This morning before the sun rose or my alarm went off, I was awake. While I lay there in bed, the darkness was broken when the bedroom door opened and the light poured in from the hallway. Little barefoot steps across the hardwood floor to the edge of my bed followed and then a whispered “mama”. Grabbing on to the side of the mattress he hoisted his little body up beside mine. As he wrapped his arms around my neck and snuggled in closer, I covered him with blankets and kissed his forehead.
“Happy Birthday”, I whispered in a hushed voice so as not to wake his father who was still sleeping beside us.
We lay there in an embrace for about 20 minutes. I stroked his hair and rubbed his back. I pulled him closer, kissed his little mouth, his cheek and his forehead and then let him go just a little…not too much, so we could still keep our little cocoon of love made with intertwined arms. It took me back to that first night in the hospital after he was born – just the two of us in the dark, snuggled up like we were the only two people in the world.
Three years ago in the dark of an early morning not unlike this one, I woke with the knowledge that I would meet my new son that day. His arrival was quick and almost over before I had time to process it all. In an instant I was a mom of two under two – his arrival being only 18 months after his older brother’s.
He might be small in stature but he’s mighty in spirit. He loves music and movement and adores art and being creative. He prefers two large teddies and no blankets when he sleeps. He has a well-developed dry sense of humor and makes us laugh so much. His best friend is his brother and the sun rises and sets with his Daddy.
In the spring I had a psychic tell me that I’ve known Kyle in at least three previous lives. Obviously our connection is strong. Our souls keep following each other. I guess that’s kind of like the saying that a child is your heart walking around on the outside of your body. We are connected yet separate.
That’s why that special moment this morning meant so much to me – on the anniversary of the day he left my body, he came back to it for comfort.
Resting his head on my chest, he listened for the familiar sound of my heart – the rhythm of life.
Happy Birthday Kyle.
I’ve loved you for a thousand years…I’ll love you for a thousand more.
Editor’s Note: We celebrated on the weekend with family but tonight we’ll venture to Costco to have his favourite treat – a hotdog and fries (and maybe some ice cream instead of cake).
Dorothy Mae Uhlman
July 2, 1935 – September 23, 2013
How do you summarize the highlights of a life with only a few words? How do you truly encompass the breadth and width of the love that one individual shared so freely and without reservation? How do you properly honour the spirit of someone who warmed a room with her smile and the sound of her contagious laugh and who was always there to lend an ear when you needed to be heard and offered her arms when you needed to be held?
Those who loved her, knew her as Mom, Grandma, Grammie, Great-Grammie, Sister, Aunt, Friend; I knew her as Aunt Dot.
Aunt Dot always professed that she had the worst luck of anyone she knew. If it wasn’t for bad luck she didn’t have any. She’d recount with humour all of the predicaments she had found herself in over the years and we’d laugh at her expense – sometimes to the point of hysterics (and wet pants!). But what I loved about her so much is that she’d laugh right along with us about her misfortunes, asking us if we could believe her luck.
She was the queen of make-work projects for herself. She was one of the most industrious and hard working people I’ve ever met. She was the only person I knew who not only did Spring cleaning of her home but also Summer, Fall and Winter cleaning as well. You’d walk into the kitchen of her apartment to find her up on a chair washing down the cupboards but she’d never stop what she was doing – she’d just continue on and talk away to you just as if she was sitting at the table across from you.
Aunt Dot loved to bake and bake she did. Every Christmas she’d start early and have dozens of pies and treats for all of her family members stockpiled in her freezer to enjoy with holiday meals. It was something she did with love and everyone always looked forward to enjoying the fruits of her labour – including herself!
Many people have remarked that Aunt Dot always had a smile and that you were guaranteed many laughs whenever you were in her company. In fact it is hard to picture her without a smile on her face, isn’t it? Even when she was agitated about something she’d have a little rant and then end up laughing by the end of it. She taught me that even when times are tough that there is ALWAYS something to laugh and smile about.
I know we can all attest that Aunt Dot was the type of person who talked to everyone and anyone, believing everybody was worthy of her time. She was someone that you could talk to about whatever was burdening your heart and mind and she’d never pass judgement – offering only understanding, compassion and some sage advice. I know we’ll all miss having her as our voice of reason.
She was taken from our lives far too soon and without much warning. Our only consolation being that her suffering was not prolonged – something we can all be grateful for. Those who were able to, were afforded the time to spend with her, comforting her, telling her how much she was loved, how much she impacted their lives and how much she will be missed. We should all feel fortunate that we were granted that precious time with her.
I found a poem that I think suits this celebration of Aunt Dot’s life perfectly:
Memories in the Heart
Feel no guilt in laughter, she knows how much you care
Feel no sorrow in a smile that she’s not here to share
You cannot grieve forever, she would not want you to
She’d hope that you could carry on, the way you always do
So talk about the good times and the ways you showed you cared
The days you spent together, all the happiness you shared
A word someone may say
Will suddenly recapture a time, an hour, a day
That brings her back as clearly as though she were still here
And fills you with the feelings that she is always near
For if you keep these memories, you will never be apart.
And she will live forever locked safely within your heart.
Thank you Aunt Dot for all the smiles you brought us, the laughs you gave us until our faces hurt and most of all for the all the love you shared so freely with all those who had the pleasure of having you in their lives, either by chance or by choice.
You used to sing “Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way…”. To us, you WERE perfect.
You will be missed forever and remembered always.
I’ll keep my eye out for you when I’m looking for dragonflies.
Looking back over 365 days of memories and trying to properly pay tribute to all of them is impossible. Thankfully our brains have a neat little organization system in place. Using dates as benchmarks it allows us to pick out the highlights reel of the wonderful and the challenging moments so we can reflect and then refile them in our big filing cabinet of life.
Like most, I had my share of visits to each end of the virtual spectrum of emotions. I had moments of julilation and moments of despair. I experienced joy and I experienced heartache. I laughed and I cried. I was hopeful and I was hopeless. The contrast between two opposing forces shows, for the most part, a sense of balance and ironically that was the word I had chosen for myself in 2012 – BALANCE.
When I selected that word last year I was hoping to achieve a sense of calm, of inner peace, of contentment. I hoped that my year would provide me with an equilibrium that I felt was missing from my waking hours. I was feeling over-extended, exhausted, inadequate and lacking. I aspired to have a year finding solutions and methods of returning some normalcy to my every day life. I felt like I had been experiencing so much negative that there had to be a positive side to things. I needed to take active steps in seeking more good, more happiness, more moments of joy.
So much of 2011 had been spent trying to navigate life with two young children and the isolation that comes with being on maternity leave. It was spent dealing with some post traumatic stress from a very quick and painful unmedicated childbirth the second time around (a complete 180 from my first birthing experience) which was something that I didn’t divulge or talk about at length with anyone. The reality is that though the end result was a happy, healthy baby, the actual experience later caused panic attack inducing flashbacks – not fun. I had to deal with the constant worry about unresolved medical testing that weighed heavily on my mind regarding an enlarged thyroid gland. I had to come to terms with the fact that a family member was going to lose her life and then try to come to accept her absence from my life. I spent the entire year also knowing something was definitely askew with my brain chemistry and all the rippling effects that initiated in every facet of my life. 2011 was a year I did not want to repeat.
2012 did bring more of a juxtaposition of experiences. I felt tides turn. A huge part of this was regaining some “me” time now that I was back at work. I was no longer “mommy” 24/7 in the sense that I was responsible around the clock for my children. I had time to breathe again. For the first time in 12 months I had time to put myself first for a change. This was paramount in the process of seeking more good in my life. I needed time to seek it out but the key was I needed to give myself permission to do so.
Once I received my medical results and was given an “all clear” and was not needing to prepare to battle the big scary “C word”, I was able to breathe a bit easier. I was no longer needing to put my life on hold because of the uncertainty of how 2012 would play out for me as far as a timeline was concerned. I didn’t book weddings or commitments for the summer months because I did not know what was coming down the road for me medically. In the end, setting aside the summer months to just “be” with my family was one of the greatest gifts I could have given myself. For the first time in 6 years I had weekends to spend any way I wanted. I was able to attend events and spent time relaxing at the family cottage. It was sheer bliss.
I was also gifted a weekend of alone time when my husband took our two boys on a weekend getaway trip to Ottawa to visit family there. I had nearly a week of one-on-one time with my mother (something I’ve never had as an adult) when we rented a cottage on Prince Edward Island and spent the time just relaxing, sightseeing and enjoying the beautiful landscape. We began having planned date nights. All of these were wonderful experiences but the most important thing for me in 2012 was that I was able to finally start addressing health issues at play – my anxiety. For 18 months I dealt with demons that I couldn’t name. They weren’t familiar to me and as a result I was left perplexed. I knew something was wrong but I could not identify it. I had others ask me if I was battling post partum depression and I knew the answer was no. I didn’t have any of the classic symptoms.
Then one day I had a lightbulb moment. I was fighting depression’s equally debilitating sidekick – anxiety.
Once I put the pieces together and could acknowledge and honour my feelings I was able to adequately convey them to my doctor. It had been going on for long enough that I knew this was not going to resolve itself magically overnight just because it had been given a name. Armed with medical intervention I began waging my battle and I am very happy to say I’ve made huge strides. I can confidently say that it is under control and has been for some time now. This has been life changing for me in 2012.
With the curtains drawn open and sunshine allowed to pour in to my life again I was now seeing things illuminated that had too long been sitting in the shadows, cowering. I got reacquainted with self-worth and self-love. I was able to work on repairing rips and tears in the fabrics of my closest relationships. I was given the opportunity to think positively about the future and all the amazing things I was now confident that it holds for me. I opened myself up to new experiences and new people. Instead of constantly living in fear of the future and what further downward spiral it might take I was now looking ahead and optimistically so.
This new perspective allowed me to experience those moments of joy, happiness and wonder that were so lacking in the previous year. I learned a lot about myself in the process as well and had some pretty profound moments of self-realization.
While 2012 did not begin as I had hoped, it did end as I had wanted. I kept moving forward.
I achieved BALANCE.