Grief, Impatiens, and a Mother’s Love

Two years ago today I lost my older sister Lori to breast cancer that had metastasized to her brain. I think about her and my younger sister Karlette every single day. Some days are harder than others. The hardest part [besides losing them] has been accepting that nothing could have been done to keep them with us.

I absolutely hate cancer, but what can I do about an enemy that doesn’t fight fair?

What I know about grief is that it does not dissipate. It evolves and we learn to walk with it, allow it to partner with us. It becomes a friend, even, as our hearts mend.

I photographed some fuchsia impatiens a couple of days ago while taking a short break from the computer screen. I transformed one shot to reflect a shade of Lori’s favorite color.  Impatiens are appropriate for today; they symbolize motherly love. Lori loved us all deeply in the various ways that the relationships called for, but today, I think about her sons, the children of her womb. Most of our conversations during her illness were about them. She wanted so much for them.

My prayer is that they recall her voice, her godly character, the values she quietly instilled. My prayer is that they ever feel her love and that all she poured into them fuels and guides them as they move through life.

Step by Step

I experienced a “letdown” a couple of days ago. It wasn’t exactly unexpected, but it crushed me. In trying to sort things out and figure out the reason for the deep ache, I arrived at grief. It becomes entangled with everything: the loss of my sisters mingles with other [unrelated] losses; the wound reopens, the healing process begins again, and I have to remind myself to breathe.

When we were little girls, my three younger sisters and I loved singing together. One of my sister Karlette’s favorite songs was “Step by Step,” a traditional gospel song. My sister Angie and I sang it to her in the hospital two days before her passing, and again at her funeral. I don’t think I’ve sung the song since, but today a poem my friend Chella shared put the song in my head. Both the song and the poem are what I need right now–when I feel immobilized by disappointment and loss.

We are all experiencing loss right now, trying to find our way and a new rhythm. Maybe, you need these words too.

Midwives of the Soul
Elena Mikhalkova

My grandmother once gave me a tip:
In difficult times, you move forward in small steps.
Do what you have to do, but little by little.
Don’t think about the future, or what may happen tomorrow.
Wash the dishes.
Remove the dust.
Write a letter.
Make a soup.
You see?
You are advancing step by step.
Take a step and stop.
Rest a little.
Praise yourself.
Take another step.
Then another.
You won’t notice, but your steps will grow more and more.
And the time will come when you can think about the future without crying.

About the image: The lovely purple and yellow flowers were created and sent to me by Love Noter Rae L. She sent the postcard for International Women’s Day 2020.

Pink Is More Than a Color

Pink is not just a color. It’s an attitude.

Here we are at the end of October and I haven’t even checked off half the blog posts I’d plan to write this month.

But I cannot let the month end without acknowledging Breast Cancer Awareness Month and reminding readers to mind their breast health. Though my sisters, Karlette and Lori, eventually succumbed to breast cancer, they first detected the disease via self-examination. If you’re not in the habit of performing a monthly examination of your breast, begin today. Be sure to examine yourself monthly and schedule mammograms regularly; your doctor will help you determine what regularly means for you based on age, health, and medical history.

If you’re unsure of how to do a self examination, there are a number of resources available online. Some are simple and straightforward and some provide a bit more detail.

There are also many organizations that provide free or reduced cost mammograms for those who do not have health insurance or cannot afford the cost of mammograms.

Finally, if you or someone you know is coping with a breast cancer diagnosis, allow me the pleasure of sending a bit of cheer and light. Simply, click the Karle’s Wings link above and fill out the contact form near the bottom. I’ll be sure to send heart mail soon.


About the image: The image above features Ellie’s Belles, a gift from my dear friend Lauralee (LL).  LL, who works with organ and tissue donation, hosted a BRA Day event earlier this month in which the dolls were featured. She gave them to me when I visited DC earlier this month and spent a few hours with the family. The elegant dolls were created by artist Loren Martz. You can find these and many other dolls in her Etsy shop.  [Thank you, LL for the special gifts, and thank you, Browns, for making time for me. ❤ y’all!]

About the title: The title of today’s post was inspired by one of the art journal pages my photographer friend, Diane W., posted on Instagram earlier this week. “Pink is not just a color. It’s an attitude.” It’s an attitude  that I hope is sparked whenever we see the color pink, an uncompromising attitude that we will do what we can to manage our breast health and well-being and do all we can to support our sisters [and brothers] who have to deal with breast cancer.

Today…

Today marks one year since my sister Lori’s passing, so I punched purple tulips in her honor.

Today, my sorrow over [both] my sisters is tangled up with grief over the loss of my favorite uncle, who ministered so ably and lovingly when we lost Karlette and Lori. He passed away two days ago.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to put into words all the things my uncle was and is to me.

Today, I sat in front of my window–journal and pen in hand–and desperately willed the words to come. They refused. Usually my readiest companions through the most challenging moments, lately, they have failed me time and time again.

So today, I punched purple tulips in honor of my sister.

Purple Tulips and God’s Hug | #WordlessWednesday

Spring came again today. The thawing Earth
is like a child who knows her poems by heart.

–Rainer Maria Rilke, from Sonnets to Orpheus
[Translated by David Hills]

We’ve finally had some consistently beautiful weather–sunny skies and breezy, warmer days–so yesterday I took a break from the mental work and took a photo-walk with my photographer friend, Amanda. We “found” purple tulips.

Purple tulips were my sister Lori’s favorite flower, so this experience was truly a hug from God.

Happy First Day of Spring!

Written on My Heart | #WordlessWednesday

Losing a loved one does not just make us
painfully aware of their mortality, but our own,
which comes with a great sense of responsibility–

to carry on living our lives a little more
mindfully, purposefully, and wholeheartedly,
now that they cannot

(I miss you and I will always love you) –-Emina Gaspar-Vrana

Today my sister Lori would have celebrated her 56th birthday. In the photo above are the last Christmas gifts she gave me–a brooch representing [us] six sisters joined by hip and heart and a beautiful sister-heart. She gave them to me last January–weeks after her diagnosis–when we made a special trip to New Orleans so she and I could have a sister heart to heart that I didn’t want to have by phone. While I struggle with the cruel reality of two sisters gone, I walk in the knowledge that not even death can remove the imprint of my sisters from my heart.

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart) –e.e. cummings

12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 9

My Love Notes friend Andrea F stitched this pretty in pink pocket card in honor of my sister, Lori, but I received it in honor of both my sisters–Karlette and Lori–whom we lost to breast cancer. When I opened the envelope I thought of them immediately: Karlette’s love for pink and their mutual love for Christmas and pretty things.

If you’re used to seeing Christmas in only traditional ways, you might think the gently falling snowflakes that dominate the card are simply asterisks on a pink background. It is not until you open the card that you see…

…Christmas joy, a home overflowing with warmth and love, and a golden star-topped tree.

Add a bit of pink to your Christmas joy!

They Lived “Their Brightest Lives”

“The Brightest Sunflower.” Photograph by Eileen V.

despite knowing
they won’t be here for long
they still choose to live
their brightest lives

rupi kaur, “sunflowers,” the sun and her flowers

Today’s sunflower love features the photography of my Love Notes friend, Eileen V. She captured the sunny bloom while out and about with a friend and sent the card with hugs, strength, and hope in light of Lori’s passing.

Eileen wrote that whenever she sees a sunflower she thinks of me and her daughter, Alanna, who also loved sunflowers.I did not miss the “past tense” in Eileen’s mention of her daughter, and I learned shortly afterwards that she lost her daughter some years ago to a tragic accident. It’s bittersweet to share a precious connection via sunflowers, and when I see them, I will think of Eileen and Alanna.

My heart breaks. It breaks for all of us who have lost someone dear to us. But it comforts me to know Alanna, Lori, and Karlette lived “their brightest lives” and touched so many hearts during their brief sojourn in this world.

A Written Word: I’m Here.

 

Tiare Smith Designs, from the Tia Playful Collection

“I’m thinking of you, praying for you, and I am here as your friend.”

–Cy–

We close “A Written Word” week with a postcard and note from my longtime friend Cy. She checks on me and sends a virtual hug regularly.

It was nice to find the super cute postcard in the mail with the simple message (above). The note warmed my heart and the Tiare Smith image of girls playing “jacks” brought back memories of childhood and playing “jacks” with my sisters. [Side note: I’m a “jacks” champion. In middle school, I won the competition during field day]. 🙂

“I’m here” is the most comforting phrase I’ve heard over the last few weeks. Even though I may never take some up on the offer to be a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on, it’s consoling to know that I have people to turn to should I need them.

When you don’t know what to say or how to approach someone who is grieving, know that the words above, spoken or written sincerely, are sufficient.


I trust you were inspired this week by the messages of encouragement and hope from my friends. It was certainly beneficial for me to take some time each evening and meditate on the precious words and just allow myself to be with my feelings. Thank you for taking a part in the journey with me.

A Written Word: A Small Thing

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, He’ll help you catch your breath.

Psalm 34:18 MSG

Among the precious notes written to me by my colleagues and students is a touching letter and beautiful tulip sculpted by my multi-talented student Tyhara Rain.

I’ve read the letter many times in the quiet of the night and when I pause during the day. Tyhara’s soothing words remind me into Whose arms I can fall when the darkest despair descends:

When you feel too emotionally worn out to get through the day, when your heart aches too much to let you fall asleep, I encourage you to close your eyes…breathe…imagine yourself cradled in the loving arms of our Savior. Feel free to bury your face in His chest, and feel free to feel the ache and sorrow of loss.  Sob if you have to. He understands. Feel his arms wrap tightly and protectively around you in your broken state. Listen to His whisper as He reminds you of His promises of life eternal, everlasting joy, comfort during trials, and His nearness to you always. Stay in His embrace as long as you need. When you’re ready, open your eyes, know God is always with you, and claim the power of God through Jesus to get you through…

I carry Tyhara’s letter with me throughout the day. It remains in my “pouch of pretties,” available when I need to refer to it. The tulip, Lori’s favorite flower, rests on the mantel. In Tyhara’s words, “a small thing to bring comfort […].”