Bedtime Rituals

One of the wonderful things about social media is Facebook memories.

January 28, 2013: James likes to fall asleep holding onto a piece of us, just to know we are there with him. Some nights it is Casey’s¬†arm or my ponytail. Tonight James is holding onto my hand as I sing him songs and he falls asleep. That’s all any of us really want… just to know someone is there to be with you and love you just as you are. *insert gushy feeling* I am so lucky to love such wonderful boys, and to be loved in return.

As a young child, I looked forward to bedtime. I was that weird kid who would look at my mom and say, “Bed now?” My parents would sing me songs and I would beg for more. They would tell me stories or make up stories. And mom mom would rub my back or do what we called “face ticklies” (basically a light touch face massage).

When our parents age or get ill, there is a role reversal.

Last summer, I sat by my mom. Brushed her hair off her forehead. Repositioned her stuffed animal. Held her hand. Sang to her. Hugged her. Slept next to her.

It was a week-long bedtime ritual.

But at the root of it all, isn’t that what we all want?

Just to know someone is there to be with you and love you just as you are.

That’s what we did. I may never know what that week meant to her, but I do think she could hear us and feel us. She knew we were there to comfort her and love her. To be with her just as she was.

Thanks mom, for bedtime rituals of love.

“Grief is just love with no place to go”

For the first time since she died, I thought of my mom, without hesitation, as if she were still here. I was shoveling snow off the front sidewalk and said to myself, this will be helpful if mom stops by tonight.

(insert heartbreaking realization)

For six months now, I have known – so potently – that she was not physically here to stop by, or to call, or text, or hug. But today was the first time my brain forgot to stop the thought before it came. I stood there for a second, looking at the snow, thinking of all the times she would just stop by. I felt sad and lonely that I can no longer greet her face-to-face as a random visitor at my door. I can no longer call her up. I can no longer answer (or ignore) her phone calls. No matter how much I want or wish, I can no longer.

It has been six months since my mom died, but it is like I am in a weird time loop where life feels raw as if it just happened yesterday…

then it feels “normal”…

then it feels surreal…

then it feels raw again…

then fun…

then sad and surreal…

then “normal”…

and so on…

It is a balance of trying to embrace love and grief while at the same time attending to life happening around me. As if I exist in two alternate dimensions, trying to move forward with grace and intention and simultaneously wanting to run backwards in time and pretend this never happened.

When we were cleaning out my mom’s house, I took some towels home. They smelled like her. I would put my face in it and just breathe in.

I can’t smell her in them anymore.

The hospital bills linger.

Her Facebook page needs memorialized.

Her headstone isn’t ready yet.

What is worse than the initial shock of loss, is that it is followed by millions of grief moments that rip open the center of your healing, sometimes poke around a little, and then sew it back up and move on. Finding balance after these continued grief moments can be challenging.

I have talked a lot about gratefulness and embracing the sadness as I heal through grief…

But some days the sadness feels heavy.

Some days the sadness makes it worse.

Some days the grief is just tears. Or silence. Or exhaustion.

And it is also love. It is joy. That is why it hurts so much.

 

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go” – Jamie Anderson

Gratefulness

New Year’s came and went and I somewhat avoided all conversations about New Year’s resolutions. I did not want to talk about the loss of 2017 and moving forward – without – in 2018. To contemplate the past and how to move forward requires that I find some stillness within myself… which opens up awareness of my sadness.

But with sadness comes gratefulness.

Can gratefulness come without sadness? Can we be grateful for our sadness? Grateful for feeling the pain and tears and angst? Grateful for lack of sleep and difficult decisions? Grateful for the moments that make us appreciate it all?

I offer part of a passage by Thich Nhat Hanh for you to consider:

One autumn day, I was in a park, absorbed in the contemplation of a very small beautiful leaf, shaped like a heart. Its color was almost red, and it was barely hanging on the branch, nearly ready to fall down. I spent a long time with it, and I asked the leaf a number of questions. I found out the leaf had been a mother to the tree. Usually we think that the tree is the mother and the leaves are just children, but as I looked at the leaf I saw that the leaf is also a mother to the tree. The sap that the roots take up is only water and minerals, not sufficient to nourish the tree. So the tree distributes that sap to the leaves, and the leaves transform the rough sap into elaborated sap and, with the help of the sun and gas, send it back to the tree for nourishment. Therefore, the leaves are also the mother to the tree.

….

I asked the leaf whether it was frightened because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me, “No. During the whole spring and summer I was completely alive. I worked hard to help nourish the tree, and now much of me is in the tree. I am not limited by this form. I am also the whole tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue to nourish the tree. So I don’t worry at all. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her, ‘I will see you again very soon.'”

That day there was a wind blowing and, after a while, I saw the leaf leave the branch and float down to the soil, dancing joyfully, because as it floated it saw itself already there in the tree. It was so happy. I bowed my head, knowing that I have a lot to learn from that leaf.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

As parents, our children often teach us more about ourselves than we ever expected. We think we are teaching and growing them, but in reality it is a mutual, reciprocal process.

My mother is me and I am my mother. Her actions, values, tenderness, and weird habits are in me as mine were in her.

As I move into 2018 I simply want to breathe with gratitude.

breathing

My mom exists in my breath. In the wind. In the leaves. In the love of those around me.

I will embrace my stillness. Be grateful for my sorrow. Breathe in. And out. As I am connected to my mom. To you. To all.