Do you have repeated Christmas traditions in your family? We did—my Mom, Dad and I! During my lifetime, I often helped Dad shopped for Mom’s Christmas gift over the years, but this one was special.
In the mid-1980’s, Dad asked me to pick out a dress alike for Mom and me and started a tradition that continued while he was alive and after he died for seventeen years until Mom’s death.
Any time we wore of outfits alike with Dad, his chest swelled, and he smiled a lot and made a point of letting everyone around him know the history of this tradition—he was so proud!
When Dad died, Mom whispered to me in her grief, “You don’t have to buy our look-alike outfits for Christmas anymore.” We both sobbed. I shook my head, and I never wavered. I continued this heartfelt idea.
Our first outfit was a dress, then during the years Dad was alive I bought us dresses. After he died, I bought us a variety of outfits: slacks and sweaters, warm-up suits and dresses. One problem I faced when I bought slacks was my Mom’s height. She was short; I’m short, too, but she was shorter. So, I always had to buy her petite size slacks so she didn’t have to cut them off. Often that forced me to have to look hard for outfits in two different departments or I would buy petite for me and just deal with shorter slacks than I preferred!
So, we wore
our outfits together proudly and often explained why we were dressed alike. We always
gave Dad the credit for starting this tradition.
When Mom passed away, getting rid of our look-alike outfits broke my heart! I couldn’t imagine seeing them on someone else. Then I had a brainstorm! I shipped them off to a girlfriend in Virginia, wanting her to have them, and I didn’t have to see them again. In fact, those outfits were the first of Mom’s clothes to go!
I did continue wearing mine, celebrating the connection to Mom. This tradition blessed my heart for many years. Do you have anything like it in your family? Share yours with me!
~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful
friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to
recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club
Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/
~I HAVE OVER 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO
BIOGRAPHY! You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select
which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the
version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42
Here it is six years after my Mom’s death and Mother’s Day smacks me in the face with fresh grief—I miss buying Mom a card and flowers and calling her up. I miss her infectious laughter and her practical jokes.The pain never goes away.
Many people face grief on this celebratory day—the graphic above shows those affected most. For many years before Mom died, I dreaded this day. Why? Because I am not a mother, and that hole in my heart pulsated to an overwhelming size on this annual day of remembrance.
I remember going to church one Mother’s Day many years ago (not to my present church for sure), and they had all the mothers present stand and gave them a flower. Again, I stifled tears being reminded of my lack.
Today my church gave every woman present a chrysanthemum and said a prayer for “Mothers, Potential Mothers, and Women Who ‘Mother’ in Any Way.” Today I stood, satisfied for sure.
Yes, I have mothered many people’s children. I was a middle
school teacher for twenty years. My brother and his wife knew my deep longing
for a child—I had a miscarriage about the time they got pregnant with the first
of their three children. They share their children with me in a deep meaningful
way, and I am close to them and their children.
After the miscarriage, my first husband and I sought help from a fertility specialist in Denver, Colorado—the famous Dr. Bradley who pioneered a natural child method. We started with fertility tests with my husband and went no further because he had aspermia, a disease of weak sperm.
So we thought about artificial insemination. The thought thrilled me because finally I could get pregnant, but my husband didn’t agree. So we planned to adopt a child and were within six months of getting our baby. I had knitted booties, baby blankets and put together a nursery. We went through Lutheran Social Services in Denver, Colorado, and they did the work-up on the couple a few months before placement instead of at the beginning. They felt if a couple lasted the four year wait; they were a sure bet. We had waited our four years to get our baby, but as the great day drew near, the tension in our marriage increased and he walked out. I later found out he had unsavory skeletons in his closet, and I was heartbroken in my double losses!
My mother especially grieved with me over the loss of a child—I had been raised to get married, live happily ever after and have 2.4 children. The Horner’s celebrated children and grandchildren. After my divorce, Mom talked about artificial insemination—she even offered to help me pay the hefty price of $10,000 for it! (Remember, this was in the early 1980s.)
The battle raged inside me—I could finally have the baby I always wanted, but I labored over the fact of being a single Mom. In the end, I chose not to do it which looking back; I realized was a wise decision for me.
The next few years I drank away, numbing my broken heart and
acting out! God’s mercy won in the choice I made. I would have injured a child with
my crazy lifestyle at that time.
The years have healed that profound ache, and I am satisfied with my childless life today, but I will always be indebted to my Mom and her undying support of the need she knew I had!
Here are two poems I wrote in 1996 and 2005 while I was still lamenting the lack of a child in my life:
Childless – 1996
The pain of being without a child! Eternally alone! No child has burst forth from my womb nor sucked at my breast. Barren cavity deep inside waiting to be filled with life. Waiting, waiting, waiting!
I have no child to pass my stories on to, my history, our history, how Grandad created our ranch, how special Branson Christmas trees are because we cut them down from our ranch, our land, how to do the Jessie polka and waltz, how I was almost named Jessie.
My name, Larada, that should pass on to my granddaughter, like my grandmother passed it on to me, every other generation for 7 generations.
Cheated, robbed, failed!
Not woman, not mom, nothing! Does a child define woman? Does the lack of them define me?
Names and faces dance in circles in my mind— Lael Marie Patrick Lawrence Curly blond hair, blue inquisitive eyes. Bright red hair, changeable hazel eyes. A mixture of him and me.
I have no daughter that has my smile nor a son with my Dad’s red hair. No one to call me, “Mommy.”
The empty cavity waiting to be filled has grown larger no longer just my womb, but now my whole being, my every thought, ME!
Aching, lonely, pulsating to the beat of life missing what never was!
Childless at 51 – 2005
I am childless 51 single! Reality hit yesterday as life in My 50’s sheds light on my life’s fact.
Who will carry on the stories I have – A lifetime full of Traditions?
Who will recall that Grandma Horner demanded I have a set of sheets With yellow roses? Her mark of innocence for me, her namesake.
Who will name their child Larada? Will that meaningful name Die with me?
Who will remember that Dad Called me Shorty? Who will share my travel escapades? My love for the Mayas!
Who will know the story behind Each Christmas decoration Hanging on my tree?
Who will understand the Spiritual voyage I took By looking through my Personal library of life? Will you be able to stitch together The words that formed the Frame that I draped My life over?
That gave me closure to The search through The pages, the beliefs, The heart-wrenching self That examined herself Through various beliefs and concepts.
Who will look at all My belongings And be able to define The complex mystery Of Larada? No one, but me!
Are you sad this Mother’s Day? If so, tell me your pain so I can share it and lessen your burden.
Thanksgiving, 2018 has come and gone. Gratitude takes center stage on this holiday. People recite their gratitude list that day–post cute animations and beautiful memes on Facebook and then what?
Could year long gratitude change our world? Where’s the power in gratitude?
We all know people who are negative, focus on what’s bad and are complete “downers” to be around. They have no understanding of gratitude because a dark cloud hangs over their lives–everything is wrong. Then there are those whose world view is positive, see the silver lining in everything, and I want to be with them. They see life as an opportunity, a joy to live. What makes the difference?
I think the practice of gratitude does. If we only knew the deep workings inside of everyone we see. Each person I pass today is battling something–disease, relationship or work issues, and/or spiritual unrest–but this attitude of gratitude makes the difference. I know peaceful warriors with gigantic loss and pain overflowing with gratitude, so I’m convinced it’s not what happens to someone–it’s something else.
Gratitude grows out of a heart and soul that has a deep connection with a Higher Power–Something or Someone more powerful and more loving than my finite self. In that connection, the negativity and darkness that consumed me changes, dilutes, and evaporates in the presence and power of eternal Optimism.
Yes, I do believe that gratitude can change my world. The moment I turn to my God through a beautiful desert sunset, a belly laugh at a child’s innocence or a dance in my husband’s arms, the world is right and gratitude oozes out of every pore of my being.
Gratitude heals all those deep hurts in my wounded heart: I’m so thankful for the times with my Mom and Dad over the years, my monthly visits with my Aunt Willie and her precious dry sense of humor, and my weekly phone call visits with Marshall Flippo this last year. All of these are losses for sure, but my gratitude for the richness each brought into my life moves me beyond the hurt to the healing.
Make a daily gratitude list this year and see how your year goes. Get back to me next Thanksgiving and we will compare the results. Here’s to a grateful year!
For what are you grateful? I’d love to hear your gratitude list.
Grief is a topic that many people turn their backs on–I challenge you to answer the question because I will!
My Aunt Willie Urbanoski died on Friday, October 12, 2018, and because of family circumstances, we didn’t have her memorial service until yesterday, November 10. We did have a private family burial on Thursday, October 18, 2018.
Yesterday, the service was full of stories, pictures, laughter and tears–a real celebration of a woman who lived to be 98 years old–almost 99 because her birthday was Wednesday, November 7.
A second cousin stationed in England couldn’t attend to service, so her sisters did a live feed to her, so she and her husband could attend virtually–a 21st century way to handle loss.
How do YOU mourn the dead? For family? For friends? We all do it differently. My Mom’s sage advice: do it your way. I have a strong need to attend the memorial, view the body and get closure to the relationship. My best friend, Candy, died in 2012, and I was sick and couldn’t attend her service, and I have regretted it for years–no closure for me.
I wrote my aunt a poem for Christmas, 2012, and a week after my Mom died in March, 2013, Aunt Willie asked me if I would read that poem at her funeral. I said I would, but I’d cry all the way through it. She said she didn’t care because she wouldn’t be there!
So yesterday, I mustered my strength and read it–I got almost to the end before the tears came. Here’s the poem–I hope you enjoy it!
My Aunt Wee Wee
By: Larada Horner-Miller
December 25, 2012
Revised: November 9, 2018
You will always be Aunt Wee Wee!
As a child, Bub couldn’t pronounce “Aunt Willie,” so it came out
“Aunt Wee Wee,” and it stuck.
As I look back through my life,
You have always been there,
Aunt Wee Wee!
When I became an Aunt,
I followed your lead!
I wanted to touch my
nieces and nephews’ lives
the way you touched mine!
I have valued all the wonderful times
we spent together over the years.
You grace so many
of my memories!
As a toddler
I can remember
when I looked into your eyes, I saw a playful sparkle
I love you!”
In my childhood,
at Branson dances,
I remember watching
you and Uncle Hughie dance,
and the fun you had.
I remember 4th of July picnics and fireworks
Bub and I couldn’t wait until you arrived with Black Cats!
You came all the way from Albuquerque!
As a family, we went to Albuquerque.
You shared your beautifully decorated cakes.
We went on shopping sprees to the mall.
Delicious Thanksgiving dinners shared!
Our fishing trips
Our time together at Springer lake
You sat religiously by the lake, pole in hand.
While Uncle Hughie and I set up our poles
My week stay with you in Albuquerque-
A visit to Old Town
The Tram and dinner on the top! I felt like a princess!
As a young adult
You attended all of my major life events:
My 8th grade graduation
Princess at the TSJC tournament
My high school graduation
My TSJC graduation
We’ve continued that
precious relationship into my adulthood.
You attended my first 2 weddings.
No one attended the third.
Lin and I knew you were with us in spirit at ours.
As our second anniversary approached, Aunt Willie repeated often,
WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?
Yes, Lin and I celebrated our second anniversary
with you in Pueblo— pictures, cake, laughter and love abounded.
I had several special visits while you
were in Logan, UT and now in Pueblo.
Some people I’ve known for a short time
and they only know me one dimensionally.
You have known me forever, and you know the many
sides of me.
You smile, and
you make me smile.
You know all about me,
and you make me feel good
about being me.
You love to laugh and enjoy life.
Often you catch me by surprise
with your witty humor, and we share a belly laugh.
In that laughter
I am no longer 59; You are no longer 93.
We are young again, frolicking on the floor.
My Aunt Wee Wee!
That’s the power you have always had–to make me smile
Can you imagine living to be 98–a few short weeks of being 99? Think about all the changes you’d see in nine decades.
On October 12, 2018, my dear Aunt Willie Urbanoski passed away at 4:20 am at 98 years old. She wanted to make 100 but her God had different ideas. Over the last few years, we referred to her as “The Ever Ready Bunny” because she had been on the brink of death several times and came back to us full of vim and vigor, but when I got the text this time from my cousin, something inside of me shuttered–it didn’t feel the same.
As a child, my brother, Harold couldn’t pronounce Aunt Willie, so he called her “Aunt Wee Wee,” and it stuck. That was her name my whole childhood.
At twelve, I spent a week with her and Uncle Hughie fishing and then on to Albuquerque. She toured me around town to all the sights. I’m sure my love for Albuquerque began on this visit.
The Urbanoski’s attended very major event in my life and my brother’s–graduations, marriages and more. When I was princess representing Branson High School at the Trinidad State Junior College Tournament, they came and supported me–always they were there for us.
Aunt Willie’s delicious humor kept us laughing right up to our last visit on Sunday, October 7, 2018. I had the habit of talking to Mom every Sunday night on my drive to a meeting, so when Mom died, I asked Aunt Willie if I could call her; she agreed with a twinkle in her eyes.
We anticipated our weekly phone date. We’d catch up on our lives and seasonally, we talked about the success or failure of the Denver Bronco’s. Aunt Willie loved Peyton Manning and wanted the offensive line to protect him more. Other times we’d talk about the dancers on Dancing with the Stars and moan and groan if our couple got kicked off. She loved to hear about Lin and my travels and dancing adventures. She also loved to talk about her three granddaughters and two great grandsons.
She was my Mom’s older sister by nine years. She had no trouble telling my Mom that she had it made in their family until Mom arrived–Aunt Willie was the only grandchild until then. All my life, they had a close relationship, but I loved to watch these two sisters together, especially later in life after they were widowed–they lived about 20 miles apart for several years and spent as much time together as possible. I marveled at their mutual support during this part of their lives.
Aunt Willie had a special love affair with my husband, Lin. It started the moment they met with lots of flirting and carrying on and lasted even until our last phone call with lighthearted bantering going back and forth between them.
Her life was full and rich–she grew up in northeastern New Mexico in a small community, Des Moines, which she loved. For many years, she organized a yearly reunion for classmates.
She married the love of her life, Hugh Urbanoski and they raised the joy of their lives, Janet, in Albuquerque, NM. Aunt Willie worked and retired from payroll office at Sandia Base. As soon as they could after retirement, Uncle Hughie and Aunt Willie moved to Folsom, NM to be close to their daughter and her family.
For the last few years, I visited Aunt Willie monthly in Pueblo, CO and asked lots of questions because I enjoyed hearing her retell her stories–how she met Uncle Hughie, how she played basketball in school and was accused of drinking alcohol once, how much she enjoyed being a waitress in Raton, NM and so much more.
Losing her has been really hard. As I viewed her body this last Wednesday, I was reminded again that our bodies are temporary homes for our spirits. She looked peaceful, but that lifeless form wasn’t my Aunt Willie–vibrant and giggly and so affirming of me. I will miss her terribly–Sunday nights won’t be the same.
Death is a part of our lives. How do you handle it? I would love to hear your comments!
Check out Appendix D in my grief memoir, A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir for healing activities and ideas.
APPENDIX D – Workbook
Healing from grief requires active participation if you want to get past the pain and the loss to the other side—to thrive more than just survive. Here are a few questions and activities to get the juices flowing after reading this book.
1. List the key people you have lost in your life and write out a short description of your relationship besides the name of each person. How did that loss affect you? How old were you? How did you handle your grief at the time? What did you learn about your grief process?
2. How do you feel about grief after reading this book? What do you know about grief? Where could you find more information about grief?
3. If applicable: how did your mother grieve the loss of her parents? How did your father grieve the loss of his parents? Which one are you more like? Write down three take-aways you learned from your parents about how to grieve.
4. What resources do you have available when you lose a loved one? (Example: Friends, church, social support group, etc.) Write down names, phone numbers,and email addresses to have available.
5. Be diligent about the following areas of your life because grief affects the whole person. Identify one activity you can do to take care of yourself in each of these areas:
6. Buy a journal and/or adult coloring book and colored pencils/crayons and draw your feelings. Use this as a journal and dedicate time often to color and then describe the drawing.
7. Buy a journal and write three pages (“Morning Pages” from Julia Cameron’s The Artist‘sWay) every morning. Just start writing and see what comes up.
8. Create a sacred time and place every day to cry. Mark it on your calendar: when and where, and be dedicated about keeping that time.
9. Get involved in a grief support group in your area. Examples: GriefShare, hospice, religious groups, Yoga, etc.
10. Look at Appendix A and start a “God Things” list for what you are going through right now. Be sure not to leave out what seems small and insignificant.
11. Look at Appendix B and identify the normal activities you do that soothe your soul and then add activities to support your grief process.
12. Look at Appendix C and select one book to add to your library and read it. Search the topic “grief” online and add any titles below that appeal to you.
13. On the first anniversary of your loved one’s death, plan ahead to be prepared and make it a special day for you.
Share below activities/ideas that worked for you. We’re all different, and I’d love to know what you have done to heal after a major loss in your life.
I am at my Mom’s house in southeastern Colorado. She died four years ago, and I make a monthly trip here to check on things.
Today I spent most of the afternoon and evening editing and revising a grief memoir I wrote about losing my Dad twenty-one years ago and my Mom four years ago.
As I reread my work, I cried through Mom’s last days, sobbing when my husband, Lin, called. Reliving those grueling last days through my words and story brought it all back in vivid color and detail. I searched my old journals to verify I had dates and facts correct.
Do we dare write the personal, emotional piece that makes us vulnerable and bare? Do we risk ridicule and harsh words about our most intimate losses?
I’ve worked on this project off and on for four years and plan to publish it in June. Yes, I dare to share this part of my life with the world because I really feel I have a message from my grief–I grew up to be the women I always wanted to be!
I Grew Up To Be The Woman I Always Wanted to Be is my grief memoir, a collection of poetry and prose, about the loss of my Dad 21 years ago and my Mom 4 years ago. The majority of the book deals with Mom’s death and my process afterwards.