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April 2009

Stinky Feet

Toes Lots of days I think I am the only one who doesn't want to get dressed, or clean house, or write a paper on the maneuvering of Kate Chopin's mind when she was writing about women and slaves in Louisiana.  Lots of days I role out of bed because Sam ( our latest furry boy) has begun his morning dance across our heads... I don't know whether he's got to pee or is hungry or just wants the company of his human family but it's easier to get up and do his bidding than lament the fact that the night was far too short!  Lots of mornings I forget how much I have to be thankful for.  I am warm and dry and don't live under the bridge.  I can walk down a brown car-petted hallway into a navy blue bathroom with murals of the night sky and beluga whales that Shannon painted and then make a pot of coffee and feed the kitties and hear my husband snoring upstairs.  I can walk onto our porch and see flowers blooming and all is safe and quiet and I don't have to be afraid.  I hate it when I forget.

I remember where I was when I heard that a plane had crashed into the Twin Towers.  I was in a man hole, getting ready to splice an underground cable with my work partner.  It was damp and dirty and I could only see a circle of blue sky above but the memory is vivid.  As crazy as it sounds, my first thought was "Thank you God.  Shannon is safe with you."  I suppose that is what keeps us sane when someone we love returns to Heaven before us.  I'm not sure how you cope if you don't have that.  I remember my Aunt, who had lost her son many years earlier, saying to me after Shannon's funeral, that until she heard me talk about Shannon being an Angel, her only thought was that Tony was gone.  Gone... without hope or promise of reunion is simply gone, and that is simply unacceptable.

I've been in a bit of funk. Moving into a second decade since Shannon's accident.  Eleven years seems impossible.  It has made me overly sensitive, weepy, anxious, sad and difficult to be around.  I even had a conversation with my sister who I love dearly that ended in hurt feelings and an uncomfortable distance.  It will pass.  We are too wise to let distance become longstanding but I am having to learn to allow myself to be awful now and then.  I hate it.  I beat myself up for it but there is a hole in my heart that opens every April and leaks until May and if I give myself permission to dive into this month with Shannon, with my memories, with my grief and my joy, the rest of the year finds a way to unfold more gently.  I miss her every moment... it's not about that... it's about redefining how I can celebrate with her the moment that we came together and the moment that we had to part.

I have never liked change.  It is frightening and unsettling to me.  I've never been much of an adventurer.  As a matter of fact, this blog is outside my comfort zone, but often this is all it takes to get clear, if I let the random thoughts spill out onto this page they aren't twirling and swirling uncontrollably in my mind.  So are you wondering yet what any of this has to do with "stinky feet"?  I know, I know I do get off track and ramble. 

After Shannon "left", I attended a weekly Mindfulness Meditation.  We sat in a circle, cross legged on the floor and shared as we felt we could, or would or wanted.  I was always uncomfortable sitting on the floor and wanted to take my shoes off but worried that my feet might "offend" after working all day.  What I discovered was that I wasn't the only one worried about stinky feet and once the secret was out... we were all able to take out shoes off and get comfortable.  It's part of being human.  Part of being family is trying not to let the insignificant get in the way of the significant.

Maybe today you didn't want to get dressed... or brush your teeth or your hair.  Maybe today you took a mental health day from work or cried in the car or played sad songs or opted not to floss.  Maybe today you ate chocolate Easter eggs for breakfast and jelly beans for lunch, maybe you looked at yourself in the mirror and didn't recognize the face that glared back... maybe, just maybe you thought you were the only one with stinky feet... but I'm here to tell you that you're okay and we're in this together and I'll take my shoes off so that you can!

In Shannon's journal for this week..."Thank you for time to cook  Thank you for animate as well as inanimate objects to inspire  Thank you for books to read  Thank you for art to finish   Thank you for green leaves and beautiful blossoms   Thank you for Hardee's breakfast  Thank you for my Easter bunny  Thank you for the herbs  Thank you for fast food  Thank you for desserts  Thank you for constancy  Thank you for a place to be eternally grateful". 

Isn't she amazing?  She didn't think so.  She worried about taking her shoes off, but what I wouldn't give to see those precious stinky feet!  Live a little...take your shoes off and get comfortable.  Allow yourself to be amazing!

Thank you

IMG_0593 I wish I were a poet, or that I could compose a song, with a melody so tender that it caused our hearts to open and fill ... even the tiniest cracks... with peace.  I wish that we never had to say "Good bye".  I wish that you could know how much it means to me that you were thinking of Shannon today.

I wondered today if she was thinking that I might be a bit ridiculous, having cake from Paul's Bakery, with pink rosebuds and balloons.  I wondered if the sunlight that warmed the day for us was as beautiful on Heaven's side of life.  I wondered how I have continued to breathe.

Then I looked around me.  Todd and Dee and Jilli, Jane, my dear dear friend, with her daughter Amy and Amy's new baby Violet and Benjamin, laughing, sharing food, sharing memories, sharing love.  We are all aware that our guest of honor doesn't need a chair, won't eat a burger or drink a Diet Coke.  She's not expecting presents or worrying about how many calories are in the cake.  We are all aware that we want to hear her laugh.  We miss her.  We miss Bob and Maw Maw and that will never change.  We love them, and we love each other and none of this seems strange anymore.

Death is never invited, but it comes.  It turns life upside down and inside out and there is no map, no instruction booklet.  So we are writing our own.  Some years we had large gatherings, exchanged gifts, planted trees and flowers, released balloons with notes to Heaven.  Somedays, like today, the gathering is small and intimate.  I have written letters to strangers and love notes to friends, I have sent Circle Journey Books and watched home movies.  We always have cake!  We read Shannon's journal and she reminds us to look around, to really see that we are blessed in so many ways.

We seem to have found a way to grieve less and love more... most days.  There are still those days, however, when all I want to do is scream.  Cry until all of the sorrow spills out.  But when the crying is over, for that moment, when I am tired and spent and clearer...I remember that every step, every day giving life what I can... I am one step closer to Heaven... one step closer to Shannon. 

I had a dream right after she "left".  I was standing next to her and she was about to ride her bicycle down the hill and around the house.  I was worried and she could tell that I was about to cry... she said," Don't go getting all sad on me now.  I'll see you on the other side."  In the dream she meant when she came back around the other side of the house, but we both knew what she really meant.  Several days ago, Jules was watching the final episode of "Battlestar Gallactica".  In the final scene one of the characters said to another, as he was speeding toward the sun, "I'll see you on the other side."

I'm not certain that Angels speak to us through characters on Sci Fi, but then again why not?  I think Shan sends me messages in songs and on license plates and with dragonflies and songbirds so why not Anders or Kara or Cylons or whoever?  It meant something to Shannon's Dad... and that's all that matters.  It's the message not the messenger.  We tend to build walls to protect ourselves and those around us.  We don't want what we feel, on the sad days, to leak out and get everyone around us wet, so we erect dams... and sometimes, it takes a Hero from the future to blast through.

Today is Shannon's birthday.  Her eleventh in Heaven.  I don't know how it's possible that so much time has passed and yet it seems like yesterday.  All I know for certain is that I would never have made it this far without each and every one of you.  Shannon's friends, family, her precious recipients, the other mothers of Angels that I am convinced she brought into my life... it's all such a miracle. 

I was feeling a wee bit sorry for myself when I sat down to ramble.  I had planned to write a letter to Shannon but I can't help but think she's been watching over my shoulder, whispering perhaps, as I realize just how good this day has been...Todd did all the grilling while Dee and Jilli and I blew bubbles in the garden, Amy was in town with Violet and they came with Jane, even Benjamin stopped in for a minute.  The new dolphin fountain that Jules got for Shannon's garden worked first try, the sun was warm, the cherry tree dropped blossoms all around us like spring snow, the daffodils and calla lilies gave us color and a bluebird made his first visit to the new bluebird house.  How could I be sad?  Shannon would be so furious!  

So with that...

Thank you for my beautiful Shannon 

Thank you for open hearts and open arms    

Thank you for cake    

Thank you for moments that bring Heaven and Earth together        

Thank you for this day.