Those little empty spaces- leaving them be.

I haven’t been to the barn since our barn cat Mango was hit and killed by a car last Wednesday. I’ve been recuperating from surgery. Sadly I can already feel in my heart what it will be like when I go down there -and Kevin has corroborated my thoughts -there’s an emptiness. He said it. This little cats death left an empty space.

No more will she come trotting down from the hayloft -her voice preceding her. Nor will she play chase with my horse crop as I flick it along the cement floor of the barn aisle. Nor will she try to bite me if I wanted to stop petting her (she wasn’t perfect:)). It’s just a dusty mess of emptiness. The barn is little more hollow. There’s a vacancy.

This isn’t a post about our little cat that we lost. I’ve posted many pictures of her and shared her over the years. She was a great barn cat. Freedom was hers and sadly that freedom is what also left her with more risks like busy roads. But what this post is about is those sad little empty spaces that beings that we love leave when they die.

We’ve had a number of those empty spaces this last year. They hurt. They make us feel off kilter. While there is -for me -no comparing the losses of my beloved humans to our loved cat- it is a loss. Human loss for me sweeps itself under my feet and pulls me up over myself and then scorches my heart. The loss of beloved pets scorch my heart but don’t render me as dislocated as human loss. But they are still losses that leave empty spaces.

I am so uncomfortable in this emptiness. My first inclination is to fill it up. Because to try to fill it up is easier than facing the sad empty spot head on. With my loss of Mango I’ve sped through the thoughts of “let’s get another cat” to “I’m never going to have another barn cat.” I’ve learned not to listen to any of these thoughts in the wake of loss. I’ve learned that you just have to visit the empty space and eventually in time it won’t be so uncomfortable.

With human loss it is the same but on a way bigger scale. We can’t replace the person we lost with another. Some will try. Some of us will attempt to replace that chasm with anything that can make that space seem so much less empty. But inevitably there isn’t anything to fill those spaces. They never close but they become less sad and uncomfortable.

Kevin said he thinks if we are supposed to get another barn cat it will happen. We will know. And I like that thought. It allows me to face head on the discomforting empty spot Mango left.

I am learning. I don’t always have to try to quell my discomfort. I can learn to just let it be. I can let myself feel what I need to in the time that I need to.

So when I get to the barn in the next few days I think I’ll stand and listen not for what Mango took with her -the little steps and the loud meows- but instead I’ll listen to the silence that she left in her wake and I’ll be thankful that I knew a being like her that left that empty space. Bc those empty spaces we feel really come from loving another – and how scary can something that came from love be?

Little signs 

I have been so sad about the flooding in Texas. My brother lives in Austin. He had lots of rain and wind but no flooding. He is safe. His family is safe. But so many others are not. It’s really so sad we can’t put words to it. 

I’ve wanted to write this week but I wanted it so be something that might bring joy or a smile or warmth. So many people are suffering and don’t we suffer just a little when we see our fellow man in such peril? So I have a little story that will maybe bring you some joy -or you might shake your head and laugh. 

Because I got a sign. Not a sign but a SIGN!

The other day I was talking to my mother in law. She’s in heaven -or the great beyond. Whatever you want to call it. To me it’s heaven. We lost her just over a month ago. My heart still hurts and it will for a while -she was my good good friend for almost 20 years. 

Anyway I talk to her. I feel her so near to me. I can’t explain it. But maybe it’s the way she felt her husband near her after he passed away in 2015. She felt him in bed on his side next to her every night.  Oh and he made visits to us too. I’ve written about the time he was sitting watching kevin build our chicken coop. Kevin saw him out of the corner of his eye -twice. Dad would have loved being part of building that coop!  

So she’s gone and the hours long conversations on the phone are gone too. Often I’d talk to her then hang up and dial my mother. Those days are gone. But my mom lives here so the chats can continue in person.  But there is a hole left where mom sweeney once was. I feel her close but it’s not the same. 

So I talk. She’d want that.  The other day while I was talking to her I asked her to send me a sign she was ok. 

I said ” maybe you could put a white rose on my pink rose bush or put flowers where they wouldn’t really grow.”

I went on with my day and didn’t think about it again until a day or two later I saw this. 


This was a pot of weeds on my deck. I hadn’t planted in there in two or three years because my dogs would tear up the pot and eat the flowers. Last spring I pulled weeds out but weeds kept growing. This year a big stalk grew out of it and the boys removed that a month ago or more – and the pot was supposed to go into the big dumpster we have out front now as we clean things out from a basement flood and the junk that accumulates when three generations are living in a house. 

But now there are flowers in the pot! There weren’t any all summer. Just weeds. 

I take this as a sign. 

I’m not sure what others think but all I know is it brought me joy in a week with a lot of sad stuff going on. 

I’ll take it. 

Hope this made you smile or laugh – it’s all good. 

Thank you’s and angels. 

This past week I had my 53rd birthday.  I think back over the last three years and all my family has been through and along the way I am reminded of all the love that has been given. 

This past summer I ended up in bed in pain and I was in misery. I had days where I didn’t want to keep going. It seems on those days that Kevin would bring the mail in and there would be a card from someone that would encourage me     – Or I’d get a text or Facebook pm from someone checking on me just when I needed an encouraging and caring word. We received meals twice a week for a couple months. I don’t even know who many of the senders were as it was all coordinated by a close friend of mine. The meals were a lifesaver. I couldn’t cook at all and there are only so many things Kevin can cook though he got more creative under pressure:)

 It is said that God puts Angels on earth to help us and to encourage us. These notes , messages, texts and meals were my little gifts of love and encouragement from those angels.  

Love surpasses all things. We don’t have to agree on everything, not one of us is the same and none of us is right all the time or nice all the time. But acts of love and encouragement transcend all that is different about each of us. It’s what brings us together. We are all on this earth trying to survive and learn what the heck this place is all about. 

We can survive without love -I suppose -but it’s a lonely existence. We need eachother.  We humans should take the cue from other animals. Most species need to be around others of their species to survive. 

We humans have more things alike than we have different. Just when we might feel we’ve lost faith in the human race something will pop up on our Facebook feed that makes us change our minds. There is hope for us. 

The notes and texts and messages and meals and calls and little gifts I have received over the last three years -and especially in the last six months have meant the world to me.  They kept me going during some very low and sad times. There aren’t enough ways to say thank you. My words can’t convey what they’ve meant to me. 

I haven’t quite figured this human experience out yet. I have a strong faith in God and I suspect many of my questions will be answered when my time here is completed.  I have faith that God that knows what he’s doing even when I don’t understand it. In the meantime I want to live my life to the fullest that I can and I want make people feel loved and cared for especially when they are down. Just like what was done for me. 

Maybe the best way I can say thank you to all those who have reached out to me is to simply pay all the kindness and love forward.  We can all be angels on earth -it just takes a little effort to make this world a better place. And it feels pretty good to be an angel too. 

God Bless to all of my angels near and far. I won’t forget your love to me.  I love you all. 

photo credit : Realm of Kindness on Facebook

Recovery and getting help. 

My wonderful husband Kevin has been worried about my surgical recovery in the aftermath of my fathers death.  It takes a long time to recover from nerve surgery and I haven’t been sure how I’m supposed to be feeling. I notice small improvements but then I’ll have a bad day. Physically and emotionally. 

I’ve been a wreck about my dads passing and we are planning his funeral and when you are trying to get family in from out of state and kids in from colleges and high school teens schedules it gets a bit crazy.  So Kevin has taken over some of the calling to funeral homes and to the reception place. I’m sure passing some of this off is a good thing.  Giving up control to others is not easy for me. I’m a good planner but I’m just not up to doing all that I’ve been assigned. My brother and I have been splitting tasks and he already planned the memorial for dad in Florida. I feel I need to really help plan the funeral up here in DC. But I’m going to have to give up some control. I need to heal. 

Since Kevin was worried about my recovery so was I. I encouraged him to write my surgeon. Which he did. And yesterday on a Saturday he wrote kevin -twice-back asking some questions and concerned about how this death and the grief I’m carrying is effecting my recovery. He is a great man. I’m lucky we found him. He asked if I was moving enough. He also wants to see me next week. He thinks I need to get into PT. In a pool. If it’s warm I’m cool with that! 

Kevin told me what my surgeon said so I thought about it. I’m not moving enough I’m stuck. I feel like when I get up I can’t do much and I often end up hurting. I’ve been walking but not enough. I’m not trying. I’m down. 

So I decided to get my butt up. I popped a little more percoset. (I take less than 1/2 a pill a day. I’m so weird about meds.) but the amount I take helps so that’s good. I got my shoes on and I went outside with my phone and just walked around. I took pictures and I took a walk. Then I came back in the house a couple hours later and I didn’t go back to bed until bedtime. I hurt some but I was ok. I felt kind of normal though. Like a person living in my home. Not a patient. 

It’s been easy to just stay in bed BC it hurts to get out but once I do I realize it’s what I need to do. I need to recover physically and mentally. 

I’ve had calls from caring friends. A couple encouraging me to seek therapy BC I have been through so much. My friend Jon told me that he knew I was strong but I had been through more stuff in a short period of time and I needed to seek professional help. I think he worried I might be upset but I so appreciate that he cared. It has been a horrible time and he reached out. I’ve been to lots of therapy so I fully agreed I needed to go. But getting my butt there might be hard. But I decide not to listen to all my buts..  I knew I wanted a person older than I am so I found Polly and she sounds nice and caring and I am hoping to meet her next week. I will be downloading on her (a new term I’ve seen streaming tv shows). She may be on the floor after I finish! 

I’m thankful to Jon for saying point blank “get some help”.  I was in a bad place for a long time even before my dad passed.  Jon ignited a spark in me to get myself together again. I need help to do it. Therapy will be a gift to me. 

So yesterday I took some photos on a gorgeous fall day. I wanted to share them with you. I love fall the the season changing and it reminds me that I am in a tough season of my life but my season will change. But I need to have my mindset right and push my body some to get there. 

Why I won’t vote this year -thank you Dad. 

Last Sunday I lost my dad suddenly and the pain is profound. I can’t even write much about it all yet. I still feel as if this is all just a horrible dream. 

I’m really worn out. I’ve had chronic pain issues over the last few years after breast cancer treatment. It hit high levels this summer and I had surgery on Oct 12 – on that day we hadn’t been able my to reach my dad and not the day before either- which was very unusual. Eventually he was found on the floor of his condo the next day Oct 13. He was rushed to ER which began a journey of ups and downs that ended in his unexpected death ten days later. 

It’s all been too much for me. The last there years – the cancer – the pain – financial trouble- the loss of my father in law – trying to find doctors to help me – moving my frail mother in law to assisted living – worrying about newly widowed mom living alone and in pain in PA. – finally having some complex nerve  surgery that seems to have helped some of my problems but maybe not all  (BC I’m still healing) -but then the icing on the cake is the loss of my father. Sometimes I just think I can’t face another second of this life. I’m so tired and beaten down. I’ve yet to figure out what I’m supposed to learn from all this. Maybe it’s resiliency but now it feels like shit. 

My Heart is cracked open. And if you’ve had that happen and most of us have – sometimes there are no words to really express what we feel. And sometimes we just don’t want to share those raw bits and pieces. But I’m a writer and I eventually will need to get out the things I feel. Now there are too many questions. Too much sadness and anger.  Just too much. 

I am as close to my breaking point as I’ve ever been. Sometimes I just want to follow my daddy to the other side. But my dad was not one to give up and neither am I. But lord I’m so tired in so many ways. 

In these last few days I’ve yet again been reminded that the very most imperically important thing is In this world is love. LOVE.  

And that’s why I’m not voting.  All I’ve seen in the last few months as I’ve layed in bed in pain -is anger and hate. And I’ll admit I’ve had a lot  of anger on my own I didnt need to feed off of more of it from other sources.  

 Anger and hate have lashed out over this crazy dance we call running for president -and it’s really not the election and really not politics. These forums just bring out the anger and hurt that’s in our world. It magnifies it. It’s shows the opposite of love.  Its just one of the focal Hate cancers that permeate our society. And I can’t bring myself to vote In a system that magnifies hate from it. It might just be too soul crushing for me. And I need things to enlighten my soul right now. Not things that poison it. 

When my dad lay dying in the hospital we formed a circle of love around him.  Most family unable to get there because it all happened so fast. My brother at his side in the ICU of a hospital in Florida along with his friend Jeff by his side – I was here in Maryland on the phone with Jeff which he held next to my fathers ear  -and Kevin and my kids were in the room with me and my brother had his family on his phone. We surrounded my dad with love as we said goodbye and prayed and told him how much he was loved. Later my brother sat with just me on the phone in that quiet ICU while we waited for my dad to take his last breath. I was holding my brother’s hand metaphorically as he held that phone -and in the opposite hand held my dads hand in his.  I spoke prayers and verses I found on the internet. The nurse removed his breathing tube -We prayed that God would lift him up – We cried – and my brother and I waited for our dads soul to rise into eternity – our hearts breaking.

 My friends this is love. 

And this is where I belong. In the realms of love  Not in the hatred of this world. My fragile soul was born into a world of such love but where there are cancers of hatred. I can no longer bring myself to be part of that sickness.

My soul seeks so much of a different path.  

My dad who loved politics and who loved to tell me often and in detail of his dislike of the candidate he planned on not voting for -would be appalled at me for not voting. I think I told him that one year many years ago  I wrote in my dog as my choice for president. Now thinking back I may never have told him that. He may have stopped speaking to me. Well dad- if you can read in heaven – I voted for Gator my greyhound and I chose Jay Jay Star his greyhound friend as be his Vice President. Sorry. But it’s what I had to do. 

And this year I won’t be voting and  I am not voting ever again if all that permeates from an election is hatred. I don’t expect profound love coming from any competitive race but what I expect is respect and decency.  Not venom from candidates which lathers people who watch with that venom and then It begins to spread. Friends hate friends for opposing views. Slinging barbs to someone they once would have never considered saying those things to. It’s a cancer. 

I know my dad would have given me many reasons why my vote matters and what a priveledge it is that we have such a system in our country.  But sadly his death made me drive my stake in the sand even more.  “Not gonna do it.” If I can paraphrase  Dana Carvey who used to parody former President Bush. 

I wish people would remember  that the nucleus of humanity is love. We see it come out sometimes when we least expect it.  We humans can really rally when shit hits the fan. And love really does win.  But it’s our human condition that seems to so easily allow us to gravitate to the cancers of hate. Why do we forget we are all worthy of compassion and respect? 

I don’t feel strong enough anymore to spend my time among hate. I’m not sure it’s from my wisdom where this comes – I think it’s just a worn spirit that knows from where it needs to get its water – the clean spring bringing waters of love. Not the dirty one bringing waters from sewage of hate. 

Sometimes I wonder if I’m supposed to be here on this earth. Like maybe there is another planet I was supposed to be on. Like my soul got delivered to the wrong place. Maybe the only such place I dream of only exists in heaven -on the other side of this place called earth.    

 In my own humanness I’ve had anger issues of my own. I’ve lashed out at my kids when they’ve hurt me or frustrated me. I held some anger for my own dad for years. Most of my anger comes from hurt or fear. Once you can see where it comes from you can try to work on it. And I’ve found as I’ve aged that I just need to try to step away from my fear and move very far away from hatred machines as best I can. 

In that moment when I knew I was saying goodbye to my daddy for a final time until I will -God Willing- see him again – all that I felt was love for this man. And in that sterile ICU –that I could only see in my imagination – all that exuded was love. And then it’s so obvious to me – in that moment of pain and sorrow that it’s all that matters in this world is Love. Why is that so hard  for humans to live each day by?  The answer is because we are human. 

If I only get to go through this journey of life on earth once I’m going to stand away from things that permeate hate.  And this includes this thing we know as an election – -it can unfold all on its own.

 I’m out.  

And I don’t even care anymore. My heart is ripped open and all I want to put into it now is love and as best as I can I want the output to be love – for as long as I live. 

My vote is for LOVE. 

“Love one another” –Jesus Christ. 

“I hope you Dance “-Lee Ann Womack 

Little visits from beyond?

The first time it happened was in the grocery store about 3 weeks ago. Kevin walked over to me as I stood in one of the aisles. I had left him a couple minutes before perusing snacks one aisle over.  I forget now what I was even searching for but when Kevin caught up with me he asked me if I had been calling him. I shook my head no and asked him why. He had a puzzled look on his face and he said “I heard someone whispering my name..they said ‘Kevin, Kevin’. ”

“It wasn’t me.” I said. “And nobody was near you?”  He shook his head no.

“It was like someone was standing near me whispering.”

Then the thought popped in my head and came out of my mouth in a flash. “It was your dad!” I said. “It was dad!”

We went on to discuss this possibility as we perused the shelves of that grocery store. I think it gave Kevin some comfort in the wondering if his dad was somehow trying to reach out.

We know he is around or at least we believe him to be. Every night since he passed last December he has been sleeping with my mother-in-law. After 68 years of marriage I can certainly understand why he might not want to leave his bride. I believe he is there- if you knew my mother-in-law she is very lucid and she would not talk about it unless she felt something was happening. She says she knows it sounds crazy but she  “feels” him there at night and she feels his breathe. I also believe it because I believe there is thin veil between here and there(where we go after we die). We just cannot see past it- but sometimes little things happen that remind us that the here and there are closely connected.

This past weekend Kevin and I foolishly decided to build a chicken coop (more on that later) -we were doing work outside on the covered patio that leads into the gym section of our barn. I left Kevin with my son Zach who was helping him- as I had to pick up my other son from work. When I returned we got back to work and out of the blue Kevin said ” I saw my Dad today.”

“What? Where?!!!” I asked rather astonished.

“Out of the corner of my eye sitting on that chair. I saw him twice” He was pointing to our plastic adirondack chair that we pulled out for rest breaks.

“What did he look like? Did he say anything?” I was excited and stunned all at once. And kind of jealous because I wanted to see him too.

“He looked younger…like when he was our age.” (which is 50ish) ” He didn’t say anything. I just saw him there.”

I asked him if that upset him, or scared him. Kevin said it didn’t and he said it actually brought him comfort.

Kevin's dad made this some years ago. It hangs over the workbench in our garage.

Kevin’s dad made this some years ago. It hangs over the workbench in our garage.

I am not surprised Dad showed up when Kevin was building something. Kevin’s dad loved to build things. He finished their family homes entire basement and created a cool buffet area that houses the TV but had a built in sink. He made bookshelves for his home. For us he made a toy chest and a table that detached from it’s base so you could turn the leg structure around and that would change the height of the table as my kids grew. He had that sort of mind. He liked making things that served a purpose but they would have this twist of engineering. He was a master at acrostic puzzles and sudoku – at least up until the foe dementia took away his mind.

In time my kids outgrew these items so they now reside with great- grandkids and hopefully they will continue to be passed down through the family. Maybe they will make their way back to live at with my future grands we might have. I am sure each of Dad’s sons can list off items that dad lovingly made for his family. Mom joked he always cut himself every time he made something.

“He is probably here to help you along.” I told Kevin. “For moral support”.  Kevin laughed. Kevin is not a natural do-it-yourselfer.  He has had to become more self-reliant since we moved to this farm. There is always something that needs to be done and sometimes those things cost lots of money if you get others to do them. So Kevin has learned along the way to do a number of things.  This coop is our first major build. But thanks to good plans and maybe a little mojo from Kevin’s dad, we are chugging along.

Last evening Kevin wanted to build two more walls for the coop. It was a nice evening and I looked forward to getting outside and helping him. I mostly read the plans and tell him the measurements of the cuts and the stud placements. I also occasionally measure stuff.

When we got down to the barn I told Kevin that I hoped his Dad would show up. I told him he had to be around because he couldn’t stay away from a project. I had just reminisced the day before with my mother-in-law about the time he came over to our old home and helped us put up a play set for our then young kids. Kevin still says that it was only because his dad pitched in that that set was put up the right way!

Kevin making cuts to the wood for the coop wall.

Kevin making cuts to the wood for the coop wall.

At one point last evening Kevin’s drill bit was starting to strip. I asked him if he had more and he said yes. Except we didn’t have any down at the barn with us they were up at the house in the garage. I suggested to Kevin that maybe we could text our son, Luke, and ask him to grab one and bring it down.  Yes we were feeling that lazy!  I was about to do that except all of a sudden Kevin looked down where he was kneeling at the end of the wall he was building. “What’s this?” He said as he reached down for something.

“What..Oh my God..” I said as I registered what he was now holding in his hand.

“How did this get there?” he wondered as he held up a drill bit- just the one he needed for his screws.

We looked at each other. “Your Dad did that.” I said. I sat there thinking it through. Kevin had just loaded material onto the patio the night before and he was working at building a side wall which he had laying on top of the t1-11 boards that would eventually be the siding of the coop. Kevin had been kneeling there for like ten minutes and he had not seen that bit there. I had been standing nearby and we measured for square and Kevin would have had his face right where that drill bit was – but it wasn’t there then. A few minutes later it was just laying there near his knee.

“Wow – that is amazing.” Is all I could say.  I got up and walked into the gym to grab something and when inside I just stood there in amazement at what had just happened. “Thank you Dad” I said to the air.

And I swear I felt him near me.

At lunch today Kevin and I chatted about the drill bit “incident” again. He told me he finds all these little signs very comforting.  I am glad he finds peace in that. I know how much he misses his dad. I know how much I miss him.

My son Zach said after he heard that his dad saw his grandfather  “We see what we want to see”. Ever the skeptic I suppose.  Perhaps that is true. Maybe hurt hearts want to believe in signs from those that have gone through that thin veil before them. Or just maybe that when we are open enough to really “see”, that veil opens up just enough so someone we love on that side can let us know they aren’t far away.

Thats what I believe…

Thanks Dad – you are welcome anytime…and maybe keep helping us with this coop.. we need it  ….luv u….always…