Archive for June, 2014

When He’s Not Here to Read The Card…Celebrating Father’s Day Without Dad

June 15th, 2014 | 6 comments

1-image-006He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.
~Clarence Budington Kelland~

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there.  I hope this has been a day of not only celebration, but reflection on the privilege of fatherhood and the gifts that are bestowed upon each of us when we become parents.

If your Father has passed, this Sunday in June can be a tough 24 hours. You have this love to give to your dear old Dad, but he is no longer with you physically.  The commercialized aspect of the day illuminates the absence of him, and you can feel the pains of grief all over again. For those of you experiencing your first Father’s Day without Dad, this can be especially raw.  The year of “firsts” after you lose someone special is something that you have to walk through, and not around. And it is not easy.

For those who, like me, have been without Dad for some time, it can still be a day of melancholy, a time where you can’t help but think, “What if he was here?”  You notice the families out for Father’s day brunch, you see the greeting cards that say just the right words, but Dad is not here to be showered with love and affection.

I know I’ve been thinking about my Dad all day. He passed away in April 1993, but there is not a week that goes by that I don’t think about him. I remember his tin whistle, how he loved to entertain, his artistic talents, and the long, long chats.  My Lord, my father could tell a story. He could create a visual with words like no other.  He would draw in his audience with his descriptions and details, and he NEVER took any shortcuts on stories. He enjoyed it so much, some stories seemed to go on forever.  I remember one particular time when I was in high school; my date came to the door to pick me up to go see a movie.  My dad started talking, and by the time his story was finished, so was the movie.  I spent my entire date sitting in the living room waiting for him to finish. Maybe that was his plan all along.

But as much as that probably exasperated me, I will always be thankful for the time he gave to crafting his words, to talking to his children.  He was a deep man, and thoughtful and contemplative about life.  Some of the deepest chats I’ve ever had were with him.  He helped me understand that it was important to think about the tough questions of life, and that not every answer would be black and white.  Those stories all had a lesson about life attached, weaved within the colorful words, and devilish grins.

I tell you this small snippet about my father so I can better explain how I choose to celebrate Father’s Day since his passing.

He may not be able to open up a card or present from me, so my gift to him is to use what he gave me.  Each time I do, I feel like I am honoring his spirit, what he taught me, how he raised me, and how he lived.

Here’s some examples:

Tell a good story:  Each time I write, or try to tell my own story to another, I think about him.  I think about what example he set for me for living a grateful life. I think about his flare for storytelling, the use of a good dramatic pause, or injecting some simple humor to lighten up things when needed. My father showed me how to see the world with optimistic eyes, in less than perfect circumstances.  One of my gifts back to him is to continue to see a world of possibility, magic, kindness and love, and tell stories about this beautiful life.

Work Hard:  I really can’t recall my father’s hands being without the marks of hard work.  They were always clean, but he had the calloused palms and grease stained fingers of a man who put everything he had into a job well done, and supporting his family.  I can still see  him walking through the door after his shift at the Mill, no spring left in his step, but always a smile on his face.  My gift back to him is to enjoy a hard day’s work, and to smile while I do it.

Be Kind:  My Dad was a doer and a helper.  He was never afraid to jump in and lend a hand when needed, nor did he ever have the expectation of something in return.  He showed me that the return on an investment of kindness is tenfold.  My gift to him is to be generous of heart, and to be kind to those I meet on my journey.  And, just as he did, I will do so without expectation or condition.

Be Resilient:  My father did not have an easy life.  He had struggles and hardships like most.  A mill accident left him with a crushed leg.  He had heart troubles, and like many other fathers, shouldered the burdens of raising five children quietly.  It couldn’t have been easy.  But with each challenge that confronted him, he rose to the occasion and focused on the solution, all the while sheltering his children.  He tucked all of us in behind him, protecting us from the storm.  He showed me how to rise.  My gift to him is to live a resilient life, and to help others recognize that same resilience in themselves.

Love without Condition: I remember the moment that my family found out I was pregnant.  Far too young, not even close to being prepared for parenthood myself, it must have been a hard pill for them to swallow.  Sitting on my bed, I listened for the sound of my father’s footsteps walking though the door after a hard day’s work.  He would be coming home to much more than a cold beer and dinner.  And, when hearing the news, he sat on the bed with me, and held my hand and told me he loved me and everything….absolutely everything was going to be just fine.  He could have said so much more.  But he just loved me, when I needed it the most.  He made me feel safe because he knew I was terrified.  He put aside all of his own feelings and he just loved me without condition.  My gift to my father is to love that way.  I choose to not only love my family unconditionally, but to open my heart and let others know that I am here, no questions asked, no judgment….just love.

My Dad may not be able to open up a card or present from me.  But I believe, that today and every day, I celebrate him by using the gifts he gave to me during our time together.  I can feel him smiling.

How about you? How can you celebrate your father today and every day?




Sitting in the Dark With Maya…

June 7th, 2014 | 2 comments

Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. ~Maya Angelou~

I’ve always had the feeling that life loves the liver of it. You must live and life will be good to you, give you experiences. They may not all be that pleasant, but nobody promised you a rose garden. But more than likely if you do dare, what you get are the marvelous returns.    ~Maya Angelou~

I’ve been sitting quietly this morning, listening to the live-stream of Maya Angelou’s memorial service.  To hear the words of so many, celebrating the life of a person who harnessed the circumstances of her life to become a positive force in this world, has made for an uplifting morning.

Since hearing the news of her passing, I have been reading the online tributes that chronicle her life and work, each one telling a story of hardship, resilience, courage, humor and lots and lots of love. Each day this week, I felt compelled to write my own, to give my own tribute of sorts to a woman who helped shape the direction of my life.  But my earlier drafts just fell flat, as if I was jumping on a bandwagon that I had no business being on, or that had no seat available to me.

The truth is, I never had the opportunity to meet her, although I wished for it in the months after my son’s passing in 2009, knowing she was just a short drive up the road from me in North Carolina.  I never spoke to her, and never wrote to her.  I always held back, feeling somehow not strong enough, perhaps not worthy enough to reach out and ask of her time.

But as I listened to the stories of her life from the people who loved her dearly, I realized I did have something to say, and it may be something that others can relate to as we say goodbye to her physical presence on this earth.

You see, I sat in the dark with Maya.  In the darkest days of my life, I quietly reflected on my very existence,  wondering if I was going to be able to stand up again after losing my child.  I looked to a few teachers like her for some spark or inspiration, some flicker of hope.  So I grabbed one of her books, and I sat with Maya, and Wayne, Pema and Louise. Many days, the heaviness of my grief made me so weary, I did not know if I could turn another page.

I was gutted, and groundless, and I needed someone to urge me on as I ventured into unknown waters.  I, listening to this quiet voice within, grieved with gratitude, willing myself to keep breathing, and looking for the “one little things” each day that I could call blessings. I felt so alone in the early days of my journey, not really even understanding why I felt compelled to stand up and say,

“I will not lie down.  I will not give up.  There is still good around me, even though my life  has been shattered.  My glue is gratitude and I will put this life of mine back together. I will put it back together one little thing at a time.”

And, sitting in my pajamas, with my son’s photos and memories scattered all around me, I received that spark I desperately needed to continue down the road.  And although from the outside it would appear I was alone, I did not feel alone. Maya was sitting with me, encouraging me to listen to that quiet voice within, to follow the signs, and have faith in brighter days.  As the months passed,  I began to reach out to others, with the courage I received from the generous gift she shared with the world.   And, to my amazement, I found out something that I had not realized for all the years leading up to the death of my child.  I WAS NOT ALONE.   I began to connect to people just like me, all over the world.  We were all walking together all along.

I have been on a wondrous path in my life ever since.  And I just wanted to say thank you to Dr. Maya Angelou.  She was one of my teachers, carrying a lantern filled with hope, leading me towards a light.  I believe that there are people on this earth that bring us to the message God wants us to hear, and I will be eternally grateful for her presence in my life, and for listening.

Earlier this week, one of the articles discussing her miraculous time on earth said “The light of the world has grown a little dimmer with the loss…”

I disagree.  I never met the woman, but sat in the darkness of my life with her.  She brought the light to me, lighting my own candle with her words.   Through her grace and courage, she lived a life that was open and generous to others….She illuminated a path for me, and helped me see that I could do the same for someone else.

In the dark, she told me I was going to be okay.  She encouraged me to own the truth of my own story, to not hide from the events of my life that brought me sorrow or shame.  She told me to not only own it, but to celebrate each moment and live.

She told me I could still live. And now, each morning, I tell people that they can live, and they will be okay.

This world will not be dimmer because of her passing.  Her legacy will endure, and her words will serve as a beacon for generations to come.  People like me, complete strangers sitting in the dark, trying to find some light will find her, as I did, and see that they too can rise.

Here’s to celebrating a life well lived,