A Christmas Haunting

The closer Christmas approaches

The more I feel you near.

Memories won’t stop unfolding

And it’s leaving me in tears.

You’re ghosting all the corners

Of every single room

Tis the season of light and merriment

And I’m deep in grief and gloom

I’m hearing snatches of your voice

As if your still here with me

I see the brightness of your love

in the lights on the Christmas tree

I don’t know how to do this

The holidays without you

How do I heal this ache in my soul

And figure out what to do.

 

This poem doesn’t want to be finished. I’ve been trying for several days now, and this is where it wants to end. Maybe once I get through this challenging time I’ll be able to look back and come up with an ending, I don’t know.

Happy Birthday, Mom

Swedish princess cake

Today would have been my mother’s 88th birthday. She was born in Stockholm, Sweden and every year for her birthday she had to have a Princess Torte (cake). A Princess cake is a Swedish dessert with white cake surrounded by layers of whipped cream, raspberry jam, and a thick cream filling, surrounded by a cover of green marzipan (almond paste), dusted with powdered sugar with a frosted pink rose on top. When we lived in Massachusetts, my sister would drive to Worcester to The Crown Bakery and get one for her every November. Once we moved to Maine, that became too much of a drive, so poor mom was deprived of her cake for a couple of years. Then last year, I found a European Bakery near where we live and to my surprise and delight, they sold princess cakes. I arranged to get one for her, and she was absolutely stunned when she saw it. She ate the entire 8-inch cake herself over the next week and said she wanted more. Last spring when she was in the hospital I got one for Mother’s Day to make it more special. It was one of the last solid foods she ate before she passed. I’m missing her incredibly today but having the memory of last year’s successful surprise is helping me immensely. So, happy birthday mom, wherever you are, I miss you incredibly, and I love you like crazy.

Checking In

I’m just checking in.

To tell you all how I’ve been

I keep surfacing for air

And looking here and there

To see if the grief is gone

To see if life can go on.

But grief’s a cheeky bugger

And not much of a hugger

He tends to sneak up on me

From behind where I cannot see

So I quickly dive back down

Trying to find smiles in all the frowns

And try to be patient with me

Because that’s what mom would want to see.

Captured Rainbows

One day my sister and her jeweler husband came over and wanted to see me. I think I was around 10-years-old at the time. When I walked into the kitchen, I noticed that my brother-in-law had a small brown envelope in his hands. He told me to put my hand out like a cup, I did so and he proceeded to pour the contents of the envelope into my palm. Diamonds. I gasped. My hand was half full of glittering diamonds. I heard him laugh as my eyes went wide looking at the treasure that was cradled in my fingers. I started walking towards the window and vaguely heard him warning me to be careful that I had tens of thousands of dollars in my hand. When I went to the sun-filled window I got lost in the beauty and wonder of them. I remember thinking how could anyone capture rainbows and trap them in stones. They sparkled and dazzled in the light and I passed a fingertip over them to make them twinkle like stars that had fallen to Earth. Tipping my hand slightly back and forth I watched the jewels roll back and forth; they felt hard like stone and as heavy as frozen raindrops. Before I knew it, he asked me to give them back to him and reluctantly I did. As I watched them disappear back into the envelope I wondered if I would ever see anything as beautiful again in my life. I’m still waiting.

Have Faith

“Have faith.” She tells me

But how can you have

Faith in the faithless?

How can you have faith

In someone who has

Let you down

More than they have

Raised you up?

How can you trust

Your heart with

Someone who never

Sees your feelings

As valid.

Who builds herself up

By tearing you down

Over and over again.

“Have faith.” She suggests.

Never again.

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.