Tag Archives: fall

A Granddaughter’s Goodbye

Outside is gray and wind blows more of the crunchy, faded leaves from the tree of friendship. It has grown from sapling and is now tall enough to be seen outside of my second-story office window. I watch the remaining leaves cling fiercely, not ready to end their season of holding space this fall. I want them to remain there as long as possible. I do not want any more time to pass.

I remember the beginning of this week. I don’t want to forget.

Monday I went to bed with plans to visit Grammy at 10:00 Tuesday morning. The last time Steve and I saw her, she was in bed. There was life in her eyes and a smile on her lips. She recognized us, commented on Steve’s long hair (Ok, put your hat back on!), and beamed over the news of my firstborn’s pregnancy. (Another baby!)

Large tears fell from my eyes and onto her covers as I remembered our pre-Covid days at Brookdale ~ when we could walk to breakfast or lunch together using her walker, when I would push her in her wheelchair, when we could no longer visit until it was the end. We are here. It’s close to the end.

Steve opens the blinds so we can look out the window at fall colors. Birds fly to the feeder. The sky is late October gray, as the sun begins its early descent. Grief catches me off guard. I hold it in.

Ok, you can go now.

It’s a familiar goodbye, and one I am not sure is for her or for us. Which of us needs permission? I hang on a little longer, unsure if this is the last time we will be together in person. (it is) I don’t want to overstay, so I lean over the bed, hug her close, whisper goodbyes and I love yous, and exit the room with tears rolling down my face.

So now it’s bedtime Monday evening, November 9, 2020, and I wonder if Grammy will be there in the morning. Should I have gone over and stayed? Each night I wonder if it will be the one. The wait is truly the hardest part. I pray rest for her. I will go over tomorrow and stay.

I startle awake in the early morning hours, Grammy on my mind. This feeling is different than my usual insomnia. I feel a strange calm unlike any other night-time wake in this season and wonder Is this it? Is Grammy passing?

There is no urgency to get out of bed ~ only to bear witness to the moment in my spirit. O Sacred Head Now Wounded plays in my mind, every verse I have ever heard, including Be near me, Lord, when dying. . . especially that one. I hear the tune, the singers, the words. I pray it for her. If it is her time. Be near.

It is followed by Sandra McCracken’s Love Will Bring You Home. I pray again that if it is time, the passage is smooth and kind. I pray she is brought home by love.

I am so present, which is unusual for middle-of-the-night stirrings. I fall back into a restful sleep without any of the usual back-to-sleep aids like reading, journaling, or hot tea. I wake Tuesday morning to a text from Dad.

Grammy died last night. The hospice nurse pronounced her passing at 2:30am . . . Please let your siblings know.

The end of her story at age 97. A long life well-lived. Over. It is Tuesday, November 10, 2020.

I scroll in my phone to find our last picture together, taken in February before Covid shut everything down.

I feel sad and glad and weary and begin making phone calls to my people.

Being the Daughter

I know that my mom is the center of her own story. The star of her own show. Dying of pancreatic cancer is traumatic. Bearing the pain, the news, the treatments. I cannot imagine the grief and loss that comes with facing the end in that way. Her story is not mine to tell.

And yet . . .

Being the daughter is difficult, too. There is a strange supporting role that overlaps. I have my own story of grief and loss in the midst of watching my mom live out her days. I am losing my mom, my hopes and dreams with her, my emergency contact person for my kids in school.

In early July when I filled out school registration forms for my three high school kids, it was so easy, because everything was the same. In August when I registered the fourth in a new space and automatically began typing my mom’s information in as an emergency contact person, I froze with the reality of the news we had been given and broke into gut-wrenching sobs before texting my sister-in-law to ask if I could use her instead. I did not even want to consider what the end of the school year might look like or where we would be.

I sit awake in the middle of the night, the time when grief barrels down like a freight train, because that is when the house is still and quiet and no one needs me. I carry my quilt and hot tea to the tiny office upstairs and sit.

One day I will have home office space big enough to hold a couch or recliner or something more comfortable than a chair and makeshift tiny ottoman. I am thankful for what I have now, space just for me and Pierre the bird, whose cage I have resumed covering again so my middle-of-night visits don’t disrupt him..

On a good night I meditate or journal or read to quiet my mind before returning to bed. Then there are the nights I spend searching my phone, scrolling for stories, for connection, for others who may be feeling similar grief. Those nights I know I should just put down the phone. It’s not good for my sleep cycle to be staring at the light.

It’s also not good for my sleep cycle to have a mom that is dying.

We won another month.

Hello, November! You bring us a new start.

I deeply hoped we would, even though the beginning of October felt tenuous enough for me to cancel a trip, even as mom planned one of her own. She travelled, saw her people. I stayed home, sat in hard places, and fed her cats. I started a new client and engaged my own grief.

l listened as my body bore witness to my story, kept showing up for my coaching group, checked on Mom when she returned, gave big space when I couldn’t.

I want to know how this ends, but I don’t want it to end. I want a place to fall, land, be held without feeling both complicit and responsible. I want absolution. Kindness. Care. I want to watch all of the amazing things everyone else is doing with their lives and families while believing that my grieving is enough for right now.

I am both a daughter losing her mother and a mother of many who need to be actively mothered. This is not easy. There is a little girl inside who just wants to be able to cry, release, speak the truth of where I am without being blamed or fixed. We all need so much of each other. We are all so alone.

Being the daughter means having young places inside stirred by this reality, places that desire deep freedom to be who I am and generous love and acceptance. Big kindness. I want to be seen, known, loved, understood, tended. Being the daughter means sitting in the shadows watching the stars of this show play out their scenes together.

The shadows feel familiar.

I am so grateful for each of you who has seen me and reached out in the ways you felt led. From cards in the mail to bread and butter left in brown paper packages on the porch to invitations for walks to understanding that my absence or silence is not personal, it all matters.

Even unspoken thoughts matter when you are the daughter losing her words in the midst of this nightmarish loss.

Creamy Baked Salmon (a Diane in Denmark recipe)

I’m blogging after a successful Saturday night dinner to remind myself of this evening’s menu and to help me remember and reference this recipe easily. This feels like a bit of kind self-care in the midst of all that is happening. Here’s why. . .

Many recipes I keep in my head, which is helpful until someone asks for the recipe or wants to help me in the kitchen. My teenager often offers to cook and simply needs the recipe, so tonight I am making time to record this one just the way I made it.

It is from Diane in Denmark, one of my favorite online influencers. You can watch her prepare it on her YouTube channel below. In fact, I watched her as I prepared supper tonight. She is delightful company.

I put a spaghetti squash in the oven, halved, seeds scooped out, face down in a 9×13 glass baking dish with a little water at the bottom, covered with foil 10 minutes before putting the salmon in, and it was perfect timing, taking them out together.

Here is the recipe written down. It is fabulous when the salmon is paired with the sauce served over spaghetti squash and a sliced baguette on the side.

Enjoy!

Weeks to (New) Months

October 1 finds me reflective and with a deeper understanding of what the phrase weeks to months actually means. When Mom began chemo the first week of September, it was to give more months, not years, according to the oncologist.

Chemo was brutal. One round caused such misery that to continue for a few more months of torture to extend days was not sustainable. Mom chose hospice care instead, allowing her to live more fully and with more presence in this season.

Mom looks beautiful in her brightly colored turbans!

Eight weeks and three days since the initial heartbreaking scan, life settles into a routine of change. Each week grows day by day, then adds up with the next to create another month. And that is what we are given, a string of days, weeks, months.

We won September, full of family visits, kids settling in to school, and shifts in business and work loads. We practice turning towards each other. There was a photo shoot to capture us with Mom.

Mom and I share a moment during the photo shoot before our own mini-session. She is always radiant in red.

October brings new rhythms and boundaried settledness. Time and energy are precious resources. The walks across town, to and from my parents’ house, a sort of sacred rhythm, ground me in presence as I transition from mother to daughter and back again.

Sighting a heart shape on the brick walkway or a changing leaf from a nearby tree bring comfort and calm to the sometimes-chaos of my heart.

A heart-shaped blob on the sidewalk reminds me that love is all around me. I only have to keep my eyes open for it.
Change is the constant.

I drink coffee outside with Mom this morning, our usual Thursday routine. We enjoy the crisp air and birdsongs and sighting of a butterfly on the fence. Mostly we enjoy the rhythm and ritual and the gift of a new month.

Look closely to see birds on top of the fence and a butterfly resting, as well.
Mom wearing the prayer shawl made for her by a dear friend, Rosie.

These are the moments that matter in the weeks to months that remain. Thank you to all who continue to offer such gentle care, kindness, and understanding as we navigate the present while looking ahead to the uncertain future.

Flowers and Food

Can you stop by on your way home from Bridgewater? I have something for you. If I don’t answer the door just come around back and find me.

The text went something like that.

I wanted to say no. No, I actually can’t.

It’s the truth.

That is where I was. Where I am right now. Angry at the world. At everything. Still having to function while anticipating grief. And just angry.

My mom is very sick. She is dying. I was not even aware of this on July 26, just two months ago. Now I don’t know if I will get two more months with her.

My rational side got the better of me, because this friend’s house was literally on the way home. Also, I know myself well enough to call my own bluff. Also, she loves me. She is so kind. I needed to receive the invitation of care.

So I stopped on the way home and found her in the extensive backyard flowerbed. She is the kind of gardener who can make an everyday bouquet from twenty varieties of things she has growing, naming each one.

She was still cutting and arranging as I wandered out back and then followed her into the house for the adding of water to the jar and sending of me on my way.

I am bringing you dinner next week. Is Wednesday or Thursday better?

Thursday was a no-brainer, since my husband was leaving for his annual guys’ weekend that day.

Thursday. Thank you.

We chatted briefly in the kitchen, a safe distance from each other, before I left to pick up a child from a friend’s house, in same the neighborhood, on the way home.

Tears filled my eyes.

I don’t know what I need on a good day, and lately the days are not so good. When the text came with several menu choices, I knew instantly the one. She agreed it was one of her best.

She cut me flowers and brought me food.

And that is what I needed.

And I am so grateful.

Thank you, AM, and all of you who have known just what I needed and left in on the porch or dropped it in the mail or sent it by text. You are the hands and feet of real Jesus and love. Thank you for your care during this unbearable hard.

Mom’s Fall Planter

I decide to welcome fall early this year. It’s still August when I commit.

I know that’s not the official start, but something about knowing, really knowing, that you have months, not years, left with someone, makes every moment count.

We know that, right? That all of the moments count? Turn towards those you love while you can. It’s a great theory, but the practice of it, in blog-friendly language, is oh my.

Really tough.

Because life. And death. And all of that in-between. And not all of us get to know ahead of time.

And what are months, anyway? Twelve of them make up a year. That leads to twenty-four, which is two years, and so on. Not without hope, and yet, there is also reality.

So last Friday, as Mom and Dad visited the oncologist, my sister and I ran afternoon errands together. Something about a perceived sense of normalcy and control made this an adventure filled with hilarity and comic relief.

We are good at comic relief. Also irreverent hilarity.

After all of the musts, I chose a want and decided to get fall plants for mom’s outdoor planter.

Each Mother’s Day I plant one of the large planters in front of my parents’ house for Mom, and on Father’s Day I plant the other for Dad. This year was different on Mother’s Day, due, in part to the pandemic and its limitations.

Instead of selecting individual plants, I chose a hanging basket from the local food coop, planning to empty it into the planter, ready made style. When Mom saw what I was doing, she preferred to keep it as a hanging basket, so up on the porch it went.

Her planter remained sparsely populated with perennial growth from previous years, a rosemary bush, lambs ears, purple salvia, and a lone geranium, added by me to fill an obvious gap. These continued growing all summer but never fully got it together.

I tried looking back in my phone to see if I had a picture of that planter, and just the act of scrolling backwards to May brought a heaviness to my chest and tears to my eyes. We can’t go back to before.

I decided to seize my (and mom’s) favorite season and plant for fall to welcome her home from her long day of medical appointments.

And that’s what I did.

Happy Fall, Y’all! Let’s make this one count!

Exercising the Right

I exit the house a little after noon, stepping into glorious fall sunshine. I pass a friend with her two littles, returning from the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center, our polling place. The older rides his glider bike expertly while the younger kicks his legs in the stroller. We exchange brief greetings and continue our separate ways.

Seeing neighbors out and about going to and from the polls is a part that I love about election day.

I follow a series of right and left turns, passing two little boys playing in their yard. They look at me quizzically. I smile and cross the street where a tree with burnt orange and brown leaves overhangs the sidewalk. I make a mental note to take a picture on the way back.

A final left leads me to the parking lot lined with polling signs. Turning into it, I follow the sidewalk to where the volunteers pass sample ballots and chat with their peers. A man steps forward to offer a guide while the others look at me and keep talking. It feels strange. I take the guide and continue walking.

Walking towards the polling place is a part that I dislike about election day.

As I approach the entrance an older man and his adult son exit. The older man’s foot steps halfway off of the sidewalk where it turns at an angle, and he falls to the ground. Immediately everyone stops what they are doing to offer assistance. The slow fall into the grass seemed more embarrassing than painful to him, though I am sure he will feel the bruising. He rises quickly on his own and refuses the offer of a call for help.

People coming together in spite of their differences to help another hurting human is a part that I like about election day.

Grateful to have pocketed my driver’s license before leaving the house, I state my name and address and show my photo when asked. Familiar faces, aged a little more since last year, check me in, hand over a ballot, and direct me to the voting tables.

Seeing the friendly faces of the poll workers each year is something that I like about election day.

How far we have come since the early days of voting in a booth with a curtain around it!

Marking the ballot is a part that is hard for me on election day.

It always reminds me that politics is messy. It is truly an exercise of discipline and will for me to mark the ballot and make movement from table to scanner, which I do. This year the lady monitoring it has stickers. Unlike last year, I am early enough to get one. We laugh about that while waiting for my ballot to scan. It has to be re-inserted.

Waiting for my vote to count is a part that is hard for me on election day. Laughing with the lady at the scanner makes it easier.

I turn to exit through large glass doors that look as if they should slide open. My mind thinks, This isn’t the grocery store! My body stops awkwardly and waits. I do not know how to work these doors, and unlike years past, there is no sign to tell me.

Awkwardly not knowing what to do in any situation is something that is hard for me always! Election day just intensifies the shame.

I figure out which door to push, aided by the kind lady holding stickers, and exit the side of the building. Exhaling, I realize I have been holding my breath. I take air deep into my lungs and begin the walk home.

That is when I realize that I am wearing a red shirt today and that red and blue are colors that hold meaning on election day. The odd looks and vibes I sensed while walking in begin to make sense. Why only one person offered me a sample ballot feels more clear. Usually I am peppered with pamphlets.

Alas, my choice of color today is not due to a political leaning or subconscious voting clue or statement. It is out of necessity that later this evening is a choir event where parent assistants are asked to wear SVCC colors of red, white, and black.

Making sense of something that feels off to me is something I like any time!

The walk back feels lighter, and I stop under the overhanging tree branches and look up to take a selfie documenting the moment. The effect is not quite what I had in mind, but, satisfied with my sticker and thankful for all of the ways I have exercised today, I return home.

Respite Morning

Mist rising over water, the smell of coffee filling the air

Eyes red from a night of crying followed by too many episodes of Gossip Girl into the wee hours of the morning

It’s an open heart that’s vulnerable to the deepest wound.

XOXO, Gossip Girl

GG, S3, E15

I rise. Look up. Greet a new day.

Putting down the phone that threatens to consume it, I wrap my robe tighter, gather Bible and journal, and walk downstairs.

Coffee pours into my mug as sunlight pours across the water, illuminating shoreline trees in brilliant autumn hues.

Thick quiet cut only by hum of refrigerator or rumble of passing car engulfs me.

I settle body and brain onto the couch and savor the silence.

Grateful for rest in the storm, space to recharge and renew, time to step back from the fray, I savor each angle of sunlight and measure of mist as it rises to great a new day.

Clickety-Clickety-Clickety

My mind wanders while I walk the dog. Eloquent words string together in my head. There is so much to say, I just need time to gather the thoughts.

Swirling ideas settle with each step taken. I land in the present, the clicking of dog toes on the sidewalk as anchor. Clickety-clickety-clickety. Dewey knows only present, and presently we are walking.

I learn more of my fall routine each day, having not yet claimed it fully. Maybe by actual fall I will know.

One thing at a time. Day by day. Step by step. Clickety-clickety-clickety. Only the present. Presently I sit on my friend’s porch writing.

The rhythm of days and weeks comes into focus. Walking the dog. Writing on the porch. Setting intentions. Following through.

I fight for words on this blog, in this space. There are other places I write, but this is my first love. My fingers strike the keyboard. Clickety-clickety-clickety. My rhythm is not as steady as the dog’s toes on the sidewalk. I press on.

I think to the tiny leaf on the sidewalk interrupting my morning walk. Seizing the moment I stop the dog and snap it, hoping for inspiration, trusting it to come.

I feel nothing profound. No wise words on change or seasons or fall schedules, only the ambiguity of not knowing.

And it’s okay. It has to be. In this moment it is okay for me not to know the final schedule, the outcome. I just need to be present to the clickety-clickety-clickety of now and anchor into the moment I have been given here on the porch.

Rehearsal Dinner Blessing

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.

A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I find it interesting, curious, and playful that the morning we were to drive to Lancaster, PA, to begin celebrating the wedding weekend by hosting the rehearsal dinner, Ecclesiastes 3 and 4 were my scheduled readings. This is from a plan chosen in January, focusing on a different section of the Bible each day.

While reading I wrote down today’s season . . . harvest, healing, building, laughing, dancing, embracing, quitting searching, mending, being quiet, loving, seeking peace.

This is how the day began.

Gradually, adult children convened and loaded various younger siblings into their cars, leaving Steve and me with the youngest to bring up the caravan’s rear, several minutes, or hours, behind. The best decisions made were to send the beverages ahead with my parents to be dropped off at the rehearsal dinner location and to have those involved in the rehearsal riding with siblings.

When all was said and done, Steve and I were checking into the AirBnB and hurriedly changing at 5. Dinner was set to be served at 5:45. In our hurry to arrive on time, we may have turned the wrong way onto a one-way, two lane highway, the lights of a semi truck shining in our eyes.

Did I just turn onto a one-way road?

I DON’T KNOW, DID YOU? WE ARE ON A ONE-WAY ROAD! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!!

I am waiting for traffic to clear, so that I can turn around.

We sat in the left-turn lane face to face with another car who patiently waited on us. Every day, every moment, is such grace.

We arrived at the Hollinger House intact and greeted our guests who were waiting on this porch ready to begin the festivities. It was a beautiful sight, a beautiful beginning to the weekend.

My morning reading felt long ago when I composed the following to share as a rehearsal dinner blessing . . .

This is a season to harvest the love that was planted in hearts generation upon generation ago. It is a healing time where we acknowledge that though, by all means, all is not well, all is healing. We can rest in that today.

It is a time of building, as a new family is joined and created, built upon this foundation of love. We gather to laugh and dance and live in the moment that is now.

Embracing one another right where we are today, we celebrate with Caleb and Dana that they can quit searching, because they have found the one their soul loves.

This is a time to keep in our hearts, to mend what was torn, and to be quiet about what would divide us. We are hear to love and celebrate in peace.

There is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. All people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. (Ecc. 3:12,13)

We spent the rest of the weekend putting these words into practice as we celebrated the long-awaited union of our son and his beloved bride. And it was so very good.

All a gift. All deep, deep grace. Every moment.