Saturday, November 14, 2015

Picking Up The Pieces

Where do I begin?  How does one deal with tragedy after extreme happiness? Most people prefer the company of others.  I need space to breathe.  And I did a lot of birding alone in nearby locations to pull myself together. It is my coping strategy for sad moments.  

American Wigeons
It took me a couple weeks to process what had all happened.  The wedding.  And then the funeral. Why??!!!!  She was so young!

If Aunt Deborah had stayed in Arizona and not come to Colorado for our wedding, would she still be alive today?  My last words to her in Estes Park were, "I love you."  I then gave her a big hug.  When I did, I could see that she was very sick. She was frail and had lost a lot of weight over the past month. Whatever it was, it was much more serious than we had thought. 

Lesser Scaup
It had been two months since we last saw her.  She had been going to the doctors during that time to try and figure out what was going on with her health.  At the time, she didn't know if she would make it to Colorado.  But for Deborah, it wasn't a discussion. She'd be there. Period. 

My mother-in-law and her sister Deborah.  They were inseparable and always there for one another

In fact, she has ALWAYS been there for her family.  When her 5 grandchildren's lives were in jeopardy, she, along with her sister, saved them from their "mother", Deborah's estranged daughter. As a single woman on a very tight budget, she raised FIVE kids with the help of her sister.  When I first met her years ago, I had nothing but admiration for this incredible woman. She had a heart of gold. The best kind of person one could ever know. 

Female American Wigeon
Deborah was a strong woman who survived an abusive husband. After she left him, she went back to school and got herself an education in the pharmaceutical world. When her now disgraced daughter began a life of prostitution, drugs and crime, both the sisters stepped in and took legal custody of the kids. It was a tough love with her grandchildren....but it was love. She sacrificed so much for them so that they could live a good life free from the troubles of her daughter's poor life decisions. There is no question about how much she loved her grandkids.  She wouldn't say it out loud.  She would blow it off and make a joke about it all with a couple foul words.  But there wasn't anything funny about the sincerity and kindness of this woman. Actions definitely spoke louder than words with Aunt Deborah.

At at birthday party years ago, Deborah lights the candles for one of the many birthday parties. 
Deborah was very humble and deflected any compliment a person would give her.  Those who really knew her, saw her for who she really was. In the last couple years, Deborah began to live again and opened her heart up to another person.  It took a long time but she really loved this guy and he loved her back. Of course, she wouldn't say it out loud, but we saw how happy she was. I mean really really happy. She started smiling again which was a shocking new facial feature for all of us:)  I've known her for 11 years and the last two years were some of her best. To see her grin again made her family very happy. Everyone deserves this feeling, but not everyone is fortunate enough to experience it. 

Reid park near my home
Going back to the Colorado situation. On their drive back to Arizona, Deborah began experiencing breathing issues.  Once they arrived home that evening, her boyfriend forced her to go to the hospital where she stopped breathing.  She was put on life support, but it was too late. 

Gilded Flicker
Meanwhile, the rest of the family was trying to scramble back to Arizona from Colorado.  As we drove down, we blew out our tire at 80 miles an hour!  We were stranded near the New Mexico border for an evening, but we were happy that nothing worse had happened. Strangely, we spent the entire morning searching for a rare tire, not a bird, in the town of Trinidad.  We were finally able to locate just one well used tire on that very stressful morning. It got us home but not in time to be by Deborah's side. 

Agua Caliente Park
When we got to the house, there were relatives already there. At the Buddhist ceremony, we all joined together in a mass chant. The chants were loud, painful and fast. Over and over and over again. Louder and stronger it went as the Buddhist Sangha lead us through our pain. It was very healing as we all let out our inner emotion. I was so glad to be a part of my new family for this time period. 

Mute Swan
Some pray.  And others will chant. I tend to escape to the outdoors and quietly walk alone for times of reflection.  

It's a complicated thing processing true happiness and then extreme sadness. But that's life, isn't it?  It's the journey we all have to make. 

In Scottsdale
During our wedding and during Deborah's farewell, I saw the beauty and power of nature around me.  It speaks to me in ways I can't even explain. It's my church, my temple, my synagogue, and my mosque all in one. IT is my faith. The photo below was taken after the funeral on a private walk in Sierra Vista.  I had a random thought of Bob Ross and Deborah together and laughed at that strange image. 

near the San Pedro River, Sierra Vista
This post is dedicated to you Auntie Deborah. Your presence will be missed here.  Do not worry about your grandchildren. They will be loved and well cared for. And you are loved Deborah more than you could ever know. I know I know. You hate compliments and would probably say something sassy back to us.  But it's that sassy part we loved about you. It let us know that you loved us back. You will never be forgotten. 

Here is a photo of Deborah's family.  When I first met Micheal, they were all little kids.  Today most of them have grown up and one is married!  Her legacy will live on within each of these kids. 
I'll be back soon blogger friends.  It just has taken me time to get back on my feet and process everything that has happened.  Writing is therapeutic for me and it helps me organize my thoughts. I'll be back soon with my upcoming projects for the final part of this year. 


  1. I am so sorry to hear your sad news especially after the very happy day of your marriage. That last photograph of Deborah and the grand children is so beautiful.

  2. Chris, I am so sorry for your loss of this beautiful dear soul, and for her grandchildren, her whole family. What an amazing lady. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. A wonderful tribute for someone who was one-of-a-kind.

  3. An inspiring story. I'm sure it will be challenging to adapt to life without Deborah physically in your lives, but there will be so many special memories to share, especially after the initial pain has eased a little.

  4. So sorry Chris, it's hard to make sense of anything these days. Take care xx

    1. Thank you. This world is a crazy place. Why does life have to be so difficult sometimes?

  5. Her memory will carried by many. Hold on to that while rejoicing in your new. Hugs.

  6. Hello Chris!:) I'm so sorry for your loss of a very loving and caring member of your family. The last photo is very beautiful, as is your tribute. Take care!:)

  7. Chris, beautiful post and tribute. I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are for you and your family.

  8. So sorry to hear the very sad news about Deborah. You have written such a moving tribute to this amazing lady. My thoughts are with you. Take care.

  9. I am so sorry, Chris. You wrote about her beautifully. I wish her children well.

  10. Another awesome post.,. You, Chris, are just SO talented in so many ways. Writing is something you should pursue --especially as you age and aren't quite as active... You express yourself so genuinely and make us feel your thoughts and emotions...

    Aunt Deborah obviously was a very strong lady --and will be missed. She obviously did a beautiful job of raising the grandchildren... I know how much she meant to you two --and it's sad that she died just as her own life with her new man was beginning... I'm glad she had two happy years with him.

    Take a deep breath and get out and find some distractions (like birding) ---and just remember that 'life is good' and 'life goes on'...,


    1. Thank you Betsy for your kind words. And thanks for your words of advice:)

  11. Nature is and should be a healer for everyone. You have put the right words throughout this post.
    So sorry for your aunt Deborah Chris.

  12. I am so sorry for your loss, Chris. Deborah sounds a really good person, at least she experienced some joy from a good man before she died. I can so relate to you finding solace in nature and nature is also my church, temple, etc. The photos you chose to illustrate this post are very beautiful. I always think that getting attached to people opens us up to the risk of loss and grief, but it's better than being a hermit. And last but not least - congrats on your marriage!

    1. Thank you Sue. It's true. As much as I love being a hermit, I couldn't do this all alone. It feels nice to be married:)

  13. Congratulations on the wedding

    and so sorry for your loss.

    1. Thank you Diana. With time, it gets better but we don't forget. I love how you remember your mother with her favorite flowers and color in the gardens. Was it lavender? Purple? I have to find something of Deborah's favorite things and do the same.

  14. A beautiful tribute to Auntie Deborah Chris.

    Betsy is so right about your writing. I love those sentences "I saw the beauty and power of nature around me. It speaks to me in ways I can't even explain. It's my church, my temple, my synagogue, and my mosque all in one." - brilliant.

  15. Chris, I'm overwhelmed, sadness wrapped up in happiness, and for you a truly brand new future. I'm so sorry to read about your aunt but whoever it is that looks out for us has a way of handing us a gift at the same time that something painful happens, as if to help us through it. Wishing you continued joy and continued passion with your birding and nature (the uber-healer.)

  16. I am so sorry for you and your family. I hope peace comes to you soon.


Thanks for stopping by!