Left Behind?

left behind

Not this.

As of today, I’m the lone person in capital projects. All the other people on the team have health issues and are in the at-risk groups. Those that can are teleworking.

So it’s me, our supervisor and the two mailroom staff in Building 1. Woot!

It’s so strange. Quiet. Peaceful, though. Just the four of us and IT, with its drastically reduced staff, banging around.

It’s a great opportunity to be angry. County offices are ghost towns. Is this what the rapture would look like?! Everyone else gets to leave. Why can’t I? Am I *really* essential, with no project work to do, since they’re all paused? It’s also a perfect time to feel sorry for myself. Woe is me! I’m still getting up  at o’dark thirty to shower, dress and drive in to work. Why do I have to be here anyway?!

Or is it a wonderful time to be thankful? I have a job. I will still get paid, regardless of how the governor’s ‘shelter-in-place’ order pans out for yours truly. Today, the managers meet to discuss a very pared-down essential staff for this lockdown. I should know later on today what will be required of me. Frankly, it feels good to be needed. There are days when I feel like an (untrained) monkey could do my job; today is not one of them.

It’s also a fabulous time to trust God. Yes, hand washing…within reason. Yes, social distancing…within reason. Yes, stay at home…within reason. Pressuring others to do it all the way you think it should be done is unhelpful, as is manipulation. You can voice concern and caring. Don’t let fear win.  God is still on the throne. He’s still in the healing business. He also loves you more than you can possibly imagine. He’s got this. Deep breaths and surrender have helped me. Also walks, with or without chocolate accompaniment.

All of this to say coronavirus did not surprise Jesus. He knew all about it long ago. He has not forgotten any of us and we’re not left behind. Maybe we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be, right here and now, serving and loving people.

Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this? – Esther 4:14

My Corona

bigfoot

Social distance winner since 1811.

The coronavirus lingers and languishes like an unwelcome guest. It hasn’t hit anyone close to me, but has affected all social interactions. Church will be live-streamed for the 10:30 service only starting this Sunday.  Ruby is home from school until April 24, a total of 6 weeks. Our niece’s musicals and choir festivals got cancelled. I had a project out to bid with a walk-through scheduled for next Wednesday. Postponed. The Thurston County Courthouse and Regional Administration Building pre-proposal walk through, a project estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $250 million, got cancelled as well.

Everyone’s afraid. Everyone is washing their hands – only more than usual, I hope – and keeping their distance.

Thurston County is accepting contingency plans for a scaled-back public agency from its department directors and elected officials, due today. Employees deemed essential will work as needed, receiving a temporary 5% pay increase per the Commissioners. Our boss met with capital projects to talk about possibly having non-essential workers either work from home or simply receive administrative leave. The takeaway: projects in construction will need support on-call and all others…not.

The County already sent out sickness protocols if you come down sick or you’ve been exposed to someone who has Covid. It’s very Levitical. You are to stay home for 14 days if diagnosed with the virus; seven days if you’ve been around someone who has it. So…if you’ve been around someone who was around someone, is it 3.5 days of quarantine? What about oozing skin rashes?!

I kid, but I know it’s serious. San Francisco is on lockdown, as are several other areas worldwide. And for good reason. City of Olympia closed on March 16, we thought, but it turns out the cities have already scaled back services. Olympia will close on March 23. Due to proximity diffusion, (take THAT Public Sector Policy!), other municipalities will most likely fall like dominos soon after.

All of this to say the natives in my organization are getting restless. Why is it taking so long? Shouldn’t we be closed by now? We’re all going to die!!

Ahem.

The Auditor’s Office suspended processing passports. The Assessor’s Office has enforced hand sanitizing at the door and a 6-foot line taped on the carpet in front of the counter. Public Health closed yesterday and will take today to sanitize, as one employee went home sick.

On the upside, commuting for the last week has been breezier each day. Fewer cars on the road means less slowdowns. That’s a blessing. Another positive is more time with the family. Ruby, Jonathon and I have been goofing off together as much as possible. The Isham animals, needless to say, love the extra attention.

What I’m finding is the chance to slow down makes me consider what matters. What can I spend the time on, and whom? What do I truly need to survive? We are nowhere near the bottom of any barrel.  It’s also a good time to consider those around us. As Americans, and those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest, it’s a great virtue to be independent, right? The pioneer spirit lives on in our neck of the woods. Just ask Bigfoot. I don’t need anyone, and you shouldn’t, either.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I think we’ve forgotten how to live in community. We’re so isolated in our online world. Order it all from Amazon, Door Dash, Safeway, etc., and never talk to a human being. Additionally, this virus shouldn’t pit the elderly against the younger generation. It shouldn’t be couched as “my freedom trumps your vulnerability”. We’ve lost the ability to consider others before ourselves; I’m as guilty as anyone else. But there is hope. Online groups are popping up, asking if senior citizens especially have unmet needs of food or other supplies. Simply beautiful. It’s just the beginning.

As of right now, 147 of the world’s 195 countries have confirmed coronavirus cases (ncov2019.live). That’s 75%, folks. Wouldn’t it be something if it could bring us together instead of tear us apart? “We are the world…we are the children…”

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. – James 1:2

 

Project Management 101

Winter quarter, which ends March 20, I took 3 classes. Each class had discussions, at least one, almost every week, though that varied. However, the total assignments, which included analyzing a failed project in many different ways and offering a solution, research papers, and deciding how to cut a city’s existing departmental budget by a hefty percentage, took the most time, energy and brain power. In looking over the assignments for them all, it looked like this with weeks due:

PM 5333 – Project Budgeting, Quality, & Procurement
Week 2, Week 4, Week 6, Week 8, Week 10

PUAD 7035 – Public Sector Policy
Week 3, Week 5, Week 7, Week 10

PUAD 7045 – Public Sector Budgeting
Week 2, Week 6, Week 8, Week 10

I’m no math whiz, but that looks like 13 assignments. Within 10 weeks. Gulp.

I realized I would need to project-manage myself. Is that a verb? I sat down and figured out a schedule. It’s not actually 10 weeks, by the way. March 20 is a Friday, and all the other weeks take an entire 7 days. To stay ahead, most weeks I’d need to complete 2 assignments, or deliverables, as I thought about them.

  • Week 1: PUAD 7045 week 2
  • Week 2: PM 5333 week 2, PUAD 7035 week 3
  • Week 3: PM 5333 week 4, PUAD 7035 week 5
  • Week 4: PM 5333 week 6, PUAD 7045 week 6
  • Week 5: PM 7035 week 7, PUAD 7045 week 8
  • Week 6: PM 5333 week 8, PUAD 7045 week 10
  • Week 7: PM 5333 week 10
  • Week 8: PM 7035 week 10

This meant I needed to get as much work done during the week as I could, saving Saturday for concentrated completion time. I aimed to finish one of the deliverables by Thursday of that week, at the latest. I kept a very loose work breakdown structure, or list of tasks, in my head. Read the text(s), set up a sort of outline for assignments, think it through.

As I went along, I did all the discussion posts for that week as well as the assignment; more of a mental thing, as I didn’t want to leave any loose ends or confuse myself. I was able to back off on the schedule a bit the last 2 weeks, as you can see. Because yes, I am DONE with deliverables! Just finished last night. I knew the PM class would be tougher. Most of the deliverables for that class came in 2 parts: analysis, whether it was earned management, quality control, or budget overruns, and then a solution. They took longer, but were the most fun. The Public Sector Policy class was the hardest by far. I spent 5 days on the week 10 paper, researching the Iran hostage crisis and the U.S. policies birthed out of that, their implementation and effectiveness, etc. That turned into 11 pages of goodness, 14 with references.

Do I recommend this kind of workload? No, I do not. It was brutal at times. Every Saturday, I put in 5+ hours working on an assignment. I had no social life, or barely. I missed lots of Wednesday nights at church, exhausted and/or working on homework. I experienced an ordinate amount of anxiety. Could I even keep up with the workload? Even more, could I do well? No point in taking 3 classes if you do poorly, I figured.

But all worked out. Grades look good, too. As of today, all I have left to finish this quarter is responding to a discussion post in the PM class. But so far, I’m the only one who posted. So I wait for 2 more classmates to weigh in for me to do 2 more responses.

What did we learn, class? Well, glad you asked. I learned that…

  • I must manage myself before I can consider managing a project with moving parts and many different personalities.
  • I know more than I think.
  • The nitpicky teacher you dislike the most probably pushes you to do your best work.
  • Coffee is the elixir of life.
  • Having your mom die the day before you start a monster quarter can help you focus. Note: not ideal.
  • Mom’s family is AMAZING. This sad season has allowed me to get to know them a little better.
  • You don’t have to do everything. You can lean on others. Jonathon helped me in so many ways, from picking up chores to encouraging me, to putting gas in my car. What a wonderful man.
  • Naps gooood.
  • I still love red licorice.
  • Takeout Chinese is the equivalent of “making dinner”.
  • With God, all things are possible.

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. – Romans 12:12

 

 

No More Tears

camellia wiki

Mom’s memorial was yesterday. My brother did a great job planning it, with the church doing most of the leg work. It was a lovely service held at the Episcopal church in Shelton, with a smattering of Navy elements. Flag folding: is there anything more nerve-wracking? Like folding a fitted sheet with an audience. The service itself contained all the great, faith-building scriptures:

But as for me, I know that my redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth…Job 19:25

There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” – John 14:2-4

…”He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” – Revelation 21:4

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” – John 14:1-6

Not to mention The Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, which rarely come up in my faith expression. We sang the old hymns and prayed the scripted prayers. We took communion at the rail, with real wine and leaven-free wafers. I felt connected to the God I knew in childhood, the start of my seeking journey. Mom’s faithful church attendance launched that.

Yesterday, I was doing fine. Surrounded by family and friends and some near-strangers, the whole experience of ‘Mom is dead’ didn’t seem surreal. Later, sharing  Dr. J’s quiche, fruit salad and the mouth-watering Momeye coffeecake that goes back at least one more generation seemed celebratory. Fun, even, with all the Chestons and Stanleys in the house, as well as Mom’s closest friends. I felt blessed and grateful. Many thanks to all who came!

But today feels different. It started raining. In fact, it’s doing the Shelton “raining with a purpose” thing now. Rain striking the skylight scared Dakota. She had to come find me for comforting pats and murmured soothing.

If I slow down, though, the grief catches me. If I do slow down, I’m not cleaning/reading/researching/writing/administratively interacting or anything else that distracts me from the fact that Mom is gone. While I appreciate the enormous distraction that taking classes affords me, the grief still knocks me down.

We invited Father Joe, now-retired minister of St. David’s Episcopal Church, to officiate at Mom’s memorial. Mom loved him. Due to prior commitments, he was unable to do it. He called and left me the most amazing voicemail. He mentioned lots of fun and laughter with my mom and expressed his condolences.

“I wanted to celebrate with you Joan’s birth into eternal life.”

I barely kept it together when he said that. Yes! It took the focus off my grief and onto the One who makes all things new. I blinked back tears as I went back into an all-day training.

A lush camellia bush grows in front of the Episcopal church. Yesterday, I noticed it was in full bloom. In fact, the hot pink blossoms had faded and some had turned brown. Best guess, it started blooming some time in mid-January, right around when Mom passed. It reminded me that this life, though enormously beautiful, is temporary, and soon we will be born into eternal life. Thanks be to God.

 

Send the Jury Out

jury duty

I  haven’t written in awhile. Hopefully, this will explain why.

It all started out innocently enough with a jury summons. “Please call in to the Mason County jury line from February 3-February 14.” Simple enough.

Monday was uneventful, but Tuesday I had to go in. The Superior Court case involved crimes against children. My stomach churned as they read the seven counts. No way did I want any part of this case. But then I thought, if decent people won’t be a part of a jury, who will? I steeled myself for all the questioning. We had a 2-hour voir dire to ferret out any bias.

“Is there anyone here with strong religious beliefs?” I cringed inwardly at the terminology, couched in such a negative framework, but raised my card with #27 on it anyway.

“Would you be able to judge fairly if witchcraft was involved?”

Um. I want out. What the what??

I was 2 people away from making that jury. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I returned to work after 2.5 days of vetting, from 90 jurors down to 13.

Then I called in Friday. “These groups must report for jury duty on Monday, February 10: Group 502, Group 503….” Yep. I was back for District Court this time. I could not believe it. I’ve been summoned for jury duty nearly every year since we moved to Shelton, and almost got on a jury once. This was the most active the legal scene had been for me.

I showed up at 8:40 Monday morning and was handed a number: 1. Great. I knew, barring some extenuating circumstances, I’d be on this jury.

Thirty of us crammed into the smaller district courtroom. The defense counsel sat right in front of us and the prosecutor, with a state trooper, to our right. The case? A DUI. I had always considered a DUI and DWI as the same, but they’re not. A DUI means driving under the influence…of something. A DWI is driving while intoxicated. This was a drug charge.

I thought, this should be pretty straightforward. A huge man with the #2 sat next to me. He wore black overalls, a flannel shirt and no recent shower. I leaned away a little so I could breathe. Voir dire consisted of finding out if anyone had DUIs or DWIs. Lots of in-depth questioning there. Did anyone have close friends or relatives in law enforcement? Heck, anyone in law enforcement?

With district court, the judge takes into consideration the objections from both the state and the defense and assigns jurors. Judge S. called out 7 of us, yours truly included, to sit in the jury box. Number 2 made it as well. We sat down and then the judge gave us instructions.

“Huh?” The older gentlemen, juror 7, could not hear.

“Sir, can you hear me?”

Nope. Seven was given a listening device. It was hit and miss. Seven swapped it out for another one. Worked slightly better.

The judge went on. Have to follow the law, not your own bias, defendant is innocent until proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Huh?”

We all filed into the jury room, a small locked room with an attached bathroom, both adjacent to the courtroom. The bailiff handed us notebooks to take notes. I gulped. Could I write legibly enough to use it later?

Juror 7 was taken out again. His hearing aids interfered with the listening device. The judge and attorneys asked him all the questions again as we cooled our heels in the small room. We exchanged names: W., the mountain man and #2, C., an amazing mother and fellow church member with friendship from Oregon days, R., an attractive woman in her 50s who works for the Belfair School District, O., a 50-something Mexican man who drives a forklift for Sierra Pacific, and H., a slender 20-something  female veterinary student and transplant from North Carolina who works as a vet tech in Olympia. Little did we know how much time we’d be together.

W. liked to talk. A lot. By this time, it was 2:30ish. Juror 7 got excused since he could hear nothing and would be unable to serve on the case. And then there were six. The bailiff told us none of us could get sick.  Since a DUI is a criminal case, we must reach a consensus. Gulp again.

We filed back into the courtroom at 3:00 p.m. Both sides made their opening arguments. From what I could glean, the prosecution’s case was all about meth, methadone and morphine in the blood sample from a Darryl Watters, pulled over on June 1, 2018 at around 11:00 p.m., originally for a broken taillight. He was also weaving within his lane. The defense’s argument rested on the time between the sample’s origin and the date it reached toxicology 20 days later, as well as the testing methods used by the state trooper and the toxicology lab. The blood sample sat around for months in the lab fridge, waiting to be tested. Hmm. Didn’t seem like much to go on, though I tried to keep an open mind.

The prosecuting attorney, Mr. W., was very young. He followed the procedure to the letter, asking permission to approach the bench and the witness before moving. The defense attorney, an older man named Mr. L., wore a pale gray suit. The hem of his cuffed pants frowned over the back of his tasseled loafers. He often spoke over the witnesses and objections.

“Counsel, let the witness answer.” “Counsel, let me rule on the objection.” The judge’s withering looks said it all.

It was rough. Over the next 4 days, we were in and out of the courtroom multiple times. The defense objected to the trooper’s testimony.

“Send the jury out,” the judge would intone. Over and over.

It got to be a joke among us jurors. I started to log our entering and exit times, just for fun. We considered placing bets.

Entered and seated at 1:39 p.m. Sent out at 1:42 p.m. Time elapsed: 3 minutes.

“Send the jury out.”

Entered and seated at 2:11 p.m. Sent out at 2:31 p.m. Time elapsed: 20 minutes.

“Send the jury out.”

Entered and seated at 2:57 p.m. Sent out at 3:05 p.m. Time elapsed: 8 minutes.

“Send the jury out.”

And on and on. Each objection had to be fully discussed with us out of earshot. It was nothing like TV cases. Reaching a half hour of questioning before the defense objected to either the witness’s conclusions, testing methods of the state trooper or the toxicology lab, or the state’s questioning proved a huge coup. It dawned on us that the original estimation of finishing by Thursday might be optimistic.

Meanwhile, hot topics in the jury room consisted of free speech, the right to own guns, and W.’s history. It was all O.’s fault.

“You’re a good storyteller. Give us more,” he said.

So W. did. W. had a high school education, but a voracious curiosity about things. He grew up on the streets of Tacoma and in the woods, shunted between an absentee mom and his Native American grandmother. At one point, he ran away from home and joined the carnival, where he became a student of human nature. Once safely ensconced with his grandmother and back in school, he learned all kinds of art, including jewelry making. In fact, he made his own dentures. He only wore them the first day, he said, because he broke off a tooth eating some of Safeway’s fried chicken. He pioneered some early computer programs and taught himself how to code. He trapped and fished on his property in Tahuya, property he purchased some 30 years ago. He told us nowadays he had to trap using scent and not bait due to new laws.

We heard about him picking brush on his property, stacking it into 2 piles. He felt something furry at his feet and thought it was a little dog. He shooed it home. It came back. Without really paying attention, he reached down to pet it and realized it was a little bear. Another time he was eating a not-so-tasty energy bar and a deer walked into his yard. He offered the remainder of the bar to the deer who took it right out of his hand.

Other stories weren’t so benign. He talked of his addiction to drugs and alcohol, even smoking. He kicked them all over time. His son was not so lucky and overdosed several years ago. He showed us his picture, a tall, dark-haired fellow, gone by age 31. W.’s pain showed in his eyes. Parents should not outlive their children.

But wait! There’s more.

“When I bought the property, it was isolated. Nobody around for miles. So I took advantage of the free Vitamin D. I went commando.”

Um. O. and I exchanged side glances.

“But then I started to get neighbors. I had to move my traps in closer and closer to the house. I realized when I sat outside, I needed to be on a blanket in order to cover up. Not for me, but for them. They would be embarrassed.”

Okay. C. and I shared a look across the table.

“You know, we all have the same parts. Two arms, two legs. I’ve always heard that we’re unique and special, but I don’t really believe that.”

I started laughing here and could not stop. What in the world? I laughed so hard I cried. I put my head down on the table. I did not snort, but I was close. The other jurors joined in.

“That’s good, that’s good, ” W. said. “Laughter is good medicine, even if it’s laughing at me.” His eyes betrayed his concern for my sanity. Well, at this point in our journey, it seemed appropriate.

All told, we probably spent 4 hours in the courtroom listening to testimony and questioning. Late Friday morning, we were encouraged to pick out a lunch choice from Domino’s, with deliberations over lunch. We nominated H. as the presiding juror, with her great understanding of test tubes and blood draw protocols, as well as methodical notes. We all gave our input. I explained how Washington state interoffice mail worked. W. kept pulling us off track with personal stories about his experiences.

“W.”, R. said not unkindly, “why don’t we let others talk?”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. From then on, he raised his hand before he spoke.

O. asked a couple of questions. We talked about how the combination of meth, morphine and methadone probably impaired his driving, and no legal limits exist for any of those. We wrapped it up just before 1:00 p.m. with a unanimous guilty verdict. Drugs do not spontaneously appear in someone’s blood, after all. We were back in the courtroom by 1:10 and all finished by 1:20. The judge thanked us for our “above and beyond” service and encouraged us to wait around, as the attorneys sought feedback on how to improve. I said goodbye to everyone and gave W. a side hug. He had cleaned himself up a bit over the week’s duration. He shared a lot of himself with us; sometimes that makes you feel vulnerable. I jetted out, glad to be free. After all, it was Valentine’s Day.

I considered all the forced time spent together. Despite the tedium, though, I enjoyed being with people whom I now consider friends, an unforeseen bonus. Sharing yourselves with others will do that, even when you are very different.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Next

flowers

Jonathon and I spent some time today going through Mom’s things. We didn’t have much. We’d sorted it from the pre-sorted move to Shelton. I have several of her things, like jewelry and scarves. For the first 2 weeks after she died, I reached for earrings that belonged to her or ones she gave me. Every day. It helped me feel closer to her and allowed me to sit with the pain instead of drowning it somehow.

We found Mom’s old Navy photos. We found photos of her conducting the Navy WAVES chorus. We found photo albums of generations past and present. A white photo album contained newspaper clippings of Mom’s “betrothal” announcement and wedding pictures. The “Baltimore society” section tracked the wedding’s progress. This was pre-paparazzi, obviously.

Letters I wrote from college were in my baby book.

“Dear Mom…my roommate is a vocal major…I’m still trying to work out a walking schedule…”

Then, I found several Mother’s Day cards I’d sent. She kept them in a plastic bag. Mother’s Day cards were sometimes heartfelt, sometimes goofy. Some had pictures of toddler Zac in them. Good news, though: my handwriting *was* legible then.

I found a picture of her wearing Zac’s helmet from when he was a knight, I think back in first grade.  Many, many pictures of cats past, and a few of boyfriends past. Priorities. 

Our relationship wasn’t always great. We had differences of opinions. She railed at me for choosing to attend a Bible college. I didn’t agree with her choice of male companions.

“You have such good grades; you could go anywhere. You’re throwing your life away!” she said angrily.

But I knew it was God’s thing for me. And I met Jonathon, as well as some of my very best friends. She came around. Eventually.

One of Dad’s sisters sent a condolence card.

“Losing your mother feels like a hole in the heart,” she wrote.  My eyes swam.

Yes. Like that.

Meanwhile, I continue to do schoolwork and put my whole heart into it. In fact, I probably over-analyze every assignment. It helps to concentrate on something, anything, right now. I’m safe inside the bubble of academia and its regimented rubrics. I know what’s required of me and when it’s due. Yet as soon as I submit something, I second-guess myself.

“Oh, I forgot to include X. Wait, did I discuss the history of the rise of that public policy enough? Did I have enough sources?” On and on. I have to take myself by the scruff of the neck and say, “Stop it! You did your best. Now let it go.”

I’ve spent a lot of time playing ball with Dakota today. The rain stopped, though the wind still blows. It’s still cold, still winter. But pussy willows have appeared. The camellia bush has small, hard buds that will be lovely hot-pink flowers in a month. I must remember that spring follows the winter, always. I don’t have to force it. It will come.

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven… – Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

 

 

Pooh Pocket

Pooh bag

Friday, we drove to Port Orchard and unloaded Mom’s room. One of the few good things out of this entire saga is that she progressively downsized over the years. While still living in Portland, Mom downsized to a two-bedroom condo. When she moved to Shelton, she downsized yet further to a two-bedroom duplex. When she moved to the VA home in October, she downsized to one room, allowed only a wing chair, an ottoman, a few pictures, some jewelry, knickknacks and clothes. Visitors provided a few plants. Clearing out her room took less than an hour, a piece of mercy in all of the sadness.

My brother and I reminisced about the different men she got dated but never married. Some we liked, specifically Rick. He was the funniest man I’d ever met. I think I was 9 at the time. He knew Gary Larson personally. He brought us cookies and made us all laugh. We urged Mom to marry him. But he had no plans to be tied down.

curiosity

. There were other prospective spouses along the way but nobody stuck.

Thak

It’s funny how you remember yourself in the context of time. But not just time, in the context of others and seasons. Looking back, I can see that just as God’s hand helped keep us afloat, He also kept us out of bad situations. While ‘no’ at the time felt hard, it was for our good. Rick went on to have 6 heart attacks when he finally did marry. Not surprisingly, he lost his sense of humor along the way.

Another good thing out of Mom’s death is the tribe of women who have surfaced to guide me through the grief. These women have all lost their mothers, too, and know firsthand how hard it can be. I did not ask for help; they have come all on their own, and I am grateful. Alongside them are family and old friends who have listened and been there. Thank you, thank you. I have not walked this way before and it’s been a struggle. Grief washes over me like a sneaker wave as I walk the beach of loss. Your support has made all the difference.

Years ago, Aunt Susan made me a stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh. I took that bear to college with me, much to the hilarity of subsequent fellow dorm dwellers. I still have it.

Aunt Susan gave me the pouch pictured above when she came to see Mom. Inside the pouch were 2 embroidered hankies and assorted chocolate.

“You don’t have to share it with anyone”, she told me.

All of these people who have shown up and been there have put me a metaphorical ‘pocket’ for safekeeping, something you do for cherished items – and people. I know hard days lie ahead, but I feel surrounded by love and sympathy and am focusing on the sweet memories.