25 random things about me

(I originally posted this on Facebook, but I wanted something semi-fun to post here today, so I thought I’d use this.)
1.I never liked poetry when I studied it in English class, but now I love reading it on my own. In fact, I’m becoming a poetry addict.
2. I closed my mom’s eyes after she died. For some reason, this was–and still is–very important to me.
3. I was the last person in my class to learn to read, and 10 years later aced the PSAT verbal section. Perseverance does pay off!
4. I procrastinate terribly–not because I’m lazy, but because I’m afraid I’ll screw everything up. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies!
5. I think it is a disgrace that Pope John XXIII has not yet been canonized.
6. I took French in high school and college, and Spanish in college, and remember absolutely nothing of either. (edit 2012–I’m doing Rosetta Stone to try and relearn it all!)
7. When I was very little, I wanted to be both an astronaut and a ballerina. Simultaneously.
8. Yes, I really am a redhead. I’m partly Irish, after all.
9. I was engaged (to a millionaire’s son, yet) before I met George and called it off when I realized I’d rather be alone by myself than alone with somebody else. Oh, am I ever glad I waited!
10. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, in addition to whatever else I do with my life.
11.I began a search for my birth mother last year. I haven’t heard anything yet. (edit 2012–She is found, and we are very close!)
12. I feel a little disloyal to my mom for doing this, even though she always supported the idea and even offered to pay for it.
13. I make a mean homemade marinara sauce, with lots of onion and garlic.
14.I used to do lots of drawing with charcoal and pastels; I’d like to start doing it again, but for some reason I’m scared to. (Maybe I’m afraid I’ll, well, suck.)
15.If I could do college over again, I’d major in history or English and philosophy, instead of political science and philosophy. And I’d take four years of Latin, for fun. Yes, fun. (edit 2012–or maybe I’d just do four years of both French and Spanish!)
16. Sometimes I feel as though I am strangely invisible.
17. I never minded being an only child, until both of my parents were gone.
18. I played varsity tennis in high school, and was also in choir and yearbook.
19. I feel very connected to both of my grandmothers, although my maternal grandma died long before I was born, and my paternal grandma died when I was 16–almost 25 years ago.
20. I have ultra-sensitive skin that requires more pampering than a baby’s. Hair, too.
21. The only thing that REALLY makes my back feel better is massage and gentle yoga. And certain muscle relaxers, of course.
22. I would love to do freelance writing but have no idea how to begin.
23. One of the very best days of my life was the day I discovered that dark chocolate actually contains more antioxidants than green tea.
24.My biggest regret (aside from infertility) is that I was supposed to spend a college semester studying in London, which fell through when we couldn’t come up with the extra cash, and then later I was supposed to spend a whole week over New Year’s Eve staying in a friend’s flat in Paris, only to wind up in the ER the night before my flight with a bad case of influenza.
25. When I was 30 I had surgery to correct a crooked jaw–my scoliosis made the lower part of my face grow unevenly.(edit 2012–I actually had three surgeries to correct the kyphosis and scoliosis in my back when I was 17 and a senior in high school.)

i’ll see you in my dreams

“I never knew grief felt so much like fear.”
–C.S. Lewis

Lewis was right on target: grief does feel like fear. The same breathless, sickening sensation of a sharp kick smack in the middle of the gut; the trembly, disoriented, foggy feeling in the brain; the same clenching, harsh pain around the heart.

All summer–strangely, ever since my headaches started easing up–I’ve been dreaming about my parents, especially my mom. The dreams always follow the same pattern. I’m reunited with either or both of my folks, only to have them die right in front of me. Almost every morning I wake up, crying, to face another day of fresh, raw grief, as though they died only yesterday. It’s as though I’m haunted. It’s made me depressed and weepy as of late; I’m extra sensitive, so every perceived slight hurts all the more, and my self-esteem is swimming around in the depths of the toilet.

Obviously, I haven’t processed my mom’s death. As I look back over the past year, I realize I’ve dealt with my grief, in many instances, by not dealing with it. By focusing on having a baby, partly to fill the void left by her absence. (Yeah, my head knows that won’t work, but I suspect my gut feels differently. I should point out that I’ve desperately wanted a baby for a long time; it’s just that losing my mom makes my grief over not conceiving even more intense.) By distracting myself with the TV and books. By telling myself that hey, I’m forty years old now, it’s time to grow up and stop yearning for my mommy. The constant migraines, I now think, were in part, my grief coming out sideways.

Oscar Romero once said, “As a Christian, I do not believe in death without Resurrection.” And I do, it’s the hope I cling to. But I can’t bear the thought that I will never again in this life feel my mom’s arms around me, or be able to rest my head on her shoulder. That she’s not there to soothe my hurt feelings when I feel rejected or like a failure at something. That there’s no one left to reminisce with about the things the three of us did as a family together. I want to get past the grief, to get on with my life, to focus on enjoying my wonderful memories of my mom and dad; I just don’t know how to, I guess.

still here

Yeah, I’m still alive. I’ve been having a lot of migraines lately, which is the main reason I haven’t been posting. I have one right now, in fact, so I’ll just post a brief update:

  1. I’m having a rough time coping with my mom’s death; I’ve been really isolating myself and immersing myself in books and TV to avoid dealing with my grief. Not healthy, I know, and of course I’m missing her more desperately than ever now that Christmas is coming.
  2. No, I’m not pregnant yet.
  3. I’m also having a major identity crisis since filling for disability with my student loan provider. How do I rise above my illness(es)? I refuse to allow my sense of self to be equated with my disabilities–I’m just not sure how I can define myself anymore. And it’s painful to accept the loss of so many of my dreams. There are many days (like today) when I feel basically worthless, that life is passing me by and I’m not really living, that because I’m not bringing home a paycheck I’m not an equal partner in my marriage (although George never makes me feel this way), that I’m not contributing anything to the world around me.
  4. I am doing one thing, though–George and I are participating in the Basilica’s JustFaith program. Actually I’m a co-facilitator. More on this later.
  5. Well, two things. I’m singing with the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity Chorale again this year. When I manage to make it to practice, anyway. Our big holiday concert (Lessons and Carols for the Baptism of the Lord) is on January 6; we’re also doing a hymnfest in April and singing at the Archdiocesan diaconate ordination in May.

However, regarding my mom, I came across a quote about grief today that gives me some hope:

Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow. But this same necessity of loving serves to counteract the grief and heals them.
–Tolstoy

If mom’s death has taught me anything, it’s that broken hearts never completely mend, but at the same time they become infinitely expandable and more capable of love and gratitude than ever.

august update

I’m trying to keep busy. Our social life has taken off somewhat (well, compared to before anyway) and recently we’ve been getting together with friends and family more, and even went to a wedding yesterday (congratulations Meg and Joe!!!!!!!). A couple of weeks ago I took a four-day class at The Loft about writing the short personal essay, and I have two pieces I’m working on: one about my mother’s rosary and her legacy, and another about my first trip out to Fort Snelling to visit my mom’s grave. It is MUCH harder to write short than to write long! I’ve been journaling quite a bit too, which helps me deal with my grief, a little, although of course it’s not enough.

Last Sunday I finally went to Mass at the Basilica for the first time since mom’s funeral. It was as emotionally wrenching as I had expected, although I’m still glad I went, despite the buckets of tears I wept. Ah well. It wasn’t the first time I’ve cried at Mass, and I imagine it won’t be the last.

And I need to thank everyone who responded to my post earlier this summer, when I was feeling awfully desperate. Your messages of friendship and caring made me feel that I was not alone and were SO comforting; grief is mighty lonely and such a long hard agonizing slog it’s sometimes hard for me to believe I might actually live through it.

There is a poem I can’t stop thinking about that I first read not long after my dad died; it’s even more poignant now that mom is gone too. It captures all my aching loneliness, my anger over what is gone from me forever, my sense of despair and crushing loss. And my broken heart. By Edna St. Vincent Millay, this particular poem keeps reverberating in my mind, day after day:

Dirge Without Music

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind.
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew.
A formula, a phrase remains.–but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love–
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses.
Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know.
But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave.
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind.
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

–Edna St. Vincent Millay

My parents on their wedding day in 1963
They are now buried together in the same grave at Fort Snelling National Cemetery

the fog begins to lift

The presence of that absence is everywhere
–Edna St. Vincent Millay

In a few hours it will be exactly three weeks since my mom died. For some reason, I can’t get the memory of reaching over and closing her eyes after she quit breathing out of my head.

The last three weeks I have been mostly numb, stumbling around in some sort of fog. But the last couple of days, the fog has begun to lift, and I have to say that I really, REALLY miss it, now that the realization that she’s gone, forever, that I’ll never see that warm and beautiful smile, or hear her voice on the telephone, or give her a hug ever again is starting to set in. It’s beyond belief, the pain is. My heart hurts, literally, actually hurts, like it is breaking and shattering into a million pieces, my eyes are red and sore and puffy (my whole face is for that matter) because I can’t stop crying, and I feel like I can’t breathe. I can’t concentrate, can’t sleep, can’t function very much if at all.

I am dreading the next week. She would have been 79 years old on Thursday. And now I have another reason to dread Mother’s Day.

I’m sure that someday I will be able to feel grateful that I had the chance to say goodbye, to be with her when she died–I’ve been haunted for years by the fact that my dad died so suddenly, always wondering if he really knew just how much I loved him. Adored him. That someday I will find pleasure and comfort in my memories, that the pain will recede, and I will be able to feel her presence. I know this, intellectually. But it’s the kind of knowledge that hasn’t found its way into my heart yet. All I know is that I’ve not only lost my mother; I’ve lost my best friend too.

I want to thank all of you who have been so supportive and thoughtful during all of this, and ask you to please be patient with me now. Your friendship means more to me than you’ll ever know.

funeral today

I’m too exhausted to write about the funeral today…but I did want to write something in honor of the occasion. So here are the quotes I used in my eulogy:

“Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon, and a horizon is nothing save the limitation of our sight.”
–Rossiter Worthington Raymond

“We do best homage to our dead by living our lives fully even in the shadow of our loss.”
–Jewish proverb

And mom’s favorite prayer, the Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith:
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
–St. Francis of Assisi

mom on the web

Just a quick note: I set up a website for my mom with updates, photos, etc. at caringbridge.org.

I’ve been having hellish migraines since last week, so I can’t stay on any longer, but I have to thank everyone who has sent messages recently for your kindness and compassion. When I can’t sleep, I lie in bed and think about all of you, and I feel so blessed. You guys mean the world to me.

hospice

Mom has officially been in hospice for over a week now. She got pneumonia (which can be very deadly with emphysema) a couple of weeks ago (that’s why she was listed in the intercessions, Emilie) but has apparetnly pulled through okay. The doctors tell me she has multi-systemic organ failure, all related to the emphysema of course, but this includes not only her lungs (pulmonary hypertension)but right-sided heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and her kidneys are starting to shut down a bit.

Now that she’s in hospice she’s a lot more comfortable because of the new medications they’ve added. So that is a huge comfort, anyway. I’m so grateful that she’s able to still enjoy life. And most of our family has really rallied around her, too.

But I’ve been having panic attacks and constant nightmares, despite the wonderful support I’ve been receiving from some people. I’m seeing my doctor tomorrow, so hopefully she’ll have some ideas.

Please keep all of us in your prayers.

And Liz, I’m wearing my prayer shawl at this very moment!

There is also the possibility that what they saw on her chest x-ray wasn’t pneumonia at all, but a malignancy. it doesn’t really matter, because the emphysema would likely kill her before the cancer did.