Honoring Her – Two years later, sucks

alone clouds daylight dramatic

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Well, here we go, the last day of the second year since she passed.  I am still standing, she knew I would be, however, there were moments I had my doubts.  I think of her daily and everything reminds me of her.  I am either remembering our life together or wondering what she would think about what is going on today.  It is all very healthy.

What is not healthy is the regret that has crept back in that I did not do enough.  Crazy as it sounds out loud, internally I battle with her decline rethinking every decision and wondering if there was more I should have done as if I could have controlled it.  I know in my mind that it was cancer that took her so swiftly but in my heart, I keep rethinking the moment that started her decline, and if I could have changed it.  I listen to that last voice mail from her knowing that I needed to go to her because she was starting to lose her grip and knew it.  I have read those text messages exchanged in those last three weeks between myself and my “village”.  They were the ones that kept me going when I questioned my strength and ability to carry-on.  Those text messages remind me that there was absolutely nothing I could have done.  This is still not enough to resolve it for she is still gone.

Grief is a bitch.  I am reminded of the stages but never truly embracing the process when it comes to my grief.  What I am going through is not a process it is a state-of-being that may never truly vacate.  It has changed me for the worse as I am lost without her even on my best day.  I don’t cry anymore because nothing can ever be as bad as losing her.  Every time someone else speaks of losing one of their parents I feel envy when they note their parent’s age, internally doing the math to see how many more years they got with their parent than I.  Worst is that there are more days of my life than not, that I long to talk to her and in not having her to talk to I simply don’t speak.  It is a gag on a life worth sharing but lack of an audience in her makes it feel less valuable.

I have thought for days how I would honor the anniversary of her passing and these sentiments were not part of the original draft I was compiling in my head.  I, of course, would think about the love of music we shared, the love of reading, and her laughter.  What has come out is raw and real and in that I honor it.  She has been gone for two years and it feels like ten.  Yes, I know, she is all around me and with me every day, which is ironic coming from someone that struggles with the concept of faith as it scientifically cannot be proven.  Her being in the stratosphere will never console the loss I feel without her here on earth.

As I conclude I remind all of you, to embrace what you have here and now.  Don’t let a word go unsaid, I didn’t and it is the thing I am most grateful for in losing her nothing was left to be said.  Spend the time, say the words, and embrace those that are still here.  We are destined for the same fate, it is the timeline that is unpredictable.  Will you live to be 20 or 95, no one knows, however, while you are here today make it count.  It seems all I have today to offer in positivity as I start what will be the longest 15 hours of any day this year.  As the clock ticks towards 10:30p I will do everything in my power to stay busy and avoid thinking about every minute of her last day.  I am sound in mind enough to know that this final day will never define the 17,271 days we shared but is it wrong to wish I had just one more?

Life as I owe it to her – L.  (gutted)

Something Sacred is at Stake

I have sat silent out of respect for the massive amount of loss all around us. Sickness, death, solitude, and desperation are everywhere. We are scared, tired, hopeless and terrified.

Time has lost all meaning; when does it end, how does it end…there are no answers. We have been given no choice but to sit, raw and vulnerable.
As I sat here tonight gutted from what I will one day remember as the hardest day in my career I found myself watching an at-home concert by one of my favorite musical artists of all time and there at exactly 25:00 minutes into his 32:49 minute set, there were the words; that I needed to hear. This is what I was supposed to offer to YOU my friends, family, and followers. My universe always delivers what I need exactly at the moment I need it and here were those words:

“All time is precious no matter where you are at; every moment something sacred is at stake.” – Gavin Rossdale

YES, this my friends is what it is all about!

I remember this very well as I sat by my mother’s bedside in her final days; time had no meaning and every single one of those final moments something sacred was indeed at stake. My bond to her, the bond that was breaking, attempting to leave me, prisoner, without a cell, bound by no one forevermore.

Today as I was moving through the moments there was not a moment that was not precious. This time it was not about life or death but it was an interruption of a partnership if only temporary…we are affected. A place in time where everything was changing for them and within me. In those moments, every reaction was sacred and we were reminded that while it is all business, it is always personal.

What we are going through will forever change us, as a society and personally. I will always remember those days next to my mother knowing what was at stake was the change in me and today as I attempted to meet myself where I was and be there, in the moment with colleagues that I revere and respect more than they can ever know, I knew then as I know now…

“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” – Maya Angelou

We as a society are being shaken, we are being tested and we are uncomfortable. However, ultimately remember that you STILL decide; you still have the same power you had yesterday, one week ago or even a year ago. You are still the YOU, you always were; everything around you will change but ultimately YOU decide.

With all of my love, adoration, and respect for anyone suffering through these uncertain times.

L.

I keep a record of the wreckage in my life…

Nightmare by Halsey

Publishing what I like to call an OVERDOSE to “THE DAILY DOSE” of my Facebook page, “Always Starting…The Art of Never Giving Up”. This was a very raw moment but so honest and having slept on it for over a week I am ready to hit publish. Relish in the honesty…

Sitting on the back porch wondering why or better HOW I was in this situation…again.

I don’t owe you a goddamn thing!!!

Forgiving is a lie…moving on is elemental but forgetting is impossible. Even moving on is elusive as you never really move completely from that place. A little piece of you is always left as proof that you have been there.

Own your shit, bury the shame because it’s all just a game. Whatever exists you can’t change it and whether you wanted to or not you are changed by it. Get over it, move on WITH it and navigate around it. Be better not bitter but don’t allow yourself to be victimized by the victim of your stories.

This is what makes your mess your message as long as you don’t continue to wallow in the mess. If you continue to allow ppl to treat you in a manner you don’t support or more importantly advocate then you are not rising from the mess. Stand up, wash off and get the hell out of the hole.

Life as I live it – L.

Blessed beyond measure…or am I?

As I sit here writing this I feel so blessed and so grateful for all that is in my life. I have more than I could create, buy, promote and yet it is my life. Every blessing. I fear putting it out in the universe because it would seem to good to be true which means that it could not sustain, it cannot endure…or can it?

I remember telling my mom a month before she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer that “my life was so perfect it scared me”…and then it wasn’t. She was diagnosed and in that moment the clock began ticking on what would be her final year; almost to the day. Things didn’t feel so perfect then but what I began to realize as the year ticked on was that if things had not been so “perfect” at that moment in time I never would have been able to spend her last year with her the way I did.

It is in those moments in our life when things are not ideal that we long for what we once had, and then start to acknowledge the perfection that was once our reality. This is why living in the present is an ongoing mantra that we hear the most these days. Living in the past keeps us there and worrying, lamenting even looking forward to the future is “torture” as the monks would say, as there is no truth there.

What I learned about living in the present during “her” final year is that I did a lot of it. There was nowhere else I wanted to be and would not leave her side in her last three weeks. I was present; time had no meaning, no value and knowing that all was “perfect” in my alternate universe allowed me to be present with her every breath, every laugh, wince or muted moments of wit. Even in what felt like the worst moments of my life I was blessed beyond measure.

Today I am reminded every moment of every day that I am still blessed beyond measure. I have a husband that “adores me” as told to me recently by a friend. I have kids that have created a life for themselves that makes me proud to be their mother. I have two grandchildren that make my heart skip a beat and make everything right in the world regardless of what is going on in our lives. I am blessed to have many fathers and one biological Cuban that makes me proud to call him Dad. I am blessed to have three Aunts that treat me and mine like we are there children…and in that line-up not one mention of what I have or where I have been in my life as it simply does not matter. It has taken years to come to the reality that what creates value in ones life is those that they surround themselves, and that is all.

As I sit here this Christmas morning waiting for the day to begin I am in the present. In this moment. Anxious, waiting, unsure of the swirl of emotions that surrounds me but owning it. Enjoy TODAY, stay in the moments, don’t get ahead of where you are…for the present is the gift that God has offered you today, right now.

Life as I see it – L.

Mood Swing Anyone?

Who am I? Sometimes this is a question I ask my many personalities. Scary, right? You just thought, “Did she just say that?”. Yes, I did!

I am in awe of the many moods we swing in and out of in any given day, week, HOUR, second…ha-ha. My moods sometimes catch me off-guard where I am wondering why in the heck I am in such a bad mood or why I am happy. Crazy it might seem but I realize that I am not my mood and my ability to dis-identify with a mood gives me perspective. However, this is not always the case.

Last night I was very anxious going to bed. I could not get something off my mind in anticipation and I awoke with the same feeling. Within an hour of getting to work my mind shifted dramatically to a happier state which led the way to a GREAT day. The anticipation alone caused the anxiety and if I was truly able to dis-identify it would not have consumed me. The reality of this is far greater than a mood, it is a state-of-being for a moment or moments in time and if we are not cognoscente of that we can and do make decisions based on that moment.

One of the ways I attempt to find perspective when anxiety, anticipation or worry get the best of me is to ask myself the question, “Will this matter in five years/minutes/days?” The answer regardless of the time frame assigned is usually “NO!” Admittedly the time frames has to be shorter; asking myself if something will matter in five years is too far of a time for me to consider in a world I navigate at 80 mph. While I would like to believe everything can be solved by this “reality check” it simply cannot. It is when the “no” is not the simply answer that I have to consider my next tactic.

The inability to see the “temporary” in any situation is that which feeds mental illness and its effects. When you are in such a dark place that you cannot see a tomorrow, another way, options, you cannot make decisions. Forget about the decisions’ relevance; right or wrong…you simply cannot make any decision. The paralysis of mental illness traps you in a state that feels isolating and the longer you stay in that self-isolation the more amplified the darkness. Yes, this is the core of suicide. By the time someone makes that decision, the decision to “end it all” they are so far beyond help that they likely could not be reached had someone been standing right in front of them. (Yea, I know that got deep…fast. Tough.)

This is WHY it is so important that you are in tune with your emotions, moods and states of being. If you are reading this blog you are old enough to be in touch with all of these things. You know how you feel in each of these moments and when you are “safe” and when you are not. Knowing is not enough though; unless you know when to ACT. The act of asking for help, the act of reaching out, the act of doing anything to get back to a “safe” place. This is WHY Mental HEALTH is key to preventing and treating Mental Illness.

Let me offer one simple analogy and then we will climb out of the depths of the “deep”. You absolutely know when you “feel” good or bad physically; it is impossible to NOT know when you have a cold. You are stuffed up, coughing, feverish. You go to the doctor if it gets beyond the point of a “common cold” to prevent a more serious condition, pneumonia, upper respiratory infection, etc. There is no difference when you “feel” good or bad mentally. However the way we treat it is VERY different. When we feel “blue” we might tell ourselves to “snap out of it” and sometimes that might work, but when it doesn’t how far are you willing to go until the blue becomes dark and you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel to know how to get out…again WHY Mental HEALTH is key to preventing and treating Mental Illness.

I offer my insight on this tonight because I recognized that within a range of four days I have gone through a WIDE array of emotions, moods, states of being unexpected and unintended. I felt physically exhausted Saturday, excited with anticipation and then later emotions mixed with confusion, gratitude and disbelief Sunday, grief-stricken Monday and then moderate on Tuesday…not to mention the anxiety and anticipation described last night and today as I started this blog. My mental health is in good standing because I prioritize it as high as my physical health which I simply do not compromise. Even with a strong base there are days that suck. When you mix exhaustion with any one of these emotions it can be a recipe for a fast decline.

My hope is that regardless of your “mood” as you read this blog that you have tolerance for the “swing”. Our highs can be as dangerous as our lows and if we are not paying attention while on the “swing” we can find our feet swept out in front of us as we lie flat on our back from the fall. Next time you are in a “mood” hang on tight and control the “swing” it’s easier to balance when not pushed!

Moody and I own it – L.

p.s. Committed to Love and Transparency – Judgment has no place here.

Too Close for Comfort, Too Far to Regret

Well isn’t this a fine mess I have gotten myself in! There are so many lessons learned and I have never felt such an array of emotions all at once. Yesterday I went back to the Psychic that I originally went to the first time I ever went; he blew my mind then…and yesterday it is fair to say that he blew my mind again. This time rather than walking out with understanding and confirmation I walked out shaking, shocked and exposed. #Regret

Peter the Psychic is the “real-deal”. I knew it after the first session I ever had with him and was scared to ever go back knowing he had “it” but then I walked back into his office yesterday. Peter starts with Tarot Cards which I enjoy and appreciate as they reveal where you are in any moment in time. Fair enough to say that you could easily make something of anything, right?

As he was turning the cards over he revealed the “Three of Swords” to which he said “I am so sorry, you have a broken heart”. He immediately asked why my heart was broken and I told him that I had lost my mom a year ago. When he went to the Spiritual side of the reading he noted that he would see if my Mom was “present”. I sat there with doubt not believing that he would be able to summon her and then he did. I searched for vague descriptions that could easily be interpreted in any form and then…and then…he came out with a “message” that absolutely could NOT be misinterpreted and would have NO relevance to anyone else in the world. I was floored. I fought to stay present so I did not miss anything else he was offering but to say I was reeling is an understatement.

and then…

I woke up this morning absolutely heavier than I have been in more than a year. I barely made it through the day holding back tears and having to leave for lunch to get some air. I am a very black and white person and have a very difficult time playing in the “gray”. While I would love to have my Mom “here”, I know she is “there”. I cannot wrap my head around her being somewhere in between. I was a mess all day and while I am grateful for the offerings I realized that it was simply too close to the flame and this may have singed a bit. I was not okay.

I could feel the gut-punch of her not being here all over again. I could cry if pressed; fortunately I work with a group of people that “just know” when to just “let me be” and they did. The best yet was the reminder that I have a support system in the “one” that has shown me what true bravery and courage is in life and just as they did earlier this year when I needed them by my side, they were there again tonight. They who cannot speak “her” name pushed me to talk through it. They were willing to channel that strength that I needed regardless of how vulnerable it made them to which they showed selfless strength and courage.

Regardless of what you believe about Psychics and their gift the reality is that he brought up things that I have worked over a year to heal. In the moment, I was blown away and in disbelief. But after the shock of the moment subsided I was left lost with what to do with the experience.

I don’t often regret in life as I live with great intention and that in itself allows me to live freely without second-guessing. Today I was full of regret. I realized that I didn’t need to know she is “there” because in my heart I know she is “here” all the time. I don’t need “proof” I have always been sure about our bond. It has never required “proof”. The proof that I also found in the last 24 hours is the proof that I have worked hard for a year to heal this broken heart and while it will never be the same I am better than I was and that is progress. I worry that I threatened that “work” by so cavalierly summoning her spirit and in that am truly “playing with fire”. #Regret

I have an immense amount of respect for the energy that powers my life. There is power in the universe and the energy that surrounds us. To “play” in that world can be dangerous. We all know “karma is a bitch” which is why you do right regardless of who is watching. Yesterday I played with that energy, with that power and it has left me reverberating.

I close sharing a song, which is fitting considering music was “our” language. One of the messages that the Psychic shared yesterday was her letting me know “you would love the music up here, it’s beautiful”. This song was the last one during my run tonight how appropriate as I ran off all of the emotion of the day.

Oh, ’cause I keep diggin’ myself down deeper
I won’t stop ’til I get where you are
I keep running when both my feet hurt
I won’t stop ’til I get where you are
Oh, when you go down all your darkest roads
I would’ve followed all the way to the graveyard

This is it, it’s exactly where I am, but lesson learned tonight is that I cannot put myself where she is…she is there, I am here and we will be together again one day. In the meantime, I have a life to live, the life she taught me to live, the life she revered. I know she is grateful and I know she loves me; I don’t need a Psychic to tell me that, I have always known.

Living the life she taught me to live – L.

Eulogy to my Hero…

#HonoringHer

As today’s denotes the official day my mom passed last year I thought the best way to honor this sacred day would be to share the eulogy that I gave at her Celebration of Life with our friends and family. I have revised it for content but admittedly it is still a long-read, just as it should be, as this was a life lived well. I hope you will take the time to read it and allow me to share her with you through my heart.

For my Mom…

Thank you for loving my Mom.  I am here this morning to honor my mother, my first best friend, my hero and the one with whom I shared a lifetime of music, experiences and advice. 

I have broken this eulogy down into three important parts of her life; the first 18 years, the last 18 years and in the middle, what I like to call, everything in between.  Let’s start…

The first 18 years:

Terry Lee Solnick was born on February 11, 1950 in Miami, FL. to Morris and Evelyn Solnick and lived in Opa-Locka, FL until she was married.

Terry became a big sister in November 1955 to Susie.

As a family, the Solnick’s spent a lot of time together at the beach and deep-sea fishing. Most summers were spent in Key Biscayne, FL relaxing and swimming. 

The Solnick household was a place that friends and neighbors enjoyed being. There was a piano, an organ, drums, a regulation pool table and pinball machine.  Many nights were spent with neighbors and neighborhood kids dancing in the living room to her Mom and Dad jamming on the piano and drums.

Terry had her friends over a lot for sleepovers and they all enjoyed playing pool and pinball in the Florida Room, which also housed a very nice and loud record player that got a lot of use.  Terry always enjoyed playing pool throughout her life and was very good at it.

Terry enjoyed music and would spend a lot of time as a young teenager in her room listening to music. She would stack her 45’s on the spindle in a specific order. Some of her very favorite artists growing up were Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight and Elvis.

Terry had always been an avid reader and enjoyed a wide variety of authors.  

As a Big Sister, Terry was a devoted one. She and Susie would spend hours and hours on weekends with a big stack of board games, managing to get all of them played several times before it was time to head back to school on Monday. Favorite card games of Terry’s were Crazy 8’s and Rummy.  When the whole family played board games together it was either Parcheesi or Scrabble, and Terry mastered those as well

Once Terry began driving, she would take Susie out with her to ride around, just spend some time together, or to get ice cream. Even if Terry was hanging out with her friends, she never thought twice to have her little sister along if Susie was having a bad day.  

Terry attended Carol City Senior High School and graduated in 1968.

One of Terry’s happiest days in her late teenage years, was the brand new 1968 Maroon Pontiac Tempest she got from her Mom and Dad for her high school graduation.  

Terry started working part-time shortly after graduation and was always a hard worker. She was a very fast typist and had won several awards during her senior year for her typing speed and accuracy, which was well over 100 words per minute. 

Everything in between:

My mom and dad were married in 1970, or so they say…but more importantly I came along in 1971.  I have always said I was the lucky one, as anyone that really knew my mom knew that she was not a “kid-person”.  The only two kids that she every really “liked” were myself and Cameron…but then again that is because she was stuck with us, literally.  So as it would turn out, I was an only child but not a lonely child.  My mom was indeed my mother and parented me in the ways a mother should; but she was also my first friend.  She was always up for a game (little did I know she was schooling me so she could later kick my ass in Scrabble!) and her love of music soon became mine. 

As I grew up the lessons I would learn by watching her gracefully navigate life would soon be the lessons of a lifetime.  Those lessons and the music of the 70’s and 80’s would be both our “Lifetime Movie” and soundtrack.  As I was a little girl I remember listening to my mom sing at the top of her lungs as we rode in her little yellow Celica.  The song that seemed to represent the 70’s best was “Baby Come Back”.  Later I would change the song to “Baby Don’t Come Back” ha-ha…  In my teenage years we were still singing, this time in her little red Toyota Celica.  One of my favorite car concerts was when we were heading to Disney and it was as if we had both become possessed by Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana”, we sang it (screamed it) again and again and again.  Later that love of music and our car concerts would be passed down to my son Cameron, he and his Mama’s first song would be “Life is a Highway”.

My mom and I shared so many firsts…

  • My first concert was with my Mom during Spring Break 1989 when MTV came to Daytona with Hall and Oates!  We would enjoy so many concerts through the years, music was simply our “thing” and it remains my “thing”.
  • Even in the last weeks we enjoyed music; me singing her listening…or lip syncing.
  • Our final car concert was this song with Cam in the backseat on our way to her final visit to the doctor.  I kept hanging her the hand microphone and she would just raise her eyebrows as she did while I would sing both of our parts.
  • One night in the last week she and I were able to enjoy the Paul McCartney special.  She wasn’t talking much anymore at this point and so I reveled in watching her tap her toes to the music.  That moment became a memory I will always keep close when I looked over at her during “When I am 64” and she was lip syncing it.  Oh the wonder!  We would get one more moment like that when I was singing “Lollipop Lollipop oh Lolly Lollypop”…and Cam said “Mom, look look”…and once again she was lip syncing!  These moments were so special to us because it was at this point that we weren’t able to easily connect with her so once again music became the medium.
  • My first job was Burger King at 15 years old.  My mom had worked many second jobs during our lives together however what a surprise when she decided to also take a job working nights at Burger King so we could still spend every night together.  We had so much fun and all of the kids loved her.
  • My mom and I even went to college together!  

I learned so many lessons throughout my life with her some deliberate and others understood:

  • Quality is so much more important than quantity when it comes to time and clothes J  I didn’t have a stay-at-home-mom in any way shape or form.  She was on the go and had a very big life whether it be with friends or work.  But when we were together we were truly together.  We could be singing in the car, attending a concert or just sitting together and watching what would become our favorite show “Hot Bench”…all of our time together equaled quality. 
  • You are your child’s role model, even when you think they aren’t watching…that is when they learn the most. It was through her life that I learned the importance of perseverance, stamina and work ethic.  All of these traits culminated into a woman that was fiercely independent.  She was independent in all that she did and how she lived.  What I learned from her independence is to fend for myself, never to rely on anyone for your livelihood and how to hold my own in any crowd or boardroom and in front of any audience.  In a “state” of independence you cannot be a hostage of anyone or anything.
  • Ultimately I learned that -You CAN do anything you set your mind to despite your means-

The lessons I learned that were taught through her advice and hours of shared wisdom were:

  • You are not entitled to ANYTHING!  You do NOT deserve THINGS.
  • You can have pretty boxes or you can have retirement…when asked why she puts her jewelry in butter bowls.
  • “We’ll see”…was easily her favorite phrase to say and my LEAST favorite to hear.  What I learned was that “we’ll see” usually meant NO and I would never say that to my children.
  • “I’ll decide”…was her next favorite phrase and came later in life.  It became a term of endearment between us and ultimately would be the sarcasm to any question on “what needed to be done”.  Funny enough when she was told how long she would have to live upon the diagnosis of cancer she told the Doctor, “he’ll decide” but ultimately and in one last fit of fierce independence “she decided”. 
  • Her favorite advice to me was to “act like a lady” I am still working on this but my Mom she had it perfected!

Later in my life, I would work to honor her by giving back to her whenever the opportunity arisen.  She would fly-in to Orlando to see concerts; our last being Barry Manilow and Hall and Oates.  We would fly to my Aunt Susie and Judith’s house in Nashville to spend the weekend laughing and playing endless games of Scrabble and Florida Rummy.  I would fly to her home in Woodlawn to just sit and be in her presence, not wanting anything in return.  Ultimately the greatest honor I could offer would be in walking beside her in what would be the last year of her life and giving her the assurance that all she had taught me would be used to make sure I didn’t miss a thing in her care and treatment.  As I sat beside her on her last day, I knew that we had come full circle and I was going to be okay…and so was she.

The last 18 years:

Eighteen years ago my Mom was blessed with a second chance at love when she met Bob.  Together they built a life that revolved around their common interests while finishing out their final working years in Florida.  Upon retirement they went in search for a place in the mountains to call home and after quite a journey they found Woodlawn. 

My mom quickly fell in love with Woodlawn and its small-town appeal.  She met neighbors and friends that soon became her Woodlawn family.  There she was able to realize a dream that she never thought possible in her earlier years, she was finally in HER house on top of a mountain with views as far as the eye could see. 

My mom’s attempt to give back to Woodlawn was in her kindness and love for flowers.  She has always had a green-thumb and enjoyed flowers and gardening but never so much as she did in Woodlawn.  Here she found her craft and better yet because of her place on the top of that mountain she was able to share that craft with the many that would pass by every day.  She took pleasure in decorating for the holidays would delight at their attempts to one-up every previous year.  This year one of my fond memories of many visits was when I came at the beginning of January.  I flew in late that day and by the time I got to Woodlawn it was dark out but not at Mom and Bob’s.  As I came over that final hill I could see a glow coming from the Dearborn residence and as I lowered my window I heard the sounds of Christmas.  Their place was lit up like the Griswold’s, maybe even brighter, as their smiles were the brightest light of all.  They were so tickled with themselves and what they had created but most importantly that I was able to see and experience it as that is truly what gave them the most pleasure; sharing.

I always enjoyed my visits through the years where all I wanted to do was sit on their porch and enjoy the sound of the birds and read.  Their little slice of heaven soon became my solace as well.  When I needed a break from the hustle and bustle of my life, Woodlawn was my retreat.  On those visits my mom and I would walk up and down the mountain.  We would stop and feed the horses and would always laugh at how winded we would get going up and down the hills.  During those visits, I had the pleasure of meeting their friends and came to know them by name and learn their stories.  Little did we know that their circle of friends would become our lifelines in the last year and in the last three weeks they SHOWED UP beyond what anyone could have ever expected?  Coming from Florida I have never known a community like Woodlawn.  In Florida a good neighbor is one you never see.  In Woodlawn, a neighbor is a friend that soon becomes family.  There was rarely a night that went by in the last three weeks that there wasn’t a knock on the door from friends delivering food and treats.  I would laugh and say that this was something out of the movies as I had never seen hospitality like I had there.  In the end it served us well as the visits offered a needed distraction to that day’s routines. 

When my mom was diagnosed with Cancer a year ago the discussion turned to where she would get treatment.  Being in Orlando I knew that I could get her the best of care or so I thought until I met the Doctors in Mt. Airy.  It became apparent very early on that the doctors there were going to be as good if not better than anything I could offer her in Orlando.  In her final weeks we came to know the angels of Mountain Valley Hospice.  I have never had experience with Hospice in my life and will never forget this experience.  These angels, every one of them, made what felt impossible possible.  They became a security blanket around us giving assurance that we would be able to make it through. 

The final lesson that I want to share is the most important one and that is about SHOWING UP in your life and others lives.  I could site millions of examples of how my mom showed up in my life, some you would expect as my mom, but others, were the ones that meant the most. 

Many of you showed up in this last year; when we needed it the most.  In my life I have not always “shown up” in times of adversity, not knowing what the right thing was to say or do.  What I know now is that you don’t have to say or do a thing to show up.  Just being present, living in that moment with the person in need is absolutely enough.  So many of you could not know that your messages would be received at just the moment I needed it. 

thought would only be a dream and for truly standing by your vows and beyond.

In closing, there are a few things I am sure of in life but ONE is a standout: 

  • I am SURE that I had the best mother in this entire world.  I was able to see her through your eyes and that confirmed for me that you knew why I loved her.

She was my “person”.  I have struggled to define what this has meant to me in my life and then yesterday on my drive to work I heard the acoustic version of a song I have sung many times before and as I heard the words I realized that this defined it perfectly.  It was Issues by Julia Michaels.  We had trust beyond the definition.  As the song notes “you don’t judge me because you see it from the same point of view”.  And unfortunately as the song also notes “Yeah, I got issues, and one of them is how bad I need you”.  I miss you Mom now and always…  L.

Grief a year later…still sucks

This is the final five days of what was her last week. This year I am at work, working on budgets seemingly easy as compared to last year but gut-wrenching when I think about what makes it easier. I am living my life without her and while I have tricked myself into thinking I had this month under my thumb I wake up with a thickness that was stifling all day. As it gets closer I can feel the weight of what is coming. it is not about an anniversary it is a reminder of the worst days to come then and now.

My “plan” was to go to Virginia this weekend and spend the weekend with my stepdad so we are together but the closer it gets the more I am realizing it is simply not going to be possible. The tape keeps running through my mind over and over again; I drive up to her house, and she doesn’t come out on the porch excited to see me…and I fall apart. I walk up to the house and open the door and there is her chair without her in it…and I fall apart. I walk onto the porch, our very special place, and she is not there…and I fall apart. I cannot walk into her room, I cannot sleep there, I cannot eat there, I simply cannot be there. I am not ready.

It is a year later and the grief is different. It is devastating in quieter moments, it is less public, it is harder to explain than it was a year ago. A year ago everyone “gets it”; you have lost your Mom no one doubts the pain, the sadness, the grief. A year later…it still hurts, it is still devastating and it is still grief but it is different. Today it was like walking through a fog with an immense weight encompassing me. I was down all day and while not acknowledging it, it would not relent. This grief was isolating.

This is grief as I am living it right now and ultimately I am having to take my own advice and “meet myself where I am” and today where I am is not ready to face Saturday AT ALL but definitely not ready to face it in her home where I left abruptly a year ago. One year ago, I delivered her eulogy to her beloved community and I literally flew out of there like a bat out of hell. I was running then and I am still running today. I am running from the reality that she is not there because I can fool myself into believing that…well let’s just agree that I am not fooling myself but I am not facing it as aggressively as stepping into her home would require of me.

I am not going to be okay, not today and I will let that be okay. I don’t want to predict tomorrow or the next day or the next…today is enough. One day at a time. My mom and I shared the Serenity Prayer frequently as we would come up on things in our lives that we could not control. I cannot change this and I am not ready to accept it…but I am willing to continue working on it, and that is enough for today. – L.

Music and Mom

Well I am happy to report that this month has not been the monster that I had created in my head for months leading up to August. It is August 16th, two weeks before the anniversary of her passing and I am still surviving. It’s funny in this life how we prepare for the worst that never comes and are unprepared for the worst yet to happen.

As I was going down in the elevator this morning I heard a country song playing that I recognized which is rare as I am not a fan of country music. It was so familiar that I found myself singing the chorus…and then I realized…it was the song that Bob played at my mom’s service in Woodlawn.

…and then there I sat with that realization…oh yea it’s August. What day is it? August 16th…where was I last year at this time? I was with her, on the mountain, savoring the last memories, our last moments on this earth. Let me just sit in this moment…

The irony that a song is what brought me back to this moment is not lost on me. My mom and I had the most amazing memories all wrapped in the music of our lifetime together. My eulogy to her was written capturing all of those amazing moments of music. I will be sharing that on August 31st to honor her passing.

Mom and I at Hall and Oates Concert. I would fly her to Orlando at least once a year to attend a concert. Barry Manilow was another of our faves.

What is it about a song that brings us right back to where we were in that moment? I can see exactly where I was, I feel exactly as I did at that time, I can smell the smells, hear the environment, I am there 100% in the first few notes of a song. It is for that reason that I consider music one of the most important mediums in life. The message and the melody found in music is the best medicine for our soul.

Today I refuse to allow that predicted dread from months before to creep in. I choose to hear the song as a measure of courage that I can listen to it now and instead of crying I embrace the love behind the music. The setting that day was so perfect for this song as we gathered in Oak Grove Church in Woodlawn which is the tiniest church on the biggest mountain in Woodlawn that stands tall in all her glory much like my mother.

Amazing Grace, that is how I recall my mother, Terry Lee Lao Dearborn, perfect in every way and not gone, not forgotten, simply missed.

Living life as she would have me live it – L.

I’ll decide…

This was one of my favorite things my mom would say. We would be contemplating something and she would say “l’ll decide” and the debate would ensue.

My least favorite thing she would say was “we’ll see”. She knew it would make me CRAZY and so she would say it as often as possible.

The irony in the two statements when you think about it is funny; one determining a final decision and the other holding one off.

I prefer “I’ll decide” because I dislike the state of limbo of “we’ll see”. I need things in my life to be black or white; decided one way or another. Sleeping on it has not been my strong point yet when forced to do so, I do and benefit from the space in the gray.

  • The issue with the black and white is that decisions are made with haste because after all a decision has to be made.
  • The issue with the gray is that it allows things to linger. Leaving things undecided and left in a state of limbo stunts progress.

Ultimately what I have learned as well is that not making a decision is a decision. It may start as a “sleep on it” or “we’ll see” however left to ponder, opportunities are lost. Balance is the answer when the choices are “I’ll decide” or “We’ll see”. Somewhere in the middle is where we are best served.

Back to the inspiration that started this blog, my Mom. She had a tendency to be very “fresh” or as we used to call her “smarty britches” and that is the sarcastic charm we loved. This month is a reminder of her love for these two statements as we are approaching the anniversary of her passing. What I can tell you about how she embraced both phrases is that when the Oncologist told us how long she had left to live I remember her pointing up to the sky and saying “He’ll decide”. Wow it was the first time I had seen her give that power away and how fitting as she was giving it to her Creator. In the end “we (would) see” who was going to decide because despite medical prediction she decided. Hospice and the Preacher would come to the house time and time again and be shocked that she was still holding on and I would tell them that she was not going to be bound by anyone else’s timeline (not even “His”) and that she would decide when it was her time, not anyone else.

Even in those final moments of silence that defiance came through. “I’ll Decide” and “We’ll See” will forever be her defining statements. I still NEVER say “we’ll say” but I love when I get the opportunity to say “I’ll decide” because the recipient of my “smarty britches” response cannot know that is yet another moment that I am #HonoringHer.

Living life as I DECIDE – L.