Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Brother's Birthday

May 11, 1958, fell on Mother's Day that year. And that's the day my brother showed up. Mom lost so much blood, the doctors thought they were going to lose her.

Mom always told us that Greg was 6 years, 7 months, and 11 days older than me. Even though he was so much older, he was a great brother. Not perfect, but perfect for me. Greg always took time to play with me, he was an amazing artist and taught me some of his secrets, and he always let me tag along with him and his friends. As adults, he always called me on my birthday, and he always ended our calls with, "I love you."

Happy Birthday, Greg. I love you and I miss you.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Grief Dreams

Photo by marykbaird.

Last night I dreamed I was on a cruise ship, and we were sinking. I wasn't scared, though. Just trying to get to higher ground.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Side Note

Here I sit at my computer, reading your kind comments in response to my grief journey and posting my replies. I thought just this morning how I feel so much better and how writing about my loss helps me heal. Maybe even faster than normal. And maybe it helps you, too.

Then I opened my email. The Mail Delivery Subsystem wrote me to say, "Delivery to the following mail recipient has been delayed." You guessed it: my brother's email.

The lump is back again and the tear ducts are working just fine. I hate this.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

As I Travel Down the Grief Canal (Part 1)

Photo by hotblack.

Within five minutes of receiving the shocking news of my brother's sudden death, I found myself--without a suitcase or itinerary--standing on the deck of HMS Uncertainty, cruising through the waters of the Grief Canal.

Six minutes earlier, I had been talking to my visiting uncle, who sat just ten feet from me in our den. Immediately after The Call, I stood waving in confusion to my uncle, who now watched me from the banks of the Grief Canal.

Of course, I didn't know I was on the Grief Canal and that someone else had booked passage for me. I only knew I was alone, the skies were dark and threatening, and a painful lump had replaced my heart and was pressuring on my tear ducts.

Soon, someone--I don't know who--steered me to my room. People walked past and smiled, their faces fuzzy and out of focus. People I knew from home--my husband and children, friends, other family members--called to check on me. But their voices--though thick like peanut butter with concern and love for me--sounded distant, like I had slipped down a tin tunnel, far out of their reach. I slept. I cried. I felt the aching lump in my chest and wondered if my eyelids would ever return to their normal, smaller size.

Stewards left food for me. Sometimes I ate. Mostly, I pushed the food from one side of the plate to the other. I slept again. After several days, I opened my door and looked down the long hallway. There on the floor outside my door, was a pair of slippers in my size.

I slid my feet inside the slippers and stepped into the hallway. Stewards passed me, smiling and nodding. Can I get you anything? How are you doing today, Mrs. Beers? I don't need anything, but thank you. I think I'm doing better. Thank you for asking.

Shuffling down the hallway, the warm breezes beckoned from the deck. I breathed deeply. My shoulders relaxed, and I closed my eyes in the sunshine. When I returned to my room, I called my husband and said, "I feel better. I think I'm okay now!"

That's what I get for doing my own thinking.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ignorance is Bliss

Between January 2 and 3, there was a space of about 22 hours when I didn't know. I was blissfully unaware of the fact. But, being unaware, was I really in a state of bliss? If you'd asked me---in my pre-knowing state---"Are you blissful?" I would have snorted. "What? Are you trying to accuse me of ignorance?" You would have chuckled.

I would have served you coffee. We would have chatted, and I would have told you my grand plans for the coming New Year. Some of my hopes would have included him.

"I'm going to uncork my courage and talk to him about his drinking," I would have told you. "I want to prod him out of his apathy and get him drawing again." I would sip my coffee, thinking. "I want to have a deeper and more meaningful friendship with my brother."

"When will you do all this?" you would ask, adding two lumps and a splash of cream.

My heart would flutter; my palms would sweat. "Maybe this week."

Then we would drink our coffees, dreaming of our big plans in those last 45 seconds before my 22 hours were up. But the phone would ring. The news would be delivered: "Your brother died about this time yesterday."

Hindsight is 20/20: Ignorance was bliss.

All my future chances--my "next weeks"--to talk to my brother are gone. Forever.

But there are other beating hearts I love, other encouragement I can offer, and maybe even a lovingly applied kick-in-the-pants or two.

I should act now and be afraid later.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Is Your New Year Going to be New for You?

Photo by circulating.
I love the New Year. If you don't believe me, click here.
The New Year gives society as a whole permission to say goodbye to what was--the good, the bad, and the ugly--and to welcome in the "what might be." I like to cooperate with the rest of the world's New Year celebration by dreaming about what could be new for me this coming year.
As I chatted with a long-distance friend this week about her New Year's plans and resolutions, she sighed. "I really want to start sculpting again." I'd heard this from her before. "I don't know," she said. "I guess I'll just wait and see what happens." She says this every time, and every time, I nod my head and say, "Uh-huh."
This time, though, I screwed up my courage and said, "You know, nothing changes if nothing changes. You want different this year? You have to do different." (Oprah would be proud of me.)
"Yeah, maybe," she said. Not what you'd call a valliant line-in-the-sand kind of action, but for her, it was a step.
The next morning, I turned that phrase over and over in my mind: Nothing changes if nothing changes. Last year, on the brink of 2010, I seriously considered joing a gym to get in a shape other than the one I was in. Nah, I decided. I'll save the money and work out at home instead.
Well, guess what? I didn't work out. And therefore, I didn't lose the weight I wanted to ditch, I didn't gain the energy I wanted to harness, and I didn't improve my cholesterol scores. (Although, I must admit I got pretty good at Spider Solitaire.) In contrast, I did lower my level of confidence and my ability to engage in Olympic shopping without needing an hour-long nap. Not super happy with those results. I'm going to change that this year. (Make sure you check back with me.)
What is it you want different for yourself this year? Less stress? Better relationships? More time to read or write or go caneoing? A cleaner house? More fun in your life? To stop smoking? To stop screaming at your kids? To dance more often and in cuter shoes?
In 2011, what are you willing to do different so you can have different? Once you make up your mind, don't reconsider when the going gets tough; recommit. (If you need help walking through the process of setting a goal you'll stick with, I recommend reading "Chapter 2: Embracing Change" in the book, Curves Fitness & Weight Management Plan, by Gary Heavin, Nadia Rodman, and Cassie Findley.)
I'm not your mother, and I'm not a travel agent for guilt trips. I'm just a friend who's making a change--for real this year--and I'm inviting you to come along. What's your New Year going to look like? My New Year is going to shape up nicely.