Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009

The year 2009 was a menagerie of emotional highs and lows, the likes of which I had never experienced in my lifetime. Overwhelming and awe-inspiring joy. Deep sorrow and loss. Heart-touching moments. Seemingly unending worry. Dark hours. Sparkling days. Anger. Bliss. Depression. Hope.
2009 brought with it a gift of unending love, joy and pride. The birth of my daughter, Marissa is the single-most important thing that has ever happened to me. With the sounds of a first cry, the center of my universe was changed forever. My perspective tilted a new direction. My purpose clearly defined. I went from being a woman to becoming a mother. A word which defies all definition. It is all-encompassing. It is overwhelming. It is humbling. The last 9 months of this year have been defined by Marissa. She has given me more than I could ever imagine giving her. She has structured my life and replenished my soul. Only a gift so perfect from God could do such a thing. I thank Him for her every day and will continue to do so the rest of my life. It is a privilege to watch her grow, change, learn and explore every day. My life will never be the same.
It is because of her that I have been able to weather the darkness of this year. Disease. Cancer. Death. Funerals. These words unfortunately have defined much of the year as well. The pain cut deep into our family and took two very important people from our lives. My Dad. Mike's Mom. The pain of losing a parent is ongoing and persistent, but seems to lighten with time. Seeing reminders of these special people every day help me to remember that they are only gone physically. Their spirits are with us forever and live on through us. I pray that 2010 gives us some reprieve from this type of sadness and despair.
2009 ushered in a world of uncertainty. Politics, the economy and the world around us have created an air of fear, worry and anxiety. I hope that 2010 brings in some resolution to these problems that will make us feel better now, but more importantly, not hurt our future any further.
I am not sad to see the year 2009 end tonight. I look to 2010 as another new beginning that I hope to describe as joyful, prosperous, and peaceful. I look forward to venturing into another year in the journey of life. I'm sure it will hold many surprises.
Happy and Blessed New Year to all!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Spirit of Christmas

This year, I experienced the true spirit of Christmas. Of course, Jesus is the reason for the season and it is because of His love and His works that I was able to have a magical holiday.
With the terrible losses our family has suffered in the last few months, Christmas could have been a very dark and sad time for all of us. But it wasn't.
On Christmas Eve, I had one of those moments like you see in the movies, suspended in time almost. I looked around the room. My 9 month old daughter sitting on her Grandpa's lap. My sister-in-law and her husband, sharing a comfy armchair. A 2 year old cousin happily playing games with his aunts. Our 5 month old Goddaughter in her mother's arms. Relatives sitting around talking and having a beer. Others putting finishing touches on food in the kitchen. A fire in the fireplace and a pile of presents by the tree. I suddenly realized that this happiness and togetherness are the true magic of Christmas. It was in that moment, that I felt the spirit of my mother-in-law. She was with us in that celebration. Smiling down on all of us from heaven. All was right with the world.
On Christmas Day, we spent time with my mom and 2 close family friends. As I watched the joy come over their faces as they watched Marissa play, I knew that my Dad was enjoying the show as well. His spirit was with us too. And again, everything felt right.
The key to all of this lies in a special little girl. She embodies the spirits of her grandparents and the magic of Christmas. She brings light to a family who has had it's share of darkness. She brings hope and new beginnings where there has been despair and endings. Like baby Jesus, Marissa let all of us experience Christmas in it's purest form--as something shiny and new.
Thank you, my sweet daughter for giving us this wonderful and precious Christmas present.
Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pieces of a Life

I feel badly that I haven't kept up on this blog. I really haven't had the time or motivation recently. On November 22nd, my mother-in-law, Terri, found her peace with God. Since then, it's been quite a struggle to get back to some form of normal life. It's happening slowly. I guess I can't expect it to happen overnight.
Since I've experienced so much loss in such a short time, I've been thinking about death quite a bit. It's so strange how a person can just suddenly be gone from this world. Whether you know the end is coming or not, the loss is still so sudden, so final, so consuming. I guess the best way to continue on is to hold on to those pieces of a life that still remain. The memories, the possessions, the traditions.
Terri was in the hospital for several days before she finally passed away. As I walked through her house, the very walls screamed her name at me. It was overwhelming and sad and comforting how she surrounded us through pictures, wall paper and cut glass bowls. Even when I was at home, after the funeral was over, I felt her presence everywhere. The towels she bought for us on a great sale. The pajamas she gave to me last Christmas. The toys and clothes she gave to Marissa. All of these things are pieces of her life--represenations of her love, care and concern for her family.
Right now, these pieces of Terri are sharp and painful, but I know, over time, they will be treasured and comforting. That's what is starting to happen with the pieces of my dad's life. The physical reminders of his life are becoming a welcomed part of my life.
I think the lesson I take away is this--make your pieces count. Material things aren't important in the grand scheme of life, but the feelings and memories associated with physical reminders are very important. It can be the difference in just disappearing from this world or leaving your mark and making it count. Terri and my dad both left their mark on this world. I hope someday my pieces will make a difference to others.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Life at New Normal

Things are beginning to get back to normal now, or at least the new state of normal. A few days ago we buried my father. It was a beautiful service. Very fitting for my dad. I printed a copy of my "Thanks Dad" post and read it to him. I wrapped it around the stem of his favorite flower, a red rose, and my words of gratitude have been buried with him. It makes me feel better knowing that I was able to express myself to him one last time and that he has my love and thanks with him always. I miss him, but I am finding that there are so many reminders every day that he will always be with me. My mom seems to be coping pretty well with the entire situation, so that makes me feel better too.
It's been a rough few days though. As if my father's death wasn't enough, seeing my mother-in-law in so much pain, both physical and emotional, is very hard to deal with. I can't even begin to imagine how hard the funeral was on her knowing that hers is not too far off in the future. The thought was in the back of my mind the entire day. Watching her sleep or lay on the couch most of the day was very depressing to me. She can't carry and hold Marissa the way she would like to any more. She's not hungry and she's in pain. I hate seeing this. It put me in a dark place for the last few days.
Today I seem to be adjusting to the new normal of my life. Happy, with a hint of sadness. Peaceful, with a bit of aprehension. Full, with a small sense of longing and loss. Life marches on and so do I.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thanks Dad

There are so many things to thank you for and so little time left to do it.
Thank you for working so hard for so many years to make sure that we had a place to live, food to eat and clothes to wear. Thank you for raking piles of leaves in the backyard, just so I could jump into them and make a mess. Thanks for hiding Easter eggs every year so that the holiday was that much more exciting. Thank you for tucking me in and singing commercial jingles and TV themes to me as my lullaby. Thank you for digging out coins from the back seat of the car when the change in my pockets slipped out. Thank you for taking me trick or treating every year, even when it was freezing outside. Thanks for putting the star on the top of the tree every year and making a big deal about turning on the lights for the first time. Thank you for my college education. Thank you for giving me away at my wedding and realizing that Mike was indeed good enough for your little girl. Thank you for loving my husband like a son. Thank you for sharing a dance with me that night. Thank you for always being proud of me. Thank you for loving your granddaughter. Thank you for not giving me everything I wanted, but making sure I had everything I needed. Thank you for having a heart big enough and a mind open enough to realize that you could love an adopted child as if she was your biological child.
Thank you for being my dad. I love you. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Saying Goodbye

When I started this blog, I knew there would come a time when I would have to post about some sad experiences. I just didn't think it would be this soon.

As I sit and type this, my father is in his last dialysis session. After this, he will be transferred out of the rehab facility he has been in for the last few weeks and back to the apartment with my mom for hospice care. Since he can't live without dialysis, the medical staff tells us that it will only take a few days, maybe a week for him to pass away.

I'm really having trouble wrapping my mind around this. It's not like we didn't expect this. There were so many times over the last few years that we thought the end was near. This time, we even knew that this was probably it. So why is it so hard to believe? All I can picture is this clock, ticking away the hours he has left to live. I've even tried to put myself in his place and wonder how I would feel if I knew the end was this close. I can't even begin to imagine it. I know my mother-in-law is facing the same reality, although hers is farther off.

Last Sunday, Mike and I brought Marissa up to see my mom and dad. I knew that this might be the last time that any of us saw him alive. He was able to watch the baby play and laugh on the floor with Mike. He didn't say anything, but I could see him watching her and move his hand slightly, like he was waving at her. Maybe he was waving goodbye?

How do I say goodbye? How do I come to grips with something I thought I had accepted as a reality a long time ago?

This morning, I sorted pictures to use for the funeral display. He's not even gone and I'm already acting like he is. Maybe it's all a part of coping with the inevitable.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Life Begins at 39

I know. It sounds so cliche. Just fill in the blank, "life begins at ___". The more I think about where my life is right now and where it's headed, there isn't a phrase more fitting or all encompassing. I am in a period of huge transition in my life, many positive changes and some not so fun. That's what life is, a series of ups and downs. I can look back and say that my life has always been changing, going in and coming out of different phases, but the reason I make the statement that my life is beginning is because I'm at a point of fufillment, comfort and excitement, the likes of which I have never known before. This emotional state makes me even more ready for the adventures that lie ahead.
First, there is the center of my universe, Marissa. She was born on March 17th of this year, a little less than a month before my 39th birthday. My husband and I had been trying to conceive for about three years before it finally happened. While I wanted to be a mom so badly, I never realized the enormous and profound impact this little, beautiful creature would have on my life. I am filled with so much love that I could just burst at times. I see the world as brand new all over again. People always told me I would never understand until I had a child and now I see why. There just aren't enough words to describe being a parent. Of course, it's not all fun. Marissa takes after me in many ways which makes her impatient, demanding and really short-fused at times. Even with the trying times, I can't wait for each new milestone to happen and each first.
The second big change is not working outside the house. I am lucky enough to be able to stay at home with my daughter and not work. After being home with her, I have come to a realization that I never wanted to admit to anyone other than maybe my husband. I have always been too worried about my career, the future possibilities and what others might think of me to say it before, but I'll say it now. Having a career is not important to me. Climbing a corporate ladder is not important to me. I just don't get fufillment from working. The relationships with the people I have worked with, of course, are very important to me, but the work itself, not so much. There. I said it. No turning back now.
The next transition in my life is not fun or positive. I am coping with parents who are not in good health. My father has kidney failure and has been on dialysis for 4 years now. He is 80, so he is not a candidate for a transplant. The dialysis is very hard on his frail body and I see him getting worse and worse every time I visit. In fact, just recently, he was moved from the assisted living area where he was living with my mom to the nursing home section because he is getting so bad. My mom is also 80 and her issue is even harder to deal with. My mom has issues with dimentia. It's so difficult to see my loving, kind, intelligent and well-educated mother lose her memory and reasoning capabilities. I have the same conversations with her over and over. I know in my mind that she can't help it, but my heart breaks every time. She can't seem to understand or remember what's happening with my father, so it's causing a lot of chaos on a daily basis for my husband and I as well as my brother and his wife. To top things off in the parent department, my mother-in-law is dying from terminal lung cancer that has spread to the bone. It's stage 4 and not curable, so she has chosen to not take treatment and live out whatever time she has left. Every time I look at my little girl, I cry a little knowing that she will never remember these wonderful people who are her grandparents. She does have one grandfather in good health so I do hope it stays that way. As I said before, life has it's ups and downs. Right now, I have some pretty big downs, but I know it won't always be like this. Life keeps changing.
Lastly, I am becoming very comfortable just being myself. It's not that I don't care what others think. I'd be lying if I said I didn't. It's just that what I think is more important to me now. Some people would call it living without regrets or apologies. I don't. I know I will still need to apologize plenty in my life. You can't be true to your mind and heart without stepping on a few toes along the way, so apologies will still be necessary. I'm trying to minimize regrets, but I know there will still be some. It's impossible to have none.
So this is my life at 39. I'm embarking on some uncharted territory for me and I'm keeping record of it and sharing it here with the world. I hope this blog will be interesting, maybe even controversial at times. It could also be boring in certain parts. I don't have an agenda because life doesn't go according to any plan. Except for God's and He usually doesn't share ahead of time.