Changing focus

adoption

Until now, this blog has been primarily about grief, specifically about the grief a parent feels when he or she loses a child. This is a very unique kind of grief and deserves a great deal of discussion, both public and private. I have spent the last seven years exploring my personal experiences and sharing these explorations with readers. My posts have progressively gotten less frequent as I processed and learned to live with the constant ache of loss.

Now, I feel, it is time to change focus.

More accurately, it is time to change emphasis.

I began this blog for many reasons – to reach out to others experiencing the same loss, to provide a place where conversation could take place, to explore and validate my own feelings, to educate the fortunate who have no idea what losing a child is like, and as a very important form of personal therapy. I feel that it has been a success on all fronts, and for that I am pleased and grateful.

The therapeutic aspect of writing about my grief is no longer needed – at least not with the frequency it was. I can tell my fellow “club” members that if you work at it and try very hard, you can achieve a place of peace with your loss. Does the pain go away? No, never. However, you do find a way to live with it, even live in spite of it; yes, even thrive.

So, while I will continue to write about the long, long road through the ever-changing grief landscape, there are now other, more pressing issues in my life. There are other things I want to explore.

And isn’t that wonderful?

So, where are we going now? Throughout these seven years of blogging, I have also discussed my experiences with adoption. My adoption journey began out of the enormous gulf left behind when I lost my only child. There is no replacing a dead child, of course, but one can begin to fill the massive void that death created. I now have three beautiful, living daughters and am working diligently on a fourth. The emphasis going forward, therefore, will be adoption – mine, yours, thoughts, ideas, arguments, and struggles.

Rather than death and loss, now I am focusing on life – and the hope therein, just like the title says.

I invite open discussion, guest blogs, the venting of frustration, and any other related comments you feel like sharing, and I thank you for being interested enough to ready my posts!

 

This is how a heart breaks

The beating of a heart

I sit next to the man in whose chest my daughter’s heart beats

What is a heart?

Is it a symbol of love, the place where our deepest feelings lay, the source of our humanity? And what makes a heart break?

The heart is a muscle pulsing with life. It is, along with the brain, an important part of what makes us intrinsically human. In the hospital, it is the state of the heart and the brain that determines if we are considered truly alive … or not.

Ava’s heart… The heart of my dearest darling daughter continued to beat after – long after – her brain had shut down. Her beautiful, strong, and loving heart beat continuously and determinedly, and was placed in the chest of a sweet man whose own heart had failed him: Jerry Finzer.

Ava’s heart… Ava’s youthful, strong heart allowed this fine man to see the country with his loving wife Laurie. It allowed him to enjoy years of love, laughter, travel, and companionship. And Jerry, in turn, loved his heart. He loved the young lady he had never met, yet who had so generously given of herself. He carried her picture with him everywhere he went and shared her story with everyone he met. He literally took Ava’s heart to places she’d never been. And she gave him days, months, and years he would not otherwise have had.

I lay my ear against Jerry’s chest and heard the strong, steady beat of my Ava’s heart. We laughed, and we cried together – Jerry, Laurie, and I. And Ava too… she was with us, declaring life and love with every beat.

Ava’s heart… Her heart never faltered. But Jerry’s body had other struggles. He fought them valiantly, determined to live and love on – for his beloved Laurie, and for Ava, whom he knew was fighting for his life with every beat of “their” heart.

Ava’s heart was a lion’s heart: powerful, willing, strong, and full of love. Ava’s heart, and Jerry’s life, came to an end recently. That loving beat is no more… and that loving man has joined her spirit in the wider universe.

And now, my heart breaks… yet again.

Manifesto

PabloI have, to this point, had a very full life.

I have enjoyed wonderful high points, and have suffered irreparable losses.

I’ve been blessed to have a loving family, incredible parents who became my best friends, a terrific brother, a beautiful and brilliant daughter who was the shining star of my adulthood, and people around me who love me deeply.

I have reinvented myself many times. I have been a waitress and a restaurant manager, sold and serviced microelectronics, and managed test vehicles for a major manufacturer. I have been a homemaker, bookkeeper, newspaper editor, and now I am a technical writer. I have never made a lot of money, but over the years I’ve managed to carve out a comfortable life.

I have been dropped – or have leapt – from some incredible heights. Yet somehow, I’ve always managed to land, albeit bruised and shaken, on my feet.

I was wounded by the loss of both of my parents, and then my beautiful daughter. I lost a husband to drugs. I lost many others to life’s uncertainties.

Since I was a young girl, all I really wanted was a loving husband and family. Though I strove, I was not able to achieve these things as a younger woman. Heartbreak after heartbreak, the final blow was the death of my daughter. I thought I was through.

But I am not through.

I have managed, through both determination and fortune, to patch together a new family. I now have three wonderful daughters and another one coming soon, through the blessing that is adoption. I have finally found – actually, he found me – the love of my life. He is my best friend and partner, and joining with me to knit this family tighter. Sometimes the patchwork quilt is stronger than the original cloth….

Some have said I like chaos. They couldn’t be more wrong. I enjoy an orderly life and require a tidy home. While it is true that occasionally I bite off more than is comfortable to chew, I always manage to get it down.

Life is short. I knew this at 18 when I said that I intended to pack my brief 80 or so years (if I’m lucky enough to live that long) as full as possible. And I do. I pack each day as full as I can. Perhaps that is what some people mistake as a love of chaos. No, my friends, it is merely a love of life – there’s just too much out there I want to do, and not enough time in my short years on this planet to get it all done. Busy, yes. Chaos, absolutely not.

From this full, tumultuous life, I have grown exponentially. I am deeply grateful for my family and friends; those people who have continued to believe in me and remain my friends throughout my evolutions.

And the journey continues….

Grief leaves a mark

My daughter Ava at 16

My daughter Ava at 16

Life continues. Time moves forward inexorably. We age. Grief ages too.

As I pass through what would have been your 24th birthday, my dear departed daughter, I can only imagine who you might have been, and where your beautiful spirit and essence are now. And although the pain of my loss never leaves me, I have found a way to deal with it daily. I keep it in a beautifully carved and bejeweled box in the hole in my heart. I know it is there, and I gaze at it often. Rarely now, however, do I need to open the box and spill out the contents.

Sometimes the contents spills of its own accord, of course. The box is not locked, nor do I want it to be. Sometimes the missing piece that is you aches so badly…. The pain escapes, filling my heart and mind completely and shutting out everything else. The blind agony of grief still visits me, just not quite as often.

And life continues. As I promised my Ava after she left me, I am trying my best to be happy. And year by year, month by month, day by day I am keeping that promise.

I look in the mirror now, nearly five and a half years later, and see a much older woman. I see a face transformed from the one you last saw. I see the lines and wear that grief – and time – have wrought. In spite of my increasing capacity for joy, my grief is etched permanently in and around my eyes, in the set of my jaw, the tilt of my head. I’m different; I am changed by both time and loss.

The transformation is more than superficial, however. I am a deeper, more loving woman. I have broadened my home and heart to include three, soon to be four daughters, who through no fault of their own have lost their parents. These girls give my life renewed purpose, challenges – and laughter! I now have a future again, albeit vastly different than I ever imagined.

Life continues. My family grows. And through all these changes, I am learning how to truly love. Ava, you lead the way, and my heart follows.

Five years ago today

Arizona onyx headstoneFive years ago today…

Five years ago, at 7:30 a.m., I hugged my daughter and told her to drive safely.

“Ok Mom. See you at lunch time!”

Five years ago, at 11:00 a.m., two DPS officers came to my work with “something important to talk to me about, regarding my daughter.”

Five years ago, at 11:30 a.m., my friend was driving me the hour-plus drive to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix.

Five years ago, at 1 p.m., we arrived, but I wasn’t allowed to see my daughter immediately.

I had to wait….  I only knew she was in “extremely critical condition.”

Five years ago, after what seemed like an eternity, the doctor and two aides took me into a small room to tell me that my only child and the joy of my life had irreparable brain damage and a severed spine.

Five years ago today, life as I knew it ended.

 

Today, the pain is no less. I have simply learned how to live with it. Anniversaries make it harder, somehow. I relive that day to some extent every day, but on the anniversary of the accident, my heart breaks all over again. I miss her so.

 

I love you, baby….