From a Mother

There has been such an overwhelming response to my earlier post about grieving, and so many kind comments. Buried in those comments are the words of a grieving mother. Rather than leaving her there, unseen, I wanted to share with all of you what I hope others need to hear. Please pause for a moment and listen to my dearest friend and Sam’s mother.

‘For the past month I have been feeling the anxiety building as the first anniversary of Sam’s death approaches. I cry more easily. I imagine his death with a depth that makes me uncomfortable. I find that all of the ways I have carefully kept myself insulated from the deepest pain associated with his death are less effective now, this too seems part of the process of accepting that he is well and truly gone from the world.

His spirit has been a strongly motivating force this past year. I have pondered my reason for being, made drastic life changes (one of those things that you’re not supposed to do, sorry but it’s been really good for me, I am financially poorer but richer in all other ways) and am trying hard to leave some good in my neck of the world.

I have also been making some art, which is far more therapeutic than I ever knew. I’m carving lino blocks for printmaking, most recently one with his kayak, one that says ‘for Sam’ which I will put under the other blocks I have made that say ‘shine’ and ‘love’.

I made some prayer flags and will block print them and those who attend the one year anniversary get together can write messages and then the flags will hang around his kayak. His dad and I have plans to go to the rapids where he died and hang some there as well. It’s a difficult place to get to, by land, by water and also emotionally.

I thank you so much Lisa for continuing the conversation about the grief associated with his death. For saying his name, for not letting this whole thing slip into the past. My biggest fear is the erasure of time and as long as I live I have to keep him here close by.’

As she says here, we say his name lest we forget. We say his name in order to allow others to grieve with us. For all of those grieving, never be afraid to speak their names, or to speak up about what you need as you grieve. There are many on that path with you who will understand.


When I started this blog a few years ago I thought it would be about writing. That I would share my journey as I learned and struggled with stories and words. Those early posts are stilted and uncomfortable when I read them now.

Slowly, other stories started filtering onto the page in spite of myself. I struggled to find the balance, to keep the focus on writing, to not turn a public forum into a personal diary. But when I gave up trying to be writerly and professional and just started chatting, my friends gathered around.

I’ve struggled for almost a year to not turn this blog into a journey of grief. I come here and chat with friends, but as I’m sure you’ve noticed, some stories sink back into loss.

We near the first year anniversary of our Sam’s death and here I am, laying grief down in words again.

I struggle with wondering what he was doing a year ago today. Living his life fully, dealing with good and bad, stress and joy, friends and work, loving his family, just like we all do. And of course in his case, living fully as a river spirit. He knew what he did was dangerous but I doubt he had premonitions or hesitations or doubt in those last days.

jennie aug 2010 037

I struggle with thoughts about how I would live my life if I knew I had only days. We all ask ourselves that question at some point. But seriously, pause for a minute, move past the cliché of that question, and think about it.

I struggle with how to be around those who love him. Not ‘loved’ him. Their love for him didn’t end when he died. I want to dive deep into that dark well of grief with them, and yet life is all around us. We laugh and share and love each other’s company. And if in the midst of that, we fall into silence, or tears suddenly rise, it’s not awkward because we see and we know and we feel. There’s complete freedom in their company.

And so we look warily at the coming date knowing it is going to be so incredibly hard. And yet there will be a river float and once again all the kayaks will be bright flowers on the water. Afterwards there will be food and laughter, family and friends, in our mountains.

And stories.

I’ve never struggled in the safe cup of stories.

lookout point 007


I Remember Her

Fifty years ago this month my young life was in upheaval. A man in the house taking on the role of father. Two teenagers taking on the roles of elder sisters, releasing me from the responsibility of being the oldest. A new house to hold all of us. A new school.

lisa 6th birthday

I remember that time and I remember the stories but I think back now and wonder who she was.

Did I know her?

She wrote behind closed doors. She was painfully shy and blushed beet red and knew she was ugly and didn’t know how to fit in.

Thirty years ago there was another major upheaval. Siblings gone, parents retired, a move to the woods.

Did I know her?

She had a little more confidence but she still wrote in secret, this time by kerosene lantern. She had a clear vision of who she was going to be – an old hermit living alone in the woods with her books and stories and dogs. And when she walked down the narrow track through the overgrown spot in the forest that would be her home, she absolutely knew with a deep certainty that this was where she was meant to be. She spent many hours wandering the woods with field guides.

lisa with white bear & chickens

That rooster – Little Bear – finished his hatching in my bra. Thought I was his mother.

I remember her.

Twenty years ago she was a wife and mother and still living in the woods.

Did I know her?

Her confidence level was higher still because she was held up by those who believed in her. On their wings she found the courage to share those stories that filled her with their reality. She raced out on fire engines and aid cars. She left a job after years to try something completely new. She envied her friends, those strong women she dreamed of emulating. Learning how to be a mother, realizing that she could still be a hermit with two kindred spirits.

lincoln city jan 06 009

I remember her.

I wonder sometimes where those earlier versions went because there are days when they are strangers and the memories seem to belong to someone else.

So, here she is. Do I know her in this moment, as she slips into the robes of, dare I say, becoming a crone? Let’s not. Let’s say instead, becoming a wise woman. Hopefully.

Will I remember her in the years to come?

I’ll remember some stories, and trust those I love to remember more for me.

Maybe some stories will even have endings finally, like that pesky question – who really killed the goldfish by putting pennies in the bowl?

steven consoling me over something i was mad about