Weekly Gratitude #5: When grief turns into joy

The holidays are in full swing around here.

Last week we attended the Christmas Tree lighting in the next town over.  We had missed our towns tree lighting due to it being on the same night as gymnastics and swim.

There were crafts and treats and even a visit with Santa.

 

We saw the Grinch as performed by the Frogtown Puppeteers at our local (and historic) theater.

My daughter was in our local holiday parade with her Girl Scout Troop.

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We went to the Downeast Festival of Trees.  I had never been before.  I learned that the trees all have prizes and you put raffle tickets in the buckets of the trees you wanted.  My daughter took my tickets and put them into the buckets of all the trees with toys.

She also saw Santa again and told him she wanted a Barbie.  Because the 30ish she has now isn’t enough.

On Sunday my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop took part in the Wreaths Across America Ceremony.  My father, Local and District VFW Commander was a part of the ceremony.

This week we also had my daughter’s first school Holiday concert.  I am bummed out the Prime Minister didn’t attend but I guess he’s busy with the elections in UK that are wrapping up as I am typing this.  I am also disappointed that I didn’t get to dress her up as a Christmas Lobster.

(Bonus points if you got the Love Actually Reference)

The excitement isn’t ending any time soon.

But this week it dawned on me.

I spend so much time thinking about Bryon isn’t here to see our daughter grow up.

I don’t think about what a blessing it is that I get to our daughter grow up.

It doesn’t mean that it isn’t sad that Bryon isn’t here.

We will never forget him.  Never.

I will always think about the fact that he is missing whatever milestone we are celebrating or what fun event we are doing.

But maybe it’s okay to stop dwelling on it so much.

My daughter and I have many years ahead of us.  Years filled with busy, hectic weekends.

My daughter’s joy has always been my biggest priority.

My second priority has been thinking about Bryon, being sad and dwelling on his death and absence.

And my happiness comes last.

But maybe it’s time to swap the second and third.  It’s a hard thing to admit but being sad all the time is exhausting.

And I can’t believe that Bryon would want that.

My daughter and I are still living on this Earth and it is time to embrace life for what it is and enjoy it.

Year Three: I feel rage-ey (complete with cuss words) #sorrynotsorry

Here we are.

Another 365 days later.

The Earth has made another trip around the Sun since you left.

The shock is gone but I still feel the void.

“They” said it would get easier and that time heals all wounds.

Perhaps they are right. But I think it’s more like you get used to feeling the void.

And chances are “They”- whoever they are- are full of shit anyway.

People are full of opinions and are usually happy to give unsolicited advice.

And 99.98% of the time that unsolicited advice is shitty advice.

I’m doing okay.

Our daughter is doing well. Parenting her by myself was daunting at first but I think I got it figured out. Well, most of the time.

She’s a great kid. She is about to start kindergarten and she keeps busy with dance and swimming. She also played T-Ball last Spring and she will be doing soccer this Fall.

You would be so proud.

It makes me sad that she only has an interpretation of you based on stories about you and photographs. I wonder how much she knows about you. She saw the pictures of you making kissy faces at the baby turtles in Grand Cayman and laughed about it at another time. So she does think about you.

I talk about you often and I let her know that you love her very much.

The cat is still here. He is still cute even though he coughed up a hairball as I type this. But I still love him.

The first year without you was about survival.

The second year was about existing.

This third year has been about living again.

I have made some big life changes.

Moving forward without you is a struggle. For two years I tried to hold onto the life we had together.

But the more time passes, the harder it became.

Shit had to go.

I had to let go of unhealthy relationships. Toxic really.

I have had a lot of shit flung at me. Shit that never would have been flung at me if you were alive.

Because you would have never tolerated it.

Not on this planet. Not on any planet.

As life moves forward, it’s as if you remain frozen in time. I have come to accept that some people can compartmentalize you separately from how they treat me and your daughter. Or how they treated you when you were alive.

Our marriage had its struggles (all marriages do) but I never questioned your loyalty. You never gave me a reason too.

You always had my back.

I miss having you as an ally. At least, in human form.

But I have learned from it. I need people in my life who are loyal and deep and I finally think I have set healthier boundaries.

My only regret is not walking away sooner.

And people can say whatever they want to, or need to, to make themselves feel better. Even if a lot of it is probably shit.

Those people can fuck off.

I say that with love, of course.

Things are almost never what they seem.

I know it wasn’t practical to move forward with “our” dreams. Our dreams are empty without you. I have realized that it’s time to move forward with my dreams.

As time marches forward, I struggle with guilt.

Why do I get to live out my dreams when you can’t?

It’s so unfair.

And then I get scared because what if my dreams make me happy. Then I cycle back to feeling guilty at the idea that I could be happy in a life without you.

And it’s ridiculous because I know, with every fiber of my being, that you want me to be happy.

I am torn between knowing life is short and feeling guilty for living a full life.

You were such a big part of my life but the harsh reality is in my present life, you are no longer an active part of the equation.

That seems harsh but it makes me sad.

Very, very sad.

But we both know that no matter what my life brings in the future, we will always have those 8 years together. The good times and the bad. The Caribbean cruises and the nights at home, binge watching Breaking Bad, The West Wing, and Friday Night Lights.

Nothing can take that away from us.

I will carry them forever.

Why Father’s Day can be painful.

For along time after Bryon died, I felt like I had to be both a Mother and Father to my daughter.

And if there is anything I can tell you from personal experience-

Being a parent is hard. Even if you have an active co-parent.

Being both a mother and a father is harder.

Being both a mother and father while grieving is super hard.

“Super hard” might be a lame adjective. I am sure my seventh grade English teacher would be pissed if she read that.

But on this morning, two days before the third Father’s Day without my daughter’s Father, I am grumpy.

“Super Hard” is the best descriptor I can think of in this comparison.

Other adjectives can include-

Exhausting- Being two parents is exhausting.

Lonely- Bryon isn’t here to share my daughters moments with.

Unfair- That feeling I try to ignore when I see other kids with their Dad’s and I know my daughter doesn’t have that.

Empty- That feeling I have when I had to write “deceased” next to her Father’s name on her kindergarten registration forms.

Annoyance: Every time I have to explain that her father is dead. My life used to be so f*cking normal and now it’s not. Now I am a square peg in a world full of round holes. And I didn’t ask for any of this.

Resentment- For the fact that I have to brush off other’s insensitivity. Why is that my job? Why can’t people just take a few seconds and think and be a little more considerate?

Maybe “pissy” might be a better descriptor.

Most days I don’t dwell on it, but I can’t ignore any of this on Father’s Day weekend.

For some reason Father’s Day bothers me much more than Mother’s Day.

Bryon was the one who bought me gifts but he made it clear that they were from my daughter, not him. Bryon liked to add they were not from him because I wasn’t his mother. Though I know he said it because it annoyed me.

It seems kind of ironic.

By Bryon’s logic, Father’s Day shouldn’t bother me.

After all, he wasn’t MY father. My father is alive. And my Dad is awesome too.

My daughter doesn’t seem fazed. But maybe she will when she gets older and reflects. Or maybe not. I can’t dictate how her father’s death may or may not affect her.

Father’s day stirs up so many emotions for me.

It reminds me of Bryon’s absence.

It reminds me of all the dreams we didn’t accomplish as a family.

It reminds me that my daughter was supposed to have a sibling.

It reminds me that Bryon will never get to see his daughter grow up. He won’t see her get on the school bus when she goes to kindergarten or see her walk across the stage at her high school and college graduations. He won’t get to walk her down the aisle when she get’s married.

It reminds me that my daughter was cheated out of her years with her Father. She was cheated out of the one of the most important relationships a girl ever has.

Since Bryon died, I felt I had to be both parents for my daughter.

To be her mother and to fill the void left by her father.

But I came to the realization that I can’t be both her mother and father.

I am just her mother.

I can try to be an awesome, kick ass mother.

But I am not, nor will I ever be her Father.

It is one of my parenting goals for my daughter to grow up and think that despite her Father dying, she had a good childhood. I hope that is what she thinks though I can’t control what she thinks about her childhood.

I can only try to be the best Mother I can and help my daughter realize her authentic self.

I can spend time with her.

I can read to her and encourage her to read books.

I can do fun activities with her.

I can travel with her.

I can play with her.

I can teach her things.

I can cook with her.

I can provide her with the best opportunities available.

I can take her to sports practices and go to her games.

I can take her shoe shopping. She loves shoe shopping.

One day I will have to teach her about all the things that come with being a woman.

But the one thing I can’t do is be her father.

Bryon gave her life and he loved her very much.

There will always be a hole there.

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #40

It’s Friday! You know what that means. Time for some good vibrations gratitude.

This week I am starting something new.

I am inviting you join me on Good Vibration Gratitude Fridays!

Exciting, right?

You are probably wondering how you get in on the action.

It’s easy! If you are grateful for something, please either comment below or share a pic of what you are grateful for on Instagram with the hashtag #goodvibrationsgratitude

Also feel free to follow me on Instragram at @kerrymckim

Here is what I am grateful for this week.

  1. Hallmark Christmas Movies

    Though I don’t advise actually playing this game.  You will be lucky if you make it 20 minutes.

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  2. Children’s Grief Awareness

    I did not know that there was a month dedicated to this but I am grateful that there is.  At first I thought that my daughter’s predicament was rare but then I thought about it.  First there was my daughter.

    And several friends who told me that they lost a parent at her age.

    And I have widow friends with children.

    And my mother lost her brother when she was a child so that would mean she and her siblings were affected (even though her youngest sibling wasn’t born yet, I do feel that siblings can feel a sense of loss even if the sibling died before they were born.)

    And my best friend lost her mother when she was a child.

    And the sad thing, I can go on with more examples of families within a first degree who have experienced loss.  This is much more common than we think.

    So if you are/were a child that is grieving or are close to a child that is grieving, they are not alone.

    Please be supportive to grieving children and their caregivers and families.

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  3. Attending a political rally

    Last weekend I took my daughter to her first political rally.  She enjoyed the experience though she told me that some people were too loud and hurt her ears.

  4. Voting

    While the New York elections did not go the way I wanted, I do appreciate that we have a right to vote.

    I have always brought my daughter to vote with me.  It is important for her to grow up seeing the process.  I voted around 5:30 pm and it looked like they were running low on stickers but we got one.  And I made sure to post this pic on social media because I heard votes only count if you post a picture with your sticker on social media.

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  5. My parents visit this week.

    My parents came out this week to help me pack up stuff and my Dad fixed a few things around the house.  Most importantly, the elevator on Barbie’s Dream House.

    I didn’t get any pictures except my instragram picture from the 99.  We always go to the 99 because we are #newenglandAF

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    What are you grateful for this week?

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Happy third birthday in Heaven

Today’s post will be a quick post.  I just wanted to share a few photos on how we celebrated Bryon’s birthday.

His birthday is exactly one week after his deathaversary but I try not to dwell too much on his deathaversary.  I prefer to celebrate the fact that he had lived.

My daughter and some friends released balloons at the cemetery.

“Table Top” in the grass.  Nice to see gymnastics class pay off.

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Balloon-Release!

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UP…

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…UP…

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…And AWAY!!!!

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I am sure he enjoyed them. Especially when I got in the car and one of his favorite songs came on.  He saves this one for birthdays and happy occasions.

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After the cemetery, we had dinner at one of Bryon’s favorite restaurants, Swifty’s.

I enjoyed my first Sam oktoberfest.

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I don’t care if it’s still August.  It’s been a hot summer and the humidity has been wicked.  I am so over it.

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I love these people.  They have stayed with me through thick and thin.  Of course, a few were unable to attend and we missed them.

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I feel like I should write something more profound but between the fact that last week was Bryon’s deathaversary and this week is his birthday and my birthday tomorrow, my head kind of feels like it is going to explode.  I have been emotional and cried a lot but I am okay.

The good news is that I am leaving on a birthday girls trip tomorrow but I have a lot of things to do between now and then.

So this post is going to have to be enough.

Thanks for reading along.

Choices

Here it today’s bit of Kerry McKim Wisdom-

Your life is the aftereffect of all the choices you have made.

Boom.

The first major decision in my life was in the Spring of 1993.

It was a period of high fashion consisting of blazers, floral dresses, choker necklaces, boots and scrunchies.

(Okay, that kind of sounds like right now.)

An era was ending as Cheers had their last call.

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And Zack and the gang graduated from Bayside High.

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I was finishing up my eight grade year at Cyril D. Locke Middle School in Billerica, MA and I was preparing to begin my freshman year at Billerica Memorial High School.

My father had worked for the U.S. Postal Service since 1977, the year before I was born.  He had worked in Suburban Boston and he had been promoted to the position of Postmaster.

But there was a catch.

He would be the Postmaster of Little Deer Isle, ME.

So we were going to be moving five hours away to coastal Maine.

I would not be going to high school at Billerica Memorial High School.

I had been bullied in middle school so I wasn’t particularly sad about leaving.  But it was still a period of uncertainty.

The population of Billerica, MA in 1990 was 37,609 and the population of Little Deer Isle, ME in 2000 (couldn’t locate the number for 1990) was 251.

My father had to start his new position immediately so he would work in Maine during the week and come back to Massachusetts on the weekends to see us and to pack up and sell our house.

My father went to the local high school which was on the larger neighboring island of Deer Isle (connected to Little Deer Isle by a causeway) and the school was grades 7-12 with a school population of  about 150.  The guidance counselor of the school was up front with my father and said that there was a high chance that the students wouldn’t accept me because I was not a native of this island.  The guidance counselor recommended that he send me to a larger high school on the mainland because I would have a better chance of fitting in.  She gave my father the course catalogs for her high school as well as the three closest high schools on the mainland.

My father took my guidance counselors concerns seriously. He brought home those course catalogs and told me to look them over which I did.  Then I made my decision.  I told my father I wanted to go to Ellsworth High School.

My decision was based partly on intuition and partly because Ellsworth High School had the better catalog.  (Take away- listen to your gut and marketing matters).

The high school I chose was the furthest away geographically from Little Deer Isle but my mother also wanted to live closer to Ellsworth because there were more stores (i.e. civilization).

As my high school years passed, it was clear that I had made the right decision.  Each school had a reputation and I knew I wouldn’t have fit into schools labeled “crunchy” and “granola”.  (Not that there is anything wrong with that.  It just wasn’t me.)   I fit in the best at my high school, which had the reputation of being a “jock” school. I fit in, even though my classmates teased me (good-naturedly) for having a Boston accent.

My choice of high school affected the friends I made, some of which I am still friends with to this day.  My choice in high school affected my studies because I had some great teachers who exposed me to Broadway musicals, the French language and the concept that the world was a very large and fascinating place.  I also had some not so great teachers that turned me off to math and science.  (I don’t know what high school Kerry would think if she knew that in her 30s, she would go back to school for a degree that required Anatomy and Physiology.  I wish I could tell my younger self that she was smarter than she thought she was and capable of much more than she thought).

My choice in high school affected my social life.  I had to chose between staying busy with sports and work or hanging out in the Burger King parking lot.  Or partying in a gravel pit.  Though I wasn’t cool enough to party in a gravel pit.  I made the choice to run cross country and track, tutor students and participate in French Club.  I also made the choice to participate in class activities like prom committee and I raised money for the Chem-Free party on graduation night.  I also made the choice to work part-time at Shop N Save (now Hannaford).

I definitely left high school with a certain set of experiences that my eight grade self would never have foreseen me having.

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“Mormons or Lobster” A sign in Ellsworth, Maine.

My next major decision was college.  I actually felt like I had less of a choice in choosing a college due to financial constraints.  My older brother had attended college at University of Maine at Orono (UMO) which was a little over an hour away.  I knew if I attended UMO that I would live there for a semester or two and then move home to save money.  I did not want that.

I wanted to be in the city.  Any city.  And if I couldn’t be in Boston, Portland was going to do.  That is how I wound up at the University of Southern Maine.  (USM)

High school had been a learning experience and a culture shock as I adjusted from Suburban Boston to Rural Maine.  But college was definitely more of a shock as I was exposed to so many different ideologies and lifestyles that I had not been used to.  Like high school, I made friends.  Some of which I am still friends with.

I made the choice to study abroad in England the Fall of my junior year.  I almost didn’t apply because I had had a rough year my sophomore year.  I remember telling my father that I couldn’t keep it together here so going to England was probably a bad idea.  My father said that he thought that three months away from USM might be exactly what I needed.  I chose to listen to him and listening to him was one of the best decisions of my life.

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Canada looks really good.  A sign we saw on our way to Ottawa in 2011.

My life had became a series of choices, even if they didn’t feel like choices at the time.

The choice to finish college.

The choice to enter a romantic relationship.

The choice to not return to England after graduation because I had a new boyfriend. (Stupid, stupid, stupid!)

The choice of employment.

The choice of friends and associations.

The choice of my living situations and roommates.

The choice to end my romantic relationships.

The choice to move back home.

The choice to pursue a new career.

The choice to go back to college.

The choice to get involved in politics.

The choice to join the Young Republicans.

The choice to start dating that younger guy in New York even if it didn’t make sense.

The choice to move to New York.

The choice to accept a marriage proposal.

The choice to buy a house.

The choice to start a family.

Where we are in life is based on the results of choices we have made.

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Everything in your life is based on a decision you have made or haven’t made.

However, these decisions have no guarantees.  Good decisions don’t always yield good results.  A good decision may have catastrophic results while a bad decision may surprisingly yield a very positive result.

Sometimes shitty things happen to good people.  We can’t control external factors.

But you always have to make the choice as to how you react to the shitty situation.

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This realization is overwhelming to me.  I used to view life as a series of events that happened to me and that everything was left to chance.

(So I guess Green Day was wrong in Good Riddance when they say that time grabs you by the wrist and directs you where to go…)

I did not realize how much of a role I played in my own life.

This realization comes to be at a time when my life in a crossroads.

In some ways, this scares the shit out of me.

The stable life that I knew is gone.  I have spent the last two years of my life reeling from what happened and I have been struggling to make sense of it.  I have been trying to figure out this “new normal” even though I yearned for the “old normal”.

I had always been one of those people who always had a “two-year plan”, a “five-year plan”, a “ten year plan” and a “twenty-five year plan.”  Now I barely have a “two-week” plan.

My need to have plans was because I didn’t like living in the present so escaped to the future.  But when the future became the present, I would escape further into the future.  I learned the hard lesson that the I need to be in the present because the future that you look forward to may not be there.

I do notice a change in how I choose to live in my life.  I choose to spent less time worrying.  I choose to surround myself with good people and let go of those who treat me poorly.

I choose to try to experience as much as a I can because we aren’t all guaranteed to make it to old age.   Bryon didn’t even make it to middle age.

But I have spent the last two years existing, trying to live even if, at times, I was just going through the motions.  I can’t stay in this state forever.  I am going to need to choose how I am going to live the remainder of my years.

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And I have no clue what the future is going to bring.

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #29

It’s Friday and it is time for some Good Vibrations Gratitudes.  And usually, this is a fun post giving thanks to all the good things that happened to me during the week.

But this weeks post is going to be a little different.  I hope you “bear” with me.  (See what I did there?)

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The truth is that my heart has been pretty heavy this week.

On Monday morning I heard the song Fire and Rain by James Taylor.  Obviously, I had heard the song many times before but for some reason, the song stuck out to me.

I had arrived home and saw that I had a message from my friend Charlotte.

(You met her here).  Charlotte is an old friend from high and Charlotte is not her real name.   I try not to use the names of the living in my blog so my friends get blog names.  Her name is Charlotte because that was her French Class name and we sat next to each other in French class and she got stuck with me as a friend.

The text from Charlotte had devastating news.  She had heard that a high school friend Allison had passed away.  Being the detectives that we are, we looked for clues on social media.  We had nothing definite but I felt it in the pit of my stomach.

Finally, in the evening, we saw a post from her brother confirming the news we were fearing, that she had passed away.

Allison and I were friends in high school.  I always wondered why a girl who was so cool would want to be friends with the socially awkward, hyperverbal girl with a Boston accent (I had moved from the Boston area to Maine the summer before high school).

Obviously, we graduated from high school and lost touch in college.  It was an era before Facebook.

I saw her once in the mid 2000’s.  I was at Mass at our towns Catholic Church, St. Joe’s and she was there with her father.  We ran up to each other after Mass and hugged.

And I hadn’t seen her since.  We lost contact again.

I reconnected with her on Facebook shortly after Bryon died.  She came back into my life during my darkest days and she was my biggest cheerleaders when I was trying to pick up the pieces of my life.  I could always count on her to like all my lame pictures on Instagram.  I don’t know if she realized how much her kindness affected me.

I know I was just a drop in a bucket of all the people she touched and helped but I am really going to miss her.

It just doesn’t seem fair.  A group of us high school friends started talking about taking a trip to Quebec City to recreate the shenanigans from our French IV trip in 1996.  Now when we go, she won’t be there.

I was hoping to meet up with her.  I was in her area this spring and I thought about seeing if she was around but it was a bachelorette weekend.  It was busy and I was there for my friend who was getting married.  I decided I would try to meet up with her next time.

This is a harsh reminder that we don’t always get a next time.

Today is her funeral and I am sad that I won’t be able to attend to say good-bye.  I thought about it.  It would be doable if I dropped my daughter off at daycare when they open.  But being her only parent, I get nervous traveling three hours away.  What if something happened?

I thought about taking my daughter out of school that day and bringing her.  I asked her if she wanted to go to Pennsylvania for a funeral and or stay here and go to school.  She chose to go to school.  I can’t blame her.  She’s a few months short of 4 and has already been to more than her fair share of wakes and funerals.

I asked again, this time changing the inflection and tone of my voice to be all excited and I asked her if she wanted to go to Pennsylvania for a funeral and then I changed my tone to boring and asked if she wanted to stay here and go to school.  She still chose to go to school.  I can’t fool that girl.  She is so smart.

As one last Hail Mary, I looked at the map to see how close Bethlehem, PA was to Sesame Place.  Surely she would want to go to a funeral if we could do a side trip to Sesame Place but it was too far out of the way.

I wanted to go to support her family.  They are good people.  Her father had been our high school principal and her mother was a nurse.  Her siblings are great too.  I know they are going to have some dark days ahead.  Though I know that my presence wouldn’t lessen their pain. Not at all.

I admit, after my grandmother died, I thought I was unable to feel grief because I survived Bryon’s death.  But Allison’s death has hit me harder than I thought it would.

I don’t know why.

Maybe it’s because I am close to two years out from Bryon’s death and some of that numbness is going away.  I am starting to feel again.

Maybe it’s because with Bryon’s death, I was so involved that I didn’t get the opportunity to sit back and reflect about my own mortality at a young age.  I was too busy surviving and existing.  But with Allison’s death, I am removed enough to reflect on the fact that she is my age and she’s gone and people aren’t supposed to die this young.

I have been lucky that I have been able to lean on Charlotte and another friend.  We have all been leaning on each other.

But it leads me to another question- why does it take someone’s death to bring people closer together?  Why can’t it just be normal human behavior to appreciate people as a baseline? Why do we need to wait until a death and trauma to realize we care about people?

Then I started to wonder why the people with the brightest lights seem to get extinguished early.  Like Allison.  And Bryon.

At least I know that Heaven (or the Fifth Dimension, or the other side or wherever spirits go when they leave this world) must be a beautiful place.  Because people like Allison and Bryon are there.

(I did ask Bryon to give her a hug. So when a tall, handsome, smart and hysterically funny man from Upstate New York gives her hug, I hope she is not alarmed.)

So why am I writing this in my Gratitude Friday post?

I am writing about this because my heart feels heavy and I just don’t feel like writing and posting pictures of the scrunchies I saw in Wal-Mart even if I am grateful and excited that 90’s fashion has made a comeback.

When someone dies too soon, it is easy to dwell on the loss, but I am choosing to be grateful.

I am writing this post because I am truly grateful that Allison was in my life.

For befriending the socially awkward girl with the Boston accent and making her feel cool.

For the memories.

For sharing all her adventures on Instagram and letting us follow her along.

For being a light.

For filling the world with love.

For being an inspiration.

For sharing the struggles she overcame with honesty and grace.

For being a good example on how to live.

I am also grateful for this reminder to appreciate those in my life.

I am going to end this with the Prayer of St. Francis.  It feels fitting because she lived the message.  And because she loved animals and St. Francis was the Patron Saint of Animals.

prayer

Allison’s obituary