Grief. It is part of the Whole

Today is my 39th birthday.

Ten years ago, yesterday, FTD won the battle and mom took her last breath.

These are two occasions that I have not been able to separate in my mind for TEN years, no matter how hard I have tried. But this year, for the first time... I do not want to separate them. My birthday and my mom's passing create a balanced yet concrete reminder of how incredibly special life is.

It's a strange year. I'm in Korea visiting my partner that is stationed here. I walked around the non-touristy town in Korea, ate a mystery lunch (just symbols on the menus so I just point and hope for the best), and I thought how equally incredible and sad it was. I can't call Mom. But I can't deny the elate feeling of this "First" in Korea.

In that moment, peace came and I realized the words I've been trying to find to express today I already wrote - ten years ago.

Dear dementia families, caregivers and friends:

We all know too well the grief process begins at diagnosis. Whether your loved one was recently diagnosed, you are few years into the disease or they’ve already passed -  I hope this story of "firsts" helps you feel more hopeful and less alone. I hope it is a reminder that grieving is another form of love. And love is what makes us whole - we can live with it inside of us and still carry on. That the grief we carry is part of the "whole" and allows us to see, feel and live life more vividly.

[Original Post] "Firsts"

March 31st, 2013...two weeks after Mom passed...

Every moment is a first.

But then again, every moment is a last.

I could go on about how this is the first Easter in 35+ years my dad is not with my mom.  Tomorrow - April 1st - is their Anniversary-- their 35th Anniversary.  Tomorrow, for the first time, my dad will not celebrate with her.

But this Easter is also, for so many, your child’s first Easter or first Easter with your wife/husband or maybe the first time you've hosted the dinner.  First time in a new house?  Or on the other end of the spectrum, first time you had to work this holiday and could not make it home or to the family gathering.

For us, it is the first Easter since Mom passed.  But yesterday was the first March 30th we spent without her and tomorrow will be the first April 1st since her passing.  My cousin, Shelli, recently lost her 43 year old husband to brain cancer.  It is her first Easter as a widow.  But his organs were donated and saved 6 lives.  Sixpeople will, for the first time in a long time, have hope this Easter because of Shane.  SIX!!

“Firsts” are what you make them out to be.  Do I miss Mom today?  Absolutely.  But I missed her yesterday and I will miss her tomorrow.

Today is my first Easter spent in Texas (visiting, not living here).  I went for a run in shorts and a t-shirt for the first time outside since I started training for the marathon.

I had pizza for Easter dinner for the first time, ever, because we waited too long to get to the grocery store and now it is shut.  Heidi spent her Easter with our 19 month year old nephew for the first time and watched Josh look for Easter eggs for the first time.  Roth and Christina watched her 3 year old, Emmagene, and 20 month year old, Lily, look quizzically at the empty egg carton in the fridge and ponder what the Easter Bunny did with all the eggs, for the first time.

And so, I will eat a Reese’s peanut butter egg this holiday and smile; it was Mom’s favorite.  And I will reminisce about how much I looked forward to and loved to make homemade chocolate candy with her….candy molds,  chocolate covered pretzels, raisins, Buckeyes, chocolate covered coconut... if you could dip it in chocolate, we did.

But I will continue to live.  I enjoyed my pizza because she would have laughed at my inability to plan and then she would have made me a ham and mashed potatoes next time I was home to make up for it.  I will continue to have firsts and appreciate them because that’s what mom would have wanted.

Even if this Easter was the same tradition as last year and you feel it was routine, it wasn't.   Every moment is a first.

So I challenge you all to look around and appreciate those firsts.  Because those firsts are also lasts.  Nothing goes according to plan, so if people were late for dinner, or the stuffing did not turn out the way you wanted, or your mother in law or aunt got on your nerves- again….who cares.  Let it go.  Enjoy where you are, what you have, and even what you don’t have.  Breathe it all in.  Look at the person next to you and the people you love and appreciate them.  Because you can.

~Love you mom, forever and ever~


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