A time to grieve and a time to grow...

While usually this space is reserved for happier times of my photo adventures, sometimes it’s important to stop and reflect on the not-so-happy moments of the past to see where you have been and figure out where you want to go. This entry is about life.

It’s been a year since my mom passed away. Christmas music played as the nurses and technicians slowly took her off life support. A year ago today, I held her hand as she took her last breath. I will not lie, it’s not a pretty sight.

But that is life.

This past year, many of my friends have lost loved ones. Some were expected, some were not. It is during these difficult times that we discover our inner strength. Life is unpredictable. Life is ever changing.

Life isn’t always going to be a pretty yellow brick road leading to the Emerald City. We sometimes have to do things that we would rather not. Saying goodbye to a loved one is one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do. Dealing with it is even more difficult.

A myriad of emotions and thoughts flow through your body and your mind. Questions that may never be answered. Sadness, grief, guilt, stress, disbelief, denial, confusion, anger are just a few of the many emotions one may experience after the loss of a loved one.

No one can really prepare you for the journey ahead. It is a difficult road to travel. There are no road signs or Mapquest or GPS to show you the way. Everyone’s journey is different. Everyone deals with death in their own way.

I suppose the ultimate goal is to find peace. Peace in knowing that everything will be ok.

My mom wrote a letter for me to read after her passing. She kept it with all the important papers that she knew I would go through after she was gone. She wrote, “Do not be afraid to reach out for guidance and friendship.” Mom’s are usually right. While the journey may be difficult, with friends and family to support you along the way, you will get through it.

There is a time to grieve and a time to grow. Life will never be the same. There will always be that feeling that someone is missing. As time goes by, dealing with that emptiness becomes easier, but it never completely goes away.

Having lost my dad, mom and brother, I have learned to accept life’s losses and move forward knowing that they would never want me to be sad or unhappy. They only wanted the best for me. I am who I am because of them and now I must carry on the values that they taught me so that they can continue to live through me.

I have found peace knowing that they are always with me.

December 28, 2009 : Mom’s Eulogy

“Nice things come in small packages.” That’s what mom used to always say. At 4’ 9-3/4 ” she knew what she was talking about. And that 3/4 of an inch was important. I remember asking her “Why don’t you just say 4’ 10”?” and she said, “because that would be a lie”.

To this day, the only two lies she was ever caught in was her age, because apparently I had a big mouth and would talk to anyone about anything. I must have been traumatized because I know exactly where I was when Garrett saw her driver’s license and did the math. We were sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office waiting for a check-up. And Garrett exclaimed “You’re not 29!”

The other lie, I can’t tell you because there are kids present and I don’t want to be on Santa’s naughty list next year.

Mom taught me a lot of things. She taught me my first Japanese words. Abunai, kitanai, urusai, yakamashii and bakatare. Which mean dangerous, dirty, annoying, loud and stupid. Boy, I used to hear those words a LOT! Of course, it was always in that loving, authoritative way that only moms can do.

She told me not to brag, so I learned humility. She told me to be nice to others, so I learned compassion. She told me not to do anything bad because people would remember me because of my last name, so I learned to do the right thing. And she taught me how to be strong without even saying a word. Although she couldn’t lift heavy things or open the jar of mayonnaise, her spirit and determination were strong as a rock. With the exception of dad and Garrett’s funeral, she never cried in front of me. She didn’t want me to worry, even though I did.

When dad was disabled, she went back to work to put food on the table, clothes on our back and keep a roof over our heads. She never complained. Back when most women stayed home to raise the kids, she worked 9-5 for the LA Unified School District as a “secretary”, because that’s what they called them back then.

I remember going to work with her during the summer at Farmdale elementary. I’d go to class during the day, then after school I’d hang out with the janitor, Mr. Graham. The highlight was when they let me make copies on the mimeograph machine. I can still smell those chemicals!

She worried about me too. I heard from one of her friend’s that she thought she was holding me back, but the reality is that I was allowed to pursue the things that I wanted to do – to be creative and help others. I am who I am in large part because her love, generosity and patience gave me the freedom to pursue my dreams.

After she retired, she watched a lot of tv. Mom’s hearing was going, but of course she was in denial about that. So even though I don’t watch a lot of tv, I heard a lot of tv. I could always hear whatever tv program she was watching while I was working in my office. I knew a lot of what was going on in the world because mom would watch Oprah, Leno, Anderson Cooper and Larry King.

Mom loved watching sports too. Tennis was probably her favorite. Anytime a grand slam tournament was happening, the tv would be on tennis 24/7. Sorry Oprah, Roger Federer ruled the house during grand slams.

Now that she is gone, the house is eerily quiet and while I am thankful that I don’t have to listen to the Kardashian’s bicker over a handbag, I’ll have to tune in to Jay Leno, Larry King, Anderson Cooper and Oprah so I can keep up with what is going on in the world.

Life will be a little different now. While I don’t know what my future holds, I know that mom will still be spending the holidays with the people she loves. I will forever be grateful for the gifts that she gave me and I hope that you will too.

So next year on Christmas day, when you’re looking for that extra special present to open, don’t go looking for the big box with the fancy wrapping, because if you ask me – wonderful and amazing things come in small packages.