Monday, February 24, 2014

The Rock In My Pocket

The last time Jonah and I visited my great aunt together we had her and my great uncle record some of their thoughts about their family.  We did it as a way to preserve some of our genealogy because once my great uncle and aunt are gone, the memories they still have about my ancestors will be gone, too.

As my aunt was talking about her mom (my great-great grandmother), she got wistful about her, and my uncle got teary-eyed as he talked about my his brother (my dad's father).

As I have been dealing with my own grief regarding Mom, I've realized something: this grief is never going to go away.  Not entirely, at least.

There has literally not been a single day since Mom died that I haven't thought about her.  Everything reminds me of her.  And I miss her terribly.

A friend wrote on Facebook: "...putting these things into words is an essential part of the healing process. David Lindsay Abaire says it well in 'Rabbit Hole,' when a parent grieving the loss of her son asks her mother if the feeling of loss - of grief - ever goes away, and the mother replies (I paraphrase) - no, not really . . . It gets better, even diminishes, but it's like a rock you carry in your pocket, and some times you stick your hand in your pocket and your pocket and you're suddenly reminded, 'oh, hello. . . you're still there.' It takes time - a lot of time - but time, though it does not heal everything, does help."

I'm always going to have this rock in my pocket.  That's not a bad thing, but I think of my aunt and uncle weeping for people they lost years and years ago; I think of Dad's mom who lived in sorrow for years after her husband died, so much that she almost became debilitated by it; I think of a friend who will never be able to get over losing her child to an accident-related death.  And I realize I will never get over losing my dear mother.  And there's no reason I should.

I certainly have not allowed her death to cause me to stop living my life, and as I've stated before, I feel her presence with me often, which is nice.  But she is ever in my thoughts, and some days I feel such a longing to have her here with me.

I am glad we didn't have to watch her keep disappearing.  I'm glad she never forgot who I was.  I'm glad I didn't have to watch her physically waste away.  I'm glad I didn't have to watch her go confusedly go through dialysis with an amputated leg, which is what would have happened had we chosen to keep her alive.

One thing I am always struck by was when I came back home to Utah knowing Mom would be dead within a week or so.  She was so excited to see me and like a child, she had no idea she would be dead soon (frankly, I don't think she even understood why she was in the hospital at all).  I don't think it was until we transferred her back to her assisted living residence that she finally understood what was happening.  And I do think there was a point when Mom recognized that she was dying, and I believe those on the other side were helping her understand that.  But that initial meeting when I knew she was dying, but she didn't, has always remained in my mind.  She was just so happy to see me (and I her), but I knew we would be saying goodbye for a while in only a matter of days.

Sometimes I feel guilty that I didn't grieve so hard when my dad died as I have with my mom.  I loved him very much; he was a great father, and I do miss him.  But I have to admit that Mom's death has been harder on me than his was.  But then Mom and I always had more in common than Dad and I did.  Dad liked sports and fishing and country music and wasn't very talkative, none of which I related to.  Mom loved movies and theatre and we had great talks, not to mention 21 years more together to cultivate a relationship than Dad and I had.  I also was, as my family says, "the golden child" to Mom and was her primary caretaker for several of the last years of her life.  Even after her death, I have been knee-deep in her journals and photos and financial and legal affairs.  She is ever present.

Dad died while I was on my mission, and his death almost felt surreal.  I was nowhere near him when he died.  I didn't watch him die like I did with Mom.  I was on the other side of the earth and felt somewhat removed from his death.  In fact, coming home from my mission it almost felt like Dad hadn't existed at all.  When I left for my mission, he was still home.  When I came back he was gone.

I can't really explain it.  I miss hearing Mom's voice.  I miss holding her hand and hugging her and kissing her.  I miss her childlike dementia just as much as a miss the level-headed woman I grew up with.  I miss eating meals with her and going to the theatre with her.  I miss playing games with her and talking with her.

I know pain will lessen with time, but I also know I'll always have this rock in my pocket until Mom and I are reunited once again.  And maybe Mom will again repeat the second to the last thing I ever heard her say: "I knew you did it right." 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Speaking Of Crazy...

This blog post and this article were brought to my attention recently.

I have nothing against either woman.  They can believe whatever they want to believe and respond to it as they see fit (which they have done), but I must confess I do find their behavior a little nuts.

In the case of Well-Behaved Mormon Woman, who I have mentioned before here (and referred to as "an active Mormon who disapproved) and whose blog title sounds as self-righteous as she appears to be in her posts, Jonah and I were honestly flummoxed when we initially saw the title of her post, "Frozen: Not Gonna 'Let It Go' When Movie Advocates Gay Agenda."  We had both seen the movie and had no idea to what she might be referring.  You would think Jonah and I would know all about the so-called "gay agenda," but when I saw Frozen, none of the assertions she makes about the movie even crossed my mind.

Not once.

I've never been a fan of this particular woman's blog, although she is certainly entitled to believe whatever she wants to believe. Having read some of her previous posts, I am at odds with her in certain beliefs she has, but again, she can believe whatever she wants to believe (and does).

This latest post, however, just seems crazy to me. Once we started reading her arguments we at least finally understood what she might have read into the movie, but, in her own words, "I know what some think, because I questioned myself, initially, and I've heard it multiple times when even lightly expressing my feelings about the movie, with others. You think that I've read way too much into it, because I'm sensitive to homosexual issues, or perhaps a bit paranoid."

Indeed I do. Again, believe what you want to believe, but this just seemed nuts. The consensus among my friends who read the post (including one who is very much against gay marriage) was that, yes, this woman is reading way too much into the movie's message and might be just a wee bit crazy.

As for the woman who bought all the tee shirts, a friend wisely commented, "[I] wish I had $600 just to make a statement.  How about you teach your child what's appropriate and what's not, and buy $600 in groceries for the Ronald McDonald House."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Little Signs And The Story Of My Life

I wrote the following on my Facebook page a few weeks ago:

"I'm sure there are those who get tired of these posts (to which I say, 'Don't read them.'), but for me, they help me through my grieving process.

"I am and always have been a mama's boy. My mom was one of my very best friends. Even though her early passing saved herself and her family from a lot of suffering, there are days when I still can't believe she's gone.

"Many days I'm fine, but there are days like today when I miss her terribly and long for her immediate presence.

"Since her passing nearly five months ago, she has let me know many times that she is still around and very much a part of my life. That is comforting, but it's not the same.

"I just miss her. I hope it gets easier. I guess it's a testament to our deep love that the deep pain of her passing still remains.


I discover that I miss Mom terribly.  While the rational part of me knows that things worked out for the best, the emotional part of me just wishes she were here.

Yet she has shown me many times that she is very much around.

They're just little things, and others might chalk them up to coincidence, but I believe Mom is letting me know she is still very much a part of my life.

I've already talked about the Josh Groban concert.  The song "Smile" has become a way for Mom to let me know she's around.  Recently my brother and sister-in-law and their kids through town and we agreed to meet at a local IHOP.  I started my car to meet them, and a version of "Smile" by Barbra Streisand began to play.  I felt maybe it was Mom's way of letting me know she'd be attending breakfast with us (and sure enough there were two empty seats at our table, so maybe Dad was with us as well).

That's actually happened a lot (the two empty seats).  I attended a fairly full house of the show Rock of Ages, and there were two seats next to me (although I'm not sure either Mom or Dad liked the show), and at a Kristen Chenoweth concert the same thing happened.

I recently visited my family in Utah and we had dinner at Su Casa, one of Mom and Dad's favorite places, and again, there were two empty chairs at a rather full table.  I also saw a rehearsal of one of Mom's favorite shows, A Few Good Men, and found myself beside two empty seats.  (I know Mom loved that one.)

I've also felt Mom communicate to me through music.  Not just "Smile," but other stuff as well - the Josh Groban and Kristen Chenoweth concerts; songs on the radio; etc.  I was playing a rendition of a song I like (which I imagine Mom would have liked) called "And I Love You So,"

and I got in my car to go to work, and the exact song started playing on the radio.

It just felt like too much to be just a coincidence.

One unexpected song has become a sign for me.  About a month or two ago I had seen "The Story of My Life" performed by One Direction.  I liked the song and wanted to watch the video, which I did and which left me a weeping mess.

I don't know if it's because I've been dealing with Mom's journals and photos, but the whole idea of the video (these frozen memories in time; the moving on of time even after loved ones have left us) just really connected with me.

During my visit home when I was visiting Mom and Dad's grave at the cemetery for what turned out to be the last time it was warming up a little after a cold week and I could feel the sunshine on my body, and I closed my eyes and imagined Mom and Dad were beside me, much as I felt Dad beside me when I was on my mission shortly after he died.  I don't know if I've ever shared that story here, but the week he died, I was in church and bore my testimony and when I sat down I felt like Dad's hand was on my shoulder (and I believe it was).  Much in the same way, I felt like Mom and Dad were standing beside me in the cemetery, and I felt that same feeling in St. George recently when Jonah and I were married.  After I basked in that feeling, I got into the car and what should start playing but “The Story of My Life” by One Direction , and I started crying because I just felt sure it was Mom telling me she and Dad had been there. 

Other remarkable things that happened two other times I visited the cemetery.  The first time I visited it was a windless day a bit cold.  I'm not really a cemetery-going kind of guy, but the cemetery was only three blocks from where I was staying so I figured why not?  I was met at the grave site by several geese who were milling around, and it felt like kind of a sign to me.  I guess the life that was present felt like Mom reminding me that she's not really dead, just on another plane of existence. 

I hadn't been to Mom's grave since the week she was buried and I broke down.  I just miss her.  Sometimes I feel bad because I didn't behave the way I did with Dad's passing as I am with Mom's.  It's certainly not because I loved Dad any less.  I adored my father.  But Mom and I just had more in common (plus 21 more years together than Dad and I had).  Plus I was away when Dad died, so it didn't seem as present in my mind as Mom's death, when I was stroking her hair and looking at her face at the exact moment she passed.

There were two pinwheels on the graves of a nearby couple, and although I did not feel any wind, they both began to turn.  


I wondered if maybe Mom and Dad were making it happen.  It made me feel good to think they did.  I just let them know how much I missed them.

My other visit to the cemetery was at dusk
so it was dark, but as I drove in I saw a herd of seven deer leaping and bounding about the cemetery.  While it is not uncommon to see deer in this part of Utah, the cemetery is in a fairly suburban area where deer don't frequent.  I was actually afraid to get out of the car until the deer departed, but they were a truly beautiful sight to see.  And then I saw a flock of the same geese I had seen previously honking and flying above me.  I took it as another sign of Mom's presence.  It was almost magical.

Recently, for their tenth anniversary, Facebook created commemorative movies based on each individual's photos and posts.  Somehow I felt mine was tailor-made to let me know Mom was around.  Yeah, I know it's based on algorithms and popular posts and photos, but it just felt like Mom had a hand in it.

The movie starts out with my profile photo of my headshot.  Then as it shows my first moments, we see the house Jonah and I bought together when it was just in its beginning stages.  Then there is a cast photo and a teaching job I had.  My most liked posts have to do with acting and my job and the day Mom died.  Then there's a shot of the sun breaking through the clouds the day after Mom died that was my sign from her that she was okay.  Then more shows, a trip to Disneyland I took with Jonah and a close friend, a favorite photo of my cat, the march I did with Mormons Building Bridges at the Gay Pride Parade in 2012, a picture my niece drew of Jonah and me, my current job, a silly photo of me, my family in the early 80s (complete with Dad, Mom, and my siblings), my recent trip to Disneyland with Jonah, and then as the movie ends with a compilation of several photos, there's Mom right in the middle smiling at me, and I think to myself, Facebook could have picked any photo.  I think the center one is based on a profile photo, but if it had chosen the most used or popular one, my headshot would have been at the center, but no, it's Mom. 

I just felt her love, and when I showed it to Jonah I just wept and wept in his arms because I felt so close to my dear, departed mother.

People can call these coincidences.  I don't believe they are.  Even if they were, they bring me great comfort, so I'm taking them as little signs.