Two Banana Moons

0EF060B7-D0C3-4830-B717-43EBC7D58DD3If I ever get so old that I can’t remember much, I hope I never forget the sound of your deep sleep breathing as I stare at the two banana moons on your ceiling. Oh, how I cherish our good night chats when you ask me all the tricky questions that I don’t quite know how to answer. You see, my mom brain stops working at this time of night when I lay beside you, but my mama’s heart tries its hardest to remember every little thing.
I hear the rain outside your window. Drip. Drip. Dripping down the gutter. Your forehead rests underneath my chin. You’ve always been the greatest snuggly cuddle bug. On that first early August morning when you were born, you claimed a perfect resting place right there on the left side of my chest. You’ve always been ever-so-slow to wake up. The nurses were worried about you in the hospital. You had a rough start. I wasn’t worried, I don’t think. You just needed some time to rest. You like your sleep, much like your mama. Each morning, when you’re not quite awake, you ask or demand for a ride down the stairs. My creaky knees shout “he’s too big!” but my strong mama’s heart says, “a million times, yes.”
You and your big brothers make me so proud. Every single day. Your tender, adventurous spirits teach me how to love without limits and laugh with pure open mouth joy. The weight of taking good care of you guides me to set boundaries to protect you, life’s most precious gifts. It’s an enormous responsibility for your Dad and I. Fortunately, it’s a job that comes with quite a few perks.
You train me to be strong and confident and humble and weak. Your enormous eyes and beautiful freckles capture and remind me of such endless beauty and never ceasing wonder. That of a creator whose love cannot be denied. I’m a better person because of you. I’m able to experience the world through three different sets of eyes. Six gigantic ones, thick lashed and bleached out on the tips. All of your beautiful brown eyes looking out at the world and up at me. One day, I suppose, I will be looking up at you.
 I’m grateful. I’m humbled. I’m mesmerized. I’m usually overwhelmed. Thank you for being my boys. I’m pretty sure I’m the luckiest mom on the planet. Especially the planet inside your rooms. The one with the blue or green ceiling stars and two banana moons.
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Pinkie Rings

301A1984-A8AD-4A71-8183-1AD19F754415As we sit together in the waiting room, I hand him my wedding rings. It’s our pre-surgery ritual of sorts. He delicately slips them onto his pinkie finger. Well, not really, he shoves them down over his knobby knuckle. His fingers are strong and wider than mine, probably from playing all of the instruments.
He will proudly wear my wedding rings as I fall into an anesthesia-induced sleep. He will wait and pace and drink bad coffee and then wait some more for the surgeon to be done. He will anxiously wait for me to come to the recovery room.
Over the years, he has unexpectedly become an expert hospital cafeteria food critic. He has gotten lost in far too many hospital hallways. He has spent hours upon hours in the waiting room. And I know he would do it all over again.
He would choose me. Complicated old me. He would marry me all over again tomorrow.
I slowly open my eyes. I’m confused. And sleepy. He is there. I relax and close them again because I still feel so sleepy. I’m awake. Again. I’m hurting. So badly. He quickly gets the nurse. I hear him talking to her. He knows I’m not one to complain. He knows me. He knows that I need more pain medicine.
He is hurting, too.
In a different way than me.
He gets no narcotics.
He won’t leave me. He stays right beside me in all of the tiny hospital rooms. He holds my hand. Or he rests his arm gently on the bed because he doesn’t want to hurt my fragile body.
This is hard. This is selfless. This is not me dancing in a silk wedding dress. This is me writhing in pain in an oversized unisex hospital gown. It seems that there is nothing in this for him.
I’ve lived long enough to know that this kind of love is rare.
This is a small glimpse of my husband’s love for me.
When I’m more alert and my pain is not controlling my mind, I tell him that he can go. He doesn’t want to but I need him to make sure our kids are doing okay too. He is pulled in a million different directions but he manages to handle the uncertainty, the chaos, and the unfairness of it all with an unearthly amount of patience, and the most delicate form of kindness and grace. Gut-wrenching grace. I love him every day of the week but the days I spend in the hospital and in recovery, I somehow love him so much more.
He fills me up when I am empty. Tired. Worn out and in too much pain to be mad. When all of my dignity has been scattered throughout that hospital, he searches patiently and always finds it. Then, he secretly delivers it back to me without making a big scene.
I can try but his faithfulness and his love for me is hard to describe in words. I feel it. He carries me through, somehow without ever needing to lift my aching body.
Could the greatest gift to our marriage be this never-stopping, forever humbling, life-altering, soul-shaking disease? I don’t know. It’s probably not fair for me to answer for the both of us.
I’m not the one wearing the pinkie wedding rings.
What I do know is that God has these sneaky beautiful soul-capturing ways to show his love and tenderness through the worst and most unfair situations. Failed surgeries. Complications. Loss. Pain. Uncertainty. But yet, Hope with a capital “H” has taught us how to be honest, forgiving, humble, patient and ever grateful for the days we get to spend together.
Fourteen years of marriage. Together. A twisting, turning, chaotic, unpredictable, beautiful and hard journey that we have learned to embrace together.
I’m forever grateful and proud of the husband he is. I’m honored that he is willing to wear my wedding rings on the days when I can’t.
Oh, how I love you, Cory. The morst. To the moon and back. To infinity and beyond. A million billion.

Namaste, #38

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I still don’t quite exactly know what “namaste” means despite taking many yoga classes this year. But that’s not going to stop me from oversaying it. Or misusing it. I’ve lived thirty eight pretty darn full years. I used to think thirty year olds shouldn’t be in the club. Don’t even get my early-twenty year old self started on those creepy forty year olds sitting at the bar.
Well, things do change, thank goodness. When you start getting older, you realize how young old folks really are. Actually, you realize that your chroniological age doesn’t have much to do with who you are, who you love, and how you live your life. It’s just a number, not a definition. People always think I’m younger than I am. Probably because I act like a big goof or maybe because of my freckles or perhaps it’s a perk of my adult acne. A man told me yesterday, “you don’t look like you should have three kids.” Well, thank you, I guess. Although I do have a few gray hairs.
I thought I should write down thirty eight awesome things I did this year. I think I grew wiser and stronger. And I also recognized I’m weaker and not as smart as I once thought I was. Aging is a humbling process. And confusing. I think I don’t take it as personally having had Crohn’s disease for so many years. Weird things happen to your body when you get older. So what. Weirder things have been happening to my body for a long time. But. “Why, God, why the chin hairs? What is their purpose?” Anyways, my random list of questions for God grows.
I like lists when they don’t have “to do“ on the top. Unless I’ve secretly written the “to do” list after I’ve already done all the things. Those brutal “to do” lists always give me feelings of inadequacy. So, here is my “38 years done” list. I’m pretty grateful and proud and also extremely humbled and sometimes dumbfounded by all of the love that surrounds me, fills me up, holds me up, builds me up and sits right next to me on the floor. I got another year and that’s amazing. I can’t wait to live it up for my 39th year on planet Earth.
Here goes: 38 Years Done
  1. I used my yoga pants and yoga mat to take…..yoga classes. Say what? I love that standing tree pose and happy baby. The end meditation nap is amazing too. Namaste.
  2. My poor knees and I played basketball on a co-ed basketball team. I missed a lot of shots, said cuss words, but I had a lot of fun. My boys asked me if I could dunk. I told them “not in this league, it’s illegal.” That’s all they need to know about that.
  3. Oh man. What a year of stellar concerts. U2 with my big boys and Cory. Amazing. Ani Defranco with my hubs. Diana Krall and her busy tapping stilettos with my hubs. Brandy Carlile with some dear friends.
  4. I coached two of my sons’ basketball teams. I learned that I’m a loud fighter for injustice when a team, um, or Coach breaks the rules by running a zone. And don’t call me “sweetie.” I learned that some egotistical male coaches have a hard time shaking hands at the end of the game after losing to a female coach. Because of the beautiful, kindhearted, never-stopping fighting spirits of my players, we lost a lot of games but we won the sportsmanship award. The biggest win. I said, “chin the ball” about a million times.
  5. I held a fish. With it’s squirming rainbow scales.
  6. I lead a small group, met amazing women who shared their stories, months of life, and helped my family so much during surgery.
  7. We went to Disney world! We shared so many fun memories. Holy smokes, that Avatar ride. I felt like we could all say we rode on a banshee. Except Colby, please don’t talk about it to him. He feared for his life. Rightfully so. It seemed so real.
  8. I taught half-day momergarten which consisted of so many unforgettable moments with my youngest boy. We found deer antlers in the woods. We stalked-in a nice way- bald eagles and even saw one poop. We rode the Adams tag along bike to get lunch. I could go on and on. It was the best year!
  9. I learned that when my body makes something, it makes it strong, difficult to reach, and indestructible. My kidney stones would not be blasted by the lithotripsy semi-truck. $20,000 later.
  10. I learned that if there is a rare complication to be had with kidney stone surgery, my body will teach and humble the most intelligent and experienced of surgeons. I learned (again) that a mom’s instincts last long after the years that your child lives in the same home with you. My right kidney doesn’t have a big ass kidney stone living in it anymore. We’re still paying for the cost of it’s removal. I have a few more scars. I feel incredibly loved.
  11. I touched a stingray, mainly because my boys wanted me to.
  12. I volunteered with hospice. I prayed every time before I entered the doors. I painted nails, held hands, listened, cried, laughed, and also advocated for my patient to meet my boys before she died. So shut your face, HIPPA. If I’m in my nineties and dying, please bring all the children to me.
  13. I accidentally yet magically made eye contact with a hummingbird. It wasn’t a stare contest because I would have won. I had just put the feeders back up and she buzzed right up to get a drink. She looked at me. I froze. Then, she took a drink. Best moment of that day.
  14. My son and I blew up the inflatable kayak, aka “The Banana Boat.” My boys floated down the creek and I could have cried if I wasn’t so focused on making sure a snake wasn’t going to get me. They paddled and our dog swam beside them. It was a heaven on earth moment.
  15. We went to the roller derby! I asked so many questions to a roller derby girl. It was awesome. I decided my derby name would be “ Body Bag”
  16. The boys and I went to “Mother/Son Prom.” It involved lots of soda pop and dancing!
  17. We had a night at The Raphael and a downtown date night. A gift for my husband for ten years of employment.
  18. We took the train to St. Louis. We went up in the St. Loius Arch, not for those with fear of height and claustrophobic tendencies. We also spent a day at The City Museum, where we all got to be kids exploring, climbing and having so much fun!
  19. I dressed up as a unicorn, Skittles, with the help of my mom and sons. One of my son’s was the rear end and he sprayed silly string out because I was a shy unicorn that pooped when I got nervous. Unicorns are real.
  20. I got up on water skis. Water sports can be nerve wracking with an ileostomy. But they’re so much fun. I’m grateful to have patient and generous in-laws. My knees and back wondered what the hell I thought I was doing.
  21. I had acupuncture done to ameliorate my kidney pain. It was a pretty awesome experience. We have the most compassionate and kind-hearted healing chiropractor. She has helped me so much.
  22. My youngest son and I untangled a steel blue dragonfly that was trapped in a spiderweb. It looked hopeless but she sat on me for nearly ten minutes and allowed me to gently pull the sticky web off of her wings. She happily flew away when we got all of the spiderweb off of her. My son said she “peed a lot on me.” It’s not the first time I’ve been peed on.
  23. I have made beautiful life giving, soul-expanding friends who have helped me feel less alone and more comfortable being ever-changing, ever-feeling me. They have walked with me, talked with me, laughed with me, cried with me, sat with me and cared for me in such tender ways you wouldn’t know we weren’t boood sisters.
  24. I have cherished the time with my children and the unwrapped daily gifts they constantly give me. All of the kitchen table moments, playground moments, couch cuddling moments, basketball court moments, treehouse moments, the nighttime conversations, the hugs, the giggles, open mouth laughs, the tears. The questions. The answers. I love being their mother. Somehow as seemingly impossible as it is, I find the space to love them even more so than I did the last year.
  25. We said goodbye to our fourteen year old Gizmo dog. He’s been through so much with our family over the years. He loved us all and entertained the boys for years. We all sat together at the vet. We made slideshows and have cried many tears for him. We planted a tree in his honor.
  26. I got stuck in a dress (or two) in a tiny Nordstrom rack dressing room while my three boys laughed and laughed some of the greatest laughs I’ve ever heard. I ended up borrowing a dress from my mom. The problem with broad shoulders and three little boys as dress shopping mates is that you will probably not find a wedding dress.
  27. We danced and danced at one of the most fun weddings we’ve been to. During “Shout” when I was laying down on the floor, a woman asked me if I was hurt. Nope. Just getting realllllly into the “a little but softer now…” if somebody’s not ready to call 9-1-1, are you really dancing as hard as you can? Probably not.
  28. I read so many books this year. Oh, how I love to read. I should have written all of the titles down. I will try to do that in my 39th year. One of my favorite’s was “The Rabbi’s Heartbeat” because it spoke to my soul.
  29. A dear friend and I accidentally summoned the police for our mom shenanigans. Unbeknownst to us, a walker had called the Overland Park police on our attempts at a “first annual glow in the dark” nighttime Easter egg hunt. Apparently, it looked like we were lighting tiny fires in the woods (as we hid the lit-up eggs) The police didn’t end up coming. Another walker called them back. And our kids loved finding the glowing eggs. The forest looked absolutely magical as the eggs flickered in the night.
  30. We’ve had countless memorable late night dinners, goodbye dinners, birthday dinners, celebratory dinners, just because get-togethers. We have such a diverse group of fun, loving, laughing friends and family.
  31. We survived Cory’s Doctor prescribed vocal rest. I never knew how hard it would be on all of us not being able to talk to Cory for two weeks.
  32. We walked up and down the hill hundreds of times. Back and forth to the school, the playground, the baseball field, the creek. This quote from “UP” resonates with me. “That might sound boring but I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most.”
  33. I’ve looked for lost boys’ shoes countless times. I’ve held too many sticks to count (that’s  what she said.) I’ve been a bar back/sous chef/LEGO assistant specializing in organizing the Legos by color. I’ve played dodge ball, dog monster, knock out, Sandlot baseball, and candy poker, of course.
  34. I, along with my six siblings, surprised my dad to be present for a huge award he received honoring the work and time he has devoted and volunteered for the Nonprofit business alliance. We were all so proud to sit at that table front center. We also laughed a lot. I may have made my sister wet her pantyhose. I won’t say which one.
  35. I feel like I should give myself credit every year for all of the pain, hardships, uncertainty of my physical health, Crohn’s disease and it’s tag-along friends. I’ve changed my ileostomy bag too many times to count. I’ve opened medical bills. So many medical bills. I’ve taken a lot of trips to the ostomy care center. It’s all I know but it’s still hard sometimes. And tricky. And never ending. Day by day. Thanks, Ben Stiller.
  36.  I admired the Kansas sunsets and the cotton candy clouds. The double rainbows. The wild flowers. The birds of all the seasons. The deer. The slap happy butterflies. I fed a baby rabbit. I love and appreciate the complexity and mesmerizing beauty of nature more every year. It’s such a quiet constant whisper of God’s presence and love.
  37. Lots of pressure for my last thing. I loved those around me in the best ways I could. I tried to be present, I prayed to be more. I hoped and dreamed and tried to be grateful even in the midst of the ditchy moments. I’m thankful for those who give me room to grow and patience for all of the ways I fall short. I’m the luckiest.

Unicorns and Sharks

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Play typically comes naturally to me. I have always loved climbing trees, goofing off, and making up games. Spinning in circles. Rolling down hills. Riding my bike. As a kid, I played nonstop until I HAD to eat dinner or until it got dark. Then, I ran home as fast as I could past the scary enormous weeping willow into our backyard. I still play until it gets dark as an adult, as a mother. I’m still pretty horrible about dinner. I walk, run, chase, and hide with my children and oftentimes, other children, on the playground. Last spring, a sweet inquisitive classmate of my son’s asked me, “Why are you a grown up and you’re playing?” My response, “Because I like to and my kids asked me to be the dog monster.”

Children fascinate me, mesmerize me and inspire me with their perspectives, curiosity, their creativity, their resilience and determination to keep playing. Two weeks ago, my youngest son fractured his fibula and had to get a cast. My grown-up self proceeded to over think his future weeks and the difficulties he may face with starting school. He, on the other hand, walked right out of the office and has not complained once except when he had an itch underneath his cast. “Can I use a stick to itch my leg?” He has altered and adapted his play, yet he has not stopped. He has not asked for a pinata for his pity party and he has not begged for trouble and uncertainty from the future.

He lives perfectly and rather magically in the present moment. That’s one of the most beautiful things about kids. But yet, we, adults, often push, elbow and encourage them to change. Hurry up. Grow up. Too fast. We take away play opportunities because we think they need to be more serious, more adult-like. Meh. They have so long to be grown ups and such a very short time to be children.

Every day, children and grown-ups need to play. Life can be so serious and sad and downright bumpy, twisty and scary to navigate through sometimes. We desperately need our imaginations to help us find our way through this life. We need laughter, silliness, fun and learning through challenging ourselves. Come on, walk up the slide sometime. Remember when you would swing so high your belly would “get scared” as my son says?

After I took a few pictures of my boys, I put on the snorkel mask this afternoon. I pretended I was a shark. When I jumped into the water, a million bubbles raced to the top of the water. The water was clear and the sun’s rays burst through and danced on the bright blue bottom of the pool. I watched my boys’ long legs kick below the surface. I usually swim with my eyes closed. And I miss so much. Not today. I wore the equivalent of a bike helmet under water: goggles with a nose piece. I loved playing and watching my boys work together to save a water unicorn from me, a mom shark. They devised a plan while I went under water. They outsmart me. No surprise there. We played. We laughed. And we happily escaped to the glorious land of imagination.

Lately, my guts have been grumbling and achy. I’ve tried eating this or not eating that. Ugh. I’ve been annoyed, frustrated and uncertain. But today, I told my husband that I will not let my Crohn’s tell me how I should feel mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. I will treat myself kindly but I will still play. Because I need to. I will smile or make goofy faces at myself for 30 seconds in the mirror. I will tell myself that I’m doing really great today. And it won’t be a lie. I will play. In my house. Outside. In church. And everywhere else that I go because that’s what I do. I will blow bubbles in my van with my air conditioner on high. I will use angel hair pasta for light saber fights. And I will watch in awe as the hummingbirds whiz by.

I will try my best to live in the present moment. And strive to act more like a child. My children.

 

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No Time to Play

IMG_0719I have a difficult time preparing for temporary separations, like hospitalizations, between myself and my children. I typically have plenty of time to prepare: do laundry, help with schedules and school projects. I tend to stay busy so I don’t panic and drift away on the river of worries. I want to stay present with my boys. I want to savor good night rituals, hugs, and giggles. I want to gently trap the sounds of their voices echoing and competing with one another to love me to the most distant place and back, “I love you, Mom. To Saturn and back…..”

Oh, how my heart aches when I peek down on their precious sleeping faces one last time before I go. I watch their chests rise and fall. I am mesmerized yet, again, by their beautiful eyelashes. I kiss them on their soft cheeks. I draw a heart on their wrists. It feels close to impossible to say my temporary goodbyes. Yet, I know that I will be back home with them soon. Just a few days, I whisper this to myself. I hope with all the strength in my heart that I will be back home soon. Soon. Yes. Very soon.

When I’m away, my boys are taken care of ever so lovingly, patiently and gently by their father. Their grandparents. Their aunts. Their teachers. Their friends. My friends. But, still, I worry. Because I am their mother. And I know that no one can replace me. My presence. Our relationships. No one else loves them quite like I do.

I worked for nearly nine years in a pediatric emergency department. If you’ve ever had to witness one child being unexpectedly separated from their mother, father, or caregiver then you understand the agony, the pain, and the unfairness. Torture. I’ve held sobbing children until their exhausted bodies could cry no more. I’ve sat for hours in hospital rooms holding babies, blowing bubbles for toddlers, playing games with children and listening to teens because of some awful circumstance that required them to be separated from their family. I worked with some of the most enormous hearted, unconditionally loving, and self sacrificing people that would stay hours past their already-long shifts to fight for innocent children.

I know how resilient children can be. I have seen them struggle and overcome horrific, unfair, cruel and unimaginable situations. I just wish they didn’t have to be so damn resilient. Doesn’t every child deserve a chance to laugh and play and be a kid?

I wish the kids in the detention centers could play in creeks and run and laugh and feel safe and loved. Here. Like my children get to do. I wish they didn’t have to be introduced to overwhelming fears at such young ages. I wish I could be there to hold them since their mamas can’t.

But I am not their mother.

My heart breaks reading the stories. Seeing the photos. I have to catch my breath between sobs. My head aches thinking on all of the wounds. So much pain. Those grieving mothers who want desperately to hold their children. All of the precious scared babies, toddlers, children and teens. They couldn’t choose where they were born.

Neither could I.

I catch my breath. And I know my long distance sympathy is not enough. My prayers churn in my head and push the blood more quickly through my beating heart. I will not be paralyzed by the atrocity and the great big beast of an issue. I have to do something. Some thing. One thing.

Sign a petition.
Donate money.
Write.

They need us all. They need our help. We have to use our strength to fight for them. Like we would want other human beings to fight for us. We have to do our small part, whatever that may be, because this is not right. It’s so very wrong and we have to change this.

It’s a privilege to be born in a country where we don’t have to flee violence. It’s a damn privilege that we get to play in creeks and driveways and bake cookies and kiss our babies goodnight tonight.

How will you use your privilege to help those struggling to survive? Those dying not to give up, fighting against the pain and the hurt of this world. The hurt we often cause each other. Please tell me how you’re using your wounded heart in some small big way to help heal this broken world.

I need to hear it.

I think we all do.

Informative links:

https://www.texastribune.org/2018/06/18/heres-list-organizations-are-mobilizing-help-separated-immigrant-child/?utm_campaign=trib-social&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_content=1529361248

https://theartofsimple.net/borderseparation/

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2017/03/09/peds.2017-0483

https://childsworldamerica.org/stop-border-separation/stop-border-separation-text-preview/

What We Know: Family Separation And ‘Zero Tolerance’ At The Border – NPR
https://apple.news/AI9pNswnFQ3exvNSZvan46Q

 

 

The Great Carriers

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“Mom, can you carry my……”

Stick. Backpack. Shoes. Water bottle. Glove. Coat. Trash. Sweatshirt. Books. Ball. Gum. Ripstick. Scooter. Skates. Hockey stick. Socks. Deer antler. Bug. Feather. Half-eaten food.

(Newly designed cardboard) robot?

Please don’t drop it. Or lose it. Or break it, ok? Just carry it all around downtown Kansas City for me. Please?

When they’re babies, we, parents, hold our kids. We carry them. They ask or demand, “Hold you, Mama?” Or “Hold-you-me?” On our hips. On our chests. On our backs. In car seats. In expensive back-saving Ergo baby carriers. But then, something changes, all of the sudden, they want to use their legs to walk. Run. Jump. Fall. They don’t need us to carry them anymore. Most of the time. But, they definitely need us to be the great carriers.

The holders of important stuff. The grown-up, living, moving trapper keepers of their kid adventures. All sorts of day-to-day things. There’s nothing too great or seemingly too unimportant for a parent to carry. Our hands are bigger. Stronger. And less preoccupied by the next activity. We are highly intelligent when it comes to knowing where trash cans are. Oh. “Right there.” We aren’t planning on using our arms to climb across monkey bars or break our wreckless falls attempting to parkour or climb a random pole.

“Mom, can you carry this? Pleeeeeease?”

Ok. Fine. Yes.

And so we do. We carry their stuff.

We also carry loads that our kids don’t see. We carry the enormous weight of being a parent. We carry our hopes, our concerns, and our worries for our children. We carry or perhaps, drag our fears. We carry our struggles, our insecurities. We carry the uncertainties of other children who don’t live in our homes. We carry the past, our own childhoods. We carry our constantly evolving parenting selves the best ways that we can.

Sometimes, we carry far too much for one worn-out body to hold. That’s when we need help. When we’re holding too much to manage on our own. We need those who walk alongside of us. We need those who see us and graciously reach out to help us clean up our messes. They recognize our hunched over backs and tired eyes. They say, “I’ve been in a hurry” or “I’ve carried too much before, too. Let me help you.”

Isn’t that what we’re all here to do: Love each other and help each other get through. Life can be heavy and lonely and overwhelming. We can make it less heavy, less lonely and maybe underwhelming if we take a second or minute or hour to stop and recognize each other’s eyes and the weights we all carry.

“Let me help you.”

And we do.

 

Dear Georgie

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I remember Grandpa calling you that, “Georgie.” I can’t begin to tell you the countless happy memories birthed and held gently here in your room.

From the moment we drive up and park the car, my boys, your great grandsons, run up the sidewalks sneaking behind the bushes, beating me to the door. Always. They fight over who gets to push the button outside the doors to the building, then they happily argue over who gets to push the button on the outside and who gets to push the button on the inside. Oh, to possess the power to tell the elevator where to go. The coveted button pushing position. Floor Number 3? Yes, that’s your floor.

The elevator takes a little time going up, the boys hop around, bouncing all over the place until the elevator stops. When the doors open, they escape and start sprinting down the long hallway to your room. I can’t begin to keep up with them. So I just watch them excitedly chase each other. It’s a race to get to your door. I barely ever got to watch your face upon seeing one, two or the three of their faces. It always brought me such joy watching them and hearing their six feet pounding down the halls. I loved seeing the other residents smile and reach out to them. I wish every resident had as many happy, life-filled visitors as you.

“Hi, Grandma. How are you doing?” I always said, loudly, when I made it inside your door. You usually sat in your chair. “I’m doing pretty good.” You would often say. Or sometimes, “I’ve got the blues.” The boys would begin playing with toys or tell you something. I loved the time when Julian told you he lost his first tooth. The excitement you both shared melted my heart. You always told me how good my boys are, how sweet they are and how I needed to get a bigger lap. You always told me something kind about me, “you have really pretty legs.” Or “I like your hair.” Even though I have needed to get it cut for a year.

It was an honor to sleep next to you last night. I will always hold on tightly to the memories with you over the past few years. I loved our Easter egg hunt. I loved sharing a bottled coke with you on Christmas Day. I always loved hearing your stories of growing up on the farm. Your sister stories. I’m so thankful that my boys have gotten to know you, truly know who you are and how you love others. I will never forget the time that they picked you a flower and as you held it, a butterfly landed on it. The boys talk about you holding a butterfly. They have been trying to recreate that moment for years by picking flowers and holding them up in the air, in attempts to persuade a butterfly to land on them.

You have always had the magic touch.

I want you to die peacefully, knowing how enormously loved you are. As I have watched so many employees, nurses, techs, and waiters, come say goodbye to you, I have been overwhelmed with how many people have been touched by your presence, your kindness, your love, both young and old. Nobody wants you to die. But yet, everybody wants you to be free of pain. We all want you to get to Heaven.

We’ve cried, sang to you, held your hands, rubbed your hair, told you why we love you so much, sat next to you and shared stories. We’ve laughed with you, smiled with you, encouraged you, and truly cherished every last moment with you. It’s so hard to let you go. Because you’ve always been here. Before all of us. You loved us all. You loved the party. You loved the sounds of children playing, “Where are the children?” You said one day when it was too quiet.

You have shown others what a beautiful life looks like right up to your last day. You have inspired us to live beautifully. To notice and praise the tiny bit of the world happening right before our eyes. You’ve always chosen to fully engage with those right in front of your face. Thank you for humbly and happily teaching us all the most valuable lesson without even knowing it. That’s always how the greatest teachers do it. Your example of how to truly live has paved the way for all of us. We will remember you. And try our very best to honor your legacy in the ways that we love those around us.

I love you so much, Grandma.