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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Miss...Jacob?

An incredible thing happened the last time Jacob spent the night at a friend's.

I missed him.

I missed him, not because the house was quiet without him now that Cory is gone, but in his own right for no other reason than he is fabulous company.  Full stop.

I am ashamed to say I haven't been able to miss him all on his own without my grief for his sister bleeding over into it since she died.  Being able to recognize this feeling and name it was so much like coming up from anesthesia after a surgery.  It was murky and fleeting at first, but the consciousness grew stronger and the focus sharper over degrees as time went on.  And isn't that what grief does...completely immobilize you for a time?

I am grateful to have woken up at last, and I can only hope not too much damage has been done to my boy in the meantime.

You see, he is the most amazing little man.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Perspective Taking

The other day, I had the worst migraine.  To add insult to injury, it snuck up on me while I was having one of the best days I've had since I lost my Cory Girl.  The pain was debilitating.  I called my mother which is what I generally do when I feel the end is near.  She suggested, quite calmly, that I eat something and take some pain reliever.

Picture me in a sleep tee and boxers, feeling my way through my house with one hand up to shield my right eye, which had become to feel as if it would soon morph into a jelly-like fluid, and simply leak out of my eye socket.  I made it to the kitchen in this fashion, blindly felt for a yogurt in my fridge, and began the search for a spoon.  I could not see six inches in front of me, as paralyzing bolts of pain were shooting through my brain and eye by turns.  This migraine had gotten so bad, it had made its way into my teeth and jaw, as well.  I could not, by feel, locate a spoon in my silverware drawer, and instead of checking my dish drainer- normally a two second task- I just gave up and fumbled a fork out instead.

I sat eating yogurt with a fork, thinking, which probably did my migraine no good at all.

But here's what I thought about:

This was some of the worst physical pain I had experienced, perhaps rivaled only by childbirth and the time I had to visit the e.r. because I couldn't poop.  And even though, I was hurting so badly, I felt better in my mind that I had for quite some time.  See, my depression had lifted in the last couple of days, and I was, for the first time I could remember in awhile, glad to be alive.

There are all sorts of pain in this world.  I, myself, would rather endure physical pain than emotional pain any day of the week.  As I came to this conclusion, I thought of the three people I have watched suffer intensely with mental health concerns- depression, anxiety, even psychosis.   How in the world did they even function?

Can't we remember this the next time we cross paths with someone who is struggling in this way?  Put ourselves in their shoes for just a moment?  Every task for them can be unbelievably difficult.  Cut them some slack, huh?

  No wonder once and awhile, they eat their yogurt with a fork.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Form Over Fashion

The first time I remember being aware of clothing as a statement piece, I was about four years old.  Since then, dressing myself has always been a well-loved game.  As I got older, I not only realized how much I enjoyed color, fabric, and proportion, but that what you put on your body created a certain personae.

This love affair with fashion continued right up until the day I chose the outfit my daughter would be buried in.

At that point, things changed.  And they have continued to change ever since.

During the first eight days or so after Cory was put in the ground, I saw clothing in a whole new light.  For the first time I could consciously remember, clothing had become nothing but a practical necessity.  I remember thinking to myself, something to cover the top- check.  something to cover the bottom- check.  Done.

When I had to return to work, I used clothing as an armor.  I suited up.  If I could keep up appearances by continuing to present myself the way I always had, could I maintain the past?  If I could keep people at bay from asking me questions and offering me hugs, could I play let's-pretend-she's-still-alive in my head and live in denial indefinitely?

Eventually, the effort of putting on this mask took its toll.  I crumbled under the weight of all this pretense, and decided to just be.  Grooming went out the window.  Clothing was a chore.  My dear co-worker and friend told me just recently that she could tell  I was making progress in my grief because I have begun to show up at work dressed more appropriately.  Upon hearing this, I blanched, panic-stricken, trying to remember just what I'd been putting on my body this last year or so, and could only fear I had shown up at the office with one boob hanging out or something.

I asked my friend what she meant by appropriate- had I been showing up without enough clothing or something?  She chuckled, and told me that no, I had not, but I had showed up many times looking as if I'd gotten dressed in the dark.

I tried to muster up some indignation towards this remark, but I had nothing.  She was right.  When I thought back to the impeccable little show poodle who had pranced through the building with ribbons in her hair prior to the accident, I could only imagine how much concern my appearance as of late has caused my co-workers.

I have, in fact, an enviable collection of designer handbags hanging on hooks on my bedroom wall- the most delicious wall hanging ever.  I didn't carry a single one of them for almost two years after Cory died.  One, they meant nothing anymore in the big scheme of things.  Two, I could no longer feel joy.  Three, I felt guilty to do pretty much anything Cory no longer had the opportunity to do.

Perspective changes everything.  Values change.  Ever so slowly, your new personality emerges, like a woodwork fresh from the whittler's hand.  People are impatient for you to get back to your old self, at the very moment your new identity is being shaped by your grief journey.  Crazy.

At the moment, I'm poised mid-way between the continuum of getting dressed to gain approval and not caring at all about my appearance.  It's a much more soulful place to live.  As I write this at the coffee shop, I am wearing my "writing jeans", one of Cory's T-shirts, and memorial jewelry.  Anyone who ran into me day after day at the coffee shop might worry that I only own this one pair of jeans.  This could not be farther from the truth.  I have way too many, but when coming here, feel pressed to put on my "lucky" writing pants- an ultra comfortable pair of boyfriend jeans, ripped and holey, that feel like home.

I often choose to wear pieces of Cory's clothing to comfort me.  I may sneak in a scarf of hers with my work outfit, or give up all artifice on a particularly rough day, and just show up at work with the hat she was wearing on the day she died perched on my head...whatever gets me through.

While I hope that someday, I actually want to buy myself a new dress or a pair of shoes, I am in no hurry to get there.  There are valuable lessons to be learned in this place I find myself.

 And lately, things on the inside seem way more important that things on the outside.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Neighborhood

This happened:

The other day, I finally screwed up my courage to go see Cory at the cemetery.  I hadn't gone since before the fifth of July, and I was hesitant because I was finally starting to feel better, and going there devastates me pretty much every time.

But like the birds that know when it's time to head south, I just felt that inner nudge that whispered softly, but firmly, "It's time to go now."

The very best thing happened next.
Tim offered to go with me.

Every time Tim has been at the cemetery since the graveside service, it has been a needs-oriented, task-focused, problem solving trip.  He buried Cory's cat, Church.  He installed little nightlights.  He tidied her spot.  Or he has watched me look at her plot, and waited, in case I fell down, figuratively or literally.

This time was different.

We got there, and just sat in the car near her plot for a couple of minutes, neither of us wanting to get out.  As he does most of the time, he waited for my cue.  I finally took a huge breath, and got out.  He followed me over, and stood quietly as I admired the flowers my mother and sister had recently left.  Our eyes worked in tandem as we took in the little bench that obviously no one has sat on for awhile, and the statue of Church that keeps watch over his beloved master for all of time.  The ground is always last.

I turned to him, "Wanna go for a walk?  We need to get water for the flowers, anyway."

"Sure, honey."  he assented.

I led the way.  I always lead the way.  Sometimes I wish I had someone to lead me.  We made our way to the spigot and filled an old  milk jug with water.  I sat it near the main path, and turned to him.

"Hey, have you ever seen the older section?"

"No, where is it?"  he asked.

"Wanna go see?  It's pretty amazing..."  I offered, almost positive he would say no.  His depression has made nearly all of his decisions for the better part of a year, and does not care for walks.

This day, he said yes.  It was early evening, and there was a wisp of a breeze, the air becoming cooler which is the biggest blessing to me.  I will hate the heat of July for many more days; I am certain.  Again, I led the way, winding around markers that tree roots and weather had slightly rearranged.  Some of the markers had been broken over the years, but some descendant had lovingly pieced them together again.  As we walked along, I felt the rough edges and carvings with my hands, pointing out one or another to him, exclaiming at the dates.

He pointed a little ways ahead, "Hey, those look similar to what Cory's will be."

I nodded excitedly.  Me.  Excited about my daughter's monument.  What in the world was happening here?

"Yes!  That's kind of how I decided on it.  I think they are so beautiful.  You know, I spent a lot of days and nights here just wandering around after Cory died.  It seems so twisted, but I felt like I had to get to know her..."  I hesitated, and finally caved to the words on the tip of my tongue, "her new neighborhood."

"Oh, honey..."

"When I'm not over at her spot going out of my mind, I actually like it here.  It feels peaceful, and there's so many stories here."  I offered.

He agreed, "It is peaceful.  Cory would've wanted a place like this.  Not someone where everyone's markers and flowers looked the same.  That's just not who she was."

I nodded.  Walking back, water jug in hand, I said something that surprised me, "Tim, I never thought I'd say this, but I want Cory's monument to be put in.  It's not right that she doesn't have one set up yet.  I mean, I don't want her to even be here, but if she is, I want strangers to walk by and touch her name we just did."

"Yeah",  he said.  "She certainly deserves that."

We walked silently the rest of the way.  I watered the hanging flowerpots, and wandered to her nearest neighbors left and right, watering theirs, as well.

Somehow, I scrounged up a grin at Tim, "Have to be neighborly."

He smiled.

Finished with the task, we stood to say our goodbyes.  Sometimes I am eager to get away, other times I just want to bring all my art supplies out and spend the day with her.  Or the night.  She was always afraid of the dark.

I watched Tim's face.  I was pretty sure this had been a different sort of visit for him than what he was used to.

Indeed.  I watched on, at a rare loss for words, as he addressed the grass quietly, "Cory, we miss you.  And we love you so much."  "MWAH!"  he declared, putting his left hand to his mouth, and tossing her a kiss.

I looked at him so intently, that he added, "It's the only way I can give her a kiss, now."

The Perfect Fit

Watching my parents together the other day made me picture the hands of God painstakingly choosing two jigsaw puzzle pieces out of an infinite jumbled landscape of subtly varied options.  As he slid those two particular pieces home so many years ago, he surely must have let loose a sigh of satisfaction:  ahh, a perfect fit.

Today, I am grateful for the model of marriage my parents have offered.  It is truly about helping each other, and being friends.

Friday, July 18, 2014

What If?

Some of my rage has been because of what was denied to my girl, who did not live the long, happy life you automatically expect and wish for your child.  For instance, occasionally, I would reread a well-loved book that Cory never read or discover a new one, published since her death, and that bitter bile would rise in my throat just realizing that Cory did not get to experience it.

It just occurred to me, that if Cory is in a place where she wants for nothing and needs nothing, she is probably being read to right now from whatever book happens to strike her fancy, and perhaps the voice she is hearing in her head right now, instead of being cruel and unkind like the ones she was subjected through throughout her mental illness, is my voice reading to her- one of our dual joys since her babyhood.

This thought brings me peace, and I needed to capture it on paper, and then share with you- because anything good that you discover in life, becomes even more precious when you can share it with a friend.

Guys, I'm on a roll.

More smile than face.

Cory Loved

This was written by a heartbroken mother, perhaps 48 hours or so before her daughter's funeral that she could only refer to as "the service".  It was meant to give people who hadn't known her daughter very well an idea of the kind of person Cory was and the things she valued, small and great.  Here, said this woman, who could not see anything but blackness, take this snapshot of my girl and see the beauty she left behind.  But to read it or hear it read, as it was at the "service" brought pain, misery, and fear.  How to live without these moments ever again?

I reread this just a few minutes ago, and did not cry.  I smiled.  I beamed.  I read the words, and let the images wash over me like a warm bath over aching bones.

 Now each memory is like a bead of the pearl necklace Cory me, at least, they each gleam, lustrous one by one, but put them together, and the presentation may cause a lump in your throat, not from pain, but just that feeling you get when you see something so exquisite, it causes a physical reaction.

This was read by our pastor at my daughter's funeral.  As you read it, I can only hope it reminds you to treasure your loved ones- every moment and every quirk.

Cory loved…

Dr. Pepper chapstick
Mommy & Cory days spent browsing the mall and going to the movies
Being the DJ while her mom made dinner
Dancing with her mom, brother, and cat in the kitchen
The band, My Chemical Romance
Watching American Idol with her family
Paying her little brother to paint her toenails
Crushing garlic cloves for her mom when they cooked together
The hot wings at Jack’s
Her mom’s cooking…so much that she said she’d never, ever leave home
Watching scary movies
Sitting at the end of her mom’s bed every chance she got to share stories and laugh
An ice cold Sun Drop
The color pink
Hello Kitty
Going to Barnes and Nobles for a Frappuccino and just to look around
Changing her hair color and hair style like a clever little chameleon
Spoiling her brother with the very last dollar in her purse
Singing…anywhere, everywhere, and all the time
Hugging her grandma and grandpa goodbye each and every time she saw them
Being read to
Making  people laugh
Watching over her brother like a little mother hen
Friday lunches with her dad every week
Going to church
Being a ventriloquist for her cat, Church, who is apparently a very talented singer with a Southern accent
Walking to the Urbandale plaza just for something fun to do