Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

May 21, 2013

We Are Not There, Where We Died

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 7:48 pm

Today was the day.  The last day.  The only one left. 

Every year, when my Mom’s lilacs bloom, I bring some to her grave.   Usually they bloom around Mother’s Day but I’ve long since given up taking them there on that day.  Only reduces me to puddles.

So today was the last day the lilacs were alive.  I was tired and it was late in the day.  Hot.  Rush hour traffic.  Long drive with no air conditioning. 

But I went.

I found my parents’ grave marker.  Like every spring before this one, covered in dirt.  Grass and weeds creeping and climbing over the edges. 

I always cut back the weeds.  I trim the grass.  I wash the headstone down.  I tell myself that next time I will remember to bring the gold foil paint and touch up some of the spots that have faded over the years. 

I cry a little.  Memories return, ones I don’t like. Memories of their funerals, flashes and splashes that I normally don’t revisit. 

Today I realized that I talk to my parents every day.  I was looking down at that grave marker thinking to myself, “They’re not there.  They’re not there where they died.”

And neither are we.

I’ve been asked over the years why I blog when I have a book published.  Blogs don’t make money. At least mine doesn’t.  Ha.

I write now because I’m not there.  I’m not there where I died. 

And neither are you.

There is more to the story.  More pages, more chapters, more life. Hopefully a little more savvy, a little more perspective, a little more depth.

My parents aren’t there where they died.  They are more than just what happened to them. They visit me in my dreams.  They laugh and they smile and they show me things that are not of this world.   Their voices I hear in my body.  In my heart.  Their lessons and traditions and stories dance freely through my life. 

They aren’t there where they died.  I only clean up their grave markers because I can hear my Mom still in my head and my heart, getting after me to pick up my clothes.  To clean my room.  To wash the dishes.  To run the vacuum.

I clean their grave markers simply out of respect.  Because I think maybe they’d want a clean grave marker.  Not because I believe they are there, where they died.

When I visit them in that cemetery, my thoughts go back to their funerals.  To sad things and bad things.  Making awful decisions and choosing this and choosing that.  Flowers and caskets and menus and hymns and clothes for them to wear to their funerals.

I realized today that, every other day, my memories of them are alive and full of life and light and happiness.

I couldn’t go to the cemetery every day.  It would be too much to feel the feelings of such painful times every day. I’d never choose to return to the awful days again and again. Every day.  Every day. Every day. I wouldn’t bring a sleeping bag or pitch a tent.  I wouldn’t forward my mail there.

I don’t want to be there every day.

For those of us with brain injury, whose lives ended as they were.  As we lived them.  As we knew….

We can’t pitch a tent back there.  We can’t forward our mail backwards.  We can’t bring a sleeping bag.

We aren’t there anymore.  We aren’t there, where we died.

I went to my niece’s tee ball game last Saturday and I took pictures.  I will take pictures at my nephew’s game next week. 

I take pictures because….

Because Charlie has braces now.  Because they’re taller now.  Because their uniforms have changed.  Their skills have changed.  Their personalities continue to develop. They continue to learn things I enjoy them sharing.

Because things change. 

That’s why I write a blog. 

There’s a need to get it all down in pictures and words, in feelings and moments and exchanges.  

There’s a need to earmark the moments of our lives so that every day, every year, is not the same as the one before.

Like death.

We are not there, where we died.  Not where we got divorced.  Not where we got arrested.  Not where we got fired.  Not where we got broken-hearted or foreclosed upon or bullied or slighted or forgotten….

Or brain injured.

Sometimes it’s hard to move on because we’ve gotten so good at the loss.  We’ve gotten it down pat.  We have songs to play that capture that time.  We have special food to eat that warms and comforts us.  We have certain movies we watch or cigs or alcohol or pills or pot to help ease that idle. 

We are comfortable remaining there, decorating that time with the throw pillows of the familiar. 

But the whole world moves on.  With or without us. Today we pray for Moore, Oklahoma.  Already we have stopped talking about the Boston Bombing.  Or Super Storm Sandy.  Or Hurricane Katrina.

Life keeps going.

And though the price of living is, in part, suffering losses, we have to allow ourselves to move on without guilt or regret or despair. 

I decided to leave the bad memories at the cemetery and return, not there every day, but back to the great life that I’m living. The sadness will always be there when I visit. 

But I’m not going to pitch a tent.

By its very definition, life is not death.  Life is life. Life is for the living.

We are not there, where we died.  

We are here.  We are here.  We here.


May 10, 2013

Happy Mother’s Day, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 12:11 am

I think there’s a quote out there somewhere like this but I’ve often thought this myself.   I wonder if mothers sometimes think to themselves, “I had all these plans for my kids.  I bore them and raised them and sacrificed for them so they could grow up to be this and that and to make all these fabulous dreams come true…and then they go mess everything up by living their own lives.”  Ha.

We are often both our mother’s worst fear and greatest hope at the same time.  We hate to fail, to hurt, to stumble… because our mothers are so close to us and in us that we cause them our pain.

No easy gig, being a mom.  It’s hard to tame the Spring breeze, to quiet the magic of the morning sun rising…It’s hard to take the broadest night sky full of the countless stars and planets….and get it to sit still for one blasted minute while you get its arms through the arm holes and get its hair combed.

To every true mother, their child is every ounce of who they are topped with every grand imagination of who they once might have been.  Their kids are living, breathing legacies which echo back with soft comfort for the million and one dinners of scraps on abandoned plates, the sore backs from unforgiving bleachers, the socks on the floor and the homework reminders.  

Their kids are miracles with dirty ankles.  Validation of every sacrifice they never fussed to count. 

Being a mother is a tough job.  There are no raises.  No promotions except maybe to “Grand” mother one day.  The “Grand” mother promotion seems to get you the same love and enjoyment with fewer frustrations and heartbreaks. 

But being a Mother is a job.   A tough one.  Though some enter lightly, no good ones ever emerge without some battle scars along the way.   Too often kids don’t mature quickly enough.  They don’t realize right away.  They don’t stop long enough to even consider.

My hope for you this Mother’s Day is that you will enjoy your child’s awakening-whether they are young enough still to watch them so sweetly sleep or they are old enough for it to dawn on them just what a fabulous woman you are….

May you be gifted with a child’s awakening, after you sleep in for once.  😉 

Have a great weekend, Moms.


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