17 Mar I Miss You, Momma.
We lost you 3 years ago today, suddenly, unexpectedly, way too soon. I can’t believe you have been gone that long. I can’t believe you are gone at all. There’s something about momma’s – we think you will stay forever. If we were lucky, you were there for us so many times, so, we think that will continue. How can the body that bared us ever leave? How could that be possible?
Yet, here I am, almost 52, faced with what so many other grown children are faced with – and I don’t like it one bit. We had plans. You were going to move to Colorado and live near me. I was going to take care of you as you aged. You would spend winters in Florida and we would come visit you regularly. You were supposed to live a long life. That’s what the psychic told you all those years ago. You thought it was true, yet after the pain started, I think you changed your mind.
You taught me how to love and for that, I am forever grateful. You may not have always loved yourself (and unfortunately I learned that behavior too) but you loved people to their core. People always felt seen and heard and supported and held by you. They felt special – and you weren’t putting on a show – you always saw the heart in people. Even complete strangers would be warmed by your loving way.
You said you would always be with me – and I hoped that would mean something different. For the first two years after you died, I was angry that you weren’t here in the way I thought you would be. I thought (hoped!) I might feel a presence. I hoped I might have signs – clear, unavoidable signs that would tell me you were still in this realm, in some way, in a spirit way.
This month, I tried to open my heart and eyes further into the potential for magic. I let go of some of my anger that it wasn’t how I wanted it to be – and looked around me. I know you would want me to see all the beauty in the world all the time. I’m looking more now.
In early March, I was in Los Olivos, CA where dad escaped from the Jackson Hole winters as he hoped would become a regular pattern. I sat in the car in front of the house he rented and thought of what had been and what now was. I thought about how he was full of hope for his golden years. He was designing a new life, enjoying a new place, always choosing beauty to surround him – but little did he know, his memory decline was right around the corner and that fate would take him away from all he thought he got to enjoy.
Then, I met a woman named Iris Rideau, age 81 who spoke to our group about her life and the story of starting a successful a winery. A French-Creole from New Orleans, she came from nothing and got pregnant at 16 and had to go work in a factory. On her first day at the factory, she looked around and saw what could be her life and declared “this shall not be”. She has a spirit that you would have loved, momma. She has your spark – and she did what a woman wasn’t able to do back in those days. She had a dream and worked her way up and out – never forgetting her roots – but always looking forward. Unexpectedly (yes, I know, a gift!), I got to sit with her for 45 minutes and hear more of her stories. I got to watch her eyes sparkle with life and wisdom. I got to see her smile, so much like your smile, her beauty, so much like your beauty. She is a rebel, a beauty and a force to be reckoned with and now, after selling the winery, she is on to her next adventure – writing a book and making the world a better place by sharing her journey.
I got to tell her about you. How you too, were a pioneer. You didn’t take no for an answer and in a man’s world, you forged a new path. You were always accomplished (a champion swimmer, horseback rider, straight-A student) but then learning to fly at age 40 and retiring as a captain on a 727, you broke many barriers. You loved to fly – your spirit soared in the air and you never grew tired of the view from up above. You took more cloud pictures than anyone else I know. You always saw something different and magical – you always looked newly. You never took a moment for granted when you were in the air.
I saw you in her and her in you. I saw how much more you had to live. You wanted to join the Peace Corps and go to Africa. You wanted to buy an RV and travel around the country seeing your many friends. You wanted to drive an 18 wheeler. You wanted to paint more. You wanted to enjoy. You were robbed of all of that. You died too soon.
I have learned a lot about grief. I have learned that we need to be able to grieve in the way we each need to grieve. I have learned that to tell someone else how to do it is cruel and mostly expresses our own discomfort with messiness. I honor the anniversaries. As you know, March was full of loss for me and David (and others). Denise, you, Dane, Zoey, our house and more – all vanished from this planet in the month of March. I will always honor you on this day and won’t think much about St Patrick. I won’t stay sad all day. I will allow whatever wants to come, to come. Why should we celebrate just the happy anniversaries? I celebrate the sad ones too. I don’t have a ritual. I don’t get stuck with one thing. I have learned to let it flow. And, to let myself be.
Today, David and I began the day by taking our three dogs (fur babies!) on the public dog walk through the heart of our little town of Salida. We met up with a beloved friend who knows how to live from her heart. She lost her mom at an early age yet somehow learned how to love with the best of them. I told her (as I told everyone who loves me) that I keep anniversary fluid. I told her I might not show. Yet, showing up, with our three and seeing this lovely soul warmed my heart. Later, we had coffee while the dogs snoozed in the car and I decorated my wrist with pretty bead bracelets that I didn’t need but liked from a favorite store in town.
Now, I sit in my bed with the three curled up around me. I let myself numb a little as I don’t want to go to the depths of my missing. I also really look at this day – the sun, our little house, my beautiful life. I appreciate hearts that open to mine. I appreciate that you showed me how to love. I think of the gift of meeting Iris and how I wanted to tell her how much it meant to me -but I wasn’t quite ready yet. I think about all that could have been – and now what’s happening instead.
Loss doesn’t get easier, it just changes form. You go from not thinking you can live through it to knowing you can, but always carrying it with you. I keep my heart open and keep loving. I wish you were here for me to still love on you. At least, I know that you knew how much I loved you. How much I appreciated you. How special you were to me. We had quality time together – not enough of it as we lived so far apart – but we always connected heart to heart.
Two weeks ago, after saying goodbye to Iris, I walked three miles back to my hotel in town. I chose to open myself further to the magic in the world. I thought of Iris, I thought of you, I thought of dad.
I gazed at the soft California sunlight, spreading its warmth over orchards and green pastures. I listened to the birds sing.
And, I noticed the most marvelous cloud right in front of me, right above me, as I wandered along.
I took a photo of it – for you – and for me.