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Optimal Grief for an Optimal Death

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“Your grandmother died an optimal death.  She was sleeping.  No gasp, no struggle.  She was 92.  She lived a long life.  She had been in a lot of pain and confusion, and now she is not.  It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Someone very close to me uttered the above words.  While they are true, and death was a respite in so many ways for my grandmother, it doesn’t make it any easier to lose her.  In my life, contemplating the idea of something has always been more of a challenge than the actual thing.  The symbolism has been more intimidating than the experience.  Concepts and feelings behind big words such as love, marriage, and motherhood freak me out more than the actual experiences.  Death.  Nanny is dead.  She is not coming back.

My source of the wonderful memories of my childhood is now on the other side.  Nanny was the last of that generation to go.  Now that she is gone, my Pa is really REALLY gone.  I’m re-feeling the grief of losing him even though it’s been eighteen years.  I also feel the grief of losing my childhood: that place where nostalgia meets longing that makes your chest hurt.

Now my parents are at the top of the family seniority food chain.  They are supposed to be the wise old giving owls.  I am concerned as I watched my mother lose herself in mental gymnastics worrying and fretting about Nanny constantly, using Nanny’s existence as an excuse not to go anywhere, do almost anything.  Will my mother join life again now?  Will she find a hobby, passion, or her grandchildren?  Will she just find another thing that ties her to being miserable, unable, incapable?

Nanny made worrying a sport, and my mother has been on that train.  I would be taking on an unhealthy family legacy to do more than pray for my mother.  I’d be using worry as a love language, when I don’t believe that it is.  Worrying actually shows lack of love and care for myself.  I’ve heard it said that worry is like a rocking chair, it is something to do, but it gets you nowhere.  It doesn’t help the person you are worried about, and it is a waste of time that can make the worrier physically and mentally ill.  So–I am noting it here and hopefully not picking up that rubik’s cube as much as I might have been inclined in the past.  In reality, I will probably realize that I’ve picked up the cube and promptly put it back down.

So, when all of these thoughts come at me–along with the pressures of an impending move, career change, and countless other details–I need to deal with my grief.  Since my loved one quipped about how optimal Nanny’s death was, I decided to fantasize about what it is I actually need.

When I was in college, I went to a formal dance with a friend, and my sorority sister went with one of my date’s fraternity brothers.  Said gal pal would frequently have too much to drink and get weepy.  At this particular formal, I returned from the bathroom to find my friend on my date’s lap while he patted her on the back and gently cooed, “Just let it alllllll out.”  I hadn’t thought of that scene in twenty years, but today, it seems like perfection.

In real life, I don’t get to bawl like I want to.  My spouse doesn’t get it, it was an “optimal death.”  I have to ask for a hug most days.  My daughter is only 5, and this is her first brush with death.  I could cry into a pillow, I could cry into the air as I pray, but I really really really just want to cry into the presence of another person.

Remember the scene in “Goodwill Hunting” when Robin Williams repeats “It’s not your fault” until Matt Damon’s character lets it loose.  (I’ll wait while you youtube it….)

That’s what I want, except Santa Claus seems like a jolly old elf that would let you do that kind of thing.  I would get to cry the ugliest cry ever cried into his shoulder while he patted my back, and that storybook voice would say, “She’s gone.  Things are different.  Things are frustrating and sad.  We don’t know what is next.  Just let it alllllllll out.”

sad santa

Empty Tomb

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The resurrection is incredibly hard to believe…but it’s even more difficult to believe that those closest to Jesus would not crack under pressure and torture–that they would agree to face horrible horrible deaths in order to propagate a lie.

That Peter, the one who denied him three times before the rooster crowed, would be hung on the cross upside down–because he had SEEN the risen Lord.

That James, who didn’t believe his brother was the son of God, would change his mind and believe.  (Thanks pastor, great new insight today.)

The twelve could have avoided horrible deaths if they would only admit that Jesus didn’t rise and appear to them….and UNSEE what they had SEEN.

I have hope due to the empty tomb.  That empty tomb fills me when I am empty.  I pray that I can be a light to others’ lives.





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The cornerstone of my faith is:

While Jesus was hanging on the cross in excruciating pain (created by humans) he said, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”  Luke 23:34

This is truly Amazing Grace, and it makes me want to follow.

Redemption and resurrection are available to all.

Happy Easter.

The Emo Pendulum and Canine Wisdom

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I am swinging back in the “okay” direction, thank God.  Birthday celebration with Hubs was really nice.  Sushi and saki preceded by a ride in a convertible and an adorable card did the body (and mind) good.

I know I’m still going to have difficult days, but I think the hormones are easing out of the equation.

Today, I find peace thinking that there is nothing I (or my doctor) could have done to save the baby at eight weeks (or even less, maybe death was sooner than I thought).  I find peace in realizing that nothing I can do, think, say, or pray will bring that baby back.  All I can do is live here and now, learn, be patient, and be kind to others (whose circumstances I don’t know).

In some ways, I continue to have an inner dialogue with Little One.  Thanking Little One for the growth and eye-opening ideas that he/she and his/her predecessor set into motion.  I’ve made many surprising decisions in preparation, and I think those decisions will benefit the One that Comes and Stays.

I guess it’s normal to continue to have a dialogue with a spirit passed.

  • I still mentally call and email ‘Cita, who passed in January.
  • I still hold my BBull dog who passed two years ago (and mentally walk him through my old neighborhood).

There was nothing I could have done to bring ‘Cita or BBull back.  I can only move forward from here and honor the things they taught me.  Neither of them would want me to stop–they didn’t.  They moved on to experience the fullness of God.

And, yes, I think dogs experience the fullness of God.  In my mind, it’s likely they are on a higher spiritual level on the Other Side (like the angels).  They deserve God’s fullness as a job well done for demonstrating unconditional love, forgiveness, joy in the now, and dependence on a higher power for providence….to us, the “rulers” of the world.

I think I’ll let my two Spirit Guides take me for a walk…..


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  • I love you like a person.
  • You frustrate me and drive me crazy.
  • I’ve been co-dependent, but I’m finding a way:
  • A way to love you without extinguishing my own fire,
  • And let YOU be who you are–who you always were.
  • In order to grow, I step away
  • And think of the ways it didn’t work.
  • But when I stumble,
  • You are constant.
  • You are there, taking me in.
  • You are in my blood–undeniably.
  • You strengthen me like Tara
  • And make everything okay.
  • Thank you
  • For allowing me to visit
  • For agreeing to be here
  • If I need you–
  • But not forcing me to stay

I didn’t understand this the first 400 times I saw it, but now I do.  Thanks, Tara.

You didn’t ask

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I haven’t seen  you in a month.  You didn’t ask how I was doing, yet I listened to your ups and downs.

How much do I talk and not listen when people are aching to share something with me?

Lord, let me ask engaging questions about people’s lives.  Let me care outside of myself.

Voice in my Ear

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How many times have I wished and wished for a message from God?  Lots and lots–and I’ve wanted Him to be clear with me, pllllease!

Since I’ve moved to ATL, I’ve felt disconnected and floating, trying to grasp at my new identity.  I’ve felt like I don’t have girlfriends, but the “enemy” has been toying and manipulating me into thinking I need more.

This week a highschool friend, a college friend, and a brand new friend all rallied around me (at separate moments).  The highschool friend and the brand new friend live in ATL area, and the college friend lives 3 hours away.  All three of them are in wildly different stages of life, and their political preferences run the gamut.  They are all beautifully genuine and incredibly thoughtful–these are the only (yet most important) similarities of the three.

As they spoke in my ear, their voices hit a harmonic .  I know this harmonic was the voice of God, and it finally sunk in.  God had been speaking to me for a tiringly long time, I just decided not to listen to his voice.  I realized that my lovely girlfriends are each in different stages of life, each living her own stage: its ups, its downs, its triumphs, its “growth opportunities.”

I finally accepted that it’s time to focus ONLY on MY PATH–not where others are on their paths.  God may be singing a different note with me than he is with my friend, my coworker, my sister-in-laws, and facebook friends (who doesn’t feel comparison pangs with their facebook friends?).  I realized that in pursuing everyone else’s life path, I’ve been missing out on the one that is UNIQUELY MINE.

My Dear Art Professor said,

I know you want to paint like Bill (my archnemesis art rival and source of mondo jealousy).  You need to give that up.  You will NEVER paint like Bill, and Bill will NEVER paint like you.  The minute you give that up and accept the way you paint, you will loosen up and paint like yourself.  It won’t be forced–it will flow from your brush.

So, now is the time to applaud others’ efforts, accomplishments, and life paths but not forget to respect my own–to focus on my playlist and take more time to figure out the arrangement of my individual song.

From the Red Tent

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I thought Lent was only 40 days.  I’ve got 37 entries, and Easter is 8 days away.  You do the math.  I agreed to write for 40 days and explore in the name of art, creativity, faith, and writing.  I’ve skipped three days, but I’ll still have 40 by the end.  God will understand.

Friday afternoon I was stopped in my tracks by the worst physical pain I’ve ever experienced.  Saturday was no better–hence no entries.  Today, I write from the blo0dy trenches that are the female experience.  Two miscarriages in four months.  Well, the second I am not absolutely sure of, but I expect the joy of my sonogram tomorrow to be trumped by “I’m sorry” and “keep trying” that were there last time.

The first time at 5 weeks, this time at 8 weeks.  The pins and needles of the first 12 weeks make the whole thing agonizing….beside the fact that you shouldn’t tell anyone….lest they feel sorry for you….I’m not used to bearing my burdens alone.

For all the (monthly) blood and gore, lost children, agonizing waiting, and pain that women go through, they should be in NO WAY considered the weaker sex.

God, I understand that this is part of Your Plan and my growth into the woman you want me to be.  My emotions are mixed in the worst way.  I desperately want to be a parent, but I’m quite terrified to make this transition in my life.  I’m getting older, and I am pissed off at your biological clock making the whole process feel rushed.  We will take a break and re-focus on eachother, our marriage, and having fun.  Please, please, please send me a cheerleader to tell me that “everything will be allright.”  I pray that my family growing is eventually part of your plan.  I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

Lotto Motto

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Why is it that the idea of winning the lottery leads most people to what they really really want to do with their lives?  I know, if money were no object….yada yada yada…

The thing is, most of us still need to “work” on something just to keep our brains occupied and not going crazy.  I know I do.  I still need to achieve things, grow, learn, and impact others–just not exactly in the capacity/structure I am employing right now.

Maybe we shouldn’t wait on winning the elusive $500 Million, but take a little step toward that lottery plan every day.  Little steps won’t look so crazy from the outside, and we might just settle into our ideal vocation along the way–so much so, that by the time we win the Mega Millions, we “wouldn’t change a thing about our lives.”  How’s that for living without regret?

I think I will get to steppin’ toward my lottery plans….after I go buy that ticket!

Googlial Pursuit

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I had drawn him a picture and had it framed.

My mother said, “You are doing too much.  He needs to pursue you!”

“I don’t care.  I LOVE him!” I replied.

Four years ago today, he googled me after fifteen years.  I never forgot him, and I will never forget the day his out-of-the-blue email brought us back together.

He did pursue me.  It just took him a minute or 7,884,000.