Saturday, July 24, 2010

July 22 One year later

 I wrote this July 22, 2010 but procrastinated posting it until now...
 It goes without saying that today is an emotional day. In a way, I relive the shock of Gunnar's death. Grief memories and gratitude intertwine and overlap. With that in mind, I wrote this letter to Gunnar.

 Dear Gunnar, I miss you son.  Such a huge part of my world is gone. As I sit and write, I cry and smile at the same time.  I cry because missing you hurts. the grief is understandably fresh, so I cut myself some slack. I hear your reasuring voice, "It's OK Mom, you'll be alright." I smile as I remember all the laughter we shared.  I love our time sitting on the couch watching "B" science fiction movies, making fun of the dialogue and the meager special effects that accompany such endeavors.  I never minded you coming home late at night and stopping by my door and saying, "Mom, guess what happened." It seems your best thoughts came to you between the hours of 12:00AM and 1:30AM.  The list  is endless, son.
 Your friends have shared many stories about you with me this past year. I have listened with a heart full of satisfaction.
I am reminded of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's words,
" Nothing will fill the gap when we are away from those we love, and it would be wrong to try and find anything. We must simply hold out and win through. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time it is a great consolation, since leaving the gap unfilled preserves the bond between us. It is nonsense to say the God fills the gap: He does not fill it, but keeps it empty so that our communion with another may be kept alive, even at the cost of pain."
 While I live with a "grand canyon size Gunnar and Hayden gap"-----I would not trade. This is what I mean son, if I had the opportunity to live my life again and the choice to have a life free of grief --I would choose to live life just like it was handed to me. I would not opt out of motherhood-- being your  and Hayden's mom is my most cherished privilege. I love you Gunnar. Your life continues to inspire many.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Best Friends

I thought about Gunnar and Hayden's friendship this week. They were devoted to each other. Each approached life differently. Gunnar preferred the "take the bull by the horns." approach while Hayden employed, "Let's negotiate." tactic They were devoted to each other. Gunnar, A highly kinetic individual, enter into Hayden's sedentary world of cancer. They manage to blend the two in a way that left me in awe at times. Part of Hayden's cancer treatment involved receiving daily shots, mind he is four at the time--not excited about needles. He wanted to be brave but ...So big six year old brother step up, "I'll give myself a shot too, Hayden." And he did. The memory makes me smile and cry. There is such a beauty when one person chooses to enter another's pain. At many levels, we are solitary beings, meaning we are unique and experience life on a unique level. That's the beauty of relationship, entering into another's world. I watched my six year old blend his world with Hayden's. For example, there was a period when Gunnar like football and would choreograph his own football games, complete with a sports announcer. Hayden wanted to play football too. He was fragile, his double lumen line was in place and a significant portion of his skull missing, so participating in a high contact sport like football may not be in his best interest. So what solution did Gunnar and Hayden come up with so that both could play football?--- Slow motion football---brilliant!! Together, My boy's forged a beautiful friendship despite hardship. Their beauty inspires me daily--Thank you G and H!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Guest House

"The Guest House"

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond."

Jelaluddin Rumi
I like this poem. It captures an important aspect of grief. It affirms the many facets that loss presents to the griever. Our american culture, as do all cultures has rituals relating to death and loss. But after the memorial --then what? Then-- there is the business of grief. There is opening the door as Rumi writes and offering an invitation to each emotion or thought as they come. Many of the terms our culture surrounds grief with captures an aspect but for me, none express the full measure of the experience of burying two sons. Five stages of grief? yes there is movement in grief but it is not so tidy. Recovery? I'm not certain there is recovery from grief, It is not that type of injury--or the new normal--more accurately, it is tension between two lives one that was full and now one that is empty. Now that I have criticized, I will say what does work for me--the word path--I like that word. It is a gentle word that contains promise.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Hayden loved the Chronicles of Narnia series. As young lads, Gunnar and Hayden lived the adventures along with Lucy and her siblings. Hayden loved to inform people about a little bit of trivia regarding the author, "His name is Clive Staples Lewis, but his friend call him Jack."

The prolific writer, CS Lewis penned a short devotional entitled "No Insurances Against heartbreak." It seems innate in humans to avoid pain. As I walk this path of grief, it seems like a "knee jerk" response to try and protect myself from further pain--what strategy can I employ to assure that my heart won't hurt anymoreThe heart of CS Lewis' essay addresses this dilemma. He writes, "If you do not want heartbreak, do not love anything--not even an animal." He continues, "Wrap yourself in hobbies and luxuries." CS Lewis sums up such a life choice as a self inflicted hell of the worst type.
I remember these words on the hardest of days. The days, where, like Job, my bones hurt from the pain of loss. They remind me that, even though the path of grief is difficult, the alternative is more difficult and tragic. To try and protect myself is a costly and hollow response to grief. As I work through the labyrinth of emotions that contain some dark places I would rather not know about. None-the--less, it is part of the deal, the price of love is to at some point to know pain.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

This is one of my favorite photos of Gunnar and I. Part of my "mom job" was to record life through photos. I have hundreds of photos documenting Gunnar's childhood but only a few of he and I together. For this photo, we set the self timer on the camera and jumped on the couch--just in time for the camera to click. The self timer on the camera brings on the laughter, so for this photo we were laughing before we landed on the couch. Gunnar was fresh out of bed and was not an enthusiastic participant--until the timer was set--then ---game on. As his Mom, I am biased , but he is "All kinds of handsome".

Friday, May 14, 2010

I am not a huge journal writer. I jot my thoughts on scrapes of paper. When my desk drawer and nightstand reach overflowing, I collect the scrapes and read my scribbled thoughts. I read and am moved by memory to places past. Here are some thoughts of mine from August 2009.

“Grief is a violent reworking of the deepest part of my being. I wake up to a world with no color—only sharp contrasting edges. The music is gone. It is as if all the notes have fallen off the page and all that remains is blank sheet music.’’

The contrast within myself is exhausting. I have often thought, “Grief doesn’t really begin until the heart figures out what happened.”

My mind can understand the mechanics of death—rebel cancer cells that refuse to yield or scare tissue preventing the sinoatrial signal from traveling to the next cell in the heart wall. Such is the language of my mind. My mind needs understanding—the facts—the who, the what, the where help bring order to the chaos—the new world—that I really do not want to know.

My heart finds no comfort in facts. It protests at an ear piercing pitch in response to the loss. I think of Strider from JRR Tolkien’s book, Lord of the Rings “Memories are not what the heart desires.””

As of today, the protest of my heart is quieter. I know the color and music will return—not the same but I welcome the return whatever form it may take.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

My Sweet Twenty-something friends made my day. We had a beautiful brunch at Anthony's. Thank you René,Lauryl and Miss Brit.I am immensely thankful for all the love that flowed my way this day via facebook,blog messages,phone calls and "hey let's drop by her house."
In the grief world,connection brings comfort.It may not lessen the pain,yet I contend, the effort translates into hope and comfort.I am the beneficiary of great support this day.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Maiden Post

I've thought about it, talk about it and in honor of Mother's day, I begin my blogging adventure. I intend to use this space to share my musings on grief. Grief as I have experienced it thus far; somedays as an invader other days a great teacher.
I also plan to share stories of my two sons, Gunnar and Hayden. I will begin with Mother's past.
I smile as I recall artwork from their preschool years--purple and blue handprints bedazzled with glitter and sincere attempts printing their names--the best.
I am going to brunch with friends this Mother's day. I am thankful for good friends.
As I reflect on past Mother's days I am full of gratitude for the wild and glorious ride of motherhood.