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Undulations Ahead

17 May

Yesterday I worked late. Yesterday I was joyful with the people I encountered, who encountered me. Yesterday I thought I would be OK today. Yesterday I was wrong. I awoke this morning, May 17, 2017 and was instantly hit with the flashbacks to this day four years prior. The day I lost my son. Being hit with flashbacks is not a new occurrence; they come often. The difference in today is that the mere fact of the date takes me down. If I use a fighter’s analogy, I am quick on my feet and able to dodge the hits, normally. And then today’s date comes around and I am laid flat–it is the one swift blow. Back to the drawing board of training, but first I must make it out of my bed.

Today I struggled to eat. The struggle is result of knowledge battling feeling. I know my body needs nourishment. I know if I don’t eat a migraine will be triggered. I know these things. And yet I feel only sorrow and somehow it tricks my body into believing it’s nourished. I feel the headache and yet the flowing tears beg more attention than the aching in the cranial region. I avowed all day long to get my self out of bed and take a shower, brush my teeth, get something done. In bed I remain, even as I type.

Flashbacks don’t always give fair warning; they sometimes hit out of nowhere and command the fierce attention of reverting back to the scene of the pain. So many moments to revert to. Too painful to even write them down, even just the slightest. It is the dodge of the hit that compels me forward. I cannot handle the pain (quasi nod to Carly Simon here), I cannot live in its presence. This just might be me; others might have a different method or capability. But mine is the inability to dwell in the place of remembrances—can’t do it and live. Hence my stay in bed today, my swollen eyes and my bad breath (courtesy the omission of tooth brushing in bed). *my apologies to those who sat with me in my bedchamber today, the odoriferous scene was not a pleasant one.

At least this date gives a fair warning of its coming, much like the signs I read as a kid in my Aunt’s Sacramento neighborhood, “Warning, Undulations Ahead” – the word undulation has since intrigued me, what a beautiful word. Did you ever consider the letter “u” could be so fancy? I just love it! That there, folks, is my best attempt at getting up. Dodge the hit and counter attack with a distracting nonsensical statement. You see the sun is setting and I am looking into the eyes of tomorrow, when I will again get up and resume the fight. So though at present it seems the referee will make the count to “three” alongside my repose, I am actually still in the game and so I must shakily forge ahead—undulations and all.

I hate today. I hate this story that is mine. But tomorrow I will love, and joy again I will find.

Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12:12-13

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Can I photograph your dog?

7 Feb

I commute 128 miles each day, Monday through Friday.  My closest friend, aka my husband Brian, is my chauffeur. The moment I step into my office my fast paced life begins, until I force myself to leave tasks undone and head out the door for home.  It is typical that I arrive home at the dinner hour.  I then catch up with our daughter, give a smidgen of affection to the dogs and march myself off to bed because I have nothing left within me which allows for further activity.  I do not mind my commute, nor do I mind my fast paced job.  In truth, I think my work environment and pace has prevented, in a true physiological form, depression.  And I thank G-d for that.

Because I move at such a quick rate I often do not have time to allow myself to dwell upon my sorrow.  Oh it’s always with me, but I don’t have much opportunity to be real with it.  But today, I drove alone.  And upon leaving work and getting on the freeway, I realized I needed gas.  My first opportunity to get gas was at the exit of the Miramar National Cemetery where my son’s remains, remain.  And my first tear fell at the beginning of the exit.  Since I had the gift of time in the moment (Brian and Esther were both at a convention in downtown Los Angeles), I went to the gravesite of Cole.  I don’t think it coincidental that I was given a bouquet of tulips today from one of the students at my work, G-d just works that way.  I had them in the car with me and decided to take them to his site.

Now it just isn’t right…a mother should not see the name of her child on a headstone.  But alas, I do.  And I arranged the flowers at the base.  I sat there and marveled at the minuscule insects that were feeding/breeding on the granite.  It seemed fitting as Cole hated bugs yet they always found in him a perfect place to land.  As I killed the odd breed, I laughed, through my tears, at the irony of their presence.  And then I returned home and avowed to allow myself time to feel.  To give in to my sorrow and once again be a woman in mourning.

Shortly after my son passed away, a dear friend of mine gave me a morsel of wisdom.  She said, “Rivka, just remember you are going to need to extend grace to people, for they often don’t say the right thing.”  I haven’t forgotten her words.  And just this week at work, I was given verbal confirmation that I am walking in that wisdom.  Someone said, “Thank you, Rivka, for your graceful manner.”  And, “Thank you for the efficient and cheerful way in which you do things.”  Now I have to tell you, those comments bring tears to my eyes because I am truly surviving on the strength and hope of our Lord G-d, Heavenly Father.  For inside of myself I am flat, depleted, and worn.  But everyday I pray to be useful and in (and of) service to G-d.  And if people are seeing cheerfulness and grace within me, it is because the Holy Spirit is hearing my cry and answering my prayers.  …I am grateful, humbled, and honored to be in His service.

And yet, this afternoon, MY afternoon…

On this day when I gave in to allowing myself a moment of grieving, I became stretched by an unknown stranger in need of the grace of that which my dear friend had counseled me.

I took the dogs on a short walk, mostly to satisfy their canine exuberance once I walked in the door.  I have little Buddy, the Chihuahua/Terrier mix and Piper, the purebred Siberian Husky–Cole’s service dog.  Now Piper is a super love.  A sweet and beautiful creature.  But she is terrified of little kids, girls especially.  Mostly because they see her and run toward her in natural excitement that translates with a high pitch squeal.  They long to take her fluffy, furry body and wrap their little arms around it.  And the closer they get, the more terrified Piper becomes (of course one should never run up to a strange dog–but little girls are often too young to have yet adopted the policy).  At any rate, as I was walking through the neighborhood behind my house, the last leg of our short jaunt, I spied a cadre of little girls running from one house to another, with a “mom chaperone” trailing behind.  Based on their enthusiasm and bags in hand, mom included, I gathered they were on some sort of a scavenger hunt.  Piper noticed them too, so I assured her it was ok and felt confident their own adventure would keep them distracted from Cole’s beauty (really I should say bitch, but it just doesn’t sound right–even in writing!).

I was almost past the little group, and mind you, I had my coat on with my hood over my head–my intent was to emanate the sentiment, “closed for the season”–when out of the mouth of the mom came a shout, “can I photograph your dog?”  Uh oh, she penetrated my world with her intrusive request.  Couldn’t she see I am in mourning?  Couldn’t she feel my closure to the world?  I was merely walking the dogs out of obligation to them, while missing my son and feeling great pain for his suffering and our loss.  Why didn’t she know?

Well how could she?  I do not have the advantage of wearing clothes of grief.  Nope, I had just my green jacket and its protective cover failed me.  But I needed this afternoon and needed it desperately.  I also needed to respect Piper’s fear of little girls and so I said, “not at this time” and I kept walking.  The mom was taken aback and quite put out by my response.  In fact, she reacted according to her position…not mine.

“Grace.  You will need to extend grace to people.”

Once I got the ugly thoughts quieted from my mind, I remembered back to Rivka the young mother.  Rivka, who could put her shoes in the place of the mom wanting a photo.  Of course from her perspective, taking a picture of a beautiful dog is not an imposing request.  For little did she know, and little would I have known if I had been her, that I had just returned from the grave of my son and my heart was(is) broken though still functioning.  So I enacted the words of counsel from my friend and I allowed the woman to think ill of me, and I chose to not think ill of her.  Truth is, I envy her.  I envy her excitement and exuberance for her children and their young stage of life.  I love her place of intent, to bring joy to her group of girls through the simple act of photography.  And I miss that place of being, though am grateful for once having had it.

There really is a great deal of hardship in this world.  AND, there really is an awful lot of goodness.  We really have a choice between bitterness and joy.  I choose the latter of the two which is why being in the service of our Lord is so important to me.  To think He can still find use of my brokenness blesses me with a peace I cannot explain.  I am sorry to the mom for whom I could not accommodate.  I am not sorry I did not stop for her to photograph a terrified dog.  And I am not sorry that I allowed myself to be true to my own emotional state.  I am just sorry that she might consider my actions unreasonable and therefore feel affronted by them.  I am much more aware that as people, we are walking this earth, many of us, with stories that effect our actions.  I am just one of them, and this is just one of my little stories.

Siberian Huskey

Piper, at your service!

Soul Tired

1 Jan

I suppose I should write something profound and holiday spirited, after all this is the first day of the new year.  But I tell you the truth, my soul is exhausted which makes for a significant roadblock to meandering philosophical terrain.

I am home and gratefully receiving a time of rest.  Last night, for new year’s eve, I had the beautiful opportunity to get cozy on the couch and fall asleep at 7:30p.m. (pacific time).  Earlier in the day Brian, Esther and I had an outing along the coast–they on roller-skates and I on my Raleigh Twenty.  Today Esther, the dog Piper, and I had a long coastal walk on the sands of The Strand and Salt Creek beach while Brian surfed San Onofre.  Yesterday and today I have been busy in the kitchen enjoying the freedom to cook without a time constraint, though our pangs of hunger were slightly dictating the direction of each meal.  Both days I have been leisurely popping p-nut M&M’s in my mouth which have followed my, vegetable/whole grain rich, meals very well.  And now as I attempt to write an engaging piece of prose, my daughter sits beside me as my husband and our two dogs relax on the floor finding solace in the comforting tones of Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn.

Aaahh, what a life…what a nice break from the running I have been doing since May of 2013 (and well before).  And though my heart and mind are thinking of a hundred different people (friends/family) I’d like to connect with, or pieces of garments I would like to sew, or sweet treats to make, I am resigned to the fact that this rest is most necessary.  In fact, so much so, that I recognize the folly that would ensue should I not completely and properly receive this gift of a respite.  For Brian, Esther and I are most definitely in agreement in regard to our current status–grief is a heavy to burden to carry, and as result we are soul tired.

Being in a ‘soul tired’ state means I don’t have much to offer right now.  Not much by way of conversation.  Not much by way of inspiration.  Not much by way of supplication.  Just not much.  I’m giving myself (ourselves) one year…

One year to indulge the weight of grief.  One year to just sit and be.  One year to receive a bit more than I give.  One year of staying at home and being quiet (in my free time of course).  And so, even though we have the celebration of a new year upon us, for me, we are mid year.  Mid grief.  Mid loss.  A “Happy New Year” will have to wait–at least the celebration of it.  Our gifts and celebratory actions are found in the solitude of the love we share with each other.  The hope and complete understanding of Heaven and the knowledge Cole has made it into Home-Base before us.  We just have to rest here a bit, and endure the weight, until our souls become more accustomed to the heavy load.

An anecdotal story:

Esther wears a “military dog-tag” necklace in honor of her brother.  They are not his U.S. Marine tags (though we have them in our possession), it is a special edition made for her in honor of him.  While in the produce section of Costco the other day, the kind-hearted employee asked, “for whom do you wear the dog tag?”  To which she replied, “my brother.”  His response was precious, “Very good!  Let us keep him in prayer and bring him home safe.”

Esther and I looked at each other and concurred, “he has indeed made it safely home.”

…now how about them oranges?!

Disney World

The Bent 3

 

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