Thank full…

“Being excited doesn’t mean I don’t miss my mom. Being sad doesn’t mean I’m not excited about the holidays.”

As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, my feelings are more and more split. Usually at this time of year, I’m so excited. The last two months of the year are filled with family time and festivities. The littles anticipating Santa coming, making lists and making treats. Decorating the house with lights and inside with a mix of old and new decorations. The traditions that I love so much. And I am excited this year, too. But also, as Thanksgiving approaches this week, I find myself feeling sad, too.

It started last week when a co-worker announced she was having lunch with her 80 something year old mom. She talked about her mom losing a hearing aid. All seemingly innocuous events. But I felt a little pain in my heart and noticed that. Then, in the cafeteria, she introduced her mom, and they both smiled and laughed easy and you could see the love between them. And another little pain poked at my heart and I noticed again.

This is the first Thanksgiving without my mom. The first Thanksgiving I have no parents.

I typed that just now and then sat in silence for several minutes letting it soak in. My parents loved holidays. My mom made a holiday out of a Tuesday, but my mom and dad loved holidays and family gatherings, and cooking and giving and showing hospitality. And they are not here to do that with me, and that hurts my heart. It hurts my whole body. It’s an underlying sadness that quietly sits in the background, not shouting to be noticed, but impossible to miss. I’ve felt it slowly taking up more space in me for the last few days.

The good thing about us humans is that we can hold more than one emotion at a time. I can, and I do, feel the sadness from the missing presence of my mom, but I also feel so full of thanks. 2020 has been a wonderful terrible year. I guess most years are like that though. There’s good and bad and adjustments to be made. My oldest daughter brought little number 11 into our family safely. My sister’s lump was not cancer. I took a new job that creates a space for me to show compassion in a greater capacity. My husband’s job has been secure. I’ve had the joy of my youngest son living with us since May, after missing out on a lot of his life the past four years he was in the Army. My older son and his wife bought their first home. My youngest daughter has a job that lets her adapt to her kids’ schedule. I’ve been having monthly dinners with my brothers and their wives, whom I love. God has answered so many prayers in 2020 in ways I am full of thanks for.

I can hold the sadness and the thankfulness and the excitement of the holidays all at the same time. Sometimes one is more prevalent in my heart, sometimes all three are equally present. Being excited doesn’t mean I don’t miss my parents. Being sad doesn’t mean I’m not excited about the holidays. My mom was the most wonderful person I’ve ever known. How could I not be full of thanks that I was her daughter? How could I not be full of thanks every time someone tells me they see her in the way I treat others?

So as we approach the holidays of 2020, it’s okay to feel the frustration of all the adjustments you are continuing to make. It’s okay to feel the hopelessness that this virus stuff will never end. It’s okay to feel sadness if you are missing someone that left this year. It’s also okay to feel joy when you see a child light up talking about Santa, and excitement about getting together (virtually or physically) with friends and family. It’s all okay guys. You’re okay. I’m full of thanks for all of you. What are you thankful for? Comment and let me know.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

So I’m healing…

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I’ve been healing and celebrating and saying goodbye and hello and goodbye again. It’s been a year of hurricanes, not only in my country, but in my life. A category 5 that wiped me out and I’m rebuilding.

My father died this year. Whew…that’s still so hard to say. My dad was the best. I learned about God from my dad. Not just words, but what a father is, and what a father does, and how a father makes you feel. I learned about family from my dad. I learned a lot of other things from him as well, how to ride a horse, how to change a tire, how to …………. fill in the blank. My love of flying, of cars, of city lights at night, of chocolate ice cream…all from him. My ridiculous sense of confidence in new situations, my generous spirit, my compassion, my patient nature…all from him. He was (still hard to use past tense) the best father.

So this summer, my hurricane season, went something like this: My oldest son graduated from basic and we made a few trips to Georgia so he could see his wife and kids. He was starting Airborne training and would be there a few months more. Dad was ill often. I made the 2 hour trip to my parents’ house several times, sometimes staying a day, sometimes staying a few days depending on how he was and what Mom needed.  At one 19441758_10155482791693739_1128828333922711115_opoint he was in the hospital and I had been there a few days without my husband, my oldest daughter called and said she was heading to the hospital to have g’baby number 8. I told Dad and he sent me off with a kiss. I sped home, picked up my husband and got to the hospital in time to kiss those sweet, new baby cheeks.

Dad was not doing well and I headed back up there. That was pretty much the story for the month of June. My dad was moved to the nursing home.  July 4, he gave up. The storm hit with full force. I thought I had prepared, I thought I had boarded the windows and hunkered down, but I was wrong.  The deepest, greatest sadness I’ve ever felt came, and settled on me like a heavy, wet wool blanket. My protection was my husband, my children, my siblings, my mom, the house of family that my dad had worked so hard to build stood strong. We had a public visitation, and over 300 people came to pay their respects to my family. I had friends drive several hours to show up for me, and it meant the world.  We planned a private family funeral for a few weeks later.

 

The Sunday of the funeral came, and our giant family celebrated the life of my father. Every single person spoke of my dad’s great love of his family. That Friday, g’babyHaven number 9 was born. Her daddy was able to get leave from the Army and come home for 10 days to hold his precious new daughter.  As excited as I was, I was torn to my core with grief that my dad would never see this great granddaughter that he had been so excited to meet. I left the hospital crying uncontrollably and couldn’t go back that day. The 10 days flew by and we had to tell our son goodbye again. He was broken leaving his wife and 3 children, again.

In September, my husband and I went to Florida for a week. We stayed in the same hotel on the beach that my parents had stayed at for the last 20 years. We invited my mom to come with us, to rest and heal, but she understandably wasn’t ready to leave home.  It was wonderful to sit on the same beach watching sunsets that I knew my parents had sat on so many times. The peace in the eye of the hurricane.

We then said goodbye to our youngest son as he headed to across the world for deployment until June 2018. His wife and 2 year old moved in with us as she would be having their second daughter in a month or so. At the same time, we moved our older son’s wife and three kids across the country to finally live together again after 10 long months of separation. Again, a hurricane of sadness and happiness swirling and blowing together.

22769642_1317678038343022_4388228918228156563_oOctober 17 g’baby number 10 was born. Her daddy made it home the next night and got to spend 10 days kissing his girls. But, alas the 10 days were up and we again told him goodbye until June of next year. My heart broke watching my son leave his family.

My hurricane season brought devastation. My life has been altered in ways it will never recover from. My hurricane season brought life. Three new babies that have helped heal my heart and brought so much joy to us all. My hurricane season brought goodbyes that I didn’t want to say. Goodbye to my sons, goodbye to my dad. My hurricane season brought sadness. Watching helplessly as my mom grieves her husband of 67 years. Watching my brothers and my sister grieve their dad. Watching my children and grandchildren learn to accept that their time with their grandfather is over. My heart breaks for them all.

Here’s the thing: My dad lives on in every act of kindness that I see my kids do for each other. He lives on in every phone call I make to my mom and my siblings. He lives in every story my siblings tell and every memory I share with my grandkids. My dad lives on in photographs that show him being there for all of us. He lives in the faces of my brothers and phrases we all use. My hurricane season was chaos, but the aftermath is full of love, and the house my dad built stands strong.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules