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Posts Tagged ‘Bear’

Since my brother’s death I haven’t really wanted to know anyone better. It’s not the right choice, but it’s the right choice right now. A lot has changed in my life since Bear died. So much good stuff has happened, and I do celebrate all of that. But there is sadness, there is grief.

So when my brother died too, again unexpectedly, it was just such a hard blow. Grief books talk about all kinds of grief, but not grief from a suicide. I suppose when I am ready I’ll remember that there’s a world wide web out there and find materials about that. But I’m back to denial and am content to sit there for a bit. It’s better than playing the “what if” game, which nobody wins.

My cousin gave me a lamp that belonged to our grandmother. A friend just finished repairing it. I am excited to hang it in my room and have a visual reminder of so much good in my life. 

I thought again the other day that I wish I didn’t think about stuff as much as I do. But clearly that isn’t changing. I need to carve out time each day to process it. Perhaps letting myself think about the “stuff” a little each day will help alleviate the days when it becomes all encompassing. I’d rather be living, doing things, than sitting and thinking. 

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It has been exactly a year since Bear died. This is a different kind of new year. I have to move myself out of mourning. Each day I will have a Bear moment, doing something that makes someone feel special & happy for the time spent together.

I have to say goodbye to Wally. No more comfort eating.

Tonight as I write this there is a thunder storm. But we all know that’s Bear bowling in heaven. Of course he’s scaring the crap out of Rex, so I hope he’s on the tenth frame soon.😜

I love you and miss you, Bear. Thank you for decades of love & laughter. And for the traditions & memories.

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These last two weeks before the anniversary of Bear’s death feel much like the first two weeks after his death in that horrific car accident. Once again, the image of Bear when I identified his body haunts my days and nights. The memories of planning his service, communicating with the funeral home, cleaning out his car, comforting the boys-they are swirling in my head, seemingly 24 hours a day right now. Emotions about decisions beyond my control are swelling up inside of me all over again.

I’ve driven through the accident site several times now in my travels, and on the 16th I will drive through it twice. After the second time, we will continue to the cemetery to pay Bear a visit, tell him we love him and miss him. Leave some carnations for him to look down on and smile at.

I don’t imagine that life will resume normalcy without Bear on July 17th, having worked my way through the first year. I’m fully aware that life is forevermore different. I know he wants me to be happy, to not spend time missing him, but loving those around me. And I am working on letting go to do that more fully.

I lost a lot when Bear died, more than meets the eye. My family of origins’s dynamic went through quite a metamorphosis.

But…I have a deeper appreciation for my friends who are my family, for extended family. I have had reunions in the past year that I never thought would happen and have more reunions to look forward to in the coming months. I’ve made peace with many aspects of my personal history. I am exploring my early childhood that I had tucked away. While I do have many difficulties in remembering much from then because of the schizophrenia, it is neat to hear stories. Not that schizophrenia causes memory loss, I just didn’t pay attention to everything as well because of the delusions and hallucinations. It’s cool having gaps filled in.

Hubby, Sons, and I will be visiting New Orleans soon. I haven’t been there since the 70’s when my family moved from my hometown. I’m taking risks that I wouldn’t have before because each day is so precious and why spend each day tired, drained, frustrated? I come home from work now and I have energy to spare. I yell less (although the boys would disagree after the past few days, hence why I’m blogging first thing after work, to clear my head). Little projects around the house are finally being finished, some were started three or four years ago, others I just started because I finally finished the old ones!

It still hurts, I still miss Bear dearly, I still want one more hug from him. Still, I am learning how to tuck that away in my heart and to focus on my many blessings. To let go of things I cannot control. To set boundaries to end useless, painful cycles. To focus on the love surrounding me in so many ways. To be open and ready for the way family and friends show up when you didn’t even know how much you needed them.

 

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366

Today I was drowning in a tsunami of grief and sorrow. I cried throughout the day, at times worried that people on the other side of my cube would hear.  I managed okay in my meeting because I let the others do the talking, with me just piping in with questions to move the conversation in a new direction or to delve deeper into the topic at hand.

Inside I was asking how 366 days could have passed? June 20, 2015 was the last day we saw Bear. Then the boys were off to camp weeks and such. The next time I thought I would see him was at the end of July for Younger Son’s birthday. Instead I identified his body at the trauma center.

Those images are burned in brain and haunt my nightmares still, but a year ago today we were with Bear. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few thousands words on the happiness and love that filled that day.

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On  July 16 I will have lived a year without my beloved Bear. While the sadness and grief continues to be overwhelming at times, it has already been a year filled with great blessings and many happy times. My hope is that the saying about a house holds true even a little bit for grief. You have to live in it for a year to know what it’s like in every season. Then I can start making repairs to my heart.

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Three things

First thing. I wandered back into denial about my dad being dead.  Just been hanging in a place where I’ve been comfortably numb.  Now while I did cry at every holiday-related event from Halloween through New Year’s, it was not a loud, unattractive sobbing, but simply a weeping (most of the time).  I lost it a bit at the youth group retreat because the giant bear in the lobby had the same ribbon that I had picked for my father’s Christmas decoration at the cemetery.  And we had to drive through the scene of his accident on the sixth month-iversary to get home.  But I was in a car with my son, his friend, and my pastor, so I kept it quiet and muffled.  Then tonight at the annual meeting at church I really read the annual reports.  There in the pastor’s report, the funerals he presided over.  And my dad’s name in black and white. Huge ugly sobbing crying all the way home (like the littlest piggy).  Thankfully, the boys went with Hubby to Poppop’s house after the meeting so they didn’t see or hear me crying about Bearpaw.

Second thing. Ahhhhhhhhhh…that’s me exhaling.  I quit my job three weeks ago and started my new job the very next week.  Such a wonderful difference.  I truly miss the people from department at my old job and the pirates, but ahhhhhhhhhhhh.  I spend my days now working with words and it is lovely.  It is quiet.  It is focused.  There’s a snack table.  Hubby made banana bread the other day for the table and it was gone by 11am.  Someone brought in bagels this morning. And there are Girl Scout cookies everywhere.  And I work with words all day.  I can get my geek on and it’s cool, because everyone is doing the same.

Third thing.  I wrote a post for my blog.  And it feels so good to be writing again.  I haven’t enjoyed writing for about a year.  I missed it and I was angry about that.  But by the time I got home each night I didn’t have any freakin’ energy.  My blood pressure was up, I’ve got about 60 pounds to lose, and I was just angry all the time when I got home from work.  I barely had time and energy for real interactions with my family.  I certainly didn’t want to write anything down.  And now I do.

Three things.

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I’m gazing at the beauty of creation through the windows of Hemlock House. The retreat for the youth group has gone well and all are enjoying the free time before the last session.

It’s been six months and it is quite fitting to be in the Poconos. We came here most weekends for several summers to take the boat out on Lake Wallenpaupack. We’d stay at the same little motel each time and Hot Dog Johnny’s was always a beacon of “almost there”. So much has changed since then.

So much has changed in the last sixth months. I no longer run a writing lab. I miss the people very much but my blood pressure and back muscles do not miss the stress. I am enjoying my new job. The pace is calmer and I can focus on one task at a time. I enjoy the challenges of the job and my new coworkers are quite nice, quite welcoming.

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People that I never thought I would see again are back in my life. And I am the better for it. They have brought a new happiness and love into our family in ways we could not have imagined.

And so I sit with a sense of peace looking at majestic views through the windows of Hemlock House. I will have to drive through the scene of the accident six months to the day, but it will be with peace. With love. With old happy memories melding with new happy memories. As we drive through that spot of the road, I may cry, simply because I miss Bear so much. But I keep sharing the love and happiness and joy he always shared. For our time on this earth is short, so we must come in and know each other better, man.

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Come in and know me better, man.

As I have been struggling to process the death of my father, lovingly known as Bear and Bearpaw (Grandpa), certain aspects of my relationship with him continue to surface repeatedly.  One of them was staring me in the face, literally.  I found a picture of my dad with my sons that I had forgotten about.  I took it at our annual outing to see A Christmas Carol performed by Gerald Charles Dickens, Charles Dickens’ great great grandson.  It was our fourth year at the show and Bearpaw was goofing off with the boys while waiting in line for photos with Mr. Dickens.  The boys had worn their Dickens hats and Bearpaw had covered Younger Son’s face with his hat.  Then he dropped the hat down and I captured a beautiful picture of the three of them, full of the Christmas spirit, full of love, full of joy.

Dickens hat down

This picture shows Bear’s love of love.  His love of his grandchildren.  His love of life.  I realized only now as I have been missing him terribly why he loved this particular version of A Christmas Carol so much.

First, he got to share it each year with his family.  The boys were six and eight the first year we went. It’s tradition now.  And yet every year we forget when we’re supposed to participate.  (Ooh, ahh…!)  Bear also loved that every year Dickens would tweak the script, the story parts a little bit.

That was his second love of A Christmas Carol.  It’s one of the greatest stories.  And my dad loved to tell stories (good and bad)!  He loved the art of storytelling and appreciated the details, the characters, the shared human experiences.

When Scrooge is with the Ghost of Christmas Present, “Come in and know me better, man”, we hear the stories of the people, the food they ate, the games they played.  Bear celebrated many days that way.  Special occasions and regular ones.  Scrooge discovered the importance of living life in the past, present, and future.  Bear lived his life this way.  He held the past, present, and future in his heart.

On Easter, Bearpaw would create the wonderful Easter egg hunt for the boys and the boys would miss standard eggs each year. Bearpaw would laugh each year.  He added little clues and goofy challenges to add more fun.

On Christmas as we sat around the dinner table feeling full and blessed, Bear would pass around the lottery game tickets and he would sit with the biggest smile on his face as we furiously scratched off the silver covering to see if we won.

On any day he would add games and laughter, whether it was telling you about a spot on your shirt (and then gently flicking your nose as you looked down) or “fixing his toupee” (he could move his scalp to make his hair look out of place and then “shift” it back into place). I still can’t do that trick!

And, like the Ghost of Christmas Present, he wanted folks to come in and know him better, man and in turn get to know them better too.  He loved chatting with people he would meet.  Sharing experiences, discovering what he and the person might have in common.  All it took was a little time to share together and in a few minutes of talking with my father, you knew you had come in and known him better, man.

His life was full of love.  There were rough times.  There were sad times.  But Bear always was full of love.  He loved index cards-he used them every day, for categorizing things, saving notes, reminders.  He loved index cards and paper plates, but index cards were more portable (fit right in his front shirt pocket).  I found one the night he died on which he had written:

“Finish each day and be done with it.  You have done what you could.  Tomorrow is another new day.”

a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Below the quote he wrote, in parentheses, the word “over”.  Upon turning the card over, you read this quote from Goethe,

“There is nothing worth more than this day.”

And then again in parentheses, below the quote, the word “over”.  With a simple index card he had created a perpetual motivator.  Something to remind him that each day was so valuable and to live each day the best you could.  And Bear did.  He lived each day to the fullest, carrying the past, present, and future in his heart.

So remember from my father these pieces of advice.

From Emerson, “Finish each day and be done with it.  You have done what you could.  Tomorrow is another new day.”

From Goethe, “There is nothing worth more than this day.”

From my dad, “Stand tall, shoulders back, head up.”

And from Dickens, “Come in and know me better, man.”

Try it with the next person you meet.  Go in and know him better, man.

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