Posts Tagged ‘grief’

I am sitting at my computer.  We have had a meal of takeaway (the local “Chippy”, for my American followers). The presents are (mostly) wrapped, and hidden in the bathtub in my room.  Stranger things have happened.

I am not a Christian.  I do not believe that Christ is the son of God.  I don’t believe in God as some omnipotent anthropomorphized entity that throws arbitrary blessings and punishments at human beings.  Christmas for me is much like the other holidays (holy days) that my eclectic family observes; we observe Chanukah in reverence and respect for the members of our family who hold the traditions and faiths of Judaism.  We observe Yule out of respect for the history and traditions of Nature worship.  We celebrate Christmas out of love, respect, and tradition for the great majority of our family who are Christians, who believe in Christ according to their denominations and observances, and because of the social and cultural associations we have with the joys of Christmas.

As a result of that love, respect, and tradition, it won’t surprise any of you who know me to know that so much of my love for this season is about my Mom.

Mom loved all things Christmas.  In fact, from the middle of November until after the New Year, Mom was in her happy place.  She was so amazingly quirky about how she went about things – Thanksgiving and then Christmas and then the sad putting away of the time.  She would bustle around the house, not making everything perfect for everyone else, but making everything just the way she liked it.  Our tree covered in aluminum icicles, so thick that you couldn’t see the ornaments hidden behind the silvery curtains.  The bowls of ribbon candies and mixed nuts set out  on every table, as if we were having company at any moment.  The music – this might be my most heartrending memory – the music playing loudly throughout the house, on the stereo equipment that my father saved up to buy for a very long time, and Mom’s incredibly sweet, if untrained, voice singing along as she bustled about hanging mistletoe, or making candies.

Here in the UK, I am surrounded by people who love me.  I have made incredible friendships with people who are selfless and loving and giving to their core.  They are not my family, though. I sit here, healing, not having much energy to bustle about hanging mistletoe and icicles and lights.  And I listen to Nat King Cole singing his Christmas Song, and I can hear every single note in my Mom’s voice.  Every. Single. Note.  I feel both her presence and her absence sharply.

I struggle to make these connections for my children. I want them to feel the joy of tradition, the joy of family in these times.  I want them to feel this intensity of emotion when they are reminded of me in years to come.  I think these types of memories are the sweetest gifts I have from my Mom.  Her pure joy.  Her love of us and for the season. I never wanted for that.

Maybe not the singing, though.  My children will thank me if they don’t hear my voice in every Note of the Christmas Song.  But I can teach them the Christmas Song in Nat’s voice.  And I can share with them, every time we hear it, my memories of Mom.


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I have been in the UK for a bit over a year now.  While I do love it here, I still miss home sometimes.  The recent losses in my life have made living here even more difficult.  Some days I struggle to find the positive.  

On that note, it’s also not generally in my nature to be depressed, or angry, or pessimistic (ok, so maybe a little pessimistic).  I try to keep things light. I don’t want to be a sourpuss, with bitchy resting face.  So I sat down and decided to think of some really positive things that I am enjoying in my life RIGHT THIS SECOND.  And, at each subsequent second during the typing of this blog post. 

1. England is GORGEOUS.  I’m serious.  It is one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever been.  And every part of it that I’ve been to is beautiful – even the closer quarters of the city of London.  But I’ve been many places in the north of England, I’ve been to Scotland, and I’ve been to Wales.  I’ve been blown away by the scenery.  I’ve been on the school run and actually gasped at the way the clouds seem close enough to touch, or the sun shines on the bottom of them and makes the sky light up in oranges, reds, and yellows.  Everything is green.  Everything is gorgeous.


In Aber Falls, North Wales

In Aber Falls, North Wales


Aber Falls, North Wales

Aber Falls, North Wales

2.  I am in a constant state of amusement and/or befuddlement at the way modern life is lived here.  This really is fun – trying to figure out why people still iron everything (because the washers and dryers are so tiny that they leave major creases and wrinkles in the clothing).  Or, why there are two buttons to flush a toilet.  It doesn’t matter which you choose, one of them won’t work, and the best option is to always push both buttons down at the same time.  The good thing is that there are almost never flush handles, so all of you sick, disgusting people who flush the toilet with your shoes would be out of luck (you know who you are!). 

3.  Everything is a Monty Python sketch.  Ok, not everything, but enough to make me widen my eyes in wonder and then laugh.  I thought the whole “It’s only a Flesh Wound” sketch from Holy Grail was a gross exaggeration. Then I watched a stoic British man break his leg, brush off all offers of assistance, sit on the side of the gymnasium watching us finish our workout, then walk to the parking lot with us, and insisted on carrying his own bag! It was only after he got home that he realized he might need to get to the A&E. So, there you have it.  Monty Python is true. TRUE!

4.  Roller Derby.  Yes, Roller Derby.  My lovely friend Rachael inspired me to try out with her, and we did it together, and then a bunch of other things happened.  But I am still skating 8 months later, and hope to actually bout soon.  I’ve learned a lot about myself on this journey.  I will blog more about derby later.  It’s enough that it needs its own post. 

Those are a few of my favorite things, or at least things that I find amusing and enigmatic about the United Kingdom.  There will be more, I promise.  I’m off to skate now!

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More Transitions

I am not certain whether I should leave the title of the blog as Transitions.  It seems that one transition barely ends before another begins.  In my life, I am changed by transitions and losses so frequently that I wonder if the state of change is, itself, the story of life.

We have been living in the UK for  a year now.  A year ago, we were excited about the adventure of living in a new country.  We were experiencing everything.  And we have.  I still adore almost everything about  England, especially the Liverpool region. There have been bad points, serious lows, actually.  I have been rejected based upon things out of my control, my place of birth, my religious background.  That is a sharp kind of pain.

On the other hand, I have been loved and accepted unconditionally by other groups of people. I have made new friendships that I know will grow and last a lifetime. I have support and kindness and love in my life.  I am thankful for that on a daily basis.

About 6 weeks ago, my mom called me.  She told me that she hoped I would be able to come back soon to visit, that my dad’s illness was progressing, and that she wanted to talk about the future with me. DH and I did what we could to make that happen quickly, even pulling the kids out of school early and coming to the US at a rather great expense.  You see, Mom just didn’t talk like that unless it was urgent. I wanted to give credence to her words.

We did come soon, and we did visit, and Mom and I did talk about the future.  Dad is very ill and his illness is progressive. So we talked about all of the eventualities – My Mom, My Dad, my brother, and I.

Then Mom had a heart attack.  Unexpectedly, she passed away on August 1.

I think pain hits you harder when it is unexpected. You are moving along in life and suddenly something flies at you from a direction you are not looking.  There’s no preparing for that, and I think sometimes preparing can blunt the blow.

And I’ve learned that grief does not meld with grief, that grief stacks on top of grief.  Because you are grieving one thing does not mean a new grief happening at the same time will absorb into the other grief.  There is a lot of grief stacked here.

What helps with that grief is those people, those ones I mentioned above, whose unconditional love and acceptance and support is offered.  I have been blessed to have those people on both sides of the Atlantic shore.  I have them here, on the Pacific shore.  I have them the world over, demonstrated by family and friendship and love. They talk to me, they remember my grief, they seek me out when I am trying to hide.  They read between the lines.

Thank you. You will never know how much it has helped.




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