So long, farewell…

Sunset over Grand Traverse Bay.

Dear My Sweet Hat Trick,

I am writing to inform you that you are being let go.

You were so good to me. I learned so much from you. You gave me a very safe space to practice sharing my story…and releasing it! Poof, into cyberspace my words went and I hardly ever knew what came of them. But, they are out there.

You came to me at a time when I really needed you. I needed a place to reflect on what it meant to lose someone I loved so very much and miss so madly. My dad. With each holiday and anniversary and birthday and little league game where he once stood, behind the dugout, waiting for just the right opportunity to give James an encouraging nod or ask Dan what happened in that last play, my heart breaks.

I can put the pieces back together now though. Funny thing about the heart – it regenerates. I’m sure of it. In the spaces left dark and cold by life and loss, love enters, settles in, and multiplies there. Hearts are really big. Much bigger than any of us can imagine. Hearts are resilient. They (literally!) take a beating day after day. Hearts are strong and tough, like warriors. At night, hearts restore themselves. If not at night, then in the daytime, or anytime when we are not looking. Our great big hearts bounce back from pain, fear, and hatred, and they make more room for love. And then, filled with love and forgiveness and gratitude, to ease the pain of all that hurts us, our hearts wait for our minds to catch up to them.

A heart’s love is abundant. A bounty, really. Believe me, I know. I tried protecting the open spaces in my heart, thinking there is not enough love for me, and sometimes even thinking that I was not enough – that I was not worthy of the love. Then, when I least expected it, when I thought I had it all figured out, the space filled with love again. Love doesn’t overflow from our hearts to the space that surrounds them. No, our hearts expand. It is true. For example, the longer I know Dan and watch the ways in which he gives of himself so generously and graciously, the bigger my heart gets. And, then there are the little hearts that came in to prove my theory. Three little, tiny, beautiful beating hearts – my original hat trick – filled the empty spaces right up and taught me that life is way too fragile, way too short, and way too fun to hold back. Even a little.

Thank you. I will never forget you. And thanks in part to my knowing just enough, but not too much, I think you may always have a special spot in cyberspace. You might have a new friend soon, like a blog sister or something. I’m not sure yet. There is something new coming, from me to the world, and while I don’t know exactly what shape it will take, I guarantee you that it will be about living and loving really super-duper to the moon and back BIG.

Take care my friend.
xoxo
Love, Anna

It’s for the Best.

Happy New Year!

Ah, the holidays…another season has passed and Target has the Valentine’s candy on display and ready for us to stash away until February 14th. In a blink of an eye, the holidays have come and gone and I can safely say that I made it through my second Christmas without my dear old dad here to see his grandchildren’s faces light up under the tree. In some ways, I think this year was even harder than last. Last year, I knew it would be tough to face the holiday season. I dreaded Thanksgiving, I dug my heels in, and I served the turkey kicking and screaming. And crying. Facing the holidays this year didn’t seem like a big deal to me. I was actually looking forward to it and having lots of fun preparing for it. I didn’t expect to miss my dad so badly. But, there I was, one minute humming Christmas carols down the aisles (of Target), and the next minute feeling weepy at the sight of the holiday cards “For Dad.” Holidays really stir the pot. One can never be prepared for the one little, or huge, thing, event, or memory that will trigger sadness. Suddenly, a memory that I thought was neatly tucked away, rises to the surface. Out of nowhere, I remembered the morning after my dad died as vividly as if it were this morning. I woke up crying, laying next to my mom and sister in my parents’ bed. It felt like I had had a nightmare, but when I woke up, it wasn’t over. That morning, and for several mornings afterward, I simply did not want to get out of bed. I couldn’t imagine facing Visitations and the funeral. I didn’t want to see the sea of sad faces that awaited me. I couldn’t imagine life without my dad or with the new, very sad and hopeless version of my mom. I couldn’t imagine my kids’ lives without their Papaw. I didn’t know how we would all go on. I didn’t want to go on.

And here we are, almost two years later. In times of doubt, people often say, “it will all work out” or “it’s for the best” or “it’s part of the plan”. I know they mean well. I know these words are meant to instill hope and to comfort those to whom they are said. But sometimes, they just aren’t all that comforting. Now though, I think the people who say those words are right. It will all work out. Had I seen my dad’s death as part of the great, big picture, or as part of THE PLAN, I might not have feared getting out of bed. Maybe.

Over time, I saw that my dad’s death bestowed many gifts upon us. Like, if he had to die, thankfully he didn’t have to suffer. And, if he had to die that night, thankfully he was at home and not on the road with my son James, like he had been earlier that night, on the way to and from James’s guitar lesson. And, if he had to die that weekend, thankfully it was on Thursday, before my mom left for the weekend, as she had planned. And eventually, we were thankful that he lived a full life before he died. He was a father and a grandfather and those were two accomplishments that made his heart sing. I was thankful that I even had a dad – for 38 years. The biggest, boldest, most beautiful gift he gave us though, was the gift of life. Not just his life. Sure, in preparing for my dad’s funeral, the gifts he shared through his art and his music and his kind and gentle spirit were more obvious than ever. But, he gave us a second chance at our lives as well. My dad’s death shook me to the core. It woke me up. It made me think about what I was doing and how I was doing it and whether or not I wanted to keep doing it all the same way. My dad’s death changed the way I live. I am a much better, more peaceful, more balanced person now than I ever was before. I thank my dad for that.

Years and years ago I told my mom that I had heartburn. I think I was in college, so it was probably the mid-90’s. She went to her bookshelf, without hesitation, and turned to page 175 of Louise L. Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life. She read from a chart that listed physical ailments, their probable causes, and new thought patterns with which to proceed. She said, “You are holding on to fear, Anna. Say this: ‘I breathe freely and fully. I am safe. I trust the process of life‘.” Until my first pregnancy, when I experienced heartburn like none I had ever experienced before and only Tums even had a chance at wiping it out, I would repeat Louise Hay’s affirmation for heartburn, “I trust the process of life” over and over at the earliest sign of heartburn (I have a bad memory so I had to shorten it). My heartburn always went away. In all honesty, nobody really, truly knows that there is a PLAN. A lot of us believe there is. Some of us think it’s God’s plan. Some simply feel better thinking we’re part of something bigger, something like a plan, whether it be God’s or someone else’s. I think we can all agree that there is a process though. Everything we do is a process, from waking up in the morning to going to bed at night, we are in the process of life. I think our challenge is to trust in that process. When someone dies unexpectedly, or we receive a diagnosis we weren’t prepared for, or we get a flat tire on the way to work, or our kid refuses to eat his dinner, let’s remember the process. Let’s commit to trusting in the process. If we trust, we know for sure that everything will be okay. Life will unfold exactly as it was meant to. There is no need to worry or move forward in fear, just trust.

I think trusting the process is especially relevant as we enter the New Year. I made my New Year’s resolutions and I am excited about a fresh start. A new beginning is upon us and it is filled with promise. What does 2012 have in store for me? If 2012 goes by even half as fast as 2011, it won’t be long before I know the answer to that question. In the meantime, I won’t get discouraged when I’m suddenly overcome with grief. I won’t give up when my plans are derailed. I’ll try not to worry when things aren’t happening as I had hoped they would. In the meantime, I am committed to trusting the process…I trust in the process of life.