Present Tense

Saying goodbye…again

heartOn the morning of March 4, 2015, my heart had another large chunk blown out of it when the news came that my dear friend Dawn had died. She was 52 and courageously battled breast cancer, which had apparently spread to her liver. None of us knew this until a few hours before she died.

I knew Dawn for nearly 40 years, since we were teenagers and her death was devastating for me and for many, many others whose lives she touched.  The lines for visitation at the funeral home went on for 4 hours. Standing room only. She was a rock star. I was humbled and honored to speak at her celebration of life.

After she died, I sat down to write my own personal thoughts on what she had meant to me.  When her sister Kelly asked if I’d be up for saying a few things, I was ready.

Some of you knew Dawn, most of you did not, but I want you to know her. She was an amazing person; a wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend and an accomplished educator.  So, if you will indulge me, here are some excerpts from my remarks.

Since I was a year or two older, it seems as if I was always driving her someplace, which I didn’t mind as she was always entertaining company, but I think the single most vivid memory I have of Dawn, throughout our history together is from high school.

We had stopped to get gas at the Meijer’s on Columbia Avenue in Battle Creek. I recall that it was a warm sunny day and as I was pumping gas, I sent Dawn into the the little convenience store to pay for the gas. They had big speakers outside where the pumps were and this was during the disco era.

That crazy disco song “Knock On Wood” came on and as I stood there pumping gas, I looked up to see Dawn burst through the door . I mean, she flung that door open and commenced to perform a spontaneous, but perfectly choreographed interpretive dance all the way across the asphalt to the car. There were kicks and turns and spins and dramatic arm movements, all the while she was grinning like a lunatic. And you all know Dawn’s grin; big white teeth, huge blue eyes and her wild, curly blond hair. I was mesmerized by her performance; I looked around at everyone else pumping gas. They were mesmerized by her.

She timed it perfectly to pirouette right up to the car, where she jumped in. I got into the car and didn’t say a word. We just looked at each other and burst out laughing.

That moment perfectly summed up Dawn: Funny, crazy, impulsive, fearless. You could dare her to do anything and she’d do it. I’ve completely lost track of all of the scenes that she instigated in public.

We grew up and went our separate ways. I was at Dawn and Jeff’s wedding, where Kelly and I chuckled about Dawn marrying the football coach. We knew it was just an excuse to keep working up endless pom pom routines.

We lost track for a few years and she had Zach, Ryan and Jacob and they were nearly grown by the time Dawn and I re-connected. She had also managed to get a Master’s degree and a PhD, while working, raising 3 boys, traveling, organizing family holidays, maintaining numerous friendships and cheering on Jeff’s and the boys’ teams.

Over the past few years, we’ve called and texted and emailed and then when I moved back to Michigan from Colorado almost two years ago, we would meet for breakfast and lunch when we could. We got together in Traverse City where I live and when she called me to tell me about her cancer diagnosis, I worried and fussed about her taking care of herself and sent her holistic, airy-fairy articles, as I’m sure many of you did as well. We were all so proud of how she dealt with her illness and treatment.

We all know how funny Dawn was, but what I treasure was that she was so smart and serious about certain things; an amazing combo of silly, smart and serious. We would often solve the world’s problems over blueberry pancakes at Bob Evan’s. That is what I will miss the most; that she would sit and have deep discussions with me about politics and spirituality and books and movies and then stick a French fry up her nose.

I am so grateful that I was able to see her one last time in the hospital in Kalamazoo. She was weak and groggy, but looked great for one who was so ill and she made me laugh one last time with a couple of vintage Dawn comments. Of course I had no idea that would be my last visit with her and just like all of you, I’m struggling mightily with her passing. How could this happen? How can this be?

So I sat down to meditate the day after she died and I asked those same questions and just got quiet…and I felt her. She said “Don’t be sad for me… look, I lived a really full life…I crammed in everything that I could and I had a great time. Now, I want you to do the same thing. Live your life. Stop saying no and say yes. Laugh more, smile more, dance more and for God’s sake Jane, stop taking everything so seriously!”

And then she turned into a beautiful, sparkly, swirling beam of light and shot straight into my heart….where she will always reside. We all are here today because we carry little pieces of Dawn’s light in our hearts and every time you feel angry or impatient or sad, like today, or lonely or weak or like you just wanna dance, channel Dawn through that little chip of light in your heart. Call on her and you know she’ll show up. She always did. She’s there. Waiting to help. Be well. I’m blessed to be a part of Dawn’s tribe

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

So long, suckah!

pastSo, last year on this very day, I wrote a note to 2013 and told that year in no uncertain terms, how much it sucked. I kicked it in the ass and said good riddance; I even went on to say that I was sure that 2014 was gonna make me forget all about the challenges of 2013. I was right. 2014 was even worse.

I won’t go into all of the tribulations of the past year, other than to say that losing my dad in April pretty much set the tone. What I will say is that I feel as if the last 18 months have been my personal ‘dark night of the soul’ that is required of all humans. Could it get worse? Of course and at some point, it probably will. Far in the future, if I have anything to say about it…which I probably don’t. And that brings me to the year’s large lesson.

Control: we have none. Planning: kind of a joke. Loss: inevitable. Time: dampens the pain and gives us perspective.

“This too shall pass” is such a cliché, but it’s such a useful one. Time is like a power wash. If we can just get through another hour, another day, another week and if we watch and listen and pay attention, that time also gives us the space to see events in our lives with more clarity. For me, clarity is comfort.

I was listening to my latest guru Caroline Myss recently and one of her main lessons is that we will NEVER know why things happen the way that they do. We just won’t and wasting our time digging through our psychic and emotional archives for “why” is a waste of time. Life truly is unknowable and if you relax into that, peace will find you.

So, I bid farewell to the hardest year of my life (so far). I can look back and see a cross country move, leaving friends and comfort behind, losing my soul mate dog, losing my dad, navigating a new environment, trying to help my 94 year-old mother accept her ‘new normal’ and recently retiring from a 30+ year radio career. That’s a lot to pack into a year and a half, but it has passed.

I’ve emerged from my dark night and though I’m still a little banged up, I’m ready for 2015. I’ve come to the conclusion that my mom is in the right facility and she’s safe and comfortable. I’m completely at peace with leaving my job. I am ready to take more time to explore our new home and community. I’m going to get back into my health and wellness routine. We are heading back to my beloved Rocky Mountains for a ski trip in about a month and then spring will come, as it always does.

The biggest thing that I’ve taken away from this period is that I am now more in tune with other’s losses. I am a more compassionate and empathetic person and I’m able to express that now. In 2014, 9 of my friends lost their dads and I know that so many more humans suffered as well. The world has been a brutal, chaotic place for the past year.

Peace begins in each of us and in the choices that we make.

Peace be with you and in you. Here’s to a new year and a Detroit Lions play-off win. For my dad.

December 31, 2014 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

You say goodbye….

I’m saying goodbyes and that sucks.  I’ve done it plenty of times over the years, but as I get older it gets a little harder.  I’m wise to the obligatory ‘we’ll stay in touch’ and ‘we’ll come visit’ lines that we all spout during goodbyes.  That rarely comes true.

We move on. We humans are amazingly adaptable and thankfully forgetful in these situations.  Most goodbyes involve short term pain and then we snuggle into our new home/job/ situation/life and leave the old life in the rear view mirror.  Merciful, really.

We all scream that we want ‘closure’, but do we really?  Closure really means that we want to tie things up in neat little bows and go forward without any pain and suffering.  Life on earth just ain’t that benevolent.  A change or transition involves bidding farewell to something.  Even if it’s something negative or unpleasant, we still feel that tug of regret when it’s time to cast off.

I’m greatly looking forward to my change in venue and yet it’s been a melancholy week or two.  I was out walking solo in the meadow behind our (soon to be sold) home a couple of days ago, gazing at the  enormous mountains that guard our valley.  I wanted to cry when I realized that my dogs would never romp here again.  That’s right, I was overcome with emotion on behalf of my dogs.  The finality of our lives here  in Colorado snuck up on me.

It’s those little moments of clarity where you realize that you’ll never be in this place, in this moment again, that sting.  Yet, every moment of every day is unique and we rarely mourn it’s passing.

We’re saying goodbye constantly; to every second of every day of our lives.  There is only now and then it’s gone.  Every minute, hour, day of our lives is quickly part of our past.  If we are living mindfully we should enjoy every minute, as that moment is rare and singular.

Such a simple concept and yet, so difficult.  Another lesson for me in letting go.  Life teaches us so much; now to learn to let it sink in.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , | 31 Comments


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