Monday, May 31, 2010

All Things Becoming New

A few years ago in church, our youth director was delivering the message. Unbeknownst to us all, he recruited one of the youth to let him talk about her as a sermon illustration. "Let me tell you about B", he began, "She is intelligent, funny, interesting, fat, loyal, caring, trustworthy and well liked." There was a collective gasp from the audience at the middle of that sentence, and he continued. "What do you remember that I said about B? The thing that stayed with you was the only negative word I mentioned." B is far from fat, she is beautiful and petite, but it was an eye-opening example of how we let negative words carry much more weight than positive ones. And it has stayed with me for years.

As I have slogged through ten months of this journey with grief, the letting go and getting on with life is becoming a little easier. But the hardest part to shake? Some of the negative words I said to D are the ones that seem to dominate my thoughts. Goodness knows in a seven year battle with cancer, there are going to be times of impatience, frustration, and all-out Crazy at times. I'm sure we are all capable of that in marriage without the impending threat of a terminal disease.

I try to remind myself that I am human ("My heart and my flesh many times will fail, BUT God is the strength of my heart..."Psalm 73:26), but that doesn't seem to stop the invasion of finger-pointing guilt that would like to take permanent residency in my memories.

I think that some of this was stirred up this weekend when I finished cleaning the last crooks and crannies of D's things. I probably won't come across any more unexpected reminders of him in forgotten boxes and corners. But I want my memories of him to be the good ones; the best ones.  

I guess the world would suggest therapy coupled with a 12-step program, followed by meditation and careful journaling. I'm sure all of that combined would work. I'm also sure it makes me tired to even think about doing all that.

Sometimes the best solutions are the easiest solutions. Do you remember the scenes in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when there was swashbuckling fight scene after scene? Toward the middle of the movie, Indiana Jones had just about had it, when a large guy with a swinging sword approached, spoiling for a fight to the finish. Indy just shot him.

We do work out many of our problems in life with fear and trembling. And sometimes? We just simply say, "No more". And we move on.

I'm just getting back to the basics of life.  (Kind of reminds me a song about Lukenbach, Texas with Waylon, and Willie and the boys. And why does Willie Nelson cutting his braids make worldwide news? But I digress.)

One of the first and most profound truths I ever learned was "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so." I don't wrestle with that; I simply believe it.

The second truth? "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9) I confess; He forgives and cleanses. 

I wasn't perfect in the marathon through cancer. I am not perfect. I never will be perfect. But there is a prize in the enduring to the end. It is called forgiveness, cleansing, and newness of life.

Let it be.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


The painters are not coming during this long, holiday weekend, so I decided it was time to face the two back bedrooms where all the "stuff" is  still under tarps.  I have tried to justify the fact that I have not culled through the piles in those closets in the 10 months since I lost D. But I will now have to confess  to myself that it was just easier to avoid those final spaces. Last fall when the pain of loss left me raw and brittle, sorting through just one box could take an entire day. I wasn't ready to dispose of anything that had D's handwriting on it. I wasn't able to examine things without working up to the Ugly Cry every time.

Today? Well it was very different for two reasons:

1. Looking through some of D's things made me happy. Very happy.

2. I actually was a little mad at him because one closet was stuffed with his college textbooks. Like this elementary teacher could use 40 year-old copies of "Plane Trigonometry With Tables", "Engineering Thermodynamics With Applications", or "Basic Electric Circuit Analysis". (If you should need dated information on these subjects, let me know and I can fix you right up.)

During today's archaeological dig, I found a letter from D dated Valentine's Day 2003. It was the week before his first cancer operation, where they removed a tumor that wrapped around his entire femur. We had agreed to write each other letters...just in case. 

I've shared enough of the Sad with you over the last ten months. Will you allow me to share The Happy found in his letter to me? 

"As I sit down to write this note, I have many things running through my mind. Being diagnosed with cancer has certainly put a new priority in my life. I suspect there will be many changes due to this, however, one thing that will never change is my love for you. It is one thing that you can depend on for as long as I live. I know that I can depend on your love, too. For that I thank you.

"Ever since the  first time I met you, I knew you were special and that God sent you to me. It took you a while to see that same vision, but you eventually did in a big married me. Thank you. You have been my soul mate and best friend since the beginning and my love for you continues to grow each and every day. To have you as my life partner is an answered prayer that I would put in the category of miraculous. You fill my voids with positive loving support, encouragement, and prayers. We understand each other without speaking, we feel the same hurts, we celebrate the same joys, and we wish for the same future. We are one.

"Thank you for challenging widens the path upon which we walk. Thank you for talking when I don't. Thank you for supporting me in all my endeavors, no matter how crazy they may seem. Thank you for wanting to be with me even when it is is not very exciting. Finally, thank you for loving God.

"This Valentine's Day is different from all the previous ones in that I feel more loved than I have ever felt before. I also feel more love for you than I have ever felt for anyone, ever. It is this love that will sustain us through the trials that we will see in the future. It is this love that will provide the beautiful future that we dream of, and it is this love that God will continue to grow in us as the years go by. You are the only person that could fulfill my dreams and show me what love truly bring me joy.

"With all my love, D."

The final boxes (and textbooks) are heading to Goodwill, but I am reminded over and over that it is not the "things" that defined my marriage to D. It was our hearts.

"Three things remain: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love. " I Corinthians 13:13

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Counting Down

Do you remember being in elementary school and counting down to the last day of school? Oh, the deliciousness of that! One of the perks of being a first grade teacher is that  I get to count those days down year after year. (Kind of like the movie "Groundhog Day", except this is the end of May.)

Other wonderful things about the last days of school?

1. The cafeteria menu lists "Manager's Choice" for the last week. This means the lunch ladies clean out every freezer, and each child in line gets a different meal. (My class eats lunch at 10:30am and the pickins' can be slim. I cannot imagine what the fifth graders are pulling two hours later.)

2. My students don't wear watches. Or don't tell time if it's not o'clock or something-thirty. If recess is expanded a wee bit (or a big bit) for the teacher to relax a smidgen, they are none the wiser.

3. The School Talent Show. Today's K/lst version included a Celtic dancer, a glow in the dark hula hoop routine, an electric guitar rendition of "Wild Thang"(along with vocals) and the days of the week sung in Spanish. Whole lot of The Happy during that program.

4. The kids are realizing they won't see each other for a while, and they spontaneously say such sweet things to each other. I heard one of my sweeties tell a little girl at the table, "I just can't figure out how you can look so pretty every single day." Melt my heart.

5. The parents are my friends by this time of year. I jokingly tell them that grades are already in, and if they'd like to take their child out early it would be fine. They laugh, slap my arm and run in the other direction. Because they are about to have the Summer Shift, and are enjoying the last days of freedom.

6. These last days fly by. Seriously, we say the pledge and then it seems like we are immediately packing up to go home. Bittersweet, this new time continuum. Could have used it in that looooooooong stretch to Thanksgiving last fall...

7. When rules are broken, I can ask, "How many days have we been in school?" (170) "How many days has that been a rule?" (170) Point made; case closed.

8. Today, everyone, everyone, had their right hand on their heart during the pledge. My job is finished.

You may all have the summer off starting next Wednesday to celebrate.

And I am not sad to lose you even one little bit.

You know why? Lean in and I'll tell you the most wonderful of secrets: I'm "looping" with my class up to second grade next year! My first graders will become my second graders in bigger bodies and smarter brains.

Four more days of school brings me four days closer to next year with this same wonderful bunch. To quote my six-year old best friends, "I am a lucky duck."

Monday, May 24, 2010

May 24

Today was/is/would have been...D's and my wedding anniversary. And OH! the bittersweetness of it. Of all the monumental dates we've missed together over the past 10 months, this one was the apex, the summit, the Mount Everest of hurt-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach occasions.

So let's just go back to the original May 24th wedding day. I was teaching third grade, and this date was actually the day after the last day of school that year. The last day fell on a Friday and we got off at noon. I remember turning in my report cards and heading for the chapel/reception hall to begin decorating. What was I thinking scheduling a wedding the day after the last day of school? I was thinking, "I WANT TO MARRY THIS MAN!" that's what.  

We had wanted a small wedding, but somehow it grew to a standing room only ceremony with joy all around for all of us. (Fun aside: one of the guests was a young boy who would later become my daughter's husband.) So much love and laughter from everyone. We left the next day for a 10 day honeymoon in Hawaii that was so perfect, we considered just moving the entire family there. In our dreams.

Today was a wee bit different for obvious reasons. I woke up having the crazy thought that maybe D had thought ahead and ordered flowers for this year for me. He had left other things behind for me to find: money, notes, signed furniture. Flowers were not a stretch, until I remembered that he only had about six more weeks to live last May 24. That brought the first batch of tears. But you want to hear something great? One of my student's mothers brought me flowers today in honor of this anniversary. Without knowing, she chose the same flowers I'd had at my wedding. Yellow Roses. (Yes, I am a Texas girl.)  These parents never cease to amaze me with their loving generosity, but it was especially appreciated today.

In my goal to not spend a lot of time alone this evening, I'd made plans to meet my sister and brother-in-law at one of the famous barbeque places around here. No sides: just smoked and sauced meat. We moved the party outside after the meal to enjoy one of the last breezy-cool evenings of central Texas. We talked and laughed, and filled up much of my spare night with sweet memories of D.

Now I'm home, crossing off yet another date on the calendar of grief. I'm believing if I can just get through this first year, these same occasions will not be so difficult next year. 

D and I always quoted: "Come grow old with me, the best is yet to be." Guess the first part is not possible anymore. But hoping there is some of that "best" part ahead.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Keeping Busy

When my daughter was visiting from out of state last weekend, she asked a very interesting question, "What do you do at night now, Mom?"

When D was still alive, I always got home as quickly as possible to spend time with him and see if there was anything he needed. Now I tend to drag out the errands after school, meet friends, do a little shopping...anything to get home home a little later, so the evening is not quite so long.

This weekend was pretty packed with activities. I met two dear friends after school on Friday at Starbucks, and bought a wonderful dinner and magazine at Whole Foods on the way home. On Saturday morning I finally got my Mother's Day bushes planted just in time to clean up for a 50th Anniversary party at 1:00 pm, followed by a high school graduation at 4:00 pm. Today, (Sunday) I went to church and heard our guest speaker, Don Piper, who wrote the book "90 Minutes in Heaven". D had read and enjoyed that book last spring, and the author's words today were very thought provoking for me. D's daughter was in town visiting a friend this weekend, and we had a great lunch at LaMadeline.  After we finished, I drove to a town about an hour from my home to a wonderful antique warehouse I kept seeing advertised on Craigslist. Stopped for groceries on the way home at an out of town store (oh! the adventure), and made it home without much evening to spare.

I have decided one of the things I miss most about D is sharing about my day when I get home. Maybe that is why I don't like the evenings at home to be too long. Somehow, when you share your story it just seems to matter more. 

Interestingly, I read a study this weekend that said the more women engage with their husbands in the evening, talking about their days, the faster their cortisol (stress hormone) dropped. (An aside: the men's cortisol levels tapered more slowly when talking with their wives. Life on Mars proven.) Since I mostly share conversation with my six-year old best friends during the day in my classroom, maybe the lack of adult conversation at night is something I need to work on. I could always call friends and tell all the jokes I've heard during the day. (Most recent: "Mrs. O: Want to hear a joke about a rope? SKIP IT! Get it: SKIP IT, but I mean skip the joke and that is like skipping a rope. Get it?" Somehow, the explanation of the joke is usually funnier than the joke itself.)

(Oh, dear, I really do need to seek out adult conversation. I'm wanting to tell you at least three more first grade jokes I heard this week.)

So, my homework for these last SEVEN DAYS OF SCHOOL (that felt delicious to type out) is more adult interaction to help lessen the stress levels.

 I've heard dark chocolate does that, too.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Not the movie starring Kate Beckinsale...

I  love to write blog posts. 

Really, I do.

So why don't I post more often these days? It is because of a natural phenomenon called "The Last Days of School". Every day we are handed yet another long and detailed list of What Must Be Done Right Now to finalize the year via paperwork.

As one teacher recently commented, "I could easily get this job done if it weren't for all these students hanging out in my room!" Irony? Much.

With my few free brain cells, I think about what I'll do this summer vacation. Which begins after SEVEN MORE SCHOOL DAYS. (I enjoyed that. A lot.)

I have a friend who always prays for serendipities when she is on vacation. The definition of "serendipity" is "making fortunate discoveries by accident". (Note: this is not like finding out Hobby Lobby already has its Christmas wreaths out in May. 'Cause nothing says Ho-Ho-Holiday like fake greenery seven months before it is needed.) 

Where was I? Oh, yes: my friend and prayers for serendipities. She prays, and then she actively looks for them. Like a trip to Santa Fe a few weeks ago where it snowed every day. In April. She loves snow. Her non-snow-liking friends turned to her and said, "This is because of you, isn't it?" They're used to her fortunate discoveries.

I've  started looking for those serendipities in my life. You might remember my luggage was sent to Denver as I arrived in Baltimore in March. (Found here.) We had seven hours to kill in that town as my luggage was rerouted. We asked the lady at the information booth for a good local restaurant, and she recommended the G&M Restaurant for crabcakes. Cakes made with lumps of crab the size of a golf ball. Mouth watering-ly amazing. Even more amazing? Finding them recently listed in a travel magazine by Adam Richman (of Man vs. Food fame on the Travel Channel) as one of his favorite foods and restaurants in America. We had enjoyed a serendipity of the highest proportions, apparently.

This weekend, I find myself praying and looking for a "fortunate discovery by accident" for Monday. It would have been D's and my wedding anniversary. I began this journey of grief thinking that holidays would not really get to me. They were just dates on a calendar, right?There should be a 12-step program for people as naive as I was: "Hello. My name is R and I was in complete denial about loss over the holidays and special occasions." 

I've found if I make plans for those days, I'm not as likely to end up in a fetal position in a dark room. Just kidding. I usually leave the lights on.

 So, I'm making plans. And hoping Loyal Sister's sinus infection is cleared up, so a long talk over Blooming Onions makes the calendar.

And as a passenger on a planet that spun out of my control over a year ago, I'm hoping Monday's post contains happy memories and unexpected happiness.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Trip Through Happyville Continues

Graduation weekend is officially over, and Young Son has begun his  two-week journey through the midwest and up the eastern coast. It is a very loosely designed itinerary: he had a ticket to Chicago and a ticket home from Portland, Maine in a few weeks. The traveling in between? Well, have you seen the movies "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"? He told me, and I quote, "Oh, Mom. I'll figure it out as I go." And he will. I'm sure he'll have many great stories to tell when he returns with his one backpack of belongings. Which would be just about big enough to carry my shoes for the trip. Young Son's philosophy is: travel light, hang loose and all will turn out OK. And you know what? It does turn out well for him. He always lands on his feet. I've learned to filter my unsolicited, yet "helpful" advice, and pray harder. Together, we've become a supportive team.

Another Happy Turn: Married Daughter is getting to stay with me for a few more days and I don't have to share her with anyone. We've shopped (where she has talked me into shoes I'd never have bought on my own) and  attended movies (where she patiently listened to my whispered explanations that the characters in "Letters to Juliet" played  Lancelot and Guinevere in the movie "Camelot", and are married in real life. She whispered back she never saw "Camelot".  I was shocked beyond belief that a daughter growing up in my home never saw my second-favorite (behind "Gone With the Wind") movie. I always stop  watching when the kingdom of Camelot begins it's demise. I'd rather remember , as the song says, "Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief and shining moment that was known as Camelot". And now I have digressed you to death, and you will need a nap to finish this post. I'll wait.)

So, anyhoo...Married  Daughter and I have done a lot of talking about how I am doing these days. I never mind being asked that, because it makes me feel like people are still remembering and thinking about Dave, too. I don't want every thought or mention of him to  disappear just because someone thinks the "So, how are you doing...really?" question makes me feel uncomfortable or sad. The good news is, I've discovered through these long mother/daughter talks is that I am doing much better. Much better, indeed. I think the Scale O' Grief has tipped to favor the Happy Side. Old memories seem sweeter, appreciation for the past is emerging to overshadow loss, and almost all the stories we share about D leave us laughing. Ten months of processing must be successful in many areas. (If you are interested, I found my daughter's version of this trip on her blog found here.)
Before I sign off (because The  Monument Cafe in Georgetown, Texas is calling out with its glorious gingerbread pancakes), I have to share another layer of Joy. The beautiful bride seen above was in my  third and fourth grade class, lo those many years ago. We've kept up with each other over the years, because we share a Mutual Admiration Society for each other. Well, S married her life's love, B, on Saturday wearing the veil her mother wore 29 years ago. Can I say it again? Watching all these children grow up well in the Lord is one of the best parts of life, and I look forward to more and more of it. Weddings. Showers. Babies. Graduations. Loving the marking of the milestones.

S and B are shown leaving the church on their way to their new future. B is a pilot, so guests were given blue pieces of paper to fashion airplanes. We launched the paper planes at the glowing couple  as they slipped away to their honeymoon. (Beats rice or birdseed for creativity. Young brides, you ever amaze me with your whimsical ideas and sense of fun.)

And I end today with the beauty and healing found in time.

"He has made everything beautiful in his time.
He has placed eternity in our hearts..." (Ecc. 3:11)

Amidst all this happiness (and did I mention there are only 10 more days in The Kingdom of First Grade?), I'm believing that spring is making all things new. Amen.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

This Family Deserves a Party

And so, we begin the time of celebrating C's graduation from college with gingerbread pancakes. All is right with the world; let the celebration begin!
Married Daughter and Young Son-in-law have traveled from Pennsylvania to share the joy in this momentous occasion. Because everything is more fun surrounded by family.
Of course, this is Texas, so Young Son-in-law takes the prerequisite shots of cows in wildflower-filled pastures.
Three generations together on The Day to watch C graduate. Even the monsoon outside did not dampen our spirits. Though the thunder did make it difficult to hear at times. he comes. Cleans up quiet well.
An amazing thing I discovered: in a sea of identically dressed soon-to-be-graduates, every mother can quickly find her own child.
The joy filling the auditorium was unmistakable. A dad near me stood throughout the ceremony with tears streaming down his face. These were all our children that day, because we've been their "village". (But I'm the most proud of the one crossing the stage in this picture!)

Fun Fact to Know and Learn: Former graduates from C's college are Beth Moore, George Strait and Lyndon Baines Johnson.
One of C's junior high teachers got her three little ones out in the rain to watch him graduate. I'm a teacher, so I understand how former students leave their handprints on our hearts. (Thanks for coming, brave former teacher Ms. G!)
I managed to run across C and his girlfriend in the parking lot afterwords.  The ark is floating by to the left of us.
Family and friends later traveled from San Marcos to Austin for a Celebratory Lunch. What rain? What high wind? We were so happy we hardly noticed.
Back to my house for dessert. Where I had removed painting tarps from the front rooms. We all wore pictures of C from his first day of kindergarten, where I was his teacher. Because wasn't that just yesterday? (And parents of my first grade students: hold your little ones tightly, because you'll be watching them graduate faster than you can possibly imagine.)
Aunt and Uncle showed up to celebrate their role as C's mentors and biggest fans.
And more pictures of Young Son with Proud Mom. D was fighting cancer all through C's high school and college years, but C pressed on and graduated. Put himself through. And the world will be a better place for what C will use his degree for in the future.
You have probably figured out you may as well move along, nothing here for you today, if you are not in the mood for The Happy Family Photographs. Blogs are kind of like home movies of the olden days. Except you are a willing audience.

Older sister came in state to support her brother in his special accomplishment. The three of us have traveled a long journey together. But these two? They've been wonderful companions on this road of life.
And, last picture (I promise!) of my closest high school friend A, with her husband and son WHO MARRIED MY DAUGHTER. (If you've read this blog more than once, you've probably seen those words at least 300 times. Because it still brings me The Happy every time I think about my daughter married to her son.)

Future plans for Young Son? A two-week road trip to Indiana, Pennsylvania, Boston, New York, Maine...and anywhere else his heart desires on the road. Because his future is wide open now.

Congratulations, C. I'm so very proud of you. YBM

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

By the Numbers

15 more days of school.
3 1/2 days I will be off, because in
3 days my son will graduate from college!!!
1 day until Daughter and Son-in-law fly in from Pennsylvania.
0 room for sadness right now:
1 family that deserves a party after the year we've had.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Nights

If Dave were still here, I know exactly what we would have done tonight. Because it was what we did every Friday night. We'd eat at the local Mexican food restaurant (where he would skip chips and salsa (not me) to eat vegetarian (again: not me) ). Then, we'd cross the parking lot for a quick swing through Barnes and Noble for my end-of-the-teaching-week mindless pleasure: People magazine. Dave was nothing if not a creature of habit. (Guess I was, too, but it was easy to pin it on him.) The best part? Making it home for our favorite TV show: "Friday Night Lights".

You can imagine how I looked forward to the season premiere of "FNL" tonight. Because I could almost see  him sitting in his chair, leaning forward and enjoying every second of it. The show is filmed in our area, so we'd make a game of identifying the different locations we recognized. He would have especially enjoyed the fact that a few people we know (through degrees of separation) are appearing on the show this season. Dillon, Texas, you have been missed. (And seeing HEB brand foods on the Riggins' dinner table? Nice touch.)

My joy was not even diminished by the yard men showing up at 7:48 pm (hello, Daylight Savings Time!) right as East Dillon's first season game began. With the TV's volume set at 34, I could hear (almost) everything Coach Taylor was saying.  But East Dillion lost. Badly. 

It is early in this season of life, and things will improve. Because time heals wounds and memories. And sometimes we look back and remember even the hard times fondly. And though we miss the way things were,  a changed life still has wonderful surprises ahead. 

And obviously my mind wandered out of Dillon about a paragraph ago. But the hard-earned wisdom I'm sharing is free, and it still applies. 

And I'm glad to know I can go forward with old memories and find them surprisingly happy.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lifting the Veil

Well. After that last little post, maybe it is time for me to call the "waaaaaaa-mbulance", as my first graders say. Pitiful! Sometime when I am at an emotional spike, my filter (and "Publish Post" button) are not fully engaged.

So, now we will be discussing The Progress in this journey through grief. I had a student's dad a few years ago tell me he admired my use of bullets in my classroom newsletters: concise and to the point information. He was a professor at UT, so I'm guessing that was a huge compliment. For your viewing pleasure today? Bullets.
  • My ability to hold information in my brain is improving. I was able to finish a complete book, and have begun a new one. And if you give me a little time, I might even remember the title.
  • I have cancelled Netflix after having two DVDs sit untouched for three weeks. This is in marked contrast to the past several months when I worked my way through six seasons of Ally McBeal. A friend had suggested if  I watched something with a continuing plotline, maybe I could keep up. Since I don't watch "Lost", "America's Top Model" or "Biggest Loser", a completed, cancelled series fit the bill. (And Donnie Osmond winning "Dancing With the Stars" last fall? Well, that tracked as well.)
  • I removed plastic tarps from one bedroom to begin preparations for The Graduation next week. I'll be having overnight guests, and they will have to be able to breathe while they sleep.
  • I was so inspired, the next night I removed tarps from the dining room. If I hurry, I may actually eat a home-cooked meal at a table this year.
  • I could continue in my tarp de force,  but the clean up produced another bullet:
  • There is a house under all the dust produced by the continuing removal of popcorn ceilings throughout the house. I had forgotten what it looked like. And I love it very much.
You see, bullets aside, my goal has been to finish the remodel of our home in honor of D. And as it slowly emerges, I realize that a Happier Me is also coming forward. Nine months of grief seems to be giving birth to happier memories when I sort through D's possessions.

It's been easier to let sleeping tarps lie, and cover everything in the house. Out of sight, out of mind and all that. But cleaning up is helping me see things with new eyes. Like actually having the energy to clean again. 

When Married Daughter and her husband  come for graduation next week, it will be the first trip in over three years that didn't involve surgeries, hospital visits or a funeral. We can concentrate on just The Happy this time. But we do wish D was here to share it with us.

Pain endures through the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.

And it is not muffled by plastic tarps.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

All Rolled Into One

Long time, no blog. There are several very good reasons for this. 

Let's start with The Happy. Young Son is graduating from college next week and there are many things that have to be finished before that joyous occasion arrives: plastic removed from every room in the house (even though the painters are (still) not finished), guest rooms prepared for Married Daughter and Son-in-law who are flying in from Pennsylvania, and invitations mailed. (Yes, we are in somewhat of a time crunch here, due to many circumstances beyond our control.) D's cancer extended throughout Young Son's high school and college years. He has worked hard to put himself through and will be exiting with a degree in English/Mass Communications. This is a family seriously in need of a celebration and Young Son has given us the perfect venue.

Then, there is The Crazy. I am a first grade teacher. There are 20 days of school left. You do the math. Every year at this time I always think we should be given hazardous duty pay, like when the military is deployed to the most dangerous and difficult locations. The good news is: I am "looping" with my students, and will have this same wonderful bunch as second graders next year. Can't wait. After I have a summer off to recover from the month of May.

And last? There is The Unthinkable. I've finally stumbled upon the anniversary of dates from last year when D was told his life would only last a few more months. I never thought I'd be the person who clicked off the dates in my head, yet here I am: Last year on Mother's Day weekend, we celebrated with Young Son and his girlfriend on Saturday, and other family members on Sunday. We went home to buy plane tickets online to Seattle (to visit D's youngest daughter) and Las Vegas (to see Barry Manilow, before he pulled that little cancellation shenanigan). "Let's wait until after my MRI results next week", D said. That Wednesday he woke me up in the middle of the night to take him to the emergency room with pain too difficult to manage at home. Followed by a biopsy. And a doctor's visit to hear: one to three months at best.

I cannot remember exactly what we said as we sat in the car trying to process The News. I do remember going to a restaurant and deciding how best to tell the kids. And boxing up our untouched food. I do remember going in before dawn to tell my principal I'd be missing the last week of school for a final hospital visit to drain D's lungs. I do remember saying good-bye to Young Son as he left for his summer study abroad in Costa Rica, and making contingency plans in case he should need to come home quickly. (He did.)

And the memories of a time I was numbed to a year ago continue to roll over me, with a sadness so profound I sometimes find it difficult to breathe. It is not the brittle-as-broken-glass feeling I experienced soon after D's death. It is more like a weighty shroud descending over me. Just heavy and inescapable. 

I feel like if I can just get past July 13, the date of the ultimate loss, I can stop making markers in my mind. By then I will have passed every holiday, birthday and anniversary without D. Even as I'm trying to convince myself of this, I stumble upon an article that says the second year is even harder for a widow because there is no more denial to hide behind. Drat. Not sure if I'm buying a ticket to that dance.

One thing they kept asking in my grief class: is it possible for joy and pain to co-exist? Well, yes. But I'm looking for the day when it's the joy that causes the bubble to tilt off plumb.