And this was my buddy on one particular day. He looks rather magical doesn’t he?  I don’t know that my upcoming trip will afford much water time, but I don’t care. It will be a honeymoon at a remote spot on a long beach, and the only things I need are MKL, a book, and a bottle of something. We’re counting down. It’s wonderful to have someplace warm to count down to.

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Little Cayman, Cayman Islands.

Quote of the day: “When we travel, we aim for the sublime. It’s the ridiculous stuff, however, that we tend to treasure the most.” — Erik Torkells

Daily gratitudes:
Battling a bug
Experiences
New boots
Milk
New reading glasses

Rest in peace, Gig Michaels. Your heart and your music will be greatly missed here, but you’ll totally rock heaven.

We were in Hawaii for our last post. Let’s jet over to Grand Cayman for tonight’s send-off. Sunsets are one of those ubiquitous things that always happen, whether we see them or not. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to see many beautiful sunsets (though no green flash) and always love thinking of the sun rising on the other side of the earth as I watch it sink into whatever horizon is before me.

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Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

I encountered an odd coincidence in the news today. A 54-year old man was struck and killed by an Amtrak train in my hometown of Durham yesterday. A sad event indeed. The coincidence? That a 53-year old man was struck and killed by an Amtrak train yesterday in a town next to the one where my daughter is in college. Another sad event. Just kind of odd.

Quote of the day: “Meet me where the sky touches the sea. Wait for me where the world begins.” — Jennifer Donnelly

Daily gratitudes:
Cuddling
Ab workouts
Ocelet footie pajamas
Peyton Manning (regardless)
The Amazon commercial with the little pony

Let’s stay in Hawaii for a few days, shall we? White sand, driftwood trees, volcanic rocks, blue water. Some beach, somewhere.

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The Big Island, Hawaii.

Quote of the day: “Are the days of winter sunshine just as sad for you, too? When it is misty, in the evenings, and I am out walking by myself, it seems to me that the rain is falling through my heart and causing it to crumble into ruins.” — Gustav Flaubert

Daily gratitudes:
Giving blood
Work
MKL, even when I don’t see him
My winter coat
Smiles

 

 

I think the title of this post says it all.

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Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Quote of the day: “I realise there’s something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go.” — Jeffrey McDaniel

Daily gratitudes:
The lights on the Christmas tree
A beach in sight
Having Kelsea home for a few more days
New calendars
The grand tour of one of MKL’s Christmas presents (Connecticut, Rhode Island, Guam, Hawaii…I wonder where it will go next on its trip to Colorado?)

 

 

Are we here?

No.

But we did write this on the beach last year, so I thought I’d share it today, even if it is Boxing Day, not Christmas Day. MKL and I are celebrating our Christmas tonight, so for us it IS still Christmas Day. Love to you all.33

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Great Exuma, Bahamas.

Quote of the day: “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ” — Norman Vincent Peale

Daily gratitudes:
MKL
Extended Christmases
Having Kelsea home
Mr. Man
Herman Douglas the Moose

Christmas has definitely done a sneak this year. It seems like one day I was complaining that stores had their decorations up before Halloween and the next day it’s, well, today. And I’m not ready for my favorite holiday. And guess what? I’m letting myself be okay with that. I have a few things for the people I love best, and I’ll be making a ham on Christmas Eve night for the Christmas Day, which we will celebrate with his parents, and our kids, and his nieces. Tonight, though, it’s me and my little tree, and a bottle of San Pellegrino, and Mr. Man, and a Netflix binge of Hawaii 5-0 to remind me that there are blue waters and places where palm trees are decorated instead of pine trees. And I’m okay with that too.

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Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” — Charles Dickens

Daily gratitudes:
Fair winds and absent companions
Tickets to Cozumel
My Santa Hat
Getting to see Anastasia Fawni perform
MKL, always, MKL

I bought our Christmas tree last night. I love Christmas, and always want to do everything early, like decorate the house, but somehow I don’t ever get around to it until ‘late’. The tree selection was getting quite thin at my preferred farm, but I found a lovely Fraser fir. Its very top branches twist together like a graceful ballerina’s arms. It took us three tries to get it in the stand, with my sawing off nubbins and bottom branches in between efforts. I’m very proud that I didn’t saw into one of my arms or legs though, and consider that my most significant accomplishment of this holiday season. And the tree is indeed up, though I’m giving it until tomorrow night or Saturday to relax and let down its hair (or branches) a bit before we take to ornamenting it.

The tree lot is next to a working farm, and at the edge of the fence, I found Pony and Farm Beast in a stand-off.

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Boulder, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “It is a miracle if you can find true friends, and it is a miracle if you have enough food to eat, and it is a miracle if you get to spend your days and evenings doing whatever it is you like to do, and the holiday season – like all the other seasons – is a good time not only to tell stories of miracles, but to think about the miracles in your own life, and to be grateful for them, and that’s the end of this particular story.” — Lemony Snicket

Daily gratitudes:
My Santa Hat
Joy
Knee-deep snow
That depression has taken a seat in the shadows today
Birds on a wire

 

Thank you all for your love and support from my last few postings. You are all so special to me. I read an article about the “Anniversary Train” in which we have a choice about hopping aboard the train that carries the memories and mourning from the days on which we lost loved ones. It was timely, and I wonder what choices I will make about remembering these anniversaries going forward, but as I say, I am not filled with sadness, but with a sense of honor of having been a part of such a rich and rare experience.

Enough of that now.

We had our first big snowfall yesterday – nearly up to my knees – and my back felt like I shoveled the entire state’s-worth last night, but it was pretty. And so I send you a holiday card from Colorado tonight. This was taken on Saturday up where I work on the weekends. I hope that whatever and however you celebrate this season, that your festivities are full of joy.

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Estes Park, Colorado.

Quote of the Day: “She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder

Daily gratitudes:
Unmet friends
Chance areas of complementary grace
Christmas lights
That Kelsea is home
As always, my MKL

December 12, 2006:

My uncle and my brother both marked the time, the exact time – somewhere around 3:43 am.

We sat for a while with her, there in the darkness, holding her hands, holding her heart.  I could still feel her.  Still feel her.  Someone turned on the lights, blew out the candle, started doing the practical things.  Calling the mortuary people, calling my “Aunt” who had been my Mother’s oldest friend – the one who had  aided in my parent’s elopement, had driven her to the hospital to give birth to me, who now lived just upstairs.

It felt wrong to have all this stuff going on.  I stayed in the room with her, pulling up her covers so she might not get cold, trying to fully close her eyes.  They wouldn’t stay closed.  I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror and saw her looking back at me through my eyes.  I saw her eyes in the mirror, in my face.  I called my husband and told him, had him tell Kelsea.  She wrote the date and time down on a napkin and put it in a special scrapbook that she has.

My aunt came.  She put her arm around me, and I said, “I don’t want her to go.”  And she said to me, “She’s already gone.”  I did not know what I was going to do.  I loved her so.  We were such a part of each other.  I just did not know what to do.  As the minutes passed , her body looked less and less…occupied.  I could feel it, feel her soul moving away, as the minutes passed, drifting away, flying away, floating away, soaring away, farther and farther away, without even turning to say good-bye, just excited to be free and exploring.  Leaving me behind.

Things happened then.  My brother put ice around the back of her head to keep her brain cool for the Brain Autopsy Study she was a part of.   I knew it was still nighttime, the middle of the night, but time had become irrelevant.  I just remember again the light, the brightness of incandescent bulbs all over.  The night nurse had slipped out.  She had been hiding in the other bathroom for hours.  She never even came in the room.  She was afraid of dead people.  Everything just felt so surreal.

The funeral home men came, two of them, with a stretcher and a big plastic bag.  Somehow, though she wasn’t a big woman, they just couldn’t seem to manage her.  I don’t know why.  But I wound up helping to put my Mother’s body in that bag.  Wrapped in one of my sheets, one of my favorite sheets, that looked like a sandy beach with seashells on it, that we had put on her bed particularly because she loved those sheets too.  I could never have that sheet back.  That action was the worst part of this whole memory.  I should never have done that.

Then everyone left.  It was morning.  I called my best friend at work.  I started making calls to the people who needed to know.  It was horrible.   I heard her dear friend, whose wife I spoke to, explode with grief – “Oh, GOD!”, he said.  I let her go to him.  I lay down to try to sleep and I just cried.  Cried and cried and cried as if my heart would break.  But it was too late, it was already broken.

I thought about the morphine in the refrigerator.  I could do it.  Could do it so easily.  Just take the rest of it and follow her.  I wasn’t thinking about Kelsea.  I wasn’t thinking.  I was so consumed with pain, I didn’t feel like I could live.  I didn’t want to live.  I was tired and tormented.  I was mad with grief and exhaustion.  I wept myself to sleep.

Later, I told E-Bro about it, and he said he would kick my corpse if I did such a thing.  We started to pack up her things.  We went out to dinner.  We didn’t feel normal.  We were orphans now.  At least we had each other.

Now, four years later, I have come to have some peace with her death, but it has taken almost this entire span of time.  But it has happened.  I still miss her.  I know she’s still with me in her own way.

And I know, with all certainty, that she is having a marvelous time.

December 11, 2006:

You had slept.  I had only dozed, for the ninth night in a row.  I had gotten up a dozen times from the bed next to yours to check on you, to be sure you were still breathing, like a new nervous new mother does with an infant.  You would moan every so often.  When you awoke in the morning, you looked over at me.  “Am I still here?” you asked.  “Yep,” I replied, “unless I’m dead too.”  “Damn,” you said.

We talked then, about the pain, about how you wanted to go and were unsure why you were still here.  You asked me then, if I would help you go if you did not go by yourself today.  Which told me how much you were hurting.  We talked about how I would do it, with the morphine.  I would have done anything for you.  But I could not commit to killing you.  I said, “Let’s see how it goes today.”  I couldn’t say yes – but I couldn’t say no.

The quality of the day changed after that talk.  It felt like when you’re getting ready for a journey – which you were.  We were down to just the orange sherbet now.  I would slip a little between your dry lips  (no amount of lip balm seemed to keep them moist for long) and you would smile this blissful little smile.  We talked about the little blonde daughter that you had never had, that one time when you had an early miscarriage, and how she had always haunted you, and not in a nice way.  How you had longed for her (I tried not to be jealous, not to feel like somehow I hadn’t been daughter enough for you.)  How you could see her hovering around now, still being mean and angry.  We had banished her together, you and I, me finding the words to help you forgive yourself for not having her (as if you had had any control over that) and us finding the words for you to use in talking to that spirit, to tell her that her behavior was unacceptable, just as a mother would talk to a obdurant child.  That seemed to ease you greatly.

You needed the morphine – just small amounts – more often.  More people came and went.  We talked about your excitement about whatever came next.  And we talked about your biggest fear – fear that my Father would be mad at you when you saw him on the other side, that he wouldn’t have forgiven you for something that you blamed yourself for, something that I know he never blamed you for, no matter what words I used to try to convince you otherwise.

More people came and went.  I remember the quality of the light of the day, just as I remembered the quality of light on the day the Kelsea was born.  It was a slow, gentle light, lingering and warm, but clear in its waning, fading in beauty, dipping and deepening into dusk, then darkness.

We talked and talked.  You were getting…frisky? Cocky?  Rambunctious?  You were talking about getting up to the Pearly Gates and kicking St. Peter’s ass.  I never did know where that came from, but more power to you.

You wanted to see one person in particular, but he had had surgery that morning and couldn’t come.  You had something she wanted to tell him, but you finally decided that he already knew.  And you let it go.

[As I was writing this, I noticed my reference’s to my Mother changed from “you” to “she” about this time, a sign of letting go, perhaps.]

The hospice chaplain came.  I spoke to her out in the hallway, and couldn’t help but cry.  I didn’t cry much the last few days.  Mother didn’t want me to cry and so I didn’t.  But Jodi, the chaplain was so genuine, it was impossible not to let some tears flow.  I told her that she needed to talk, that there was something she needed to find peace around, before she could let go.  After Jodi left, she was calmer – she had found a certain peace.  I never knew what was spoken between them.  It didn’t matter.  It only mattered that she had released that last burden.

Things felt like they happened quickly after that, and then slowly.  Jackie, her home care nurse, came to visit.  It made her so happy.  “It’s my angel,” she said.  She always thought that way about Jackie.  Jackie too took me into the other room and told me that it was her time.  “Have you noticed that smell?  It’s the smell of death,” she said.  “I know that smell.”  Jackie was a big, beautiful, joyful, compassionate woman.  She told me that she’d tell the night nurse what to do, about preparing the body, that I shouldn’t worry.  She hugged me.

As the afternoon faded, she started to fade.  She became less lucid. She wasn’t talking so much.  She was hurting more.  I was slipping the small dropper of morphine between her lips more often.  I was the only one who could give it to her. I felt like her pain was in my hands.  It was getting late.  We sat with her, my uncle and brother on one side, me on the other.  She had stopped talking long ago, her eyes were closed now, her breathing slowing and labored. She would groan and twist sometimes, and I would give her another taste of the morphine.  I did not know if she was hurting, but I could not stand to think she might be, and couldn’t tell me, and I was doing nothing to ease her pain.

The waitress at their favorite restaurant called, and told me to light a white candle in front of her, and encourage her to go toward the light.  We did.  We sat and talked quietly.  We sat in silence.  We sat through the night.  E-Bro went to rest of a while.  It was calm.  I could feel her struggling to leave her body, as if her very spirit was working hard to let go, to get out, to be free.  Finally, somehow, we could tell her something had changed.  Maybe it was her breathing.  Something.  My uncle went to get my brother from the couch.  We sat again, the three of us, encouraging her to go.  I stroked her hair, whispered to her, kept my hand on her heart.  It slowed.  Her breaths came farther and farther apart, more and more shallow.

Until they stopped all together.

February 2016
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