Monthly Archives: October 2013

Whispers in the Heart


Over the weekend Julia and I were playing with her doctor kit. A well worn green bag filled with a plastic thermometer that registers “frowny face” or “happy face” instantly pronouncing someone as sick or well; a plastic Band-Aid to fix any scratch or scrape and of course a rubber stethoscope with a foam circle to place upon your chest to hear your beating heart. Julia one day hopes to be a doctor to mommies, babies and “nice animals” which I believe means no snakes! 🙂 But she was playing kind doctor to my ill patient and gently placed the stethoscope on my chest to “listen” to my heart. She affected a look of surprise and shock, mouth forming an “oh” as I started to speak and she said in a hushed voice, “Shh, shh…I think I can hear Daddy talking in your heart” And my heart skipped a beat, maybe three, because I thought for a second that maybe she did. Maybe through the plastic Fisher Price stethoscope Wesley’s voice could be heard to her. And what would he say? Probably “Hi Little Spiffy!” one of his many funny nicknames for our funny little girl.

Recently Julia has started asking if we can save things for Daddy. A coconut doughnut, a book he might like to read, a picture she colored of our house. She wants to keep these physical things to give Daddy when we get to Heaven. Like an earthly scrapbook of our time at mortal “summer camp” to give him when we are reunited in the celestial realm of Heaven. I think it is to show him that as we pray he will not forget us, we are not forgetting him either. I try to remember him in the blissful days; the happy breakfasts at Palace Bakery, bleary eyed from sleep deprivation as a new young family in Atlanta, late nights staying up playing cards or just talking about what we dreamed about for our lives, the exactly look on his nervous face as he stammered, “Will You Marry Me?” in our dingy apartment as we decorated the Christmas tree in 2002, the ring dangling from an ornament hook. I cling to those memories when others, specifically the morning of March 30, start to creep in and I’m once again scared and confused.

I worry that having Wesley so present in our home confuses Julia. If you walked in our house his footprint and presence is everywhere. His clothing is in the closets and dresser drawers, his briefcase is on the bench by the door where he left it every day, in many ways he is still here.  I have made some changes with a new light fixture in the dining room and foyer and other small details but I find peace in feeling that Wesley and specifically his things surround us. It lends itself to talking about him to see his things around us. He worked hard, We worked hard to have the life we were living and I cherish his crisp Brooks Brothers shirts with the collar and cuffs starting to fray, the Happy Everything plate he bought me for what would be the last Mother’s Day spent together, the brown leather saddle shoes he tied onto his feet every day.

I have his shaving cream, the last can he bought on the bathroom counter. I relish the sweet smell that filled the bathroom each morning as Wesley shaved his face, a well honed routine that I could almost replicate by memory from watching the razor glide across his face. The way he puffed his upper lip to avoid cutting it. Maybe every man does it that way, but I did not watch every man shave; I watched Wesley. When the shaving cream is gone, I can buy another but it will not be his. Wesley’s hand will not have touched it, his thumb gently pressing the button as shaving creme fills his strong and comforting hand. It will remind me, but not bear the same meaning, I fear. All these comforting things and thoughts are precious because they are a reminder of our life that sometimes feels eons ago.

As Julia quiets me, her finger to my lips to hear Daddy speaking in my heart, I too strain to silence my mind and listen. I’m seeking Wesley’s wise council, his sure and steady hand on my heart and yearning to hear the quietest of whispers.


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Dragon Scales


In October of last year Wesley bought Julia a DVD of Pete’s Dragon. Not one of Disney’s most successful films, but the sweet urchin Pete and his imaginary dragon Elliott are pretty cute. Julia did not discover the movie until recently and now is hooked because like many things that Daddy did with her or bought her, it is raised to a place of special importance. That she can turn to me and say with a sly smile, “You know, Daddy bought me this movie, Mommy” pleases her greatly.

But, I’m finding myself turning a bit chartreuse lately. The green-eyed monster of envy and jealous is raising its scaly and hideous head and I’m finding myself breathing fiery ill-tempered words and raising my voice with threats and ultimatums. I’m jealous of happy couples I see holding hands, fingers tightly linked, as I did 7 months ago; I’m envious of fathers with their daughter perched on their shoulders as Wesley and Julia did earlier this year; I want to screw my ears shut when I hear couples arguing about trivial matters like who should fold the laundry even though it is a debate that seemed just as critical to me in February and March. Incidentally, I was laughing as I folded laundry earlier this week how it drove me crazy, and I mean CRAZY, that Wesley always folded his shirts, socks and other clothing first from the clean laundry pile. I fold clothes more willy nilly style; a shirt here, some socks there…but Wesley was much more methodical and I used to complain, “Just grab something and FOLD IT! Stop subdividing the piles!” But that was his way and as much as it drove me crazy, it worked.

I am finding myself jealous of people who are in a better emotional place than I am. I don’t want the knowledge and heartache I have nestled in my chest and I yearn again for that blissful ignorance of mortality and death and the fallacy that it could not happen to me, to us. 

In my dragon-y grumpiness I find that the irony is that the person I’m the most envious of is the young blonde girl who I’m most fiercely trying to shield and protect from this heartache and sorrow. I’m terribly jealous of Julia. She has such a clear and beautiful understanding of Wesley’s death and life and the love we shared. She is the bright light in dark places for me and I’m daily completely gutted by her simple and pure faith and her unquestioning determination. But there is a part of me that is, well envious. I struggle to find that peace and grace feeling instead to be frustrated, angry and just overwhelmed by the sheer senselessness of it. I do not wish anything that I’m feeling to be rained upon her, but how can she see the goodness and purity when I can only see the unfairness of it all?

Julia is mystified by my sorrow surrounding missing Wesley. As I’ve said before, she talks to him throughout the day and in her words, “When I’m sad or scared, I pray to Daddy to keep us safe in everything I do. And we are safe.” Daddy keeps us safe from Heaven because he can see everything and everyone and keeps us from harm. I presume this is while he does his “job” in Heaven which according to Julia is “hopping on the clouds with God, Jesus and Mary to make it rain.” This also is apparently the job of pop star Amy Winehouse, who somehow Julia knows lives in Heaven, as well. 

I’m captivated by Julia’s brown eyes, dark and kind like her father’s, as she tries to explain to her weeping mother to “Just try it mommy. Just try praying to Daddy.” So, I try. I stretch my back to shed the stiff and uncomfortable scales of anger and bitterness from my shoulders, I breathe in and out, not spitting fire but warm soft breath that comforts and soothes and I blink my eyes, their color changing from a sickening green to soft hazel again. I pray for guidance, pray for comfort and pray for us left here who seek understanding. Although some seem to understand well enough already. 

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Helping Hands

My Little Elf

My Little Elf

Recently Julia and I have started the transition between her “helping” me with chores around the house and truly being a partner who can competently fold laundry and put it away in her drawer, make her bed and have it actually look better after she is done and assisting with other little tasks. Maybe some of you are thinking, “Hey, my child has been doing that for months, years even…” That is great, but we didn’t. When Wesley was alive it was faster to do everything ourselves and so that is what we did. Magically the good fairy silently put away Julia’s clothes, books and toys but things have changed and I realize I cannot do everything by myself any longer.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” has been asked of me possibly hundreds of times since Wesley passed away by people whom I considered bosom friends and by men and women that I have not seen in 15 years. I have been so comforted with love and support but always felt a bit guilty that I could not think of what help I needed when people asked. I would sheepishly say, “No thank you, we are doing OK.” Although that was not quite honest because I did need help, I just was not sure what anyone could do to ease this pain or to relate to me because widowhood can feel tremendously isolating at times. I have found that as time passed that I have amended my answer to that familiar question. Now I’m more likely to say,  “I don’t know.” Because I truly don’t. I cannot wrap my head around the fact that this familial trio is now a duo and the ways in which I need support morphs and changes like an ever changing shadow upon the floor. Some days I need to talk, cry, rage at the heavens but other days are not as dramatic and I just want someone with whom to get dinner. My not knowing is not the same thing as saying, “No, I do not want your help” so I implore that people not mistake my meaning. I need the help and love of friends and family today and for a long time after and what that help looks like changes daily.

People I have known all my life and others who I may never meet face to face have offered love, support, prayers and copious amounts of food. Because here in the South that is what we do in times of sadness, we bake for others and through this love offering we pour our hearts and tears into pound cake batter, bowls of chicken salad and other food wordlessly dropped on the kitchen counters of those who grieve. I will always remember and cherish those who came in the early days and the long days to come after Wesley died, and those who still reach out their hands to touch my heart. To give in this way is a tangible way to help, and help it does. Even this past week a friend who selflessly watched Julia all afternoon ended our visit by rushing to my car saying, “I made 3 pans of baked ziti and we’ll never eat it all. Take a pan home with you? ” And I did, because the act of cooking is still hard for me. There are just too many leftovers in the casserole dish and I don’t yet know how to make enough for just Julia and me.

In some ways, this post is a letter of appreciation to the people who have been there, not just physically, but from across many miles and some who are continents away. The men and women who have helped in so many ways, more than my limited vocabulary could express. Friends that I can call sobbing because well, it is Tuesday or  I just discovered a book that Wesley bought Julia without me knowing hiding in a plastic bag buried in the closet;  a colleague who meets with one of the alumni I work with as I could not travel and leave Julia in April; Wesley’s friends who keep me and Julia close and a part of their social group. I have felt the love of friends and family engulfing us and even if I cannot always summon the words of gratitude, my heart overflows.

We are often in the thoughts and prayers of others I’m told and I love the image of prayers being lifted for me and my family forming a celestial web creating some hammock-like comfort to Julia and me. I engage in many crafty hobbies: I sew, I knit, I cross stitch so perhaps the image of thoughts, prayers, hopes being woven together, knitted and purled on some heavenly loom is fitting to my minds eye. I feel comforted, warm and secure in the love that surrounds me and in moments of sadness or despair I only need took to my left and right and see the company of friends and family waiting anxiously to help. Their helping hands linked together to offer support and cradle us in their kind embrace.    

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