Archive for the ‘Death/Mortality/Grief’ Category

#4 – Beautiful Intrusions

Over the weekend, I accomplished Task #4 in the battle of the UNsCelebrate the Happiness of Someone Else.  While doing so….enter stage right…a life lesson called Beautiful Intrusions.

To celebrate the happiness of someone else, I planned to crash a wedding on Friday night and attend a wedding that I was formally invited to on Saturday.  Friday night was an epic fail but Saturday was the real deal…



The Wedding Cake:  Slice me! Eat Me!  Smash me in someone’s face!

As if the wedding cake wasn’t enough to give every guest a giant sugar rush, a tradition in this part of the country is to have a cookie buffet at wedding receptions.  The family of the bride and groom made home-made cookies….enough for every guest to eat several hundred dozen.  Sugar + open bar + a DJ not afraid to play Thriller and the Village People’s YMCA absolutely made the UNs temporarily disappear.

Cookie Buffet The Cookie Buffet.  Pick me!  Eat me!  Take me home for later!

During the wedding service, the preacher mentioned something about Beautiful Intrusions.  He said that in a Christian marriage, God intrudes into your human relationship.  I thought about this statement and decided that it’s true.  Sometimes God is invited to intrude into our lives and sometime’s not, but each time He enters the picture, the intrusion is beautiful whether we immediately realize it or not.

The day after the wedding, my dad, sister, aunt, uncle, and I went to the graveyard together to visit my mom’s resting place.  It was the first time I had been there since her death in March.


Standing above my mother’s grave…seeing her name  perpetually inscribed on the surface of a stone…I remembered what the preacher said during the wedding about Beautiful Intrusions

At the end of a life, God forcefully intrudes.  He takes someone away from our grasp.  Sorrow runs deep.  It seems impossible to see any beauty in the icy feelings of reality…a life alone without the person we love.

So, as the five of us stood at the cemetery, watering flowers and feeling the intensity of our own pain and loss…I thought…but what about her?  Where did she go?  Did her tiny ship lower its anchor in a more beautiful place like I wrote about on the day she died?  Is the pain of her long illness gone?  Can she hear music more lovely than Thriller and the YMCA?  Is she…could she be…is it an impossible concept to believe that she is looking down on us and is…happy?

If the answer to any or all of those questions is yes…then at that very moment…as I processed the reality of seeing her name and date on that stone…I quietly and tearfully celebrated the happiness of someone else…in the truest and most emotionally difficult sense possible.

Task #4, I declare you complete.

Have there been any Beautiful Intrusions in your own life?

Dirty Little Secrets

Almost everyone has them….things that you shhhhhh and don’t tell anyone about…secrets.

Do you have any?  I do.

Earlier this week my family and I began the monumental task of cleaning out my mom’s belongings.  Although she was sick for many years and in bed for the last two, we never moved her things…everything was left in place, exactly the way she left it. 

If there were secrets lurking in her closet, her dressers, her hiding places…we were about to find them.

IMG_1791 A smile…when I found my grandma’s bling.  Plastic, from Woolworth’s.

If someone looked though everything you owned…every pouch, pocket, bin, bag, drawer, folder, computer file, and box, what would surprise them?  Would anything be shocking? 

Would anything totally rock their world?

I realized a few things while cleaning out my mom’s closet.  First and most important (and as Sydney wisely suggested on her blog), never keep something that you don’t want someone else to find.  One day, everything will be found.

The item that rocked my world the most was a notebook that she kept under her nightstand.  On the first page was a letter from me, to her, written on Mother’s Day in 1998.  On the following pages were entries that she wrote to me…and that I had never seen before.  I took the book home, opened it that same evening, and cried my eyes out as I read her words of praise, disappointment, and self-confession. 


We haven’t found any dirty little secrets yet, and I hope we don’t.  With my mom, the person she portrayed to others was who she really was.  The things she “tucked away,” although maybe she never wanted to share them, are consistent with the women I knew.

Which reminds me…there are few things in my own house that should probably be tossed.  Now…where did I put that….

If you have secrets, is it better to share them, or not?

                      …at least with one person who knows what to burn??

Be sure to check out “the un page,”at the top, where I’ll be posting updates about the 12 ways I’m beating the Feeling of UN this summer.  Up next is #2, a date with Mr. Backbone, which is happening tonight.

Have a GREAT weekend!

T: Taking Time for Tears

When I began this A-Z Challenge, my mom had just died.  I needed a distraction from the grief…and this challenge has been a good distracter.  I’ve been able to joke around here, let my mind wonder, and take a timeout.

When a tragedy hits your life, the how to deal with it part is up to you.  Everyone’s process is different and if anyone says they have a sure-fire way to get past the grief, I’d  have to disagree.  There’s no prescription.  There’s no timeline.

After the funeral was over, I didn’t want to think about what had just happened.  I kept my mind busy.  Blogging 6 days a week instead of 2 or 3 added that extra level of busy that I needed.  And then came yesterday…when I decided that I WAS ready to think about it, write about it…

…and to try and understand the one thing that has been haunting me these past 4 weeks.  THIS:

Akiane Kramarik: Infinite-Eye

Source: Akiane Kramarik

Allow me to rewind…to 4 weeks ago, today.

My dad phoned, saying that I needed to come home right away.  When I arrived, my mom was clearly dying, in a hospital bed, in the middle of our living room.  A priest was there giving Catholic Last Rights.  Also in the room were hospice  nurses, a social worker, and a few other people.  It was a chaotic scene.

A short while later, my mom was struggling for breath.  One of us grabbed her hand, started to cry hysterically, and yelled “Don’t go!  We need you here!  Don’t leave us!”

Her breathing calmed.  She opened her eyes wide, and stayed that way for 2 1/2 days, never closing them, rarely blinking. 

“What is she looking at?” we would ask.

“Oh, she’s probably not seeing anything; she might be blacked out.”

“But why doesn’t she close them for even a minute?  She’s been awake only 6-8 hours a day for the past year, and now she can’t sleep at all?  It doesn’t make any sense!”

“Honestly, I don’t know,” the nurse would say.  “It happens sometimes.” 

We’d repeat this conversation many times.  My sister, dad, and I would take turns sitting up with her over those 60+ hours, feeling guilty for sleeping when she was awake.

“I think she’s looking AT something,” I said.  “It doesn’t seem like she’s blacked out.  She looks mesmerized.  Dad…I think she’s seeing ….um…I think she’s seeing angles, or heaven, or whatever’s on the other side.”

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back [Book]“I don’t know,” he said.  “It could be anything.”

Cut back to yesterday, Good Friday.  Along with a condolence card, my friend Amy sent me the book “Heaven is for Real,” by Todd Burpo.  With Easter almost here, I decided to read it.

I won’t spoil the plot, but the book is about a little boy who swears that he died went to heaven for 3 minutes while in surgery.  He describes heaven, its colors, and certain set of eyes.  The book includes a black and white portrait of the person with the eyes. 

After reading the last page, I turned to the picture. 

I saw my mom looking back at me…the eyes were HER eyes…the eyes that she had during those last 2 1/2 days.  And that’s when I cried. 

As strange as it may seem, I believe that my suspicion was true.  She was looking at something so indescribably beautiful,that she never again wanted to be in the dark.  She was ready for the place where darkness never comes.

And there you have it.

Have a Blessed Easter, everyone.

C: Cake and Condolences

How about if we start off today with a delicious slice of birthday cake…?

BirthdayShhhh – don’t tell anyone that I tried the icing.

Tonight we celebrated my nephew’s 6th birthday party.  It was a fun, light-hearted party.  Aside from pure, innocent, 6-year-old happiness, the best parts were: 1) seeing my 89-year-old grandma wearing a paper Go Diego Go! birthday hat; and 2) the cake.

 Cake Grandma

This was the first time that my family had gotten together since my mom’s funeral.  It’s only been a little over a week and we are all still grieving.  Condolence cards are still arriving…


….but the best card tonight was the one read by a six-year-old that said “Happy Birthday.” 

The party was missing a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a friend.  Still, life goes on.  There is no use sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves when there are six candles on a cake, waiting to be wished upon. 

Grief does not have to be all-consuming.  People experience grief and cope with it in all types of different ways…even in ways that involve cake and ice cream.  There is no shame or guilt in feeling happiness during these periods of our lives. 

Grief is the price that we pay for love.  Just because we are grieving doesn’t mean that we should put a hold on loving each other and celebrating each others’ joys.  Some days we may wake up in the morning, pull the covers back over our heads, and cry.  We will want to be left alone.  But then we will eventually get up…walk into the kitchen…make a cup of tea…see the left-over birthday cake on the Go Diego Go! paper plate…peel back the plastic wrap…and stick our fingers in the icing.  After all, nobody’s looking. 

Cake and Condolences…what a Combination for today’s inspiration by the Letter C.

Have you ever grieved?  What are some of the things you did to move through it more easily?  Did this post make you hungry for birthday cake?

Sneak peak at tomorrow – The Dummy and the Department of Defense.  Be sure to check back!

Journey to Another Shore

 I plan on writing a long post this weekend about the events that have occurred here over the past few days.  My mother passed away peacefully yesterday.  She was 63.

There has been an outpouring of kind words and deeds from friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers, not only in these past few days, but over the past several years.  About two years ago my father made the decision to care for my mom at home instead of confining her to a care facility.  This took the love, dedication, and sacrifice of so many people, and we were truly blessed to have them all in our lives. 

As my mother took her last breath, her hand was on her childhood prayer-book.  Our immediate family was gathered around her saying the rosary.  The rosary always comforted her and she passed to the other side in such peace.  I do not know who wrote the following passage.  It was sent to me by a friend, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

I stood watching as the tiny ship sailed out to sea. As she disappeared from sight a voice at my side whispered, “She is gone”. On the farther shore, friends gathered to watch and wait in happy expectation. Suddenly they caught sight of the tiny sail and at the very moment when my companion had whispered, “She is gone” a glad shout went up in joyous welcome, “Here she comes!”


Photo © Andrew Williams.

Are there any inspirational quotes or sayings that are special to you?

Coping Through Laughter

Warning – this post contains raw emotion and raw humor around the topic of losing a loved one.  If you are sensitive to this topic, or if you don’t like the idea of using bad-taste humor to cope with tragedy, it’s okay if you don’t read on.  Check back with me next week, when I’ll likely be back to regular programming.

I am typing this sitting at my mother’s bedside.  As I was pulling into the parking lot of a restaurant last night to meet some friends for dinner, my cell phone rang.  It was my dad.  His only words were “I need you to come home right now.”  He didn’t have to say anything else. 

My mom has been battling a terrible disease for years.  I wont go into the details about its symptoms other than to say it takes away a piece of you every day, slowly, over the course of 5-7 years until there is nothing left, physically or mentally. 

I’ve come to know that there is a distinct difference between:

  • learning about a death,
  • dealing with a sudden death, and
  • watching death happen. 

I’ve been watching the process of my mom dying in slow motion for 5 years.  It has taught me so much about life, compassion, commitment, true love, faith, and purpose.  I think that losing a loved one changes you…not just from the loss, but also from the process of the loss.

So, here I sit with my family, in these final, precious moments that I will remember for the rest of my life.  And what are we doing?  Coping.  And how are we doing that?  Some are calm and spiritual, while others are hysterical.  Some are crying, while others are remembering the good times and smiling.  In all honesty, I think everyone here is going through all of those emotions, in their own ways.  Every once in a while the immense stress is broken by laughter, like this morning when…

We were all sitting quietly.  My dad was reading the Sunday paper, Lifestyle section, when he said…

Dad:  That’s a bad picture of Mrs. Gilbert.

Sister:  Who’s Mrs. Gilbert?

Dad:  I have no idea.

Sister: Then how do you know it’s a bad picture?

Dad:  Bwahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaa!

Dad passes the paper to me.

Me: Bwahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaa!

Sister:  Come on guys, there is nothing in that paper that could possibly be that funny.

I pass the paper to my sister.

Sister:  Bwahahahahahhahaaaaaaaa!



What?  It’s not close enough?  Okay, okay, let me zoom it in a little more…


Is it just me, or are her dentures falling out? 

Help us break the stress of these days.  I know you might feel compelled to write I’m sorry about your mom, or hang in there, or sending out my prayers in the comments section.  If you are thinking those things, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Prayers are always appreciated here, if you’re the praying type.  In addition, there is something else you can do…

What we could really use at this moment, as strange as it may seem until you have actually met my family, is a little more laughter to break the stress.  Make us laugh.

How would you caption the above photos?

If you liked this post you may also like A Birthday Card for Mom and Love Part 1.