Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Childhood Friends Together Again

Sunny days seem to hurt the most
Wear the pain like a heavy coat
I feel you everywhere I go
I see your smile, I see your face
I hear you laughing in the rain
Still can't believe you're gone

Time with anything and everything has a way of cracking and breaking that porcelain doll which is now scattered in the wind but her journey lives on….Sandy 1/2012

I was introduced to death at a young age. After my adopted mother JoBeth died I had many trips to the cemetery to “visit” her grave. Special days like Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day were spent taking flowers to her grave. Now, 38 years later her marker is empty, no one ever visits or leaves flowers. It was set into my mind that she is a forgotten grave. Because of this I never wanted Heather’s ashes to be buried. I didn’t want her to become a forgotten grave when I died. I thought it would be sad to have her marker sit empty with no flowers on it.

Twelve days ago, I had a huge change of heart and decided I wanted to “look” at the idea of possibly finding a plot to bury Heather’s ashes. I never even contemplated the idea of ever placing her ashes in the cemetery with a marker. The only cemetery that I considered looking at was Mountain View on Main St. I placed a call to the cemetery and Daniel answered the phone. This was the first sign that I was heading in the right direction.

As I stumbled through trying to get my ideas and thoughts out to Daniel he told me he understood. His precious 2 year old baby girl died from cancer on December 25 several years ago. We talked about many things that we shared in common and it was such a comfort to know that the man I was dealing with completely understood where I was coming from. I was not sure what I was looking for so I made an appointment to go out to the cemetery to look at all the options. I was just going to “look” and bring back information so that we (Bill and I or Bill, Jenn, Wendy and I) could make a decision.

Tuesday last week-or April 17-I went to Mountain View Cemetery to meet with Daniel. As irony would have it, for that exact Tuesday 3 years earlier I was doing the exact same thing. I was at falconer Funeral Home picking out caskets and planning Heather’s funeral. I was meant to be there on Tuesday. Daniel showed me every option I could have never imagined even existed. We drove all around the cemetery looking at different places but none of them really hit me. I asked if there might be any plots close to Ashley-Heather’s childhood friend who was killed nearly 17 years ago. He told me he really doubted there would be anything being that it had been so long, but that we should go look.

It ain't fair you died too young
Like a story that had just begun
But death tore the pages all away
God knows how I miss you
All the hell that I've been through
Just knowing no one could take your place
Sometimes I wonder who you'd be today

Just because a spot is empty, does not mean it has not been purchased for future burials. There were several empty plots close to Ashley but we needed to go back to the office to look to make sure they had not been purchased. It is a very touchy situation to sell someone a plot that has already been purchased. The two plots that Daniel thought were open had been purchased but he found 2 more open spots that were a little further away. I wanted to go back out and see the plots myself. Looking on a small map is not helpful to me. So back into the golf cart we went. These plots were too far away for me and in full sun, no trees anywhere close. I was not happy and figured I needed to begin my search all over again to find a spot.
Ashely is the marker by the tree-Heather's spot is where Daniel is standing
Ashley in the center of the photo-view from Heather's spot
I was about to tell Daniel that I needed to look elsewhere in the cemetery when he called me over and told me about a spot that seemed to be open. It was not in the same row as Ashley going North and South, but was in the same row East to West. Not only that but the space between the two girls is a grass access road to move equipment and golf carts on. There would be no one between the two girls. I instantly knew in my heart of hearts this was THE SPOT. My search was finished. We just needed to go up to the office and make sure the spot for sure was available. I placed a hold on the spot for 30 days so I could go home and talk to the family about what I had found. Daniel told me it was amazing to find a spot that close after the amount of time that has passed.
Looking around to the side of Heather's spot
To the other side of the spot-convenient for parking and very close to road
View coming towards spot
Once the spot was picked, it was time to pick out the vault. This is the steel and ceramic sealed container that holds the container that Heather’s ashes are in. Of course they had a pink one with a rose. Imagine how perfect that is to find. It was a comfort to me to find out that the heart box that Heather’s ashes came home in could be placed in the vault. I was happy I did not have to have her transferred into a different container.
Mom lovingly placing treasures in the vault
View of the table with Ashley's grave in the distance
There are several times that no one really questions a mom’s instinct or what she “feels” is the right thing to do. One being a new mother, the other is as the mother of the bride and then mother of the child who died. I think most mothers have the right to do what they feel is right for and by their child that has died. This was one of those times. No one in the family had any objections or anything to say other than it was meant to be since I found the spot.
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Tuesday evening I gathered Heather’s ashes and made my peace with letting go of them. I still have three small containers to take to the three places overseas. That plan had not changed and it means a lot to me to place a portion of Heather’s ashes in the remaining 3 places. I also have a keepsake rose lighted box that has some of her ashes in the base. It is actually what it is meant for. I was at peace to let go. The next day-Wednesday-I took Heather’s ashes to Daniel and paid for the plot.
The beautiful vault with Heather's ashes ready to be buried
All the treasures-now the lid and final goodbye
Most people hold a memorial at the time of burial of the ashes. I did not want this to happen. I wanted the actual burial of the ashes to be a private family thing and then have a memorial when the marker is in and placed. I figured it really did not do any good to bury her ashes if no one knows where they are. Once we order the marker the company that designs them make-up a proof of exactly what the finished marker will look like. From the time the proof is accepted it will take 3-4 months for the marker to be finished and placed. The public memorial will be in the fall providing that everything goes well with the marker. Talking about October 20 as this will be the 3 ½ year anniversary of her death. Very appropriate date I think. More about the memorial later when the plans are set and yes it will be in royal fashion like always for me.

Would you see the world?
Would you chase your dreams?
Settle down with a family?
I wonder, what would you name your babies?
Some days the sky's so blue
I feel like I can talk to you
And I know it might sound crazy

Daniel told me the calendar was open for Monday for the burial. I did not want to wait or drag it out so it was perfect and ironic since Heather died on a Monday. It all seemed to be fitting and working out perfectly. The time was set for 2:30 but we could arrive early and place some flowers or a photo on the table for a more personal touch. It was our choice to stay and watch as the vault is lowered into the ground if we wanted to. I was sent flowers on Saturday and today by dear friends. I decided these bouquets were perfect to go to the cemetery with us to honor Heather and then come back home for me to enjoy. I printed one of our favorite photos of Heather in a classic black and white to put on the table as well. Saturday while I was out at the mall I found a Precious Moments statue with an angel sitting on a bench with a rose entitled “Love Never Forgets.” It seemed very appropriate for today. Snookie happened t bring a Minnie Mouse from the house with her today. She didn't want to hold it any longer so she placed it on the table...only fitting that Minnie be here too.
Forever My Dolly Girl
I spent Sunday getting treasures ready to place in the vault with Heather’s ashes. It will never been seen but it meant a lot to me to place some personal things in her vault with her. Her favorites: Sara Evans poster, piano music and recital ribbon, hair clips, ear buds, a Barbie and butterfly ring, a tootsie pop sucker, gum, Victoria Secret mints and necklace, a guitar pick from the Grand Ole Opry, OPI nail polish, lip band-aids, rubber duck, Laura Mercier mascara, Chanel perfume and face care products, a Miss Priss hat-the one she wore to the point Jenn had to make another one for her-a Disneyland pass, a bunny named flip flop of all things,  a letter from George, cards from Sally, Carla, Lynn and Katy, photos of family, of Fran her piano teacher, of Katy and of the hospital staff, of Wendy with Violet, a set of Lil Miss stickers and a farting pull finger Heather brought back for her dad.(This was always a huge joke in our household and Heather thought nothing so funny as gas-sorry if this offends anyone) Jenn placed one sock she had hand knit for Heather’s last birthday and she kept the other one. The vault was bigger than I imagined and we could have placed more in with her, but everything was personal and meant something to Heather.
letters and photos
of course a bunny named flip flop
Stickers and yes, the pull  my finger, finger
Today was very surreal. There is something that is a final closure about a burial. It just is the way our society is made to believe. I truly believe now that this was the right thing for me to do at the right time and place. I honor Heather’s life by having her name marked down forever. It is proof that she lived. I honor Heather’s life with the act of love I did today, letting go of my ideas and thought to allow the world to remember her as well. The other night Bill and I walked thru the cemetery and looked at the markers and each time we read a name, we remembered that person even though we never met them.
All buried-time to get the marker going
Say it all
Thanks Rose-Heather loved flowers
This evening before dark Bill, Snookie and I went back to the cemetery to place the first official flowers on the site. I was also curious about how it looked with all the dirt and grass put back. It was nice and shady and was very peaceful. A close, dear friend, Rose, met us out there. I can’t think of anyone else better to be Heather’s first visitor. She brought some beautiful yellow flowers as well. Again, as I began this blog and found the song sang by Kenny Chesney, I can’t help but think about Rose asking Heather to go with her on the spur of the moment one evening several years ago. Heather had the best time ever. So, it was meant for Rose to come visit tonight and for me to use this song.
Rose and Heather-Kenny Chesney concert

Sunny days seem to hurt the most
I wear the pain like a heavy coat
The only thing that gives me hope
Is I know I'll see you again someday
Someday, Someday

Who You’d be Today~Kenny Chesney

Sunday, April 22, 2012

3 Years or 94,608,000 Seconds...

Truvy: How ya holding up honey
M’Lynn: I’m fine
Claire: It was a beautiful service,
Weezer: Those are the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen
M’Lynn: They were beautiful
A’Nell: Miss M’Lynn, it should make you feel better knowing that Shelby is with her King
M’Lynn: Yes A’Nell, I guess it should!
A’Nell: We should all be rejoicing
M’Lynn: We you go on ahead! I’m sorry if I don’t feel like it! I guess I am a little selfish; I’d rather have her here!

It has been 3 years, or 36 months, try 156 weeks, how about 1,095 days, maybe 26,280 hours, or 1,576,800 minutes and finally 94,608,000 seconds since Heather died. Three years sounds like a long time, but the 26,280 hours or 94,608,000 seconds sound nearly impossible and overwhelming. Three years is a long time not to see your child, or talk to her, not know what she is doing just simply being without her. No she is not away at college nor did she move across the country, if she had done those things I could talk to her on the phone, text her or get on a plane and go see her. None of that is possible for me to do.

This week was a very emotional week for me as I made huge decisions and had an enormous change of heart concerning cemeteries and letting go of her ashes. The heart box that sat on her grand piano for nearly 3 years I lovingly said my goodbyes and placed them into the hands of Daniel at the cemetery. Monday will be our family time to say our final goodbyes and bury her ashes. More details about all the decisions in the next blog.

Thursday night Bill and I went to Tucson and stayed the night.We had a nice dinner and didn't do anything just relaxed and were out. My plan was to visit Ben’s Bells on Friday. Heather loved to paint pottery and she loved to help people. I wanted to visit Ben’s Bells to paint pottery pieces for the bells and help someone else. 
outside Ben's Bells-Tucson
A historic building downtown
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Mosaic counter for washing your brushes
What is Bens’ Bells you may ask?
  • Ben's Bells are beautiful, ceramic wind chimes.
  • The pieces that form a Ben's Bell are crafted by hand by people all over Tucson and beyond.
  • The process of making the pieces of Ben's Bells is therapeutic & FUN - no artistic ability is necessary!
  • By the time a Ben's Bell is assembled, at least ten people have worked on it making it a TRUE COMMUNITY EFFORT!
  • Ben's Bells are not for sale... Several times a year, hundreds and hundreds of Ben's Bells are hung randomly in public places around Tucson and beyond. The only way to get a Ben's Bell is to find one or to be "Belled"
  • To date, over 25,541 Ben's Bells have been released!
  • And the point?? KINDNESS! We want people to remember how much power they have each day to make the world a better place simply by being kind.
Celebrate Kindness-Bill through window
Are you interested in how Ben’s Bells was started? March 29th, 2002 started as a very normal day in the lives of Jeannette and Dean. Their sons, Matthew – nearly 6 and Ben – nearly 3 – were home playing with a playmate. Ben had a cold and a bit of a croupy cough. Never did it enter their minds that Ben was seriously ill or that he could die. And then he did. It only took seconds for him to become unconscious after his airway swelled shut. Jeannette’s efforts at rescue breathing and CPR were in vain as Ben’s airway was completely closed. In those moments on the morning of Good Friday their lives changed forever. Slowly, they began incorporating coping strategies into their lives coming up with a design for Ben’s Bells and started making them in their back yard studio with friends. The therapeutic effect of working with clay was amazing as was the power of being surrounded by people talking and working toward a common goal. They decided to make hundreds of the Bells and distribute them randomly in the community to encourage the kindness that they so depended on to get through each day. Since Ben’s death, it had been the kindness of others, strangers and friends, that had helped them begin to heal. They wanted to find a way to pass on that kindness and to help others in the process. On the first anniversary of his death, hundreds of Ben’s Bells were distributed throughout Tucson, hung randomly in trees, on bike paths, and in parks with a written message to simply take one home and pass on the kindness.
Mosaic tribute to Ben
Original Ben's Bell-can't buy have to find it
Mini Ben's Bells you can buy
bead string bells
To me personally, Ben’s Bells have been very healing as I have purchased a Mini Ben’s bell to mark Heather’s cancer and 3 bead string bells to mark the number of years that have passed. I love the fact that no beads are made the same or painted alike. They are truly unique bells. I also have purchased some to send to friends to mark death anniversary dates. I purchased a heart bell to mark our trip to see and paint at Ben’s Bells. Then just to add to my collection I bought the limited edition 2012 celebration of kindness bell. I love going out on the back porch and listening to the bells and wind chimes I have outside now. I also bought Jenn and Wendy their own bells as a keepsake.
Bill's first time painting pottery
Sherry painting "chili pepper red"
It was a very relaxing time to sit in the shade with a light breeze and paint “kindness coins”. These coins or token are a reminder to be kind. Many of these "coins" are given to teachers in the local schools to give to students when they see them doing acts of kindness. It is a very small way to pay it forward. So Bill and I painted “kindness coins” flowers. After we leave they will be dipped in glaze and fired in the kiln. A small string with a note will be attached to them and then they will be bought or given away. Kind of a nice feeling to know something I helped make is going to brighten someone else day. It was a very good way to spend part of the day.
Our kindness coins ready to be glazed and fired
In honor of Heather
Kindness Coins
Kindness Coins
A’Nell: Miss M’Lynn, I don’t mean to upset you by saying that. It’s just that when something like this happens, I pray very hard to make heads or tails of it. And I think in Shelby’s case, she just wanted to take care of that little baby and of you, of everybody she knew. And her poor little body was just worn out, just wouldn’t let her do all the things she wanted to. So she went onto a place when she could be a guardian angel, she will always be young, she will always be beautiful. And I personally feel much safer knowing that she’s up there on my side. It may sound simple, stupid, and maybe I am, but that is how I get through things like this.
M’Lynn: Thank you A’Nell, I appreciate that, it’s a real good idea I guess
My Ben's Bells
Be Kind Bell added April 20
We came back to the Valley and met the rest of our family for dinner. We came back home and released 12 hot pink balloons. This was to mark the 12 months that Heather has been gone. Once it was dark we put 12 luminaries in pink bags around the Sally Angel in the front yard. Funny how releasing balloons and putting out luminaries can be so healing. Sally Angel goes up at Thanksgiving, stays up on her little “cloud” of blue lights till April 21. On April 20th a beautiful wreath is put out by Sally and then the luminaries go out that night; then it all comes down at dusk on the 21st. For one day, anyone who walks or drives by the house will wonder what that means, knowing in their hearts that someone very loved died. I do it because I need people to remember Heather. She lived but she never got her name in lights, or found a miracle drug, or even died in a way for the world to hear about her. She was born, she lived and then she died with no fanfare. 
Wherever The Road Leads, Together We'll Always Be-4/20 gift from Bill
April 20th is over and now begins my New Year. I had a dear friend-my BFF- asked me what my goals were for my New Year. I actually had not given it any thought. But she started me thinking that this issomething that I need to do. I need to set goals for the year,for my New Year  to accomplish before the next April 20th – when New Year’s Eve comes along. I am working on my list and plan to share them with you and the progress I make on them as well. It is a great idea and I thank you, Sandy very much, love you.
Sally Angel on her cloud with the luminaries
The design shines thru
I want to thank all me special peeps-S,S,S,,D,D, M and M for all your text messages, checking on me, asking how I am. Thank you for listening to me as I tried to share my thoughts and feelings about the changes this week. Thank you for not thinking me crazy or insane for always being the ones I can text or call no matter what.
They still shine during the day thanks to the sun
Looks bare with Sally Angel gone...
M'Lynn: I'm fine! I can jog all the way to Texas and back, but my daughter can't! She never could! Oh God! I am so mad I don't know what to do! I wanna know why! I wanna know why Shelby's life is over!..…Oh God I wanna know why? Why? Lord, I wish I could understand! No! No! No! It's not supposed to happen this way! I'm supposed to go first. I've always been ready to go first!I-I don't think I can take this!I-I just wanna hit somebody 'til they feel as bad as I do! I just wanna hit something! I wanna hit it hard!
Go to the website-order a bell- you will not be disappointed

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Letting Go...

She'll take the painting in the hallway,
The one she did in jr. high
And that old lamp up in the attic,
She'll need some light to study by.

She's had 18 years to get ready for this day
She should be past the tears, she cries some anyway...

Suzy Bogguss released a song in 1992 entitled "Letting Go". It is a very heartfelt song about a daughter going off to college and what her mom is supposed to do now that her daughter is gone. I hope this means as much to you as it did to me. Please watch the video and listen with your heart.

Being a mother means “letting go” of my girls and letting them find their wings. The first time for me was letting the babies go to the nursery during church. While this is only for about 2 hours and was always someone I knew, it was difficult to turn over my small babes for someone else to care for. Just a small “letting go” before the bigger ones that come all too quickly.

“Letting go” to kindergarten came way too fast. It is suddenly half a day then a whole day that one, then two and then all three of my girls made their way to school. I had two then one then none left at home and I was left with nothing to do. I became super mom helper to more than just the girl’s teachers at school. I needed something to fill my time. This also meant I had access to the girls during the day. I think for the most part they enjoyed knowing that mom was close by. Just a small “letting go” before the bigger ones that come all too quickly.

“Letting go” to learn to drive is very scary for any parent. It is not so much your child as the driver but the other 50 million other drivers. Don’t they realize they are sharing the road with your precious child? I taught Jenn and Heather how to drive but they were older. I never saw the need to have them drive at 16 years old. It was tough for them to ask for rides home being 18 years old but it made them more sensitive to the needs of other teens that are not allowed to drive. I have to say the first time the girls went out for a drive by themselves…it is enough to cause grey hair for sure. After a while it gets easier to let them go and not worry as much. I will not say the worry ever goes away. But the use of cell phones and them letting me know they arrived safely and are leaving now made it easier. Another small “letting go” before the bigger ones that come all too quickly.

Oh oh letting go
There's nothing in the way now,
Oh letting go, there's room enough to fly
And even though, she's spent her whole life waiting,
It's never easy letting go.

“Letting go” as the girls got jobs, went to college and began doing their own things. It is a fine line of being a mom and learning to step back and let them fight and figure out their own plans. As the girls got more self-sufficient my job became less and less. Being a stay at home mom and devoting myself to the girls left me with time on my hands as they got older. Not too much time, but some. It is a mother’s prayer that her kids have roots and wings, it is very difficult to take your hands off and let them fly sometimes. I am afraid they will fall or get hurt, but I have to learn to step back. A bit bigger “letting go” before the biggest ones came my way.
Heart and cross contain ashes-oval is Heather's actual thumbprint
“Letting go” when your “adult” daughter has cancer is not something that I recommend. For me there was NO letting go. I was not about to leave her alone or not be there every single step of the way. This part of letting go was allowing her to go get an MRI without me in the room. For every single procedure I was allowed to go with her but not the MRI. This was absolute torture as I paced up and down the hallway and slid down the wall to sit on the floor over and over again. There is no relaxing it is the longest amount of time ever recorded. There were not many times the Heather’s GUARD DOG mother was not right there watching and questioning every single move people made. A big “letting go” before really tough ones came my way.
Heart box and rose memorial-both contain Heather's ashes (rose box is a keepsake of them)
“Letting go” is allowing Heather to drive and do her things after guarding her every moment for 6 months. I was so worried about germs, illnesses, pills and is she feeling ok for so long. When she began going out on her own it was very difficult for me. It was almost like allowing a 2 month old baby drive a car. I worried and fretted the first few times she was out. But like everything over time I learned to let go. BUT…letting go was not to last very long and I would have to be my roughest toughest guard dog ever. This was a stretch in my being as most medical things that were lifesaving did not need my approval or denial. Not that I would have denied care, just I was not needed. The staff did respect me enough to allow me to think I was making decisions for Heather. “Letting go” when it was never really my choice to let go.

Mother sits down at the table
So many things she'd like to do
Spend more time out in the garden
Now she can get those books read too.

She's had 18 years to get ready for this day
She should be past the tears, she cries some anyway.

“Letting go” is a choice that was not mine but made by God Himself. This kind of letting go was not my choice nor was I asked my opinion. I would not have chosen to let go of Heather this way and I wish no other mother had to experience this kind of loss. It is letting go to wonder every day what she is doing. Yes I believe she is in heaven and doing her thing whatever that is. “Letting go” of Heather to die was not in my plan nor did I or do I enjoy this letting go.
Letting Go of Heather's ashes
“Letting go” was taking her things to the funeral home knowing that she would never come back to me the way she was before. Before cancer entered my world and ravaged Heather’s body. I brought her ashes home and have kept them here with me for nearly three years. Letting go was scattering her ashes for the first time. That was very difficult to let go of the very first portion of her ashes. Letting go to have some precious things made was not easy and I worried every moment trying to make sure that her precious ashes made it where they were supposed to be. The final letting go is to allow all the rest of her ashes to be buried. This was not something that I ever wanted or planned to do. Funny how time and God can change your thinking. …
Peaceful waterfall at the entrances to Mountain View Cemetery
….”Letting go” for the final time today as I handed over the heart container, that has held Heather’s ashes since the day she was placed in it, to Daniel at Mountain View Cemetery. There will be a private family burial of the ashes on Monday. A public memorial will be held in the fall for others to attend as see her amazing spot. She will be allowed to stay in the same heart container that she has always been in and that makes me feel good. Letting go of her, of Heather…well not really Heather, it is her earthly body and the body I lived with for 21 years and love very much. It is her image that is in all the photos I have of her. The being, essence or soul that made Heather who she was is not here. Letting go is part of life, letting go is part of death, letting go is not easy and it takes time…While this is the biggest letting go I have the most peace that I let go at the right time and the right place…
Avenue of Hope that leads to The Garden of Hope where Heather's ashes will be
Oh oh letting go
There's nothing in the way now,
Oh letting go, there's room enough to fly
And even though, she's spent her whole life waiting,
It's never easy letting go.