Routine is supposed to be especially important when you’ve suffered the loss of a parent. The ritual of our days, centering mostly around school, hold us in the way familiar things can seem to embody hope. Breakfast is more important than it was before, brushing our teeth together is better than rushing to bed. We have ordinary time together, so there is hope for extraordinary times of happiness ahead.
I’ve been noticing how Terry’s absence effects the kids in quiet ways. She always clothed them in her light, always found ways to coax giggles out of them. These days there’s a little less shine to each of them. I’ve surrendered to the idea that there is just a place of sorrow for us, we’ll have to visit there as we will. I’m trying to let myself journey there when I need to, resisting it a little less.
I have added a nightly wrestling match to our routine when we sleep up at the cob, if Papa’s back is doing OK. Well really the kids have added wrestling … more surrender for me! I had to split it into two separate bouts after they started coordinating their attacks.
“True – grab Daddy’s ears hard, I’ll get him in an arm lock!”
“YEEAAAAAAHHHHHHHH – CANNONBALL!!!!”
True has clearly learned her self restraint skills from her big brother.
Now each child gets to choose who they want to wrestle with or (in True’s case) if she wants just to show us her latest hardcore dance moves. This starts with her queueing up Joan Jett & The Black Hearts, Reputation, and then totally freaking out with every guitar solo, flipping across the bed like Jonny Rotten being electrocuted. If she doesn’t dance she combines gymnastics with face kicks and fisticuffs. My wrestling time with Tadg is much more brutish and less entertaining to watch.
After wrestling comes reading then cuddling. True favors the tome of Princess stories her birth sisters gave to her (we’re lucky enough to have contact with them – its especially important now), while Tadg and I are working our way through Harry Potter. I delight in how much cuddle time Tadg still likes. Its a good time to check in about missing Momma.
The kids didn’t really get to say goodbye to Momma, though Terry wrote them a beautiful letter. Terry didn’t say goodbye to so many of us. Every ounce of her energy was devoted to surviving, she would allow no distractions or possible intrusions. By the time she had finally surrendered to dying she had no energy for goodbyes, no more time left. Her focus was so intense.
I know a lot of people were hurt by that. How could she walk away from so many people who loved her without saying goodbye? I really feel she knew love would outstretch all of that, that hello’s and goodbyes were nothing in the presence of the love she shared with her family and community. She knew she was safe in everyone’s hearts, especially true for me and the kids. I’m good with that now. Closure is highly overrated. My Dad didn’t believe it really existed at all, I think he was right.
Holding onto love is much better.
One thing she didn’t get to say though, is thank you, I think she would have wanted to do that.
Giving surrounded us throughout her illness. I can’t count the number of times I broke down crying at the generosity that carried us for the 14 months of this journey. I cried in the car, at the grocery store, in the coffee shop, in the garden etc etc etc. Terry would look up at me when someones name appeared on GoFundMe campaign and just start crying. When you go through this you realize you are truly surrounded by saints all the time. Of course I forgot to mention any of that at Terry’s memorial, I had been running on fumes for weeks, I could barely tie my shoes. Thankfully Terry’s niece and nephew Richard and Lyndsey Boswell spoke up.
“For those of you who gave to support Terry’s treatment, please remember that everything you gave went towards giving Terry and the kids more time together. Every day, every minute meant the world to them.”
Thankfully Richard Boswell. Now he stops by to spend time at Terry’s grave when he’s in the area for a NASCAR race and sends us a photo. The kids know they are always in his heart. Tadg gets to go hunting with him this year. Thankfully Richard.
Thankfully Lyndsey Boswell. She started and ran the Go Fund Me campaign that raised so much for Terry. The Lacrosse team she coaches raised money for us. The many people who she touched reached out to us. I could spend months writing cards and never get to everyone. She also brought her sweet presence to Terry in any way she could, encouraging her, loving her. Thankfully Lyndsey.
Thankfully Lindsey brought her fiancé Jeff. Together they made a beautiful stone patio for Terry to rest on and a retaining wall to keep her new cob art studio in place. One day I remember Jeff and Lyndsey went to feed the horses down the road I’d been looking after. The owner couldn’t afford enough hay so I made up the difference. I pulled around the corner and thought “who is that couple, they’re glowing like the sun?” They brought that glow to everything they did for us. Thankfully Lindsey & Jeff.
Thankfully Terry’s sister Patti & the Harris clan. Of course Patti was the one who brought Nona out, stayed out, cleaned and cared for the kids, and helped me feed the family when I worked less. I know Patti wanted to be with Terry at the end more than anyone else, and that didn’t happen. Words can’t bridge that, but I know their sisters love can. Terry loved the Harris clan so, its hard that she didn’t get to spend more time with them in recent years. A second child and a graduate degree kept her here. Thankfully Patti & the Harris clan.
Thankfully Nona. It was so hard watching her walk through the house, every day hurting so bad for her girl. No mother wants to see their children suffer, at over 96 years old it must have been agony. When Terry first decided which clinic she wanted to go to there was a very large bill to take care of. Nona was the first chunk in the pot for her youngest girl. She showed up and gave all she had, we are so grateful for her presence and example of strength. Thankfully Nona.
Thankfully Terry’s sister Mary Boswell. A few days before Terry passed the kids started to accidently call Mary Momma. It was sweet, but I know it cut us both deep. We had just grown so used to leaning on Mary, what else was there to call her? Mary gave up so many months of her life to be with her sister and care for the kids she had essentially moved in. She paid into Terry’s treatment more than any single person had a right to, raised more money than I thought humanly possible, traveled to the clinic with Terry and was always there when needed. At the end of every day I’m sure she asked herself if there was just one more thing she could do to help cure her sister. Surely her life still carries the burden of all she and her husband Dickie sacrificed. The work we did together for so long will always be etched on my soul, and I will be forever inspired by her. Thankfully Mary and the entire Boswell clan.
Thankfully my family. John Jr. & Sheila didn’t often agree with Terry’s care choices, but they gave without restraint when it meant the most to us, without hesitation. Thankfully my Dads hard work made that all possible. I knew when things got bad I wanted the kids to feel as deeply connected to as many family members as possible. The kids have arms and families to hold them back east, and a wonderful family up and down the left coast. Jack, Max, Risa, Shea & John are a second home for the kids to visit down South. We’ve had to start calling Jack “the beloved” because the kids are so ecstatic when he stops by. Siobhan, Don & Titan are a second family close by, who have suffered their own losses and carry their own wisdom for me and the kids. We’ll be visiting grandma Sheila soon to bask in grandma’s love and make the short trip to visit Momma’s grave. Sheila called almost every night, giving me the strength I needed to face the road ahead, not to mention paying for a cleaner to come by once a wee to help me keep up with everything! Thankfully the Flynns.
Thankfully Terry’s friends from back East – Licia, Lynne, Josephine, Eileen, Karen and so many others who showed up to wash floors, garden and lift Terry’s spirit. Terry was always happiest when surrounded by her friends, there was a sisterhood there that fed a part of her spirit few other things could touch. I am thankful especially for Licia who texted Terry almost every day, who never lost touch, who never let her strength fade from Terry’s day. She was there when we both needed her most. Thankfully Powerful Women!
Thankfully those who cared for our spirits. From the first time Terry faced cancer (this was a second bout) Michael Harner, Susan Mokelke, Lora Jansson, Ann Riley, Terry Stokkes and many others worked on her behalf. Lora was there with me, on the other end of the phone through so many trials, right up to the end and beyond. Terry’s niece Katie is even now working on keepsake blankets for the kids, woven from Terry’s clothes. Shams carried us all through the memorial effortlessly. Its so easy to forget how much spirit feeds us through these difficult times. Thankfully to our many layered spirit community.
Thankfully school. I’m one of those parents who (in the past) dragged themselves to school events. My own school experience was regularly traumatic, and ultimately a source of great sadness in my life. Ever since we started at Santa Cruz Montessori that wound has been fading. I joke with other parents about the “Montessori therapy” we’re all going through watching our kids flourish. To be a part of a community that sees your children’s spirits and supports them is too rare a gift today, we found that at SCMS. All of that happened BEFORE they found out Terry was ill. Thats when the real caring began. Some days it felt like not only were there mothering arms in every class for my kids, it felt like there were arms surrounding their every steps. I knew a village, one that I could not have imagined possible, was there to hold them no matter what happened. Their teachers came to our home to spend time with them, they were here after Terry’s death. The kids received free care. There was one hug for Tadg that was the hug to end all hugs on his first day back after Momma died. My kids are still ambulatory today because of that magical place. Thankfully SCMS.
Thankfully community. That school gave birth to a large part of our community that continues on after children have moved on. Shad & Willow have made a sleepover haven for both the kids. Leah & Chris were always there for all of us. Elizabeth gave and gave and gave. And there is more beyond that – the magic that is Lora & Diane Sunseri with Al to hold us all. Vicki from camp Kennolyn for giving the kids (True especially) perhaps the best summer camp experience ever. GoFundMe community stretched on and on and on. In fact they’re probably the reason I’ve waited so long to write this, I know I can never thank everyone! Thankfully Beezwax Datatools who seemed to know just when I needed to bend, and made room for that. A company that is worthy of being listed not under “work” but under community. Our fearless president Julian Nadel who never stopped giving, feeding, supporting us. Thankfully community.
Thankfully anonymous you’s. There was a person, not exactly anonymous but I believe they would want to be anonymous here, who sent me a check for 10k, essentially clearing the medical debt we had accrued on our credit card. BOOM! It was gone like that. I cried a lot that day. I have a lot of people behind me, but being a single Dad with 2 kids, paying off 10k in credit card debt was not in my playbook. I can never thank that person enough. There were 100’s of anonymous BOOMs like that, of different sizes throughout our journey. They filled my tank with gas when I drove to the clinic in Tijuana. They paid for valuable medicine and treatment that extended Terry’s life. The greater web of support for us was always silent, anonymous, invisible, but also invincible. Thankfully anonymous.
Thankfully the spirits. Shamanism helps you live, and shamanism helps you die. Terry was clear on where she was going, her path to the next world. We can’t always accept that death is a natural phase of our lives, but the spirits see this so clearly. They hold us in all of our frailty, in our strength, in our sickness and health. Thankfully the spirits to carry us on this journey. See Carried for more on that.
Of course I’ve missed someone. If its you, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know. I’ll make sure I get it right.
We were not able to save Terry, and that hurts more than anyone I know can tell. It was not for lack of trying, I know every person I came into contact with gave all they could and then some. I can’t thank you for saving her, but we can thank you for sustaining us, for lifting us, making the indelible mark of your caring on us. And I can thank you for the glow my children still have, for a little more breathing room so that the love Terry planted in all of us can bloom and flourish.
Know that tonight my kids will attack me with glee before bedtime, and you are all at least a little responsible for their boundless joy.