Growing Around the Grief

Growing up, my parents taught me a LOT about gardening. They grew an impressive vegetable garden each year and included me in every aspect of its growth. I’m grateful to have learned the process. So much so, that I’ve carried the practice into my adult life. I’d like to say I’m half the gardener they were, but maybe someday I’ll get there.

Our family’s time-honored tradition of planting occured every year between May 14th-21st for reasons I’ll get to in a minute. I wanted to follow this rule, but was incredibly busy all week in preparation of some pretty important events.

Our family is growing. Hitting me square in the feels, our oldest son Logan arrived smack-dab into adulthood Friday night, graduating from the Mayo Clinic’s Paramedic Medicine Program. That sweet little heart of a boy has grown so much and is ready to save the world one person at a time!

And the family is growing in other directions too…Saturday afternoon, my amazing mother-in-law did an exquisite job of helping me shower Logan’s fiance in a lovely manner. We will soon be adding this beautiful young woman, Anna, into our tribe. Again with the feels, Friends!

So yesterday I needed to decompress, to let it all sink in how quickly this precious life goes by. I found myself out in that garden…boy did that thing need attention to get it planted by my deadline.

See, we used the May 14th-21st span because the frost is generally done by then, an easy rule of thumb for us to remember because those dates are my brother and dad’s birthdays. My dad’s birthday was rolling around again, this the 7th year we’d celebrate without him. These special days so hard to get through, yet I’ve grown, Friends, and I had a plan to observe this year a bit differently.

I’m stronger these days, more grateful for EVERYTHING! I couldn’t help focusing on that gratitude yesterday as I rototilled with the tiller my dad gave me when he stopped gardening. Couldn’t help feeling him holding on because the thing is a BEAST! I planted all my seed vegetables yesterday but saved the seedlings for today.

I purchased my plants just as it began to rain. Drat! But do you know what? I was so determined to finish planting by the 21st that I did it in the rain. He’s probably the one up there who made it rain anyway…he was quite the jokester and why would now be any different. Instead of feeling the familiar heaviness in my heart, I smiled.

I wore one of his favorite shirt jackets, played a playlist of all the songs just like he used to play on the organ, and I got it done. On time! The birds we both love were out there singing too…it was as if he was right there with me, and we had a ball. I can’t wait to watch this garden grow and think he had something to do with it. This felt like the perfect way to spend his day.

Birthdays have always been very special in our family. I look back to one of the last we celebrated with him, and gratitude hits me square in the heart again…

I came upon a video on Facebook the other day that best illustrates how we grieve; it made HUGE sense to me. Check it out here.

I wanted to share it with any of you missing a loved one so much it hurts. As I think back to the pain of missing this guy these past seven birthdays, yet moving forward with an abundant, happy life, it makes perfect sense. I’m growing around the grief.

Happy 82nd Lotus Conrad, thanks for being there today!

 

 

Moving Toward a Greater Good

I know I’ve been really quiet lately, Friends; it’s that time of year for me, I guess. Readers who have been with me for a while know I’ve been struggling for the past six years coming to terms with my dad’s death. Each year as October rolls around, although another year has passed, I find myself feeling that same familiar sting.

 

Remember, I was very much Daddy’s little girl, his continuous shadow here on earth until his very last night.

I’ve been spinning my wheels…in a holding pattern unable to move forward for a while now. So, recently, I did some tough work with my health coach. It was sort of disguised as a weight loss sort of session, but this woman is so gifted at peeling away the layers, tearing clear down to the heart of the matter so effortlessly. I’ve been working with her for the past 5 1/2 years throughout my weight loss journey and beyond.

Much of my struggle keeps coming back to grief and loss. So we did some pretty intense work on it recently. I’m finally coming to terms with the belief that although I grieve for what I lost, I know that a greater good will follow.

Thankfully, my husband and I have been involved in a challenge Walktober through his employer’s wellness program. It is a simple step challenge from Oct 2-Nov 12. I’m grateful I had a goal for this time of year, something to calm my October inner storm. Here’s what happened with that…

I put out an all call for walking buddies and grabbed this bull of a challenge by the horns. Here’s a little proof of the consistency a goal/challenge can afford. I got the job done EVERY SINGLE DAY.

It really helped to have company, gave me someone to catch up with, someone else to think about. Because on the days I was alone, it felt a whole bunch more somber, like this…

So I continued turning over that notion of a greater good following this immense loss I’ve experienced. And I know that can mean a million different things. But something happened, something so unexpected, something far too coincidental to be random, which made that idea crystal clear in my mind.

On the anniversary of my dad’s death a few weeks back, one of my dearest friends lost her mom. And on the anniversary of my dad’s funeral, we came together in Omaha to celebrate her life. The morning of her funeral I took some time to continue work on my step challenge in a most profound way.  The reality of what happened began to sink in.

I was simply astonished. Leave it to God to do something so unique, so healing through someone else’s loss.

This friend has walked supportively beside me throughout my journey (even on this challenge!!!), and I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to do the same while observing those tough dates together from now on. Something I think I may have needed but didn’t realize. A greater good?!? Well, maybe that’s not exactly what my health coach meant, but I can’t ignore a sign of this magnitude.

Just as in years past, as October turns to November and the focus shifts, the lump in my throat loosens, the tenseness melts away and I can breathe deeply once again.

I’m so glad I had a challenge to keep me moving forward. I have four more days to go…who wants to walk?

I must admit, with all those miles behind me, I can hardly wait to do anything other than walking!

 

Forever Connected

I’ve had a tough time observing Father’s Day since my dad died 5 1/2 years ago. Grief subsides and the hurt fades, replaced with sweet memories. But every year it returns, fresher than ever. Today I thought I’d allow myself time to remember, process…take a moment to share what’s been happening.

I was unmistakably Daddy’s little girl. I followed him around like a shadow. He took me everywhere he went. And at the end of his workday, I’d meet him at his city bus stop where we’d walk home hand in hand. As years passed, he led me down the aisle and placed my hand in Eric’s. But he wasn’t ever far when I needed him.

If you never had the opportunity to meet Lotus Conrad, you should know he always had an arsenal of jokes at the ready, a trickster and gifted storyteller who loved to make others laugh. Sure, he experienced his share of obstacles and heartache in life, but he relied on his witty sense of humor to smooth out the rough edges. He employed this talent right up until his last night. And because we were two peas in a pod, where else would I be?

Friends, I never thought I’d be someone to experience what I’m about to share; and not for a second did I think I’d ever feel comfortable sharing it with others, because some folks may label me any number of things…but it doesn’t matter. See, it didn’t take long after his death for me to realize, he was far from gone.

In life, I followed him, but now he follows me. He’s the blue jay or cardinal that flies alongside me on a bike ride, the limitless contrails when I look up for guidance. We have this strong flight/plane connection as he was in the Air Force…see his pj’s in the photo above? I made those for him.

He’s the cookies that introduced themselves when my mom was having a rough flight to Hawaii, and now pop up on every flight I take.

He follows me in ways I can not explain, like my second trip to Hawaii. Multiple miracles occurred for me to be there to run my first marathon. I don’t even know how I got there, but am assured it was him pushing me across the finish line. As I walked in the door to our condo on Waikiki, it all made sense.

Together, we used to watch Lefty Gardner YouTube videos of P-38s. Now I catch the clock saying 7:27, 7:37, 7:47, etc…all planes. If you don’t believe me, ask my husband…I see those times everywhere, those numbers on license plates, road signs, the sides of semis, my breakfast total at the airport!

Speaking of airports, as my friends awaited their departure from a vacation we shared, they sent me a birthday greeting text with a photo. Little did they know, he was sending his wishes too…see the bald guy in the gray sweats and loose wristwatch, yeah, that’s him…don’t know how, but he photobombed!

Lately I’ve been in the sky A LOT and many of those trips have had his hame written all over them again and again.

How extraordinary to glance out the window to see our plane’s shadow encircled in what I choose to believe is my orb of protection!

I feel that protection everywhere I go. It has even saved my life in a nasty car accident. Always looking out for me, he’s the sticker on a trailhead post I spotted after hiking in Zion; I know he was there, keeping me from plummeting to my death on those narrow ledges!

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Friends, I’m not just imagining these little signs and messages…my imagination is simply not that creative!

I receive these spontaneous little gifts constantly and they leave me stunned, intrigued, sometimes breathless, but always loved. I’m thankful for each one and hope they never stop…we’re connected forever!

Grief is rough, especially today. Those of you missing your dads, I’m so sorry for you enormous loss. Hopefully you’ve experienced some similar events; if you haven’t, keep your eyes and ears open…they are right there by your side!

Happy Father’s Day!