Tag Archives: Dealing with Loss

Getting a Life

Getting a Life   Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a cover for her manuscript that helped her heal from child loss, and will now be shared on her blog.“Mom, get a life,” my daughter Marika often told me, mostly when she was angry with me. It was the last coherent thing she said to me, “Get a life.” And after she died I did everything I could think of to make a new life for myself, one she’d approve of.

Mainly, I tried to do all the things Marika loved to do. Things I’d never considered before. Like writing, blogging, and photographing. It was comforting to coop myself up at home for endless days crafting weekly blogs and a 200-page memoir about our journey together through the wilds of cancer. It was like duetting with my daughter. Or with her ghost. Writing and rereading the manuscript brought her back to me, made her come alive again and again. It helped me heal. I never needed to get the work published. It did enough just giving me a foothold to re-enter the world.

There’s a problem with getting a life, or getting a new life. Living isn’t just about doing things or maintaining one single mission. And people change. I’ve changed. Nine years after Marika’s death, I’m finding I need more time to watch birds, or to simply sit and do next to nothing. I want to spend more time in the company of friends, to listen to others’ stories. To listen to music, to maybe even dance. These days there’s never enough time to record meaningful material for my readers. It takes me forever to compose. Yet writing, blogging, is a connection to Marika and to my newfound community that I do not want to give up.

When Marika died, long before I could begin to write, it helped to read what others had written about their losses. So I’m hoping you won’t mind if I share bits and pieces of my own manuscript here, in my weekly blogs, over the next weeks. Or months. Just to keep in touch while I venture out to discover where life will lead me next.

 

 

 

Wildfires

Wildfires Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photographs a New Year's campfire while the wildfires blaze in Australia.In Ithaca New York’s cold wet winter, we lit candles and campfires, bonfires even, to herald in the New Year. At the time, I didn’t know that on the opposite side of our planet, in Australia, not too far from where I left my daughter’s ashes, there was ongoing, worsening fiery devastation. The media is now filled with images of wildfires forcing people and their pets to flee to nearby shores, houses exploding, homes and whole towns in smoldering ruins, volunteers comforting injured koalas and kangaroos… they say half a billion animals have been lost. And I don’t know how many hearts have been broken in all this. But I will never again be able to bask in the warm glow of a fire without remembering the videos of roaring flames and smoky orange skies, and people trapped on beaches, watching as winds sweep the blazes ever closer.

 

 

Soothing Words: I’m Still Here

Soothing Words: I'm Still Here  Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York plays her cornet as a soothing ritual for dealing with the pain of loss.“Are you in pain? Why are you groaning?” the aide asked my 93-year old mother.
“To hear myself, to know I’m still here,” Mom insisted, “No pain.” Close to the end of her life, and on morphine, my mother’s world was disappearing. Producing the constant, low, gravelly moaning sound was soothing to her. Although it gave her visiting daughters the creeps.

I’m remembering that now because I may be creeping out some people by some of the things I do to comfort myself. And what I do to assure myself I’m still here, still an active participant in the world.

Not everyone understands that while I wake each morning, grateful to be alive, I am ever aware that the list of people who have touched my life, who died, grows continually longer. This dying-thing is a problem that’s going to get worse the longer I live. So I’m looking for positive ways to deal with the pain of losing loved ones.

It used to be I could recite their names every night as I lay awake waiting for sleep. But as more and more people in my world keep disappearing off the planet, I’m losing track of their names.

Over the course of last year, I learned to play TAPS on my cornet, and began dedicating each note to the beloved ones I can no longer see. It’s like calling out to the dead. Like saying goodnight, goodbye, thank you, and I care about you. But it’s more.

Last week, I played my cornet in the early morning, by the foot of a dear friend’s grave at Greensprings Natural Cemetery. Afterwards, I felt so at peace, I told several of my living friends who then responded, “You’re so nice to do that.” I didn’t know what to say to that, because playing TAPS is as much for me as it is for my dearly departed. It is utterly calming to me. I hear the notes echo out into the sky, over lakes and hills, and assure myself: I am still here. And as long as I’m able, I will call to the ones who altered my life, and keep some small part of them here with me.

 

How do you soothe yourself? Have you ever found that something you do or believe in is irritating to others?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Am I Crazy for Treating my Dog Like a Child?

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops the dog she inherited from her daughter, her fur baby replacement child.After my daughter died I didn’t want to love a single person or thing ever again. But Marika left me her dog. That was 8 ½ years ago. In the midst of my grieving, Suki became the sweetness and light in my life. Even now, when I look at this poochie-girl, the oxytocin in my brain bubbles over, melting all moodiness and moving me to plant multiple kisses on the fuzzy bridge of her nose. I’m a total mush pot over this dog.

Most of the time at home, when I’m not talking to my dead daughter, I’m talking to her dog. I worry about every little lump I find on her—is it cancer, is she going to stay healthy and have a good life? Is she too warm? Is she too cold? Driven to sew polar fleece blank-ees and construct plush featherbeds in every corner of the house for my baby-dog, I have a sneaking suspicion that Suki has turned into a replacement child.

Last week, Suki turned ten. And I wondered what I could possibly give her for a birthday present. She already had an abundance of squeaky toys and chew-sticks. And multiple puffer coats for cold-weather hiking. A card offering 20% off on a Dog DNA test arrived in the mail, and for a brief time I considered making a doggie birthday party but these ideas made me want to barf. Instead, I decided to spend a ton of time with her.

On the big day I put a bowtie necklace around her neck and fed her lots of roast beef. We hiked with friends, chased frogs around the pond, and played fetch. She got several belly-rubs. We spent the whole day together and I almost took her to the meeting of bereaved parents that evening knowing they’d understand my not wanting to leave her behind on her birthday. But Suki seemed worn out from all the attention. She crawled up on her new pillow perch in the window by the front door and pretty much told me she’d had enough.

Am I crazy for treating my dog like my child?

Well. Life is too short to worry about such things. And it’s too hard to go through life without love. So I’m just gonna keep doing anything I can to make sure my inherited dog has the best life possible.

 

 

Too Much Change

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, is resisting change after years of too many changes and finally finding her own crazy path through life.How willing are you to change your habits and/or lifestyle? This was the question haunting me the last three months. It took that long to get an appointment with the particular medical person who many friends and acquaintances were raving about, about how she had improved their health and changed their lives.

The question was towards the end of the thirteen-page patient survey the office mailed to me, in the section querying about leisure behavior patterns, diet, alcohol and other substance consumption. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d scored my willingness to change as fairly high. Then, as soon as I sealed the envelope to mail it back, I knew I hadn’t answered truthfully. And now, on the eve of my scheduled appointment, in the middle of a brilliant summer of partying, wine tastings, campfires, garden celebrations, picnics, barbecues and dinners on the deck, I am pretty sure I would not want to change even a tiny blessed thing about my life (other than getting back my daughter who died).

When Marika died 8 ½ years ago, I didn’t want to be alive at all. For many miserable months, I had to work hard to find or create reasons to drag myself out of bed each day. Friends, food and wine were the only lights in my life. Filling my time with these as much as possible, over the years I found ways to keep myself together, keep looking forward. So much changed. Too much change. Now, finally I feel like I re-found myself, redefined my self and my new path in life. The road I follow may seem strange to some. But I am making my own peculiar way and life is beautiful once again. As for my habits and health—I am keeping my appointment, but I don’t know how much more I can bear in the way of changing.

 

How willing are you to make changes?

 

 

 

Why Can’t I Keep my Mouth Shut?

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a bad-ass flower, a zinnia, as she wonders, Why can't I keep my mouth shut?We’re all better off if I say nothing this week. Because these days, too many of my truest feelings and worst thoughts keep slipping out of my mouth. No, they tumble out of my mouth and flatten everyone within earshot. My most bold opinions come spewing out of me like semi-automatic gunfire. And people don’t usually react well to this.

I don’t know if this crankiness and loss of control is because of all the rain, the heat, my advanced age, the current political turmoil, or possibly just boredom from my new diet of chard and fish—but lately I seem to have zero ability to hold my tongue. At unexpected times I feel compelled to speak what’s in my mind. And I’m a stick of dynamite with a short fuse, a walking time bomb that could explode if you say the wrong thing.

Why can’t I keep my mouth shut? In the past, I was always the wishy-washy one, the one who wouldn’t take a stand, couldn’t make a decision. Teachers and friends used to beg me to speak up and be more assertive. And now, I have no patience for others’ cruelty, stupidity, or anything that does not comply with what I perceive as the truth. At the first inkling of discomfort, I’m likely to spout out,

Hey, life’s too short, and Hey, I don’t have to swallow any nonsense anymore. I’m one tough bitch with a dead daughter. So don’t mess with my head.

Photographing flowers calms me down, helps me to see sense. But there was nothing quiet about this brazen-faced zinnia. In a week-old bouquet, it still blazed brilliant among the shriveled-up blooms surrounding it. Another bad-ass flower. Sassy. Like the daughter I’m missing. Yow, back in her times I would be crushed to the pulp whenever she unloaded what she had to say.

 

What gets your goat? Or gets you to verbally attack the ones you love most?