My Daddy is Dying.

Daddy
This is a photo of Daddy from his days at Mississippi State University, circa 1935.

My Daddy is dying.

This is evident but when?  I’ve spent two weeks with Mother  and Daddy; making banana pudding, salmon, anything that my Daddy will eat.  He weighs nothing; skin and bones.  My sister is with us.  It’s like we were in the beginning, just the four of us and it really is sweet in a weird sort of way.

It’s been two weeks and I begin to feel anxious about work, and decide to return and just check in with folks, touch them; connect.  I drive 8+ hours home and arrive the next morning at school and immediately know that I am in the wrong place.  I can feel it, sense it.   And then my sister calls.  Yep, this is the confirmation that I am in the wrong place.  Daddy is being taken to the hospital via an ambulance.  I tell my sister to put the phone to his ear and I tell him, “Wait for me to get to you.  Wait for me.”  And wait he did.

I load my two Scottish Terriers into my Volkswagen Cabriolet and on the road we go within 30 minutes.  The speed limit in Virginia is 70 miles per hour.  That translates to 80 miles per hour for me.  Only this day is different.  All bets are off!  I am going to my Daddy.

Scottish Terriers
Gus and Maddie, my trusted Scottish Terriers.

I had been to a Conscious Discipline workshop by now and heard Dr. Becky Bailey talk about this exact scenario.  If you encounter a driver that is driving really fast, then wish them well.  Make up the story!  Well my story is not made up.  My Daddy is waiting for me.  He has made a promise to me to wait for me before he dies and I am going to do everything to keep my promise to get to him as quickly as possible.

Of course, the Virginia State Trooper stopped me close to the Virginia/Tennessee border.  Gus and Maddie were not happy with this.  They could sense the urgency of the trip and growled at the State Trooper.  I quickly told the State Trooper my story.   He answered in kind and quickly scolded me,  then escorted me to the Tennessee state line.  Sweet!  He kept me safe and no ticket!  Tennessee’s speed limit at that time was 75 miles per hour.  That translates to 85 miles per hour.   So off I went at 85 miles per hour.  The speed limit is a suggestion.  Right?

I don’t think that I really breathed the entire trip.  It really was as if the the seas were parting as I  drove and folks just moved over for me.  I could feel it.  No one ever honked or did any gesturing.  It felt encouraging.

I arrive at the hospital in Dayton, TN,  secure the pups in the car and literally run into the hospital feeling desperate to find my people.  Finally I find the room.  I walk in and find my Mother sitting in a chair, “zoned” out.  My sister is at the bedside with Daddy but looking tired.  I breathe.  I breathe again and again.

A nurse comes in right after me and announces that my Dad will get a breathing therapy.  This is when I called a halt to everything.  I reached out to Mom and I told the nurse that we wanted to know what the benefits and objectives were of the breathing therapy and we wanted to talk to someone.  We wanted to know if Daddy was dying.  My Mother and sister seemed relieved to have me there.  This is so hard for all of us.  They are exhausted.  I am running on adrenaline.

The nurse came back and reported that yes, he was dying.  I made the decision, with my Mom’s blessing, that there would be no more breathing therapies.  And that is the moment that all three of us were on the same page and knew the gravity of the situation.  We surrounded my Daddy, my Mom’s husband.  We held his hands and began to softly talk to him.  It was minutes, literally minutes and he peacefully died.

And then Daddy is gone.  He’s really gone.  You know how the movies portray the main character reaching up and closing their eyelids at death?  Well that is just bull shit because I reached up to close his eyes and it didn’t work.  They wouldn’t close.

Daddy and me
This is my Daddy and me at my wedding in 1972.

And this is where I find the sweet spot!

The usual stuff happens with nurses.  Blah, blah, blah!  And then my Mom assertively yet respectfully directs a nurse to bring her a washcloth and a bowl of warm water.  I remember looking at my sister with “what is this?”  She responds in kind.

My Mom begins to gently, calmly and lovingly wash her husband’s, my Daddy’s face, arms and legs!  It took awhile and during that time my sister and I literally clung to each other weeping silently and trembling, our bodies shaking.  It was the most loving act I have ever seen in my lifetime and I was overwhelmed with grief and love.  It is a wonder that my sister and I could stand.  I truly think it is because we were clinging to each other to support each other.

But here’s the thing.  At that moment, I promised myself that I would remember this moment when my Mother died.  I would pay it forward because it was the sweetest act of love that I had ever witnessed.  What a sweet spot!  

Paying It Forward!  That is the sweet spot or at least I thought!

Now my Mom is dying!  It’s December 2012, twelve years later.  Her birthday is in November.  As usual I go to celebrate her birthday and leave as if it is the last time I will see her.

My sister calls at the beginning of December and reports that Mom isn’t eating.  This is the beginning of the end.  We talk everyday about what’s going on.  My sister is the best at keeping me posted.  At about the tenth day she says to me, “I think she is waiting for you to come.”  So off I fly!

And this is the gift that I just realized at this moment in time that she gave me.  She also waited for me. That is the sweet spot.  I always thought the sweet spot was the next paragraph but it isn’t. It is that she also waited for me.  

Mom and Me
This is Mom and me at my youngest’s son’s wedding in June 2007.

And I kept my promise.

I asked the nursing home staff if I could help in preparing her body.  Thankfully they said yes without any questions and I have a new friend for life.  This sweet person asked me to pick out some pajamas and warm socks for her to travel in as she was being transported 3 hours to Spring City, TN.  Now really isn’t that just cool?  I followed her lead and we washed my Mom’s face, arms, and legs.  We put great smelling cream on her whole body and then dressed her in warm jammies and soft socks.  Softy and gently my tears flowed and dropped on my Mom.  Over and over again.  I talked and talked about the memories that she created for me and how grateful I felt and how much I loved her.

I covet your stories!

This ritual was never, ever shared or talked about in my family.  What are your stories?  I have never heard anyone talk about this kind of ritual.  I really want to hear from you!

How do I say good-bye to my wedding ring?

It’s happening, it’s real!  Sort of like The Velveteen Rabbit.

I found a voice message from JMF on July 25, 1998, that the divorce was final and that he and Doo Dah were getting married in October.  I’ll be posting about our first meeting on that day at a later time.  Yes, on that exact day!

I began thinking about my wedding ring early on but I can’t find any notations in my journals.  I just remember feeling the angst about what to do with it.  I didn’t want to just tuck that ring into my jewelry box only to be discovered by my sons at my death.  It was a ritual that put that ring on my finger and it would be a ritual that would take it off of my finger.  So what would that ritual look like?

I began to play around with ideas ranging from building something in my garden to hold the ring to finding a place in the outdoors to bury the ring but ultimately water won!  Water has power.  Water has the ability to cleanse and rinse; to make clean.   We see it in the weather each year with hurricanes and floods.  It is difficult in the beginning for sure, raw and emotional.  I’m not surprised that water won.  I am a Pisces!

So I began to think about rituals.  What is a ritual and what is their power?  Rituals are really an everyday part of our lives.  We’re probably unconscious of the small everyday rituals but very aware of the big rituals.  Think about Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Hanukkah and Passover.  And then there is the big ritual, a wedding.

So could I create a ritual that includes water and give my wedding ring back to the universe?

I have loved the ocean since I was a small girl.  My aunt and uncle would take me to the Gulf Coast for vacations.  I was swimming and jumping off high dives at the age of three.  I was water skiing at four years old.  So going to the ocean was an easy choice.  Water is a vessel of healing for me.

I made reservations for a house at South Hatteras, a different kind of place than where we would typically stay as a family at the Outer Banks.

From my journal. . . . August 19, 1998

I’m beginning to feel…. at ease. . . . comfortable . . .me.. . in this new way of being?  Even though I’ve been living this way it just seems different today.
As I went to bed last night I thought I could pretty much sum it up with one short sentence.

I’m not me when I’m with JMF.  

August 21, 1998

I biked yesterday somewhere between 32-40 miles.  By the time I arrived back my thigh muscles were in trauma.  I think it was because of the rest on the ferry ride and then I had 3 more miles to go.

 

So Here’s What Happened on August 20. 1998

My plan was to bike to Ocracoke.  It would require me to take a ferry from South Hatteras to Ocracoke.  I would take my ring off and throw it into the Pamlico Sound.  So off I went on my bike with my back pack loaded.  I was ready until the time came to do it and I just wasn’t feeling it.  So I trusted myself.  I enjoyed the ferry ride over and biked to the end of the island, ate lunch, journaled and rode back to the ferry.  This time I was ready.

And guess what?  Six Navy jets appeared in the sky as the ferry crossed to Hatteras.  Yes indeed those jets were placed there just for me.  I quickly took my ring off, kissed it and tossed it into the Pamlico Sound.  It felt good.  It felt right!  The ring was in the perfect place. And the folks around me realized what was happening and applauded and somehow made a circle around me; surrounded me.

US-Navy-Blue-Angels-maine-wedding-photographers_2178
These are the Navy Blue Angels that came to honor the moment of letting go of my wedding ring.

Reflections on February 28, 2018

This moment in time was really hard , both physically and emotionally, as I think about it and yet I trusted myself enough to keep moving forward.  Trusting myself and listening to my feelings was the sweet spot.   I trusted myself with the ring, not to just throw the ring away but trusted my instincts and listened to my feelings and found just the right moment, to seek that sweet spot for that ring.  Okay let’s be real!  The Navy Blue Angels was pretty sweet!  Right?

So what about you?

What rituals have you created in your life to honor these important moments that just may be sad moments;  moments of letting go?  What are your stories?  Were you aware of your feelings?  Were you aware of what was going on around you?

I look forward to your comments below.

Pools Of Sadness

Notes from my journal

January 12, 1998

I find myself in sad places, trying to make sense out of what has happened.

When I am in this state it is as if I’m in a pool of sadness, no energy flowing in or around me.  It feels dead and lifeless.  It’s no fun.  I make myself stay in this place.

Feeling Buddies
These are the Conscious Discipline® Feeling Buddies®. Can you find sad?

My first response is to get up and get out of it but I’m trying to look at sadness in the face.  Look at it and identify every part of it.  Maybe it’s the identification that is “making sense.” Maybe each day will be incrementally better.  That’s what I’m betting on.

My goal is to sit in these “pools of sadness” so that one day I will find that the pool is dry and because of the sitting and careful attention,  the ground will be fertile and new life will grow.

It is the process that is most important now.  Paying attention everyday is what is important; mindfulness.

January 13, 1998

Sadness.  Pools of sadness.  It’s all over me and yet I’m so grateful to the Universe for loving me so much.

Sadness.  It is a good and right place to be.  Necessary.  I must pass along this way to get to my freedom, true freedom.  Maybe this sadness is the acceptance that this has happened, to accept this.  I must touch it and the touching is feeling the sadness.

The pools of sadness are calm and quiet.  They are not like the raging white waters I’ve been through last year.  I feel as though I must bathe in them, get soaked by the sadness.  I trust myself that I will get up and walk out of the pool and let go.  But first I have to accept.

This is a necessary place to be.  I have to tell myself this or I will move on.  That’s my nature, move on to the good feelings.

January 14, 1998

Pools of sadness.  I’ve noticed that choosing the word to use can put me in a different place to stand.  The struggle to freedom or a journey to freedom?  It can change my mindset and how I view the process; positive or negative.

When I think of this pool of sadness, it’s not a bad or scary place.  It’s a place of warm waters, healing waters that are running over me, washing me, healing me.  This place is not familiar to me and there is no other person with me but there is a loving presence.  I know that I am safe and loved.

This place is new to me and so I’m not real sure about it.  My tendency has been to look away from pain and sadness and run towards the good feelings.  Accept this reality.   Bathe in this reality so that I can let go.

February 12, 2018
Reflections

I recently went back and found these three separate entries from my journals and was intrigued by them.  These entries were made a year after JMF had left me.  It is also about 2 months before I first heard about Conscious Discipline®.  

Angry, scared and sad came to visit me in 1997 and 1998.
So how would I know how to handle angry, scared or sad?
I didn’t!

I didn’t know how to handle these feelings because my parents didn’t believe that feelings were important.  My Mom would say to me to “wipe those feelings off your face.”  That’s the way it was back in the 1950’s.  You can’t teach something that you don’t know.  So I had no idea of what to do in 1997 and 1998 with these big feelings.

Thankfully my therapist, SL, encouraged me to journal in January 1997.  Journalling had become a way of life by 1998.  Journaling was my friend!  Baring my soul and becoming real to myself felt good and right.  This is how I became friends with my feelings.  I began to accept these feelings so that I could slowly feel the feeling and let go.  And this was was the sweet spot; becoming friends with sad and allowing myself to sit with sad.

It has taken me years to identify how my Mom dealt with my feelings.  She ignored them!  I learned how to ignore my feelings at the feet of the ultimate ignorer of feelings.  Here is a link to some videos that have helped me to identify how my Mom handled my feelings.

So here are my friends from 1997.

Big Angry
This is the Conscious Discipline® Feeling Buddy® Angry.
Big Scared
This is the Conscious Discipline® Feeling Buddy® Scared.

1998 was the time for sad to come and be with me, comfort me; become my friend.

Big Sad
This is the Conscious Discipline® Feeling Buddy® Sad.

As of today sad isn’t gone entirely. I believe that’s called life.  Sad comes to visit on holidays, birthdays and sometimes unexpectedly.  I am learning to welcome sad and tell myself that I am safe and that I am loved.  I’m learning that feelings are like the weather;  feelings come and go.  The weather forecast tells me what to wear.  My feelings are my emotional guidance system and tell me what to do.  I am going to be honest!  I really don’t like sad but at least I can welcome sad into my life; give myself permission to sit and be with sad and know that I can handle it.

Your Stories

What resonated with you as you read from my journal entries from January 1998?  Pools of sadness were a recurring theme in 1998.  What are your stories?  How did your parents handle your big feelings when you were growing up?  Are you able to sit with angry, scared and sad and welcome them into your life?  What would it take to become friends with angry, scared and sad?  How would becoming friends with them change the trajectory of your life?  What is your sweet spot?

How do I tell my parents about his affair?

March 1997

It’s been 2 months since JMF moved out, since the separation.  It’s been a few days since the news and I am still reeling that JMF has been having an affair for a year.  I begin to wonder and worry about how on earth am I going to tell my parents about his affair They are worried sick about me since I called them back in January and they continue to voice their need to see me.  I finally agree to fly to Knoxville and meet them in Pigeon Forge for a long weekend.

Wonder and worry are my friends for sure.  Affairs are not common in my family, non-existent.  How on earth does one talk about affairs with parents?  I speak with my therapist and she assures me that I will know what to do in the moment.  Give me the words for goodness sake!  I’m on my own.  I fly down, rent a car and drive over to meet them.

I walk into the house and before my Mom even hugs me, she puts her hands on my shoulders and squarely looks me in my eyes and says, “How old is she?”  I am shocked but I quickly answer, “I don’t know!”  So where did that come from?  My Mom is real?  She knows about these things?  How can that be?  I ask where Daddy is and she replies that he is out on the patio.

I walk out to the patio and sit down.  How do I tell my Father, my Daddy!?  I sit down and just tell him the story simply and succinctly.  Then I asked him a question.  I don’t know where this question came from but there it was.  “How is it that you never had an affair Daddy?”  He looks at me, smiles and with the softest face and loving eyes he said very slowly, “Sugar, I didn’t need to because I went fishing and hunting.”  And then there was silence!

And that silence was the sweet spot!  There was no judgement.  There were no reprimands.  There were no “he’s a dirty bastard.”  There was just silence, acceptance and the feeling of finding that sweet spot.

January 2017

As I look back on those first few months of separation, I can see sweet spots!  My heart is full of gratitude that both my parents reached out to JMF immediately.  I mean within 48 hours in January, to say that they loved him. Here’s the good news!  I was proud of my parents for that!  I just didn’t know to call it a sweet spot.  My Dad would call that “walking the high road.”

The other sweet spot was that my parents were finally seeing me as an adult.  It only took 46 years.  It didn’t happen when I received my BA or getting married, having children or receiving my M.Ed! It took this event to finally cross that bridge to being an adult with them and wow did it feel good.

Your thoughts?

What are your stories?  Have you ever had to tell your parents something uncomfortable, unpleasant?  When did you become an adult with your parents? Did you find a sweet spot afterwards?  I look forward to reading your stories.

My Mom and Dad.
This is my Mom and Dad, taken at their home, probably around 1998.

The first time I said f*#k!

February 23, 1997

JMF has been living elsewhere for almost a month, since he left.  I persuaded him to go to counseling with me the previous week.  It was a start even though the session felt flat.  We scheduled our next appointment for my birthday.

The Angel Cards

The night before my birthday was a struggle as most nights were during this time.  This night in particular was bad.  Sleep was not my friend.  I remembered that my Chicago friend had sent me some angel cards for a Christmas present.  I had admired them when I was visiting her the past November.  It was like her to remember and send me a set of my very own.  I had not opened them yet.  On this night I would open them.  I wanted solace, anything to shed light on this crazy thing that was happening in my life.

So I opened my new pack of angel cards, handling them with reverence.  I wasn’t rushing.  I was ready to accept, ready to make sense of this craziness.  I drew play, an angel playing on the beach with a red beach ball.  I was stunned.  I was mad.  I thought these silly cards don’t work and here was the proof!

This is the angel card that I pulled on February 23, 1997.
The Play angel card.

 

I began to gather them up and carefully put them back in the box.  I was closing the flap on the box when I noticed that one card was in the wrong direction.  Now I was just pissed.  I pulled that card out to place it correctly and I literally gasped!  SURRENDER.  Yes indeed I need to surrender.

Surrender Angel Card
This is the actual card that I drew on February 23, 1997.

February 24, 1997 

SL’s office was in Maryland.  I lived in Virginia.  Initially I was not happy about this drive but it proved to be a time of reflection and centering for me.  Today it seemed like a thousand miles.

On this particular day I arrived early and made me some tea.  To this day the smell of that tea reminds me of SL and her office.

And It Happens!  

JMF arrives and we exchange pleasantries.  He gives me a birthday card and a small box.  He looks and acts sheepish.  I can’t really read him.  Maybe it is more like he would like to be anywhere but here.  Anyway I unwrap the present and it is the smallest pair of amythest earrings.  I thanked him.  Later both the card and box would go in the trash.

SL came out.  I remember getting out of the chair, feeling like I weighed a ton and was being led to the slaughter.  My knee caps were literally shaking.  SL begins to talk to me.  “Have you ever thought of JMF having an affair?”  What a laughable question! “Of course not! JMF isn’t that kind of person. No!” She asks in another way, “On a scale of 1 to 10, where would JMF fit?”  “No way!  A zero!”  On and on this went and I began to feel agitated.  Around the sixth attempt something inside of me shifted.  I looked at JMF and then back at SL and back to JMF.  “Did you have an affair?” He can only nod his head.  He’s got no words. Now I am furious and this is the exact moment in time that I uttered the word f*#k.  “F*#k you!  F*#k you! F*#k you!”  Sheepishly he says, “it wasn’t with _____ (a colleague of his).”  I shot back, “Of course not.  She has principles you f*#k head.”  It’s just too bad SL didn’t count how many times I said this word.  It was a lot.  Just “f*#k you” over and over and over.  Gratefully the “therapist hour” was over.

Welcome to the new world.
Welcome to the new world!

My New Word, My New World!

I drove to my friend’s house.  Only the angels can answer how I arrived there safely.  I literally collapsed on the floor at her front door and stayed on the floor crying for hours.  My next memory is getting dinner for take out and arriving back at my home.  I opened the door, shut it and leaned my back on the door as it closed and surveyed my home.  I said, “thank you God.  This is all mine.”  Oddly I felt relieved, at peace.  At least I had the truth.  The past month was living a lie, a secret and secrets can kill you.  Thank you God that I was alive and well.  It was my birthday.  I thought it rather fitting in that I had just been re-birthed.  Thank you!

January 14, 2018

So I often think of that “play” angel card.  It was on the mark and I just wasn’t ready for it that night but the seed was planted.  That seed germinated over time and today “play” is in my vocabulary.  Playing in the sweet spot! Living in the sweet spot!

Where are you?

Do you find it hard to find play in your life?  Where are your sweet spots in the midst of sadness or loss?  Write me about it!  What do you find helpful to find the sweet spot?  I’m looking forward to hearing your stories.

How it all started as I begin to reflect!

Yellow Butterfly
To some native american tribes, the yellow butterfly brings guidance and is a sign of hope. A flying yellow butterfly also symbolizes a sunny and bright summer is ahead. … A yellow butterfly flying around you brings happiness and prosperity. Seeing one also means that something fun and exciting is on its way. I took this photo on September 29, 2007.

Living in the sweet spot in the midst of loss!

Yes, living!  Not finding it but embracing the sweet spot and having gratitude for living sweetly, living abundantly in the face of loosing so much!  That’s my choice!  Sounds so easy as I write this but the past twenty years have prepared me.  I am ready!

What is a sweet spot?  Macmillan’s Dictionary defines it as the best possible place or combination of factors.  I like it.  Living in the best possible place in spite of whatever is happening around me.

Let’s talk about loss!  

Everyone has losses!  It’s a natural part of life. Loss begins on day one of your life.  You leave the warmth of your mother’s womb and you cry.  Look at a two year old when they experience the loss of that toy they thought was theirs forever.  Learning how to manage loss is an important skill to learn in life and it begins early.  Learning how to manage loss in healthy ways instead of finding revenge or blaming others is critical to lead a healthy and happy life.

I’ve sought to seek an abundant life each day of my life in the midst of experiencing losses.  Well let’s be honest.  In the beginning it was hard to see the abundance. I would see “hints and allegations” of the abundance but it was fleeting at best.  But as days ran into years,  thankfully abundance seems easier to find and experience; living in the sweet spot.

So what are the losses?

  • 1997  The end of a 25 year marriage commences.  Interesting that when I wrote this I did not use “my” marriage.  It was “a marriage.”  That’s telling!
  • 1997  Living in an empty nest in the midst of a separation and divorce.
  • 2000  My Father dies.
  • 2002  Finding love again and then he has a massive stroke in 2004.
  • 2011-2016  Moving 3 times in 5 years.  A severe downsizing of my home.
  • 2012  A rip in the relationship with my oldest child.  I have not heard his voice since 2012.  I have not seen my granddaughter since 2012. She was born in 2011.
  • Growing older!?
  • 2012  My Mom dies.
  • 2016  The love of my life dies.

My Hope!  

My hope, my intention is to begin sharing my journey, my stories, the messy process of it all and feeling the gratitude for all of it.  In 1997, other women shared their stories with me.  I quickly realized two things.  Their stories gave me hope and I had to live my own story.  I have to write my story.

Truthfully, I am a bit hesitant to put my stories out there.  My Mom would probably think that I am getting too big for my britches.  I am choosing to over ride my Mom, take a deep breath and take a risk; get outside of my comfort zone.

So, I’ll be posting stories of my journey.  Beware though.  I predict that my postings won’t be in any particular order.  I will post dates though!

JSF declaring to write her own story!
In 2010, JSF declares to the universe that she is writing her story from this moment forward.

Are you finding the sweet spot in your life?  

I covet your stories and your thoughts.  So please, please respond back to me with your stories!  I truly believe that we are better together.  What can we learn from each other?  So enough already.  Let’s get it started.  Tell me your stories!  Are you finding the sweet spot in your life?