To live in hearts we leave behind, is not to die.
Throughout my life there have been very few things that remained constant. Very few things that I could trust in. From childhood until recently the one constant I could always believe in, trust in and know with total uncertainty would always love me, be there for me, was my
grandmother, Marnie. From childhood it became very evident that she and I were cut from the same cloth. The older I got and the more time I had with her, solidified this. She was a caregiver, a fighter, a rock. In her quiet and unassuming way, she led a life that was never easy, filled with trails and hardships that for a long time she alone carried. She would sit and listen for hours to anyone that needed her, never letting on that she too carried life’s burden.
I know that she was not perfect. She had made mistakes over the years, as we all have. She drank at times to mask her pain, to hide from life. Looking back now that I am older, I wish I had seen it earlier, she hid it well. I don’t fault her for this, life takes its toll and she, as strong as she was, was no exception. But she loved, she lived, she laughed. She would find the humor in the darkest of moments. She taught me what it was to be a fighter, taught me that our reasons for being on this earth were to help others. That regardless of how hard life was, how beat down we felt, to reach out and help someone else, is why we were here. And in doing this, somehow along the way, we healed ourselves.
As the years went on, she and I were so close. With a home life that was far from stable, I would often spend weeks and months at a time with her and my grandfather. We would go for ice creams, play cards at the kitchen table, watch reruns of the Andy Griffith show. She loved that I could whistle the entire theme song. We would sit on the front porch and drink coffee and just talk. When my grandfather became ill, together we took care of him. She helped me to see that I too was a caregiver. She helped me to have faith in myself. At the end of his life, it was she and I that stayed up all night with him, talking softly to him. We were together
when he quietly died. Our bond cemented not only in life, but also now in death. His passing was peaceful and at home and I swore to her, that when the day came, it would be the same for her.
Years seem to fly by. I got older, as did she. But we never lost that bond. My husband and I married on her birthday; she gave him her wedding ring to give to me. She made a bet with me (she was always betting $5 on something) that she could make it through the whole wedding day without crying. All through the ceremony, the luncheon after, I kept sneaking glances, no tears. We had planned a surprise for her, a cake and a party hat and presents to be served after our wedding. We all sang happy birthday to her, all the while I kept looking for those tears.. Stubborn old bat, never shed a tear. She put the $5 I gave her in the frame from our place setting with a little note saying “HAHA I didn’t cry.” I have it still today.
As the years went on, she continued to play such a huge part in our lives. My stepson and husband quickly forged bonds with her that will never fade. She would flirt relentlessly with Marc (hubby) just to get him to blush; they would go back and forth and have each other laughing so hard the tears would stream down their faces. She sold her house after my grandfather died, moving in with my mother. She had her own little apartment built, with pink carpeting and a fireplace. Marc and I moved in as well, to help out with the house and to be close to her. She and I would have a smoke and a coffee every morning before I left for work and a visit every day when I got home. I would cook for her and she would iron anything she could get her hands on. She was the ironing queen. Our son would go spend hours with her, playing Uno and watching TV. He worshiped her and she him.
When we got the news that she was sick, she was just shy of 82. She had worked right up until this time. For years taking care of the elderly as she called them, most 20 years her junior, she even babysat for a new born, going everyday to their house to watch the baby so his parents could work. She loved that little baby, always telling us stories, and tales of his latest accomplishments.
She never, ever grew old, not mentally anyway. She never lost her independence, her humor or her strength.
Cancer. She chose quality of life over length. Choosing to live what time she had left surrounding by her family and her friends. Watching this illness, slowly wear away at her body; hurt me worse than I ever knew possible. But she made it so easy for all of us, never losing her sense of humor, even on the worst days. She planned on seeing her 83rd birthday, she guaranteed us that. For her 83rd birthday we bought her scratch tickets, one for every year of her life and a few more. She laughed so hard as she went through the stack of tickets, saying how she never won on those damn things, but she took so much joy in the possibility.
We had one final Christmas with her, one I will never forget. On Christmas eve, I had brought home a batman mask and cape. We had called her the old bat for as long as I could remember, she loved it. When she needed a walker to help her, we had a sign made that called it the “Bat
Mobile”. She and I made everyone close their eyes; she put on the mask and cape and proceeded to pose for the next 30 minutes. We laughed so hard we cried. Little did we know that in less than a month’s time, she would be gone. Once Christmas was over, she went downhill fast. We put a hospital bed in her living room, facing the big window. She was never alone. It was time for me to live up to that promise of taking care of her. It was her time. Oh,
she made it so easy. I remember at one point, when she couldn’t drink unassisted, I had gotten a sippy cup for her, our first attempted had failed as I had no idea there were plastic stoppers on the inside preventing her from getting any of the water. Once corrected, I tried again; I looked down at her and asked her if she was getting any? She looked up at me, grinned and said “Not lately”. This is who she was, even faced with death she found the strength for humor. As the days dwindled down to hours, she slowly became more at peace. She slept, spoke little. The day before she died, she was suddenly very alert, she grabbed my hand and motioned for me to bend down, as she rubbed my cheek, she whispered, Thank you. Thank you for taking care of me like you promised, I love you. This woman, who had given me everything for my entire life, who was on death’s doorstep, giving me one more gift. I would have done anything for her, but all she wanted, all she ever needed was, just me.
Today marks the 2nd anniversary of her passing. There is not a day that goes by when I do not think of her. It was my privilege to have had such an amazing woman, teach me, guide me, love me. I only hope that I can live my life as she, taking care of others, being strong and always, always remembering to find the humor, even in the darkest of life’s moments.
Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look
back and realize they were the big things.
I am sitting here this evening at my kitchen table, writing on my laptop. I have a nice PC downstairs with a comfy chair and big desk, but I like being upstairs in the kitchen for some reason. I do my best writing here. I was pausing for a moment lost in thought, when I started looking around my home, started listening to the going ons in the living room where my husband and stepson are watching football and hanging out. I actually stopped everything I was doing and just took it all in. My home filled with memories, treasures and keepsakes, my family and the general ambiance that is my life. I found myself sighing and smiling all at the same time. I realized how content and happy that I am. Which after the past 34 years, is more of a triumph then I realized til just now. To say that the past couple of years have been 'trying' would be an understatement, at 34 years old I feel like I have the soul of someone who has lived twice that. It has taken alot to get to this moment. Alot of tears, loss, struggles and fight. I appreciate those small moments in time when everything is peaceful and more importantly content. I try day by day to trust in these moments, to accept that maybe from now on, this is what will be. But I find that it is hard. When your life has been turmoil for a long time, a sudden reprieve is really hard to trust in. These small moments in time when I can hear my husband yelling at the refs on TV and the laughter of my son at how excited his dad is getting, when I can look around and think of happy memories associated with the belongings we have acquired over the years. I sigh.
The road to this moment has really never been smooth. More of a dirt backroad, bumpy, rocky, with cliffs on one side and trees on the other. Lots of forks in the road, twists and turns and mountains. With an occasional stretch of smoothness, that usually lead to a serious of switchbacks. The Road of Life. I really wish looking back, I could have had a road map. If only it worked out that way. Of course thinking now, there really isn't anything that I would change, because it made me who I am today, brought me to where I am today and has taught more about myself, others and life, then a smooth road would never have done. I can appreciate what I have right this moment, feel it in my soul, because I know what being without this feels like.
There are essentials to a happy life, something to do, something to love, something to hope for, something to believe in. Happiness and sadness tend to run parallel to each other. When one takes a rest, the other one tends to take up the slack. But to even come close to being happy you have got to do one thing. You have to make peace with yourself and where you came from. You have to come to terms with everything that has happened to get you to this moment, every tear, every triumph, every trial. You have to consciously work on it. Ignoring it, "forgetting it", burying it, never ever work. Because it is always there, just waiting for that weak moment to come forward again. It takes strength and courage. You have to want it.
The little things ARE the big things in life. A night at home with my family, the laughter of my son, the armchair coaching from my hubby, the coziness and warmth. These little things are what makes me happy and content.
Frederick Koenig said it best when he said....
We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.
It is also appreciating all that I have done to get here.
You really can't love unconditionally. People can burn and beat love out of you.
They really can kill it, and it's not your fault you don't feel it any more, and
how liberating it is to finally realize that. Love isn't for better or worse,
through thick or thin. It damn well shouldn't be..
Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Red Mist. By:Patricia Cornwell
Everyone is always searching for that elusive unconditional love. The older I get the more I realise that it is a myth. The premise that unconditional love is impossible, will have some people shaking their heads at me, I know. But if you stop and think about it, how can you love another person without conditions. Why would you really even want to? It is the ultimate sacrifice of you. To give someone that much control really is to say, go ahead hurt me, lie to me, abuse me, use me and I will still love you. Ummm, no. Well not in my world anyway. I love my husband with every ounce of my being. I love his good points, his strength, his integrity, his dedication and I love his flaws...the ever procastinating, the channel flipping, the hours he works. I love all of him. I don't try to change him, mold him or want him to be anything other than who and what he is. I love him unconditionally..with conditions. I love the man he is and the man he wants to be. Unless that man one day decides to hurt me, then its game over. People never walk into a relationship and settle down expecting the worse to happen, ok well most of us don't.. but as the adage goes, Shit Happens. If one day he were to morph into Captain Asshole, then those conditions would come into play.
Love should mean, love me for me, flaws and all. Don't try to change me into someone else, trust in me, challenge me, allow me to grow. Love my independence and my spontaniety. It should mean that you can count on me to always be faithful, always love you for who you are, to always challenge you and be excited to watch you grow. I will unconditionally love you for you, unless that you changes for the worse and then well, there are conditions. Man or woman doesn't matter, we all should enter into relationships with established conditions, and love unconditionally only as long as those conditions are being met. Why would you sacrifice yourself, allow your self to be abused, because you unconditionally love your partner, husband, wife, lover? There is no honor in selling yourself short.
For better or worse, through thick and through thin, in this day in age are being taken totally to literal. Granted every relationship has its ups and downs in the normal course of life and that is fine, you weather those and become a stronger couple. Life happens and stress occurs. But if these stresses, lead to your wife cheating on you, or your boyfriend taking all his aggrevations out on you, physically or mentally, then why would you continue on with this person? You can't love without conditions in a marriage or relationship because to do so is like selling your soul.
I asked on my facebook page last week, what people thought about unconditional love. Their answers surprised me not going to lie. They for the most part said it doesn't exist. Unless it was the love of a parent to a child, and even then that doesn't happen all the time. But that is a whole 'nother blog. I think though that I loved one woman's response the best, she said the only unconditional love that existed, was the love of a dog. I think she may be on to something there. I do have to say that there is one form on unconditional love that I do believe in, and that is to love yourself. You may beat yourself up, get angry at yourself over mistakes, but you have to always love yourself. That isn't the easiest thing to do, I know, believe me I know.
Always love unconditionally...with conditions. For the simple reason, you are worth the sun, the moon and the stars...and no one should ever have the power to hurt you.
Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim.
Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself.
The only person in this world that you have 100% control over is yourself. How you react to life, to people, to upsets and happiness is completely dependent on you. Granted your reactions to things that life hurls at you is typically based on your experiences, your past, your inner strengths and weaknesses, however sometimes in life you need to delve past the typical and reach a part of you that remains unexplored.
We all have scars, some visible, most are not. You cannot go through life without getting them. Once they are healed, they are your battle wounds. They symbolize some life lesson, some part of your life that hurt you, but you fought back. Once that scar has healed it is a reminder that even when you aren't feeling particularly strong or feel like fighting, you have before and you can again. To go through life without getting scarred at some point, is not to have lived. How can you truly appreciate the good, without having triumphed over the bad?
There are times in life when silence is called for, taking the high road and not allowing yourself to be pulled into someone's drama, until it comes to the point of you feeling like a victim. Never allow yourself to become victim to another's drama, another's toxic behavior. Their issues are only your issues, if you allow it. Speak up, do not allow yourself to be bullied into silence in order to keep the "peace" or avoid causing ripples. By doing so you place yourself into the victim role and that is no place to live. Never allow yourself to become the victim, take control of yourself, your reactions, and define the role that you want to take.
Over the course of our lives, we will be faced with Toxic People. Its inevitable. It sometimes is easy to allow them in, allow their poison to affect us, at times it seems impossible to get away from them. The hard ones are the ones we are related to, married to, work for. It is in these relationships that the cycle of unhappiness, fear and often self loathing continues round and round like a merry go round you can't get off. Round and round you go, never realizing that there is so much more out there. That you deserve people who respect you and love you. Toxic people are incapable of seeing anything or anyone but themselves. They build themselves up by tearing you down. Some feel trapped, their self confidence eroded over the years, their self esteem so damaged that they have no idea what it is like to feel like they can take on the world. They become the victim of their very own life. By allowing another control over you, how you think, feel or view the world, you are denying the very thing this world needs most, you.