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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Hear the inner voice
Grief still remains unspoken
Words to ease the pain

Focus on the breath
Not deep enough to heal
But try to gather air

Quiet inner voice
Gather tears in puddles
Unspoken words of grief



Medical professionals are affirmed in their work that the priority is to protect and to heal. What if all people realized that doing no harm was a priority?

In fact, what if people not only tried to protect and heal, but they tried to support, cheer and approve? What a novel concept! Would it take so much time to care that it prevented people from making a living, cleaning their house (not me, personally, but others who are more meticulous), caring for their families, and fulfilling their personal dreams?

Whether people can, or cannot, they may avoid the topics of concern all together. I think that if I open a door, conversationally or emotionally, that I am holding the hand of someone and showing them that it is alright to step through to the unknown. The unknown may be uncomfortable; it may be shy, fearful, anxious, or adventurous for the blessed optimistic few. However, I thought if I kept someone company and held their hand into the great unknown, then it would be alright.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you want to communicate the most real of things, only superficial responds. There are excuses and explanations in some environments where it is claimed that nothing is “personal” it is just business; personally, at times, I think that is just an excuse for bad behavior. First, and foremost, do no harm, and remember to be a human being.

What hurts me today may hurt you tomorrow; you might need a friend or a caring soul to listen and empathize with a pain that seems too great to bear or a sorrow that seems without end. We don’t have to be close to someone to share their pain; we just need to be human. Whether we acknowledge someone else’s presence, we are all in this life together, conjoined for reasons unknown and the other person sees and does not forget. There is a master plan so well hidden that it seems inconceivable at times that one exists, and yet, it must, for that is the only reason to keep going at times.

Sometimes the most meaningful and heartwarming feelings can rise from mere construction paper and magic markers. A two foot by two foot card awaited us after a trip to see family. Made out of blue construction paper, it was covered with sparkle paint, rhinestones, sequins, colored markers and crayons. Inside a rainbow colored “Thank you” was cut out and taped to pop out when opened. It was closed with a Mylar smiley face balloon floating idly above it. But it captured the heart and appreciation not acknowledged or shared at other times.

Thirty one girls signed it all over thanking my husband for all that he had done for them before they graduated high school. Whether, it was to turn on the heat, close a window, provide forgotten keys, or make sure the drive was cleared of snow and the front doors unlocked, my husband was always there, quiet and part of the running of the day. While he was not the highest paid nor on the echelons of respected professionals, the day began and ended with his presence and him doing his best to be ready for another day and for others.

What we take for granted today may be gone tomorrow. The drinks refilled in the refrigerator, the mail broken up into inboxes, the snacks and the coffee, and the supplies that keep things running quietly from day to day. The lowliest pens and the paper in the copier are the implements of the grandest communication. To some, this may seem the work of an underling, merely taken for granted, or not even noticed, but it is always done for someone else’s comfort. Isn’t it funny that we forget that someone has to do those things that we expect, even if it is the right thing to do? It is not on the scale of G-d rising and setting the Sun everyday, but it appears and does make things easier for someone else.

When you thank someone for doing those things, though they may be part of his or her job, a rainbow of light appears in the smile on his face and the caring and sincerity pierces the heart with the joyous awareness of appreciation and generosity of thanks. It is a kindness to do for others and it is a kindness to thank others. The most basic courtesies of our childhood, please and thank you, still serve as a guideline to our humanity and a light in our soul in the midst of other heartbreaks and the rush of the busyness. So much to do, more important things to be said and arranged; but the meaning of the little things is large in the scope of being human. Cardboard, construction paper, sequins, and glitter paint delivered the most wonderful message of appreciation, and the moments that each individual took to express themselves to praise someone else, will last far longer in the memory than the daily rush to greatness.

These words of gratitude and appreciation will last because they speak to the human in each of us, the same who seek approval, blush at compliments, cry at sadness, share in collective loss, and are silent in the presence of greatness and tragedy.

Today we celebrate Fathers, and Mothers, and those who touch our lives as mentors. What makes you supremely special to others? What steps have you taken to be memorable?
First, and foremost, do no harm, and remember to be a human being.

happiness and silliness sign

I found this sign in a charming, artsy shop in Takoma, Maryland. At the time, I was studying Adult Learning and Education in grad school. There really needed to be some silliness and happiness in my life despite all the challenges. This sign is hung in my office adjacent to my desk.

My job is charitable giving for a non profit private foundation. So many serious issues, desperation, pain, loss — that is not just the people I meet, but has been my private life recently.

Some days it is harder for me to find, so I look at the curly haired lady with the funny face, and remember I am still here.

Humor that makes you think or smile is truly uplifting! Laughing at a cute child or groaning at a bad pun are all ways to create bubbles of joy inside when you need it most.

Laughing at someone else does not count if there is any enmity in it or judgment.

Leave the judgment out and leave the joy in. Don’t aim for the jugular, reach for the juggler!

See the irony and humor that was there, but went unseen, or magically appears when you need a smile so desperately. The silly, the sweet, the blush of a joke, the massaging of the heart are the signs of humor that help us to remember there is still joy and laughter in the world.

vintage suitcase

Limousines, special seating, unique foods, tearing of clothing and crowds of people, staggered, staring at the precipice. Nope, this is not Fashion Week.

We have come together to mourn a second time in a month. The only time I have seen the lovely man who drives us in a limo is when something has gone terribly wrong. He has driven our immediate family to New York and back two times in the past 16 months. The third time was shorter in distance, but longer and deeper in grief, for the funeral of my mother a month ago.

For the first funeral, of our family patriarch, over a year ago, I had a panic attack and claustrophobia while spending ten hours in the limo on the road. I begged the driver to please pull over as I had to get out of the car as quickly as possible. Finding an opportunity to pull over in moving borough traffic was no easy feat but he managed. Harder, was for me to get back in the car and get my breathing under control.

This time, the driver asked in advance if I would be alright. I took two over the counter pills to help calm my nerves and angled the fan blowing cold air as directly onto my face as possible. My brother joked, at a graffiti covered corner in a sketchy part of Queens, if this was the place I had the limo pull over last year to get some air in my panic-stricken state. It is important to have family, continuity, and remember your sibling’s ill timed idiosyncrasies. When you can get all that in one fine zinger, how truly loved you are.

This time we are getting in the driver’s car to head to my grandmother’s funeral. We all meet at 4:30 a.m. to drive to New York. As I said, he is a very nice man, but we really need to stop meeting this way. Luckily, I am out of aging and ill members of my family for the moment. How I got to that stage was not so lucky.

Despite the circumstances, the hardest thing in the mini bar of the limo is cold water. Trying to slake my thirst, and swallow my pills quickly for the anxious relief I pray they bring, I grab for the first one I can reach. Before my mother passed, I tried to prepare a support system and asked a doctor for a small ration of Valium. His response to learning of my mother’s terminal diagnosis was “G-d Bless You.” ‘What?’ my favorite sister asked ‘Did you sneeze?’ The request for medication was denied and so I was literally left to my own devices. Distraction was the name of the game for the five hour trip, each way, and I brought my fully charged Kindle and a cadre of Angry Birds to keep me busy.

We took a drive along almost the same route, redirecting off to the Garden State Parkway, to a family Bat Mitzvah in New York two weeks ago. Candy, a photo booth, beautiful flowers, girly nirvana, serious gift swag, and a smorgasbord of delights gave us a brief respite from the shared grieving. Fortunately, there was something to celebrate among all the massive changes and duly-noted life cycles. Two funerals and a bat mitzvah. The Bat Mitzvah girl and her family had planned long and hard for the special occasion, not knowing what might occur, and went forward with plans for the kind of party it would be hard to turn down.

When we arrive in New York, it is the third time I am seeing my father’s siblings and my first cousins in a month. This time, we meet with numbed feelings and tears almost too painful to shed yet again. We go to the gravesite and stand in the hot sun. Our inflamed sensitivities are scorched by pride and loyalty. Lost in our respective haze of loss and confusion, no one seems to understand me. We circle around each other like planets in the same galaxy, unable to get too close for fear of colliding. So we slide by each other, not always making eye contact, trying to keep our emotions in check as we lose the one last person who held us all together, tethering us as a five generational pyramid of family.

To lose my mother and grandmother in a month’s time, when we spent years watching their bodies deteriorate and transition, once again reminds me that we would not want them to suffer but we are the ones who are lost, not they. They are where they always have been – deep in my heart and beloved in my soul. And of course, terribly missed, even in so short a passage of time.

Now we have to work harder. Our family is diverse in personality and geography. Maybe technology will keep us connected as we share memories and genetics. In time, babies will be born and new souls will enter this world to connect us to our elemental roots and join us in celebrating life rather than mourning death. The glittering anticipation of a summer family wedding means we have a chance to see each other again, hopefully with the ability to let smiles and tears of mingled sadness and joy, help us to reach out to one another in kindness and empathy.

Thank you for stopping by and being part of our family!