Here's the thing about March in Montana.

It's cruel.


It's not spring yet. The days start to clear up, to give you some sunlight, and you know that warm weather is right around the corner. We're so hopeful about it that you can actually see people bundled up, standing outside eating Dairy Queen but when you wake up some mornings there's a fresh coat of snow on the ground and your hopes are dashed.

I can't help but feeling this is an analogy for my life right now--like I'm on the verge of something good if I can just last through the winter. The problem is, of course, that I just feel like the winter keeps on coming. Like no matter where I turn there's another cold dose of reality.

Tonight I learned that my last boyfriend, the one that I really, truly thought I was going to marry--and that's not a light statement for me--is engaged. No, silly, not to me. Then we'd be having a spring analogy.

Now, Bas, if you're reading this, please stop.

The question isn't one of being happy for him--I am. Marriage and love is a good thing even when it happens outside the boundaries I was hoping for. The world needs more people who are happy and having partners. The question is, how much control do I have over this really? During our courtship I didn't lead a perfect Mormon life. I slipped, as I do from time to time, into some bad old habits. But I kept thinking it was reparable, you know? Like if I could just be a better girl, pray more, fast more, pay tithing more consistently, then he'd finally ask. When he didn't, when we broke up, I thought "To hell with it." and went a little more off the rails. Then I turned 30 and went totally crazy.

And I can't help thinking to myself, "All decisions have consequences."

Does it follow that had I been another version of myself all would have worked out and I'd be posting an "I'm engaged!" posting?

I don't think so. I think there are cycles. I think April is always warmer than March. I think that for every down, there's an up. I truly believe that anything we live through makes us stronger. So, for my part, I'm done trying to worry about how I live my life for other people. I'm living for me now. And if someone should fall into step with me later, I'll be happy. But, for now, it's just me and though I hate the snow by this time in the season, I know it will pass and I'll have another excellent summer.

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A lovely reminder

Every morning I get an email from the Universe. This morning it read: Any and all forms of separation - disconnects, divides, partings, breakups, and goodbyes - Stephanie, are temporary. Very.

You'll be together far, far longer than you will ever be apart.

Forever and ever -
The Universe

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Dear Mom

Today is Easter Sunday; my first Easter Sunday without you. Before you passed away I loved attending church. Sitting in sacrament meeting I felt the quiet, gentle peace the Spirit brings. Listening to Sunday school and RS lessons I often felt fortified and enriched. Things are different now. Instead of feeling peace I feel emptiness. Instead of feeling strengthened I feel forsaken in some ways.
Since you passed everything seems to be about death or finding joy in your afflictions. Joy? Do people honestly believe I should be happy? I lost my Mom and some twenty-one year old kid is telling me I need to rejoice in my afflictions? I don't think so.
Then there's the guilt I feel because I am unable to sympathize with others whose trials seem trivial compared with my own. I just want to stand up in the middle of Sacrament meeting and tell them to grow up and just be grateful they still have both of their parents with them on earth. I know that I am being selfish and critical but I'm just so emotionally unavailable right now I can't even listen to other people complain about anything.
So last Sunday I didn't go to church. Instead I followed my heart and took the train into DC. I returned the keys I accidentally kept to the DH and then sat in Lafayette Park. The miracle of it all was Shawna and Gary called when I was en route to DH. I had misunderstood Shawna when she called on Thursday saying they were coming into town. I thought she meant the following weekend but I was wrong. She said they were in town that very day and wanted to walk around the monuments. I told her I was already in DC and they could meet me at the Smithsonian Castle gardens.
I can't even describe to you what a miracle it was she called me. I had been thinking, since receiving her initial call on Thursday, how wonderful it would be to see them that weekend. When she called and said they wanted to spend time with me and wanted to walk around DC I was grateful and actually excited.
Mom, it was the perfect Sunday. We walked, talked, cried, laughed, and hugged for four hours. It was exactly what I needed. I felt more peace and greater hope with them than I have felt after attending church since January 30th. I could freely express my feelings and they totally understood. They didn't try to placate me by saying things like, "now your mother is your own personal angel or now she can be with you all the time." Instead they just listened and understood, which is exactly what I need most. I need to surround myself with people who have experienced loss and who have survived the hell that follows, because that is exactly what it feels like; hell.
After walking for awhile we decided to eat dinner at The Old Tabbard Inn. Eve had taken me there last winter and I loved it. The atmosphere is so cozy and intimate. Perfect restaurant for a couple who's been dating for awhile. I wouldn't recommend it for a first date. Anyway, I'm not sure why but sitting there in the upper dining room there was a moment that I felt we weren't alone. I didn't feel you but I felt someone was very happy we were there together. Feeling that made me happy too. I didn't share that with Shawna and Gary. Sometimes I think I am too open about my feelings. I think I often share things with people who don't really care or don't really believe me. Not that Shawna and Gary wouldn't but other people I have shared intimate feelings or thoughts with have not been receptive and at times even critical. I guess I've learned that not everything is meant to be shared.
I am not sure if I told you this but Shawna reminds me of you. She's fun and loves to do and see things. Like you she wears a 7 1/2 shoe so we can exchange shoes, which we did last Sunday. I let her wear my tennis shoes because hers weren't as comfortable. I also noticed one of her eyebrows is like yours. Something I hadn't noticed until last Sunday. Being with her, in a strange way, made me feel closer to you. I just regret they live so far away and I can't see them more often.
This morning I have been trying to remember past Easter Sundays. I remember shopping for Easter baskets, getting that stupid green plastic grass everywhere, dyeing eggs, wearing my Easter dress to church, how Dad would buy you a corsage for church, and coming home to Easter dinner, which was usually something you had left cooking in the crock pot. I miss the packages you sent me when I went to school filled with Easter candy and Easter bunnies or chickies. Do you remember the lamb I bought you one year for Easter? You used to keep it on your dresser and we called it Lambie. I need to find him when I go home and finish sorting through your things.
I am sure I haven't told you, although you probably already know, but Dad found George. He's bringing him up this week, along with your blankets and the corn doll you bought in New Mexico. If I don't go to MS I will probably pack it up and go home for awhile. I know Dad could use some help around the house and Josh tells me every time we talk I need to be near family. I guess he's right. I'm just afraid. Which sounds ridiculous but I am. Afraid of what I may become of what I may be tempted to do if I move back; give up.
On this Easter Sunday I don't expect miracles or packages. No one sent me packages except you. I don't expect to feel peace at church and I probably won't join Scott for dinner. To be honest, I don't really want to remember its Easter. I hope in time this will change. That gratitude will fill the void and memories will be enough.
Although I have been scanning a lot of photos, I wasn't able to find one of us on this holiday. I did find a few of your family taken the year before you were born; Easter 1955. I included a photo of your Dad, Great Uncle Blair, Dennis and Danny for you. Its strange to think you are with most of the people in the photo today; Grandpa, "Grandpa" Blair and Dennis. I hope wherever you are you are at peace.
Love you-
Sissy

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Dear Mom



I am not sure if you saw this movie before you left us but I think you would have enjoyed it. It's about a child music prodigy who was abandoned at birth unknowingly by his mother (Kerri Russell). Some of the music, not all, is beautiful. I think you would have enjoyed that too.

The day before I left Kentucky, Joshie, Lauren and I were sorting through your things and found a few of your old report cards from elementary school. I was not surprised to find you did well in english. You were always a voracious reader and encouraged Joshie and I to follow your example.

You did not do well in math, in that regard I am a lot like you as well, but your near perfect grades in music surprised Joshua and I, although really, it shouldn't have.



You filled our lives with music. We always played music in the car; music always filled our home. When Joshie decided to abandon sports for music you never discouraged him. Whenever I visit Josh and Lauren music is always playing the background. I often listen to music in the evening and especially in my car or while cleaning. I couldn't imagine my life without it.

You enjoyed the best music too. Classic rock, classical, pop rock, disco, folk, country, or bluegrass, you tried to expose us to good music. Music that was cool and happy and fun. Steve Miller, Lynard Skynard, Jefferson Airplane, Bread, Anne Murray, Juice Newton, Dan Seals, Bob Seager, Blondie, Abba, Bee Gees, Carol King, you name it. These names were as familiar to us as those of family members. Thank you for teaching us to appreciate good music.


Music is a powerful entity. It can invoke powerful emotions like hate, envy, revenge, or empathy, gratitude, reverence and love. The couple in the movie were united by their love of music and I understand that. I think its very important for lovers to be more compatible than not and share at least one thing they are both passionate about. I don't think I have met anyone like that. Perhaps when I do he will be "the one." Most men I meet don't even know what historic preservation is, let alone take an interest in it.

One of the aspects I appreciated most about Louis and Lyla's relationship was their reverence for one another. You can feel it in the way he takes her hand. In the way they kiss for the first time. His actions and reactions to Lyla are not rushed or fueled by uncontrollable passion. Rather his actions seem totally motivated by a sense of wonder and awe. I have never had a man take my hand the way Louis takes Lyla's but I want that. I want to experience that at least once before I die. I want a man to communicate with me without speaking. I want to look at a man and know what he's thinking or feeling without him having to say a word.

Is that what it is like where you are? I have been reading a lot about NDEs and that is what most of the accounts say. People communicate with their minds or through feelings. What would that be like? Perhaps its similar to the way the Holy Ghost communicates to us? Through impressions and feelings. I have such a difficult time listening and more often than not I misinterpret his direction...Is that how you will communicate with me now? By invoking memories or planting thoughts in my mind?

Many people I have spoken to say their loved ones have visited them in dreams. Although it doesn't compensate for having you here with us to talk to and to hold, I really wish you would come to me. I just want to know you are OK, that you are happy and that you haven't forgotten us.

Shawna said you could never forget us because family is the most important unit in Heavenly Father's plan. I know she is right but I still want to feel you near. If others can have dreams about their loved ones, shouldn't I be able to? What is the criteria one has to meet or how long must I wait before I can have that opportunity? Months? Years? I am not sure I can wait that long. I don't want to wait that long.

I love you and miss you and I am sorry I have not written more. I have been trying to fill my evenings with close friends and loved ones. Some evenings are better than others. Sunday and Monday evening were not good. Sleep is sporadic and work is difficult at times, especially when other women in the office talk about or to their mothers.

My only comfort is the hope that one day we will never be separated ever again. Not by death not by anything. Until then, I hope wherever you are you can hear music.

Love you-
Sissy

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Stillness

You know you're living a quiet life when you can hear the wind chimes from two yards down.

As of Valentine's day I'm settled into my new apartment. I don't remember if I posted that or not because it's been so long since I felt the urge to write. I love it. If you sit in my living room you can actually see how the house and settled, leaving the middle of my living room an inch or so below the edges. The perfectly wood floors have had time to settle in too. Usually on days like today I turn on some music, only sometimes quietly, and make sure that my house really is clean. Or I read--lots. I used to wonder how Gwen could read so many books in a month, now I know. I bought a perfect painting from a friend/artist here called "Ebon" and other than a couch, it will be the final large purchase for my apartment. I'm not moving until I leave this area. If I never leave Missoula the pack of wild dogs you'll discover eating me will have to breach my beautiful little gate and run through my becoming-manicured Manhattan-sized yard, up my outside stairs peppered with built-in planters, past the view over the rest of the city and through my dog door. And if they make it that far, don't deny them the meal.

Other than the quiet I'm coming to adore and appreciate in my own life, I want to make sure Amber knows I support her. She said she feels like she's standing alone, stunned, in a crowd in motion--everyone moving on unaware. While I know it's impossible me to stop, impossible for me to feel her pain, I want her to feel my virtual fingers intertwined with hers so she can remember that someone knows she's there, cares that she's hurting.

I was thinking about pain this morning, about words that we use--these kinds of thoughts are what happens when I spend too much time without the blaring music, you see--and I was hesitant to write. I feel so much like I imagine a husband does during a difficult birth. Standing aside, watching pain and effort, helpless to alleviate any of it directly. All you can do is stand to the side, hold the hand and remind your loved one to breathe. Because you're there, unclouded, you can focus more on the result of the pain--the miracle of a new life on the other side.

Boo, I know it was a bad day. I'm sorry that I'm an oaf. I'm so glad that you love me anyway and I never doubt it--even when you're proverbially screaming at me to shut off the camera and never touch you again. You'll pull through this, I know you will. All I can tell you is that somewhere, on the other side, is a new, a different life--one that you can't even imagine right now. I have faith aplenty in the good things to come. Just feel my hand and hear my voice and we'll make it through this together, even if it was a bad analogy. *grin*

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Dear Mom

Do you remember the movie Cast Away? I remember we had a conversation about it once, maybe a few times, I can't remember now. There are so many things I can't remember, it seems, things I know we did or said. The memories I have of you or of things we did together are like grains of sand in an hour glass. They are there within my reach but every time I try to grasp one it slips through my fingers and it's gone. I hope these memories will come back in time, when I have regained my ability to focus, but for now the feelings of frustration and fear; frustration because I can't seem to remember and fear of forgetting altogether wonderful, special memories of you, continue.


Tonight was my first time seeing the movie. I am not sure why I didn't see it in theatres but I do remember you enjoyed it. We always liked Tom Hanks; especially when he looses his temper. I enjoyed it also but probably would have enjoyed it more a year ago, when we could have discussed how cute Tom Hanks was after four years on the island and laughed about Wilson. I confided in Jeff that I wanted a Wilson and he said I already had one. I guess Pooh is my Wilson.


Although I enjoyed the story there were certain parts that were very difficult for me to watch, and even more painful to digest. Something I didn't do until after Jeff left.


For instance, do you remember the part where he is lying flat on his back on the battered raft? He had finally escaped from the island but had lost Wilson. Sobbing, he cries out, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," repeatedly. Watching his body heave as he sobbed, I wanted to say, "I've been there. I know what you are feeling because I have felt it too. I feel it almost daily."

That scene symbolically demonstrates the way I often feel. Lost at sea, floating on a battered raft, alone, experiencing hopelessness, loss, and grief so intense that all you can do is cry out, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."


At times like that what am I sorry for? Sorry for all the times I hurt you or embarrassed you. Sorry for all the moments I was impatient with you. Sorry I didn't write more or call more. Sorry I didn't quit my job and come home like you asked. Sorry you aren't still here with me so we can do things like talk about movies, and my friends and guys I date, and the cats, and how Dad's doing and how Josh's classes are going. I'm sorry all our opportunities to make memories are gone. Lost.


Do you remember when he's at his homecoming party, in the hotel, and his friend pats him on the back and says, "tomorrow we are going to make you come back to life,"? A man, once believed dead, suddenly comes back to life. Wouldn't that be nice? Difficult but nice. I wish I could believe you were just away on vacation or stranded on an island but I can't. I know you are gone and nothing can bring you back to me. You will not be gone four years, not even twenty.


One of the things I struggle with most, is that I don't know how much time separates us; how much time must pass before we'll be reunited.


Until that day, I continue to drift alone in a sea of lonliness and uncertainity, crying out, "I'm sorry, Mom. I'm so sorry."


Your Cast Away-

Sissy


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Dear Mom

Today I really missed your hugs. I love this photo because you and Aunt Nancy look so happy but it doesn't accurately portray how wonderful your hugs were. Hugs I will never receive ever again. I could have used a few of those hugs today. Work was busy, which was good, but I broke-down several times throughout the day, which is something I haven't done in awhile.
The tears solicited hugs from co-workers, which was nice, but they weren't anything like hugs from Mammy.
It started with an email from a co-worker and then Dad called. I don't know why I have been blessed with such a great Father. I love him so much. You couldn't have picked a better man to help you raise your children. Good job! We talked about his doctors appointment, Mary and ZuZu, and then the conversation focused on you.
Dad said he missed you and I agreed. He said, although you pestered him, he never failed to see you as the woman he fell in love with. He thought you would always be around to tease him and honestly, I did too. I would often tell Stephanie that you would out-live us all just to give us hell. I just can't believe you're gone and today the pain was just as raw as it was on January 30th. The day my life changed forever.
Everyone says I am doing the right things; writing to you, looking at your photos, talking, crying, being open about my feelings but I don't know. I don't really know anything anymore. While I blog and experience frequent emotional melt-downs, Joshie has focused his energy on writing a book. He's such a great writer I am anxious to read it. I was hoping Josh and Lauren would be able to visit for Spring Break but it looks like that's a no-go. My luck. I was really looking forward to seeing them again.
Dad is still planning to visit during the Cherry Blossom festival. It's been a long time since he's seen them and if this is my last year in Washington there is no one I would rather walk the tidal basin with than my Daddy.
I have given up on dating. My luck with men is as bad as it ever was. I have a few really good guy friends and I am fine with that, for now. Since you passed I am emotionally unavailable; not really interested in anyone or anything, you know? I think, knowing your sentiments regarding men, you would applaud my lack of interest. I'm sure it's just a phase. HA!
There's not much to tell you. I may be going away for a little while. Work may deploy me to work in MS which would be healthy for me, I think. It would give me a chance to find myself again. If that doesn't work out I may go to Montana for the summer to do field work, something you would love. It would be back-breaking but a terrific experience. The guys I've been corresponding with are really nice and seem interested in my background. I wonder if either of them are young and single. Hmm... That could make things interesting. Romantic if nothing else. Summer fling with an archaeologist while working on a dig in Montana. Maybe I should write a book. How I found myself and my lover while working on a dig in Big Sky country. HA! HA!
Either way, I will keep you updated on the progression of my exciting life.
Dad says you probably read my letters, or at least receive them in some way. Stephanie says you can see everything I do, even the things I don't really want you to see. If you saw anything that happened last weekend I don't ever want to know. OK?! That's our secret.
Either way, I hope you know how much we miss you. I hope you know how we are doing. I want you to be happy, enjoying time with your relatives, meeting and mingling with all the cool people you never met on earth, but please don't forget about us. Please. We need you too and we haven't, could never, forget about you.
I love you Mom and if you were here, if I could just have one more moment with you, I would wrap my arms around you and hold tight, breathing you in, trying with all my might to capture "you" one last time. Since that's impossible I will continue to write, confiding in you like I always did because that's what we did.
I love you my friend-
Sissy




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