Warning- This article could be uncomfortable for some people. I will speak frankly about one of the downsides of care-giving- that is, one member of the family getting a huge percentage of the time and attention for an extended period of time. I'm not going to diminish the message with a ton of disclaimers, so if this is not something you are ready to read, please skip it.
One thing that I've been dealing with quite a while is the regret and wondering that comes after a season of care giving. For 7+ years, our family revolved around mom. There is a very real toll that comes from this. Things have to give, things get neglected, things get postponed- and even worse, it is not just things, but people. In our family story, the kids were one of the casualties. I've written, but not yet posted, about things to never tell care-givers; one of those things is to please not gush on and on about how “good” it is for the kids. Please just don't. This will be covered in more depth at some point.
During the time of taking care of mom, I had our 5th child, so we did the whole pregnancy and new baby thing, which takes enough time away from the other kids, on top of typical care giving. We also had a long-term medical/developmental crisis with on of the children that required weekly therapy, which took half a day, for 16 months. Because of all of these things piled up, anything that wasn't blood or broken bones got left to the side. In these times, the important gets neglected for the sake of the urgent.
We recently got information about one of the children that I won't share for privacy reasons, but is a bit shaking. Conditions that needed attention years ago. Conditions that I was very aware of the potential for, but since we were able to compensate, they never seemed critical.
But now, NOW, when time has run out, and I find that the things were real, and that they may effect my child long-term.... oh the doubts, oh the regrets, oh the should have-would have-could have, how they do come flooding in.
The distress is real. And like any other human, I would prefer to deflect blame. There is a lot of guilt feelings and I'd love to spread it around a bit, if only so that my own burden of it is not so heavy.
Spreading the guilt doesn't actually help though. It causes tensions for sure, and nothing constructive ever comes of it. So right now I'm feeling a lot like the buck stops here.
So this is all that is rolling over me the past few days; this is what is welling up. I'm in a bit over my head, and rather overwhelmed.
But you see, about three weeks ago, I had an amazing conversation with a lovely author, Laura Brown. She actually helped me take my tent down and pack it while we chatted, so there's that cherry on top as well. She listened to me talk about my story, and shared that she had walked a very similar road. Something she said to me during that conversation has become my life raft as I navigate this new storm of guilt and regret;
“Every decision we made was the right one at the time.”
In this gig of life, not just care giving, but all of it- marriage, career, parenting... many times we face decisions in which every option available has negative consequences. One of them is still the right one though- because doing nothing is not an option at all. The idea that we can make a right decision by seeing which one is easy, or happy, or has good outcomes across the board, is not at all accurate. Sometimes no matter which choice we make, it is a hard one.
In my experience, these types of decisions often occur in crisis and there simply isn't time to grieve the fact that something is going to be left undone. The pain comes later. We can't use our rear view mirror and think, “if I had made the right choice, these bad things would not have happened.” Well, maybe they wouldn't have, but some other bad thing would have happened. At the time, there was no option in which everything turned out great for everyone.
There is collateral damage when it comes to caring. There is no way to sugarcoat
that- and it would not be fair or helpful to my readers if I tried. I won't even promise that this collateral damage will be removed- although wouldn't that be great? Since I did the right thing, everything eventually HAS to turn out fine? I know better than that. Yet, I do believe in the promise that at some point, this collateral damage will be redeemed. I'm not there yet. This is new and fresh, I'm still scrambling with the emotions. I will take another day to process and then I'll pick myself up and get to work on the practical. What can be salvaged? What can we still do? And I have this nagging feeling that to correct this situation, I'm going to be faced with another decision in which something else will get left behind.
But really, all we can do is make the best decision we can at the time, with the information and options we have. And then later, stand firm in the fact that every decision we made was the right one at the time.
The unhealthy edition. :-)
Ah, Kool-Aid, the delicious sugar (and poisonous food color) laden drink of childhood.
Worst thing about Kool-Aid is the big pitchers taking up room in the fridge.
Second worse thing about Kool-Aid is deciding which flavor to make because every kid wants a
What if I told you there is a way to have it all?
I'm talking, have your cake and eat it too, summer style.
I give you, easy to serve, easy to store, easy to please,
-condiment squeeze bottles, .97 from WalMart , or 2/$1.00 from DollarTree, if you don't mind that they are catsup and mustard colored. We splurged and went for the clear ones. *Squeeze bottles are convenient, not necessary. You can easily make and store this is empty water bottles.
-Kool-Aid packets, the individual packet kind, in various flavors
-sugar, lotso' sugar
-measuring cup and bowl
For each flavor, label a squeeze bottle.
Put 1 to 1 1/4 cup sugar (how sweet do you like it?) in the heatproof bowl (I use the big glass mixing bowl with a spout from Pampered Chef), add one packet of Kool-Aid.
Whisk in 6-8 ounces of boiling water.
Basically you are making a flavored simple syrup.
** If you go for more sugar, use less water or it won't all fit in the squeeze bottle.
Whisk it good, whisk it real good.
Pour the syrup into the condiment bottle. If there is still sugar in the bottom of the bowl, pour a little syrup back in, re-mix and pour it out again. You should get most of it.
Repeat with the other flavors.
To make Kool-Aid, put water into your cup and add a few squirts of the syrup, stir, taste, add more if needed, then add ice.
Voila, multiple flavors of Kool-Aid to please every kid, and not take up lots of space in your fridge
Will there be another edition of Handy Summer Hints, this time with healthy content? That remains to be seen!
This morning I woke up to facebook giving me this memory. Not exactly the happiest way to start the day.
I don't need to be reminded that we are nearly at the anniversary. Easter's approach has been incredibly difficult. Last year mom was obsessed with Easter, asking almost daily if it was Easter yet. She really wanted to make it to Easter (which because Easter was earlier last year, she did).
Anyway, a rough couple of weeks anyway, and then this from facebook.
School today was hectic, we have one more week before end of school (co-op group) graduation. After running all morning, I was teaching my afternoon class and a friend came to the window of my classroom and motioned for me to understand that she had to talk to me before I left. I assumed it was school business so I said I'd catch her at 3:00, after my class.
At 3:00 I asked Joy to clean up my classroom and pack my supplies so I could go find the lady who needed to talk to me. She was headed outside to let her boys run in the amazing weather we are having so I walked out with her. Once we got out there, instead of the topic being school related, she told me that she had dreamed about me.
We were sitting on the porch of a cabin in the mountains. It was so beautiful. I was in a hammock and you were sitting beside me on the porch and we were just watching the bird feeder. A hummingbird came up (hummingbirds are my special symbol for mom, this friend knows that) and was feeding, It turned to see you, and smiled (because, dream). Then it came over and sat on your shoulder for a bit, then it came over to me, then it flew away. When it left I thought, "Wow, it was really nice for your mom to come see us."
Such a beautiful moment, of course I cried and she hugged me, and then I told her about the FB memory that had popped up this morning and how close we were to the anniversary, and all about how difficult the Easter season is. So then she hugged me some more. No, mom is not a hummingbird; but the picture of her, healed and whole and busy, is so wonderful. And of course her mansion in heaven is a cabin in the mountains, of course it is.
So was her dream because it is spring and hummingbird time (we've seen our first few)? Was it just coincidence? Was it from God? I don't know. I don't need to know. What I do know is that a friend who never met mom dreamed of her- of us- and then took that step to tell me about it when it could have sounded so silly. There is always a risk when you consider sharing things like this. Will the person be offended? Will they be weirded out (why would you dream about me?!)? I'm so glad my friend followed her heart and told me about this, that she took that step and opened up. It was so special to me. The journey of grief can be a very lonely one- even when other people are grieving the same person, we all grieve differently. It can feel like we are the only one still here, still stuck. Little reminders like this, that others are carrying you in their hearts, are just so meaningful.
I want to be more open to taking the risk of sharing my heart when I think of others, even if it feel silly. I truly think that those little nudges to call someone, or send a card, or just tell them, "Hey, I think of you, you are special to me" are important and we can do a lot of good in this world if we listen to them.
We've gone through this personally in our family several times, and it is also a question that is not uncommon in the various parenting groups I work with. This question is so difficult and of course can be approached many different ways to suit the child you are thinking of, but here are some general guidelines.
Be real. Avoid euphemisms like “gone”, “passed away”, or “lost.” Sometimes the child may have no concept of what death even is, so don't use any comparison to sleep or rest. Explain factually that everything alive, dies. Bugs, plants, animals, people- all living cells/creatures/bodies eventually stop working and this is called death. They no longer grow, eat, or breath. Their heart stops beating, their brain can't work anymore. Long before high school biology, children have a sense of what is alive and what is not. A rock is not alive, but a plant is. A car may move, but is not alive. Work with what they have already figured out, and remember, discussions about death are not a once and done thing, but will occur over and over as they grow and revisit these ideas and memories of their loved one.
When explaining why people die, it can be difficult to use language that will not scare them. Old age is a bit easier, as they can understand the concept of worn out and can't work anymore. Illness and accident can be harder. If possible, try not to use the words “sick” or “hurt” since as children, they are likely to get sick and be hurt quite often. Instead, less frequently used words like “disease” or even “ill”, may be less scary, explaining that their body was simply too diseased and could not work anymore. Death from an accident or trauma can be quite disturbing, especially if the child tries to relate it to something they know about, like a squashed bug. You don't need to go into details, but affirm that yes, their body was too damaged to work anymore, so they died.
The difference between the body and the person (spirit or soul) is another tricky bit. Children want to know what happens to the body. Again, go back to other living things like plants or fallen leaves and that they turn back into the earth. Even large bodies like animals and people turn into earth, because the real person is finished with them. Be very matter of fact that bodies are buried in the ground and turn into earth/dirt. For cremation, you don't have to explain the process, but simply say that it some people choose to be buried and turn to dirt slowly and others choose cremation which turns them to dirt much more quickly. If the child persists, you can explain that intense heat is used.
As with many other questions that children ask, always ask them what they think or already know before answering. This is really helpful to clarify what they are actually asking. The old joke about giving a complete reproduction talk to answer, “where did I come from?” when the child actually meant what city they were born in, is funny, but often very true. The purpose is never to hide things from our children, but rather to answer what they are actually asking, and answer it commensurate to their level of understanding.
For religious families, definitely talk about heaven, but avoid using- or even letting children overhear, inaccurate and unhelpful “comfort” about how God “needed them” or that he “took them.” This can be so disturbing for a child and left to wonder who else God might need or take, and can leave the child quite angry with God as well. We teach our children that God is big and all powerful, and then claim he “needed” someone, when clearly the child needed that person more. Stick with the fact that death is part of life, all life ends, and how wonderful it is that when this life ends, that person gets to go to God and never be ill or old or damaged again. Of course we are very sad, we miss them terribly, and just because they are in heaven doesn't make it all better. Encourage them to talk about heaven and what they think their loved one is doing there. This can be incredibly comforting for both the child, and for the entire family who is grieving. The honest grief of a child, and their special glimpses into heaven can be incredibly helpful for all who are grieving this loss.
For non-religious families, you may find comfort in your loved one returning to the earth, or some talk about their loved one turning back into star dust. Some believe in an after-life presence of sorts with the loved one looking after the child, and others do not. There are some really beautiful writings available on this topic for non-religious families.
A very valuable resource can be a local hospice agency. Even if your loved one was not a hospice patient, some agencies offer grief services to their community when funding allows. Even if the agency can't help directly, they will be a valuable resource to recommend area counselors or therapists who may be helpful. Some hospices offer camps (day or sleep away) for children who have had a direct loss, these can be very beneficial in many cases.
Taking care of yourself and your own grief while trying to walk through it with your children is hard. I've been there—and still there, to be honest. Make sure that you are getting the support you need, so that you are then emotionally healthy enough to guide your little ones. Hospitals and churches often provide grief support groups for free or very low fees. You do not have to be a member or be affiliated in order to attend the groups. You may attend one for a few sessions and decide it is not the right fit, and that is OK, but at least try one. If you are reading this to find resources for a friend, remember that one of the most important things you can do for your grieving friends is to facilitate them taking care of themselves. That may mean making phone calls to find counseling or groups, or it may mean providing childcare so they can attend.
As always, please reach out via Facebook if I can be of any additional assistance.
Today is mom's birthday. Our first without her.
Yesterday was incredibly rough. You see, last year her birthday fell on Sunday so the church had a big celebration for her.
Yesterday was the anniversary of that. Everywhere I looked was a reminder. Sitting in the sanctuary, looking at the empty spot where her recliner used to sit, remembering the dining room full of flowers and balloons, thinking about the flower crown that some of the church children made her.
I sat in service and just sort of leaked tears quietly.
After, a friend asked if I was ok, and as I was trying to answer, another friend saw that I wasn't and hugged me.
To be honest, probably the most tears at once since mom passed.
But how sweet to be held by arms who love me, who are not frightened by wracking sobs or snotty face.
How healing to be heard but not not placated.
Then as we stood there, one of the children, a special little fellow, with many needs and issues of his own, came over and innocently asked if I was sad. I told him that I was sad because I missed my mom. He assured me that he remembered who my mom was. Then he hugged me and very seriously told me that when his special friend (a worker at his school) died, he was very sad, but that sometimes, he can sit and remember how much he loved her, and that helps. The precious innocence of his statements are something I will treasure always.
Today is rough too, and to be honest, many more rough days to come between now and the first anniversary.
So many other thoughts that are still too raw to share. Those will come another day. or not, we'll see.
Today, it hurts, but I'll make it.
When mom passed away, one way Josie (4 at the time, now 5) was effected was that she had a complete regression in terms of sleep. In a nutshell, she went completely back to infant stage in regards to sleep- so back into our bed, frequent waking, asking to be worn in a sling (She was too big but I would tie a blanket around and have her sit on my lap in the "sling"), needing tons of contact even if she wasn't actually napping. Over the course of about 8 months we went back through all the stages from bedsharing in our bed, to me laying with her in the girls room, to sitting with her and patting her, to her finally being able to just go to bed and be back where she had been. And, like the initial natural progression, this was not smoothly linear, there were stops and starts during this time.
At this point she's been pretty much solid back in her own bed since mid-December and very secure, even to the point of Jeff and I being able to go for a night away during Christmas break. Since then, the only time she has slept with me was when we all had the flu a few weeks ago.
Yesterday was my husband's birthday so he and I went out for a fancy dinner and were out late etc. so she didn't see me all evening. She went to her room to bed with no trouble, but about 11 pm she came in to our room and crawled in with me.
I asked what was wrong and she did her usual, "I just can't sleep without you! I need you to sleep." We have been working on trying to be more accurate in describing our needs so I said, "well, we know you CAN sleep without me, so it is not that. What do you think you need right now?" (because she clearly did have a need). She thought for a minute and said, "I didn't see you for a long time today and I need you to hold me." So, she lay with me and snuggled and we chatted for a bit.
Having her sleep with me is very uncomfortable (she's big, I have a bad back) so after a bit of snuggle I gave her some options, she could go back to her room or she could sleep in the recliner in our room. She said, "well, I do feel safe in your chair... but I also feel safe with my Joy (her big sister) and it is more comfortable there." Another five minutes of cuddling and she got up and went back to her own bed and slept the night (Keep in mind this is nearly midnight in the dark house, she confidently brought herself to my bed and when she was ready, confidently took herself back to her own room).
I just want to encourage you that when the naysayers tell you that by engaging in bedsharing and other attachment and responsive parenting practices the child will "never be able to sleep on their own", they are wrong. I can not stress enough that independence is not forced or even "taught", it is developed, naturally, when the child feels secure.
None of this will happen overnight, it is a process. But it is worth it. A step back does not mean you have lost, it means that the child is going though something and needs you. Sometimes that is a BIG step back and it takes months of patient love to get them through, other times it is a very simple need to connect and it takes 15 minutes.
“If God is so powerful, why doesn't he ….?” I would venture to guess that each of us has either heard this, said this, or felt this, at some point in our life. The context is usually some sad or terrible circumstance that left the one asking feeling broken and hurt.
I would like to share a story of redemption. I do not pretend that my one story universally proves a point--although I do believe that God's redemptive power is indeed universally possible. When he doesn't remove the circumstance, he can redeem the pain.
My mother died. She lived with us for 7 years. Health up and down, but mostly down and declining. Usually the decline was slow, but she would occasionally have a big drop and then that would become the new normal until the next drop. The last six months she was quite ill, the last four months, on hospice.
5 weeks to the day after mom left, the mother of my dear friend and neighbor went to heaven as well. I was honored to be a part of those final days and hours.
I have a disturbing fluency in skills no one wants to know.
Rolling, turning, changing, adjusting pillows, crushing pills, filling syringes.
Taking minutes to dispense just a few drops, carefully, so as not to choke the throat of one who can no longer swallow.
Swabbing the dry mouth, relieving the cracked lips.
Setting the mood of the room, flowers, music, light levels, even scents.
Tone of voice, gentle touch, stroking the hair. Enough to let you know I'm here, but not enough to disturb or overwhelm.
The relationship with death. It is our enemy, but it is inevitable.
Can I come to a truce?
I cannot control the fact that it comes, but perhaps can control how it takes you?
I will not let you feel fear, or pain, or loneliness, although, we all know that the last step you must indeed take alone.
At least alone from my perspective. I pray not from yours.
Loved ones, angels, God himself? Surely someone is there to take your hand in the moment I must let go. Anything else would be too cruel.
But now what? When life has revolved around care for so long, what does one do with these accumulated proficiencies, this unwanted expertise?
I have my family, they need me, but a different part of me. This part, with its particular set of skills, feels useless now, vestigial.
But then comes a call, “I need help, I cannot.”
It is ok dear friend, because I can.
I step up and say, “wait, I know this one!”
I will hold her, touch her, love her like my own.
I perform the tasks so you are free to hold her hand.
And in this way, I find redemption.
My pain becomes a blessing.
My grief is assuaged.
I have a lifetime's worth of skill but only one mother to spend it on.
God in his wisdom, in his grace, mercifully gave me another.
The past week has been hard. I won't sugarcoat it. I haven't been on Facebook much at all, even my mommy-groups that I work in. I just haven't felt up to interaction.
Real life hasn't been much better, I've been with people out of necessity of course, but just exhausted.
Christmas falling on Tuesday has been weird since yesterday was the first day Jeff had off for us to do any preparing together. We went yesterday to get what is needed for Christmas feast, and thus found ourselves at Aldi on Christmas Eve. As we were finishing, a lady near us in the aisle spoke to us. "Sir, Sir, would you mind reaching that case of soda for me and putting it into my cart? I have two bad shoulders and can't reach or lift." So of course Jeff got her soda and put it in the cart. I asked if she needed help with anything else and we chatted for a moment, I told her my mom had a frozen shoulder and that I understood the pain and immobility. She said that she had had 3 surgeries on one and was waiting to get a titanium joint, but meanwhile, the other one had dislocated.
We wished each other, "Merry Christmas", and Jeff and I went to check out.
When we got outside I saw her trying to put her things into the trunk of her car so I went over and asked if I could put the water bottles and sodas in for her. She accepted and we chatted for a moment. I asked if there was anyone there to unload when she got home. "No honey, I'm a widow and never had children. No family around here." I must have had a look on my face because she put her hand on my arm and said, "Oh don't you worry about me, my Friend never leaves me or forsakes me." I told her I knew that was true, but wished I could follow her home to unload the groceries for her. She said that she has a system where she slides the items to the top of the trunk and then she has a cart to put them on to bring into the house.
She asked if I had children, I told her "Five" and her eyes got misty, "Oh how blessed you are!" We chatted for a few more minutes and then, quite naturally, we hugged each other and I began to cry. "This is my first Christmas without my mother." She hugged me tighter. "I know, I know," she said, "but she sees you, she sees the children."
It was hard to walk away but she told me, "Go on, your husband is in the car waiting for you, and you have so much to do. And I am fine--and you will be fine. And we each have our griefs, but we aren't alone. When I need help, someone always shows up. The same for you I think." One more quick hug and I did walk away.
Oh yes, so true. Over and over and over again, when I need something, someone shows up. Some would wonder, "Oh I bet she was an angel!"
But maybe, and even more beautiful, we were just two broken humans who were there for each other, for just a moment, giving each other a Christmas miracle.
This season of gatherings and events can be very stressful for little ones- and for their mamas! Sometimes going into situations armed with a plan can reduce our anxiety. I don't mean to borrow trouble and worry about what people might say or do, but merely to become settled in your mind before you arrive.
“I do not owe anyone an explanation about why I parent the way I do.”
“I do not need to defend my choices.”
“My child is loved and thriving.”
“My priorities are different from other people's, and that is OK.”
Also remember that your baby is not a toy which must be passed around or shared. They are a person with needs and the right to have those needs respected. If they need to be in your arms to feel safe, you are not “selfish” or “overprotective” to continue holding them for the duration of the event. I highly recommend baby wearing for situations like this. Requests to see baby are easily met with, “Oh he is so happy and safe right now, I don't plan to move him.”, and then turn so that people can interact with baby while still on you.
This absolutely applies to older children as well. A toddler or preschooler should not be made to hug or kiss or sit on laps of people when they don't want to. Body autonomy is one of the most important things for our children to value at an early age. Their body, their rules. This is not an excuse to be rude, so do teach your child how to execute a proper handshake or high five. Alternatively, a verbal greeting is also completely polite and acceptable.
A great way to deflect criticism about your parenting is to simply not engage. For too many people, engaging equals negotiation, so far better to simply give one stock answer. “Is that baby still nursing?” “Is that baby still sleeping with you?” “Is that baby still waking up 17 times a night?”
All of these can be met with a smile and a, “Baby is developing brilliantly, thank you. Did you see that sale on chicken thighs? I totally stocked my freezer with that price!”
I know that it gets lonely to not be able to truly share the hard bits of the parenting journey (because as much as we love it, there ARE hard bits) with those who are supposed to be loving and supportive. This is a very valid grief to feel. But the wise thing to do is to not arm unsupportive people with information that can be used against you. In some relationships there may be a time when a face to face is needed and hard things discussed (Why can't you support my parenting choices? I feel like I can't be honest with you when you turn the things I share back on me). But rarely are the holidays the right time for this kind of serious interaction. Visit your favorite parenting community (or message me), get a breather, and purpose to stand strong in your convictions and not allow curmudgeons to spoil the season for you and your family.
Yesterday was a regular day around here; Dr. appointment, kids playing, chores, and school work. I'm trying desperately to wrap my brain around computery things and discovering that most how-to's and tutorials assume a level of prior knowledge that I do not have, so I spent hours studying/working and have very little show for it.
At some point I logged on to the breastfeeding support group that I help run and found that one of our mamas had experienced the unimaginable, the loss of her 10 month old baby. That kept me preoccupied for much of the rest of the day. Not actually doing anything, but thinking about it extensively, considered ways to reach out, and yes, crying for this dear mama.
Josie often climbs into our "remembering spot" and looks through photo albums of Mom, but yesterday it just caught me in the gut. I'm getting to that grief stage where it is not constant, but when it occurs it is very forceful. And so, I sat with her, held my child, and remembered.
So between the frustration of hitting brick walls in my studying, having a grief day in our home, and the loss of this baby being on the forefront of my mind, it was a rather topsy-turvy day, emotionally speaking. Last night after a grocery run and picking up the kids from VBS, I sat down again to quickly check in on FB before bed. There was the little red flag notice that I had a message and it said a friend had sent a photo. I opened it and saw the beautiful photo I've shared here.
Back story - after mom passed away, I was struggling with how to talk to the kids about the fact that her body was not going to be interred in a casket the way they may have seen in movies or shows. I spoke about this with a friend who I just think the world of. He has a way with words and a way of viewing things that I often haven't considered. He did help me out by talking through this and giving me some ideas. A few days later, he wrote to tell me that as they worked in their yard this spring, his family had planted a sunflower in honor of my mother. Yesterday it bloomed and he sent me this photo.
As I sat and cried, cried for this mama who is just crushed with grief, cried for myself and our family as we experience this very different kind of grief and trying to figure out our new normal, I also cried over this gift of love and friendship. This gift of their family remembering and honoring someone they've never met.
At the end of the day, we want to know that our loved one mattered, that their life meant something, that someone else in this world is holding space for them. We need to know that our loved one's life had meaning, and of course by extension, that our lives have meaning. Let me be clear, I believe in eternity and heaven, but for now, I'm a temporal being in a temporal world and the here and now is what really resonates with me.
We each need to know that we matter, that someone would miss us if we were gone. Struggling hearts often express, “no one would miss me if I weren't here, so what is there to live for?” And on some level we all wonder that. Will there even be a hole when I am gone? We recognize that we are but a speck in the vast universe, but we have this immense need to know that our speck matters. That the speck of those whom we loved, matters.
One of the greatest gifts you can give to a person who is grieving is the gift of remembering their loved one-and letting them know that you do. So every February, I think of Ellen and remember her loss. Every July, I reach out to Belinda as she grieves her husband. Every time I see a giraffe, I think of Ruth's mom.
Tim has passed this gift to me. That sunflower is going to complete its bloom, the seeds will feed birds and some will drop (or be collected) and re-grow next year. And thus, in a yard, 3,000 miles away, my mother's memory is nurtured. Her speck is enlarged. My heart is healed.