Stumbling Through Life After a Death

The death of my mother six weeks ago has left me reeling. Not only was it unexpected and tragic, it created an alternate reality in my life — a reality where the one woman who really knew me no longer exists. Some days, I feel like I’m stumbling through life after her death.

The memories from that time in January still invade my mind. Some memories I want to hold on to forever, and some I want to fade away into nothingness. The tearful call from my family telling me Mom’s heart had stopped and she was on the way to the hospital. The 16-hour emergency road trip to California. Walking into the hospital room and seeing my once-fierce mother laying there sustained only by machines. My

Me and Mom (late 1960's)

Me and Mom (late 1960’s)

sister and I holding Mom’s hands while singing “Happy Birthday” to her in the hospital the day before she died. Stroking her hair and kissing her still-amazinginly soft cheeks as I tried to grasp the gravity of the situation.

For weeks afterward, the sadness upon waking taunted me. My mother was gone and I would never see, hear, or touch her again. Never again could I pick up the phone and receive her wisdom and love or draw from her strength. Never again would she take my face in her beautiful hands and kiss me on my lips. Never again….

I know that Mom still speaks to me. Every so often, I feel her gentle touch on my hair and hear her calming and understanding voice. She wants me to let go of all the things that have been holding me back in life. She wants me to quit being afraid and dive forward into everything I was born to do. She knows the terror and false shame I’ve hid inside for so long, and she wants me to release it. She tells me I don’t have to be afraid of hurting her or embarrassing her anymore because she’s moved on to her next existence.

It was Mom’s time. Even though I always wanted her to be immortal, I know it’s time to let her go. Her struggles with bi-polar mania and COPD ravaged her body and mind. She became a shadow of her former fabulous, confident self and she didn’t like what she saw. She was ready to be free.

Now, as I deal with the heavy, daunting task of getting through this loss, I am ready to be free. Free of the grief and sadness. Free of the “wondering what I do now” sensation. And finally, free of the arbitrary limits I put on myself on my mother’s behalf. She NEVER would have asked me to do such a thing…..EVER! Funny how we stop ourselves due to fear but call it something else.

I leave you with this quote from brainyquote.com:

“Grief has limits, whereas apprehension has none. For we grieve only for what we know has happened, but we fear all that possibly may happen.” — Pliny the Elder.

I have been apprehensive my whole life and fear has ruled me. The times I’ve discarded fear’s grip and jumped off a cliff into the unknown, new worlds have opened up. Here’s to overcoming inaction/reaction and creating action!

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I’m a Pen & Paper Girl…for the Most Part

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pens and Pencils.”

Love, love, love that you brought this up.

Most people I know would have a difficult time remembering when they last wrote anything by hand. Maybe they personally addressed their holiday cards this year? Even that’s a stretch with readily-available mobile device to printer tech. They’ve transitioned to the digital world freely without regret.

For me, however,  composition books and multi-color ink are both the tools of my creative process and the hurdle to “just getting something posted” online. [Read: I have LOTS of stories started on paper with the intention of typing them up later.] Business writing always begins and ends on a keyboard, but story ideas, intros, outlines, and books, all seem to start on paper and stay there forever.

And no — I don’t care to go back to the pre-keyboard era either — thank you very much 🙂  How do others transition away from their “paper-forever” bent?

Cultural Fears & Stereotypes

Memorial On the BeachOne day while walking into the building at my old job, I was approached by a co-worker we’ll call “Tina”. Tina and I worked the same schedule so we frequently chatted on the daily walk from the parking lot to the building. With a look of fear and great concern, she asked me if I had “seen the guy with the beard” that was “wandering around” the building. Tina stated she was freaked out by him and contacted security.

Curious to find out more information about this “scary” bearded man, I started asking her to describe him to me. If some weirdo was running around the office, I wanted to know who he was. She provided me with approximate physical dimensions, hair color, etc. Then, she stated he was wearing a hat and described what I knew to be a “yarmulke” or “kippah” worn by Jewish men. “You know Tina,” I told her, “…if the gentleman was Jewish, then his beard would be an important part of his culture just like his cap.” Since I’m familiar with some Hasidic requirements, I shared that information with her hoping to ease her fear. We discussed this for a few more minutes and then went off to our separate cubicles.

As I left the office at the end of the work day, Tina approached me once again. She said “I wanted to thank you for our discussion this morning about the guy with the beard. Come to find out, he was an applicant waiting for an interview so I was afraid for no reason. After talking to you I realized I have a fear of men with beards.” She couldn’t pinpoint what caused the fear, but she was relieved at her own self-realization.

What intrigued me most about this interaction was my co-worker’s blindness to her own fears. Then I started wondering how many others are out there, holding onto irrational and unidentified cultural fears that shape behavior? Also, how many adults instill their own preconceptions of race, culture, religion, sexual preference, disability, etc. into their impressionable children? I was 6 when I first discovered what bigotry and prejudice were. Thankfully, my precocious and stubborn nature as a child allowed me to battle the racial hatred spewed at me constantly by my father. Other cultures have always fascinated me, so I rebelliously pursued learning everything I could. Since my dad scared the hell out of me, all of my learning had to be done without him finding out.

In secret, I developed my own philosophy about people…a philosophy I still live by today:

  • That people are basically good, and that greater knowledge helps them shift their thinking away from fear; and
  • That you can be completely different from another human being, yet CHOOSE to view them through a lens of equality.

So many people are afraid of things just because they don’t understand them. Take a look at the photo on this post for example. It was a beautiful memorial photographed on a beach not far from my home. Done in the Native American “dream catcher” style, it was built from driftwood, beer cans, Tiki torches, solar lawn lights, a soccer ball, and included a child’s hand-written note that says “Austin you were the best brother in the world. I [heart] you Amelia.” In my view, it was a touching and creative way to honor someone. However, I’m sure there are those who came across this hand-crafted shrine and looked at it with fear, anxiety, or judgement.

What about you? Do you harbor prejudices, stereotypes, or ethnocentric philosophies? Do you say derogatory things about different cultures without even thinking about it? Do you fear a certain race, creed, religion, etc. without any danger to justify it?