 and they keep telling me that I was there for them during those times so they are making sure they are there for me during this sorrowful time. The three of us have always been close ever since my sister and her husband adopted them from Russia. They are also close to my mom and losing her is hurting them deeply. To see them doing their best to set that aside to be there for me has moved me beyond words. I just feel so lucky and grateful to have them in my life. They are definitely one of the things that are bringing light to my life right now and pushing the encroaching darkness away.