Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Afterglow

I hope all of you had an excellent holiday. Even if you are bereaved and missing a loved one who is very special, sometimes it helps to remember that they want us to continue to spend our lives as happily as possible, and that they would not like the idea of too much time spent grieving over the holiday. The reality is that every Christmas, is someone's last one, so we should try to keep them special in all the ways that matter, not necessary presents, but in terms of music, food, fellowship and family.
Our holiday went quickly, and I can honestly say, we cleaned up quickly afterward. It won't be too difficult when we do take all the wreaths, the real tree, and the decorations down. This Christmas, the wife of one of our friends had a stroke and is in ICU, and the father of one of our daughter's friends had a massive stroke and is not expected to survive. If we live long enough then the chances are greater that the holidays become bittersweet for us, and we will simply need to accept this. We also spent a little time over the holiday, visiting the grandmother of a friend of ours who is out of the country. Had we not visited, she would not have had any Christmas visitors in her nursing home, and also would not have received any presents. Once again, it surprized me what a difference only twenty dollars worth of little gifts and chocolates made to her when we arrived with all the multi-colored gifts. Wal-Mart had a lot of nice things for little money this year. The "senseless acts of kindness" this year really made Christmas for me.
There were those sad panicked moments too. I awakened one day to remember that Daniel is no longer on Earth, and for some reason I was momentarily focused on what he must have felt in his last seconds, and it cut my heart to ribbons. I accept now that a certain amount of negative thoughts and wondering what he endured in those albeit short moments, is normal, and they will probably always happen. I still wish that I had noticed something and somehow or in some way effectively intervened, changing the outcome completely.

This is vulgar in spots, but Daniel would have thought this was interesting and important to understand.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

To those of you in the path of unusual expected Christmas snowstorms this year, please stay safe, and take some time out today to prepare for them,not just for the holiday itself. To those of you who have been following along in the two years since Daniel left with God, thank you for your steadfastness, and your encouragement. To those who are navigating grief along with a holiday, I am with you and we will do our best this holiday, and meet again back here afterward.

Merry Christmas with love.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Celebrating Christmas after Loss

With two days to Christmas, I am afraid I have a few more senseless acts of kindness to complete, including the letter to Daniel I place in his Christmas stocking each year since his passing.
May this holiday provide enough time for some of the grieving we all need to do a little at a time, for a lifetime, coupled with the joy and the hope that we really do all see each other again, in Heaven, and that our joyous reunions with loved ones and with God, will be worth all that was endured during our "field trips to Earth". Merry Christmas everyone.

Here is the letter to Daniel so far...

Dear Daniel,

As you may remember, with so much to say in 2008 when you had to go, I wrote you a letter to place in your Christmas stocking. I thought, that surely, our loving God would let you know what was in it. Since then, on each Christmas Eve, I have written you a letter, placed it in your Christmas stocking, and then after the holiday, put it in your scrapbook. This year is no different.
Gosh I miss you and Papa Lawrence more than I can ever tell you. Dad and the rest of the kids do too. I know you had to go to God, and I work really hard not to be upset but sometimes I am anyway. As you probably already know, Stephanie got a good job, and it's about time. She graduated in 2009 and hasn't really had a good job since. The economy is not great and although Adam still looks, he has not yet found that great job. Matt is having some trouble academically in college. I know, what a shock ! He is so bright, but I don't think he ever had to work and study to the same degree the others had to, and consequently, he may not yet know how. I am working with him, but whatever you and Dad could do in terms of encouraging him would be great. J. is doing his best to be himself and still be the youngest child. He is very respectful of your memory and for this I am grateful. The animals are all doing well, and I know you have the ones that passed after you. I wish you and Papa Lawrence had not had to go.
This Christmas, I must tell you that I love you wider than the universe, and more than all the stars. Your spirits are both welcome here, anytime God allows it.

Much love always,


Monday, December 20, 2010

On Finding Meaning

Daniel's own small tree, his last Christmas with us.

Our Christmas tree, the last Christmas Daniel was with us.

Daniel,at five, and Rakshi

As you might guess, this is a difficult time of year for me. I am probably doing best when I post the least, and the flurry of posts here lately must mean that my soul cries and reaches hard to find meaning in a supernatural separation from Daniel, and also from my father, at very nearly the same time. Many times people ask me what Christianity means to me, and of course, this cannot be explained in an extruded or concentrated blurb, but I think that right now it means to me that there is purpose in all the things that happen here on Earth. When someone survives a terrible trial of some kind....it is for a reason. When our Savior was crucified, it occured for a greater good, and on a personal level, when Daniel was called, instantly without complaint of not feeling well, one one beautiful backlit autumn day, that despite the pain and loss of our family, that it was somehow to bring glory to God, a destiny for Daniel, and good to the planet on which we remain. I think Christianity,among other things, is about finding purpose.....in the terrible torturous execution of what some believed was a man, in the losses and horrors of our own world, and in the untimely calling of Daniel, for God's own purposes. Christianity is about faith. Nothing less.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Song

Many years ago, when I was in my late teens and lived in the New York area, I worked as a recording artist. I did well, especially for someone so young, often too young to know how difficult, and how dangerous some of the aspects of the popular music business were at the time. It's a shame that the popular Christian music business we know today did not exist then, or perhaps I would not have decided to go to college, to be an RN, to have a back up plan. I had planned to mix both, but very quickly a fulltime job as a nurse, a marriage and a family filled my life, and I have no particular regrets, at least in that regard. Still, being a singer songwriter has served the parent, and the nurse in me well. There is nothing as valuable as singing a capella to a dying child, which I have done as a nurse, several times,and nothing like singing a favorite song to your father while he is dying. It has also served to allow me to pen some fantastic personalized answering machine tunes over the years.
From time to time, I therefore post a new song I find somewhere simply because I think it's a clean recording, a strong songwriting effort, and good work over all. This is one of those songs.
It also reminds me a bit of grieving. In families everyone grieves at a different speed, and therefore cannot always understand one another. This song really can touch on this type of disconnect too.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

When Daniel was Five

When Daniel was five, this was our family

When Daniel was five, and homeschooled, he expressed great sorrow when he learned that not everyone was able to grow up with a mother, father, sister and brothers. He understood that family configurations could be different, but he was very sad to learn that some children don't have parents or grandparents to care for them. He thought we should try to help at least one child in foster care, or somewhere else in the world where the child did not have parents. We did try to do this, when Daniel was five, but our foray into adoption that time was short lived and ultimately only as a foster and transport family, as the Russian child moved on to a home who could better meet his special needs.
When Daniel passed, it was easy to see, what Daniel wanted us to do with the time we have remaining on Earth. Share the home and family we have with someone who also remains here on Earth.
The song below, talks about the need to do this. Presently, there are 123,000 children in United States foster care,many of whom are legally freed and or available for adoption. It is not easy. Children who have been orphaned through the deaths of their parents, or who have lost their families through their parent's addictions, may be slow to warm to say the least. Some, especially those from failed adoptions, often believe that no one will ever love them, or provide them with a permanent family. They will often test a family continually for a long time. Still, as I have often said, much of the real work of this world is done by ordinary people, who used their own limited resources and the their love to make a difference for one person. When adoption does work, it is no less miraculous than a child who comes to you through birth, as all children really come to you from God.

Steven Curtis Chapman

Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, are also parents of a child who passed to Heaven in 2008. Maria Sue Chapman died in an accident, in May, 2008.
They are also both parents of biological children and children who came to them through adoption.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Gift to all of You from Daniel

Many years ago, my mother learned this approximate recipe from her club, and it was a favorite of mine on birthdays and at Christmas through my teen years. (No, I am afraid bulemia was never a tendency of mine) After I had children and they grew enough for the pediatrician to ok the nuts and the chocolate, this became a favorite of theirs as well. Daniel was thrilled each Christmas when I would whip up a batch.
The recipe which follows is very close to the original, which was at one time on the side of a pudding box. However, now our family adds a few walnuts and skips the crust, along with using neufchatel (lower calorie) cream cheese, lite cool whip, and reduced fat milk. You could even try sugar free puddings. I promise the final product is still wonderful.

Daniel's Favorite Rich

1 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 stick melted butter
Combine all ingredients in a bowl; scatter the crust mixture over the bottom of a 9x13 in baking pan and press together to form a crust. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Cool.

1 -8 ounce package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar(optional)
8 ounces of whipped topping, thawed ( like Cool Whip)
Mix together the cream cheese and sugar; then fold in the whipped topping. Place spoonfuls of this mixture all over the cooled crust. Gently spread out the cream cheese to cover the crust, taking care to not break the crust.

2 packages of instant chocolate pudding (or other flavor of choice)
3 cups of milk
Combine pudding mixes and milk and stir until well blended and thick. Spoon pudding over cream cheese layer and carefully spread it out. (Try one chocolate mixed with one vanilla, for a milk chocolate taste)

One regular package of thawed whipped topping or you could use half, to taste.
Add nuts, or chocolate to put on top, if desired
Spread topping evenly over the pudding layer. Top with nuts, chocolate shavings or sifted cocoa, if desired. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

This is Andrew Gunadie and Julia Bentley, who are a known in the You Tube world as singular artists, Gunnarola and Honeychip.
This particular video was recorded just a couple of weeks after Daniel's passing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shopping In Dream before Christmas

I have told you in the past that I occasionally get what I believe are visits in dream, from Daniel or Dad, and rarely people they knew, or that I knew as a child. Last night though, there was a rare visit. I dreamt that my mother who passed in 2007, made a dream visit so that we could go Flea Market Christmas shopping. I was driving, and she sat next to me in the passenger seat of a new Volkswagen Passat I don't own yet, and I don't actually have plans to own , while I drove to the apparently hyped "Super Flea" in a place called Buckingham. (Which to my knowledge, does not really exist.) We never really arrived there, but the benefits were the stops we made along the way, and the conversation we had as we travelled. My mother died in 2007, and prior to her passing, we experienced a several year period of estrangement....probably due to her illness which impacted her memory of us. She was a very private person, who successfully kept her age from her children until the end of her life. She came from England, and sounded as if she were simply visiting from there even though most of her life was spent in the US. She had a remarkable and long life, and in an era where women did not have high ranking jobs, she did. She married late and had children much later than women of her era, and looked good enough and was fit enough that no one knew it. She was the master of her own affairs and my sibling and I did not know of her banking, legal and other personal practices. She ultimately chose a friend with whom she was fairly newly acquainted, in the last year of her life to be her executor, and this did cause some bad feelings.
A great deal of the information my mother passed last evening was private and she would not want it shared here, however, she does say that she spends the time that she watches Earth watching my sibling and not me. She has some level of confidence that I am ok, and that others watch me. She enjoyed the shopping trip as we used to make, and said that shopping with me are among some of her happiest memories. She also said that any misunderstandings between us are forgotten, and are "simply reduced to drops of water which have now fallen into the Atlantic Ocean", and she said it exactly that way. I awoke feeling a little better able to meet some of the days challenges.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In the Bitter Cold

It's been a particularly busy week. It has been uncharacteristically bitterly cold this week, which makes life hard on us, and hard on the animals as well. We keep a reserve water system for animals, in the event that a power outage makes pumping water from the well difficult, and its pumphouse has frozen solid. My greenhouse is too cold, and even with Delongi heaters, it's still near freezing. We are running back and forth ensuring that all the animals have fresh water and are warm enough.
The week was also punctuated by my driving home in broad daylight, and by a young doe jumping directly into the front fiberglass bumper of the car. She received a head injury and died at the scene. I was horrified, and came home. This was also Matthew's car that I was driving. In some families, the kids borrow cars and return to the parents needing body work, but in ours the opposite seems to be true. In 2001, my husband totalled my daughter's car when a deer jumped into the windshield, and now I have been driving while Matt's car got damaged. I honestly never saw the doe until I heard a terrible thud. I know that periodically the herd must be thinned, because otherwise, in winter they will starve, but I still don't like hitting these poor animals.
Also this week, a woman with whom I am acquainted is receiving chemotherapy for cancer, and had decided this week not to continue. She tolerated earlier treatments, but the last one made her terribly sick. I was thinking about what Daniel might think I should do. I put together a "Chemotherapy Survival Kit" for her and her dog. I had planned to do this at the Dollar Tree, but I found myself at Wal-Mart instead, so this one was made there. It had a clear carrying case, kleenex, treats and a toy for her dog, chapsticks of different flavors, chocolate, cookies, Progresso chicken soups, etc. I subscribe to the idea that sometimes, even a very small kindness can change the perspective of someone suffering or in difficulty, especially someone alone. It is my hope she chooses to continue. She certainly was amused and touched by her new kit.
We are surviving, but we miss our loved ones, especially in this season.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Season's First Snow

Two years ago, when Dad and I found you on the bathroom floor, and we did CPR in vain, it seemed that we had been robbed of the life that God had presented to us on that summer morning of your birth in 1996. But we have to remember, in both good times and in bad, that we are the children of a loving God, and that although God will allow us to experience very difficult lessons, and sometimes even experience despair, that you and I will never be separated, at least not indefinitely. When the helicopter crew continued CPR and started an iv line, and you had not responded, I knew that you could not come back to me as you had been. I promised you then that I would still keep you in my heart, remember all the moments we have shared, and even speak to you as if you can hear me, because in my heart of hearts, I believe that you can.
In keeping with these thoughts, I want to tell you that tonight, our "snow flurries" have turned to a couple of inches of light and powdery snow. It's 29 degrees in the barn. You probably know that your rooster has fathered no less than 50 hens and roosters some of which are even more beautiful than he. The dogs are cozy in the kennel and I gave them all treats today. Sable, our newest dog (yes, another rescue) is finally stable after two weeks of intensive care, vet hospitalization, daily injections and much medication. I was beginning to think that this rescue had not gone well, but she has finally turned the corner and is finally coming around. I have most of the Christmas stocking items ready, and I have wrapped twelve gifts so far. James and Dad plan to get a genuine tree tomorrow.
Of course you know, that you and Dad and the other ancestors are welcome for Christmas. We have added a few more dvds to your collection. These are programs you watched that we would like to remember, so we have them set up in your room. Yes, along with your Wii. I know you wanted the Wii before your departure, and I would have gotten it for you eventually. Perhaps you can use it when you come, and I am not looking.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bittersweet Christmas

You may not remember this Daniel, but it was two years ago this evening that we had your "Celebration of Life". So many children and homeschoolers who knew you came, that we worked hard to make it a celebration of your entrance to Heaven, rather than a terrible event marking our loss of you. Funerals are very strange times for families.I remember turning in an academy award performance that night, during your elegy, in part because I could feel you and Dad watching me, and your laughing at things that were said, and in part because I saw fear and sorrow on the faces of all those children and parents, and everyone we knew. I did not want the open casket type of memorial, and your Dad did, and so, since he asked so very little of this event, we did what he wanted. This was strange for me to have an open casket with so many children there, but I think you looked down that day, because over all, it was a very strange event for many reasons.
I try really hard not to remember that this is what this day was, so I booked it solid last year, and less conciously did the same this year. After running around, paying bills, doing errands etc., I finally did something relaxing in the evening. There is a new consignment boutique in town with rather lovely furnishings, toys, and high end clothing. It shares a beautiful interior with a lovely little cafe style restaurant. I had been wanting to take Stephanie there, and I thought it might be a good way of looking forward to something this Christmas, as I know you would want. We shopped for a little while, and bought a couple of small things, and a piece of wrought iron as a garden decoration. We decided to place the items in the car, and come back for either some coffee and dessert or a small sandwich. It was beginning to get dark and as we put our items in the car, I was careful to lock it, and arm the security system, as I noticed an elderly man watching us and noticing what we were putting in the car. Then we went in to the cafe portion and sat on some chairs at a table, close to the window. We wound up having some nice roast beef sandwiches rather than sweets. A few minutes later, we noticed two police officers quietly handcuffing a man and photographing a rather large collection of clothing, he apparently had with him. The police were very respectful and gentle with the man, the same elderly man who had been watching us, and our car. We had come out to forget what a sad day this is for us, before Christmas, when it was so incredibly cold that evening, and so shocking for us all. Instead, we saw an elderly man who from information we have now which, I should not mention in its entirety here, was habitually stealing at Christmas time,and who apparently had a weapon as well. Yes, Christmas is a difficult time for us. We miss you, and my Dad, and we work hard to continue the traditions we have. However, there are many who will spend this holiday alone in prisons or hospitals, and for whom the holiday will be worse for them than ours will be. Wish you were here in the flesh with us. Love you, Bug.