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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For RPD

For 7 long, lonely months my only solace was writing.  In that time, I wrote a book about love and loss.  My purpose and message was to inspire others to chase dreams, pursue meaningful relationships and love fearlessly – with heart and soul.  It wasn’t until I met you that I realized that the message was for me.

On March 8, I met you and you provided a little spark that was so desperately needed, a start to a new chapter in my life.  Your eyes, smile and strong, rugged hands mesmerized me as you built my log cabin.  I hid behind my sunglasses all the while watching you.  Ani-Tsalagi broke the ice between us.  In April, we started seeing each other.  On May 4, you walked into my house and never left.  You have been by my side, supporting me and loving me with your heart and soul ever since.  You’ve put a smile on my face, brought laughter to my days and a reason to love life again.

We’ve been through a lot in just 10 months – building a relationship, building a log cabin, selling a house in Riverview, packing and moving and living in temporary housing and now a marriage – our love and our “peas and carrots” relationship kept us together.

You’ve made me the happiest woman in the world, and I am so grateful that you came into my life.  Our rings were selected with purpose.  My engagement ring has two diamonds — “one for your best friend, one for your true love”.  My wedding band has three rubies — your birthstone — and another two diamonds — my birthstone.  Your wedding band has three diamonds — my birthstone.  I proudly and happily take you to be my life-long partner, my best friend, my true love, my husband. 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning says it best:

            “How do I love thee?

            I love thee to the depths, breadth and height my soul can reach.

            I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears of all my life.

            And if God choose, I shall love thee better after death.”

RPD, I love you with all my heart and soul, ‘til death do us part.

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.

Crossing Rainbow Bridge

For many of us, our pets are our “kids”. My very first dog was a runt, Schnauzer-mix that I adopted while living in Austin, TX. I named her Rhiannon – yes, after my favorite Fleetwood Mac song. Rhiannon was my constant companion, and she moved with me to New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa, Rock Hill, back to Atlanta and lastly Chicago.

Rhiannon was just shy of 18 years old in July 2002. John and I adopted little Aries, our first yorkie, three months before she passed. We were living in temporary housing due to my job transfer to Chicago. Rhiannon was slowing down and having more frequent seizures. It was a Sunday afternoon, and as we were walking around, she stopped and just looked up at me with very sad eyes. I held her muzzle in both hands as tears rolled down my face and told her, “it’s okay to go, girl, I know you are so tired.”

About 2:00 a.m., we awoke hearing her in distress. John and I rushed her to the emergency vet. I was hysterical. After what seemed forever, the very kind lady vet met with us in the room. She told us that Rhiannon’s heart was shutting down. We made the heart-wrenching decision to let her cross Rainbow Bridge peacefully, the first of many similar decisions we would make on behalf of our aging, sick “fur-babies”.

In memory of Rhiannon, John wrote this poem for me. For anyone else who has experienced losing a beloved “fur-baby”, I hope you find some comfort from John’s beautiful sentiment from Rhiannon to me.

“I’m smiling down upon you

From doggie heaven up above.

They say that’s where good dogs go

‘Cause they’re filled with so much love.

 

I can run and jump and play again;

My hip’s as good as new.

And over in the corner . . . guess what!

There’s that old shoe I used to chew.

 

I can see squirrels to chase them,

And I catch a lizard now and then.

I can bark when I want a treat.

It’s good to hear myself again.

 

It’s lonely here without you,

But we’re never far apart.

‘Cause I’ll always, always, always

Be running through your heart.”

~I love you, Rhiannon

 

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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