Thoughts on the tragic loss of Kate Spade

Kate Spade
“I adore pretty things and witty words.” Kate Spade

Right now, I am mourning the loss of Kate Spade, a woman I never knew. A woman who I most likely would have never met.

It’s just beyond awful that another person has tragically died in an alleged suicide. And sadly, she is among so many that we’ve lost.

After hearing of her death, I took to the Internet like so many others did, searching for the whys of what drove a successful, talented, seemingly effervescent personality to such a drastic end.

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When your dog dies

The best dog ever.

When your dog dies…

“I could give you some medication for him. It would alleviate some of the pain, but…”

I knew when I hugged him that it would be for the last time. Cradled in my oldest son’s arms, I bid farewell to our family’s dog.

He had a wonderful life. He lived better than some humans, as he never wanted for a meal or a warm place to lay his head.

Apparently, I slept through what my husband said was Jack’s very labored breathing. Our dear old dog made some very odd sounds, jarring my husband awake. And since I woke at my usual time, I let Jack outside while I filled his dish with his breakfast, not knowing what had transpired through the night.

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Autumn, Grief and Season of Change

Season of change
Season of change

Life is a season of change…

This morning I had the privilege of watching my granddaughters before school started. It was a “late start day,” which used to cause me some angst in the mornings. I know it messes up the routine for many working parents, since an hour of childcare is needed at an awkward time, causing a disruption in the usual hurried morning.

But these days, since I don’t have to corral sleeping kids off to school in the morning, I enjoy helping out by having the girls over for breakfast – even if they ended up eating the pumpkin muffins their mom sent over for me.

We had a little silly time, a little talk time, and a few rounds of playing “Go Fish.” I laughed when one of the girls said, “You go first because you are the oldest,” which I thought sounded much better than, “Because you are old.” A little before nine, we headed outside. A neighbor was going to drop them off at school, so I walked them down the sidewalk adjacent to our yard, which is now sporting a beautiful blanket of colorful leaves – a season of change.

“Everything has seasons, and we have to be able to recognize when something’s time has passed and be able to move into the next season. Everything that is alive requires pruning as well, which is a great metaphor for endings.” – Henry Cloud

Just a moment ago, it was summer, and they were running around in the yard catching fireflies in jars or doing cartwheels or playing basketball. Now, they will be excited to come over and rake all the leaves into a huge pile and jump into it.

As they made their way into our neighbor’s car, I turned around and looked at the yard. Other than the leaves and my trusty dog, it was completely empty and quiet.

Though it seems like yesterday, it was almost ten years ago that our yard had a completely different look. It was a hot summer day, and it was early morning when my husband, kids and a few other relatives were moving around under the huge canopies set up for our oldest daughter’s wedding. My husband made a wedding trellis; tables and chairs were decorated; a dance floor was set up, and we were ready to welcome more than 100 family and friends to celebrate.

Sometimes when I look into the yard, I can’t believe how it had held so many people, and how beautiful it looked with tulle along the fence line and pots of flowers scattered throughout. So many people pitched in to help. So many people attended and shared a special day.

I thought of all the people that filled our yard that summer day.

For a moment, I let myself have a cry. In less than a decade, both sides of the family have lost dear loved ones: my dad, my grandfather, my great-aunt, my husband’s cousin; the groom’s grandmother, and, sadly, this year within ten months, we lost the groom’s parents. I was kind of taken aback, because I didn’t expect to look at my quiet yard and feel so moved. Just standing on the sidewalk, I looked over the fence and saw where everyone was sitting, smiling and talking.

Grief doesn’t really know a time frame. Some days you smile at memories, and sometimes you weep. There isn’t a right way to grieve, or a wrong way. You never know which way a memory will take you, so you just go through the moment.

Maybe today’s memory happened because the leaves on the grass reminded me of my dad and his vigilant effort to get them out of his yard. Maybe it happened because the quiet was a little too quiet once the girls left for school. Maybe it was because of hormones. Or maybe it is because midlife is like fall – a beautiful, colorful season of change – a time of enormous transformation, yet a time to reflect and perhaps even mourn.

Watching the next generation skip down the side walk heading to the neighbor’s and ultimately to school, the grief lifted momentarily. How could I not smile as they waved and yelled, “Bye, Mema!” They are so full of life and wonder and growth – like spring.

Back in the house, I allowed myself to mourn a bit more. I realized that like summer, life seems short. I took a few minutes to remember the loved ones my granddaughters are probably too young to remember. I thanked God for the people that are in my life, and those who no longer are – physically, anyway – because they will always be alive in my heart.

And I promised those we’ve lost that we will keep them alive in my granddaughters’ hearts, too. They loved those little girls, just as we do. So, we will make great memories and tell the girls stories about the ones we loved and lost – the ones who shared a special wedding day with us – the day that was the beginning of their little family, and a day I cried happy tears when I looked into the yard.

© Lynne Cobb –  2016

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; …” Ecclesiastes 3: 1-22

The Day After

clouds

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers

It’s hard to believe that yesterday at this time, sleet, rain and snow flurries were taking turns smacking against the windows. It was gray, cold and dreary – a typical November day in our area of the world. Twenty-four hours later, the sun is streaming through the windows of a pretty late-fall day, and as I had let the dog back in the house, I could hear the comforting bells chiming at the church a block away.

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Great father and great memories

fathers day card

“This is the price you pay for having a great father. You get the wonder, the joy, the tender moments – and you get the tears at the end, too.” – Harlan Coben

I’ve come to the realization that Father’s Day will always be bittersweet. The first few years after my dad’s death were really difficult, and you can tell by the type of posts I wrote that I was really grieving.

Not to say that I am not still grieving – I think that will last forever. But the pain isn’t the “punch in the gut” grief like it used to be. Continue reading “Great father and great memories”

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!

 

Broken Hearts and Christmas

wpid-Broken-heart2.jpg

“Somewhere there’s someone who dreams of your smile, and finds in your presence that life is worth while. So when you are lonely, remember it’s true: Somebody, somewhere, is thinking of you.” – Unknown

Christmas is the season of hope and miracles. Festive lights and decorations are everywhere. There is absolutely no escaping it. No matter where you are, music is playing. Wishes for snow and gifts are plentiful. To-do lists and errands seem miles long. Hustle and bustle. And exhaustion – all in an effort to have everything “perfect.”

For weeks I have been asked: Are you ready for Christmas? Are you in the holiday spirit? Don’t you love this time of year?

No. No. And this year, no.

For the record, I am not a Grinch. Most years, I am as wound up as a five-year-old waiting for the big day. Though no longer a child, I do believe in Santa. On Christmas Eve, I search the sky, looking for the jolly ol’ elf. And I believe in Christmas magic and the hope of this season. The Babe in Bethlehem is my Salvation.

But I am not really into Christmas this year.

I have freely admitted this to many people, and save for a few, I am greeted with shock and horror. Some people look at me like I am crazy.

But I am normal. And I don’t need a therapist and I don’t need an anti-depressant.

I just need people to understand that, for me, this is a difficult holiday season. I am going to smile. And I am going to laugh. And I am going to cry. And those tears are healing. Those tears are okay.

Christmas will be different this year. That doesn’t make it bad – it doesn’t make it good. It makes it different. I never wanted it to be different.

I wanted it to be perfect.

At some point in our lives, how we celebrate Christmas changes. Children grow up, family members move, dads pass away. Maybe, for the first time in my life, I really have come to understand that there is no such thing as the perfect Christmas.

I overheard a conversation that resonated with me. Two women were discussing the emphasis on to-do lists, and shopping and baking, “all for one day.” The older woman hit the nail on the head – that the emphasis is on the wrong place.

“All you need to be ready for Christmas is to be surrounded by the ones you love.”

Yet, this year, there will be very dear ones missing from our celebrations – but because of my I love for them, they will be in attendance, for they are always close in my heart. Always.

Undoubtedly, Christmas will be different. Acknowledging that difference and that I won’t do all the same things this year relieves me of some of the pressures of “perfect.” I won’t have to pretend I am happy if I am having a sad moment. Different will make previous memories more precious, and new moments memorable.

Different will give me an ever greater appreciation of what I have been blessed with, which will go a long way towards healing my broken heart.

Different will also force me to look outside of myself and share with others – hard as that may be – even if all I can do is muster up a smile or be polite.

Maybe different will cause me to become different – but in a good and more thoughtful way. Maybe it will give me a greater compassion for the lonely, the hurting or for those experiencing loss.

Maybe, just maybe, different will one day feel perfect.

“It is the personal thoughtfulness, the warm human awareness, the reaching out of the self to one’s fellow man that makes giving worthy of the Christmas spirit.” – Isabel Currier

How are you helping yourself or a loved one this holiday season?

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

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

Birthday parties and funerals

“Presents don’t really mean much to me. I don’t want to sound mawkish, but – it was the realization that I have a great many people in my life who really love me, and who I really love.” – Gabriel Byrne

Somehow, I have made it through “The Year of Firsts.”

It was July 24, 2011, in the very early hours of the morning, that Dad was called to be with the Lord. At 1:40 a.m., he ceased to breathe on this side of Heaven, and continued his pain-free journey with those he loved who had gone on before him.

He may have broken a record for the shortest stay in Hospice, as he was wheeled into the room around 4:30 p.m. on July 23, and didn’t even make it a full 10 hours. I remember it vividly. And these past few weeks, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t help but to remember every single detail. Every single detail.

The Alzheimer’s ravaged his memory, but one thing that will always stand out during his last stage of life was his love of children. He was fascinated watching them, and enjoyed visits with his grandchildren and his great-granddaughters. His entire face lit up when he was around them. I think, too, that the kids had no fear of him. I believe some adults who knew Dad feared him because of his disease – not knowing what to say, how to react or if they’d somehow catch his dreaded, memory-sucking affliction.

So as we neared the one-year mark, this was how my brain functioned; like an over-worked diary that spit out timeline info on a continuous basis:

“July 10, the ambulance took him from the nursing home to the hospital; July 11, a ventilator was inserted; July 22, the ventilator was removed and the sedation was turned off…” and on and on and on my thoughts went.

Thinking I was going crazy (hey, no comments from the peanut gallery out there!), I shared my concern with a friend who lost both her parents recently. She asked how I was doing, and I was a bit emotional saying, “It’s one year today. He died at 1:40 a.m. last year, and I woke up at 1:55 a.m. this morning. My first thought was, ‘It is finished,’ and I cried.” With a hug she comforted me, and admitted that she went through this process as part of her grief experience as well. I felt better. Like I hadn’t totally lost it.

So I embraced those times and dates. Difficult as they may be, those memories are part of my history, and they make me who I am today.

I allowed my brain to continue:

“July 25, we met with the funeral director and pastor, planning the visitation and funeral. July 25 and 26, we collected photos and memories to celebrate his life on July 28.”

July 28 – a year ago today, at this very time – we gathered with several hundred people and celebrated Dad’s life.

But July 28 has another major significance for me. It is my granddaughter’s birthday. We will gather today, on her fourth birthday, to celebrate her life.

Could it be God‘s hand at work, as we gather today, to yet again celebrate life?

I believe so.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb