Don’t Know What You’ve Got ’til It’s Gone

To say I’ve been negligent of this blog would be an understatement. I just checked the date of my last post: 03 March 2015. The reason for my absence? There has been so much loss in my life in the past two-plus years I sometimes wonder that I can still stand upright let alone walk.

I thought it was bad when my dad died in 2012. He was 98, so nothing to be shocked about, but this daughter was grief-stricken for quite a spell. He was my mentor, my champion, my friend, and my go-to guy for everything political. But his last years were taking their toll; his memory was failing, and I know he would have hated seeing himself in an Alzheimer’s unit.

About two years after that came my mother’s need for relocation. The house they both called home in McMinnville OR was too big and too hard for her to manage. My brother, sister, and various nieces and nephews helped move her to a lovely extended care facility near Portland. In fact, many years ago EMTs told me, when they rolled a patient through the doors of our ER, “If you have to go to one of these, make it this one.” Excellent care, beautiful apartments, gorgeous grounds. And they allowed Mum her dog. Can’t go wrong there.

But soon came broken bones (two fractured hips) before her death at the end of November 2015. I have to hand it to my mother, she went out like a trooper—walking from her kitchen to the living room one afternoon, she just keeled over. Gone. My sister, brother, and I cleaned out the apartment, settled most of her affairs, and I was home in Costa Rica before Christmas.

It is a strange feeling to be orphaned at age 66. It stung much more than I would have thought given my parents’ ages and what significant and satisfying lives they both led. Nevertheless,  I found myself withdrawn and reflective. Was I depressed? Looking back, I think I was. It was a time for journaling, not blogging, I thought. Or…maybe blogging would have been a good thing if I were the sort of person who readily shares her feelings before sorting through the remainders first.

Four months after my mother’s death, my sister was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Jesus H. Christ, as my father used to say! My brother and I stayed with her through the try at chemo, through the hospice consults, and finally…through the choice of Death with Dignity that Washington state law allows. Thank GOD for that. She was dead within a month, four months after my mother’s death.Three-fifths of my family gone in four years. My brother and I are the last ones standing.

After that, I lost four friends to cancer in rapid succession and two special little Basenjis who still make me cry whenever I think about them too much. They are buried overlooking our big meadow; prayer flags fly overhead to purify the area.

I miss them. I miss them all.

Why am I writing all this now instead of weekly or monthly as things unfolded? Recently, a poet I follow, Molly Fisk, suggested that rather than New Year’s resolutions, which are seldom kept and often silly, we should instead select a word to reflect on over the course of the year. I thought about many words last month. Most of them I realized were words that typify my life, words I feel comfortable around: resilience, strength, indomitable, tenacity. But the word I finally settled on slipped in on the side one day and whispered to me. It’s simple but essential to any writer: open.

So…I hope to be back on the blog in 2018 with writings about Costa Rica, me, my life, and life in general with openness and candor. (Ooh, that’s another good word.)

No coming, no going. No after, no before. Open to all.

  18 comments for “Don’t Know What You’ve Got ’til It’s Gone

  1. Connie
    03/01/2018 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you.

  2. 02/01/2018 at 8:05 am

    Sarita,

    This is a beautiful post and I’m so happy that you’re back writing on this blog. I’ve been thinking a lot about the word of the year and I had chosen self-compassion, but I think I’ll drop the self and just make it the encompassing compassion. Compassion for others, animals, and for myself. This is the year that I want to be less critical and like you more open. Feliz Año Nuevo, mí queridisma amiga.

    • 02/01/2018 at 8:46 am

      Feliz Año Nuevo a ti, Rebeca. Thanks for following and reading my wee efforts here. Yes, I think compassion is a great word. I loved Molly’s post and her reference to the “inner Grizzly” when we can contemplate ourselves in the dark months. I find my word is cropping up for contemplation at expected as well as unexpected times. May your road be free and clear in 2018. We could use a compassionate year… after that last one.

  3. 02/01/2018 at 7:09 am

    Well said, my friend. I think we’re in a kind of boat together, and I hope to pick up some oars too, and start blogging again. Funny, I read that post- must have been on your FB page, about words and resolutions, and one of the words that popped up for me was resilience, but I’m not done with that process yet. Thanks for posting this inspiring blog.

    • 02/01/2018 at 7:34 am

      Thank you, Myra. Yes, same boat and we’ll row together for smoother travels. Take care and may 2018 bring you much joy and an easier time of it. So glad you have that Sweetpea of a dog.

  4. Anne
    01/01/2018 at 10:56 pm

    Thinking of you. Much love from this not-yet-orphan who is losing her parents to Alzheimers. Thank goodness for your cousin Hoyt, his deep well of compassion, his blessedly shallow pond of selfish need.

    • 02/01/2018 at 7:31 am

      Sending as much love as my arms can carry, Anne. As Katie once remarked about caring for our parents, We are not unique. Everyone our age is either doing this, has already done it, or getting ready to face it. I’m so glad you have Hoyt who is indeed a sweetie. Take care of yourself first. Please.

  5. Will Swearingen
    01/01/2018 at 9:18 pm

    Sarah, this well-crafted reflection and your desire to resume blogging seem to be healthy signs of healing. Looking forward to more of your posts! Best wishes for 2018.

    • 02/01/2018 at 7:28 am

      Thank you, Will. Best to you and I hope 2018 brings wide open roads and no complicated gate locks.

  6. Gail
    01/01/2018 at 8:30 pm

    Sarah,
    So glad you are back. We have so enjoyed reading your posts! Loss is difficult! You are the elders now. A new chapter in your life!

    Bob and I are still full-timing! Enjoying it as long as we can.

    Happy New Year to you and Alan.

    • 02/01/2018 at 7:24 am

      So good to hear you and Bob are doing well. Yes, I think “being the elders now” was a part of the loss. Not sure I was ready for that title!

  7. Marla Craft
    01/01/2018 at 4:15 pm

    So reflective and authentic Sarah. I am Grateful for your openness and glad you are back. I enjoy your passionate prose.
    I have a great book for the new year. Because I know you are a lover of the sheer power of nature I will share a wonderful story of a race down the Colorado which also tells its history
    In a powerful way. The Emerald Mile.

    • 01/01/2018 at 5:04 pm

      Thank you, my friend. I do love the power of nature and will definitely check out Emerald Mile. Thank you. And… here’s one (actually two) for you by the Portland physician, Patricia Kullberg. On the Ragged Edge of Medicine is her incredible memoir about delivering care to the destitute (Skid Row/ Lower Burnside), and Girl in the River is her first, a novel, that follows the sex trade and politics in Portland. She is a gifted writer.

  8. Peggy
    01/01/2018 at 2:47 pm

    you’ve been in my heart as you made these difficult journeys…Love you.

  9. Sherry Pedersen
    01/01/2018 at 2:39 pm

    I missed you and your wonderful posts. How tragic for you to lose so much is so little time. As time marches on, your wounds will heal. Happy New Year and look forward once again, to reading your wonderful stories of Costa Rica and anything else you care to write about

    • 01/01/2018 at 2:43 pm

      Hi, Sherry. Thank you so much for continuing to follow my blog and leaving me such a nice note. Happy New Year to you, as well. I hope the new year brings broad horizons and open roads.

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