A Day That Snuck Up

My father and I in the Adirondack Mountains. My favorite picture of us.

With the prolonged winter weather, plumbing issues, and car trouble I’ve experienced this year, I’ve often lost track of days as I work through it all. The late arrival of spring has me thinking it’s still April some days and therefore I was surprised to realize that one day in particular snuck up on me unawares: today, my father’s birthday.

As my mother said incredulously yesterday, my father would’ve turned 77 this year. That’s mind boggling to me because in my mind, my parents don’t really age. My father left this world when he was 68. His health had deteriorated in the last years of his life. But fortunately with the passage of time, I usually remember him as the healthy, fit man he was in his 50s. That really is a blessing and something I’m certain makes his spirit happy.

In past years I’ve felt sorrow in the days leading up to his birthday and on his birthday, but not this year. Admittedly, I’ve been stressed about getting my car’s transmission fixed, dealing with yard work, and so on, but even without those things, I don’t think I would’ve felt sad.

I miss my father every single day and I wish he was still here to help me with so many things, but overall I feel like I’m in a good place in my life. I’m content and happy and don’t feel as lost as I used to. I believe I owe that in large part to everything I inherited from my father. He taught me to always see the bright side of life, to look at things from different angles, and to appreciate all the blessings I have.

Life isn’t always easy, but it’s always a gift. So while I no longer have my father here to give gifts to on his birthday, he continues to give me the greatest gifts of love, strength, faith, gratitude, acceptance, and determination.

Advertisements

October Already?!

October sky

Evening sky during our walk yesterday.

My oldest daughter went through the house last night flipping all the calendars to October because I hadn’t yet. I’m still trying to adjust to the fact that October is here already. September went by very fast and while it started out fall-like, there was a lot of summer heat in the middle and end of the month that made everything seasonally confusing. The poor trees that had started to change colors during the first bout of cool weather didn’t know what to do once summer heat returned. A lot of them just seemed to give up and start dropping leaves without much color change and I fear it won’t be a very colorful autumn this year. Nonetheless, leaves are still changing and falling and autumn is tied for spring with my favorite season.

As I wrote in last year’s blog post at the start of October, I’m finally able to welcome October again. Losing my father in October of 2009 made it difficult for me to truly embrace what had until that point been my favorite month and season. On the 21st of this month it will have been eight years since his passing and that doesn’t even seem possible to me. While I still miss him every single day and there will always be a void inside me without him here, I’ve healed enough to understand that his spirit wants me to be happy. I’m sure there will be the usual random bouts of crying and sadness throughout the month, but I know it won’t be as overwhelming as it’s been in the past. Life is about moving forward and not allowing yourself to be stuck in a moment that can’t be changed.

I don’t know what this October will bring, but I’m looking forward to it. I never really know what each day will bring. I have a plan for the day and most of the time it follows a predictable routine. But honestly, every single day is full of amazing new experiences and gifts and I make sure I take the time to notice them and feel grateful for them. I’m sure October will be full of new adventures and of course my favorite holiday of Halloween. Maybe I’ll make it to a Halloween party of some type this year, one never knows! Whatever comes this October and beyond, I know that I’ll get through it just like I always do, with strength, determination, optimism, and hope.

For a moment

For a moment,
Before I’m fully awake
With eyes still closed
Mind still lingering in dreams…
You’re still here.

I can almost hear your voice nearby
Your laughter echoing down the hall
Footsteps making the floor creak
And the promise of a hug in the air.
But when I open my eyes
And come fully awake…
You’re not here.

How tempting it is
To squeeze my eyes shut
Bury my head beneath the covers
And refuse to accept the reality without you…
I can’t do that.

The world needs me
Little ones depend on me
They need to hear my voice
Feel my hugs
Share my smiles and echo my laughter.
So I rise…
And face another day without you.

I am blessed to have this day
This day and all the days that follow.
Must fill my life with love
Live it to the fullest.
That’s what you want me to do
It is what you expect of me…
To honor your life and spirit.

Though I can no longer touch you
I still feel you.
You’re the breeze cooling my skin
The moon shining in the night sky
Hawks circling above the treetops
Butterflies skimming among the flowers
The brightest rainbow after the darkest storm.
In all of that, I see you…
And know that I’m not alone.

For a moment
I think I hear your voice
The words you speak
Bring tears to my eyes.
A promise of “I love you.”
The reassurance that
“You are strong.”

You know I’m strong
When I can’t see it myself
And that’s enough
It has to be enough
For me to keep going
Welcoming every dawn
Cherishing those I love
Helping you to live on
For this moment…
And forever.

Life is Short, Fill it Up!

IMAG1888

Today I received a very sad reminder of just how short life is. A childhood friend of mine passed away yesterday unexpectedly and his family and friends are stunned. He and I grew up on the same street and a lot of my childhood memories contain him. He was a great person and a pro at making people laugh. I can’t ever remember seeing him mad or sad though I’m sure there were times when he was. We grew apart through the years but I always considered him a friend.

The loss of my friend proves that life is shorter than we realize. We only have today, tomorrow is never guaranteed. Fill your days with happiness, laughter and the ones you love because everything can change in an instant. Don’t waste your time on hurtful words and negative feelings aimed at those you love. Thinking that you always have tomorrow to make amends is unwise. Every single day is a blessing! Grab it, fill it, cherish it!

No matter how things were when someone you love passes, it’s important to believe that in their life beyond, they don’t hold grudges. Our lost loved ones don’t want us living with regret and guilt, they want us to remember all the happy times.

Having lost many loved ones including my beloved father, I know that it’s sometimes a challenge to focus on the positive. I have days when all I can think of is how unfair it is that my father isn’t here with me anymore. That I didn’t hug him harder the last time I saw him, that I never took the time to ask him how to use his camera and so much more! But one thing I know for sure is that he knew how much I loved him every single moment of his life. My father’s love lives on eternally and I’m grateful I had him for as long as I did.

So when I say life is short, fill it up! I don’t mean fill it with endless running about and the crazy hectic pace of life. Fill it with what makes you happy. This evening I sat out in the yard with my daughters and we watched the clouds roll by. I walked to the edge of the back field and watched butterflies, dragonflies and birds fly around and was reminded that the rhythm of life never stops. Time moves onward. The spirits of the ones we love are carried on the wind, lifted by fluttering wings and cherished within the hearts of those they left behind.

Zoey’s Story

The moment I picked up the little black and white cat at the shelter, she melted in my arms. She sprawled out, exposed her belly and showed me that she completely trusted and loved me at first sight. The love was mutual and I took her home that day. My then husband was with me and he liked her too despite not being an animal lover. He came up with the name Zoey for her and it seemed to fit her.

Zoey didn’t discriminate, she snuggled with everyone. She especially loved snuggling with my father when he’d come to my house and relax in the rocking recliner. I swear Zoey would instantly appear on his chest the moment he sat down. My dad always hated moving and disturbing her snuggling but Zoey was always good at resettling.

Zoey loved my daughters from the moment I brought them home from the hospital. Why wouldn’t she? They were more warm bodies to snuggle with! The girls loved her back and they were both fortunate to spend the first years of their life with such a sweet cat.

When I found Owl in my barn as a small, scared, stray black kitten, she didn’t know how to meow. She’d hiss but not meow. I couldn’t imagine then what a meowing loud mouth she’d become or how much of a great snuggler she’d grow into. Zoey wasn’t exactly thrilled by the little black kitten trying to tackle her all the time. Sometimes she’d play with Owl and sometimes she’d put her in her place by knocking her down. Eventually, they learned to get along harmoniously and most days I couldn’t tell where Zoey’s black fur ended and Owl’s began.

Zoey and Owl engaged in a very lazy cat fight.

Zoey and Owl engaged in a very lazy cat fight.

Unfortunately, Zoey eventually grew sick and the vets couldn’t figure out why. She was still a young cat, less than 10 years old but something was wreaking havoc on her body and draining her energy. They gave me medication to ease her pain and I took her back home so she could be comfortable. I had such high hopes that she’d recover somehow. I gave her medicine daily, snuggled with her and told her I loved her.

One night I snuggled with her on the couch and then left to go upstairs to bed. I came back downstairs the next morning and couldn’t find her. I then went searching in the basement because there was an old chair down there she loved to sleep on. That’s when I found her. She’d already passed, her spirit was gone from her tired body. As I write this now it’s been over four years since she died but it still makes me cry. I will forever miss that sweet little cat.

Much to my amazement, my then husband constructed a coffin for Zoey out of wood pieces in the barn. The coffin was far bigger than required for her tiny form but he placed her in it and dug a huge hole out in the back yard to bury her. That was the final resting place for her body but I know her spirit is never far from me.

Three months after Zoey died, my father passed. As hard as losing them both in such a short span of time was, I was comforted by the fact that they were together in heaven snuggling on a rocking recliner, snoring happily together.

Just as my father bestowed so many gifts upon me, Zoey bestowed gifts upon Owl. She taught Owl how to be a really dedicated and open-minded snuggler and to love anything and everything she met. Owl used those teachings to stubbornly and determinedly attempt to become friends with Jazzmin until she finally got her way.

Whenever Owl comes in the house from being outside, she seeks Jazzmin out and rubs against her until Jazz can’t stand it anymore and walks away. Jazz pretends not to like it but I know she really loves Owl. I’ve caught her looking for Owl when she’s not in the house and going to the door when she hears Owl outside meowing. Thanks to Zoey, Owl transformed a dog with no history with cats to a dog who can’t imagine her future without them.