Since Drew was a helicopter pilot, helicopters and anything to do with flying are always the biggest signs I get from him. I even found a tiny toy helicopter in this shack on the island of Barbados last spring while vacationing there with his family. It had washed up on the beach and the guy collected it to sell in his shop. No joke!
And just a few months after he died, in the fall of 2012, I stumbled upon this artist's creative business e-workshop that was called "Flying Lessons". Drew was also a flight instructor, so it was all too obvious that he was telling me something. I signed up immediately. The Facebook group for the course truly carried me through those early months. Because of the theme of the class, all the women in the group would write cheesy encouragements to each other like "keep flying!" or "I'll see you up in the clouds!". It always made me smile, and confirmed he lead me there for a reason.
All things flight definitely seem to follow me around now, but it's been a while since I've had any signs that made me stop in my tracks. Until yesterday…
I was tinkering away on a new sculpture at a local clay studio I just started working with. It was midday and pretty cold, so the place was empty. After about an hour, I took a break to take some process photos of my work, and as I framed the picture, I noticed something written on the worktable just a foot above where I was working. As I read it, I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor…
Last night just before going to bed, for some reason I felt called to go back through some really old journal entries from the years leading up to when I met Drew. I don't always pay attention to those little cues, but last night for whatever reason I did.
I smiled to read some of the entries about our first days together... about how safe and natural and trusting it all felt. How much fun we had together. The adventures we went on, like sky diving and hot air ballooning. But where I ended up reading more - and where my truth really was - was a bit different.
I've been going back over a lot of my old journal entries lately and picked one out to share a part of. For some years now I have been doing this inner-child dialogue technique... Basically having a conversation with that deepest, most vulnerable (and sometimes most wounded) part of myself by asking her questions and allowing her to share until I get to the real root of some emotions.
I know. It sounds WEIRD. And at first it felt really weird to do, but the results have always been profound at revealing some very deep emotions that I can never seem to get to so clearly any other way.
This entry was in Nov 2012, just a few months after he died:
Today I read a beautiful article that really got me thinking. During a commercial photo shoot for a show on the Oprah Network - near the end of the shoot - one of the actors requested the photographer to take a few more shots for him. As he stepped back onto the backdrop, the actor began to sob. The photographer captured about a dozen or so shots before finally feeling uncomfortable with remaining uninvolved and then walked around the camera to give the man a hug. The actor went on to tell him that his father had died that day, and he had just gotten the phone call while on their lunch break during the shoot. He had been holding it in all day - without anyone knowing - and finally, at the end of the day, he just wanted someone to record what he was going through. The images are beautiful… I have shared one below.
As a photographer, and as a human being, this story touched my heart and really got me thinking. I have taken many many self portraits since Drew died… and the vast majority of them seem to end up being on my phone while at the cemetery (including the two below). I don't know why I do this, but nearly every time I am there, in the quiet space where his body lay, far out in the countryside, I seem compelled to get out the camera and look back in at myself. I want to see myself going through it. I want to capture it - all of it - the pain, the tears, the anguish. I want to have a conversation with myself and explore it from a different point, from a point where I am suddenly outside looking in on that moment. I don't know why, but I want that. I'm guessing a lot of us for one reason or another want to capture the pain in some way. After all, even pain is sacred… especially sacred.Read more
I've been in a clay workshop for the past few days, and its mostly been a heck of a lotta fun. Each say we have worked with a different teacher, making sculptures, dinnerware, decorated tiles, and learning alternative techniques for firing clay (examples in the picture above!) It's been a whirlwind of new and exciting creative ideas for me, especially since I haven't actually worked with clay since I took a ceramics class back in college about eight years ago. Making things has been one of the most powerful ways for me to cope with my emotions since my fiance died. I was excited to start off a new year with something healing and grounding.
Of course as happens sometimes when I take the chance to insert myself back into the world of the living, I was slapped in the face rudely with my reality, and the fact that other people have a different reality... The one I wanted to have. Over lunch at the workshop, while sitting outside on the porch enjoying the beautiful warm weather we have in Texas this week, all the women around me started to talk about their husbands. And worse than talk... Brag. About how they fix things around the house, and cook dinners, and help with the wives' businesses. Then one of the women my age, around her early 30's, introduces her husband who happens to be dropping off these mountainous apple pies that he made from scratch and delivered to us for dinner tonight. Aaaand that did it. Cue the breakdown.
In 2012, when his death was so fresh, I needed to talk. About the pain, the fear, the agony, the anger, the loss, the accident, the future we will not have, the children we won't raise, the wedding we won't share… all of it. I wanted to crawl out of my skin with all the pain. I talked and cried almost every single day to someone about my pain. I talked to everyone. Even inappropriately so.
No literally… I have told my story - complete with shameless tears - to perfect strangers. Including customers at the gallery I worked at, a seamstress I had hemming a pair of pants for me, and my masseuse. Really anyone was prey to my grief attacks for about a year there. Sometimes it ended up weird or awkward, but most of the time, it didn't.
Most of the time, it would allow them to share something really vulnerable in their life (the seamstress it turns out was a widow herself many years back, and has since remarried to a wonderful man), or help them simply feel honored that I would trust them enough to share. Almost every time, we both ended up in tears and hugging each other. It turns out, it doesn't really matter if we know each other - we can all give that exchange to one another just by listening and honoring one another where we are.Read more
I've had a particularly hard couple of weeks lately. Not only has there been Christmas and the 18 month mark since he died, but throw in a trip to Dallas where we lived together, his younger brother graduating from college, my idiotic attempt to start a pretty strict new diet and workout regimen (beginning a week before Thanksgiving, really Sarah??) and the still impending nerviness of the gallery I work at closing in just 2 weeks... and it's no wonder I've had a total and complete meltdown.Read more
I knew when I decided to love you
fully, with all of my cells
that I was risking everything.
I knew you were human
and that you might die
younger than either of us wanted.
I still chose to love all of you
with all of me.
He died on a Tuesday. I can still remember screaming those animal sounds into the phone, tones I'd never heard come out of myself. Deep, guttural defiances... yelled at his dad on the other end of the line – every cell of me rejecting the words from his broken voice, “No baby, he's not okay...” The room is spinning. I remember flashes only. I remember pacing like a caged animal in the shock of it all, and coming back to the bedside where I stared at one of those old-timey pictures of us on the wall, in a teal frame, which I'd hung only days earlier. Suddenly, I am in the hallway, down on my knees, screaming still. Then on the floor, in the bedroom, calling my best friends, the first words I say, over & over, “You have to come over. You HAVE to come over!” followed by barely breathing words, “It's Drew. He was in a crash...... he... didn't make it...” I am lost in space. Gasping. Grasping at anything I can, but nothing exists. I am plummeting through an empty black void – a vast nothing. It is somewhere not earthly. In the explosive event of his death, I have left my body too. It is 8pm, June 12, 2012. I am 29 years old. And the love of my life, my future husband, is dead.Read more
A big hello to everyone here at Soaring Spirits and Widow's Voice on my debut post. I'm incredibly honored and humbled to have been asked to join this team. I hope that we can help each other to feel heard, honored, and loved for exactly where we are in these years of tears. I've been a writer all my life in some form, but this is the first time I've ever written anywhere but my own pages. It means a great deal to me. So I thank you for reading! With that said, I will begin...Read more