Day 60/365 Lynette

“I don’t think we’re crazy, I think we’re canaries.”

It’s a line from the book “Love Warrior” by Glennon Doyle Melton.  “…there were deadly, invisible toxins in the mines, but the miners’ bodies weren’t sensitive enough to register the poison. So they carried a canary in a cage down into the mines with them sometimes.  The canaries body was built to be sensitive to the toxins, so the canary became their lifeguard.  When the toxin level got too high, the canary stopped singing, and the silence was the miners’ signal to flee the mine.” 

“I don’t think we’re crazy, I think we’re canaries.”

img_2843This is my cousin (sister), Lynette.  When I think of this analogy of the highly sensitive and intuitive soul, I think of her. Lynette is a canary. She sings her song without ever opening her mouth – you see it in her eyes and in her smile.

Sometimes she stops singing, but only because she feels it all so strongly – all the invisible toxins that surround us.  They can become too heavy for her tender heart.

Oh, but don’t be fooled. She is strong, too. She is a bad ass canary.  A world traveling canary.  A Machu Picchu climbing canary.

I asked her the other day how many countries she has been to and she said she wasn’t sure – she’d have to think about it.  She said this not in a bragging way, but just – I saw her start to count on her fingers and then she got distracted before she could find the answer. It’s that many.

Eyes are the windows to the soul, and you could swim in the depths of hers (though I warn you, prolonged eye contact is a pet peeve).

To me, she is the personification of warmth. She is the type of person who goes out of her way to make people feel comfortable and important – from her elementary school students to the Uber driver to…to everyone.

She listens. Really listens. In a world in which doing so is extraordinary.

If you are lucky enough to be loved by Lynette, she will move mountains for you. When she can’t do anything to help, she will call or text you every single day to let you know she’s thinking of you – that she’s there, in the mine with you.

Oh, and did I mention she is pee-your-pants funny?  Yeah, that too.

To me, she is perfect, and she sings the most beautiful song.

(Editor’s note: Singing might be the one thing she isn’t actually good at. It’s a metaphor, you guys.)

I love you so much, Lynette.

Day 43/365 Beach Apocalypse

For about the past twenty years, my family has taken an annual trip to an island off the west coast of Florida. It is a trip we all look forward to with great anticipation every year. We start daydreaming about it right after Christmas, and we count the days until May.

This year the build up has been different for me, of course.  Right after Christmas is when my dad died. Taking this trip felt, I think for many of us, like something we had to “power through” because dad would’ve wanted us to go.

It’s hard for me to explain how dad seemed central to the whole experience – but I’ll try.  He was so funny and quick-witted, smart, interesting to talk with, and also someone you could just sit with and feel comfortable not talking. He was warm, and people just enjoyed being in his company. At the same time, he was never loud or boastful. He never needed to be the funniest in the room or the one with the best stories (although he had some good ones, for sure). There’s something to be said about a person who is capable of being highly entertaining in humor and in intellect, but who doesn’t feel the need to prove that to everyone.

I hesitate to say he was “the glue” that kept us together, because I think we’re still stuck with one another (grin). I think it’s this – when you put a big group of people together – for us this is a group of maybe thirty-five people on this trip (my brothers, sisters in law, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews…it’s big!) there are a lot of personalities. I am lucky to have so many amazing people in my family. Some of us are closer than others, but we all love each other. My dad, though, was so deeply loved by all, and he loved us all so deeply. In his quiet, unassuming way, to me he was the heart of the group.

That’s a big void.

Now that we’re all crying…

I had a dream the other night that the world was ending.  This isn’t entirely new for me. Last fall I was having these natural disaster dreams, in which there was a flood or an earthquake and I had to save my girls. Those dreams made me panic. The dream about the end of the world, interestingly, did not make me panic at all. I was eerily calm. I was completely resigned to the fact that the end was coming (I think it was a meteor that was going to hit the planet, and apparently Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck were unable to stop it…).  So, I knew we had only a few hours left on Earth. At first I thought I would invite everyone I knew over for a big party.  We would flood the streets and spend the last hours festively. Then I thought better of it, and decided I only wanted to spend those last hours with the people who were most important to me – my family.  The dream ended with that revelation.

Which got me thinking….

I don’t think the world is going to end anytime soon (although with the current POTUS, who knows, really). However, I’d be a fool not to realize how blessed I am to be gathering soon in Florida with the very people with whom I’d want to spend my last hours on Earth.

So, we will ease into the “new normal” once more. Dad will be with us in spirit (I am really growing to hate that expression, you know). He will be there for the beach walks, the sandcastle building, the golf games, the card games, and especially for the sunsets.

He wouldn’t miss those.

DCIM101GOPRO
DCIM101GOPRO

Photo credit – Ryan Harvey

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Day 34/365 Miskiania

My family has a camp house that was built in 1909 by a group of friends, which has since been shared by about twenty families (mostly descendants of the original group). Ours has been involved for four generations (five now, including my own children).

It is set up so that each family may use it independently of one another, and in turn.  Though I have no doubt it is special to every family involved, it is so quintessentially linked to my own childhood that it is sometimes hard to imagine it belonging to anyone but us.

When I was growing up, my dad worked a lot and was very involved in the community. He lived a busy life, and when he took time off he wanted nothing more than to be at the camp. There was no phone, no television, and (of course) no internet. The camp was only forty-five minutes from home,  but when we were there, it felt like we were a world away.

Dad would never bring a razor to camp – refusing to shave for the entire week. As a little girl I remember looking forward to this uncharacteristic act of rebellion with glee. It meant no rushing off in a suit and tie. He was ours.

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I have so many fond memories of being with him there – of long walks with him in the woods, precarious trips in the sailboat, heated card games, and even just the comforting sight of him sitting on the porch, reading or napping in a lounge chair.

Arriving at camp has always felt like a sort of homecoming to me.

I always pause as I walk in, to breathe in the familiar, rustic scent. It calls to mind many of the happiest days of my life. I am filled with adoration for this place; a feeling which connects me timelessly to each generation that has come before.

I know that my love for the camp is not only built upon my own memories, but upon the memories of those who loved it before me.

When I am there these days, the sensation that he is there permeates everything.

As it should.

Many years from now, his granddaughters will take a moment as they enter the camp, to breathe in the familiar, rustic scent. It will call to mind many of the happiest days of their lives. They will be filled with adoration for this place; a feeling which will connect them timelessly to each generation that came before.

They will know that their love of the camp is not only built upon their own memories, but upon the memories of those who loved it before them.

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Day 30/365 They’re Golden

I’ve heard the story before, and it makes me smile every time.  “I proposed on our second date,” he says.  He pauses for a reaction, then adds, “If I had known then how it would all turn out, I wouldn’t have messed around for that long.”

Then he goes on to say, “People think they are going to get married and live happily ever after.  Well…that actually happened to me.”

These words are particularly meaningful because I know that he doesn’t mean that their life together has always been easy. In fact, it seems to me they have gone through the hardest thing a marriage can – the loss of one of their children.

I think what he means is simply this – he chose well. They chose well. Even with all the heartache they have been through, the good times have far outweighed the bad, and they have loved each other through it all.

Ed once said to me, “The key to a happy marriage is to not bullshit each other about having common interests.” (Did I mention he has a way with words?). He said it a bit tongue in cheek, but really, when you extrapolate that a bit, I think there is quite a bit of wisdom there…

Here’s what I’ve noticed from watching them over the years –

They have friends that they enjoy spending time with as a couple, but they each also enjoy nurturing friendships independent from one another. They don’t rely on each other to fill every social and emotional need.

They very much enjoy each other’s company, but they aren’t afraid to spend time away from each other. In fact, they feel it is important.

One would never hold back the other from pursuing an interest, or taking a trip just because it does not interest them personally…and if it they don’t want to do it, they say so (and then add – but you go ahead!).

They play to each others strengths, and they don’t dwell on each others shortcomings.

They don’t try to change each other.

So, what’s their formula?  Perhaps…

Lots of love,

Devotion,

Breathing room,

Laughter,

…and a lack of bullshit.

Happy Golden Anniversary, you two. Fifty years of marriage is, to me, an awe-inspiring accomplishment.

I love you both very much.

 

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Day 33/365 Billy

Although I have no doubt that my brother, Ryan, and I loved our dad in equal measure, in many ways our brother, Billy, was hit hardest by his death. Billy saw dad every day, sharing an office with him just as my father had shared an office with his own father before him.

Billy is fourth in a line of admirable men by the name of William Harvey.  I am sure he has felt immense pressure to live up to his name, in a community in which our dad was so well loved and respected.

The truth is, Billy works harder and puts more pressure on himself than anyone I know. He has always been that way, as long as I can remember.

Dad was so proud of him.

Billy is a funny guy. He is often sarcastic, with a quick wit and a gift for one liners. I think he most enjoys the company of people who make him laugh (including his hilarious wife, his family, and a group of great friends he’s been loyal to since childhood).

There is no doubt he loves his family and friends, though I never would describe Billy as particularly affectionate, nor emotive.

What I’ve learned is, there is something about experiencing a great loss that cracks a person open, revealing parts of them that had been previously hidden.  Over the last three months, I have slowly come to the surprising realization that Billy may well be the most sensitive of us all. Hidden beneath the intensity and the sarcasm, is truly the most tender heart.

Sorry Billy, the secret is out.

When you look into a person’s eyes and see your own pain reflected back at you, I suppose you have two choices:

You can decide it’s too painful to look there. You stop meeting their gaze, and your relationship begins to wither…

Or

You can choose to hold their gaze, and to truly see one another in all of your broken-ness.

My brothers and I have chosen to hold each other’s gaze, and I believe we see each other now in a way we never have before.  There was always love, but now I feel a devotion between us that is deeper and more authentic than I ever could have imagined.

Though I am not yet in a place to applaud finding silver linings in our grief, it does occur to me that had we not been so mutually wrecked by this loss, perhaps we’d never have known how deeply we truly love one another.

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Day 27/365 BEAU

“The bravest person in the world must not have a very good imagination,” she said.

“Hmm, what do you mean by that?” I asked.

“Well, they are probably so brave because they can’t imagine anything bad ever happening.  They don’t even know what to be afraid of,” she replied.

Considering this, I asked, “So, would you rather be the bravest person, or the one with the best imagination?”

Without hesitation (and perhaps with just a hint of surprise that I would even ask) she replied,

“The best imagination!

If you can’t imagine the bad stuff, you can’t imagine the good stuff either!

You’d never know what to hope for.

You’d never be proud of yourself, because you could never imagine that you might have failed, or might have been scared.

You’d never learn anything, because you could never imagine there was anything else to know.

Life would be very boring.”

Then she kissed my forehead and rolled over to go to sleep.

I laid there stunned, willing myself to remember every word of what she’d just said, because it was seriously the most profound thing I’d heard in a while.

Seriously.

It is conversations like this one – with my ten year old – that leave me with little doubt that she will ultimately teach me way more about how to live a rich life than I could ever teach her.

She is an impassioned poet,

A writer of love songs,

A bedtime philosopher,

And a giver of infinite hugs.

She is a girl of powerful resolve,

A fiery fighter of injustices (both real and perceived).

She is both the safe harbor and the tempest.

She is one of the most intuitive, profound and complex people I know…

And she’s only just begun. 

Photo by Betty Lou Harvey

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Day 20/365 RYAN

My bother, Ryan, to me, is just…pure love.

My two brothers and I stood up together to give the eulogy at my father’s funeral.  Ryan had doubts that he would be able to do this – to get up and speak about our dad without falling apart.  However, it was really important to him to honor my dad in this way, and he did so beautifully.  Ryan spoke about my dad’s strong character.  He spoke about dad’s integrity and lack of ego, about his loyalty and kindness.  He said, “To be the man that my father was would be a difficult task. But, if we always remember his principles, and strive to live our lives as he did, I truly believe our lives will be as full of happiness and love as the life my father lived.”

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I love this photo of Ryan and my dad (and of course, Maddie and King). Look at them…stopping to wait for me. They are standing the exact same way, which brings me to why I chose this photo…

What I find beautiful about Ryan and his aspirations to be like my dad, is this…

He already is. 

Integrity

Lack of Ego

Loyalty

Kindness

I could go on and on with examples of how Ryan embodies all of these things.  There is one vignette, though, that to me demonstrates them all. I’ll never forget it.

We were standing in the receiving line at dad’s wake. My dad’s elderly aunt, who was beginning to experience dementia, was going through the line. She stopped in front of me, and she remembered my face, but not my name.  She smiled and hugged me. Ryan was next in line.  Not recognizing him (though she’s known him well his whole life) she introduced herself. Ryan said, “Yes, I know who you are.  I’m Bill’s son, Ryan…and I love you.” She smiled and he gave her a warm hug.

He is a beautiful human, and I am so grateful for him.

ryan david smilePhoto credit  Betty Lou Harvey.

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Day 14/365 – Ruby

Today is Ruby’s birthday.  Last night when I was snuggling her into bed, I said,

“This is the last time I’ll see you as a seven year old. Do you think you will still want to snuggle me when you’re eight?”

“Yes,” she said, thoughtfully.  “I think I’ll snuggle you until I’m sixteen.  After that I’ll be busy driving around with my friends.”

Oh my, they grow up so fast, don’t they?

She crawled into bed with me in the middle of the night (which she never does anymore unless she’s not well).  So, for the start of her eighth year, we woke up together, cozy in my bed. Outside my bedroom window the sky was ablaze.  It was completely stunning.

sunrise

I have a friend who says she can see and hear angels. I believe her, actually, because she just…knows things. She has always said that Ruby is surrounded by angels wherever she goes. I believe that, too.  There’s just something about her that is magical…otherworldly.

One sleepy evening she said to me, “Mama, you make everything better.”  I thought my heart would burst.

It is actually her who makes everything better.

I am just so grateful to have been invited along for the ride.

(Even if before long she will be sneaking off with my keys.)

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