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Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Guest blogger: Hiking with Daryl

August 14, 2012

by Susan Garrett

Susan Garrett is a Hospice volunteer and a singer with the Threshold Choir

Mt Tamalpais The sleeping princess who does not sleep

I hiked up from my house to the open space high above Red Hill, switchbacking my way through Sorich Park to Tamalpais Cemetery. I was looking for something and I expected I would find it. As I walked, the rhythm of my gait, arms swinging, beat out a poem’s cadence, one I’d learned decades ago, that surfaces in me today:

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there; I do not sleep.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there; I did not die.

My feet crunch through late-summer eucalyptus leaves and I climb higher and higher until I begin to see the polished granite and onyx headstones of the Jewish Cemetery. Names are readable now: Irwin, Schneider, Haas, Goldberg, Stein, Gluck and hundreds of others. Stars of David and small photographs adorn many of the flat, cool surfaces. Chiseled lettering tells of a “Beloved wife and mother”… “Too quickly taken”… “Son, husband and cherished father,” “Holocost survivor.” Then I see what I came for. Red dirt, newly turned. It is heaped high next to a plank-board covering. (I’d wondered if they’d dig today, this being the Jewish Sabbath.) They did, for here it is, Daryl’s grave, made ready.

I begin singing Oseh Shalom without thinking to do this and now I’m trying to make the tune and the words come out right through my tears. I crumble into a squat but the singing keeps coming, stronger and more sure now. And that’s what is–me here at his grave, weeping. Weeping, even though I know better, know that he is not here–will never be here–will only ever be the fresh scent of bay and eucalyptus that blows through this space, the crunch of the leaves underfoot, the soil and rock and wood that are the materials he was so adept at working and shaping to create his art.

Thank you, Daryl, for coming into our lives when you did. And thank you for letting me stand at your grave and weep. You are mist, and…you are missed.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there; I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints on snow,

I am the sun on ripened grain,

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circling flight.

I am the soft star-shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there; I did not die.

~Mary Elisabeth Frye, 1932

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For Parents: Goodbye, Vermont

October 6, 2008

Vermont in the garden

Vermont in the garden

Just a couple of weeks ago, my dog, Vermont, (AKA You Da Dawg) died at age 16. He was a class act all the way and I’ll miss him… forever. I know, I know, everyone loves their dog. Dogs are awesome and we love them, in part, because they are so loving and forgiving and so damned loyal.

But this isn’t a eulogy and it’s not a teary-eyed post written to assuage my grief. Yes, I loved Vermont and our 15 years together as buddies is a treasure for which I’m very grateful. But the truth is, I’m not sad.

Sadness comes from loss for which there has been no preparation. People get stuck in grief when we can’t come to terms with reality because we don’t accept it as reality. A shocking loss can do that to you. Like when my dad died suddenly of a heart attack when he was 50 and I was 15. Because his death was such a complete break in reality for me, I experienced sadness that was so deep and overwhelming that I needed to build a protective barrier around the rim of it, lest I stumble in and never resurface.

But at some point, I created a gate in the barrier and I dove into the grief. (OK, I’ll be honest. I was pushed, but I’m glad of it.) I needed that submersion and I resurfaced stronger, more compassionate and more accepting of all aspects of reality… including death.

I also learned something that I’m happy to share with you. Here goes:

The relationships you have with the people and animals you love, will end. Either they will die or you will. If you fully accept that, then you can, without reservation, love everyone in your life more fully.

Here’s how that’s worked for me… 14 years ago my mom was diagnosed with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease) It’s fatal and uncurable. It’s also a bitch for the patient. As my mom said, “It’s like my world is shrinking and I just get to watch.” At the time of her diagnosis, the neurologist put it this way, “Other than AIDS, this is the worst diagnosis I could give anyone. Have a nice weekend.” (I kid you not!)

Fortunately, since that time in 1994, people living with HIV/AIDS in countries where the health care system provides them with the latest life-extending drugs have been managing their infections with much better results. So maybe that neurologist would now move ALS up to “the worst.”

Anyway, I digress… the point is, my mom got her diagnosis at the end of May that year and on Christmas Eve she died.

Were those last 7 months terrible? Oh, yes. Without question, they were the worst times I’ve ever lived through. I was physically strained and emotionally stretched and continuously devoured inside with dread and anxiety. What’s also true is that during those 7 months, I loved my mom every minute I was with her. I gave her my best and didn’t hold back. In return, she gave me her best.

So when she died, I was relieved that her suffering was over. And, to my surprise, I found myself calm and peaceful and whatever else you call the absence of grief.

We adopted Vermont 6 months before my mom was diagnosed. When she got her diagnosis and I accepted the reality of what that meant, I chose to love her fully for as much time as we had left together. At the same time, I accepted that my relationship with my new dog and with David and our kids was also going to end. And so I decided that I’d love those close to me with the same “Now is all we’ve got” approach.

Vermont died in our arms. We buried him in a spot in our side yard that you can see from the living room window. We planted a liquid amber tree over his grave. The leaves are starting to turn.

Liquid gold. Liquid love. Free flowing. No holding back.

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , — Annie @ 1:54 pm
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