Straight from heaven – a message from Dad

fall sunrise

Given the current climate of our country, and our world, anxiety seems pretty high these days. I know I am not alone. For me, I can toss in mid-life adjustments, family circumstances and an insanely busy schedule to the big bowl of life, and mixing it all together, I can attest that I am feeling a bit on-edge and hyper; simply put – anxious.

Add another ingredient of life into the mixing bowl – my dad passed away a little over two years ago. I still miss him. He was my “go-to” guy when I felt anxious. He didn’t always try to fix things; most of the time he just listened.

The father-daughter bond we shared was very strong, and even though I can’t physically see or hear him, I think of him daily, and I believe he communicates in his own special way.

For instance, a few hours before my dad passed away, we experienced an early evening, mid-summer storm. Strong winds, thunder, lightening – the works. A vibrant and a most beautiful rainbow appeared shortly after the storm… and a rainbow occurred monthly at the same time – the 23rd day of each month – for several months after his death. Anyone who has lost someone so dear marks the monthly anniversary until it becomes a yearly observation. (Oh, this was amazing, too – a rainbow appeared on the first Father’s Day we celebrated without him.)

I will be going about my day, thinking of Dad, and then, one of his favorite songs will be on the radio, or one of his favorite hymns will be listed in the church bulletin. During times of incredible stress, I have seen Dad in my dreams. He says nothing, but has the most peaceful smile and always gives me a hug.

It is all too vivid and the timing is way too perfect to be called a coincidence.

When fall rolls around, I think of him constantly. Anyone who knew my dad also knew he had an immaculate yard, and during the fall, he declared a full-on attack of leaves. Yes, this is the man who would stop mid-conversation to go outside and grab a leaf off the front lawn. And yes, this is the same man who “slid” off the roof and broke his leaf blower because, yes, he was on the roof, ridding it of leaves, so that they wouldn’t land in the yard.

During Dad’s eulogy, our pastor shared these stories to all who came to celebrate his life. There was so much laughter. Seriously, who gets on the roof and, essentially, rakes it? One year, my siblings and our spouses wanted to bring bags of leaves and dump them all over the yard as a prank, so that when Dad grabbed his morning paper, he would be greeted with 3-4 inches of leaves covering every blade of grass. We didn’t, because, well, we knew that could have caused a major health event. We didn’t want to bear that burden the rest of our lives!

When we interred Dad’s ashes in a memorial garden at church, there was a hush of quiet as our immediate family gathered. It was a pretty fall day, and the earlier rain had subsided in the nick of time. Pastor was reading some Scripture, and said a prayer, and then there was a quiet murmur, which turned to some mild snickering… because in the spot where Dad’s remains would eternally rest, in that just-opened space in the memorial wall, what does our pastor find? A leaf. He wondered if we should remove it, or leave it there to drive dad crazy for all eternity.

See what I mean? I swear he sends us messages from beyond.

Well, I have really needed my dad these past few weeks. What I wouldn’t have given to just talk to him, which I still do. I guess what I really wanted was to hear his voice.

This past Sunday, after worship, my youngest daughter and I took a stroll through another garden at church. It was a nice walk, and we had just heard our pastor’s sermon about angels. The garden, still sporting some roses in the early fall, was peaceful and pretty, with a calming fountain and lots of stones with Scripture verses along the path. Halfway through our walk, one stone stood out to me because, of all things, there was a leaf laying on it. One, lone leaf, which, of course, caught my eye. Any time I see a random leaf, I can’t help to think of dear old dad.

Oh my gosh…I had to grab my phone and snap a photo, because I honestly could not believe my eyes! Straight from heaven – a message from dad!

do not be anxious

Right under the leaf, the Scripture verse read: “Do not be anxious about anything.” Philippians 4:6.

Teary-eyed, and a little shaken, I looked up, and whispered, “Thanks, Dad.”

© Lynne Cobb – 2013>

Let me know if you have received a message from heaven!

 

The Grief Club

“I am going to need you to help me through this,” was the message my sister-in-law sent to me in a text.

We’ve been through a lot together – she’s been in our family over 30 years. We’ve had some great times, and she knows I would never tell her no – unless she wanted to do something illegal. But, oh, I so wanted to tell her, “no, I can’t help you this time.”

Problem is, I have the experience to help her. And I wish I didn’t. She wishes she didn’t need my help. But she does.

She is now part of the club. The club we didn’t ever want to join. The club that has the most expensive membership of all. The dues are high – no one wants to pay them. No one wants entry into the “My Dad Died Club.”

Problem is, I have the experience to help her. And I wish I didn't. She wishes she didn't need my help. But she does. Click To Tweet

My dad died sixteen months before her’s did. Both of our dads died due to complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. That life-sucking, memory-killing, obnoxious, horrid, dreaded stupid disease took down two good guys that we loved dearly. She watched us suffer and she supported us. We watched her suffer and we supported her. Our families are like so many others these days, witnessing this awful disease and its devastation.

So when she called me, crying, and asking me to help her, my heart was breaking. Of course I would be there for her. This awful Club is big – and gets bigger every year. I had plenty of friends that were there for me, guiding me and listening to my stories and just being a presence as I grieved – and continue to grieve.

I will be there for her, because I know what she will go through, and it won’t be easy.

She will experience a wide range of emotions, and it shouldn’t surprise her to laugh and cry at the same time, though she will think she’s lost it.

She will smile at his memory, and cry when she hears his favorite song – sometimes simultaneously.

Her birthday will never be the same. Nor will his.

The first year of holidays will be difficult to get through, but she will do so for her children.

Father’s Day will be difficult.

The anniversary of his passing will sting. She may relive each and every moment, not because she wants to remember the suffering, but because those moments, as hard as they were, are the last precious minutes she spent with him. And difficult though they may be, she will savor the memory.

She will see a gray-haired gentleman and look for her dad.

She will turn to ask him something, and then she will cry.

Her days will feel empty. Her heart will feel heavy.

The best advice I received regarding the grief process was from a dear friend. She gently said, “You can’t go around it; you just have to go right through it.”

My sister-in-law will get through it with the help of those who’ve been there. We will love her and support her when she is a sobbing mess one minute… and back to her usual self the next.

We seasoned Club members will pray for her. We will hurt for her.

We will get it when she calls her dad, “Daddy.”

We will understand why she wants to talk about him. And we will encourage her to continue to talk to him.

We will understand her needing time to process this great loss. And we know it may never make any sense.

We know that, even though she won’t believe it today, that each day makes one a little bit stronger.

We will encourage her to cry, and tell her stupid jokes to make her laugh.

We know she will survive, because so far, we have.

We know she is stronger than she thinks she is, because when we were told we were strong, we didn’t believe it, either.

We know that when it is her time to comfort someone who enters the Club, she will do so with grace. It will be hard, because she will remember her own hurt. She will cry for the new member, because she knows their pain.

But she will love and guide her friend, because that is what we Club members do.

And our dads would be proud.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

On being gentle and kind

“Life is fragile…handle with prayer.” – Harold B. Lee

I believe I was about 13 years-old when my mother made an embroidery sampler using the above quote. It hung in a frame and I must’ve looked at that piece a million times throughout the course of my life.

Without dating myself (yes, it’s been a few decades since Mom made that!), I really understood the meaning of that quote yesterday morning.

Yesterday, I made the discovery that I am indeed “fragile.”

After dropping the kids off at school, I had a driver pull out in front of me, only to stop and block traffic to turn left. If she had waited just a few seconds, she would’ve had a clear path. Luckily, I was in no rush, but the rudeness just brought me to tears. Honestly, I thought I was crazy being so emotional over this driving incident – which, unfortunately, happens all the time these days.

But my feelings were very real. And it has taken me an entire day to figure out why this bothered me so much. Seriously, I spent a lot of time praying I wasn’t crazy and for the Lord to give me patience with others.

Why? Because I felt like this driver didn’t care about me.

Obviously, she didn’t care about anyone other than herself and her own time-table. But somehow, I felt like she did this on purpose to me. Didn’t she know what I was going through in life? Didn’t she know that my dad died less than a year ago and that I was having a hard time dealing with his death this week? Didn’t she know that we buried a dear friend last week? Didn’t show know that if I hadn’t paid attention to her lack of patience, that we’d have been in an accident?

I felt singled out by this driver, simply because of this: rudeness is running rampant.

The “I don’t give a rip about the next guy attitude” has really gotten on my nerves lately. How can people be so callous and rude? It’s not ocassional anymore – it’s everwhere! It is on the roads, where people are completely inconsiderate of others. It’s in parking lots, where people  leave shopping carts to roll into other people’s cars.  It’s on our front lawns, where folks walking dogs leave their pet’s mess for someone else to clean. It’s in short, snarky comments and the rolling of eyes. Rudeness has become an absolute epidemic.

Of course I don’t expect a total stranger to know me or my emotions on any given day.  But I do expect that people would behave and treat others with some level of respect.

Is it because I watched my dad struggle the last few years of his life that I put myself in other’s shoes?  If I walk through a fog of emotion, are others doing the same? There is no way to know if the people I encounter today have received a big dose of bad news – a death, a diagnosis that is terminal, a foreclosure notice, a job loss. Maybe a smile or a courteous word is all they need to keep moving in that moment.

If I am fragile, than I will just assume someone else is, too.

It is the least that I can do.

Have you been a victim of rude people? Tell me below in the comments section.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Lessons learned from a wet paper

“The highest compliment that you can pay me is to say that I work hard every day.” – Wayne Gretzky

Every morning, I talk to my dad and tell him how much I miss him. On Sundays, Thursdays and Fridays, I miss him even more. Those are the “new” home delivery days for our sort-of daily paper. Yes, the paper is published daily, but budget cuts and cost-saving plans now make for a three-day home delivery service. Out of tradition, we still get home delivery of the Detroit Free Press, “our” paper, and just seeing the masthead makes me think of Dad even more.

After a night of downpours and thunderstorms, I woke up to coffee brewing (I so love programmable coffee makers!) and, while on my way to the front door, I wished Dad a good morning.

Hey Dad, I bet you’re going to be ticked this morning,” I chuckled to myself as I opened the door.

I was right. He’d be livid. Heads would be rolling downtown.

My paper was soaking wet, even though it was in a plastic bag.

Dad was a circulation guy, just like his dad. A late paper was unacceptable, unless it was due to a late press run. A wet paper was completely unacceptable. Period. End of story. Trust me when I tell you that you wouldn’t win an argument with him over a wet paper. If you were one of his carriers, you would be told to “think ahead.” If there was even the slightest chance of that paper getting wet, you were going to go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that paper was dry – even if you had to triple bag the blasted thing.

I know this because my brothers, sister and I all had paper routes. So did our friends, our cousins and, eventually, some of our spouses. We learned from him how the newspaper “food chain” works. Here’s how (imagine him throwing in an expletive or two for emphasis):

“The carrier can make or break the paper he or she works for. Don’t you know that papers aren’t made for free? Someone has to pay all the people who get that paper on the doorstep every morning. So, the advertising rates are based on the circulation numbers. Circulation numbers are based on sales, particularly home delivery subscriptions. Sometimes content comes into play, but nine times out of ten, people quit the paper because of lousy service.

“So, if people quit over service, how do you justify ad rates? Or if the advertiser gets mad and takes his business to the competition, what do you think will happen? How do you pay people when revenues are down? You don’t. You lose numbers. You lay people off.”

Whoa – that’s one serious business lesson to learn.

Customer service skills were drilled into our heads at a young age, along with the world’s strongest work ethic.

Needless to say, the areas of circulation that were run by my dad were like a well-oiled machine. He knew the people to put into the right places to, in his words (and with his famous nod), “get the job done.”

At the time, I didn’t appreciate having to spend an extra minute on my route, bagging papers “just in case.” But as time has moved forward, and I am out and about in this world, I realize just how important those customer service skills are, and see the value in his lesson.

Sitting here, having a refill of coffee and waiting to get a dry paper, I lift up my mug and say, “thanks, Dad.”

And I will try really, really, really hard not to use an expletive as I patiently wait…

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

A quick note to say thanks…

 

Gratitude is the music of the heart, when its chords are swept by the breeze of kindness.  ~Author Unknown

Just taking a quick moment to thank you all so very much for your support. As many of you know, I am relatively new to blogging. The fact that people are reading and responding to my posts is not only humbling but truly rewarding. The past few days I have received so many wonderful comments. Your “likes,” comments, personal notes and constructive suggestions are keeping me motivated.

There have been many changes in my life in the past few years, some good and some not-so-good. Transitioning from print media to other career ventures is just one of the changes and challenges! Personal changes, such as my dad’s struggle (and then his death) from Alzheimer’s; friends dealing with health challenges – both their own and that of their parents’ or children – and then losing friends way too soon have made for the more challenging times.

But the good has totally outweighed the bad. Had not these challenges been laid before me, my faith in God wouldn’t be where it is today. I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now – writing. I wouldn’t have met new friends. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to reunite with old friends, create stronger bonds within my own family or leaned on my dear friends for strength.

I would not have gained an attitude of gratitude.

Again, I say from my heart – thank you.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Playing in the sandbox

“I think when I was two years old in the sandbox. I think I formulated my basic philosophy there, and I haven’t really had to alter it very much ever since.” – Boyd Rice

My oldest son has been out of the house for almost five years, leaving home for basic training. Not too long after that, he got married, bought a house, and eventually faced a deployment. He also got to experience other “grown-up” realities, like budgeting, running a household, mourning the death of his wife’s grandmother – whom he just adored, and then mourning the loss of his own grandfather.

A boy when he left, he has grown into a fine young man. Of course, my heart bursts with pride for him, and for where life has taken him.

I love that he calls home to bounce ideas off of us; to ask questions and lay his concerns about life before us. Just recently I remembered something he said to me about a year ago at a particularly rough time.

“I wish I could just come home and go play in the sandbox.”

The sandbox his dad made was his and his siblings’ favorite spot to play. There were Hot Wheel cities, bridges made of sand and sticks, hand-carved paths for flowing rivers – which were then filled with several buckets of water. The kids and their friends would play outside in the sandbox for hours on end.

We have a shared memory, as I fondly remember the sandbox my dad had made for my siblings and me. The stuff we built and the fun we had. We, too, played for hours at a time.

A sandbox is a refuge for kids. Close your eyes and imagine the soothing feel of the sand as it is running through your fingers; or the sensation of squeezing the sand between your toes; or the therapeutic process that takes your mind off your troubles while you are busy building a sand castle.

“I wish I could just go play in the sandbox” has become our saying when life gets tough. I’ve repeated this wish to him during many conversations we’ve had regarding life, stress and when his grandfather was suffering with Alzheimer’s.

Just the other day, we were notified of a friend’s death. It was the same day that we heard that a dear neighbor is struggling with an aggressive form of cancer. And it was just a day after hearing of the very public struggles of a well-respected family in our area. There was other bad news that day, but those three illustrations surely make my point.

“I wish I could just go play in my sandbox,” I said to myself. And so I did. Closing my eyes for just a few minutes, I was in the backyard of my childhood home, playing in the sandbox. My dad was working in the yard, the sun was shining, and the warm sand felt wonderful on my bare feet.

And, for a just moment, all was right in the world.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Note: this post was featured on Midlife Boulevard on Jan. 24, 2014.

 

Forward Motion

A year ago at this time, we watched my Dad steadily decline, succumbing to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. The good days were becoming good moments, and those moments were few and far between.

Watching him go downhill was so difficult. Physically, he was strong and healthy. Mentally, the simplest of instructions were a challenge. Simple things we take for granted daily – like brushing your teeth or tying your shoes  – were tasks that he not only couldn’t do, but he couldn’t even understand what he was being asked to do. I remember assisting him by putting his shoes and socks on one morning. There was a brief moment of frustration in his eyes, almost like he was communicating that I shouldn’t be helping him, as he’s the dad. Maybe he briefly remembered tying my shoes when I was little? I don’t know. All I do know is that as our eyes met, mine welled up with tears while helping him, knowing that if he did have any idea what had been going on in his life with this disease, he’d be completely and totally humiliated.

For instance, Dad was 75 years-old. He worshipped nearly every single Sunday of his life. Seventy-five years of Sundays! But, on Easter Sunday last year, he didn’t even get the concept of being in church. Standing and sitting for readings and hymns completely confused him. He didn’t understand Communion – in fact, he made a scene so loud in the sanctuary during Communion that my poor mother hurried him out of the building, my sister trailing not far behind.

I think a good portion of the congregation was in tears witnessing this event. Many had known my dad for years, and they watched the steady downward spiral. It was no secret – his ability to live at home – with my mom caring for him – was coming to an end. A nursing facility was on the horizon for him – or so we thought.

As we move forward in our “first year without him,’ we now come upon Easter. It will be hard attend church and not think of the heartbreak we witnessed last year. But it will be even harder to see his name in the bulletin, as it will be amongst the long list of flowers ordered by those of us missing loved ones. His name will be listed under “In Memory of …”

There are just some things you are not prepared for when you are moving forward.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

A-A-Achoo!

Yep – that was me sneezing when I caught the inch of dust that had settled on my blog spot! I haven’t written anything on this page in almost a year. Wow. A year. Well, I’d like to say that nothing happened in that time, but, well, that isn’t at all true. I had started the blog to give myself and others a place to come to for support with aging parents – particularly, parents with dementia and Alzheimer’s. I also thought blogging would be a good way for me to expand my journalistic horizons. Good reasons to start writing. Sadly, I didn’t keep up with the blog for a few reasons – the biggest reason was that my dad was hospitalized for a month, and then passed away.

As I start to get back to life, I am doing some cleaning – both around the house and around the soul. I’ve noticed I left a lot of things that I just left hanging – this blog, knitting projects, not calling and setting lunch dates with friends, not scheduling dental appointments, etc. I am sure this lag of is all part of the grieving process. Oh sure, important things were handled, like paying bills and grocery shopping and attending school events. But in other areas, well, let’s say that the dust settled.

As a new spring season begins with energy anew, it seems somewhat fitting to begin to pop back into life from a long winter’s nap. Look for more frequent posts, and as always, feel free to leave me a n

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

ote – especially if you can relate to this post.