It’s funny, but after you lose loved ones you become somewhat hungry and obsessive for other people’s stories of survival through grief.
I’m inspired by others who’ve walked in similar shoes to me…..down this lonely road, in bright red stilettos, or dirty work boots, scuffed runners or flip flops. I listen to their journey with a heavy heart as I pick their brain. I hope to discover some magical device to hide in my tool box, to help me on my hard days.
My friend Heidi has given me food for thought. She’s an advocate for ‘living and loving ‘life!’ This is her story………
I still remember the first time I met Heidi. I’d been told a lot about this pretty petite honey blond who drove big rig’s for Peter’s company for a living.
How you can often find her at a testosterone fuelled truck stop, with her cab door open, quietly turning a box of beads into a new bracelet. She must be a sight…….amongst the sweaty, greasy men that usually drive these road dragons. I bet, actually, no I’m sure, most people look twice when they see her. I can picture the men falling out of their chairs in the roadside diner’s when she wanders in.
Heidi has worked as a prison guard on death row and lived in Japan as a charming hostess. And as intriguing as all those things are, the reason I was excited to meet her was because we share a common bond. Heidi, like me has lost quite a few family members.
You wouldn’t know she’s been through a heat breaking childhood. She has a magnetic personality, someone who makes you feel good about yourself…that you want to be around and call ‘a friend’. With a thick smoldering southern accent that’s as warm as a cup of hot chocolate on a freezing night…..that first night I met her, we created our own magic little bubble, oblivious to anyone else.
We talked non-stop about life and those we’ve lost….and I learned back in 1985, Heidi’s adored Mother, who was only forty-two, and her twenty year old brother were killed in the Aerlex Factory Fireworks explosion in Tulsa. Heidi had only left the factory ten minutes before…..she was fifteen.
She told me one thing that stuck in her mind from that day was bright yellow curtains. It’s funny how we remember the tiniest details isn’t it? She recalls being inside her school, about to paint the walls for some pocket money during Summer break. She remember’s the sheer yellow curtains being blown open from the force of the explosion miles away. And she says, like a sixth sense, she just knew what had happened……in that instant her life changed.
The next few years Heidi went on a downward spiral, angry at those around her after the deaths. She longed for her Mom and hated people saying “God must’ve needed her” amongst other things. She said it took years to get over her bitterness that her Mom wasn’t coming back!
Its’ been twenty-five years since her Mother and brother died tragically, and she says she still misses her Mom. She wishes she could remember what she smelt like and that she could picture her without having to look at a faded photograph….however, she told me with a shaky voice, that she does remember how soft her hair was…….
And just a month ago she lost her Dad to cancer. Heidi and her sister Hazel nursed him until he died, holding his hand as he left this earthly place.
She said after he died she grappled with the fact that no matter how hard she had tried to keep her father alive, encouraging him to eat, giving him endless massages etc, he lost his battle. In the dead quiet of the night, on her own, she realized she had been defeated. That she is alone and that no-one will ever be there to have her back like her Dad did……..to look out for her the way a parent does.
Her words and opinion made me reflect on when my Dad dies….she is right. A parents love is unconditional, every other relationship can be severed….except for the love of a mother or a father. Heidi broke down when explaining this part of losing her Dad to me. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since!
So I asked her, what helped her become strong…..how she converted her anger and sadness into appreciation and survival? I had to smile at her answer, "Well Dee, my Mother was an amazing woman! I believe its how I was brought up, how she raised me. That you don’t dwell on the bad things. You deal with the cards you are dealt with and make the best of it.”
And after sharing a raw, real conversation about loss and life with her, where all bullshit had been abandoned at hello….I asked her through my tears, “Do you still get sad Heidi?”
She said she does…..maybe ten times a year now, however, if she picks at the scab she can make it bleed again….it’s all just below the surface. She told me “Life doesn’t care Dee, it will drag you along with it….you might as well be happy. You have to do it youself” (She has my kinda attitude! :))
We both agreed that we grab the good out of life now. That even though we are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, it’s made us aware of just how important it is to celebrate ‘today.’
Talking with Heidi made me realize there’s others out there like me, that I’m not alone….there are people that struggle some days to walk through the dark tunnel grief creates…however she left me with some powerful thoughts to ponder over.
“Dee, when you turn the lights on, the monsters are gone! They only live in the dark……….”
Love you Sis and thanks for sharing!