Legacy

While in Arizona for my grandmother’s funeral my family members and I got to relish the opportunity to sort through hundreds, maybe even thousands, of my grandmother’s photos. She had a vast collection spanning many decades all thrown together in a couple of suitcases. Pictures from back when she was likely in her early thirties (before I ever met her) and all the way through the last two or three years of her life. My aunts, uncle and I all picked through the pictures recalling old memories and sharing them with some of our children. It was truly wonderful in many ways. I saw pictures I never knew existed. I saw my mother in various forms of her life including teen years and as a young mother. I loved sharing this time with my family. We were all hungry for good memories and to find the next treasure in the chest. It was very cathartic for all of us and really bonded us in our grief.

And this was all my grandmother left behind for the most part. Anything of any value actually. She had a few trinkets and knick-knacks, but all essentially worthless. And no meaning in any of them. When I first walked into my aunt’s home she had some of grandma’s jewelry laid out on the kitchen table. The first question to me was, “would you like to have anything?” The last thing I want right now is to pick apart my grandmother’s life piece by piece and parcel everything out. It seems strange to me in so many ways. We work so hard to have the things we have to enjoy life. We labor over these things and worry about them. We pack and unpack only to pack again and move them about with us as we travel from home to home in our moves through life. Yet at the end of the day when the death bell rings and we have ascended to glory, all we have are some old pieces of costume jewelry and knick-knacks that nobody really wants. We are reduced down to the few meaningless possessions which are split amongst those who care about us the most. And then I wonder, does it even matter? Those things are just things and do not represent her or why she mattered to me. She was a person whose life mattered. How she loved me mattered. How her infectious attitude and laugh mattered. Her zest for life and her love of Jesus mattered. She mattered, not the things she possessed. I guess this is why I didn’t want anything of hers. All she could give me she gave while she was alive. She gave me the greatest memories and taught the best values. She left a legacy that cannot be associated with any sum of money or equated to treasures to take to the pawn shop, she left a living legacy of love, hard work, happiness, joy, and family.

At the end of my life I hope someone can say the same for me and what I’ve done with my life. I hope that whatever material possessions I have remaining aren’t riffled through with reckless abandon but are treasured and respected while also not being valued over my life. I hope that the people who surround me while love each other, reminisce on their time with me, cherish each other deeply, support each other in their grief, and leave the event better because it happened.

With love,

The Repressed Peach

Tribute to My Grandmother

On March 10, 2020 my grandmother, affectionately called Little Bit, died after a massive stroke. She hadn’t been sick or anything and was just days before jumping on a bouncy castle with her great grandkids at a birthday party. The whole family was shocked when she died, to say the least. I find myself rocked to the core with this death… beyond the others I’ve written about, the death of my grandma has me deeply sad but also very grateful for her.

She was feisty, small in stature, big in love, the heart of our family, the thrill seeker, the wrestler, the fearless matriarch. Everyone who knew her loved her. She was a Christian woman who relied heavily on her faith. She was a phenomenal cook. She ran a tight ship in her restaurant business and didn’t take kindly to laziness or ineptitude. She loved all animals and often had various animals on her farm. From chickens to geese, sheep to pigs and cows that would nurse on your hand, she had them all at one point. She was a huge fan of emus before her farm life came to a close. She and my grandfather cornered the market on emu oil and all things emu. They raised them, farmed them, and sold the byproducts. They were all in!

As for her family… she was something else. Grandkids always have a different perspective about their grandparents than our parents had about their parent. My mom lived a different life with her mother than I did with my grandmother. My grandma taught me about Jesus Christ and led me to know him as my personal savior. I learned hymns like “Amazing Grace” and “I Fly Away” by singing them with her during bible study in the evenings in the living room of a small shack we lived in at the time. I learned to pray and what it felt like when God was in the room. Grandma always gave us a place to live when things weren’t going well with whatever man my mom was with at the time. We always had food because grandma would send my mom home with leftovers from the restaurant. If it was her delectable biscuits and gravy or the despicable liver and onions, we had food. My grandmother taught me to brush my teeth. She made sure my sister, brother and I all had Christmas gifts every year regardless of what was happening with my family. Grandma gave me my first job at her restaurant where I earned my first paychecks and saved enough money over time to buy my first pair of brand new, name brand shoes. Grandma taught me the value of hard work, discipline and servitude.

She was a giver in the truest form. Every year on thanksgiving she would have the whole family come together to cook and prepare a thanksgiving feast for the community offered through her restaurant. She had a donation jar for people who wanted to pay for their meals but she had no expectation for payment from anyone regardless of their ability to pay. The entire meal was free for everyone. Every year. Once everyone was served and off to their homes to rest in a food induced coma, all of the family, and any employees who wanted to, stayed for our own thanksgiving meal. We would make a 20 foot long table and load it with turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, corn, green bean casserole, biscuits, dinner rolls, gravy, and fruit salad. Then dessert was always homemade pies: apple, cherry, blueberry, pumpkin, and other varieties from time to time. The cleanup was always the worst because we all just wanted to go home and knock out for a nap, but alas we had to clean and prepare the restaurant for a full shift the following day.

Grandma was an exceptional cook. She was famous for her homemade jams and jellies. She made blackberry, strawberry, prickly pear, apple butter, peach, marmalade, and so many more. She had the greenest thumb I’ve ever known. She could grow anything out of nothing. She liked to grow cucumbers for homemade pickles that she would use in her restaurant. She liked to grow flowers and plants. She especially loved purple irises and marigolds. I remember both flowers being on her property and behind her restaurant all the time. She also hand an affinity for hollyhocks. A flower I’ve only ever seen in Arizona. She loved green houseplants like the philodendron. Even as she aged she maintained flower beds and small gardens that she diligently tended to daily. She was one of the few motor homes in the mobile home park that had a garden and flowers. It seemed as though she would plant something everywhere she went. A small bit of Little Bit was left in her wake. Gardening and planting joy was her passion. She did it with a smile and great pride. When I would visit she often start off by showing me her plants and what’s been growing in her garden. She would brag about the fact she had the best garden in the mobile home park and would smile in delight.

To grandma, no one was a stranger. She was friends with everyone. She didn’t meet a person she couldn’t connect with or find a way to serve. She was generous in so many ways and found ways to bless others. I’ve learned in the last few years that we had several regular patrons to the restaurant who never paid for a meal because she just fed them. They were hungry and so they ate. She would use that time to talk to them about Jesus or Pop would come out and make friends, smoke cigarette or drink a cup of coffee while they ate. But those guests always had a plate of food and no judgement passed, not that I ever witnessed. Grandma lived a modest life. She didn’t have a lot but she did all at the same time. She was wealthy in family, friendship, and character.

Every being has flaws. We all make mistakes. We all do things we wish we wouldn’t have done or said things we wish we wouldn’t have said. We all have rough edges and need polishing in some regard or another. We are not born perfect, and we don’t die perfect. But, I know that my grandma taught me so much and gave me so much that I will forever be grateful to her. I think she likely saved our lives in more ways than one in the course of my lifetime. Thankfully I had opportunity to meet with her alone a couple times over the last five or so years and expressed my gratitude and the magnitude of the impact she had on my life. I hope she remembered all I shared and how much I loved her. I pray she knew my voice as I spoke to her in her final hours via video-chat. I pray the tears I saw gathered in the corner of her eyes was from the intensity of the love she felt. I pray that in her final hours she knew no pain and ran happily into the arms of God the Father as her spirit left this earth. I pray that she wasn’t afraid or worried about anything. I pray she was at peace with the legacy she left behind.

And for me, I pray that in time my heart will heal and this won’t hurt so badly. This post alone has taken me nearly four days to write because I couldn’t keep it together long enough to finish in one sitting; I was too overcome with emotion and the intensity of it all. I pray that I live the rest of my days honoring her and living up to the person she believed me to be. And more so, I pray that I live a life where I create a legacy of my own while also honoring her legacy.

Until we meet again Grandma, I love you, I miss you, and I hope you know how much you mattered. Rest easy in heaven and I hope you and Pop are enjoying your heavenly reunion! I know he missed you so much! Love you forever and always.

In memoriam,

The Repressed Peach

The latest loss

Sometimes life throws some serious curve balls. There’s no preparing for them regardless of how much you worry or fuss beforehand. Death is one of those curve balls. I’ve had 15 people in the course of 3 years depart this earth and I’m just fed up with it. I’ve written about some of the more shocking tales in previous posts so I won’t belabor the idea, but the most recent was closer to home than I would have preferred.
My father died in January.
I’m just now coming to a place where words are making sense. Ideas are coherent and flowing. But I’m not entirely ok yet. 

I didn’t get to make many memories with my father. In fact, most of the memories I have were given to me through stories told to me by my mother. As you can probably guess, those stories didn’t necessarily highlight my father’s more redeeming qualities. No, they generally retold of his drunkenness, joblessness, inability to provide, etc. in much the same fashion, that’s how his life came to an abrupt halt.

As reported on his death certificate he died of “alcoholic liver disease and multiple organ failure”. He was homeless but had shelter. He was very sick for a while according to his friends and refused to seek medical care. I still can’t get a straight answer as to how long he had been sick or what was really going on but I guess it doesn’t matter so much anymore. Fact is, he’s gone.

All my hopes of having a good relationship with my father are gone too. Ideas of letting my father meet his grandson are gone. Prayers for sobriety have ceased. Prayers for safety have ceased too, but in some way they have been satisfied. A lot more is gone too but the words escape me right now.

It feels like I’m thinking through clouds. I’m not feeling much. I’m not even really thinking a lot but I know things. Thinking sometimes causes pain where pain isn’t really welcome. Feeling isn’t so hot of an idea because I don’t know exactly what to feel and everything that I do feel, feels wrong. It feels wrong because I didn’t even know my father. I knew his name. I knew he was my father. I even knew a little bit about his younger years when he first became my dad. But I didn’t know his birthdate. I didn’t know his address. I didn’t know he had soothed other children to sleep after fits of nightmares. I didn’t know he had taken his family to WWF matches. I didn’t know what kind of music he loved and that he had attended concerts with his wife. I didn’t know so much and I feel silly grieving too hard. But he was my dad and some other part of me feels like I should be terribly devastated. I should lay awake at night desiring his wisdom. I should miss his birthday cards each year. I should long for days gone by where we spent summers together and let him make glorious memories with his grandson. This is all just empty wishing though. He never met his grandchildren. Not a single child did he meet and his eldest grandson just turned 17 years old. I feel more sad about that than much of anything else. He was a grandfather to some of the greatest young people and he missed out.

Alcoholism is a terrible disease. It tears apart the person, the family, the soul… It affects generations and generations of family. It’s more than I can wrap my mind around really.  

I feel so badly for the judgments I’ve passed on to others because of my experiences with my father. Absent fathers. Homeless people. Alcoholics. Passive aggressive personalities. Pie-in-the-sky, overly carefree people. Holier than thou, saved people. Rebounders. Tee-totalers. Every single person has some overt problem that is apparent to the world to cast judgment upon and I did just that. It will take time for me to learn a new way of thinking about these problems to avoid the judgments I’ve previously cast and I’m praying for a changed heart. Even in my father’s absence he affected the way I see the world around me. 

I’m praying for the callous on my heart from all the hurt to be softened and sloughed off so I can feel again. I need my heart back. I need to feel again. I need to let the waterworks flow and experience that soulful cleansing from a good cry. I’m praying for God to change my heart and heal all that’s wounded in me and restore me to wholeness again.

Grief is no friend yet oddly it is not foe. 

Expressly yours,

The Repressed Peach 

Notches of grief

Brain cancer. 5 years old. 

Brain cancer. 27 years old. 

Suicide. 30 years old. 

Brain aneurysm. 27 years old. 

Car accident. 17 years old. 

Old age. 83 years old. 

Drive by shooting. 16 years old and 3 months pregnant.

Cancer. 35 years old. 

Cancer. 53 years old.

Drive by shooting. 19 years old. 

Sudden infant death syndrome. 4 months old.

Drive by shooting. 16 years old.

Your lives mean too much to be relegated to a list on a page

But your numbers consume so much of my heart and I fear I don’t have enough skin to ink your name

My life of white privilege and living in no fear will never be the same

Cancer. Suicide. Shooting.

All of these and more will be gone before I. 

Where does it end?

With you?

With me?

Between lines on pages and ink making its mark? 

With brush strokes and poems or song lyrics and rhythms? 

Where does it end?

A life is sacred. A life is precious. Without life there is no me. Nor a you. Without life there is no purpose. 

A familiar face unfamiliar to me in a

cold

hard

steel box

wrapped with embellishments too gaudy to be sentimental.

Your soul is gone.

Your life is gone.

Your nails too brittle.

Your eyes never to open.

Where does it end? Life is too precious to be gone too soon. 

Lessons in life

At times in life we have an upswing in the amount of lessons we get to learn. Some people would call it trials and tragedy but I take the opportunity to call it growth. I’m in an upswing. Lessons are coming at me faster than I care to recount and I don’t have a lot of time to process one growth opportunity before I am flung into the next. Writing is my therapy and my stability. I need my fix.

Death sucks.

People die. Death is not prejudice; it will take four month old babies and it will consume the elderly. Death is no longer just for the old of age person who has lived a long, full, lovely life. No. Death can, and will, take anyone at any age for any reason. We are not immune. It’s a terrifying feeling really. It’s unnerving in so many ways because I truly hate death. It makes me angry. But, I can do little to control it. All I can do is love my friends and family as much as I possibly can without the neuroticism of fearing their untimely death, or my own. I am not immune to death.

Life isn’t fair.

Life has its unfair share of upheavals. Some are dramatic, some are annoying, others are blessings in disguise. But at the end of the day, the disruption causes us to lose our proverbial shit for some time. It sucks. Life isn’t fair. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or how good of a person you are, shit will happen to you that makes you question “WHY ME??!!” You will scream, utter, sigh, type, or pray those words into existence at some point in time in your life. You won’t have answers. You won’t know why. You will just live through it. Or you won’t. And in which case, refer to my previous point about “Death sucks.” Cars get keyed for some unknown reason. You will eat bad food and have the shits for hours while throwing up in a five gallon bucket. You will have strep throat on a day when you have to give your big speech. It will rain on your wedding day. Plans will be scratched and friends will fall short of your expectations. Par for the course? Well, maybe, but not fun any way you slice it. Regardless of any redeeming characteristics you think you might have, life will strike you between your eyes and leave you spinning. And you won’t even see it coming.

Adults are asses.

I don’t care who you are, we all know someone who is an “adult” who is the biggest wimp you ever did see and they want the world to forgive them for being an ass all the time. Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit. Grow the hell up and behave. You’re an adult now. You don’t get to cry in your Wheaties for some stupid bullshit that you have no control over. You don’t get to skip out on work because you’re being too big of a wuss to put your big girl panties on. You don’t get to treat kids badly because you can’t control your mouth. You don’t get to get away with being an asshole just because your mom and dad aren’t around to ground your ass or put a bar of soap in your mouth for being disrespectful to your elders or cursing around children. Nope. Not around me. Just don’t do it. We are all grown. I am now 36 years old and I refuse to be put in the same category as some of my peers because they are the biggest assholes the adult world ever encountered. Refer to points above and then: Stop being asses!

Being real is dope.

I cannot say enough about the person who is real beyond real and asks no apologies. I strive to be this person. I fall short all the time because I care too much but I truly work on being as real as possible without being an ass. I haven’t perfected my craft yet, but I am edging closer and closer!! There is so much liberty in honesty. You don’t have to second guess yourself or worry about how another person feels in relation to your thought/opinion. You get to just own your own feelings and reactions and defend them in the face of question when you’re blissfully authentic. I’m not a fan of fake. I’m not a fan of telling you what you want to hear because you’re too much of an ass as an adult to handle the God’s honest truth about your piss poor decision making skills because you haven’t matured past the age of 13! Grow the hell up! And brace yourself for the damn truth. You may not want to hear it, but someone has to tell you when you’re making shitty decisions if you haven’t figured it out for yourself. And I’m guessing that if you’re bellyaching about the truth being told then you’re one who would bitch about your friends not being there for you when you need them the most. Honestly, they are there for you because they are holding you to a higher standard than you set for yourself. So man up…woman up…person up…adult up…whatever pronoun you prefer to go by! Just get up! Do better. Be more. Stop being a wuss. Be real.

I have so much more I could say, but nearly everything else falls into one of the four main points above. Who wants a blabber mouth or enjoys redundancy? Me neither. So…our takeaway from the evening: death sucks and sometimes life isn’t much better but if we’re adults about it and we are authentic, then we might be able to salvage some precious time together. Maybe, it will all be worthwhile if we can find the right balance.

Namaste.

The Repressed Peach

This, too, shall pass

Waves of grief wash over me after a simple thought enters my mind. I’m sitting in church, the safest of places, the warmest of warm, the haven for hope when suddenly a single thought snares my mind and slips through my facade. Now I’m crying. To the people close by, I am crying because the hymn we are singing strikes a chord with me. Not the case today though. I’m crying because a memory of my friend and co-worker Milyse entered my mind and I unravelled. I smiled carefully to myself as I felt the thought blossom and I thought I may be able to just think the thought and let it go. But that song, that song was my undoing. And then the pastor’s message. The pastor’s message was about death and the coming of the Lord. The message started last weekend when we started reading John, chapter 11 and we finished it today. I let the tears flow. I didn’t stop them. I bowed my head and stopping singing to let the words and love of God’s hymn wash over and through me. I stayed in that moment for the remainder of the song just to be in the present. I just needed to accept my grief and be right where I was in order to feel like I could move on. I stopped crying for brief moments until I felt Milyse’ spirit with me. Then the waves came crashing through me again. It was a good cry; the therapeutic kind that just comes from the center of your soul. I’m glad I can cry. I’m glad I listen to my heart. I’m grateful I have a church home where people will hug me and console me without trying to stymie the tears. I’m thankful for the connections I make with them as I cry and they hug me because they have a great way of following up with me in future weeks to see that I am well. I am so grateful.

We use so many sayings in society that are meant to ease the pain of one’s grief; “This too shall pass”, “I’m so sorry for your loss”, “Don’t dwell on it, just be grateful it was a peaceful death”, “They lived a good long, happy life”, “They aren’t in pain anymore”, “They’ve ascended to glory”, etc. In reality, those sayings are just said because we don’t know what else to say. We don’t talk about death at all, we just try to pacify the pain. But damn it, I want to talk about it! I want to talk about all the aspects of death that transcend my consciousness. I want to talk about how pissed off I am that the strong woman Milyse was is now relegated to a pile of sad, lonely ashes in a box tucked away inside a stone monument at a cemetery. I want to talk about the fact that Milyse was only 52 and died far too soon for my liking and that I am angry she won’t see another sunrise or coach another basketball game. I want to holler, scream, and yell about how angry I am at myself for not telling her how I felt about her while she was alive and that all I have is hope that she hears my cries in heaven. I want to talk about these aspects with people who can handle listening to the tough stuff. I am not a sissy about these things. I face them head on and get messy with it! I want to talk about the human side of death and not so much about the spiritual. Some may argue that this is where I go wrong and why I can’t heal faster from the number of people who have died in the last two years, but I feel like I need to just grab hold of this death concept and shake it until all the plinko chips fall into place for me. I absolutely despise death. I hate it. I fear it. I tremble at it. I know it’s a fact of life, but not one I am quick to accept. My spiritual self knows where I will go once I’m called home, but I am so far from ready for that. I have so much left that I want to do. So much life I want to live. So many dreams I want to see come to fruition. A son who I want to see graduate high school, go to college, fulfill his dreams, and become the man God intends him to be. I want to get married again one day and feel the warmth of love in my heart. I want so much. Yet I feel so fragile. All these great people who lived so wonderfully and loved the Lord have left the earth and left their dreams behind. They left their hopes, dreams, and loved ones behind. Not like it was their choice or anything…surely they wouldn’t have chosen to leave so soon if they’d had their way, but nonetheless, one moment here, the next moment ascended to glory. What saves me from this same fate? Absolutely nothing. I am not in control of this part of life and maybe that is what scares the shit out of me. As our pastor said today, “each breath you take, every heartbeat is only by permission of the Lord your God.” Life is so fragile. Too fragile. Yet, we are asked to live life fully. We can find inspirational quotes and wall hangings in any department store that speak to this, “Live the life you have imagined”, “Live, Love, Laugh”, and more. I want to live fully and I intend to do just that but in the meantime (ironically enough) I need to get over this being sad part of my life. Those who know me would likely say that I am the eternal optimist. I see the silver lining in all situations and I am a beacon of hope in the darkest of storms. But in my storms, in my dark times, who is my beacon? Who is my rock, upon whom shall I rest? Where shall I find hope when my hope is tattered and torn to itty bits? I don’t know. I don’t have this answer. If I did I would likely feel a lot better. But, in my current state, I have my God. And only my God. Now, in theory, this is fantastic. I have a strong, wise, omnipotent God who loves me and has died for me and my sins so that I can find my place in heaven alongside God. My spiritual self is comforted in this knowledge. My human side, the side which could use a strong hug and warm laugh shared with people who love and adore me, doesn’t feel so much comfort quite yet. I need. And I’m not a needer. I am a giver. The people in my life probably don’t understand how much I need right now. They don’t understand because this isn’t my usual modus operandi. I am the giver. I am the healer. I am the therapist. I am not the needer. Please know something, my lovelies, please know I need too. I am just as human as you when pain gets the best of me. I need phone calls and hugs and love even though I seem strong. Don’t placate me and don’t dismiss me. My sadness, when I feel it, is heavy and burdensome. I am not an easy person to have a conversation with because I go places people don’t like to go. But be brave for me. Let’s go deep and get to the root of all things so I can heal. Let’s dig right down to the heart of the matter and suss out all the messy details together. And I promise, if you go there with me, I will bring you back safe and sound. I just need to travel with a person to the edges of my understanding. I need to contemplate all the many wonders of a subject and explore the unturned stones usually more than once. Sometimes I don’t trust my travels alone. I need company and another brain to go with me as a compass for the navigation. Traveling at night is scary if you don’t know where you’re going or where you’ll end up. It’s called the buddy system for a reason.

I’m just not good at this part of life — accepting death. It’s so contrary to all that I am and all that I believe in. Hysterical in some ways, right? Sounds foolish to me as I sit here and type it while I shake my head and grin sheepishly. I know better, yet here I am, in an existential dilemma because people I care about have died and I didn’t give them permission to do so. God, I’m shaking my head at you, but I’m praying for your patience with me while I get right about this. Loved ones, be present for me. Be with me as I travel this road of uncertainty and too many questions. Let me be the needer during this time and you take your turn in giving. I don’t ever ask for it, but just this once, will you try to give back to me? I need strength to be restored to me. If all you have to give is prayer, I will be grateful. If you have more, I will be indebted.

This, too, shall pass.

Mournfully,

The Repressed Peach

Grief

I decided long ago that death and dying was a concept I was not ok with. I hated to think about death much less talk about it. I would cry every time I would think of someone I loved being mortal and the inevitable truth that I would have to face their death at some point in my lifetime. Yet, grief is very real and very raw. Grief is hard and it’s a struggle in so many ways. I know a lot about grief now and I’m none too happy about it.

My bachelor’s degree is in Social Psychology and my master’s is in Community Counseling. In my undergrad program I didn’t have to face the concept of death too often and if I did, I managed to hold it together behind the screen of a computer as I was taking many of my classes online. Then I started my masters program. I faced death and dying in my first weeks of school. It was unsettling and I questioned God about why people needed to die. Why do you take us home so soon? Why is our time on earth so brief? What about all the work people have left to do God, they aren’t done yet! I didn’t have to wait too long before I came face to face with death and dying. I wasn’t ready though.

The rug was pulled out from under my feet as I laid face first in a pile of tears in front of my professor and classmates while I watched a heart wrenching counseling service video of a little boy whose mother had died of an aneurysm in the garage while he played inside the house. He went to check on mom and in the video he says he tried to open the door but her head was blocking it. She was dead in the garage. He was alive and alone in the house. He was nine years old. I was a complete mess. The video ended and I excused myself from the classroom while I tried to get myself together. Well, naturally, and as it should be in a counseling program, my professor urged me to discuss my tears and my emotions and, more importantly, why they were so out of control. I didn’t have a great explanation, but I attempted something along the lines of “I just don’t understand why little people have to deal with such sadness so soon in their life. Doesn’t God understand that little boys and girls need their mommies and daddies here on earth and not in heaven?” It seems so childlike now as I look back on the experience, but I was just about 30 years old and my son was four at the time. I didn’t like death. I didn’t like the concept of losing people who were close to me and I wasn’t ready to concede to God that I know He has a plan. All I could think is that there just isn’t enough time…time goes so fast and I never know when it will be the last time I see someone I love and adore. I was challenged in the classroom by my professor to reach past my fear and dive into my issues.

My program, like so many others, requires internship. I was counseling with supervision for over a year in various settings one of which came to include The Children’s Bereavement Center in San Antonio, Texas. I decided to put my big girl panties on and face my fears and try to see the bright side of such sadness. I wasn’t prepared for the lessons I would learn there. I didn’t know then that my experience and training would help me in my personal life more than it ever would in my professional life. I didn’t know so much, but I learned quickly.

The first lesson was that, in grief, there is hope and happiness. I never knew so much genuine happiness could come from some of the most brokenhearted. It was amazing to work with such incredible families and counselors, to be in a home that captured love, light, and peace as though it were a butterfly net, to be at the center of sadness but in the warmest of places ever created on earth. The Bereavement Center is one of the happiest places on earth. What irony. Irony catapulted me into facing my fears and forced me to see what grief really was and, more importantly, what it wasn’t. Grief has a mask of its own that each person wears so differently. Some hide behind grief, some wear it on their sleeve, others create magic from their hearts in various forms. I worked at the Bereavement Center for about ten months and then my time was done. I was to graduate in December 2010 and move on to new ventures.

Grief will strike home in less than two years. November 2012, a sweet boy I knew, named Jaxon, dies of brain cancer at the tender age of five. November 2012, a grad school classmate’s husband, Cody, dies at the age of 28 of brain cancer. December 2012, a grad school classmate whom I sat next to for many semesters dies suddenly and tragically from a brain aneurysm. Melissa was only 28. December 2012, an Army veteran, professional counselor, professional bodybuilder, funny man of the funny men, and a co-facilitator at the Bereavement Center with me, Dominic, commits suicide after a tragic bout of PTSD and relationship issues. I lost four people in the span of a month. I was devastated and angry. Confused and shocked. I couldn’t imagine how the people closest to them felt, because I was a wreck.

As if that weren’t enough, I faced yet another loss in March 2013. One of my students at the time, Raynord, died in a car accident after writing his epitaph in my English class the day he died. The writing prompt was, “If today were the last day of your life, what legacy would you leave behind? How would you want to be remembered?” He died in that car accident less than 10 hours later.

I couldn’t have imagined this amount of grief and loss in such a short time in my life. I couldn’t imagine being happy when it was so sad to lose too many young people with such great lives yet to live. I kept questioning why. I kept thinking, if them, then why not me? What protects me from the same fate? What would my son do if I were to die? How would his life change without me in it everyday? And what about him…what protects him from being free of terminal illness and dying too young? How would I even be able to wake up in the morning if I were to lose him. I shook off the uglies and I prayed. I prayed for faith. I prayed for answers. I prayed for comfort.

Another round of grief struck as my grandfather died in December 2013. He was so sick in so many ways. He had everything wrong with him except cancer and he had lived a good long life. He was 82 and died peacefully in his sleep at home with my grandmother holding his hand.

I thought our 2013-2014 school year would be the best one yet as we hadn’t lost any students, but then in May 2014, right at the end of our school year, we lost Kiana. She was a former student, 16 years old, and just three months pregnant when she was shot and killed in a driveby shooting. The retaliation was from a rival gang which caught her in the midst of the shooting. She wasn’t the intended victim. I recently learned that the young man claiming responsibility for the shooting committed suicide about three weeks ago. So many lives lost so soon. Too young. Too much potential for greatness. But, their names were called by God and he brought them home. The community was angered and afraid. I was, again, a sorrow-filled woman questioning my God.

I haven’t healed from those losses yet to deal with another, but today, I am faced with it. Today, my friend and co-worker, Milyse Lamkin, was sent to God on wings of doves. She died August 28th after battling cancer like the warrior she was. She was such an amazing woman. A woman whose tenacious spirit infected those around her. She was young too, only 52, and healthy other than the stupid cancer that invaded her body without invitation. She was an athlete and a coach. She was a mentor and a friend. She radiated common sense and understanding while holding strong to her values and opinions. She was fearless like no other woman I have ever known. She was a legend in the community and, quite honestly, everywhere she went. She was an alumna of the high school where we worked together for the last three years. She was our Lady’s Head Basketball Coach and a special education teacher. She supported me in my classroom last school year and helped me see some areas for improvement. She helped me with students who were difficult to raise. She helped me recognize faults within myself as a woman and a human being. She wasn’t my closest friend, but oh, how I wish she would’ve and could’ve  been. I was afraid she would see right through me. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be good enough. I was afraid I would be swallowed whole by the woman whom I wanted so badly to be my mentor. She wasn’t a jerk or anything, I was just a coward.

My tears today are mostly for her. But many more of them are for me. I have chapped and sad, swollen eyes because I was such a coward. I lost someone who I admired for all the right reasons but I didn’t get enough time with. She was the iconic woman. Always dressed the best. Always calm when the heat was on and a fighter when it was time to fight. I will miss her so much. I am grateful for the time we did share though. The many long conversations in my classroom after my students moved to their next class. Grateful for the moments when she would share her struggle with cancer and pray for me to excuse her memory with words while she dealt with radiation for the brain cancer. Little did she know, she needed no permission from me to be fallible because she just wasn’t. Never.

I will forever remember her beautiful face and warm smile. I will work hard to carry on and work for the students she devoted her life to. I will continue to live a life that will be a legacy once I die, but will pale in comparison. I will move forward with her in my heart. She and everyone else who has been near and dear to me will stay in the warm comfortable places of my heart.

Death hasn’t been easier, I have only learned to understand it better and have deeper faith in my creator. I struggle with each new loss as though it were the first. I cry. I fuss. I fight. I lose sleep while I toss and turn. The only comfort I find is in knowing that God has these souls on His right hand. The have been called to glory and are free from the mortal bonds. Free and free at last.

Rest in sweet peace my loves. I miss you all. I will see you one day, but until then, watch out for me, have my back in this life and teach me how to be a better person. I will seek guidance from each of you in my daily goings.

With love,

The Repressed Peach