Monday, February 20, 2017

Hard Things

I don't like to do hard things, but.

There are different types of hard things.

Hard Things 1: Things like slogging through the aftermath of my bout with cancer as I dealt with the effects of that damn shot. (Last week marked five years, cancer free! Yay, me!) It was hard, the days were long, my brain was foggy, my heart and body were tired. The best I can say about it was I got through it.

Hard Things 2: Things like helping Juliann to deal with Maria's death a couple of weeks ago. I've been wanting to ride in on my white horse and rescue that child for years. (Not that she needed rescuing, she has grit and determination and smarts enough to rescue herself.)

But as Maria's liver gave up functioning, and the end she both feared and wished for came to claim her soul, I decided the time was now.

Juliann did a marvelous job of taking care of her mom during the last few years of her life, but it's a whole 'nother level of hard to clean up the pieces after someone dies. This is where I gave myself permission to ride on in. Hi, Ho, Silver!

I spent a week helping Juliann clean up.

One day, we went over to Maria's and picked up every piece of paper we could find in the place. I spent the next two evenings sorting through - working to find the car title, the outstanding bills, the stuff that needed to be dealt with. I threw out bag after bag of old checks and bank statements that no longer had relevance. I smiled as I went through a box of Juliann and Connor's old school papers. I set some personal papers aside to be read later, once the dust has settled and hearts have healed.

I helped pack up Maria's apartment. This to Goodwill, this to Juliann's garage to look through later, these things back to the people who had loaned it to her, this to the trash.

The day after the move, my sister-in-law and I went back and gave the place a thorough cleaning.

After we were done, when I went back to Juliann's and handed her the keys, I was physically and emotionally exhausted, but in a good way. Finally, I was able to make her life a little easier, a little better. Because I'd been able to lift a few of the burdens off her slim and tired shoulders, she had the energy she needed to make the decisions only she could make.

As I got back on my white horse to ride off into the sunset, I decided I couldn't have asked for better payment for helping with a week full of hard things.

Hi, Ho, Silver!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Goodbye, Maria

Maria John  1965 - 2017
How do I begin to say goodbye to my little sister?

She struggled with alcoholism for years, and lost the battle a week ago.  

Alcoholism is a cruel disease. It kills slowly and eats away at the mind while it tilts the body's systems beyond repair.

She was beautiful, intelligent and generous, and loved her children more than anything else in the world. But her disease destroyed her censors and brought out her dark side and drove her to actions and words she deeply regretted when she was sober.

Her disease took away her home and her laughter. It drove her to lose daily contact with her children. It stole her joy, her bright wit, and at the end, it took her beauty.

I'm not used to feeling so much anger swirling around someone's death. But as my sister-in-law said this morning, anger stems from a sense of injustice - and there was so much that was unjust around her last years. I can feel the anger, hot in my belly - but I loved her anyways - and we all did.

And, Grace Is.

This morning, all of my family who were able to be there gathered to empty Maria's apartment of the boxes we'd packed over the past few days. Her daughter was delayed, and stepped from her car to find herself surrounded by people who loved her and who had come to help. The scene was far from one she'd envisioned - the one where she labored alone to carry the boxes down the long unsteady straight flight of twenty stairs because the family still wouldn't come. She took one look around at the crowd and her eyes filled with tears - tears she couldn't wouldn't allow to fall. It took a little less than an hour for the eighteen of us to empty the three rooms of all their contents, Juliann's eyes bright with unshed tears the whole time. Her eyes reflected the tears hiding behind my own.

Tears of sadness, tears of forgiveness. Tears of love, tears of regret.

Her disease built walls between Maria and her family. This morning, some of those walls took a serious battering. It's hard to hold righteous anger in your heart when you are surrounded by love.

Maria's funeral is scheduled for March 10th. She didn't want her farewell to this world to happen in the cold and dark days of February. In this, I agree with her. Easier to say this final goodbye with the promise of new life and new beginnings in the air.

Sleep in peace, Maria. May your soul and your body finally be at rest.
And, yes, as I promised, I will do all I can to be there for your children.
I love you...