It began in late March. My father walked into the hospital for what was promised to be a simple procedure, which later took his life. It was 4.5 months of watching him waste away, unable to recover as his 80 year old body fought for life. It was late into the night of August 13, around 11pm, that my sister called. "We are headed to the ER. Don't come. I'll let you know." At 2am the next call came. "Come now." The news was grim. 48 hours. Maybe a little more. Maybe a little less. Then, we took him home, my 2 sisters and I. For the next two and half days, the three of us, and my eldest niece, cared for him around the clock. We were joined by hospice, which was a tremendous help.
Death is so interesting and horrible and beautiful and I wish that each person would have, if they desire, the ability to pass away at home, surrounded by the things and the people they love and who love them. Both of my parents had this experience. We, those they left behind, were blessed by being able to support their transition in this way.
Honestly, there are moments when that time, those moments etched in my mind, are unreal. A bad dream. How could he be gone? So fast. Too soon. Is 80 years too soon? A Leo who lived a BIG LIFE. I mean BIG. The stories, his accomplishments. I could write a book about this man. He was the stuff of legends. Honestly, I have always thought that and then my mother-in-law, hearing some of the stories said it as well.
There is a part of me that thinks, "does everyone feel like this, take death so hard?" Actually, I am doing better with my father's death than I did with my mom's. As I have wept in the quiet, still moments of my day the last two weeks (which I can tell you has not been enough), I have considered this grief and how each of my parent's deaths was different. My mother lived a very blessed (after meeting my father and beginning her family) yet very horrible life. Her childhood was filled with abuse of various kinds, followed by men who mistreated her (not my father, the ones that came before), alcoholism and who knows what else that I have not been privy to. When she passed I grieved for her life, the pain, who she was and who she could have been had she been able to move beyond her suffering. I grieved the relationship that we never truly had, though I believe we both longed for.
With my father, this grief is different. It is a hole. A man who championed his children, always stood behind us, taught us everything. A hero to the grandchildren and friend to all he met. The son of a sharecropper, with an 8th grade education, he went on to run the entire manufacturing arm of the 3rd largest die-casting company in the United States. He traveled and met CEO's in the US and Europe working out contracts and specs on car parts and more. No small feat in a global economy for man who quit school to work in the fields so that there was food on the table! And avid reader, armchair political commentator, gardener and amateur engineer, there was nothing he could not do.
Growing up, we had our share of problems. Alcoholism with my mom, issues with my siblings, we had it all. We also had big Sunday dinners where friends and family would gather to swim in our pool, great family vacations, family businesses that brought us together in the best and worst ways possible. We are a close family and there are times that I marvel in our relationships and ability to get along and give thanks for the emphasis put on family that we had.
At this point I know I am beginning to become close to rambling, please forgive me. My husband's grandparents, in their late 80's, blessed us with joining us for the funeral and then lunch at my parent's home. Mammaw hugged me and told me that it will get better but that I will always hurt. This from a woman who loved her daddy more than life and lost him probably 25 or 30 years ago. It will get easier, but it will always hurt. There will be a day when I don't cry in the stillness of the day, when that hole will not burn through my chest. I know there will be a day when I will have stillness then remember and recognize that it has gotten easier.
This grief is layered with not just my loss or the loss of a grandparent for my children or the loss of a brother for those siblings my dad left behind. There is another grief that I am sure sits in my heart around my daughter. I cannot talk about it now as it deserves it's own place, but I will write about it later.
I'll leave you with my fave pic of my dad in the last few years. He is with Noah at his 8th grade graduation in 2016. I am so glad my children had the chance to know him.
Thank you everyone who has been understanding during this time.
"After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." - Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
I've been pondering the meaning of life. A lot. Like every moment of every day. Okay, maybe not that much. But, close. What I spend a lot of time thinking about are past choices that brought me to where I am in life and where my family is. This year has brought tremendous emotional growth but has also been full of huge ups and downs and one thing I have come to the conclusion of is there is no "normal". I used to have this dialogue in my head that said, "once things get back to normal".
Once our schedule normalized.
Once my income normalized.
Once my health normalized.
What does this even mean?
I'm going to talk more about this in future posts, but today, I want to take this idea of "normal" and reframe it into "habits". How? The reality is there is no "normal". Not in my world and quite frankly, not in the world of anyone else I know. So, if there is no normal, how do we live life? How do we operate and bring any form of consistency in a world of constant change?
Through habits. This has been on my mind and I decided to make this the summer of developing good habits. I looked up the meaning of habit for this post and here is our friends at Merriam-Webster have to say:
Okay, so we want some repetition, or at least I do. The school year is NOT a good time to develop good habits. What happens during the school year is a big part of the reason I want to develop these habits as more often than not, we find that we are not in "normal" and are frequently in CHAOS as schedules shift and change, holidays fall, illness creeps in. I truly believe it is in a handful of good habits that we will find a bit of normal amid the inconsistency.
We already have a few good habits. Each morning the dishwasher is emptied. There's one! Honestly, that may be the only one.
I have begun looking at other writers to see what habits they have and how they win at life through the use of habit. Of course, there is the iconic 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey (by the way, I just ordered EVERY ONE of his books through our library) and my fave, Tim Ferriss (check out this article). but, are their habits my habits? Some of them.
After reading several articles, thinking of my pet peeves and knowing where the chaos happens in our home when we are NOT in good habit and what we need to be health in body, mind and spirit, I have come up with these habits to work on over the next 11 weeks:
1. Making the bed upon rising. Always. No matter what.
2. Get my diffuser filled with my favorite oils to set our mood for the day.
3. Reviewing my goals and journaling. (I am also working with Elizabeth Purvis over at the Goddess Business School, so for me, that is a huge part of my journaling.)
4. Meditate or read something inspirational.
6. Clean the kitchen (the kitchen is usually clean when we wake up, but when I leave in the mornings, I also want to come home to a clean kitchen). This is a group effort at the Croy house.
7. Reboot the laundry every night before bed.
I may add to this over the summer, but seriously, if we can implement these items individually, we will be able to take the chaos thrown at us each day when life strays outside the lines and "normal" is no where to be found. An example of a not so normal day below. We threw off the shackles of yard work and house cleaning and headed downtown for an afternoon of fun!
Please share your habits with me today over on FB!
I've mentioned this a few times over the last few weeks, but today I'm going deep into Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Last fall I saw that Liz (we are on a first name basis - she doesn't know that, but we are) was putting out a new book. At this point in my life I am living in the world of fictional novels and online articles, so reading a self-help book (which I was drowning in years ago) is a stretch for me. (Trust me. I've read them. Many of them.)
Something about this book grabbed my attention. Maybe it was the cover, maybe it was just that my soul said, "This One". I don't know, but I hopped over to Amazon, read the reviews and promptly ordered the darn thing. My soul wasn't finished and it said, "You cannot do this alone". I'm still not sure if that meant I cannot accomplish on my own or maybe that I shouldn't do it alone. Regardless. I received that message as well and invited a whole bunch of women via FB into my sacred circle to create Big Magic in their own lives.
I broke the gathering into 8 weeks. They looked like this:
There have been times when I have sat in circles and seen lively discussion and times when I have seen extreme discomfort. For this group - some who knew each other, some new to us all - we had both of those things plus the quiet and reflectiveness that I think has to come with this type of work.
Okay, what's Big Magic about and why should you read it? I am a Priestess. There, I said it. I have been to the fire. I have been the initiate. I have been the leader. The point to that is that I have been around the spiritual block (knowing I have SO SO SO much left to learn) and have studied with master teachers and read the books and chanted and done all of those things. If you are looking for THAT book. This is NOT it.
This is another book. It is the raw, in your face, practical approach to getting into your creative space and getting out of YOUR OWN WAY! This is the book that doesn't say "let go of your fear" it is the book that ACKNOWLEDGES your fear and knows that it's probably always going to be with you and to get over it. This is the book that tells you how to walk in step with those dark places in a real and often humorous way. This is the book that says, yeah, you might be a tortured soul, but don't live in that space. Honor it and hold it's hand but then keep moving (Liz tells that part of the soul to "get in the back seat, it's days of driving are over"). This book is so much that I cannot even tell you what it is.
What I can tell you is it is not a book going to the used bookstore. It's one I recommend to my friends. It's full of "a-ha's". It's, well, Big Magic.
A little more on what we did as we worked through Big Magic:
There are so many things you can do around this book to bring Big Magic into your life. What are you waiting for? If you don't read anything else this year, this is it. Not sure? Below are some of my favorite Big Magic quotes:
Not once. Not twice. Not three times. But, FIVE times this week I have literally been stopped in my tracks. It all began on Tuesday. It was my turn to deliver a meal to friends whose daughter was on day 21 in the ICU due to complications from a risky heart surgery. I had arranged the entire day (including the delivery) around my son's schedule. (Note to self: my schedule is now the priority.) He had circus practice at 3:15 (yes, I said circus), a mandatory 8th grade parent meeting at 6:00 (only 1/2 of the parents showed - another note to self) and Scouts at 7:00. In the midst of all of that I had to deliver a meal and find a way to feed myself and the kids. As I left to pick up the Moon and deliver the meal I received a phone call that circus was cancelled. What? I really DESPISE last minute cancellations, especially when it meant we could have eaten at home instead of eating out which was really all we could do that night. After circumnavigating the city with the Moon, picking up the Sun and having dinner, I sat down to bitch to my fellow parent at the meeting and mid-way through the tirade I simply stopped. My conversation went from, "I am so frustrated" to.....
"I am SO grateful that I have a car to drive around the city, money to eat out tonight and healthy kids not lying in the hospital."
Did I mention my friend is the religious ed director for a large Episcopal church? Her reply was, "It's all a matter of perspective." Amen to that.
The week has continued in a similar vein. With on and off snow this week, the children have been home since Wednesday morning, which is when I got the call that a much older cousin's wife had died suddenly. This meant a Thursday afternoon trip to pick up my father and head out on a two hour drive to a rural Tennessee town for a funeral visitation in freezing rain which ended in dinner at Krystal's (see my next post on migraines in case you want to know how that ends). Her name was Pearlee and her daughter and I are close in age and spent time together during the long hot summers of my youth in Lawrence County - what I like to call God's country.
Friday morning brought another cold day and the blessed snow that we have all been waiting for. I say blessed because it was a blessing watching my hubby and the kids outside on and off all day playing in the 8-inches that piled up around our home. Normally I would be in the fray but the aforementioned migraine had a different plan for me. Throughout the day, as I counted my blessings - truly for I know that every day brings something new - I watched FB anxiously. Our friend whose daughter was in the ICU was rushed once again to surgery. Did I mention they are our friends that we had lost touch with (or my husband's friends I should say) then reconnected through the joys of adoption and the local Families with Children from China group? As I watched them try to get to the hospital and the updates on their FB page they posted another update about another family. A family who, coincidentally, brought home their daughter on the same plane from China on the same night last September. My friend's daughter came out of surgery alive and well once again. The other family were not so lucky.
I had felt all day that something was wrong. The funeral, the snow, my friend's daughter, the migraine...and now this. Seeing a family - who I truthfully do not EVEN know, lose their daughter made the evening long as I paced around, picking up things and putting them down. Trying to clean the kitchen but losing my focus for even that mundane task. Once again this week being stopped in its tracks.
And now, today, I once again wake with a migraine. I decided I could lay in bed and suffer or try to work a little and hope that my thoughts come out coherently. A friend posted on her FB page that she believed the snow was good as it has made us all take a break from regular life, rest, reconnect and play. Maybe being stopped in our tracks is a good thing. Maybe we need to put the breaks on more often which gives us the space to count our blessings.
“For today and its blessings, I owe the world an attitude of gratitude.” - unknown
That was the way the FB post began. It was a few weeks ago when the Syrian refugee crisis seemed at its worst (not that it is any better) that a friend posted an image of refugees and this question. What followed was a lengthy tirade against local churches, the government and more. It was not the first of such posts I had seen from friends about the crisis nor was it the first post such as that I have seen about other issues affecting our world. "Why doesn't somebody do something?" My question to you is this: "Why don't you do something?"
A "do-gooder" at heart, I've always wanted to change the world - to "be the change". But, in my do-gooder mind there are some things I have never been able to reconcile. Why do those complaining the loudest do the least amount of work? (Yes, I have seen this in practice.) Why is your child's [fill in the blank] sport more important than filling backpacks full of food for children who are going home to an empty pantry on the weekend? (I promise you, giving your child the experience of feeding the hungry teaches them a helluva lot more than sitting on the bench while waiting their turn baseball.) Why do people crucify the Christians but then look to them in crisis? (If you have followed me for long or know me personally, you know I am not Christian but work with lots of other "do-gooders" who are.) Why do people give $100,000 to an elephant sanctuary or a dog rescue while my friends and I have to beg for money to feed children dying in an overseas orphanage? Someone tell me 'cause I need to know.
Today I write this post having sent a heartwrenching letter to a local organization in which I have been a board member for three years. The letter begged for someone else to step up to take the helm. I. AM. DONE. It's not that anyone did anything wrong. It's not that I know longer want to be a part of something so special. But, my focus has shifted to fulfill my work with an organization BEING THE CHANGE and changing lives for orphaned children every day.
It's not that I have more time than you to serve. Let me be clear. For everyone sitting and saying "I do not have the time, the energy, the resources, the whatever" the reality is that NO ONE ELSE DOES EITHER! But, we do. When we are passionate about something, we find it within ourselves.
For a time I sat on the board of my son's school. The entire time he has been in the elementary grades there I was either a parent volunteer, board member or employee and either as part of a fundraising team or the primary fundraiser can tell you that I took part in or led the raising of over half a million dollars while there. So, for others, it seemed I had all of the time in the world. What some, but not many, knew was I was working two jobs to have my son in that school, we sold and bought a home, my family and I traveled to China for an adoption, my daughter had 6 surgeries in two years plus two years of speech therapy, I lost my mother......I could go on.
It seems like I'm angry. I promise. I am not. To continue to serve was and is my choice. It is what my heart and my soul calls me to do. To think of my life without a service component is unimaginable to me. And, to think of not passing that passion on to my children and letting them know that they can change the world is unthinkable.
Today, I ask you this - the next time you ask "why doesn't somebody do something" ask yourself these two things:
"Why don't i do something?"
I’m Dana Croy and I am a modern day mama. Balancing family and work is not always easy (not to mention a little self-care). Though being Mama to two fantastic kiddos is a huge part of my life, that was not always the case. I wear many other hats and invite to sit down and find harmony with me.