Sunday, August 6, 2017

For Thor - 87 - Soar

Good morning, Thor!

Gosh, I miss saying that to you and be rewarded with your sweet smile in return. It's Sunday, again, I was thinking of making chicken & dumplings for supper.

Last weekend, I took part in a beautiful and healing Yoga for Grief and Loss retreat with other women who have suffered traumatic losses in their lives. It was right here at Yogaville, so I didn't have to travel and got to sleep at home. I did, however, drive past the site of your wreck each day. On the first morning as I headed to the retreat house, I was compelled to stop there and sit, once again, on that ground; the last place on Earth where you were alive, and feel anything that came up. This pause in the forward momentum of the day was powerful, helping me surrender and open myself to feel the pain I carry around daily, wrapped and bound. I allowed myself to sink into my heart and to give voice to those waves of grief that crash and swell inside.

I picked chicory from the roadside and wove those tiny blue star-bursts into the wreath that adorns the tree that abruptly halted your flying truck and sent you into a new realm. It is a tragic and magic place, both. It is the sacred site where you slipped through and became a bigger version of yourself, leaving me here to figure it out. To walk on. Every single day of my life from now on is reframed with this knowledge: That which we love can be taken. Nothing is guaranteed. Change is the only thing that is certain. Love is the only constant that exists beyond this ever-changing-certainty.

A few days before the retreat started I received an email from a blog that I subscribe to, in it I was gifted a message that was timely, something to use as a new focus. Suzanne Giesemann offered this from the Sanaya Says collection of posts:
“I will grieve for the rest of my life.”

"If this is truly your belief, then for you it will be your truth. Do you wish to feel the deep sadness for the rest of your life, or do you wish to continue living and growing without that feeling as a constant companion? You will always be able to recreate that pain. You know the trigger points and you know how it feels to grieve, but hear us well: you can train yourself to become aware of when you feel that pain and transmute it with higher emotions. “Ah yes, I miss my loved one. I know this feeling, but now I choose in this moment to focus on the joy my loved one brought me and to be grateful for that experience.” From there you can allow your thoughts to drag you back to that place of pain or ask those you miss to remain in your heart as a pleasant, ever-present companion. What do they want for you now from their vantage point across the veil? Peace. This is the training ground. You control your thoughts."
Several ideas stuck out for me in that writing:

  1. I can always recreate the pain of losing you. It's so true. I can ruminate upon that night and caress each terrible memory taking the stabbing pain like a masochistic and embracing it. My heart breaks and my emotional body responds with wracking sobs that stop my breath and buckle my knees. I can cut myself on the sharp edges where your death blasted through the fabric of my life and altered me forever. 
  2. I can choose to do this. Or I can work toward a new awareness.
  3. This is a training ground and that I am training to experience Peace. I can train myself to feel that pain and learn to transform it with love and joy. We had a lot of love and joy in our life together, Thor. It is not hard to remember the sweetness of being your mom.
  4. We stand on this precipice together and with training, practice and no small dose of bravery, I can step out and trust that my heart will rise on the wings of love and lift joyfully to the open expanse of possibility. 
This is my work.
The first night of the retreat we go around the circle and talk of our departed loves and on the second time around the circle we are asked to set an intention for the retreat. At the retreat I did last October, my intention was much more focused on survival. This time I felt compelled to take a new direction, to move beyond survival, because that intention has been met. I'm here and my heart is still open. I smile and laugh and make plans for tomorrow. I didn’t give up, shut down, crawl in a hole and wither. I didn't will my heart to stop so I wouldn't feel that agony. I steeped myself in the pain when it needed to be felt and allowed it to breath through me and be released through tears, and hugs, and prayer -- and writing. Every time I write to you another piece of this experience is allowed to float away. My choice was to survive the devastation of losing you, my beloved son, so that I could learn to live again. This time when we went around the circle the second time I threw a handful of sage leaves on the flames and as they ignited and lifted white smoke to the sky I said, 
"My intention is to SOAR."
Easier said than done, for sure. And that's okay. I know where I’m going now, I charted a new course in this journey we're taking, Thor. We're going up! But like any journey, it's a process. I have to start from where I am and allow for the gentle unfolding and inevitable challenges and unforeseen beauty to be revealed. 
This is my work.
So I stopped at the tree each day of the retreat as I made my way from home to join my fellow travelers in grief. I went there to remember that fateful night and to begin to insert new emotional programming into that memory. I sat on the ground where you breathed your last and I thought to myself that the veil might be super thin right there in that spot. I closed my eyes and sent a huge wave of bright, yellow sun energy toward you. My heart song said, "Thank you! Thank you for letting me be your mom. Thank you for the love we share. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for staying by my side, even now." Tears fell from my eyes, but they were not bitter, salty tears of anguish and suffering. They were bright and beautiful and as the light shone through them, they turned to rainbows.
Later that day, surrounded by the love and support of my new sisters in the sacred space we created together, I wrote a poem and created a mandala art piece that reflected this pivotal experience, Thor.

Rainbow filled teardrops fall
    to the earth
From the blood-red chambers of my heart
            to the earth
From my pinon-colored eyes
                   to the earth
Where flowers burst forth
                                 and bloom
Yellow tickseed bobs in a breeze
    Periwinkle chicory twinkles
        in the high-summer sun
            The color of your eyes
                 when they regarded me
                    Adoring and bright 
                        with the love we share
      My sunshine!
             My son shine!

So, here we go, Bubby. Soaring on the wings of love across a chicory-colored sky.

I love you, beyond words, beyond realms, baby boy!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

For Thor - 86 - Take the Helm

Grieving your death is a terrible and beautiful journey through the blasted and burnt landscape of my heart. Healing is happening, but the road is fraught with perils and pitfalls; images and sounds that spin me back to that moment, that contracted pinpoint moment, when your dad shook his head slowly and said, "He's gone." That's the second from which all the rest since then rise and fall in a cascade of horror, sorrow, shock, love, gratitude, agony, expansion, grace, inspiration, growth, longing, disbelief…utter fucking heartbreak.

I've walked this road for eighteen months. Eighteen inexplicable months of life moving forward without you. Days melted into weeks that hold new memories and laughter, new life milestones dot the landscape now as the play continues to unfold for those of us left here to live on after you. For me, each and every one of them is imbued with an air of sorrow. It's proof to me that a single moment can, indeed, hold profound sadness and exquisite joy. These two co-mingle like positive and negative charges electrifying my emotional expression, blowing down the constructs of what I think is possible and destroying expectations of How It Should Be. If I am to survive these forces I must be edgeless and open. If you look inside me now, there are no new walls.

When I was a kid I remember a survival class at school telling us that finding shelter is the best way to survive the wilderness. So I tried to put up a lean-to or a freaking tent to escape the constant howling winds that purge and blast my heart. But this was a short-lived experiment. Grief and sorrow tore them down, longing and love tumbled the pieces back into the Sea of Grief leaving me feeling bewildered and lost, again. Camping out inside a hidey-hole on this journey is not an option. Separateness and withdrawing into myself is not an option, either. The agonizing sorrow of your death, I have come to find, is my constant companion and teacher, always pushing me, driving me, forcing me to MOVE along the path. Solace and peace exist in the moments when I am able to abandon the idea of me, apart. I must continue to expand. Sometimes, it's flat out excruciating because my broken, sad mama's heart still holds onto you in your life here with me, with us.

I miss your smile and laugh. I miss the feeling of your hair when I tousle it. I long to hear your voice and talk over your life plans. My heart leaps when I catch a glimpse of a truck like yours and just for a moment I think…Thor! I cook dinner sometimes and think to myself, "I bet Thor would really love this!" and I wish I could call you up and invite you round for supper. It's both wonderful and agonizing when your dad and brothers play guitar without you. One of them usually plucks your black Fender from its stand and strums it in tribute, including you the only way left to us now. Your friends are getting married and going to college, worrying about girlfriends and making plans for jobs and life. Your Starr has found a new beau and I'm so happy for her but also sad thinking about what you've missed out on. I think you'd like him, Thor. He's a VDOT guy and looks like a cross between you and TJ! I wonder if you had a hand in sending him her way? Madhuri got married to Nick and is happier than I've seen her in a long time. You were supposed to be in her wedding. I know you were there in spirit because I could feel you but still Not. The. Same.

I'm taking this sorrow and love and channeling it toward something good. Thor's Hammer is coming along very well as an event. The plans are taking shape and the outpouring of support is magnificent to behold. It's hard for me to operate out of both my head and my heart so intensely at the same moment. But just like I learned that sorrow and joy can exist in the same moment, the broken heart is leading the charge, the logical mind just has to follow. My undying love for you drives my actions. Your love for the community inspires and is guiding us to find the path forward. It's a lesson in vulnerability for me, though. To create such a love offering for the whole community and then wonder, will they come? Will it be okay? Is it needed or wanted? Am I blinded by my love for my boy? Can I do this? Is it enough? Am I enough?

There is no answer to these questions. They are silly queries that arise from being unsure and sad and in pain, from fear. What will be, will be; and that has to be okay. Love is the reason for what we do, so how can it be anything other than perfect? I continually learn to stay open and vulnerable in so many difficult passages. I've already gone through the worst, you'd think I could easily handle these lesser trials. The thing is, every experience is related to THAT experience now. All loss feels like THAT loss. All fear feels like THAT fear. All uncertainty feels like THAT uncertainty… those terrorizing feelings that raged and tossed the Sea of Grief so violently are still active forces. I have a stronger vessel now, with mended sails and a deep rudder. I can navigate and ride the crests into the troughs and not drown in the waves that crash over my bow. Still, it's a rough ride that starts each morning when I open my eyes and look to the sun on the horizon. Another day of life is graced upon us full of blessings and possibility. Another day dawns and arcs across the sky, the sun shines on the Earth where you once walked, talked, lived, laughed and loved. The wind blows sand across your footprints. I reach out from my heart to touch the sky, the place where you melted into the Great Light of All and take the helm…

What will today hold?

I love you,

Friday, June 23, 2017

For Thor - 85 - Summer Fair

Spring bloomed and hopped its way right into summer. The air is sticky sweet with the aroma of honeysuckle and gardenia, just a hint of pine in the background to remind me of the woods. I sit in my garden and look out over the meadow and delight in the new birds coming to enjoy this open space. I spotted a scarlet tanager and a Bluebird the other day; they flitted about nervously as they discovered new feeders and weren't certain of the cat. We have lighting bugs that flicker like tiny floating flashlights in the twilight. And aerobatic bats defy gravity in swoops and dives as they dine on whining mosquitoes. The earth smells fresh and warm and green, effulgent with life and promise. At some point the stars peek out, dotting the sky like moonlit dewdrops on black velvet. If I sit still enough, I think I can hear them breathing. It is peaceful and teeming with life all at once. This is where I find you most these days, Thor. When I just need to feel your presence in the corporeal realm, I seek solace in the arms of our first Mother.

Nature and her infinite expression of life, beauty, birth, and death have been one of the best healers for me since you died. I awake in the morning and step outside arms outstretched to the pre-dawn sky to welcome LIFE and to say THANK YOU for ALL that IS. It's not always easy. There are days when the anger and deep sadness re-emerge to twist in my heart like a knife. And though I don't bleed, the wound weeps, Thor. Still, my mother's heart cries for you, longs for you, is sad for your life being cut short. I know that will never go away. Mourning your death is a permanent piece of my life's story now. But I am stronger than I was, you know, and I can bear it. With the help of my lifelines. Yes, I still use them.

The other day, your dad had to call in a 911 to Aunt Radha. So many things are happening at once that I got overwhelmed emotionally, and without the time to write like I usually do, I crumbled under the weight. Life is moving on. Your friends' lives continue to unfold with the joys and milestones of the young and hopeful -- marriages, graduations, new jobs, new homes, new trucks, new loves. And there is a huge hole in this stitched-together narrative of your generation; your piece of the story suddenly stopped, and I am now sideline observer. So I am happy for everyone's lives and joyous occasions, but my heart will always go there, to that what if place… What if this were your wedding, Thor? Or your promotion at work? Or your new truck, house or hobby? What would your babies have looked like? Would they have your blue eyes and sparkling wit? Would they have your strength and loving heart?

Your brothers are growing up and are so sweet as they come to their own life milestones - getting a driver's license, thinking about moving out and going to college, girlfriends, and jobs. I can't help but wonder what kind of advice or teasing remarks you would lend to some of our conversations. We gather together as a family around the supper table, and there is ALWAYS this space that we collectively hold for you.

The other night the four of us sat around the fire pit 'neath the dogwood tree. The full moon sailed across the sky like she had swallowed millions of luminescent marshmallows; bright white and full to overflowing. We enjoyed cigars - some of yours and listened to Florida Georgia Line through your old portable amplifier. We felt you there, with us. With each puff of smoke that went up to the sky, we underscored our love for you, our son and brother. It was funny how you found a way to interject into the conversation by making the amp buzz and then stop for no apparent reason - at just the right time in the conversation. I am sure you were there manipulating the energy in that amplifier just to say hi and let us know that you're still here, just much less dense than you were. Some folks may think I'm just making up these interactions because I want you here so badly. That may be. But I know what I know in my heart, and that is that you are closer than ever and are right here all the time. All we have to do is think of you.

We've got a new focus these days, too. Your passion in life for the fire service is now channeled into a new non-profit that I've named, Thor's Hammer. We're holding an event in September just after what would have been your 21st birthday that is full of things you would love; firefighter games, chili, music, and little something to sip. I found a blacksmith to make the Thor's Hammer trophy; a steel hand emerging from flames holding a hammer that looks like a cross between Mjolner and a Halligan tool. The idea is that the winning firehouse will keep the trophy for the year that they win it, like the Stanley Cup! What's really cool is the total support from so many people across the nation and beyond. Volunteer Fire Departments from all over are sending tee shirts to be included in the prize packages for the games! We wanted to do something that would establish a lasting legacy in your name, sweet boy. Thor's Hammer is where I spend a fair amount of my non-working time, these days. It brings me great joy to have something positive to do for the community that also "keeps you alive" in people's hearts and minds. It's tough work, but it's so meaningful.

I am trying to remember to remain in a state of BEING through all of this and to allow Spirit to move through me into action. When I'm successful at this, I don't get all balled up energetically. Sometimes the hardest thing we have to do is to get out of our own way. I have a special angel in you, though, that reminds me to let it flow and listen. Act in the right moment and don't be afraid. Sometimes I get a little freaked out that something isn't going to happen when it's supposed to, and I intervene. That's usually about the same time things get screwed up, and I have to step back to let it sort out again. All the while, grief lingers in, around and through me. I still don't know what I will become as a result of sorrow and loss. Every day is a new emerging of insight and opportunity to learn and grow. Each moment unfolds into the next and carries me to a new place with it; I'm transformed bit by bit to know more about the Love that binds us all.

When Aunt Radha and I were talking I shared an observation with her. That life here on earth in these amazing human bodies in this super-high-definition world full of colors and smells, sights and sounds - and intense emotions - is a lot like a fair. As a spirit, we take a body and come to this Earth Fair that is this human experience, and we love it here. And we adore the people who are at the fair with us. We can't get enough of the rides and the games and the food. We get all worked up for the competitions and we sing aloud at the shows. But we cannot stay, it's impossible to stay. We suffer because we believe this is what's real. It is not. It's a brief experience for a timeless being (our spirit selves). When we're here though, it's easy to get caught in believing that nothing else matters, could be more fun, more satisfying. But it is a fleeting thing. Continuously pulled toward HOME, we must leave, and we don't want to. And furthermore, we don't want anyone we love to go either. Just like a three-year-old throwing a temper tantrum when they are being forced to abandon deeply engrossing play, we cry and kick our heels. What's funny is that once we are home, we immediately stop crying as we are so cared for and so loved; there is a nice bubble bath, and a warm meal and are tucked safely in our beds surrounded by love and peace. We are happy to be home. The words of the 23rd Psalm come to mind -

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

You left really early, Thor and shocked the crap out of me. And I am mindful of the fact that I am still here, doing this life thing with your Dad and brothers and so many other beautiful beings who share this life journey with me. One day we'll all be back home together. Until then, know that I am having fun (mostly) and staying open to what this experience can teach me. There are moments when it's tough to keep this perspective, so I try to remember that you're just on the other side of this veil having left the fairgrounds early and turned for home.

I love you,

Saturday, May 13, 2017

For Thor - 84 - Grace on the Wing

Good morning, Thor. My heart is so full that my chest is tight and my throat feels closed today. The well of my heart has not been still, it bubbles up from the deepest places where love and grief and joy and sorrow abide and demands my attention. I have been able, lately, to allow grief to coexist with my living, loving, laughing, working self. Grief and I had found an amicable balance where I would talk to you and keep my heart open for signs and to feel love always. I would cry sometimes, but not all the time. I discovered that I can still laugh and really mean it. The sun kept coming up, the stars turned in the night sky and gradually life began to be lived through me, again. The chapter of me living as a refugee ended, I turned the page and was transformed into a survivor. But my journey doesn't end there.

Over the past couple of weeks that balance has shifted by degrees, this shift was so subtle I didn't notice a deep unrest building inside of me. I thought I was just tired or worried about work or the details of establishing our farm or the new house addition or the event we are planning in your memory. But it's none of those external things. I find myself in a new place on this journey. I am at yet another level of grief, and this one is tough. You see, the shock has worn off. The newness of a world without you in it has aged and become bizarrely familiar. We are not strangers to facing the days and nights with the specter of your sudden and far too soon death hanging over us. It is here, with eyes wide open, that I see the intractable, bare metal truth of your gone-ness from this life. Some people say it's reality setting in, that it takes this long to realize that you're indeed not coming back in my front door. I thought I had been embracing the truth of it all along, but there is more your death will teach me. There is more I have left to see, to learn, to embrace, to grow through and release.

I have to have faith that I have the strength to stay open through this new agony. I'm walking around with a huge hole in my heart, just the same as if someone blasted me with a shotgun right in the chest. That's how it feels, all the time.

And still, I walk on. Grace swoops in and guides me along, step by bloody step forward, toward love. Sometimes I am a willing participant, letting Grace show me new love and new dimensions of the human heart. Sometimes I dig in my heels and let my broken mama heart wail…Why the hell did my son die? Can't we have a do over? My arms feel empty and long to hold him. Surely in the vast possibilities of the entire Universe, there's a chance for me to embrace him again? Sometimes I get so pissed off I want to smash something. I imagine hitting a huge glass window and having it shatter under the force of my rage. I want to break this fucking world…fuck any reality in which it's allowable for you to be dead! And then I burst into tears, and the uprising of pain and anger reminds me of just how much I miss you, Thor. I miss you so terribly. I am stricken with choking sorrow in these moments, and I fight to find my footing.

Recovery comes more quickly than it used to. I can pull back from the edge to answer a question from a coworker or to listen to your dad and brothers tell me something about their day. I can leave the altar in my heart where still hold vigil for you and know that it's okay for me to step away for a while and immerse myself in other things. I've come to understand that leaving the constant mourning state is okay. I haven't abandoned you or forgotten you or let your memory fade when I choose to focus on something or someone else.

If I pause a moment to look back, I have come a long way. Last year at this time I had no capacity to allow the pain and sorrow to exist side by side with the joy and beauty in a moment. I couldn't pull myself away from the thought of your death and engage with the day to day patterns that call one to get up and go to work each day. Last year at this time I was a shattered vessel, an empty shell with the wind of grief howling through the chambers of my heart and drowning out everything else. When the first Mothers Day after your death dawned, I mourned you amid the flowers and cards that were sent to comfort and uplift me. Your dad and brothers took me camping, we went out in nature and let the bigness of the sky and the lake and the woods embrace me.

We've come a long way, Bubby and you've been by my side every step on this terrible path. I'm still breathing so that means we aren't done. Grieving a dead child is a life sentence, you know. Only when my earth walk is over will this journey through pain, sorrow and suffering into expanded awareness, unconditional love and total joy be truly over. But I'm not in any particular hurry because this is our new relationship, Thor. You are my guiding star helping me unfurl and blossom into a state of being that is the goal of all humankind. The suffering and the sorrow shake us up to remind us of what is real and what is an illusion. The Love we share is the love that carries us to a better shore and binds us to each other. Each moment has its truth, its lesson is an opportunity for us to feel what is happening now. Feel it and release it. I have learned that I can't think my way past the expression of sorrow, that kind of denial only intensifies sorrow's power like holding a lit firecracker tight in your palm will blow off your fingers. Better to stay open and let the explosion go off in the expanse of open air. Observe it. Acknowledge it. Let it go.

No word that can express the love I have for you, boyo. But you know that already, don't you?

Thanks for sending the hawk to play with me the other day. What a Mothers Day gift that was! I smiled through tears and laughed out loud at this proud bird playing peek-a-boo with me. Truly, it was Grace on the Wing delivered straight to my heart.

I love you,

Saturday, April 22, 2017

For Thor - 83 - Lilacs and Love

Do you remember about twelve years ago I visited Mimi and Papa at The Ranch in Colorado? It was a big deal for me to go because we didn't have much money and Dad had to stay home taking care of you and your brothers. But, weren't sure how much longer they would be living there, and I wanted to make sure I came back to see them to share a few more long visits on the porch swing all the while laughing at the antics of squirrels and the many birds that came to visit. One of my missions was to get cuttings from the lilac bushes and bring them back with me to Virginia for posterity. I managed to get two out of ten little starts to take root and grow. Every year they would come back with new leaves, stronger and taller; but no blossoms. Every year I kept them protected from deer, mulched and watered them. Every year they grew, but still no blossoms.

Last spring I sat on the porch talking to you, Thor as I often do in the morning, over a cup of coffee as I watch the day awaken. One day I asked if you could do something about those lilacs, you know, as a sign, for me. I've asked for several signs, and you've delivered on all of them, sweetheart, and I all but forgot about this one until one day recently. I was walking to my car one morning when I caught a flash of purple from the corner of my eye. My heart leaped, and I jumped up and down with total glee and ebullient joy when I saw what it was! For the very first time, Mimi's New Lilacs bloomed, and I knew without a doubt that you - and maybe Papa along with you - had a hand in this. Both of the bushes have dark, purple cones of flowers. Seeing them warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I buried my nose in one of those sun-warmed lilac blossoms and inhaled deeply.

That smell popped the cork on a whole bottleful of memories of my childhood at The Ranch. The details came back to me rich and whole, captured in some cache in my mind, just waiting for me to open them.

The blooming of Mimi's lilacs was an annual event that we kids looked forward to with great anticipation. It might seem odd that a passel of kids would have this eager enthusiasm for a blooming shrub, but Mimi's lilacs were so much more than mere flowers to us. They signaled hope and a promise, not unlike a rainbow. In Colorado, the winters are long and sometimes hard, and the lilacs were one of the truest harbingers of spring. They brought with their signature scent a sure sign that summer break was around the corner and that our cousins would soon be there to visit. The lilac's unassuming blossoms bobbed in the breeze as we planned supper-time weeny-roasts and watched the gangly-legged foals frolic in the glade.

The Ranch was waking up from the long winter as the snow melt sank into underground aquifers and the mud season of late winter and early spring gave way to solid ground. Sure-footed colts snorted and kicked up their heels in the fresh spring turf under the patient eye of the mares who bit off huge mouthfuls of fresh grass. The distinctive sound of Mimi's screen door as it opened and sprung shut carried across the lilac-scented air more often as everyone began picking up the tasks that needed doing. New corral arrangements, and fence repair, and moving water troughs and putting halters on foals for the first time. It was time to curry-comb huge piles of winter hair off the mares so they gleamed in the sun. And the heady scent of lilacs drifted through it all, a colorful backdrop to the daily business of running a ranch.

There wasn’t much time for frivolous landscaping at the ranch. Mimi had her priorities for the land and her time. Besides we didn't want to plant anything that the horses might eat and get sick, so we stuck with grass and let the horses mow it. Mimi brought the mares and babies in the front yard where we could see them all the time. I'd sit on the porch swing with her drinking coffee or iced tea and just watch them graze and see how the babies grew light purple and curious. They would nuzzle the lilac blossoms with their soft noses and swish their little tails.

We were allowed to pick a few lilac blooms and bring them into the house in Mason jars. The shrubs were old and enormous, having spread their base over decades, they easily topped seven feet tall and were fifteen feet or more across. There was light purple, dark purple and white varieties. Each one smelled a little differently, but they were all full of bees! We never did figure out if there were hives full of honey somewhere nearby, but the bees figured out where they could load up on pollen and nectar.

The little outdoor fire place that sat in front of the summer house, which we called the weeny roast place, was lined on one whole side by the light purple lilac. On a warm spring day, I could sit there for hours in the dappled sunlight that filtered through the new cottonwood leaves above and breathe in that sweet air. I'd have to swat away the hungry mosquitos, but that was just part of life in Colorado in the spring. There was a family of magpies that had a nest in the elm tree on the other side of the and they didn't like too many visitors near their babies, so they'd squawk swoop down and dive bomb us as we walked by. I could close my eyes and drift away listening to the sounds of life at The Ranch as it hummed along right in time with a celestial clock, perfect and unstoppable.

It's funny how something so simple as a smell can link us to a time and place so totally.

Memories come in all kinds of packages trip-wired with sensory triggers to burst open on contact. The winsome notes of a favorite song can peel away decades to immerse me in a single slice of a single day from my youth. The smell and swirl of color of that moment surround me once again, rising up to replay every little detail all the way down to feeling the warmth of the breath of the nervous boy who thought he might try to kiss me, while that song blared awkwardly in the high school gymnasium. How was I to know it would become part of the soundtrack of my life? I am often surprised when I stumble upon a memory trigger, but I've learned to enjoy them, to let them have their say.

Feeling a memory, holding it my heart and breathing it in deeply to let it blossom and unfold on the canvas of my mind is one way I keep you alive. But it's more than that. The experiences we have here lend meaning to our lives, they are the captain's log of our journey. Recalling any one of them can take us back to that moment where we can interact with and BE. It's another NOW that we can experience whenever we want to. Time and experience are not linear concepts, they are more meaningfully tied to our emotional selves...what we invest in, in our hearts.

And there are so many memories to treasure of our time here together. The curve of your little head resting on my chest and the new baby smell that I could never get enough of; every time I see a baby boy who is smiling and healthy and bright and beautiful as you, that memory of you plays across my heart. When I see a white Chevy truck and VDOT road crews and when I hear certain songs and when your brothers make certain facial expressions and when I look up at the sky at night and stare into the spaces between the stars, I remember you. When I see a deer or a turkey in a field and a sky full of clouds and light and sun-streaking to kiss a tree-top with gold, I see you. I can dance with you in the kitchen and hear you play songs with your dad on the porch because you do these things in my heart, where love lives. I recall with pride the way you walked and laugh when I think about that swaggering gait and the way you sometimes wore your jeans too tight.

Thank you for the lilacs, Thor. I know you brought them to me on purpose as a gift for your mama. You are still here, creating memories for me and kindling those places in my heart that stir and surface the love I felt in each one of them. The love never dies, we can follow the love to revisit any moment, anytime, any place through love and it's the same as being there.

The smell of lilacs…is a portal, a door key, a pathway to the greater possibilities that we are all as eternal as the love we share.

Hafiz says it perfectly.

Again last

Popped the cork on itself—
Splattered my brains
Across the

I imagine now for ages
Something of Hafiz
Will appear
To fall like

- Hafiz

I love you!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

For Thor - 82 - Dirt

What do I want to say to you today? On this bright, beautiful first day of April with the birds singing and the tulips bobbing their heads in a gentle breeze I feel you here, but I have no particular words. And yet, I'm drawn to write, to spend a little quality time with you.  So I guess we'll just see where this takes us today.

The past few weeks have been hectic for me. I don't like it because I can't hear you as well when the pace of life is fast and loud. But I'm putting that rainbow connection we made to good use so that even in the whirlwind of a crazy day I am able to sense you better and see the signs you leave for me. Like the enormous rainbow that was practically in my lap the other day! Wow! These signs that tell me you're with me, even if your body is dead, that you are near even if I can no longer hold you in my arms and inhale your smell; a blend of fresh air, body wash, diesel fuel and awesomeness. A mom's longing to hold her son never diminishes, you know. So that is just part of my daily life now; learning to live with the longing, the heartache, the heartbreak and the sorrow. I have become an expert repurposer, turning these pains one by one into new pathways toward joyful living, love, and gratitude.  There are times though when I just have to sob, and that's okay. I miss you, and I'm really sad that you're not here to do all the things you wanted to do, to share in the beauty of life together.

Last week Xanny and I went to see Florida Georgia Line in concert. I know you already know this because you were there with us the whole time. And what a show it was, eh? When I learned FGL was coming to town, I knew we had to go for you and for us. Your Spotify playlists are chock full of FGL songs and so many of them seem like melodic biographies; telling the story of your life. You loved living in the country, the lovely gals, the jacked up trucks, hanging with your friends, and fun on a Friday night. Living, loving, laughing every minute of every day like there was no tomorrow was your credo. And I'm glad it was because you truly experienced so many things in your short years here on earth. It's a lesson to any of us who choose to live timidly or disconnected from our own power and voice. Tomorrow isn't promised, but right now, this very moment IS…what are you going to do with it? How ARE you in it?  Life is all about the experiences, right? FGL makes me think of this as I sing along with "This is How We Roll."  How did life express itself through me today? What experiences did I bring forth? How did I connect with and build closer relationships with others through these experiences? Yeah, I think about stuff like this while sipping that whiskey on a Friday night, Bubby.

I want to tell you THANK YOU for sending that tractor for your dad! If ever there was ever a doubt that you are helping us as much as possible, this tractor showing up as it did would put that doubt to bed! Everything about this tractor says it's from you. First of all, we looked around, and everything we found that met our needs was way outside our budget. So we kept looking. Dad thought he'd get some really old tractor and work on it. To which I said, hell no! I want a machine that's going to work a while before we have to put any money in it. And so we looked some more. Then dad found a 1996 John Deer 955 with very few hours on it that he could get with a rake and bush hog - for well within our budget. 1996 - the year you were born. John Deere - your and dad's favorite tractors. I knew in my heart that you had helped get that machine here for daddy.

I think we're going to name the tractor, "Li'l Lewie. I help dig!" in honor of you (your middle name) and the story from when you were two years old and scared the crap out of Pad and Dad.  They were digging a trench to put in a water line and were standing in the ditch with mud up to their knees using shovels and digging bars to break the earth when they heard an engine fire up from around the garage. They looked at each other and realized it was the backhoe that they heard. In the next instant, they realized that there were the only two people who would operate the backhoe, right? Unless, possibly... gasp! Well, those two grown men leaped about four feet in the air and ran to where the backhoe was parked to find your two-year-old self up in the seat jiggling the controls with a determined look in your eye and a smile a mile wide… "I help dig!" you said as Pap turned the key off and dad stilled your little hands on the controls that had the bucket bouncing up and down. "I help dig!" you insisted when they pulled you down and wiped the cold sweat from their foreheads. Needless to say, they never left the keys in the machines ever again! But that didn't stop you from wanting to ride on or drive any kind of tractor or truck, ever. And it certainly didn't keep you from digging. Dad and Pap gave you a little shovel to help them the old fashioned way…and you used that shovel anytime you could. One time you and Chaz even dug up the gas line two feet underground with plastic beach shovels!

We're putting in a meadow this year so that we can have forage for bees next year. It's going to be so beautiful to see a field of clover and orchard grass swaying in the breeze. I think I'll finally have some bluebirds come to live here with open space like that. You seem to like sending me birds. I'll keep my eyes open for whichever of avian beings you choose to send a message. I see them and send a kiss and a hug back to you, carried on their wings into the ether where you can catch them. 

I'm trying to get used to this new relationship and most days I do okay. I accept the gifts you send as evidence that I'm not dreaming this up. But sometimes it's just not okay. I know you see me struggling at times and that you try to help. Thank you, sweet boy, for sticking by my side and helping me up. The signs and the messages and the overwhelming feeling of your presence keep my head above water. And one by one, pain by pain, I turn them into new pathways…one step at a time, one tear at a time, one smile at a time into joyful living.

For today, I'm gonna get my hands in the dirt. Spring is in the air, and you are outside calling me to come out and play. I have some digging to do and a little raking, too.  A Florida Georgia Line song comes to mind… see you out there, Bubby.

I love you, Mom

DIRT - Florida Georgia Line

You get your hands in it
Plant your roots in it
Dusty head lights dance with your boots in it (dirt)
You write her name on it
Spin your tires on it
Build your corn field, whiskey
Bonfires on it (dirt)
You bet your life on it

It's that elm shade
Red roads clay you grew up on
That plowed up ground That your dad
Damned his luck on
That post game party field
You circled up on
And when it rains
You get stuck on
Drift a cloud back
Behind county roads
That you run up
The mud on her jeans that she peeled off
And hung up
Her blue eyed Summer time smile
Looks so good that it hurts
Makes you wanna build
A 10 percent down
White picket fence house on this dirt

You've mixed some sweat with it
Taken a shovel to it
You've stuck some crosses and some painted
Goal posts through it (dirt)

You know you came from it (dirt)
And some day you'll return to

It's that elm shade
Red roads clay you grew up on
That plowed up ground that your dad
Damned his luck on that post game party field
You circled up on
And when it rains you get stuck on
Drift a cloud back Behind county roads
That you run up
The mud on her jeans that she peeled off
And hung up
Her blue eyed summer time smile
Looks so good that it hurts
Makes you wanna build
A 10 percent down
White picket fence house on this dirt

You came from it,

And some day you'll return to it

Thursday, March 9, 2017

For Thor - 81 - Crows & Rainbows

The bright red plumage that bedecks the peppy cardinals in the cedar tree always catches my eye and makes me pause a breathe, and smile, and feel, and sigh, and allow the love I feel for you to swell into tears of longing. I am grateful for these all-too-rare visits from our crimson mediums that send me a message from you, wherever you are, right to my heart. As much as I cherish and am dazzled by a cardinal hopping about in the yard, there are other avian messengers more steadfast and sturdy. Since the day after you had died our resident family of crows began to behave a little differently. They gathered around the house taking turns as sentinels in the tree-tops. Raucous cawing alerts me when people come up the drive and wake me in time to see a sorbet-colored sunrise. They leap-frog from tree to tree escorting me along the driveway as I leave for work in the morning or come home in the evening. The cardinals are gorgeous heart warmers, but the crows, well they are something more akin to an animal guide who is working with us, Thor.

It's funny how we know things, but doubt ourselves until we get a third party to verify them for us. This is how I feel about my communication with you. It's so clear to me, but then I worry that it's just my heart's longing conjuring up a feeling, an idea, a notion…anything…that would corroborate my sense of connection to you. The cardinals, the crows, the music on the radio, the wind chimes outside my window. All these things that feel like places where your spirit can interface with us here if we just take the time to see and feel. I know two things for sure, the love in my heart can never die, and the love you have for me and all of us here can never die. So, if I can sink into that love and stay there, I can find you, talk to you and hear you. But still my mind can doubt, so I seek for outside help to give me something more evidential, more concrete, more believable.

A few weeks ago I had a massage with a healer who works with energy, similar to shiatsu, but more accurate to certain energy patterns. During this work, we built a rainbow bridge that connects you to me for ready, easy, clear communication. Since then I have focused on this rainbow connection that emanates from my solar plexus directly to your heart, Thor, to send love and little conversations. It's brought me such peace to have this energetic pathway for direct-messaging you whenever I have the notion.

Last week I spoke with a woman who has a strong connection between those of us who are incarnate and those of us who are discarnate. We set out with the intention of connecting with you, Thor, and we were not disappointed. You were able to communicate many things through her; special images and fragments of ideas that resonated in my heart to bring me solace and peace. But you clearly stated that the "big black birds" are your personal envoy and for me to keep tuning into them. Then she said that you sent her a very strong image of a rainbow that ended with me and that you are getting the messages and that the bridge is good! I tell ya what, I got goosebumps! That made me smile all the way through my whole being.

What a blessing to have found these beautiful helpers as I continue my journey into grief, love, and joy. I say all three because without the inexplicable, unfathomable heartbreak of losing you, Thor, my heart would not have been pried open to the greater experience of universal love. And without understanding that grief is an expression of that love, the love that binds us all, I could not have turned the corner to realize joy. Joy is our natural state. I'm not talking about the fleeting, conditional joy that is bound to this ever-changing world. I'm talking about the joy that pervades everything and is as necessary to life as air and water.

When I sit to meditate in the morning, I focus on my solar plexus where a ball of bright-yellow energy shines and pulsates like a million suns; the source of life lives in us all and radiates from this third chakra point to fuel our daily actions as well as our intuitive sensing and ability to manifest our intentions. I say Our Family Blessing and then repeat, "I live in a state of being that allows a greater experience of Love. I live in a state of being that allows a greater experience of Joy. I live in a state of being that continually rejoices in life." From the bright sun center, my focus moves to my heart which is still broken open, but it is warm and willing to experience everything; it can never be anything other than this, as it is altered forever by your death. Only now the sorrow and the love that live here are not just for me. My awareness is expanded to encompass the beauty and the suffering, the love and the light of all beings.

In my broken-heartedness I am not alone; countless mothers have walked this road before me and countless more will come - and have already. In the short months since you died, Thor, several young people from families I know have left this earth unexpectedly and far too soon. The wake of agonizing pain, grief, suffering and illusion-shattering transformation that follows those terrible deaths calls to me now. I know the journey, even as it continues to unfold for me revealing new truths and insight. I know the breathless depths and constricted heartbeats and stupefied disbelief and anguish and anger that backfill the holes in our being when our children die. I have found a path forward across the shards of my shattered heart to a new way of being.

When the news came that a dear friend lost her sweet boy, I was, at first, triggered and thrown back into those first hours and days after you died. My understanding of my friend's pain is so utterly deep that all the pain of my own experience came rushing back like a black wave. I cried long and hard in the shower, letting the water pour over me carrying the anguish with it. I sobbed for my friend and for me and for all the mothers whose hearts are ripped open with the death of their kids. We are united in a terrible and powerful sisterhood, our collective experience is one that binds us in sorrow and love and infinite empathy. It is the compassion for the suffering of others that alleviates our own - we are not alone! And it is this empathy that floods love across the pathways that connect us all. From here I can receive love, too. I feel it soothing and easing the sorrow, uplifting and carrying me when it hurts too much. And so I can eventually find my way back to the focus of my meditation…"I live in a state of being that allows for a greater experience of love. I live in a state of being that allows for a greater experience of joy…"

The bright sun in my center reaches out in an arc of rainbow-colored energy to tell you, I love you and I miss you, sweet boy. I listen to the silence of the morning as it is startled awake with the raucous caws of three crows in the tree outside my window. And as my eyes open from meditation I catch a glimpse of their black wings cutting across the saffron sky, their cacophonous chatter telling me, "I love you, mom and I always will."

I live in a state of being that allows a greater experience of love and joy. I know now, that even when there is sorrow, this is possible. This is what it means to truly live.

I love you, Mom.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

For Thor - 80 - Cash Out

Hey, boyo.

It's clear, cold and sunny this morning; crisp. But there aren't any birds at the feeders. I'm not sure why. Maybe the cat has been prowling, again, and has them skittish and scurrying for their sanctuaries in the sky. I know how they feel; one minute hopping and pecking along and the next thing there is a shadow looming over me and looking to swallow me whole. 

This is how it's been this first month of the Year of Seconds. One would expect for it to feel safer, easier, freer to be a year away from the tragedy that ripped you from our lives. And in many ways, it is. I have some experience being a bereaved mom, now that the utter shock has worn off. It's mellowed like a river into a deep and lazy course. Grief still has me gripped in its current only now the waters have wisdom in them, they are not the white-capped rollers that dashed me on the rocks of my own broken heart those first terrible months. Some days I don't cry, I am able to carry the weight of your death as a part of me. It's braided into the fabric of my life, into how I prioritize daily tasks and how I spend energy. Over the year, I've certainly changed my capacity to live with grief has deepened and widened along with that flow.

And then there are times when that river is squeezed by canyon walls that loom impossibly high, blocking out the sun. Pressed into these tight spaces river turns frothy and treacherous, again. I am once again brutally tossed, submerged and tumbled by the current that drives me through that canyon. Riding the whitewater is something I'm used to, but it feels more intense now that I'm not doing it every day. Perhaps it is because of the contrast between the "good days" that makes the bad days feel worse. Early on in this journey, I measured each moment, hour and day in varying degrees of heartache and bewilderment as I sought to find refuge in the decimated landscape of my inner being. Now I am a veteran with the scars of battle crisscrossing my body. I know what's at the bottom of the well of grief and have found peace there when I am able to move beyond the wailing of my heart's longing.

This week a check came in the mail. It was the life insurance payout from your policy at work. We knew it was coming. We had to wait a year until your brother was eighteen and could receive the funds. Even with a whole year to know this day would come, I was not prepared for the emotional storm that hit when I saw that check. Your brothers, dad and I had discussed ideas on what to do with it. We made some plans that were not too specific, but at least we'd had a conversation. But when it came down to actually acting on those plans, I lost my shit.
Dad called in the troops to come help pick up the pieces. Nana and Grandpa were here in a flash wrapping me up in big hugs while I sobbed and sobbed.

That check felt like so many things all at once. But the first thing I felt was a terrible finality. It's the last thing time the world would recognize you officially. Thor Stish, as a person, with accounts and all the things that make up a life had wrapped up his final piece of business. Everything has been settled. I felt that you had been cashed out, processed out of the system and removed from the rolls. This was it. I couldn't stand the idea of divvying up the funds (even though I know we will) at first. I just wanted to let that check sit a while, resting, whole and intact. I need to catch my breath and open my broken heart to be able to receive this gift - a year later - from you.

I can feel you smiling from the other realms knowing you were able to leave a little something to help us financially. And I am completely amazed that a young man at nineteen years old had a life insurance policy at all. I mean if you were to poll nineteen-year-olds, I am pretty sure most of them wouldn't even think about it. Even so, it's bitter, bitter, bitter to hold a check in my hand when all I want is to hold you in my arms again. So the tears fall.

After Nana and Grandpa left I heard you ringing the chimes outside the window on a windless evening. And you gave 'em a good shake, too! I smiled a crooked, shaky smile through the wracking sobs. It calmed me to know you were there, lending support and holding me close. I'll be okay, but it takes some time for me to get my feet back under me after the river runs high and wild and crashes me on the rocks.

The arrival of the check was the big slammer on what had already been a hard week. My heart was sore, and I there was no exterior reason for it. I miss you, plain and simple. And I miss you more each day, but my capacity to carry this weight is greater, too. So I walk ahead with this giant longing in my heart that continually reaches out to you, in search of connection, broadcasting a message of love. It was in this aching place that a series of Thor sightings took place. There is a young man in Scottsville who drives a truck like yours, wears his hat, sunglasses, and beard like you and even wears an optic green shirt with reflectors like you did at work. I see him a few times a week on my way to town, and every time my heart leaps to my throat, and my eyes are transfixed to "see" you like that. Sometimes I end up crying all the way to town and sometimes, I smile and say "thanks." It just depends. This week Chaz saw him, too, and we both felt it hard. I was glad to have his hand to hold until I got my breath back.

On Tuesday we had to put Arturo down. His health had been failing, and it was time to set him free. It was hard on all of us to make this decision, and it was really hard for your dad, especially. We love and miss Arturo, he was a sweet pup. But the death of our four-legged family member triggered us to remember the pain of losing you, too. It's compounded and amplified, dredging up so much more than a sad farewell to our fur baby. I felt you hovering nearby. Maybe you met Arturo at the rainbow bridge to throw some sticks and scratch his super soft ears. I know he'd be happy to see you.

I'm not sad to see this week come to an end, and I think you'll agree, it's with good reason! This morning I'm grateful for this time to unpack my feelings in a note to you. It's been too long since I sat and shared what's on my mind and in my heart. Of course, you probably already know even without me writing it down. But it helps me get clear and feel lighter. I'm not sure when I'll write again, but know that each and every moment of every day, I am open to sensing your presence.

Our new relationship is different and satisfyingly rich in many ways. But I do long for your physical presence. I long to hear your laugh and get a big hug. I'd be thrilled to have you walking across the living room in muddy boots, leaving a trail of dirty clothes and dirty dishes in your wake, if it meant you were back. But those are foolish longings that cause so much pain, and unfortunately, I fall into them often. I do inner work to stay focused on the love we share and am using that to keep our connection open free of the narrative of longing and aching over lost time together.

'Til next time, sweet boy.
I love you,

Saturday, December 31, 2016

For Thor - 79 - 365 Days

I've seen 365 sunrises arc across the sky and melt into sunsets through tear-stained eyes. I slogged through fifty-two Monday through Sunday schedules filled with the mundane, the spectacular, and the unbearably sorrowful. I flipped twelve calendar pages one by one as we slid through four seasons in turn; winter, spring, summer and fall. Our earth spun one orbit around the sun marking a full year since that last amazing and tragic day of your life.

It's astounding to me that a whole year has flown by, all this time, all these days and experiences without you here. You didn't breathe a single breath of air in all of 2016, exiting as you did at 9:45 pm on New Year's Eve, 2015. I arose before the sun today and watched the sky turn orange and then peach and pink through teary eyes. There are not enough words to say how my heart hurts at the thought of this year coming to a close. As hard as this year has been, it was all so new and I felt close to you. The year of firsts is intense, but special, too. And now I find myself on the threshold of the anniversary of the worst day of my life - the last of the firsts. The Big One. After today it will be the year of Seconds which feels infinitely farther away from that pivotal point in our lives. There is a precious, tender poignancy to the Firsts that doesn't carry forward as they turn into Seconds. I imagine this will make the year of Seconds (and Thirds and Fourths and so on) that much harder. There is a terribleness to the process of growing accustomed to something as awful as the death of a child.

One full year has passed since I saw your sweet face; since you had that last fantastic day of your short life. What a day that was! Hunting, hanging with your pals, enjoying the freakishly warm day in a tee-shirt, riding around in the truck with the windows down and music blasting, spending time with Starr, eating all your favorite foods, laughing it up with your brothers, singing and dancing to the soundtrack of your youth with the family. When I reflect on that day, it makes me smile and cry at the same time. It makes me wonder if somehow, on some level, it was a gift of God knowing that the end was nigh and so you were granted a perfect, glorious last day with us. It gives me something to hold onto, something that allows me to forgive myself for parenting mistakes, missed opportunities, causing you harm in any way. I have this last day to remember you by and the treasured last pictures of you; me and you dancing in the kitchen.

As much as I don't want to believe it, the calendar doesn't lie. Tonight some of us are gathering at the launching pad (the tree), to light candles and remember your life and passing, Thor. We all are changed by your life and love, and because we love you so much, we are transformed by your death, too. It will be so terribly difficult to stand in that spot, on the anniversary of that moment when your truck screeched around a bend and hurtled through the December night air to end its flight in an abrupt stop at that tree. It will be impossibly hard to stand there on that piece of ground where your body lay as the warmth of life leeched into the leaves beneath it. But there is nowhere else for me to be. I must be there on this last of the Firsts - the First anniversary of our last day with you. This is our story with its tragic twist. It's the way it unfolded for us, and the path of grief is the path I face. I could choose to sidestep, ignore, downplay or deny what is, but that, somehow, demeans your life and that's something I can never do.

And what a life you had, my darling! What joy you brought to me--to us! I miss you so much. I long to laugh at your infectious playfulness. You had a quick wit and funny sense of humor that brought laughter to anyone, even if they were feeling sad. You were willing to make a fool of yourself for the sake of getting a laugh. Sounds a lot like your dad, to me. I hear time and again how much your friends relied on your kind and empathetic listening ear. You had a wisdom about you that belied your young age, and you shared what you could with others when they asked. You embodied and shared many of the spiritual lessons you learned during your young years at the Yogaville school. Mr. Mahen and Mrs. Raji, along with the families all helped to fortify and give voice to that inherent goodness you were born with. Even so, you were rascally and wild and free, (sounds a lot like your mother…ahem!) you lived each day like it was the last and didn't have many regrets, in the end, I think. Maybe you would have like more time here, but I don't know if souls have those kinds of longings. I hope not. Regret sucks.

Recently, I chuckled to myself when I thought about how many times you skipped school so you could do whatever it was you wanted to do. It makes me wonder if, on some level, you knew you had a short time here, and it couldn't be wasted in a classroom. Still, you managed to graduate and could walk with your class (thank you, Sue Miles!). I snapped a photo during graduation where you have the sweetest expression on your face, it melts my heart.

I loved cooking for you. Since you started eating food you gobbled up whatever mama made - heck, you loved breastfeeding for that matter! Ha! I miss your appetite and appreciative Ooohs and Mmmmms! I baked you epic birthday cakes that took hours to decorate; your wish was my command. Monster Truck cake? Sure! Hot Wheels cake? No problem! I still prepare your favorites, chicken & dumplings, chili, venison chops, pork chops, gumbo or jambalaya, often and think of you as I do it, offering it up from my heart to you, wherever you are.

I would give anything to have you come storming in the house full of excitement because you had landed deer or were heading out to go fishing with Travis and Aaron or any your dozens of friends. The outdoors called to you, it was your favorite place to be. Well, it might be a toss-up between the great outdoors and cruising and thumping in your truck along a country road, both were right at the top of your list of Awesome Shit To Do. Also on that list was: riding four-wheelers, mudding, drinking a cold one, hanging with friends, spending time with family, working on motors, building something, helping anyone with anything, loving a pretty woman, picking and grinning with dad (and showing him up, a little) - not necessarily in that order.

I long for the hugs we shared. I think about your little arms when you were small wrapped around my neck for comfort or security. As you got older, those hugs became a somewhat more sporadic but no less sweet. As you grew into a strong, young man I treasured the days you'd come to visit, and you'd wrap me up in those big arms and plant a whiskered kiss on my cheek with an "I love you, Mama." I wish so badly that we'd get more of those days.

Most of all I miss your physical presence, your vibrational energy that was larger than life; a vibration that we echoed in each other since before you were born. It was suggested to me that you and I might be operating as twin souls; we are brother and sister of the spirit taking new life with each other to further the experience for each.  This notion fascinated me and resonates as true, it speaks to the inexplicable, deep connection we share.

Last week, at work, I heard Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison, and I broke down and cried. One of my favorite songs since I was a girl, Grandpa let me listen to that 8-track tape over and over and over again. You told me that you wanted that song for us to dance to for the Mother-Son dance at your wedding - whenever it would be. Even if I don't get to see you get married, at least I have this, we had our plan. Every time I hear that song now, I imagine you and I dancing; me a proud mom of a handsome groom and you, happy and excited for your life with your new bride. Some might think that's just crazy to think that way, so painful and sad. But not to me, it's an imagining full of wishes and love that squeezes my heart just enough. I think that if I wish it enough, we'll get to have that dance someday, maybe on a day when we're both angels.

Yesterday I reread many of the letters I've written to you over this year. I wanted to see if I still feel the same way. If I've made progress (whatever that means). I discovered many things about myself and about love through the profound and crushing weight of grief. I plunged myself into the pain, suffering and sorrow to explore and understand what lessons they could teach me. I read my words where I poured out longing and confusion and frustration and anger. It's amazing to me how often I found Grace and Peace and Love as a salve for my bloodied, battered and bruised heart. This year of firsts brought more heartache but also more open vulnerability to experience Love from a deeper place. As the weeks folded into months and the winter melted into spring, I dove to depths of my heart to find what matters.

We've all come so far on this road. Your dad, brothers and I traveled to mountain and shore together, learning how to BE without one of our limbs. We let the wind and the waves wash away the agony of heartache and let the sun warm sink it's healing energy through our skin and down into our bones. We learned how to smile and laugh, again. We see you all around us in the beauty of nature and hear you in the chimes that sing in the wind. Over these months we've leaned heavily on each other and on our friends, calling on the prayer-energy and love that surrounds us to keep us afloat. We delved into new hobbies and homestead projects to keep our hands busy and our minds from stewing too long in the agony of grief. Our hearts are heavy with loss, but also light with love and the happy memories of our life together. We smile through the tears and somehow find the will to carry on.

I am a broken shell, (aren't we all?) beautiful in its imperfection; the symmetrical whorls cracked to reveal a new, unique pattern. I can live with brokenness. It's not a death sentence, but rather an invitation to explore a different way of being. It takes guts to embrace the jagged edges, own them, walk ahead with them as part of my new arraignment. I am adorned with the crystalline pieces of my heart strung like a necklace about my neck and shining like diamonds from the waves of my hair. If I pause to look at these shards I see the love we have for each other reflected there; it shines like a million suns and dazzles in dancing rainbows. I am broken, but remade, rearranged and attuned anew to a higher vibration.

The experience of mourning your death has transformed me into someone I hardly recognize, but whom I kinda like, Thor. A purer, lighter version of me emerges from the crucible of sorrow with much of the calcified layers of opinion, ambition, self-doubt, insecurity and fear burned away. I am content in my own skin. There is still so much work to do, Thor, so I can stay rooted in and living from peace and love and joy. As far as I've come, I still slip and fall on this rocky terrain. For the road is not smooth nor predictable. And for all the inner work I've done, the fact remains that I will live the rest of this life with the terrible knowledge that I've lost a beloved son. That's a hard life path, baby. I feel more equipped to travel this path through the rocks and crags now. I am delighted to find surprise oases of pure Joy and Light; for while the road is impossibly hard, the treasures along its way are unspeakably rich and rewarding. My job is to keep moving and stay open to what the journey reveals.

A year has flown but the number of days between us can neve diminish the love I have for you. It only grows stronger.

I love you,

Thursday, December 29, 2016

For Thor - 78 - Kintsukuroi

Well, Bubby, I survived. One more holiday milestone has come and gone. I worried and cried and hurt over the idea of a Christmas morning without you here. I retreated deep inside myself to weather the storm of emotions that raged inside of me. I made a plan and went about executing it step by step, with all the determination of a space explorer; follow the flight plan and survive, don't follow it and risk being blown into oblivion. This morning as I sit listening to the soft patter of rainfall outside, I see that I did more than merely survive it; I nailed it. I enjoyed celebrating life and love and being together with your dad and brothers, and with all the family and friends. I didn't spend the whole day teary-eyed and sad, missing the moments with my loved ones who are still here for mourning the death of the one who isn't.

This is not to say I didn't have excruciating moments where I felt hollow like a gutted fish and was sure I looked just as glassy-eyed as one of those finned creatures laying on the ice in the grocery store, staring blankly at nothing with nothing to look forward to but a frying pan. But that hollow-fish feeling didn't rule the day. The big sunshine-yellow shot of JOY that you dropped by to give me several evenings ago, the one that lifted my heart out of sorrow long enough for me to smile widely and laugh from the depths of my toes, that JOY is what came through in the end. It oozed in and around all the cracks in my broken heart and melded them together with delicious warmth. Like a Japanese Kintsukuroi pot, except all the cracks are filled with golden LIGHT instead of molten gold.

Of course, the survival plan had it's part in keeping me buoyant, too. And this plan was designed to ensure complete mental, physical and emotional occupation, and to get something useful out of the deal, to boot. After all, Thor, your mama is nothing if not pragmatic. I was worried that the long weekend would allow too much time for us to fall headlong into the Thor-sized hole in our lives. We needed something we could all do together that didn't allow us (okay, mainly me) to sink deeply into the morass of grief. And so we decided to remodel the kitchen. It's something we were planning to do last January, and with everything that happened after you died, we never got it done.

We started the demolition on Christmas Day, in the afternoon, after the gifts were opened and we'd drunk our traditional mimosas and noshed our traditional bagels. (This year, Chaz made the mimosas for me, willingly taking on the task you used to do so well.) We emptied the cupboards and ripped out the counter tops, took out the sink and lowered the light fixtures. Then we began putting it all back together in the new configuration. Mimi and Pap came for their annual Christmas visit and helped us get it finished. Then Nana came over to help me re-organize all the cupboards and throw out boxes full of accumulated things that I no longer need. By the afternoon of the 28th, the project was DONE. Oh, Thor! You would love it! It's a beautiful labor of love.

In the middle of all this chaos, Lady had to go to the vet for emergency surgery to remove some bladder stones, one of which had become a blockage. Driving in the car is when I'm tested, for real. Rolling down the road with the countryside sliding by in a spectacular wintry display of pinks and blues is when the busyness ceases, and I'm peaceful enough that my feelings can rise to the surface of my consciousness. There within that bubble of steel and glass is where I face the day-to-day stark reality and horror that you are dead and gone. It's also where we get to hang out together. I listen to the music that feels like the soundtrack of your life and conjure your beautiful face in my mind. Some days I cry a lot. Most days it's the greatest comfort in the world to spend that time thinking about you.

Xander rode along with me to keep Lady calm and even with the worry of Lady looming large on my mind, the sorrow over your loss found footing and began to rise. It's fingers wrapped around my neck, choking me with unshed tears. I tapped my fingers and breathed great puffing breaths, sharply exhaling and then biting my lip to keep from falling into the wracking sobs that I knew were coming. We dropped the pup off, leaving her in the capable hands of Doc Auten, and got back in the car to head home. I turned on the car and as the stereo started up, the first bars of "I Love This Life" came on. I lost it. I stopped the car and let the tears come. They felt good and right and would not be denied for even one more second. I know you don't want me to cry too much, but sometimes it's good to lance the wound of this grief and let off the emotional pressure. As good as I'm doing at times, that wound weeps constantly. I think you showed up in that song, in that moment with a cue to cry, like a pin prick releasing the pent up sorrow that I've kept in check for your dad and brothers' sakes. For my sake.

And for your sake, too. A couple of friends mentioned that seeing us happy and finding our way out of the wrenching pain of acute grief would give you great peace, too. One of them told me that a departed soul has to spend time absorbing the lessons of the life lived and also to see and absorb the suffering left behind. And that seeing their loved ones finding their way back to joy, peace, and love would help them with this process. I don't know if it's true, none of us does, really. But it's a beautiful thought, that our healing here is somehow helping you there, wherever that may be, Thor.

Last night you woke me with the wind chimes, again. I sat in the glow of the eternal candle that flickers next to the urn holding your mortal ashes. My mind was still churning with to-dos and musts. So I sat wrapped in the warmth from the woodstove and rocked gently in the chair. Gradually my thoughts quieted down, and my mind stilled, like a lake surface that is no longer whipped by the wind. Thanks for reminding me that I need to carve out these times of sanctuary, not so much to feel grief, but to cultivate an experience of peace. As this first year without you ticks to an end, I find that grief is more often replaced by peace. There is peace in knowing we are forever connected and that our love will never die, even when my life is over, the love that brought you to me as my son carries on. The comings and goings and doings of the earthly realm are not what that matters most. And while we can experience many things here, the love that emanates from the soul comes from that endless source, the wellspring of life itself. Tapping into this peace and love is what matters most. Living from this peace and love is what matters most. Experiencing and sharing this peace and love is what matters most.

Keep waking me up so we can sit a while in the wee hours of the night, Thor. I'll be listening. We'll have a cup of tea at the new kitchen table.

I love you,