You Gotta Friend In Me

Friendship“You’ve stood by my side when any monkey in his right mind would have flown away.
The Great and Powerful Oz

To say my friends are a blessing is an understatement; in fact, I hit the friendship jackpot! All my life, friends have challenged and inspired me, shown unconditional love when times have sucked and been there with wine when they’ve been happy. My friends laughed with me, but even more importantly, they cried when crying was all I could manage. This post is a long due thank you to all my buds (and family) who’ve seen me without make-up, without words, and without a clue — and somehow love me anyway.

Marlene Dietrich once commented that it’s the friends you can call at 4 am that matter. I love mine way too much to test that too often, but I totally get it. When grief came calling, nearly every one marched right in and never left. That’s a pretty big deal. Grief is no picnic even for those on the periphery. Heck, if anyone sucked into that dark funnel cloud had a choice, we all would opt for door number two. But we had no choice; our friends do.

I think Oprah put it pretty well when she said “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” Even the most super deluxe limo can break down, and if it does, you might just land in a ghost town where you don’t even speak the language. Awkward. When life-changing events come calling, even the closest friendships can be challenged. Maybe they’re daunted by the hurricane of your desolation and just don’t know what the heck to do for you. Some friends are too afraid, some will exit stage left and some, those strong, plucky souls, will bring you grace. No one can stop the storm but if we’re lucky, friends and family walk through it with us.

Unfortunately, there may be friends, even family members, who just won’t get it. I suspect that before own own knee-capping loss, many of us were also clueless. Having been rocked years ago by my brother’s death, I should have been more enlightened. Oh,  I did the wake, sent the cards, flowers, donations, hugs and said all the right things but I still didn’t know what I know now. The funeral is just the beginning. Continue reading

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An Attitude . . of Gratitude

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The first time I knew Thanksgiving was never going to be a Norman Rockwell painting was the year my little brother died. His absence from the table – and our lives, was immeasurable. It changed all of us in many ways. My father, who was never the biggest cheerleader of any holiday, finally had a reason to hate them indefinitely. One year, a nicely browned turkey found its way, platter and all, to the wall putting makeshift ham sandwiches on that day’s menu. That was the only year turkey didn’t quite make it to the table, but real joy never quite made it either. A somber spirit lasted for years where my brother’s quirky, prankster personality had been.

As the years went on, husbands and children joined the mix and our Thanksgiving tables were full once again. We bought our first houses; grandparents and parents died, children and grandchildren were born. The full gamut of life’s events unfolded in my gratitude journal with blessings in abundance. There were always more than enough reasons to be grateful.

But last Thanksgiving, my gratitude journal went on hiatus. Continue reading

Well there’s that . . .

lonelinessHearing politicians talk is hardly my favorite pastime. This year, they are on my last nerve. But a few days ago I heard a soundbyte that caught me up short, which isn’t exactly shocking given this bizarre election year climate. This particular weird statement (also not shocking this year) made me think ‘what the…?’ And I automatically turned to say ‘Hon, did you hear that?”. Reflex actions die hard (no pun intended) and I knew my husband, as he always quipped, would ‘understand totally’. Except he isn’t there to tell that little political pundit to making it just one more moment that pushes my grief buttons.

Grief is contradiction. It’s a strange medley of the subtle and the overwhelming. It’s quiet reflection and loud sobbing. It’s memories that bring deepest sadness — and sentimental laughter. Yes, it happens. When you’re in your grief coma, with your heart in yesterday even as your feet are in tomorrow, the split-personality of grief shows up (or acts up, depending on how you look at it.) Continue reading

Make a wish. No, another one . . .

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The Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland)

Happy Birthday — NOT. This year’s birthday is still a few days away but I can’t help channel the Mad Hatter, with his lopsided birthday cake, and his kooky wishes for an unbirthday. I’m no Grinch. I love celebrating everyone’s special days even more than my own, but last year, my trusty Libra scales completely tipped over. And they dumped all the ‘Wonderland’ cheer out of me.  Last year, the day that marked by birth began a runaway train I didn’t even know I was on — and I was powerless to stop it.  That beautiful October jewel of a day tripped off what would be the last week — of my husband’s life.

That day. . . I was unaware of what was to come as I wrote a gratitude piece I posted on Facebook surveying my life in light of another birthday. As I wrote it, I laughed and cried as my life’s blessings poured into my words. And as the words took shape, it was evident that both hard times and joyful times make a life; mold a life and that day, when I examined my life, I was grateful for all of it.

That day. . . as I contentedly poured my soul into that little birthday reflection, I had no way of knowing all my thoughts, my gratitude would be tested in life-changing ways. I could not have known that day I would find my husband dead — just 5 days later. But looking back, I’m certain I wouldn’t change a word of what I wrote. I just wish those clueless, happy moments would have lasted longer. Don’t we all. Continue reading

Use Your Words…No, Not Those.

Sincere Condolences

We were word people. We both loved words so much that my husband was forever making up his own puns – and himself up cracking in the process.  We watched Jeopardy and did the crosswords – competitively of course. I kidded him about being the grammar police. It’s hardly surprising then that words can also make me scratch my head, thinking ‘what’? Really?

As I stood in line at a wake this weekend for the wonderful young son-in-law of a dear friend who lost her own husband as well, I couldn’t help thinking of what I would say to this heartbroken young wife. I knew her since she was a teen and it seemed more than important that I say something, anything that spoke what was in my heart. I knew most on that line behind and in front of me might be thinking the very same thing. Don’t we all want to speak words that make sense of the unthinkable? Being so recently in her place myself, I know how impossible that is. I know it is as hard to receive most words of awkward consolation as it is to say them. Sometimes, seeing their struggle, we often want to comfort — those who comfort.  We all want so much to say what is comforting, gift verbal pieces of our heart and sometimes just mumble odd sentiments instead. We say tired clichés. We offer what we’ve been conditioned to say, hoping somewhere in there, the person who’s hearing the words knows that our clumsy attempts at consolation are heartfelt. They do.  Because let’s face it, we all are awkward – even those who’ve been on the receiving end of well meant words.

Maybe the next time we yearn to say what’s in our hearts, we’ll measure the words differently. Maybe we can hear them as the bereaved might. Maybe we’ll even say no words at all because sometimes silence is better than words and phrases like: Continue reading