Friday, February 19, 2010

Dear Maura,

Nine months. Last couple of days have been a roller-coaster. I spent two days up at SHSU for a conference. Driving up there, I felt my heart beat faster, I started crying, and had, well, sort of a panic attack, I guess. Just a little one. I didn't have to pull over, although I probably should have, now that I think about it.
After I arrived at Sam, and as soon as I had time, I walked to the Music Building to find your diploma, which I'd been told was hanging on a wall. Just walking through the halls brought so much emotion to the surface, knowing you had walked there, sung there, studied there, had laughed and played hide-and-seek there and had such a fun time at your home away from home.
My friend and I wandered through the hallways, looking. I stopped a couple of people that looked like they might know. They didn't. I spoke to Mr. Michel. He didn't recognize me at first. Why should he? But he took me to find Dr. Hightower, who immediately invited us in to listen to the Chorale as they rehearsed. Oh my gosh--such beautiful music! Dr. H is still as fun to watch as ever! Did you know that they sang for you at TMEA last week? Yes, they dedicated their concert to you, and Mrs. Eaton spoke about you during her introduction of the Sam Chorale. You are still missed. You have inspired many. Anyway, at the Chorale rehearsal I saw several of your friends. Isn't it funny that most of your girl friends have graduated but a lot of your guy friends have not?
I thought I'd also say Hello and Thank you to Dr. Bankhead, but I chickened out. Besides, I had to get back to the conference.
At my next break, I headed to the Registrar's Office--the actual location of the memorial,as it turns out, not the Music Building. On the third floor, someone asked if she could help me. "Yes," I answered, trying desperately, if unsuccessfully, to look normal and nonchalant, "I'm looking for a memorial to a former student. I heard that it was located here." She pointed to the wall on my right. There it was. A shadow box with a copy of your diploma, an honor cord, a graduation tassel, some identifying papers, and a beautiful picture of you in your black and flowered sundress on a swing at the park. I could no longer hold the tears back, and I only vaguely cared that I was in full view of a slew of employees in the Registrar's Office. I heard whispering. Then, one kind woman came up to me. She spoke well of you, even though she had not met you, I think. She spoke of the day the entire office took turns watching your graduation video. She told me they were all moved to tears...and she was crying, too, as she told me the story.
Kevin had dinner with me at Fat Boys. The food was delicious but I could feel my arteries clogging after eating that hamburger! He is such a neat kid. I mean, he's not a kid, I know. If I said he was a "nice young man," it would be true, but you'd laugh at me and say I sounded old.
This morning, back at the conference, one of the presenters was the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. I remembered that Nicole had talked about him during that whirlwind day of graduation planning. As he exited toward the elevator, I caught up with him to meet him and thank him for the role he played in bringing the graduation at the hospital to fruition. I didn't have to finish my sentence. He took one look at my name tag and figured out who I was. He said wonderful things about you, and about how you were light and inspiration to so many, and he told me twice how glad he was to meet me. I feel like he meant it. And I was glad to have the chance to thank him.
So I raced home after the conference because Daddy and I went to close on the apartment. I placed a picture of you on the apartment refrigerator this evening. It's the only thing in the apartment right now. The refrigerator magnet I used is one that Marcy brought me from Jerusalem. It's a sculpture of the Western Wall (the Wailing Wall). The day that you died, Marcy placed a prayer for you in the Western Wall. She didn't find out until later that night that you had died.
Miss you so much, sweet baby girl.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Heart Sings

I did a good thing today.
I attend a grief support group at work. One of the women had lamented not feeling able to mourn the loss of her sister last year due to, well, lots of things, including the absence of any obituary. So we had D___ Day today. The sister and I had emailed earlier in the week so I could get enough information to put together what turned out to be a two-page obit, more of a eulogy, I think. I brought samples of things D____ loved: lyrics to Cat Stevens' songs, synopses of her favorite movies, internet images of her favorite artists. Someone brought D____'s favorite books from the library, and another person brought a blanket to be monogrammed with the sisters' names. Someone brought a cake, and another brought her a statue of two girls playing together, with a saying about sisters and guardian angels. She, herself, brought beautiful pictures of the two of them as children, and several of D___ by herself. When I read the eulogy, my friend cried. When I got to the part where I mentioned D___'s favorite TV shows included Damages, I pulled out my secret weapon: an email I received just this morning from one of the cast members of Damages, Marlyne Afflack, who had a small recurring role in Season 1 of Damages. She expressed her condolences to the sister and assured her that she was praying for her. My friend cried harder. It was actually quite a beautiful moment.

I think I helped her a little bit. But I know I helped myself even more.

God gave me a wonderful opportunity to do something for another person...and I snatched it up and ran with it. Thank you, God, for giving me a moment to take my eyes off my own sorrow and focus on the needs of another.

I did a good thing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Funny Valentine

On this day last year, Maura and BFF Katie prepared dinner for both sets of parents at our house. In true Maura/Katie style, they turned the evening into An Event-- a cooking show, complete with aprons, chef's hats, flair,and sketchy Italian accents. For a "commercial break" they performed the flower duet, Dome Epais, from Lakme, which they had sung together in a high school choir concert, and then went back to cooking our feast of chicken and had an Italian name, but i can't remember it. I just remember Maura.
How sweet that on her last Valentine's Day, Maura made us her Valentine.

Monday, February 1, 2010


I never cared much for Frida Kahlo paintings. Never really enjoyed them much. But this one comes to mind frequently these days. I think it was meant to express some of her grief over the philandering Diego Rivera. But for me, it's that Maura-shaped hole in my heart.


Lots of literature pairing winter and grief
Here's a piece of a poem from a book called Medieval English Verse:

Winter rouses all my grief.
Branches strip til they are bare,
And sighing in sorrow, I despair
That earthly pleasures come to nothing.

Fleeting joys, now here, now gone!
True it is, as many say,
Except God's will, all fades away.
Willy-nilly, we shall all die.

Gotta hand it to those medieval Brits. Love that last line. Can you believe that they were saying willy-nilly way back in medieval times?

And then there is this paragraph from the foreword of Winter Grief, Summer Grace by James E. Miller (the title is longer but I can't remember it at the moment.)
A few generations ago, a book like this would have been unnecessary--unthinkable in fact. People knew about grieving because it was a natural part of life. It was both understandable and understood. People of all ages lived with it and honored it. But ours is a different time. And because so many of us are ill-informed about and ill at ease with dying and death and grief, your task is even more difficult.

You can say that again! Oh, to be in a culture that could understand and honor my forgetfulness, my lack of focus, my micro cries, my outbursts, my anything having to do with missing Maura. How I wish I could just wear a color or a garment or something so people would know and I wouldn't have to feel awkward or embarrassed or explain myself or apologize! Why do I apologize? That's just ridiculous.