Sunday, November 29, 2015

Stiff Necks and Guilt

Sometimes, I know that I'm not a good person.
I'm not saying that in the hopes that one of you readers will try to talk me out of it.
I'm selfish, not as generous or as kind as I should be.
This morning, I went over in my mind the things that I'm dreading. The visiting hours this evening for my friend's daughter's death, along with Katie's funeral Monday morning. I half hoped I wouldn't be able to find a substitute teacher so I couldn't go to the funeral.
I signed up to take dessert for the funeral luncheon, but I didn't go to mass this morning, where I might have talked to or comforted the family.
And now, the pain in my neck has begun -- a pain I had for
two weeks when my Aunt Lorena died.
I could, of course, skip the visiting hours and the funeral. One of my friends from church called and as we talked she said she expected I wouldn't be able to get out of teaching to attend the funeral. I could have grabbed at that straw and assumed everyone else would think that too.
But, I knew that although I could easily skip the funeral and the visitation, my once best friend Cathy could not. I could pretend that nothing had happened, but she is living with the fact that her 21-year-old daughter died.
And for that reason alone, I will be there this evening, offering my sympathy because I know that nothing can be done to ease their pain. And I will be at the funeral mass on Monday morning. I will drive to the cemetery and watch their tears fall as handfuls of dirt are tossed into the hole that holds their daughter.
I think that I might be able to help their daughters. I was 14 when my sister died. Katie's sisters are 18 and 12. I'm the godmother to the younger one.
But what could I tell them?
My sister Tammy in her senior picture. She died
the night before her high school graduation.
I could warn them that as they move forward in their lives, at each milestone, they'll feel the emotional abyss left behind with the loss of Katie. As they complete college and celebrate with their family, they'll feel Katie's absence. When they plan their weddings or give birth to children, they'll feel that ache -- the certain feeling that an older sister would have good advice and experience to share.
But why should I warn them. They'll know soon enough, and at least they'll have each other, along with their two brothers.
I burst out last night and told Grace that whenever I die, they should just plan the service quickly. I hate the limbo, the in-between time when you can't even pretend that things will be normal because of the wait for the services. I remember that time when my sister died, and with Thanksgiving, the wait has been even longer for Katie's funeral.
As a sister, and I imagine as a parent, the toughest part is to leave the person you love in the metal box, no matter how lovely and lined with silk, to close the lid of that box and leave her in the funeral home or the church. I wouldn't be able to bear it. I cried copious tears at that thought of leaving my sister all alone in the church the night of the visitation.
But I will go tonight and recall happy memories of Katie, in the hopes that I can share some joy in the midst of this painful season.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Saturday Snapshot -- Mouth Full of Chocolate

Join West Metro Mommy for this weekly meme of photos people have taken and share on their blogs.
We had a fairly laid back Thanksgiving, but at one point in the afternoon, 3-year-old Regan asked whether I'd come play with her. Of course, I did and she set up an elaborate tea party.
A piece of cake and a piece of Buckeye candy were on Regan's dessert plate. Suddenly, I looked down and the entire Buckeye was gone.
"Did you put that entire thing in your mouth?" I asked Regan. She nodded, but her full cheeks and over-wide eyes told me the answer before she did.

Tucker also got to meet his new cousin Benjamin and he wanted a selfie. So I held up  Benjamin for Tucker to take a selfie with him.

We also got a family snapshot while all of us were in the same place.

Hope you  had a lovely holiday, if your an American, and that everyone else had peaceful weeks.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Life Too Short

On Tuesday evening, as I arrived in class to teach, I pulled a folder from my bag and got a paper cut. I know, a paper cut, big deal. I popped the finger in my mouth and sucked on it, natural reaction for me. But I couldn't stop bleeding. The blood pooled under my fingernail and formed a ruby bubble on my finger. I wrapped a paper towel around it, but as I gathered papers to pass out to students, I left little blots of blood on the papers.
The paper cut wasn't a big deal, but it was a surreal end to a sad day.
That afternoon, I found out that Katie, a 21-year-old who grew up with my kids, had died.
When our family moved to Columbus in 1998, I attended a homeschool meeting. I walked into the meeting and gazed at the people sitting around the tables arranged in a U-shape. I chose the most "normal" looking woman and slid into a chair next to her. I had no idea that this woman would become one of my closest friends. Cathy, like me, had three children -- two girls and a boy. They were all close in age to my children.
We ended up become homeschooling partners, joining forces three or four days a week, as we explored different historical periods and of course allowed the children to run and play.
We had been searching for a church since we arrived in Columbus, and Cathy invited us to try the Newman Center on Ohio State's campus. We began going there and were welcomed into the church family there.
A few years later, Cathy convinced me to join her and start a new religious education program at our church -- Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. We went for weeks and long weekends of training, paying hundreds of dollars and spending hours creating the Montessori-based materials. We even fought with the church leaders about incorporating the new religious education classes.
Through it all, our children remained fast friends.
Then Cathy decided to have more children and put her older kids in school. Once she entered the school realm, we weren't as close, although we both continued to teach religious ed at church. Eventually, as my kids aged out, I stopped teaching. Cathy is there for a few years more as her two younger children still go through the program.
But this story isn't about Cathy, it's about her daughter Katie. When Katie was 2, she had a cancerous tumor somewhere around her rib cage. Usually, when these tumors are discovered, it is too late for the children already. But Cathy listened to Katie's 2-year-old complaints when she lay on her side or when someone picked her up. She took Katie to the doctor and insisted they check it out rather than shrug it off. And after a prayer service one evening, Katie's tumor stopped growing. During her childhood years, she had to have regular checkups to track it, but after five  years, those became yearly checkups.
In her high school years, Katie began having seizures. She was diagnosed with epilepsy. That meant trying to find just the right medicine to control her seizures, but not so much that she became a zombie. Through it all, Katie's giggle and slightly snarky comments as she raised her voice to be heard above everyone else would be the things that stood out.
Rather than being resentful of her younger siblings, Katie often held them when they were little and allowed them to climb her like a jungle gym as they grew older. She swam on swim team and played water polo, insisting on a normal life. She went away to college and moved into her own apartment.
We've grown away from the family, but I ran into Cathy in the grocery store in October. She filled me in on the family and said that Katie had an internship in Chicago this summer with a PR firm. She loved the job and hoped the company might hire her once she graduated college in the spring.
And then on Tuesday came the phone call. Katie had a seizure Tuesday morning and she had died.
I still can't quite grasp it, so I imagined that for her parents and her four siblings, they expect to hear her footsteps and a call of hello from Katie at any moment.
Grace was hit hard by the news. She and Katie were friends on Facebook, but those early years playing pioneer and teacher and Barbies, formed a bond that the two could always count on.
As a friend, I feel helpless. If I were a parent, my mind can't even fathom how I would feel.
I think about stupid arguments with children, worries about weight gain or girl fights.
I need to remember to focus on the important things in life, so I have no regrets. And I need to make sure I love the people around me because we don't know when those people will be gone.  

Thursday, November 19, 2015

In the Woods With a Wolf

I'm still in denial about some difficulties that we've had this fall, so I'll write another happy post. This one includes pictures of Grace.
Grace is working a lot and auditioning for plays since finishing her role as Nancy in Oliver.
A photographer friend asked her to pose with a wolf as publicity both for the photographer, Candid Kama Photography, and for the wolf rescue place.
Grace convinced her boyfriend Jack and her friends Kyle and Rachel to pose with her. They all dressed up in Victorian clothes for the shoot.
I can't believe that Jack had a Victorian suit, including a top hat that flattens and pops up.
This is my favorite with Grace and the wolf in the woods. 
 And another one that I liked was this reflective picture. When I first saw it, I only saw the bottom and I wondered why they posted it upside down. Then I scrolled up and saw that the reflection was just incredibly clear.
So Grace is doing well, other than working too much.
And someday soon, I'll be ready to write about the challenges we've faced this fall.