October 31, 2017

 

 

 

Dear Mike,

 

Much has happened this past year. I know you would be very proud of me and I like to think that you are cheering me on every day. I’ve been thinking about ways to include you in my “new” life and this letter is one attempt at having some kind of connection with you. It feels kind of weird but like most things, I’m willing to give it a try.

Yesterday was Caleb’s fifth birthday. He is quite a kid. I try not to imagine you two together as it hurts but sometimes I do wonder how many knots you’d tie his little body into or how any times you’d make him scream. He has a sharp mind and I would not be surprised if he pursues some kind of math/engineering in life. Rebecca told Caleb about her phone call to you five years ago when she revealed his name to you, Caleb Michael. I remember watching you take that phone call and how touched you were knowing Caleb would carry your name forward.  You were so brave, for even then, in your last hours, you wanted your daughter to know you shared her joy.  Life is so bittersweet.

But as I said, this has been a full year for me. I don’t like to categorize it as easier or harder because emotions are not linear. It has been busier and I’ve had more capacity emotionally and physically. Sometimes I miss the slow quiet days of the prior few years even though they were so challenging. I felt closer to you then. Now, I feel as though our years together are becoming slippery memories that I have trouble holding on to. But, I am making new memories which is exciting but so terribly sad at times as well.  I have a hard time finding words to describe this season of life.  I really don’t like to think of me without you and yet here I am. I am burdened with the reality of the brevity of life and there is a vision developing for who I am becoming as a single woman, as much as I despise that fact. But time is valuable and I am determined to live it moment by moment, come what may.

I’ve had some amazing travel opportunities.  Last winter, I drove Molly to North Carolina where she lived and completed her final internship for her OT degree.  We agreed that you would have loved the history and the coffee shops! When her time there was finished, you would have been amazed (but probably not impressed) with the job we did packing up Molly’s car to drive back home. Honestly, we could not fit a tic tac in that car when we were done. But we did it! You won’t believe it but throughout the past year, I also traveled to Newport, Cape Cod, the NJ shore, Haiti, England, and Belgium. The best part about the travel is the people I’ve connected with along the way.  What great memories! My trip to Haiti was life altering. I’m thankful for the privilege of being able to carry your vision forward. Mike, your heart would break for this country and I just know you’d be there doing whatever is most helpful. But I guess, in a sense you are there. 

Sometimes the “little” things are big things for me still. I took Xander the wonder dog to an obedience class over the summer. It’s a bit different than the training you did with our past dogs; I’ll stop right there.  You know what I’m referring to. And I am starting to make this place my home. These things can be a challenge when it starts to feel like with each new thing, you get further away. But then I remember that you are always going to be a part of me and I am encouraged to look ahead. It’s this kind of ping pong game that goes on in my mind. On the practical side, I just finished my fourth year with the Conn College volleyball team and I’m pleasantly surprised to say that I’m starting to feel like my new-old self again. I have the post season blues – remember those days? I’m still working with the family foundation which is such a rewarding experience. I get to meet all kinds of people who are doing good for others. The biggest news is that I’m back at school full time. I drive to New Haven twice/week and am pursuing a master’s in marriage and family therapy. It took two years to come to the decision (something you frequently encouraged me to do…) and then another year to apply.  It’s a lot of work and time but I know it is the right place for me to be. I’ll be done Summer 2019 if all goes well and then only God knows what will happen. 

I know better than to guess what this next year will bring. Five years ago, I would not have been able to imagine the life I now lead.  It seemed impossible. Life is full. There is wonder, joy, and awe; an appreciation for the mundane things of life as well as simplicity. A new rhythm is shaping up that feels slightly more comfortable. I am gaining a sense of my capacity and when to say no to things regardless of how good they seem. I have a lot to learn still and am pushing myself too hard at times and then my body reminds me that I need to slow down….and I do. That’s when I can see those green/blue eyes of yours looking into my soul and I thank God for our time together. You’re the best.

Until I see you again,

Love, Trish

 

 

 

 

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A post that was written but never published…until now

I was up early today and thought I’d write something about my time in Haiti. But then I saw this draft and for some reason I feel like it needs to be published.  Maybe someone who reads it will know why…….

Written April 22, 2015 at 12:49AM:

It’s been such a long time since I’ve been able to find words that express what life is like lately.  My last blog post was about one year ago. One long year ago.  My journal has gaps in it. Days, weeks, and months with not a single word to be found.  This post is full of pauses, wrestling to find a word, swirling thoughts.  It is work.

“Do you ever feel like life is flying by for others and you are standing still?” This was a question asked by an acquaintance who suffered a terrible loss almost two years ago.  Yes. I get it.  Sometimes I feel as though I am wearing Mike’s big waders schlogging through waist deep water, heading upstream; pulling a barge behind me…filled with coal.  Get the picture?! But it’s been 2 1/2 years! I should be “over it”! Life moves on!

I started a few posts about “the second year”. After a loss, the first year can be a blur. You have all those “firsts” to anticipate and get through.  But then the second year comes and the numbness of the first year has worn off. Now you get to go through the realization that the loss is permanent. And you start to wonder how you want to recognize each milestone.  Or not. You continue to work through the practical pieces of life without your loved one. Life goes on for those around you. Grief becomes more private. More internal. And then the “third year” comes. I had glimmers of this new life. There were some moments of familiarity. Something I had not felt in a long time.  I even started to feel that I was going to “make it”. Whatever “it” is.  And then the next shoe dropped.  Another loss.  Someone who was a mentor, father figure, and friend. I never thought another significant loss would come so soon.  It has rocked my world in a way that I do not even have words to describe.  There is silence. A very quiet time. The quiet I relished a year ago, the quiet that gave me rest, is not the quiet of today. It is a reminder. It is an empty quiet.

There is a tremendous desire to look back. To relive days gone by; what it was like. There is a tendency to look ahead. To imagine what life will look like. Neither helps. Both are overwhelming and evoke

And that is where the post ends.  It is fitting that the sentence was never finished because that is what life feels like sometimes. Words are elusive.  And I’ve learned that it’s ok.  For me, it is important to feel within that moment; to be willing to go to that place where it hurts, because I know that unless I feel that sorrow, I cannot experience the full depth of joy that life brings.  It is this work that I am committed to. It is a willingness to be uncomfortable and to have faith, believing that healing and strength will come from the momentary pain. I can say this with confidence because since this post was first written, I’ve experienced greater strength, joy, and peace than I ever thought possible.

Press on, friends.  You are not alone.  You are loved.

Life is Short I Wanna Live It Well

This time tomorrow, I will be in Haiti.  I have the privilege of traveling with six others who have been there before.  They are fun, kind people who are helping me be brave.  Last week I was getting a bit anxious about the reality of this trip. The shots, meds, and rugged living are enough to make anyone think twice about going.  And yet, I think about all of the people who have given so generously to this Living Water project.  And I think of Mike and his desire to do something like this in his lifetime.  He had the vision and now I have the opportunity to see his vision become a reality.  How can I NOT see this in person?

Life is short; I wanna live it well
One life, one story to tell
Life is short; I wanna live it well
And you’re the one I’m living for
Awaken all my soul
Every breath that you take is a miracle
Life is short; I wanna live it well

 

Live It Well

 

 

 

No Expiration, Part Two

I like to make sense of things.  I like to look at life in a linear fashion.  With a beginning, a middle, and an end.

blank-timelineI am coming to the realization that my life is a bit more like this timeline. Heading in a general direction but with lots of turns and twists in the journey.

 

grief mess

Have you ever felt like you were not really “getting anywhere”? And the follow up question to that is “where is it that you are trying to get to?” From a young age, there always seems to be a “next step”. Elementary school to high school to college to career, to developing relationships; always looking ahead. When I look ahead, this is what I see:

foggy window

I desperately want to wipe away the fog so I can see clearly. But even if I could, the only point of reference I have for my life is the past. I am now a different version of myself.  I am the kindergartner learning how to make new friends; the self conscious teenager in social settings; the twenty something who is transitioning from the comfort of a predictable life to one that is unknown and full of challenges.   But I am also a woman who has experienced life in all its abundance. In the last year I sat on the beach in Naples, FL, took a trip on Thomas the Tank Engine, attended a conference in St Louis, MO, relaxed at the NJ Shore, visited the Guiding Eyes puppy training center, worked with dozens and dozens of young volleyball players, had an incredible trip to the Canadian Rockies, traveled New England with the Conn College Camels Vball team, adopted a rescue dog (Xander – more on him another time), sang and danced on the Polar Express, attended a conference in Hartford with my girls, spent a weekend in Newport, RI, and traveled to Durham, North Carolina twice.  In less than two weeks, I will go to Haiti to see firsthand the work that has been done with the proceeds from Mike G’s Living Waters golf tournaments. And then back to Durham one last time.  I’ve celebrated graduations, new babies, and lives well lived.  I applied for and received health insurance through Access Health CT without too many issues this year (yay!).  We ran Sound volleyball club and in my other job, I continued to grow in my knowledge of how to run a family foundation. After much thought, I began the process of applying to grad schools for a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. I continue to learn how to encourage and support my grown daughters through the challenges they face and to celebrate their successes.  Every day, my two grandchildren grow  and I am amazed at the miracle that they are even here. I thank God for them and the life and joy that they bring. With twists and turns, I experience my new life; sometimes moving forward, sometimes stagnant, sometimes it feels like I am going backwards.

I remember the first time I went to the grocery store after Mike died. It was “just” the grocery store and I had minimal things on my list. It took every ounce of courage I had to walk in there. And the whole time I prayed that I would not see anyone I knew. I remember telling myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other and just do it. With each of the things I mentioned in the first paragraph, I had to tell myself to put one foot in front of the other and just do it. It is only with great intentionality that I am able to do these things. It requires energy in the anticipation of the event, courage in the action, and patience in the recovery. There are flashes of melancholy and sadness.  Sometimes tears come at awkward times. And then there are moments of pure joy when I feel alive and brave and strong and I can hear Mike cheering me on, “You’re doing it Trish! I knew you could!!”.

And then I stop.

And stare.

And wonder what happened?! How did all of this happen?  To me? To us?

And so I sit. Sometimes for a minute. Sometimes much longer, until I am ready to choose to be brave and have hope that today I may be able to see through the haze; just a bit. But even if I can’t, I remind myself to take one step.  And life slowly swings back to the present where I do the next thing and the next thing after that.

foggy window 2

 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

 

 

No expiration date

I wrote this post the middle of September.  It is now the middle of October. It is a challenge to complete a task without the onslaught of memories and visions of the past. I’m not editing this post because I think it captures the ways of my heart in this season of life and this month in particular:

Here it is almost October, 2016. I find that the change in seasons is always accompanied by a quiet sense of melancholy. Especially when summer turns to fall.  And September turns to October.  There are a lot of mental gymnastics that go on in my head daily. Memories of difficult times flood my mind when I least expect it.  On appearance, I am “doing well”. I am so fortunate to have jobs that I am passionate about and to work with people who show me kindness  This summer I had a wonderful trip to Lake Louise, Alberta with my daughters.  A “once in a  lifetime” trip surrounded by mountains and a lake that is like no other.august-2016-027I have wonderful family and friends. There is SO much that I am thankful for.

And yet.

And yet there is that place deep in my heart where sorrow lives.  I miss Mike.  I miss Keith. I miss Red. I miss Lucy. I miss my father in law. I miss my parents. it is easy for my mind to go global and to allow my mind to pile on sorrow upon sorrow.  My mind tells me not to go global; to just sit and feel the sorrow, my personal sorrow.  And that is not being selfish. I’m not used to this process but the more I deny the feelings, the heavier it all gets and the wrestling continues.  “But hasn’t it been long enough?”  Mike’s been gone for four years. Move on. Live life.  I know the outward perception is that Patty’s “back”. She’s doing so well! And I am. But in my mind I can live in the “what was” and the “what is next?!”.  There are days when I almost feel like a robot. I find sparks of joy in each day but I am not sure if I am really living.  Rather, I I feel as though I am surviving.  Another day.  And THAT, my friends, is no way to live.

Why do I want to write this? What am I getting at?  I am not even sure. Words are elusive. Perhaps I want to encourage those who are suffering loss, whether it is a recent loss or one that occurred long ago. You are not alone as you wrestle with the same but different you.  A wise woman recently told me that there is no expiration date on grief.    I’ve been thinking about that a lot.  The reality is that the sadness will be with  me always.  It is not as sharp as it once was to be sure.  But the sadness is still there.  It lives beneath the surface and sometimes I just need to recognize it and give myself permission to STOP. To reach out for help. I am learning to be more honest with others about my wrestling, to ask for and receive support, expecting the relief that comes from others who choose to come alongside me.  I am much better at receiving help in practical ways. But this challenge – to ask for and receive support emotionally, when I don’t even know what that looks like in this season: when time has passed and the scars are not as visible – this is something I am struggling with.

Are there others who can relate? I hope you will share your thoughts with me and help me grow.

 

 

banff2016_mike-cairn

For Mike

 

 

Letting Go….Again

This picture sums it up.  A couple of years ago, we wanted a new family picture; .  Red squeezed his way in; right in the middle. That’s where he wanted to be.  You can see how happy he was.

We go to the world’s greatest veterinarians. So kind. Their gift of mercy gave me the courage to take the step to let Red go. When all was said and done, I got in my car with his leash and collar.  This was exceptionally hard. You see, after Mike died, I took the risk to love this dog. And he loved me right back.  Yesterday, my heart broke.

As I drove out of the parking lot, this song came on. I do not believe it was a coincidence.  It reminded me that there is hope. My heart takes hope that one day I will be reunited with all those who have passed on; with all those whom I’ve loved.

And on that day, we will walk along the streets of gold.

 

Be brave.

 

Trust

“Assurance grows by repeated conflict….When we have been brought very low and helped, sorely wounded and healed, cast down and raised again…and when these things have been repeated to us and in us a thousand times over, we begin to learn to trust simply to the word and power of God.” John Newton

 

Trusting Chickadee