In Grandma’s Words


While the last week has been filled with emotions ranging from laughter to tears, I’ve had one thing to keep me grounded through it all. More than three years before my grandma died, she wrote a poem to my sister and I to remind us of how her passing is not necessarily an end. I am so thankful to her for writing these words . . .

And so my dears
my time is near

Please no tears
and have no fear

I know where I’ll be
you will be, too

In the meantime
we’ll rely on memories
We have many of them
and I know they’ll pop up

I hate to go
I love you so
Remember me,
I’ll come to you
Just stay aware
for I’ll be there
Listen with your heart

Sunbeams in a Wisconsin Sky Photo by: c.b.w. 2005

Sunbeams in a Wisconsin Sky
Photo by: c.b.w. 2005

– – –

Today we say goodbye to Grandma, but not really. She said she’d always be around and I believe her.

– – –

c.b.w. 2012

Things My Grandma Taught Me


Something I’ve learned over the last couple of days is that there is no right way to grieve. I’ll cry, but it doesn’t feel right because I don’t think my Grandma wants me to be sad. I’ve never been very comfortable with talking to people face to face about anything this personal, so that outlet is also off the table. At the same time, I want to heal and I want to celebrate all the wonderful things about my Grandma.

Then, I realized that I should use the only outlet that’s ever worked for me: Writing. Within a day of her passing, I posted a poem and wrote a small note about how I was feeling. That small act brought me immense comfort (as did the comments that followed), so I’ve decided to let my creativity serve as my way to grieve. Words have always been my savior and using them to heal is fitting seeing as my Grandma was also a writer.

Over the next few days, I’m going to let my memory run wild and record little things my Grandma said along with some of the wonderful things she taught me over the years. As her memorial service approaches, I am certain my sorrow will deepen, but so will the joy of loving her.

– – –

I spent many happy summers with my grandparents in Northern Wisconsin. Amid the thick forests and beautiful lakes, I learned how to find contentment in the simplest things, while also opening my eyes to the awe of nature.

Near Boulder Junction, Wisconsin Photo by: c.b.w. 2005

Near Boulder Junction, Wisconsin
Photo by: c.b.w. 2005

Both of my grandparents instilled a love of the Northwoods, but Grandma taught me a few specific things I will never forget:

  • Don’t forget to listen to the birds sing.
  • How to pick the best blueberries and blackberries, (my short story Blueberry Hunt was inspired by these memories).
  • “Clumping” for daisies. (When you find wild daisies growing along the side of the road, it’s possible to dig them up and plant them in your yard if you get enough of the roots)
  • Pansies have faces that smile if you know how to look at them.
  • Don’t run on a wet pier.
  • Snapping turtles don’t let go if they bite.
  • Always take your jewelry off when you go swimming. There was a tree by the lake that had a perfect branch for hanging rings. One year, I left a ring on that branch and it stayed there for an entire winter. By the next summer, it was still there!
  • That weird bellowing sound from the shore is a bullfrog.
  • Don’t forget to look at the stars and make a wish.
  • It’s okay to get your hands dirty – dig in the mud, play with toads, and roll in the leaves!
  • Always check for ticks after taking a walk in the woods, (and check the dog, too).
  • Don’t go swimming when there’s lightening.
  • If you’re going to have a house in the woods, don’t cut down all the trees so you can put in a lawn of grass.  Let the trees be your landscaping.
  • It’s really fun if you shout something while jumping off the pier.
  • You can never have too many pictures of sunsets.
Little Gibson Lake, Near Boulder Junction Wisconsin. It's one of my Grandma's favorite places. Photo by: c.b.w. 2005

Little Gibson Lake, Near Boulder Junction Wisconsin. It’s one of my Grandma’s favorite places.
Photo by: c.b.w. 2005

– – –

c.b.w. 2012

At Peace


Blue release
sandy shores
Soul’s retreat
hushed lagoon
Zephyr sighs
palm trees sway
Tranquil breath,

Bora Bora, French Polynesia Photo by: c.b.w. 2001

Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Photo by: c.b.w. 2001

– – –

When I wrote this poem earlier this week, I had no idea just how much it would mean to me by today. Yesterday morning my Grandma passed away, but as the tears fall I know she is truly at peace. Through the grief, the same peace sits quietly inside of my heart. While I miss her, the love she gave me and the memories I have of her will always be part of me.

This is for you, Grandma. I can already feel you watching from above. I love you. xoxo

– – –

c.b.w. 2012

Let Me Live


The small plane lurches forward as it skids to a halt on the tarmac.  The airport is just as I remember – quaint and unassuming with one terminal, one gate, and no Jetway.  It feels strange to be here without Anthony by my side.  He would always joke that he couldn’t find his way around such a huge airport.  It made me laugh every time.

I make my way out to the parking lot and find my rental car parked in the back row.  It doesn’t feel right when I sit behind the steering wheel instead of in the passenger’s seat.  He always drove.  My breath catches and my hands fall into my lap.  I can’t do this, but . . . I must.  I promised him I would.   Shaking my head, I fiddle with my wedding ring and spin it round and round my finger.  The simple gold band hasn’t left my hand since he gave it to me ten years ago.  Meanwhile, his ring clings loosely to my thumb.  That’s where he put it right before he said, “Promise me you’ll say goodbye.”  Moments after I made my vow, he closed his eyes and never opened them again.  That was three years ago and I have yet to keep my word.  I put the car in gear and start driving.

It takes more than an hour to get to the small town of Boulder Junction.  Nothing has changed.  A golden retriever still sits outside the bait shop and tourists crowd around the one and only ice cream shop.  Anthony loved the dog, but hated the ice cream.  I can’t help but smile.  It’s been a long while since I’ve thought of the little things I loved about him.  I wonder what he would remember about me if our places were reversed.

Before I know it, the town is behind me and an empty road lies ahead.  The edge of Anthony’s ring digs into my skin and my knuckles are white.  I’m holding the steering wheel too tight, but I can’t ease my grip.  In this familiar place, the memories are coming back faster than I can handle them.  I have to keep telling myself this is something I need to do.

I know I’m getting close when the blacktop ends and the dirt road begins.  The cabin is the last one at the end of the road, right where the wild daisies start to grow.  I reserved it for the weekend, but I will be leaving as soon as my deed is done.  It looks exactly the same, complete with a red porch swing and screen door.  This is where we met.   I had just graduated high school when my father rented this cabin for a family vacation.  As fate would have it, Anthony and his parents were our neighbors.  One warm June day he paddled his canoe up to our pier, where I was soaking up the sun.  The moment I saw him, I knew.  And so did he.  It seems fitting to say goodbye where it all began.

A twig snaps beneath my step – another fracture in it’s already broken life. It’s tempting to pick up the splintered remains, but I keep walking down the familiar twisted path that leads to the lake.  He was with me last time I tread these grounds.  It was years ago, but all is the same.  The birch bark still peels on landmark trees, while a cloud obscured sun can’t break through a thick dome of leaves.

Even the lake sits as it always has —  a bucket of water waiting to catch the sky should it fall.  A light mist lays low in the reeds like a gossamer veil.  If only that delicate blanket would wrap around my shoulders with its gentle embrace.  A slightly chilled breeze brings news that rain is on the way.  It won’t be long before scores of droplets begin their descent.  A collage of gray, white, and green paints the top of the water; the wind a giant paintbrush stroking the canvas.  Soft bristles tickle the water into gentle waves, weaving life and color together with mystical grace.  Where the waves meet their fate waits a promise that an ending is not always meant to fear.  The trees sway to a mysterious tune, while a woodpecker thumps the beat. The old pier creaks and rocks, the wooden planks weary, yet eager to bear my weight.  It’s the same pier that held us for our first kiss and I’m reminded that I’ll never be able to kiss him again.  The buzz of a fly sounds a little alarm that anger tarnishes beauty and steals from faith.  I close my eyes and find my strength.  If I am to survive, I must release the grief  that chokes my will.  Let it sink and dissolve, no longer part of me.

A distant thunder rolls, but does not threaten.  The rain is coming, but shall not drench.  Chiming leaves and whispering pines speak to me with a soothing voice, suddenly having more to say than a soul-quieting lullaby.  There is a reason to keep breathing.  I slide my wedding ring off my finger and his from my thumb.  My hand feels naked and lighter, my finger instantly longs for what’s missing.   I tie our rings together with a bit of string.  I kiss them with farewell on my lips, for this is where we part ways.  It doesn’t take long to find the maple tree that witnessed everything from the first hello to the first “I love you.”  From a small branch, I hang our joined rings.  They may stay there forever or fall tomorrow, but they will always be together.  Knowing this, I can keep my promise.

c.b.w. 2005

– – –

c.b. 2012