Happy Birthday “Goose”…

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As Marisa’s 7th birthday loomed on the horizon, my heart and soul were filled with questions…

How could we create a magical celebration for Terri’s beloved Miss M?

How could we convey to Marisa the depth of her mother’s love?

How could we ease the painful reality that her Mamãe no longer graced this earth?

A week before Miss M’s gymnastics party I was racking my brains for an idea for her “Mamãe gift”. I had promised Terri that each year I would pick out just the right gift for Marisa. One that embodied the essence of their mother/daughter bond. Last year’s china tea set was a huge hit. Miss M delighted in serving all who attended her 6th birthday- Me, Papai, Aunty Cole, cousins Jeanne, Erin and Jessie, and neighbors Kristina, Mike and Isaac.

But for some reason, this year, I just couldn’t figure out what to do. My daughter Jamie and I were discussing our surprise to beat all surprises for Miss M’s actual birthday, when I told Jamie about my dilemma.

“Mom, remember we had Terri write Marisa’s name? So I could make a necklace or a bracelet for her?”

“Oh my God, Jamie, yes! That would be perfect!!!!!!!!!!”

“I have the two names, Marisa and Goose. Think she’d like Goose?”

“Oh honey, I think that would be perfect,” I replied, my voice breaking as I heard Terri’s voice whisper, ‘Night Goose’.

Fast forward to the day of Miss M’s party. I located the purple folder that contains the cards Aunty Cole bought for Terri to leave Miss M. Finding the one for 2016, I could not believe my eyes when I opened it…

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“It was an ordinary life, right up until the moment your were born. Then it SPARKLED! Happy Birthday to an AMAZING daughter.”

 

 

 

Who sparkles up all our lives! With her silliness and big smiles!

Love you goose!

xoxo Mamãe

When I finally finished crying, I thanked Terri for “whispering” the answer to Jamie and I.

After I loaded the car with all the party goodies, my cell phone rang. It was Papai. I answered but all I could hear was background noise. So I hung up and called him back.

“Did you just call me?”

“I don’t know. My phone was in my back pocket. Then when you just called me, I took it out to answer, and there was a picture of Marisa on the front. I never put it there. It’s her on the beach. I don’t even know how to do that on my phone.”

We were both silent for a few seconds.

“Must be Terri…”

We talked a bit more, finalizing what time to meet at the gymnastics center and after I hung up, I put my phone on the table and started washing the dishes. After a few minutes I heard something. Turning, I could see my phone was lit and I could hear someone talking.

“Oh my God,” I exclaimed when I picked up the phone and heard his voice again. “You aren’t going to believe this! My phone was on the table and I was washing dishes. I didn’t even touch it and it dialed you!”

“Wow,” he replied, and I could literally “hear” the smile on his face.

Terri…

But Terri’s piece de resistance, was later that afternoon. Marisa had just opened her Mamãe present when I heard the ding of a text arriving on my phone. It was Aunty Cole… Who had NO IDEA today was Miss M’s party. I immediately FaceTimed her.

“You are not going to believe this!!!!” I yelled. “We literally just opened Mamãe’s card and present and then you texted. Look Aunty Cole! Look at Marisa’s necklace.”

“Hi Goose! Oh my gosh, I remember the exact day Mamãe wrote that card for you! And look at that hot pink necklace!” she exclaimed, as Miss M modeled her newest treasure.

“Aunty Laurie, you aren’t going to believe this, but I actually sent you that text yesterday. And I was just saying to Mr. Ed, that’s not like Aunty not to get back to me. It’s been 24 hours. I think I’ll text her again. But then, when I went to text you a second time, I realized the original text never went through…”

I looked at Papai, then Jamie and Erin. And back at Aunty Cole.

And we all knew.

Terri was with us. She is always with us. Especially on those really special days. The ones when your heart threatens to shatter into a million pieces from the ache. And the loss. And the grieving. It’s then that she breaks through and reminds you.

I am here. I will always be here.

It helps me to be reminded of that. And I hope it helps you too…

Love,

Aunty Laurie

Love you goose…

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The Gift that keeps on giving

 

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It’s my 59th birthday. This is one of three photos I took tonight of the full moon overlooking the Sea of Cortez in Cabo San Lucas. Can you see Jeanne and Terri dancing across the sky? Aunty Cole and I certainly did.

What a day it’s been. What a week. My daughter Jamie, Miss M and I arrived in Cabo to visit Aunty Cole and Mr. Ed five days ago. It’s our second year in a row rendevouzing with Aunty Cole for April vacation. It just so happens my birthday falls during vacation, so one of my greatest gifts has been traveling around the world to deliver her goddaughter to Aunty Cole. Miss M and Aunty Cole are the two people in the whole wide world who most help me make sense of a physical world without Terri. They truly embody the essence that is/was my beloved niece.

And let me tell you, Terri (and Jeanne’s) energy were fully present tonight…

In the stories. In the scrumptious food. In the magical twinkling lights sprinkled amongst the open air restaurant Aunty Cole chose for dinner. In the pink party balloon Miss M tied to my chair. In the live music that awaited us when we returned to our resort. In the graceful and rhythmic movement that emerged from our bodies on the dance floor we created.

All of these gifts; of love, of connection, of remembrance, of celebration, of sorrow… These are the gifts that keep on giving from Terri…

And they are embodied in her open hearted, bodhisattva daughter, Miss M.

Our first night in Aunty Cole and Mr. Ed’s magnificent Cabo home, Miss M very reluctantly entered the shower.
“I don’t like showers,” she wrote on the steam covered glass.
“I know,” I answered through the glass.
“I like baths,” she continued writing.
“You can take one in Aunty Cole’s huge whirlpool bath tomorrow.”
“Are you Aunty Cole’s sister?” she asked.
“No, Aunty Cole was Mamãe’s best friend. She’s a gift to me from Mamãe. Mamãe has given me so many gifts. If it weren’t for Mamãe I never would have met Aunty Cole. But the best gift Mamãe ever gave me, other than being my niece, was you, Marisa.”
She stood there soaking that in for a moment, then wrote, ” You are the best Aunty,” and drew a heart at the end of her sentence.
Tears rolled down my cheeks.
“Thank you, Marisa. You are the best niece…”

The next night as we primped for our last dinner with Mr. Ed, she ran into my bedroom, bursting with excitement.

“Love emergency! Love emergency! I just left a note for Aunty Cole!!”

“What did it say??”

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Thank you Terri, for the gift that is your daughter. Her being is love in it’s purest essence. Just as yours was.

I miss you every single day. Your laugh. Your joy. Your passionate zest for life. For loving. For giving.

So thank you Terri, for the gift that is/was and always will be, you…

Love, Aunty Laurie

 

 

 

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“Love Is The Best Thing, Remember All Family” -Marisa Alegria da Silva

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A gift from my remarkable niece. My great niece. Miss M. Terri incarnate…

And as always, it came just when I needed it the most…

I’ve felt so disconnected of late. From Terri. From her mother, Jeanne. Even from Miss M. It had been a whole month since I’d last wrapped my arms around her. Since she crawled into my bed in Terri’s spare room for a morning cuddle. Since I made her favorite breakfast of oatmeal decorated with whipped cream and fruit before putting her on the bus. It had been way too long. For both of us.

And in that month, I learned that Tami Boemer had died after a 13 year battle with breast cancer. Tami was a powerful, guiding light for countless warriors. Especially Terri. A gifted and groundbreaking author, her book From Incurable to Incredible, lifted Terri out of the depths of despair shortly after her diagnosis and continued to guide her throughout her 3 year battle with Stage IV breast cancer.

And now she too was dead…

Fucking cancer. Enough!

Thankfully, Miss M reminded me yet again, how to heal my grieving heart.

Love…

And she wasn’t alone!

One of Terri’s Canadian BFF posse, Rani, arrived today all the way from Montreal! Nine hours in a minivan with her husband and 3 kids under the age of 6!! Now that’s love in it’s purest form!

Terri was everywhere. In story after story. Like when Terri and Rani taught each other to drive a stick shift. Or the night they left their shift at Stuarts Bakery on Granville Island to party with the rest of their posse, Nicole and Irene, and ended up in the cemetery of all places!

But the best story was the time Rani and Terri were planning to visit their respective parents in Vancouver and promised to connect. It had been awhile since they had returned to the city where they grew up together.

As Rani’s Dad pulled into his driveway on Bowen Island, Rani said, “Hey, is that Spider?”

Her Dad replied, “You know Spider?”

“Of course I do! That’s Terri’s Dad!” Rani exclaimed.

“Terri from high school?”

“Yes!”

And as they pulled in, there was Terri, literally, right next door.

Tonight, I was reminded once again, Terri is everywhere.

If I am willing to open my heart to her.

She is in the stories Rani is writing down for Marisa every time Rani has a memory of Terri.

She is in Miss M’s smile and her magnificent artwork.

And she is in this blog…

I will leave you with this entry Terri wrote the night we went to see the Long Island Medium. I’m going back to see her tomorrow night. Almost 2 years to the day Terri and I went…

“That is something I continually realize as I chart my path through cancer… We all have our battles to face. Our demons. Our tragedies and difficult situations to contend with. Whether it’s cancer, homelessness, bankruptcy, divorce, unemployment, infertility… At some point we all reach a crossroads in our life. These challenges shake you to your core. Humble you. Jolt you awake. Then we have the choice to either keep trying to return to what was or to embrace the change and redefine yourself and your reality. Each of these moments presents us with the opportunity to make our lives even better than they were before.

Why not seek to live a better life? What have you got to lose?”

Love,

Aunty Laurie, Terri and Miss M

The next germination of BFF's

The next generation of BFF’s

Remembering Terri

Remembering Terri

I do believe, I do, I do, I do… 

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It’s been awhile…

Two days after Terri’s anniversary, I had to say good bye yet again… This time to my beloved brother-in-law, Michael Verronneau. He and Terri had a special connection. For one, they were both members of that unlucky, “incurable disease club”.  But they shared something much more important. An incredibly inspiring and tenacious will to live. Fully. Compassionately. Selflessly. As warriors. Mike was lucky enough to live for 30 years after initial diagnosis compared to Terri’s 3,  but the reality is, they were both taken way too soon.

So I found myself once again falling into the deep, dark depths of grief. Unable to climb up and out. To tap into that place of light. Of hope. Of openness to “their” presence. To those serendipitous moments when I actually “felt” Terri’s love. Or “heard” her voice whispering in my ear.  Or believed in her ability to transcend time and space.

And then today happened…

I was jonesing for a Miss M fix, having gone more than 5 days without laying eyes on her. Our bi-weekly visit was 2 days overdue albeit for very good reason- Aunty Cole is due to arrive Monday!!!- but my perpetual blues needed a major boost, so I hit the Skype button. Heron answered within 2 rings. We kvetched for a few minutes about the pending N’oreaster, then I asked how my girl was.

“Good. She liked gymnastics.”

“I know! Great pictures on Facebook.”

“That night when we got home she told me something. You know how she gets sometimes? How she holds things in? But you can tell something is bothering her?”

“Yes…”

“Well she told me, my friends told me Mamãe is dead so her soul really isn’t alive and she can’t really watch over me.”

My heart splintered into a thousand pieces… Tears spilled down my cheeks.

“Oh my God…”

“I told her you can’t believe everything your friends tell you. You have to listen to Papi and Aunty Laurie. Of course Mamãe is watching over you. She will always be with you.

She seemed to listen and then she asked me to read to her from the book Grandpa sent last summer, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory . She hasn’t asked for that in a long time. So I read her a chapter. When I finished she said, but I don’t have a bookmark to use. So I told her we could just use a picture or something.

Then this morning in the mail there was a letter for Terri. We opened it and inside were two bookmarks. They had rainbows and nature pictures on them and they both had Terri’s name on the bottom…

I told her, See??? You asked for a bookmark last night and Mamãe heard you. And it has rainbows on it. Mamãe knows you love rainbows. She is telling you she is watching over you and is always with you.”

At this point I am full out crying and my husband is staring at me from across the room, tears in his eyes as well.

Heron then took the computer downstairs to where Miss M was and she proceeded to tell me the story herself. She held both book marks close up so I could see Terri da Silva in bold print on the bottom.

“Oh my goodness, Marisa!!! That is so from Mamãe!!!! Isn’t she amazing?? See how much she loves you? And it has rainbows just like you love, and nature like you and Mamãe loved to see!”

Then she had me read one of the sayings on the bookmark out loud,

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”

Anonymous

“That is so true, Marisa. That’s like we were talking about two weeks ago when we went to the Children’s Museum. Remember you told me that too much electronics made your brain mush? And I said it didn’t really make it mush for real, but it wasn’t good for it. But what was good for it, and for your heart, was doing things like going to museums and taking nature walks with the people you love. And you said, and like school!”

Then I asked her how she felt when her friend said that to her.

“Sad.”

“I would have felt sad too. And a little mad. That wasn’t a very kind thing to say. I’m so glad you told Papi about it. Your friend was wrong Marisa.”

“I don’t listen to everything she says,” she defended.

“I know. But look how your Mamãe made sure you knew that it wasn’t true. Not one but TWO bookmarks! With her name even!! She will always watch over and love you. You should bring them to your next Cove meeting. Your friends there will understand.”

And with that, she moved on to bigger and better things- a game of memory with Aunty Laurie via Skype…

As we figured out how to digitally play a game of memory, I was reminded just how cruel children can sometimes be. I was taken back to my 8 yr. old self, after my father’s sudden death. I was whisked away to relatives for two weeks, never allowed to attend his services, shooshed whenever I tried to ask questions. I remember feeling like I had the plague when I returned to school, most kids avoiding me at all costs…

I swear the seeds of my career as a social worker were planted right there and then. And I know it is why I was drawn to programs like The Good Grief Program which The Cove Center for Grieving Children is modeled after.

And so, just like that, my faith in the spirit world was restored.

I do believe in spooks, I do, I do, I do believe…

Do you?

Love, Aunty Laurie

Having Fun "feeding" our hearts and brains at the Providence Children's Museum

Having Fun “feeding” our hearts and brains at the Providence Children’s Museum

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I love you so so so so so so so so so so so so…. much

Terri’s been close by these last few weeks. And I’ve been searching for a way to pay homage to her on this first anniversary of the day she left this earth.  In a way that makes sense to a six year old…

As Terri said in her May 30th, 2012 post, “Today is the second anniversary of my mom’s passing. It’s a weird day. You don’t really want to “celebrate” per se. But the day cannot go unrecognized. All day long she has been with me. In my thoughts. In my prayers. In my meditation session. In the James Taylor music that came on the radio. I know she is helping me on this journey. But I still wish she were here in person, alive, to hold me and cheer me through it all. She was always my biggest cheerleader. I miss you mom!”

We miss you too Terri… And we wish you were here in person, alive, to hold Miss M and all of us close…

But somehow, someway, we were able to figure out how to honor this day. For you… With you… Through the guidance you provided…

It all started with my idea to start a new tradition of decorating their Christmas tree on this “anniversary”. Heron loved the idea, and Miss M was up bright and early, eager to start our day.

As she savored her whipped cream decorated oatmeal, we scrolled through photos on my computer, watching video after video of her as a toddler. One captured Miss M, Terri and I preparing for a special surprise anniversary dinner that Miss M and I had created for Terri and Heron. The time was ripe…

“So, you know how people celebrate special days like birthdays and anniversaries? Like you and I did in the video for Mamãe and Papi? Well today is a special day like that.”

“I know we are going to decorate our tree.”

“That’s right! But it’s also the day that Mamãe went to heaven last year. Remember how we used to go to Ptown to remember Nana Canada? We would go to the cemetery and out for ice cream and go out to eat? We used to go on the day Nana Canade went to heaven. We went with Mamãe, Papi, and Grandpa. And Nana Nana and your Aunties. Well today is a day to remember Mamãe and how much she loved you and how much we loved her.”

“Are we going to have a party?”

“Sort of… Jamie’s coming and Aunty Eryka. And we will decorate the tree and then go out in nature like Mamãe loved to do.”

“Ok.”

And that was that…

We prepped the living room. I ran to the grocery store. Jamie arrived and Papi got a fabulous tree. Music filled the house.

And then there were these moments… Like when Miss M lovingly opened the ornaments I bought her last year with pictures of her and Mamãe, and found the perfect spot on the tree for them. Or when Papi lifted her up to place the Nana Canada star at the top of the tree. Or when he took her upstairs to get a surprise for Aunty L- the blue light necklace given to him by hospice last year on the day Terri died. We told Miss M the story again about how Papi came to Dartmouth the day Mamãe died and brought her the blue light. He reminded her it stayed lit for 3 days because that was how long it took for her to get to heaven…

We eventually made our way to the beach. Late in the afternoon, when the sun was just beginning to make its descent. As Miss M made up racing game after racing game for Aunty Eryka and I, Papi quietly spread Terri’s ashes in the ocean. A single seagull sat perched on the jetty.

“He has been sitting there the whole time we were here. He is people watching,” joked Heron.

“If you ask me it’s Terri. She’s been here all along,” I replied. Aunty Eryka tearfully agreed!

As the sun sank into the horizon, Miss M instructed Aunty Eryka and I to put o’s between all the s’s she was making in the sand. They started right after, “I love you”.

“Who is this for?” I asked.

“Mamãe.”

As she made her way farther and farther away, Eryka and I tried to make sense out of what she was doing.

“S.O.S.??”

When we finally reached her, way up near the car, I asked her, “What are you making??”

“I love you so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, much…”

In the end, it was Terri Luanna’s precious daughter, born of the mother love created by Terri, and her mother, Jeanne, before her, who payed the highest homage to her mother.

I will leave you with a slideshow, inspired by a musical visit I received from Terri a few weeks ago.I was driving home one night when the Laura Nyro song, Triple Goddess Twilight, came on my Pandora. The lyrics evoked repeated flashes of our Terri Luanna… And her mother, Jeanne… And daughter, Miss M… Triple Goddesses.

On my ride home tonight I was feeling drained. Empty. I had put Laura Nyro on my Pandora. Suddenly, it came on…

Love, Aunty L

 

 

Happy Birthday Terri Luanna

Today would have been Terri’s 41st birthday…

As I sit here in her home, in the silence, finally taking a moment to process this day, the gratitude I feel for the privilege of accompanying my niece along the remarkable but painfully short journey of her life, is what I keep coming back to. What I have to come back to.

Just look at her…

Our gracefulwomanwarrior in Cairns, Australia @1986

Luanna soaring through the air in  Cairns, Australia @1988

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This quote from Lady Gaga resonates all that is/was Terri-

“I suppose that I didn’t know what I would become, but I always wanted to be extremely brave and I wanted to be a constant reminder to the universe of what passion looks like. What it sounds like. What it feels like.”

From the moment Terri Luanna graced this earth, she was destined to teach us all what passion looks, sounds and feels like. To leave a touchstone, an imprint, on each of our hearts that will forever be ours to keep. One of compassion as well as passion. One of resiliency and grace. Of living life fully.  With integrity. And gusto. And love…

But one of her greatest gift to me, the one that fills the tremendous hole Terri’s death has left in my heart, is her daughter. The magical Miss M.

From the moment Miss M woke my hubby and I this morning, her presence soothed my aching heart. I held back my tears as we snuggled, wishing Mamãe a happy birthday, then my tears gave way to laughter as Marisa and Mark kicked off their morning pillow fight. (Picture an old western arcade game where you shoot at the moving target only this target is dressed in footie pajamas, running back and forth at the bottom of your bed!)

She decided that she wanted Papai to make his special chocolate cake for Mamãe’s birthday and to leave a piece outside in nature for Mamãe and the birds. Once in CT we were greeted by a 5’10” monkey masked Papai and soon after, commenced our cake baking, dance party, spaghetti eating evening.

Finally, it was time to leave our present for Mamãe. Our fearless leader, Miss M, led the charge. Flashlight in hand, she and Papai located the best, most excellent tree for the cake.

Pointing her flashlight up she said, “I want to look for Mamãe in the trees…”

She focused her beam on a large maple between her house and the neighbors.

“She’s definitely in that tree,” she matter of factly informed us. “Because she can watch over us and Kristina.”

Terri incarnate…

The tears did come. Hers and mine. First Marisa’s, as she cried herself to sleep in my arms with Papai sitting along side her.

Then ours. As Papai held me close before going to bed. As I watched Terri’s Life Celebration. As I answered the call from Aunty Cole.

But inevitably, the tears brought me back to the beginning. To the gift I have been so blessed to receive. The imprint of Terri Luanna that will forever be on my heart.

Happy, happy birthday my sweet niece…

Love, Aunty Laurie

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It Takes a Village…

What an amazing weekend.

As soon as Miss M and I got into my car yesterday to head back to CT, Mamãe’s favorite song, “The Happy Song” came on. Naturally, Aunty Laurie “freaked out” (Marisa’s description of my annoyingly exuberant response to life!)

“It’s Mamãe saying, ‘What an awesome weekend you guys!'” I shouted above the now blaring music.

Marisa’s face beamed as she bopped to the exact song we played for Terri at our surprise 40th birthday celebration on the eve of Terri’s fateful trip to Chicago.

Terri and Miss M busting out their moves to "The Happy Song" Oct. 2014

Terri and Miss M busting out their moves to “The Happy Song”, Oct. 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the song ended, I locked eyes with Marisa in my rear view mirror. “Mamãe visited Papai this weekend too you know! It wasn’t in the form of a song, but I can’t tell you cuz it’s a surprise!”

The look I’ve come to recognize as her “Terri look” appeared. My heart contracts every time it happens. I feel Marisa’s heart opening to the presence of her mother. I recognize it because my heart does the exact same thing. I push back the tears that threaten to overflow.

From the moment I arrived in Marisa’s 1st grade classroom on Friday, I was viscerally aware of a seeming shift in her aura. The warmth with which her teacher, Mrs. H, welcomed me to join in the scarecrow making and birthday celebration for one of Marisa’s classmates matched the positivity exuding from Miss M. Hearing her teacher mouth to me, “She seems so happy,” filled my heart.

The loving energy continued in my kitchen, Taylor Swift playing on the stereo, as Marisa methodically created a spectacularly spooky poster for her cousin Jamie.

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It compelled Uncle Markie and cousin Andrew to join Marisa and I for her first viewing of the “Wizard of Oz”.

It put smile after smile on the faces of her aunties, uncles, cousins, great aunt and great grandmother as we made an appearance at each of their homes on Saturday, and continued into Sunday after a sleep over with Jamie and Lala.

Hay ride with my BFF!

Hay ride with my BFF!

Love you Sophie Luanna!

Love you Sophie Luanna!

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Selfie with Aunty Eryka

Selfie with Aunty Eryka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin decorating with Katie!

Pumpkin decorating with Katie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the culminating moment arrived late Sunday night. Although Heron had already moved me to tears earlier in the day with his preview of the gift he had lovingly created over the weekend for his beloved daughter (with Terri’s help, he told me), it didn’t prepare me for the wellspring of love and loss it evoked when I watched this video on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/heron.dasilva.79/videos/870378186345411/

You see, it truly does take a village…

And how incredibly lucky are we, the inhabitants of our gracefulwomanwarrior’s village, to be graced with Terri Luanna’s indelible presence through the gift that is her magical daughter?

Love,

Aunty Laurie

Silence is not golden…

Here at Terri’s, cleaning up the kitchen, and the silence is so thick you could cut it with a knife. I feel as if it is choking me. My throat aches as it fights to temper the tears.

I’m standing where Terri should be standing. Where Terri should be washing her own dishes. With two working arms. Swaying to the rhythms of Jay Z. Reviewing her day. Planning her tomorrow.

But instead it is me standing here at her sink. Feeling the incredibly heavy, seemingly insurmountable weight of grief. Of anger. Of silence.

I hate fucking cancer.

I hate that it has taken away Miss M’s mother. Heron’s wife. Spider’s daughter. My niece. Jamie’s “big sister”. I hate that Marisa’s eyes were swollen tonight from crying this afternoon for her Mamãe. That Heron was exhausted from trying to balance housework, laundry, and grocery shopping with entertaining his little girl. That Terri isn’t here to take Marisa school shopping tomorrow for just the right back pack. Just the right lunch box. Just the right sassy outfit for the first day of first grade this week.

Grief is a many layered phenomenon. Just when you think you have taken it by the horns, it sneaks up and pierces your heart.

But tonight, for one incredibly powerful moment, we regained our hold. As Heron, Marisa, Jamie and I sat around the table after dinner, Heron noticed the humidity monitor read 77 three times; simultaneously.

“Quick, make a wish! All the numbers are the same. You are supposed to make a wish!” exclaimed Papai.

I squeezed my eyes tight, wishing for happiness for Heron and Miss M. I cried, “I hope mine comes true!”

“Mine will probably take a long time,” Marisa said somewhat solemnly.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because it’s so far away and there’s two.”

“Which two?” Papai asked.

She looked at each of us, hesitated for the briefest of moments and said, “Mamãe and Nana.”

“I thought that’s who you were wishing about,” I said, smiling conspiratorially. She smiled back. “Why will it take so long?”

“Because I have to go to heaven. And it’s far away.”

“Ahhh,” Papai said, “Maybe you will see them tonight in your dreams,” he coaxed, with that loving twinkle in his eyes.

“Will there be lots of candy in your heaven?” Jamie asked, giving Miss M that Jamie look that always elicits a smile.

Sure enough, a huge smile spread across Marisa’s face. “Yup!” she gleefully exclaimed.

She grabbed hold of the wooden centerpiece, “FAMILY”.

“That’s right Miss M, we are family. I got all my nieces, daughters, son-in-law’s with me!” I sang, Jamie rolling her eyes at her zany mother.

And with that, we filled the silence. With our love. With our connection. With our shared pain. And tomorrow Jamie and I will fill Miss M’s silence with the best shopping spree ever. And in two weeks, Jamie will fill the silence by taking Miss M to her second, count them, second concert. This time it’s One Direction. Time will tell if they beat out Miss M’s first concert, Taylor Swift! And we will continue to do our best to fill the silence. To take it by its horns.

I invite you to do the same. Here on Terri’s blog. With each other.

And most importantly, with Heron and Marisa, who need our help filling their silence the most.

Love,
Aunty Laurie

We Are Family...

We Are Family…

Paying It Forward

 

Terri at Blowout 2014

Terri at Blowout 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hard to believe a year has passed since our beloved Warrior was the honoree of Blowout 2014. Such love. Such generosity. Such hope.

This year it was our turn to pay it forward. For Terri and for this year’s recipient, 10 yr. old Braiden, diagnosed  with juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma, a type of brain tumor.

Like Terri, Braiden exudes positivity despite battling seemingly endless health challenges. Like Terri, his love of life radiates from his being. And like Terri, he and his family were blown away by the love. The generosity. The hope. The Blowout organizers and volunteers once again brought together a community to make a profound difference in a family’s life.

Although this year was particularly painful for us, our grief was tempered by none other than Terri herself.

On the day before the Blowout, Heron sent me this video, Terri Blowout 2015 . My heart ached watching my girl; alive, fighting the fight, wowing the crowd with her inspirational spirit.

I left for yoga after having a good cry and half way through the class, Terri literally “embraced” me. One second I was in down dog, then after rising to mountain pose, I swear I felt her presence enfold me. Tears spilled from my eyes as I “held” her to me, welcoming that achingly familiar but seemingly elusive sensation that I have come to recognize as Terri’s spirit.

When I reached my car, there was a text from her childhood friend, Amy. At the same time I was practicing yoga, Amy was driving to western Massachusetts. So overcome was she with missing Terri, she pulled off the highway. She told me she was wishing she believed in “signs”, like Heron and I, when suddenly, a woman walked in front of her car who looked just like Terri. She shrugged it off and got out of the car to find the bathroom. Walking by two different vendors, their tables were filled with “I love New York” trinkets. She smiled, feeling the “signs” from her best friend hitting her over the head! Once in the bathroom she realized there was no toilet paper. The person next to her was kind enough to assist. Opening the door, she realized her savior was none other than the woman who looked just like Terri…

Later that day I got a text from Aunty Cole. I had sent her a card a month or two earlier that was returned. So I fixed the address and sent it off again and she had just received it. Aunty Cole described experiencing a plaguing, free floating anxiety connected to the loss of her best friend. And then my card arrived.  Just when she needed it the most.

On the same day Heron sent me the video. The same day I felt Terri in yoga. The same day Amy experienced her own “signs”…

Terri knew The Blowout was going to be a bittersweet day for us so she found a way to validate that attending was exactly what we needed to do.

It was beautiful. It was painful. It was necessary.

And Terri did what she always did best. Her timeless lessons of love and living life large streamed through in Marisa’s smiling face as she and her BFF Jillian rode the pony and climbed the rock wall, touched our hearts through Aunty Dori, cousin Ian and Jenna’s powerful music, and shone brightly within the 360 degree rainbow that appeared in the sky.

Her message was loud and clear. Live. Love. Dream. Hope. And most importantly, embrace each and every opportunity to join together and honor her spirit, so that it will never, ever, die.

Love, Aunty Laurie

Papai and Miss M

Papai and Miss M

The second generation of BFF's- Miss M and Amy's daughter, Jillian

The second generation of BFF’s- Miss M and Amy’s daughter, Jillian

 

 

 

 

 

Aunty Dori, Jenna, Ian and Danny

Aunty Dori, Jenna, Ian and Danny

Terri sent rainbow

Terri sent rainbow

Aint no mountain high enough!

Aint no mountain high enough! Go Marisa!

Visit From Terri

Chatham Labyrinth

Chatham Labyrinth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know I said the last entry would be the last, but I just couldn’t keep what happened today to myself… I mean, shit like this just doesn’t happen. But those of you who knew and loved Terri know that when it comes to Terri, shit like this does happen. And it’s important to share. And to believe.

Believe in what? In miracles. That if we open ourselves, if we “listen”, if we “show up”, as my sister Jeanne used to say, that miracles do happen.

I’m in Chatham, Massachusetts, celebrating the 25th year of my annual GWA (Girls’ Weekend Away). My sacred girlfriend retreat. The one Terri joined us for the first time in year 13.

This year is special for so many reasons. Chatham is actually where my grief journey began. When I was 8 years old. When my then 16 year-old sister Jeanne told me my 42 year-old father had just died.

And Chatham is where I’ve come all these years later to heal my newest wounds. My newest layer of loss.

So when I saw that Pilgrim”s Landing: Provisions For The Spiritual Traveler (http://pilgrimslandingcapecod.com), was offering a guided Labyrinth walk, my girlfriends and I  “showed up” to walk. Both Terri and Jeanne had passionately spoken to me about their transformative labyrinth journeys, but in all my 58 years, I had never experienced one.

As I entered, I set an intention to honor my sister and my niece.

The tears fell as I put one foot in front of the other along the stone path, feeling their presence enfold me. Feeling a profound sense of loss.

Then, I literally was lost. I had lost my way on the path. Suddenly, my friend Diane appeared. Our eyes locked and once again, I was found… I turned and joined her, following her footsteps. Connected once again.

Later, our guide spoke about metaphors evoked by this mindful experience, and I realized that my girlfriends have always been there to guide me, to hold me, to walk with me through this journey we call life. They’ve always “showed up”. For me, and for Terri.

Tonight, I Skyped with Heron and Marisa. After we caught up on this weeks highlights, Heron said, “I saw that picture you posted yesterday on Facebook of the labyrinth.”

I excitedly told him and Marisa about how amazing it was and that I totally felt Terri and Jeanne’s presence and love.

Heron said, “Marisa walked a labyrinth yesterday too…”

“What???” I asked incredulously. “She what???”

“She walked a labyrinth too,” he said, smiling. “When I went to pick her up at day care she took my hand and showed me a labyrinth she had created out of wood chips. And she wanted me to walk it so I did. We both did. And then when I got home I saw your picture.”

“Oh my God!” I exclaimed, goose bumps tingling along my arms. “It was Terri. It was a visit from Mamãe, Marisa!”

And the three of us just smiled at each other from ear to ear, basking in the loving warmth of this gift. This miracle.

I mean, what are the chances? On the exact same day? At almost the exact same time?

Miracles do happen.

So please listen for them. Search for them. Believe in them.

I know I will.

Love,

Aunty Laurie