Thursday, January 24, 2008

Profound sadness

I've been feeling a bit blue ever since Barbara and Jacque hauled the last box of Debra's things out the door and off to Goodwill. Her stuff, or lack of it, seemed to trigger a profound sadness in both me and Sofie.

Tonight was one of those nights that even before it got started I sensed things would digress quickly. Things started out simply enough. Upon arriving home, Sofie went to play in her room while I started a load of laundry and did a quick check of email. This was a bath night for Sofie, so that meant either speeding up all activities or just facing the fact that the night will end a little later than expected. After getting the laundry started, Sofie informed me she needed to cuddle...this is happening so much more these days. I certainly don't mind...she's a great cuddler! We assumed our positions in the cuddling chair upstairs and just chilled out for a little while. After a bit of time, we popped up and quickly put dinner on the table. Sushi and edamame for Sofie, a burrito from Whole Foods for me.

While Sofie polished off her sushi, I started her bath. By this time it was still early enough to have a fairly regular bedtime. This is where it all started falling apart. Sofie is a kid who loves creative play. She works out a lot of "stuff" via play. Until tonight, she hadn't wanted to wash off the cathartic art she created in the tub the night I told her Debra was going to die soon. It's been there for all the visitors to see for over a month. Tonight she was adamant about having it removed. She wanted me to help her, but when I started to help she really wanted to wipe it off on her own. I asked why's making me sad was her simple answer.

After cleaning off the walls of the shower, I gave her the 5 minute play warning...meaning she had five more minutes to play before she had to stop, wash her hair and body and get out of the tub. While emptying the dishwasher I gave her the 3 minute, then 1 minute warnings. At the 5 minutes, I asked that she stop playing and start washing. When I checked in 5 minutes later, she was washing, but in between playing. I turned into nagging mom, who escalated into yelling mom the more I had to ask her to finish what I asked her to do. Finally, 15 minutes later I told her to drain the tub, get out, dry off and get in her PJs. She was shivering(since she has 0% body fat!) so I went in to help speed things up. Pokey is a great middle name for her. I left her to dress and went back into the living room.

A few minutes later out she walks...crying. "Mommy, two things made me sad. One is that I miss Mama Debra SO much. The other is that you yelled at me!" Oy. I decided to address the yelling first. We've had this discussion a few times before and I'm hoping that one day it sticks. My yelling isn't an immediate builds up after having to ask/demand that she complete a task. I told her we need to communicate better, she needs to listen and I need to try to refrain from yelling...viscous cycle that it is. After this discussion, we went on to the much harder discussion.

It's really apparent that all of this getting rid of Debra's things are affecting her more than anyone probably anticipated. I told her that we have saved some things for her and they're in a special place. That discussion digressed into remembering the last few weeks of Debra's life. "I never got to have one last cuddle or say goodbye to Mommy Debra." My heart ripped a little. As much as we laid the groundwork for Debra's death, nothing would really help her with these type wounds. Interestingly, she was parroting back some of the things that other adults have said in her presence...such as "Mama Debra saved me. She adopted me and gave me a home."

We talked about the day Debra died. Sofie remembered incorrectly that she was asleep when she died. I reminded her of the events of the day. She got angry at the Cancer and said, "I wish no one died...ever. People wouldn't be sad if that happened." Magical thinking.

She wanted to see pictures of Debra, so we took a bit of time and perused the pictures on the computer. That seemed to appease her. It was late, so I suggested snuggling in bed and starting the second Humphrey the hamster book that we've been waiting a few weeks to read. After bedtime rituals, we snuggled in her bed and before I finished the last chapter, she was fast asleep. I'm sure I'll get a early morning visit with a quick sneak into my bed that will include a big snuggle up to me on my side of the bed. The nights will continue to be restless and hard for awhile, but I know that we'll both eventually feel less grief and more happiness. Not before she tells me a few more times that this is the worst life ever...even though she feels safe and loved with me, this is a bad/sad life right now!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Durham memorial followed by sadness

Posting to the blog has been hard for me lately and it doesn't have anything to do with time. I can usually find time to write if I'm in the mindset. The anticipation of Debra's memorial was weighing on my mind more than I even realized. Planning a memorial is something I never expected I'd have to do, especially for Debra. She was the event planner, not me. So I became a little paralyzed by the idea of pulling off the memorial. All in all, I think it went over pretty well.

We held the local memorial for Debra yesterday amidst the biting cold weather which wasn't accompanied by enough snow. All day I kept saying I just want the day to be over with. From my perspective, the celebration was beautiful. The service was scheduled for 4p on Sunday at our church, ERUUF. All things considered, the service was well attended. Many people from the UNC Health Science's Library where Debra was employeed attended the service, as well as a good representation from our friends, Sofie's preschool and elementary school population, my family and even a few co-workers of mine! I was especially pleased to see several counselors from our beloved Camp Kesem! We were worried the bitter cold and holiday weekend would keep people away, fortunately that wasn't the case at all.

The service began with a welcome from our minister and followed by Sofie lighting the chalice. A wonderful eulogy that was a tribute to the Debra that many people in NC didn't know that well. I was pleased he focused on her parenting and love of Sofie. After the eulogy there was silent meditation followed by Barbara reading a May Sarton poem. The Comman Woman chorus did a nice rendition of "Season's of Love" which was followed by an open sharing. Alan shared a heartfelt Thank You from all the folks back in the Bay area,a childhood friend of Debra's talked about a younger Debra that none of us knew, Debra's boss Carol spoke about the impact Debra had in her short time at UNC and Sofie ended the sharing with a story about how Debra told her donuts were called bagels. The chorus then ended the service with the beautiful song, "Everything's Possible" which is one of my favorite lullabyes. The amount of love in the sanctuary was overwhelming at times. So many people just wanted to support me and Sofie and our loss...and that support was felt ten-fold.

Following the service I shook many hands, met many people associated with Debra's work at UNC, chatted and reconnected with people I hadn't seen in awhile and whirled about the Fellowship Hall making sure I thanked everyone for attending. I'm sure I missed many people, but I hope they know how much it meant to me and Sofie for them to be there. For the rest of the evening I was in a haze, exhausted from all the activities. I want to thank everyone who pitched in and helped with the festivities. You gave unconditionally and I appreciate it more than you can imagine.

Today I've been under a cloud of sadness. We're nearing the end of getting Debra's things out of the house and that makes me sad...she really is gone. Often, as I read an email or hear a story on NPR or somewhere else I think to myself, "I need to tell Debra that" quickly realizing I can't tell her. It'll take time for me to stop saying "we" and not wanting to tell her the latest gossip or news. The sadness will fade and life will go on. Sofie and I continue to grieve and though it seems like we're fine, there are days we're both sad and weepy. It'll get better over time...this I know.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Crazy busy times

The past few days have been somewhat of a whirlwind. Sofie's godmother and Debra's best friend Barbara came into town to start taking care of the business of being executrix of Debra's will...a job I would not wish on anyone! She's such a trooper though. Where I would have run screaming from the house, she patiently purged and organized so many things! I was so glad she was here. It gets kind of lonely, even for an introvert like me! I can't begin to say enough "Thank You's" to her, so I'll just leave it at that...she's making/made my life as easy as it's going to be for the next many years.

Much purging, donating, selling and giving away has happened. A few shout outs to some of my peeps for the help this weekend. In no particular order, to Betty for taking a station wagon FULL of things to PTA Thrift shop; to Wendy and strong-bodied teenage son Matt for hauling heavy boxes of books upstairs and taking them to the library for donations; to Rebecca and Mary for helping my dad haul my bed and some boxes from the condo over to the house, then loading a couch to take to Betty and Delma's; to Daddy for his undying support and love and doing all he can to help out(even turning around a coming back to the house when I called him to tell him my hot water heater was completely out!); to Tracey for helping get rid of stuff on Craigslist; to Janet for helping with hauling and being flexible to my comings and going from the condo; to Hannah and family for taking Sofie for a big chunk of time on Saturday to allow for much purging to happen; to Louise(Gemma's mom) for taking Sofie for a couple hours; and to anyone else that's done anything for me over the past few days that I've forgotten somehow!! Much love and many thanks to you all!!

Speaking of water heaters...the heating element needs to be replaced and a regular handy person can't do it because the element is rated too high for anybody other than a plumber to order it so a plumber has to do the work...oh, joy!! Another shout out to Wendy for making things happen.

I'm so overjoyed that my bed is here! It was so nice sleeping upstairs last night...but I have to say, the air coming in that bedroom window was frigid!! No wonder Debra was always complaining about being cold. I also have more clothes here, which is nice...I got really tired of wearing the same thing over and over again.

So that's my past few days in a nutshell. Things are moving along at a manageable pace, so I haven't gone crazy...yet.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cancerblog article

Several months ago, Debra was contacted via her blog by a writer at CR Magazine, which is published by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). The author writes a column in the journal entitled Cancerblogs and she wanted to do an article on Debra. Debra, being the networker that she was, suggested that there was a much bigger story here and that she should check out my blog, too. So, she did. Alanna, the author, interviewed both of us and pulled together a sweet article about how we were dealing with and teaching Sofie about death. That was a great angle to go from our blogs and really relevant based on our more recent experiences. You can view the article in it's entirety here. I'm just sorry Debra didn't get to see the finished product. I showed Sofie the article and the picture that's on the home page of the journal. Her response, "I'm in a MAGAZINE?!?! Wow!!"

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Hard Days Night

Yesterday when I picked up Sofie from school, she was her typical charming, loving self. The evening started off with what was going to be a quick trip to Whole Foods for a few ended up being dinner for us. This kid is going to break my bank with the sushi she can put away!! After eating, we meandered through the store picking up a few necessities, such as Ben&Jerry's for Sofie and fruit cobbler for me.

Upon arriving home, I ran a shallow bath...a technique Delma suggested to wash her hair while her big bump on her head is healing. After washing her hair, we added water and she played a bit in the tub. This kid has got some kind of imagination! I love listening to her chatter to the the animals she's playing with and the hearing the creative play she comes up with. After bath was dessert, then reading and snuggling. This is when the night turned on me without nary a warning!!

After finishing our reading, lights went out. Sofie was pretty fidgety, so I tried to relax her by rubbing her back, head and legs. Then it happened...she burst into to tears and said she couldn't sleep because she missed Mommy Debra. I consoled her and validated her feelings. We talked about how much better Debra was now that she was out of pain. Intellectually, she got that...emotionally she was still a wreck. She just couldn't stop thinking about Debra and this was keeping her awake. This went on for nearly 3 hours! At some point I got up and told her to just play in her room and try to get her mind off Debra. I went into the other room and waited. About 10 minutes later, she walked in and said, "Mommy, I love you" and gave me the biggest hug. We sat and talked a bit more. She said, "Mommy, people are being so nice." Indeed they are. I'm glad she's getting a good sense that the world is full of good people. That will serve her well as she's older and more jaded!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Life going on

It's been a fairly busy few days here in Durham. I'm in that awkward place of getting rid of Debra's personal belongings, rearranging things in the house and bringing my personal belongings in to integrate into our home. I've been keeping a close eye on Sofie to see if this purging/rearranging/adding is affecting her in any way. I talk about how hard this must be giving away Mama Debra's things, but I always add the caveat that this was what Debra wanted and that it's making her happy seeing friends, family and charities benefitting from her stuff. She seems to understand but I do sense a bit of sadness around it.

The clearing began on Thursday morning. Other Jamie(Emma and Jacob's mommy) came over to "shop" in Debra's closet. Thanks to the earlier organization by Nancy(Debra's sister) and Laurie(a friend from California pictured below with the finished organizational project) the clothes closet was miraculously organized! Jamie was thrilled to see that she and Debra had many similar tastes in clothing and that, according to Jamie, Debra was as big a shopaholic as she was!! A caveat here, Debra did love to shop, the unfortunate thing was she never purged her closet so there were years worth of clothing. Jamie left with bags of clothing and that still left a pretty sizable collection for others to peruse. Later that evening, a coworker of Debra's came over to shop, too. She had been over earlier while Debra was still alive, but Debra insisted that she come over again. I know she's thrilled that her clothing is making an impact in other's lives.

Thursday and Friday were emotional days for me on many levels. The loss and aloneness hit hard. Even though Debra and I hadn't been partners for nearly three years, we were still significant to one another and our own created family. So not having her around is affecting me more than I realized it might. I did a lot of introspection during this time. Unfortunately that caused sleepless nights. I did make good use of the sleeplessness by running ideas of rearranging certain areas/rooms in my mind. It's helping plot out where furniture and stuff of mine will be living.

Thursday afternoon, I picked Sofie up from school, but not after having a chat with her teachers. They informed me that she did really well and was her happy go lucky self all day. She did, however, try to pull the sad card before school that day. I quickly recognized she was trying to get out of going to school! I agreed with her that we were both very sad, but we also needed to continue on with life by going to school, work and other activities. I assured her we'd have good moments and sad moments, but we had each other now and that was what mattered most.

Friday I had therapy and ran a few errands. I was mostly quiet and remained introspective. I felt myself getting into a funk later in the afternoon so I did a preemptive strike on that and call Kimberly(Olivia and Avery's mom) to see if they were going out for pizza. (They have a Friday night family dinner tradition.) She said they were making either pizza or nachos and that Sofie and I were welcome to come over. I decided that would be fun because we always laugh a lot at their house. So I picked up Sofie from school and we headed down the block to have Family Dinner with a whole slew of people...ten in all(five adults, five kids)...Sofie and I were the only solo's, but that seems to be the way we live our lives. We had a blast and stayed a little too late, but we laughed, talked politics and the kids had fun. (This was after Sofie had a pretty bad accident at afterschool. Apparently she was crawling around on the gym floor, playing with her animals when WHAM!! she smacked head first into the concrete wall!! They cleaned her up, bandaged it and gave me a courtesy call. She's currently sporting a nice purple Scooby Band-Aid on her forehead!!)

After getting home, I was feeling super cuddly with her, so we snuggled in the bed that was in the family room downstairs, put Ratatouille in the DVD player, snuggled and fell asleep. Unfortunately, I didn't sleep well. Mostly related to monkey mind, but also Sofie's tossing/turning/kicking/poking/grunting kept waking me up. I finally fell asleep about the time my alarm went off. Betty and Delma were coming over that morning to hang with Ms. Sofie while I had an appointment. Sofie was in protest mode about taking a bath because it would hurt her cut on her forehead, so I suggested that Delma(the nurse) wash her hair because she'd know how to avoid hurting her. That was a huge success AND Delma gave her a pedicure so she wouldn't have pokey toenails! While Delma was playing with Sofie during her bathtime, Betty was "shopping" in Debra's boutique. She agreed to take what she wanted and then take the rest to donate to charity. So, as of now, the only clothing of Debra's remaining are, oh, about 40 pairs of shoes!!

After returning from my appointment we all headed to....drum roll, got it, Biscuitville!! It was more brunch than breakfast, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. Betty and Delma are officially godesses in my book. They stayed with us until nearly 9p last night. (There was rest and dinner involved, but much help was provided, too.) We rearranged the kitchen to suit me...with the advice of Delma. We boxed up extra food for the homeless shelter, party food for the memorial, extra food for Betty and Delma's son and his wife and daughter, extra utensils and such that I didn't need, the millions of storage containers Debra required to live with and last but not least, the liquor cabinet. I don't drink and rarely entertain, so by unanimous vote Betty, Delma and I decided that Tracey and Sharon would get the contents of the liqour cabinet since they entertain more than the rest of us. They came over later in the day and procurred their cache. (They joined us for dinner, too.)

During the time Delma and I were working in the kitchen, Sofie kept coming in wanting to help. We'd give her odd, random jobs but mostly she played in her room until some point she walked in and said, "Mommy, I need to cuddle." So I sat in the cuddling chair with her, talked to her and asked if what we were doing was upsetting her. She said no, but I think it may have on some level because she went in to Debra's old room, laid on the bedding I created for her to watch Scooby-Doo and she promptly fell asleep. I'm guessing something was going on for her that she didn't quite know how to articulate.

Last night was another late night, but Sofie and I got plenty of cuddling time. We kept reading The World According to Humphrey for the FIFTH time!!! She loves that book, and of course it's the inspiration for her getting a hamster. After she fell asleep, I came downstairs hoping to do the same. No such luck. I got in bed but promptly got out when it became apparent I wasn't going to sleep. I came in and found an email from a friend who sent a website where I can turn a blog into a book!!! So, I'm in the process of turning Debra's blog into a hardbound book for Sofie. It's fun, but it'll take a lot of time as the program is in Beta and still has a few kinks and some missing features. I don't mind, it's nice to be able to do that for Sofie.

This morning, Sofie slept in while I started to write this entry. Of course she woke up before I finished. So we made pancakes for her breakfast, I scrambled eggs for me. We ate breakfast and had a conversation about yelling. (To her, yelling is any raising of volume or attitude in the voice.) I explained why my voice changed and used the example that was happening just then. I literally had to ask her to finish her pancakes, bacon and milk a million times. (Okay, not literally, but you get the picture.) The more I asked, the louder I got. I used it as a teaching moment. She seemed to listen to the rationale...we'll see if it works. I just finished sewing my first hole in yang-yang(Sofie's blankie) and I have to say, I did quite well. I often feel myself channeling my Dad who was the "jim of all trades" when I was growing up. He could do anything...and if he didn't know how, he'd try until he figured it out! I have bit of daddy in me, so I just felt I was doing that when I sewed my first hole today.

Later, Sofie goes for a play date with Lucie and I head out to a meeting about a newly forming co-housing community. Then it's life as usual. Dinner, bath, reading and bedtime...and LOTS of cuddling!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Durham Memorial and Celebration Information

I had a wonderful meeting with our minister, Don, today. We've scheduled Debra's Celebration of Life for Sunday, January 20th and 4p at ERUUF the Unitarian congregation we've been attending for a few years. Their website has great directions and a map at the bottom of this page. After the service, we'll have food and beverages in the Fellowship Hall.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

It's 9:15p and all is quiet!!

It's 915p and all is well in the world. A certain little girl who has been struggling for weeks to get to sleep before even 10p(more recently closer to 11p or even midnight on occasion) drifted to sleep with ease and no complications. I'm so thankful that she had an easy transition to sleep tonight as it will make waking her up much more pleasant tomorrow morning for her first day back to school post holidays.

She had a fun play filled afternoon with many of the Mastens. Eating out, bowling and creative play were involved. Everyone commented on Sofie's technique for bowling. If you haven't witnessed it, please refer back to this blog entry for a full demonstration!! They even stopped by school to pick up one of the Masten kids. Luckily for Sofie, her teachers came out to the van to give her a big hug and tell her they can't wait to see her tomorrow.

I brought some food items over from the condo and now I've decided I need to rearrange the kitchen! Oh joy. I'll tackle that project tomorrow. I meet with Don, our minister, to discuss memorial options for Debra in Durham. Egads, I've never done anything like this before, so I'll be needing serious guidance!! Wish me luck.

What the New Year brings

My New Year's posting is a day or two late...such is life!

Sofie and I rang in the New Year, actually banged in(with pots) the New Year with our friends Susan, Joy, Emma and Kate. Earlier in the evening we'd shared a lovely meal with them along with Matt,Olivia,Avery and James...Kimberly was home recouperating from a long days work. The kids had no problem staying awake but the three adults were struggling! After an entry into 2008, Sofie and I hopped into the car and headed back home. It was there that Sofie had a bout of missing Mama Debra...something that has become common place at bedtime the past several days. We cried, looked at pictures, talked about fun Mama Debra memories, laughed and cried some more. She keeps asking me if I miss Mama Debra, too. Not sure if it's for reassurance or just to make sure it's okay to miss her.

Yesterday Sofie became quickly bored with me. Heck, I was bored with me, too!! So after a lazy day at home we headed over to Jamie and Julia's for a playdate with Emma and Jacob. When we arrived there were a few other friends there,too. It was fun. Jamie did tarot readings for all the adults, while the kids played happily...and loudly! My reading was so right on target! It really feeds into how things can/will play out this year. Lessons I've learned, need to let go of and actions to achieve. Of course I'm very task oriented right now...moving from one house to another, creating a stable environment for Sofie. The key for me is to ask for the help I need. There are many people that are waiting to help out, I just need to put out the word of what needs to happen! So lesson number one...ask the people you know, trust and love for the help I'll desperately need this year!

Today, Sofie is having a playdate with a classmate which gives me time to grab some things from the condo and do grocery shopping! Tomorrow she goes back to school, and I start plodding through Debra's things to make a niche for my stuff. Fortunately, I've already had a volunteer to help with some of this tomorrow! The New Year is off to a banging success.