Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Pendants

    There is a mitzvah (good deed) in the Torah (Bible)to "judge others favorably". In practical terms, this means viewing others in a positive way, and not judging them negatively when it appears that they are doing something wrong or, at best, questionable.
   If any of my friends passed by the jewelry store last week, they may have been puzzled to see me, so soon after Ricki's death, buying jewelry. And I was in the store a LONG time. But what was I doing there, in fact?
   It turns out that two days before Ricki's death, she and I spent the morning at a ceramics class, making pendants as gifts for her best friends and all of her nieces. So early last week, I went to the jeweler with the precious-as-gold (to me)ceramic pendants. The lady at the jewelry store graciously managed to insert chains into the almost-too-small- holes, and refused to take as much as a penny for her time, charging me for the materials alone.

(photo: Picture of ceramic stars and hearts)

A perfect "memory" of Ricki for her nieces, ready to be given them at the "shloshim" (end of the first month of mourning).……

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Photo

I found your smile today,
In a picture, tucked away,
Your infectious grin entreating
Never to say "Goodbye".  

*     *     *     *     *

As an arrow plucked from the quiver
                        ….and sent in flight,
Just like an eagle, circling skyward,
                        then lost from sight,
Flickering as a star in the dark sapphire sky,
You soared away, a butterfly,
                        with wings, too high.

Straining to remember
                        a tune once sung,
A fleeting melody, whose lyrics I never learned,
Like reflections in a distant mirror,
                        flitting by,
You vanished, a sifting shadow,
An outgoing tide.

An auburn leaf, withered up,
You fell from the tree too soon,
Bequeathing us your smile, your laughter,
                   a willingness to try anew…..

And even a dash of chutzpah, to spice up life's stew….

 *  *  *   *   *

Monday, August 27, 2012

Too tired

I have lots to blog... but am just TTTOOOO tired. Maybe tomorrow.....

Josh's Laugh

    It was Saturday evening. My son Josh and his family had been with us for the Sabbath, and would soon be heading home. But before leaving, he sat his girls down next to my computer, in order to show them an "album" of pictures I had prepared of Ricki. After all, his young daughters only knew Ricki in the last few years. They had never seen earlier photos of her.
    Suddenly from the kitchen (where I was washing dishes that had piled up over the weekend), I heard Josh give a big chuckle in the other room. "Mom," he called me, "You just HAVE to come here and see this!"
    As I entered the room Josh pointed to this picture, which was taken in 2007 in Colorado, when Ricki and I visited my parents. Josh then smiled, and shared with me that when his eldest daughter saw the photo, she pointed to the figure on the left, saying "There's Ricki!" Then she pointed to the figure on the right, "But WHO is THAT?!?"
    "That", concluded Josh to his daughter, is your 'Bubee' (grandmother)!"


Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Wish I Could….

      Each person in our family mourns Ricki's passing in a different way. My older daughter cries easily; I do not. One has had several dreams of Ricki, etc.
   The way I have most mourned Ricki is simply thinking about her a lot (the first week and a half almost non-stop….), and….. well, this:

  I have had to go through the shopping area of town several times over the last several days, and as I do, I am drawn to certain stores. Every book store, toy store, jewelry store, has me half pausing. I often browsed in these types of stores, looking to see if there was anything "really good" to purchase Ricki as a study aid, or as a prize. Often I did NOT purchase anything while window shopping, but I DID look. Now as I pass these stores, I DO remember that Ricki is no longer alive. But I have this wrenching feeling of wishing I could buy her something. I manage to continue on, passing the stores by, but I wish I could put a smile on her face…..

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Falling Off the Bandwagon and Taking Stock

[Note of terms: The week after a close relative's death is called the shiva week, or shiva. During that period one stays at the house of mourning, and receives visitors who come to console the mourners.]

    On the way back from the cemetery last Tuesday, the first thing I did was pass by the pharmacy to pay a small debt and to check my weight. I had gained almost a kilo, which was no surprise after a week of being housebound, as well as having cookies and cake (which visitors had brought) under my nose the whole week. I accepted that slight gain as pretty inevitable, but was sure that I would be back on track immediately. I was determined NOT to "fall off the bandwagon"; and I even reassured a worried friend that "No, I am NOT going to let Ricki's death push me off my diet!"
    However, despite going out walking early Friday morning (walking generally decreases my appetite), I found myself overeating on Friday and Shabbas. Not too drastically, but enough that I gained over the weekend. My knee-jerk reaction was to start brow-beating myself, but after a moment I stopped and took stock:
-I want to keep on track.
-I am committed to keeping on track.
-Yes, I am under stress, but is that REALLY the reason?????

The magic question:
WHY am I overeating?!? WHAT is going on here?!? WHAT feelings are causing this?

    After a few moments pause, the answer came to me easily. I was exhausted. During the shiva week, even on shabbas, I had slept no more than 4 out of 24. The following days had been full of "catching up" and I was TIRED. Being tired AND stressed was simply too lethal of a cocktail to fight. The solution was obvious. Since there is no way I can lessen the stress of the mourning, it is IMPERATIVE that I get enough sleep. With enough sleep under my belt, I should feel well enough to deal with my emotions without the crutch of food.
   So I am back on track. Why? Because instead of simply "blaming" myself, I EVALUATED. If you have been eating sensibly for a good period, and suddenly stop doing so, stop and TAKE STOCK. Be careful. (It would have been very easy to blame it all on the shiva, emotions, etc) Look beyond the obvious to what is REALLY happening. Once you know what is triggering overeating, fighting it is much easier.

We've Come a Long Way

    When Ricki was born I remembered a friend of mine who had lost a baby with Down syndrome not too long before. I spoke once with this friend about her experiences, and she mentioned that there had been more than one case of people telling her "how relieved" she must be. A second friend, whose 4 year old son died a few years later had similar experiences.
    Well, I guess that as a community we may have come a long way, because I did NOT get such comments.  However, in a few cases I expected that I might get such a comment, and I pre-empted it with a few lines that I said repeatedly during the "shiva":

     I won't say it was always easy. But it was always good. Something difficult is not necessarily bad. Everyone in the family, all of us, profited from having Ricki in our lives. We became better people, more mature, better attuned to the reality of what is important in life.
   Yes, it was good…..

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Clearing My Head…..

     One of the hardest parts of sitting "shiva" (the mourning week), was the lack of physical activity. Even though I was told that I could take a brief walk outside on Saturday, I stayed the remainder of the week indoors, mostly sitting. About my only other activity was cooking breakfast for the family, which I managed to do because I didn't sleep well, and was up early every morning.
   So the first thing I did on Wednesday (the first full day of non-shiva) was to take a long walk, to "stretch my legs and clear my mind".
     What was I thinking?!? Did I really imagine that I could "clear my mind"?!? I thought about Ricki, and what I want to tell her when we go to her grave in three weeks for the "shloshim" (one-month anniversary of the death) for nearly all of the two-and-a-half hour walk.[Not that I MIND thinking about Ricki…..]
     Coming to terms with Ricki's Down syndromewas a process..   So will coming to terms with her death be a process. And this process is going to take time……

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Future of This Blog

   First I would like to thank you all. The tremendous response to the notice of her death has touched me deeply. 
   I did not cry very copiously during the shiva (mourning week), to the point that one thoughtless lady decided- and stated-  that I was stunting my emotional health by not weeping more.* However, I DID have trouble (extreme trouble) sleeping, as armies of thoughts [over Ricki's passing and my future relationships with other parents of children with Down syndrome, support groups, etc,] marched through my brain.
   I also was doubtful about my desire and/or ability to continue this blog beyond the next several days (or weeks). I decided that I want to share my experiences and thoughts from the past week, as well as my adjustments to life without Ricki in the weeks to come. I hope such posts will be helpful for any woman in the future who joins the "club" of bereaved mothers, and will help other readers to understand others in such a situation. However, after that (except perhaps for occasional flashbacks), the "Ricki stories" will end. And I have serious doubts about my ability to maintain an interesting blog without her. But in the meantime, at least, I will be posting occasionally, commenting on life in general, and we'll play it by ear…….

PS I assume that several of my readers may be interested in the circumstances of Ricki's death. She had been discharged from the hospital about a month ago with blood clots in her leg and lungs.(The clots were probably caused by her recent inactivity due to overweight.)  She continued to receive oxygen and anti-coagulants, but apparently a clot dislodged, and caused a deathly blockage elsewhere…
  In short, the kitchen gate really WAS a "let's help-Ricki-live" gate, but we were too late.

 * [I personally think that I have not  truly internalized Ricki's death yet. I suspect that over the next few days, as I return to my "regular" routine, and am confronted by the enormity of the difference, I will feel it more acutely.]

The "Say Red" Story

     The "shiva" week is over; we arose from mourning on Tuesday morning, and went to visit Ricki's grave to daven (pray) and recite Psalms.
   It has been a very strange week to say the least. All but two of my sons and one step daughter were able to be with us for the week. We looked at old photo albums, and reminisced about Ricki. We even laughed about some of her lighter moments. Our favorite story was the "Say 'RED'" story:

Once (when Ricki was quite young) the older boys were entertaining themselves by cassette-taping other family members. When Ricki's turn arrived, they coached her: "Say 'Adom' (red) " She wasn't interested. After all, what was in it for her?
They repeated themselves over and over:
-"Say 'Adom' "
-"Say 'Adom' "
-"Say 'Adom' "

"LO adom!!!!!!" ("NOT red!") was the inevitable reply.
That was the first time she said two words together.

    I was amazed at the number of people who paid condolence calls: former classmates of Ricki from the years she had been mainstreamed (some on the verge of tears), former and present teachers, therapists, neighbors, storeowners from the area, and fellow parents. These were all in addition to regular neighbors and friends. Several people arrived from out of town (including several readers of this blog, who I met in person for the first time).
    In addition, it was interesting, like rewinding the cassette of Ricki's life, to have people who I had not seen for 12 or 15 years come walking out of the mists of the past to acknowledge the effect this spunky kid had made on their lives. It was humbling to realize how big an effect she had made on others (though we had traveled along with her, largely unaware).

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sitting Shiva

   I am sorry to tell you that Ricki died suddenly last night in her sleep. We will be "sitting shiva" at ______(address removed after the shiva week)________

Sunday, August 5, 2012

As long as it Takes......

    I remember when I started losing weight... I would sit and calculate how long it would take me to lose the 75-80 kilos that needed to go. I figured that at a kilo a week, it would take up to two years. Of course, I didn't realize back then that as I lost, weekly loss would slow down, as I would not be shlepping around all that excess baggage! Today I am about 3 to 3-1/2 years into my weight-loss journey, and as I near my final goal, I'm lucky if I loose a half kilo weekly! 
      But it no longer matters. As long as I am going in the direction I want, the time required is no longer that important to me. WHY????
     Because I am having so much fun FUN FUN! Losing weight is INVIGORATING! Losing weight is empowering! It really is!