On The Surface

Anyone who has read my writing knows that I find meaning and messages and inspiration and hope and healing and connection to my daughter, Dannica, in numbers and blue sky rainbows and signals and signs and in the synchronicities of every day life. My daughter’s death is the most painful of the many earthly losses I’ve experienced.

It is a very long story, full of numbers, blue sky rainbows, signals, signs and synchronicities that recently led me to become a participant in a Grief Recovery Method support group and to then become a certified Grief Recovery Specialist in order to continue my own healing work as well as to gently guide others in this direction.

Dannica loved worms.  She loved all living things.  She even treated inanimate objects that resembled living things with the same respect and compassion she’d have shown the living version! (Other stories for other times.)  As a child, whenever it rained and the worms would come out on the driveway and in the gutter, she’d pick up as many as she could and put them back in their happy, dirty places.  She gave them names and talked to them before finding some dirt for them to squiggle into and she loved them with all her little heart.  She didn’t know it, but I watched her, and loved her and was her enthusiastic student the entire time.  Now, I think of her every time I save a worm from becoming road jerky, and I *have* to do it!  I can’t stop myself.

I saved a worm on the path between the hotel and a coffee shop just before my first day of Grief Recovery this past June.  I found a beautiful feather where I bent to return the worm it to it’s dirty home; then a butterfly… it almost let me brush its wing with my finger and it followed me and it stayed close.  All of these, were whispers (to me, anyway) from the spirit of respect and compassion, from the spirit of Dannica, the spirit of my daughter, winking at me, giving me a hug, seeing the genuine joy through the tears as I took a deep breath and thanked her for lighting my way.  She got me there, to that place, to that class, to the next step in my own recovery and to the next step in fulfilling her purpose of making this a better world to live in for all living beings.

I’m not going to talk here about my experience in the group other than to say it was an emotionally intense and extremely challenging experience and I’m deeply grateful to have had it.  I believe from the moment of her passing, my Dannica has been telling me there are greater, higher purposes for her passing just as she did, just when she did.  We had an agreement (well, that’s what I believe); a sacred contract, that she would contribute in this way to making the world a better place and that I have a part to play in it too, and she’ll help me with that because this is not something either of us can accomplish on our own.

I’ve felt in a bit of a whirlwind since I got home from my class; web site stuff, facebook stuff, making flyers and plans, completely restructuring my business and private practice with this new focus.  Now some of that’s done, I’m getting out of my business mind and back into my heart.  It’s a better place for me from which to live and from which to be in my daily life.

Sometimes, a lot of times, as others in their lives go on with their lives, grieving people tend to feel isolated.  Their hearts are broken.  My heart is still broken.  I, as many do, heard a lot of the hundred plus comments, one generally hears following a loss; all of them made sense to my brain, none of them made sense to my heart.  I believed them and have even passed some of them on to others, each statement perpetuating another myth of grief and loss and grieving.  “Don’t feel bad, at least _______.”  “She’s in a better place.”  “Time heals all wounds.”  “This, too, shall pass.”  “Everything happens for a reason.”  “Only the good die young.”  As logically acurate and emotionally unhelpful as all of these were, the one that truly sent me reeling over the edge was, “It could be worse, honey.  I know of a woman who lost not only her daughter but also her husband in the same accident.  It was easier for her than it is for you though, because she had her church and her faith, and you don’t.  Do you have a relationship with Jesus?”

Yeah, if I had those things I wouldn’t be feeling any of this, would I?  But, I’ve lost those, too.  I couldn’t push her out my door fast enough.  I couldn’t slam my door hard enough when she was gone.  I coulnd’t have cried harder than I did in the hole I felt my own life to be in that moment.

Many of the things I heard from others didn’t make sense to my brain either, but I believed people meant well and probably had no idea what to say instead.  I don’t believe they consiously intended to shut me down or minimize my feelings to remain comfortable in my presence, nonetheless, that is how I felt, and many relationships have faded or vanished completely from my life.  More loss.  More grief.  More time alone. More believing there is something wrong with me.  It must be me.  I’m the one who changed, right?  Mine is the only life now different than it was before November 14, 2012.

Over time, I came to feel as if the world was just tired of hearing from me.  There are people in my life who continue saying things like, “We make our own happiness.”  What I hear, what my heart understands is, “GET OVER IT ALREADY!  Move on.  Let it go, I have. Be happy… just be happy so I can feel better about being near you.  You’re such a downer. Life’s too short!  I don’t have time for this…  I don’t have time—for you, Melissa, for you—not as you are – not like this.”

So, while my heart is broken and while I’m bleeding to death on the inside every day, I put on my happy face and I pretend to be happy.  That way I can tell myself I don’t need people anyway.  I’m all I need, right?  That might be true, but not when it comes to grieving.  Not then.  I know this now.  I didn’t know it before.

Day after day, I drift up from sleep into a panic in the pit of my stomach and part of me always wants to scramble back down again but it’s time to face the world with my happy face. The door to the world I’ve awakened from has slammed shut.  Day after day, I am the academy award winning griever playing the part of the amazing, strong, brave woman who’s daughter died and yet still buys groceries, still does laundry, still manages to work at a job (more or less), see a movie, have lunch or coffee with another human being and talk about the weather and the world as if she cares about those things at all.

There are days when I feel superhumanly powerful for walking from one room of my house to the next as opposed to crawling or just giving up on the trip altogether and taking a nap on the floor between rooms.  No one else knows that.  No one else sees that now because it’s been four years, 11 months,  9 days and that’s way beyond plenty of time for someone to be over this and move on with their life just like everyone else.  “That’s life,” and that phrase makes me want to take my own life every time I hear it.

The mantlepiece in my broken heart is lined with little golden Oscars.  One for each and every time I answered, “How are you?” with the word “fine” and someone believed it. One little golden Oscar for every holiday I’ve “celebrated” pretending to actually care about the centerpiece, the menu, or whether the toilet was clean, even when I wanted to sit in the closet until it was over but felt obligated to “make an appearance.”  One for every time I fooled even myself into believing, “now I’ve felt it all… nothing could feel worse,” and then it feels worse.

The Grief Recovery group and the specialist certification don’t mean I’m “there” yet even though I so wanted them to mean that.  I have a new direction in life and I have some new ideas and a new understanding of myself as a mother and as a human being and as a facilitator of healing in others.

Recovery from the pain of grief is a journey more than a destination; made a step at a time but in a direction I hadn’t intended when I first set out.  It feels like a detour because it is a detour…  a different path, well defined by others who see the bigger picture with better understanding than I do in order to get me safely from here to there with the least resistance and the most efficiency possible.

I still feel sad that my Dannica isn’t here with me physically, but I no longer push sad away from who I am in a given moment.  Permission to feel sad feels so different than feeling shame for feeling sad.  It’s my new way.

The Sweetest Phone Call…Most Precious Messages

This was an absolutely beautiful evening here where I live in Oregon.  Clouds, rain, clearing, more clouds, more rain, more clearing.  As the sun began moving down, the light changed into something magical and golden.  I’ve never been able to resist the urge to go outside and look up whenever I see that golden light, fresh, bright green leaves bathed in it, dark gray storm behind them, brilliant double rainbow above them.  I had a really nice text visit with my son.  I sent him photos of my sky and he sent me ones of his; it was amazing in Portland, too.

PortlandSky     AlbanySky

I was teaching someone how to make a cheesecake tonight.  Ultimately, it’s very little work and a lot of waiting.  Mixing, chilling, baking, more mixing, more baking, more chilling.  Tomorrow, we’ll get to eat that particular magical and golden with Nutella cream sauce drizzled over the top and fresh strawberries.

The recipe we made was for a 9 inch cheesecake but my spring-form pan is only 7 inches.  We made the full recipe and I decided to make a tiny cheesecake in a mini pie pan with what wouldn’t fit.  The graham cracker crust only went halfway up the side and I was afraid the cheesecake part would stick so I started spreading butter around the edge of the pan with my finger.  My student asked, “Don’t you have a brush for that?”  I told him I have a paint brush but it’s too big.  He told me about the one at his place that is just about finger width… and so on… and aren’t fingers just the perfect tool sometimes.  I coated the buttered edge with extra graham cracker crumbs and called it good.

Paintbrush

Between the work, during the waiting, I sat next to the cage where my sixteen year old parakeet, Emi, lives.  We recently lost his partner of 14 years.  He needs a lot of attention from me now so I do a lot of things sitting next to him, talking to him, listening to music together, Sudoku.  He’s survived a few close calls in his life; with nonstick cookware, midnight churro oil melting plastic utensils and a few other smoke-filled room kitchen disaster sorts of things, Fabreeze (Yes, it’s TOXIC TO BIRDS no matter what it says on the label.  It was used 2 rooms away with the door closed and put both birdies on the bottom of the cage within 24 hours).  Emi has scar tissue in his tiny lungs and so he gets a bit wheezy sometimes and makes sneezing noises; COPD for Budgies.  He’s an otherwise healthy, and mostly happy again, little and very old, bird.

As I sat with Emi tonight, it came to me that lavender might calm him, as it does us, and then maybe his breathing would be easier.  All of my lavender is blooming right now and that sky wanted me out there, too, so I grabbed my scissors and a vase and clipped a bunch.  I brought it inside to trim and put in a smaller vase with water and lavender oil to place near Emi’s cage.  While I was outside, my niece called and left a message asking me to call her, she wanted to talk to me about “some things she was experiencing.”

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I felt in the middle of things so I put off calling her right away.  The light through the window caught my attention again and I saw a rainbow being cast from outside onto the curtains behind the couch where I’ve had my most vivid dreams and onto the wall beyond them.  I felt my Dannica’s presence with me and had the thought, “She really is in the light.”  I whispered thanks to her for being with me and I told her, as I do many times every day, how much I love her, my Little Angel, my Baby Girl… and miss her hugs, her physical presence, terribly.

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The cheesecake had 15 minutes left in the oven but it was getting late and it’s later in my niece’s time zone so I put on the headset and called and continued to trim the lavender next to Emi’s space.  She answered in tears, so upset which worried me but at the same time I felt such calm…the beauty of this evening, the smell of cheesecake and lavender and loving my birdie and my Danni and my son and the sky… The Sky!

My niece proceeded to tell me of her experience of the past few hours/minutes/days.    “Just in the past 10 minutes,” she sobbed, “I’m feeling like Danni is trying to tell me something for you.  I keep smelling baking cakes, cupcakes, frosting, sprinkles, and Danni with you and remembering baking together.  Did she paint?  Paintbrush…  rainbows…  and flowers…. lots of flowers!”

What gifts!  It was like Christmas morning in my heart.  Dannica had actually spent the evening with me and found a way to let me know that almost as soon as it happened.  These experiences are becoming more and more powerful for me and less surprising which makes them more and more comforting at the deepest level possible.

Life is certainly something magical and golden.DanniMom

Birthday Buttons – The rest of the story

There is more to the story of Dannica’s Birthday Buttons.  I wanted to include everything in my previous post but I felt strongly about sharing what I could on her special day and  wanted to wait for the appropriate permissions to come before sharing the full story… the miracles involved.

Since my baby passed, miracles have become commonplace in my life.  I will never take them for granted, they will always take my breath away and bring my hands to my heart and my soul to its knees and I will forever bask in their warmth, their coolness, their peace; postcards from home while I’m here on Earth, at “Summer Camp.”

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I saw a photo, similar to the one above, on a home page; something anyone would see when logging on to Etsy Thursday morning.  Generally, I move quickly past this page because I’m there to sell, not to buy and I usually click through to my own stats’n’stuff, only taking time to browse other shops after that.

I really could not take my eyes away from that beautiful tin and those beautiful buttons and they took me back to Dannica’s childhood button adventures instantly and fondly.  I felt her with me, beside me, in my left ear, up the left side of my face and into the crown of my head… tingling sensations of her presence, and her happiness, excitement, and her love.  Priceless!

Dannica’s Birthday, June 16, the details of this transaction between myself and Chickie became beautifully and brilliantly clear.  I had been tag-teamed by Angels.  This spontaneous purchase of antique buttons was a quantum setup between myself, my Dannica and Chickie, a lovely woman who’s also passed away and who’s Dear Ones have continued to honor her life through their own Etsy shop.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/ChickieVintageLove

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This is a photo of a beautiful young Chickie ❤

I sent a note to the shop owners to thank them and to let them know what a special gift this was and how pleased I am with it.  As I continued to look at the buttons and the little card that had been included; the birthday cupcake Thank You note from heaven.  I could almost hear the two of them giggling about it.  In the conversation that followed my purchase, I learned that Chickie’s birthday was June 13, three days before Dannica’s.

Love, Love, LOVE! to the Angelic Gemini twins.  How exciting and comforting it is to know that Dannica is continuing to enjoy the things she loved on earth from the other side.  She’s making good friends.  She’s happy.

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Send

 

 

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Dannica and I used to communicate constantly through text messages.  Silly, silly stuff!  Not only that, though; there were times we actually had some pretty good talks about things that might not have come up face to face.  I thought of them as ice breakers.  It made those things easier to talk about face to face, later.

Before we had cell phones, we wrote notes.  I wanted her to know it was important to express her feelings to me no matter what they were.  I remember a time when she was much younger.  I was irritated and we weren’t communicating well.  I sent her to her room so we could both calm down.  When I went back a while later so we could talk about things, a little note had been slipped under the door.  “Mom, you hurt my feelings.”

My heart crumbled when I read that.  I knocked and she invited me in and I just held her close and cried and told her how sorry I was.  Regardless of anything else, hurting her feelings had never been my intent and I was grateful she told me what I had done.  I received many little notes from Danni through the years and I saved them all.  From time to time, I’ll find one in a place I didn’t expect such as in a cookbook or in a stack of papers or a journal I haven’t written in for a while and I am crumbled all over again.

Once again, It’s been months since I posted anything here.  See, I had the holidays to get through and that took all the energy I had been able to conserve since August.  New Year’s eve I took on a project involving one of my bookshelves and as I flipped through one of the books there, a Danni Note fell into my lap.  It was written on a little sheet of stationery in pink pen.  At the top of the page is the image of a little angel in a country dress with willow leaves for wings.  She’s holding a watering can in one hand with a butterfly perched on her other and she’s floating over a garden of sunflowers that line the bottom of the page.  The note says, “I don’t know what to write.  I need a hug from mom.”  Aw, little angel… Now it’s your mom who doesn’t know what to write and needs a hug from you.

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I keep Dannica’s cell phone charged and sitting on a table next to the couch where I often sit.  After she passed it continued to make noises each day and I’d pick it up to see the Dicionary.com word of the day.  She was a writer, too.  Though it frustrated her, whenever she’d ask me what a word meant, I’d suggest she look it up and let me know, too.  Text messages and emails from people who didn’t know she’d passed continued to come in for a while.  Even some who did know continued to write to her.  Eventually, service ended.  The phone is no longer even updatable.  The only noise it makes now is a once monthly reminder to transfer $40 into her checking account to pay a bill that no longer exists.  When she would receive a text, her phone used to make this sound.  I miss it.

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One day, I missed hearing from her so much I wondered what might happen if I sent her a text message.  I see her name in my contacts and it’s a conscious effort to ignore it every time I send a text message to my husband, Daniel, because his name is directly above hers in the list.  One day, I selected her name anyway and I wrote her a short note; something I’d said to her many times, something she’d know was from me no matter where she was.  I cried.  I read it over and felt the stabbing pain in the center of my being and I pressed Send.  There it went, with a “who-oop?”

I sat there wondering why I just did that.  Why did I actually send it?  And where did it go??  I still don’t know the answers to those questions.  I picked up her phone and began swiping through her photos and her notes hoping to find something I maybe hadn’t seen yet.  Then my own phone whistled to me from the corner of the couch and the message was there.  My hands shook as I opened it, “Who is this?”

“I’m sorry,” I immediately apologized (what had I been thinking…. honestly) “This used to be my daughter’s number.  I hadn’t stopped to consider it might be someone else’s now.”  Really?  Hadn’t I?  Well, I hadn’t wanted to.

“No problem.”  says this mystery person as yet another part of me flat lines.

Well, now it is someone else’s number.  Another fear faced.  Another life experience I seal myself away with on my down days.  Another something to wrap acceptance around.

Maybe It’s Enough

So I’m not a phoenix rising.  So I’m perfectly human.  So I’m not amazing even though everyone told me I was.  So the world has moved on without me.  So I’m only able to drag myself through half a job.  I do love that job…that’s something.  That’s something.

So the dreams I had for myself have passed on, too.  So I’m mourning things I can’t even begin to express (in addition to my daughter’s life).  So I’ve been touched by this life just like everyone else has been or will be.  So I drag myself through half a life.  Sometimes, I love things about this life, such as it is… and that’s something.  That’s something.  Isn’t it.

So despite the flowers blooming and the trees budding out in the world, it’s still winter in my heart.  So it’s been winter in my heart for more than a year.  So it may be winter in my heart forever.  So be it.  I have my blanket.  I have my slippers.  I have a fire to curl up in front of.  I have hot tea.  That’s something.  That’s something It is.

So my daughter has passed on.  So she took half my heart with her and holds it forever wherever she is.  Maybe people can live with half a heart.  They live with one kidney and I have two of those.  I gave birth to two children.  I have a son, a beautiful, precious son.  So my daughter’s passing took half of his heart, too.  Together we have a whole one.  That’s something.  That’s something.  That’s everything.  Now.  And I LOVE that.

So I rest at the end of the day, with my two hands over my half heart.  It’s quiet.  It’s still.  I hear the rain and I remember the flowers.  I think there’s hope.  I like that.  Maybe that is enough.  So it has to be enough.  Maybe it is.

Choosing Life

Walking along the beach one evening I spotted two teenage girls taking pictures of each other and themselves.  They were setting the timer on their camera and trying to capture an image of them jumping into the air as the shutter snapped.  It reminded me so much of Dannica to hear them laughing as they viewed the results and then tried again and again, laughing harder each time.

Smiling sadly, I moved on toward the waves wanting to stand at the edge of their journey’s end.  I found myself feeling a great sense of gratitude that the earth exists and that it sustains us all.  I stood, watching the sun set between dark clouds, the waves churning, rolling in and in and in, and I felt at home, a sense of peace and belonging.  I also wondered what it would be like to walk slowly into those waves and keep walking and breathing deeply until I could do neither of those things any longer.  My life would be simply…. over.  Like hers.

Such a fine line.

Was there really an agreement; as Caroline Myss calls it a “Sacred Contract?”  There is in every moment the potential for anything and everything, I understand this, but what brought about this particular one?  Do we truly create our reality with our thoughts and emotions and actions?  Some do believe this completely.  Did I think, feel, and somehow act in ways that brought the loss of my daughter’s precious young life into my own?  The loss of her life has touched so many so deeply.  Did we all who feel this loss so profoundly think, feel, act her out of this world?  Did it have anything to do with any of us at all?

It was her life, Sweet Dannica… did she think, feel, act herself to an accidental death at the age of 18?  In her next life will she try to imagine what may have been in her previous life?  Is she already living that next life?  Has her soul moved on?  Has she gone into the light?  Does it work that way?  However it works, I hope this life sparkles for her.  I hope she remembers it as being as precious as she will always be to me.

Like the girls on the beach, Danni loved life in such a pure and essential way.  She showed me that life is for living, for enjoying, for laughing at and laughing about and for cherishing and for smiling and for anything that brings a smile to my own face or that of another.

It is a brilliant opportunity, this life, to be a daughter or a son, a sibling, a parent, a partner, a grandparent, a grandchild a friend.  I’m immeasurably grateful for the opportunity I had to be Dannica’s mother and her friend.  It is also a brilliant opportunity to be a human being who is blessed to call this beautiful planet home.  I know I have a choice in every moment.  I know that I can choose to continue as I am, to choose life on earth.  I wonder if she had that choice at the moment she left.  I feel that she did have a choice and that her body was so broken that the choice she made was a compassionate one – toward herself, her soul, compassion toward us, who love her so and would have ached at seeing the struggles she’d likely have faced during and following recovery from that horrible, horrible accident.  I don’t believe she would have wanted a life of hospitals and doctors and disability and I would not have wanted that for her……….but to have her here…………oh, that selfish, selfish part of me… to have her here, to touch, to kiss, to hold and talk to….

I feel blessed to have a heart full of smiles, laughter and silliness as I remember times with you, Dannica.  You are forever young, beautiful and perfect in my memories.  Even as I choose to stay, to live out my life, I know that this is the only thing I really can choose.  Beyond rejecting suicide, I look forward and I see the whole of this life as an exercise in acceptance of the fact that I have no control over what is, what was, or what will be.  The choice I have made is to carry on.  When some unforeseen force decides to end that for me, that will be that.  It is a helpless feeling and it boggles my mind yet at the same time it relieves me of any need to even try to control anything.  So I will continue to live the whole of my  life and I will look forward, to the end of my life, to what I believe will be a beautiful reunion with those I have chosen to call family and those who have proven to be family through the sincerity of their friendship as well as those with whom there may have been a sacred contract to bring about change that helped me grow even as I cried, raged, wallowed in anger and hatred of it at the time.

Help me to see the bigger picture.  I feel in my heart there must be one.

Faith… aaaannnnd Action!

I do have very strong spiritual beliefs and for that I am grateful.  It is the history of my entire life that has slowly prepared me for the events of the last many days.  I can see it as if from above; agreements made, potentials discussed, lessons considered… and Wednesday, the 14th of November, it was as the hustle and bustle backstage before the curtain goes up. “Places, everyone!” …and now the janitor quietly sweeps between the isles, the lights dimmed, roses thrown all over the stage.  I have spoken with many people who felt a ripple move through their lives during that 24 hours before Dannica left this place.  Many people felt it coming, didn’t know why, weren’t sure what, but knew for sure *her*… somehow, something… they felt it coming.

 Some have asked me, “How can you stand here?  How can you be so strong? How are you doing this?”  Well, I have moved as steadily as I know how from one breath to the next.  “Breathe, Breathe again, good… once more…. just one time more…”  Soon, I was able to stand.  The tears crumbled me, the energy drained through my feet and pulled me to the ground again.  Only Mother Earth could hold me up.  So I stayed there, and the only power I knew was gravity.  Eventually, I stood again, took a step.  Took another step… this is where I live now…. taking a step; maybe another step.  Maybe.  Someday, I will run again, dance again, sing again, smile up into the sun again and rejoice in every moment with all my heart.  Someday.  Maybe.
 
Others have asked me, “What has this done to your faith?”
 
“This has made my faith stronger, far stronger, than it has ever been.”  I tell them.
 
“How can that be?!”  They ask.  “How can that be?”
 
I have learned in my life that no matter how much it hurts, no matter how unfair it seems, no matter how senseless, something good will come of it.  It’s never evident in  the moment.  But these things are undeniable when they start showing up.  Divine order is beautifully manifest in absolutely everything one can rest their eyes upon, their hands, their heart.
 
I will have my moments of weakness, and I’ll grow stronger.  For now, one breath, another breath, stand, one step, another step.  Breathe, raise my eyes to the sky, bring my hands to my heart and hold her there and listen and watch and patiently wait…  for something good.