Growing things

My dear son,

There are days – and today is one of them – when you never leave my mind. It seems that, no matter what I’m doing, thoughts of you overtake me, memories of you are crowded in my brain.

Today, for some reason I am remembering you and gardening. It’s funny, isn’t it? You were never the kind of person I thought of as a gardener, and were far more likely to have grease on your hands than dirt.

But I remember that day in late spring or early summer of 2018 when you were living in your motor home on Division St. You’d spent several days painting your lot number on the cement pylon, carefully getting it just right. You came over to the house with a package of assorted flower seeds to ask my advice on how to plant them. You wanted to make your home attractive and a pleasant place to be. I remember how excited you were, asking how to prepare the soil, did I think you’d gotten the right seeds, how long would it take for them to grow and bloom… oh, you were full of questions for me.

I gave you all of the information I could, you borrowed a few tools for planting, and off you went. From that day forward, you let me know almost every day how they were doing. You’d show me pictures on your phone of the tiny shoots erupting through the soil, and ask my advice on whether each one was a flower or a weed. And then one day, with the excitement of a small boy, you told me that some of them were blooming. A few days later you brought a photo as proof. You were so incredibly proud of them – and you knew for the first time, the real joy there is in seeing something you’d planted and tended bring a bit of color and beauty to your home.

I think that place and that time was the happiest you’d been in a long time. You felt independent and free. I was happy for you and thankful at the pride you were taking in the place you lived.

I’ve also been remembering how hard you worked, and how we worked so well together, to build my raised planters. Over the years you’d made things for me and helped with repairs, but when I asked you about building the planters I’d designed, I wasn’t sure you’d want to undertake the job. You weren’t only willing, you were eager! We spent untold hours at hardware stores and looking online for the things we needed, and when we finally had them all together, you carefully measured and cut the wood, and then produced your impact driver to put them together.

As you know, they work wonderfully well, and I love to tell people how I designed them and you built them. Despite your prediction – which came to pass – that the bottom wouldn’t bear the weight of the soil, we were very proud of the finished product. After the bottom did fall out of one of them and I’d gotten more lumber to brace the screening, you fortified them and we were back in business. I never look at them without remembering those days. Ben has promised to keep and use them after I’m no longer here. That’s just one of many ways you live on in this world. I am grateful for those tangible things you’ve left for me.

Thank you, my son, for these precious memories. Despite our arguments and our difficulties living together, you were always willing to help with my projects. I know we saw the worst in each other all too often, but we also had many times that we gave each other our best selves. I miss you so much and am thankful always that I am your mom.

I love you.

Published on FB January 2, 2022

Shared with Public

One year ago today, my first-born left his earthly life behind to begin anew in the mystery we call “death.” My faith assures me that all is well, even as I grieve, even as I know none of us has the answer to what lies in the Beyond.

Perhaps, as some believe, there is nothing. Or perhaps Martin has already been reborn as someone else, to work through previous incarnations. Perhaps even as I labored to bring him into this world, another mother somewhere was grieving his death. The answer is, We just don’t know.

And so I rely on my faith, on the knowledge that each of us is unique, and my belief that our uniqueness is purposeful, and that it transcends death. I believe that somewhere, in some way, Martin exists. And I also believe – maybe “hope” is a better word – that when my time comes to leave this Earth, I will find him waiting, ready to show me around the Afterlife. He was always a wonderful tour guide, after all.

In the meantime, I console myself with the knowledge that molecules of Martin surround me. He’s in the air that I breathe and the water I drink. He isn’t gone completely away. And, of course, he lives forever in my heart and mind.


As I write these words, I’ve just hung up the phone with the wife of a man I’ve known since he was a small child. He’ not related by blood, but by marriage, and he’s actively dying. He’s in his early 50s – a contemporary of Martin’s, and was his friend

This young man is actively dying of cancer – hours or days, but not weeks. So, even as I grieve my own child, another mom is looking down that dark road, a woman I know is trying to prepare herself for the unimaginable. A wife, a child, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends – all are facing the loss of someone dear to them.

Men, please take care of your health. Regular doctor visits are imperative. Women get into that routine early in life; men tend to put it off. Don’t do that. Have a thorough physical once a year. See your doctor about unexplained pains, or anything that seems unusual. Cancer is an insidious disease, but most can be treated if caught early enough. Not all of them, but most.

Don’t put your parents, your spouse, children, relatives, friends, through this grief. Love them enough to take care of yourself. You don’t realize how much they’ll suffer if the worst happens. You aren’t bullet-proof. None of us is.

I know.

Published on FB on 12/31/2021

Shared with Public
There is nearly always a bittersweet feeling about the end of a year. We recall the good and the bad, and if we’re a bit lucky, the good memories dominate.

I think we can all agree that none of us was really sorry a year ago to see the end of 2020. Between the pandemic, the last administration’s mishandling of it – the lies, the subterfuge, the daily death count – and the unnecessary confusion surrounding the election, it was a very bad year, indeed. It was hard to find or remember the times that gave us joy and a sense of well-being.

For my family, that was all overshadowed by the terminal illness of my oldest child, Martin. In the same year that we celebrated his 50th birthday with joy, we also observed the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with full knowledge of his impending death.
I consigned 2020 to the trash bin with a sense of relief.

On January 2, 2021, Martin left this earthly realm after three very hard days when he was in great pain, despite the heavy sedation being administered by hospice. His brothers and I kept vigil at his bedside, and were there when he opened his eyes and truly saw each of us just before he took his final breaths.

We were still deep in our grief when the trump-generated attack on the US Capitol took place. Such an unprecedented event turned our attention once again to the deep divisions within this nation. Even throughout those dark days, I missed Martin. I knew that he would have been next to me as we witnessed a history neither of us could have dreamed of.

I know in my heart that Martin would have struggled more than most with the ups and downs of pandemic restrictions/relief that were the hallmark of this year now ending. He was faithful to wear his mask during the early days, but as it dragged on, as the conventions changed almost daily, I’m not sure how compliant he would have been.

But there are also good things to recall about 2021.

Holding a place in my joyful memories is surprising Jason on his 50th birthday by showing up unannounced to everyone (except Lisa Cerezo – I know better than to pay a surprise visit to a daughter-in-law, especially when planning a week-long stay!). The look of surprise on Jason’s face when I walked in the door is forever imprinted on my mind’s eye! Even having to cut my visit short due to several of us contracting COVID-19 can’t erase that joy.

I was also thrilled to be able to resume some limited activities at my church, along with some dear friends (all of us vaccinated), and then – finally! – to be able to resume services in the church instead of on Zoom, in November. True friendships are a precious gift, and I’ve made several during the almost three years I’ve worshiped at St. Aidan’s.
Also in November I made yet another plane trip to Illinois to spend Thanksgiving with Jason, Lisa, and the boys. It was the first time in the 25 years of their marriage that I’d spent a holiday with them in their home. It was a delightful time – we made cookies, memories, and Thanksgiving dinner – and is a highlight of 2021 for me.

And now, as 2021 winds down, I have managed to get through the first anniversary of Martin’s last celebrations: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and, soon, New Year’s Eve. This will be a hard one. He always called me, wherever in the world he was, to wish me a Happy New Year – both in his time zone and in mine. It was a moment we shared for more than 30 years and I cherished it. Last year, he slept through it all as I sat at his bedside and held his hand. This year, I will be at Ben and Briana’s home, saying goodbye to the old year with them.

In 1992, my family endured the wrath of Hurricane Andrew, holding shut our front doors as the storm decimated the neighborhood. Yet, as I told several people, it wasn’t the worst thing that happened to me that year; it was also the year my mother died and that was far worse than a hurricane.

This year just ending certainly had more than its share of awfulness, but Martin’s death put all of it in perspective for me. I expect there are more dark days to come; humankind always seems to find ways to grab disruption and discontent from the jaws of joy. It’s our nature, I think.

And yet I am choosing to look for the joy. I am ever-mindful of my loss and at times I am almost overwhelmed by grief. But I also know that I am blessed. Blessed with good friends, with two amazing sons who grieve with me and look to my well-being. I’m blessed with two amazing daughters-in-law whom I cherish, and with five grandchildren who are the light of my life. I’m blessed with a sister and brother-in-law who, though far away, are still connected to my heartstrings; with a niece, nephew, extended family, and those who I call my “shirttail relatives” – not related by blood, but by choice. And I’m blessed by you, my Facebook friends. Some of you, I know, some I’ve briefly met, some I know only through your words on this medium. You bring joy to my day, even if I don’t always comment on it.

So, 2021, I bid you farewell. You delivered more than your share of pain and sorrow, but you were also a year that managed to bring joy to my world. For that, for so many things, I am thankful.

As 2021 wanes and we look forward to a new year, I say this to you, my friends: Look for the joy. There is always joy to be found, there is always hope. Sometimes you have to look really hard, but if you do, you’ll find it.

Happy New Year!
“Illegitimi non carborundum.” ?