You are a Beautiful Soul

Mom, you are a beautiful soul too. This was evident while planning her memorial service, especially as family and friends gathered to remember her.

You are a Beautiful Soul

Remember that you are a beautiful soul when you start feeling less than your perfection. Because when your life is done, it’s the memories of your beautiful soul that remains.

The First Decision

It was just me when Mom breathed her last. My husband passed three months and three days earlier. My sister had moved to be close to the birth of her first grandchild, and I had moved to a new life in North Carolina. That sounds as lonely as life can be, but there is a unique peace amid loneliness. It allows deep healing.

Waiting until the Saturday after Thanksgiving also gave me time to process the loss of my husband and mother. It helped make it a true celebration of her life. After that, the first decision of place was easy.

Texas, Alaska, and Florida cousins
Texas, Alaska, and Florida cousins

Mom grew up in Winter Haven, Florida. It was where she worshiped, and it was my birthplace. So many relatives were close, and those far away could get time off work. It seemed a perfect time.

Holiday Realities

My wedding was six years prior, also right after Thanksgiving. I conveniently forgot about the difficulties during the planning phase. It’s a time when businesses other than retail aren’t always available.

Catering became a hurdle in the week before Mom’s memorial. Suddenly, the restaurant closed for the holiday weekend. Scrambling over the phone with the church administrator, she found a last-minute substitute. Then the plan for dessert fell apart. A change from coconut custard pie to various cakes solved this latest snafu. Some of these calls were while I was at a gas station on my way to Florida the Thursday before Thanksgiving. Oddly, I wasn’t flustered by any of it.

Everything worked out beautifully. Some expected to attend but didn’t show, and a few new, treasured guests were able to make it.

Time Gave Me Space

Compared to my grief at my husband Wayne’s memorial, I felt almost blissful this time. Instead of hiding in the back room for grieving family, my sister and I welcomed guests in the church narthex. my son Larry and IHere’s a photo of my younger son, Larry, and me by the sign-in book. Since Mom had been using a weekly calendar as a diary, I chose to use the 2022 book, placing it next to her framed photo.

Many people mentioned how lovely the service was. Part of the success came from a long phone conversation with Pastor Reich. So many small details flowed forth as he asked me questions about Mom’s life. It was like a review of everything that I loved about her. He wove her personality and small acts of kindness into a fabric that was her life. It was then I realized, Mom, you are a beautiful soul.

I told my mother how much I loved her many times while caring for her during the last few years. And she reciprocated.

Take the time this week to tell someone you love them. Give them a warm hug if you can. If they are too far away, wrap your arms around yourself and say, “You are a beautiful soul.” And know that you are a beautiful soul too.

Love,
Dawn

Feeling Grief During the Holidays

Feeling grief during the holidays is a challenge. Some days we are entirely uninterested in the holiday trappings. Celebrations can go from joy to sadness in seconds. The worst part can be the isolation. We don’t want to cry when others are joyous.

With patient persistence, the pain will lessen if you surrender to it. Professional help is also invaluable. I’ve sought out therapists, grief coaches, pastoral care, and shamans. Because, for me, there is no one way through.

Balancing Sadness and Joy

Let the tears flow when they well up. True friends will support your journey through grief. A random thought or statement often acts as a trigger, which eases our anxiety with tears. I’m grateful for each one.

Take your time. There’s no rush to get over the passing of a loved one. Allow your natural flow in this process.

In the early stages, when action is needed, try to pick one activity around your loved one’s memory daily. Often this entails a financial or legal detail. Ask for help. Making lists and seeking advice can also help us stay on track.

Be choosy about your activities, letting your heart be your guide.

Daily morning meditation will help you discover your unique style. Journaling is helpful. And adding ritual eases overwhelm. For instance, I sit in the same place each morning with my cup of coffee, light a candle, and ask my Spiritual team to come close. In the early days of this activity, I asked simple yes/no questions and waited to ‘hear’ the answers. Now, there is a calmness in my heart as soon as I sit down.

Plan at least one joyful activity each day. This is part of self-care. Don’t short-change yourself by counting a required activity like grocery shopping. You might think it matters because you are getting out of the house. Instead, it needs to be a gift you give yourself. For instance, a trip to the post office is on my schedule. Then I add a stop in a cute downtown area to window shop. The fresh air, colorful displays, and people bring me joy.

At first, the sadness will overwhelm the joy, but eventually, there will be more joy. Working through grief is a process. The holiday season is temporary, and the new year is approaching. You can do this.

Final Thoughts

In the past week, I’ve experienced more sadness than I thought I could endure. However, talking with friends who are also coaches has helped me push through.

cherished christmasThe artificial tree is still in the basement, but I have a fresh wreath on my door. My Christmas cards are on their way to my immediate family,¬† the dearest decorations are on display, and I’m planning on attending a wreath-making class tomorrow. It’s not because I need the course, but because it will bring me joy. After all, I still have a bare Advent wreath.

Sending you love and compassion,
Dawn

Live for the Moments

Live for the moments you can’t put into words. This sounds like a beautiful sentiment.

But what if you are feeling sadness? Do you want to live for those moments?

DO YOU AVOID YOUR GRIEF?

I’ll be the first to admit l have avoided grief. But this time, I’ve arranged a trip whose theme is grief.

I drove over 700 miles from my home in North Carolina to the Airbnb I’d reserved. My dog, Sugar, is with me. I like to blame her for all my stops, but it’s my fault. And I made a lot in the early hours of the trip. Then as I crossed the Florida state border, I became anxious to arrive before dark. So, I stopped less. The thought of driving through the traffic jams in Orlando spurred me on.

Alas, Waze still had to route me around town via SR 429, also known as the Western Beltway. This part of the beltway was in the planning stages during my twenty-three years living in West Orange County. Being a country girl, I was not excited about the inevitable development and influx of people the beltway would bring.

AN UNEXPECTED GRIEF TRIGGER

Tears welled as I drove through yet another highway construction project amid high-density housing projects as far as the eye can see.

This is not a moment I want to live for.

But it is part of the grief I want to embrace during my two weeks in Florida. With this example, I’m grieving for what might have been and for the idyllic, natural countryside of my youth.

WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO EMBRACE GRIEF?

My experience with grief and sorrow has taught me that it is much better to deal with it than stuff it down. Since I allow my tears to flow, they are usually short-lived.

I’m not schooled in advanced psychology, but I am a certified health coach. So, I understand the value of talking, writing, and journaling about sadness.

SPREADING MY HUSBAND’S ASHES

Wayne was close to many of his students. It started with me in his first-year teaching. We had a natural bond that I likened to a father-daughter relationship in my high school innocence. But each time there was a reunion, Wayne came, and we sat together, sharing memories and our current lives. Another student, Stuart McCutcheon, also found a special place in Wayne’s heart. They enjoyed fishing, hunting, and all the associated male bonding. So naturally, Wayne chose Stuart as his best man at our wedding.

After Wayne’s passing, I arranged to send his ashes to Stuart because I knew they would be well cared for. Within weeks, we discussed the best time to complete Wayne’s request for his final resting place.

Long before Wayne’s cancer appeared, I initiated a difficult conversation. You know what I’m talking about, the discussion about funeral plans. Wayne was adamant about two things.

“I want to hear Amazing Grace at my memorial and spread my ashes from an airboat on Lake Kissimmee.”

The first request was carried out on March 25th, but Stuart wanted to arrange the second at the perfect moment. He chose November 19th for two reasons. First, it’s during duck hunting season, and second, it’s Wayne’s birthday.

SPREADING WAYNE’S ASHES

It was windy and cool when Sugar and I pulled into the Duck Camp. Stuart and I walked to the chairs encircling the huge firepit where many stories unwound with a can of beer or a glass of Jack Daniels. The container with Wayne’s ashes occupied one chair, and fellow hunter, Euwan and his girlfriend, Becci, sat nearby. Their airboat was moored a quarter-mile away on Lake Kissimmee.

We loaded up in Stuart’s pickup for the short drive to the lake. My face lit up when I saw the sturdy chair lashed to the deck of the airboat. Thankfully, I wouldn’t have to navigate the rungs to the usual high vantage spot. And Sugar would be easier to control, or so I thought.

Stuart called one more hunter, McCall, to join us in his camouflage bass boat. While we waited, Sugar explored the deck, curious about the tannic water and minnows along the edge. Suddenly, I heard a splash! Euwan quickly responded, pulling Sugar back onto the deck. She promptly jumped into my lap, shivering while soaking my jeans and sweatshirt. Although she shivered the entire time, her warm body shielded me from the brunt of the wind.

Stuart held onto the aluminum uprights behind my chair, Euwan turned the ignition, and the roar of the aircraft engine filled our ears. As we cleared the deck, Euwan cut the engine, McCall’s boat pulled up alongside, and Stuart lashed us together. This location is where Wayne started every hunting trip, full of anticipation. It was also the place he thanked God when they returned from one of his infamous fubar events. Stuart asked if I wanted to release Wayne’s ashes. I deferred. Although Wayne loved me dearly, I knew how close he was to Stuart. It was a beautiful ceremony, his ashes carried by the wind and the waves.

I KNEW WAYNE WAS WITH US

I experienced a few snafus too. Besides Sugar’s dip in the lake, I had a cell phone problem. Earlier, I tried to photograph the airboat at the dock. To my surprise, my phone screen was black, apparently inoperable. This was a critical moment, and I wanted to record it. I tried a few different tactics before giving up, assuming something terrible had happened to my iPhone.

After the ceremony, Euwan offered his hand as Sugar, and I stepped onto the sandy shore. He started the airboat as he and Becci waved their goodbyes. I let Sugar off-leash to explore the many trails left by odiferous lizards, her favorite prey. Next, McCall and I headed to a larger group of members of the Duck Club, gathered under the oak trees while Stuart walked out to a moored bass boat, retrieving two cold beers. Finally, we wanted to raise a toast to Wayne’s memory.

The reminisces started after brief introductions. Wayne was quite a storyteller, so many were familiar to me.

Still, I was concerned about my phone’s inoperability. So I sought the help of McCall. Then he realized the light level on my phone screen might be the culprit.

Wayne had a habit of accidentally dimming his phone screen, and Stuart or I would fix it. But, until that moment, it had never happened to me.

Wayne’s spirit dimmed my screen to tell me he was there. Perhaps he even gave Sugar a nudge. When I relayed my thoughts to McCall, a look of doubt immediately clouded his face. However, his disbelief didn’t fade my belief.

Since most of the gang was gathered together, I requested a photo. Everyone was happy to oblige. Then I heard the roar of airboats in the distance, and I switched to video mode. A random group of airboats flew by, indicating Wayne was with us. It reminded me of a Thunderbird flyover tribute. Finally, I captured Stuart on the dock, carrying our refreshments.

A Different Perspective

I felt sad and fully grieving when I started my trip down memory lane. The idea of living for the moments that can’t be put into words was clouded with tears. Now, as I write, I have a smile, proof that exploring grief helps dissipate it.

I’ve appropriately closed the book on the final chapter of my life with Wayne. However, beautiful moments replace sad ones, and there are new Wayne stories for sharing.

My heart is filled with love and compassion for you as you wander your path of grief.

Love,
Dawn

Finally, it seems appropriate to include a video of Wayne at the helm of his airboat. We had just completed an amazing ride around Lake Marion when I took this video of him parking in our boat slip.