Autumnal Grandeur

Autumnal Grandeur

I have always looked at the ruby-throated hummingbird’s delicate, flittering wings.
But had never really seen as he rested,
Perched proudly as he searched for his mate.
So much beauty never considered.
Guilt consumes me.
I’m inspired to change.
To not only hear, but listen;
Not only touch, but feel.
Respond to the echoing call of the common loon,
Beckoning me back to Moose Lake.
Watch as my girls listen to the chorus of howling wolves
Beneath the sky’s dancing Northern Lights.
I want to observe the blue needles of the Minnesota pines become bluer,
The red carpet of dewberry become redder.
I wonder how it smells,
As I remember the comforting aroma of birch bark and blueberries,
Of campfires and fresh caught walleye.
I dream of how it feels to jump off the end of the long wooden dock
And swim in the cold lake’s waters.
I consider the stories of the woods’ tallest tree.
It has seen so much more than me.
Impressive in it’s grandeur.
I will be back,
To seek answers to all I have missed.

Inspired by my mom, I wrote “Autumnal Grandeur,” for a creative writing project in my last semester at ISU. I spent the whole semester writing and designing a book about the power of a mother/daughter bond, in which this poem was included. It was published in the Clinton Journal two years ago as a part of my mom’s column, “Naturalist Notes.” Since then, it has been edited to the way it reads now. It serves as a reminder to me, once again, of how we can always improve on the past while still preserving our memories.

Balance

Balance

Repost from 2015:

I visit the cemetery frequently with my two young girls. Although they don’t completely understand, they know that we are visiting their Nana, my mom, Carol McFeeters Thompson. We share laughs and stories with mom – sometimes even tears – hoping that she is able to hear them, knowing that either way she is there in our hearts.

My oldest daughter recently started preschool, leaving some special one-on-one time for my youngest and me. Last week, Collins and I brought donuts and juice for a picnic with mom. That morning, the clouds were dark with the threat of rain. We were already committed to our plans, and headed for the cemetery anyway. We laid out a quilt (made of my old souvenir t-shirts mom had saved from our travels together) under the oak tree that extends over mom’s grave as well as the graves of our Grandpa and Grammy. We listened as acorns dropped from the tree, making a thud as they hit the ground around us. We felt the breeze as it blew lightly across our faces and through our hair.  We noticed as the dark clouds faded to white and then separated so that the sun could shine directly on us. My mom may not have been there physically, but she was all around us. She had always encouraged others to see the beauty around them, and that is exactly what we did. Inspired by her life’s lessons, we sat and really took in our surroundings.

 

We have noticed an abundant number of ground squirrels throughout the cemetery. Kendall, my oldest daughter, has named them all “Buddy.” She is thrilled when she sees them, shrieking “Hi, Buddy!”, which inevitably causes them to jump back down into their holes – every time. While I cannot immediately identify the species of ground squirrel as my mom could, I can encourage Kendall that lowering her voice and standing still will allow her to enjoy “Buddy,” rather than scare him away. In return, we can watch him pop his head out of his hole, examining us as we examine him.

 

Collins and I were surrounded by ground squirrels during our visit, as Collins is significantly more quiet than Kendall. She’s just as full of energy though, and took off running through the cemetery. We visited the graves of some of Collins’s relatives and some of my very dear friends, cleaning them off along our way – realizing the unfortunate losses so many of us share.

 

As we returned to my mom’s grave, we saw a red-tailed hawk. I have always been impressed by their grace and beauty. Watching her soar freely through the now cloudless sky immediately reminded me of my mom, of course. In an article she once wrote, she said of the red-tailed hawk, “Designed for nearly effortless flight over open country, she sailed on the wind, gliding across the sky in little more than a moment without ever flapping her massive wings.  When she rose to clear the trees, the sun highlighted her distinctive russet tail against the bright turquoise sky  She disappeared from view, but her majesty lingered.” What a beautiful and impeccably perfect description of what Collins and I saw together, sharing those memories with my daughter as my mom once shared with me – and so many others. That’s when it occurred to me, our new found friend, the red-tailed hawk, was not only graceful to watch, but intuitive. While we were busy watching “Buddy”, so was she. “She wanted only to be left in peace to use her keen vision to watch for a hint of movement in the grass below that might signal a small rodent suitable for her dinner.”

 

Collins and I spent two hours in the cemetery that day. Heartbroken with the loss of my mother, it was initially difficult for me to find a suitable balance between new and old, the future and the past. Focussing on my surroundings, I have realized that balance is prevalent and necessary: predator and prey, life and death, past and present.  What I have discovered is that we can incorporate the past into our future, mixing new memories and experiences with old.

© 2015 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

I’ve been running from my grief, and I am tired…

I’ve been running from my grief, and I am tired…

For over four years, I have ran from my grief. I ran fast and far, to revisit it briefly only a handful of times; each time leaving more quickly than the last. I can’t live in it, I refuse to, but I also probably can’t say that I’ve actually grieved properly. But then, I guess, I don’t know what grieving properly really is.

I was a stay-at-home momma when my own mom passed away. I’m lucky that I was able to spend so much time with her in the year following her cancer diagnosis. I am so thankful for that time and the remaining memories we were able to make. I accept her death, I accept the inevitability of death and my own mortality. Accepting her death is different than accepting the “why.” “Why” my mom was chosen, I’ll never understand. I can’t even think too deeply of it without wanting to vomit or completely and totally shut down.

To escape my grief, I made myself busy; so busy that I rarely slept. I finished my Master’s, endlessly volunteered for multiple organizations and causes, individually spear-headed a series of fundraisers to benefit the National Brain Tumor Society (we are over $33,000 raised), said “yes” to every favor and request, purchased a building and started a business (and then purchased another building and started another business), became the Village Clerk of Wapella, wrote a weekly newspaper column (in place of my mother’s weekly newspaper column), started a Girl Scout troop, and the list literally goes on (add in the fact that I’m a mother of four, got married during this crazy time, and I’ve remained a daughter and friend).

I. Am. Tired.

It caught up to me, it all caught up to me and I am exhausted mentally and physically; some days I cannot find even a portion of the energy that I couldn’t shut off for so long. I cannot find the energy to say “yes.” And, I’m sad. As I near my 35th birthday, I wish I could fast forward through it. I wish that every year, I didn’t have to be reminded of one more year “since” or “until.” My heart breaks with the loss of my mother. I miss her SO much, and it’s not “fair” that I don’t have her – that my children don’t have her. Although, I’ve heard it said many times that, “life isn’t fair,” I still very much wish that it was.

Here is what I have gained from slowing down, though. I have regained my ability to solely focus on my family and sometimes even on myself (that is still a work in progress). I found my dream job without even knowing it existed. I work long hours without effort, because I truly enjoy it. I have time to go on adventures and make memories with my family. I have finally focused on making my own legacy, rather than living 100% through my mom’s. I think she’d be excited, and proud. I think for a long time, I tried desperately to hang on to every ounce of my mom, rather than to live my own life. I didn’t want anyone to forget about her, but regardless of who remembers – I will never forget and I will never let my children forget. She will live through us, whether I stay up all hours of the night or sleep in.

So, if I’ve been more of a “no” person than a “yes” person lately, please don’t take offense to it. My saying “no” means I have more time to say “yes” to MY family. I can spend more time with my children so that their memories of ME will be like my memories of my mom and the home I grew up in with her, the life I lived with, and because of, her – she was always by my side, always my biggest cheerleader and she loved me endlessly. I always knew she was there for me, without any doubt. I hope my children will grow to understand that is how I feel about them. My love for them all will never falter, through life or even death.

GBM Awareness Day

GBM Awareness Day

Four years ago tomorrow, my mom passed in her home, taking her very last breath surrounded by her husband, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters. I will never forget it, and I would never wish it upon another human being.

It was a tough year. I had just given birth to my second baby, naive that life was grand and I had never been happier. One month later, my mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) – a deadly brain tumor with a nearly non-existent survival rate.

The next 12 months would be riddled with tumor resections, radiation, chemotherapy, (multiple doctors, hospitals and nursing homes) and ultimately the infection that would end her life. It was also riddled with never-ending love, overwhelming emotion, and undeniable heartache.

I remember googling GBM as we sat in the waiting room, my mom alone in her hospital room, minutes after the diagnosis. We were all absorbing what we had just heard. I had never heard of GBM – there is no known cause, there is not currently a cure.

Thanks to information provided by the National Brain Tumor Society, I was better able to understand what was happening. Thanks also to their dedication to research, they proudly donate $0.83 cents of every dollar they receive. I knew that day I would one day partner with them. I couldn’t save my mom, but I could bring awareness, contribute to research, maybe I could help to save YOUR mom (or YOUR daughter or YOUR nana). In the last 3 years, our small town had housed the National Brain Tumor Society Nature Walk held annually at Weldon Springs State Park (where my mom spent countless hours, years, of her life giving to our community). We have raised over $36,609. We are currently working on year four of this event.

In the meantime, I have met many families affected by GBM, all of whom have helped me through this journey – hopefully I’ve been able to help some of them as well.

Today is the first ever National GBM Awareness Day. This is HUGE. July 17, 2019 – just one day short of four years since I lost my momma, is recognized to bring awareness solely to GBM. I am elated.

Please consider sharing information about GBM today – share our event, share our fundraising page, donate, post a picture of GBM facts, share this post. Whatever you can do today to help bring awareness – I know I’d appreciate it, but I know the world will benefit from it. Thank you, from our family (who is seriously missing a significant piece of our hearts) and for all of the families who deserve a cure ❤️