Archive for grief

An Autumn Day in the Mountains

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I wake to the sound of the wind,

As it whirls through the rainbow of trees.

I feel the leaves falling around me.

Floating on the stiff breeze.

 

The last of my flowers still standing

Defying the first light frost.

Black-eyed Susan waving goodbye,

To their season, soon to be lost.

 

The walnuts clutter beneath the trees,

The animas rushing to store

The unusual bounty of mast crops

For winter is coming once more.

 

As much as I used to love Autumn,

Now, I feel only grief.

As I wait, and cry with a shiver,

For spring to bring some relief.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


		
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Blackberry Summer

29720184Kenny was just five years old, his brother, Jack, was 8.  Most of Kenny’s life had been spent on tenant farms in upper South Carolina. It was a hard life.  Momma had been sick most of his life with something called Pellegra.   It made her act funny and her skin break out in summer. Her name was Mattie and her family lived a good distance away. She had gone to the hospital in Spartanburg this time because she was so sick.  Kenny missed his mamma, but he was beginning to have a hard time even remembering what her voice sounded like or the touch of her lips as they puckered and kissed him good  night.

They had lived in a different house every year of his life. Which ever farm owner would offer papa the best deal  for working his crops, papa would load  up their sparse possessions and move his little family a few miles down the road.  The house they lived in now, Kenny and Jack had nicknamed ” the smoky house” because the flue in the fireplace didn’t work right and the house always had a smoky odor and in the dead of winter, there was almost a blur to the air  from the smoke.  It was warm, though, so they didn’t complain. On one occasion, Kenny remembered he and Jack playing with corncobs out in the yard, pretending they were cars. Mama had been sitting on the porch with her two sisters, Bettie and Jettie and they laughed at the boys as they played. The sound of her laughter was all he really had now.

When papa took the boys to town on rare occasions, they hitched a ride because Papa didn’t have a car. The boys loved the bumping and puttering of the car as they drove the ten or fifteen miles to where the big supply store was. They were amazed at the electric lights inside the shops and the fancy furniture in the two story houses on Main Street. Sometimes, Jack and Kenny  were  invited in to a lady’s  house for cookies and milk  while Papa was at the farm supply store.

Kenny had been squirming for ten minutes at the table with the red checked table cloth. Jack finally looked at the  lady who had told them to call her Mrs. Salter and said, “M’am, I hate to bother you, but I think my little brother needs to use yer , um, facilities.

Mrs. Salter smiled and led Kenny by the hand to a room by the bedrooms that had an indoor toilet  and a sink inside. Kenny’s eyes lit up. Indoor plumbing! He’d seen it before but never used it.  He turned to see that Mrs. Salter had cracked the door and stepped away.

At first, Kenny just ran his hands over the smooth white porcelain on the sink, his green eyes wide and his mouth agape.  He turned to the toilet filled with water and proceeded to relieve himself. remembered that the handle had to be pushed down for the  contraption to run clean water in it.

Soon, Kenny was back at the table where Jack was finishing up his last sip of milk.

“I bet you boys know where some ripe blackberries are growing.” smiled Mrs. Salter.

“Yes’m” grinned Jack, “we sure do!”

“Well, you two look like good workers,” Mrs. Salter said with her hands propped  on her thin waist.  “I’ll tell you what, If you bring me a gallon of the best ones you can find tomorrow, I will pay you a quarter for them.”

The boys faces light up with a smile. “Yes’m, Mrs. Salter, ”  Jack called out, “we will have them here by lunch time, , the best you’ve ever seen!

The boys, thanked Mrs. Salter for the cookies and milk and headed for the door. They saw Papa coming out of the supply store and hurried to him. Kenny turned to Jack and whispered, ” She’s got one of them indoor toilets!”  Jack had time only for a look of surprise before they met up with Papa.

“Papa, Papa, Kenny called out, “Mrs. Salter said if we’d pick her a gallon of blackberries tomorrow, she would give us a quarter!”

Papa chuckled and said, “Well thats right good wages, boys. Those lowlanders don’t much like to work when they come up here in the summer, do they?”

“No, sir” Kenny replied, ” and she’s got an indoor toilet!”

“Now how do you know about that, young man,” Papa looked sternly at his younger son.

Jack came to the rescue and told Papa that he had VERY POLITELY told Mrs. Salter that Kenny needed to use the facilities when she had offered them a snack.

“Well, I guess you two have got yourselves a job!” Papa laughed as they walked back down the dusty gravel road toward their driveway.

And they surely did. Mrs. Salter and her sister, had cometo the “thermal belt” as Papa called the area between the sweltering heat of the lowlands and the cool foggy  mountains to the north for relief from the heat. q For weeks, the boys went out in their oldest clothes and gathered blackberries for the ladies.

One time, Papa’s sister had come down to stay a while and fixed the most delicious dinners they had ever had. Fried chicken, biscuits, ripe tomatoes! It was heaven!

The boys had been picking blackberries one morning and after delivering them, they saw the postman talking to Aunt Lena. Curious, they stepped up their walking time to hear the man  try to whisper to Aunt Lena.  He couldn’t whisper very well.

They turned their heads toward the Mailman and Aunt Lena, who had failed to notice them walking  up. The mailman motioned Aunt Lena over to his opened door. Naturally, the two curious little boys were right behind her.

“Mattie died today,” he said, his effort to whisper lost on his effort to speak loudly over then engine. Then boys both gasped, and suddenlyAunt Lena turned around and saw them. She took a deep breath as if she was going to fuss, but turned her head back towards the mailman, wiping a tear from her cheek.

“What happened,” Aunt Lena asked the mailman. “I though she was doing better!”

Well, I can’t say for sure, Lena, ” the mailman replied. “She took a turn for the worse last night and when the nurse checked on her this morning, she was gone.”

Aunt Lena turned to Kenny and Jack and put her arms around them, scowling at the mailman for letting them hear his news. Jack and Kenny looked at each other and then at Aunt Lena.

“Did he say our mama was gone? ” Jack said. Kenny was silent, acting a bit confused.

“Yes, honey, thats what he said, your Mama went to live with the angels.” Aunt Lena spoke softly as she brushed a tear from her cheek.

“Live with the angels?” Kenny yelled. “My Mama wouldn’t  go live somewhere else!”

Jack looked at Kenny and  took his hand. “No, Kenny, that means Mama died. She ain’t coming back.”

“No!” cried Kenny. “She ain’t gone to live with no angels! Thats what they do in the Bible!”

Aunt Lena waved the mailman to go on about his duties and she knelt down beside them.

“You know your Mama’s been sick a long time. She was suffering. God didn’t want her to suffer, so he took her up to live with Him in Heaven, just like in the Bible.” Aunt Lena said softly.

Jack just stood there frozen, then grabbed Aunt Lena’s hand. Kenny was running down the driveway screaming, “Papa, Papa! Mama died, she went to heaven, like in the Bible!” he shouted through salty tears.

Aunt Lena heard the screen door squeak open just as they reached the wooden porch.

Papa just looked up at his sister. Aunt Lena nodded her head to say it was true. The four of them formed a knot of tearing, weeping family.

“Well, That’s it. mumbled Jack. We ain’t go no Mama.”  He slung his hands away from the others and ran up the steps to the porch.

Kenny gently let his hand slip from his Papa’s. He walked up on the porch where Jack was rocking back and forth in one of the wooden chairs. He looked up at his father and Aunt as they walked up the steps behind them. Nobody said a word. Papa walked quietly into the house, followed by Aunt Lena.

“What are you going to do, Furman?” Aunt Lena said to her brother. “You think Aunt Annie will take them?”

“Oh, no!” growled Furman, their daddy. “Ain’t nobody takin’ my boys! I will carry them on my back till moss grows on theirs before I give  them away!”

…………………………..

And he did.

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Swirling Leaves of Autumn

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The wind shakes my car as I round the curve
Autumns leaves twirl around me in symphony
Yesterday, the mountains were green
Today, they are a rainbow of yellows and reds

I hear the sound of children playing
They laugh as they whirl in autumn leaves
Yesterday went so quickly, today, in a flash is gone
I wonder if I even have a tomorrow –

Or am I just an autumn leaf?

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Still Unbroken by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Words to song:

Broken bones, broken hearts
Stripped down and torn apart
A little bit of rust
I’m still runnin’
Countin’ miles, countin’ tears
Twistin’ roads, shiftin’ gears
Year after year
It’s all or nothin’
But I’m not home
I’m not lost
Still holding on to what I got
Ain’t much left
Lord there’s so much that’s been stolen
Guess I’ve lost everything I’ve had
But I’m not dead, at least not yet
Still alone, still alive, still unbroken
I’m still alone, still alive, I’m still unbroken
Never captured, never tamed
Wild horses on the plains
You can call me lost, I call it freedom
I feel a spirit in my soul
It’s somethin’ Lord I can’t control
I’m never giving up while I’m still breathin’
I’m not home
I’m not lost
Still holding on to what I got
Ain’t much left
Though there’s…

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The Chance to Remember

 

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This week, I celebrated two events that I wasn’t, sure I would see.  My granddaughter turned two a few days ago. That seems like such a simple statement. I have quite a group of grandkids, but enjoying them has not always been easy. My youngest son graduated from high school, and it was as sweet and crazy as the other childrens were.

Why then were these events so memorable?  First, let me tell you about them.  After the ice cream and presents, I saw my older grandkids splashing in the creek trying to catch minnows, crayfish and salamanders. I didn’t give it a thought before I had grabbed two cups and headed for the creek. Because. Of my disabilities, I had to find an easy way in. My grandkids all know that I’m the nature lady- nothing makes me smile quicker than a chance to teach them a nature lesson, whether it is ” how to catch creek creatures”or “what are the different kinds of life cycles among insects?” Today, it was time for creek creature catching!   My oldest daughter loves these nature studies as much as I do and was already at the creek when I arrived. Among the happy shouts of ” I got one!” One of my grands would quietly ask me to catch one for them and let them have the cup to show off their prize.  I was in grandkids heaven as we lifted rocks and I tried o teach children the importance of patience and still waters if you want to catch your prize creatures. I am not sure a tassel of kids between 6 and nine really gets the meaning of patience.  Oh, well, having had six kids of my own, I could work around it. Soon, I was sharing cups with several little salamanders with them, the giggled and splashed and ‘dirtied’ the water as they ran to show them off to the others.

After a lot of hunting, we finally began to find some medium sized crayfish and put them in a bucket. My daughter and I explained how happy we were to see them because the ‘ nutrient rich’ water had killed off a lot of the creek life.  Yes, we had to explain that the ‘nutrients’ were fertilizers that he big houses that had been built used to make their perfect lawns , thus polluting the creeks and killing the creatures that lived there.)

As we worked to collect the creatures, I told my daughter and grands about the days when my mom took me and my friends to my grandpa’s pasture to catch creek creatures, much larger than these because the big houses had yet to overtake the farms. They were sweet memories. My mom, like me was a lover if nature. Rather than having instilled a fear of wildlife in me, she taught me to respect them.  From Black Widows to Black Snakes to water creatures and wild plants, my mom taught me to love them, catch and observe them, then let then go, so we could catch and observe them again. The memories of my mom and I, along with the privilege of sharing such a day with my daughters, sons and grandkids formed a mist in my eyes. You see, I never thought I would be able to do those things again.

Nearly ten years ago, as my 15 year old son was playing baseball, an unbelievable tragedy took him and “life” would never be the same. After a great double and a steal to third base, my lungs were sore from screaming my praises to him. The next kid struck out and soon the teams were practicing for the last half of the last inning. Suddenly someone called out, “What’s wrong with Andrew? ” I looked up to where he was practicing in the outfield and saw he begin to ru towRds me. Instinctively, I began to run to him, meeting close to the pitchers mound as he started to fall, hitting the ground in a swirl of dust. I was in shock. He had not even been sick, to my knowledge. I started screaming, ” Call 911, Call 911, and saw that the father of one of my sons team mates was calling. There was a fire station at the top of the hill and I expected an immediate response, but none came. After coaches and parents rushed up, one person ran up, said they were a nurse and looked at my unconscious son as he asked me questions. My heart, my mind was in a blur- why were there no sirens? Where were the EMT’s who could have walked there by now. Someone asked me his name and gently shook his shoulders, calling his name. No response- no siren or ambulance. I was screaming for the nurse to ‘ do something’ as the clock moved on and my son’s breathing became raspy. Between ten and twelve minutes passed before an ambulance finally came in a back gate- the opposite of the way an ambulance from the close-by fire Department would have come. The EMT’s first words were, ” bag him” ( give him oxygen).

I rode in the front of the ambulance to the hospital. I saw the attendants using a defibrillator on him. My mind was screaming, ” No, no!” I was met by a hospital cleric who lead me away as the ambulance attendants rushed my son in. After working on him for an hour a doctor came out and called our family in to a private room to tell us, ” They did everything they could.”

“You mean he’s dead?” I cried as we all sat in silent stares- our world crashing around us. I walked out the door with an apparently healthy 15 year old son and would walk, completely stunned back in that door without him.

Within a few months, I was having symptoms of what was later to be found to be a pituitary tumor, caused, mostly likely by the stress from loosening my son. This story is not about me, so I will suffice to say that neglect  nearly cost me my life just as someone giving the 911 operator the wrong directions to the ball park had cost my son his life.  By the time I had surgery to remove the tumor, I was told  that without the surgery, I would have had about three weeks to live.

Now, we come to the second part of this week just passed.  I saw my youngest child graduate from high school. He had been barely eight when his brother had died. Graduation is a crowded, long, yet joyous occasion. When the ceremony was over, my son’s girlfriend and I caught up with him and he gave me a ride back to my car when I would meet my husband and two other sons.  I was tired, in pain, yet thrilled for my son.   One more ordinary occasion that I got to witness.

It wasn’t until my son came home late that night that we talked about his graduation that he told me something that I guess I had never realized.  ” Mom, he said, as we sat on his bed, “years ago when you were so sick after we lost Andrew, I had the thought that you would not live to see me graduate. It has haunted me ever since.”

“But I did it.” I smiled as I hugged him. ” Yeah,  you did.” He smiled, holding my hand.

Tonight, as I sat in my room thinking, both of these simple events that I had enjoyed this weekend suddenly hit me. No one, most of all me, ever thought I would play in the creek with my grandkids and even my son had not believed that I would live to see him graduate.  I have suffered so much, so long, it just seemed endless. I still suffer everyday.  Somehow, this past year, I have found a way to bring joy back into my life, if even for a short time.  I told my son that it was his holding me close, willing me to live that had helped me  ” make it” this far. I thought of the song that I had heard on my Facebook page that some kids sang to their teacher who had cancer. it was called, “I’m Gonna Love you Throught It”.

That is just what my son, my kids and grandkids and my family had done for me. Through all the loss I had endured, the disability, the never- ending pain, I would feel their love and know that somehow, they still needed me.

As I found myself scratching the poision ivy on my arm tonight, I thought that even being able to work in my garden again was a blessing.  Maybe, I was still here ‘ for a reason’. The sweat running down my itchy face felt amazingly good somehow. I new life would never hold the same joy that it had when my son was alive and I was well, but I was still here, and I was determined, at last to be thankful for that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As The Blossoms Shed in April

 

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I think of you, in the beauty of spring,

blossoms falling from the flowering plums like pink snow…

The gurgling waters after a spring rain,

Seeing a flower raise its head above the soil.

 

I should be thinking of what summer holds-

for you-for your life, of what you deserved to have,

Instead, I kneal in the cool rain, asking why?

Why were you taken with no warning?

 

You, so good, so handsome, so loved.

Why did those who should have helped you, fail you-

Fail your family-why? A few words misspoken-

The wrong directions to 911-too much time for your heart.

 

I wear a badge forever now-“angel mom”-

Finally a word for what I am ,when none existed.

A widow-no, an orphan-no, just a woman

emploding with pain because you aren’t here.

 

I touch your photo each time I pass,

I hear your brother struggle to remember-

I wipe the tears from aging cheeks,

Youth lost amidst the ignorance and negligence.

 

You should be here-there was time.

I feel that when everyone failed you, failed me-

I should have pushed them away and known

That I had to be your heart until they came.

 

I want to see you as the young man you should be-

Hear your deeper laugh, see your young love grow.

I want the grandchildren you should have given me-

To hear them play, and smile-like you.

 

These things were stolen and cannot be replaced,

All I have left inside me is grief and anger,

That help was so close but did not know-

That someones world was dying while they waited.

 

I beg for you to come at night to comfort me,

But you are always young-knowing still,

That you will not grow old with your siblings.

Come to me as you should be-a man-strong, invincible.

 

Yesterday, I thought I felt you walking beside me.

I knew I could relish that feeling freely,

But was not allowed to look at your face,

I took a deep breath and was filled with your presence.

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Goodbye,Helladays

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There are so many good things about the Holiday season. I enjoy meals with family, cook and wrap presents. I take photos and watch the little ones open their gifts with innocence and excitement. I clean up the mess of wrapping paper, just as I did ten years ago. From the outside, nothing appears that different, I suppose. I know I should have a better attitude, but it seems to become more difficult to endure this “happy time” every year, when it isn’t happy for me.

I feel like I spent most of my Christmas this year alone. I managed a “tree cutting with my son and his friends, decorating a different tree-(the first one, a white pine was just too spindly),eating at my Aunts, a family tradition and seeing my grand kids play together on her floor as everyone laughed and gobbled down snacks and a ham dinner. . Still, Christmas Eve alone was miserable. My youngest son that has is still at home has a girlfriend who he is either with or talking to, my husband watches TV and hangs out in the living room. I kept hoping my son would come watch TV with me after his girlfriend went home, but he didn’t. Wasn’t it only a year or two ago that he stayed near me and comforted me as I cried over his brother or helped me down the steps at the Gingerbread House display when I was hurting so bad that it was difficult to walk?

My father passed away in August, between hospital and “rehab” stays, spending the summer with my family and being in hospice twice before I could no longer care for him. It was horrible. He has always been so active and often refused to let us help him. When he began to fall and get hurt, I had no choice but to seek help. We found the nicest nursing home we could-dad’s memory was in and out. Sometimes, he talked and told stories, other times, he was asking how “my mother and I” got him put in that place, even though it has been nearly four years since I lost my mother. When he asked my daughter one day if she thought he would ever be able to go home , she held him and whispered, “I don’t think so-I’m sorry.” Three weeks later he was gone. Not because of what she said, but because he had heard what he already knew was true from his oldest grand daughter and he couldn’t bear it.

It may seem odd, but I have grieved them both this year, as I cleaned out their house. I will never stop grieving the 15 year old who should be 2 now, who collapsed and died while simply playing baseball.

I read the newspaper and see all of the tragedies around the world. Those who have lost family to violence or war, and find myself feeling guilty. I see how many people in my neighborhood live alone or are elderly, their families far away. They look forward to these days as being one of the few times that they see their families, when I see most of my family every week.

One of my daughters had to spend her baby’s first Christmas away from her, because she was too sick with the flu to care for her. Thankfully she is better now. I think it is easy for family to forget that those of us who are not well, depressed, or grieving need joy in our holidays too. My children are busy with their young families or girlfriends. My husband and I don’t have a joyful relationship like we used to. We live here, we talk when we have to. He is healthy, doing what he wants. I am not, and find myself longing for happier times with a loving family and my own little children around me.

Yesterday was my birthday-I got phone calls from my kids and a card from my aunt. That’s all. Today, my son got his drivers license. Although I am glad to see him get the chance to grow up, unlike his older brother, these rites of passage for him, find me looking to even more loneliness and worry.

It seems the more I try to find happiness in these times, the more difficult if becomes. I admit to wiping a few stray tears at the Christmas play when my tall, handsome son played “Joseph” as the rest of the cast were modern day characters with attitudes rather like my own. Of course at the end, my “Joseph” had made them realize the true meaning of Christmas, but, sadly, going home to find myself watching reruns alone quickly dispelled that mood.

I look away, pretending to be distracted, hoping some well-meaning clerk won’t ask if I had a good holiday. I breathe a sigh of relief when she picks the next person in line to share he cheer with. I come home to an empty house and wait on my newly “freed” son to get home. The cat howls in the next room as if she is as sad as I am.

I’m sorry, world, if the holidays aren’t what they used to be. I’m sorry I avoid the cheery clerks and church folks at the play. I’m sorry I went to sleep at my Aunts and woke up crying. To those of you who still can, I wish a happy season. For those who feel like I do, we just wish it was over.

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