A Birthday Tribute to Grandma

Grandma and I around 1990

Today would be my Grandma’s birthday. I was a mommy’s girl, a daddy’s girl and a grandma’s girl. That has stayed with me. In more recent years, there have been some wonderful grandmas in Disney films. Julie Andrews as a grandma and a Queen in The Princess Diaries was a treat (and great casting, in my opinion), and I am thrilled to know that they are making yet another sequel.

In Disney Pixar’s Coco, the title character, Coco, is young Miguel’s great-grandma, who is delighted by her great-grandson, although her memory of him and of everyone, is fading. But, Coco is loved and respected, cared for by the whole family. My family lived with Grandma, too, and we all cared for her as she succumbed to cancer. I was happy to see Disney tackle the issues of respect for the elderly and memory loss in a sensitive, touching way. Although the film unnerved me and had me in tears at various points, Coco was a powerful, and, actually, a positive reminder that Ben, my mom and dad, my grandma and all of the other people I’ve loved so deeply but lost, are always with me in my heart.

Given my own love for my grandmother, the love between Moana and her Gramma Tala in the film Moana also deeply touched my heart.

Grief,Grandmother,Moana,Gramma Tala,Walt Disney Pictures

I grew up in a house with Grandma, in the same house that she raised my mom and her siblings. There were a lot of memories in that house, a lot of dreams, a lot of happiness, but also sadness. I grew up in that house but my mom and Grandma also died in that house. Grandma and I were very attentive to each other, always calling each other and spending many weekends together. When she was ill I helped with her caregiving, and although I was not her primary caregiver, I was the one she relied on for comfort. At the same time, even though I was not a child, she wanted to protect me from the fact that she was dying.

From the time I was a child, I was in awe of Grandma and her elegance. I loved her sense of fashion. She had a wonderful way of putting together colors and fabrics and styles. I still have some of her clothing and jewelry. In fact, some of the best shopping I ever did was in her closets and drawers. On a couple of occasions, I was stopped by saleswomen at boutiques because they remembered that before I made a purchase, I called my grandmother for her opinion on an outfit that I was considering. They said they’d never met anyone who called her grandmother for fashion advice. If they knew her, they would have, too. She really had great style. To this day, when I’m feeling lazy about dressing up or putting on make-up- it happens rarely, but it happens!- I hear her warning me that I never know who I am going to meet and I should always look my best. Clearly, she was hoping for a nice, Jewish Prince Charming. My fairytale was not quite exactly her idea of the “tale as old as time,” but Grandma always seemed to understand that I danced to my own beat. Sometimes we frustrated each other, particularly when I challenged her ideas of an ideal life.  But, we had a special bond and an unconditional love for each other. And, I know that she would have loved Ben.

Grandma doing my hair. She crocheted my dress. She was very talented! I get my creative streak from her.

Grandma had four brothers and a sister, my great-aunts and great-uncles, and I loved them all dearly. If you read my Valentine’s Day post, these are the wonderful people for whom I made cards when I was growing up. I accompanied my mom and Grandma to visit my great-grandmother at the nearby nursing home almost every day when I was quite young. As a child, it was a fun experience for me because, as I realized in retrospect, the people living there were so happy to see and interact with a child. I loved spending time with my great-aunts and great-uncles. Losing Grandma and my older relatives left a huge void in my life. However, through our loving relationships, I developed a lasting appreciation of and particular compassion for elderly people.

(L-R) Great-uncle Louie, Great-aunt “Tanta” Rosie, Great-Aunt Lillian, Grandma Dora, Great-Uncle Larry. Mid-1980s. I adored them all.

Grandma was very artistic and I inherited her abilities and passion for crafts. She crocheted many aphgans and sweaters, skirts, dresses and ponchos. I remember choosing wool colors with her and how each item had to represent the gift recipient, yet had to be timeless and classic. I can see my own shifting tastes as I look at my childhood aphgan in its pastel colors and then the gray, maroon and cream colors in my college aphgan. I remember waking up in the morning covered with the squares she made while I was asleep.  My dollhouse and dolls even got aphgans! I still have many things that she made. They hold such beautiful memories of time spent watching her and learning how to crochet. Eventually, she helped me to make an aphgan of my own. Ben used it often.

Some of Grandma’s aphgans. Far left was from my bedroom, the middle was for college and far right was another design she made for another room. When I woke up, I would often find little aphgans in my dollhouse! I’ve kept them, too.

The aphgan I made with help from Grandma.

Grandma was also a craftsy child, and I remembering discovering and being fascinated by a beautiful ribbon doll that she made when she was young. My mom had it restored and framed, and it hangs in my apartment, another reminder of the artistic sensibility that I share with Grandma. Grandma’s talents extended to the piano, and she inspired me to learn how to play. I never played as well as she did, but she helped and encouraged me to play, and I’ve kept some of the sheet music.

A ribbon doll that Grandma made as a child. I believe that these were popular crafts when she was young.

My mom, on the other hand, was not artistic. Grandma did my hair, helped me pick my clothes and taught me how to bake. I never saw Mommy approach the piano, though she did take guitar lessons with me for a very short time. But, as I’ve written previously, my mom and I shared a sense of whimsy and we were both children at heart. Grandma did not share that sensibility and it made for some amusing times. One of my funniest memories was watching “The Little Mermaid” with both of them, my mom and I giggling like little girls, and then laughing hard as we looked at Grandma, who was staring at the screen in disbelief that we could lose ourselves in the film. OK, so Grandma did not embrace the Disney magic, but she did have a healthy respect for Mickey and Minnie and was amused and enthusiastic when I called her from Walt Disney World to tell her that I’d gotten a Happy 35th Birthday hug from Mickey!

One of our traditions was to make humentashen, the triangular, fruit-filled cookies made during the Jewish holiday, Purim. When I was a child, she taught me my Bubbe’s (great-grandma’s) recipe, and we made the cookies every year. And every year, Grandma admonished my mom, who laughed as she struggled to make the triangle shape and never got it quite right. Family traditions! As Grandma got older, I did more of the work and she supervised. After she died, I continued the tradition, and I even taught Ben how to make them. He loved doing it, and got a kick out of knowing that he, a Puerto Rican, was better at making humentashen than my mom!  Every year, he would look up the date of Purim so he could tell me when we had to bake! And, just like Grandma did, we counted how many of each flavor I had. (Counting was a ritual she started as a joke because my dad used to sneak into the kitchen to take the matzah balls she made. ) As Ben’s ALS progressed, he made less and less, but he was always a part of the process, even as the official batter taster.  Grandma never knew Ben, but I believe that she watched over us and that she would have loved him. I kept and used her mixer until it finally broke, and I still use her huge wooden rolling pins.

Making humentashen is a tradition that started a long time ago!

As Gramma Tala said, there is nowhere I go where Grandma is not with me. So are my mom and dad and Ben. It’s not always enough, and the truth is that sometimes it’s not even close to being enough, but it helps me to know that everywhere I go, and in everything I do, I carry them in my heart and in the person I am. I hope that I make them proud.

Happy Birthday, Grandma. I love you and miss you

Abby

Grief and Wondering “Where Lost Things Go”

Disney, when she was “Miss February” in the Bideawee calendar in 2011

On Thursday, February 7, I had to let my sweet cat Disney go to be with Ben and my dad. She was a brave and strong little girl. At 17 years old, she had so much wrong with her- thyroid, diabetes, severe arthritis and cancer, and so many daily medications/injections/infusions, but she fought and stayed so loving and cuddly. On that evening, she kept falling over and then standing still, frozen and clearly scared, and she was also severely congested. She was miserable. I called the vet in a panic and they told us to come in. Turned out that she had a respiratory infection, and I could have left her overnight for an infusion of IV antibiotics to treat the infection, but her legs were not going to get better. The vet said that given how Disney had been progressing, it was likely that within a couple of weeks, she would have been back at the vet with another problem. And, her legs would only continue to weaken. I didn’t want her to live like that.  I always promised myself and her that I would never be selfish and keep her here because I could not stand to lose her.

During this time of her decline, I was living much the way I did when Ben was alone at home while I was at work. I worried throughout the day if she had fallen or if she became immobile or worse. I ran home after school and was grateful to find her up on the sofa waiting for me. Here I was, having conversations with the vet like I had in the hospital with Ben’s doctor. After Ben had his tracheostomy and got the feeding tube, he had several infections and pneumonia. This indicated that if Ben had chosen to go to a facility, he probably would have returned to the hospital within a couple of weeks with another similar infection or pneumonia. Ben had to decide how he wanted to live and die with ALS. Ultimately, he chose to go to the hospital’s hospice unit and separate from the vent. He knew that I would have supported any decision he made.

In Disney’s case, I had to decide what was best for her. I didn’t want her to be miserable. I let her go. Disney was there for me in the worst days with my dad and Ben. She was there for Ben, even at the end when they let her visit him in the hospice unit. I tried very hard to keep her as comfortable as possible, and on that Thursday night, I was there for her, holding and talking to her as she very peacefully left this world. I’ve done this too often for my loved ones in recent years, and although it’s an honor filled with love, I’m overwhelmingly sad and reliving all of those bad moments. I can now add the loss of Disney to the other lousy February dates: my dad’s birthday, I lost my dad and my grandma in February, and it was Ben’s birthday. I’m always happy to welcome March.

I know all the feelings of grief and their unpredictability. I know the sadness and the loneliness and even the anger, though that has been a more recent emotion for me within the past year. I am now caught up in the bad memories of conversations that I had about Ben, being there and watching him leave this world, feeling the awful loneliness at home, losing my routine. Disney was on special foods and meds that made for long mornings before I left for work.  My mornings with Ben were also hectic, making sure he was settled and secure before I left for school and rushing to get out the door. Those memories have not been not the ones that stick out at this point. I prefer to focus on the good times. But they’re back and they’re gnawing at me. The frequent tears have returned.

I was back to going through motions. I did not want to leave my apartment and yet it was so hard to be here, where I kept getting up to check on Disney only to remind myself that she was gone. I removed her meds, syringes, food bowls and litter box, which seemed to change my entire apartment. So, I went out and met my friends. We talked about Disney,

I had taken Disney’s Valentine picture the weekend before she died. I’ve written about my Valentine card-making tradition. Here I was with a bunch of Valentine cards featuring Disney’s photograph. Should I send them? Would people think it was wrong? I decided to send the card with a note attached that said that I kind of knew that it would be our last Valentine card, and that I wanted people to have a sweet memory of Disney because, after all, Valentine’s Day is about love.

I am someone who has to have a furbaby, and although it was very soon, on February 18, I welcomed a new little love, Tinker Bell, or Little Bell, as I have taken to calling her because, at less than 8 pounds she is almost fairy sized! She is only two years old and had a rough start in life, but she is a friendly, adorable cat who almost immediately began following me everywhere and talking to me. She is always at my side but she does not like to be hugged or held, as Disney did. Tinker Bell has quickly learned that in this home, she is safe and loved and will be spoiled. Sometimes, she is a delightful distraction because she is a bundle of energy that runs around the apartment and is so curious. At other times, because we don’t yet know each other well, I am reminded about the many things I loved and now miss about Disney. It unnerves me to wake up and not have to make time to give medication and arrange special meals because I feel the loss (but am so grateful that Tinker Bell is healthy.) Changes in routine are reminders of the loss. Disney knew everything I went through with my dad and Ben and was always ready for a cuddle when I needed it. Sometimes I think about that and smile and sometimes I cry. I tell Tinker Bell about Disney and I like to think she listens so that she knows that she, too, will be adored (and that hugs are nice!)  I like to think that Disney is also listening when I talk about, and to, her so that she knows that she will always have a big place in my heart. Although she was given a birthday of January 29 because it was the day that she was found in a box on Staten Island, I gave her a birthday of February 18, so give myself one good day in the month of February. With a name like Tinker Bell, I believe that she is going to be the pixie dust that the month of February needs.

On Tinker Bell’s “Gotcha Day,” February 18, 2019 at NYC’s Meow Parlour

Tinker Bell is settling into her new Disney lifestyle!

I haven’t written about the new film Mary Poppins Returns. It is a very special film. The original Mary Poppins is very dear to me because it was the very first film I ever saw in a theater, and because for me, it is pure magic. Julie Andrews will always be Mary Poppins to me, though Emily Blunt did a wonderful job. This new version does not quite have the same whimsical magic for me, but it is very touching, and special in its own right, with important messages that resonated with me about love and loss. The song Where the Lost Things Go addresses how those we love and lose stay with us.So much of what defines our relationships seems to vanish with those we lose, but the memories keep them alive, but in a different way. It is not enough, and yet, it is quite a lot to have felt and given love, and to believe that our loved ones are thriving in a different place while they live in our hearts. I’ve printed the lyrics along with a video of the song.

The Place Where Lost Things Go
Composer: Marc Shaiman
Lyrics: Scott Wittman
Performed by Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins)

Do you ever lie
Awake at night?
Just between the dark
And the morning light
Searching for the things
You used to know
Looking for the place
Where the lost things go

Do you ever dream
Or reminisce?
Wondering where to find
What you truly miss
Well maybe all those things
That you love so
Are waiting in the place
Where the lost things go

Memories you’ve shed
Gone for good you feared
They’re all around you still
Though they’ve disappeared
Nothing’s really left
Or lost without a trace
Nothing’s gone forever
Only out of place

So maybe now the dish
And my best spoon
Are playing hide and seek
Just behind the moon
Waiting there until
It’s time to show
Spring is like that now
Far beneath the snow
Hiding in the place
Where the lost things go

Time to close your eyes
So sleep…

There are things that I miss about all of the too many people and pets I have lost, and yet, they are not really lost because they reside within me. The fact is that all of the love I have felt and given has helped to shape me. Now, I hope that Disney and Ben are “where the lost things go,” comfortably walking together, and I’m sure my dad is spoiling her as he always did.

To quote another song – a Broadway show tune- that I often sang to Disney and that seemed to calm her when I gave her some medications, “I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.”

 

Thinking of Ben, My Mickey, On His Birthday

Today, February 21, is Ben’s birthday. I’ve been suffering from vertigo and horrible back pain that I think is sciatica, so, physically, I am already feeling pretty lousy. This is another of the February milestone dates that I dread. It is the fourth birthday without him, and I can’t help but ask myself how many of his birthdays I am going to feel like this. The truth is that I have gotten used to the waves of sadness and loneliness. I didn’t know how I would feel today but I go with the flow of my emotions. I don’t convince myself that I have to be miserable, I don’t punish myself, and I don’t anticipate anything other than that I don’t know how I am going to feel and that I will be okay with whatever mood hits. The sadness and loneliness don’t paralyze me the way they did, but the bursts of tears remain.

I miss Ben and I think that’s okay. I miss making a fuss on his birthday. When he was homebound, I decorated our apartment after I put him to bed so he would have a fun surprise in the morning. He knew I was decorating but never knew exactly what he would find, and that delighted him. I also looked at the video that I made on his birthday the first year I was without him, which I have placed here again. There are photos of his birthdays and other happy occasions, and, of course, some Walt Disney World photos. Some were taken when he had ALS and some in the pre-ALS days. The love was always there, so I embrace all of the memories. I guess it will always be jarring but sweet to hear The Beatles’, “Happy Birthday.” Ben woke me up with that song every year on my birthday. Now, I am playing it for him. I find it comforting to revisit beautiful memories. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come with tears, but tears are okay. So are smiles.

This year, I’m fairly homebound given the way I’m feeling. That is certainly reminiscent of the way we celebrated Ben’s birthdays. This year, however, I have a new little baby. Having lost my sweet Disney, I brought home little Tinkerbell on Monday. The organization that rescued her listed her birthday as January 29, because that is the date that she was found. However, I gave her the birthday of February 18, which is the day I brought her home. It is my one happy February date amidst of several sad milestones.

Tinkerbell is quite small. At two years old she weighs less than 8 pounds, so she’s almost fairy sized! Disney, when she was healthy, weighed about 16 pounds and so did Tiffany. Tinkerbell is an affectionate, sweet little girl who follows me everywhere and within one night was already sleeping against my feet. She has a tiny little meow, too, that almost sounds like Tinker Bell’s jingle-talk!

Although it’s barely two weeks since Disney went to be with Ben, I realize that I am at my best when I am taking care of someone, human or otherwise. Caregiving taught me that. In the moments, it was not always a lesson I wanted to learn. In fact, at times I resented it. Of course, I needed help so I was sometimes sinking in the tasks and emotions. But, as I have said before, caregiving was the most loving, meaningful and important work I have ever done. I continued it with Disney, as she got diagnosed with diabetes just after Ben left this world, and then continued to have more and more health challenges.

I hope that Tinkerbell, or “Little Bell,” as I’ve been calling her, has a long and healthy life. She’s a wonderful joy in my life right now, and today I will talk to her about Ben. He would be very happy that I called her Tinkerbell (I spelled it a little differently). We loved Tink and the fairy films. We often watched them before we went to sleep. It always made me chuckle that he loved Pixie Hollow Games and would often watch it even when I was not home. Then, he would remind me that he was macho before he met me.

One of my favorite Tinker Bell related memories was from Walt Disney World. We met Tink and her friend Terrence in Pixie Hollow, where, of course, we were shrunken to pixie size. Terrence was so extravagantly in character, having particular fun because we were adults (well, technically- Ben probably would not have vouched for my maturity level!)  and I couldn’t stop laughing. The photographer caught this photo of Ben laughing at me. It remains one of my very favorite photos of him, especially because it was when his ALS was progressing and we truly treasured the laughter. Today, I want to remember that laughter.

ALS,Caregiving,Grief,Walt Disney World, Disney

Ben laughing at me in Walt Disney World when we met Tinker Bell and Terrence.

I will have my usual Disney movie marathon of Ben’s favorites- Monsters, Inc., Mulan, Toy Story (1,2,3) and The Incredibles. I will also show Tinkerbell the Tinker Bell films so she can see the feisty fairy for whom she is named.

This year, my physical feelings happen to match my emotional tension, but I want anyone reading this to know that, at least in my opinion, there is no “right” way to deal with events like this. If I had felt like I did not want to do anything special for Ben’s birthday, and just share a quiet thought of him, that would have been fine, too. I feel no compulsion to defend myself. That, in itself, feels like progress!

As I wrote last year, there is no candle on a cake now, but always wishes that he is comfortable, and running, singing and eating to his heart’s delight. And, wishes for a cure for ALS, because wishes do come true.  As Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother says, “even miracles take a little time.”

ALS,Caregiver,ALS Awareness Month,Walt Disney World, Mickey Mouse, Wishing Well

An important visit to the Wishing Well at Cinderella’s Castle that became a ritual- wishing for a cure for ALS.

When Ben proposed to me at Walt Disney World, he asked me to be His Minnie. So, on his birthday, I say
Happy Birthday, My Mickey!
With much love and pixie dust,
Your Minnie

Halloween 2012. Eeyore’s wearing a birthday hat!

Happy Birthday, Daddy! Milestone Dates Are Not Easy

Today, February 15, would be my dad’s birthday. It’s a strange and melancholic kind of time, with the anniversary of his passing just two days ago and Valentine’s Day yesterday.  But, there are so many good memories on which I try to dwell during these down days. I was a Daddy’s girl and I was his life and his caregiver. I wrote more about him a couple of days ago, on the fourth anniversary of his passing. Click here to read that post. My dad is always in my heart and thoughts, and at this time I would like to take the opportunity to put him front and center and share glimpses of his life. My dad never wanted to make a fuss over his birthday. But, we always did. And he deserved it.

I realized as I was preparing this video last year for his birthday that my dad was not in so many pictures because he was always the one taking the photographs. The background music is From The Hall of Montezuma, the USMC hymn. He would love that. He loved dogs, the USMC and his family. The camouflage coat you will see was an homage to the USMC, and he liked telling people that he wore it when he went outside and tried to hide among the greens from his mother-in-law, my grandmother. I had to include it in the slide show.

Who would have thought that my dad and Cinderella and I would have any connection? Well, we do. Cinderella and my dad share a birthday, since the movie Cinderella was released by Walt Disney Productions on this date in 1950. Cinderella was my favorite princess when I was a child. She remains dear to my heart because there is more to Cinderella than what meets the eye. She appears simply sweet and naïve, but she had feistiness and determination, and also a loyalty to her father’s memory to which I can wholly relate. It was very hard for her to lose both of her parents, but she let their lessons and moral compass guide her. That’s something I completely understand.

Cinderella knew the importance of integrity and the power of dreams, and in the end, all of those qualities got her the love of the prince of her dreams and a position of respect! She knew at her core that, despite her stepmother and stepsisters treating her horribly, “They can’t order me to stop dreaming.” There’s a good life lesson. I know that people sometimes think I’m unrealistic because of my Disney love and its connection to wishing and dreaming. On the contrary, as the caregiver for my dad and for Ben, I was hit with harsh realities on a daily basis. Dreaming and wishing were my escape. They encouraged me to find creative ways to solve problems. And, they allowed me to envision a future where my dad and Ben had peace and comfort and I could stand alone and live happily with them in my heart. Now, as I work through grief, dreams help me to redefine myself and reshape my life. No one can tell me that dreams are not valuable and important.

Cinderella,Disney,ALS,Grief,Caregiving

Cinderella, 1950
Walt Disney Productions

Maybe you don’t literally talk to your Fairy Godmother, but I imagine that a lot of readers have had a similar conversation with someone, or with themselves, and questioned their faith that they could handle things or that things would be okay.

During caregiving days, when my dad and/or Ben was struggling, knowing that in the end I was going to lose them, it was easy to lose hope and optimism. In those times, I had to thank goodness for the insight and “Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo” of Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. For me, the dreams and the wishes got me through very difficult and sad days of terminal illness and caregiving and feeling that nothing I did really mattered. There were no cures, no one was going to get better, and things were becoming more difficult. But, I could dream, and those dreams helped me keep the faith.

There is a song in Cinderella called, So This is Love.  Though the song is about romantic love, the title is significant. When we are watching someone struggle with illness or we are struggling with caregiving responsibilities, we accept these challenges, and embrace them, because this is love. It’s that simple. And, that complicated.

At the heart of the film is the song A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.

A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you’re fast asleep.
In dreams you will lose your heartaches.
Whatever you wish for, you keep.
Have faith in your dreams, and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling through.
No matter how your heart is grieving,
If you keep on believing,
The dreams that you wish will come true.

I’ve always been a dreamer who wished for the fairytale ending. Sometimes I think that it’s a matter of perspective. I do believe that my wish came true that my dad and Ben are both at peace, even though grief is hard for me and times like these past few days are quite sad and lonely. I’ve written before that I will wish for and dream about cures for ALS, and also for cancer and the many other horrible diseases. Sometimes it seems futile, but I remember that Fairy Godmother said, “Even miracles take a little time.”

My dad called me his Private Benjamin, but I was also his Cinderella, and I will always keep his spirit alive and let him guide me.

Happy Birthday, Daddy! I love and miss you!

Valentine’s Day- Maintaining An Important Tradition

The last Valentine I made for Ben, in 2015.

I always loved Valentine’s Day. I have hand-made Valentine cards for as long as I can remember. My great-aunts and great-uncles, and of course my parents, aunt and grandma, saved all of them. As they’ve passed on, their collections of the cards I made for them made their way back to me so I would know that they were kept and treasured. I see them as testaments to the love we all had for each other. But, I miss all of these people.

Now, Valentine’s Day is bittersweet. My dad passed away the day before Valentine’s Day in 2014. I spent Valentine’s Day that year making his funeral arrangements. My dad’s birthday is the day after Valentine’s Day. I remember the simple and sweet Valentine’s Days spent with Ben where we danced in the living room. Dancing was an important part of our relationship and I miss that, too. He always knew that after I put him to bed, I would make a card and decorate the apartment, and he looked forward to his Valentine’s Day surprise. It added some whimsy to his homebound life. Last week, my cat, Disney, died. Valentine’s Day is now also the one week anniversary of that devastating event. There is certainly a melancholy that pervades these days.

All of the people for whom I made my cards are gone, except for my aunt Eleanor, who is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s Disease. She doesn’t remember the cards or me, and in more recent months she does not really relate to me or even notice my presence.

It seems an appropriate day to spotlight these people whom I miss and treasured so much. We all had a very special love for each other.

(L-R) Great-uncle Louie, Great-aunt “Tanta” Rosie, Great-Aunt Lillian, Grandma Dora, Great-Uncle Larry. Mid-1980s. I adored them all.

My mom and our Standard Schnauzer, Dulcie. Miss them both!

My dad, in one of his favorite photos, with our Miniature Schnauzer, Windy, at my Cornell graduation. Daddy liked to look serious, but he was quite the joker.

(L-R) Great-Uncle Davis, cousin Garry, who, at age 94, passed away just one month before Ben), and Great-Aunt “Tanta” Rosie.

Life has changed without all of these people, and although I lost many people that I loved and who loved me so much, I am fortunate and grateful to have had them in my life. I am also grateful to still be surrounded by much love. Crafts projects give me peace and inspiration, and I realized how important making Valentine cards was to me once I lost those closest to me. It was a way of showing and feeling so much love.  I decided to continue to tap my inner child with my card-making tradition, giving them to special people in my life. Disney was the star of my cards. The weekend before I lost her, I took her Valentine’s Day photo. I suspected that it would be her last card because she has been so ill. I was not sure if I should send the cards, if they would make people sad or if they would find it strange. However, I decided that since Valentine’s Day is a day of love, I would share a special and loving memory of my sweet Disney.

The holiday is different now, and, honestly, not as happy, but it does give me joy to show my love and appreciation for special people, in my craftsy way, and to share a special tradition that keeps Ben, my parents, grandma and great-aunts and great-uncles close.

I wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day filled with love and friendship, and a sprinkling of pixie dust!

One of the 2019 cards. Each one is different.