The Empty Pillow

Once upon a time, birds of the air, beasts of the Earth, creatures under the sea were created. God was pleased but not complete. Man was added to the masterpiece. Day after day, Man watched over the birds, beasts and sea creatures.

Night after night, Man slept alone and woke up to an “empty pillow”. All of the birds, beasts and sea creatures had companions. God with all His mercy and compassion realized that Man also needed and deserved a companion, so Woman was created. No more “empty pillow” for Man!

That is a very simplistic summary of how I believe we were created. It convinces me that we were not meant to live in solitude. Some people we meet along life’s pathway are friends. If we are blessed, we find a “significant other” who is our best friend and true love. Some of us bear a child or children who we love and nurture, and some of us have fur-babies we can love and cherish. Throughout our relationships, we share laughter, tears, fears and successes –but most of all, love.

In my short life, I’ve crossed paths with 1000’s of people and adopted eight fur-babies. Some people were placed in my path for a season, and I’m blessed with those who are life-long friends and family. The hardest lesson I’ve learned through all of my relationships is this: What do you do when you wake up in the morning only to find an “empty pillow” – an unexpected void in your life?

I’ve experienced and somehow endured many, many, many “empty pillows” — each heart-wrenching no matter how long the relationship lasted. But as I said good-bye to each “empty pillow”, whether they left planned or unplanned I managed to endure. As the song sings “only the strong survive”.

For me personally, God always provided a new opportunity. With each “empty pillow”, a new friend or family member or 4-legged rescue was placed in my life’s pathway. Each was an opportunity to fill my void with a new “pillow” at precisely the right time. These new “pillows” will never replace the “empty pillows”. However, I’ve learned that all my “empty pillows” have provided new life and love to another.

I, too, have been given a new beginning. At just the right time when God knew I was ready, He blessed me with not only a best friend but a true love. My husband and Frankie make sure I don’t wake up to an “empty pillow”. My husband is my life and gives me a reason to wake up each morning.

We never know how long our relationship will last before we wake up to yet another “empty pillow”. Despite the grief with each situation, I managed to “push through” and “keep on going on”. I learned that it doesn’t matter how long the relationship lasts, but the gift of spending time and love together is what is important. Experiencing and appreciating the special bond between me and my friends, family members, and pets – but most of all my husband, my life-partner – gives me lots of love and “pillow talk”!

Bea positive and embrace each day with thanksgiving and anticipation to love fiercely and whole-heartedly with heart and soul. Someone will cross your path who needs a “pillow” from you or maybe they will provide a much-needed “pillow” for you. Bea-lieve because it happened to me.

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Bea-Day

My birthday is in mid-April and for many years coincides with Easter. This year was one of those. The past few years have been emotional and full of change. Why is it that years that end in 9 are the hardest? This year I turned 59, and it was a tough transition. It’s just a number, right?

For many years, we lived close enough to my parents to spend my birthday with them. Over the past 3-4 years, so many things happened personally that it wasn’t feasible to meet. However, this year was an exception, and we made plans to spend my birthday/Easter weekend with my parents.

We met halfway between FL and AL in Valdosta, GA in a pet-friendly hotel. My parents traveled with Princess, and we had Frankie. Conveniently we had adjoining rooms which turned out to be a blessing. Princess has serious separation anxiety, so Frankie was the perfect companion to keep her quiet and settled so we could enjoy dinner together.

The restaurant we chose was a short walk across the parking lot. We had a very pleasant waiter who looked like Wesley Snipes! He was so nice and took pictures of mama, daddy, me and Roger for special photo memories of our time together. We “messaged” the pictures to my sister, Beth. Her response was hilarious – “you must be at Olive Garden because the breadsticks gave it away!”

As we ordered our entrees, my father told “Wesley” that it was my birthday. After we finished our dinner, “Wesley” and two other waiters showed up at our table with two ice cream desserts. Well, to my embarrassment, they couldn’t just set the desserts on the table, they sang Happy Birthday to me!

We spent one more day together enjoying lunch and dinner as a family. On Tuesday morning we departed and went to our respective homes. Reflecting on the time we spent together, I realized how fortunate I was to spend my birthday once again with my parents and with my new husband. We all know we have fewer years ahead of us than behind us. Bea Positive that when you have the opportunity to spend time with your family – don’t let it slip away.

Thanksgiving Surprise

We pulled off the biggest surprise for my parents and nephew, Caleb.  When I spoke with my sister on Saturday, I confirmed that we would drive to AL for Thanksgiving.  She spilled the beans to her husband but didn’t tell Caleb.  We both decided that a 16 year old probably couldn’t keep a secret!

As we drove up on Monday, Beth called me and said, “I’m in a pickle”.  She revealed to me that mama and daddy were insistent on sending a Thanksgiving bouquet to our cabin.  She then said that her husband, Eric said “I’m out.”  When I shared with Roger, he too said “I’m with Eric.”  So both boys bowed out and left me and Beth to figure out the pickle.

Beth and I schemed up a plan for her to call me and pretend to order flowers that would not be delivered.  About an hour later, Beth called me back and said she called the florist and would have them delivered to mama and daddy’s house!  What a clever idea!

Roger and I finally made it to Prattville after a nerve-wracking drive.  We checked into the hotel and rested for a bit.  Around 5:00 p.m. AL time, I texted my sister and told her we were on our way.  As we drove up the driveway, I could see my mom standing at the sink and Beth in the kitchen with her.  We walked to the back door and rang the doorbell .

Meantime, my sister kept asking my mother, “are you expecting anyone tonight?” to which my mom replied, “no”.  Beth said, “are you sure?”  She and my mom walked through the laundry room to the back door.  My mom looked at us and said “it’s Bea and Roger!  I can’t believe it!”  My father was standing at the end of the hallway.  My mom hugged me and Roger and fought back tears while my father was absolutely dumfounded.

We walked into the kitchen where Beth gave me the biggest hug that I had missed for over 16 months.  My father hugged me and fought back his own tears.  Eric gave me another hug as I watched Caleb walk through the living room.  Caleb grabbed me and said, “it’s so good to see you Aunt Bea”.

As Beth and Eric completed dinner preparation, my mom said, “now our family is complete again.”  We had a delicious wonderful dinner and spent quality time with my family that evening.  It was the first time that all of us sat around the kitchen table and visited.  I along with Roger, Beth and Eric pulled off the biggest surprise of all.

Now, today is Thanksgiving.  What greater time to express thanks for family than today.  It will probably be the best Thanksgiving we’ve had in years.  I hope everyone reading this will take time to give thanks for your family and friends.  While today is a national day for Thanksgiving, Bea thankful every day for your family and friends.

[BB1]o

The Reunion

What is life all about?  Family and friends and love.  If you don’t have them, you have nothing.  So what happens when you feel like you’ve lost all of them?  You get in a hole that you can’t dig out of, or can you?  I was there and didn’t think I would ever see light or life again.

When you’ve lost a loved one, you’ve watched them die in front you, how do you recover?  You think you have family, friends, people who will help you dig out.  You probably do but you don’t think so at the time when you’re devastated and in deep despair.  The grief is so deep that you can’t think straight . . . or let me be blunt . . . you can’t think at all.  You just want everything to go away.

Your family is your blood and yet, they don’t understand what you’re going through because they haven’t experienced the loss and grief that you have.  They try to comfort you but there is no comfort.  They try to express words to help you but they only make things worse.  The hole gets deeper and darker with each passing day.

And yet, at the end of the dark tunnel, your family sticks with you.  They never stop loving you, and they never give up on you.  While they can’t help you through the grief, they pray and hope and never stop loving you.  They never lose faith that you will snap out of it.

That’s what happened to me.  After 9 long, lonely months, I finally saw light.  It came in the form of a new love . . . not one that I was looking for.  It was so sudden and so profound that it was scary and unexpected.  But it was the little spark that I needed.

After a couple of weeks, I accidentally pocket dialed my sister.  I almost hung up and then she answered.  She was so ecstatic to hear from me.  She even told me that she hoped for facebook posts to know that I was ok.  It was the best phone call I had after so many months of silence.  She told me that my parents were coming to visit for Mother’s Day, would I come?  I wasn’t ready to speak to them, let alone see them.

Roger, my light, convinced me to call my mother on Mother’s Day.  I was so apprehensive, but I did.  It was the most healing moment.  I will never forget the call.  I called my sister’s cell phone, and she told my mom that “someone wants to talk to you.”  My mom asked, “is it  Bea?”  It was the only thing she wanted for Mother’s Day.  It was a short conversation but worth the few minutes.

Three weeks ago, my new fiancé called my father to let him know he had bought a ring for me.  A week later, my parents drove down to meet Roger.  It was the first time that I saw them in 15 months.  So ironic that a new relationship, new love, new home was the catalyst for the reunion.  It was so overwhelming and yet the moment I needed.  I had to feel the love and comfort that only parents can give a child.

The reunion was just another step in my long journey.  I have someone who loves me for me . . . for all my faults and foibles and dark moments.  But most of all, I have my family who never left my side . . . never gave up hope . . . never gave up on me.  Bea Positive that life is worth living . . . life is all about love . . . all about family.

“My Friend A Part Of Me”

Growing up in a military family, you move around every few years. While it’s exciting to experience new cities, states and even another country, it takes a toll on your relationships, especially friends. As young girls, my sister and I did our best to make new friends and adjust to our new location throughout our school years. As we grew older, it became more difficult emotionally when we had to move again and leave friends behind.

For four years, our family lived in a little town in central Illinois where my sister and I attended high school. I think from the first time I met Lori, we were friends. We took the same classes, even got sent to the principal’s office together. We spent countless hours together on weekends and during summer breaks. We played the piano together, baked chocolate chip cookies together, listened to “Dark Side Of The Moon” trying to figure out the meaning behind every song. We even got our driver’s licenses together.

Not long after high school graduation, our family moved once again. Even knowing that graduation sends you and your classmates in different directions, you hope to stay close enough to see each other every now and them. Some go off to college, some start careers, some start families. . . Despite your good intentions, it becomes harder to stay in touch. You become absorbed in climbing the corporate ladder, raising children, maybe raising grandchildren, and chasing your dreams. And yet, there are some people who stay with you throughout all of life’s changes and challenges.

Today, I found a book that Lori sent to me many, many years ago called “Flowers of Friendship”. There is a poem on page 67; she addressed it to me and signed it, “Your friend, Lori”. Despite all of my travels and life’s twists and turns, she has remained my friend, never judging me nor abandoning me. What a blessing for me to say that I have a life-long friend . . .

“I am a part of all whom I have met,”

So, friend of mine, you are a wholesome part;

Our precious visits, lingering with me yet,

Are flowers in the garden of my heart.

Your smiles like violets, sweet beyond compare,

Your words, carnations, cheering me on my way,

Your deeds like roses, rich with perfume rare,

Bring faith and hope and love every day.

So, friend of mine, thou’ you are far away,

Between us may stretch mountain, plain, or sea,

Yet by my side you walk and talk each day,

Because you are a precious part of me.

~Charles Elmer Chapler

An Unlikely Pair

To the casual observer, he and she were an unlikely pair.  But to those in close proximity of the two of them could feel the attraction.  He was the south end of a magnet and she the north end, forming a permanent magnetic field of closeness.  It was this closeness that was the foundation of their forever love.

He loved the wild, wild west, cowboys and Indians. She loved the tropics and Asian culture.

He wore starched shirts, perfectly-knotted ties, and cowboy boots. She wore silk, lace and high heels.

He never had a hair out of place. She let her hair flow long, sometimes with a forced wave.

He loved bluegrass and R&B. She loved 80’s and classic rock.

He was self-taught on the guitar. She was classically trained on the piano.

He drove an SUV. She drove a two-seater sports car.

He worked for the same company for over 30 years. She had already worked for three.

He had some college, military and lots of on-the-job training. She had two college degrees.

He was a fitness fanatic and weight lifter. She walked her dog for exercise.

He was a father with two children. She had no children, only a “fur-baby”.

He had lived in Florida all but four years of his life. She had not lived in one place more than four years.

He had family and friends all around him.  She had family and friends scattered across the country.

This unlikely pair was me and my husband. Our paths crossed in a meant-to-be-moment through Godwinks and guardian angels. Our differences were the lure which led us to discover shared dreams and wishes. We fell head-over-heels in love and nothing was going to keep us apart:

“Our soul mate is one who makes life come to life.” Richard Bach

We made each other’s life come to life.  From the beginning and all of our years together, we were blessed with love that strengthened and deepened into our Bea-utiful love story – an unlikely pair of hearts joined together forever.

Two Hearts

Remembering . . . Can Be Inspiring

Remembering is painful, it’s difficult, but it can be inspiring and it can give wisdom.” ~Paul Greengrass

A friend of mine suffered what I believe is the absolute worst nightmare for a parent – losing your child. It’s been over 19 months for her, but her heartbreak and struggle continue even to this day. Three months ago, I, too, suffered a tragic loss; something that I never imagined.

Jean was the first person to reach out to me and provided the greatest gifts – a listening ear, words of comfort, empathy, the gift of her time. She invited me over for lunch. She let me cry on her shoulder without giving advice and instruction. She bought chicken soup over which we cried more and let grow cold. She disclosed that most friends and family eventually became weary of her grief funk and slowly distanced themselves from her. She confessed that she used to be “one of those people” – she avoided the griever because it was too uncomfortable — until it it happened to her.  Their tears continued, they didn’t smile even after months.  “Stop it already”, “be strong”, “get over it”, “get professional help” is all she could think.

She told me that well-meaning people want to fix you. Some will try to label your grief; after all, if it is correctly diagnosed, then there is a solution, right? Some psychiatrists and counselors have identified “stages of grief”; unfortunately, they aren’t linear. She told me you won’t move from one to the next in a nice step-by-step process. Or like C.S. Lewis describes “am I going in circles, or dare I hope that I’m on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down?”

She shared that the one and only thing she wants to do is talk about her son. She wants to tell everyone she meets about her son. She wants to remember all 28 years of his short life. Despite the pain that remembering brings, it provides comfort to share because she remembers the beautiful person he was while he was here. She told me that some choose to forget or not acknowledge because it’s less painful for them – “out of sight, out of mind”.

I am experiencing everything she shared with me like it’s a well-scripted play. Like her, remembering John is not an option; it’s a conscious choice. I remember my gorgeous husband, my friend, my companion and my soul mate. I remember because we were blessed with 20 wonderful years together; to not remember means these years didn’t exist. I remember the beautiful memories we created together which motivate me to write. I write because I promised to share our love story. Eventually, I will share our story because we want to inspire others to pursue their dreams and make them reality.

My request, if you have read this post, is that you develop empathy, not unresponsiveness.  The greatest gifts you can provide to someone like me and my friend are a listening ear, words of comfort, empathy and the gift of your time.

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