Archive | Healing

daddy bears

When Greg was at the hospice unit in late April, his Dad’s cousin flew in from Pennsylvania. While he and his wife were here, they went to a Build-A-Bear store and got two bears for the girls. They brought them back to Greg and had him record a message on them. Greg spent a lot of time thinking about what he wanted to say, and here is what he decided on:

Hi H….. Squirmy Wormy, this is your Daddy. Your Mama and I loved you a long, long time before you were born. And when you were born, you made ourselves a family.

Hi H…. Bagel, this is your Daddy. Your Mama and I loved you a long, long time before you were born. And when you were born, you made our family complete.

These little guys spend a lot of time with the girls and they get a lot of squeezing to hear Daddy’s voice. Squirmy sleeps with her bear every night. At first she did not like her bear’s eyebrows that she even frowned when she got him and asked me if we could cut them off. But a few weeks later she told me, “I want to keep him just the way he is.” They don’t have specific names, we call them both simply, “Daddy Bear”.

DSCN2732Sometimes, if I’m upset or crying or angry, Squirmy will run to get her bear, give him a good squeeze and hand him over to me. Even though I don’t have one of my own, the girls are willing to share. And hearing his voice with one little squeeze is good enough. Most of the time, it’s all that I need.

Thank you again, Ted and Leni, for such a wonderful gift.

xxx,

Mariah

 

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affirmations

When I was pregnant with Squirmy, and at our doula’s suggestion, Greg made me a bunch of heart-shaped post-it notes and put them up all over the house with positive pregnancy/birthing affirmations. As a first time mother-to-be, I had a bit of anxiety about giving birth. I knew I wanted to have a natural birthing experience and having these post-its around the house helped me to stay calm and reminded me that I was strong enough to do just that.

When Greg got sick, he wanted to use this same idea to stay positive and let go of his fears, so I made him some. They said things like, My family loves me more than anything…I accept help…I am healing. As I was going through a box of his things last week, I opened up his wallet and found this.

i am healing

In the end, these post-it notes didn’t save his life. But they were a nice reminder to him that he was loved, his body had been good to him and if not in a physical way, there were parts of him that, through this intense process, WERE healing. Parts of him that had been hurt in the past and had essentially shut down. I’m not sure if I ever wrote about how much Greg reached out to people when he got sick. He was a man that, for the most part, stayed away from a lot of social situations and he now wanted people around. He reached out to people…and he let them reach right back, sharing the love.

I was making some of these post-its for a pregnant friend and I had a few ideas but wanted more. I found this list. It’s a long list at this specific website but I’ve compiled my favorites, things that really spoke to me. I know it’s just words on paper but that simplicity is part of what makes it so great. I think I might start including these as gifts to all my pregnant friends.

My baby is strong and healthy.
I trust my body.
My belly is full of light and love.
I am a strong and capable woman.
I have patience.
There is no need for us to hurry.
My body knows exactly what to do.
I trust my labor.
I embrace the wisdom of my body.
I am surrounded by loving, nurturing support.
I feel good being pregnant.
I listen to my body and my heart.
I believe in birth.
My baby knows how to be born.
I put all fear aside as I prepare for the birth of my baby.
My mind is relaxed, my body is relaxed.
My baby will be born at the perfect moment.
My body knows exactly what to do.
I love and trust my body.
I am a wonderful mother.

Sometimes all we need is a little reminder.

xxx,

Mariah

 

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billboard

A friend from Madison sent me this last week. I gave Agrace the okay to use our photo for a billboard and I guess it’s already up. I’m not really sure where it is…somewhere along the Beltline in Madison. We haven’t been back to visit yet and I’m not sure I’ll ever see this in person. That’s probably just as well, it might be overwhelming.

Billboard

It’s hard to put into words how much Agrace helped our family last year. I will be forever grateful.

If you see this, give us a wave.

xxx,

Mariah

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tummy

Here it starts.

Today marks the anniversary of the stomach ache that revealed Greg’s cancer. I didn’t think this would be so hard but leading up to this day feels like someone punching me in the chest, all over again.

We were at a child’s birthday party and after a couple pieces of pizza, Greg started feeling bad. I realize this is a weird photo to include and I’m not even sure why I took a picture of him laying like this. Here we are at a kids birthday party; a fun place to play and run around with our kids in the middle of winter. But Greg is in pain and has to lay down in the middle of it. I walked over to him after I took this picture and he stuck his tongue out to the side and smiled like he felt silly but just couldn’t help it. I wish I would have known how much pain he was in – this day and every day after this. I look at this photo and just want to scoop him up and rush him off somewhere to save him. But even in this picture, his cancer was already at Stage 4.

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At some point, we asked Greg’s oncologist how long the cancer had been growing. They estimated that it had been about 6 months based on how fast it was spreading. I look back at this photo of him during a really fun date night  in August and wish we would have known on this day. Or maybe the day after this – I wouldn’t have wanted to ruin this night. It was perfect. And then I could have somehow saved him.

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I’m counting on my girls to help me get through today. Like every day, I guess.

xxx,

Mariah

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chocolate ice cream face

In yesterday’s post, I included a photo of the girls with Greg. They both have chocolate ice cream on their faces. Here’s what happened just before the picture with Greg. We had just gotten home from a fun day in Madison and the girls had ice cream cones. I can’t believe I let Squeaky (at 2 yrs old) have an ice cream cone in the van by herself but I did! So Squeaky chows down her ice cream cone and is finished before Squirmy. Squeaky is totally eyeing up the rest of her sister’s cone. She asks Squirmy for some of hers. Without hesitation, Squirmy reaches over with her ice cream cone for her little sister to share. I remember this wonderful gesture and it is part of what made this such a great day. This, and as far as we knew that day, Greg was healthy.

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2-24-13 photos 041I am so grateful for my darling girls.

xxx,

Mariah

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my own group therapy session

I wrote this on Monday evening but I didn’t want to post it because I didn’t really like it and felt like I was being too negative. Plus, I was exhausted from crying. I remember when Greg was sick and I couldn’t bring myself to post on CaringBridge because I didn’t have anything positive to say. I guess I still feel the same way about writing something that you will all see. I want to be able to have a happy ending or at least some hope to leave you with. For you and for me. So, to add a little happiness to what you are about to read…I’m feeling better today. The sun was shining and I let Squeaky play in the van out in the parking lot (buckling and unbuckling her ‘babies’ is so much fun!) while I stuck my head out the door for a little sun. I prepped everything to work on taxes with my accountant next week. I THINK I finally figured out our health care situation. AND Squirmy and I found a game on the iPad to play together that had us cheering and high-fiving each other – the game is Where’s My Water. I’m sure you have all heard of it already and have been playing it for years and years but we had a great time with it tonight!

Anyway, I still don’t like this post but I’m going to share it anyway. See below for some ramble-y, 3-day old whining.

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I don’t feel fun anymore. I THINK I used to be fun. A fun mom. A fun daughter. A fun friend. I’m just not fun. I’m too stressed. I’m crabby. I don’t know how to participate in small talk so I just shy away from conversations regarding anything about anything other than my immediate sphere of circumstance. I have tried participating in some conversations but I float away, feeling like I have no right to be talking about daily things, silly things, trivial things. Things that don’t pertain to life and death. I still don’t know what’s going on in the news and that’s depressing to me. I try participating in things in the community but I’m held back by inability to converse and the fact that I’m now a single mom with no back-up parent. My girls like babysitters but I sometimes think I get them too often. They are usually very crabby and clingy to me the next day. I don’t want my girls to think I’m leaving them too, but mama just needs breaks. And it seems so selfish of me but after I get a break one day, I need another one a few days (sometimes HOURS) later! It’s never-ending guilty feeling.

I was supposed to go to my first group therapy session tonight but it was cancelled because of the snowstorm. I was actually looking forward to starting some kind of therapy. The next one is a month away and that feels like ages from now. I keep telling myself it was meant to be because everything that has happened since Greg died has felt bigger than me, more deliberate, just meant to happen. Every door that opens, I wander through. I do this because I’ve always liked going with the flow but in some ways I don’t feel strong enough to attempt anything else. It’s exhausting to stress about going in a different direction so I just float through that open door. Maybe this is the way I’ve always done things and I’m just more aware of it now. I’m paying attention more, wondering in what ways Greg is still helping us along.

I’m used to mourning the loss of Greg but I guess I’m now feeling like mourning the loss of me. The old me. The fun me. The aware me. The crafty me. The political me. The self-deprecating me. The save the earth me. Some days I just don’t recognize this crabby lady. This lost lady. This lady growing grey hairs and new wrinkles who’s yelling at her kids to go to bed or plopping them in front of the tv or telling them that she’ll read them a book only to realize she forgot to call the IRS to request 3 years of back taxes because she can’t find them anywhere in her computer files or that she hadn’t even thought of what to make for dinner and all that there is in the fridge is old tofu and yogurt. I realize that there are a lot of people going through hell in their lives worse than I am so I don’t like outwardly complaining. I just hate seeing me this way. Me not being able to handle it all. I’ve always been someone to pick myself up and go. But I still feel lost. I can pick myself up but I just don’t know where to ‘go’. Then I do my floaty thing.

We’ll be coming up on a bunch of anniversaries soon…the day Greg got his stomach ache. The day I KNEW it was cancer. The day we got the actual cancer diagnosis. The day I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe because I knew he was dying. The day he started radiation. The day he started chemo. The day the oncologist told us there was no more plan. The day hospice came to our house. The day he was taken to the in patient hospice unit by ambulance and the girls started screaming and crying and clinging to me when they found out I’d be going with him. The day of his party. The night I woke up and cried to him because I knew there would be so much to do when he died and he wouldn’t be there to do it with me. The day that was the beginning of the end. The last time I held his hand.

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Greg and the girls on February 23rd, 2013, the day before the stomach ache.

People always tell me that firsts and anniversaries will be hard but I never really believed them. I didn’t really even think of ‘firsts’ until I had a shitty time this Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and an even shittier time at Christmas. I wanted it to be good but it was all just too normal. Normal stuff we would usually do but with that big, gaping hole right next to me. I guess Monday, the anniversary of Greg’s stomach ache will feel like just a normal day. I’ll have to plan something to make it not normal. Maybe then I’ll feel a little better.

I don’t feel like this every day. Just some days when I feel I’ve done a shitty job of what I’m supposed to be doing. Or when I just don’t give a shit about this or that. Or when I feel like I should have my shit together a little more. Shitty shit shit.

On a bright note, I do remember making some people laugh the other day. And today I was watching an old video of Squirmy and Squeaky dancing that Greg had recorded almost exactly a year ago. It made me laugh so hard I cried. It’s been a very long time since that has happened.

Well, I guess that’s my therapy session for this month. And a successful one at that, since I have a pile of snotty tissues on the floor next to me. Maybe next month I’ll be able to say it all out loud.

xxx,

Mariah

P.S. I did NOT go with Greg right away to the hospice facility. I stayed home to make sure the girls were okay and happy having a picnic before I said goodbye…just in case you were wondering.

 

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piles and piles of artwork

Our little apartment is being overrun by artwork and papers sent home from school/daycare. I want to preserve the artwork without having to save bins full of papers that nobody will ever look at again.

I try to keep to a bit of a routine…

  • Anything that is ripped out of a coloring book is tossed. Sorry girls. So far, nobody has even noticed. I would rather have a blank refrigerator than Hello Kitty or Lollaloopsy staring at me while I cook.
  • Artwork that the girls are proud of is either put on display on the fridge/bulletin board or put in a drawer for photo documentation when I have time or when the drawer gets so full that I can’t shut it anymore.
  • I take a photo of every piece of art before it goes into the trash/recycling/gift pile (he he!) with the intention of someday making a poster like this…childrenartwork

I do get rid of a lot of their stuff but I do also have a big bin that is almost full. Here is a current sampling of the girls’ artwork from the last camera download…DSCN2636

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I asked Squirmy who’s in this picture. “It’s Aiden and me, marrying.” Well, SHE looks happy! :)

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What do you do with your kids’ artwork?

xxx,

Mariah

 

 

4

last words

I recently clicked on some silly article about things men do that women love. One of the things was the way their eyes soften when they look at us. I remember the way Greg’s face relaxed and his eyes would ‘smile’ when he looked at me. The article made me think of the last thing he said to me.

We had a lot of people around us for the last month of Greg’s life. At times, our entire bedroom was full of people but we could always catch each other’s eye to share a little smile, send a little love without saying anything. On Greg’s last day, he was starting to get confused and was quickly getting worse. He had moments between clarity and confusion that reminded me of my Grandpa during the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s.

Later that afternoon, Greg caught my eye from across our bedroom filled with family. His eyes softened and he smiled. It was like those beautiful blue eyes were trying to tell me, once again, everything I already knew, before the thoughts slipped away. He said to me, “Hi Baby. Hi Red. We made it. And look at the results.”

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Nothing else made much sense the rest of the night and a few hours later I couldn’t even understand the words he was trying to say.

But that statement. That little statement means so much, I can’t even express how much. Maybe it’s because these are his words for me. His LAST words for me. When I think about them or whisper them to myself, I feel like I might hyperventilate. Without being this obvious proclamation of how much he loved me and would miss me, I consider the sentiment behind it to be the ultimate statement of love. My Greg, on his death bed at 46, his eyes smiling at me, his Red, told me that we made it. We did it. We succeeded. We succeeded with flying colors because you just look at those babies we made and the love we shared. That love and those babies. That is ALL that life is.

Yeah Baby, we made it.

xxx,

Mariah

4

trains

When I was little I always thought that someday I’d hop on an empty train car like a hobo. I heard a news story about people who did this as a hobby – a vacation – and I thought that was awesome. Do you remember the movie, The Journey of Natty Gann? I loved it and thought it looked like a great adventure. Plus, I’ve always wanted to befriend a wolf. I forgot that John Cusack was in it too.

The Canadian National railroad line goes right through our new town. I have never lived in a place where I saw trains so often. I think they are beautiful and watching this huge metal beast just glide right by is mesmerizing. I love to see the train coming through town.

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Because there are no railroad crossings, the train doesn’t need to blow it’s whistle here so all you hear is the low rumble as it passes through. At first it bothered me to hear it at home but it’s already a comforting sound.

DSCN2340Squeaky’s daycare is just one house away from the railroad tracks so we always stop to watch if it comes through at drop-off or pick-up.

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xxx,

Mariah

 

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the gift of music

When I was a kid, we had a piano in our living room and my brother and I took lessons from a neighbor until we got busy with other things and didn’t want to do it anymore. Years later, we still had a piano in our living room so my parents put a PIANO FOR SALE sign on it. This was before craigslist so I guess having a big sign in your home was the best way to sell something. :) Next to the sign, was a framed embroidery that read, “Long after the toys of childhood are gone, the gift of music remains.” We still laugh about that quote right next to the PIANO FOR SALE sign.

Squirmy and Squeaky love music and singing. They both wanted to learn to play an instrument so we started ukelele and piano lessons.

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The ukelele was originally for Squeaky and the piano for Squirmy but since we all go to the lessons, it seems as though we are all learning, including me. Time to brainstorm band names!

xxx,

Mariah

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