Cinco de Buddy!

May 5th… Cinco de Buddy

Today is the 4th anniversary of Raymond’s death.  Today is also my niece’s birthday!  Life and death… the circle, the great round.  Time passes and the wheel keeps turning.

I got a text from Raymond’s cousin’s son last night.  Raymond loved his cousin’s and their sons.  Bobby, the oldest (who is in his late 20’s) texted that he dubbed today “Cinco de Buddy!”  He said, “Just love him everyday and remember his awesomeness and celebrate his life!”  I was so touched to know that others are thinking about him today.  Raymond always said that we are only remembered for two generations… And I suppose that is true.  Bobby’s kids will never know the legacy… the man… the bad ass… the musician, the comedian, the story teller; the cowboy, the fisher; the beach boy; Raymond… aka “Buddy.”  They will hopefully hear stories, told with amazement and a laugh, but they won’t know him.

Two months ago, on March 6, I got a beep on my calendar.  The alert said that it was the 6 year anniversary of the day Raymond and I met, face to face.  March 6th, 2010 was also the day I fell in love with him.  I was in Florida with my mummy dear on March 6th, and I decided to read all the letters we had written back and forth to each other prior to our actual meeting in person.  I shared some of his letters with my mom and we both marveled at his colorful use of language as well as how thoughtful and insightful his writing was…   I came across this one that I had totally forgotten:

Feb.27, 2010

Dear Lisa,

I’m up and moving past the shadows, had a good sleep, yes it was good to talk to you. I felt the desire for you, it was good. I felt very comfortable talking with you. You must have been my wife in another life…….I was a good husband to you………I probably passed early in that life from some horrid disease and you grieved so much, you never were with another man.   Now we have found each other in this place and it is playing out again, but this time I won’t leave you.  I will travel blindly with you…….to your place by the river…….Have a great time with your parents.  I envy the day you will have……my love is coming with you today on your outing.


I was shocked and saddened to read this.  Raymond was a wise soul.  He was intuitive.  We had such a karmic connection.   He had a sense that we were married in previous lives.  What he got wrong was the part about him NOT leaving me.   He passed early, in THIS lifetime, from a horrid disease and I have grieved so much that I haven’t been with another man.

I was blessed to have two years and two months with my dear “Buddy.”  It’s been 4 years since he has been gone yet I still mourn his passing.  I still miss that man’s presence in my life.  He’s been gone twice as long as we were together.  Love’s funny like that.  Our love transcended time.  He used to say that it felt as if we were together for 20 years because in a normal dating scenario, when two people met, they would see each other only on weekends for quite a while.  We saw each other almost daily from the day we met!  He said we were “on the fast track of love!”  It was probably because we actually had lived many lives together.  We truly recognized, knew and loved each other the second we met, maybe even before we actually met.

I recently read this post on FaceBook:  “The reality is that you will grieve forever.  You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it.  You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered.  You will be whole again but you will never be the same.  Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”

This struck me as true.

I have begun to rebuild myself.  I’ve gone from having 20 pictures in the house of him/us, to only having 5.

Rebuilding…  I’m not as isolated as I was after Raymond died.  I’ve moved back to the area where my family lives and I see them, and friends, more often.

Rebuilding…  I’ve been to Florida two of the 4 winters he’s been gone.  Often while in Florida, I remember the trip the two of us took in the Spring of 2011 and I think that he would be happy that I am in the sun, listening to the surf with my toes in the sand.  He’d be happy to see me fishing off the pier.  He would have laughed and been so proud when I caught little sharks this year!

Rebuilding…  I get out a bit more.  I am reading again. I laugh a bit more.  I don’t think about the trauma of his illness and death as much as I used to.  Instead, I try to remember his stories, the fun and the laughter.

Rebuilding…  My life was changed the day Raymond walked into it as much as it changed the day he left.  I have never been the same.  Sometimes, I think I would like to share my life with someone, find a new partner… but maybe Raymond had it confused and this is the life that he died way too early and “I grieved so much, I never was with another man.”

Life and death.  The mystery continues to unfold.  Time passes; the wheel keeps turning.  I’m along for the ride, rebuilding.  I’ve learned to live in the moment.  All we ever have is the present.  Today, as Bobby dubbed it, is “Cinco de Buddy!”   Today I will celebrate his awesomeness.  Today I will celebrate his life.  It was a good one, (especially his last two years and two months with me.)  And, thanks to Bobby, I will celebrate his death.  His homecoming.  I have to believe it was as glorious as he was.  And, I’d like to believe that his wise, loving soul is watching over me… gently encouraging me to rebuild, while waiting patiently, for time to pass… until the day I celebrate my homecoming and we are reunited.


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The Road Trip

It has been four months since I left Algonac, and the home that Raymond and I shared.  It’s also been 4 months since I have visited Raymond’s grave.  I’ve wanted to get out there and tend to it since spring, but my anxiety about driving on the expressway made the journey daunting and overwhelming.

Today, my dear brother, Bruce, drove me back to Algonac!

When you get off the freeway, you still have a half hour drive down a two-lane road.  Lake St. Clair is on one side and a beautiful grassy marsh on the other.  I was flooded with memories.

Memories of Raymond and I living out here, together.   Often, he would say, “Let’s go for a ride!”  Simple things we shared, like a ride in the car, are the memories I cherish.  There was always so much joy and laughter on our “day trips.”  We’d drive around looking at homes and cottages along the water.  We stopped at fruit and vegetable stands to by fresh corn for dinner.  We would do a “drop in”  visit to his cousins.  We’d stop at the boardwalk or Lega’s pier (which were our favorite places to fish).  He took his time driving and I’d often look in my rear view mirror to see a line of traffic behind us as we slowly enjoyed the scenery.

It almost seems like a dream now.  That fragment of time from February of 2010 to May of 2012.  He came into my life, consumed every aspect of it, and then he was gone.  It was a two-year love affair that changed my life forever.  How blessed we both were to have found each other.  My whole family loved him dearly.  Every time anyone shares a memory of him, it is always conveyed with a laugh.  He was charming, full of charisma and quite the character.

Today was a beautiful sunny day.  The lake was like glass and the reflection of the sun and clouds danced on its surface.  Bruce and I talked about Raymond as we got closer to town.  First, I asked Bruce to drive through our little wooded trailer park.  It was quiet, as usual.  When I saw the trailer, more memories flooded into my heart.   Memories of Raymond working out in the shed, puttering on some project.  Memories of the vegetable garden he planted before I moved in, which I turned into a wildflower garden after he was gone.  Memories of sitting on the deck, in the shade of the trees that surrounded the trailer; listening to the wind rustle the leaves, the birds singing and the squirrels scampering from limb to limb.  Memories of myself, spending weeks, months, years—on the couch, distraught with grief, after he was gone.  The trailer looked good.  I could tell that the new owners love it and are happy there.

Next, we were off to the cemetery.  More memories…. It used to be so easy for me to go there.  It was just around the corner from our home.  Now, if I get back a couple of times a year, I’ll be lucky.  He was laid to rest there, but he is not there.  I am sure he is here with me (and my kitty boy), in Northville.

I had a plan!  Bruce helped me plant a couple of perennials close to his headstone so that even though I am not there as often as I used to be, the plants will continue to grow every year.  I took a shepherd hook, which I placed right behind his headstone and hung a couple of crystals from it.  Maybe next summer I will take a plant to hang on it, but I like the rainbows the crystals make.  The final thing I did was take a picture of Raymond wrapped in a zip lock bag and placed in a plastic frame.  I laid that picture in the arms of the angel statue that’s next to his headstone. I’m not sure why, but I wanted a picture of him by his grave.  I wonder if anyone ever goes to visit his grave?  His sister, his friends? Now if they do, they will see him in the arms of an angel.

With my mission complete, Bruce and I drove the hour and a half back to “our side of town.”  On the ride home, I got to thinking about how different my life is now days.  The condo is decorated pretty much like the trailer was but I am no longer glued to the couch.  My weeks are more active.  I go to cardio rehab 3 times a week.  I’m making jewelry again. I see family and friends.  I renewed my membership at the private lake that I used to belong to (which Raymond and my Dad both loved) and I get out there a couple times a week.  My condo has a pool, which I have been to a few times.  And, although my patio isn’t surrounded by trees, my condo is the last unit in the complex and there is a row of trees on a little berm about 30 feet to the right of the patio.  Colorful tiny finches live in those trees and little chipmunks are often scampering into my sitting area.  When I sit outside in the evening, the solar lights glow from my potted plants and I look over to the grass.  It is like a fairyland, lit up as far as I can see with the flickering of fireflies!

This is not the resort town of Algonac, by the water, but it is home. I have come back to my family.  My life is full, happy and peaceful.


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The End of a Chapter

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are times in life when we are called to make a change. Many of the changes I’ve made have been relocating.  In my 58 years, I have moved a total of 17 times. Tomorrow, will be number 18. With each move I make, I not only say goodbye to my home, I say goodbye to all it represented and all the memories it held. My life, as I have known it, since the summer of 2011, is about to change drastically.

As I sit here looking at empty walls, I’m surrounded by packed boxes -stacked 4 feet high- and a deep sense of sadness comes over me. Tonight is the last night I will sleep in the home that Raymond bought, gutted, remodeled, loved and invited me to share with him.

Moving has always been a time of reflection for me. I sit here tonight in a state of utmost gratitude for the blessing this little place had been. First for Raymond, then for us together, and finally for me, alone.

I remember the first time I came out here to visit Raymond. He was so proud to show me what he had done to this mobile home. Located in a small, woodsy park consisting of two blocks and 60 mobile homes. He took me to the little lake, which is located around the block.  We spent the day catching sunfish and laughing.

The next day, we went bar hopping. He took me to all of his favorite spots. The first, a quaint bar on Harsens Island called Sans Souci. It was March and there was still ice on the Saint Clair River. The 10 minute ferry ride across was scary for me. The icebergs were being pushed by the current at a pretty rapid pace. It was nothing I had ever experienced before. On the ferry ride home, he pretended that he was steering the car and we laughed and laughed. We must have gone to six different places that day and every pub we went to, Raymond boldly asked the waitress, “Isn’t this the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen?” I sat there embarrassed as Raymond pulled me closer and wrapped his arms around me. He was proud to show me off and he dubbed me “The Queen of Algonac!”

At our last stop for the evening, we were sitting on bar stools, and he pulled mine closer to him. His piercing blue eyes looked deep into mine and said he had something important to tell me.

“I lied to you about something and I feel terrible,” he said, in a deep, quiet voice. My mind raced. My first thought was, this son of a bitch is married!

“I lied about my age,” he admitted. I’m not 10 years older than you, I am 12 years older.” What a relief! I told him age was just a number and I didn’t care and he jokingly stated, “Well, the worst that could happen is we fall madly in love and I die!”
That is exactly what happened.
We fell madly in love.
And he died.

When I moved into this home, we worked hard to compromise about what things of mine would come and what I needed to get rid of.   My bed was not negotiable. We got rid of his bed and I brought mine. He also gave me the second bedroom to use as my beading/meditation room. We planned on buying a winter home in Florida, so many of my things went into a storage unit to save to furnish our winter home. It was never to be.

For me, this home started out as our “love-shack!”  We were so happy together.   Every night when we went to bed, we talked and laughed for hours before falling asleep.  Raymond was such a character! He really entertained me.

Then, after Raymond was diagnosed with cancer, our home became the place where he completed everything he wanted to do before he died. I was honored to witness him call every person he thought that he had wronged and make amends. He got all his affairs in order. We went to the funeral home together to arrange and pay for his memorial. Then we went to the city office and bought his cemetery plot.  He told me he wanted to die at home in our bed. He shared his last wishes with me. And through it all, as sick as he was, he never complained… a ‘bad ass’ until the end.  The end of his life and “our dreams” together.

After he was gone, this home became my grieving space.  It held me in its arms and witnessed my sadness.  It became my healing sanctuary.  It was a long process, with many days spent sobbing on the couch. But, as the years went by, I slowly began to feel lighter. Now I can say, that in my own timing and in my own way, I have healed!

Tomorrow after the movers drive away and I look upon an empty home, I know that I will be melancholy. When I close the door for the final time, leaving the keys on the counter, I will also be closing the chapter of “My life in Algonac.”  I’m sure it will be very emotional. It’s never easy to say goodbye, yet it seems especially true for this place. My little home in the woods, near the banks of the Saint Clair River, that Raymond loved so much.

So, I sit here with great gratitude and appreciation for the many gifts of this home.  I am finally ready to move on, to my next house.

Tomorrow is the day!  Move number 18- to a small condo, in Northville, where I will open a new door and begin again. I’m excited to be much closer to my family and friends.  And so it is… a new chapter in my life. Goodbye, mobile home. Goodbye, Algonac. Thank you.

Posted in acceptance, growth, healing, Life, memoir | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

My Broken Heart

It started last summer. Chest pains, heart palpitations, and any time I did anything physical I experienced shortness of breath. I thought, “My God, I am really out of shape. I have got to get off this couch and start working out again.”

In July, I told my doctor about my symptoms. He gave me EKG’s in his office, nothing. A stress test, nothing. I wore a heart monitor for 48 hours, not much….

The night before Thanksgiving, I was cooking the two dishes that I was taking to our family dinner when the phone rang. It was my sister-in-law calling to talk about what time to be at their place tomorrow. I was so breathless talking to her that I had to hang up. I couldn’t talk and cook at the same time. I was really struggling to breath. As I was cooking my second dish, a dear friend who used to be a paramedic called. We talk all the time and he has heard me breathless before. Anytime we talked and I did any work as we talked, he heard my breathing change. But that night was different.

Concerned, he said, “Lisa, I have heard that kind of breathlessness before. You have a blockage and you need to see a cardiologist.”

The day after Thanksgiving, I was at my moms and decided to go to the emergency room to get checked out. I didn’t think I was having a heart attack, but I did think that they would give me the tests my doctor was obviously missing. I was ushered in immediately, hooked up to EKG machines, given an aspirin, a chest x-ray and blood work. After a few hours, the ER doctor came in.

“You aren’t having a heart attack,” she stated. “But I do think you should get further testing.”

So, the Monday after Thanksgiving, I called my Doctor. I couldn’t get an appointment for a week. When I walked into his office, I told him what had occurred and that further tests were recommended.

He said, “I don’t think your insurance would pay if I ordered further tests.” I persisted and told him that I knew something was wrong. He then said, “Well, we do have a cardiologist who comes to the office once a week.” He walked me to the reception desk and we made an appointment to see the cardiologist. I couldn’t get in to see him for two weeks. I was angry. Why hadn’t my doctor recommended I see the cardiologist before?

My medical experiences since summer had been: Make an appointment, wait for the appointment, schedule tests, wait for that appointment, take the test, wait for the results, and reschedule an appointment to talk with my doctor about the results. Repeat, repeat, and repeat. I had just about had it with the medical profession!

When I finally saw the cardiologist he said, “I want to do a heart catheterization on you.” It was scheduled for December 30th. I had to go to his office in Port Huron to get an echocardiogram and watch a video of the procedure to be done. I have to admit, the video made me a bit nervous. It showed the procedure and told the statistics. It could cause a heart attack in 2% of the people having it done. If they found something, they would fix it right then and there and it proceeded to show how that was done. The video told me to pack an overnight bag because if I needed a stint, I would have to spend one night in the hospital. I left the office feeling scared.

My sister Robin came out the night before. I showed her where my living will was on my computer. I told her that if anything happened, Mom had to take my kitty boy. She didn’t want to hear what I was telling her, but it was important for me to tell her these things.

We woke early and drove the hour north to the hospital. I was taken into the pre-op room and Robin was able to come with me. An hour later, I was in the cold, sterile operating room. I asked the nurse what he was going to give me to calm me down during the procedure and he said, “Benadryl.” BENADRYL?!?!?!? I didn’t have a cold, I wanted Valium or Xanax or something stronger.

The procedure began at 8:00 am. It hurt like crazy when they poked into the artery in my groin. Dye was injected and I felt warm and strange. After about 15 minutes, the doctor said, “You have a blockage” and showed it to me on the monitor. He told me he was going to inflate it with a balloon and then put a stint in. As he began, I could feel major pressure in my chest and it hurt like hell. He told me to breathe through it. My mouth was so dry from the Benadryl that I couldn’t breathe. This seemed to take about 15 minutes. Then it was over. A nurse had to hold pressure on my groin for 10 minutes, which hurt as badly as the stint placement. Another nurse gave me six pills to swallow but I was told not to lift my head. The pills were Plavix. A blood thinner that I will have to take for the rest of my life.

I was back in the post-op room by 9:10. Robin and I were both pretty surprised. My groin hurt worse than my chest did, and I had to lay flat until 2:00 in the afternoon. I told Robin to get my overnight bag, which had Raymond’s cozy blanket in it. I have named that blanket “the healing blanket.” Raymond used it when he was sick, my dad used it when he was sick, and now I was using it. I told Robin to go home and come back in the morning to pick me up. I wasn’t moved into the cardiac unit until 6:30 p.m. when a bed finally opened up.

The doctor came in the next morning and told me that my artery was 98% blocked. There was no damage to my heart muscle and I should start feeling better immediately.

What he didn’t tell me was how emotional I would be. The following week, I was very weepy. Every time I thought about what I had gone through and the fact that my heart was really sick, I cried. Robin stayed for two days, and then my mom came out and spent two days with me.

It’s been one month since I had the stint put in. I am feeling much better. My energy level is higher and I feel like doing more around the house. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my heart. The doctor said it was due to genetics and high cholesterol. I tend to see things more metaphysically.

After Raymond died, I’d lie in bed at night and pray to die. My heart was broken. Then my dad got sick and died. My heart, more broken than I ever thought possible. I was alone. I wondered what I had to live for? I have no husband or children. I wanted so badly to leave this earth plane and be with Raymond and my Dad. I just wanted to die. Many nights I prayed for God to please take me. Let me die. I almost did.

Our minds are powerful things. Did I create this blockage by praying to die, off and on, for the past two years? My heart was broken. The doctor fixed it. The miracle is, I realized that I want to live. I am not ready to die. Even though I am alone and have no husband or children, I do want to live. I have family. I have friends. I want to travel. I want to experience more of what life has to offer. I want to walk on beaches, in forests and in foreign lands. I am alive! Thank you GOD!

Last summer is when I truly began to feel like I was healing from all the grief and sadness I’ve experienced in the last 3 years. It started slowly but little by little, I began feeling lighter and happier. In October, I decided I needed to leave Algonac and move back home. I look forward to moving back home, being closer to friends and family. I intend to see them as much as possible.

The trailer is sold. The new owners will be coming here in March or April. I’m sure that when I walk out this little mobile home’s door for the last time, I will shed more than a tear. I moved here in 2011, madly in love, with high hopes of a wonderful future with Raymond. We planned to winter in warmer climates. We planned to grow old together. He said he would be here for me when I lost my parents. This home was our love nest. We shared such happiness and laughter here. Since he died, this home has been my healing space. It has held me in its arms, as I lay on the couch unable to move.

I almost died of a broken heart. My heart is healed and I have been given another chance. I’m going home. Grateful to begin the next chapter of my glorious life. Thank you, thank you, thank you God.

Posted in healing, Life, memoir | Tagged | 8 Comments

One Lovely Blog

One Lovely Blog.
Special thank you to Lindsay Niemann for nominating me for this award… I feel honored.

Posted in caregiver of cancer | 2 Comments

To Family!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. No presents, just family getting together for food, love, games, gratitude and laughter. I spent two days on the west side of town, with my family for Thanksgiving. As we sat down for dinner, I couldn’t help but remember our Thanksgiving two years ago. My dad had just finished a month of radiation and was weak, with very little appetite. Dad always gave the toast before every meal, and I think he knew that this was his last Thanksgiving.  His toast was about family, and how important we all are to each other and to treat each other with appreciation, love and respect. I can’t remember his exact words, but I was choked up listening to his toast. At every family gathering, when we sit down to eat; Robin say’s a prayer of gratitude and we raise our glasses. The toast is always the same: “To Family!” Reaffirmed loudly and enthusiastically by everyone else sitting at all the tables, “To Family!”

My family has another tradition. This one is not holiday specific. Ever since I was a little girl, I remember visiting my grandparents and as we left their house, they would stand at the door, waving goodbye. Bundled in the car, we waved and blew kisses back as we drove away. My parents carried on that tradition and every time someone left their home, they stood at the door, arms around each other, and waved goodbye. So, as I was pulling out of the driveway in the back of the house on Saturday, I thought to myself, ‘mom is going to be at the front door waving.’ As I cleared the side of the house and saw the front door, there she was, waving goodbye. I waved, blew kisses and honked the horn as I drove off. I was overwhelmed with emotion and I burst into tears driving away from the house on the street where I grew up. I thought about family.  How I adore my mummy dear and how we laugh together. I thought about my siblings, their spouses, my nieces and nephews and how I love them all dearly. I thought about traditions. I thought about Thanksgiving and the meaning of the holiday. I have so very much to be grateful for and even though I was in tears, I was bathed in gratitude for the blessings in my life. Mostly, for the blessing of family. Raymond loved my family. He referred to them as the “Farkle Family” and he loved our family gatherings.

Raymond left me his little mobile home, nestled in this quiet and wooded setting, so I would have some security. He blessed me, even after his death, with the gift of his home. Since he died, (and I gave away the things he wanted me to give to his cousins), I got my things out of storage. We had my things in a storage shed because we were going to use them to decorate our winter home in Florida that we dreamed of buying together. My Buddha statues, vintage Hawaii pictures, and nick knacks now adorn every corner of this place, which became my home, my healing space, and my sacred little temple. I’m so grateful to Raymond for that gift.

Now, I feel complete with my life out here in Algonac and I long to get back to the west side, to be closer to my family and friends. Closer to the area I grew up in, where I know the roads and am comfortable driving. In October, I decided to list the mobile home on a national website, strictly designed for selling and renting mobile homes. I figured that maybe it would sell by spring. About three weeks later, I got a call from a man in Arizona inquiring about the trailer. When I began to tell him that Algonac is a bit of a resort town that sits on the Saint Clair River he said, “I know, I’m originally from Algonac!” That was my sign from God! Raymond had lived in AZ for 17 years before returning to Algonac, the place he loved. It was as if Raymond was telling me, “It is okay to sell the trailer and move back home, you need your family.” He knew how much my family meant to me. The Arizona couple flew up here the first weekend in November and I sold my home on November 8. The wonderful thing about the sale is that I don’t have to move until March or April. I have the gift of time to find the next perfect little place for me.

I’m feeling very blessed indeed, this holiday season. My family and I are thrilled that I will no longer be an hour and a half away from them. I have made many moves in my life, and each time I move, I put out an intention/prayer to the universe, “This or something better.” Throughout my many moves, it’s been my experience that I always find the perfect place for me. I’m moving forward, and moving home…. To Family!

Posted in caregiver of cancer, growth, healing, Life, memoir | Tagged | 2 Comments

On The Couch

IMG_0271My days are all the same. I sit on the couch. I get on the computer, I watch TV. and, about once a week, I write. Sometimes I talk on the phone. Every couple of weeks someone comes out to visit me.

But everything I do, I do on the couch. I literally can’t think of anything to do. I literally have no desire to do anything, so I sit on the couch and BE.

No one really knows or sees the extent of my paralysis. No one would understand. I don’t understand. My cat has kept me company. He is a comfort and a buddy. I talk to him using my baby talk kitty voice. I love him up and cuddle him a lot. I’m grateful for my sweet kitty boy.

I talk to myself a lot. I talk to God, Raymond and my Daddy. I pray for a sign or some kind of guidance. I know I need to get off the couch but I can’t seem to do anything. I tune into my breathing, I feel peaceful. I accept that my life is quiet. My mantra has been, “It is what it is.” I have needed this time to heal. But I have a lot of “should’s” running through my mind. I should be doing something. I should be exercising. I should be open to dating. I should be able to drive on the expressway without having a panic attack. I should. I should. I should.

“Baby steps.” Isn’t that what they say?
In the two years and 5 months since Raymond has passed I have made some forward movement. I guess I need to list that movement in order to validate that I have done, and continue to do “some things” because most of my days are spent on the couch.

*Right after Raymond passed, the toilet broke. That was back when one of Raymond’s cousin’s was still talking to me and he helped me replace it and get it fixed.
* I went on a weekend up north with my family in summer 2012. It was a teary weekend, but I did it!
*I found a new therapist (my other one passed the Thanksgiving after Raymond passed).
*I helped my mom with the loving task of caregiving my dad, when he got sick.
*I spoke at my dad’s memorial.
*I bought a new couch, TV and refrigerator. Retail therapy!
*I re-modeled the deck with really comfy rocking chairs, a pretty rug, lots of plants and yard jewelry.
*I went to Denver with my mom for Lauren’s wedding.
*I get to the west side every other week and spend a night or two at my moms.
*I got off Effexor (an anti-depressant that I had been taking since I turned 50), which took 5 months, filled with terrible withdrawal effects.
*I got myself up north the summer of 2013, for the 7-year completion of my dream quest with my spiritual tribe.
*I’ve made some jewelry.
*I get an occasional massage.
*I see Karen almost every week.
*I spent the winter in Florida last year.
*I gifted myself with an etheric healing from Jule’ on July 17, 2014 and since then I’ve been doing my affirmations and visualizations she gave me, daily.
*I spent more time this summer out on rocking chair on the deck of my woodsy little home, appreciating nature.
*I quit smoking cigarettes! I’ve replaced those with a vapor nicotine thing.
*I’m laughing more and feel lighter.

After writing this list, I do recognize and acknowledge the steps I’ve taken. I see that some of them were not such “baby steps.” Now I find myself on the verge of taking two more big steps.

I’m going to apprentice with Jule’ in November. I have mixed feelings. It is an 18-month commitment and there will be a cost for this “higher education.” I look at it as an investment in my future. It feels like doing this course of study will change my life yet, the uncertainty creeps in. The doubt, the fear, the worry, that my ‘small self’ asks; “Will I get a clientele as an Etheric Healer? Will I actually start a practice? Will I have some purpose to my life?” Or will it be like when I became a Reiki Master and never really put myself out there to be a healer? I barely give Reiki to myself.

I am a hermit. I always have preferred to stay home and have people visit me than go visit them. My home is my safe space. My couch— this magnetic force that holds me, holds my sadness, my depression, and my lack of motivation. It also holds my hopes, my prayers, my affirmations, myself. It simply holds me, being me.

People tell me that I have to get out, “Just take a walk or go for a drive.” Logically, I know that. Once a month or so, I do go for a drive, up here on the St. Clair River, which Raymond loved. I enjoy it when I do get out, but mostly, I don’t want to get out. Really, what is there to do?

I’ve decided that if I moved back to the “west side,” I would have family and friends that I might do things with. At least, I would live close enough for them to come visit me. I am isolated out here. This was Raymond’s dream, not mine. I would have gone anywhere with than man— but he isn’t here anymore. I accept that fact and am so very grateful for my time with him. The truth is, I have no one here and nothing to do. I have put the trailer up for sale on the Mobile Home listing site. I have a feeling that it won’t sell until spring. The money I make on this place will have to go toward supplementing the higher rent costs in Plymouth, until I am eligible for my pension when I turn 60. My intention and prayer has always been, “This or something better.”

I received this quote in an e-mail today, it was obviously a message from my angels:
“Today may there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.”

So tonight, I sit and reflect on the steps I’ve taken these past two and a half years. I ponder what the future holds for me. I trust in divine timing and divine flow. These are my thoughts, here and now, on my couch.

Posted in acceptance, death and loss, growth, healing, Life, memoir | 11 Comments

The Passage of Time


We tend to mark time by the significant events in our lives. These moments change our view of time as well as our view of life. What life was like before the event and what is life like after the event.

Today is one of those markers in my life. It has been two years since my beloved Raymond made his transition out of my life and back to his true home. On 5/5/2012 at 10:10 am, Raymond took his last struggling breath. Since that moment, the passage of time in my life began to be marked. Life with Raymond and life without Raymond. Time; marked by days, weeks, months and now years. I’ve missed that man every second of every day he has been gone.

Ours was a true love story.   We met on an on-line dating site. We wrote long letters to each other daily for a month before we met in person. I could tell a lot about him from those letters. I knew right away that he was intelligent and passionate. He shared stories of his childhood, his travels, his view on life as well as his hopes and dreams. I think I fell in love with Raymond before I ever met him because of his eloquent and thoughtful letters. He was a true romantic and understood that the simple pleasures in life are far more treasured than material possessions.

I have saved our correspondence and now and then, I read those letters. After meeting Raymond and seeing how slowly he typed, I came to greatly appreciate the effort he put into writing me on a daily basis.   In one of his early letters to me, he stated, “he was looking for his last and greatest love.” I know that I was his last and greatest love.

By the time we met, I felt comfortable enough to invite him to my place. He brought flowers, wine and his guitar. The back of my couch faced the kitchen. I told him to have a seat while I opened the wine. I remember standing in the kitchen, pouring the wine and looking into the living room. He took his baseball cap off and underneath was a balding head with his remaining white hair tied in a pony-tale. That was the moment my heart opened like it never has before, and I knew I loved him.

Our first date lasted the whole weekend and after that, we were together everyday. Raymond’s way of “marking time” when we met was “BL (before Lisa) and AL (after Lisa).” He believed that nothing in his past mattered now that he had met me.

We spent a year and 9 months truly having fun, loving each other, counting our blessings, traveling, and of course singing together. I moved in with Raymond in June of 2011. I remember that he was less active. He took a lot of naps (I would often join him). We didn’t get out and fish as often as we had the previous summer.

Come fall, Raymond began coughing a lot. We’d just purchased a new camper for the back of his truck. We dreamed about a life together on the road traveling in our new camper. I remember it was getting cold, and he was outside lying on the cold ground, for hours securing the camper to the truck.   I begged him to come inside but he was determined to get it done. His cough kept getting worse. I finally convinced him to see my doctor. She took an x-ray and called us right back to her office. She said that he either had pneumonia or lung cancer. And that is when the doctor visits began.

On December 21, 2011, Raymond was diagnosed with stage 4-lung cancer, which had spread into his brain and his liver.   This was another date that marked our life’s events as “before and after”. All through his illness, Raymond remained a “bad ass.” He went through the gamma knife radiation on his brain, the chemo, tried Cantron (an alternative remedy that he had faith in) without ever complaining once. He was brave and he was tough.

Right away in January of 2012, Raymond started taking care of business. These were sad times, yet he was driven get his affairs in order. He put his truck with the camper in my name as well as the mobile home. He told me things he wanted me to do when he was gone, regarding his funeral and his possessions. He wanted to be buried in Algonac. He loved this town. We went to the county clerk and bought his grave together. It was a very teary day for both of us.

Yet, we both remained hopeful. As sick as Raymond was, he’d get out his guitar and sing a bit. He told me stories. We laughed and we cried. He called his family in California. During his last few months, Raymond called every person he thought he had ever wronged and apologized. I had great respect for him as he completed all of his unfinished business.

After his last trip to the hospital, Raymond’s “good lung” started filling up with fluid. They did a procedure that morning. They drained the fluid out of his lung. He felt better right away! As we were waiting for all his release papers, he said to me, “Honey, I can already feel my lung filling up again. I’m sick of hospitals, I want to go home.”

We called in hospice and three days later, he was gone. I had no idea he would pass so quickly. His, was the first death I ever witnessed. My heart still aches for him. We had such wonderful plans of travels together and living a happy simple life. How quickly those dreams were taken away from us.

Two years ago today, he left this world. He left our dreams and he left me. I had the honor of being in love with Raymond for two years and two months. I have been without him almost as long as I knew him. How is it possible that our short love affair has been over as long as it lasted? I know I will love him eternally. I believe we were destined to meet. We both learned (too late in life) what unconditional love truly is. I believe I was destined to be with him during his illness. I was destined to be fully present giving him my love and support in his transition from this world back to his true home. We were “soul mates.” He is part of my soul family and I would like to believe he is guiding me and watching over me, from the other side.

I woke up this morning and pulled 5 angel cards. They are small rectangle shaped cards with one word and a tiny image of an angel on them. Before I picked the cards, I held the little bag in my hand and I asked out loud, “Raymond what angels do you send me today?” These are the cards I pulled: Play, Freedom, Acceptance, Grace and Gratitude.

On this two year anniversary of his death, I believe that he sent me the message to play, to be free, to accept “what is” with grace and gratitude. It is time. Thank you for the guidance Raymond. Until we meet again, I love you and I am a better person for having known you.

Posted in caregiver of cancer, death and loss, growth, memoir | 7 Comments

Beach Bathing

I read this post on Facebook the other day:
Forest bathing
“The Japanese term Shinrin-yoku may literally mean “forest bathing,” but it doesn’t involve soaking in a tub among the trees. Rather it refers to spending time in the woods for its therapeutic (or bathing) effect. Most of us have felt tension slip away in the midst of trees and nature’s beauty. But science now confirms its healing influence on the body. When you spend a few hours on a woodland hike or camping by a lake you breathe in phytoncides, active substances released by plants to protect them against insects and from rotting, which appear to lower blood pressure and stress and boost your immune system.” ~Mother Nature Network

I do love the woods in northern Michigan. Yet the sound of the breeze blowing through palm trees is a sound that I have loved forever. Could it be that there is something very healing about walking barefoot in the sand, feeling the salt air against my skin, feeling the warmth of the sun against my skin, listening to the surf as the waves barrel into the shore? “Beach bathing” is soothing to my soul.

Since my move home from Kauai to Michigan in 2002, I have spent spring breaks visiting my parents at the condo they rented for two months every winter in Florida. My parents and I have always been good “beach buddies.” We all enjoyed morning walks along the seashore, watching dolphin and observing various sea birds. One beach we frequented had gopher turtles in the dunes. One had manatee swimming in a river near by.

The last trip I took to Florida was with Raymond in the spring of 2011. We drove his camper down to visit my parents who were in Bonita Springs. Our plan was to stay one week with my folks (I remember Raymond being a little hesitant about that length of time) and then continue on to the Keys.

When we got to Bonita Beach, Ray and my Dad hit it off so well, we stayed two weeks with them! My dad loved Raymond. Raymond loved my dad. They spoke for hours about each other’s families, their military experience, their mutual employment at Ford Motor Company and of course, ethnicity (Raymond’s favorite subject).

Dad had told me that one of the things he loved about Raymond is that he truly was interested in my Dad’s life, his history, and his experiences. Although Raymond was a talker, he was also a good listener.

Both Raymond and my Dad are gone now. I’ve spent over two years caregiving and helping both of them make their transition home. When I wasn’t caregiving, I was grieving. Most of my free time in the past two years consisted of being paralyzed, unable to get off the couch, unable to eat, clean my house or take care of myself.

I decided, late last summer, that I needed to winter in Florida this year! Due to my frequent anxiety attacks, my brother made the 17-hour drive with my cat and me. After a rocky start (the place I had rented, was unacceptable), Bruce and I found a clean, beautiful 2-bedroom condo on Manasota Key. The key is a narrow strip of land that lies between Lemon Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Bruce flew back home on Jan. 6th. It was a chilly January here, and I had about 5 good beach days. The rest of my time was spent lying out on the lanai getting sun. Although temps were in the 60’s, the sun was shining and it felt like the 70’s to me. Being on the second (top floor) of the condo, my sight line is level with the tops of the palm trees. I spent days on the chaise lounge chair, looking at the breeze rustling the tops of the palm trees.

Slowly, ever so slowly….. Something amazing happened to me! I started to notice that I was happy again. My time in the sun has helped me find my smile again. What a revelation! In my first month here, I remembered that the tropics are good for my spirit. Maybe enough time has gone by, and my grief is lessening. The cloud of sadness that I have been sitting with for two years is lifting. I did feel lonely a couple days in January, but mostly I was happy.

My mom, with a bit of hesitation about leaving home only 8 months after my dad’s death, decided to come stay with me for 2 months. She arrived on Jan 28th. We are both glad that we are in a “new area” of Florida. We aren’t seeing ghosts around every corner. The memories we are sharing together are happy ones. It is sad to be here without my Dad and without Raymond, but I believe they would both be thrilled that we are here together; beach buddies for life, my mommy dear and I.

The death of the two most influential men in my life and the grief surrounding those events literally grounded me. I realize that I needed that time on the couch. I also realize that my time on the couch is over.

At this point, I am filled with hope. Hope that when I return to Michigan, I will bring my smile back home with me. Hope that I will stay off the couch and start to participate in my life again. Hope that I do indeed, have a life and I intend on living it with gratitude, trust, and faith. The cloud has lifted. Life is a series of peaks and valleys. It is what it is. I’m climbing up a peak, “beach bathing” at sea level, healing my spirit. Life is good.

Posted in acceptance, caregiver of cancer, growth, healing, memoir | 6 Comments

Scraps of Paper

Mom and I are working on her side of our family tree. She has a bag which contains folders and photos that she found after my Grandpa died, while she was going through his things. Some of the items in the folder, she hand’t really gone through until today. Weathered, frayed, folded scraps of paper with squiggled writing in the penmanship of my grandparents

There were love letters and poetry written to my Grandma, by my Grandpa. Poems for birthdays, poems about the anticipation of trips together, poems about loving each other eternally. Grandpa was a poet. He wrote a hilarious poem to Timex (the makers of the wrist watch he wore) and kept the writer’s of the Timex commercial’s humorous response to his letter. It was quite amusing.

We found short sweet and silly poems my Grandma wrote to my Grandpa. Mom was an artist. When we were young, she painted a happy clown which hung in the room Bruce and I shared as kids. We found a poem my grandma wrote about that painting. The last line stated, “When I look into the eyes of that clown, I see Reggie” (my mom’s name). We found a poem about Bruce, at age 9, who was too old for kisses from grandma, but loved kisses from his dog. Obviously, Grandma was hurt that he no longer felt the need to kiss her hello and goodbye. She also wrote a poem on Christmas eve about Rudolph’s red nose, in which she said “…it wasn’t Rudolph, but Reg jumping into her bed!”

These scraps of paper made me realize that I come from a family where love was our role model. My grandparents, on both sides of my family, were happy and in love throughout their lives. My parents were happy and in love their whole life. With dysfunctional families, being the norm in our society, it’s comforting to know that my family’s history was loving.

There was a notebook. Inside were notes my Grandpa wrote about his life and his earliest memories. Handwritten memories, from the last generation of people who actually wrote down their memories. An art that has faded as much as the paper it was written on. The computer generation has taken place of writing paper and penmanship. Tucked away in drawers, these brown, tattered, folded scraps of paper were saved with love, only to be found, read with a tear and cherished by us.

Scraps of paper. Weathered, fading, frayed edges, folded and torn.

I think about how my Grandpa’s memories of his life, are now reduced to a collection of papers. We look at his penmanship, his thoughts organized and written down so they wouldn’t be forgotten. He wanted to write his memoirs. He had an outline for his book like I have an outline for my book! Will my memoirs ever be completely written, or will they be scraps of ideas, saved to a file on my computer for someone to find one day?

Posted in death and loss, Life, memoir | 3 Comments