You Smile I Smile

You Smile I Smile
Sonshine: My Journey After the Loss of My Son

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Say it LOUD and a special request....

Something special happened to me yesterday. I stopped at the drugstore after work to pick up a few things. As I was checking out, a cute little girl was asking the lady in front of me "Are you are a mom?" The lady distractedly said yes and left the store. Then the little girl walked over to me and asked me "Are you a mom?"  I thought about it for about one second and said "Yes, I am." Then she said to me "Say it, say 'I'm a mom'." So I did, and it brought a smile to my face. Then she said "Say it LOUD. Say 'I'm a mom' REAL LOUD." So I did! She got a big smile and said "that's how you do it!"  It made my heart soar to say those words and say them out loud. You see, although I do not have a living child, I am still a mother. I have a beautiful angel child who made my life complete and made me ecstatically joyful for awhile while he was here. I am the mother of an angel. I AM A MOM forever. I felt like she was a little angel on earth sent to give me that reminder. Out of the mouths of children. She and her mom don't know this, but they made a total stranger so so incredibly happy, and I'm filled with gratitude for that interaction. I am a mom, I am a mom, I am Andy's mom! It was real, he was real, and I will see him again someday. 

Which brings me to my request. I am a huge proponent of small random acts of kindness. We don't know the hearts and struggles of all the people we see each day, and we never know what small act of kindness can help someone who really needs a ray of sunshine. Just like that little girl did for me. So I thought about it, and I have decided to share something I started doing and ask you to join me. I wanted to do something to honor Andy's memory, so I made up little cards to give out with a small gift. It doesn't have to cost anything. It could be something as simple as a flower you picked or a picture you drew. Or if you have a little money, maybe a $5 gift certificate to a store or coffee shop...anything like that. Use your imagination! I print off the card, write a little note inside, and attach it with a ribbon to the gift. Sometimes I wrap the gift, sometimes I don't. Leave it in a public place...a bench at the mall, the chair at the doctor's office, on someone's windshield, anywhere! I promise you, it will make someone's day.

The "technical" part:
Click on the upside down text below. It will take you to another window. Select File/Print and print off. Cut down to size.  Fold on the dotted line so "To Any Finder" and the heart are on one side and the message is on the other side. Write a message inside if you like, or not. Leave it with the gift and smile as you walk away. Don't let anyone see you do it...make it anonymous. 
Please let me know if you do this and how it made you feel! Help Andy and me share the love.  Thank you!!!!!!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

She cooks!

Yesterday was 4 months exactly since I lost my sonshine. I haven't been able to cook since the day he passed away. It was simply too painful to make dinner for just myself and not for me and Andy. I don't know that I'll ever be able to make Hamburger Helper again. I still have 3 boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Cocoa Krispies in my cupboard. God knows I won't eat them, but it gives me comfort having them in there. A little piece of my old normal, I guess.

So last week I told myself I couldn't live on takeout food forever. It's not healthy and it's not as good as mine.I decided to try to dip my toe in the water and cook 2 meals a week for awhile to get myself used to the idea. I decided to make something nice and have Ken come over and eat with me. I made a ham recipe I found that was coated in brown sugar and cooked in a sangria/pineapple sauce, mashed potatoes, and fresh peas from the farmer's market.  What can I say? It was fabulous! Now, Andy and I both detest(ed) leftovers. They are the worst! So I froze the rest of the ham to use later for ham and cabbage or scalloped potatoes. But cooking that dinner was an important milestone, and I have bought a week's worth of groceries this week for the first time in 4 months. I believe I have broken the negative feeling by forcing myself to cook something. Leftovers are still going to be a problem...can't do it...won't do it. But maybe I can learn to adjust recipes. We'll see. I'll worry about that later. For now, I'm focusing on making at least 2 home-cooked meals and maybe more!

I'm really trying to take baby steps forward, and here's why...something important was confirmed for me yesterday. Andy wants me to be happy, and he needs me to be happy. A couple weeks after he died, I was having a conversation with him, and I clearly heard him say to me "Lighten up, Mom. It's going to be ok." I was literally drowning in grief at the time and it just wasn't possible, try as I might. I was just trying to breathe. Each day breathing becomes a little easier despite the cavernous lows I still feel on some days.

Anyway, I was reading the blog of a bereaved mother yesterday. Her son had been gone a year, and she had recently had a major breakthrough. Let me first say that we grieving mothers are able to feel our chilren's sprits and have conversations with them. That's because there really is no death, just another realm. The woman's son told her that he really needed her to be happy in order for him to be completely happy and he further said "Lighten up, Mom." Sound familiar? I was blown away that she heard the exact same message from her son that I had heard from Andy. Later I went to Ken's to cook out. He had had a very bad several days in the abyss, but he seemed much better. When I asked him why, he said he had felt Andy's presence helping him and telling him "Lighten up, Dad!'  THREE times "lighten up" called to mind in one day. There are no coincidences.

So, my life's goal moving forward is to lighten up and try to enjoy the rest of my life, even though it's not as good as it used to be and never will be. I have said from the beginning, "Andy, if you are happy, I can be happy, so please be happy!"  I now understand that I must be happy for him to have the total joy he so deserves, and by God, I will do it. I waited 30 years for him the first time, and I will wait as many more as it takes to be reunited with him. I'd wait on him forever if I had to. I will honor him by being the best I can be and by fulfilling my mission here on earth, whatever that may be. I believe it will be revealed to me in time if I listen to my heart. I will still have horrible days, but I will not let them stay or take over my life. It's all for you, Andy. I love you like no other. You are my sunshine now and forever. Not goodbye, but  'til we meet again on that joyful day. Until that day, may you every moment have the joy of children.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Tears and more tears...

Tears and more tears…

Crying…it’s getting old. Kleenex loves me, though! I really didn’t expect to still be crying every day at this point, but I am. Well, not always, but if I don’t, it’s hell for days after. I cry in my office, I cry in my car, I cry in the kitchen, I cry at home watching TV, I cry in bed at night.

But--Here’s what I’ve figured out. If I cry a little every day, I do much better.  Sometimes I’ll go for a few days tear free…usually when I’m away with friends or family. And I’ll think, “Ok, I’m getting better!”  But then I cry uncontrollably for 2 or 3 days after that. It’s exhausting. Whereas, if I just go ahead and cry a little every day, I’m ok after a few minutes. I guess every tear is going to come out one way or another—pay me now or pay me later. I think I prefer pay me now.

I’ve also figured out that this is going to take a long time. Guess I’m in it for the long haul, like it or not. The first time I went to a Compassionate Friends meeting (about 4 weeks after Andy died), I told the group “I think I’m doing really well, and I’m going to recover really quickly.” And they just said “Oh no, you won’t. This takes at the very least a whole year, and usually more.”  I didn’t believe them at the time…I thought I was different. Wrong! Andy is still in my mind every second of every day. I try to focus on all the happy times and how lucky I was to get to spend 22 years with him. It helps. It also helps to see people who are years down the road…they still have a big empty hole in their heart, that never goes away, but they are able to feel joy again. They are always sad on some level, but they are not the living dead either. They have adapted to the “new normal.” That gives me hope.

I read a quote recently “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love."
~ Washington Irving

I think that says it all. Go forth in joy and power today…

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memorial Day in the Mountains

I spent Memorial Day weekend in beautiful Asheville, NC with my brother Tom, my sister Laurie, and my Mom. Finally got to see Tom's awesome new house. His place is a little slice of heaven. I got there while Tom was picking up my Mom, so I walked around the yard. I looked down and there was a box turtle right at my feet. Too cool! I spent a lot of time sitting on his back porch just enjoying the beauty of the trees and all the wildlife. We never even turned on the tv.

On Saturday we took the LaZoom Art Tour on a puple converted bus. I bought a print for my bedroom. We learned a lot about the Asheville art scene, and saw some great paintings, sculptures, and pottery. At one gallery, I was enthralled with a particular painting. Something about it reminded me of Andy. When I asked the artist what the name of it was, he said "Heaven's Gate." I got a little teary eyed. There are no coincidences. I may end up buying it...just need to think about it because it will be a pretty big investment. Later in the afternoon, we went to the Smokey Mountain National Park to hike and at dusk to watch all the elk come out of the woods to graze in the fields. As we were hiking, an elk walked right across the trail. It was really exciting.  Then we went over to the fields, and sure enough, elk started walking out of the woods and into the field. We watched them for awhile and then went over to another field where a whole group of them were hanging out. It was really awe inspiring. I felt---Happy! Happiness doesn't come to me that much these days, but I loved seeing these incredible animals. It's the closest thing to joy I've experienced since Andy left us. Ahhh, the beauty and magic of nature.

Sunday we all did some exploring and shopping downtown, and Tom's awesome girlfriend, Laura, came along. Asheville has such a vibrant downtown. It's easy to get around in and lots and lots to do. Better than Raleigh, IMHO. I also love the eclectic mix of people there. All types of people are welcome and accepted. You can go to a drum circle on Friday nights with all the "hippies", and then the next day view mansions of the rich and famous. It's very laid-back and healthy there. A great walking town filled with history. We had dinner at one of Asheville's many restaurants. I have yet to have a bad meal there. Most places serve local produce and meats cooked in interesting and healthy ways. After dinner we went to a club and watched swing dancers dance to a great band. Rumor had it that Johnny Depp was in town that night. Anyone who knows me knows I have a major, major crush on Johnny Depp. I kept hoping we would run into him, but alas, it was not to be. Better luck next time!

Monday we went to Brevard for more hiking and waterfall viewing. Oh, it was so beautiful! So, I've been saying I wanted to get back to getting some exercise...wish granted in spades! Whew! Lots of steep uphill climbing, and Mom kept right up like a trouper. Not bad for a 73-year old, huh? And it was HOT, but totally worth it. I sat on a rock next to the waterfall by myself for a bit and thought "this is what heaven looks like." Then I started imagining how wonderful it will be the day Andy and I meet a place just like this. I could see him stepping out and saying "Hi Mom!" It was a beautiful and touching moment. No one knew it, but I was crying. Thing is, they were happy tears. I have something so joyous to look forward to some day. We ate sandwiches we brought with us while sitting on a log. Isn't it amazing how good a simple sandwich tastes while you're on a hike? Yum!

So anyway, it was a wonderful weekend filled with fun and family. It doesn't get any better!