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

 

 

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



 

31(+ 1) Days of Thanks – a True Team

TEAM

“A group of people with different skills and

different tasks, who work together on a

common project, service, or goal, with a

meshing of functions and mutual support.”

http://courses.washington.edu/ie337/team.pdf

A group of different people, who “work together” and offer “mutual support”. This is one of the most comprehensive definitions of the word “team” that I have ever come across.  Having worked as a coach for many years and as an employee of one of the nation’s military academies, I have always been on the lookout for how to be better at developing the team concept. One thing that is particularly important to me is to teach athletes how to care for their teammates. It seems like it should be a simple thing to teach, but that is not always the case. And I wish I could say that all of my teams were known to be caring and selfless towards one another,  but that is not the case either. But I have a recent example of what can happen when coaches and teammates invest in one another and care for one of their own. It is life changing.

This is a picture of our daughter’s college volleyball team taken August 2012. This was the day that the athletes and coaches went through their team building process to set the tone for the season. This was also shortly after Mike’s surgery in Boston and diagnosis of liposarcoma. Our daughter was a sophomore on the team at the time. She is second from the right in the back row. You can see a smile on her face but as her Mom, I can see the pain in her heart.

Mike’s cancer battle coincided with the volleyball season. Due to Mike’s physical limitations, he was no longer able to attend the matches. And so we watched many on line from home. When possible, I went to as many matches as I could. It was hard to take those first trips alone and to walk into the gym by myself. But it was always made easier by the bright smiles and hugs from players, coaches, parents, and the college staff. I felt welcome. Mike received cards in the mail from the coach weekly. Her daughter became Mike’s pen pal of sorts, sending him all kinds of pictures and notes to brighten his day:

Photo

These pictures were hung where they were easily seen and the inspirational messages were enough to make us smile and carry Mike through another day. In the meantime, our daughter was suffering much anguish in being away from her Dad during this challenging time. She came home on Sundays to visit and returned to campus with a heavy heart for another week. In the gaps, her teammates and coaches reached out to her and reassured her that they were there for her. In time, she learned to allow them to care for her with the kind of support that only true teammates can offer.

Mike’s health continued to decline throughout the volleyball season. Sadly, he passed away in the hospital the end of October, the last week of the regular season. It was a chaotic time. The day that Mike died, the state was facing the after effects of super storm Sandy. There were power outages, trees down, flooding, and destruction. But we had been  kept safe within the hospital walls. We literally had peace within the storm.  After our final good byes, it came time for us to leave the hospital, but we didn’t know where to go. Molly, and I did not have the energy to go home to a house without power or heat; and to the oxygen tank, walker, and hospital bed. So we ended up at our place of quiet – the lake. There was power there. And peace. We were so tired. I went to the bedroom and fell asleep immediately. I woke up to the sound of voices and dishes, and smelled food. Molly’s teammates and coaches had arrived. They made dinner. And since it was Halloween, they handed out whatever candy they could find in the house, eventually giving out granola bars. I laugh when I think of the whole scene. A couple of teammates stayed over. And stayed close to Molly. I don’t remember those days very well. But I do remember waking up at various times, always to the sound of the team. They returned again and again, to feed us and to show us that they cared. Sometimes I didn’t even get up to greet them. And that was OK. They came in, cooked and visited with Molly, and then left quietly. Always leaving a plate of food for me. I honestly don’t know if we would have eaten anything that week had they not been there. I have never experienced fatigue like that before. And this all took place at the busiest time of the volleyball season. A time when coach’s minds are on preparing their team for post season play and doing a whole lot of paperwork. It certainly was not convenient for the coaches or the team to make the time to care for us.

We waited a couple of weeks before having Mike’s memorial services.  Rebecca needed time to heal after giving birth to Caleb and our family in NJ was hit hard by the storm. We settled on the week of Thanksgiving; a busy week for everyone but we had few options. We were deeply touched by the commitment of the volleyball coaches and team to drive down for Mike’s wake. They came. And they stayed. THEY SHOWED UP. They ate with us. And then they drove back to school.  The next morning, they came again; to the church this time. They gave hugs and they stayed. THEY SHOWED UP. All this during a time when they were finishing up projects, taking exams, and making plans to travel home for Thanksgiving. Once again, they offered us the gift of their time, their love, and support when it certainly was not convenient for them.

I have not yet found the words that adequately express my gratitude for all this team has done for us. Their support carried Molly through the first year without her Dad. And they continue to care for Molly on a daily basis, walking with her through the many ups and downs of grief. They are patient, compassionate, and forbearing. And as they care for Molly, they care for me.

This is how I choose to end my 31 (+1) days of Thanks. To the coaches and staff of SCVB, past and present, and to the athletes; may you experience the mutual love and support that you have shown to us over this past year and may you know deep in your hearts how grateful I am to you for standing in the gap. #RollPride

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

31 Days of Thanks – the Fog

I’ve been struggling with what to write today. One minute I am happily thinking of Caleb’s first birthday and then wham-o, I picture Mike in his last hours. What a contrast. I feel pretty numb.

For me, the days before a significant anniversary are much harder than the actual day. If you asked, I could give you the details of the last week of Mike’s life. They have been playing over and over in my mind.  It is not the day he took his last breath that is most difficult for me.  It is remembering the days leading up to that moment that cause sleepless nights. The day Mike passed to Heaven brought with it some relief – relief because he was no longer suffering, relief because he knew where he was going, and relief because we are confident that we will be together again one day. Mike said several times that he was not afraid for himself, but knew that this was going to be hard on us. He even went so far as to say that it was harder on us than him.  I am not so sure about that. We are running a marathon; he ran a sprint. Each is challenging in its own way, and can take you to your breaking point. But he was right in the fact that yes, this is hard. So very hard. And this week the fog has settled in thickly, making it hard to see clearly and to know where I am heading. Sometimes I want to move faster, but we all know that going faster in the fog does not make things clear up. In fact, it puts you at greater risk.

So I do my best to slow down. To take care, be intentional in my actions, be aware, and know that this fog is temporary even though I may have to sit in it for a short while. And that is OK. Clearer moments are coming. I never know when, but I will keep looking and I can be thankful that they exist even when I can’t see them.

 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18.