Visual Storyteller

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My first charity quilt.


I haven’t been writing – which is a surprise to no one.  My lame excuse is that I can’t.  I sit down to try and words just don’t come…or the words that come are ones I don’t think anyone wants to experience – especially me.  Words that show pain, and loss, and sorrow bubble up out of me and push me back down the well I have (mostly) climbed out of (mostly – my grip on the edge of the well pit is tenuous).  I have embraced other avenues of expression – photographing and sharing my blooms and blossoms with my frozen friends and family in the north, cruising social media without leaving much more than photographs and sharing memes…and lately – quilting.

Quilting appeals to me in many ways.  I appreciate the precision, accuracy and attention to detail required.  I love the way colors and fabrics and textures all come together to make a statement. To paint a picture, if you will.  I love that quilts are meant to warm, and comfort.

I have joined several quilting groups and forums.  One group calls their members “Visual Storytellers”.  Most of my quilting efforts have been for a children’s charity.  Mostly special needs children.  I like to think of these little ones (and frankly, not so little ones, as the charity includes teenagers as recipients) snuggled happily in something that I created.  The story my quilt will tell them is this:  You are valued.  You deserve to be comforted.  You are as unique as this quilt – all the pieces together tell its story as all the pieces of you tell your story.  Each put together in its own way.

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A quilt for my granddaughter,

I hadn’t thought too much about being a visual storyteller until I was asked to create a memory quilt for a young woman, 20 years old,  who was struck, dragged, and killed by a motor vehicle while crossing the street from her dorm to attend her college classes.  Her grandmother asked me to do it and I agreed.  I’m a grandmother.  My eldest granddaughter is nearly 20.  I wanted to help her tell the story so I agreed we would do it together.

I met with B discuss the quilt – to be made from the granddaughter’s t-shirt collection and mementos from her short life.  B carefully lifted each item from a large storage tote and spread it onto the table between us.  Whether consciously or not, she placed her hand briefly on the spot of each shirt where her granddaughter’s heart would be.  She explained the importance of the item – cheerleading, student government, races run (and won), places visited and fun sayings.

She explained to me how her granddaughter interacted with the world – stopping occasionally to tell an anecdote of their time together.  Her hopes and dreams.  Snippets of the young woman’s life.  The enormity of her loss hung between us and was buffered only by the grandmother’s love and desire that her granddaughter be remembered and my willingness to make that happen.  We went over the photos, activities, beliefs and actions of a vibrant being cut down needlessly.  It was emotionally draining and oddly empowering.  I left the session with a clear vision of how to visually tell this story in quilt format.  I would become a true visual storyteller.

I am reminded that I have my own storage tote of shirts and mementos to be made into a memory quilt.  When the time is right I will smooth each shirt lovingly, and place my hand where his heart would be.  I will create a vessel for comfort, remembering, and loving.  I will be a visual storyteller.


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A very snuggly quilt for charity


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I’m OK and I’m not OK


I am okay.  I have the things I need – food, clothing, shelter.  Air conditioning…a fabric stash, hobbies and crafts.  I have everything I need – except an immune system.

And I am not okay.  I crave laughter and smiles – I yearn to see and feel the hugs of my kids and grandkids.  I need to watch a sunset, smell salt air, feel the sand between my toes.   Sit with my family around a campfire and listen to the familiar and usually wildly inappropriate banter.  I need to feel useful…

I am okay.  I have enough things to do.  I have a large enough, secure yard that no one gets within arm’s length unless I allow them.  I don’t have to worry about going to work as an essential employee, nor worry about the loss of a paycheck as I’ve not been able to work for awhile.  It’s status quo on that front and I know how lucky I am there.  I can still play in the dirt, go fishing, walk my dog, read, sew, putter.  Make face masks because it’s something I can do to help in a miniscule way against a mighty foe.

And I am not okay.  Social distancing has meant pretty much isolation.  And more time on my hands.  So I miss him.  Every. Damned. Day.  Here, in the house he loved.  Here.  Facing the rest of my life without him.  Here, without even the possibility of family visits.  Just here.  A helpless health care provider in a health care crisis.  The training, the passion, the desire to help…just sitting here.

I am okay.  I am choosing to limit my exposure to grim news and numbers.  Focusing on the positives where and when I can.  Doing research…trying to learn something, anything, every day.

I have decided that on the other side of this thing…I will either see my kids, grandkids, family and friends again.  Or I will see my husband, my mom, my grandma and my dog again.’

I am okay.  And I am not okay.


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Yellow Roses

I left Walmart today in tears, and this time it wasn’t because the fresh ginger was $3.98 a pound (it was, and I’ll probably end up throwing most of it out, again) or that so many of the plants on the clearance rack were nearly dead (they were, but I couldn’t fit them all in my cart).  Nor was it the People of Walmart – although I did see a few interesting outfits.  No, nothing like that.

I met a man.  A sweet, older gent near the fresh flowers.  I’d stopped to admire the yellow roses – a favorite of mine, a favorite of my mom’s.  I picked a bouquet up to sniff – no fragrance – anymore roses seem to have no fragrance.  Or maybe it is me…nothing seems to be as it should anymore.  Flowers are not fragrant.  Sunrises do not hold the same promise – even my favorite foods don’t bring the same joy (doesn’t stop me from eating them, just doesn’t bring the same joy).  Music isn’t as wondrous, colors aren’t as fabulous, nothing seems quite right.  I have a good life, with much to be grateful for, but still life seems to be slightly off-kilter.  Unbalanced somehow.

The sweet older man shuffled next to me, clutching an identical bouquet.

“Are these yellow?” he asked me, his hands shaky.  He held the bouquet closer to my face.  Through his thick glasses I see the clouded lenses of cataracts in his eyes.

“Yes, they have a touch of peach blush on the tips of the petals, but they are yellow,” I said.  “Yellow roses are my favorite.”

“They are my wife’s, too,” he said.  “It’s her birthday.”

“That’s sweet,” I say.  I see that tears are forming in his eyes and his thin shoulders begin to shake.

“She’s up in Sarasota National Cemetery,” he sobs.

The caregiver in me takes over and I hug this stranger.  I have been there.  I’ve had more meltdowns in stores than probably anywhere else.  The card aisle…the beer aisle…when I see the peanut M & Ms…flowers, sports paraphernalia, Home Depot – where he would roll his eyes at the plants I would buy that he knew he would have to plant, then weed.

“I lost my husband last year.  It’s hard, I know,” I tell him.  He hugs me back.

“She’s been gone eight months,” he tells me.  “God, I miss her.  Sixty-six years we were together.  Sixty-six years.”  He shakes his head and wipes his eyes.

“You were blessed.  We were together nearly 37 years,” I tell him.

Soon we are sharing pictures, and laughing through our tears.  He chooses another bouquet of mums and lilies to accompany the roses and we say our goodbyes.  I watch him shuffle off…and I put my bouquet of yellow roses in the cart.  They have always been my favorite.

I realize, watching him shuffle away, that I don’t have a corner on the grief market…I don’t even have a good-sized corner lot.  I was blessed, I am blessed – I still have a fabulous life.  I have someone in my life who has also lost his significant other – roughly 10 days after my husband died.  Together we have carved out a relationship of companionship, trust and support.  We both thought we would spend the rest of our days with someone else but the cards we were dealt dictated otherwise.  We never have to explain the pain, the grief, the feelings of loss – the bottomless pit of sorrow that threatened to swallow each of us individually.  I have family, and friends, home, and enough.  Enough to work toward regaining that balance in this world someday.

And yellow roses to help.




Filed under General Mumblings, Uncategorized

Employee of the Month


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I closed our last joint account yesterday.  It was a very hard thing to do.  Sad. Poignant.  Excruciating. The customer service rep who assisted me was very kind and gentle – she had assisted me last year with some matters after my husband’s death and even remembered the details of our accident.


Not at all like the perky young woman in August who wiped out a 40 year history of the customer he had been at the bank we had used for our entire marriage with a cheery demeanor that probably earned her the title of employee of the month.  If so, I was going to find her car in the parking lot.  I made a mental note to key it on the way out.

“I’ll just take him off here” she said, tapping away on her keyboard.  “And here.” More tapping, and smiling.  “And…  Done.”  She wheeled over to the printer, then rolled back to the desk.  She shoved some papers in front of me to sign.  Which I did, slowly, meticulously, with my beautifully written married name.   I kept the pen she had handed me.  I wondered if I had anything stronger with which to puncture her tires.  Probably not.

I contemplated whether either of my kids would bail me out of jail if I jumped across the desk and shook this lovely creature by the neck and shouted in her face “Look, he wasn’t just a name on an account.  He was your customer for 40 years. Forty years.  He was a good man, a decent man.  He loved his family.  He loved me.  He thought I was beautiful – even when I was anything but.  He mattered.”  But I did not.   She was young and fresh-faced and enthusiastic.  More than anything, I hoped bad things didn’t happen to her.  Ever.  I hoped she never felt empty and lost and alone.

“Here’s your death certificate back,” she handed me the folded document along with copies of my newly signed paperwork.  I stuffed it all into my purse.  I shook her hand and thanked her.  At least I think I did.  I walked slowly out, tears streaming down my face.  Past a former co-worker who stopped me to offer condolences.  I waved her off – I could not talk.  Past the employee of the month parking spot…


So, yes, yesterday was tough.  The last account.  But thanks to gentle handling by a thoughtful employee I got through it.  Thank you for asking about my granddaughter.  For asking about my sons.  For asking even about my dog.  For remembering those details.  For caring.  For recognizing how tenuous my grip was, how close to the edge I live.

You, madam, are Employee of the Month.  And yes, a donation has been made in your name to the Animal Welfare League.  Thank you.


Filed under General Mumblings, Uncategorized

Wobbling through a Weary WidowLand



I am a widow.  I find I have to repeat the phrase several times a day.  I can’t believe it.  I still cannot believe it.  On forms where you designate marital status – I now have to check “W”.  I’ve spent the majority of my life and nearly all my adult life as an “M”.  I do not know how to be a single person, let alone a widowed person.

After the accident, I did not even think I could breathe without my beloved.  I didn’t even want to.  But breathe I did…and I surprised myself with my strength.  I was numb, bruised, disoriented, and incredibly heartbroken – but the sun continued to come up every day and life continued on for those of us left behind.  But what a painful life it was in its emptiness.  I thought that grief would crush me.  I felt as though I was swimming to the surface of a murky pool of sadness and misery, and sometimes I felt I was being pulled backward.  But I kept swimming, struggling.  At the surface would be the things I would need to survive: healing, peace, love, hope, and strength.

I learned to do a lot of things that he had always taken care of.  I navigated forms, accounts, procedures and processes I never dreamed even existed.  I learned about “primary account holders” and credit cards that can be cut off while you are stranded in Nebraska waiting for your husband’s remains.  I wrote his obituary, and planned a celebration of life, even though I could not celebrate.  Did not want to celebrate.  I just wanted him back.  I wanted my family to be whole again.  I wanted to be an “M” again.

I forgot our joint bank account number – and learned that account will have to be closed anyway because he was the account owner.  I learned that people that I didn’t even know prayed for me and for my family.  I learned that what I had always believed, was true – things don’t matter, people do.  I learned that a traumatic event can be relived over and over again – with or without triggers, and with or without being awake.  I learned that just because your heart is already broken, doesn’t mean it can’t break again every day when you wake up alone, or go to bed alone…or try to read a note he wrote in his incredibly sloppy handwriting.

I don’t sleep.  I don’t even want to most of the time.  I’m afraid of what I’ll dream.  I sleep with one of his t-shirts, with a book he gave me under my pillow “100 Reasons I Love You”.  His things, his books, pictures, clothing – all of it brings me comfort and smiles – but is just as likely to turn to tears when it hits me again, like a fist to the stomach.  He is not coming back.  I’ll never kiss him again or feel his arms around me.  I’ll never hear his voice again, or smell his clean, soap smell.  Never again in this lifetime.

I have given up trying to understand.  There is no understanding a freak injury in a freak accident.  There is only acceptance.  Acceptance of the fact that I am now wobbling my way, weary and weepy, through this wretched state of widowhood.

I am still on my feet and I no longer wish I had died there alongside the highway – lying in the median beside him.  I am glad to be alive and want to really start living again instead of just breathing and going through the motions.  It is going to be a long, and very slow process with many hills and valleys and I’m sure to stumble along the way.  But I’ll keep moving forward.

Widows wobble but they don’t fall down…



December 31, 2016 · 12:40 AM