LAST WORD

Dear Strong Woman,

There are no coincidences.

Occasionally I pull from this deck of Gabby Bernstein mantra cards for inspiration. I haven’t touched them since I moved four months ago, but I saw them in my drawer as I was putting some things away and felt inclined.

I sprawled out the deck in my hand and pointed it towards Muzz. I had previously made a practice of pulling the first card his nose touched, so I stuck with that tried and true method tonight.

I’ve not been home more than thirty minutes from what I’ve lovingly deemed Cleo Weekend, a time spent remembering the day our best girl’s wings carried her away from us. In those four years since she’s passed, she visits me most frequently in the form of a hummingbird.

And here she is again tonight.

The response from my mother upon receiving this picture was this:

“Another person who enjoyed the last word in her older age. She was thanking you.”

I’m crying and smiling at the sound of her giggle in my head. If you don’t believe in the magic of miracles, it’s okay…I believe in it enough for us all.

LAMB

Dear Cleo,

Thank you.

I’m not sure for what just yet, but I know your hand is in everything right now.

I continue to have these moments that seem to cut my life into before and after, and I can feel you here…holding my hand…welcoming me into yet another season.

Another version of myself.

I hope it never stops. Not because I selfishly want to feel your presence, but because I want to continue to grow.  To become to woman I am meant to become.

I know this means there will be more hard moments, but I am not afraid of this.  Between having you and Mum as my guideposts, I am more than trained to handle such times.  What I am learning though is that sometimes breaking down into a full-blown snot cry is an acceptable first step in handling it. It’s okay to show weakness. It’s okay to not know what path to chose so long as I trust that it has already been chosen.  I just have to follow. To show up. To be open to those Universal lessons that you are most definitely throwing my way.

(This last one has your name all over it.  I feel it in my gut. My heart.)

But while I’ve felt inclined to tap into the lion within me, you’ve kept me…calm.  Relaxed.   At ease and thankfully off that dreaded hamster wheel in my head.

You’re reminding me that in times when I feel inclined to roar, it’s okay to be a lamb.

Soften my edges.

Come from grace.

Operate from a space of happiness. Only happiness.

How beautiful it is to remain silent when the world expects you to be outraged!

My instinct is screaming: YES. THIS.

I shouldn’t be surprised that you are showing off as such, especially now.  Even today – your birthday – has provided little glimmers of reassurance that I am moving in the right direction.  And as I type that, I can hear your giggle.

You always were clever.

And we always made a good team.

Glad to know that some things will never change…even if there are worlds between us.

YES. THIS.

Thank you for keeping me in line down here, pretty girl.

LACES

Dear Strong Woman,

When I miss you, I look up. But today, looking down brought me closer to you.

I leave this pair of shoes at Anders’ place. One less thing to pack. My old watermelon running shoes that are still good enough to get the job done.

These Saturday cardio workouts, despite being the shortest in this program, are my least favorite. Once you start, it’s go go go. No breaks, except for the necessary moments where I’ve had to press pause to catch my breath.

But not today.

Today, these dollar store shoes laces kept me going. I bought them when we found out things were worse than we thought. When I was going stir crazy not being home to help. When I decided to train for my first half marathon, because the chances of me actually completing it were as meek as you beating breast cancer.

Good thing you and I were both stubborn as hell.

I ran it. Less than a year later, you left us, but you did so cancer-free.

Because that’s how we do.

So today, each time I wanted to stop, I heard you cheering me on to keep going. I laughed and told you to get over here and join me. You quickly told me to go to hell.

And just like that, I was both laughing and crying through mule kicks.

Thanks for the visit (and always present shit talk) today, Cleo.

Miss you.

IN THE GARDEN

Dear Cleo,

I can’t believe it’s been three years already.

Part of my disbelief comes from the fact that I feel you everywhere, and in the most unsubtle of ways.  It’s like you’re playing a trans-worldy game of Gotcha! just to giggle as you see the exasperated look on my face.  The timing of some events is far too perfect to be labeled as coincidence.  Hummingbirds show up just when I need them.  Almost all “are you kidding me?” moments have your giggle playing as the soundtrack.

That giggle still soothes my restless soul.

I’m home today. HOME home.  The house is quiet as everyone still has to go about life’s required agenda regardless of how we are feeling.  The world doesn’t stop when your world stops unfortunately.  But perhaps it is a blessing.  Greif requires motion, so maybe the day-to-day routines are what help us heal.  I wonder if that day will come, as the tears still hit me with great force at random.

Regardless, I am enjoying the silence, with the exception of puppy snores at my feet. The surrounding view of Mum’s jungle of flowers too-perfectly reminds me of your favorite hymn.  I come to the Garden alone…

But as the hymn continues, we know that we are anything but alone. I feel you all around me in this very moment.  Hugging me, telling me that strong women can cry, too.  You squeeze me tighter as I type this, and I giggle as more tears fall.

Again with the laughter.  It’s fitting, as I’ve heard it said that the earth laughs in flowers.

Perhaps the abundance of blossoms here are partially your doing?

You weren’t much of the gardener when you were here, but I can tell you’ve picked up that hobby in your new home.  You’ve been planting a number of seeds in my world since your departure.  Major events.  Big changes.  Obstacles upon obstacles, but all with a destination in mind.  I’m okay with not knowing yet.  I know I am not privy to the plan and that trusting the process is part of the lesson here.

But damn…it’s been messy.  Darkness before the dawn kind of stuff.  Dirt beneath my fingernails as I work through these weeds.  Less, always less to make room for more.  Narrow, but deep with the seeds so that they can blossom far and wide.

Inhale dirt.

Exhale flowers.

Keep planting, Cleo.

**Post originally written on October 6, 2017.

HERE WE GO

Dear Strong Woman,

This time of year really makes me miss home.

I spent over two hours getting lost in conversation with my mum last night. It was one of those convos where you talk about everything. EVERYTHING. Not one I’ll soon forget.

It made me realize how much I miss her, and then with today being #gameday…well let’s just consider the knife twisted. Watching HER watch our boys fills me with so much love and laughter that I tend to forget anything is wrong with the world. Like hurricanes. Or goal-line interceptions in the 4th quarter.

I’m sitting here smiling at the memories. My grandma Cleo would outshine anyone with her fantasy team. Mum STILL thinks Tomlin can hear her calling the plays if she shouts just a little louder, or that the opposing running back will stop running when she yells “Zipper’s down!” (Or should I say ‘dahn’…)

Having grown up in a family where us females set the tone during football season is just one of the small examples of how these #strongwomen taught me how be one, too.

It’s been almost a year since I cut my cable and sold my TV, so I’ll be sitting on the porch listening to the radio broadcast. I’m sure Cleo will show up at some point in her winged-disguise to show me that I am never alone.

Whatever it is that binds you to your family, be intentionally present in those moments. Don’t take them for granted, as you’ll need to draw on those memories to keep you close when you are far away.

Game on, friends.

Here we go.✨