Archive for children

Mothers Day Poem

87760013

I don’t know how you make the time

To do the things you do,

You cook and clean and wash my hair,

when is there time for you?

You helped me with my homework,

you took me here and there.

You gently tucked me into bed

and softly said a prayer.

I know you get up early,

to see that we aren’t late.

How do you get us fed and clean,

and always look so great?

I guess what I am saying,

is you mean alot to me.

And I appreciate the things

you do- for us, your family.

Though once a year is not

enough to hear these things I say-

I love you, mom, with all my heart!

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

Comments (3) »

There Comes A Time- My First Home

 

DSCN3825

Many years ago, my parents brought home their first and only child to a little white house that my grandfather built in the years before the depression really set in, here in the mountains of North Carolina. My grandfather used to tell me stories of a man offering him a thousand board feet of lumber for a thousand dollars. From that, he built a little four room house in the neighborhood where he lived. Everyone referred to it as the “Little House”.

Many friends and family got their start in that little house over the years. Too many to count, at least for anyone still alive today. Years later, my grandfather bought a farm about a mile up the valley, and when I was 17 months old, my family built a house down the road from them.

I don’t remember anything specific about that house when I was a baby, we moved to our new house when I was only 17 months old. I do remember the long list of relatives and friends who had lived there over the years. It was unbelievable how many families go their start, or perhaps wrote the last chapter of their lives in that little white house.

When I was born, there was a white picket fence around the yard and the road was dirt. It was basically a little one lane road that some ‘smart’ person had planted shrubs and trees and blocked off the street from the main roads, not long after the houses on that street were built. No one wanted our little street to be a cut-through to another road that circled the hillside.

When I was a little girl, my aunt ran a “country store” behind this house, on the larger, but still unmarked road. There was a foot bridge between the store and the yard of this little house. A lot of my cousins, aunts and uncles lived there and I spent a lot of time in that neighborhood. Before the city took our land into their ‘double tax nightmare’, this little house was in the city, and the one across the street and down the road a few houses (where I live now)was in the county. Nothing good last forever, in the 19080’s our road was paved and the city extended it border up the main two-landed road. Nothing good last forever.

Even though I was visiting on that street a lot , I didn’t live there in that little white house until I was very pregnant with my first child in the mid-1970’s. Soon, my marriage fell apart and I raised my first two children there as a single parent for nearly eight years. I have decided not to concentrate so much on what happened there, so much as my gentle memories of that time and what that little house meant to so many for close to 90 years.

When the road was paved in 1980, my oldest daughter was a baby. The city tore up my white picket fence and cut down the pine tree, took about five feet off my small yard and along with it my sense of privacy and protection. A lot of memories flood back from my days there, some very precious, and some equally painful. I remember my friends and I playing our guitars on the back steps or cooking meals together in the little kitchen. Nothing quite fit right, it seems, the cabinets leaned just enough to make the doors hard to close, I had room in a corner for a used washer someone was going to throw away. Spilled drinks gently flowed to the middle of the room.

I could still name every piece of furniture I had in that house-there weren’t a lot. I remember every detail of how it looked, my hippie beads on doorways, my posters, the stereo and stack of albums, the tiny 12″ black and white TV. There was wicker furniture with cushions in the living room, along with a cabinet where I sat books and the little TV. There were glass figurines and photos in frames of my children sitting on the top shelf.

I remember years there when I lived “wild and free” and I remember years when I was going to the university and trying to study with a baby screaming and a preschooler wanting attention. All of those years had their moments of joy and sacrifice, heartbreak and unrelenting joy. That is what most twenty-somethings did in the 70’s and early 80’s, I suppose. We laid boards on cement blocks to make shelves, our dished didn’t match, but , oh, how good those sparse groceries tasted when they were steaming on the table as we ate. There ware always flowers on the table. Placques that i painted decorated the walls.

A lot of people were in and out of my house and my life at that time. I know I would have never made it through college without the company of my cousin. Before him, his older sister kept me company on many adventures. I walked mountain trails, played in the snow with my kids, slipped on ice when my oldest was about a year old, leaving a tiny scar, right at his hair line. There were all sorts of adventures with the children, teaching the oldest to read, dressing his sister in fancy dresses I bought from a friend whose child was in pageants. I sewed a lot of my clothes and theirs, myself. I loved the old metal advertizements that were once used in stores. I had a topographical map of the Western Appalachians that my father got when he worked at TVA. (Tennessee Valley Authority)

My kids shared a room that was oddly built by the kitchen, instead of on the side as the bedroom I slept in and the bath. I couldn’t even walk through the house without the creaking floors disturbing them, it seems. That made getting through a four year college in three years, very difficult. Remember, this was before the days of the internet. And with two children, it was rarely that I could go back to campus after my classes and work-study job in the university library. Those were definitely very stressful times. The sink was what I called a “trough”. I hated it. It was just one metal “sink” like you would use by a washer in the basement, with a curtain wrapped around the bottom to hide the boxes of bags and boxes of kitchen things that the few cabinets wouldn’t hold.

I painted the walls in pale yellows, blues and white. I would paint the doorways brown to make them look more like wood. I would keep a few rugs around to help cover and insulate the worn wooden floors. The only room I really liked was the bathroom, which had one of the old-timey footed tubs. My nightly bubble bath was my only relief from a hectic and often frustrating life. (I have a tub like that in my house now too.) Most of the lights on the ceiling were turned off and on by a string that hung from the light. I hated that-it exemplified the life of poverty that I often felt trapped in.

My bedroom held the bedroom suite I had as a child and not much more-a small closet-the only one in the house. There was a window on the front and side of the room. Some uneven book shelves had been built between the chimney and the space behind the door. There was no fireplace-it was one of those chimneys that when with the original heating system I guess. Also, in my bedroom, were my dresser drawers which shared my shirts and other clothing with mementos from my elders, having added to this collection over the years.

I had house plants everywhere, it kept the house from looking so gloomy. They would sit on old end tables and the small, oddly shaped tables that were hand-me downs from someone that didn’t want any more. I liked them. I still have a lot of them. It was good that I didn’t like fancy things, because I sure didn’t have any.

What I did have is curtains that matched the beds, or the walls, or the furniture. I was ‘big’ on things matching. I loved to paint pictures, write poems and stories, and I loved taking photographs of the forest and my family. I listened to Lynyrd Skynard and other popular rock music groups every chance I had-loudly! Living there was a blessing when I moved there, but somewhere I was desperate to get away from there. When I moved to my families “Big House” as they called it-just down the street after I graduated from college. I felt like it was a mansion-itisn’t, but its ;home; and I still live there.

I bout the property that the “Little House” sat on last year from my cousin. Though an elderly man still lived there,it had obviously seen its better days. When he passed away after a series of illnesses last November and I finally got to see inside the house again, it was immediately apparent that it was no longer fit to live in. Sadly, I decided that I would have to demolish the house.

Today was that day. My husband and other family members had taken out the tub, (which I kept), the bathroom sink (which my daughter kept), the doors and window that remained were stored in a garage. The floor was warped, the walls were coming loose from the ceiling, lines could be seen where sheet rock had been put on the ceiling. The odor was one that I can only kindly describe as unpleasant. The chimney that help with kitchen, a flue, I suppose fell right over when my husband went up to see how “sturdy it was. It wasn’t. I feel it is important to save what we can, re-purpose it, you might say, so a neighbor got the front door, we kept the bricks and blocks that we could, and I tried to save a tiny piece of a snowball bush that had a decent root on it.

My husband had gone out of town, and with my youngest at school, I slept until about 9 a.m. when my oldest daughter called, offering to stop by with food from Mc Donalds. We spent a lot of time reminiscing, watching with small crane easily knock over sections of the building. Neighborhood children and friends would stop by for a minute and watch, talking with us about their memories of the house, or my daughter and I sharing memories with the newer neighbors. We went down there when the men took lunch break and picked up bricks and pretty pieces of crepe myrtles, lovely smooth wood that my husband had cut down. The children were, of course, fascinated. It was only mid afternoon when the lot was leveled and the fragile pieces of the “little house” gone forever.

Somehow, we never forget a place where we spent part of our lives. Its memory is as clear in my mind as the people I shared those days with. I fought back tears as I realized that the next time the sun came up, it would be without that “little house” there as I went out my side door. But the memories are still there, they will always be there, part of us, part of life, part off that old structure that held our memories.

Comments (6) »

When She Was Young

When she was young, she used to dream of living in a mansion, a castle, being a princess, or an heiress, at least.

There would be silk curtains in lilac-her favorite color. Fresh flowers on a dark wooden table inside the spacious dining room.

She would lay in the sun by the pool in her back yard, relaxing, getting that perfect tan. A garden of her favorite perennials would grow around the winding sidewalk that wound from the gate to the steps leading to a slate porch outside the entryway.

At night, lights would glimmer over the pool and line the winding staircase that lead to the bedroom with the best view of the ocean. The music of a violin whispers up from the parlor below.

Dreams, is it not strange how our dreams and wishes change as we age? The prince riding up on white stallion to reach down and lift you up beside him, whisking you away to the wonderful castle with palms and turrets. He carries you in his arms to that lilac scented room and holds a flower out to you as you reach for it.

Then, one day, we find we have grown up, we notice the world around us, how it has its own beauty and charm. We see that the simple things, small, yet delicate are often more appealing than the opulent dreams you once held.

Wild flowers replace the sculpted garden, a path through the deep forest takes your breath away as you peek at the azure sky above you. You no longer dream of the wealthy, handsome prince, nor hear the gallop of his horses drawing a carriage. Smiling, you raise and twirl around, as you see him out in the field, guiding the brown mare up the wooded trail toward the cabin.

You smile as you remember how your dream has changed. How you love cuddling up in an afghan on the floor of the cabin as he plays his newest guitar melody for you in front of the rock fireplace. Dreams…

When we are young, we have not yet experienced life’s choices or possibilities. We can only dream. We remember the stories read to us at bedtime, the books we read, curled up on the couch on a rainy

day. But as we grow, we are made aware that there are many dreams to choose from, many beautiful places, many choices await us.

Your castle has turned into a cabin, our garden into a forest. Beauty has taken on a new meaning- it is more a feeling, than a vision. To close your eyes and hear the strum of his guitar is much more romantic than the prince you once dreamed of hiring a musician to play tunes for you by moonlight.

When she was young, when YOU were young, the future was knitted from strands of starlight shimmering through the palms to the tune of ocean waves and nautical wind, There’s nothing wrong with that, you laughed, its simply that his hair blowing in the winds of the forest, the moonlight glowing through the windows of your cabin as he played the song he wrote for you, somehow soothed your soul more now that you were grown. You think of all the dreams you had ever entertained,

and looked up at him as you realized, this was real, it was life, it was good. When she was young, just as when when YOU were young, your daughter would entertain the same dreams.

Comments off

Reflections of Life’s Passages (click song at end to listen while you read)

        DSCN2720     The mirror reflects back a “me” that I no longer know.  She isn’t young, My health was decimated by the loss of a child. Even my youngest child has a car, a job and a girlfriend now.  The years since I lost my son and health have completely changed me. I have known this for a long time, but held out hope that time would at least partially repair the wounds .Allow me to explain the crisis that lead to these reflections.

I have come to a point where I do not see that happening.  I raised six children. Raising them, loving them, teaching them was not only my dream, it was my life. I home-schooled them on vacations, Saturdays and in summer. The youngest one was home-schooled full time for several years. With a large family, there is little time to worry about what “you” want or even need. I lost my best friend to cancer when we were 48-two years before I lost my son.

I worked in the children’s schools as they grew up, as an assistant, a volunteer, and a substitute.  My life was filled with ball games, dance lessons, band and activities that revolved around them. Since i was a stay-at home mom in summer, I would have up to 14 kids at my house in one day.  I admit it was hectic. I suffer from migraines and it often took everything I had to be the kid of mom I strived to be,

Even today, my kids say that I was a terrific mom, that now as parents themselves, they don’t see how I did it.  I worked my way through a university while raising two kids as a single parent.  It seems I found endless energy and patience somewhere.  I only wish I could find that place today.

When I lost my health from Cushing’s Disease, it was determined to be from the trauma of my loosing my son.  Being a mother WAS my life.  Loosing him was unthinkable, unbearable.  It was at a time when my older kids were going to school, getting married, having their first child, and I was at that age a woman faces when she realizes that “youth” is no longer with her.  My grief, my problems were not recognized by anyone but me.  I would hear, “It’s natural that you are greived over your son, that your children moving away is difficult, but you will, in time adjust.”  I didn’t believe it then, and when I had heart failure eight months after my childs death, I knew that I had been right all along. I really was sick. The heart doctor started doing tests and wrote a report to my regular doctor that month, saying that I had the classic symptoms of Cushing’s and should see an endocrinologist.  Evidently, my regular doctor never read it.  When I went to my cardiologist in January and he asked me what the endocrinologist had  said, I told him that I had never been referred to one. He was astounded. I ordered a copy of my medical records from my regular doctor, and there, right on top was the letter from my cardiologist. Apparently, it had never even been read, just stuck in my file.

The cardiologist immediately sent me to an endocrinologist and after many test, Cushing’s Disease (sometimes called Cushing’s Syndrome) was confirmed.  She told me the only way to get well was pituitary surgery, which meant going into my head through my sinuses, and into the area right below my brain, where the pituitary  gland sits.  I was terrified. Why was all his happening to me -loosing my son and then my health  as well?

When I was finally accepted at an out of state facility for pituitary surgery, I was told that the tumor was wrapping around my carotid artery and I would have probably had less than 3 weeks to live.  It had now been a year and a half since my son died.  Not long after he died, I started a slow process of gaining weigh, although I couldn’t eat and watching my long hair thinning out, I was nauseous all the time. I could hardly walk, using a cane  to steady myself. It took months after the surgery to even begin to recover.  The joyful events I should have been enjoying had been taken from me, yet I felt that no one could really comprehend what I was going through.

As I mentioned, my youngest child was only eight years old when his brother died, He was my rock. He needed me, he didn’t care if I didn’t have a lot of energy, he played with friends, with siblings, and most of all supported me.  Now, he, too has grown up. I wonder, tearfully , how much he remembers about his brother. They were so close. His brother and I were so close. When the time came for my son to get his drivers license, he was going to college in the afternoons and high school in the morning. He started dating, and, like all children growing further away from needing mom.

I continued to try to make a small garden. I had been taught the love of gardening as a child and loved sharing the study of nature, plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles and even arachnids with my children. Even  when pregnant, working and  and tired, I would find time to have a large garden. It soothed my soul. I could enjoy the bounty of anything from spring strawberries to autumn pumpkins. Now,  I was so weak, I could hardly make it to my garden. I was not able to work in it long at a time.  I watched as my beautiful garden got less and less attention.

Cushing’s affects your whole body, especially if left untreated as long as mine was. My endocrinologist described my bones as like “chicken bones”-terribly fragile. I broke my hip in a simple fall simply because I went down at an odd angle on my fragile leg. My digestive system has continued to be a problem. I feel sick when I eat, I have severs scoliosis and and in constant pain. from my neck and back to my hips. My feet are numb, my face is numb from the pituitary surgery, my hip has cramps so bad, i can only compare it to natural childbirth-without the joy of your baby at the end of the immense pain. Even though I have made some improvements in my strength, I know I will always have the symptoms of Cushings knocking at the door. For a time, It took small steps and a cane or holding on to something to navigate a room, My goal was to reach my son’s grave, on a hillside, without help.  I felt like I was climbing a mountain, but one day, I made it and it became a place of solace for me. I find letters and mementoes there from others-his many friends, even now, after eight years,a wedding invitation, a Carolina memento, a black rose. I put Victorian statuettes of a mom and son watching younger children sleigh ride, or laid a baseball there, maybe holiday rememberances. Even though I never liked baseball, he died between innings in a game he didn’t want to play, so I had “Safe at Home” carved on his black obsidian stone to help us remember that his last hit was one of the best he ever made.  Many years ago, I put a heavy chain with eight links on it around the flower pot-to symbolize that there would always be eight people in our family. I find messages from him there, I have written about them in other blogs-things only he and I would understand. Black widow spiders that we studied, dimes,(that one is secret), feathers from a bird killed by predators.

Every day is a struggle. I feel like I was cheated out of enjoying the years of my other children’s lives when they were maturing, going to college, marrying, having their own children, living, laughing, just regular things. I am having a difficult time accepting that my youngest child is not now, that youngster who helped me so much and needed me-no matter how poor my health is.  Now tthat he is older, I depend on him for other things.  He is just doing what young people do-grow up, just as my older kids were doing when their brother was so wrongly taken.  I know that, but it still hurts.  I have to find the strength to do things with him that I am often not really able to do. I have had to learn not to expect to be “mommy” after 40 years. It is more difficult than I can describe.

Looking into the mirror of my life’s struggles has affected me in many ways. I think of my friend who died at 48, after struggling with cancer for 15 years and I am thankful that I was a least here to witness the maturing of my family. I fight the anxiety and stress of not being able to do for my family what my heart longs to do. I smile when my older children sing the songs to their kids that I sang to them, or one of them remembers a book we read together. I walk in the park with them as they tell them the names of insects and flowers we studied so many years ago.

I have given up on having even the people who love me, and that I love, truly understand what I have been through and why I am less patient, more emotional, not as strong as I once was. I can only hope that one day, when they remember “me”, they remember the “me” that I was when I had all of my children, when I was young, healthy and strong. I hope that as all of us grow older and struggle to keep up with the things that made us who we are, that our children, our loved ones, realize that those thing are still there, inside of us. Our hearts have not changed, our love is just as strong, even when our bodies have failed us.  

Once in a while, I have a good day, and can almost do the things I once did. What a joy to be “me”, if only for a while.  I still listen to my Lynyrd Skynyrd and other Southern Rock music.  I still love long hair and blue jeans.  I am still me. Those who know me, please, remember that. Inside, I am strong, proud, loving. Outside, I still manage an incredible amount of accompishments, difficult, though they may be.  If the sun is covered by clouds, it is still there. I am still there. Remember that.

Comments (10) »

The Last, Sweet Taste of “Mine”

DSCN2143My youngest son, I have endured so much,

loosing your brother, my parents, my health…

And all of that time, you have been here,

to give me the will to live, against all odds.

Now you are driving, dating,  and someone else

is the love of your life.  It hurts, but it is “life”.

The moments you come in and lay beside me,

let me rub your back or hair, whisper to me,

“I love you, mama.” and mean it, are so precious.

You envite me to go out with you and your friends,

You laugh with me, talk with me, tell me secrets.

I find myself wiping tears every day at loosing you-

as MY BABY, “MINE”. me-being number one in your life.

I’ve known in my heart that it would happen,

but not so soon, not so fast. My heart is broken,

yet I have to  try and savor those days we had-

Those last sweet tastes of “Mine”, that I cherish.

I can only hope you will always find room

in your life for me-stay close, share those hugs.

I have your siblings and they love me,

but you are my baby and have breathed

life into a mom who was dying of grief.

Those Last Sweet Taste of “Mine” will never leave me.

Enjoy every second of any child you may have,

because while growing goes slowly for them,

it races by for you.  You will always love them

in a way that is different from how they love you.

You would give them your life without thought,

Your last crumb of food or drink of water.

I love you my son, all of my children, with all I have.

My teen in heaven, you will always live in my heart.

My teen that is still here with me, messes and all-

To see you walk in the door, lay down your coat down

and crawl up to me with a hug and “How are you?”

Is still, will always be life its self to me, my child.

I dream of you, perhaps sometime, you might let me

sneak quietly into your dreams or even reality

and plant a flower or walk around the lake.with me.

We can never have too much love, and I will never

forget the love you gave that kept me alive.

My youngest son, I have endured so much,

loosing your brother, my parents, my health…

And all of that time, you have been here,

to give me the will to live, against all odds.

Now you are driving, dating,  and someone else

is the love of your life.  It hurts, but it is “life”.

The moments you come in and lay beside me,

let me rub your back or hair, whisper to me,

“I love you, mama.” and mean it, are so precious.

You envite me to go out with you and your friends,

You laugh with me, talk with me, tell me secrets.

I find myself wiping tears every day at loosing you-

as MY BABY, “MINE”. me-being number one in your life.

I’ve known in my heart that it would happen,

but not so soon, not so fast. My heart is broken,

yet I have to  try and savor those days we had-

Those last sweet tastes of “Mine”, that I cherish.

I can only hope you will always find room

in your life for me-stay close, share those hugs.

I have your siblings and they love me,

but you are my baby and have breathed

life into a mom who was dying of grief.

Those Last Sweet Taste of “Mine” will never leave me.

Enjoy every second of any child you may have,

because while growing goes slowly for them,

it races by for you.  You will always love them

in a way that is different from how they love you.

You would give them your life without though,

Your last crumb of food or drink of water.

I love you my son, all of my children, with all I have.

My teen in heaven, you will always live in my heart.

My teen that is still here with me, messes and all-

To see you walk in the door, lay down your coat down

and crawl up to me with a hug and “How are you?”

Is still, will always be life its self to me, my child.

I dream of you, perhaps sometime, you might let me

sneak quietly into your dreams or even reality

and plant a flower or walk around the lake with me.

We can never have too much love, and I will never

forget the love you gave that kept me alive.

My youngest son,I have endured so much,

loosing your brother, my parents, my health…

And all of that time, you have been here,

to give me the will to live, against all odds.

Now you are driving, dating, someone else

is the love of your life.  It hurts, but it is “life”.

The moments you come in and lay beside me,

let me ruvb your back or hair, whisper to me,

“I love you, mama.” and mean it, are so precious.

You envite me to go out with you and your friends,

you laugh with me, talk with me, tell me secrets.

I find myself wiping tears every day at loosing you-

as MY BABY, MINE. me being number one in your life.

I’ve known in my heart that it would happen,

but not so soon,not so fast. My heart is broken,

yet I have to  try and savor those days we had-

Those last sweet tastes of “Mine”, that I had.

I can only hope you will always find room

in your life for me-stay close,share those hugs.

I have your siblings and they love me,

but you are my babby and have breathed

life into a mom who was dying of grief.

Those Last Sweet Taste of “Mine” will never leave me.

Enjoy every second of any child you may have,

because while growing goes slowly for them,

it races by for you.  You will always love them

in a way that is different from how they love you.

You would give them your life without though,

‘Your last crumb of food or drink of water.

I love you my son, all of my children with all I have.

My teen in heaven, you will always live in my heart.

To see you walk in the door, lay down your coat don

and crawl up to me with a hug and “How are you?”

Is still, will always be life itsself to me, my child

I dream of you, perhaps sometime, you might let me

sneak quietly into your dreams or even reality

and plant a flower or walk around the lake with me.

We can never have too much love, and I will never

forget the love you gave that kept me alive.

Comments (9) »

Going Home

DSCN1026

Jen drove slowly down the old dirt drive. “There aren’t many dirt roads or long driveways left,” she thought. She hadn’t seen her great aunt Sarah in many years. All sorts of excuses rushed through her brain as she got closer to the lovely old farm house at the end of the driveway. “I’ve lived too far away, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t seen her since I was a child,”she thought, then guiltily threw each excuse aside.

She had not taken the time-period. Now, she was 27 years old, a high school history teacher, engaged to be married and she could surely have thought of more valid excuses than those. But something had tugged at her heart. She had come to Alabama to tour a local schools system for a study she was conducting. Remembering that Aunt Sarah lived in this county, she looked her up in the phone book. Surprisingly, she was still listed.

She got out her I-phone and turned on the app that showed her a map to the little town of Rosewood and soon found Cornfield Lane right off the main road. “What would she say?” she wondered as she pulled up the two story house with a wrap around porch. Would Aunt Sarah remember her, welcome her, or would she be treated with disdain?

Jen remembered that Aunt Sarah, her mother’s aunt, had been married, had 3 children and then her husband had died at a fairly early age. She didn’t think she had remarried, because her name was still the same in the phone book. It seems the children would be about her mother’s age, probably with grandchildren of their own.

With her heart beating quickly inside her chest, she parked her Maroon Chevy Van near the house and walked towards the door. It was nearly Halloween, and even in Alabama, there was a nip of autumn in the air. Jen, pulled her sweater around her as she walked up the old brick sidewalk. Before she started up the steps, an elderly lady walked out onto the porch. The screen door creaked as it closed behind her.

“Why, Jenny!” The lady exclaimed. “Jenny Markham! Is that you?”

“It’s me, alright, Aunt Sarah.” Jen said with a blush. “I have no excuse for not having seen you in so long. It makes those Christmas cards seem awfully pitiful.”

“Well, don’t you think a thing about it,” Aunt Sarah said with a smile as she opened the door and motioned for Jen to come in. Jen obliged, remembering the high ceilings and the slightly old scent of the wooden house. She looked around and smiled. It was as if she had been here only a short time ago.

“Come on in here and let me make us some tea,” Aunt Sarah smiled as she lead Jen to the room behind the living room. Sarah stood and looked around at her Great Aunt’s kitchen. The same long table and chairs sat upon the worn tiles, the curtains were new, but of similar pattern, an autumn harvest with ruffled bottoms around the windows which hung over the sink and the one on the slightly opened back door. It brought back memories of her mother and rest of their big family coming here for watermelon on the Fourth of July when she was young.

“It sure is good to see you, Jenny!” Aunt Sarah smiled. “What on earth brought you way out here in backwoods Alabama?”

Jenny told her about her research project, career and upcoming marriage, inviting her long-lost cousins and families to come. Aunt Sarah sat and sipped tea with her for maybe half an hour before she invited her to come through the house and see the walls and dark walnut dressers filled with pictures of her children, grandchildren and even their kids. Again, Jen’s heart beat rapidly inside her as she took in the years and memories that she had missed out on when her father had taken a new job in East Texas.

She wondered what her life would have been like if they had stayed here. Would her and her brother’s kids been friends with Aunt Sarah’s children, would they have ridden the same bus, lived on the same road, had watermelon on that worn front porch on the fourth of July? Would she already be married, maybe to someone she knew as a child.?

Thoughts swirled through her head as the “what if’s” rushed by. What was the name of the high school here? What college would she have gone to? Would she have been a teacher, like she was now? It was at that moment Jen decided not to tell her Aunt Sarah her secret. She would save it until after the wedding, it would seem better then.

Inside her, Jen felt the movement of her baby, a girl, she had learned just yesterday. She wondered how Aunt Sarah would feel about her being pregnant before her marriage and then grabbed her Aunt’s wrinkled hand. Of course, she would love this baby, just like all the other children that decorated her dressers and walls. Surely, out of all of them, there had been children conceived before their parents married. Perhaps their parents had never married at all.

After a long visit, Jen walked back to her car with Aunt Sarah and her collie, Barney, beside her. She promised her Aunt that she would never let their families loose touch again, and she meant it. In Aunt Sarah’s younger days, having a baby before marriage would have brought many cross looks and perhaps even a few rejections. But this, thank goodness as a different time.

Jen vowed to herself that she would write her aunt a letter and tell her more about her soon-to-be husband and the baby she was carrying as soon as she got back to Texas. There was one more thing she would ask of the Aunt she had just come know again. She would ask her to allow her the honor of naming her new baby, Sarah.

Jen drove slowly down the old dirt drive. “There aren’t many dirt roads or long driveways left,” she thought. She hadn’t seen her great aunt Sarah in many years. All sorts of excuses rushed through her brain as she got closer to the lovely old farm house at the end of the driveway. “I’ve lived too far away, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t seen her since I was a child,”she thought, then guiltily threw each excuse aside.

She had not taken the time-period. Now, she was 27 years old, a high school history teacher, engaged to be married and she could surely have thought of more valid excuses than those. But something had tugged at her heart. She had come to Alabama to tour a local schools system for a study she was conducting. Remembering that Aunt Sarah lived in this county, she looked her up in the phone book. Surprisingly, she was still listed.

She got out her I-phone and turned on the app that showed her a map to the little town of Rosewood and soon found Cornfield Lane right off the main road. “What would she say?” she wondered as she pulled up the two story house with a wrap around porch. Would Aunt Sarah remember her, welcome her, or would she be treated with disdain?

Jen remembered that Aunt Sarah, her mother’s aunt, had been married, had 3 children and then her husband had died at a fairly early age. She didn’t think she had remarried, because her name was still the same in the phone book. It seems the children would be about her mother’s age, probably with grandchildren of their own.

With her heart beating quickly inside her chest, she parked her Maroon Chevy Van near the house and walked towards the door. It was nearly Halloween, and even in Alabama, there was a nip of autumn in the air. Jen, pulled her sweater around her as she walked up the old brick sidewalk. Before she started up the steps, an elderly lady walked out onto the porch. The screen door creaked as it closed behind her.

“Why, Jenny!” The lady exclaimed. “Jenny Markham! Is that you?”

“It’s me, alright, Aunt Sarah.” Jen said with a blush. “I have no excuse for not having seen you in so long. It makes those Christmas cards seem awfully pitiful.”

“Well, don’t you think a thing about it,” Aunt Sarah said with a smile as she opened the door and motioned for Jen to come in. Jen obliged, remembering the high ceilings and the slightly old scent of the wooden house. She looked around and smiled. It was as if she had been here only a short time ago.

“Come on in here and let me make us some tea,” Aunt Sarah smiled as she lead Jen to the room behind the living room. Sarah stood and looked around at her Great Aunt’s kitchen. The same long table and chairs sat upon the worn tiles, the curtains were new, but of similar pattern, an autumn harvest with ruffled bottoms around the windows which hung over the sink and the one on the slightly opened back door. It brought back memories of her mother and rest of their big family coming here for watermelon on the Fourth of July when she was young.

“It sure is good to see you, Jenny!” Aunt Sarah smiled. “What on earth brought you way out here in backwoods Alabama?”

Jenny told her about her research project, career and upcoming marriage, inviting her long-lost cousins and families to come. Aunt Sarah sat and sipped tea with her for maybe half an hour before she invited her to come through the house and see the walls and dark walnut dressers filled with pictures of her children, grandchildren and even their kids. Again, Jen’s heart beat rapidly inside her as she took in the years and memories that she had missed out on when her father had taken a new job in East Texas.

She wondered what her life would have been like if they had stayed here. Would her and her brother’s kids been friends with Aunt Sarah’s children, would they have ridden the same bus, lived on the same road, had watermelon on that worn front porch on the fourth of July? Would she already be married, maybe to someone she knew as a child.?

Thoughts swirled through her head as the “what if’s” rushed by. What was the name of the high school here? What college would she have gone to? Would she have been a teacher, like she was now? It was at that moment Jen decided not to tell her Aunt Sarah her secret. She would save it until after the wedding, it would seem better then.

Inside her, Jen felt the movement of her baby, a girl, she had learned just yesterday. She wondered how Aunt Sarah would feel about her being pregnant before her marriage and then grabbed her Aunt’s wrinkled hand. Of course, she would love this baby, just like all the other children that decorated her dressers and walls. Surely, out of all of them, there had been children conceived before their parents married. Perhaps their parents had never married at all.

After a long visit, Jen walked back to her car with Aunt Sarah and her collie, Barney, beside her. She promised her Aunt that she would never let their families loose touch again, and she meant it. In Aunt Sarah’s younger days, having a baby before marriage would have brought many cross looks and perhaps even a few rejections. But this, thank goodness as a different time.

Jen vowed to herself that she would write her aunt a letter and tell her more about her soon-to-be husband and the baby she was carrying as soon as she got back to Texas. There was one more thing she would ask of the Aunt she had just come know again. She would ask her to allow her the honor of naming her new baby, Sarah.DSCN1026

Comments (1) »

The Effects and Lessons of Loss-An Anology of Death

 

 

For many years of my young life, I escaped the emotional and physical costs of the death of a loved one who was a part of your daily life. In the past 14 years, it seems to have been nearly continuous, from aunts and uncles, cousins and friend, grandparents and parents to my precious 15 year old son.

I have learned that the deaths of different close friends and family affect us in entirely different ways. To see an older relative who has lived a long life and is now suffering gives us a sense of relief, that they are no longer suffering and are in, what we have been taught and hope, is “a better place. To Christians, and some other religions, that means Heaven.

When my best friend died at 48 after a 15 year battle with cancer, I could not help but feel cheated, for her, for her children and grandchildren, and later, as I faced deaths that were “closer to home”, for myself. I did not have the person I needed to talk to cry with, hug, and find comfort in her compassion.

I had several cousins and neighbors die in their middle-age, usually from cancer. I found myself looking at their lives, the happiness they had with their mates, and children, the love and attention their grandchildren would miss. I felt that they were cheated, they did not smoke, abuse their health or do dangerous things. It was a different grief process than I felt when my elderly relatives died.

I am an only child. I have lost both of my parents within the past 3 ½ years. It has been so difficult to walk into their house, the accept the not-so-good memories and embrace the wonderful support they always gave me, that I have often had to simply put their loss “in a box”, only to be opened at certain times, like birthdays, holidays or even the day they died. I spend a lot of time with my parents, seeing them most every day. When they were sick, I helped care for them, when they were sad, or scared, I listened. I helped them with their financial issues, memorial wishes, and settling estates. I would say it was the hardest thing I have ever done, but it wasn’t.

I lost my beloved son eight years ago at the age of 15. It was very sudden, a regular day, filled with normal activities for a teen-school, buss rides, ball games. On that day, I took him to a ball game and didn’t brink him home. I have written about this many times in my blog, and would love for you to look up the articles and read them and what actions I have taken since, but that is not what this article is about.

There is nothing as painful as loosing a child. There isn’t even a word for a parent who has lost a child. If you loose your parents, you are an orphan, if you loose a mate, you are a widow or widower. What are you when you loose your child? So much of what you are, what you lived for, looked forward to is gone, it is simply indescribable.

In my case, I not only lost my child, I lost my health. Within a few months, I was developing symptoms of Cushings Syndrome, a pituitary disease that has many scopes, causes and outcomes. My doctor kept insisting that what I was suffering from was “just stress”, even though I insisted that it was more than that. First let me point out that stress is not a “Just”. It destroys your health, your ability to function, to deal with work or your family. Never accept this excuse, no matter what you are suffering from.

It wasn’t until I had heart failure 8 months after my son’s sudden death, that a heart doctor started really examining me. He immediately wrote my doctor and told him that I had the typical symptoms of Cushings Disease (some types are called “Syndrome”. Evidently, I wasn’t important enough for my doctor to even read the report because 6 months later, when I went to the Cardiolgist, he was astounded that I had received no help and sent me to the Endocrinologist then next day. Again, I will ask that you read my other articles on my son’s death and my illness and return to the topic of grief and the different ways we, as humans respnd to it.

Men, women and children respond to grief in various ways. Men have a difficult time showing outward grief, having been taught during their whole lives that emotions are a sign of weakness. Therefore, they often take it out on others, especially those that they love them most. It is horrible for a woman to be fighting for her life, and not have the person who is supposed to always be there for her, him being emotional abusive, and often reverting to child-like things to get his mind off of his unfathomable sorrow.

Children under about the age of 12 often have a delayed reaction to grief. When they begin to think in a more adult-like manner, the grief that may have happened several years ago suddenly creeps in. The child may not be able to sleep, have irrational fears for their own safety or for the safety of those they love. They may regress somewhat in their behavior, their grades in school may suffer. It is very important that a child who has lost a sibling gets the help they need, and this can vary from child to child. Do not be afraid to explore your child’s needs with his doctor, counselors, siblings, your spouse or minister. I feel like it has been very difficult for me to be the mom I always was and still meet my child’s needs. Even when I felt that I was, I have realized even years later, that I needed to give him the chance to talk to those he felt comfortable with about his feelings.

The death of someone particularly close to you is often almost impossible to overcome. The effects on my health on top of my emotional grief, unfounded self-grief, and my blaming everyone from God to my child’s friends is something I still struggle with daily. Even though I have made some progress, he physical problems caused by the Cushings Disease will be with me forever, always reminding me of why I have to deal with them.

One of the best things we can do to help someone we love who is greiving is simpy to listen. Let them be angry, blame people, feel what they feel. Just getting these things out of their system for a few minutes can be tremendously helpful. Since it is difficult to deal with those who are grieving, especially over a child or a person to whom they were particularly close, we often cut ourselves off from them just when they need us the most. It is not easy to allow a person who is in the midst of grief to express feelings that we may not agree with, but we have to be able to, and, hopefully, over time, we can help lead them back to a better place. Simply learning not to blame themselves is a big step in finding a way back to a better place.

I don’t think I will ever heal from the emotional loss of my child and some of the circumstances around it, but I KNOW I will never get over the physical scars and pain that I have to live with every day of my life. I am sure that living with me is not easy for those I love. They try, and I am very grateful that they put forth this effort.

Eventually, we will all have to deal with loss in some form. Having our family and friends around us is critical in getting back to a place where we can at least function to the best of our ability. Each person’s reaction to grief varies just as their path to healing is different. Try to stand back and see what your loved one needs and be there for them, even if it is difficult for you. You, their support team can make all the difference in the world to someone suffering from loss. Take the time to talk to them, not only right after the death of a loved one, but years later as well. Send a card on the loved ones birthday or mention then on a holiday card. Help them laugh (or even cry) over some of the memories you have of their loved one. Remind them of the joy they had when they were with them and let them know that it is alright to be angry, sad, frustrated or even overcome with emotion.

One thing that has helped me is for someone to take me to dinner, on a walk, read favorite poems, or listen to music near the “anniversary” of their loss, but perhaps not on the exact day. Sometimes, the anniversary of a death, or even the persons birthday may be simply too emotionafor them to profit from your good intentions.

Remember, our day will come, and in that sense, if we have been there for someone else, it will be easier for us to accept the help of friends and benefit from it. Love involves the risk of hurt, whether from loss, breakup, moving away or simply from a child growing up and concentrating on their own life. Stand back and see if you need to “be there” or “give them space” because each of those times will come. I have found that when I lost my son, I often lost my friends as well, not from “meanness” but simply because they didn’t know what to do or say. Do not abandon your loved one in their time of need,no matter how hard it may be. Neither should you smother them, because they are having to learn to live in a completely different way than they did before.

Whether they are able to express it or not, the fact that you care will make a huge difference as the person who has experienced loss begins this new and difficult path. Simply knowing that you are there for them may be the best “medicine” you can give.

Comments (7) »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,253 other followers