Sometimes Things Are Just Things

It took my Grandfather years to downsize because he couldn’t part with his furniture. He’d come to so cherish his dining room suite because it had belonged to his parents and was gifted to him and my grandmother once they’d married and begun their own family.

I think he’d infused, confused, misplaced, the deep love he felt for his mother, who died when he was still a young man, into the furniture. The table and chairs didn’t replace his mother though. He couldn’t claim they loved him back but he couldn’t part with them because of the power he gave them.

I’ve been just as guilty, hanging on to pieces of my mother as though they’ll bring her back. The most important parts of our relationship are stored in my head, my heart, not in her opal ring or the wall hanging she made in a circular weaving class. These things don’t love me back but they make me feel closer to her in a way she didn’t intend. I gave these things their power over me. I gave them that intense hold that’s so often born of grief and good intentions.

Things can turn evil if we give them too much power, too much of ourselves, if we let them hold us back.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Dresden Dolls and Amanda Palmer’s solo work lately and her song, The Thing About Things, on her new album, There Will Be No Intermission, has had me thinking of the power we give things and how we often let what we own own us.

I’m down to one last thing I thought I was saving for the daughter I don’t have. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to admit that my grad dress will never be pranced around in during dress-up or altered to fit my little girl as she goes off to a formal dance. It’s hard to admit that I’m not going to have a daughter the way I always thought I would. It’s just a dress. I’ve given it the power to bring me to tears about something that doesn’t exsist.

I’ll be working on letting things go, taking back the power I gave each piece. Taking back the power these things were never meant to have. Within my heart and head I have the real power to keep my precious memories safe.

Do you find you hang onto things? Have you ever given meaning or power to an item only to realize it’s how deep it’s got it’s claws in you? How do you go about letting go of things? I’d love to hear any comments you have.


It’s Only Dinner

Tonight I made dinner. Tonight I made dinner and this is significant because, since my Mom died 3 years ago, I haven’t had the patience or desire to cook anything but the barest of minimums. 

This is everything assembled and ready to go when the time comes.

Thank goodness my husband took over in the kitchen to a great extent and coaxed me to at least eat a bit when I had no desire. My appetite has slowly returned but between my issues with anxiety, depression, and chronic pain I feel as though I often have to force myself to eat the simplest of things, let alone the inventive meals I used to love.

I associate the kitchen with my mom. She was an amazing, adventurous, and fearless cook. I followed in her footsteps after leaving home, cooking up a storm and often phoning her for advice. So when she died I just couldn’t find that desire to channel my creativity into the kitchen. It felt too overwhelming, still does to a great extent.

I am pleased to report in the past couple weeks I have slowly begun to edge back into my old domain by baking muffins, banana bread, and even some cookies.

Today, for whatever reason inspiration struck and I found myself topping cucumbers with cream cheese and chili pepper jelly. Then I drizzled olive oil over shoestring sweet potatoes to be baked later along with sliced prime rib I rolled up with Italian Coppa Di Parma. 

While I may have shed more than a few tears as I assembled everything I’m pretty sure this meal is going to kick ass! And even if it doesn’t… deep breath… Tonight I made dinner.


Make Memories While You Can

I am missing my a lot Mom lately. Triggers are the beginning of the curling season, her birthday drawing closer, baking carrot cake with cream cheese icing, watching the first snowfall, and drinking from the Bette Midler mug she bought me after see the Divine Miss M in concert. 

My favorite sweater of my Mom’s and my well loved moccasins. 

When I miss her like this I try to gather her to me as best I can. I pull on the tatty old sweater my Grandmother knitted her years ago. It was my favorite thing to borrow when I got cold while visiting her and now it is mine.

I also pull on the moccasins she bought me for Christmas in Yellowknife when I was about 14. They have stretched perfect to fit my feet and still smell of that delicious, warm scent that goes along with tanned hide.

I cry a little and choke up a lot as I remember all the good times we shared. It sinks in, yet again, there will be no more chances for the two of us to make more memories together. 

I try to carry this knowledge with me when engaging with other loved ones. Make memories together now. Don’t waste time waiting for the perfect moment. The perfect moment is now. 

Get together, love each other.❤❤❤ Live as though there’s no time to spare because eventually there won’t be time to spare.


Suicide Prevention Day

This post is going to be tough. I’m already sobbing and I’ve scarcely begun to write.

Have I ever felt suicidal? Yes. Oh my goodness yes.

Why am I still here? Many reasons, but the biggest reason is family. I couldn’t bare the thought of what my self-imposed early exit would leave behind in its wake.

Perhaps it helps that I have seen the heartbreak caused by suicide on more than one occasion. The wife of a family friend committed suicide a number of years ago and she left behind something for her husband I had never considered.

You see, not only did her poor Husband have to find her he also, as a matter of routine, had to be investigated by police. The thought of this additional insult to injury just never sat right. I could not bring myself to leave such a possibility for my own loved ones.

A coworker of mine committed suicide a few years back and I’ve never forgotten the broken look in his parents eyes at the memorial or how the tears at work didn’t cease for weeks. He was so loved and cherished by so many but in the end it came down to not enough love for himself.

My great Uncle also committed suicide after many failed previous attempts. I recall being so sad for my great Aunt who found him. Dead. Dead on the floor by the phone with a belly full of pills.

Ultimately, for me, I can’t see a way to commit suicide without leaving behind untold heartbreak and hurt. Simply the idea of what a mess I’d leave behind makes me want to hold my loved ones a little tighter, linger a little longer, and love myself a lot more.

Recognizing feelings of deep depression and suicidal thoughts has been key in keeping myself alive. No matter how difficult or uncomfortable, I’ve always dragged myself to my therapist to talk as soon as possible, called the Distress Center in Calgary or 403-266-HELP, and/or gone to the hospital for help.

These services are there for everyone. Never think you are not worthy of seeking help. Dig deep to find even just a spark of self-love and save yourself with the help of others. There’s no shame in needing help and you are worth it.


Ashes to Ashes…

It took more than two years but we finally spread my Mother’s ashes as she requested.

I recall the day she told us where she wanted to leave the trappings of her physical life. It was about two weeks before she died and I decided to ask her what she wanted specifically. 

She spoke of a beautiful outlook west of the small town she and my Dad had called home for the past 15 years. She mentioned a gorgeous Vista of mountains and trees and a great gorge alive with a rushing river. My Dad knew where she meant so that part was set.

I asked next if she wanted her funeral to include anything special. She laughed and shook her head, saying, “you guys do whatever you think is right… I won’t be here to participate.”

I like to think the funeral was something she would have approved of. I am not so sure she’d be pleased with how long it took to spread her cremains. My Mom was a woman of action and waiting two years to complete our only real directive would likely have rankled. 

I feel better for having completed the task not so much for myself but for her. She had no choice about dying from cancer far too early, the least we could do is shake her forth into the wind and soil and sunshine where she wanted to rest.

Closure is not a feeling I can imagine myself finding but I do feel we accomplished something and there’s little my Mom loved more than crossing something off a to do list! 


Cleaning out a Loved Ones Closet Without Losing Your Shit Entirely

One of the more difficult tasks when a loved one dies is cleaning out their closet. Here is a list of ideas that helped me make it through this task on more than one occasion. 

– Use old suitcases if you have any that you can be rid off and/or labeled boxes. Make four piles to start; Give Away, Donate, Keep, Discard. Start with a section of items hanging up or where you feel better about starting. 

– Specialty goods like golf wear is pricy and a friend who plays might be happy to have the extra options. Mark clothing to be given away with the recipients name and bag separately. 

– Donations can go directly into the suitcase and then straight to the thrift store. Ensure garments have been laundered and are folded neatly.

This is a picture of a closet.

– Keep Items to Keep to a minimum but be gentle. I kept quite a few items of my Mom’s and realized they weren’t for me later on when I was ready to part with them.

– Discard items that have stains or bad rips as well as used intimate garments. 

– Once you finish a section of the closet or a drawer take a break. You’ve earned time to process and relax.

– Other sections to be dealt with are sweaters, summer gear, winter coats and boots, shoes, socks, underwater, sleepwear, t-shirts, scarves, purses and accessories, and decorative jewelry. You can also tackle cosmetics and other toiletries if you’re on a roll.

– When it comes to more delicate and sensitive pieces like graduation or wedding dresses take your time. Hang on to them as long as need be. One day you’ll be struck by what to do with them or perhaps you’ll find the perfect person to pass them down to.

– Let yourself get a little crazy as you sort. A friend of mine said it helped her to point out the items she didn’t like and give them a good scrunch and chuck and carefully fold the items she was attached to. I found having some music to sing along to quietly helped. I also found having help and company helped (not too much help though. One – three total at most. The object is to keep it simple and avoid the gong show potential). I don’t think my Dad or I could have done it alone.

– Most important to remember is to do what you can as you can. This is no easy task for anyone so give yourself a break. Just make sure you keep trucking away at it, don’t allow a break to bring all production to a screeching halt.


Another Momless Birthday

I thought of my Mom a lot on my birthday last weekend. I miss her carrot cake with cream cheese icing. I miss the chance, no matter how childish, to lick the beaters. I miss chatting with her over a glass of wine or summer fresh mojjito. I miss her in the lounge chair on her back deck, her skin the golden brown of a woman who gardens and walks and faces into the sun.

The Weight of Her Absence – Acrylic heavy body and ink on canvas – I painted this a year or so ago to represent how hard it is to have her gone from our small family and how heavily it weighs at times.

I miss all of her, even the bits that drove me crazy. She tucked her cotton tops into her elastic waisted pants and had a penchant for head to toe lime green. She used silly expressions like, “wrong-o sleigh bell lover” or “close only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades  (this usually pertained to curling)”.

I miss the warmth of her hugs and how freely she dispensed them. I miss our creative mash-ups. I miss watching the Gilmore Girls with her and so wish we could watch the new reunion season together.

I miss playing cards together at any campsite picnic table by the blazing lamplight. I miss trash talking and teasing and laughing until we cried. 

I miss her scent. Nothing heady or easily pinpointed. Cacao butter, mango, dryer sheets, pert shampoo, and, occasionally, a hint of apple blossom perfume. I tried to seal her scent into zip lock bags when I cleaned out her closet. Carefully folding a few t-shirts into a couple different bags and storing them safely in my top dresser drawer. Trouble is the scent dissipated…just like her. I can’t bring myself to let those bags go yet just in case, hiding somewhere deep inside, there’s just one more glorious whiff.

I know I can’t have her back but I still wished for her just the same when I blew out the candles.


Death Defying Dreams

I dream of my Mom and I feel unsettled. 

I dream of my Mom and I feel terrified.

I dream of my Mom and I don’t want it to end. 

I dream of my Mom and I feel uplifted.

I began to dream of my mother frequently 6 months after she died. At first I felt deeply unsettled, aware her presence was fleeting and I couldn’t control anything and she didn’t seem to be aware of me and my desperate grief. It was as though she was playing a role and not an interactive one.

One day I took a nap in the afternoon. To my surprise and excitement  I came slowly awake to the sound of my Mom talking on the phone in the other room.

I leapt from my bed, flung my door open and there she was talking on the phone no more than 8 feet away.

She seemed surprised when I threw my arms round her neck and sobbed into her hair, ” How is this possible? How are you here?”

She hugged me back but didn’t hang up the phone. marveling she was there at all I felt elated but couldn’t understand why she seemed preoccupied and didn’t recognize this for the miracle it was.

“How is this possible?” I continued to wonder. “This has to be real. I woke up so I can’t possibly still be dreaming…right? …right?!”

I feel as though the construct of reality is unraveling without my control. Tethered no longer in dreamland, I’m sucked back to reality.

My reality doesn’t include time with my Mom anymore. In my reality my Mom is not on the phone. In my reality I can’t hug my Mom. In my reality my Mom is dead and it sucks.

I mention this instance not because I am fond of melancholy and tearjerking. I mention it because the dreams, and that one in particular, were jarring and frightening and I had no idea it might happen or how difficult I’d find it.

I felt like I had to say goodbye to her all over again every time I woke up. What was worse than saying goodbye repeatedly was having no control over when she’d show up in my dreams and if she’d even notice me. I still find it a little upsetting when it happens.

I wish I’d known how deeply grief would affect every aspect of my life, even my dreams. I don’t know that knowledge beforehand would have changed things as the grief experience is different for everyone. I do know knowledge is power and the dreams made me feel powerless as did heavy grieving. 

That is why I share this story, that it might provide knowledge, insight, or even just a sense it’s OK to be completely frustrated and freaked out trying to figure out grief and how to cope.


A Snapshot of Grief


This photo was taken in June of 2014, about 2 month’s after my Mom died .
I think it is a good visual example, perhaps the only visual example, I have of my emotional state at that time.

I’m not wracked by sobs or crying out in anger, anguish and frustration – although I spent a lot of time in those states – I often simply ran out of energy as those heightened states of emotion are impossible to maintain for extended periods of time. The picture says it all, I look numb, wrung out, exhausted.

It’s important for me to look at this picture and see the tide of emotions with grief, I find it often feels as if I’m standing still rather than progressing. Progessing towards what I’m not always sure… Some form of acceptance perhaps, although I have yet to figure out what acceptance, for any extended period of time, looks like for me.

The other day I thought I’d lost my Mom’s opal ring and the sense of panic took me straight back to that primal state of grief. I found the ring later in the day and was able to pull myself together without losing a full day to grieving. Maybe I should see this as progress.

Although my progress feels as though it’s moving at a snails pace at least I now feel as though I am finally beginning to move. I’m not moving on, I don’t think that is what I want. I want the good, the bad, and the amazing parts of my relationship with my Mom to remain forever in my heart and mind. I want to move in a way which allows me to learn and grow and love and laugh and find my feet again while always keeping my Mom snuggled tightly in my heart.