Tag Archives: grief

The House of Ruth.

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Dear Ruthie:

Today, I miss you so much. I am thinking of so many things that I long for about you; and the parts that I love in you the most.  So many things. So many beautiful, warm memories. 

I miss your laugh. When you would laugh really hard, you would close your eyes, throw your head back just a bit, and open your mouth up. It was a soft, hearty laugh and it always made me smile.

I miss your voice. Your voice, the way that I would hear it, would be soft in its volume and tone, yet firm in its intention. I always knew us to be honest with one another, which has been a great blessing to me in my life. 

I miss our talks, for hours and hours when I would visit you. Sometimes, I would be going through something really big in my life, and you would listen to me talk on the porch, or at the dining room table. Other times, you would tell me your thoughts about life, and things going on with me, and celebrate with me the joys in my world. You always understood me, and stood for me. I will never forget that.

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I miss your generosity. You would send off a surprise card, a present, a thought of me whenever it struck you. And, it would always be an unexpected joy that never stopped delighting me. The turtle lamp that you gave to Brenda and I lights up our room each night. I think of you always when looking at that.

I miss our Dunkin’ Donuts runs when I would visit you. For you, DD was such a special treat, and you would treat whoever was with you as well, to the fare of their choice. Pumpkin spice coffee, with two sugars and cream, and a breakfast sandwich of one sort or another, with hash browns. I had a cup of DD pumpkin spice coffee yesterday and thought of you the whole time.

I miss your hands. Your hands were always so beautiful to me. They looked so soft, and pure, and untouched, yet they were strong and capable. I loved holding your hands in mine no matter what the circumstance or occasion. They felt like home to me.

I miss being in your house with you, in the morning quiet before you would get up, in the evening while we would talk or you would watch baseball, during the day as you would take Josh out for yard time. I miss every little and and big thing about you. Some days, it really hits me that you have died and I can’t be in your arms again. Not now, anyway. I cry a bit, I think of you as I look at your picture, and then, it passes by and I feel at peace once more. No matter how close the pain feels, you have changed my life in such a way that I will never forget it. 

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I love you. xo  Nessa 

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The Pantry.

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My Aunt Ruth’s death almost three months ago has stirred up in me many different emotions. I have deep gratitude for her presence in my life, my entire life. I am also grateful to have her beloved cat, Josh, in our home with us. I feel deep sadness, on and off, when I realize that I will never see her again, in this world. I will never look into her eyes or hold her hands. I feel deep peace when I sense her presence around me, when I talk to her in my car or feel her hand on my shoulder. 

 

Even though I rarely feel regret about aspects of my life, my way of focusing on the past is through longing. It is very common for me to feel a sense of longing about an aspect of past. Either longing for the way things used to be with someone in my life; longing for looking the same as I may have years ago; or longing for a place that brings deep feelings of love and connection for me. One longing that I have deeply in me is for my Aunt Ruth’s house.

 

When I was a very young child, the house that became my Aunt Ruth’s homestead was the home of my grandparents, my father’s mom and dad. My Nana and Grampa. I loved going to their house when I was a kid, to see them, and to spend time there. My Aunt Ruth lived with them throughout their lives, and when they both died, she continued to live there, until her death. It is the house and home that was the constant for me as I was growing up. There were homes that I lived in with my parents that felt special to me, but Ruth’s house was the deepest representation of home that I have ever experienced.  When I would visit there, I would enjoy spending time in various parts of the house. There are short stories living inside of me for each nook and cranny. One of those rooms was the pantry.

 

I had never been in another house, that I remember, that had a pantry. I thought it was so cool, that there was a little room right off of the kitchen, where so many different types of objects were kept:  food; pots and pans; tools; spices. There was plenty of storage space in there, but just enough room for one person to stand in there, turn around a couple of times in a circle depending on what you were looking for. For two people, you couldn’t move around much.

 

When I was very young, around 8 or 9 years old, and I would spend weekends and holiday vacations there, I would love to go in there and look around at everything on the shelves. I liked to look at the variety of spices, and medicines that were there. There was always a pair of scissors hanging by a hook. Coffee mugs that were the favorites of various persons in the house. Cookie jar that almost always had Oreos in it. And, so many other objects that I always remember being there. And, there was a big metal step stool, that had a seat at the top of it, and extra steps that unfolded out of the bottom. That would fit just under the counter top in the pantry. I remember my Nana, who was diabetic, going in there to inject her own insulin. I would often be in there with her, as she pulled out the stool, sat down, pulled up her dress and injected herself in the leg. It fascinated me that it didn’t seem to hurt her at all.

 

When my son and I went to Ruth’s house one last time a couple of weeks ago, I woke up early the morning that we were leaving, unable to sleep. I knew that I most likely, would never be in that house again. I felt a strong longing for time to be turned back, just to have one more day, one more weekend in that house. I walked into the pantry, touching objects, taking some with me, and feeling a deep sense of loss and grief. That room, the memories in it for me seemed almost palpable. They were lingering in the air. I tried to imagine other objects on these shelves, and that seemed impossible to comprehend. This is the only way that it should ever be, like in a museum.  

 

I feel so grateful today for the time that I got to have my Aunt Ruth in my world, and to be in a home that will never leave my heart and mind. And, even with longing, the bigger part of my memories is a deep feeling of love, connection, and peace. The pantry and all parts of that house will always live in me.11202856_1606994312902212_7038100225790313098_n

Grief.

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I have spent the last several days experiencing and thinking about grief. About what it is, and what it is not. About my own grief and how I express it, now in my life, and in the past. I am amazed and at peace at what I seem to be discovering.

 

When I was in college, my grandmother, my father’s mother, died after being ill for a long time with cancer. I had spent school vacations at her home for years, kept her secrets of eating forbidden foods at lunch, and laughed with her. I was so sad, and hurt, and lost when she died. I didn’t want it to be true. I didn’t want to care about college classes anymore, for months. I thought about her all of the time and couldn’t envision a life without her physical presence in it. 

 

Ten years later, my older brother died, after a long illness. He lived on the west coast, so he was far away and I hadn’t seen him in years. Our relationship had been very close for a period of time in my life, but his last few months had been strained between us. I was the person that he had his caretakers call to report his death. It was surreal and a deep hurt. I grieved in many ways when he died. I cried, a lot at first. I felt guilt at our being somewhat estranged. I felt anger that he had me be the one that had to tell my parents that he had died. And, I felt like a martyr, in a way. I wore my grief like a shroud, feeling very embedded in it. That lasted for a long time. 

 

There have been many persons that I have known since then, friends or family, that had died. My responses to each one have been different. Yet, none so different as the deaths of two persons in my life in literally the last three weeks. First, my beloved aunt, my aunt Ruth, who was as close to me as a family member as my own parents. She lived with my grandparents when I was growing up, and I spent those school vacations with her as well, and many happy times after that. I would go up to her house for a weekend, just to spend time and talk with her. Her heart was so open and filled with love. I thought she would be around awhile longer, if not forever. Her death has been hard to bear, although manageable at the same time.

 

Only a few days after her death, my father in law, my wife’s father, died. I had not had the opportunity to build a longstanding, deep relationship with Ben, but I had felt a deep fondness and love for him, and enjoyed our times together. He gave Brenda away at our wedding. He had many of his own demons, yet I saw the light in him that was love, even though he didn’t see it in himself, it seemed.

 

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What grief represents to me now in my world is much different than I have ever experienced before. Even though we may share grief and the expression of it with others that are close to us, grief feels very personal to me; meaning, my feelings of loss are not going to be like anyone else’s about the person, as no one else’s will be like mine. In essence, I can feel whatever I feel, without any need to compare myself to others. I get to just move through it in the most loving, gentle way that I can. I also don’t feel like I have to express it in any certain way. Whatever seems to help me and bring me comfort and support feels right.

 

Grief also looks like Peace to me now. I don’t know how to best explain that, except that even when I am sad that my aunt Ruth is gone, or longing to spend another day with Ben, I feel at Peace when I accept things just as they are. Accept that they are absent. Accept that I miss them at times. Accept that life will go on without both of them in this physical realm. Letting Go and Acceptance bring me Peace. Bring me comfort. And are deep expressions of Love for me.

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A Brother.

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I had a brother. Or, I have a brother that is no longer living. I never really know how to refer to my brother Jeff in conversation, whether it is in the past or the present tense. I mean, he is still my brother, but he died over twenty years ago.

My brother Jeff came to my mind today. And, I have to say, it was the first time in weeks, maybe even months, that I have thought of him. On some days, it feels almost as if I could forget that I had an older brother. That feels a bit weird to me. I don’t ever forget my younger brother, even though we don’t get together very often. I never forget my younger sister, who I speak to pretty faithfully each week. I don’t even forget my older sister, who I speak to, maybe once a year, and we have trouble understanding one another at times.

It feels really weird.

When my older brother, Jeff, was alive, I felt pretty close to him for many years. As I became a teenager, and started making my plans to go out into the world, he moved away, first to Boston, and then to the West coast, San Francisco was his city. He loved it there. He taught me a lot, about music, and life, and food and what it was like to be out and living. He was smart, he was funny, and he was very charismatic.

And, he had a lot of problems. BIG ones. Still, during the adult years of his life, and while I was away at college, and then creating my own independence, I kept in touch with him. I wrote him letters, talked on the phone, tried to help him in the ways that he seemed unable to help himself. I desensitized myself at times when he wanted to justify his actions, or make excuses why it was okay for him to do what he did.

He was in jail for many of those years, and even in a psychiatric facility for a long time. Even though the world, and the law, defined his actions as illegal, immoral, and highly problematic, he didn’t see it that way. It made it really strange to interact with him.

My brother came to mind today because I was thinking a lot about the fact that death has not touched my life, in an up close way, in many years. I have not lost someone close to me for awhile. I was thinking about what that will be like for me, when it does happen. How I will be different than I have been before.

With my brother, my grief and loss was heavy. I felt the loss of him, as well as the loss of the idea that he might be better able to live in the world one day. I made him a martyr after his death; hero worshipped him like he wasn’t human. The beauty of it all is, that he was human. Just like me. His flaws, and failures and stumbles were the same as mine, just different. I wander off the path too, but my wandering is no more noble or admirable than his was. We all wander. We all stumble. We all fall.

So, I want to remember to remember him more often. I always remember to list him among my siblings, when I am shouting out the list to a new person in my life. Yet, I want a bit more from myself than that. To remember his love of the Boston Red Sox. That he was the first person I knew that introduced me to the band U2. That he made a mean guacamole, even before I knew I liked it.

And he loved me. And, I loved him.

I have a big brother. I remember.

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Complacency, cravings and how to stay sober.

So, for the last few weeks, I have not been attending any AA meetings.  Now, I have stayed sober.  I haven’t even had the craving for a drink.  But, I had the notion, that I was doing fine without meetings; that I wasn’t having any trouble maintaining my sobriety; and I could do fine on my own.

 

That, my friends, is my story.  However, the end of last week changed my perspective quite a bit.

 

You see, I have been going through this transition, when I want to be able to just give up, or take up, things, activities and rituals that feel good to me, simply because they feel good, not because I NEED to do them.  God forbid, I keep a consistent schedule of doing something, because I have a need to do it to keep me balanced and healthy. 

 

So, I tried myself at not attending meetings.  I enjoyed the free evenings, or Saturday mornings when I would typically attend.  I enjoyed embracing my sobriety without hearing the stories of others, or telling my own.  And, I felt totally confident that there was nothing that could shake my commitment to staying clean and sober.

 

And then, Friday happened, that terrible day in Newtown, Connecticut.

 

No, I don’t know anyone that died that day, or whom even had connections to anyone that died.  But I felt sick inside; sick for a community torn apart; families losing loved ones.

 

And, the children.  The babies that were taken decades too soon.

 

After believing that my sobriety was well in hand, and that I had no worries when it came to cravings or triggers, I found one.  In that day, and the days that have followed, I have thought long and hard about how I would most likely respond if a person that I love, and especially, my child, were to have some serious, life threatening event occur.  

 

I would want to go right away and park my ass on a bar stool.  Or, by a nice sized bottle of anything alcoholic and go to it, to numb away the emotional pain of loss.  Of grief.  Of not wanting to deal with the reality of a bad situation.

 

Since then, I more deeply understand how delicate my sobriety is.  Not my commitment to it; that is rock solid.  But, in an instant, I can sacrifice it all, to deal with a situation that life may throw at me.  

 

So, I know that I need to stay humble.  I need to continue to be grateful to my Higher Power, my Source, my Great Spirit, for keeping me sober for today.

 

And, I need to keep going to meetings.  Yes, I need to.  Because my sober life, my happy, sober life, is too important for me to let go.