Two Months

“Was just thinking about this today…how we all say, ‘my gosh it’s only been 2 months, it feels so much longer.’ I was just thinking how mom’s passing has just flipped my usual understanding of time. So many occasions people can easily say, ‘man it feels like Christmas was just yesterday’…but we weren’t thinking about Christmas everyday since the previous Christmas…When something like this happens, every single day is a painful, “anniversary”…We’re also so used to measuring events by one year anniversaries…now put days into what folks usually put into years or months; It’s been 60+ days for us. But our “one day anniversaries” feel like 60 months. Put it into years as people like to do, and it’s 60 years. Time has just dragged on because the thoughts are with us every waking hour. We’ve had more “anniversaries” than we’re used to. It may only be 2 months (which sounds short) but put it into hours and it’s been 770 painful, consecutive hours. That’s a lot of hours. Our calendars tell us it’s only been 2 short months, but our emotions tell us that just can’t be…just thought I’d share…such an awkward new perspective on life and “time” as I’ve previously known it…Even more so as life now seems so drastically shorter then I’ve ever before viewed it. A year anniversary seems so far away when tomorrow can be so quickly taken.” This was a text from my twin brother Brandon. It seems deep and hard to understand, but read it again and you will see and hear and feel the pain that he has actually managed to put into words.

Today marked two months. I wasn’t warned that my emotions would be increasing. I haven’t had a night this month where I have not cried myself to sleep. The pain and emptiness intensifies with each day. I could see the pain in dad’s face today. At church I saw in the corner of my eye him getting emotional. Of course I could not look at him directly because that would have caused me to get even more emotional. Church service this morning had just the right songs that hit my soul and spoke to me in a way that’s indescribable. The emotion hit even when I tried to “check out” as I call it. God would not let me check out today. Is that a good thing? Who knows. It made me vulnerable in a place that I usually don’t allow myself to be vulnerable. Which is silly and doesn’t really make sense, but that is me. And I am finding the new me everyday in this strange new journey.

Blessing of the day: being with dad all weekend and having fun. Being with him as we visited mom’s gravesite today and put new flowers where she is. Fall theme of course ūüôā

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One of THOSE days

Today was one of THOSE days. Where all I thought about was mom and how much I miss her. I found myself staring into space a lot today just thinking. And then my first breakdown came. Matthew asked me to make a birthday list. What do I want…..people want to know. Make a list! Make a list! Make a list! I had to walk away and just lay down. I just have no desire to talk about my birthday. Mom loved celebrating us. We were everything to her and she never stopped proving that. So not having her here doing all those things will be tough. You’re never too old for your mama. To want her. To need her. So today, I just really wanted her. Little Matthew did something today that I know she would have gotten a kick out of it. Since I was in junior high, for some reason I would always tilt my head when I was getting my picture taken. I probably thought it was cool or cute. Mom would always tease me about it. Today Matthew kept tilting his head when I told him to smile.
I was talking to Brandon earlier this week. We were discussing how we all thought the pain would get easier as time went on. We seem to all agree that it is getting worse. It’s harder now than when it actually happened. We thought maybe we would hit a plateau of pain. Not true. It continues to rise.
So tonight I will end the day by praying. Praying for peace. Praying for comfort. Praying for God to help me get through another day of grieving.

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Dad’s Annual Meeting

As I was flying back on the plane from San Francisco, I thought about mom being so excited for this trip. She knew about it at least a year in advance and told us to¬†save the date. This weekend dad ended his year as the president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Mom was so excited for his year of presidency. There would be a lot of traveling so she had gotten a new suitcase and a new carry on purse that had tons of room. I used that carry on bag. I love using or wearing her stuff. It brings comfort. I thought about her the whole time we were there. If she had not been diagnosed, she would have been hopping on and off that tour bus with is. She would have been going with me to every store. She would have loved just being near the water whether it was on the pier or on the ferry. If she were still here today, she would have said “here’s my credit card. Go have fun with my babies.” And afterwards, we would have come back and watched movies. I loved going on trips with her.

All weekend I heard the same thing: You look exactly like your mother. I love it. Mom would always say “oh you poor thing.” I never understood why. She was beautiful. My favorite comment was from a friend and colleague of dad. I walked into dinner and he came up to me and said, “you are so much of a spitting image of your mother that it knocked me back. I felt like she was walking into the room.”

I heard so many nice and comforting and heartfelt things about mom. They shared many fond memories of her. I felt so¬†hollow even so. I cried every night in the shower. It hurts knowing how excited she was about this trip. It hurts seeing my dad alone amidst other doctors with their wives. When he spoke at dinner, I cried. I had actually become overwhelmed with emotion at that first dinner when he simply spoke her name.¬† I’m not really sure why. But seeing him get emotional will always make me emotional. Every time he spoke of his career choices, he always says “we”, “us”, “together”. They always made decisions together and¬†his years leading up to his presidency, she was always supporting and encouraging him. She was so proud of him.

So he started this journey as president with mom by his side at the meeting.

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And he finished with his children and grandchildren by his side and mom smiling down on us. As one of dad’s colleague’s said, “Just look over your shoulder and you will see Cindy!”

Dad at ASAJoseph and Matthew were cheering us on from home because of work.

 

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Those Special Moments

I have found myself daydreaming a lot lately. Mostly about mom of course. I was thinking back on those 2 weeks or so she was in the hospital before she came home with hospice care. It was a roller coaster of emotions. I remember just wanting to soak up every last minute of it. If I was sitting next to mom, I was holding her hand. I would talk about everything. When I ran out of things to talk about, I would show her pictures and videos from the phone or iPad. For awhile, she was still smiling and laughing. Gradually it went to just looking. Just staring. I would stare into her eyes the whole time. I would smile hoping to get one back in return. When she smiled or laughed, all of us would rejoice like she was a child just learning how to do these things. We would take it and cherish that moment. When she would cry, we would cry. Her cry at this time was something I had never heard and is forever burned into my memory. Anyone else that heard it would say the same thing. It was the most heartbreaking sound to hear a cry from a woman that so badly wants to speak but can’t. When the crying became far and few between is when we knew “the beast” was taking her over. We would get glimpses of her. She would cry out and we would jump to comfort her and talk to her until she would slowly settle Into that stare again, the beast rearing it’s ugly head. I tried to get in as much as I could during those periods. Tell her how much I loved her. How she was the most amazing mother. How she was my best friend. How we would all be ok. We would take care of each other and look out for each other. These things made her cry more, but that assured me that she understood. I had to tell her. She had to know. We all had our alone time with her. To say goodbye. To tell her how amazing she was. I am forever grateful that I had those special moments even though they were extremely hard.

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The Ache

There are days that I just ACHE for you. I miss you everyday, but some days it is more intense and I ache for your physical being. I have been having a lot of these days lately.¬† I cry at the drop of a hat. A certain song comes on, just the tune of another song, seeing a Sonic, running errands, having your face flash in my memory. I put my sunglasses on until I regain my composure. I miss the everyday mundane things. Helping you shove that brace into those ugly shoes we both hated so much. Driving to Sonic twice a day. I miss the looks and compliments we would get on your “Moses” walking stick.

I long for our talks. For our inside jokes. The secret looks we would give each other. Of course some say they were not that secret! I know you are here in my heart. I know you are watching over me. But I just want to see you and I want to laugh with you. I was sharing a memory with Mindy (my cousin/friend). I was laughing about something we did and said. Mindy asked “how did ya’ll have such an amazing relationship?” I didn’t know how to answer that. We just did. God blessed us.

I had a dream that THIS was all a dream. I walked into the house and froze. I asked what you were doing here and you said you have always been here. That I just had a bad dream. I wish that was true.On days like this, I just pray. I try to channel your strength. I try to think the way you would think. 

People ask me if¬†I’m ok. I’m ok in the sense that I can still do my¬†wife and motherly duties.¬†But in the sense of “hey your mom just died,¬†how are you?”¬†I’m not ok.

Blessing: My brothers pitching in for Cindy’s Silver Linings¬†

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Grandparents Day

It was a good day. It was a sad day. It was Grandparents Day at school. I was so excited for my parents to take part in this day. I remember as a kid looking forward to it. It never crossed my mind that mom would not be here for her first school organized grandparents day.

When mom first got sick, I refused to google anything. I was relying on faith and what HER doctors were saying. I accidentally came across a statistic about GBM¬†one day after reading an article on brain cancer advancements. It stated that GBM life expectancy is 5 years. I felt a little hope. At least mom would see Isabella and Matthew in a few school events. I remember talking to mom about how I stumbled across this. She didn’t say much. I talked to John (oldest brother AKA google master). He reassured me it was wrong. It was an old statistic before the new meds that mom was on. He lied to make me feel better. He knew I wouldn’t google more. He was protecting me. I’m thankful for that in a strange way. The ever protective big brother ūüôā

As today approached, I wasn’t sure how I would take it. I let Isabella choose her green outfit (green day). She chose the outfit Mammie bought her…..”That way Mammie will be with me also”. She amazes me everyday. Seeing the kids walk hand in hand with just Papa broke my heart. Walking into the school building tore my insides. Pictures were being taken with grandpas AND grandmas. Everywhere. I felt like dad was feeling my same feelings. We walked into the classroom and the teacher pointed to their activity: “Does she have her grandparents?” the teacher asked. “Just me” dad replied. A simple sentence that punched me in the stomach. As much pain as I am feeling daily, I know dad feels more. I hate the thought of him being alone. I walked away letting them have their day. I pictured in my head mom sitting on the other side of Isabella applauding her creativity during the activity.

Blessing of the Day: Acknowledging to myself those certain people in my life that I know I can lean on. That know me well enough¬†to always have the right thing to say….or nothing to say. They just hug and say “when you’re ready”¬†

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What’s in a Signature Anyway? EVERYTHING!

I am the queen of distraction and keeping myself busy so as to not be left with a reality that I don’t really want to face. But every now and then, when my guard is completely down, BAM! Reality strikes and I have nothing to do but face it. Or in this case, search every place in my house where I know we keep and store saved birthday, graduations, shower cards, etc. A while back, when I had finally rounded up a large stack of who knows how many cars, I filled them in two boxes and stored them in my daughter’s closet. I laughed at myself and just assumed that I must be a card hoarder. I have never been more thankful of that until I saw this, first thing yesterday morning when I woke up, turn on my night stand light, and saw a card that was given to Vivian on Sunday when we celebrated birthdays:
Simply "John"Of course, the one above is actually the card that I received as well because I immediately went to find the card that he had given me as well.

Funny that I didn’t notice it Sunday. I am certain it is because, just as Sherry stated in her post, everyone stayed busy so as to not feel the emotional affect of the obvious voices and laughs that were missing.

In 35 years of birthdays, two children, a graduation, Easters, Valentine’s Days, etc., this was my first “John”. And it was beautifully heartbreaking. Like, someone forgot to sign their name too. So I felt the need to go and find a birthday card with Cindy’s handwriting. Just to see it again? I don’t know. Who knows. I often chase rabbits…but I was thankful for this one:) Before I quit looking, I found these:

Cards from John and Cindy & Gang:)

Cards from John and Cindy & Gang:)

Birthdays, New baby boy and girl, graduation, wonderful niece, etc.
Birthdays, New baby boy and girl, graduation, wonderful niece, etc.

Gonne miss this bubbly handwriting!
Gonna miss this bubbly handwriting!

So as I sat reminiscing, I thought about how hard this was going to be for my cousins, Uncle, Dad, Aunt Sherry, etc., everytime another holiday or birthday passed. In even pulled up a video that Sherry sent me of her singing Happy Birthday to lil Matthew and played it as if she were singing to me. That and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”:) HA! And then I wondered if they would do the same.

Even funnier is when my mom called my on my birthday and sang as she always does, when she was finished, I asked her if she would do it again when I got my recording on. And of course, she did. How lucky I am that I got the chance to do that? Of course, it wouldn’t hurt any less if she weren’t here to sing to me, but I can’t help thinking about all the “I’m never gonna hear…” or “we’re never going to do……again” that so many must be going through right now.

I wish I would have kept more cards. I wish I would have gone to more family bdays. I wish we could turn back time and start it all over again, just to relive the days when Cindy and the kiddos would come to Grandma’s house and we’d all watch “Space Camp” and then make a “space shuttle” in the garage afterwards and pretend we were astronauts. Life was so simple and carefree as a child. Too bad I enjoy it from the viewpoint of looking back and didn’t embrace it as much when I was in the present.

But I guess that happens to many of us.

So save your cards. Save letters, pictures, little notes. Heck, even save special messages. You never know when they will be the last ones.

Blessings!
Min

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A Missing Voice

Today was our first extended family gathering since mom has passed. Our family has gotten together every month or every other month all my life to celebrate the birthdays¬† of our family members.¬†There was never a good excuse to miss this lunch. If you tried, you would be going on a guilt trip! I have always enjoyed these lunches. My cousins were my first friends, other than my brothers of course. There was an obvious void at today’s gathering. Not only did my mother pass in August, but so did my uncle. The husband of the aunt that I am named after. The grief I feel for my Aunt Sherry can not be put into words. She has lost her two best friends and she lost them within 20 days of each other. It felt odd walking in there.¬†It was odd seeing my dad standing alone as he talked to everybody.¬†It was heartbreaking seeing my aunt busy herself to keep from breaking down. I know that feeling. I missed her laughter today. I missed peaking around the corner to make sure she wasn’t alone (she never was). I missed more than anything that voice singing me happy birthday. That smile she always gave me. That hug as she would sit next to me. Her voice yelling out over the talk and laughter saying “Hey someone take their picture!” I know what she would have said today…..”I can’t believe my babies are turning 30. I certainly don’t feel old enough to have babies that are 30.” I am so thankful for my kids sitting in my lap because I was able to focus on them and fight back the tears.

¬†It is so hard to put my emotions about the day in words. It’s a feeling. It’s that empty feeling. That heavy feeling. That feeling that something just isn’t right. Someone at church today told me that birthdays were the hardest for him when his mother passed. She was always the first to call him. That is true of my mother as well. I would get a text at midnight so that she would be the first to wish me a happy birthday. I of course always received a phone call at a normal time in the morning as well! How I will miss hearing that voice sing happy birthday to me over the phone on October 27.

Blessing of the Day: Hearing from a few people that reading my journal entries has been inspiring and how great it is that people will be able to read thoughts that they may be having as well.

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My Thoughts on Sept. 3, 2013

The denial phase came crashing in on me this week. Two nights in a row I have found myself sobbing curled up in a ball. Not sure what spurred it this time. Isabella starting school. Deena (my mother in law) coming to town. Cleaning mom’s closet. A combination of all I assume. But the realization of not seeing your face and hearing your voice has gotten to me.

Deena came to visit just to hang out and help me out in any way. Seeing her play with the kids brings me joy and sadness. I’m glad they still have a grandmother, but so sad at the thought that they may not remember “mammie”. Mammie did so much for them and with them. She shared many special moments. Sleepovers at her house. Sleepovers at my house. Movies. Shopping. Children’s Museum. Are they too young to remember? Matthew possibly. I have hope with Isabella. She has been crying for Mammie a lot lately and it breaks my heart. She looks to the sky and¬†says “hi mammie. I love you.” One day she just started bawling after saying it. She misses her mammie. She actually reminds HERSELF that mammie is smiling at her. She sings to mammie in the car. Dances for mammie in her room. She said to me the other day, “you don’t need to cry for mammie. She is in a good place.” Such a wise little three year old.

¬†Matthew got home from work and Deena walked over to him and gave him a big hug and said “your mama loves you.” How I would love to hear those words from her again. That is what triggered the meltdown tonight. I think it was the first meltdown I have had with Matthew. I have been trying not to show my emotion in front of others. Not that they would judge me. I have been trying to still be a good mother and wife,¬†but still¬†grieve. I just feel guilty showing my sadness in front of my little family.

Blessing of the Day: Amidst my meltdown tonight, the name of mom’s organization popped into my head, put there by God himself. Cindy’s Silver Linings. She always believed that she was given this tumor for a reason. There was a greater cause. She just didn’t know what it was. She saw the good in everything, the silver lining.

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Silver Glitter left behind stands to remind…Pt. 1

Just a Niece, a Cousin
I wasn’t sure if I would even post here because I’m just Cindy’s niece, just a cousin to the “kiddos”, as I still refer to them collectively, just an “in-law” to Uncle John, although he may as well be blood, because in our family, once you’re in, you’re in (that is, unless you hurt our own, which will earn you a nice figure of yourself cut out of each picture that you were in in my grandmother’s photo albums), so I didn’t think that there would be much to offer, to share, that could even compare to what Sherry and my cousin’s have been through. But I read something that struck me and gave me the realization that I too had something to share that can also benefit others. For those of us who are cousins, or just really close friends of the family, there is something that we experience that is a little different, but as I have found, can be very painful and traumatic in itself.

The Beginning of the End
When Aunt Cindy went back into the hospital, finally admitted into a room in the early hours of August 1, 2013, her 59th birthday, my Uncle Ray passed away suddenly from a heart attack shortly after my Aunt Sherry (Cindy’s Sister) and Uncle Ray had arrived home from the hospital visiting Cindy and John as they awaited a room. Talk about a blow in a direction that we were not expecting. My world stopped. Time stood still. I’m still trying to process it all, but I’m sure that I will.

When I went to see Aunt Cindy later on that day, I don’t remember what I was expecting, but I knew her situation so I knew that she would be different than the last time we sat together and had a conversation together – Easter 2013.

Our last picture together

Our last picture together

The Affect of a Picture
It amazes me still just how much seeing a picture of her affects me. Or when I type an email address and “texancindy” shows up, or when I was still on FB and her name would pop up or I’d see a past picture that she had “liked”, how it was like a little stabbing my heart. I still don’t understand why. The only thing that I can think of is because Uncle Ray’s and then her eventual death were the first deaths for me to actually accept and deal with in the present. But I digress….another time I will expand.

A Child Looks to the Faces of those they Trust for Reassurance
Like a new babe, not more than 3 or 4 years old mentally when it comes to dealing with emotion, I looked around at all the faces when I got to the hospital. These were the same people, but their faces were not the same as they were on that fateful day, March 1, 2012, when we all found out that Cindy did indeed have a brain tumor, and it was the worst kind, “The Beast” as they call it since survival statistics are so grim. This time, they were strong. I was weak. These were faces that have looked into the face of their beloved mother, wife, or sister, and have watched her slowly change, all the while keeping the most infectious smile, that for some reason became more joyful after her chemo and radiation. She exuded joy. She shined. These were faces that had done the research, and while they never lost hope, they knew that unless a miracle happened, we were going to lose her. I however, chose to remain obliviously hopeful. So when I saw their faces, instead of them being devastated with tears, which would cause a real 3 or 4 year old to also be devastated and afraid, they were serious, showing smiles though I could see their sadness. They had accepted that things may not turn out the way we were hoping for. Even my dad, I think it was him that had a huge impact on me and my cousins. We’re all use to him being weepy and emotional, but he wasn’t. He was strong. It makes me cry to even write about it. For years he looked to his sisters for strength after my grandmother passed, but with all that Aunt Sherry had been through and with what Aunt Cindy was going through, he was the strong one, he was realistic. He even talked differently. It was beautiful yet confusing.

My Uncle John was the other one that really affected me. Matter of fact, I think he started to avoid me because for some reason I have the ability to make him cry. But he tried his best to stay strong. Sometimes I wondered if he wished we all didn’t keep come visiting so he could just let go, but I knew that he loved having us all around. And I think he also knew that I liked to come around to try and distract them all.

Since they so graciously allowed me to insert myself into their last and intimate days with the mother and wife, I experienced the most beautiful love story that no movie could ever portray, just in watching Uncle John with her from the first day I saw them in the hospital on February 28, 2012 until Cindy’s Memorial. I have never seen a love like that. And I think that is still one of the greatest pains that I experienced through this all. Cindy and John had a love for one another that few people will ever experience. Knowing them all my life and spending summers with them and just doing life with them for 35 years, has given me the storybook to pray over my children everyday – that they too will have a love like that. Watching Uncle John hurting, as his eyes rarely ever left Cindy’s, I think will always be one of the hardest things that I have ever experienced.

So as to not make this too long, I will continue to share the experience of the unique gift that the Zerwas’ gave me by allowing me to be there, to love them, to distract them, and probably annoy them. It honestly changed my life and everything about me. I will never be the same, nor do I want to be.

Blessings,
Mindy

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