Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Spring in my Step

Spring seems especially beautiful to me this year. The greens are so vivid, the whites so bright and the blooms so bountiful. Daily, I marvel at the colors. In just a two block area of my regular running route, there are numerous dogwoods, the most fragrant lilac bush and a patch of multi-colored tulips that stretches for a third of a block. I drink it in every time I go by there and smile at the taste. I’ve always enjoyed spring, but this year I have reveled in it and rejoiced at its beauty. For the last couple of weeks, I have relished each day and felt truly alive. Joyous even. My heart hasn’t been this light in months, and I rather like it.

I’ve always liked spring and the way it washes away winter’s bitterness, but this year I seem to have a better appreciation for the beauty and hope that it brings. Some of it may be due to the harshness of this past winter, and viewing it through the narrowness of a camera lens has certainly helped. But I think the biggest reason I am feeling spring so deeply this year is because of where I’m at in my grief over Sissy’s death.

April 21st will mark the first anniversary of her suicide. That’s one week from now. In recent weeks, I’ve tried not to think about that date much. It hovers in the back of my mind, though. It’s always there, running through my brain during quiet times. Like in the morning darkness when I’m walking the dog and the neighborhood is asleep. Or at night when I lay in bed in the room where she used to sleep. I rarely cry during those times. Mostly I just feel regret for the way her life ended and for the way our relationship withered near the end. I find myself sighing a lot during those times.

I can’t believe a year has already passed. Time has flown, but I’ve made a lot of progress in recovering from her decision to leave us. The tears only come when I stumble across a certain family photo or hear a particular song. There is a song we sing in church sometimes, Spirit Song, which makes me think of Sissy and choke up. The words in that song are the wish I held for her for so long before she died.

O let Him have those things that hold you
And His Spirit like a dove
Will descend upon your life
And make you whole

O give Him all your tears and sadness
Give Him all your years of pain
And you'll enter into life
In Jesus' name

It’s kind of ironic that we sang it this past Sunday.

Suicide usually leaves families asking why. Why did the person do it? Why wasn’t their family enough? I don’t have to ask why Sissy killed herself. I know why. She couldn’t stand the pain of losing her son. I’m convinced she started dying the day her son died. She spent nine long years trying to swim out of the grief and never could. She finally let the waves take her. That’s an answer I don’t have to search for, and for that I’m grateful. That knowledge allows me to move forward and keeps me from being angry about her decision.

A few months ago, someone asked me, “Don’t you wish you could have her back?” I can’t comfortably answer that because she’s at peace now, and she often told me she just wanted to be at peace. The decision to live or die was hers to make, not mine. I’m not condoning what she did. I just don’t judge her too harshly. I miss her with all my heart, but having her here in pain would be selfish of me. The reality is I had prepared myself for her death months before she actually died. It didn’t lesson the pain of her death, but it started my grieving process long before she jumped from that bridge.

Some of her behaviors in the last months of her life caused us to separate ourselves from her for our emotional and physical well being. That decision caused a lot of angry feelings toward us by other family members and we are still dealing with their anger. That is painful, but I do not regret our decision to stop enabling Sissy to succumb to the demons of her illnesses. In the past year I have accepted that I don’t have to have anyone’s approval for our decisions. I just have to live with the consequences. We simply try very hard not to say or do anything to cause any more pain to people in our family and avoid situations that might erupt in harsh words. I wish some family members would do the same. They don’t. I have a lot of conversations with God about this.

Suicide leaves a wide wake of pain in its path. It’s a unique grief. People don’t know what to say, so they avoid talking about it period. It’s a lonely grief. I’d say this branch of the Hula-gen’s has done about as well as we can with it. It has certainly accelerated Papa T.’s dementia. I worry about the lasting effects all of this will have on Teen Angel and we suffer from “always waiting for the other shoe to drop” syndrome. Once you’ve had a deputy at your door in the middle of the night, you tend to expect bad news all the time, especially when you have ailing parents. But all in all, we’ve done a great deal of healing. We can tell funny stories about Sissy and laugh. We can talk with Papa T. and Mama J. about some of Sissy’s worst moments without shouts or tears. And we work through each day with intensity and a newfound respect for each precious moment. That’s why I find myself driving home these days with the windows down, smiling and singing loudly I’m Alive over and over with Kenny Chesney.

And today you know that’s good enough for me
Breathin' in and out's a blessing can’t you see
Today is the first day of the rest of my life
Now I’m alive, and well
Yeah I’m alive, and well

The beauty in nature these days reminds me that I am indeed alive and well. I feel very alive. I am content in my love for Sissy and my acceptance of her death. Sissy always liked bright colors. I see her in that patch of tulips I run past each day. And I smile.


karisma said...

BEAUTIFUL post Hula. I cannot understand peoples need to blame or look for an outlet in others for their pain. I guess its really the cowards way out, because honestly, how can transferring ones blame or pain onto others make you feel good about yourself? We see it a lot in life and its really really sad.

You did the right thing in stepping back a little. It took me a long time to learn to do that. I always want to help but sometimes you just cant. Every single person on this planet ultimately has to take responsibility for themselves at some stage.

If someone is drowning, you try to save them but if they want to drown they are going to make it very hard for you to do so. Now you can keep trying until you weaken and end up drowning along with them. Or after trying till you are at the end of your tether, you can step back and give them the chance to save themselves. If they choose not to, this is not your choice, it is theirs.

I feel sad for the family members who choose to make things hard for you, in the end it is their loss. They are the ones who have something to feel guilty about. God bless you Hula.

Or as I would say NAMASTE which means.....

I honour the place in you, in which the entire universe dwells. I honour the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light, and of peace. When you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, we are one!

Hugs and smoochies xoxoxox

Jan n Jer said...

I agree with Karisma..this was a very meaningful post. Everything happens for a reason and life has a lot of twist n turns. Keeping the faith is what keeps us strong. I am glad that you have found peace in this very tragic episode in your life. Keep the faith and may God Bless you n yours!

The Church Lady said...

What a very meaningful and beautiful post, Hula. You write so well and I am drawn into your life even though I have never personally met you. I remember your writing about Sissy and I can't believe it has already been a year since her death.

One of my daughter's BFF's father recently killed himself, so we have been helping her deal with that just by keeping her busy and having her spend time with us. My heart goes out to that little girl.

oreneta said...

I am so glad that you are all continuing to improve and recover, and that the beauty of nature can help you in the process.

The tulips in the bottom photo are amazing.

Trailboss said...

Really well written and honest post Hula. We never know why people do what they do. All we can do is control ourselves. You did what you had to do. The decisions Sissy made effected so many people. I can't imagine going through what she did or what your entire family has been through.

Louisiana Belle said...

Such a beautiful, heart-wrenching post. Sounds like you have come to terms with most of it; maybe others in the family haven't, but they will. Everyone has a different time table and mechanism for coping.

The photo of the tulips is stunning! This spring seems to have more blooms than last. We all should take time to enjoy them while they're here.

Anonymous said...

I wanted you to know that your words helped me in this beautiful post. I lost my sister in January, not because she took her life, it was just her time to go after years of smoking and mental abuse. I often thought I could have stepped in and "fixed" her. But as I have been reading your posts (for over a year) they help me realize that we may have times of tears, but recovery is in knowing they are so much more at peace. Many thanks for your beautiful perspective!!!!