Thursday, April 28, 2016


Dear UD,

So many stories I long to share, to call you up and tell you about. So many brainstorming sessions that I yearn to have with you. So many questions I want to process with you. So many experiences I crave to express to you.

For example, another creative genius died this month. Prince is gone, and it seems like too many greats are being called home, leaving this earth mourning and lost and headed for some sort of apocalypse.

As another illustration, I am reading this book by Brené Brown called Rising Strong about being vulnerable, compassionate, authentic people who set boundaries, and I wish I could talk to you about it.

Plus, she understands love and loss. Brown says, “Yes, I agree with Tennyson, who wrote, “ ’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” But heartbreak knocks the wind out of you, and the feelings of loss and longing can make getting out of bed a monumental task. Learning to trust and lean in to love again can feel impossible.” And she writes that “C. S. Lewis captured this so beautifully in one of my favorite quotes of all time: To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” She captures the risk, the reward, and the problems that arise if we don’t take the risk.

In another instance, I want to tell you about Lexi and Laina, about all of the amazing things that they are doing and about the challenges they are facing and about the crazy, fun, couchsurfing adventure we had last week. And about how we all three miss you.

And of course I want to tell you this… I was selected as the Outstanding Adjunct for 2016 for the Eastern Florida State College Palm Bay Campus, and when I told Mom, the first thing she said was that you, Uncle David, would be so proud of me. I know that, and it warms my heart. I still wish I could call and tell you about it. Let you know how you helped me become the best teacher and person that I could be, and I am grateful for every phone call, email, visit, minute that you spent with me, showing me that you valued me, teaching me that my interests and desires are important, shaping my philosophies and morals. There are no words to describe what that means to my life.

Ironically, the ceremony where I will receive my award is on the very day that we lost you last April. Or is it apropos…a way to honor your help on my path to this moment.

The year anniversary of your death is here, and I still miss you so much. As time goes on, it doesn’t get easier, navigating this world without you, missing you, yet the ache of the loss does lessen overall, though sometimes it still strikes as sharp and painful as ever because the hole left in a world without you will never be completely filled.

But, I am mooring, pulling in everything you did for me, everything you taught me, everything beautiful and right and good about you. And I am holding it all inside me, not heavy like the weight of grief but shaped like the feather of an angel or a phoenix, light and loving. Shielding. Freeing.

At your funeral, they played “Wind Beneath My Wings,” and you were that for me and for so many of your family members.

In countless ways, you showed us too much to put into words—how one person can love another, how actions and words can run parallel, how taking time for others matters, how to listen, share, give, how to process this crazy world, how to care for all of God’s creatures, how to be respectful/courteous/kind, how to be centered in the midst of anything.

The grief I ball up like a stone, what’s left of it after all the tears that have bled out of me, and I hold it in my hands. I reach my arm back and launch it forward, away from me, releasing it into the ocean, back into the physical world.

As you would want for me, encourage me to do, I let go and look inside. Draw in courage from all that you shared, from all of the memories. Find hope for the future.

Time to choose, time to decide, time to stand strong.


I choose me, I choose life, authenticity.

I am a powerful, passionate, blessed, and beautiful, beloved daughter of God.

UD, I love you so much. And I miss you still. Forever, I carry you in my heart, and with all that you taught me, with God’s help, with trusting and believing in myself, with living my contract, and with the support of family and friends, I mend. We mend each other. Never the same, but new. A new tapestry woven from the past and present, the future up to us. As Ram Dass said, “We're all just walking each other home.”

With the memories and love of you written on our very cells, we merge our old lives and stories into something new that can move us forward into this future without you. While it wouldn’t be what we would choose if given the choice, it is what is, and so we press on.

Moored by the foundations laid by past generations, by all I learned from them, from you.
Moored by my faith and belief in God, by my God.

We remember the stories of old and carry them with us into the newness of our lives. Now, we have a new story to tell. One that leans on the foundation you helped set. Thank you, UD.

Goodbye, Uncle David. For now. Someday, when we meet again, I will tell you the rest of my story, and I will make you proud. Until then, I hold your love close, smile, and step forward into the future.


PS: With this post and the year of letters to you, I commemorate you and your influence on so many lives. We love you. xo

Thursday, April 14, 2016

How Do I Miss Thee, Let Me Count the Ways

Dear UD,

This month, everything reminds me of you, and every day feels like a countdown to the day my foundation was shaken.

For instance, Facebook reminded me that one year ago, I tagged you in a photo of Mom’s flower garden, the one that you helped her create by buying her so many bulbs over the years. Yellow daffodils, pretty tulips, purple irises, and so many more.

One year ago today, you were on this earth, and I could tag you in a photo that you would see.

One year ago today, you were at home where I could call and talk to you almost any time of day.

Tonight, I’m drinking tea that I finally dug out of the cabinets, an herbal brand that I took from your home on the day of your funeral. You had so many boxes that you would never have a chance to use so I took one. I didn’t drink any tea for almost a year; opening the box was an acknowledgement that you were gone, but when I came down with a bad cold this spring, I remembered the box of tea, and now I sip the minty brew and think of you. When I drink tea, I will always think of you.

One year ago today, you were drinking iced tea, and I had the hope of another family meal at your place.

This month is a minefield and every day a reminder that the day the earthquake struck is approaching. I take a step to the right, and I remember an email conversation last April where you helped me revise a prompt for my Creative Writing class. I asked how you were, if you were writing, what you thought of the prompt, and if it made sense, and you replied:

               Hey, Rach,

               1)      Okay, not great. 
               2)      Not really. 
               3)      I think it is clear but a bit overwhelming. 
               4)      Yes, it makes sense.

          Grammar—parallel tense:  How did what you learn in Creative Writing . . .

          I would consider selecting 6 to 8 quotes for the assignment and then giving out the rest of them as an appendix for             further consideration.

          Love, UD

I love how you always, always started with a salutation and ended with love. What I would give for another email conversation with you.

A step to the left, and I think about how you coached and supported Lexi as she developed as a performer. Now, she has her first professional dance job, and I am so proud of her. We always thought you would be here to see her blossoming into an adult and professional dancer, and we want to call and tell you all about it. But we're grateful that Lexi had that chance to learn from you on her journey here.

A step to back, and I remember the day before, the day when I talked to you on the phone and wrote my last journal entry. I talked to you about wanting to visit in May, and I said that I loved you. I’m so grateful that I spoke to you that day, but I wish so much that I could talk to you again. That night, I wrote in my journal about my day, and then I ended it with a positive narrative about what my ideal life would be, something I’d wanted to do for years. The next day, I lost you, and I haven’t journaled since.

UD, a friend recently told me that I’d been searching for something outside myself. At one time, yes. Sometimes, yes. I am human, fallible, imperfect, yearning for love and belonging.

If I try to search for answers outside myself, that’s not good. If I’m looking for someone or something to make me okay or to fix or save me, that won’t work.

However, all humans need positive male role models in their lives.

Someone remarked that I am different, unique because of how deeply the loss of an uncle has impacted me, but it’s not just me who is feeling so unmoored in our extended family. Plus, you were one of those special people who impacted so many around you. Not to mention the fact that your loss was near the end of a long, hard set of traumas dealt all within a fairly short amount of time, and like a domino effect, one by one, they crashed down, leaving a scattered mess in my life.

And grief is the same yet different for everyone….it’s the same because, whether we’ve lost a beloved aunt/uncle, parent, grandparent, child, sibling, friend, there is now a hole in our heart, and our life will never be the same; we will never again be the same. Yet, it’s different because those relationships are different and because we are all different people with different personalities, needs, desires. Ultimately, loss is difficult, demanding, arduous, and the grief that follows is something that can take time because it shakes us up and spits us out alone and altered.  

And the thing is…you were one of the very few people on this earth with whom I felt completely safe. One of the few people who saw and accepted all of me. Nothing can replace that.

Safe….I realized recently, that there are only a handful of people I feel completely emotionally safe with and that I do not speak up as much as I need to around those I don’t feel emotionally safe with. It’s time to change that. Though difficult, it’s healthiest for me as well as those around me. I wish I could talk to you about this and process it, but I know you would be proud of me. I hold onto that as I attempt to navigate a new way of interacting and of being true to myself and others.

I feel like I am waking up from a long, hard nightmare…so much to handle in the past few years that I have been overwhelmed, numb, depressed, anxious. January 2013, the girls’ dad dropped a bomb in our lives that we are still processing. October 2013, Lexi moved to NYC for performing arts school, and, while natural and normal for her to go off to college, I grieved. May 2014, Grandpa Crawford died, and a few months later, Dad was diagnosed with cancer and put on hospice. December 2014, Laina and I sold what we could, packed what we could, gave away the rest, and moved back to the farm to be with my Dad and help the family. January 2015, he died. April 2015, you, Uncle David, died suddenly. May 2015, we moved back to Florida so Laina could go to high school with her friends. December 2015, we lost Charlie from Florida (my writing friend and the reason we moved to this area near the ocean), and I fell and broke my right wrist in three places. January 2016, I had surgery on my arm and was virtually helpless for a couple of months. Too much in too short of time, too difficult to process all of this, especially without you.

But this month, this month, every day, I remember you…

Love, Rach

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Year without Words

Dear UD,

April is the month of spring renewal and poetry, a mix of greens/reds/yellows/purples, of budding limbs and of word play. And now also of a sword that strikes suddenly, swirling death into the pretty mixture. Everywhere we turn grief rises up to greet us—suicide bombings in Belgium and Africa, the protagonist of a post-apocalyptic series sacrificed, movie or rock stars like Alan Rickman and David Bowie falling, a supreme court seat emptied in an election year, and on and on it goes.

And you, gone with no goodbyes.

The one-year marker of your death approaches, and I am still numb, hurting. Sad. Tears still fall so often.

Soon it will be…

365 days since a dam broke inside from too much to mourn in too little time (Grandpa, then Dad, then you).

365 days since my body’s visceral keening. All of the pain flowing up and out of my throat, leaving me voiceless, wordless. And now, almost a year later, I am starting this month of April with no voice, literally, from a cold virus.

365 days with no words. Journal pages blank. Empty.

For a year, I’ve written letters to you but nothing else. No diary entries, no stories, no essays, no poems.

Empty pages, empty landscape, empty love tank.

I feel so alone.

Uncle David, I still miss you. I wonder how I will endure this, how the heavy grief that has taken up residence in my body will ever leave.

There are no words.

During this month of spring and poetry, I can only think of elegies I’ve read, so many poems of sorrow, a human experience we all know. These woeful songs of lament and grief leaving me voiceless, wordless.

I am still not ready
to say goodbye.