Day 325/365 Let There Be Color

This weekend we celebrated my mother’s birthday. I told her I’ve never been happier to celebrate someone’s birthday…and that’s the truth.

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While still mourning my father, the idea that my mother might not survive breast cancer this year was a very real and visceral fear for all of us.  Coming around to her birthday – cancer free – was truly something to celebrate. 

I got to thinking this morning about something I read once, somewhere…it was something to the effect of…

What would you do differently if you knew you were dying? Well, guess what…YOU ARE.

We are ALL dying. 

Not to be grim [smirk].

The truth is, we are all inching toward death, every day. Of course, some of us have a lot longer to go than others. Sadly, this doesn’t necessarily have as much to do with age as we’d like to think.

Sure, we can take precautions; be smart. We can eat healthy, exercise, manage our stress, try our best not to run with scissors…but beyond that we don’t have much control over our ultimate fate.

So…live every moment as if it’s your last!

Hmm.

I am not going to say that.

I have had enough hard knocks over the past couple of years to understand how unrealistic that is…and I am not going to shame myself for my emotions. Sometimes we get hit hard, and we reel from it. If I have a day when I just want to crawl back under the covers and hide…and that is even remotely possible to do that day…I am going to go for it. I am not going to force myself to savor the day because it may be my last.

True contentment and joy are not forced. They are arrived at with grace.

Grace for ourselves, and for everyone else…even, or especially, the people who challenge us.

Grace is not always an easy place to land.

Sometimes it means processing our reactions – not stuffing them down under the guise of perpetually enjoying the moment!

Sometimes, we need time…space…perspective.

So…if we can’t possibly enjoy every moment, yet we are aware that the number of moments we are granted is never truly known…where does that leave us?

I think it leaves us in a place where we have to learn to appreciate the full experience of our humanity. We can allow ourselves to experience ALL of what it means to be human,  and get to a place where there is no shame in it.

No shame in feeling angry, sad, jealous, afraid –

And then…

Learning to release it...because we can’t stay there.

An image comes to me of an abstract painting. Can you imagine a piece of art that could convey all of the emotion of your life –

No identifiable images – JUST COLORS.

How would it look?

Would you want the painting of your life to be monochromatic?

Not me.

I’d want it all to be there – messy and spilling out over the entire canvas – the light, the dark, the passion, the fear, the joy...

I imagine if you look closely, analytically, you could see the detail of each emotion, both the subtle and the dramatic shifts in hue.  The colors would weave toward and away from each other…often overlapping…one spilling into the next.

Then, if you were to stand back from it…when you take in the piece as a whole…

You would truly see it.

The whole me;

My whole life.

You would see all of the messy layers aren’t random. In fact, they come together to evoke one very palpable and permeating emotion –

LOVE.

Let there be color.

Day 271/365 It Isn’t The Dying That Matters

It has been a rough couple of days.

December 27th was the one year anniversary of Dad’s passing. Well…technically it was January 5th that he died, but he was never conscious again after his collapse on the 27th.

I wrote before about how Mom knew he was gone that first day (see here), and thus it has become the day of greatest significance to us.

She wanted to have a dinner out in honor of him, which we did. As we sat there at dinner I thought about how hard it is to comprehend that someone so unassuming and humble could have left such a big void at the dinner table. Our collective aching for his presence was as palpable as the cocktails we hoped would numb it.

Throughout the day I kept replaying what I was doing one year prior – I’d spent the day roller skating with friends and family, followed by a spaghetti dinner with the girls and their two buddies. The five of us sat down to watch The Princess Bride…the girls, their two friends, and me.

It is eerie to recall what a fun day it had been….

Before the call.

I don’t presume that everyone’s experience with remembering traumatic events is the same. I can only say that for me, I don’t remember it all in clear detail…the whole evening…nor the entire terrible week that followed.

Some details are exceptionally vivid, while the rest of it comes across in my memory as a permeating feeling or series of feelings, rather than a clear sequence of events.

I don’t remember the faces of the doctors and nurses, but I remember how I felt when they entered the room…comforted, or terrified, or angry.

When I think of that night it tends to raise my heart rate. I feel my chest constrict. Sometimes it nearly brings me to my knees, still.

The most vivid memory is of my brother Ryan’s voice on the other end of the phone. I knew it was him (caller ID), but his voice was contorted by the most gut wrenching chords of despair and pleading…

“What’s wrong with Dad?”

I knew nothing. I hadn’t been told yet. For a moment we took comfort that it must be a mistake.

How could I not know our lives had changed?

Moments later I knew the truth, and I was frantic to get there…to get to the hospital before he died…

What if I didn’t get there in time?

Little did I know I would have a week of purgatory to live through before saying goodbye to him; before kissing his warm cheek for the last time.

I have thought a lot about death and what I’d wish for if I’d gotten to choose.

Would I wish for…

A sudden death (so we wouldn’t have had the agony of hope)?

An extended illness (so we’d have had more time to prepare)?

Or would I have chosen the slow acceptance with which most of us were faced that last week – the week in which Dad’s heart, in the cruelest betrayal, continued to fuel his body, but not his brain?

After much deliberation,

I’ve decided it is all utter shit.

All of it. 

There’s no good way to lose a loved one. 

There’s no perfect scenario that is going to mitigate the shattering of your heart.

But…

My Dears,

It isn’t the dying that matters.

It’s the living.

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