Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It's my birfday!

"... joy and sorrow are inseparable. . . together they come and when one sits alone with you . . . remember that the other is asleep upon your bed."
- Kahlil Gibran

It's my birfday.

Well, it was 4 days ago anyway.

Mom and Dad came to visit. They brought Luke and Amy. That was the best. We went to Bob & Judy's for lunch and RED VELVET cake and ice cream and stupendous presents. I got flowers from Will and Stacy and lots of cards and e-cards and even a phone call from Uncle Rufus. It was a great day.

We came home, and the neighborhood girls (Kate & Amy, too) decorated my entire house. They created "David's Restaurant" in my living room with a jungle theme. Kate told us to get ready for dinner. I told her that Deb and I had plans to go out. Tears welled up in her eyes. Okay, change of plans. Call Deb. Tell her there's a new joint in town we absolutely must check out. She agrees, so mom and I were dispensed to the store to buy pineapple, whipped cream and mystery meat. We bought a coconut, too.

We waited in the hallway to be seated and read Tiger Beat magazine. We were escorted past palm trees and banana centerpieces. Dave's voice sang to us. Candles blazed on every table. We ordered from carefully lettered menus. Our courses came, one after the other, brought by earnest little waitresses and prepared with much noise and commotion behind the curtain.

We were treated to a monkey puppet show and a birthday song and dance. After giant tips, Deb, Mom and I cleaned up the easy feat, I assure you, and served our little chefs ice cream sundaes in tall, tall wine glasses. (Koda later broke them trying to get at the ice cream, but oh well.)

Then Deb, Mom and I went to the brew pub and visited for a while.

All in all, 44 isn't so bad. And it was a little fun to make a big deal about my birthday again. It comes only two days after Dave's death anniversary, and the last two, I've wanted to just ignore. Dave always made a HUGE deal out of my birthday. I was queen for a day. Flowers, candy, breakfast in bed, dinner out and jewelry in a little wrapped box.

Now unless you think he was simply an exceptional husband, there was more to the story. The first year that Dave and I were married, I had to work on my birthday. I get home...empty house. No cell phones in the 80's, so I waited around. Anticipating his arrival for an hour or so. Feeling sad and lonely for the next hour or so. Then rapidly moving from irritated to royally pissed to maybe a bit worried. I called around and found him at the West End Tavern.  With Doug. They are having my birthday party without me, it seems. They'd gone shopping for my present and stopped at the West End for a $2 pitcher. I think they had more than $2 left over after my present was purchased.

So they stumble home. And lock themselves in the back room. Laughing. Running out for a hammer. Lots of pounding. Some cussing. And lots of arm-crossing and foot-tapping by yours truly.

Eventually they come out. They have my present balanced between them. They've built me a....drum roll please....MICROWAVE CART! "HAPPY BIRFDAY!" they shout.

Hmmmm....okay, it wasn't a power drill or a vaccuum cleaner, but a microwave cart??? Not exactly what a new bride is dreaming of. When my reaction is less than gracious, they were bewildered. Bewildered, I tell you. They had NO idea that this was not gloriously fun for me. They were so cute. I had to forgive them. Although I never let either of them forget it.

The next year, Doug bought me flowers and baked me a cake (from scratch...two round layers! I have a picture someplace...I'll have to find it) and Dave took me out to dinner on Commencement Bay and gave me an amethyst ring in a truffle box. Happy Birfday to me!

Happy birfday to me.

Oh, here's a pic of Koda...her ears came at a time!

"She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts."
- George Eliot

"When we are no longer able to change a situation …
we are challenged to change ourselves."
Victor Frankl

Thursday, August 23, 2007


It's today.
August 23rd.
Two years.
Two achingly long years.
Two blink-of-an-eye years.

It's different this year.
Not better.
But different.

The blistering heat of August is absent.
The mornings are cool and misty.
The evenings have a nip of September.

Football has started.
Even that seems different.
More subdued, less intense somehow.

Like Kathy said,
I'm learning to move around this awkward piece of furniture that somehow arrived in my life. It's still there. Always will be. But I don't have to slam my shin into it continually just to prove that I can still feel something.

Grief is like a burden.
One we always carry.
We don't get to put it down,
but with time,
we learn better how to hold it.

Grief in the beginning is like being torn open.
Your heart is raw and exposed.
Even kindness burns.
But somehow, some day,
you begin to knit yourself
back together,
into something that resembles
a person,
in one piece.

To do that,
I've had to weave this
missing of Dave
into the fabric of my being.

The scar it leaves is part
of who I am now.

The last two years
meant learning to live in
an alien world.
It's a landscape that exists in my heart.
It's impossible to explain.
Some call it a wasteland,
a vacant lot,
like being consumed with fever,
only cold,
so cold.

For me,
it was a lot like drowning.
Surrounded by water.
Learning how to breathe again.
Without Dave,
I didn't know how to breathe,
how to be alive
without him.

So one step at a time,
I breathed in,
brought the icy waters
into myself.
And breathed out,
indigo ink,
no oxygen,
no relief,
no life.

While I wasn't dead,
I didn't recognize myself.
I stood looking in the mirror,
hand outstretched
to trace the jawline
of the stranger
who looked back.
"Who are you?"
"I am you. I am not you."

I'm reading a book called, "Everything happens for a reason." I bought it because I wanted to argue with it. I wanted to fight with it. I wanted to find what I believe.

Tall order, it seems.

Does everything happen for a reason?
I guess I don't know everything.
I also guess
like everything else,
it depends on what you mean by reason.


The word reason is both rational and rationale.
It's comforting to think that our world makes sense. That things happen in accordance with a master plan of some sort, that events are not random and senseless, that Someone is in control, that what happens to us has meaning.

That becomes harder when it hits closer to home. When addressing an event in someone's life that is painful, these ideas start to sound a little trite. "It's all for the best." Someone actually said to me, "Just think how Dave's death will be an example of living in Christ to so many." To which I could only think...."And him LIVING in Christ wasn't a good example?" See what I mean? Globally, it tends to work, personally, it kinda falls apart for me. Like the card Mindy got me today..."Do you ever feel like your guardian angel just went out for a smoke?" Yeah, actually, sometimes I do.

But mostly not. And even in the hardest of things, there is meaning to be found. Let me give you an example. 18 years ago, for 25 days, Dave and I were lucky enough to be parents to Kyle Douglas. 25 magical, beautiful, spiritual days. And then Kyle died and we were plunged into that netherworld of grief, that place where you must not only confront death, but make friends with it, and walk hand-in-hand with the fact of earthly death.

Sidebar: Of course, there is eternal life and everlasting hope in Jesus, but I'm talking this side of heaven, which is all I can really speak to. There is solace in the eternal, but it does NOT, NOT erase the pain of the temporary.

When Kyle died, I had a lot of people offer me reasons. "Oh, he was spared so much suffering, all those operations he would have had to have." "It's for the best." "You'll have another." "You're young." "Be glad you only had him 25 days, that way you didn't have a chance to get too attached." Sigh.

No reason could suffice. Ever. Ever.

Does that mean Kyle's death was meaningless? Not at all. When Kenny was diagnosed with autism, and we were walking like zombies through a grief that had no definition, no certainty and no closure, when Kenny screamed for hours at a time or laughed at things that weren't there or stayed up night after night...I remember feeling so overwhelmed with gratitude. Yes, gratitude. Never once did I look at that child, that little boy with the blonde curls and the kaliedescope eyes, and think, "Why me?!" Every day, every single day, when we woke in the morning, light streaming in the window, I would put my hand on his little chest and feel that heart beating so solidly. I knew it could be worse. Far worse.

Meaning, yes.
Reason....not so much.

I search for meaning, for reason in Dave's death.
I find much in his life.
In his courage as a cancer survivor.
In his character as a teacher.
In his enthusiasm as a coach.
In his passion as a musician.
In his loyalty as a friend.
In his humility as a servant of God.
In his honor as a son.
In his caring as a brother.
In his humor as an uncle.
In his love as a husband.
In his tenderness as a father.

I have yet to find anything that might be considered better because of his death. Anything that gives reason.
Not A reason, but reason, sense, justice.

Meaning...well...I'm trying.
I know that Dave's death was not meaningless.
I know that his death impacted many people.
I believe that there are far more ripples from this rock than I will ever know about.

Because some have been kind enough to share how the ripples in the water touched them, there are things I do know. I know that there are women who, because of Dave's death, because they heard my anguish, stopped themselves from sniping at their husband because he left a wet towel on the floor or put the diaper on backwards or bought the wrong kind of tomatoes. That instead, they took a breath and realized that they were blessed to have him still here, still breathing.

I know that there were people who were afraid to show their feelings for fear of being thought weak, who learned through Dave's example what true strength and courage looked like, and how God shines though our weakness.

I know that there were people unable to reach out and make meaningful connections with the people that they loved most, who watched Dave and I and realized that the depth of our hurt is but a reflection of the depth of our love...mirror images...two sides of the same coin...and that you must risk in order to love, but that love is worth any price...and guarding your heart is lonely. That love is not a feeling, it's a decision.

I know that there were people who were afraid of death, who learned, like the 14 year old narrator in "The Secret Life of Bees" that "anyone who thinks dying is the worst thing don't know much about life," and took courage from the light shining through Dave, even...and maybe the end.

I know that there were people with no spiritual beliefs who saw Dave's death and longed for the certainty and serenity he showed. I also know there were people with strong beliefs whose faith was shaken to the core by Dave's death and confronted questions they didn't know weren't answered.

I know that there were people who learned how to listen, how to fully be there and how to say something when they didn't know what to say. That reaching out matters.

I know that there were people who learned how to humbly accept help and see it as a sign of love, not a sign of weakness.

How to laugh, really laugh, in the worst of times.
How to listen to music with your whole heart.
How to talk with no words.
How to make a game out of washing dishes.
How to Dave-hug...or at least close.
How to cheer for their team.
How to smile with their eyes.
That hope sustains.
That love never dies.

And I know I learned more than all of these people combined.
Thank you for that, Dave.
And for everything else.

I love you always, Shell

AND PS. It would STILL be better if you were here.

We went to the Rock today.
24 white roses.
One for each month
we have lived
without Dave here.
730 days we have
gotten out of bed,
taken one step forward,
kept breathing.

Thank you to those who sent their thoughts today...
Bryan Stroud & family...always faithful.
Dee, always Dee.
Tami...hugs back.
Alex... :-).
Mom who called...and is coming!
My sis, who's loaning me her kids.
DadBob & JudyMom who brought flowers and hugs.
Mindy who brought coffee and kids and love.
Bob who called.
And Cindy.
Ginger from across the country
and Missy from across town.
Kathy from Iowa, Jacob's mum who signed on CaringBridge.
Kara, living without Butch.
Cathy, city mouse, who sent a card.
Mike, who just crossed two years without his daughter.
Will & crew, whose words touched my heart in a way I can't explain.
Sue, the first to remember and sent:

"From the wings of a darkened night, small lights of hope are born."

Monday, August 13, 2007

Prayer Request

TEAM MEYER: let's rally!

A friend of mine, her brother is in the hospital.

Please send prayers to Agnes and her family, especially her brother, Paul. Pray for his quick and complete healing and return to perfect health! Click below to visit his site.

Paul Vronsky

Monday, August 06, 2007

Peach Basket

Peach Basket Classic...
the ultimate sign of summer.
Hot, sweltering asphalt,
little heat waves rising from the blacktop,
sneakers pounding the pavement,
bouncing balls,
music pulsing,
jumping, leaping, blocking,
shouting, laughing,
shoulders pushing,
dripping sweat.

For about a zillion pics, click here:

Erik, Evy, Canute and Sonja made the trek over the mountains and across the wheat fields to join us again. It was like they never left. Canute took off with Quinn and Will, and we hardly saw him all Saturday. Kate and Sonja joined at the hip and had eyes for no-one else all weekend. It was good to be together again, although I was lousy company...this surgery stuff is for the birds. Never doing it again. I mean it. Never.

This year, Zach played with Seth, Andrew and Matthew...just like they've done since they were 8 years old. Matt was hurt, and couldn't play, but the other three wouldn't consider calling in a sub. Matt coached from the sidelines, smiling and laughing. They came up with the requisite crazy plays...doing bucket brigades and inbounding by slamming the ball against the backboard and all sorts of other globetrotterish kinds of things. The boys were quickly a crowd favorite. They had a great time, and entertained us all. They even got far enough to play on Sunday, which they didn't really expect.

Kate played with Allison, Matt's little sis, and two of her friends, Madeleine and Andrea. Joe (Allison & Matt's dad) coached them, and they were fabulous. They played really well and worked really hard. It was so much fun to watch them. Those girls are pretty competetive. We ought to have a great AAU season, as the team that took the girls out was 4 girls from their AAU team!

Uncle Bob played on a team and they did better than either of the kids, I think! Very impressive.

Presley played, too. So we had a lot of games to get to! It was a whirlwind of activity, and we had a great time, although I overdid it on Saturday. Kenny ran into one of his best friends from kindergarten who he hadn't seen in a few years.

We walked through downtown over and over and over (the two courts were F-A-R apart), played Dutch Blitz on Saturday night, had about six kids spend the night on Sunday and had a bonfire. We ate corn on the cob from Klickers and drank a lot of powerade. We had shaved ice, sandwiches from Merchant's, chocolate from Bright's and cotton candy from street vendors. The girls bought dumb little neck coolers and kept score at every game they could. The boys put graffiti all over their shirts, played the music too loud and played home run derby in the dark.

It's all good. Almost like it should be.

Even though it is August...
even though Peach will always remind me of Dave,
Dave, hale and hearty and cheering on the Road Warriors, Triple Crazy, Nothings from Nowhere, P.O.O.P...whatever they called themselves.
And Dave, beginning to fail, watching from his wheelchair,
his last outing,
the last time he cheered on kids,
the last time he greeted the people,
a smile and hug for everyone,
people drawn to him,
to his irresistible presence and energy,
to the smile in his eyes and
the warmth in his hugs,
reaching out to him,
because he made you feel like you mattered.

Peach Basket isn't the same without him.
But then again, nothing is.
But that doesn't mean it's not good.
It is. Mostly.