Memories

Memory: an image or impression of one that is remembered – Merriam Webster

I have spent the last week remembering. Ten years; a long time, but amazing how memories live on. Fresh and crisp, like they were just last week. Time dulls so many seconds, but some minutes last forever…

I can creep into some memories and feel the searing scars imprinted in frantic panic; screams, garbled words, indecision that didn’t really matter in the long run anyway. As awful as they were, they are a part of my fabric and stay tucked in my memory as close as any other. Nicer moments are the simple, quiet gifts of last days that I brush the feelings of—a swing hung, a friend’s visit, and a last ride in the old Olds with family.

Other memories speak of what we lived for and were denied in last months—the battles with food. You gave up in last days and returned to what we knew and loved. No more protein shakes, vegan meals, and holistic pills to work magic. Those magic elixirs were a crutch to clutch onto when hope begged for hope. As the light faded, so too did the future. We returned to what brought us together in the first place and I remember our last meals; Steak & seafood dinner with the in-laws—our last nice supper. Panzarotti—Sunday comfort food when there was no comfort left in the world. Curry—my mother’s gift to us, too harried to put any thought into sustaining a normal routine and world.

Curry was Brad’s last meal. My last meal with him. His last conscious moments before time pushed him into memory. Food had become an enforced regime, but I remember those dinners from the end of August 2007; the 25th, 26th, 27th. Any nutrients in those meals slipped away in the stress of the time period, but memories of them stay with me. A funny thing memory is.

The interesting thing about memories is that you get to pull them out and look at them whenever you want. They make me sad, but I would be lost without them and fiercely protect the space I hold for them. It has been ten years since my husband died, but I can breathe him into existence for my children to look at ten years later. That is a gift. Not the same, but all I have to offer my girls. I give them stories and pictures of a time that formed them and molded their world, but ultimately left them without any memories of their own to reflect back on.

And we all have those memories that sustain us. Protect yours.

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Rewriting Me

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Today, I am filled with gratitude.

Little could I guess how my path would weave, a mere few years ago. At my soul-crushing worst, I was a shell of a human with little thought as to how I could possibly continue on without my husband by my side. His death was also my death. I didn’t want to keep going. Begrudgingly, the breaths that I continued to take, despite myself and my most ardent wishes, breathed new life into me. I left behind an ‘us’ and forged ahead as ‘I’. Again, that had not been my plan. There was little I could do about it, aside from cling to my stubborn tenacity to never fail. I suppose at the time, I had nothing else to do.

Well, that fear of failure kept me getting up every morning for a long time. As much as my children needed me, they were both my salvation and anchor that threatened to drown me. They were the reason to get up in the morning. They were the excuse I needed to eat. And they were part of the tears that fell in my journal pages. Those pages were raw, filled with hurt, pain, anguish, and anger. The more words that were written, the better the flow became though. Not only did I begin to see through the fog, but my prose became more fluid and concise.

Grief was re-writing me.

I am not suggesting that grief can make a writer out of someone. Far from it. But it does break life down into what and whom is truly important. And as it closes a door, it makes you desperate to look around for that window to open. All those words that poured out of me finally found a home online and a window creaked ajar. I couldn’t have dealt with anything larger at the time.

Fast forward to today and I have written for several clients in both short- and long-term contracts. I have a dedicated office, where I craft stories, articles, blog posts and more from the comforts of home. I cannot help, but furiously edit every word I put on the page, but I can see where that has brought my skills up. Every day my writing get a little better.

And if anyone asks, I proudly call myself a writer today.

No one can ever take that away from me. These words that fill my head and spill out are just one mark of that title. Life might change again, in truth it does every day, but a moment in time that stole my life and breath also gave me this. Writing.

Would I have come to this without my grief journey? I will never know. I can never erase those scars, and wouldn’t as they formed the beauty that I carry today. So that threshing was necessary for me.

And you?

What moments made you the person that you are today? We all have them. You can read more of my back story in my Defining Moment that was entered in the Canada Writes “Defining Moments” contest. The contest is open to Canadian residents til February 23. Read the stories, vote for the ones that touch you or you can relate to most, and think about entering your own Defining Moment. The journeys that these people have taken are all amazing and the fact that they have written them proves it. You are too.

For we are all survivors of life and for that, be grateful ~

A New Day

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

A New Day. After my husband died, I kept on waiting for a new day. I wanted a way out of the seemingly never-ending battle with grief that left me weak and feeling small. Every morning I woke, it felt like the same day all over again. I didn’t let my grief overcome me, mostly because I was solely responsible for raising two small children, but most days I prayed it would, just to end the vicious cycle. If I failed though, it would be a failure not only on my part, but also for my husband. He had left those children in my hands. Not that it was his choice to die, but fate decided that his time was up and he had to leave this world. I had stood by him throughout his illness, without even consideration of abandoning him. When he died, I felt like I had made an unspoken promise that I would do the best by his children for both of our sakes. It was the only way to keep their father alive. And in many ways, myself as well.

For every morning that I awoke to another day, I sought the reason why the sun rose. Why was I given the task to play mother, provider, and guardian to other human beings when my life didn’t feel like a pinch of proverbial shit. I might have felt responsible to make sure his girls (mine too) were raised properly, but I certainly didn’t feel up to the task most days. It didn’t feel like a constant barrage of tears would create happy, well-rounded individuals. I wasn’t convinced that I was the best life raft for two human lives in my torrent of tears. But every day I woke up to the same reality, and at some point I realized that my children were turning out to be happy, well-rounded souls, despite my sorrows. However did I manage that?

An excellent question, that I probably don’t really have a great answer for. Was it because I always paid the bills? Did it have anything to do with the fact that I bought healthy groceries, made most meals from scratch and always ate those meals with my children? Maybe it was because we took in every festival that came through town and I always bought treats (distraction is a lifesaver some days). Or possibly it had something to do with the fact that I picked up my journal once again and poured my heart into its pages, trying to find answers to the turmoil that I struggled with.

All of these things probably helped, but I believe that the writing slowly eased the rawness of my soul. Releasing the words that screamed through my waking brain allowed the fears to ebb from me, albeit more slowly than I ever could have dreamed. There were a lot of thoughts that I had shut off part way through my husband’s illness, that now refused to be silenced. I had a constant source of inspiration for the pages of those journals.

It wasn’t until one day as I was scribbling more thoughts into my dog-eared book, that someone stopped me. He had seen me before in the coffee shop that I haunted. He didn’t know my story, but he saw my dedication to the words. His opinion was that my dedication deserved a wider audience. His suggestion was a blog. And the day that I typed my first words onto a tentative page with a daunting, flashing cursor, I discovered that there was a future. It was my key to a new day. Not the same day in, day out of incessant grieving, but pulling myself up out of the pit of grief that I had thrown myself into and wallowed in. I was far from a socialite at that point, but with that first post published I prepared to enter the world of the living again. And somehow I just knew. The title of this new step that I took was so very obvious to me. I embraced a new path with new strengths. How could it be anything other than the start of “A New Day”?

And so A New Day (the blog) was born. It was there that I threw words into the wind and found people who listened. I wrote my grief through stories of my day, poetry and reflections. Slowly, I discovered that the words I wrote were more than just pieces of the breeze though. With practice, perseverance and patience I also discovered a new vocation and my way out of active grief. I allowed myself to become a writer and now flourish in this new path that I have chosen.

Why do I share this today? Coming across the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt helped. And they always say to write what you know. I do know a thing or two about grief and how it affects a life. As the years passed, I also recognized that there are more than just me and my children on my life path. One life affects many, just as one person’s words have the potential to  touch a myriad of others. Do you know who you touch? Better yet, do you know what tomorrow holds and the challenges that it may bring?

It is only in waking up to tomorrow that we accept the tools to reach its sunset.

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