The “Should Have Been” 66

Dear Greg,

Today is another of those “should have been” celebrations. Your 66th birthday!  Six birthdays. Without you. Six birthdays trying to figure out how to keep celebrating when sometimes celebrating is the last thing I want to do. This is one of those times. It’s been a rough week. The world was reminded of the fragility of life. It touched so close to home. A superstar, his child and seven others with families and loves lost their lives. In a moment. A flash. And the world mourned. What began as an ordinary day ended in tragedy. And no one gets it. They shake their heads. Question. Why? How could this happen? Unfortunately. It does. And as truly awful as it is it happened to these nine people. A horrific tragedy that leaves surviving members struggling to put the pieces of their lives back together. Lives that will NEVER be the same again. My heart breaks. It physically hurts. No words to explain. Because I have felt that agonizing pain. One minute life is normal. And the next. It’s gone. Everything’s changed. You don’t  know where to turn. Where to begin. What to say. I’ve broken down so many times this week. For my pain? Or theirs? I don’t even know. Probably some of both. But the message is always the same. DON’T WASTE THE MOMENTS. We’ve heard it over and over again. We think about it. And then we don’t. We become complacent. We’ll do it tomorrow. And then we don’t. BE IN THE MOMENT. BE PRESENT. It makes a difference to those who love you and those you love. Emails, texts, FB, IG. Not going anywhere. It can wait. Loved ones. They need you. NOW.

The world has been grieving. Everywhere you turn people are talking. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Make the call. Love today. Live in the moment. Shaquille O’Neal, with tears streaming down his face, cried, “I wish I could say one last thing to the people that we lost, because once you’re gone, you’re gone forever. It really changes me, I just really now have to take time and just call and say I love you … because you never know.” But why does it take the death of a superstar to remind us? To live with compassion. Kindness. Empathy. Why does death shoot us with some powerful super drug of “let’s get real?”  It’s scary. Sad. Devastating. And final. Reminds us of our eventual mortality We stop. Cry. Hug. Love. Call our loved ones. But. What happens next week? Next month? We live our lives. Get busy. Time passes. Complacency sets in. Again. Until another “event.” But not for those whose lives have personally been shattered. Their lives will NEVER be the same again.  Not only for the superstar. The NINE families. But ALL the others. A neighbor. A friend. A stranger. All those who feel this insufferable pain of loss.   It’s a club no one wants to join.

Today on your birthday I still ask myself why? Why would they take a “good one?” Just as the world is wondering about the “nine.” But. Here’s what I’ve learned. There are no reasons. I could search forever. I could beat myself down. And never know why. Harold Kushner wrote, “I don’t know why one person gets sick, and another does not, but I can only assume that some natural laws which we don’t understand are at work. I cannot believe that God ‘sends’ illness to a specific person for a specific reason. I don’t believe in a God who has a weekly quota of malignant tumors to distribute, and consults His computer to find out who deserves one most or who could handle it best. ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ is an understandable outcry from a sick and suffering person, but it is really the wrong question. Being sick or being healthy is not a matter of what God decides that we deserve. The better question is ‘If this has happened to me, what do I do now, and who is there to help me do it?’” The answer is you. And only you. It’s a treacherous climb. Steep. Rocky. Jagged. Struggling to hold on. And. One day. You breathe. You see the other side. It’s foggy. But. It will clear. Little by little every day. Until suddenly. The sun is shining. Once again.

Six birthdays without you. Today is the day to celebrate YOU. This day will always belong to you. We celebrate your Love. Kindness. Generosity. Compassion. Smile. All that was YOU. Ellen DeGeneres said, “Life is short and it’s fragile. And we don’t know how many birthdays we have. We don’t have to have a birthday to celebrate. Just celebrate life. And if you haven’t told someone you love them. Do it. Now. Do it.” I love you. You will forever be in my heart. The only purpose in loss is to live a life of purpose. Find our blessings. And always. Always. Be grateful. For life. Today. Tomorrow. Forever.

P.S. Make the call. Tell someone you love them. Don’t wait. Tomorrow may not be another day. Celebrate TODAY!

5 years…

Dear Gregger,

5 years, 60 months, 1825 days, 43,800 hours, 2,628,000 minutes, 157,680,000 seconds since you’ve been gone. I thought it’d be different by now. Not quite so raw. But. It stings. Burns. Aches. The pain. Sadness. Tears. Far too pronounced. Wetting the corners of my eyes. My face. Emptying my heart of the pain. I’ll be okay. But. For the moment. I remember. You are gone. And the pain is real.

Somedays I can barely remember my telephone number. I search frantically for a word, a name. Blank. Nothing. But the vivid memories of August 30th, 2014? They are etched in my brain. I blink my eyes. I’m back on the beach. Black Rock. Maui. Sun shining. Ocean blue. Perfect Hawaiiian day. Who would have guessed? In a moment. A heartbeat. My whole world would change. Our whole world would change. But it did. And life would never be the same again. 

Grief is a journey to which there is no end. August 30th, 2014, I cautiously entered the uncharted emotions swirling in my brain. A torrent of emotions rushing inside. Shock. The raw shocking truth that you had taken your last breath. I would never hold your hand. Feel the touch of arms around me. Your lips on mine. We would never share another moment. Celebrations. Grandbabies. Travel. All of our dreams. Gone. Throughout the days and years these feelings rolled, tumbled, intensified, lessened, only to burst to the surface when I least expected. Triggers. Songs. Butterflies. Rainbows. I’d see you. And miss you more. And. Remember. Most of the time, I was alone in these thoughts. After time, no one wanted to hear it. It’d been long enough. Or that’s what you hear. Think. But grief. Real Grief. It. Never. Ends. It’s always tucked away, waiting to emerge. Pop its head out and remind you. Loneliness. Longing. And, most of all. Lost love. Yes, you. My lost love. 

Five years. So many changes. In my life. Our family. The world. I’ve grown. Changed. I believe for better. But I’d give it all back for one day with you. I know far too many who have suffered the same grief. I feel their pain. Heartache. Emptiness. I share my story. Hoping to help others brave their journey, eyes and heart open. Remove the expectations and embrace the reality. That’s what I’ve finally learned to do. If I can share and soften the pain for one person, I find purpose. Meaning. Something. For each of the 1825 days you’ve been gone, I’ve embraced these realities:

  • Reality: Grief is personal. There may be a beginning, but there is no end.
  • Reality: Just when all seems right with the world, it comes crashing down. No warning. And there I am again. Holy crap! Fighting for survival. I can do it. And I’ll do it again. And again. And maybe hundreds of agains. But each time I’ll come out stronger than before. Don’t fight it. I’m stronger than I believe I am.
  • Reality: There is no right, wrong, better or worse way to grieve. Whatever works for me is my best way! Do it. No one can tell ME how to grieve but ME!
  • Reality: Feel. Listen. Process. Don’t push my feelings aside. Pushing them away doesn’t mean they are gone. They are merely hiding deep within. Eventually they’ll emerge with the surge of a tsunami wave. I’ll be sucked in. Knocked down. And slowly claw my way to the surface again.Sometimes it takes moments. Other times days. Weeks. But. I have to learn to swim to the surface.
  • Reality: Remember. The good times. So many. Hang onto those in my heart. The love. The laughter. The tears. 40 years. We were lucky. Blessed. And those are the memories I cherish.
  • Reality: 5 years. 10 years. 20. A part of my heart will always ache for you. But I must find a place for joy. That does not mean I don’t miss you. Or love you less. It means  love and loss can walk beside one another. Together they can find a joyful place in my heart.
  • Reality: I will continue to tell your story. Our story. I will say your name. I will not bury that part of you. Talking about you, us, makes me smile. Warms my heart. Reminds me of love. Happiness. Joy. I will not push that aside. Ever. 
  • Reality: I will continue to believe that you are with me. The white butterfly. It’s not random. It knows when I need it most. And it’s there. The first time Ashley went through IVF. Every day. The white butterfly fluttered into my garden. Now. As we await the arrival of baby girl, the white butterfly is here again. I know it’s you. In Chinese symbology, a white butterfly symbolizes the soul of a departed loved one. It means angels are watching over you and that you are being protected. Thank you for being my angel. For loving, protecting always. 

5 years. It seems like a minute. And forever. I’ll blink my eyes. And soon it will be another 5 years. Life will keep changing. I will keep changing. But some things will never change. My heart. My love. And missing you. 

Happy Birthday to Me!

As I reflect on my birthday this year (and it’s a big one), I ask myself, “Is this what I thought this age would look like?” Where did I think I would be? This was most definitely not the life I’d planned. But. I am happy with the me I’ve become. So I believe that’s an amazing accomplishment. A gift to myself. Why did it take so long? Why couldn’t I have learned these things and lived this life years ago? Why couldn’t I have been this “me” for all of my life? Maybe it took this journey to get me to this place. Maybe it took life’s hard lessons to make me realize the simple things. And. I suppose that’s what life is really all about. Such simple wisdom. Such simple truth. Truth. That’s what I discovered. My truth. My being. My soul. Not what others wanted to see. Hear. Feel. But what I wanted to give. To myself. To others. The real me. Discovery. It wasn’t an easy journey. I searched. Looked back. Forward. Inside. Out. I relived moments. Questioned decisions. Opportunities. Conversations. And realized that each one was what it was. An opportunity for growth. Good, bad, painful, or heart wrenching as hell, they all brought me to this place. So. I’m grateful. 

I’ve learned to “breathe.” To take in the moments. To stop. Being with a child every day teaches you that life is so simple. I had three children. But life was complicated then. I was busy. Distracted. Sweating the small stuff. I wish I hadn’t. Cruz teaches me to stop. Be aware. To see the sharp needles on the cactus. To smell the flowers. See the colors. Splash in the puddle. Sing. Laugh. Simply. Let go. Child’s play. But. If we could all take moments and live like children for just a little while, we’d be so much happier. The joy is abundant. 

I celebrate this joy. The simple things. And all the love and laughter that can light up my life. I celebrate being alive. Because I know how very precious life is. 

My life lessons…

  1. Life is about choices and chances. The choices we make can determine the paths we take, but, it’s also the chances that may lead us on a completely different path. Follow your yellow brick road.
  2. Live for today. Whatever happened yesterday is over. Whatever will happen tomorrow is out of your control. So all you really have is today. Just live it. Enjoy it. And be grateful for the moments. 
  3. “Don’t let anyone invalidate or minimize how you feel. If you feel something, you feel it and it’s real to you. Nothing anyone says has the power to invalidate that, ever. No one else lives in your body… sees life through your eyes…lived through your experiences. No one else has the right to dictate or judge how you feel. Your feelings are important and deserve to be heard. They are inherently valid and matter. Don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.”
  4. There will be disappointments, hurt, pain in life. But, again, you have a choice. Hold on or let go. LET IT GO. Free yourself. You can find joy in the darkest times when you free yourself of negativity. Find one good moment. Practice positivity. One good moment in a bad day can change everything. 
  5. “Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.” 
  6. Listen. Don’t just “hear” what children, family, friends are saying. Take time to listen. With your whole heart. Embrace the words. Communicate. This is the foundation for the best of all relationships. 
  7. Don’t waste time trying to please those who can never be pleased. Life is too short. “Spend your life with people who make you smile, laugh and feel loved.”  
  8. Happiness starts today. Why wait for tomorrow, next week, next year? Today is the first day of the rest of your life. The best time to be happy is NOW. Celebrate as if each day was worthy of celebration!

Cheers to another year of happy, joy, peace, and lots of love!

Happy 65th Birthday Gregger!

Gregger Pitti-Uomo-June-14-606
Dear Gregger,
Happy 65th Birthday! Wow! What woulda, coulda, shoulda been. A celebration. Party. Reflection. Your request?Understated. Family. Maybe. But. Knowing what I know now. NEVER. You deserve BIG. Birthdays. Every one worthy of celebration. Because. We never know when it’s going to be our last. So. WE will CELEBRATE. WE will rejoice in your LIFE. WE will treasure the moments we had. Not the moments we LOST. Because there were far too many.
Birthdays. Each one a gift. A time to renew. Milestones. 18. 21. 25. 40. 50. And then. 65. Medicare. Retirement. Slow down. LOL! Never. You. The original energizer bunny. Going, going, going. Morning to night. Your gears spinning. Faster. Harder. Grinding. 65. Reminisce. Share your wisdom. Plan. For a future we believed would be. You did all those things. Years ago. As if you knew. Did you?
I often wonder. If you knew now, what 65 would look like, how would you live your life? Would you slow down? Take time? Stop. For a moment. I don’t think so. I think you’d do exactly what you did. Every day. Because. I think. I hope. I pray. You were happy. And. In the end, isn’t that what really matters?
On this special day. We honor you. I said it best last year. So I will I say it again. Today is not about me. It’s about YOU. You touched so many lives with your smile. Your twinkling eyes. Your kind heart. You radiated selfless spirit and generosity. You were the spirit of joy. Love. And all that is good. Perfect? No. But. I laugh at your imperfections. Your quirks. They make you, you. And that’s why I loved you so. You made me the best version of me. I continue to grow because of YOU. But. They are your lessons. Your reminders. Helping me grow. I am forever grateful. For you. Our life. Our family. Our love.
Cheers to you on this 65th birthday. I wish you peace. Love. Joy. Your light continues to shine on this earth. I see it. I hear it. And most of all. I feel it. You are everywhere.
Happy Birthday Gregger. I love you today. I’ll love you tomorrow. I’ll love you forever.

Cheers to 65! 

Happy 43rd Anniversary!

Dear Gregger,
43 Years…Our Anniversary…Happy? 4 ½ years ago it was. For 38 years it was a day to celebrate. Us. But today? No. For better or worse. ‘Til death do us part. As we did. Parted. August 30th, 2014. I stand here alone. 43 years. Wondering. Wishing. Wanting. But that’s all I can do. I believed in fairytales. Happily ever afters. This wasn’t our ending. I want a rewrite. Now what? How do I “celebrate?” How can I find joy on this special day that joined us together as “one?” We were writing our story. But there are so many blank pages. I can only go back and read what was. Because that’s all there will ever be. Memories.

January 10, 1976. Our first dance. “We’ve Only Just Begun.” “White lace and promises.” I wore white lace. We made promises. Promise to love. Respect. Support. Through good times and bad. “A kiss for luck and we’re on our way.” And so we were. Move to Arizona. One child. Two. Three. Building a life. Our home. Our future. But. “We’d only just begun.” Still “so many roads to choose. We started out walking and learned to run.” But, yet, we’d still only just begun. Life changed along the roads. And so did we. We laughed. We cried. We stumbled. We got up again. But, through it all, we were “us.” Together. “Sharing horizons that were new to us. Watching signs along the way. Talkin’ it over, just the two of us. Workin’ together day to day. Together.” In the end. That’s what mattered. Together. Just the two of us. Friends. Lovers. Soul mates.

“And when the evening came, we smiled. So much of life ahead.” That’s what we thought. That’s where plans changed. God had us fooled. We had plans. But He had different ones. And suddenly. Life changed. Now, “I’ll find a place where there’s room to grow. I’ve only just begun. I watch horizons that are new to me. Watching the signs along the way. Talking it over but you’re not there. Working it out day to day. Alone. And lonely. And when the evening comes, I think of you. Where did our moments go? I’ll keep searching for a place to grow. And, yes, I’ve only just begun.”

I want to rewrite our ending. Rewind. Redo. Just certain things. Words. Actions. Those moments wasted quarreling over minuscule nothings. I want to fill the blank pages. But we don’t get second chances. This was it. I have so many words left to say. So many more “I love you’s.” “I’m sorry.” “Forgive me.” And more “I love you’s” after that. So as we “celebrate” this 43rd year, I cherish the moments we had. I’m grateful for your lessons. The big ones, the small ones, and the “Greggerisms.” They are invaluable. They give me strength. Courage. And confidence. To stand on my feet. To survive. And to remember. Keep smiling through the storm. Because. At the end of the storm, there’s a rainbow. Where hopes, dreams and wishes really do come true.

I will not to be sad today. I’ve cried too many tears. Instead. I will be grateful. For the years we had together. The love we shared. Our family. Our life. And the memories I hold in my heart. We were blessed. Cheers to us!

Forever in my heart. You will always be my “one.” Happy 43rd! I love you…???   

My anniversary wish: For those lucky enough to be together. Those lucky enough to hold their loved one close. Hold tight. Share the joy. Take time. Time to listen. To play. To rest. Put away devices. Talk. Be present. This moment is the only one you’ve got. No second chances. Live it. Love it. Enjoy it all. And Love. Just love.

We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us
so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid,
or we can let them soften us, and make us kinder.
We always have the choice.