People die twice

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I attended a dinner last night to honor my best friend’s brother who was killed in a car accident five years ago. Family and friends gathered to share their stories and keep Cam’s memory alive with their fond and funny recollections of a man whose life was cut too short.

I have written before that I fall back on words for comfort during times of turbulent emotion. Words give me the ability to process things in a way that nothing else can. I was shocked to find out that many of Cam’s family habitually read my blog and even more overwhelmed when his mother quoted back to me words I had written after his funeral in this blog post.

The patriarch of the family got up to make a speech and was joined by his wife close the end of his rhetoric. Stepping out of her comfort zone, she regarded the faces staring back at her and gave a speech of her own. Her words punched me right in the heart and, not surprisingly, I cried.

She spoke about a woman who told her ‘people die twice’, once when they stop breathing and again after people stop talking about them and cease to say their name. Instinctively, my hand went to the tattoo on my right forearm I painstaking endured in honor of my parents who have both passed. This ink on my skin continually starts an exchange with people and I happily talk about my parents on a regular basis.

This yearly event, held at the cottage Cam held so close to his heart, is a way to keep the discussion going, a way to keep Cam’s name in the conversation and a way to ensure he will never die a second time.

 

 

 

Hold everyone close

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When you work in hospitality, relationships are naturally created with the people you meet. For the brief time they are in your presence, they become an extended part of your circle. You share stories, you share laughs and you create a bond that continues to grow with every visit.

I have had the good fortune of nurturing a relationship that was created with six women who visit the lodge every May. Their connections run deep and they have spent the majority of their lives weaving themselves into the fabric of each other’s reality. I have had the honor of being a part of their lives for two days every May for the last seven years. They are the personification of friendship. They share a sisterhood that is evident and they spent their time at the lodge basking in old memories and creating new ones.

But all of that has changed. One of the ladies called yesterday to tell me their group would not be returning to the lodge. In the few short months since they bid us farewell, one has been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and one has progressed rapidly into Alzheimer’s Disease. As I sat in stunned silence listening to their friend on the phone, it was all I could do not to burst into tears in my office.

These women were some of the first guests I met when I started my new job at the lodge. They embraced me as if I had been a part of their lives for decades and each one has had an impact on me. I cannot begin to tell you how deeply I feel their pain. I can see all of their faces and can hear the laughter they shared during every visit. I can flash back to taking their group photo on many occasions and cannot begin to express how heavy my heart is as I write this post.

I know the future for these ladies will be forever changed. My sadness drastically pales in comparison to what they will be forced to face and I can only hope they find comfort in their memories. I will always hold on to the times they created some of those memories at the lodge and included me in those moments.

 

If you can’t handle Amber, you’re not ready for RED!

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This post may be more of a rant than anything else and, for that, I apologize. In the wee hours of Thursday morning, my phone blasted with the warning sound of an Amber alert shortly after 3:00 a.m. I struggled to find my reading glasses to see where the story was coming from and read the details of the alert. The alleged abduction was not anywhere close to me so I settled in to drift back into sleep. The alert went off one more time and I wished for nothing more than the safe recovery for the two children who were reported missing.

Fast forward to the next morning on social media. Once again, a shameless number of people were complaining about having their sleep interrupted by the crass sound of the amber alert through their phones while they were snuggled comfortably in their beds. Countless other idiots actually called 9-11 to complain about their precious sleep being hindered by the obtrusive tone of the alert that two young children were missing.

I continue to struggle with the audacity of people when responding to Amber alerts. This siren, this loud cry in the middle of the night, is hoping to find one person in a sea of tens-of-thousands of people who may be able to bring these children back to a safe haven, one person who may have a clue as to what happened, one person who may be the key to finding the children who have been taken against their will. Why is this a difficult concept and why are people so obtuse?

I really don’t care if your sleep is interrupted. I abhor the fact that selfish and self-absorbed people feel it necessary to complain about Amber alerts on social media and I have already unfriended those who have done this. I cannot even fathom calling 9-11 to complain about my life being interrupted by an Amber alert and can only hope, one day, this type of asinine behavior is mitigated by a hefty fine for those who feel their sleep is more important than the life of a missing loved-one.

When tomorrow starts without you….again

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These three days are my worst days. Every year I think I can gloss over them and blog about something entirely different until I realize how cathartic it is to blog about these three days.

Today, March 7th, marks the fifth anniversary of my mom’s passing. When I think about the fact there have been one thousand, eight hundred and twenty-five days since I was jolted from sleep by the call that would change my life forever, I am astonished. I can live that morning over like it was just yesterday and feel the same gut-wrenching emotion I felt on that day. I remember having no feeling in my face and having trouble speaking to the poor woman delivering the devastating news to me at 7:00 am. I recall with great clarity how much my hand shook when I called my brother to let him know and I can almost count how many painful seconds went by as we cried together on the phone and said nothing. It was just yesterday, but it was five years ago. Time is funny that way. It can take moments and stretch them into what feels like an eternity.

Tomorrow is my bridge day. It is the day between the anniversary of losing my mother and losing my father. Saturday, March 9th, will mark the thirteenth anniversary of losing my dad. Although I have been able to replace my memories of him on his best days with the memory of watching him take his last breath, the latter image still seeps into my mind more often than I would like to admit.

The thing I have to remember to hold closest to me is the fact that tomorrow will start again, and though it comes without the presence of my mom or my dad, it starts again. And thankfully it starts again with the memories of them both and all of the wonderful moments they left for us to remember them by. Tomorrow starts again with new moments of joy, new memories to make, new tears, new friends, new adventures and new reasons to look forward to the start of another day. And although tomorrow may start on a sad note, it stills starts and it holds the promise of becoming something wonderful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always in like a Lion

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“It will take time, but the strength that comes after will be beautiful,  I promise you.” ~ J.E. Rivera

In my emotional register, March always comes in like a Lion and goes out like a Lamb.  Although my parents passed away eight years apart, March 7th and March 9th are very difficult days since they mark the days I lost the two most important people in my life.  My dad died on March 9th in 2006 and my mom died on March 7th in 2014.  When I look at those dates, I am shocked to see so much time has marched on since they were with us.  It seems like yesterday we were all together and I can still hear their laughter as our family shared some wonderful times.

But time has a way of taking moments and turning them into memories in the blink of an eye.  The pain of loss never goes away but, with time, there is a beautiful strength that comes with the perpetual grief.

Through the years my parents  have been gone, I have come to understand that pain can be turned into power.  I have taken that gigantic sense of loss and molded it into my ability to overcome an immeasurable atrocity.  I have survived the worst and I spend each day being stronger than the last and I can now see the beauty in that strength.

The good, the bad and the grossly unfair

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Death is selfish. It lurks in the shadows. It hides in a realm of certainty somewhere between acceptance and denial and it feeds on our inability to process its inevitability. It waits for nobody. It heeds its own agenda and it gives no signs of compassion. It simply reaps.

This past weekend began on a good note. I left work on Friday with plans for a full day on Saturday with a friend and things quickly changed. My weekend went from good to bad as Mother Nature unleashed her winter fury in the wee hours of Saturday morning and obliterated any plans for travel on Saturday. Since my car is still in possession of its summer tires, our plans were thwarted and I was home-bound for the day. While I made the most of the day by making soup and catching up on some reading, my disappointment still tainted my afternoon.

After a good night’s sleep, I awoke Sunday morning with a renewed faith the day would be great. With my shopping list in hand, I loaded up a grocery cart with items to make Freezer Crockpot meals for our local food bank, surrounded myself with a group of volunteers and we created twenty-eight meals that will each feed a family of four. The good that afternoon far outweighed the bad from the previous day.

When I got home a few hours later, I was greeted by the news an old friend has passed away on November 2nd after a brief battle with cancer. I was unaware of his passing until today and missed the opportunity to attend his funeral service. Even though my car is equipped with only summer tires, I would have driven through those early snow storms to pay my respects to Doug and his family.

He was a wonderful man. Charismatic only touches the surface of how animated his personality could be. He was quick with a smile, eager to share a laugh and truly one of the most genuine people I have ever had the good fortune to meet. To say he will be missed is an egregious understatement. I spent a great deal of Sunday night in tears, crying for the loss of Doug and the fact that so many people are taken before we are ready to say goodbye to them. Fuck cancer.

 

Hey Mom, what’s for dinner?

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A child rarely considers the impact family dinners will have on their life. When I was younger, I never thought for a moment I would be in my fiftieth year and have to go back into the vault of my memories to conjure up images of my family enjoying a meal together. There are still days I struggle with the reality that both of my parents are gone. Yesterday was one of those days.

We were having a trivial discussion at work about meatloaf and meatloaf always makes me think about my mom. She made a killer meatloaf and every time she told me she was making one, I always asked her to make one for me. I am pretty proficient in the kitchen, but my meatloaf never, ever turns out to be as delicious as the one my mom made. Although she gave me the list of ingredients she used, there were no measurements so my end result is never as tasty as what she would produce. (I’m sure she did that on purpose and also left out one or two ingredients)

When I walked into the grocery store after work, I was almost certain that I would be trying, once again, to duplicate her recipe but other memories quickly sabotaged that idea and random ingredients found their way into my shopping basket. When I reached the cashier, I recognized all of the ingredients for my mom’s Hamburger Stroganoff.

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Perhaps my brain will forever deny my taste buds any chance of my dinners tasting as good as the ones my parents used to make, but the way my house smelled last night disagrees with that rationale. I was fifteen again. I had just come home from school and the smell of Hamburger Stroganoff permeated the air. I could almost feel my parents’ presence in the kitchen. I could see my mom blush as my dad patted her on the bum, knowing that I caught that loving touch in my peripheral vision.

To say my dinner was satisfying doesn’t come close to what it was. My dinner last night transported me to a time when, even though things weren’t perfect, things were perfect. And though I will never be afforded the opportunity to ever again yell, “Hey Mom, what’s for dinner”, I can still try my best to make those meals that will freeze those moments in time, if only for a while.