Anniversaries of the Heart

Kept by ourselves in silence and apart; The secret anniversaries of the heart.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The end of a 12-month period is never so marked as the one infused with emotion. Life. Death. Re-awakening. Anniversaries in the forms of births, marriage, and death earmark the years. Lest we forget, even the months count for these occasions.

My son’s first birthday marked his victory in a life doctors said would never happen. Twelve months after finding out I was deathly ill, I rejoiced with my newfound energy. A pair of twelve months passed before my grandfather followed his wife to the other side. And now my family and I are about to mark another milestone – next month will be a year since my dear sweet Mom George’s passing.

I write this to her and share it with you, dear readers, as a beacon of hope, understanding, and encouragement for any who have lost a loved one and are trying to make it through.

If you missed some related posts and want to catch up, you can view them here:

Letting Go – Must I yield?
Layers of grief
Grief is a Life Transformation
Grief & Grieving
Grief & Grieving Part 2

 

How have you have managed to work through heartfelt anniversaries and incorporate them as one of life’s certainties (like birth and taxes!). Let’s dialogue, you and me. Thank you for reading my tearful, healing cry:


Dear Mom George,

It is not quite the 12th month since we tearfully and reluctantly let you go. On the 6th day of the seventh month, you took your last breath, and the groans emitting from our souls surely shook the earth. Our hearts ripped to shreds, like the tearing of one’s clothes in days of old. We wept for hours and days on end, bitterly and sorrowfully… Nay, still we weep, more than 300 days later. Oh, my mother! Would no sacrifice have kept you among us? Why did not our Creator heed our prayers Appalled and disheartened, still numb with disbelief, we plod through life without you. We hold you dear to our hearts with memories of your laughter and serenity. Remembering your constant refrain of I just want you to be happy, we strive for that. In spite of the sadness, in honor of you, we live as best we can with tattered hearts.

We love you forever. We love you always.


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Jody’s Garden: A Book on Grief and Gardening

“Gardens are a space for healing. With the cycle of life and death so close at hand, we have an opportunity to learn many lessons. In the garden, we can see the interconnectedness of our own life”

Individual Empowerment

Jody’s Garden is a book about using the power of nature to heal your grief. A portion of each book sale will be donated to cancer research.

grief and gardening

Book Summary:

“Grief is a changing of seasons in our own garden.”

Gardens are a space for healing. With the cycle of life and death so close at hand, we have an opportunity to learn many lessons. In the garden, we can see the interconnectedness of our own life. We learn how the soil, once seen as nothing but dirt, reveals that it is teeming with life. Plants remind us the importance of self-care as we must give them just enough, but not too much, water and be on the lookout for toxins and insects that might cause harm. The beauty of flowers that only bloom once or twice a year teach us patience. When plants die we can better understand that nothing…

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Letting Go – Must I yield?

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Although the Fall season for us here in North America officially began a couple of weeks ago, October 1st just cements that (at least here in the northern US), with the cooler weather now a seeming certainty and the wind gently blowing the leaves off the trees.

With each Autumn, the leaves change colors and fall to the ground, and we are prompted to think about what we can let go of in our own lives that is changing and falling away. I’ve often thought of what relationships I might need to consider letting go of, or perhaps a job – something tangible rather than abstract.

This year, I again look at the relationships in my life, yet this time not with the idea in mind that I need to remove myself from the relationship. Today, I look at how I might need to change my expectations of particular relationships, and let fall away the parts that are no longer the same as before; meanwhile embracing the relationship in the current form. I’ll give you an example:

Before my husband and I married, and while just beginning the married life, we were lovey-dovey and had a movie we called our own that we thought depicted us and so forth. As many people do, we gradually and unconsciously moved from making time to see each other because we just couldn’t stand to be away from one another, to barely having time for each other because of work/family/church/bills/other duties. After all, when you’re living together, you don’t have to make time to see one another. Sound familiar?

This happens with platonic friendships as well as romantic. It happens within the family core. It can happen in any type of relationship, even with ourselves. We go through our lives unconsciously so often! All at once – or sometimes, gradually – it dawns on the person(s) that the relationship is not what it once was. Does this mean it is time to move on, to let go of the relationship and find a new one? Absolutely not! (Although there certainly may be other reasons to move on from someone.)

Does this mean we need to force the relationship back to where it was, trying to be the newly-in-love-couple once again and convince ourselves that that song/movie/book/other is still really who “we” are? I would argue with a resounding NO.

Autumn. Colorful leaves, gently falling to the ground in the cool breeze. The leaves disintegrating and mulching the fertile ground. Can we re-define our relationships as they have become and improve upon their foundations, allowing what was to provide rich soil for what is and what can become? Can we let go of who we used to be, and who we thought we were as a couple – or an individual! – and create anew? Embrace the colorfully changing scene of “us” while also letting go of our past ideas and expectations – not as a giving up, but as a release to create freshness and vitality in our lives.

Crown ShynessI believe whole-heartedly that this same concept can apply to an individual – it does not need solely be considered as someone in connection to another. Yet, let’s face it – connection with others is how we live. Just as trees group together and yet some never touch (called “Crown Shyness” – see article here), we as people are in community with one another yet also individuals. We live both alone and together, simultaneously.

This is not to say that learning to live with and love oneself or another is not challenging. Life has it’s challenges. Loss is a surety. As is gain. Change is assured. What is not laid out is what we do with the losses, the gains, the changes. Are you willing to change your original expectations and embrace and create a new you? Or do you prefer to resign yourself to how things have become while silently chafing at the unwanted/unexpected changes, however uncomfortable?

Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote in his Ulysses:

Though much is taken, much abides; and though

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are, –

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

I hope my Fall season will be a gentle release from my old expectations and a flourishing of hope for where my new self is and will become. And I hope the same for you. May you jump for joy as you are able to release, and find unexpected pleasure in the fallen leaves (expectations) that will fertilize the new you.

Reading pile of leaves_Pacton