1096 Days

For several days now I’ve had this stomach ache. You know the kind that sits in the center of your belly like a tight knot of worry and dread? After Phil, my big brother, died, I had that stomach ache nearly every weekend for a year. Our family saw him for the last time on a Sunday morning and he died that afternoon. So each weekend afterwards I would relive that day over and over. I would take walks alone so I wouldn’t cry in front of my husband and son. I would stand a quarter of a mile away from my house and sob on the side of the road. It happened so many times that I still tear up occasionally when I walk that hill because my body expects to cry.

And now it’s that day once again. July 23rd. I hate this day. A good friend has a birthday today and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to celebrate with her on this date. My life and my family’s lives were so torn apart that day. And no matter how much I work through the grief and keep putting one foot in front of the other, my life will never, ever be the same. As much love and kindness as I get from my friends and family, there will always be this gap in my life and this bit of unreachable joy because Phil isn’t here to make us laugh or to tell stories or to just be here. To just be.

There’s also this little bit of guilt that I’ve been hanging on to and I don’t know what to do with it. While my brother was in the hospital, his partner and I went to talk to him to basically convince him that it was ok to die. It was ok to say he had enough. Once he made that decision, the bravest thing I’ve ever seen by the way, he couldn’t look me in the face. I held his hand and cried on his bed, then I left. We went back to the room where my sister, mother and doctors were sitting and told him that he was ready to “go.” Then everyone went back to Phil’s bed to say goodbye.

But I didn’t. I told my sister I had said goodbye and had already told him I loved him and it was their turn to have time with him. But why didn’t I go back? Why didn’t I take one more look at him and touch him and say “I love you” one more time?

I remember telling my sister to tell Phil that Dad loved him because our dad didn’t come. He just couldn’t. And I didn’t want to be too selfish and take more time with Phil than the others….but I also think I was afraid he wouldn’t be able to look at me again. I *was* being selfish. I should have gone back into that room one more time, no matter if he could look at me or not. I should have spent every imaginable second I could with him.

But I didn’t.

And I deeply, deeply regret that.

So now I go on. I try to remember the great times we had, the laughs, the stories, the hugs and the so many “I love you”s. I will talk out loud to Phil when I need him and imagine him talking back. Tonight my sister and I will toast our favorite brother and tell those stories and laugh and hug and say “I love you”.

And we will keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Sucker-Punched

Out for a morning run,

one foot in front of the other.

Stop to chat with Gene.


“Lost one of our neighbors this morning.

Kidneys shut down. He was only 61.”

Moment of silence.


State our good wishes for the day,

keep on running.

One foot in front of the other.


Making my way up a hill,

leaves cascading down from the trees

tickling my face.


Close my eyes, smiling, enjoying the moment,

a flash of memory of my brother laughing,

recognition of joy.


My breath is gone.

I double over, clutching my body,

pain flowing through my limbs.


Yet I trudge on.

Determined to finish.


My body straightens,

even as the pain in my shoulder grows.

That damn raven digging in.


My legs are heavy now.

No more thinking.

Just one foot in front of the other.

Grief Sucks

I’ve had the great fortune to have some really happy days lately. My last post was about a particularly good run I had. This past week I had a wonderful 47th birthday with my family (physically distancing) and yesterday I had just an incredible day with my son, exploring Fort Knox (this is in Maine, not the one filled with gold in Kentucky) and eating good food and having thought-provoking conversations.

But when I got up today, I could feel grief weighing me down immediately, like it was sitting on my shoulders. Today is my brother’s birthday. Phil should be turning 52 today, not remaining 49.

As I trudged to the kitchen and made my coffee, I glanced at my phone sitting on the counter. “Do I really even want to look at this today?” But I did. The first thing I saw was a Facebook post I created the year before my brother died, wishing him a happy birthday and telling the world how amazing I thought he was and how proud I was to have him as my brother. Then I saw a post my sister wrote today on Phil’s FB wall, telling him how much she misses him and although she’s glad he’s not having to experience the pandemic, wishes he was here for everything else.

That was enough.

I drank my coffee, swallowed any tears that were trying to form, talked with my husband and got dressed to go for a short run. As I laced up my sneakers, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I could feel the sobs all the way in my belly and working their way up. My husband came out to see why the hell was I going to run outside in the heat, but when he saw my face he just came to me and held me and I let it out. But it seemed that once I started, I just couldn’t stop. I finally let my husband go and I was able to say or rather hiccup, that I just had to get outside. It was just a 2 mile run and although it would be bad, I just needed to leave the house. I couldn’t breathe and felt trapped and needed to be someplace with no walls.

It was really 85 degrees when I left with 49% humidity. So not quite this bad.

So for 2.12 miles, I stopped thinking or feeling. I listened to my music and just focused on my task. It was certainly brutal (so much respect for you southeastern U.S. runners!), but it took me out of my brain for a little bit.

Once I showered and stretched, I watched a virtual Drag Queen Story Hour that made me happy for a bit, but then I just sat at my desk, put my head down, and cried some more.

Grief is not just sadness. It’s heavier than that. It affects my physical body, my mind, my heart, my appetite, my world. After almost 3 years since my brother has died, I can say that I do have good days now. With Mom and Dad both dying last year, the number of really good days in the past year I can count on one hand. But the fact I can count any is an incredible thing and gives me hope that I will have many more. But when days like these hit, when you just want to curl into yourself and cry and shut everyone else out, they still hit really hard. I still don’t know whether to embrace them or fend them off, so I do a little of both.

I’m letting the tears come today but also hiding a little bit from my son. We’re still spending some time together and working on a Father’s Day ice cream cake for my husband, but I’m going into my office more or on our porch and just sitting and remembering. We’ll toast Phil this evening like we always do, and we’ll remember him together. But right now I just want to be by myself and re-watch the video of Phil reading to little Briar and hearing Phil laugh and joke. I just want to wallow in my grief and in how much I miss him today.

And every day.

Love You Forever

Do you ever wake up with a bellyache because you’re nervous or anxious about something? Maybe it’s about a speech you need to give or you’re starting a new job or you need to go to a funeral. That last one might seem odd, but I’ve experienced so many types of funerals, burials or celebrations of life in the past 3 years that I now know I will wake up with a bellyache before every one.

But I also hurt before any of the firsts. The first holiday season without my brother, the first Fathers’ Day without my dad, and now tomorrow will be the first Mothers’ Day without my mom. I didn’t feel great yesterday but I didn’t know why. I actually forgot about Mothers’ Day for a bit. But then I was reminded–by the news, by library programs, by the world. And today I feel awful–and it’s not just the fact that it’s May 9th and snowing. (WTF?!?) Or that I had to take a few kitties to the vet to get their shots. Or that I had a crappy run on the treadmill.

It’s because I miss my mom.

I know there are others of you out there who are missing your mom today, too. It might be because you live far away from her and it’s impossible to see her right now. I get that, but call her. If you can, drive to her house and talk to her outside. Or if she’s in a home, talk to her through a window. Go do that, ok?

And if you’re a member of the “My Mom is Gone” Club, then do what you can to honor your mom this weekend. Even if that just means to sit down for a few minutes and think about the good she did for you and the joy you brought to her. (And if your mom was downright awful to you, do what you can to just be you.)

After my crappy run, I got into my pajamas, wrapped myself in one of my mom’s sweaters and have been binging “The Handmaid’s Tale”. I folded clothes for a bit and sobbed. I stared at a few photos of Mom and sobbed some more. But now, to honor my mom, I will get off my butt…and bake a cake. Because that’s something she would have done, too.

Tomorrow, on Mothers’ Day, I will think of my kick-ass mom when I go for a run, then again as I’m eating some of that cake. And I will keep thinking of her as I make my child be my slave on this Mothers’ Day of 2020.

I think of you every day, Mom. I miss your smile, your laugh. I really miss seeing you light up when my son walks into the room. I love you and miss you so, so much.

“As long as I’m living, my mommy you’ll be.”

Serenity Now

Ever feel like “Red”, the angry bird that has a short fuse and explodes a lot? Or how pissed off Michael and Janet Jackson seemed in their Scream video? “With such confusion don’t it make you wanna scream…Stop pressurin’ me, stop pressurin’ me.” As a library director in the middle of this pandemic, this is exactly how I feel. I’m angry, confused, and just trying to do the right thing while voices from every side and direction continue to yell at you about one thing or another.

And I do mean yell. We have a library listserv in my state and lately it’s been downright awful. Mean people suck. And there not only mean people out there but rude and judgmental ones, too. (And I mean JUDGY!) Lately some of the comments on the listserv reminds me of why there remains the stereotype of a shushing bitch that we have tried so hard to demolish. And not just on the listserv but even among Zoom meetings or on social media. The library world is a small one, and the Maine library world is even smaller, so when you talk smack on one publicly, many of us listen and sometimes smack back.

There are also many Maine librarians that have been super heroes and awesome to the nth degree during this pandemic. Because that’s who many of them are and I try to ignore the others…or talk about them behind their back because you know we’re all doing that. But then I find myself lashing out at some colleagues at the end of this week. Some deserved it, others didn’t. I apologized to those that I knew I should, because that’s what I do and it is certainly not done enough, especially among co-workers and colleagues.

So to try and deal with all of this anger and confusion and grief, I attempted to do a few things this week to help me cope. Unbelievably, I did NOT eat my feelings this week. That was new! I attended a talk via Zoom on mental health co-sponsored by my son’s school, I talked to friends about all of it and I ran.

I’ve tried to begin running in earnest once again, starting 6 weeks ago with a running app called “Running to Lose Weight”. First off, I didn’t lose an ounce. I actually gained back weight, but I loved the routine so much that it didn’t matter. Instead the app eased me back into running with walking breaks until I was finally running my typical 3 miles again by the end of the six weeks.

Today I even hit a PR, at least a personal record in the past few years. I never, ever try and go for fast because I’m not. I would love to increase my distance back to my 10-mile Sundays that my brother used to be in awe and proud of. But that won’t happen for some time or maybe even ever again. But I’ll try. And maybe, just maybe, I can find some kind of peace while I’m out there or at least when I’m back home. I need to find a way to channel that anger, and not just just anger but all of these intense emotions that I seem to lose control over these days.

My “I kicked ass” face.

I know it’s ok to have all of those feelings–anger, sadness, frustration, confusion, and even intense joy. (Don’t let people take your happy moments away from you either, because they’ll try!) But I’d also like to be able to take a deep breath and find that moment of clarity and tranquility and carry on with whatever discussion I’m having with people and not lash out.

Hopefully I’ll find that bit of serenity when I need it. Until then, hang on because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Late to the Party

I am a librarian. I’ve been a librarian for nearly 23 years, with over 14 of those years at the Pittsfield Public Library. This library was one of the libraries I used as a kid (although I didn’t like it then). It’s close to where I grew up and it’s my second home–as it is to many people in the community. I used to be the Circulation Librarian, until a year ago when I was hired to become the director. It wasn’t a job I always wanted, but it’s a job I have become to love more than I thought possible.

On March 16th we had to close our doors to the public due to the health and safety concerns of COVID-19. Some of my staff and I cried that day because it was surreal and sad and our patrons are the lifeblood of the library. It’s not the building nor the books or films or programs. It’s the people. For a while we were still able to leave books for people in a secure location where we never saw each other (except by camera), then we did that by appointment only, and then we stopped it completely. Now tomorrow, April Fools’ Day no less, will be the last day the staff and I can go into the building. We will still be answering emails and conducting online programming and we’ll still be able to “see” and assist some of our patrons. But not all of them. So many of these folks we won’t be able to help again until we can re-open.

I’ve read a lot about grief over the past 3 years, and even in the past 2 weeks the articles about grieving what our normal once was. But I didn’t grieve quite as much because I was still going to the building where I worked. I couldn’t help as many people, but there was still a smidge of normalcy there. But tonight? Tonight I feel like I felt the evening before I went to say goodbye to my brother. Or that morning at 2am when I called my sister to tell her to come to the hospital because our father was dying. Or the morning when I was at work and the nurse called to say Mom was actively dying. Strangely enough, this really does feel like all of those awful moments. Those moments when you know your life is forever changed.

I know we’ll come out the other side. I am confident of that. What I don’t know is who will be there with us. Or who will be there with you.

But we’re here now, right? Let’s try to keep moving forward together. Reach out to those you think about, even if they just cross your mind. Those little moments of acknowledgement matter.

You matter.

So let’s be alone together. Just know that when this is over, I may be hugging you a whole heck of a lot.

And then….

It’s 2020. The roaring twenties? A new year, a new decade, maybe even a new you? I used to love the beginning of the new year–a fresh start, a clean slate. Time to start eating better, exercising more, doing new things, achieving those goals I couldn’t get to last year, and becoming a new person.

Starting over used to really appeal to me. I used to love the thought that I could become a new person, someone I would like more and others would like me more, too. I really thought that losing weight would do that for me. So I did it. I lost over 85 pounds and kept it off for nearly a decade. As a matter of fact, 10 years ago yesterday I began running. I had already lost the weight I had intended, but now I wanted to challenge myself. And so I did. I became a runner. I became that crazy lady you saw at 5:30 on a winter morning with the head lamp running in the dark. I ran some road races but really just ran for me. Did I like this new person I had become? Sometimes. But not completely like I thought I would.

And then 2017 came along. I started to struggle with running because of injuries and motivation. And then my brother died and I didn’t want to live anymore. I didn’t know how to and I honestly didn’t really care to. But I did. I even tried to run some but often I’d start to sob in the middle of the runs or stop a half mile before home and drop to my knees because the darkness just overcame me and I couldn’t put one step in front of the other.

So I stopped. I started to care for both of my parents off and on and tried to parent my son the best I could and still be a wife that was semi-present at least and still work 40 hours a week. I stopped caring for myself or about myself. I was no longer moving forward but backward and if I was lucky, sideways.

Then my husband was laid off. Backwards I went. Then I got a new job directing the library I had loved for over 13 years. A few steps sideways and one forward.

Then my beautiful, hilarious, sweet dad died. Back and back and back…

Then my husband got a new job. A hop forward. Then I broke my arm so badly I needed a metal plate and 9 screws and 6 months later I still can’t completely move it. A step to the back.

And then my mom died. My loving, badass mom. Backwards I fell. Literally. (I passed out the evening of my mother’s service.)

And now we’re here. January 1st, 2020. Am I a new person? Well…yes. I’ve become a new person over and over and over in the past two and half years. Every time an “and then” occurred, I became a new person. Every one of these life-altering events made me into a new person. A different person. I don’t always like the new person I’ve become or am becoming, but that’s something I have to figure out. I don’t even know who I am most of the time, but that’s something else for me to discover and manage.

I do know that losing the 20 pounds I gained these past 2 1/2 years will not make me a new person or happier. Will I try and lose it? Of course! I need to be a healthy me and I need to fit in my clothes better because restrictive clothing makes me a very grumpy Holly and no one needs that. But will I try and lose it by going on a diet? No. I can’t be that person anymore. I’ll eat as best I can, but I’m hoping that running will help me lose some of it.

I hope I do not become that person I used to be that constantly posted my stats or photos of running because honestly? I hated those assholes for the past 2 1/2 years when I didn’t have it in me to run. Look, I know we all need to do it sometimes. We need that encouragement or pat on the back. I get it, I do! I’ve done it many times, too! But I’ve also been on the other side where I couldn’t run due to injury or grief and I felt like my friends were rubbing my nose in it. “Look what I can do and you can’t or won’t, you lazy bitch!” (Hey, I know you didn’t say it and probably didn’t even think it, but my mind just went there.)

So let’s make a deal. I’ll post this photo of the end of my run on Christmas Day.

Me in my dooryard at the end of my first 5K run in eons. This was a happy moment. Just before this run, I had been sitting in my living room sobbing and rocking myself while I thought about my family. There is so much photos don’t say.

This will be it for at least a week. Of course, I’ll probably be on the treadmill or in front of my tv for the next 2 months due to Maine weather, but whatever. Feel free to keep doing whatever you’re doing and posting what you’re posting. If I start being annoying with running posts, tell me to pipe down and give it a rest. I will probably oblige because I’ve been there.

Or I’ll tell you to fuck off because my pants are still too tight and I’m cranky. But I’ll still love you. That much I can promise.

Hail and Farewell

Today on CBS Sunday Morning, there was a long segment entitled “Hail and Farewell” featuring many famous people that died this past year. My husband and I watched in awe and sadness as many performers we knew as kids and teens were gone–the voice of Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird, Caroll Spinney; the voice of Minnie Mouse, Russi Taylor; musicians Eddie Money and Ric Ocasek (of The Cars); actors Peter Fonda and Diahann Carroll and for us, the absolutely incredible and lovable Peter Mayhew who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars films.

But as the photos passed by on the screen and the narrator talked about these people and their amazing accomplishments, I could only think of the two people that passed away this year that had the most influence on my life.

A rare photo of my parents together and smiling.

My parents may have not influenced a world with their charm or musical ability, but they influenced a generation–their children. My father’s sense of humor and ability to laugh at nearly everything (“You can either laugh or cry, but laughing feels better”) was passed down to the three of us kids, but with my brother embracing that philosophy more than my sister and I. My mother’s work ethic was drilled into each of us, although her obsession with a clean and/or picked up house was certainly a trait I inherited (but I’m not nearly as good at it as she was).

My parents also passed down their love of Christmas and family. Christmas was an event in our home growing up. We were not church going folk and the three of us kids actually became giant skeptics, yet Christmas was “celebrated” by being together. It was our time to be a family and exchange gifts and eat good food and enjoy each other. Truly. Even after my parents were divorced and my stepfather moved in, we all still had Christmas together. It was so strange to other people, but not to us. It was our normal. And I’m absolutely grateful my parents were able to set some issues aside and be together at least once a year.

The tradition continued as we children grew up and found partners and had children. We still all met sometime during the Christmas season to be together. When we had our family Christmas a few weeks ago, my sister and I tried to make our parents proud and have a big extravaganza for our family. We did the usual exchange of gifts and ate great food but we added some games to the mix and made it a little more fun and loud. It was good. But we also felt a great absence. I felt uneasy at times, knowing that something….or someone was missing. At the end of the day, my sister, my husband, my brother-in-law and I all toasted our family–Phil, Dad & Mom–they were sorely missed and will never be forgotten.

And now a new year is about to begin. A new decade without 3/4 of my family. A new year of my son growing to be a little giant and acting and looking so much like my brother. The beginning of my life as an orphan, without the two people I turned to for advice and comfort and love. Another year of living with grief and learning how to keep taking those steps forward without turning to alcohol or food or complete inertia.

I’m beginning 2020 with trying to run again. I’m slow and it’s difficult but I don’t push myself too hard yet. I just move and see what happens. I’ve started taking an antidepressant, hoping that will help move me along, too. I’ve also booked a vacation for my family and I in April so we have something to look forward to.

I need this coming year to be different. I know I can’t have my family back, but I can write about them and you can read about them and their lives will live on in a way. It’s not exactly the way I want it, but I have no choice in the matter. I know I still have guilt and anger and frustration that’s mixed in with my grief that I must deal with, but that is for another day and probably another year.

I don’t know if I’ll make any resolutions for 2020. A friend recently asked people to post on FB what they were most proud of accomplishing this past year, and one of our good friends said, “Surviving.” Maybe that should have been mine, too. I do hope I accomplish a little more than that next year, but it’s always good to have low expectations, right? Maybe instead of surviving, I can make a resolution to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to keep moving forward.

Friends, I wish you all a safe new year and may you be as happy as you can possibly be.

Trying to Care

Since just before Thanksgiving Day, I have walked a mile a day. It’s not a lot, but when my friend and colleague, Sonya, put the challenge out to a private Facebook group, I decided that if I didn’t have it in me to run, that I could at least walk. Some days it’s just marching for 20 minutes in front of my tv, and other days it’s on the treadmill watching Netflix. As long as my mind is occupied and not in tune to what my body is trying to do, then I’m ok.

Today, though, it was 50 degrees at 7:30 in the morning…in Maine…in December. It wasn’t raining, just gloomy. I even had extra time before work. So I had absolutely no excuse to at least walk outside. So I plugged in my headphones and listened to an audiobook for a bit while I trudged a half mile. At that point I thought I could jog past a few telephone poles. I did but tuned into the radio then to give me a little pep. I did this for 2 1/2 miles and thought, “Ok. This is why I used to run. This feeling that I can accomplish something and that I’ll be alright. Now maybe I don’t have to go on antidepressants.” This little jog/walk left me feeling more positive then I’ve felt for a very, very long time.

I got back home, stretched, cleaned up and went to work. Yet minutes after I got to work, I could feel myself deflating. Not just energy-wise but attitude, too. I was starting to feel overwhelmingly sad and emotional and honestly?

I just wanted my Mom.

And my dad.

And my brother.

I can’t always separate my longing for one member of my family. Sometimes I desperately miss one person, but other times I just miss everyone and want to see each of them and talk with them. And not just one more time. Fuck that.

I want many more times.

But I don’t get that right? Right. So…what now?

Thankfully, I got busy at work and then received a really nice email from a friend that was sent just to make me feel good. The combination of the two brought me out of my darkness enough to get me through the day. Once I had a cappuccino in the late afternoon, I felt mostly ok again. I could more than function and went on with my day.

I’m guessing that’s how much of my life will be now. My stepmom told me this week that we have to keep going. We have to keep living somehow and some days will be easier than others. And although I know all of this, I also know I might need some help. I’ve had a bottle of antidepressants in my cupboard for several weeks, but I’m holding off taking them for now. I no longer feel “bad” if I have to take them. I know it’s ok for anyone to ask for help, although I never thought it was ok for me. But after the past two years? If I didn’t ask for help then I’d be even more lost than I feel right now. And that scares me.

For now my helper will sit in my cupboard. I’m done with turning to food or wine for help. The food (and pounds) have just made me feel worse, although sometimes it was exactly what I needed at that moment. I needed some kind of comfort and that quick little hight of “happiness” was what got me through these many months. But now if a walk or run doesn’t help me or if writing this blog doesn’t bring me some sense of comfort or control, then I’ll give the pills a shot.

And if I can find a counselor that I like, then I might give that a try, too. But since I’m a little gun-shy after the last one, I’ll wait. Let’s attempt just one thing at a time.

Reflecting

I wear my heart on my sleeve. If you and I are in a room and you’re crying, you will not cry alone. I am a very emotional person. Always have been and probably always will be. A few months after my brother died, I didn’t think I would ever be that emotional again. I was numb, kind of cold. Not much could penetrate the shield I created. But with the deaths of my parents this year, I have returned to that weeping mess I’ve always been.

So yesterday, when I was on my way to attend a high school classmate’s funeral, I knew it would not be a good day. When I saw the large church and the people already filing in 40 minutes before the service, I could feel myself start to panic. But I kept my shit together and walked in with a few old friends.

While looking at the photos of Vicki at the back of the church, my stomach started to lurch. I just wanted to stand there for a few minutes, catch my breath and look at all the pictures, many of our friend as an adult with her children, but we were herded into our seats. I was mildly irritated but I understood. There were going to be a lot of people there and they needed to seat people right away. But I also didn’t want to cry uncontrollably before the service even started.

As we sat down, we watched a slideshow of other photos on the wall of the church with this sad, sad melody playing in the background. That damn music. I can barely stand to listen to any music these days unless it’s angry. Although I often cry after listening to that, too. So we watched the show and saw images of Vicki with her husband and children, some with her colleagues, her siblings, her friends, and other photos as a child and teenager. While the slideshow played, we could see her family at the front of the church, greeting folks and waiting for it all to begin.

When the pastor started the service, he made me angry from the beginning. “Vicki’s work on Earth was complete,” he said. Complete? Finished? At 46? Screw you, man.

But then her adult daughter spoke. She was funny and sweet and told great stories. One of Vicki’s colleagues quoted a variety of children from the school where Vicki taught. These were little ones, elementary school, and some quotes were sweet and others were exactly what we were thinking. “I just don’t understand. Why?” Listening to the thoughts of children losing their beloved teacher, this woman whom I knew years ago but apparently remained the incredibly kind and gentle person she had always been, this started to break me. Why indeed.

Two of Vicki’s nieces read a “Pete the Cat” book aloud. Vicki taught Pre-K so Pete the Cat was a great character to pass wisdom on to kiddos. A parent whose children were taught by Vicki spoke and told a wonderfully funny story about Vicki’s thoughtfulness and kindness. Then Vicki’s husband got up to speak. I sat up straighter in order to brace myself. This man was devastated and sobbed on and off throughout his speech. The love he has for her poured from him as he spoke and cried. To witness this act of love and loss was a privilege. A gift. This high school classmate of mine was loved so much and it seemed she became who she wanted to be and lived the life she wanted and loved. I won’t call her lucky, because to die at 46 is not lucky. It sucks. But to live a life that you chose, surrounded by people that you loved and loved you, that part was lucky.

Vicki’s adult son was the last to speak. He was just as eloquent as his sister, told some funny stories and gave us insight on the mom that she was. She loved her children fiercely and went to every single sporting event or activity that they were in. She did everything she could to be there for them.

It was odd for me to go to this funeral. The last three funerals or life celebrations I’ve attended, I helped plan. They were the core of my family. My grief lives on, long after any church service or get together. Yet after Vicki’s service, it became a time for my friends and I to reflect a bit on our own lives. What would our children or spouse or friends or family say about us? Would they say we were kind, a great parent, a good friend? Maybe. Would there be standing room only in a huge church? Maybe not.

Once I got home, I could only think of Vicki’s family, and what they were doing right then. Did her siblings cry themselves to sleep that night or drink until they were numb? I’ve been that sister and I did those things. Did her mother just want to follow her child in death? My father did. Did her children try to stick close to their father, worrying about him and wanting to care for him? I was that child and I worried, too. Did her husband even sleep that night, or does he just want to sleep all the time?

I don’t know Vicki’s family but I just wanted to hug all of them and tell them this sucks so much and you can call me whenever you want and I’ll listen until my ear falls off. But since I don’t know them, that probably would have been weird. And they don’t need this tall crazy woman hugging them and crying on them. They have enough to deal with.

This holiday season, don’t forget about those that have lost someone. This can be such a difficult time to try and celebrate with and for those around us and pretend to enjoy ourselves when we just want the day to be over with or to just be alone with our thoughts and memories and possibly a glass of wine. Try and understand if that friend doesn’t want to go shopping or she has to turn the radio off because Christmas music bothers her or he wants to skip the holiday office party this year. They may be able to do those things with you next year, or they might not. Just tell them you’re there for them and will listen if they need to talk.

And if they need someone to cry with, I’m always available.