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Wednesday, October 26, 2011



Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.  ~From the television show The Wonder Years

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Twists and Turns

Photo by Rose Mary Saraiva
The road ahead may at time seem so clear.  However, as we travel along our chosen paths, we start to realize what seemed so certain, so straightforward is anything but.  We find obstacles, turns, detours, dips and rises, so much we weren't expecting.  Life is such a road.  

Looking back over the years, my life has taken so many turns, some pleasantly surprising, others leaving me longing to go back and choose an alternate route.  I'm reminded of my late teen years, at the age of 19, I was engaged, had finished school, was working and knew exactly which direction I was headed.  The world lay before me waiting to be conquered and explored.  

Today, as I have crested another mountain in my life, and I am slowly beginning to coast down the other side, the view though splendid, is not always clear.  As I look out at the scenery that is my life, I find myself wondering where this path will lead me, what lies ahead for me.  There is a certain amount of apprehension and fear, as I take another step into my life, into my future.  

It is often said that adversity shows one's true colors, draws upon strengths we did not know or realize we possessed, and opens our lives to unbelievable possibilities, if we are willing.  Through my grief, I am learning that I have a capacity to do so much more, help others, and to relish the loves in my life.  I have chosen, in reinventing myself, to learn all I can about grieving, the grieving process, and how it effects me as a person.  In my exploration, I have come to realize that each new day offers endless possibilities, and that I have the ability to make a difference if I so choose.  

This does not mean that I am personally not still hurting, it means I am allowing my self to grow, growing pains and all.  Grief is now a part of who I am, but its company is not so unwelcomed, I have learned so much from grief.  The poet Robert Browning says it best,  

I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chattered all the way.
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow
And ne'er a word said she;
But oh, the things
I learned from her
When Sorrow
walked with me!

Are you willing to take that walk with 'sorrow,' are you willing to let it help you become someone new?  We all have choices in life, we all stand at the start of each new road, and we all are given the freedom to decide which path we'll take.  I may not always choose the right path, but I will always choose to learn from it.  Rachel's death was not of my choosing, had I a say in it, the outcome would have been totally different.  But alas, death like life is inevitable, and I believe the reward after death is so much greater.  So I take each day as it comes, knowing that Rachel continues to teach me so much and is my constant companion; and that the love of a mother and daughter is all the fuel I need for the journey.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Monday, October 17, 2011

It's A Boy!

It's a boy!  We have a new grandson, and all are doing fine.  

Amazingly enough, I did fine that day of his birth.  Like anyone awaiting the birth of a child, I was excited, nervous, and every other emotion you could think of as I awaited the news of his arrival.  When the time finally came and I was allowed in, there he was, a perfect little miracle.  I did not cry, I was just so happy to see that mom and baby were all doing well, and all had gone well. 

Of course there was a lot of bustle as there always is after the birth of a child, as nurses and doctors continually check on mom and baby.  The pediatrician came in at one point, examined the baby, and told the parents that he had 'stork bites' or 'angel kisses.'  These are red marks that go away in time and his were over both eyelids.  Immediately I heard angel kisses and thought to myself, Auntie Rachel sent him off with a kiss.  My daughter told me it was not only Rachel, but his late uncle Richard, on his dad's side which would explain the two marks.  

Rachel was very much a part of that day, and I was not the only one who sensed her presence.  I felt that she had more than likely met her new nephew way before we did.  Comforting, to say the least!  And even though it has been a busy few days, it has been wonderful in so many ways.  Life is amazing, and even though it refuses to play by the rules, it is wonderful just the same.  

Grief remains a constant part of my life, sometimes it remains silent and we go about our day, and at other times it can be intense, catching us off guard, it all depends on what is happening.  We find ourselves 'reinvesting in our life.'  Reinvesting, what do you mean reinvesting?  We begin to let go and allow the deceased go on with their new life, as we gradually find acceptance and move into our life without the deceased.  We allow ourselves to love others again, not to replace our loved one, but to share the love we are capable of giving.  

When we begin to reinvest in our lives, we find ourselves going back to work, or as was the case with me, new employment in a totally different line of work.  Others take on new hobbies, especially if they have lost a spouse, and there were certain activities they enjoyed together.  Still others, find that they now feel that they can share their experience with others, hoping to help them in their journey.  There are so many ways in which bereaved individuals can begin to reinvest in their lives, while still honoring the memory of their loved one.

As we begin the process of reinvesting, we find that memories are much less painful, and bring comfort and a smile.  We no longer worry about forgetting our loved one, but more so remembering the beauty, love and gift of their life.  Some set up a special place in memory of their deceased, for my husband and I, it is Rachel's memory garden and a special chest that holds mementos of the love, care and thoughts of others during our darkest days.  For others, it's a special area in their home, it can be whatever works best for you and your needs.  

It's not to say that this forward movement, does not sometime elicit pangs of guilt.  As we find ourselves becoming more fully immersed in life, we often feel guilt creeping in.  Even 5 years later, I still feel a sense of guilt, as if maybe my memories are slipping away, or I am forgetting.  This is okay, and we allow ourselves the feeling, but remind ourselves of that we will always have the memories, because of the love.  And as a mom, I have so, so many wonderful and beautiful memories of Rachel to last me a lifetime and then some.

Regardless of where we have been, we know that there is always forward motion, always change, always a newness awaiting discovery.  As we begin the new chapters in our lives, we learn to welcome them, to accept that another page has been turned, and that we are constantly writing and re-writing our lives.  We learn to live anew, we learn to love again, and we become stronger because of where we've been.

My life has taken turns that I least expected since Rachel's death.  I am working in a totally different field; I have gone back to school, and will be completing my certification this coming December.  With this certificate I will be able to act as a grief facilitator, helping ease others through their bereavement and grief journey.  I am able to comfort others who are grieving and somehow lighten their load, when possible, because I have now experienced a significant loss, and understand the pain.  I now have two beautiful grandchildren, proof that love blooms all around us, in both expected and unexpected places.  So much has happened, so much has changed.

My life is a constant whirl of motion, taking me in new directions, allowing me to grow, to become renewed each and every day.  We are asked to continually invest in ourselves, and occasionally to 'reinvest' in who we are becoming.  Grief is difficult, but when we allow ourselves the space, when we go through it, rather than circumvent it, we allow ourselves to be 'reborn.' And though we may come out kicking and screaming, we do come out, we do make it, we are fine, and we are given new chances to make life all the more worthwhile, for not only ourselves, but for those around us as well.  So that each and every day is a 'birth day,' a new beginning, and a chance to cash in on our investment.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Awaiting a Bundle of Joy!

These past few weeks have been truly busy as we prepare for the arrival of our newest grandchild.  My daughter is scheduled to deliver our new grand baby tomorrow, and we are all so filled with excitement.  It is even more exciting since we will not know until tomorrow whether it is a boy or girl, refreshing actually in a time when everyone needs to know NOW! what they are having.  

Rachel doing her Fire Marshall Bill impression
Yet with all this, I still feel a heaviness and sadness, as I think of how this newest addition to our family will not have the pleasure of getting to know their Auntie Rachel.  As I sat thinking about this, I could not stop the tears that fell freely of their own volition.  Thinking of how Rachel would have been an awesome aunt, how she would have spoiled any nieces or nephews, and how they would have loved her antics.  Especially in the way she made a point of making you feel so special, of letting you know that you were the most important thing to her in that moment.  

As a grandmother, I know the joys of seeing my grandson as he runs into my arms screaming gamma, that feeling that I am someone so very special to him.  I know that any nieces or nephews would feel the same way about their auntie Rachel.  I see it now with my son, and how my grandson seeks him out after he has greeted my husband and I.  How he is content to just sit in his lap as he plays video games or watches TV.

It is these subtle moments that remind me of what is missing, what could have been, and what will never be.  This newest addition like their big brother, will know Rachel through our sharing and stories.  They will see her picture, and when they ask, 'Who's that?' we will answer Auntie Rachel.  And I strongly believe, they will sense her presence in their lives, know her in ways that we as adults can not fathom or understand.  

I was gently reminded yesterday by a dear friend, that Rachel has been keeping a watchful eye over this soon to be born child. She has more than likely already had the pleasure of meeting him or her, and has told them of the love that is waiting.   What a beautiful image, what a wonderful thought and such a comfort to believe that our spirits our connected in ways that our humanness cannot comprehend. 

When we grieve, we feel the joys tinted by a hint of sadness and longing.  Our grief does not dampen the happiness, it simple creates an aching.  Jokingly, I have told family and friends, that I can luckily shed tears tomorrow, that for all outward appearances, will mimic tears of joy.  But my heart will know that my joyful tears, with have a bittersweet taste.  And as I hold my new grand baby, I will offer up a simple prayer, and I will ask Rachel to be his or her guardian, as they travel through life.  My heart knows that she will act on their behalf, constantly guiding their steps. 

Recently, I finished reading a book entitled, 'Outside Wonderland' by Lorna Jane Cook.  A story of three children who were orphaned at a very young age, and how unbeknownst to them, their parents would catch glimpses of their children from afar.  Unable to interfere, they would send their love to them, and watch as their now adult children would make pivotal decisions in their lives.  The book conjured up so many beautiful images for me, of Rachel looking in on her father and I, her brother and sister, her nephew and so many other family members who had meant so much to her.  It was also comforting to believe that my dad and grandparents may be doing the same. 

So with faith that the new arrival in our family, will be carefully cared for and loved from afar, and that Rachel will look in on her new niece or nephew from time to time, I welcome this much awaited baby.  I will share the love of a grandmother, and the importance of family, and that love is the most important gift we have to give one another.

Love after all makes all things bearable.  Love conquers all.  As I so often hear, we grieve because we love.  And when all is said and done, I thank God for love each and every day.  For it is love that reaches beyond all borders, and truly survives the test of time.  Love has been known to soften even the hardest of hearts, and to dare to go what others fear to thread.  Even death cannot take it away from us, it is the love that makes Rachel so much more present in my life.  It is love that keeps her always in my heart. 

And tomorrow there will be another special little person in my life, who I can love unconditionally.  Who will undoubtably leave indelible footprints on my heart.  A heart that I find has a greater capacity for love than I ever dreamed possible. 

Blessings! and until we meet again.