I wanna be inside your heaven
Take me to the place you cry from
Where the storm blows your way
I wanna be earth that holds you
Every bit of air you're breathin' in
A soothin' wind
I wanna be inside your heaven
~ Carrie Underwood
SNAPSHOTS OF A LIFETIME
Snapshots of a lifetime
Captured here within my heart.
Prints of all my memories
Zoomed in on at the start.
A frame of special moments
Posed forever over time.
Developed over many years
In the darkroom of my mind.
Pictures of what used to be
From the camera of my soul.
Film waiting to be taken
A future trapped within the roll.
Photographs of heartache.
Images of hidden pain.
Focused on reality.
Exposing what remains.
Transparencies of happiness
Cropped-out by fate's design.
A flash of hope awaits within...
These snapshots of a lifetime.
Vacation's when you go somewhere...
and you don't ever come back.
~ Quote from Forrest Gump
I'LL SEE YOU AT THE END
It was late summer and it was a beautiful Colorado day. Robin (my husband) and I had taken our children on a vacation. Luke was 8 years old and Emily (Luke's sister) was 11. We all wanted to experience something fun and exciting. As we drove through this little town in Colorado we saw a sign .... WHITE WATER RIVER RAFTING. We took a vote and everyone agreed that this would be a fun and exciting thing to do. So we all said..."Let's go for it!"
We arrived at the rafting place and inquired about a trip down the river. The old unkempt man behind the counter asked us if we wanted a guide or if we wanted to go it alone. Being adventurous we said..."We'll go it alone." So we paid him for the trip and then he went outside and loaded our small yellow raft into the back of a very old, beat-up, rusty pick-up truck. The yellow raft really didn't look like those heavy-duty rafts you see on river trips. It looked more like a raft for a swimming pool. Robin and I just looked at each other thinking... "This must be okay, or they wouldn't let us go with our children."
So we all piled in the front of the old pick-up truck with this old guy as we headed off down the road. Robin in the middle with Emily on his lap, because I refused to sit next to the old unkemt guy. After a few miles he drove up to the edge of a small canyon. We all got out of that old truck and the old guy gave us our raft and equipment. While pointing down he said..."The river is down there". I thought it was odd that he just dropped us off like that without any instructions or anything. So the old guy got back in his truck and as he was driving away leaving the four of us on the edge of this canyon, he had a huge grin on his face. I thought to myself..."What is that old guy grinning about?" Driving away he leaned out the window and said..."I'll see you at the end."
Well, there we were at the top of a canyon that we were going to have to climb down into. So Robin and I put the raft over our heads and we both had a life vest on each arm and oars to carry too! As we headed down the canyon with a yellow raft, that by this time we had dubbed the K-MART KAYAK, we were trying to hold on to the kids and told them over and over..."Be very careful."
By the time we finally got to the bottom of the canyon we were doubting our decision. We saw that the water was relatively calm and were beginning to wonder about this trip. Robin said...."Well, I sure hope we have some white water!" We stood there on the bank of the river and we all put on our life vests, got into the little yellow raft, and began gently floating down the river. I looked at Robin and asked..."Where the heck is the white water?" He said..."I don't know, but I think we got ripped off." I said... "Well, that is probably what that old guy was grinning about." Emily and Luke seemed like they were having a great time just floating down the river so we decided to be content with our 'float' trip.
We floated, and floated, and floated. Finally we came to some steep cliff walls and noticed that on the top of the cliff were several people waving their arms and shouting 'something' at us, but we had no idea what they were saying. So we all just smiled and waved back, but they kept shouting. I said to Robin... "What the heck is wrong with those people?" He just shrugged his shoulders, as the raft kept floating down the river. Then we began to notice that the water was churning up. All of a sudden we saw what the people on the cliff were trying to warn us about and probably what the old guy that dropped us off was grinning about..... A WATERFALL with about a 10 foot drop! Which all in all is not that bad of a drop, unless, of course, you are in the K-MART KAYAK!
At this point there was no turning back, but believe me we had never paddled in reverse so fast in all of our lives. Before we knew it we were tumbling down the waterfall. Robin and I looked at each other trying not to let the kids know that we were totally scared out of our minds! Our eyes widened with fear... fear that Emily and Luke just assumed was the excitement and fun they were promised. Robin screamed to me above the sound of the crashing water..."Hold on to the kids!" as I screamed to the kids above the sound of the crashing water .... "Hold on to the boat!" It seemed as if we were trapped in time and getting to the bottom of that waterfall was going to take forever. As the water was crashing into the rocks, and into the raft and into our faces, I lost all sanity and screamed....."We're all going to die!" But the kids thought that dear ol' Mom was just joking and they were laughing the whole time, never suspecting that everything was totally out of control.
Buy the time we reached the bottom of the waterfall our raft was full of water. The kids were sitting in water up to their waists and our raft was about to sink. Robin said... "We need to get out and bail the boat." Well there was no way that I was going to put the kids in this water from Hell with just a life vest on. So I said.... "We have to find a place to bank the boat!" We looked around and on both sides of the river and as far as we could see were solid rock vertical cliffs with nowhere to bank the boat. I was trying to regain my sanity, but was thinking..."We are going to sink in this K-MART KAYAK." Finally we saw a small protrusion of rock a little above the water level so we headed for that, paddling like maniacs.
When we arrived at the protrusion Robin jumped out of the boat to hold it so that me and Emily and Luke could stand on the protrusion while he bailed out the boat. The kids and I were still sitting in the boat waiting for him to come up. It seemed again like we were trapped in time and I just knew that the current had sucked him under and I would spend the rest of my life in that K-MART KAYAK on the RIVER OF NO RETURN. But finally Robin emerged from the Hell hole screaming...."There is no bottom to this river!"
Somehow me and Emily and Luke were able to get out of the boat to this tiny protrusion. We three stood with our backs glued to this cliff, with barely enough room for our feet to
rest, while Robin bailed out the boat. Then we got back in and feared for what might be up ahead. After many miles of floating we all began laughing at ourselves. The rest of the trip was very peaceful and beautiful.
When we finally got back to the END, to the K-MART KAYAK docking station, we returned our raft and gear without saying one word about the living Hell we had just been through. We all ran to the car, leaving with memories of terror that would later become the K-MART KAYAK STORY that we would laugh at over and over through the years.
Sometimes when I am alone and I talk to Luke, I smile and laugh a little while reminiscing on that trip down the river. Then, as a tear gently runs down my face, I softly whisper to him........... "I'll see you at the end."
Closer to heaven above and
Closer to you closer to you
~The Dixi Chicks
A SUMMER PLACE
My husband, myself, and our two children lived in Louisiana when our children were very young. My parents had a camp on a beautiful lake with an old weathered wooden pier that stretched out across the water. We would often go there and spend family time together fishing, and boating, and swimming. Luke (our son) was three and Emily (our daughter) was five. We had bought each of them a cute little tackle box and fishing pole. Emily's was a red Mickey Mouse rod and box. Luke's was a blue Donald Duck rod and box. We always kept them in the little tin shed next to the huge Cypress tree that clung to the edge of the lake.
When we moved to Arizona we didn't even consider bringing the little rods and tackle boxes with us since our children were much older and had outgrown them. A few years after we moved my dad died and my mom sold the camp on the lake. My brother went out to the camp and cleaned out the shed, throwing some things away and keeping some. But I never even considered that I would one day want that little blue rod and tackle box as a keepsake from my son's childhood. I thought my little boy would live for a very long time.
Five years after my brother cleaned out that little shed, Luke died at the age of 21. A few years into my grief, I began thinking about Luke's little blue Donald Duck rod and tackle box and wished that I had kept it. I thought to myself ...."I wonder if anyone still has them?" It was probably an impossible reality, but I placed that call to Louisiana anyway. My brother said: "Oh, I don't think so. You see, I took most everything from the shed and piled it up out near the road in front of my house, and I put a 'FOR SALE' sign up, and when people would come by they would choose what they wanted from the pile and then come to the house and pay me for it. Most of the things that were left from the pile I threw away..... But, I will check anyway, just in case."
Well, he did check in his garage and the little rods and tackle boxes from Emily and Luke's childhood so long ago, as expected, were not there. I was disappointed, but not surprised at all. It was just wishful thinking on my part that they could still be around. My brother decided, just as a rare possibility, to ask his son-in-law if maybe he had taken them for his children to use. His son-in-law said: "Yes, I have a Donald Duck fishing pole and tackle box that I got from your garage." My brother just couldn't believe it! He immediately went over to his son-in-law's house and rescued the little blue fishing pole and tackle box. He called me and said: "I am so amazed that Luke's rod and tackle box are still around. I thought for sure someone had bought them, or they had gotten thrown away. No one has Emily's little Mickey Mouse rod and tackle box, but we do have Luke's." I said: "Well, I guess Luke really wanted me to have them." He said: "I guess so." He then mailed them to me all the way from Louisiana to Arizona.
A week later there was a package at the post office for me... a long skinny box. I ran to the car, clutching it in my hands, and telling my husband "The package is here with Luke's fishing pole and tackle box!" I was so excited that I could hardly get the cardboard box opened fast enough. I finally did and there under all of those little white packing peanuts was..... Luke's little blue Donald Duck fishing pole and tackle box. I gently held the little rod and looked at the date the rod was made... 1982. At that time in 2003 when I held this treasure once more, 21 years had passed, exactly the same age as Luke was when he died. I then realized what a miracle it was that this little rod and box had survived 21 years of floods and storms, and also years of being used by Luke, being held over the water at the end of that old weathered wooden pier by many little hands, being placed here and there in the little tin shed, being moved from the shed in the back of a pick-up truck, being moved from the truck to my brother's garage, being piled up in his front yard to be sold, and then being delivered in a long skinny cardboard box to my hands totally intact and looking almost as good as it did 21 years ago. Not only had this miracle made it all the way from Louisiana to Arizona.... it had made it all the way from Heaven.
As I held the little blue rod I clicked the reel and wound in the twine a few times as the memories flowed and I imagined my little boy sitting next to me on that old weathered wooden pier at the lake. Then, I placed the little rod down on the seat and reached for the little blue Donald Duck tackle box. I held that unbelievable little tackle box in my hands, just gazing at it in amazement. My brother had told me there were still a few things in the box. I touched the outside of the box, and looked at the little picture of Donald Duck that my little boy of three years old loved so much. Carefully, I slowly opened the little blue tackle box and there from so very many years ago in that little box, were the very hooks, and sinkers, and corks that my sweet little boy had once touched and fished with. BUT.... there was SOMETHING ELSE in that box..... something that I had not expected or even thought about. There in that little blue Donald Duck tackle box from days gone by was something that had been sealed within that box for all these years and had just now been released..... a summer place within my heart, and my soul, and my mind! My heart ached and my eyes filled with tears because of the pain that came from those unexpected bittersweet memories of that summer place where I spent so many wonderful times with my little boy, but now, years later, he was somehow out of my grasp. My emotions overflowed with the memories buried deep within that summer place of my mind. I choked, and I gasped, but most of all I REMEMBERED. I remembered those fleeting days of Luke's childhood that were now accompanied by the lost hope of the years ahead of me.
Oh how I longed to go back in time to that summer place. Back to a time when life was so good, a time when I could hear the giggles of my little boy, a time when I could see his little eyes widen as he reeled in that first prize fish, a time of happiness, a time of sunshine and laughter, a time that passed gently in a summer place..... if only for just one sweet precious moment.
Many years have passed since that summer of 1982, and also since the day that I opened that long lost little blue tackle box of Luke's that held those eternal summer memories. I believe that everyone has a special box like that, one that contains warm memories of those loved and missed, eternal memories that are just as warm as the days of summer. That special box may be a tackle box, a shoebox, a jewelry box, a toy box, a photo box, or even just a plain old cardboard box. But whatever the box may be, when it is opened, something in that box will release those trapped memories from that warm summer place within the mind, heart, and soul. I know now that all of my memories can be a reality again by doing the things that he used to do, or by doing the things that he never had the opportunity to do. Whether it be spring, summer, winter, or fall, he can live again through me. Then, magically and gently something within me will be found again.... A SUMMER PLACE.
"Like painted kites, those days and nights - went flyin’ by
The world was new, beneath a blue - umbrella sky
Then softer than, a piper man - one day it called to you
And I lost you, to the summer wind"
~Frank Sinatra - singer/songwriter
LIVE THROUGH ME
I'll learn to play piano
And I’ll play the guitar too.
I'll compose a song and music,
Because that's what he loved to do.
I'll drink a glass of chocolate milk
And eat a plate of spicy food.
I'll have a toast with all my friends
To lighten up the mood.
I'll watch a late night movie
And play some video games.
I'll share my bed with my dog
But I never will complain.
I'll take lessons in karate
And I'll whistle while I work.
I'll say a lot of funny things,
Then I'll laugh until it hurts.
I'll ride a roller coaster
And bounce on a trampoline.
I'll be a real daredevil
Doing almost anything.
I'll drive up to the canyon
And watch the sun set from afar.
I'll build a fire to keep me warm
Camping underneath the stars.
I'll climb up to the mountaintop
And ride my bike down from the peak.
I'll crawl down deep inside a cave,
Even drive right through a creek.
I'll hike up to the tallest cliff
And jump off into a lake.
I'll hear my echo through the night
While the wind takes it away.
I'll go skiing in the winter
And see the leaves turn in the fall.
I'll go swimming in the summer.
In spring rain I'll take walk.
I'll give a friend a heartfelt hug
And then share my deepest thoughts.
I'll try to help someone in need
So they won't feel so lost.
I'll pray there at the chapel
And be thankful that he lived.
I'll do the things he'd like to do
Plus all these things he did.
I'll look up high to Heaven
And I'll close my eyes to see.
I'll say.... 'You never really died,
Because you live through me.'
August 2011, Volume 26 No. 08
LIVING WITH LOSS magazine
Bereavement Publications, Inc.
Here I am, signed, sealed delivered
~ Stevie Wonder
A MOMENT IN TIME
When I gaze into that same old mirror every morning, I see the havoc that this grief and these years have wreaked upon me. I'm old and getting older...... something that so many never had the opportunity to say, just as my son Luke never had. Luke died at the age of 21 from acute bronchopneumonia in 2001.
I know that I should be happy to be alive, to still have one child left with me on this earth. God knows that I have tried, and tried, and tried. When one child is in heaven and one child is on earth, happiness is something that is very hard to come by. But every morning when I get up, and I look into that same old mirror of truth, I say to my weary reflection...."Today I will try again, today I will find some happiness," and I do. I have moments of happiness throughout the day, and I try to think of only the good times that I had with my son Luke, and the good times that I am still having with my daughter Emily.
I love my daughter as much as I love my son. She is here and alive, so I try to be happy for her, and happy for me that she is still in my life. No matter how hard I try, and no matter how much I smile, and no matter how many times I laugh, my mind always drifts to the reality that my son is dead and then it returns... the pain of missing him. But it is within that moment that is in-between those thoughts of despair that I do find some happiness. It is all that I have, so it will have to be enough.... it will have to do for now.
At least now I do have those special moments of happiness, something that I did not have in my early years of grief. I'm not sure if it is my pain that is better or the fact that I have learned how to live with this pain. I have found that it takes many years to master this. I also believe that I have reached another milestone. Not only have I learned to live with this pain, but I have learned how to let some happiness shine in through those windows of grief.
Someday, when I cross to the other side, and when I reach for Luke's outstretched hand, I then will have that moment of happiness, but this time it will be..... an everlasting moment in time.
Oh, thinking about all our younger years
There was only you and me
We were young and wild and free
Oh, once in your life you find someone
Who will turn your world around
Bring you up when you're feeling down
Baby you're all that I want
When you're lying here in my arms
I'm finding it hard to believe
We're in heaven
And love is all that I need
And I found it there in your heart
It isn't too hard to see
We're in heaven
~ Bryan Adams
I dig my toes into the sand
The ocean looks like a thousand diamonds
Strewn across a blue blanket
I lean against the wind
Pretend that I am weightless
And in this moment I am happy...happy
I wish you were here
I wish you were here
I wish you were here
I wish you were here
Funny how the years,
They just pass us by
Seems like yesterday,
You were in my life
~ Enrique Iglesias
I saw heaven in your eyes...
In your eyes...
Wish you were here...
~ Ritchie Blackmore
Hope you're well at home,
Next week I'll try to phone,
Not very long to go,
I'll tell you when I'm coming home as soon as I know
~ The Who
Wish you were here, wish you could see this place
Wish you were near, I wish I could touch your face
The weather's nice, it's paradise
It's summertime all year and there's some folks we know
They say, "Hello, I miss you so, wish you were here"
~ Mark Wills
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found? The same old fears.
Wish you were here.
~ Pink Floyd
You fill up my senses Like a night in a forest
Like a mountain in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses, Come fill me again
Come let me love you
Let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter
Let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you
Let me always be with you
Come let me love you, Come love me again
~ John Denver
"Heaven is a city without a cemetery"
"Everything you can imagine is real."
~ Pablo Picasso
Perhaps passing through the gates of death is like passing quietly through
the gate in a pasture fence. On the other side, you keep walking, without
the need to look back. No shock, no drama, just the lifting of a plank or
two in a simple wooden gate in a clearing. Neither pain, nor floods of
light, nor great voices, but just the silent crossing of a meadow.
~Mark Helprin, "A Soldier of the Great War"
"And if I go,
while you are still here,
know that I live on,
vibrating to a different measure,
behind a thin veil
you cannot see through.
You will not see me
so you must have faith.
I can't wait for the time
when we can soar together again,
both aware of each other.
live your life to the fullest
and when you need me,
just whisper my name in your heart.....
I will be there."