Another Bend In The Road

Life may be a highway but it’s not a straight one.

It’s full of bends, curves, switchbacks and long stretches with distant horizons.

For a gal who likes knowing where she’s headed and how long it might take to get there, it’s more than a little challenging.

Sometimes I’d want to get out and camp on the side of life’s highway, take a pause and just catch my breath before the next set of roller coaster hills forces me to hold on tight for the ride.

In nearly fifty-seven years I’ve hardly ever been able to do that. So here I am, barreling down the road again toward more curves and more changes.

My youngest son and my husband are on their way right now from the Left Coast driving a truck toward home. When they get here we’ll have to unload an apartment full of stuff from my hubby’s place out there into our already pretty stuffed house. We’ve lived a lot of life in these walls and I readily admit I’m a saver of memories and things that signify special moments.

So while they were packing and loading, I’ve been cleaning around here.

It’s been physically, mentally and emotionally difficult to drag my body and heart down memory lane.

A Short Walk Down Memory Lane from the 1990s | Chris Mercer

It’s just so hard-STILL– to touch things Dominic once touched and it takes my breath away. My heart has broken again over not only losing HIM but also losing the family I once had. We’ve all changed so. very. much. A mother can’t help but wonder if life for my surviving children might not be much brighter and easier if their brother were still here to share it.

Tiny bits of this and that force me to face things I’ve forgotten (sometimes on purpose) and feel things I’ve suppressed. It’s a grueling process.

I’ve had to take multiple breaks and simply walk away from the mess I’m creating in an effort to organize and downsize but I know it will be worth it in the end.

So I’ll keep on keeping on.

I’m sure this curve won’t be the last one.

Retirement here we come!

The Stories I Never Knew

I spent long hours with Mama in the last years of her life.

That gave me plenty of time to mine her memory for details of stories I’d heard for years but never took time to really listen to closely.

I knew (although I had no idea how soon it might happen!) that I wouldn’t have her forever. I wanted to gather all the bits and pieces I could hold that would remind me who she was, who she loved and what made her unique so I could always, always remember.

Mama loved to get her hair done every week!

When she left us last September I felt like I had a treasure chest of tales and precious mementos.

It wasn’t that way with Dominic.

I never imagined I’d need such a thing.

I never thought I would be the one left behind with questions about what motivated him to this or that, go here or there, what brought him particular delight or made him stay awake at night.

Time was on my side.

He was young and vibrant.

No need to dig for bits to tuck away in case he wasn’t here to ask.

I was wrong.

Heavy Lifting

Like many families in the United States ours has entirely too much stuff.

Homeschooling four children over twenty years and living in the same house for longer than that added to the pile of memories and tokens tucked in boxes and corners.

This week I decided (along with my youngest son) to tackle a couple of storage buildings we have. It was definitely time to clean out, throw out and pare down the piles.

So together we opened the doors and dug in.

Boxes that hadn’t been opened for years spilled out souvenirs from childhood, teen years and early adulthood. It was tempting to get lost in remembering but the heat of summer spurred us on.

More than once tears threatened and I had to take a deep breath to keep going.

Cleaning out is especially hard on my heart.

Just a couple months before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I had gone through a ton of homeschooling papers, memorabilia and odds and ends, gleefully culling them down to a few representative bits I thought I’d box or scrapbook into a keepsake for each child.

I filled my truck bed with boxes and boxes and took it to the dump. I enjoyed tossing them on the pile and relished the now organized space left at home.

What felt like freedom then, feels like regret and longing now.

Because what I have left of the physical presence of my son is represented in the scraps I have kept-the clothes, the notes, the scribbled comments in the margins of his notebooks and college texts.

So I’m careful about what gets tossed and what I keep.

And regardless how many bins and boxes I sort through on a given day, I’m exhausted by the end of it.

It’s ALL heavy lifting for my heart even when it’s light in my arms.

Bereaved Parents Month 2020: They’re Not Just “Things”

I was surprised at myself.

When we cleaned out Dominic’s apartment two weeks after he left us, I couldn’t throw away a thing.

Just as Dominic left things when he went out that evening.

Even though it meant boxing it up, carting it down the stairs and loading and unloading it onto our trailer, I DIDN’T CARE.

If it was his, if his hands had touched it, his body worn it or he had placed it in the cabinet or fridge, it was coming with me.

The only thing I left in that space was the empty echo of his fading presence.

I brought all the rest home.

Because these things aren’t just things. They represent some portion of my son-his personality, his preferences, his history and his hopes.

Many are the minutiae that make up a life:

  • scraps of paper tucked inside his briefcase as reminders
  • a dry cleaning ticket in his wallet
  • a legal pad on the table where he was taking notes to study for an exam
  • receipts from recent purchases strewn on the kitchen counter
  • shaving cream, hair products, favorite soap
  • clothes and ties and shoes
  • a fridge full of food he’d chosen for himself
  • the good coffee
  • containers saved from food I’d sent home with him

Of course there were the larger items most folks would think of bringing home if not keeping-furniture, computers, his car, television and stereo.

We put the delicate and temperature sensitive things inside the house.

The rest was placed in a storage building on our property. Every time I opened the door to the building for several years it smelled of Dominic.

I loved it and hated it in one breath.

I’m using his furniture in our living room. His television set is downstairs in the family room. Some of his other things live in his siblings’ homes.

We’ve all found ways to touch what he touched last.

I am slowly getting better at getting rid of some of Dominic’s things.

Just yesterday my husband replaced faucets in the bathroom my boys used growing up. In the process we pulled out stuff from under the deep cabinets.

Tucked in the back were some old bottles of hair gel and other half-used, dried up products that once belonged to my fashion conscious son who was always trying to tame his curly hair.

I grabbed them and tossed them into a plastic trash bag as we prepared to put replace things underneath. I almost pulled them back out.

Sighing, I tied up the bag and took it straight to the big curbside garbage can before I could change my mind.

These things aren’t *just* things.

Every time I get rid of something that was Dominic’s I feel like I’m erasing a little bit more of HIM. I feel like I’m losing one more touchstone to help my mind hold onto memories that might slip away without it.

They are a tangible connection that I can see, smell and touch to a child with whom I can no longer do any of those things.

I suspect I will always keep at least a tiny stash to pull out on heavy days or birthdays or just days when my heart needs reminding.

And I’m OK with that.

Repost: Mind The Gap

My youngest son worked hard to retrieve some precious digital photos from an old laptop.

Being very kind, he didn’t tell me that we might have lost them until he was certain he had figured out a way to get them back.

So he and I had a trip down memory lane the other evening.

It was a bumpy ride.

Read the rest here: Mind the Gap

Why Memorial Day Matters

Today is a day when we honor those who gave the last full measure in service to our country and our country’s wars.

It is a day to honor, remember and mark with solemn gratitude the sacrifice of a life poured out.

You don’t have to agree with the reasons for a war to honor the individuals who died fighting it.

War is far from glorious. It’s ugly and dirty and awful. For those that fight it and those on whose land it is fought.

But in this world where nation invades nation and the wicked often rule it’s sometimes necessary.

Battle field cross (With images) | Memorial day quotes, Soldier ...

Every soldier is a mother’s child. Every soldier leaves someone behind.

In war after war, families across America have been devastated by the deaths of their sons and daughters, many  taken in the prime of life, at the dawn of adulthood.

Almost every family and community has a story of  burying a promising young soul that was sure to make a difference but who never got that chance.

My father served and my son is now serving.

And to all the mothers and fathers whose sons and daughters gave the last full measure for their home and country, I say:

“Thank you for your sacrifice.  Thank you for the love poured into the child that became the brave man or brave woman who would put his or her life on the line for what they believed in. Your toil bore much fruit that continues to bless others today.”

You have given up what no one has the right to ask of you.

You live with both the honor of your child’s legacy and the horror of your child’s absence.  

memorial day soldiers

And if your child survived the battlefield but could not survive the scars of war, I am so very sorry.

I understand the pain of missing the child you love,  I hear your heart and I am praying for you.

As we gather with our families and enjoy freedom purchased with the blood of sons and daughters, may we REMEMBER.

memorial day how much did all this cost

May we honor the ones who gave everything they had.

And may we remember the families left behind who can never forget.  

The strongest love anyone can have is this. He will die to save his friends.

John 15: 13 WE

You Don’t Lose Them All At Once

It would be easier, in a way, if it happened all at once.

If the vivid memories of his voice, his laugh, his body language, his sense of humor just disappeared-POOF!-now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t. Then I could make a single adjustment.

But that’s not how it is.  Instead, the living proof of his existence recedes like a wave from the shoreline, only there’s no returning surge to remind me of the force that was Dominic.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/04/18/slow-fade/

Six Years: For You, A Moment; For Me, A Lifetime


I used to look at tombstones in cemeteries and do the math between the dates. 

I was most focused on how long this person or that person walked the earth. 

I still do that sometimes.  But now I do something else as well. 

I look to the left and the right to see if the person who ran ahead left parents behind.  My eye is drawn to the solitary stones with the same last name next to a double monument clearly honoring a married pair.

grieving mother at grave

And then I do a different kind of math. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/04/11/for-you-a-moment-for-me-a-lifetime/

Memories, Milestones and Melancholy

I’m finding it hard to write these days.

Not because I don’t have anything to say but because I can’t find ways to say it that might make sense to anyone else.

So much is jumbled up inside me, so much is wrapped around itself and I can’t find the end of the string to unravel it.

Ever since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, writing has been my refuge. First in my journals and now in this space.

I depend on words on the page to tell me what I think and feel.

Lately my trusty tool has let me down.

I’m sure part of it is the abrupt end to silent days and virtually unlimited alone time since the coronavirus crisis upended my routine.

Now when I come in from my walk I’m greeted by my husband (a good thing!) instead of only cats. I spend more time making meals and cleaning up after them. I don’t have the quiet moments watching the sun sink down behind the trees and dark reclaim the living room as I peck away at my keyboard.

Dominic was so full of life, it’s impossible to think of him breathless and still.

Part of it is the time of year.

Sunday will be six years since Dominic left us and each passing day brings me closer and closer to that milestone. I should be better at facing it by now.

But I’m not.

Last year my faithful companion animal died around this time too. His death didn’t hold a candle to the death of my son but any death-every death-pricks that deep wound and reminds me the world is not as it should be.

Roosevelt, my faithful companion for over a decade. ❤

Last year’s Facebook post:

2:53 4/7/2019  ••UPDATE•• Roosevelt died in my arms without suffering. I am so thankful for the years I had with him. ❤️.

I’m holding my precious companion animal as he dies. I want him to know that he is loved and the last thing he feels to be my hand on his fur.

So today, breathing is enough. 

2:53 April 7, 2019

And this year-well-this year death is the headline everywhere.

Actual death, impending death, anticipated death. Numbers, numbers, numbers that represent real people, real lives, real families left behind.

How my heart hurts!

I try to stay away from too much news, too much social media, too much of anything besides family and close friends.

I’m still up before sunrise and spend time reading, praying, researching, thinking, waiting to hear from my heart.

I wish the words would come.

I’m afraid if they don’t my heart will burst.

When Grief Sneaks Up On You

Dependable routine is one of my most important coping mechanisms.

I like slipping from one familiar chore to the next without thinking.

It keeps my mind busy in an effortless way that leaves little room for random thoughts, little space for grief-inducing memories to sneak in and trip me up.

Change Aversion And The Conflicted User - Usability Geek

Change is really not my friend.

Still, change is upon me (and millions of others!) because of this virus. So I’m doing the best I can to cope.

Instead of a house to myself, now my husband is working from home. Instead of quiet mornings alone, conference calls echo off the walls and follow me out open windows to the yard. Instead of before dark breakfast and early lunch with the kitchen closed by noon, I eat early, he eats later, I eat lunch and he eats supper. Kitchen open til eight.

None of those are things I can’t get used to.

After all, I’m blessed he’s here, has a job and we have not only enough to eat but a wide variety . I like cooking and love finding creative uses for leftovers.

Creative Ways to Use Leftovers - Bites for Foodies

What no one but me knows about all the change is this: I’m walking places I tend not to go-in the house, in the yard, down our paths-and every place I set my foot holds memories I’ve been avoiding.

When we moved an old pen a couple weeks ago for new chickens we found a rusty chain attached to its base. While my husband and son were digging it out to use again I was transported to the day Dominic moved the pen years ago with the tractor. It was just me and him and he was a little perturbed with me that I needed it moved. I saw him in my mind’s eye plain as day on the tractor. I could hear his baritone voice above the trusty thrum of the engine and picture him hopping down from the seat, unhooking the chain and driving off to park the tractor.

It was a flash. Here and gone in an instant. But the rest of the day I suffered from a grief hangover that I just couldn’t shake.

These are challenging days.

So much of the routine I depend on to guide me through has been shredded. So many of the habits I’ve developed over years are unavailable right now.

Image may contain: ocean, cloud, sky and water, possible text that says 'FACEBOOK.COM/ SILENTGRIEFSUPPORT THE GRIEF ATTACKS OF CHILD LOSS ARE so UNEXPECTED. THEY COME CRASHING LIKE A WAVE THAT TRIES TO SWEEP US AWAY CLARA HINTON'

So I’m doing the best I can.

One day and one memory at a time.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Repeat.