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Posts Tagged ‘emotion’

Another article I wrote in the fall of 2014 – that I didn’t post.

In the Op-Ed section of a recent Sunday New York Times, there was an article I tore it out so I could read it again. You never know when something sparks an emotion, a thought, a piece of the puzzle I didn’t know was missing. Here’s the quote that had me pondering:

“When we mourn, isn’t it not just for our relationship with a person, but also for the physical presence of her, of her aliveness? The voice, smell, textures and warmth, the gestures we know intimately, all of these are replaced with their opposites in death. We are left with a hole that the energy that powered the person through life once filled.”

That last sentence nails it. “We are left with a hole that the energy that powered the person through life once filled.” That’s why I felt empty, at a loss – a loss of presence, of energy, of aliveness when Mike suddenly departed. Yes, with all the mannerisms, habits and behaviors that I loved or drove me crazy but with him gone, I missed them all.

As I have said before, when Mike passed on to the “next expression of life”, I knew he was and is fine. I was the one left to adjust to the change. To learn how to live with that hole that suddenly appeared. Actually, to first feel the feelings of loss, of sadness, of whatever I am feeling. Feeling my feelings was not a practice I learned growing up or during most of my life. I was more focused on action, doing and thinking. In the last ten to fifteen years, I have learned more about feeling my feelings – even being aware of what my feelings are rather than what I think.

In every experience, I know there is a gift. Some call it the silver lining. Mike’s death gave me the gift of learning to really accept my feelings, to dive down deep into them, and to be present with my feelings – to allow them. Our society doesn’t always encourage us to stop and feel our feelings. We have to move on. What’s next? Keep on keeping on, rather than stopping – to pause and ask, what am I feeling now? Sometimes, especially in the first 2 to 3 years after his death, feelings of grief would come like a wave that crashed over me and I would be overcome with the grief and sadness. Only after developing a practice of diving into the waves of my feelings, could I discover how to collect the energy, the aliveness, the love that was Mike and bring it into my heart to fill the hole. What I have learned is that this process happens over time. It’s not a quick fix. Years, it takes years – and that’s ok.

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white floral arrangement    I recently planned and coordinated a Memorial for a client. In two weeks, I helped her decide who was speaking and what was included in the service, as well as what photos, quote and song to be printed in the program. I made cards (8.5×5.5) for the guests to write a note to her and her son in place of a guest book.  Many friends donated food and one made beautiful floral arrangements that included white lilies, her husband’s favorite flower. After the Memorial, I insisted she take the flowers home. I put the two large arrangements in her car to make sure she took them home. Two days later she texted me, “you were right about the flowers”.

She was referring to my first blog post when I had sent her the link to my widowzhealing blog a few days before the memorial and when she couldn’t sleep, she read all the posts. I hoped this meant that she felt the love and support of those that were present at the memorial – and that it also represented the love her husband had for her and her son. About a week later I asked her what she discovered about the flowers. She said, “I am happy to have them, but I also see their impermanence . . . just like life”.

In a recent Sunday New York Times Modern Love column, this paragraph jumped out at me:
“Why do we send flowers? To make up for what is intangible? Those feelings we can’t hold in our hands and present as a gift to our loved ones? And why is it that the placeholders we choose – the dozen red roses, the fragrant white lilies, the long-stemmed French tulips – are so fleeting? Hold on to them for too long and you end up with a mess of petals, pollen and foul-smelling water.”

The article was about working in a flower shop, the stories people share when they buy flowers, and the variety of messages on the accompanying cards. This note was unusually honest: ‘Cards and flowers seem so lame when someone dies but we are thinking of you and want you to know’.

This definitely says what is true. We want to send our love and heart-felt caring to friends and family when they experience the loss of a loved one and, it IS hard to know what to say. Flowers say it for us, though not usually with such a direct message included. For me, the beauty of flowers also represents the beauty of life. They are alive, beautiful and ephemeral – a reminder to honor the preciousness of life in each and every moment.

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I took one of Mike’s sarongs with me on my trip to Bali.  We stayed for two nights at a resort on the ocean near the island of Manganyan, known for the best  snorkeling – amazing fish in wild colors and beautiful coral.  We spent a day on the water riding out to the island and snorkeling in two different areas.  We got soaked in a rainstorm mid-day.  Back at the resort, I hung my sarong up to dry . . . and left it behind by mistake when we left the next morning.  Although it turned out it really wasn’t a mistake.  In fact, I had a bit of premonition that it might happen when I packed the sarong.  I obviously needed to leave a bit of Mike in Bali.  It felt right.  Mike and I had talked about living there part-time while he worked on a project in Australia. It was to be his last time working at a project site.

I’ve been back from Balifor two months.  It seems shorter than that.  I went with the intention to give myself a gift of a break from all that has occurred the past 2 plus years.  Unplugging and going to the flip side of the world is a real break from the day to day.  And such a beautiful place to do it – with an incredibly wonderful group of girlfriends.

Since coming back from Bali, I discovered that I have been in a fog since Mike split this earth scene.  A friend said it is a healing fog – cushioning the shock.  It’s been a year and 8 months.  The fog is lifting, and I am grieving again.  Since all emotions are good, this must be the next step in accepting the change that has occurred with Mike being gone.  I find myself weepy at odd times.  I know to just let it out.  I don’t spend time figuring out why.  More diving to the depths to release the grief and allow greater healing to occur.  What I learned in Bali with my girlfriends when one would start getting teary . . . blubbering is good.

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So much time has passed and changes are occurring.  I took off my wedding band a few weeks ago.  I decided I didn’t need to wear it any longer.  I’m not married anymore – except in my heart.  I continue to wear the diamond ring Mike gave me – it’s got all the love energy in it.  The ring was his mum’s.  She bought it with lottery winnings. She had always wanted a large diamond solitaire.  She told Mike it would be his later on.  Mike’s mum died when he was 16 years old.  When Mike father died about ten years later, he got the ring.  And then he carried around the world for the next 25 years – working in places like South America,Thailand,Saudi Arabia,  northern Canada.  He never married during all this time.  His work managing multi-billion dollar construction projects didn’t allow much time for relationships.  There is a lot of love in this ring and I feel it.

I’m off for a vacation with girlfriends to Bali.  Mike and I had talked about him doing one more construction project at a location around the world.  The one he wanted to help manage was in Australia– just a short airplane ride away from Bali.  I keep thinking about this and our plans for this project as I pack to go.  I still miss him a lot.

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I’ve been pondering the question of whether I should continue to wear my wedding band, or . . . why do I continue to wear my wedding band?  When I got divorced from my first husband, I willingly took off my ring.   It’s not like that this time.  When Mike and I arranged our wedding in a week, he insisted on getting wedding bands for both of us.  I thought it would take too long to get them ordered, etc.   We both found rings at the first store we shopped.  Mike’s band fit perfectly.  I had mine resized after the ceremony.  Is there a time limit on how long to wear my ring?  It goes so perfectly with the solitaire that was his mum’s.

It’s weird.  I wear my wedding rings and think of Mike.  I see Mike all around me – his furniture in every room, in some rooms it’s all his furniture.  Our furniture melded together when we merged our lives. So did our kitchen pots & pans, knives and dishes. A good friend said to Mike, “Didn’t you know you were meant to be together, since your furniture goes so well together?”  Now I am left with the furniture – and no Mike.  Don’t get me wrong; I love the furniture and everything in the kitchen.  I just wish I had Mike instead.  (Here’s that magical thinking Joan Didion wrote about.)  It feels like I have the leftovers, no matter how wonderful those things are.

Speaking of Joan Didion, I read her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, two years ago and last year, I read Christopher Buckley’s, Losing Mum and Pup. Reading these books turned out to be preparation for where I am now.  Both books have provided me with references and ways to think about my experience of loss – and the process – of time and thoughts and questions that arise.

When I write these posts, I mull over the ideas and the words to use.  Weeks have gone by thinking, writing, adding, deleting, rewriting.  For now, I’m letting go of the question about wearing my rings.  I’m done focusing on this –  time to move on. The answer will be revealed in its right way and right time.  When I take my wedding rings off, there’s an indentation that remains on my finger. . . just like Mike has left an impression on my heart that will always be there.

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I miss cooking with Mike.  Our large, remodeled kitchen was perfect for two chefs – two sinks, two areas for prep and lots of counter space.  Going through papers, I found a menu for a dinner party we hosted on October 11, 2008 for family and friends:

An Indian Summer Dinner for Six

Halibut baked in Parchment with Garlic and Rosemary

Eggplant, Tomato, Onion Gratin

Fresh Corn and Fava Bean Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

New Potatoes with Parsley and Butter

Mixed Greens with Apple, Orange, Avocado and a Citrus Vinaigrette

Fresh Peach Tart

Homemade Chocolate Almond Truffles

The halibut was Mike’s recipe – delicious and easy. I don’t think I’ve made it since he’s been gone.   I bought fava beans and corn on the cob last week at the Farmers Markets to make the salad for the first time since last summer.  It was a favorite recipe of ours. 

 Ours.  I miss that – sharing things that were our favorites . . . our “dinner and a movie” nights, our gatherings with friends, reading the Sunday papers together.  Last year at this time, Mike was helping me pit apricots for jam.  I’ve been stirring all evening and have made four batches of apricot jam.  Next week I’ll get another case from the farmers market and make apricot butter, which is my favorite.  Both are enjoyed by all that receive them at Christmas.

Mike pitting apricots

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Swirling ashes and flowers at the oceans edge

 

Last weekend, I flew to Hawaii for a few days to join friends for classic Hawaiian weaving – I wove bracelets.  I was also there to release Mike’s ashes into the ocean.  He always wanted retire to Hawaii.  We decided to gather Sunday morning – about 16 of us.  I am so grateful for all that came together as I needed everyone’s help to make this ceremony happen.   

I had never opened the bag holding the box of ashes after I picked it up a week and a half after Mike had split.  It sat in the closet till I packed the bag with the box in my suitcase for the flight to the Big island.  Only just before the ceremony did I take the box out of the bag . . . and discovered that the box was a heavy metal box – sealed shut, with no way to open it.  I asked for a plain box.  Who knew?  Two men in our group both tried to open it and called it a safe, not a box.  The handyman at the resort was called to bring his tools. As he was figuring out how to open the box, he asked, “Did he really like this place?”  Yes, actually he did.  Success – the box was finally pried open.   

This being the No Faults Tour weekend with my friends . . . the ceremony began a little later than originally planned – and, it was perfect.  Including trying to get Mike out of the box.  One suggested a tide pool at the ocean’s edge was a good place on this balmy, windy day.  Another provided a basket to put the bag of ashes in.  A special friend wore a sarong in Mike’s honor, as Mike would have worn one if he had been here.  Another was wearing a look-alike to Mike’s favorite sarong.  She had bought it at the market just a few days before – colors she didn’t usually wear but it had called to her!  Aloha, Mike.  

We all filed down to the tide pool and gathered in a half circle.   I said a few words about Mike – about the joy and love that connected us to Mike and to each other.  I hadn’t been to this resort since our honeymoon.  Now Mike and I were both here again.  We prayed and sang the chant – There is only one of us, in your eyes it’s me I see, there is only one of us, you are my reflection, there is only one.  I stood barefoot in the water and with Amazing Grace being played on the harmonica, I poured Mike’s ashes slowly into the water as the waves rolled in and out.  The fine silver grey powder mixed and swirled with the water – stirring and flowing into a larger and larger area at the edge of the ocean. We broke our leis and tossed the flowers into the water – a mix of peach, pink, purple and white floating above the moving misty water.  The mist didn’t go out to sea as much as dissolve and merge with the water and drift down into the sand at the waters edge.   I guess he’s not leaving the beach.  We gathered back on the sand and many expressed how beautiful the ceremony was.  One said that this is how he wants to go – so simple and so moving.   

When I was pouring the fine ashes into the water, I flashed on how this is what Andy Goldsworthy has done . . . grinding up natural elements and pouring the colored powder down a river or stream.  Here I was making art – the ephemeral art of life – watching and remembering sweet Mike.

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