Mother

Grief as a Teacher

photo by Casey Keal

photo by Casey Keal

Grief can play with your mind and your perception of the way events happened.  The tricks of the mind can lead to feelings of regret and guilt, hurt and betrayal, and leave you with a feeling of loss that can drive you to your knees at times.

All week the residual feelings of the grief felt earlier this week have been with me.  I finally got to the point I was asking “what is it I’m supposed to see or learn here?” “What am I missing, and why am I feeling this way?”

By asking these type of questions the feeling of distress is lifted a bit so that I can see what I need see instead of lingering on thoughts of how I wish things had been.  My girls are teenagers and the oldest is getting ready to move on with her life.  She is trying to find her way, changing her mind, debating what she wants, and taking her first steps forward.

Through the other milestones with my kids, my mom has been here.  She was my voice of encouragement, my voice of reason, the person that would laugh at my worrying and say, “karma works.” 

I think of all the times I was out too late at night, talking on the phone and tying up the line (before the age of personal cell phones), trying to find my way and changing my mind, and often driving my mom crazy with my ideas and dreams.

There are days when I feel lost without mom, yet I know her words, her wisdom and her love live on in me.  I will not forget, Mom, I will remember and we will go forward.

Cherry Coley (c)

I Want My Mommy!

Today I miss my mom.  It’s not that I don’t miss her every day, but today the gaping hole in my chest where my parents used to be was hurting more. 

I had been doing so much better, I was moving forward, getting things done and looking forward to the future and SLAM, grief strikes again.  I hate that. 

Grief has a way of popping up at times and turning the world upside down when you least expect it.  It’s just the way it works unfortunately.  The name of this round of grief is called – “things I wish I’d done differently.”  The worst part of this round was not thinking of the things I would have done differently with my parents, (I went thru that part last year). 

This was about things I wish I’d done differently in other areas of my life, with my ex-husband, my kids, my school days, and all the time I wasted doing stuff that didn’t really matter or turn out the way I wanted in the end. 

My kids are growing up so fast and I still have questions, but no more answers.  There are things that they bring up and do that I don’t know how to approach, so I make suggestions and do research.  I feel inadequate at times, though I know it’s not true. 

If my mom were here she would listen to my worries and insecurities and tell me to “suck it up,” and “karma works,” then smile and even laugh at me because I put her through many of the same issues and how well I remember that. 

The things we thought were so fun as kids – like staying out too late, and talking on the phone all night, are not so funny as a parent.  Life is a circle, that’s for sure.

I am thankful for the time I had with my mom and my dad.  I’m thankful they always had my best interests at heart, even though they didn’t always understand me. 

I am thankful I have two daughters, that remind me that life goes on and sometimes you have to look back to appreciate where you came from before you can go forward. 

Cherry Coley (c)

Doctor Doctor!

doctorsexterioraerial300Today I am thankful for doctors.  I spent a lot of time in hospitals with my mom over the years.  She was a 3 time cancer survivor and had other health problems that came about due to the lingering effects of the chemotherapy she had to endure.

 I am thankful for the care and kindness of the nurses that would come in and check on us, and the doctor taking the time to explain the parts of the treatment that we didn’t understand.  I am also thankful for the Chaplains who would take the time to come by and visit with mom when we couldn’t be there.

 In some of the hospitals the rooms were made where you could stay overnight if you wanted which was really nice.  I am thankful that both my parents had good attitudes while they were in the hospital which also helps. 

I had to have cesarean sections with both of my daughters.  I am thankful for the skill and care of the nurses and doctors that made sure that we were all healthy and well cared for. 

 I don’t really like to be in hospitals because they bring back so many memories, but I am thankful that we have hospitals and that they are available when we need them.  I am thankful for all the men and women who work tirelessly, under paid and many time underappreciated to give us that good care that is needed.

I do not have the stomach or the temperament to be a doctor or a nurse, but I am thankful there are people that do. When was the last time you stopped to think about your doctor and nurse as people, with homes and loved ones of their own?  I know there have been times when I called after hours and my doctor took the time to call me back to answer my questions.  That was time taken away from his family.  Take a moment today to send your doctor a thank you note, or a card of encouragement, you will make their day and remind them that what they do really does make a difference.

Cherry Coley (c)

Facing Fears

Dark forest

Dark forest

I faced another fear today.  You see, I used to have a major fear of getting up in front of people.  When I was growing up I was forced to sing solo many times in church.  I hated that.  I have the kind of singing voice that goes well with a duet or choir, but solo’s are not my thing.

I was also in drama growing up which didn’t go that well either.  I had some mishaps on stage and most of the time I couldn’t make myself speak loud enough to be heard.  Yet, after I had my kids something changed.  Suddenly I was “mom” and mom’s can’t cower in corners from monsters under the bed, or spiders on the wall, they have to face fears and protect their children.

When my kids were still little I did a Christmas play, I only had a small speaking part, and just as I was about to get that familiar stage fright, I remembered that I had to speak to classrooms of kids regularly, referee, and protect my kids from bullies so why should I be afraid of saying a few words in front of people?

Still, today was a big step for me.  I have felt like I should tell my story to others.  After all when you’ve been through so much in life, you should share your experiences, maybe it will help someone else.  I have gained some confidence in sharing things on blogs and social media, but that’s not the same as truly putting yourself in front of other people.

Today I shared part of my life’s journey in church.  I feel like I did ramble a bit, but over all it went pretty well.  When I stepped up I felt the old familiar fear, and all week I almost talked myself out of it, but there was a part of me that refused. I need to face my fears, they are self-made obstacles that have held me back for far too long.

A funny happens when you face fears, they dissipate just like that, they are gone.  I was nervous going up to the podium, then suddenly I wasn’t afraid anymore.  One fear down, many more to go.  One big step forward to what might be a very interesting future.

Take time this year to look at the things that have held you back in your life.  Are they real fears or are they self-made obstacles?  Take a chance and find out, false fears can’t hold their ground when you stand up to them.  Realize that the only limits you have are the one’s you’re placing on yourself.  Choose to make this year count!

Cherry Coley (c)

 

Thankful for Family

Today I am thankful for my children.  Though they sometimes make my head spin and cause messes, they are also the two people who keep me going at times when I’d really rather stop. 

 I can’t say that we are perfect in the way we approach things, we definitely fall out of what is considered the “norm.”  Still home is a place where we can all find comfort, joy, and peace. 

 I am thankful for our family, though we are few; we still stick together and help each other.  I also appreciate my extended family.  Those people who are my friends and as close as family, I would not be able to function without them. 

There’s no such thing as loving someone too much.  Take a moment today to let the people in your life know how much they mean to you.  Don’t let the opportunity to say I love you pass you by. 

Cherry Coley ©

Thank You For a Past to Grow On

Today I am thankful for indoor plumbing and appliances.  As mundane as that sounds I remember all too well the stories my mom used to tell of having to walk to the well, or the creek to get water to cook with or bathe with.  Imagine having to heat water on the stove then trying to fill up the bathtub enough to take a bath before it all got cold.

 I heard a lot of stories how my parents would have to go to the creek in the winter to get water to cook with and have to break the ice first before filling their buckets.  Many days the meals consisted of cornbread and milk.  They had oatmeal, but not always sugar.  Their meat they got from hunting or fishing. 

 In the mornings my mom and my aunt would have to go collect the eggs from the chickens.  My mom hated to do that because sometimes snakes would crawl in the nest and swallow the eggs underneath the terrified hen. 

 They learned to survive in the harsh winters up in the mountains of Arkansas, to share and to take care of each other.  Coats, clothes, shoes were all precious and taken care of so they would last for a long while.  My mother learned to sew and made many of the clothes for the family.

 Amazing the amount of progress we’ve made in just a few generations, going from a wood stove and an actual “ice” box where you put a large cube of ice in it to keep a few things cool to microwaves, toasters, mixers, refrigerators, washing machines, a myriad of coffee machines, and ovens you can turn on with a dial and not much thought.

 I am thankful for all the stories they told of how hard life was and the obstacles they had to face just in day to day life.  Even the stories of being afraid of go to the outhouse after dark for fear of animals and snakes, not to mention a practical joker for a brother. 

Today I am thankful for all the creations that we have become so used to having that we take them for granted every day.  Let us not forget where we came from and how far we’ve come.  By keeping our roots in mind we can better see where we are today and the bright hope for the future.  What’s next?  The answer is whatever amazing thing we can dream up.

 Cherry Coley ©

Musicals, My Dad and Me

My parents had a love for the musicals.  My brother performed in several musicals in high school like “Music Man,” “Oklahoma” and “South Pacific.”  It was when I was working at the bookstore and musicals were first available on video that we all acquired a nice appreciation and greater love for them.

 My dad and I loved “Singing in the Rain” the most, I think.  We would pop some popcorn and watch that movie on nights when it was raining outside and he would go off to bed, singing either “Singing in the Rain” or “Good Morning.”  His other favorite musical of all time was “Anchor’s Aweigh.”  Since he was in the Navy he recognized and sang along with many of the songs, and of course, he loved Gene Kelly.

 I set about collecting all the musicals and Disney movies that B. Dalton Bookseller would let me order.  They were better than just about anything on television even back then.  We both teared up watching Bambi and laughed at memories of Pinocchio.  Pinocchio was my first movie at the movie theatre and it was also the first time I successfully dumped a large coke all over my lap then spilled the popcorn trying to get up, (I was about 4 yrs. old I think).

 I got to watch musicals like “American in Paris,” “Oklahoma,” “Music Man,” “Show Boat,” “South Pacific,” Unsinkable Molly Brown,” “The King and I,” “Carousel,” “The Sound of Music,” “State Fair,” “Mary Poppins,” and of course the holiday classics like “Holiday Inn” and “White Christmas.”   We watched them, sang with them, and later I shared them with my kids and clapped as they twirled around the room singing and dancing the steps while the music played. 

 My dad loved cartoons too, we spent many hours watching classic cartoons like “Casper”, “Mighty Mouse,” “Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes,” as well as the new musical animation like “Little Mermaid” and “Lion King.”  He was always really happy to babysit the kids because they brought the latest animated movies with them.  He even liked “Jimmy Neutron.”

 I loved watching movies with my dad, he was always so sentimental.  He would tear up like me on the mushy parts and then clear his throat a few times to cover it up.  Yes, he loved the action movies, westerns, and war movies too and watched those quiet often as well, but he had a tender side too and I’m very thankful to have had a dad that was not hesitant to show that.

 Cherry Coley ©

Ending Cycles and Renewal Ahead

A friend of mine told me that when you lose one parent, you are still okay, because you still have the other one.  You hurt, you grieve, but you have someone to share it with and you still have that foundation of where you began.  When the other parent dies then your world is shaken.  When the other parent is gone then you lose a large bit of your soul, your heart and your identity.

I did not experience this at first even though it was only two and a half months between when both of my parents passed away.  No, I went through the gut punches of grief when it knocks you to the floor now and then out of the blue, I have felt lost at times, but that has gradually gotten better.

The actual experience like my friend described hit me in the month of May.  May, the month I was born, and Mother’s day.  It is also the month that see’s the end of another school year. 

It was a humbling thing to realize I would never again celebrate my birthday with my mom.  My birthdays have never been grand or a big deal anyway, but mom always made it a point to make a cake, get a mushy card and a gift of some kind.  She made sure we all did something on THE DAY, not when it was convenient later. 

I found myself distraught on my birthday and the days that followed.  Unable to stop the tears and such a great sense of loss that just would not go away and a heart that felt deeply wounded all over again.  Then in a moment of great sadness I opened a drawer while unpacking and ran across a card.  A birthday card from my mother, it was from last year I think, but it still made me smile. 

This month has proven to be one of the hardest months I have ever lived through.  The passing of time has been so present, so prominent starting with my birthday and ending the month with my oldest daughters’ graduation.  It is a bittersweet time for all of us, as she is having a difficult time with the grief too and fighting back tears that her grandparents won’t be there to see her graduate. 

Yet, it is a time of renewal too because just as it is a notable end to some cycles in this life, the month also marks the beginning of a new cycle, the start of a new path for both of my daughters and myself. 

My oldest daughter will be walking the stage to say goodbye to high school and onto a path of her own choosing including college and the adult choices that she will face along the way.

My youngest daughter is graduating 8th grade and will start her journey through high school and preparing for her future and the dreams she holds dear.

I spent the better part of last week in a muddle, second guessing things I had no real business second guessing because – guess what – my friend was right, you do indeed seem to lose a part of your identity with the loss of both parents.  So it became a time of meditation, prayer, wise counsel, and choosing to remain true to the path I have chosen.

So the hardest month became the darkest tunnel, and now with the beginning of June in sight, the light is shining again.  We go forward, we press on, and we will walk through until we reach the other side and find ourselves, our dreams and each other again.

Cherry Coley ©

Walking in the Dark, Sharing the Light

Paradox – a contradictory situation or circumstance,  circular reasoning that often defies logic. 

I have, on more than one occasion and by more than one person, been called a paradox - usually in a moment of frustration.  Oh, I know the word is not really meant to describe a person, yet still, there are many times I seem to wear the title perfectly.

You see, I am a positive, person with strong faith, a good attitude (most of the time) and a firm grip on what it good and right in the world, who is drawn to darkness.  I went to church every time the doors were open, literally as we just lived 3 blocks away and my mom worked at the daycare.

Yet I preferred to write like Stephen King and could tell horror stories that would often scare the teachers and kids at the daycare, and I’d be sent home or back to sit with the quilting bee ladies to learn more about God and what was right.

My poor mom spent so many long hours praying for me and that I would find my way.  The truth is, I never lost my way, Mom.  Yes, I have walked dark paths, I have been in places that many would not go, but I never lost my faith.  In fact, the testing of that faith is what makes me strong now and brings me through the darkest nights.  I have no doubt that your prayers were heard.

Yet, I am still a paradox.  One that still walks in the dark with a mere candle for light.  It is what I do.  I do my best to help the weary, the hurting, those lost and searching, I don’t profess to have all the answers.  I too am searching.  I am simply there to walk with when the need arises, that is what the journey is about – walking the path, whether it’s through a sunny field or a dark forbidding forest - together. 

Cherry Coley (c)