Thursday, April 12, 2012

Letting strangers in.....

Do you think strangers come into our lives for a reason?

Yesterday, a chance meeting made me question whether I believe that things….or people, appear like magic when we need that little extra something…..

I’ve discovered on my journey of challenges and grief that who we surround ourselves with, who we hold on to, can have a huge effect on surviving, well, almost anything.

Yesterday I took Dempsey to our favorite park.  Purple wisteria vines were dripping with blossoms.

It’s difficult to describe wisteria’s unique beauty and perfume unless you’ve seen one in full bloom.

They make me think of my mum…one of her favorite things...

So with the sun warming my back, feeling kinda surrounded by Spring, I took out my book, watching Dempsey unpack her shovel and pail and jump rope.

A young couple sat behind me, their newborn in a stroller parked up beside them…the wife sitting cross legged on a blue rug while her husband read her verse out of the Bible…I should’ve known it wouldn’t be a normal park outing!! :)

Dempsey is like a magnet with other kids….it wasn’t even five minutes after we arrived when a pretty little blonde girl shyly buddied up to her…and as you do when you’re that age, you become fast friends.

I sat there watching Demps interact with this little girl, sharing her skipping rope…smiling and making small talk.

Usually, watching her with other kids’ manages to squeeze my heart…that her sister isn’t here.

And while yelling to Dempsey to make sure she shared, an older lady sitting not far away spoke up…in my direction!

The conversation went like this….

“Are you Australian? I’m Rose by the way…”

“Yes, I am….but we live here.”

“Oh, I thought so, is your husband Australian too? Do you have family live close by?”

“No, my husband is an Aussie too. We don’t have any family here, just friends…”

For the next few minutes we chatted....until the lady’s next question.

“Gee, you must miss your Mum?”

Now this is when it gets funny, because I usually hide my story or who I am from strangers, you know, leave ‘stuff’ out, the sad ‘stuff’….especially with ones I meet in a park!

But this lady had such a warm energy about her; she reminded me of my mum…I could tell she was kind and loving from her smile and her warm energy.

So I told her that yes, I miss my mum every day, but that she died a while ago now.

And I don’t know why I do this when I tell people that but I sorta felt awkward, like this lady would feel uncomfortable and make an escape within seconds.

But she didn’t.

She got up, walked over and started chatting more to me. Asking me whether I had a sister….which I thought was odd, that she didn’t ask about a brother or my dad?

And automatically, I sort of made this weird giggle, nervous sound….as I contemplated…should I tell her about my sister Tarnia? And it was strange but I felt very comfortable with this lady….so I shared.

However, she didn’t run away, she kept talking, asking me what happened to Tarina….did she have children etc etc.

Then she said her daughter had lost a child last year, a premmy of 28 weeks.   And she told me how awful it was to lose a child.   And I wanted to say, “I know!”   And for a while I listened and comforted her and the conversation turned to…. “Is Dempsey your only child?”

It only took a second to decide I’d share Savannah’s story…  But I always feel awkward, telling strangers about all 3 of my losses, it usually turns me into some sort of freak.

And I could see behind her sunglasses, her eyes were full of tears.

What she did next surprised me and I’ve never had a stranger do it but she said… “Oh I feel like I should give you a hug…can I?”

I almost leapt out of my seat.

She hugged me so hard my neck clicked! :)

We sat together for the next 2 hours talking about life and I felt like I’d had a chat with my mum.

Dempsey was happily playing on the slide with Rose’s granddaughter when I realized we had to go. Rose then piped up and said  “Would you like to go to lunch next week?”

I patted her shoulder and told her she was sweet to ask, but I felt odd…here was this stranger, reaching out, offering me the middle of a park on a sunny Spring afternoon…and I wondered, “Do I let this stranger into my life?”

She rummaged through her hand bag for a pen, asking me for my number….”Maybe if you don’t want to do lunch, we can go walking together? I’d really like that” she said.

And I didn’t even hesitate before I answered “I’d like that too!”

When I got into my car, I choked up, my eyes filled with tears as I waved Rose goodbye. I don’t know why, probably because she reminded me so much of my mum and what I’m missing…also, talking about everything sometimes have a habit of stirring up old emotions.

But Rose didn’t have an agenda, just another mother who is caring, who took the time to offer support to a stranger. Who has the ability to make a difference…we all do…

Rose text me this morning and we’re going walking tomorrow…around the hills near my home. :)

Sometimes old friends help us through our ‘stuff’ and sometimes its new friends. For in the blink of an eye life can change…we just hold on and see where this journey takes us…

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The 'Easy Button'

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” ~Kenji Miyazawa

Last Friday in Australia, my gorgeous nephew Fraser participated in his school Deb. For anyone who doesn’t know what a ‘Deb’ is, it’s a Debutante Ball…similar to a Prom.

It’s when a girl and a boy are formally introduced to society through a night of dancing, Ball room dancing, like the waltz…and of course they get decked out in their finest gear. It’s a bit old fashioned, but in Oz, I think it’s an excuse for teenagers to party. :)

Fraser is my sister’s second son. He was only five when she was killed….he’s affectionate, always gifting me with the biggest squeezes. I adore him.

So when he emailed me, saying he wished I could be at his special night, my heart strings were yanked. I wished I could’ve been there too….but when you live on the other side of the world it’s almost impossible. And I hate that I miss out on these things for my sister’s children. 

On the night of the Deb, Fraser emailed me a photo of him and Laura, his pretty girlfriend….preened and oh so handsome in a black suit….and Laura looked liked she just stepped out of a fairytale book.

And I didn’t realize how much it would hurt to see the photo of him…beaming his beautiful toothy smile!

My eyes filled with tears instantly. And I couldn’t stop weeping…..

I was sad most of Friday that I couldn’t be there for him, that I’d let him down…and also that his mum, my sister wasn’t there either to treasure these moments.   Even though his dad, his sisters, his other aunt and my dad were there to support him, I still felt sad.

And on special days or occasions, these feelings hurt.   But there’s no easy way to block out the pain….sometimes, the only exit to safety and healing is through the inferno…through the heartache and the tears.

And whilst for me, that all consuming sadness isn’t there everyday now as it once was… it does have a habit of casting a dark shadow on my world, blocking out my sunshine…like a solar eclipse. Yes, nothing about grief is easy, I wish it was….

Which brings me to the weekend….

Peter, Dempsey and I did the rounds of our local shops, finishing off at Staples, which is a stationary store here in Southern California.

Peter disappeared down the aisles looking for printer paper while Dempsey and I hung around the front of the store looking at the fun stuff they had scattered around on shelves.

Dempsey discovered a big round red plastic button that said “Easy” …which of course she couldn’t help but push.  I was surprised to hear the button exclaim in a deep man’s voice, “That was easy!” Dempsey started giggling, thinking it was funny, hitting it over and over until people started staring at us.  Then the nagging began…”Please, can we buy it Mummy?”

So along with our stack of printer paper, the ‘Easy button’ made its way along the checkout belt and into our plastic bag. The whole way home in the car, Demps constantly pushed the “Easy” button, driving me C R A Z Y!!!!

And for the past few days’, all I’ve heard is….“That was easy” seeping down the stairs from her room. And it made me think about Fraser and grief and hard days…how if only we all had an ‘Easy button’ we could push to make the hurt go away….

But to heal you have to suffer the hurt….to let it into your heart, to taste your tears or share it with a friend like I did…and understand it isn’t forever.

The Easter Holidays are just around the corner and I know the day will be reflective for me because some of my family members aren’t here….especially Savannah who loved gorging on chocolate and finding colorful eggs hidden in our yard….

I usually try and do things that make me happy….like buying these flowers that were parked up at the checkout in Vons supermarket…..

They are just so magnificent!

Is there really anything more spectacular than the spring bouquets that are around this time of year? They come with a guarantee to brighten up my mood and of course our house….

And then there’s Dempsey, who has a lifetime guarantee of eclipsing my world with her magical dimpled smile and love…..

As well as visiting Staples we dropped in at the Pet Store where Demps almost squeezed the life out of this little Easter Bunny!

You can see the adoration in her face…mine was on the other end of the camera!

And today, on the cusp of Easter, a friend who is travelling in Europe emailed me to say her dad had been killed in a farming accident in Australia….a shock and a tragedy for her.  As I write this, she's probably on a plane back to Australia...

I know her journey of grief and healing begins today.  She said her dad is the first person she’s ever lost.... My heart aches for her and her family as I know the road ahead is littered with hard stuff….

On Easter Sunday, I may just have to steal Dempsey’s ‘Easy button’ ....continue to push it…like she does....and get through another holiday making some new happy family memories….

Wishing you sunshine if your cup is blue with the upcoming holiday.... x