Monthly Archives: September 2012

Circles

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112 days… the number of days Brian lived after being diagnosed. 122 days… the number of days I have lived since his death. Yesterday, Jordan and I left the house and unplugged from technology for most of the day, and drove to the mountains. We followed the winding road to Golden Gate Canyon and found a spot with a great view. We hiked down a trail, over rocks and branches, through the pine trees. Jordan spotted a grouping of rocks off the trail, so we broke away and found what we thought would be the perfect place to scatter part of Brian’s ashes. I’ve said that Brian probably would have found a much more precarious spot, one that would have taken a greater degree of stamina, courage, and agility to reach, but Jordan and I did a pretty good job. I think Brian would be happy. Twenty years ago Brian and I had honeymooned by camping nearby and we’d hiked many of the trails, including the one Jordan and I took yesterday. Now Brian will be part of Colorado forever.

I had anticipated it being a very emotional day. It was, but not in the sense of tears and sadness. It was a happy day, one to remember great memories of mountain hikes and picnics and two little boys who enjoyed our trips in the Rockies. Jordan and I even had a few laughs, which can happen when you are attempting to be more serious than you should. On the way back up the trail to the car, we passed a family and a little boy was bringing up the rear, with his hiking stick in his hand. I told Jordan how he and Brian Jr. would always find a stick right away when we went hiking, but they spent more time hitting trees and rocks with their sticks than using them for hiking! And those sticks would come home with us, along with rocks and pine cones and other forest treasures. Jordan and I continued our drive and ended up at a shop that sells rocks and fossils and things like that. I bought myself a rock the color of the ocean and a couple gifts for the boys. I love my rock – a piece of the earth that is the color of the sea that I miss so much.  The drive home was peaceful, Jordan asleep in the passenger seat as I drove back down the winding mountain roads.

When I got home I found a box on my desk. It was from my parents and contained sand from Sanibel Island. I was able to put my toes in my perfect Florida sand on a chilly Colorado day. It was a nice and fitting end to my day.

There is so much that equals joy about yesterday and today and life in general. But I think I’ll go back to where I started and leave it at this:

Going Full Circle = Joy

Fact or Figment?

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On July 20th I was at Denver International Airport, minding my own business and sipping on a coffee while waiting on my group to be called to board a plane for San Francisco. I drained the last bit of coffee and walked to the nearby trashcan to throw it away and stand in the line that had formed, not in a hurry, but excited about my destination. I love watching people, so I was looking around, observing my fellow travelers, when I saw him. He was leaning against the rail of the walkway, looking down at his phone, wearing khaki shorts and a yellow shirt I had never seen before. He was unmistakable. Immediately my heart started pounding in my chest – the kind of pounding you are positive others can hear. I turned back around quickly and tried to process what had just happened. We didn’t make eye contact, so I assumed he hadn’t seen me. I turned back around and he was no longer there. Instead there was someone entirely different, easily 10 years older with a full head of gray hair and wearing nothing similar. I boarded my flight, filled with emotion.

I’ve shared my Brian sighting with a few people and most have not been surprised; they have just wondered if I thought it meant anything specific, if Brian was trying to send me a message. Of course, I have no idea. Was it even real, or was it just my imagination running wild? It felt incredibly real. I’ve seen people on occasion who resemble Brian and I’ve done a double-take, but I’ve not had the heart-pounding reaction that filled me with emotion. His outfit was not even familiar, and how could it have been? I gave away all his remaining clothes in the weeks following his death. I can’t explain the phone, because I had just cancelled his account and traded that in. Wait, this is Brian I’m talking about… it was the iPhone 5! All kidding aside, I admit it could have been just a figment of my imagination, but I don’t discount the supernatural. If I could explain everything in the universe I’d be sorely disappointed, probably jaded, and also a flippin’ genius!

No, I have no idea why I saw Brian or if it was meant as a sign or if he was trying to send me a message and I’ll never know for certain. But what I took away from it, after talking it over and analyzing it from different angles, is this: He had a new place to go and things to do and he’s comfortable with me doing the same thing. There was no feeling of “haunting,” nothing that seemed as though he was unhappy or angry or had unfinished business. It was Brian, casually moving through the day, on his way to somewhere new.

This status is still in my phone… the last status Brian had on his contact info. I like to think he is on that jet plane, headed off into the wild blue where adventure awaits.

A few weeks after I saw him, I wrote him a letter. I let him know that I’m doing okay, but that I miss him. I told him that his boys are doing just fine and that he was right not to worry about them. I shared that I wish he was still here to enjoy all the things he loved in life. I promised that I’d keep trying to reach my goals, be brave and attempt new things, and have no regrets. I thanked him for the four months we spent together in a strange combination of holding on and letting go.

He wanted to make it to this very day, but it just wasn’t in the cards. He cried over the realization that he wouldn’t see September 26th, 2012. Today would have been our 20th wedding anniversary. Marriages are messy. They are a mixture of good times and bad, heartbreaks and heartfelt love, twists and turns you never saw coming that bring smiles and tears. For better or worse, we made it 19 years and 8 months. That ain’t bad! The odds were most certainly not in our favor, getting married right out of high school and having two kids right off the bat. But we managed to hang on, sometimes by a thread and other times as though there was nothing easier. I have not seen Brain since and perhaps I never will. Fact or figment? I’ve chosen fact. I’m grateful for the day I saw him, the intense emotion of it and what I was able to take away from the brief moment.

A Sighting = Joy

The Missing Words

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It used to be that you had to clear out closets and boxes and such after someone died. Now you have to add cleaning out email accounts and computer files. Tonight I was clearing out folders, decluttering mentally and otherwise. Tucked away in one of Brian’s files on the computer was a letter he started to me almost a year ago, September 30, 2011. He had written “The Life of Brian” across the top of the letter, but it began with his pet name for me. I’m not sure how I missed it all this time, except that I didn’t know to go looking for it. It was an apology for the way things had been going and a peek into our world at that time from his point of view. He’d been trying to look at life from 10,000 feet instead of just 20, to get a glimpse of things from a greater vantage point and find perspective. It leaves me with more questions than answers… it was never finished and, unfortunately, I cannot go ask him what else he wanted to say. I can’t ask what he needed to say.

Last week I posted a picture that I found somewhere. It is suddenly even more apropos now than it was then. So, tonight, I leave you with that picture.

Please read the words carefully and take them to heart. Don’t take the chance on leaving behind a partial letter, missing words that can never be found and filled in, thoughts that can never be shared. Tell people what they mean to you, tell them you are sorry, tell them you love them, tell them you need them, tell them you care, tell them everything they need to know – no matter how insignificant it may seem – before time slips away…

I’m grateful for the sentences that made it onto the page, but I can’t quite get over what was left unsaid.

Never Leaving Things Unspoken = Joy

Facing Fears and Letting the Rebel Win

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“Write a book!” they said. “Okay, I think I will!” I said. [insert sound of laughter] So, here the pages sit before me. 49,895 words that need to be edited and revised before the really serious writing begins.

I have been putting the project off for a while, not because I’m afraid to start or afraid to fail. Wait, that’s not true. That’s actually a whopper of a lie. I’m very afraid to start and exceedingly afraid of failing. But that’s not why I haven’t started. It’s because I’m about to relive 112 days that I never in my wildest imagination thought I’d experience. I’m about to put in all the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and words that I wasn’t able to say at the time and also the new revelations I’ve had since May 28th.

There are probably some rules written somewhere on the proper way to write a book: how to organize, schedule, write, edit, revise, edit again, etc. There are no doubt things I should do and things I shouldn’t do. And I’m one of those who would follow all the rules…normally. I adore a good schedule! I love a list of dos and don’ts! But this week I’ve been encouraged and dared to stop being practical, to challenge the way I think things should be done and follow my own way. So I sat down and had a conversation with myself (Practical Jacque and Rebel Jacque have interesting talks… Practical Jacque wins a lot; Rebel Jacque pouts a lot) about how I need to approach my project, my new baby. It began with Practical Jacque saying, “You’ve already got a blog. You don’t need to write a book, and what if no one buys it? What if you don’t even finish it? It’s going to take a lot of time and energy that could be spent elsewhere.” It ended with Rebel Jacque saying, “Shut up and write…” So, here it goes!

Today, do something impractical. Break your own rules (but not any laws, please… wink, wink). Follow your own dreams. Take a chance in even a little way. Face your fear of starting something by starting something! Face your fear of failure by failing and then starting over again!

Starts, Stops, and Failures = Joy

Sunlight

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What I remember most about that day is sunlight. The sunlight, filtering through the trees, was so golden and bright. It made the kitchen cheerful and warm. The boys and I were gathered at the kitchen table, also known as “the school room” on weekday mornings. Brian was 8 and Jordan was 6 and we had just begun school about a week earlier (third and first grade), once again homeschooling after a 2-year break. I had a little American flag that we’d look at as we put hands to heart and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, a little morning ritual during the early elementary years. I am almost positive we had just finished up handwriting when I got a phone call from Brian. He was driving in his work truck, headed to someplace in Missouri for the day and he sounded frantic. I was so confused. He told me I needed to turn the television on and see what was happening in New York.

The school day came to a halt. Everything had just changed…

Everything except that golden sunlight. It remained throughout the day until is sank behind the trees and the moon and stars took over. It is so vivid in my mind eleven years later. I can see it so clearly and almost feel it all over again. I think about it every year at this time. To me, over a decade later now, it symbolizes life. So much of life was tragically lost that day, but in the eleven years since, so much has been created. The sun keeps rising and setting and rising and setting, casting it’s golden light on us. We all see that sunlight and it’s the same light no matter where you are on Earth. I don’t deny that evil exists in the world, that hatred and violence reside in some hearts… but not all. The way to shatter that darkness is with light.

Light = Joy