Jonathon's Closet

Saturday, June 30, 2007


No matter how much I attempt to do in a day, something in my life is being neglected. It's been this way for many years now. After all, it's impossible for one person to do ALL of the work and handle ALL of the responsibilities of two. So frustrating!

For a while, I was pretty good at rotating those neglected areas - shifting priorities every week or so, in order to ensure that nothing was neglected for too long. I'm still pretty good at it during the colder months!

But during the summer, I spend too much time in the yard working in the gardens and enjoying the sunshine. And other things? Well, they just shift to the back burner! Usually I catch up on rainy days ... and while we've recently had several rainy nights, well, the days have been great ... so ...

Today I am making a rainy day list, of all the items I have negelected over the past few weeks. I'll tackle this list gradually, over time, likely during thundershowers.

After all, life is too short not to enjoy the sunshine.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

There are more of us than you might realize!

A friend recently mentioned “public education is a good thing” - a phrase that I’ve been known to use almost to excess, in my efforts to make young widows issues visible.

I’ll admit, with great joy, that our numbers are small. We do not have the strength of the AARP, nor do we want it, for that would mean that so many others would be on this journey with us. But THERE ARE MORE OF US THAN YOU REALIZE.

We don’t have the energy to be vocal – grieving is hard work. We don’t have the time to be activists – we are trying to raise our children alone. We don’t have the resources to be heard – most young widows live well below the poverty level. EVEN THOUGH WE ARE NOT OFTEN SEEN OR HEARD, WE ARE HERE.

In the widows groups I facilitate, we often speak of empowerment; of finding your voice and letting the world see a tiny segment of what we deal with every day. After all, unless we allow people to see what our lives become they will remain totally clueless … and even if we tried endlessly to provide that fly-on-the-wall view, we still realize that true understanding comes only with experience.

I’m of the belief that a small amount of comprehension is better than none at all. So I speak. And I write. And my real-life group members participate in activities that are designed to empower them, to encourage them, and to help them find their voice. And even in my cyber-groups, we find understanding and friendship … and sometimes even the courage to say our thoughts out loud to the masses!

I speak in the hopes of helping others who are walking this path. I speak in the hopes of reaching someone who is lost in the throes of sorrow. I speak because too many people do not realize what they have until it is gone. I speak because our stories need to be heard – because even though you may not see us, we are out here.

The issues faced by young widows today are many … and they do not go away. We deal with financial struggles, discrimination, the pain of our grieving children, the loss of our life partners, and so much more. And we deal with these things each and every day, for the rest of our lives.

We move forward, we gain strength; we do both ordinary and amazing things for our shattered families and even for the communities around us. We have walked thru the fire and we are not only still standing, but we are still standing strong.

In hope that someday, the world will realize that it’s treatment of young widows is SO totally wrong, on SO many levels. Yes, public education is indeed a good thing!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

You know ...

The memories rolled thru my head, as if being viewed on the silver screen. It all feels like it was just yesterday, you know. And as I watched, I smiled a small sad smile.

Those thoughts fill me with such emptiness. I’m nothing without him, you know. And I’m also everything to my family now; I have no choice.

These same memories also fill me with an overwhelming happiness. So many people travel this life journey without ever finding what we had. I was blessed, you know.

With the smiles come tears, with the joy comes sadness … it’s all a part of the path of loss. You know, it’s just a part of my journey now.

The pain never goes away, you know. It softens with time and blends more smoothly with everyday life, but it is always there; every moment of every day it’s there. You know that, don’t you?

And as I sat on the front porch last night, watching the twinkling of the fireflies against the night sky, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of life … and, well, you know … overwhelmed by the pain of his absence.

It’s all just, well, you know … no, that’s not right … no, you don’t know … you can’t know, until you travel this road … and … I hope that for you … knowing … is a long ways off.

Monday, June 25, 2007

19 years ago today

By 9am, the temperature had already climbed above 90.

My friends and I were wilting as we rushed to pick up the last remaining food items and load them in the vehicles. We were, in fact, the caterers.

When we loaded the 200 helium balloons into a van, at least a dozen popped in the heat as we drove down Woodward Ave.

We would have gone straight to the church, really, but, well, it was SO hot ... so we grabbed a few bottles of chilled champagne and played in the fountain at the Detroit Zoo first.

The florist was a bit taken aback at the 7 wet girls in ponytails and bikini tops, cut-offs and sandals, and seemed quite confused as he asked "where's the bride?"

By 12 o'clock, the temperature was 106, and we all figured that Hell had indeed frozen over - and we were so hot because, well, all that heat had to go somewhere - and heat rises!

As we dressed, we were all beginning to feel faint as the church wasn't air-conditioned. Ugh, TOO much clothing for a day like this!

At 2 o'clock, the best man shoved a handful of ice down my bra to keep me from passing out during the ceremony.

In the middle of the ceremony, the power grid failed ... and the church choir rushed to bring candles!

We decided that a recieving line was simply unnecessary and had the minister send everyone to the air-conditioned hall- and hoped like crazy that power would come back on to keep that air-conditioning running.

The wedding party would have gone straight to the reception hall, really, but well, it saw SO hot, instead we picked up a cold 12-pack and played in the fountain at the Detroit Zoo first - gowns, tuxedos, and all!

19 years ago today, I married the love of my life.

Today, the sound of his absence is deafening.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A gardener ... without

I am a gardener. I tend beautiful flowers. I am able to give them what they need and more. I enjoy giving nourishment and support, and watching my gardens thrive.

In every relationship, there is a gardener and a flower. Although these roles do shift from time to time as dictated by the situation, one’s primary role remains the same. I am the gardener. When there are two gardeners, nothing grows right. Too many cooks in the kitchen, I suppose! And two flowers? Well, with no one to tend them, they simply wither and die.

The relationship between gardener and flower is a little like dancing, you know. When two people try to lead, nothing feels right. The movement doesn’t flow with the music. When one person realizes that and allows the other to lead, both bodies begin to flow with the music.

When you plant a seed in the garden you know very well that in order for it to grow into a strong oak tree, an elegant palm that sways in the wind, sweet-smelling rosemary, or a flowering hibiscus, it first needs soil, water, sunlight, care, and constancy. You can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty: gardening involves hard work and deep digging before we can get to the beauty.

Gardening can certainly be hard work. Growth takes time and effort. There are good seasons and bad. Weather can sometimes be a challenge; it can be tough for a garden to weather a storm. But as all gardeners know, the results are beautiful.

Have you ever thought about what happens to the gardener when the flower is gone? With nothing to tend, the gardener grows discontented - the gardener is without half of oneself. It’s a little like being a fish out of water. A gardener needs to focus attention on a beloved garden; willingness, attentiveness, gentle guidance and skill, the cultivating, pruning, and patience needs a home. With no place to focus that attention, the gardener feels lost, empty, and alone.

It’s not neglect that causes my bloom to fail – it’s having no flower to tend.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I'm gonna go help Jack ...

Ya know, life is stressful enough even without the addition of an evil teenage attitude. But honestly, no matter how many times I share this thought with my 14-year-old son, he really doesn't care. He's been a real challenge lately, and that's putting it oh-so-mildly. But every once in a while, I see a glimmer of hope ...

A few days back my mother called. She wasn't feeling well and wanted me to come. I knew full well that I really couldn't afford the gas to drive the 2 hours to her house and then the 2 hours back. But the BOY - oh, the BOY was being just awful! - and once I heard my mother's voice, well, you guessed it: I wanted my mommy! And that's really saying something - my mother and I are NOT close. In fact, we are the farthest thing from it. But yep, I wanted my mommy. So we got in the car and headed to Grandma's house.

The BOY was nasty non-stop for the first 40 minutes of the ride. I fantasized about opening the passenger door and tossing his behind out in the middle of the interstate. But that would be wrong. Instead, I burst into tears and began screaming at him. Nope, don't remember what I said. All I know is it began with the words "Who do you think you are?" and "How DARE you treat me like this?" and (yes, I am ashamed) "You dishonor your father each and every day you choose to behave like this instead of acting like a young man should."

I screamed non-stop for the remaining 1 hour and 20 minutes of the trip. Well, almost. Somewhere around 1 hour and 10 minutes I managed to blow out my vocal chords. Still don't really have my voice back, I'm kind of froggy! And while I screamed, he stared. Jaw dropped, eyes opened wide, stared with a look of total disbelief. Just sat silently and stared.

We got to Grandma's house and I simply melted into my mothers arms sobbing. Must've cried for another half an hour or so. And then, of course, all I could do was whisper my attempt to tell her what was wrong. The BOY sat quietly next to me, patting my shoulder and handing me tissues and saying "it'll be ok, Mom", still with that stunned look on his face.

Right about now, you're expecting me to turn this post into an obituary for the BOY, right? Surprise! As we sat there, the BOY spotted an elderly neighbor, struggling in the heat to mow his lawn. Unprompted, he said "I'm gonna go help Jack" and immediately headed off across the street. I saw him talk with Jack for a few minutes (it appeared as if they were debating whether or not Jack needed help!) and then Jack grinned and shrugged and handed the lawnmower over to the BOY. The BOY worked for Jack for 4 hours. He mowed, fixed the trimmer, trimmed, weeded, painted a sign, and helped clean the garage. And refused pay.

Yep, the BOY has been a real handful lately. But every-once-in-a-while, I still see a glimpse of the young man he was raised to be ... and I am proud.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Red Marbles

(from my inbox this morning)

I was at the corner grocery store buying some early potatoes. I noticed
a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily
apprising a basket of freshly picked green peas. I paid for my potatoes
but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover
for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn't help
overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller (the store owner) and
the ragged boy next to me.

"Hello Barry, how are you today?"

"H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas. They sure
look good."

"They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?"

"Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time."

"Good. Anything I can help you with?"

"No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas."

"Would you like to take some home?" asked Mr. Miller.

"No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with."

"Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?"

"All I got's my prize marble here."

"Is that right? Let me see it" said Miller.

"Here 'tis. She's a dandy."

"I can see that. Hmmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go
for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?" the store owner

"Not zackley but almost."

"Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this
way let me look at that red marble". Mr. Miller told the boy.

"Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller."

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a
smile she said, "There are two other boys like him in our community, all
three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with
them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When they come back with
their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after
all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an
orangeone, when they come on their next trip to the store."

I left the store smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short
time later I moved to Colorado, but I never forgot the story of this
man, the boys, and their bartering for marbles.

Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one. Just
recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho
community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having hisvisitation that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them. Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the
relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we

Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and
the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts... all
very professional looking. They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and
smiling by her husband's casket. Each of the young men hugged her,
kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket.

Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man
stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in
the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes.

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and reminded her
of the story from those many years ago and what she had told me about
her husband's bartering for marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took my
hand and led me to the casket.

"Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about.
They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim "traded" them.
Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size... they
came to pay their debt."

"We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world," she
confided, "but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho."

With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased
husband. Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.