How Many Clouds Are In Your Sky?

Lately my Mom and I look up to the clouds in the sky searching for my Dad.  When you lose someone you love dearly, you are perpetually searching for a “sign” that they are in heaven, that they are okay, that they are whole once again.

Death is the ultimate test of blind faith.

I know my father is in heaven, and I know my father is watching me.

He is constantly sending me signs.  He started communicating with me almost immediately following his passing.  His preferred method of communication with me is feathers.  I have no idea why because when he was living it’s not like he was the bird whisperer.

Two days after his burial I was laying in bed crying when I noticed something white and fluffy on the floor.  When I got up and crouched down to look I saw a beautiful, fluffy white feather.  I examined the feather, searched the entire bedroom for signs of a trapped bird, something with down feathers in it, anything!  Nothing, just one fluffy white feather.

I picked up the feather and whispered, “Dad???, Are you here?”

He didn’t answer, but I made sure I saved that beautiful, fluffy white feather.

I always seem to find a feather at just the right moment.  For example, last week I was leaving a doctor’s appointment after an exhausting morning complete with a round of blood tests. I was tired and frustrated, just as I looked up a feather landed by my feet.  Each time I find a feather I always catch myself searching for a bird or something with down.

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But it’s summer at the Jersey Shore, and I’m not wearing any down, actually I’m allergic to down.  So………

As the months continue to pass, my collection of feathers are growing.  I save all my feathers in a mason jar next to my bed.  They are priceless gifts from my Dad showing me that love never dies, that he’s healthy again, and has earned his angel wings.

He also likes to communicate with me through music and play with the lights.  The other night I was folding laundry and I tapped a lamp that was unplugged and it turned on.  Yes, my lamp that was unplugged turned on by itself.  Five months ago I would have ran out of the house screaming, now I look up and say, “I love you too Dad.”

Anyone who is not grieving is absolutely rolling their eyes at this point, thinking I’ve lost my mind.  But it’s true, my dead father talks to me.

With each sign that he sends my way, I always look up and thank him.  It only seems right.   I’ve never been to heaven, but I would imagine it’s rather difficult task to communicate with living family members.  Especially in this day and age with all the distractions surrounding us.

The other day my Mom and I were talking on the phone and she told me she wants to see a cloud that looks like my father.

She said, “You know, your father when he was young and healthy with side burns.”

I laughed and said, “I think you’re pushing your luck on that one, I would imagine a heart is easier?”

Like I have any clue on how to communicate with loved ones from the afterlife.  I’m not exactly John Edwards, I’m just a regular person grieving her father.  But her request seemed like a difficult task.  She then me told me the day before when she was driving she saw a cloud that looked like my Dad’s silhouette, but now she wants him to send her a cloud that looks more like him or a cloud that says their names.  I began thinking that my Mom thinks my Dad has become Bob Ross now that he’s gone.  I mean, clouds that look like him?

And then, as we were chatting away, I began to stare at the clouds.  My poor mother was now talking to herself and I began to quietly wonder:

Where are you?

Can you hear this conversation?

You couldn’t draw a stick person when you were alive and now we want feathers, music and now pictures in the clouds?

Are we crazy?

Just at that moment I looked up at the sky and saw a heart shaped cloud.  I couldn’t believe my eyes; I put my Mom on hold and immediately took a photo.

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My father is constantly showing our family that love never dies.  Right before he died with tears in his eyes he told me, “Lisa honey this isn’t goodbye, this is only farewell.  I will see you again.”

 

 

 

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Thank You To My Better Half for Loving Me Through My Grief

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I’m always honored and humbled when the fabulous editors at The Mighty publish my work.  Please take a peek at my latest article.

Click here to read my open letter to my better half.

Sometimes, All You Need is Love & Patience

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Photo Credit:  We Hear It

Lately my heart and mind skips all over the place.  I move from anger to grief to confusion to sadness to hope with a dash of creativity and a side of anxiety all at once, in no particular order. I have days when even I am struggling to figure out what I need.  There are moments when I know my better half is at a complete loss as to what to say, think or do.  I’m ashamed to admit this, but there are moments where out of frustration I’ve shouted, “You don’t understand how I feel!” ending with loud sobs. Then there are moments I gaze at him with love and admiration for being my raft during my overwhelming waves of grief.

This is my grief journey; it’s complicated, jumbled and very chaotic.  Unfortunately, my grief does not fit into a neat little box.   I have days when I’m just not okay, days when my sadness is overwhelming and paralyzing.

I lost someone of major significance in my life, someone I cannot live without, someone who not only gave me life but saved my life.  Despite all the warnings, all his suffering, my father’s death still seems unreal. One minute he was alive and speaking to me, now he is not.  One moment he was breathing, the next he was not. Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a loved one.  Loss is loss.  Death leaves an agonizing sting on your heart.

“It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. My mom says some days are that” Judith Viorst in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible No Good Very Bad Day.

Love is what heals fear. Love is what calms a distressed heart. Love is what mends broken bodies and minds. Love is what we can count on. With love all things are possible.

Loving someone through grief is similar to teaching someone how to dance again, but with a slight limp.  As my better half guides me with his love and witnesses my grief, he is giving me the greatest gift of all.  The gift of unconditional love and the permission to continue my life with courage and valor.

Love is a gift each of us has to offer to our neighbors, friends and family.

With love and understanding all things are possible.

 

 

Remember Me?

 

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Photo Credit:  hdiphonewallpapers.us

Remember me?

Five months ago my father died after a lengthy illness.

Remember that?  

Sure you do. I mean he was sick for seven years.  You floated in and out of our epic battle like a plastic bag floating in the wind.  When it became obvious that Dad was dying your visits became more frequent, your unsolicited assessments irritating and monotonous. When Dad died you vanished like a thief in the night. Which is confusing because you really had me fooled.  I have to be totally honest, I really held you to a much higher standard.

Remember me?

In case you forgot, Dad died after a gruesome battle with cancer.  I was given a front row seat for seven years.  I watched my real life super hero transform from a healthy, vibrant man to a very frail individual.  I am haunted by his screams and his cries for Jesus to take him.  I am haunted that he died unable to eat a morsel of food or drink an ounce of liquid. I am haunted that the last four years of his life was spent with us eating in front of him knowing he was quietly watching, praying to regain his ability to eat just one more time.  I am haunted that during the last days of his life I had to suction gunks of saliva out of his mouth so he would not choke to death.  I am haunted that his cancer prevented me from quenching his thirst on his deathbed when he asked me for a sip of water.

Remember him?

My father was the funniest, most outrageous, most loving soul you ever met. He was also extremely kind, highly intuitive and unbelievably wise.

Remember him?

You claim that you enjoyed his company and “loved” him, so I am compelled to ask you this.  Do you believe that your grief outranks his immediate family?  The people who now have a massive void in his home.  Do you think your grief is more significant than his widow of 44 years, the woman who was his primary caregiver and handled the most private affairs for him? Do you think your grief dominates the children who share his DNA and cry for their father?  The children he raised since birth, the children whom he adored and they adored him back?

Remember us?

I must confess, I’m truly baffled by your behavior.  I’m not dismissing your pain and grief, I’m just questioning your actions.  Perhaps our grief is too overwhelming for you and our pain makes you feel uncomfortable.  Sorry not sorry, our family is mourning the loss our hero, the man who played the leading role in our family.  We are uncomfortable all the time now, it’s the new normal for us.

Remember us?

Someday something will remind you of Dad and his family.  Someone will ask you how we are doing.  What will you say?  How will you spin this? Will you tell them we are so grief-stricken that we have lost our minds? Or will you tell them the truth?  They say the truth will set you free.

Remember us?

I lost a prominent figure in my life, the patriarch of my family. They say as time goes on the sting won’t be as bad. But I wouldn’t know as its only been five months. I have read what has happened between us is referred to as “secondary loss.” Quite frankly, it is very disappointing. One of my Dad’s all time favorite sayings was, “family first.”

Remember him?

Now this is the part of my letter where everyone expects me to say it’s okay and I’ll forgive you. But I cannot do that.  My grief has heightened my senses and opened my eyes.

Remember me?

Like here’s the thing, I’m surviving all these horrific firsts and where the hell are you?  I recently spent my first Father’s Day in my entire life without seeing my Dad, without hugging him and telling him how much I adore him.  There are moments when I have to hold my chest because the pain is so devastating. Sometimes something as basic as putting sugar in my coffee strikes a nerve and I’m hurled into the ebb and flow of my grief and sorrow.  All because I put sugar in my coffee, and a silly little memory popped into my head.

Remember me?

I thank God everyday for the countless friends and family reaching out to make sure we are surviving our horrific, dreaded firsts. Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries now all come with an emotional roller coaster.  Father’s Day really sucked.  You should have made contact, but you didn’t.  The past five months have had so many horrifying firsts for our family, we survived each one, without you.

Remember me?

At this very moment, I’m having a very  difficult time letting go of the fact that my father’s death has morphed you into a coward.  Some people will argue that you have not experienced loss and are not capable of understanding grief, but I say that’s rubbish.  You sobbed crocodile tears when Dad passed, and vanished like a thief in the night when his family needed you.

Remember me?

My grief has opened my eyes and closed parts of my heart.  I do have some good news for you.  Despite all this, I wish you happiness and I wish you well.

Signed,

A Disappointed Grieving Daughter

Thank you for Loving Me

feather-hd-wallpaper_04My dead father communicates with me through dreams, feathers and a few other things in between.

No really, he does.

I know I sound like a desperate grieving daughter, but he really does.  In order to believe me you must understand the depth of our relationship.  My father was not just my father, he was my best friend.  We had a beautiful rapport and the unique gift to discuss anything.

When it became painfully obvious that my father’s days were limited I sat by his side in the hospital, held his hand and whispered, “Will you send me a sign from heaven?”  My Dad smiled and replied, “You will always be my baby and I will always protect you.”

The next day he died surrounded by family.  My father’s death is a moment that has changed me in ways I never thought possible, it has left a massive void in my life and my heart.  Despite the depths of our pain, our family was given a gift, the ability to say goodbye to my father and hold his hand as he entered the gates of heaven.  I am forever grateful for that wonderful gift from God.

My father started sending us signs from heaven almost immediately.

The night of his passing my sister saw a shooting star.   A few days later, I packed a suitcase to stay at my Mom’s, we returned from shopping to find my suitcase open, pajamas on top of the bag.  My mother and I were the only people in the house, and neither of us opened the suitcase.

I have found enough fluffy white feathers to build my own set of angel wings and visit heaven myself.  Feathers falling from my ceiling in my home, feathers falling on my head at the gym, feathers in my car.  Feathers are always falling at just the right time directly in my path.

Since my father’s passing my dreams are vivid and life like. In my dreams my father is healthy again with a radiant glow to his body.  We are usually on a tremendous deck facing a beautiful wooded area.  In my most recent dream we were talking and I was hugging him knowing if I let go I would wake up and he would be gone.  My Dad smiled, hugged me tighter and whispered in my ear, “You will always be my baby, I will always love you.”

In my most recent dream I heard Bon Jovi’s “Thank you for loving me” playing in the background. My father asked me to play it for my mother.  You can imagine that conversation with my mom.

Me:  Mom, can you Google Bon Jovi’s “Thank you for loving me”and listen to it?

Mom:  Why honey?  

Me:  Oh….Dad wants you to listen to it.  He told me so in my dream last night.  Well…I think it was a dream, but I KNOW Dad wants you to listen to it.

My mother was my father’s caregiver for seven years.  She was and still is the definition of bravery and courage.  My father made sure everyone who entered our home knew she was the reason he was alive.  I would observe in awe as my mother cared for my father, she displayed the grace and love of Mother Theresa.  However, when you speak to my mother she will look at you with tears in her eyes and ask you if she did enough, she will cry that her love could not save my father.  Her caregiver guilt is a heartbreaking, cruel punishment after her selfless acts of caregiving for my father.

So yes, my dead father communicates with me through dreams, feathers and music.  He is proving to me time and time again that love never dies and knows no boundaries.

Thank you Dad for loving us, for being our eyes when we couldn’t see.

Wanna hear the song that’s been stuck in my head all day?  Click here to view the video on YouTube

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pain of Losing A Parent Is Real

IMG_3376To my blog family, my apologies!  I have been neglecting you.

Yesterday’s post was featured on The Grief Toolbox.  They are a fabulous resource anyone who is grieving.

I am forever grateful that the fabulous editors find my work publish worthy and humbled by the kindness of the readers.

Please click below for yesterday’s post:

http://thegrieftoolbox.com/article/pain-losing-parent-real

Grief Does Not Discriminate

Everyday for the past four months grief is my new companion.  She accompanies me to work, the gym and my everyday errands.

My grief is intrusive.  She doesn’t care if I’m tired, cranky or fed up.  Even when I’m not thinking of my grief she is there waiting to remind me of my new sadness, this new void in my life.

My grief is an endless journey.

My grief is strange, bringing with it a wide contrast of emotions between deep sadness, relief, and sometimes joy.  At times I feel lethargic and want to pull the covers over my head. Other times I feel bursts of inspiration and creativity.

Some of you have asked me why I write.

Often I am asked, “Does writing hinder the grieving process, does it make grief hang over like a black cloud?”  I write to express myself, I write to memorialize my father’s legacy.  My writing is my therapy.  My writing helps me cope with the unimaginable, it provides me great comfort knowing that countless others are reading my story and finding some sense of peace during a very dark time.

Countless others regardless of race or religion are able to connect through their own, unique grief.

Grief has shown me that she does not discriminate.  Regardless of what corner of the world you reside in, where there is great love there is great grief.

A parent grieves their child regardless of his or her sexual orientation.

A child grieves their parent regardless of their race.

A widow grieves her spouse regardless of religion.

The entire world grieves when we learn of a legend passing.

The entire world grieves when innocent blood is shed because of hate.

We all grieve, we all feel the ache of a broken heart.  Depending upon the intensity of the relationship grief comes in all shapes and sizes with no expiration date.

Loss is loss.  Loss creates an agonizing pain that leaves an endless sting.

 

A Guide to Balancing Life and Cancer

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Photo Credit:  Pinterest

When a loved one receives a cancer diagnosis your entire world comes to a screeching halt. The path you were once walking is now full of endless detours.  If you’re like most of the world you have a career that you must focus on in addition to the fact that cancer wedged itself front and center in your life.

My father fought his battle for seven years. The last four years of his life were horrific.  Unless you are very wealthy and have endless nurses you will find yourself juggling the responsibility of caregiving and balancing your career.  From day one my father instructed me to focus on my career. Easier said than done when you’re witnessing your real life hero endure endless pain and suffering.

Staying on track was something my father imbedded in my brain my entire life. My father had a tremendous work ethic, he worked up until a few days before he passed.  He insisted I focus with the same laser precision.

My father sat me down the day he began his treatments and helped me compose the list below in an effort to stay focused.  Below is my survival guide for balancing life and a loved one’s cancer journey.

  1. Leave your worries at the door – When you touch the doorknob to your office leave your worries behind. Keep your cell phone nearby for an emergency, but during business hours it is imperative to leave your worries on the doorknob.
  2. Begin each day with a list of priorities – Start each day with an agenda. Take time to plan out your day, week, month. Never walk into work unprepared, stay focused.
  3. Apply the 80/20 rule – Figure out where you need to focus your energy and devote 80% of your activity to the most important 20% of your activities. You are only human, you cannot do everything at once.
  4. Always think in terms of “I Can” and “I will”My father always told me, you can do anything you set your mind to because I believe in you.” Negative thinking is never allowed.  
  5. Communicate – If you have understanding bosses and coworkers ask for help when needed. Let them know what’s going on. I guarantee you they want to help, put your ego aside and ask.

I hope my list resonates for you, your life and your career.  I hope this list helps you and can provide some light during this dark, difficult time in your life.

Despite how you are feeling, you are not alone, you will never be alone.  Countless others are encountering the same heartache, the same confusion.  We are all in this together and by sharing our “secrets” we can shed some light on a very difficult situation.

Why I’m Having Dairy Queen For Father’s Day

68796_1428194508810_3598343_nMy father loved food.  He loved sitting at the table with his family and celebrating life.  Our big fat Italian family loved to sit around the table and “break bread.”  Sundays were meant for one thing.  Gathering the family for a big dish of pasta.

This all changed seven years ago.  It seemed so innocent, my father was enjoying an eggplant parmigiana sandwich on crusty Italian bread the day after Christmas.  Isn’t that what we all do?  Dig into those delicious leftovers the day after a holiday?

He took a bite and within minutes blood began to pour out of his mouth.  So much blood my mother frantically called 911.  It looked like a crime scene from Law & Order.  After extensive tests doctors found a mass at the base of my father’s tongue.  The crusty Italian bread somehow scratched the mass causing a massive amount of blood.  A few days later we were informed that mass was Stage IV base of the tongue cancer.

“Everything can change in an instant. Everything. And then there is only before and after.”  Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

It has been four years since I had the pleasure of sitting in a restaurant with my Dad.  Four years since I could visit him and surprise him with his favorite treat. Four years since he could come to my house, sit at the table and EAT with the family.  My one wish the past four years has been for God and the medical community to restore my father’s ability to eat again, to take away the severe debilitating  dysphagia caused by his intense radiation treatments that he endured seven years ago.

Its been four months since I heard my father’s voice. Four months since I held his hand. Four very long months since my father wrapped his comforting arms around me and hugged me. 

That wasn’t a typo.  My father died four months ago, but he spend the last four years of his life unable to eat or drink orally.  Not a sip of water, not a morsel of food, nothing for four long years.

When my father died this past January rage filled my veins.  I spent years praying to God for mercy, praying that my father would not die unable to eat.  Towards the end of his life I went from praying to begging.  Offering time off my life just so my father could enjoy one last meal.  It seemed so logical at the time.  Even a hard core criminal on death row gets one last meal before being put to death.  I had a difficult time understanding why my father died unable to eat or drink.  I’m still struggling with this.

Let me quickly take you back to the night before my father died.  We were in the ER due to an issue with my father’s feeding tube.  I was alone in the room with my father while the rest of the family was in the family room across the hall.  I was terrified.  My father’s brown eyes were now a cloudy grey, he had a distant look on his face.  The man who raised me was not in the room, this was someone else.  Someone tired and in a distant place.  I kept trying to speak to my father and he would smile and nod his head.   He could barely speak, I stood there paralyzed with fear.

Why was this happening?  

I then did what any rational daughter would do, I grabbed my father’s hand and began sobbing begging him to not go.  For that brief moment my father’s eyes returned to his normal brown, he smiled and said, “I’m right here, where am I going?  No one is dying tonight.”  

Then he asked me for his bottled water. Since my father was unable to drink, it was not uncommon for him to swish and spit to clear his mouth. I smiled and told him to hang on while I looked for something for him to spit in.  I was frantically searching for a plastic cup or something for my father to spit into.

With tears in his eyes he grabbed my hand and said, “No Lisa honey I want to drink it. Please give me a drink of water.”  Fear took over a for a brief second and I froze.  Please understand my father had severe dysphagia, anything he ate or drank would have gone to his lungs giving him aspiration pneumonia.   I yelled, “No you can’t have water, please Dad no.”  With the eyes of a child my father simply looked down and said, “Ok.”

Instantly I felt sick to my stomach.  My father, my best friend in the entire world was dying and I yelled at him.  I quickly grabbed his hand and said, “I’m sorry Dad, it’s just that I love you too much…..”  A lump began to form in my throat and I couldn’t even finish my sentence. The room began to spin and I was positive I was going to pass out.

I quickly waived for my mother to come into the room and excused myself.  I made my way outside and cried.  I cried so much I pulled a Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy and vomited in the shrubs.  My rational brain knew my father was dying and I denied my hero a simple sip of water.  How can life be so cruel?   I have played this moment over in my head hundreds of times since my father’s death.

I cannot forget how my father lived for so many years, unable to eat or drink.

The next day my father passed peacefully surrounded by his family.

The days following my father’s death are a blur.  I was exhausted, sick to my stomach and overwhelmed with sadness.  I have vivid memories of friends and family bringing food, pleading with me to eat.  I would eat only to end up sick.  Eventually everything I put in my mouth tasted like battery acid.  It’s not like I had an eating disorder, I was just angry at food.  I was angry that my father died unable to eat or drink orally.  I was angry that my father suffered for so many years and died without his last meal.  My father’s cancer which resulted in his severe dysphagia was a cruel punishment for a man who lived his life honoring God and adoring his family.

Immediately following my father’s death he began communicating with me.  It was just two days after his burial and I recall laying in bed staring at the wall.  I felt as if weights were tied on my arms and legs.  My entire body was consumed with grief and anger.  My only thought in my head was “Why did my father die unable to eat?  Why my father?”  And suddenly one of my all time favorite childhood memories popped into my head:

It was a hot summer day and my father took me to Carvel for ice cream.  I was 5 years old and my father was my entire world.  We were standing in line holding hands.  I ordered my usual.  Chocolate ice cream and chocolate sprinkles.  As I was ordering my father said, “Lisa honey didn’t you know chocolate sprinkles are really chocolate covered ants?”   I quickly changed my order to chocolate ice cream with rainbow sprinkles. Despite my father’s best efforts to tell me he was teasing, 35 years later and I still have yet to enjoy chocolate sprinkles again.

As that memory became to fade, I slowly I began to recover my appetite.  I began to feel that by enjoying my meals I was memorializing my father.  I believe that somehow my father encouraged me to remember the chocolate ice cream memory and was telling me to appreciate and be thankful for my ability to eat.

I will always love my father.  I will always wonder why he had to suffer and die unable to eat. I yearn for the day that I can come to peace with this.  Right now it’s too soon, my wounds are still too fresh.

This Father’s Day I’m heading to the Dairy Queen across from the cemetery and buying two chocolate ice cream cones with chocolate sprinkles.  I’ll leave one on my father’s grave and eat the other as I thank my father for a lifetime of beautiful memories.

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Throughout my Dad’s illness I sent him photos as I traveled.  The above photo is from sunny Fort Lauderdale, FL.  Notice the rainbow sprinkles.