Why is death so difficult?

Today is a sad day. My children have to say good-bye to their first grandparent – their father’s father. Grandpa Roe was married to his wife for more than 60 years. I just can’t comprehend how painful it must feel for her right now.

For my children, this is a new experience. Saying good-bye at this level. They were young when my mom died. Now, as adults, they are going to start experiencing the inevitable but the incomprehensible.

Why does something we know — the most certain of all the things in life — feel so difficult when it occurs? Why can’t we prepare?

A few years back, I was very sick. For almost a week I could not get off the couch. Very unusual for me. And then one day, I looked out the windows of my living room and noticed the trees moving in the wind. I closed my eyes and brought my mother back into my mind. It was as if she was there, sitting next to me. I tried to talk with her but as I opened my mouth, she was gone.

At that same moment, and I’ve no idea why, a podcast came onto my phone of an interview with Maurice Sendak on NPR (maybe I hit the app on my phone but  I must admit it was freaky). This interview was about life and death and turned out to be shortly before Sendak died and shortly after a couple of his friends had died. He was quite introspective in the interview.

The thing he hated the most about life, he said, was saying good-bye to the people he loved, “I cry a lot because I miss people.” He said. “I cry a lot because they die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more.”

Life is fragile and we grieve when someone dies because we have to say good-bye. And our memories of that person allow us to love them even more. But not only that, when someone dies, we also grieve because death brings an end to the other person’s memories of us. Those one-to-one memories that we have with that person. Know what I mean? Like, how our parents know us in a way no one else does and when they go, so do those memories they have of us as their children. Or, our spouses see elements of us that we keep hidden. When they go, so do those shared memories.

As I get to the end of this post I realize that I have nothing special or new to say about death. Death is, as it always has been, a quite certain and vivid reminder to cherish every day. I guess I just want to leave you with this:

To be remembered by another is to exist beyond the boundaries of ourself. To cease being remembered by that person is to taste our own mortality.

Sending my love to you all. XOXO

Enjoy the beauty of this interview:

http://www.npr.org/2011/12/29/144077273/maurice-sendak-on-life-death-and-childrens-lit

 

“Whatever Gets You Through The Night”

There’s truth to the saying that as we get older, we get wiser. But there’s something more important than that – as we get older we (I hope) get less judgmental … about ourselves and others.

There’s no getting around getting older. Yet, by getting older I see and experience so many more cool things. I have a far greater understanding of the toll that finding fault and holding grudges take on one’s well-being and peace of mind. I understand that anger can age one more than sitting in the sun year after year. I’m more understanding of the mistakes that I and others make. I realize there is nothing, not one single thing more important than love.

Sometimes we want to erase various memories from our lives. Things we did to others or others did to us. But I don’t want to erase anything. Those things (the bad and good) make me who I am today. Why be disappointed in various experiences or people in our lives? Don’t misunderstand me here – having social discernment is critical. The journey toward becoming our best selves entails associating with people and things that reflect and strengthen our most deeply held values. We must be discerning. Yet, we must let go of judgment.

I came across a quote recently, “The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.” Henry Boye

I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy meeting people halfway for many of my “younger” years. I thought I knew the right path and assumed people would come down my road. Yet, as I get old(er) I can plainly see that my path is not the only path. Thank g-d for that!

My gift to myself this year is the gift of non-judgmental grace. That is, instead of passing judgment on others, I’m going to empathize. Rather than assuming, I’m going to listen and observe. Sure, people say things I disagree with all the time. But rather than scorn them (even if just in my mind) I am going to give them my full attention. Maybe if I can gain the trust of someone who disagrees with me, then we can meet halfway. Can you imagine how much one could learn that way? Can you imagine how different the world (and certainly our country) would be if we met each other half-way and freaking tossed all the anger?

Using the lyrics of John Lennon – someone who wanted peace and love – I leave you with his last major live performance. He’s singing with Elton John about accepting people doing what they need to do in life – without judgment. What a novel idea.

As I get older, I realize that there’s no wrong or right. Whatever decisions we make, will end up being the right ones. Do what you need to do to get through each day and night … and (try to) appreciate every moment.

XOXO

The Beginning of the New

My boys start their senior year tomorrow and as many people have said – I’m marching toward empty-nestville. I could tell you how happy I am for them (I am!), how much I will be crying this coming year (I will!), but I’m starting the beginning of the new and I’m not sure where it will lead me. So, I’ll start by writing to them:

Guys,

You’re now officially seniors in high school. I think it’s just hitting me. Tomorrow we’ll take our last “first day” picture with your sister and you’ll be on your way.  Soon you’ll be experiencing your last homecoming, you’ll take your last walk in the hallways where you’ve been for the past four years, and then you’ll be walking across the stage to receive your diploma. I know it’s exciting and it’s easy to miss it all as it speeds by. But there are a few things I want to remind you to pay attention to this year:

  1. Appreciate the moments: You probably don’t think you’ll miss sitting in class on a sunny day when you’d like to be out playing ball or eating lunch with your friends, but you will. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many amazing things you’ll experience in college. But take the time to appreciate high school while you’re still here. It really won’t ever be this easy.
  2. Hang with your friends and family:  The reality is that this is the last year you will see your family and high school friends everyday. Even when you bicker with or get tired of the people in your life, deep down you know that they love you and have your back. Leaving them will be difficult. Make an effort to spend more time with them while you can. Plan get-togethers with your “guys.” These friends have been with you the longest – from kindergarten to graduation. Be safe but make the most of it.
  3. Go to all the school events you canEnjoy prom, enjoy football games, Legacy Day, events with your friends…enjoy it all! You only get to do it once more like this.
  4. Say Thanks: This is the last year to tell any friends, teachers or other people in your life how much they mean to you or to acknowledge all that they have done for you. When you feel that sense of gratitude, don’t hesitate to express it.
  5. Senioritis is realGuys, senioritis is totally normal and you don’t need to feel guilt-ridden if you loosen your grip a little. It’s OK to not be perfect. Expect it to happen and enjoy this time – you’ve made it!
  6. Stop worrying about college: College is going to happen and if you worry your time away, you’ll worry away your senior year. Trust me. You’ll end up at just the right college and it will be perfect. Just don’t let senior year fly by without you noticing.

Have a great year, young grasshoppers. It will be the best one yet! Love you guys!

 

She has hope and gratitude.

It feels crazy “out there.” And, in some respects it is. Yet, we’ve had other chaotic times and  survived. Don’t get me wrong – I have my own fears about what’s happening “out there.” But I’ve been thinking about the energy of hope and how that energy can eclipse the fear and anxiety we all seem to be having.

I have a gratitude journal which I try to write in every day. If I don’t write, I make a point of saying to myself, before I get out of bed, what I’m grateful for from the day before. Here’s what I wrote one day last week:

  1. I’m grateful for the fun call I had with my daughter.
  2. I’m grateful that both boys hugged me and said they loved me.
  3. I’m grateful that I was able to run with my friends.
  4. I’m grateful that I was able to go to bed an hour earlier than normal last night.

There’s nothing special about these things. Yet they’re reminders to me about being grateful for what’s happened and hopeful about what will come.

I know someone who lost her son last year. She hurts. I can feel it. I can see it in her FB posts. But she has hope. She has gratitude. And that helps her use her pain to move forward. To celebrate what she had. Hope and faith give her strength and security.

Hope is a real and powerful force. Gratitude expands our awareness of hope and brings happiness. This may sound “weird,” but I think gratitude changes our vibration on the earth. It gives us energy to give more. It opens the door to everything. It allows us to make the changes we need in our lives and in the lives of others.

So, to all of you that I love (which is all of you!), here’s the big question for us this week:

When it seems like you are blocked at work, in a relationship, or something negative happens to you, what’s your reaction? Do you say, “Why me?” or do you step back and think,

What is my life trying to tell me right now?”

The latter, my friends, is key. How we respond to what happens to us means the difference between a life of hope and a life of despair. A life of joy or a life of anger. All I have to do is watch my friend survive the loss of her son, and I know this to be true. Stop. Listen to what the universe is telling you. It is only in those quiet moments that I’ve been able to understand and then make the critical changes in my life. It is at those times when I feel the most hope.

Gratitude makes us – the collective “we” –  stronger. It is what allows me (us) to have some amazing experiences. It’s a beautiful circle and all it takes is gratitude.

Friends, I hope you all have an amazing week!

He’s dying and I won’t get to say goodbye in person.

For many complicated reasons, I am not going to be able to say goodbye, in person, to someone I care about. My friend knows I would want to say goodbye. We both understand that will not happen. But I feel peace in knowing that he has faith in me. He knows I will miss him. And, I know he forgives the reasons why we can’t say goodbye in person.

Life rarely ever happens as we expect.

So, my friends, please allow me to say goodbye here. He will read it.

Dear Friend,

Words are meaningless here. But they are all I have. Forgive me.

I met you when my children were younger. We were both in difficult places in our lives and we shared so much about our love for life, our need for change and how we would get there. I know your road was difficult. But I loved that our conversations ended on a positive note every time.

I know you finally found the peace you so deserved. Yet, my heart breaks knowing you won’t get more time to enjoy that new life space.

Now you have limited time remaining on this earth.  And, I’m heart-broken. Losing you will send a shockwave through our community. We will be affected by your leaving. You meant something to many.

I know very little of these last few months. But, I know that you are surrounded with people who love you. They are flawed, as we all are, but they love you. I know you know that.

I’ve learned that death is not an end. It’s a transition. A migration. A change. A new birth.

And so it is with you. You may not realize all the impacts you have had on this world. Or you may feel that they are insignificant. But, I know otherwise. Because you have impacted my life significantly. No one who was touched by you will ever forget you.

So, let me thank you for our experiences together. Thank you for the gift of appreciating every moment I have – an unintended consequence of your illness. Thank you for having faith in me. It helped me move forward in ways I could not have imagined.

Goodbye my friend.  I value all that you are. I will always treasure the scar I am left with by your leaving.

I pray for your peaceful transition.

Love,

Jessica

 

 

“Jessica, What’s happening with the dating thing?”

This is a question I seem to get frequently — and, I’ve been pretty clear here in this blog that such a topic is outside the scope of these 500 words. 🙂  But it brings up a point I’ve been thinking about quite a bit and actually watching with my friends who are in long-term relationships.

Look, we are generally getting to that stage where our kids are getting older and our relationships are getting longer and inevitably getting a bit less exciting.  Which means that lately I’ve seen some friends decide that their current “situation” is no longer the right situation and I’ve seen some friends decide that they will stick with their “situation” even in times of significant trials.  What gives? What makes one work and one not. Inquiring minds want to know. What’s the secret sauce?

In listening to my close friends I’ve come up with a few common themes. I think they go with any relationship – and there many kinds of important relationships – so, who can’t use a tip or two?

  1. Great relationships are realistic. There will be days, months and years where the imperfections of our partners are in the fore. And being realistic about those imperfections (and admitting that we have them too) is the only way to keep a relationship healthy. We should idolize our partner, but remember they really are human.
  2. Real partners say they are sorry.  It is not and should not be the hardest word.
  3. Respectful partners argue but argue gently. It’s not whether we argue (we will). It’s how we argue. I was once in a relationship where someone would call me some pretty brutal names during an argument. I completely lost respect for him. Don’t do it. Your relationship days will be dark and numbered.
  4. Long standing relationships seem to have partners that show their appreciation. People in happy marriages feel appreciated, loved, and respected. My feeling is we can never go wrong when we tell our partners what we love about them.
  5. My favorite partnerships are those where the partners laugh together. Couples who laugh together and regularly reminisce about funny times tend to be much more satisfied with their relationships.
  6. The best ones (in my humble opinion) are selfless. I see more relationships end because of selfishness than any other reason. Surveys blame it on finances, lack of commitment, infidelity, or incompatibility, but the root cause for these reasons is selfishness. A selfish person is committed only to himself or herself, shows little patience, and never learns how to be a successful partner. End of story.

It is a simple proposition to value our relationships, treat them with great care, and invest into them daily. I’m talking ALL relationships. Being in one requires nearly every bit of ourselves, but it’s so worth it. After all, happy and healthy relationships are far more valuable than most of temporary things we chase after every day of our lives. And they last forever.

XO

One carpet cleaner, three hotels, five schools and a partridge in a pear tree.

Life happens. It happens when you expect it and when you least expect it. Although I have a year left, I’m already sad about my guys leaving. I miss my daughter but am having the most amazing time with my boys. I can’t complain one bit – not even when I have to cancel a well planned trip.

As some of you know, it’s no easy feat to schedule these college visits. You try to fit as much in as you can, missing the least amount of school and spending the least amount of time in a car. We were heading east. My guys haven’t been to any schools out east and they are (sadly 🙂 ) a possibility for one or both. So I got it all set. Six schools – five after flying to Boston – and then a trip to U Penn. We were excited!

So, I got it all arranged: tours at three schools in Boston (and two with my second daughter showing us around).  Two different hotels and a car. Then a flight to Philly and car, a hotel and a tour.  Seriously, took me a day to plan.

Cue – Life.

Packing at the last minute the night before our trip – one of the boys isn’t hungry. He goes to bed early and I think to myself – “He’s going to get sick.”  Sure enough, it’s midnight and the poor kid comes upstairs to tell me that he threw up and couldn’t make it to the bathroom. Good lord.

Yup the norovirus. Super brutal and after being up with him all night, I got him to sleep in the guest room, called the carpet cleaner and started cancelling all the hotels, flights, cars, etc. The other, totally panicked that he would get sick, seemed to find ways to be out of the house for about two days. And when home – spent most of it in his room. I can hardly blame him.

As could be expected, I joined my blond boy two days later but thankfully he was on the mend and I was not going to get as sick as he did. So, here we are – supposed to be on our flight to Philly right now and instead we are finally standing in front of the fridge 4 days later trying to decide if we can find just one thing that sounds good to our still slightly queasy stomachs.

Life. It hits you when you least expect it. But I can’t complain. It’s another chance for me to be a mom. (love)

Wash your hands my friends. 🙂

XOXO