Tag Archives: death of a parent

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Author Claire Cook considers herself a late-bloomer having published her first novel in her mid-forties. I knew of Claire’s work because I read the second book she wrote, Must Love Dogs and then picked up a copy of every book that followed.

Years later I met Claire online on the Goodread.com website. Our conversation started after Claire visited my online journal and read some of my writing. At the time I had just written “I Forgot that Sunflower’s Die,” which was just a few lines that touched upon the death of my daughter’s father. Claire had also lost a parent as a child and she shared her story which had recently been published in Good Housekeeping magazine.

Since then Claire’s periodically sends a note cheering on my writing, and with each book she writes I’m reminded that it’s never to late to follow your heart.

Whether you find yourself writing at a child’s swim practice or in the humid, hum of a bustling laundry mat, remember to love what you have and to bloom where your planted.

Here is Claire Cook’s interview on the Today Show…well done, girl:)

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A Page From Alexa’s Journal

Kalli & Lexx

February 18th, 2006 Alexa’s father died. To mark the one year anniversary last year I posted the tribute that she  wrote for for his funeral. Since then Alexa has written more about surviving loss and living with chronic illness.

Since today marks the second year I have provided a link to the tribute she wrote and read at his funeral and I’m also posting the following tilted:  My Angel

“There is one person who  has gotten me through all the hardships in my life, all those nights I cried, all those days I thought that ending my life would be easiest on everyone.  My angel was the one who stopped me and she has been my best friend since birth. Complete opposites, she is wild and crazy and I am quiet and withdrawn. I watch life and she lives it. Her name is Kalli; she is my cousin, my best friend and my guardian angel.

My father had always looked at Kalli as a second daughter, so when I found out he had died I wanted to be the one to tell her.  Even amidst of our tears, anger and pain Kalli did what she always did, she made everything better. Within minutes of the horrible news she had me laughing so hard that I had forgotten what had happen. With lines like: “Well maybe you can get a puppy now” and “Do you think they’re naked in heaven since you don’t need clothes up there?” She never fails to make me smile even on days when it seems impossible.

At my Fathers wake Kalli never left my side, always there to hold my hand and to hold me when another sob rattled though my body. I remember not being able to take it anymore and I tried so hard to hide it but Kalli knew. Quietly she weaved me through the crowd and outside onto the sidewalk where I collapsed into a ball. I laid my cheek onto the cool concrete with Kalli sitting next to me brushing the hair away from my face and telling me it would all be okay. Like always, she was right. What would I have done if she hadn’t been there? If I would have stayed in that room crowded by people. What would I have done if she wasn’t there to hold me and keep me from collapsing to my knees, the thought still cross my mind.

kalli-lexx1I had written a speech to read at the funeral, everyone was unsure telling me I would most likely not be able to read it, that I would stop in the middle of it crying. But Kalli, like always, was there telling me that I could and I did. When the pastor called my named to come to the podium and start the speech, silently Kalli and I walked up hand in hand and faced the hundred people who came to mourn. Throughout the speech she stood behind me quietly sniffling and every second when I was sure I was going to quit, she  knew and squeezed my hand giving me the strength I needed to keep going.

I will always remember going to a grief group with my grandmother, I of course brought Kalli with me. We sat in the group shy, practically sitting on top of each other. I never noticed it before, but the people in the group became interested in how Kalli and I acted, how when she moved I  moved at the same time, without thinking about it, we fit together like a puzzle. Sometimes, I don’t think we are aware that we are two separate people when we are together.

At one point during the session a lady looked at us with such sadness in her eyes, she had lost her son a few years back, and she said, “you two are so lucky to have one another, to be so close. I wish I had some one like that in my life.”
It dawned on me that she was right, Kalli and I are closer than anybody I know. We remind me of twins, how they are said to be connected in a way and there is no question that Kalli and I are. I don’t think her and I will ever grow apart, she was sent to help me through my life and I was sent to help her.” – Lexx

 

I’ll close this post with a note to my daughter, an excerpts from the essay, “As I Stand Here Ironing” by Tillie Olson

Lu“I stand here ironing, and what you asked me moves tormented back and forth with the iron…when is there time to remember, to sift, to weight to estimate, to total? I will start and there will be an interruption and I will have to gather it all to gather together again. Or I will become engulfed with all I did or did not do, with what should have been and what cannot be helped…There is still enough left to live by. Only help her to know-help make it so there is cause for her to know that she is more than this dress on the ironing board, helpless before the iron.”

 

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Like There’s No Tomorrow

With the upcoming holiday seasaon I’ve decided to reprint this post from December 2007: 

Last Christmas my daughter traveled an hour and a half to spend Christmas with her father and his family. Shortly after she arrived at her grandmother’s house her father left to attend a Christmas party. My daughter was angry, she had arranged to spend time with him but he had not arranged to spend time with her. Two months later her father died, he was 45. The Christmas they spent…or didn’t spend together was the last one they’d ever have.

Every event since his death has been a milestone, her first Easter without her dad, her first birthday without her dad and her first Christmas. Of course I realize that her father would have planned differently had he known but I suppose that is the point, we simply don’t.

Live like there’s no tomorrow:)

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Bruised and Out of Step

My weekend was a lot of hard work which left me tired and achy all the way through Tuesday, worse yet I had moved several large pieces of furniture and in due course managed to smash my fingers,  bump my head and bruise my thigh. Later I made supper and burned my hand:(

Monday sucked too only for very different reasons and while I tried to let everything slid off of me, it wasn’t easy.  Lexx was under the weather and clearly brewing a new illness, by Tuesday she was running a high fever…again. It’s not the fever that is hard to take its the toll her health takes on her emotional wellbeing that cuts me to ribbons.

When she came down the stairs, she stopped when she saw me, then she sat on the step and cried…she said she was tired of being sick. I sat next to her and she folded and cried some more.

What I know of being a parent of a child who has been chronically ill since preschool is that it never gets easier, it only weighs heavier and you never get used to your child’s suffering.

Even though today brought a lower grade fever it also brought a discussion about her spring graduation. Due to her immune deficiency Lexx is an online student and her graduation ceremony will take place in St. Paul. I expected her to be excited about her impending graduation but she wasn’t.  In fact she’s been dragging her feet on school in general and I’ve had a difficult time understanding. After I brought the subject up, she insisted that she would under no circumstance attend her graduation ceremony… then turned her back and pressed her cuffs to her eyes.

It was then that I remembered the tribute that she wrote for her father’s funeral, she said she was afraid of the big days to come…like graduation. She said that she knew that others would be there to fill in for him but that she would spend the whole time wishing with all her heart that he was there. Suddenly her reluctance to clear that milestone made sense.

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Light as Claire

I recently joined an online community for readers and writers called Good Reads, if you like books, it quickly becomes an addicting past time.  On Good Reads you can list books you’ve read, rate them and if you’re so inclined, you can write a review. This new forum has lead to a stack of books next to my bed and a small arsenal of audiobooks on my MP3 player but that’s not the best part. The best part is that Good Reads attracts authors and much like MySpace you can invite them as friends and even see when their online.

Among the authors I discovered on the site was Claire Cook. A few years ago Claire authored the book Must Love Dogs, which was later made into a movie. Since my daughter and I both loved the book we did as we always do with our favorites, we obtained a first edition, first print for our collection.

Unable to resist I sent Claire a friend invite along with a little note telling her how much we enjoyed Must Love Dogs. Claire accepted the friend invite then wrote back to me and said that she read some of my writing, sections I had posted on the site. She noted a particular piece that I wrote about the memorial garden my daughter and I planted for her father who died the previous year. Claire said that her mother died when she was a very young girl and that she recently wrote about her experience in in the August 2008 issue of Good Housekeeping. 

While out on errands, my daughter and I swooped in and pirated my mother’s copy Good Housekeeping and my daughter read Claire’s story out loud in the car while I drove. As she read, it occurred to me that my daughter didn’t really know anyone who lost a parent and Claire’s emails and story seemed to tell her that she wasn’t alone. 

When I initially sent Claire the note, I expected a quick thanks but what I got was a link to her website where she posts information for aspiring writers, the name of her beloved literary agent with permission to say that we go waaay back and the out pouring of comfort and understanding that she wrapped around my daughter like a soft blanket. Claire even suggested that that my daughter and I consider co-authoring a book about the experience.

I smiled at that recommendation because it was one that my daughter and I talked about. What Claire didn’t know was that the year my daughters father died, that she spent most of that year in bed sick. That we waged war with the local clinic for a referral to a specialist, that the school district processed her as a drop out every time she was too ill to attended class and they refused her desperately needed educational support because an exact diagnosis had yet to be arrived upon. It was the year that my daughter lost what remained of her health, she lost the ability to attend school and 8 weeks later she lost her father. No previous experience as mother could have prepared me to bring my 16 year old child through that much debris.

I can’t begin to describe the depth of my daughters despair or the sense of terror you come to know when you realize that your child’s only wish is to quietly die. The year was like having a child on life support, and was compounded by ongoing chronic illness and a school district who left her to sort waste baskets for notes covering missed curriculum. Several months later she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, in a nutshell her immune response to common illnesses like strep throat, flu, colds, mono… was nonexistent. Hence the constant illness, hence the nickname, Bubble Girl.

With that my daughter and I embarked on the long journey of healing our hearts and reinventing our lives. My daughter enrolled as an online high school student, caught up on credits, interviewed about the experience with Minnesota Public Radio and began earning A’s because she wasn’t missing 70% of the classroom instruction. Also, as a result the local school district was forced to enact a 32 year old  law that protects the education rights of the chronically ill children. Teachers underwent training and it eventually wound its way into the school district’s handbook and was implimented district wide.

Claire’s recommendation revitalized a previous discussion my daughter and I had on the subject of co-authorship. But this time the suggestion came from a respected author, so it  gave credibility to our original idea. That having been said, I also think Bubble Girl might be great material … when I have time.

With all the buzz in my house over Claire Cook it occurred to me that I hadn’t kept up on any of her more recent work so I investigated and discovered that Claire has turned out several books since the publication of Must Love Dogs. So, I downloaded her most recent novel Summer Blowout to my MP3 player and I drifted away.

What I love most about Claire’s writing is her lightness…no one writes lighter than Claire. I’m not sure I know of another author who is more adept at creating content and conflict while still leaving her audience feeling like they’re lounging at an expensive resort, sipping tall cool glasses of ice tea. If you haven’t read it, check out the audio excerpt on Audible.com,

At present Claire is finishing her 6th novel titled The Wildwater Walking Club due out in May 2009. We thank her for her generosity and wish her the very best of everything:)

Update: 10/20/2008

See Claire Cook at the WE Empower 2008 Women’s Conference

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I Forgot that Sunflower’s Die

The sunflowers were in bloom today, the ones my daughter and I planted as a memorial to her dad. One flower bloomed weeks before the others, then it slumped over and hung its head. My heart hurt. As I walked to the house I wondered how I would face the remaining 50. I wondered if my garden would look like the people who stood in rows at his funeral. I forgot that sunflowers hang their heads when their season has ended. I forgot that sunflowers die.

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A Tribute – December 28, 1961 – February 18, 2007

It was a year ago today that I recieved a phone call saying my daughters father had died, he was 45.  Nothing in my life could have prepared me to break that news to our then 16 year old daughter.

My daughter wrote the following tribute which she read last year at his funeral:

 Dear Dad,

I can’t believe how hard it is to write this. I can’t think of anything right to say. If I let myself write without choosing my words carefully this letter would be an angry letter for leaving me here. Although I nod and agree with the people who tell me that you will always be with me I can’t help but feel selfish and want you here all the way.

I’m so very worried about going through life without you, you were my go-to man. If I ever felt bad or sad or had a problem I’d call you and within minutes you’d have my problem solved and you’d make me laugh again with your your cheesy jokes. Who will I go to now? No one will ever be as perfect as you were, and still are.

After I found out the news I was devastated, I thought oh, my god I have to call dad. As I made my way to the phone I realized that you were the one who was gone. I miss you so very much and I guess I took my days with you for granted. But I will never forget all those great memories we shared. Like the silly pirate game we would play on your water bed when I was Isabella’s age. We would pretend we were on the raging sea, I would jump to make the waves while you would pretend to raise the sails.Then there were the times when you and Jimmy both would take Matt, Kalli and I to Leaps and Bounds. You would chase us through the tunnels with us kids screaming bloody murder.

Every night I wasn’t with you I would call you just to say goodnight. We always ended the phone call the same way. We’d both count to three then hang up so no one was left on the phone by themselves. But almost every time between those three numbers we’d start up a whole new conversation. As I grew older I grew out of it. I never thought I would miss something so small so much, I will cherish those memories all of my life.

As my dear little sister, Isabella grows up I will tell her every little detail about you. I will tell her how much her daddy loved her and adored her, more than words could ever say. I’m so very lucky to have had all this time with you and yet so angry that I won’t have more. I worry about the big days ahead, like graduation which is so very close, then college, marriage and hopefully kids.  I know I have all these people who are here with me, like my uncle Jimmy who said he would fill in and though that means the world to me they will never be you. And while I am with those people I will be wishing every second of that day it was you with me.

I miss you daddy so very much. And I love you around this world and back again. So for old time sake lets finish this like we always did –  One, two, three –  Goodbye Dad, I love you.

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