My grandmother is holding up as well as can be expected after her sister’s death. Still, my heart goes out to her. I know how much it hurts to lose a sibling.

My great-aunt has been cremated, and there aren’t going to be any calling hours or services. I’m glad for that. My 96 year old grandmother is definitely not up to a trip to New Jersey.


Schools are closed today, and, again, the timing couldn’t be better. I haven’t been sleeping well, and am deeply exhausted. It’s a relief to know that I can go back to bed and try to catch up on some zees.

There is one thing that’s weighing heavily on my mind, though. Homeowners are required to clear their sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowfall. Daniel is in Canada. Neither of my daughters lives home at present. I’m the only one here.

The thought of lifting a shovel while I am experiencing this kind of pain is not a happy one. If I had some cash, I’d pay a kid to do it, but I don’t so I can’t.

Oh well, I’ll think about that later. For now, I’m going back to bed.

Song of the Day: Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow by Frank Zappa

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Holiday Heartache

December 21, 2007

My father dropped in unexpectedly yesterday. He wanted to show me a couple of photos he received in a Christmas card from my brother Frank, and his wife, Stephanie. The photos were of their daughters.

I looked at the first one, and commented on how pretty Kristen looked. I moved on to the second one, then looked again with widening eyes and dropping jaw. Rachel looks just like Rebecca did at that age.

My dad laughed at my double-take, and told me about his own reaction when he saw the picture of Rachel. He thought to himself, “Why did they send me a picture of Rebecca when she was a little girl?” According to my father, my grandmother reacted pretty much the same way.

Rebecca came into the room, and we showed her the photos. When she didn’t say anything other than “awww, how cute,” we asked her if Rachel reminded her of anybody. She said, “Me.” Honestly, the resemblance is uncanny.

While we were talking, I mentioned to my father that I had paid a visit to my niece, Meaghan, on Wednesday. I told him that, much to my disappointment, baby Brody was asleep for the entire visit. I then showed him a picture Meaghan had given me of Brody and his sister, Lilliana.

My father teared up. Brody is my brother’s grandson. Mark never got to see him.

My father and I then talked about Mark, and how much we miss him. We cried together.

This is a bit off topic, but relevant. I am an empath. Empaths are very sensitive to the feelings of others. I just recently discovered that my daughter, Rebecca, shares this trait. This revelation came to me in St. Patrick’s Cathedral the other day.

As we were walking up a side aisle, I experienced a tugging sensation (mental, not physical), and looked to my right. A nun was deep in prayer. The pain I felt coming from her took my breath away. Not physical pain, but emotional or spiritual pain. I didn’t say anything to Rebecca, and we continued on our way around the cathedral.

Then we came upon an altar dedicated to Mary. My eyes were immediately drawn to a kneeling man who had his face buried in his hands. His pain was almost palpable. It made my knees buckle. I had to get away. Before I could make a move, Rebecca said, “That man’s pain is getting to me.”

I looked at her in shock, and asked if she had had any other experiences like that during our time in the cathedral. She answered, “Well… there was a nun back there…” It was then that I knew. Like mother, like daughter.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that my father’s pain was suffocating me. I couldn’t stand it. Having to experience my own pain is bad enough but when I have to take on the pain of others, as well, it can be too much.

Song of the Day: Everybody Hurts  by R.E.M.

Thanksgiving 2006 Revisited

November 22, 2007

Last year, I had to “celebrate” Thanksgiving only eight days after my brother’s body was recovered from the river. In spite of my overwhelming grief, I was able to come up with a list of things to be grateful for. This has been a tough year for me, and I don’t have much to add, so I’m just going to re-post last year’s D-Land entry.

Giving Thanks (23 November 2006 – 7:14 a.m.)

I’ve been filled with such anguish, I couldn’t imagine what there was to feel thankful for at a time like this. Yesterday, I didn’t even bother to wash my face or brush my teeth, let alone get showered and dressed. I spent the day crying and “sweeping up the heart” (a line from a poem).

Fortunately, my sister, Michele, is having Thanksgiving at her house, so that will force me to rejoin the land of the living. And today I realize that I DO have much to be thankful for.

I am thankful for my husband, Daniel. He has been wonderfully supportive. This burden would be unbearable without his compassion and understanding.

I am thankful for the comfort I have received from my daughters. There have been times when they held me up both literally and figuratively.

I am thankful for the generous outpouring of love and support I have received from the online community, as well as family, friends, and co-workers.

I am thankful that Mark’s body was found, and I am thankful to the man who found him. He was off-duty at the time, but wouldn’t give up his search.

I am thankful that Mark was blessed with good friends.

I am thankful for the overwhelming turnout at the calling hours. I am thankful that Mark was held in such high esteem by those who knew him.

I am thankful that my mother came to her senses, and apologized to her daughters, telling us we were right, and she was wrong. I am grateful to my cousin, who advised my mother to “get out of God’s way,” and let the rest of us do what needed to be done. Those words made an impression on her. I’m thankful that SOMETHING finally did.

I am thankful for my siblings. Frank acted as liaison with our mother when her daughters couldn’t deal with her any more. Michael was a tower of strength. He stood for six hours at the wake, and greeted every person in the line. Patti is the voice of reason and logic, and she helped me to make sense out of things. She was also a source of legal information. Michele is practical and nurturing. She hosted family gatherings, and fed people. I leaned heavily on my sisters for support, and they were always there for me. They still are. I couldn’t have gotten through this devastating ordeal without my beloved brothers and sisters.

Most of all, I am thankful for the thirty-nine years I had with Mark. I am thankful that I had him for a brother, and that my daughters had him for an uncle. He was a special child, and a special man.

“Book of Mark”

This last photo of me with Mike and Mark is from Patti’s collection, and I am thankful that she is letting me keep it.  (That’s Mark kissing me.)

Happy Thanksgiving.

Song of the Day: My Thanksgiving by Don Henley

I’ve got great expectations
I’ve got family and friends
I’ve got satisfying work
I’ve got a back that bends
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my thanksgiving

Out of Focus

November 10, 2007

The book, Simple Abundance, has certainly been thought-provoking. Some days, it’s downright eerie how personally I relate to the essays. On Monday, for example, the author wrote about Vesta, the most beloved goddess of Roman women. “She, like her Greek counterpart, Hesta, was the goddess of the hearth. Vesta is the one who urges women to be quiet, to sit, to gaze, to listen… to bring beauty into our daily round, to live through our senses, to create a sacred haven of security and serenity set apart from the world in order to protect all we cherish.”

Breathnach writes, “Focusing is the sacred art of Vesta. Focusing is also a crucial need for women who spend much of their time rushing to fulfill the inexhaustible demands of family and work. The faster we run, the more conflicted we become. As we get nowhere fast, we lose focus and clarity, existing in a perpetual state of confusion.”

Existing in a perpetual state of confusion… Yeah, that sounds about right. And forget about focusing. The whirlwind that is my life has me leaping from one thing to another, with little time or energy to fully devote to any of them.

This entry is a good example. I started it on Tuesday, and have made many attempts since then to whip it into shape, but I have been unable to focus on it enough to get it ready for posting. So, I’m just going to put it up as is, and beg for your understanding.

As my longtime readers well know, I have been faced with one bad (and sometimes catastrophic) situation after another for quite a few years. Somehow, time after time, I have found the strength to cope. However, I’m having trouble finding anything to celebrate in that. I’d much rather live a less challenging life.

I’m still grieving for my brother. It’s hitting me hard all over again, as I relive the days before his body was found. I’ve been torturing myself by re-reading the entries I posted over at D-Land during that time. On the other hand, I’ve also been re-reading the wonderfully supportive and compassionate comments my readers left. Those comments really made a difference, and I am still deeply appreciative.

Besides the emotional upheaval, I’m also in a lot of physical pain. The Fibromyalgia is in full flare. My neck is stiff, and my shoulders are extremely tender. The soreness in my right shoulder blade area is driving me to distraction. To add insult to injury, my back is killing me. Actually, the pain is mostly in my buttocks and legs, but that is related to the problems with my lumbar spine. By late afternoon, I have difficulty walking.

The pain makes it hard for me to fall asleep at night, and it wakes me up early in the morning. Sleep deprivation leads to fibro flare-ups. It’s a vicious cycle.

Another thing that leads to an increase in pain is overexertion. Lately, I haven’t been able to avoid overdoing it. The flurry of activity began last week when I had to go for a heart ultrasound. The results are not yet in, or, if they are, I haven’t heard about them. I’m not worried, though. I figure they’ll call me if anything is wrong.

On Monday, we had a faculty meeting after work, so I didn’t get home until 4:30 (instead of the usual 2:15). Leigh showed up at 5:30, begging me to go grocery shopping with her. By the time we left, went shopping, and got back, it was 7:30. That was twelve hours on the go.

On Tuesday, we had a Superintendent’s Conference day. It was even more brutal than usual. The afternoon workshop was unbelievably boring. All the facilitator did was read the Powerpoint presentation. The same material was given to us in a packet. We could have read it ourselves.

In my eighteen years with the district, that was the most excruciating workshop I’ve ever had to endure. It was so bad that people were text messaging each other with remarks like, “This is torture!”

I actually fell asleep a few times. At one point, I had my elbows on the desk with my head propped up in my hands. Suddenly, I was awakened when my elbow slid off the side of the desk. A friend of mine later announced to everybody, “She was OUT COLD!”

When I was walking home after the conference, another friend was behind me. He yelled, “Wait! They want us to go back for more!” Of course, he was kidding, but his words caused me to quicken my step as I headed for the sanctuary of my home.

I did allow him to catch up to me, and we walked the rest of the way to my house together. Bill and I go way back. He was friends with my brother, Frank, when they were little boys. I took the two of them to New York City to see Beatlemania.

After I got home, Rebecca and I went out. Again, I didn’t get home until 7:30.

Wednesday afternoon, I had an appointment with the Physician’s Assistant at the spine specialist’s office. This appointment was scheduled months ago, and the timing turned out to be perfect because of the increased pain I am experiencing. The PA was at a loss as to how to advise me, so she called the doctor in for a consultation. He, too, was at a loss. The only thing he could come up with is to send me for another MRI. Now I have to wait for authorization from Worker’s Comp.

Dr. Spine Specialist also referred me to a physiatrist. It just happens to be the guy I went to for dry-needling. I like and trust this doctor, so I’m pretty happy about the referral. Unfortunately, this, too, requires authorization. I hate waiting, especially when I’m in pain, which is all the damn time.

Thursday, I had a hair appointment after work. It was for color and cut, so I was there for quite a while. As a result of all this hustle and bustle, I didn’t have much time to myself this past week. Being overextended leaves me feeling befuddled. I lack focus and clarity.

To make things worse, it appears that I have caught the cold that has been making its rounds. Just in time for the holiday weekend. I’ve been so looking forward to this three day weekend. Spending it sick in bed is most definitely NOT what I had in mind.

Calling Vesta. Come in, Vesta.

Come, Vesta, to live in this Beautiful Home.
Come with warm feelings of friendship.
Bring your intelligence,
Your Energy and your Passsion
To join with your Good Work.
Burn always in my Soul.
You are welcome here.
I remember you.

-Homeric hymn

Song of the Day: Out of Focus by Mick Jagger

Wish You Were Here

October 25, 2007

On Saturday (which was the first anniversary of my brother, Mark’s death), I sent an email to Tamica (Mark’s fiancée). I just wanted to let her know that I was thinking of her and her daughter, Faelin. Her response was heart-wrenching. She wrote:

I ended up taking time off work yesterday and Friday. I thought I would be able to handle this particular anniversary” better – I was wrong. Faelin was crushed. Initially, I didn’t think she would even remember, but again, I was wrong. I thought I wouldn’t even mention it to her – I know if I could have forgotten about it myself the last few days might have been easier.

We went to the river on Saturday, to the spot where we used to watch them set the duck blind, and floated flowers in. We still have the remains in the containers Mike gave us and it didn’t leave her side all weekend. She breaks my heart. I miss him every day still – for her, for me, and for all of you.

I miss Mark every day, too. This is such a monstrous loss.

Song of the Day: Wish You Were Here by Incubus

Although being tired seems to have become a way of life for me, I experienced a significant increase in fatigue this past week. By early afternoon, it was all I could do to keep my eyes open at work. My speech was slurred and my voice was hoarse – both of which, in my case, are common symptoms of exhaustion. Every task I faced just seemed too hard. All I wanted to do was sleep, but my sleep was disrupted and not at all restful.

A couple of days ago, it struck me that my lethargy was the result of dread. What I was dreading was today.

It has been one year since my brother, Mark, died in a boating accident.

His body wasn’t found until November 15th. Those twenty-six days in between were the darkest of my life.

Today, the darkness threatens to envelop me once again. My heart hurts so much.

Oh how I miss you, Mark. I love you… forever.


Song of the Day: A song Mark loved – Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World by Israel Kamakawiwo Ole

Weekend Wrap-up

June 17, 2007

Up until today, I’ve had a lovely weekend. On Friday, my cousin and I went to the Samuel Morse estate to tour the gardens. I especially wanted to see (and smell) the spectacular peonies.

I spent yesterday with my sister, Michele. We did some shopping, and went back to her house to laze around on floats in the pool. Daniel joined us later in the evening for dinner. Feast is more like it. We had gnocchi, london broil, garlic bread, salad, and two cakes for dessert – one Italian rum, and the other, chocolate. I’m STILL stuffed.

Today is a different story. This is going to be another difficult day, especially for my father. Mark’s death was devastating for all of us, but my father is a broken man. I almost dread going over to see him later this afternoon because his devastation is so painful to witness.  But, of course, I will go.  He needs the rest of his children more than ever.

To all the dads out there – have a very Happy Father’s Day!

Song of the Day: Father Figure by George Michael

A Difficult Day

June 13, 2007

Today should be, and is, a day of celebration. However, it is also a day of tremendous sadness. My brother, Mike, is 40 years old today. My brother, Mark, who is Mike’s identical twin, should be sharing in the festivities. Instead, we are facing his first birthday without him.

As hard as this is for me to bear, it is even more difficult for Mike. At first, he didn’t want his birthday to be acknowledged, but we convinced him to let us take him out to dinner. It IS still his birthday, and a decade birthday, at that.

In an attempt to better understand what Mike is going through, I did some research on “twinless twins.” (http://www.twinlesstwins.org/InTheNews/Surviving/tabid/242/Default.aspx)  Here’s some of what I found.

A twin’s “self” is a multiple existence. Acting from a framework of “we,” not I, they learn to rely on each other for many of their needs. This closeness, or twinning, becomes the closest relationship they ever know.

Twin grief is a lifelong process. A shared birthday is particularly difficult to bear, particularly the first birthday after a twin’s death.

Also, (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/hometruths/deathofmytwin.shtml) the problem with twin bereavement is that, the other person is such an integral part of your sense of self that when you stop being a twin, when the person who made you a twin, dies, you have to really reconsider your whole sense of self.

And, (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/01/07/PNGIDAITU71.DTL) it’s a very devastating type of sibling loss that is often overlooked… [Twins] had an understanding and a trust, an acceptance and unconditional love beyond what most people have even in marriage. Every birthday is a reminder of the loss. It’s an occasion most of them would just as soon wipe off the calendar.

Today, my heart is breaking for myself and for my parents and for my siblings, but, most of all, my heart is breaking for Mike.

Mark Meltdown

May 7, 2007

 I had a very emotional weekend. Hospice hosted a Candlelight Celebration of Remembrance on Sunday at the Samuel F.B. Morse estate, Locust Grove. I went with my cousin, who lost her father about a month before my brother, Mark, died.

It was suggested that we bring a photo for the memorial tables. I went through photographs on Saturday, looking for the one I wanted to bring. This activity caused such a convulsion of grief, I was reduced to a sobbing, heartbroken wreck. In retrospect, it’s probably a good thing I got some of it out on Saturday, or I wouldn’t have been able to handle the ceremony on Sunday. It was lovely, but very painful.

The young woman sitting next to me was so grief-stricken, my own aching heart overflowed with compassion for her. At one point, I reached out and touched her arm. She lifted her red-rimmed eyes to mine, and gave me a shaky smile. It was then that I realized what this ceremony was all about – being there for each other in our time of need.

During the Litany of Remembrance, the names of our loved ones were read, and each of us walked up to the front of the room, where we were given one of these:

I couldn’t get a good picture of it, but it says: “Plant this butterfly in your garden and wildflowers will blossom year after year in memory of your loved one.”

The songs really got to me. Two women sang You’ll Never Walk Alone, from Carousel, and Candle on the Water, from Pete’s Dragon. But, it was the first song, By My Side, from Godspell, that did me in.

Where are you going, where are you going?
Will you take me with you?
For my hand is cold and needs warmth
Where are you going?
Far beyond where the horizon lies
Where the horizon lies
And the land sinks into mellow blueness
Oh please take me with you
Let me skip the road with you
I can dare myself, I can dare myself
I’ll put a pebble in my shoe
And watch me walk,
I can walk and walk
I shall call the pebble Dare
I shall call the pebble Dare
We will talk together about walking
We will talk
Dare shall be carried and when we both have had enough
I will take him from my shoe,
singing, “Meet your new road”
Then I’ll take your hand
Finally glad that you are here
Finally glad
By my side
By my side
By my side
By my side
By my side
That you are here by my side.

My cousin and I cried our hearts out through the entire song.

One more thing. About a month after Mark died, I was standing at the bathroom sink, brushing my teeth, when I suddenly had a vision of Mark and my uncle playing golf together. I told my cousin about that yesterday, and she loved the idea of her father and my brother being together. After the ceremony was over, she and I went into the gift shop. I walked over to a card rack, and plucked a card from its holder. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked at it and saw a golf ball. I felt like I had hit a hole in one.

Song of the Day: By My Side from Godspell