Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One


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I Know What I Know

The days go by slow, but the years go by fast…my “frousin” Margo says and it is so true. Every day feels long, but somehow the weeks slip by so quickly. I wake up, and it’s Monday, and I blink and somehow it’s Friday. Day after day, I wake up, and I get out of bed, and shower and get dressed and go on with my life, because that is what I have to do. My mother and sister didn’t fight so hard to live, so that I just lay down and die. That’s what I tell myself every single day. People say, oh you can move on with your life now – but it was never a burden before. I went from caregiver to estate gatekeeper. I went from a daughter and sister to being an orphan. People expect life to go on, and I think that is really their hope. What you are as a mourner is a window to future grief for others. And it’s scary – I know. It is part of life. I know. Sometimes, in the most profound way, moving on with your life is much harder than the high alert situation of being a caregiver.

If you ever have been a caregiver, you know what I mean by this statement. You look at your loved one’s colour. You ask, expectantly, and with a tiny bit of dread and fear, how they are feeling. You take temperatures, listen to breathing, hope that they’ll eat. You listen for coughing. You tiptoe into a room at night to make sure that they are breathing and sleeping peacefully. Sleeping becomes fitful (yours of course). You live in fear daily of what that day may bring or breathe a sigh of relief if the day was a good one.

You learn things that stay with you. Many don’t know this, but here is a sample of what I can do:

-I can give injections, both subcutaneous (yes, under the skin) or through a port

-I can hook up a portable oxygen tank

-I can inject morphine into someone’s mouth through a syringe without wasting a drop

-I can take a pulse

-I can tell you, in detail, what the difference is between HER2+ and HER2- breast cancer

-I can deal with vomit – lots and lots of vomit, get a bag to the person before they throw up and deal with cleanup after

-I can dress weeping wounds gently and carefully, keeping them clean and look out for infection

-I can turn an IV on and off

-I can lift a patient from their bed without hurting them

-I can move them in their bed by myself if I have to, but it is so much easier with help. It is a struggle though

-I can pay attention to details and advocate for a patient with a doctor or nurse if I have to

-I can tell you what a number of different chemo/immunotherapy drugs are, and what side effects my sister and mother had from them

-I can make a person’s final wishes happen and speak to doctors and nurses about what was in their living will

-The hardest thing that I can and have done is tell someone that it’s ok to go – that I’ll be ok and they will too. I’ve had to do this twice, and each time, it cost me so much more than I can explain

I’m not telling you this so that you’ll admire me or pity me. I’m telling you this so that if you are a caregiver too, that you know that there are people that understand. You will never be the person that you were before, and that’s ok. Take your time. You will still have plenty to deal with after – mentally and physically. Think about what you have had to learn to do. It’s a lot isn’t it? It’s even harder during a pandemic with less help available. But you will find a way. All I know is that taking care of the two women in the photo was the greatest thing that I will ever do in my life.


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My Father and the Little White Box

A few months ago, I received a message from my step-sister letting me know that she had some of my father’s things and offered to ship them to me. This was very kind given that we only met once. My father and I had a strained relationship at best. I am not going to get into the details. It is no longer a factor in my life, and even though I had issues with my father, I do not have Daddy issues. To be fair to someone who cannot defend themselves, those problems belong in the past. I forgave my father a long time ago. I am writing about it today because it is the fourth anniversary of my father’s funeral.

I was curious to see what would be in the box and two padded envelopes that were coming. Maybe a piece of information that would help me understand my father a little, maybe an unseen photo of my mother (likely not) or even my mother’s parents. The box and packages came separately, and when I opened them, it was a lot of family photos from my father’s side of the family. I didn’t really know many of the people. There were a couple of photos of me, and many more of my sisters (the curse of being the youngest child). They also contained his medical diplomas, a cub scout hat from when he was a child, two rings (his medical school ring and a class ring) and finally a digital watch and a couple of other men’s “fashion” watches.

The items themselves didn’t make me feel much of anything. What saddened me the most was that his life came down to a little white box. Imagine living for 83 years, and that is your legacy. I think about my mother, and her life was so much more. Recently, I had a charity come and pick up most of her clothes, some kitchenware, books, cds, toys and a few knick knacks. It was just under 20 boxes and bags. I’ve thrown out 8 garbage bags of things and gave another couple of bags to a senior’s home. Her house is still crowded with her life, her things. My mother had a bigger life. She had interests. She was an artist – a pottery and needlepoint buff. She had so many photos and other treasures. It is all proof to me that she was once vibrantly alive.

My father didn’t have a big life. He was all about his medical practice. He enjoyed gardening and reading, but he was also very introverted. My mother had a presence about her. I remember watching her at her sickest moments, noticing that she still had a spark – a will to live. When I saw my father in February of 2015 for the first time in almost 20 years, it would also be the last time that I saw him. He was gravely ill, but even worse, he didn’t have that energy, that will, that my mother did. My mother’s death left me aching for her presence, but comforted in the fact that I can see that her life had meaning, because of what she created and because of the impact that she had on people. My father’s death left me sad for a person that didn’t have an anchor. When I grieve for my mother, I grieve for her loss and for what I lost. When grieved for my father, it was for the things that I never had. Now what I have is that little white box.


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An Unveiling

Today was my mother’s unveiling ceremony.  If you have never been to one, it literally is a ceremony where a headstone is unveiled and it is held within one year of the person’s death if they are Jewish.  Planning it, from selecting the headstone, to writing the words that will live on long after I am gone, and planning all of the other details was, as I saw it, one of the last things that I could to honour a woman that I so admired.  My sister, Michele and I decided last night, that I would say a few words.  It was harder doing this than it was giving the eulogy at my mother’s funeral.  The shock and numbness that I felt that day could no longer protect me from what I was feeling.  There is a sense, on a day like this, of a wound that had never closed, reopening.  Seeing my mother’s headstone reminded me that this loss is real, and now, it had a tangible aspect that it never had before.

I did not prepare or write down anything for today’s service.  I just had a very vague idea of what I wanted to say.  Some of my family, who could not be at the service, asked if I could blog about it; others who were there did not hear everything, asked for the same.  Here is the gist of what I said:

“I first want to thank you all for coming out on such a cold day.  Some of you, like my cousin, had to travel from out of town.  My aunt is in from Ottawa, but I know that she had always planned on being here, for her sister.  When coming up with the epitaph for my mother’s headstone, it was difficult to summarize everything that I was feeling in 5 words or less.  Some of you many think, when you see it, that I was seeing my mother through rose-coloured glasses.  That the words came from a child’s love for her mother.  I actually took the words from Rabbi Chaim (Harold) Zelikovitz.

After my mother died, I showed my aunt my grandfather’s siddur (prayer book).  It has to be about 100 years old.  Harold had written a passage in it when my Zaydie died.  She suggested that I should ask him to send me something about my mother, and here are his words:

Judith Zelikovitz Schneiderman returned her heroic, courageous and dearly beloved soul to her maker on 17 Adar 5778 (March 3, 2018).  May she find comfort forever in the everlasting world.  Rest peacefully.  Never to be forgotten.  

That is where the words for the epitaph – Heroic, Courageous and Dearly Beloved – come from.  They seemed to perfectly describe my amazing mother who was exactly the person that I remember her to be.

We know that the loss of our mother does not just belong to me and my sisters.  It belongs to all of you as well.  You all miss her too.  We wanted to make sure that we reflected that loss on her headstone.  

I know how cold it is out, but I wanted to thank just a few more people.  Emily, Narda, Grace, Julia and Angel – you all put the care in caregiver.  You treated my mother like a cherished family member, not just a patient.  You gave my sisters and me peace of mind and cared for our mother 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We are forever grateful to you.  My mother cared about you all too.  She would be deeply touched and so appreciative of the turn out today, and we are too.”

I had the chance to speak with some of my mother’s very close friends and her dear cousins today.  It was so touching hearing what they thought of her.  One of her friends told me that my mother would have been so proud today – that everything was done perfectly.  That meant a lot to me, but no matter how perfect it was, it will never seem like enough.  Today reminded me of how I felt the week that my mother died.  I wondered, then, how something could be awful and beautiful at the same time.  That week, my family, including my cherished mother, were surrounded by people and with so much love, even as we were losing her.  Today, we were once again, surrounded with love, but this time, we all had to deal with the pain of her absence.

When I asked the Rabbi, who officiated at the unveiling, months ago where my mother would be once she died, he said something incredibly profound.  He said, “The best way to explain it is that your mother will be everywhere and nowhere all at the same time.”  That still makes perfect sense to me.

 

 


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All Roads (Flights) Lead Here

I leave for a media trip to Israel and I was asked to write a tweet about what I was looking forward to the most.  In so few characters and with a more general audience, it’s hard to put what I’m feeling into words.  I kept it simple and said the White City in Tel Aviv and the Old City in Jerusalem. Of course, experiencing the blend of modern and ancient that Israel possesses is incredible. I am happy to be doing everything from a tour of the Soda Stream factory to being moved by once again visiting Yad Vashem to seeing the beautiful Baha’i Gardens in Haifa.  There is one thing that I am looking forward to more than that though.  It’s not a place – it’s a feeling.

When I visited Israel for the first time in 2006, I was overwhelmed by many things.  What stood out to me the most though, was not the history of the country itself, although that was impressive, it was the knowledge that I stepped off of a plane and into a place that held so many memories for the people who were the most important to me.  My grandparents, Nathan and Sara Zelikovitz, visited in the late 1960’s and fell in love with this new nation.  My parents visited the country in the 1980’s and could not stop raving about it.  It was, and is, still a very important part of our family history.

When my mother passed away 4 months ago, I made a promise to myself to find ways to honour her memory whenever and wherever I could.  I never thought that I would be travelling so soon after her death, but when my friend Shai asked me about coming, one thought really struck me. I could say Mourner’s Kaddish (a prayer that you say for 11 months after the death of a parent or for 30 days after the passing of a child, spouse or sibling) for my mother at The Western Wall – the holiest site where I can pray as a Jew.  I am not religious in the least, but my mother was spiritual, and this is something that I can do for her and it will be especially meaningful in the land that she loved so much.  Once I finish, I will put a paper in the wall with what is believed to be, a written prayer to G-d.  Spoiler alert – it will be prayers of good health for my family, particularly, my oldest sister Michele who is also battling breast cancer.

On my first trip to Israel, I wanted a picture at the Wall simply because my grandparents and parents had photos from there and it was a chance for me to recreate a moment in time, even if my relatives could not be with me.  This time, my wish is that somehow, my mother will feel that I am doing this for her and that my grandparents will know too.

Not too long ago, when I was cleaning out my mother’s papers, I came across some letters that my grandmother wrote about her own trip to the country.  She wrote about how much she and my grandfather loved it and were so excited to be there.  She said that at dinner one night, they were served oranges from a grove that my grandfather owned, and he was bursting with pride.  I can picture the look on my quiet, unassuming Zaydie’s face.  To know that I’m going to be back in this country, a place that was so important to my family and to be able to honour my wonderful mother is what I am most looking forward to.

 


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100 Days, 100s of Memories, 100s of Items

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It’s been 100 days since my mother died.  That’s just a little over 3 months.  It’s the time in the mourning process when you get the head bob – you know those people who sympathetically look at you, nod and say: “Oh, it’s so good that you had CLOSURE….”  “She’s in a better place…” “At least she isn’t suffering.” “Every day gets a little easier, doesn’t it?” Grief is not something that can be wrapped up into a neat little package, and there is no timeline.  When people give me the closure speech, I often want to say what does that even mean?  Closure in that I realize that my mother isn’t coming back?  I know that she isn’t.  Closure in that there was nothing left unsaid?  That’s true, but can be more properly defined as a comfort, not closure.  Closure implies a sense of resolution, and I don’t know anyone who can properly resolve themselves to the finality of losing a loved one.  It also doesn’t get easier with time, every day is different.

People mean well, but it’s a long process.  There is a beginning to grief, but no middle and no end.  There is just a level of coping.  I can get up, go to work, do many things as well as I did before.  The brief fog that was part of the early days of loss has lifted.  I can carry on conversations with people and they would never know that there is anything wrong unless I told them.  It just isn’t something that you can adjust to overnight or over the course of three months.  Keeping occupied helps – it’s when I stop to think about things that reality sets in.

Outside of work, upcoming travel, socializing and settling my mother’s affairs, I need another project to keep me busy.  Something useful…something cleansing…and there is nothing more cleansing than a good declutter.  I’ve recently watched a number of YouTube videos where Influencers declutter cosmetics.  I’m a little obsessed with these videos, but I saw another video where the Influencer decided to get rid of 1,000 items from their home.  That’s a little ambitious for me, I did a huge declutter in 2015 – here is a small sample of things that I got rid of:        https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/konfessions/

I did think carefully about it, and while 1,000 seems to be a daunting number, why not try for 300?   I’ll provide a progress report for you with every 100 items that I’m getting rid of and a few special features.  Some items will be thrown out, most will be donated and a small amount will be sold.  I’m excited to simplify things and to have a goal in mind.  My mother would definitely approve.


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A Motherless Daughter?

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When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. – Khalil Gibran

Mother’s Day without your mother is a special kind of torture.  Everywhere you look, in the weeks before the holiday, you see signs – “Something Special for Your Mom”,  “Show Your Mother that you Care”, “Mom, the Heart of the Family” or just “World’s Best Mom.”  It hurts when you can’t participate in a celebration of something so meaningful because your mother simply isn’t with you anymore.

My mother died ten weeks ago.  In some ways, it seems like a lifetime, in other ways I’m struck by how short a time that really is.  I’ve thought a lot about her and why her death has been so hard.  One of the things that I realized is that my mother had a life before me, 31 years to be exact, but I’ve only had a very brief time without her.  I’ve never known a life without a mother and it is a huge adjustment, especially with one as special as mine.

My mother taught me almost everything I know.  She taught me how to talk (she probably wished, at times, that she didn’t), to walk, to cook, to do my laundry, how to save and invest for my retirement, how to appreciate a nice purse and how to live a good life.  She taught me the importance of family and how to put someone else’s needs ahead of my own without feeling like I’m sacrificing anything.  I recently looked up quotes for Mother’s Day, and this one came up, “My mother taught me everything, except how to live without her.”  Well, my mother taught me how to do that too.  I once asked her what I was going to do when she wasn’t here anymore, and she said “You’ll live your life.”  She didn’t say it in an off-handed way, she looked at me directly and said it in her firmest voice.  My mother was a Daddy’s girl, and when my grandfather died, she was devastated, but pushed forward with her life.  You see, she was an example, that as hard as it may be, life goes on.

Since my mother’s death, I’ve been reading a lot of books about people that have lost their parents and about grieving.  It doesn’t depress me, it makes me feel less alone in the world to see how other people handle things.  One book that I haven’t read yet, but is on my night table is “Motherless Daughters” by Hope Edelman.   Initially, after my mother died, I felt like I was one of the club of these women.  A motherless daughter, a mourner, a griever.  The more I thought about it, over time, the less I believe it.    My mother is still present in my life, even if her physical presence is absent.  As much as I still cry because I miss her, I laugh because I remember something that she said.  As much as I miss all of our in-jokes, I think back on them and smile.  As much as I miss her daily, and believe me, there are days like today, when I think I can’t bear it, I know how strong she was and that I have to find a way to try to be strong too.

My mother was described by people as a force of nature and of strength.  She was called a happy warrior.  She never shied away from a challenge and she never quit once she started something.  She said, often unapologetically, what was on her mind – she felt at her age, she earned the right.  She didn’t suffer fools well, but she was also never unkind.  She tried to manage my expectations, but never squashed my dreams.  She was always proud of whatever I achieved but never let me rest on my laurels.  She was both my harshest critic and my biggest fan.  I was her biggest fan too.  I don’t have an idealized view of her – she was exactly the person that I’m describing.  Ask anyone that ever knew her.  She was, simply the best.

So on this Mother’s Day, my first without her,  I’m not a Motherless Daughter.  I’m really lucky to say that I’m every bit my mother’s daughter and I always will be.

 

 


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The First Birthday Without You

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“Was Zaydie as good of a person as you remember him to be?” I asked my mother about my grandfather one day.  Everyone just thought he was a wonderful, kind gentleman, and my mother was the original Daddy’s Girl, but I was still curious.  “Oh no, Jill, he wasn’t.  He was better.”  Even though it’s only been 6 weeks, I can already tell you the same thing about my mother, she was better than I remember.   We had our first holiday without her two weeks ago.  Now, it’s her birthday and we are trying to figure out what to do.  I did a little self-torture, looking at birthday cards that I wouldn’t be able to give her.  That was the day that I got a little sign from her.  Last night, I read cards and poems online that people wrote to their dead mothers just to make sure that I could cry, although, there hasn’t been a shortness of tears on my part.  She really was special.

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Nobody loved a birthday more than my mother, especially the cake.  Every year, we had buy her the same cake – the repulsive store bought chocolate cake with the GIGANTIC pink roses.  She loved it, and every year for my birthday, when I was growing up, I got that very cake even though I hated it.  She’d always say “Tough luck.  I love it, and that’s what your getting.”  That was my mother – every inch a brat.  But before you write her off, that was only one part of my mother, she was so much more than that.  I could gush about how brave she was, but here is a quote from my cousin, a very religious and learned Rabbi, when I ask him for a quote for a treasured book in our family:

Judith Schneiderman returned her heroic,courageous and dearly beloved soul to her Maker on March 3, 2018. May She find comfort forever in the everlasting world. Rest peacefully. Never to be forgotten.

You see, my mother was heroic, not because she had cancer, but because of who she was.  You don’t become a hero because of a disease or because you die, you become one because of how you live you life and my mother lived her life with honour.  She was honest and giving and made decisions that were right, even when they weren’t right for her.

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I was told by many people how special my mother was to them.  One of her pottery teachers wrote this to me “I often told her that when I “grow up” I want to be just like her. “  Me too.  My mother loved life.  Even when she was at her sickest, she still lived it.  She managed her pain from cancer with nothing more than Tylenol until 6 days before her death when she couldn’t handle it anymore.  Even though she was bed-ridden the last year of her life, we still laughed, and she still loved having visitors.  She was still herself.  She was curious about everything and she never felt sorry for herself, not even once.  I wish that I could be as brave as she was.

To be a Motherless Daughter is a very sad thing.  My sister wrote these beautiful words:

“The end is the beginning

Bright lights…I cover my eyes

A slap, a cry, the journey of life begins

Daughter to wife, wife to mother

Motherless daughter, child no more

Full circle, light in my eyes and I cry.”

When my mother died, my sisters and I lost our last parent (and really, our only one).  My aunt lost her sister and became the last of the first generation of N’s (we all refer to ourselves as N’s, D’s or M’s in our family meaning the Zelikovitz brother that we belonged to, Nathan, David or Max) – a very difficult place to be.  My cousins lost their aunt and beloved cousin.  Her friends lost the joy of having my mother around.  It’s so hard on everyone.  Her friends and family called me today, thinking about her, and crying too.

“You can never count your mother out – she’s hard to predict because she’s so tough.”

“If you had told me a year ago, I’d still be standing here talking to you about your mother, I would have told you that we were both crazy.”

“Your mother was an absolutely lovely woman…She had a wonderful outlook/attitude that I admired deeply.”

Those are all direct quotes from her doctors.  Even they recognized the type of person that she was.  The week before she died, her palliative doctor told me that though she wasn’t conscious, she could still hear.  She said that it was important to keep talking to her.  With at least a dozen people in and out all day, every day, we never had to worry about her not having something to listen to.  Even then, everyone wanted to be around her.  My sisters and I talked to her all day, every day, no matter how hard it was on us, we told her that if she needed to go, that it was ok.  The doctor gave me one last piece of advice, because my mother was so strong, she had to know that she wasn’t dying because she wasn’t fighting hard enough, it was just that she was too sick from all of her illnesses to go on.  Everyday, I told her that she fought so hard, but she could stop fighting and rest.  And eventually, she did, in her own time, in her own way.

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I’m often told by people what a wonderful relationship that I had with my mother, and some even said that they wished that they could have had the same kind of bond with theirs.  My favourite photo is the black and white picture above you – even though it’s not perfect, it perfectly illustrates us.  No one ever has made me laugh harder than she did, and no one ever had a better mother.  I spent a lot of time with her the last year, and many times, before I’d leave she’d say thank you to me for something that I did for her.  I’d always tell her that you never have to thank me, I wish I could do more.  I should have said, “No Mummy, thank you.  Just thank you.”  Wherever she is, I hope that she knows that on her birthday, and every single day, how much she is loved and missed.

 

 

 


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A Sign From Above

Mom Blog

Sorry for the language!!!!!!!

When you lose someone that you love, you wait for a sign that they are still somehow connected to you.  On the day of my mother’s funeral, March 5th, it was beautiful and  sunny with just a little coolness in the air.  When we got to the cemetery, early in the afternoon and they lowered her into the ground, all of a sudden, it got so warm and the sun started shining even more brightly.  You can think I’m crazy if you want, but I knew that it was a sign from our mother that she was at peace and happy with her roadside spot in her final resting place.  Seriously, I couldn’t have picked a better spot for her – she was always a nosy parker, and now, she can watch the world go by, see who will join her next at Mount Sinai Memorial Park and even have a clear view of the planes flying overhead (she always had to point out whenever a plane flew past her condo or over her car, or just anytime she saw one.  I called her “the air-traffic controller”).

The second sign came once shiva (7 days of mourning in Judaism) was over.  We had lit a candle that was supposed to last for 7 days.  No, we didn’t get a lame miracle where it lasted for 14 days.  The interesting thing was that one the seventh day, it went out when my oldest sister left the room, and I was alone.  Why is this interesting you ask?  When my mother died, my oldest sister left the room, I was holding my mother’s hand, and within 30 seconds of her leaving the room, my mother passed away.  I don’t think that this was a sign that I was her favourite, really her actions demonstrated this, or at least I like to think so.   It was, I believe,  because she did not want my sister, who is also suffering from breast cancer, to be more upset than she needed to be.  I think that she knew that I needed to be there at that moment, but she also knew that it wasn’t the best thing for either of my sisters.  When the shiva candle went out when I was alone in the room, I think it was just reinforcing the message.

After that, there was really nothing.  I was really upset and giving up hope that I’d ever hear from my mother again.  Day after day would pass, and nothing.  As much as I miss her, I thought maybe I’d have to live with those two tiny messages.  Then today, something amazing happened.  I called my oldest sister crying because it’s our Mom’s birthday on April 15, and now is the time that I’d start looking for cards for her.  It made no sense, but it really bothered me today. My sister told me that I could still get her a card, but that only made me cry harder because I couldn’t give it to her.  I mean, where am I supposed to send it?  Judy Schneiderman, C/O Heaven, #1 Divine Drive, Cloud 13, 90210?

Anyway, I decided to torture myself and look at birthday cards for her.  Maybe I would buy one, just for old time’s sake, and leave it at the cemetery for her.  As I was leaving the store, Papyrus to be exact, I spotted a table of gift books.  They had some cute ones, Advice from Coco Chanel, The Newlywed Cookbook, among others.  Then, I spotted the very book that you see up there in the photo, “You Drive Like An A$$h&le”.  Why is this so special?  My mother used to have the worst road rage, and that was one of her rants!  She would scream something to this effect, shake her tiny fist at the offending driver, then flip them the bird.  She said other things, but I’m a lady, and would never type them here.  I would then make fun of her, and she’d smile her million dollar smile, after telling me that she wasn’t wrong. This was the sign that I was looking for.  What are the odds that I would walk into a card store looking for a birthday greeting for my deceased road-raged mother, and spot this book, which I’ve never seen before?  I think it was my mother’s way of giving me a little reminder of her, and making me laugh, when all I wanted to do was cry.

You can think I’m making things up, or reading into things.  You may have your own tale of seeing a butterfly, a dragonfly, a ladybug, a mysterious phone call or even feel someone flick your hair.  That’s great for you, as for me, I’ll take this sign from my little Mommy any day of the week.

 


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2015 -The Ugly, The Bad and The Good

2015  – another year coming to an end, and it’s a time for everyone to reflect on the events that shaped their lives this year and think about what they would like to change in the coming year.  Some of you get to do that in your inside voice, I’m going to share, in general terms of course, what I’ve been pondering.  I’m reversing The Good, The Bad and The Ugly so that I can end the year on a positive note.

The Ugly

  • Receiving bad news about loved ones’ health this year was a doozy.  The way they handled everything became part of the good.
  • My father dying was very difficult on many levels for me.  If you’ve ever been estranged from a parent and they pass, you know what I mean.   The saddest day, was when I realized that my life hasn’t really changed all that much.  My heart goes out to people in this position.
  • There are times in your life when you meet what I’ll call “The White Elephant” – that person that you’ve heard about for years, but never met, that caused havoc.  I met someone that I’ll just call bad people, it also turned into “the good” for me when I got to tell her what I thought of her.  Nobody likes confrontation, but it can, at times, be good for your soul.

The Bad

  • It’s so sad when you reach a certain age and see your friends and family going through some of the same things that you are going through.  Death, sickness and job loss is always tough – it’s hard going through it and it’s hard watching other people go through it.
  • I like my job, I even like most of the people that I work with, but I let work get the better of me again this year after promising myself that I needed to lessen my load.  Being at work until 9 every night made me realize that I have to put my needs, and health first.
  • Not blogging as much as I should thanks to the late work nights.
  • World events – Paris, the Middle East, even the homeless situation right here in Toronto.  Rising crime rates, mass shootings every other week, and a miserable winter – I wish that there was a good news channel.

The Good

  • I am proud that I got through such a difficult year with more perspective and yes, my sanity.  I still have a sense of humour and now I also have the knowledge that I can get through just about anything.
  • Focusing on conquering my fears and setting new goals for myself resulted in me getting my driver’s license (finally), getting first aid certified and trying a host of things like axe throwing, archery and rib boating that I never would have done in the past.
  • Seeing the way people in my life have handled bad news gave me a new respect for them.
  • Traveling with the Frousins – always a good thing.
  • Decluttering really does make you feeler freer and the process, even though it’s a lengthy one, is very satisfying.
  • Learning to cook – it’s very relaxing for me – I never thought that I would say that!
  • Life in general – if you have one, it’s always a good thing!

I usually think of New Year’s as a time to start fresh and make resolutions that I sometimes will keep.  This year, I have a different outlook.  2016 is a brand new year, but each day, we can change our lives.  We don’t need a new calendar to do it.  I wish you all health and happiness and all the best for the New Year.

Until 2016, I remain, gratefully yours,

Jill

 


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What’s the Black Ribbon For and Other Ways of Dealing With Loss…

The loss of a parent, regardless of the relationship that you may have had with them is difficult in a way that can’t really be put into words.  When you aren’t close, it opens you up to a different type of grieving.  Maybe it’s the loss of possibility that I’m grieving now or the loss of hope – I can’t really describe to you what it is.  The reality is, that everyone’s experience is unique to them.  I can give you all of the tips and tricks that have worked for me in getting through this last month, but they may not work for you – everyone is different.  The one thing that I know for sure is that in death and mourning, there is no real right or wrong, you have to do what feels right for you.

Since this is a blog about taking Dr. Oz’s advice, I checked his website and found a video featuring Dr. Richard Smith.  He laid out the three stages of grief – these really didn’t apply to me, but I’ll share them with you anyway:

  • Stage one – loss of control, denial and a lack of reality…maybe even anger.  This totally didn’t apply to me.  In some ways, the death of my father has been easier than I thought, in some ways more difficult, but I’ve never, for a minute been angry or in denial over what happened.  Maybe, because it was expected, maybe because no matter how early it was, I did get to say a needed good-bye or maybe because there isn’t a one size fits all on death and mourning, but I never went through any part of this stage.
  • Stage two – persistent sadness and emptiness…this one, I’m not sure of.  It’s a complicated situation.  After the funeral, and when I went back to work, I could easily focus on the job at hand.  As time has moved on, there have been weeks where I felt numb inside.  I could even watch a sad dog video and not cry.  Just numb and in some ways, on auto pilot saying and doing the right things and what is expected of me. I have had a lot of other things that have needed my attention though, and maybe that’s why I feel more myself than I perhaps should.
  • Stage 3 – reinvest with other people.  It’s too soon for this one I think.

Sorry, I wish I could tell everyone that there is an exact process to follow, but there isn’t.  I’m not religious, but one thing that helped me, was taking part in some of the observances that Jewish people following the death of an immediate family member.  The practice of K’riah (literally ‘tearing’) just prior to the funeral, where the mourners rip and a black ribbon and continue to wear it for 30 days has helped me.  It is supposed to be symbolic of loss, and permanent scarring to your life at the loss of one so dear to you.  For me, it was a reminder that whenever I had any doubt, that my father was no longer here.  People would ask me what the little black ribbon was for and I’d explain that my father had passed away.  Each time I said it, it made it more believable to me.  I went to synagogue to say Mourner’s Kaddish (a traditional prayer for the dead) during Shloshim – the 30 days of mourning after the funeral.  I did this 3 times, and again, I’m not religious, but having a process to follow brought me comfort.

The one thing that was most helpful was going to the cemetery by myself a few days after the funeral.  I went because I didn’t have any time at the end of my father’s life to say the things that I needed to say and I wasn’t afforded the opportunity at the funeral.  I spent ten minutes there, but it made everything so much better for me.  I had the whole place to myself, and I just stood there and said (mostly in my inside voice) what I felt at that moment.  It didn’t take long, but for me it was time well spent.  Sometimes, it’s not about getting every question answered or “getting closure” that counts, it’s about taking the time that you need, for yourself.  I know that I may never really understand my father and I know that he likely didn’t understand me, but that’s ok.  I understood, in that moment, that I didn’t need either, I just needed quiet time to process everything and it helped.  What surprised me was how little time I needed there.  I knew that I wasn’t going to get a sign from my father that he was there with me, and I was also ok with that.  I went with no expectations, and I left with even fewer but being there helped a realist like me, in ways that I just can’t explain.  You will never get time back, especially time to deal with complex emotions – so take what you need for yourself.

Some people have gone above and beyond, and I know that I’ve thanked them for everything that they have done – make sure, no matter how sad you may be to do that.  Everyone deserves to be appreciated and when times are tough, and people go out of their way to help, let them know that you value them.  You will get through your loss whatever it may be and there will be days, which may come sooner than you think where you will feel exactly like yourself.  I know for me, that writing about how I feel about this has been cathartic, but I’m at the point now where I just want to write about fluffier, more enjoyable things.  Maybe one day I’ll want to revisit this time in my life, that’s the beauty of having your own blog – you can write about what you feel like, and when it’s time, you can let it go…