Really, where do I start?
March has been brutal, in like a lion, out like a lamb. It’s an old saying to describe the March’s weather and while it’s true in the upper Midwest that’s not the reference I am making.
It’s been a while since I started a post, even longer since I finished and published one. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, it’s that I’ve been distracted and not sure what to say and write.
I’ve been thinking about what ‘making the days count’ really means the past few months going back to this this past summer. I’ve been a in writing drought of sorts. Four posts in six months.
A friend of mine recently shared with me that he thought I was ‘one of the most positive people’ he knew. The compliment buoyed my spirits at a time when I needed a boost.
It’s spring break and I am, or rather, we are in the Florida Keys for a week of rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. I know I am need of all three.
Four weeks ago, tomorrow morning, I opened my Five Minute Journal and was greeted by,
“Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.” Ann Brashares.
It was the day I knew, we all knew, was ahead of us.
I typed in the three things I was thankful for and the three things that would make the day an amazing day before getting ready for the day ahead.
I was talking to my brother while I drove to school for the Science Olympiad competition. He interrupted me to tell me he’d have to call me back, he had an incoming call on the other line.
When he called back a few minutes later, he told me what I already knew or suspected, that our mom had passed away peacefully earlier in the morning.
My mom had been ill for a while and her passing was not a surprise.
My mom and my brothers live in southeast Texas where we grew up. Late last summer, mom sold the home we grew up in and where she lived in for 51 years. She sold it because she could no longer manage the home, the gardening or the maintenance, like she wanted. I think she knew, too that it was time. She moved in to a senior’s only apartment complex.
We all helped her pack and move. In mid-August I flew down for a short weekend and helped sort and pack. The next weekend my two brothers and their families packed her home of 51 years, loaded into a U-Haul, and moved her across town to her new home.
A couple of weeks after moving, she fell. She was hospitalized and then was transferred to a nursing home in order to get stronger before being able to return home alone. A month later she was well enough and strong to return to her apartment. It lasted less than a week before she was back in the hospital, again. And then back to a nursing home to regain her strength. Except this time, she didn’t get stronger.
I was able to visit mom over the Thanksgiving holiday and talk with her and provide encouragement for her to get stronger. We played cards, Connect Four, and talked. Even though my second knee surgery was a week away, mom did the encouraging urging me to do the exercises and get stronger myself.
After Christmas, her health declined even further and I returned for a visit again in late January for a weekend to help my brothers move her belongings out of her apartment and into storage.
It was wonderful to see her, but I knew the time was coming. Time for our mom came Saturday, March 2nd some time before dawn.
I spent the first full week of March in Houston with my brothers planning our mother’s memorial service and grieving our loss together.
When I was putting my remarks for my mom’s service together, I thought of three words – orange, resourcefulness, and family. Over the past four weeks, I’ve thought of those words and many more which describe her life so well and what she taught my brothers and I.
Since then it’s been a whirlwind of sorts. Really, it’s been a whirlwind since late summer. My school and my students have been a rock.
So, I started. It’s a beginning. yesterday morning, I took off in the rental car. There are only two ways to go from where we are – east to Miami or west to Key West. I drove west across the Seven Mile Bridge and past Bahia Honda before turning around. I stopped at the approach to the old Bahia Honda Bridge, got out and walked around. I was intrigued by the remains of an old withered tree on the shoreline. Hurricane Irma had blasted the area in September 2017 and the roadside park was one of many of Irma’s victims. That lone tree along the Atlantic Ocean shoreline seemed to capture how I felt and how I feel.
It’s hard to put into words, but I know my mom would expect me to move on and make my days count. I am doing so and in the words of a friend, “Clay, you are the most positive person I know.” I have been looking to the positive and I have made the past week count in more ways than I can describe. There are a couple days remaining of spring break, another day here, then home and back to school.
I know I’ll continue to make my days count, it’s what mom taught me to do and to be: optimistic, resourceful, for family, and of course, orange. Making the Days Count, one day after another because that’s how they come.
What’s taken you a while to do lately?
18 thoughts on “Where do I start?”
Clay, I’m so sorry for your loss. Wishing you peace. And I also think you’ve carved out an encouraging and positive space here.
Coleen – I am so sorry for the delay in my response to your comment. Thank you for the encouragement. I am planning and hoping to carve our space this summer to begin a new journey – nine years later on a similar path. I know today is gonna be a wonderful day. Hope yours is, too.
May I offer my condolences, dear friend. Losing a mother must be the 2nd hardest thing to losing your child. Especially when said mother was such a positive and strong influence!
My first husband‘s mum liked her Senior Residence so much that, when she learned (after a third fall with care hospital afterwards) she couldn‘t return to her ‚home‘, she decided to let herself die. I‘m sure and convinced that she did this unconsciously. She was a Christian to the core, but she just didn‘t eat anymore. She was never hungry, so, effectively, she let herself die… I also remember clearly that I visited her one last time at her hospital room before leaving for a long-planned vacation. I sat by her bed, she was so small and white, I held her hand, stroked her arms and told her good bye. I asked her to confirm that she ‚heard‘ me (in her coma) so that we could take leave of each other. And she gave me two minuscule signs I asked her to perform if possible: a tiny movemet of her finger(s) and/or a sign of eye(s). I got both…. it was a wonderful last contact with a great mum-in-law and I‘ll treasure those memories forever. Made me think of how your mum just maybe didn‘t want to return to another place than her home of 51 years…. But whatever, although she left a grieving family, she also left you a wonderful testimonial of courage, faith, positivism and strength.
I wish you well, time to heal and the strength to carry in, positive and cheerful, being your best to your family and school children. God bless
Kiki I am sorry that I have taken so long to respond to your comment – I’ve read it many times but just didn’t have the courage or time to reply. Thank you for the encouragement. The day of our mom’s memorial service we gathered afterwards at the lot where our home once stood and took a family photo. It’s on my desk to remind me of the importance of family and our roots. Thank you and have a wonderful day.
I’m just very sorry to hear of your loss.
Thank you – I am too. I am often reminded of my mom’s resilience and positivity. I am working my way back – I hope you have a wonderful day. Peace.
Thanks and all the best to you in that journey.
I’m so sorry to learn about your mother. She could well have chosen, if she’d been asked, to go before she became truly enfeebled. You have good memories to go back to. And she taught you to stay positive!
Yes she did. I’ve been focussing on the good the past few weeks. Thank you. I agree with you about passing, but we can’t choose. She was an amazing influence on me – I miss the phone calls just to check in and say hello. Every day is a new day – I am thankful, have a great day and fabulous week.
Well, you asked the question: “What’s taken you a while to do lately?” — for me, it’s been coming to terms with some facts. I keep asking for some sort of “sign” that I’m doing the right thing. The truth is, I’ve been getting “signs” all along, I just wasn’t paying attention. It hit me so hard when I realized it — I started laughing. Then crying. And it felt good. And scary. It’s taken me a long time to accept it — that what I’m doing pursuing my life/my career — just the way I want too – is exactly right and perfect. I’d get more detailed, but that’s the gist. I want to add this: you’re probably right of course, your mom would have wanted you to move on and make the days count… but it’s also okay to grieve however you need too. Both of those things are not mutually exclusive. You can do both. Be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself — you are allowed to be sad, to be happy, to miss her, to find joy in her life, and to miss her all over again — you are allowed to be human. Sending you so much love and peace — thank you for your post. I’m making the days count so much more now that I’ve come to terms with some truths, and your post was another sign, a validation I didn’t know I needed.
Carmen, thank you for the kind words.Each day has been different. the first week back at school was particularly challenging because the students were worried about me – they knew my mom was not well, in fact two of my student’s grandmothers passed a few days before my mom did. We had a lot of empathy going on. Thank you for the encouragement – today is going to be a great day. Peace.
Oh Clay, I am so very sorry for your loss. I think the loss of a mother is the worst kind of loss. It hurts so much. I hope you’ll always find time to remember those special moments about your mother that will make only you smile. No one else will get it, but you’ll know. I hope you have lots of those moments in the future.
And always remember, there is no right or wrong way to heal. That process is different for everyone.
Hugs to you. Stay strong. Take care of yourself. Your mother seemed like such a kind and gentle soul.
w/a Jansen Schmidt
Patricia – thank you for the encouragement. Memories have buoyed me the past few weeks and they come and go.I’ll be driving, or sitting, or simply being and thought will cross my mind and I’ll smile. The last six months were unkind to her, the previous 80 were full of great time. We build a life by doing and being. i’ll stick to that… have a great day. Peace.
I have to say that I agree with your friend, you are the most positive person I knew, too. You would be surprised how many times I look at the state of the world and have to remind myself of your words: make the days count.
I am truly sorry about your mother’s passing.
Thank you, Mary. My mom taught me, it’s really up to me. There were many hard lessons then but I am glad she held her ground. She taught me that it was up to me, no one else – so I needed to make it happen. I am glad I have the memories of here last few birthdays we spent together. They mean so much. Thanks again and I know sunnier days are ahead. Peace.
My sincerest sympathy for your loss. My father left us last August. It gets easier with time, and I can now talk to my siblings without ending in tears. Sending hugs your way!
Ingrid – I am so sorry to hear about your dad. I know what you mean about talking to your siblings – both of my brothers live close to where my mom was and I got daily reports and conversations with them. Since her passing, our daily conversations have shifted to weekly conversations where we catch up, All three of us got a weekend away from home last weekend – doing different things – I went to the seashore for spring break, another spent time with his wife at a cabin on a lake, and the other spent time working the race track. We all took time to recharge and reboot. each day is different and I am filled with the many great times we had. Have a wonderful week exploring the west! Peace.