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Category: Bereavement

One Year Later

One Year Later

Soon buds and leaves
will fill the empty spaces.
In the mind of this love
The fissures mend themselves.

-Sharon Salzberg

This week marked my mom’s first “angelversary.” In the early evening on Memorial Day last year, our family gathered around her bed to say goodbye. She passed on during the night, in the wee morning hours.

This year, Memorial Day weekend was pretty rough as I remembered each day leading up to her death. Ideally, I would have been more mindful and resilient, but I was worn out from various personal and work-related matters and was not at my most resourceful. I cried a lot. However, one morning later in the week, I woke up feeling peaceful and hopeful. Mercifully, the energy seems to have shifted.

On the evening that marked the official anniversary, the weather and the colors of the sunset were essentially the same as they were exactly one year prior.

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There was a familiar holiness to the evening, a deep, comforting peace in the air. Before going to bed, I stepped outside and savored the intoxicating fragrance of black locust blossoms that permeated the warm, evening air as a few fireflies flashed under the light of the rising moon. I returned to the practice of writing in a daily gratitude journal, realizing that gratitude makes all the difference in the world.

The remainder of my mom’s ashes were interred during the week, and yesterday, family and a few close friends gathered for a ceremony at the cemetery and formed a circle of love around her grave. The circle of the year – a long cycle of holidays and rituals – is now complete.

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But I have to say… This past year has been the most intense, challenging, and vulnerable year of my life, as I tried my best to adjust to the physical loss of my mother and best friend. The toughest parts have been not being able to pick up the phone and call her to share news and yearning for the kind of presence only a mom can provide. 

I  journeyed deep into the wilderness, although on the surface I continued to go to work every day and did my best to fulfill my various roles and responsibilities. I functioned to the best of my ability despite feeling like I was living two different lives. And I learned so much.

I learned a lot about the nature of codependence and the importance of putting our foot down even when it breaks our heart to do so. I learned that we can neither depend on anyone else to rescue or complete us, nor can we save anyone from doing the hard work that is necessary for their own growth. The best we can do for others is to be a loving, radiant presence – a beacon of light and inspiration rather than a sponge. I learned not to look to anyone else to give me what is already latent inside me, for others can only support me in finding it within. I learned that what matters most is love and that we can only love and nurture others to the extent that we love and nurture ourselves. 

I learned that grief comes in waves that can throw you off balance if you’re not mindful, and I know what it feels like to have my body ache with the heaviness of grief – to feel it in my heart, solar plexus, and sacral chakras, and deep down in my bones. To feel it so intensely that I want to scream at the top of my lungs or do whatever I can to expel it so it won’t suffocate me, even though resisting it only makes it worse. It’s not just the loss of my mother but the loss of so much else as well. To restate it in more hopeful terms, it has been a year of clarity and clearing the way for what’s next – even though I don’t yet know what’s next.

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Perhaps most important of all, I’ve learned that when I feel shattered, empty, and severed, my core essence remains whole, immaculate, radiant, and indelibly connected.

For about 25 years, I’ve had recurring nightmares in which a door of my house couldn’t be locked. I feared an intruder would enter and harm me. On Memorial Day, I dreamed that two different doors had broken locks and was afraid when I heard a man call my name in the distance. Then I noticed two adolescent boys entering the garage and shooed them away. They returned later and took some of my possessions, which I demanded that they return. When they gave them back to me, I looked at the objects in my hands and realized I had no use for them. I told the boys they could have them – and anything else they wanted. I realized I was surrounded by things that I no longer needed and wanted to open up the garage and let people come and take what they wanted and thereby lighten my load. I wanted to let go of all the stuff, rather than hold onto it, and realized there wasn’t anything that really could be stolen from me. It was a wonderful dream that had a deeper meaning and also filled me with a strong desire to purge so many possessions in my waking life. Get rid of what no longer serves a purpose to make room for something new.

On this anniversary of my mom’s passing, I feel as if I am emerging from the forest. I spent a full year wrestling with the illusion of separation and loss and becoming clear about what is not healthy for me. Letting go is a process, but I am finding my way back to the Source and turning toward the light. My backbone, which had softened for a while, is on the mend.

I’m sensing that all the while during the deep, dark winter of grief, I was like a chess piece being moved by the unseen hands of a master. I am beginning to sense the brilliance of this cosmic dance we do on earth and the energies that come to our aid. Perhaps what felt like a humbling fall from grace is all part of the dance, and there are no mistakes, only opportunities to learn and grow.

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Recently, I took my kindergarten class to see local puppeteers perform The Wizard of Oz. Before the performance, I summarized the story for them, and tears welled up in my eyes when I talked about how each character yearned for something they thought they lacked. They put their faith in the great and powerful Wizard of Oz to give them what they desired. However, in the end, Oz explained to them that they had these qualities in them all along. At the end of the show, Glinda assured Dorothy that now that she knows in her heart where Home is, she will be able to go there. And after she returned home, she always remembered and was enriched by her adventures in Oz.

What a great metaphor for the past year.

This morning, I woke up and realized that, like Dorothy, I was wearing silver shoes of protection fashioned by my mom’s love for me as I wandered through the enchanted forest. All is well – and I believe it always has been.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Mother’s Day Anyway

Mother’s Day Anyway

I did not intend to write a Mother’s Day post. I meant to write about ferns, which I fell in love with all over again this week. However, when I walked the labyrinth this morning, I realized that ferns will have to wait.

Tomorrow will be my first Mother’s Day without my mom, and I wanted to pretend it’s just another day. Skip it. I made it through the week with my kindergartners. A substitute teacher read them a Mother’s Day story, and my classroom volunteer took the lead in helping the children put together a Mother’s Day gift. She bought all the supplies and planted flowers in terra cotta pots they decorated with Sharpies. She is an angel.

While walking the labyrinth this morning, it occurred to me that the best way to remember and honor my mom on Mother’s Day is to be the person she raised me to be. The person virtually every mother tries to raise her child to be. Simply put: A good human being.

There is a big difference between being and doing. My mom and I were forever at odds when it came to doing – the more superficial layer that made us appear to be so different. Being is who we are at the core, and it is where we are much more alike than we are different. It is the manner in which we travel rather than what we do along the way.

As a mom, I know from personal experience what mothers want for their children and how forgiving they are. Our moms don’t want us to suffer or have a difficult life. They want us to thrive.

I know my mom would want me to be happy, kind, and hopeful about the future. She’d want me to be gracious and to bring light to this world.

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Spend more time with family.

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Keep company with people who are good to me.

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Work hard but also relax and have fun.

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She would want me to do what I love

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…and to continue growing and cultivating new interests and friendships.

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She’d want me to have a smile for everyone I meet – and that is probably the biggest and easiest thing I can do to carry on her essence because it comes naturally to me.

My mom modeled all of these qualities to me for nearly 50 years, so I have had a good teacher.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama often describes his mother as extremely warmhearted, kind, and gentle and considers her his earliest teacher of compassion. He explains that when we are babies, our survival is completely dependent on our mothers, and therefore we learn warmheartedness and compassion from them. He advises parents to give children maximum love and affection so they may develop these qualities. Some mothers are kinder and gentler than others, and I was fortunate to have an extraordinarily nurturing mom who made you feel like the most important, wonderful person in the world. This didn’t only apply to her own children but to everyone with whom she interacted. That is how many people describe her. Being raised by such a loving, nurturing mother not only helped me develop those qualities but also served as the basis of my belief in a benevolent and forgiving Universal Life Force.

After walking the labyrinth, I went to my dad’s house, where my mom’s tulips were in full bloom. Her gardens look so lovely this year, and I spent quite a while walking around the yard photographing them.

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How wonderful that her flowers continue to come up in the spring even after she has departed from this earth. The flowers represent ways in which my mother made the world more beautiful – acts of kindness that carry on.

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The dainty lilies of the valley caught my attention. No flower transports me back to childhood like lilies of the valley. They grew at the edge of our yard right next to the swing set when I was young and emitted such a sweet fragrance that must have combined with leisurely hours of play to produce a sweet, indelible memory. I used to imagine that if you shook them gently, lilies of the valley would tinkle like little fairy bells.

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Upon spotting the lilies of the valley, I had a mental image of a few lily of the valley sprigs on the kitchen windowsill inside a miniature vase I got from a trip to Hawaii. I remembered how fragrant the mini bouquet smelled when I walked by and knew that if my mom were still alive, she’d clip a few lilies of the valley and put them in that little vase with the broken handle to brighten up the kitchen. So that’s what I did!

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Sometimes we parents are surprised when our children don’t recall experiences that we believed would make a big enough impression to be remembered. But sometimes it’s the smallest gestures that become planted deep inside us and grow into lifelong memories. Tiny but comforting gestures. As a mother, I find hope and comfort in that.

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As much as I have wanted to just wish Mother’s Day away, it happened anyway – a day early. And it seems my mom even made an appearance! As my dad and I drove past the local recreational field,  a car was backing into the road from the parking lot just as we went by. It was my mom, in her car (the same one in which we were driving)! I exclaimed, “There’s Mom!” It was so matter-of-fact, but when I was alone afterward, it hit me: Perhaps she has been trying to get through to my dad, but he needs some help to notice? Several friends have claimed they have seen her, but this was the first time I saw either her or her twin with an identical car! There’s more to this story because of the context in which it took place, but I’ll just leave it at that.

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Last night I went through pictures of my mom to send to someone who is making a video about the hospice house in which she died, and I came across pictures of her and my grandmother together. They both died within 3 1/2 years. Each was the epitome of kindness. Until recently, I was able to lean on them for the nurturing that nobody else in this world can provide. But now they’re gone, and I am the matriarch even though I don’t feel ready to step into that role. I didn’t see it coming so soon! It is a role I will need to grow into, and I hope everyone will be patient with me. I’ll get better at it as time goes on.

Fortunately, my mother and grandmother provided me with nearly 50 years of role-modeling, and every time I act with kindness and compassion, I feel their spirits being channeled through me. And thus, their legacy lives on.

Although many tears have been shed today, I realize I’m not alone walking this twisting, turning path of grief. And that does bring some solace. My heart is with everyone else who is missing his or her mom on Mother’s Day.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Waterfall at the Edge of the Wilderness

A Waterfall at the Edge of the Wilderness

It is May, the month my mother died last year, on the 27th. And lately I have been experiencing a gaping, intense sense of loss.

It’s not just the loss of my mother. It’s how her death has opened my eyes to the brevity, gift, and opportunity of our human lives and shown me what is not working in my life and what needs to change. After a fairly frenetic summer and fall, I spent a long, dark winter wandering through the vast wilderness of grief. Deep snowfall covered the path for several months, and I lost my way, bewitched by shadows and longing for light. It was a very long winter of record-breaking snowfall. But below the thick, silent blanket of snow, there was movement. I confronted issues that were long overdue and witnessed people close to me undergoing painful yet powerful transformations. To witness extraordinary transformation – to know it is even possible – is a blessing. Even in the deep darkness of winter, there is a light that can nourish us and help us grow if we choose to turn toward it.

Eventually the snowbanks melted, the first flowers bloomed, and the birds began to sing again. Trees and shrubs sprouted buds from unpruned branches still hosting the lacy ghosts of last year’s blooms.

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The snow and ice to which we had become accustomed melted, and the water began to flow. The river levels rose, and grief took on a different, more fluid quality that came at me in waves, like labor contractions. Some particularly huge ones hit this week.

Again, it wasn’t just the loss of my mother – although that is big enough on its own. There is a confluence of loss arising in my heart, including the loss of my profession and having an empty nest earlier than I had planned. Two nights ago, I began sobbing uncontrollably. I felt grief and loss deep in my bones and in my heart. It was perhaps the deepest manifestation of emotional pain I ever have experienced in my life. I became a human waterfall that continued to flow all day yesterday. When a stranger wished me a good day and smiled at me, it brought tears to my eyes. And it occurred to me that when we have reached the limit of what we can endure and feel so broken, we are about to learn that we are much stronger than we believed ourselves to be. It is an opportunity to redefine our limits and our lives.  And to remember the importance of basics, like getting enough sleep and exercise.

Putting up the May pocket chart calendar in my empty classroom, I had to blink back tears – especially when I put the 27 card in place. Tears flowed again when I took out the May books and came across some Mother’s Day books – which I realize I will not be able to read to my class this year.

I checked my email and, as if on cue, received A Note from the Universe that read:

“Any and all forms of separation, disconnects, divides, partings, breakups, and goodbyes are temporary. Very. You’ll be together far, far longer than you will ever be apart.”

Realizing I was having a grueling day, a woman whom I consider a soul sister assured me that it will get better and that even when you think you have gone backwards, you will find that you moved forward but just didn’t know it. She assured me that I will be myself again, but it will take time. She said I will never forget but will find peace. I am grateful for her wisdom and friendship.

At the water’s edge, I recently watched several geese floating peacefully. Whenever a wave approached them, they floated calmly,  gracefully, and effortlessly up and over it, as if not phased by it in the least. Oh, to navigate the waves of life and loss with such grace!

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And I know I can do it. I have an incredible toolbox that has been underutilized in recent months. Now that spring has arrived, life feels more spacious, and it’s time to put those tools into fuller use once again. First of all, I must restore my own center as the axis about which my life spins, for it has wobbled.

Now that the snow has melted, the labyrinth I love to walk has revealed itself and invited me to enter. Filled with a bittersweet mix of gratitude and sorrow, I walked through the threshold of arched willow branches and along the winding path to the center. The sun was descending in the sky and shining through the daffodils surrounding the labyrinth, giving them the transparency of stained glass mandalas.

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The scene was just like it was a year ago, when I found it so breathtaking that I called my mom and asked her if she wanted to see something beautiful. She said yes, and I immediately jumped in the car, picked her up, and brought her to the labyrinth to be amongst the flowers.

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I continued to walk the labyrinth with hot tears streaming down my cheeks. One step at a time, I returned…to myself and to my sacred space. And the sunlit daffodils whispered: This is your life. Enter it fully. And I knew these words to be true.

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And I shall do so, with gratitude. This little life of mine is far from perfect, and there is much room for growth. But it is mine, and it is time to shake off the spell of the wintry wilderness and reclaim it, one mindful footstep at a time.

As for all that no longer fits or that moves beyond my embrace:

I release you to the universe with gratitude for the gifts we have given each other and for the seeds we have planted in each other. We exist forever in the places we were together and in each others’ memories and heart. All is well. And in the end, love is all that remains.

And so I wake up to the spaciousness of this new day, this new month – no longer a waterfall but with a heart budding with hope and open to the generous offerings of spring. The daffodils seem to be a good place to begin.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What If No Stepping Stone is For Naught?

What If No Stepping Stone is For Naught?

Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.”   -Anne Lamott

I finally watched the movie, Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon. It was selected by Mindful.org as the “mindful film of the year” and really struck a chord. I’m drawn to stories of people embarking on pilgrimages of self-discovery that involve backpacking through the wilderness, and Wild features a woman who is grieving the death of her mother and decides to hike 1,100 miles solo along the Pacific Crest Trail to reclaim her life, which had been thrown into disarray in the wake of her mother’s death. Unlike my sister, I watched the movie prior to reading the memoir on which it was based. Now I want to read the book!

Watching the movie made me aware of a deep-seated desire to do something out of the ordinary to honor my own grief and rebuild my life. I yearn for a rite of passage – a touchstone for transformation.

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Part of me longs to take a backpacking journey – as portrayed in Wild or The Way – or to retreat to the solitude of a simple cabin in the woods for a few months to get some perspective. I just want to stop the world for a little while to take inventory and forge a new vision – because my world changed ten months ago when my mother died, and it will never be the same again. I will never be the same. I want to create something fresh and vital from the ashes and make the most of this “one and precious life.”

At the end of Wild, a voice-over summarizes the woman’s journey:

But if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t do a single thing differently. What if I wanted to sleep with every single one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if all those things I did were the things that got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?

It took me years to be the woman my mother raised. It took me four years, seven months, and three days to do it without her. After I lost myself in the wilderness of my grief, I found my own way out of the woods. I didn’t know where I was going until I got there on the last day of my hike. Thank you, I thought over and over again, for everything the trail had taught me and everything I couldn’t yet know.”

-Cheryl Strayed, as quoted in the movie adaptation of her memoir, Wild.

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I have some of my own “what ifs.”

What if situations that seem dreadful or unfortunate on the surface teach us something? What if walking through the darker corners of grief is part of our journey? What if people who appear as adversaries are actually helping us to awaken and move on? What if getting pushed to our limit is exactly what we need in order to change?

What if I’m here to do my work in this world by using my particular nature and programming to the fullest, rather than trying to force my nature to conform to incompatible situations? What if my nature/essence/personality is no accident and serves a purpose that I have yet to understand and utilize fully?

During the winter, I prayed for clarity…and received it. And I’m grateful for it, even though the timing feels inconvenient. I have resolved to walk through a door that, for years, I’ve been afraid to walk through, even though doing so still scares me. And that’s why I’m now praying for courage – because not doing it would be too great a compromise. Certainly, there will be other “problems” that arise when I walk through that door, but at least I will not compromise my spirit any longer. That is a burden too heavy to bear.

I think of how preoccupied I was with what “to do” with my life – meaning what kind of work to do. For a long time, I equated work with livelihood but have since come to define it much more broadly, as the energy we give to the world. The specifics of it don’t seem as important as the context in which it is carried out. I acknowledge the importance of being in an environment that is aligned with my principles and values what I have to offer, an environment in which I have freedom to be myself and to release my best, most authentic energy and talents into the world. I’m realizing that if conforming to a system or environment devastates your spirit, you must have enough self-respect and faith to move on. When a situation isn’t compatible with your nature, you owe it to yourself to say, “No, thank you,” and move forward…because it would be a waste of your precious life not to. I think it would be a tragedy to get to the end of this life and see that I wasted time failing to express my highest nature by remaining stuck in something that requires me to be someone I’m not – something that binds my wings and has lost its spirit, meaning, and purpose. Remaining stuck is like clinging to a rotten branch. It’s allowing the lower, fearful self to be in the driver’s seat. It’s not living.

No, thank you. I was made for more than that!

I wonder: Does everyone go a little crazy while navigating the wilderness of grief – each in our own way? Can you ever be the same again after losing your mother? And is “sameness” something to even wish for? Or is it one of the great delusions? (As a photographer, I would answer yes because it is becoming apparent to me that, based on the interdependent nature of this world of form, nothing remains exactly the same from moment-to-moment.)

In recent months, I have been spending time watching the Battenkill River flow. Its movement is much more dramatic than the flow of the Hudson River in front of my house. The roaring Battenkill inspires and influences me greatly and has been teaching me about letting go and dislodging the fear-based belief that my present set of circumstances is the safest, healthiest place to be.

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The only thing I know at this point that my mother’s death has awakened me to the gift, opportunity, and brevity of our human life. Status quo appears to be over. And rather than focus on the time, money, and energy wasted on something that ended up not being a good fit, I can be thankful for all I have learned and the ways in which I have grown as a result. No stepping stone on our path is for naught. We wouldn’t have gotten this far without it. But it is not the end of the path. There is more to come.

In The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Work is love made visible.” And when it’s time to move on, may we do so with love, gratitude, and confidence.

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\© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Last Christmas Present

The Last Christmas Present

During the summer, my dad gave me some money that my mom “would have wanted me to have” after she died. I knew immediately what to do with some of it: It would be my last Christmas present from my mom. So around Thanksgiving, I bought the wide angle lens I’d been wanting for a long time but couldn’t afford on my teacher’s salary, wrapped it, and placed it in a gift bag my mom gave me last Christmas. I wasn’t around on Christmas and didn’t put up a tree or any other decorations because I just didn’t feel up to it. A few days after Christmas, I was still waiting for the right time to open it.

When this morning’s colorful sunrise interrupted a long string of gray days, I knew the time was right. I opened the present with the excitement of a child and then ran outside to use it right away and send a big thank-you into the beautiful sky.

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The idea of buying a lens “from my mom” came from a dream I had of my grandmother after she died less than four years prior. My grandmother came to me in a dream and seemed excited because she wanted to give me one last gift. I recently had been given some money from the sale of her house and woke up from the dream knowing what to do with it: I used it to buy my first “real” camera. It was probably the most important purchase I ever made because nature photography – and sharing it online – has completely transformed my life and given me a renewed sense of purpose.

And speaking of dreams…

On Christmas morning, I dreamed – twice – that my mom was picking up the phone to call me. After waking up from the dream fragment the second time, I decided to meditate. When I did, I heard my mom’s voice telling me to call a certain relative. I resolved to make the call a little later, only to hear my mom’s voice once again, saying, “NOW.” So I did. The person seemed very depressed, and I am so glad that I called when I did and passed along the story of how I ended up calling sooner rather than later. We talked about how my mom seems to communicate with us through one another.

So it seems I received two Christmas gifts from her this year. One was planned, and the other was a surprise to be shared.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving

This first Thanksgiving without my mom is a holiday I’m experiencing from the sidelines. Even though I’ve been cooking all day, there is no formal, sit-down meal to share with family, for we are scattered in different directions. (I think the cooking is mostly therapeutic.) My dad’s neighbors have adopted him, my daughter is in Georgia, my son is spending the day with his dad in their new home, one of my siblings is in New York City, and the other is celebrating with her in-laws. I had considered volunteering at a soup kitchen and made some phone calls to explore possibilities but didn’t follow through. The bottom line is that I just want to lay low this Thanksgiving. It is quiet here in this little empty nest on the river.

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Yesterday, we had our first snowfall of the season. This morning, I woke up to a snow-covered world and went out in search of beauty for the first time in a while. I took a walk in my special sanctuary close to home, where I spent many frigid mornings last winter in silent solitude. It occurred to me that the last time I walked there in the snow was when my mom was sick. This is the first snowfall since she died, and I’m filled with gratitude for how the snow-kissed beauty of this special place saved me almost daily last winter. In this place, I found tranquility, inspiration, beauty, and joy. I was elevated above the challenges and filled with energy to attend to everything that called for attention. I’m grateful for the snow-covered trees that were here for me last year and transformed my grief into gratitude today.

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While walking, I contemplated gratitude. In addition to family, food, good health, and shelter, the following blessings rose to the forefront of my mind:

  • Reconnecting with old friends. Many friends from high school and even earlier resurfaced in my life upon hearing of my mom’s illness and death. Connecting with long-lost friends is like collecting lost pieces of myself. Some people who were little more than acquaintances in high school have showed up most faithfully and literally have offered me a shoulder on which to cry. As much as I’ve tried to forget the teen years ever took place, there is an undeniable bond that is forged through growing up in the same town and sharing a common history.
  • New friendships formed by shared grief and understanding. Knowing that others in my circle are experiencing the same loss gives me strength and comfort. I know I’m not alone. And the most wonderful gifts are the stories we share with each other – of dreams, peculiar occurrences, and awareness of our loved one’s presence. Many times, I have experienced a tingling, hair-raising sensation from head to toe when listening to friends’ stories. I long to hear them and share mine freely. We speak the same language, describe the same sensations, and transmit hope and joy to each other. The friends with whom I was close when our children were babies always have held a special place in my heart, and clearly it is the same with the friends I have made in the wake of our parents’ deaths.
  • The helpers who stepped forward out of the blue. Often, they weren’t the people closest to me but natural helpers who find their way to those in need – for example, one of my dad’s neighbors who shows up frequently on his doorstep with home-cooked meals and even an apple pie (with a heart-embellished crust) on Thanksgiving morning. These dear souls fill me with hope for this world and inspire me to be more helpful and giving.
  • Having a closer relationship with my other family members. My mom was the only extrovert in my family of origin. She was like a puppy that greeted us gleefully at the door. She did most of the talking and often talked for us by being the default family messenger. A large percentage of our communications took place through her. Now that she is gone, we have to step out of our introverted comfort zones and communicate with one another. I’m building a much closer, direct relationship with my dad, and my sister and I turn to each other when we miss our mom and when we feel upset about matters we would have brought to her. I think it would have been unfortunate for my dad to have died without experiencing a more direct relationship with his children. It used to be that we would talk with Mom on the phone, Dad would come on and say hello, and then Mom would fill him in on all the news afterward. But now he doesn’t get the news from her; he gets it from us. He is able to receive presence and love directly from us now. This is perhaps the greatest gift my mom could have given him – and us – by leaving us.

All of the above are blessings received as a result of losing my mom. It’s easy to sink into sorrow when thinking about what her death has taken from us. But I know that on Thanksgiving – and every other day – my mother would want us to celebrate the ways in which our lives are richer as a result of her life – and even her death.

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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