Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief

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Vacations and Women

So I’m on vacation. I was “supposed to” blog yesterday but didn’t get to it. I am sitting here this morning saying “What should I blog about?” and my girls say “Vacation!”

Going on vacation with your ya-yas is very different from going on vacation with your significant other or your kids. It would probably sound like a nightmare to a man, but you women who are ya-yas at heart will totally get it.

There are three of us here. We got up at 4 AM yesterday in order to catch our flights. We got here, got our rental car, went to the liquor store (priorities), the grocery store, the Farmer’s Market, and then McDonald’s. We arrived at my friend’s brother’s house and we stood on the porch with our jaws hitting the ground. Gorgeous area, phenomenal house. Holy crap, we are really on vacation!! We blend up our banana liquor drinks, eat our yummy lunches and head to the beach.

We talk and talk and talk. We figure out that none of us (1 in her 30’s, 1 in her 40’s, and 1 in her 50’s) have ever gone on a vacation with our girlfriends before. I’ve gone on overnight trips, but never a full-blown get on a plane vacation.

The beach is perfect. The sand is hot, but the ocean is warm. One gets stung by a jellyfish but decides she even loves that too, just because its never happened before. This morning we are all laying around the screened-in porch, talking intimately about our lives. At different points, we all cry. Like I said, a nightmare for a guy but it was just what the doctor ordered for us.

One describes being in the ocean waves and feeling the stress literally leave her body. THIS is what she needed. To get away. To gain perspective. To just stop being the “go-to” person. To just soak in rejuvenation. We share moments about being mothers and the way our kids touch our lives so deeply.

And I am personally working on being alone. Sounds silly when you are with your friends. With your great friends. But it’s not that kind of alone. It’s the “I don’t have a partner” alone. I feel it from head to toe, this burning kind of sensation, especially in my chest and stomach. I talk about how much I hate this part of me, but I need to embrace this part of me. How do I do that? And my dear friend sheds a tear as I talk.

We are heading out to explore Charleston now. We are rested, have had our cries. And it’s really, really good. Vacation with the girls. I think this will have to be an annual event. It cleanses the soul, don’t you think?


Patterns and Such

I saw my spiritual director Ellen again today. She is a calm soul. No matter how chaotic I feel when I go there, I end up leaving feeling more sane. I told her today she is like a “deep breath.”

Today we were talking about various subjects and I realized that it was pretty obvious that I choose the same type of thinking in many areas of my life. For lack of a better word, we were talking about openness.

For those who know me, they would laugh at me saying I’m a bit anal. A bit OCDish. They would laugh at the “bit” part. But on the other hand, I am very open and flexible which is kind of an odd mixture.

It starts with my dog Taffy. Frankie gets frustrated with me because Taffy runs away regularly. Ultimately, it is my fault because I don’t leash her very often. It is a little embarrassing because when your dog runs away a couple of times a week, you leash her, right? If she ever got hit by a car or something, I would never forgive myself. Frankie would never forgive me. Keeping her on a leash is actually for her own good, right?

But I can’t stand to leash her. We go in the creek or the woods almost every day. Most of the time she doesn’t go far. She just likes to sniff around, hunt a little, and then trot to catch up and will go ahead of me for awhile. If she chases a duck, deer, or rabbit (or whatever!) she runs so fast and free. She loves her little life. She loves her independence. It’s not that she wants to run away from me, I don’t think. She is my shadow. I can’t even go to the bathroom without her being next to me. But she just loves to be free and go at her own pace.

The trade-off is, that if she runs, I really can’t be mad at her. I get mad at her anyway though and I have spent countless hours talking with her. I explain clearly that if she likes to be off the leash, then she can’t run away. I think she is listening intently but she obviously doesn’t understand.

So am I reckless? Irresponsible? I hope not. I choose to be “hands off” as much as possible and most of the time it’s not a problem. But the price is when she runs I have to worry and run around like a big goof looking for her. I have to deal with Frankie being disgusted with me. But when I see her run in all her glory, I have to admit, it’s worth it. My “parenting”style has its drawbacks, but it sure has its good moments too.



One of the things that happens with writing a personal book about terminal illness, is that people tell me their stories. Part of why I work so hard to “heal,” is so that I can be present for other people as they grieve.

There are so many stories to share and they effect me in so many different ways. One family in particular has been giving me quite an education about things I haven’t experienced or heard about before. And they challenge me to figure out how to help them grieve because their situation is so unique.

Their loved one died from a MRSA infection. I have heard of that, but have never known anyone who has personally dealt with it. You can’t imagine all the added horror that is heaped on top of the already tough job of losing a human being. Spending those last precious last days, hours, and finally minutes while you are scrubbed up and covered in all kinds of barriers to prevent infection, sure changes the atmosphere of that time together. I can’t even imagine. I crawled right into bed with Tim the whole time he was sick, in treatment, or in the last stages of the dying process. This family was robbed of that.

They were told after he died that all of his belongings, including medical equipment would need to be destroyed. Incinerated in fact. As an organizer who goes into people’s homes and tries to help them de-clutter, I know how hard of a time people have letting go of “things.” But try to get rid of things that belonged to a person who is deceased, and it is almost impossible. It is a very, very difficult thing to do. One of the things that helps immensely, is when you can adopt a “pay it forward” mindset. Knowing someone else (maybe even someone you know) can use things helps to let them go. I remember being excited when I found out about how the Lyon’s Club can use old eye glasses. I had found so many pairs of Tim’s around the house that I didn’t even know he had. Donating them made me feel great inside and I knew Tim was smiling about it too.

This family? Robbed again. They thought they had to burn everything. How the hell do you find the strength and energy to do that?

We decided to do some research. It appears that the information they were told may have been incorrect. One of the worst things about accepting our mortality is how powerless we are. It is rough on us Westerners to not have control over things. When I decided to jump into research today, I didn’t know how much time it would take. But boy, was I aware at how pumped I was when I actually made progress. I bounced around a whole bunch of places and websites til I finally hit the jackpot with someone in the Erie County Health Department. He was a wealth of information, was friendly and compassionate. I couldn’t send an email fast enough to that family.

Hopefully this information will help them get back some of those things about the grief process that can help us get through it. No, it won’t bring their loved one back. Nothing will do that. Their hearts will still be broken. But maybe now they can start to create some “sweets” from thier “bitter” situation. I call that progress 🙂


Not Meant To Be

Some things just aren’t meant to be.

Last night, we hoped to go see the fireworks in East Aurora. They have the best ones I’ve seen around here by far. Of course, the weather has been on, off, on, off so we didn’t know if they would happen. I called the police station and they said they were still on at 10:00 PM. Then it would rain a little, so I would call back. Same answer. Nice guy that kept answering.

I started having other people call on their cells because I felt stupid calling again. We decide to go and at 9:00 PM it starts pouring. Pouring. We decide to play some cards and see if it clears up. At 9:20 PM we call and yep, fireworks at 10:00 PM. We got there about 9:35 PM and people were leaving and coming all at the same time. I call the police one more time and he says politely, “They are doing them right now.” Sure enough, we could hear them. They started them early!

By the time we parked the car and started to walk, we picked the only street with no crossroads and walked entirely around the park. When we finally hit a visible spot, we literally saw the finale. Ok, we heard the finally. They were the loudest fireworks I’ve ever heard. (Or maybe I’m just getting old?) We had to laugh because we just weren’t meant to see them, no matter how great they were. We had a nice, long walk in the drizzling rain though 🙂

Still good to be with friends. We were going to come back and sit in the hot tub but it was lightning by then so everyone went home or to sleep instead.

I worry about whether keeping my house is just “not meant to be” sometimes. It was a bad week for that topic. I got an electric bill that showed my budget rate went up over $80/month. Surely that was a mistake. I called. Nope, our “consumption” has almost doubled in the last couple of years. “Ma’am, did something change in your house two years ago?” Yep, something huge changed two years ago. My husband died. Wouldn’t you think the bill would go down with one less adult consuming electricity? That didn’t make sense. I told the guy maybe my husband went around the house yelling at everyone to turn the lights off…

The salt generator on my pool bit the dust last week. After about 10 or 12 phone calls, I finally found the only place in western New York that services them. Half hour drive, miscommunication, rude sales people. It’s an almost $400 repair. Tomorrow’s to-do list includes fighting with the company to cover it by warranty. It’s a $2000 part and I missed the warranty by a week. So far they are refusing to cover it. Ain’t that a pisser.

The camper is being picked up next week. My dad is frantically trying to make sure everything works so we spent the day bickering yesterday. In between all the other chaos, he wanted me to find information, locate the missing electric piece, and fill the propane tank (for someone else that is buying the camper), all of which I didn’t want to deal with. I didn’t have time to, and frankly didn’t think we needed to go beyond the call of duty knowing I sold the camper at a low price and the agreement was made it would be taken “as is.”

While all that is going on, I am cleaning out the hot tub. I have to drain it, then clean the sides. We broke our new hose a couple of days ago so the old one is back on. In the middle of it, the old hose splits and water is squirting everywhere. Have to figure this one out fast because I have to work soon. Gotta earn money to pay for camper parts, pool repairs, and new hoses.

It’s very circus-like here some days and at those times I usually think I just need to sell my dream house and get a tiny little place for Frankie and I. Today though, I can almost laugh at the comedy of errors the last few days. Almost, but not quite. Happy Birthday, America. I’m gonna celebrate by taking a quiet nap 🙂