The first of everything after someone dies…

When you lose a loved one, the first of everything the entire following year starting with the first 24 hours and for the next 365 days can be a struggle, a nightmare, a mountain, or a blur. It could be one or more or all.

I have two members in my bowling league (that I know of) going through this right now. One lost her husband and the other, her mother. Both are devastating losses. They have both just experienced their first Thanksgiving and are dreading Christmas! It can be difficult to think of those holidays being different than the last 50 years as both of them had that, if not more years, with the loved one they lost. Trust me when I say those feelings and struggles happen after less years than that. I had half that with my son and I will find holidays difficult for many years to come.

My family picks holidays to leave this Earth. My father had an aneurysm on Mother’s Day. My oldest brother died on Thanksgiving Day. Eight years later to the day I lost another brother to cancer. I lost my mother five years later, but it wasn’t a holiday. We did, however, change the funeral arrangements to avoid burying her on her own mother’s birthday. I lost a third brother after he suffered a heart attack on Memorial Day weekend just two years after our mother. This changed almost all of our holidays to a perpetual Memorial Day. God has a plan. We don’t have a holiday where those members are not ever-present in our hearts, our minds, and our stories we share.

Here is my suggestion to all those going through the first of the worst: do something different, yet something the lost loved one would be happy you are doing. We all have to adjust and create a new normal. Even the new normal will change over time. It is a given. Our first Christmas without my son came with elating news. We found out our daughter was expecting. Now my worst Christmas had joyous news. A memory I will cherish, even though the wind blowing the wrong direction caused tears that first year.

Don’t try to be strong the entire time. It is ok! Celebrate the memories! Don’t be afraid to create new memories. The only constant we have is change. Nothing is guaranteed. God gave us our time with loved ones and will continue to give us time with loved ones. It just might be with different loved ones. We have to learn to accept that. That void in our holidays is proof of a life and love.

All things happen for a reason and may test our faith. Have faith in Him and know you are never alone, even if you are sad. The dates play a role we don’t even realize. It’s like the planets lining up and helping us make sense of a universe so complex. I love my family, those living and those who have passed. Holidays seem to highlight the void they left. It doesn’t mean we have to act as if they were never here, or fear those ahead. The first Christmas, New Years, his birthday, Mother’s Day, etc. were far from easy, but I thought about him and the life he had and the memories he left me with during each and every holiday that came and went. My son was with me in my actions, my thoughts, and my stories. I cried because he wasn’t here and smiled because he was!!

My heart goes out to all of those dealing with the first of the worst!! Please know you are not alone! I am praying for your peace, strength, and comfort for not only the first 365 days, major holidays, and moments when those triggers flip the switch to a flood of tears, but all the days that follow when you still have that never-ending question—“why?” We will never truly know, but trust that we will all find out in due time. It will all make sense. We are better for having those loved ones in our lives, even if it wasn’t for as long as we would have wished for!!

#thefirstistheworst #missingthoselovedones #loveliveson

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day has been a tradition to acknowledge those people and things we are grateful for throughout the past year. It is a celebration of great harvests and prosperity. Basically, a day set aside to eat and enjoy the fact we are here at all. This should be done every day, not just once a year.

Fifteen months ago, I had a loss that would cause many to cease being thankful for anything going forward. I choose to not look at it that way. I want to be thankful for the 24 years I did have with my son. I don’t want to go forward appearing ungrateful for those years. So many scenarios could paint this situation to have an even worse outcome. I know that sounds impossible, but it is true. We can always take a situation to a step worse than it was, mine being no different.

Twenty-four years ago, Thanksgiving Day, I lost my oldest brother suddenly from an aortic embolism. Eight years later, I lost another brother to cancer on that exact same date. This day is still celebrated for all the things I am thankful for, which includes those memories I have with those I have lost! I choose to think God had a plan lining up those dates and those losses the way He did. It will make sense later, but it doesn’t mean I turn my back on Thanksgiving and forget all the good things that have happened to me.

This holiday is not celebrated everywhere, but many countries have something similar. It may not have started with pilgrims and Indians, but the good news is it exists. Period. My challenge is to continue to be thankful for something, anything, every single day going forward. The good should always out weigh the not-so-good, even if we have to accumulate the positives over several days to build up the value. Kind of like that one good golf game you talk about for years to come. Doesn’t matter that a hundred golf games sucked, as long as you can hold that great game up to replace them.

I am so thankful for the time I had with my son and the memories that I will cherish with all my heart. I cherish the time with all my family, those here on Earth and those in Heaven. This is life. This is love. I am blessed. I want to never forget that!

#thanksgiving #choosegratefulness #bethankfuleveryday

It is sad when no more tears will come…

I have come to terms with the fact we cannot be responsible for someone else’s actions or reactions. Not everyone has though, unfortunately. A person may have cried and cried over the actions and reactions of someone they have loved and should continue to love hoping one day, happiness and joy will be there instead. How does a person find peace when they don’t get another chance to change the ending? What advice do you give someone in this situation? What happens when they have no more tears for someone because of the other person’s actions, can they just draw a line?

I feel for those who are at that point and the stories that cause those situations. It could be a variety of scenarios, most are abusive, even if not intentional. That could include both physical and mental abuse I am sad to say. This story is about a person who was raised with a loving mother who died young and a father who showed no warm emotions…ever! I know there are always two sides, but this is her side. No one will be able to retrieve his side, unfortunately. Growing up with a father who showed no loving gestures, placed blame, was greedy and selfish, makes it difficult to be warm and fuzzy to him in return. The woman is now 60 and has two adult children this man knew, but didn’t really know. She’s not sure he even remembered their names. He was very disconnected from their emotions and their life. Now this father/grandfather has died. My friend and her only surviving sibling have chosen not to attend the funeral. This whole situation is just sad to me!! What do you do when you can’t cry anymore? She struggled for so long to come to terms with the distance, but now, there is no hope of reconciling and hearing him say “I love you” and “I’m sorry.” For that, I am truly sorry… for her and him. There are no do-overs after you die. What you have done, and what you have not done, is now a permanent marker on your soul.

Here is what my thought is: go forward with your life and know you tried everything and anything humanly possible for a door to open that remained locked. You also now know how you NEVER want to treat someone you should, by God’s grace, love unconditionally. Let those in your life see you smile and be willing to tell them when they are the reason you are smiling. Don’t let someone make you beg for a compliment or attention, and vice versa. Life is too short to place blame and rely on others for our happiness. Again, you cannot blame someone else for your actions and reactions, but you can use their influence to show you how you never want to treat others or be perceived.

I listen to situations and, sometimes, I forget how sheltered I was. The majority of our behaviors are learned by those around us. We absorb those behaviors without really knowing it. We can watch tv and see how others behave in their gatherings, but a little voice in our head reminds us those are actors. It does give hope and plant seeds of how life can be.

I fully believe my family could have been a tv show!! It would have been a sitcom, but that’s ok!! Some stories of my family are too hard to make up to not be true!! One of our mother’s favorite famous personalities was Erma Bombeck. If you don’t know who she is, google her!! She was so funny!! I sit here and wonder if we provided her with material! But I would not change the way I grew up for anything!!

My life was not full of expensive things, plush carpets, and fine cars. My life was full of laughter, stories, mishaps, and LOVE!! It is a learned behavior, and I thank my parents for all the things they sacrificed to raise eight children who were above all else—friends!! Doesn’t mean we didn’t have our fights, arguments about things unfair, or even the occasional law enforcement encounter for a brother, or two. I have not, and hope to never, run out of tears for those loved ones I have lost. My dad has been gone more than half of my life and I still miss him!! Burying my dad, my mom, three brothers, and now my son, I will never run out of tears! But I cry for joy when I think of them too!

For my friend, moving forward and past wounds of hurt and neglect, she can cry for joy she has survived. She can look to the future and know the last action from this person has been closure of a long and hurtful relationship. No more looking forward to rejection and condescension from a man who should have looked forward to being there and building her up to be the best she could be. She should relish in the fact that she not only survived, but saw a better path to take. She can thank her mother for those genes.

Life is too short to take those in our lives for granted and to miss out on positive opportunities! Finding the positives and the strengths in others is only going to make us better as well. This world has too much negative in it already! Think of how many lives can be changed by being positive and supportive!! I want people to smile when I am gone because of the positive mark I have left on their life, but if I left that mark, I would rather they tell me while I am alive to hear it!! You?

#lifeistooshort #lovewhatgodhasgiven #bethebestversionpossible #cryforjoytheywerehere

Are you motivated??

It is funny how conversations coincide with other situations. Mass tonight, the priest mentioned motivating lazy people and how hard it is. In my head, I was screaming how I just said that to some people at work the other day!! I thought to myself, “Lord, you DO hear everything!!!” My comment was, “you can’t motivate lazy or make Grumpy Happy” (the last two are very different dwarfs.) I was challenged in my statement, but I think we were talking about two different levels.

I don’t believe you can motivate lazy from the outside. When I refer to ‘lazy’ I am talking about people who accept a “C” because it is passing, so why bother for an “A” type of lazy. You can’t make people want to take that extra step. It’s an attitude, not an ability. I see it every day! I look at resumes and applications for my job. When an applicant puts that they quit a job because they weren’t being put on the schedule to get hours, they don’t understand they are probably not being put on the schedule because there are other employees who work harder at the job and go for the “A.” I do believe you can motivate through incentives, but I don’t believe those are long-term. If the person doesn’t love what they are doing, it’s a means to an end for them.

I looked up the question of where motivation comes from. I know it’s psychological, but I wondered what drove it. The answer had several facets, but the most prominent ones had to do with attitude (as I suggested) and what a person’s personal goals are. If your attitude is that you will fail, you will set your self up for failure. So, why try, right?

Another part of motivation is showing up to work. I am referring to those employees who use sick time as fast as they earn it (when they are not really sick). Do they not realize someone has to do the work?!?! This is a big form of lazy to me.

I would love to know how to motivate people to want to better their situation and always reach for the sky!! If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing to the very best you have to offer!! I can’t stress that enough!! Find out what makes you tick and then the rest will follow!! I think a huge thing is people want to chase a dollar amount, which leads to disappointment when it doesn’t happen right out of the gate. If you love what you do, the money is a smaller factor. If you find the money and hate what you do, it’s a long 30 years to retirement.

Follow your dreams, love what you do, and be happy! Happy is such a motivator!! Grumpy, not so much…

#doyourbest #motivationleadstorsults #youcantmotivatelazy

Focused diversion…

Our world is full of oxy-morons. We know the obvious: jumbo shrimp; act naturally; bittersweet; low-rise; dark light…etc. I believe we have more but mine is a focused diversion. That is my self-diagnosis anyway. Kind of the ‘elephant in the room’ (no pun intended). I have had it for awhile. I just keep changing it from one focus to another. I just didn’t realize what it was before. It is a form of OCD (self-diagnosed again!) after reading about this a little after self-diagnosis, this is actually healthy!! Good to know!

Before my son passed, I was focused on school for almost three years. I went back to school for my bachelor’s degree at 50 (my birthday gift to myself) and then went right into my master’s program. I was pretty focused on the programs because they were accelerated. I didn’t have time to slack off. Then, my son died four weeks before I finished my MBA. The shift in focus was imminent. Grief now consumed me. About seven months into this grief process, I caught myself going home from work, grabbing food, and sitting in my chair until bed time. I didn’t care what I ate, or how much I ate. That was until I got on the scale and was at my highest weight ever! I joined weight watchers that day!! Now, I have entered my new focused diversion.

I am now so focused on my weight loss, I don’t focus and think about the loss of my son 24/7. At least, not like I was. People are noticing the change in me and my weight that they are no longer looking at me with that pity look. Things just appear more positive now. My goals are reasonable and reachable, but I am so thankful for the change of pace.

I just feel I should clarify all this because I don’t want to seem obsessed as much as I want to seem focused. I apologize to those around me because they are probably tired of hearing how many points are in their food. I know I annoy myself sometimes as well.

I am glad to have a diversion and something positive to focus on. Another oxy-moron is that my positive focus is negative numbers, but it works. This is something I know my son would be proud of me for doing. I miss him a lot. That will never change. I need focus. I continue to search for my positives of the day in this world we live in. Until we depart from this Earth, remain positive, even in the worst (or heaviest) of times. You got this! If it takes an OCD compulsion to do so, so be it! By the way, there are zero points in positive thoughts!!! 😎🙏🌈🕊😜

The death of a child…

I met someone last week who had a ‘step further’ than I in dealing with the loss of a child. It reminds me we all deal with a different, painful loss. My loss was in an instant. I didn’t see my child suffer over time. This situation may have been over 30 years ago for him, but as I have said before, when you bring up a loss of a child, our own loss comes forward as if it just happened yesterday. Time is not a factor when you have lost a child, ever! It is a pain that only changes, but never leaves.

His story… he lost his daughter when she was just 3 years 9 months old to brain cancer. He was crushed and devastated. He explained that at that time in his life, he not only lost his daughter, but also his job and his home. He said at one point, he had a gun to his head with the hammer pulled. It was a faithful voice that talked him out of it! My heart ached for him and what he went through. If he only knew then what he knows now. He knows that death was peace for her after that battle. What followed the rest of his life is molded by love and heartache combined. It is a guiding force of what he had, what he longed for, and how precious life is! That child, though here for a short while, has changed a lot of lives without knowing it. But I know it. Now you know it. I sure hope dad knows it too! Life is never in vain, no matter how long or short we are here!!

Now, I will have naysayers who will wonder why a three year old had to suffer with brain cancer in the first place! Good question, but I cannot answer with authorization. What I can say is this is not all God’s doing and I am personally tired of Him getting blamed for ALL the bad that happens. The devil is among us and if you believe there is a God, then you must acknowledge the devil and the evil he brings with him. I can also address that God did not abandon this child or her father. That little girl left a legacy of love, life-changing behaviors, and her life had meaning. Sometimes, we don’t know what those meanings are, but I believe those who are meant to find out will and it will make perfect sense. It also may not happen while we are on this Earth, but there is a plan. I believe that with all my being.

It takes moments and encounters like this for me to be humbled and brought back to Earth. As I have stated before in previous posts, I am far from unique! I don’t ever want to forget the many who walk among us who have been in this situation. Their situations may differ in context, but our end result is the same: a loss!

When walking down the street or standing in line at the grocery store, never assume the life of the person next to you. We are all dealing with issues, old and new. Compassion is free and so is kindness. We don’t wear our stories on our sleeves, but they are a part of what led us to this point in our life! They have brought out the worst and best in us. I choose to share my stories and feelings openly. Not all people do. I hope this sharing is my loss bringing out the best in me…

#thedeathofachild #lifeisshort #lovelifeandothers

I’m going to regret this… or am I going to regret not doing this…?

I used to be so conservative and fearful of what could go wrong, I forgot to think about the things that could go right. We should never regret things we have done, even if they were not smart at the time. We should have learned from them at that point. Now I am not referring to the obvious wrongs, such as most things illegal. I am talking about not doing things because of fear: fear of the unknown; fear of rejection; fear of failure.

Just before my son passed, asking him about his motivation, aspirations, and goals in regards to what the pages of his autobiography would say and hearing his response that his pages would be full, I totally understand that he did LIVE and most of it was without those fears. In fact, I think he coined the phrase, “Hold my beer. Watch this…” I love to tell, and hear, stories of that kid and his fearless energy! I know, I could look back and say this about any night but the night we lost him. This was not in my control, and I am sure his first words when we meet in Heaven will be “I’m sorry.” But we can’t go there…

However, I can go down memory lane a little. The kid sang with someone famous on stage; sunk his truck in a mud pit; loved a girl with all his heart; sang loudly and knew every song on any radio station. He met more people in his 24 years and would have given the shirt off his back to any friend in need. He called his dad in the middle of the night to get him unstuck 45 miles from home, knowing he’d probably be mad, but would still come with all the tools they needed. He gave me gray hair then, and thinking about these stories reminds me, he can still cause the same hair color issues!

My point of this is not drag anyone down my memory lane with all these stories, but to express that we should not be afraid to create stories. You have to live to do that. It took losing my son to understand life! I want to encourage others to live outside your comfort zone when it comes to the “things I did while I was alive” list. Again, the mom in me wants to remind you that these should not be illegal!! Take a road trip and go somewhere you have never been before. Don’t be afraid to speak to someone you see all the time but don’t know. Pay for the coffee for the customer behind you in line. If the phrase starts with “watch this” or “hold my beer,” I hope it makes you smile first!! ( and I hope you don’t get hurt)! My longest and dearest friend had this phrase begin many of her sentences while we were young, and I admired her for that. I sat in the passenger seat with my eyes closed!!

Sometimes, the broken road leads to a more appreciated tomorrow! Sometimes, it leads to scars that have great stories! Whatever road it leads you to, there is a reason for the encounter. Embrace it!! Don’t be afraid of that! Our lives have meaning, but so do the memories! Make memories today!

Disclaimer: the picture is not of any actual situation involving anyone I know, but is captioned off the Internet.

#holdmybeerwatchthis

#embracelife

#memoriesneverfade

#whatdoesntkillusmakesusstronger