(For those of you who might not know, my husband Eric passed away in March of this year.)
Well, he’s at it again. Eric is talking to me, reassuring me that he’s right around the corner, just over there through the veil.
It was an average day. Nothing mind-blowing going on. But as grief will do, it visits in seemingly random moments, and it surprised me. It came up fast and for no particular or present reason in my awareness.
Before I knew it, I was under the wave. Big, sweeping emotion bowled me over, so I just let it take me out to sea until I could come up for air. No use fighting a big wave.
I was simply missing Eric. Nothing fancy. Just missing him.
A few hours after the wave, the AirBnB notification sound went off on my phone, which means that someone inquired about staying with me, or they booked.
I reached for my phone and read the message.
“Congratulations! Eric is booked with you on November 10-12 for 2 nights.”
Given the timing of that message, I had to sit down. I couldn’t remember the last time an AirBnB guest named Eric stayed here. My curiosity got the best of me. I checked all of our past reservations.
In two years of offering the bottom level of our home for AirBnB, no one named Eric has ever stayed here.
I was so stunned by the reservation from Eric, that I didn’t do what I would normally do, which is write back and say “thank you for booking with me.”
A few hours later, I came to my senses.
As I went on my phone to write to this new customer, I noticed Eric’s last name. It was “Livesey” which is a family name on my mother’s side (ours is spelled Livezey).
In case I had any question about my Eric reaching through the veil to touch my heart, that did it.
Eric would know very well that punctuating the moment by using a significant last name was the way to make sure I knew it was him reaching out to me, that it was not a lucky happen chance. It was deliberate.
Clearly, my Eric was sending love.
A few days later I got another message.
“Congratulations, Terri is booked with you…”
I had to laugh. So now Eric and Terri are staying at my AirBnB! Ok, I get it! We’re still together!
A few more days go by. “Congratulations, Eric is booked…”
Yes, he sent a second Eric. Not a bad idea to make double sure I knew it was not an accident.
And then just for fun, a little wordplay — this is SO how Eric would roll — “Congratulations, Erin is booked…” He changed one letter to make me smile.
It worked. I smiled.
Just for good measure, these “Eric’s” (and Erin, too) hailed from places he loved and lived, like Washington, D.C., and the Northeast. The guest named Terri is from Florida. I lived in Florida for a couple of years. (Again, so Eric!)
When the AirBnB game was over, I thought, “Well then! If my Eric is so close, maybe there are other ways we could communicate, things we could “talk” about, things we could “do” together…”
A very nice thought, don’t you think?
THE WATER BUCKET
A few days passed and I was preparing the AirBnB space for new visitors. The dehumidifier, the kind where you must empty the collecting bucket, needed to be emptied.
Several weeks prior, I had noticed that the bucket needed cleaning, and tried twice (unsuccessfully) to open the lid. It looked easy enough — that was the irritating part. There are about a dozen plastic clips holding the lid on, and I’m sure they are needed to safely lift a container holding 70 pints of water.
But even when I loosened them all, it wouldn’t open.
I gave up.
This is where I would normally hand the whole thing to Eric and say, “Honey, could you get this open for me?”
And he would. In no time at all. He loved puzzles.
But unfortunately, my fix-it guy has moved on to other things, and with no sign of an instruction booklet in the original box, I checked the internet. There were directions, but they weren’t helpful. They didn’t tell me how to get the lid off.
This particular morning as I was cleaning and preparing the AirBnB space, I was extra determined to win attempt number three, but try as I might, the lid didn’t give.
Alright then. Plan B.
I put vinegar in the container and shook it. At least the vinegar would deter whatever yucky stuff was growing in the bottom.
THE BIG SPEECH
While I was shaking the container, I started giving Eric a little piece of my mind.
With full enthusiasm and fun, I talked to him, right there at my kitchen sink. (It must have looked pretty wacky.) I gave him a speech about how he should come here and help me right here, right now.
“C’mon! Help me here, Eric! You know how to do this! Go ahead and slide over to this part of the Universe. Come see me. Come visit. Fly over here, honey! You know how this darn lid works! Show me. Come here — right now — to my kitchen and help me with this.”
Happily and with great drama, I went on and on. It was quite a speech. It was fun to pretend he was listening.
DANCING ON PLASTIC
As I dumped out the vinegar solution, my fingers starting playing with the lid and they felt suddenly smarter.
It was weirdly pleasant, like watching a live action movie starring someone else’s fingers. Actually, it felt rather awesome.
I stopped thinking. That was nice. No thought, no figuring out, just fingers dancing on plastic.
As I released the familiar dozen or so clasps, I discovered two more itty-bitty ones I hadn’t seen before. Then, my fingers began to play with the handle. I had tried this handle-wrangling thing before, but I could never get it to let go. For one thing, the plastic tabs holding the handle were too tight, and I couldn’t move them enough to get the handle undone for fear of it snapping.
This time, the plastic was pliable.
My fingers undid the handle in a whole new way and the dehumidifier lid lifted like magic.
Now I felt a wave of a different sort. No tears, no sadness, not even heightened joy.
I felt like I was “livin’ on a prayer.” (Thanks, Bon Jovi.)
I felt quiet inside. Reverently astonished. In awe. My appreciation for this clear connection with Eric flooded my heart, the kitchen, and I’m sure the entire house and maybe, just maybe, the known Universe.
Eric had helped me through my very own fingers.
This was a different kind of happy dance. It was understated. It was subtle, but uplifting and astonishingly beautiful like the sun rising, this idea of knowing that I could talk to Eric directly, even get his assistance any time I needed it.
YES YOU CAN
Yes, you can get help from people you love who have died. It is natural, actually. You talk to them and they hear you. They are still with you.
Ask for what you need. Start small. Practice listening. Practice receiving. Get your antenna up. Smile more. Get happy-go-lucky about talking to them.
Practice believing that they will hear you.
Then, open your heart completely to what is offered. Help will flood in.
Death is not the end of a life, nor is it the end of your loved one’s love for you, or the end of your love for them. Death is actually the beginning of bigger love.
Grief deserves a mention here as well. These days, it is my direct understanding that grief is not a negative thing to muscle through or tolerate or wish it was over.
I believe grief is, in fact, one of the most life-affirming, character defining, heart-opening experiences in the lifetime of any human.
Grief is the beginning of loving more deeply that which you cannot even see.
Think about it.
Grief is a doorway to knowing God within, all that is true forever, all that is.
After three months, I admit I wanted to cross grief off my to-do list. I thought about how nice it would be to get through grief faster, wash my hands of it and move on.
But apparently, it doesn’t work that way.
Grief lasts a while or as long as it does. It’s a process and it’s different for each person. I feel the most sad when I think against what happened.
Grief is also unwieldy. It’s inconvenient. It washes over us, ready or not.
After three months, I desperately wanted a break. A little time off. A grief vacation.
And I got that.
The most amazing relief came over me, and not just for a second or two, it lasted for a while. I felt a clear breath of fresh air. I remembered how I used to feel when I was happy without trying.
I felt like myself again.
(When a pain goes away that you’ve had for a while, at first you may not notice it’s gone. But then it dawns on you… oh, I don’t hurt! I feel better!)
I enjoyed the relief. The sun came out. My heart opened for business as usual.
After that, my happiness waxed and waned, but seemed more present more often, and I deeply appreciated that.
OPEN AT YOUR OWN RISK
In one of those moments when I was feeling stronger and more confident, I took advantage of my bravery, and walked into Eric’s closet to retrieve a mystery box of his belongings, as well as an old briefcase with a tattered handle.
Both should have (in all fairness) been labeled “Do not open. Will cause immediate and dangerous flooding.”
(And being what they were – a mystery box and a briefcase – I should have known. But like I said, I was feeling brave.)
In this mystery box, I found his contractor’s license (expired in 1985). Near that, his reading glasses, his passport, and a pair of cuff links in a velvet lined box, which I had seen him wear only a couple times in all our time together. In another corner of the box laid his lariat and name tag from a LifeVantage trip to Cancun in 2013, heavy with milestone buttons.
I put it on. It felt nice. The weight of it, the medal memories, and that it fell over my heart.
There were many photos. I sorted them and kept a few.
There was a single business card for “Russtique Antiques,” his mother’s livelihood for many years.
In the same box was his fathers 1962 championship medal for high powered rifle sharp shooting. Eric had told me about his father’s ability to shoot long range using iron sights. Taking the medal out of the clear case and holding it for a minute, I wondered what it took for his father to earn that medal, the hours of practice, the innate skill, the keen vision.
Next was a handwritten copy of Eric’s family tree, listing 102 members and their birthdays. Under that, seven 10 cent copies of “The Chateaugay Record and Franklin County Democrat” (1967 to 1970) with various high school shots of Eric, the kind that local papers love to print, ending with his (shy and sweet) Valedictorian graduation photo.
There was an envelope with past driver’s licenses. One photo was funny (really terrible!), one was Eric attempting to appear awake (made me laugh) and one from 1984 was downright hot. He was in his early 30’s, looking into the camera, doing nothing at all. Good haircut. A hint of sweat on his brow.
You know, like I said, casually hot.
DIP-ER-DO. YOU, TOO?
And finally, there were two envelopes, 4 X 6-1/2 inch manila, yellowed with age, with red and blue print. They were labeled Mike Stone’s Original dip-er-do Stunt Plane. 3 for $2.00.
According to the envelope’s claims, this little paper plane was designed to do flips, come back to you and land in your hand.
I thought about my elusive happiness of late, and how it has done more than a few flips. I thought about how I’d like my happiness to come back to me and land neatly in my hand.
I followed directions for preparing the dip-er-do for flight and gave it a whirl.
Clearly I needed flying lessons.
Even though it was fun to fly, that “come back to you” thing wasn’t happening. My little dip-er-do did do dips, however — one particularly spectacular dip required a ladder for retrieval.
Unfortunately, I never got flying lessons from the expert himself.
I wish I had.
Long ago, Eric told me how he and his first wife Penny traveled to malls on weekends to sell paper airplanes. If they were able to get passers-by engaged — “Come on over and have a flying lesson!” — the new flyers almost always bought a pack (or two or ten).
He said they often made six to eight hundred dollars on a weekend, flying paper airplanes hour after hour.
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
After sorting Eric’s box and briefcase, my emotions rose up and had a little talk with me.
More accurately they reared up, rivaling the heavy gully-washer rain we had that same evening. I hadn’t seen that much water coming off my roof, maybe ever.
And the egg-beater wind — that was new. It swirled forcefully, changing directions, causing heavy rain to be thrown at my windows and deck plants from every possible angle. It was intense and gusty and a bit alarming.
(Just like my emotions earlier that day.)
This crazy wind, combined with the massive amount of water coming from the sky made the three of us standing in my living room pause in utter awe and amazement.
My awe didn’t last long.
I realized I should head downstairs and check the garage and basement. Yes, water was coming in, and despite my creative measures, which included a well-positioned wheelbarrow to lure water away from one vulnerable corner of the house, things still got wet. (But thankfully not my downstairs bathroom or laundry area.)
There I was, vacuuming incoming water. Deja vu!
Hadn’t I just sopped up water pouring from my eyes that very morning after playing with the airplane, holding his cuff links and wearing his LifeVantage lariat?
Yes, life is reflective. I get it. Again. For the hundredth or thousandth time.
But since sopping with Kleenex is easier than heavy rain, a shop vac and high winds, hopefully I can stick with the Kleenex and keep on keepin’ on through this emotional journey. Grief is a process, it takes whatever time it does and (apparently for this girl) has watery layers.
I can do this.
To quote my favorite childhood story (The Little Engine That Could) “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”
p.s. Eric, could you tell me how to make the plane flip a couple times and come back to my hand?
Or will the dip-er-do naturally come back to me when my happiness does — when I don’t miss you so much, so often? How does that work exactly?
You’re broken down and tired Of living life on a merry go round And you can’t find the fighter But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out And move mountains We gonna walk it out And move mountains
And I’ll rise up I’ll rise like the day I’ll rise up I’ll rise unafraid I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again And I’ll rise up High like the waves I’ll rise up In spite of the ache I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you For you For you For you
When the silence isn’t quiet And it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe And I know you feel like dying But I promise we’ll take the world to its feet And move mountains Bring it to its feet And move mountains
And I’ll rise up I’ll rise like the day I’ll rise up I’ll rise unafraid I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you For you For you For you
All we need, all we need is hope And for that we have each other And for that we have each other And we will rise We will rise We’ll rise, oh, oh We’ll rise
I’ll rise up Rise like the day I’ll rise up In spite of the ache I will rise a thousand times again And we’ll rise up High like the waves We’ll rise up In spite of the ache We’ll rise up And we’ll do it a thousand times again
During this strange time in history, I noticed y’all were tackling all sorts of interesting projects. I decided I needed one, too—something positive to remember the pandemic of 2020 by.
I decided to pay attention to something I had abandoned…
Nope, I’m not cleaning my garage. I am not organizing one single thing. I’m not planting a garden or cleaning up my yard.
Instead, I decided to take care of myself better. This, folks, has made all the difference for me.
With relatively little time and effort on my part, I feel so much better than I did a month ago.
On March 30, I got on the exercise bike and the yoga mat for the first time in a long time, and did 30 minutes each. I liked it so much that I decided to do it every day. But I fell short of that, and changed my commitment to every other day, which felt more manageable, reasonable, and doable.
I also get off the bike after every song, take a couple of sips of water, shake out my legs and arms for a few seconds, and get back on. This makes the bike project a reasonable proposition, too.
Daily walks of any length—by myself, or with my little guy, Jackson—are a fresh air bonus.
My recumbent exercise bike has pulleys to work my upper body while I pedal, which gets my heart rate up fast, and also helps my whole-body strength. It feels good to get up from writing, or doing a consulting session with a client, to do something physically challenging while listening to good music.
After only a month, I feel a sheet of muscles on the front of me I haven’t felt for a very, very long time. Goodness gracious. Who knew they were there. I’ll be posting rippling ab photos soon, I’m sure.
I have no idea what the scales have to say about my bike/yoga project—I don’t care. Paying attention to scales tends to send me sideways, and therefore, I’m ignoring them completely.
But—I LOVE the way I feel! Hang in there, everyone.