Current Events, Grief And Loss

Survivors’ Stairs 

Leave it to me to make my first visit to NYC and opting to pay homage at Ground Zero.  I am sure my travel buddy husband would have preferred to head to Central Park or something else. But he humored me and we both were blessed by the experience.  I was 26 when I stood next to police officers at my old police payroll civilian job, watching some of the toughest dudes I know allow tears to fall freely.  We had just ran to the cafeteria in time to see the second plane hit.   Hands over mouth. Silent.

The memories of life before and after 9-11 came back in trickles then tidal waves of emotions at the 911 Museum. We walked into spaces with mangled metal. Timelines set minute by minute outlining what would be a defining moment in our nation’s history. Death had come to our soil. Terrorism had come to pay its due. We sat to listen to voices of loved ones sharing the memories of those who now make up walls of faces. Nearly 3000 photos of people overwhelmed one corridor. Wedding photos. Graduation photos. Fuzzy photos. Smiling faces. Stern faces. Mild faces. Serious faces. Young faces. Old faces. All faces no longer with us. Faces frozen in time. 

I think the room that hit me the most was the one of first responders realizing this disaster was truly beyond any earthly understanding. Hearing the radio chatter from one battalion leader to the next. Smoke. Burning flesh. People trapped on floors responders would never be able to get to. Making promises they knew they could never keep. And I’m sitting there hoping that they will be like the protagonist in the movies. That they will save the day and everyone goes home. We get to the end and none of them make it. An entire fire house gone. One survivor was exiting what is now known as The Survivors Stairs, the only stairwell in one of the buildings that was still functioning. “I saw the firefighters going up to help other people. I realized that I was going down to live and they were going up to their death.” 

In times like these, I am saddened by the state of our world. So much suffering. So much evil. There is yet that still small voice that whispers reminders of hope. The first responder who was just done signing off on some retirement papers made his way to Ground Zero. The architect and metal worker who knew how to dismantle this hundred year old edifice to find survivors made their way to Ground Zero. Total strangers who held on to purses and workbags praying and searching for their owners. Countless stories of humanity at its best. Refusing to bow to evil. 

There was one American not on Earth that fateful morning. From his vantage point, astronaut Frank Culberston was told by NASA that we were “not having a very good day down here on Earth.”  He was halfway done reading Tom Clancy’s “The Sum of All Fears” and felt halfway into fiction and halfway into reality. His words still ring true fifteen years later. “Many things will never be the same again after September 11, 2001. Not just for the thousands and thousands of people directly affected by these horrendous acts of terrorism, but probably for all of us.” 

When we now find ourselves along divisive lines with rhetoric as our weapons, I want us to think of that fateful September morning. When the dust and debris from the fallen buildings hid the color of one’s skin.  And that no one stopped to ask about creed or faith or beliefs as they each helped each other run/walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. As each person took steps down the Survivors’ Stairs escaping death, there was no checking for status or where you stood in your politics. It was simply humananity trying to hold on to each other for dear life. 

To the memory of those whose lives were cut short that September morning. 

Faith, Family, Grief And Loss

Permission To Live

This summer marked the first time in four years where words like doctors, medication, Cancer and death didn’t float around my mind like alphabet soup. I knew going in to these dog days of summer that it would be different this year. My mom’s passing last May meant no more case managing her life. No more phone calls sequestered in a corner at work haggling with the doctors. No more keeping two appointment books. No more dealing with the home health agency. No more pain. No more suffering. 

There will be times in your life where you get so caught up in just existing that you scarce can’t remember what breathing normal felt like. That your heartbeat’s regular pace is really not abnormal. When life’s turmoils take us for a somersault we never believe that we will bounce back. Yet eventually we do. 

And when we do, it’s always wise to take stock of where we have landed. Like change that falls out of our pockets during roller coaster rides, some things are evidently loss to us. Never to be seen again.  What’s since been lost to you? Has friendships changed? Has priorities changed? Has your mindset changed?

It was in those times of personal pain that I sought God the most. He has proved to be the only constant. He, the Rock that is higher than I, has remained steadfast. I learned to take care of me better than before. I learned to grieve honestly and personally. 

This summer was a lesson in just living in the moment. Summer concerts on the lawn. Multiple stamps on my passport. TV binging–my latest and oh so guilty pleasure. Books that turned my brain to mush or stirred my inner self. Permitting myself to live–to move on. 

It is good to give ourself permission to live. To love. To laugh again. 

Grief And Loss, Life Coach, Uncategorized

All About Perspective

I believe mental health professionals remain in a constant state of reflection and soul searching. We are diagnosing ourselves at every turn. Taking our temperature, checking our pulse, all things one does to remain sane and to keep the crazies away. 

Enduring the absence of a loved one tends to send one into reflection overdrive. It has been no different for me. A recent personal character survey ranked Perspective as number one of my top 25 character traits. Why am I not surprised?!

While folks are quick to judge, lash out, or be angered, I have opted to just sit back and watch these days.  I was usually game for a rousting match of wits. I now opt to travel a different road. Elevating my blood pressure because of differences of opinion just isn’t my cup of tea. Allowing myself to be swallowed into the vortex of slights and misunderstandings (real and imagined) just doesn’t cut it. Drama was never a friend of mine. But these days, I’m not even trying to associate with those who are magnets for the foolery. 

Perspective causes your patience to increase. A 45-minute ride in the wilds of foreign island, on a hot bus, on bumpy roads, becomes less of a nuisance and more of an adventure.  Planning a lunch date with a 20-something whom you have little in common with, becomes less of an obligation and more of a chance to build a relationship. Meeting deadlines, raising children, balancing budgets, all potentially stressful events and undertakings. All potentially rewarding and enriching experiences. 

It’s all in perspective. I didn’t lay down my gauntlet and decide to become a carpet for folks to parade about on. But I did become someone who not only picks my battles, but my weapons too. 

Grief And Loss

New Year Musings: Simplify

The latter part of this year ended up being like screeching brakes on a runaway train. I literally dropped most commitments in midstream. I went from being at a meeting, conference, event or gathering every other week to living under a rock from May 30th until now. Work and home life were my only commitments. I didn’t want to go anywhere, didn’t want to do anything. I’m the one who would plan to “party like a rock star” for a weekend, and end up just wanting to stay in my room. I felt guilty for each time I went out with friends and thought I was dishonoring my mother’s memory. I was a Debbie Downer and I liked being in that mode.

Heading into 2015, I know I can’t necessarily stay under the rock. I’ve got to come out and make nice with humanity. But there are some things I will cling to even as I opt to get back on this train called life.

1. Make no excuses. No means no. That’s it!

2. Treat your time like bars of gold. This life is temporal. Don’t allow others to waste it.

3. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Life is truly too short to beat around the bush and hem and haw.

4. See through people. There are a lot of hurting folks (who sometimes mask as fools) out there. Once you get that, you are more apt to forgive, confront, overlook (and my personal favorite) IGNORE.

5. Make beautiful memories. The loss of a loved one leaves you holding a bag of memories. Let’s keep making them with friends, loved ones, and total strangers.


Grief And Loss, Uncategorized

New Year Musings: Lessons From A Year

It was around this time last year that my mom’s health began a steady decline. She kept it from me for a minute but in the first week of January she landed in the hospital and again in February. And so began the snowball effect that led to the ultimate avalanche–that of losing my mother. That this year has not been pretty has been an understatement. I was transferred to a new position where no one knew my business. And I had to quickly bring folks up to speed so that I could make those mid-morning trips to the local cancer center to be with my mom. Then comes a new job. Start the first day of May and mom dies on the 30th May.

I bawl like a baby every time I think of the circumstances of her passing. Mamma being the one who never liked to burden anyone with her issues (she lived with this cancer as her own secret for four years before we found out), I could see her deciding to make the conscious choice to ease on out of this life so that I can continue to live mine. She was always putting me and my brother before her needs. Having me to care for her was not what she wanted or expected. She was that kinda woman. I walked away with some of the greatest lessons learned this year all thanks to her.

1. Death is inevitable. It comes for the rich, the poor, the sinner, and the saint. It has no respect for your station in life or whatever else you think should matter.

2. Grieving is not for the faint of heart. It snatches you by the hair and drags you down a dark tunnel that seemingly has no end.

3. Friends never let friends fall. I knew who my inner circle was before this and their faces have not changed. Loss tends to fade out a few faces along the way. It’s okay, it happens.

4. Living under a rock keeps the drama away. When I decided to hide under the rock that is “higher than I”, I essentially threw up the proverbial middle finger to a whole lotta stuff. Some things just don’t register in my world anymore.

5. My tongue doesn’t hurt as much anymore cause I say what I mean and I mean what I say. Life is too damn short to be holding on the mess in your heart!

6. Make time for who and what matters. Life is all about making memories. Memories are all I have left of my mom. So what I want left of me begins with the making of those memories with those I love.

7. The world doesn’t need another super hero. Being a listening ear is usually all that’s needed. Being a “fixer” for everyone leaves you needing to be fixed. Take the S off your chest.

8. It’s okay to laugh. After all, life is pretty darn funny. Finding a reason to laugh eases the pain by loads.

9. Love deeply with no regrets. This is a finite world we live in. There is a beginning and end to everything. I held her hand, I kissed her brow. I’m thankful that I could.

10. Trust the process. It has its ebbs and flows. There are good days and bad. But it’s part of the process. Welcome it with open arms.

It’s a travesty to think all I learned could be whittled down into ten thoughts. When actually it can’t. But these speak volumes to where I started and where I am now.

Grief And Loss

When Time Stands Still

They say the first holiday/special occasion without a loved one hits you the hardest. Welp! They are right. It is a waterfall, at once painful in its sting and refreshing in its release.

My mind went immediately to a song I sang back in my younger years as a Christian. It had an R and B to it that truly had no meaning to my untried ears back then. But with many seasons later, these ears now hear a different tune that only comes with time and experience.

“When time stands still, and I lose my will, I find myself in you…”
The moment when the world keeps turning and you’ve politely gotten off to deal with whatever it is you’re dealing with. It is then that you come to know Christ for yourself–not just what a clergyman on the pulpit tells you, but what you come to realize in your living this life. So you burrow yourself like a flea burrows into a dog, deeper and deeper into God. Like David, under the wings of His protection, under the rock that is “higher than I.”

“Who am I to ignore what I’m feeling inside?…”
The moment when all pretenses are flung aside in acknowledgement that this pain, this hurt, this hollowness exists. Walking around on eggshells around people is bad enough, walking around the eggshells of your own soul is even worse. Feet must come down hard, even bleed some, as you make your way to finding peace within yourself.

“You know I found hope, after I let go…”
The moment when you release that anger, that pressure, that angst, that burden for the sweet, light, and easy burden promised by our Savior. His promise to never give us more than we can bear seems doubtful at times, hell even unfair! The letting go and letting Him has got to be the one most liberating thing a human being will ever experience in their lifetime. Just let it go.

“Nothing else matters beneath the burning sun…”
This Ecclesiastical approach to life is feared by many. It’s a reminder that this life is not permanent that we are not immortals here on earth. That our immortality is tied to faith and ultimately to our salvation. As visitors walking about this planet waiting on a greater promise, how then should we live? Like slaves to a world who holds no promise or like aliens here but for a moment in time?

“If my dreams shatter, my world will not come undone…”
Our hearts are filled with doors shut hiding dreams unrealized, dreams stolen, dreams shattered. But to know who we are because of whose we are is the single most important revelation we will ever come to. That the dreams we thought we should live out pale in comparison to our Creator’s vision for our lives. Children left unborn, marriages that are no more, loved ones gone too soon all part of His plan for our lives on earth.

“Unconditional trust, sent from heaven above is more than enough …”
With a wasteland of empty promises left behind us, our trust, our hope is in a Savior who came in human form. He is more than enough. More than the husband you may never have. The children you may never have. The degree you may never have. The loved who is no longer here. The friends who have gone their own way. The job that never was. HE IS MORE THAN ENOUGH!

So when your time stands still, will you find yourself in Him?

Grief And Loss

The Necessary Part

I dreamt about my mom last night. Not much that I can remember other than the last bit of it where I’m sitting and watching her sleep. That was usually how it was towards the end. Her strength was waning and sleep was her friend.

I often wonder if she knew that the end was near. With all the signs present, I certainly didn’t. I knew she wouldn’t last the year but I didn’t know it would have been this soon. God spared me the details and for that I am thankful.

In the dream she’s dozing off slowly. Her eyes are fighting to stay awake but eventually she succumbs to this peaceful sleep. In the dream I’m just staring at her, noting her features and her labored breathing.

I’m in the “stage” of grieving where life and living has snatched me back into its clutches. There is no getting around work and life. There’s no getting around paying bills, running errands, doing chores.

I wish I was like Mellie (the President’s wife) in Scandal. A robe and a pair of Uggs would be my fashion faux pas every day. Visiting the grave site of my mother would be my weekly field trip and laying in the warm sun next to her marker would be my nap. Television has such a way of romanticizing loss.

There’s no luxury in real life of sitting around in one’s robe and allowing the passage of time to soothe one’s longing for their departed loved ones. There is no checking out of day to day living to just be. And that’s just going to have to be okay.

Stealing away to be one’s self through grief and loss is a random act of self care. It looks like an early morning pedicure, like reading a Bible study on grief, like car drives to places you have never been, like singing worship songs at church, like reading a book, it looks like blogging. It’s a finite time you set aside to just be. To envelope one’s self in that cloak of sadness that’s never too far away from reach. To recall the memories that forever link you to this loved one.

I look forward to these times where I can be my true self. When a box of tissues is the only thing I need. It is what helps the healing process continue. It is the necessary part of living with loss.