In Memory …

ONE OF MY MOST FAVOURITE actresses is Dame Judi Dench. When I read this article—found on a friend’s Facebook page—with a goofy photo of her, it started me to thinking …

If I were to plant trees in memory of my deceased love ones, which would I choose? With my Celtic roots, I would definitely want to research the history behind ones found in Scotland and Ireland for my family.

I do have quite a few loved ones that have left this earthly plane in my lifetime: all of my grandparents, all of my uncles, one (blood relative) aunt, my parents, my mother-in-law, my husband, a number of friends …

After reading the article, I found that Dame Judi was very particular about which trees she chose. Her friends either had an affinity to the tree or there was some personality trait that clicked with the particular tree chosen. I think I would need to research the strengths and character of each tree—and of each person before I began. I would be limited to how many I could plant, since I have a meager, not-quite-acre—on a serious hillside (with the house set in the middle of it all).

The easiest to choose would be for my dad. I’m not sure I’d only plant the Jacaranda … maybe I’d add a couple of other trees as well, plus roses. He was an avid gardener with the greenest of green thumbs. And he loved nature. I’d probably dedicate an area with various small to medium sized plants that would fair well under the umbrella of a Jacaranda. My mom loved roses—especially pinks. I think I’d probably combine their trees/garden and add forget-me-nots since pink and blue were her favourite colours.

Mom’s mom—my maternal grandmother—passed away when I was fairly young and I honestly don’t remember much about her, except that she was a wonderful cook, making sure her grandchildren had sweets and cakes to enjoy on our visits. I haven’t found any photos of her—I think my cousin has all of those, along with much of my grandfather’s photos. So I’m not sure what I’d plant in her memory. In his memory, I’d probably do best with a cactus (don’t get me wrong—I loved him, but he could be very prickly at times) … my brothers saw him in a much different light than I (I’m sure it was a gender thing after hearing stories told by my mother).

My dad’s dad (my paternal grandfather) also died before I really had a chance to get to know him—think I was only four or five. My dad looked up to him from a very early age, but all I really remember was him sitting under an old, sprawling avocado tree with most—if not all—of his grandchildren sitting or running around on the lawn around him (he was definitely the patriarch of the family). So, perhaps an avocado. I was a young adult when my paternal grandmother died, so I have many memories of her. She was the only one to send me books for my birthdays and at Christmas. This grandmother was my dad’s step mom—his birth-mom died during the flu epidemic when he was entering toddlerhood. I think, for both of his moms, I’d plant gardenias … or perhaps citrus (or maybe one of each) and forget-me-nots underneath. Not sure why—just seems appropriate. Perhaps it’s because I associate the town my dad grew up in with those plants. Both of them were of German descent, so maybe a little research will yield a beautiful tree that would survive my climate.

My husband’s mom—Czech and UK descent—and all other loved ones will need research … it’s going to be a mighty forest when I’m done (which makes me happy), but I must consider my veggie garden in the process. All trees may need to be planted only on the north-east side of the property so I will have sun to nourish my edible garden—and I don’t interfer with neighours’ viewshed.

What have you done to memorialise family and friends? I’d love to hear.

Hmm. A last minute thought: Jesus’ life/death/character was memorialised by a pine tree, in addition to the red/white candy cane and a cross …

Speaking of that … only two more Sundays until Christmas! Hanukkah began on the 12th … and all the other holidays will soon follow. Wishing you all a Merry, Happy (you fill in the appropriate blanks). Whatever way you choose to celebrate, may your holiday be blessed abundantly.

 

Memories …

MEMORIES CAN BE GOOD … OR THEY CAN BE ones we don’t particularly want to remember because they are so terribly wrong and/or bad. But, no matter what memories there are in our lives, they are what makes us who we are, whether we like it or not.

Last Friday, I was trying to get my head into the “blog space” of getting my current one finished when my mind flooded — literally flooded with memories. What brought it on? The simple act of slicing up an orange. Oh, so many memories. It was like the domino-effect of one memory on top of another, cascading in my mind. Good memories, mostly, but some sad memories came too. Because, that’s life. The memories centered around my dad. As he climbed the business ladder as a chemical engineer into management, he managed to keep our lives rich in family things, like simple meals: sliced oranges (yup, remember, this was the trigger) with powered sugar, usually followed by eggs and bacon, or cornmeal mush, and fresh squeezed orange juice with our breakfast. Or there were the family vacations he was able to squeeze into his busy schedule: camping trips to the Sierras, to Trinity, Twin and June Lakes areas, to Tuolomne Meadows (my personal favorite destination); a trip up into Oregon and another time through Four Corners and the desert and mountain states … the list goes on. I caught my first fish (later — much later — I was told they’d just stocked the lake … sigh) on one of those trips; watched my dad as he floated a the highly saline June Lake, spouting water like a whale … all fond memories.

But, I also remember taking care of him as he slowly and painfully lost his battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. The agony he (repeatedly) went through when he found out mom died (how does one deal with this while you yourself are trying to deal with it??). I finally stopped telling him when he’d ask. I couldn’t stand seeing the fresh pain that stabbed him in the heart each and every time he heard of her death; discovering he felt abandoned — he thought his mother had deserted him (she died from an illness when he was very young and he said no one ever told him — not sure this is true, but not important … he did feel abandoned) and trying to help him understand that. Falling then being stuck in a wheel chair as his fractured hip healed, he could not understanding why he couldn’t get up and walk around like he used to … and calling me his wife — I learned to constantly give him verbal clues (“Daddy”) to help keep it straight in him mind what my role in his life should be. Other things like his wandering off — scaring me half to death when I found out he’d somehow managed to get across the freeway with his dog to buy a leash; his time in the hospital with “good-intentioned” doctors and staff that didn’t know how to handle him (wanting to restrain him!) — or properly medicate him when medications he’d been taking ulcerated his stomach. These are part of the sad memories of my dad, but each experience (and how I handled them) has helped shape who I am.

I am a better person for having encountered each experience:  each has helped to shape how I respond to new experiences; how I handle encounters with people — of all sorts; how I live my life. Through them all, having a good foundation (thanks to my parents) — something to fall back onto when things get sketchy — is paramount. First and foremost, my dad was a stickler for attending church. We all grumbled (to varying degrees) about it, but we learned about God and what an awesome pillar of strength He could be if we allowed it. For that, I am forever thankful.

That one thing — having God to lean on — and each experience building upon the next helped me through the deaths of my parents and my husband … and through all the ups and downs in life.

I was too young when my first grandmother died — I don’t even remember being allowed to attend the funeral. When my grandfather (her husband) grew ill, I was not allowed to see him in the hospital, but when he died, It was felt I was apparently old enough to attend the grave-side burial services. All I remember is sitting in the back with my cousin, goofing around and giggling (and being shushed by my mom) — obviously not old enough for the proper decorum. With the death of my dad’s father, then mother, I was much older and the gravity of their deaths was felt deeply. As my aunts and uncles passed away (both before and after my parents and husband’s deaths, each one was a blow, but God helped ground me, helped get me through. And before his death, with each of my husband’s catastrophic illnesses, again, I remained calm (people kept commenting on it and I was beginning to wonder if I was not engaged with the gravity of the situation, but finally realized it was simply because I leaned on God for my strength — and that was a good thing). I was able to come through to the other side in one piece, at peace … and refreshed.

Repetition, life experiences and leaning on God. Yup. That pretty much sums up how we build our lives. Well, it’s how I formed mine, at least. And, it seems to be a good formula for me.

…And in light of the news from today: the loss of an icon, Leonard Nimoy … a all-time favorite of mine, that’s what I’ll be doing — definitely shedding tears, but mostly, praying for his family and friends and leaning on God

May your life be peppered with ups and downs, triumphs and defeats, creating the strong, vital character that is you. Hopefully you too have someone to lean on to make it through to the other side, in one piece and at peace.

Loss and Coping

IT SEEMS, 2012 WAS A YEAR OF LOSS for so many of my friends.  As we headed into the new year, yet another friend was admitted to the hospital…what a way to end the year.  As I write this, I know he has lost his battle to remain with us — and is now home with his Father in heaven.  My prayers continue to go out to his family, for strength, courage and peace for all of them to more that endure whatever lies ahead.

That is my wish for anyone dealing with any kind of illness, whether it leads to a physical death or simply a lingering, chronic issue — even financial issues that threaten to smother — things that one must live with daily.  Strength, peace…courage live beyond it.

There is loss that friends — anyone, actually — find themselves dealing with.  The death, or loss, of being actively healthy, unable to engage in normal activities.  This loss is something that some don’t know how to cope with when the situation confronts them.  Finding strength to carry on, often times with overwhelming limitations can be extremely difficult.  Peace of mind, knowing that quality of life can exist, even with these limitations is so hard to grasp.

Facebook (all those shared posts) — and the internet as a whole — is filled with examples of how people have overcome adversity in their life and not just trudged through life, “getting by”, but embraced and celebrated their life, living it to its fullest extent.  It is a mind-set, to be sure — how one looks at things.  The proverbial “half-full vs half-empty” cup in ones life.  But, it also takes courage.  Strength.  And faith, whether in oneself or in a higher power.

Personally, this soul believes in that higher power as the absolute, main source to draw from to garner the courage, the faith, the strength — and anything else needed to carry on.  That Someone to lean on.   He has helped me through so many problems, carrying me, lifting me up when I am down; opening my eyes to the beauty around me when all I can see is dark shadows and despair.  Helping me to move beyond the pain that I live with daily.  I am so glad that I never have to worry about Him ever leaving me.  He will be with me to help me through each day, unlike some people in our lives that come and go.  Life is ever changing.  He never changes.  He remains faithful to his promises.

My life is richer.  More fulfilling.  Yes, still dealing with pain which will progressively worsen, but there is so much more to life than this pain.  Way too much to let it get in the way.  I’ve decided (there’s that mind-over-matter thing) that I’d much rather live my life to its fullest extent than let life simply pass me by.  To let pain hold me back.  It’s just too darn beautiful out there.  Too many wonderful experiences, people to meet, and interactions to be embraced to let the shadows overwhelm life.

If each of us could do that — engage in life, rather than merely live it, grumbling about our fate, trudging through life from day to day, our lives would be so much richer, whether we have overwhelming odds to deal with or whether it is just the “normal” ups and downs that occur in each of our lives.

May your life be coloured with a rainbow of experiences, creating a beautifully rich, complex portrait, with Light overshadowing the darkness.