Monday, April 22, 2013


I am sitting here looking at a photo of a long-time friend.   I can see her, and hear her, as I look at the photo.  She had an infectious laugh, a heart of gold, and she never met a stranger.  Unfortunately, the photo is on the front of the program for her memorial service: she died March 25th.

We became friends in high school.  I loved being around her because she was always so upbeat.  She had that kindness that many espouse but few really practice in real life.  She was only a stranger for ten seconds after you met her, and then she was a friend for life…..

Our children were just about the same age: the oldest being a girl, followed by two boys.  I remember when she used to come visit me at my home and bring her kids.  All the kids got along well and played together so we could sit and talk.  I remember, too, that her daughter taught my daughter the names of all the colors, or at least, all the colors that M&Ms came in….

A lot of stuff happened in her life that could have made her angry, or sent her in a downward spiral, or caused her unbearable bitterness.  But she wasn’t that way.  She was resilient.  She had an abiding faith in God and in her ability to bear anything that happened to her through His Grace.

I didn’t want to go today.  I am not a fan of funerals, but then, who is?  I asked John to go with me and, of course, he did.  The church is just two doors down from our home, so we walked.  And in the warm sunshine, I felt a shiver.  Regret? 

Perhaps.  I know that the last time I talked to her on the phone was too long ago, and I was calling to cancel a lunch date.  She lived at the coast and I was vacationing there and wanted to see her, but life intervened and I had to come home early.  I never, ever thought that I would never talk to her again.

But life is like that, isn’t it?  We postpone things we ought to do until “another day” and that day never comes.   And today, that feeling would not leave me until I got into the church and saw her smiling face in the photo slide show.  And I know now that she thought of me as often as I thought of her, and that we could get together tomorrow and it would be just like old times.

But there won’t be a tomorrow with her.

As we walked in the church, we were greeted by another friend from high school days.   She approached me, smiled, and gave me a hug.  I heard someone else say my name and I turned around to see another friend from high school.  And I got another hug.

As we were trying to decide where to sit, I saw more friends, and decided we would sit right behind them.  And there were more hugs.  And introductions, although they all knew about John and our “adventures” from my posts on Facebook.

The service was amazing.  The eulogy caused many, many tears in the church.  And the testimonials from all those high school friends made us all smile and laugh despite our tears.

Is it possible to learn lessons from someone who is dead?  Or maybe it’s lessons from the exemplary life she led…. She reminded me to stop having regrets and to act on my instincts.  “Get out there and live and stop being so introverted!”  I can hear her saying that to me and then laughing.

The tragedies that befell her in her life were terrible, but the joy she brought to each and every day of her life was inspiring.  She never felt sorry for herself, and she never stopped trying to find the good in everybody and everything.

After the funeral, we walked home and I cried.  I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of kindness and the hugs I received.  I was deep in thought about my friend and wondering how to deal with my thoughts.  I decided to go shopping….

Retail therapy?  No, not really.  There are two new babies in our family and we want to send them gifts to let them know how happy we are to have them in our lives.  No more assuming that they will know how much we care.

I have to tell them…..

I was shopping in a craft store when I saw someone I used to work with in the operating room.  Being somewhat introverted and socially awkward (in my opinion), I would normally have just kept going and assumed that she was too busy to talk to me or she wouldn’t remember me.

Not today: I walked right over to her and said “hi!”  We spent almost 45 minutes “catching up” on what has been going on in our lives.  It was good to see her again, but it was great that I didn’t just walk away, knowing that she didn’t see me…..

And tonight, I will wrap baby gifts and address the boxes, then mail them in the morning.  I think I will also send an email to each of my kids and remind them that I love them and I’m thinking about them.  And I think I’ll send messages on Facebook to the friends I saw today and tell them how good it felt to see them again.

Thank you, Jeannie……


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Out of the Dark

It’s hard to describe how I feel today.  It’s beyond hopeful, more like joyful.  As I have been saying for almost a year now: I am on my way.

Where?  You ask.  There is no easy answer but, “out of the dark” describes it to me.  Out of the dark that was my life last year.  For a year after I retired, I was in daily pain, spiraling into a deep depression, and full of self-doubt and self-loathing.

During the time that my back injury was treated as a Workers’ Comp issue, I had physical therapy and several spinal injections.  The first two spinal injections provided some relief for a few weeks.  The final injection was terrifying, merciless, and of no use: the pain was greater, not lessened.

And so, I retired.  To what?  A loving husband, a nice home, and a constant state of pain.  I couldn’t take a step off a curb without serious pain in both my knees and one or both hips.  I couldn’t walk very far without becoming winded.  I was eating the same as I did when I was healthy, active and pain free and the pounds were adding up.

I couldn’t look in the mirror.  And I made jokes about my wardrobe: “it’s not hard to find something to wear because very few of my clothes fit!”   Hahahahahahahaha…..

Or not….

My physician sent me to a rheumatologist: he offered suggestions that were immediate and addressed the “now” and not just the future “when you lose all this weight.”  And I was humiliated beyond belief: I hadn’t weighed myself in years and the numbers on the scale were frightening.

I came home resolute: I will get beyond this place and get my life back again.  I signed up for Weight Watchers Online the very same day.  I was overwhelmed by the task at hand and the changes I had to make.  At the same time, I was determined to do something for myself so that I didn’t have to be ashamed of how I looked and felt.

It’s been a slow process: ten months and counting, so far.  But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and, if it’s not just a freight train, I will keep heading toward it.  One day at a time, one step at a time, one meal at a time, and one pound at a time….

I have lost more than forty pounds.  I am four sizes smaller than last summer, and I have LOTS of clothes to wear.  In fact, there are so many choices that I don’t know where to begin sometimes.  And isn’t that a lovely dilemma?

Out of the dark and into the light.  It’s a glorious feeling.  My depression is mostly gone, my activity level has improved: going to the gym, hiking in the mountains, and walking any chance I get has helped me realize the progress I have made.

There is no magic pill.  No diet.  No sacrifice.  What little I have had to give up (Diet Coke and sweets come to mind) is far outweighed by my sense of well-being and my ability to move and do and be, once again.  

The darkness that was retirement life in pain has given way to the light that is enjoying every day for what it is and smelling the roses along the way.  As Nora Ephron admonished: I am once again the heroine of my life and not the victim…

And it feels good….