Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Because you loved me

I am the way I am because you loved me.

I am the way I am because you believed in me.

I am the way I am because you saw in me what I couldn't.

I am the way I am because you knew how strong I could be.

I am the way I am because you always encouraged me.

I am the way I am because you shared your strength, your kindness, your laughter, your intellect, your goodness, your wit, your goofiness and your total being with me.

I was and still feel deeply loved by you. Even though you are not physically present, I am surrounded by your loving embrace and feel safe knowing that you still reside within my heart. You share my heartbeat. You are my first thought on arising and my last thought when I lay down for the night. Your influence is in every action I take, in every decision I make and yes, even in every thought that crosses my mind.

We were glued together in almost everything we did and we loved that. But we were strong individuals who complimented each other like pieces in a puzzle.

What an incredible partnership we had - one of total love, respect and joy.

And all this -- because you loved me..... and I loved you. And I still do.

Copyright © 2019. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Tale of the Feathers

When we took our two dogs for their walks each day, one liked to just saunter so I was the one who held her leash. The other liked to race and pull so Warren tried to keep him in check! After my beloved Warren died, it took me a few weeks for me to attempt to walk both our doggies at the same time. After a few days of trying to keep the leashes from winding around my legs, I got the hang of it. There are walkways and a park near the house so each day one of us chooses the route!

One day about a month into these walks, I found a large bird feather just outside the house on my front walk. I picked it up, put it in my pocket and went on the walk. When we came home, I absently put the feather in a small glass vase. A few days later while meandering down one of the walkways, again there was another large feather just where the doggies were stopping to sniff. I picked it up and I put it in that vase.


As time went on, it seems that every other time we walked, no matter which route we took, there were feathers showing up at where the doggies were stopping. Each time I picked up a feather and put it in the vase. It was kind of an absentminded thing that I did.


When I mentioned the feathers to friends, they all expressed the same thing. Warren was letting me know, through the feathers, that he was always with me.

I didn't find feathers every day, sometimes just one or two a week. But there was a stretch of three weeks when there were none.  Then the next day, walking down one of the walkways near the house, I came upon a bunch of feathers on the ground. As I picked them up, I started counting and there were 21 feathers! I was flabbergasted. I actually looked around as if I expected Warren to be peeking out from behind a tree!


The thing about finding these feathers, no matter how much that may sound like a folk tale or as some may think -- a crutch, the idea that I think that it could be a sign from Warren, a tangible indication that he is with me, eases my heart. And the where and when of the discoveries sometime have special meaning. I have found some on my birthday, our anniversary, days when I'm having an especially hard time. I recently took a trip where I had to fly. I really dislike flying but I found a feather on the driveway as I was leaving to go to the airport. To me, it was as if he was telling me he'd be with me on the flight.


To some, the sighting of a red cardinal is a sign for them, to others it is finding pennies. Sometimes, it's music or certain scents. For me, it's the feathers. Sometimes there is no explanation for what one sees or feels that can bring a sense of comfort to a grieving heart. Call it what you will, but his spirit surrounds me, he is always with me and the feathers are an expression of his presence and I am soothed by their appearances.


Copyright © 2019. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.




Thursday, August 29, 2019

To those who really get it

It's been over two years and so I have flashes of guilt. I sometimes think that there are those who think  I should be showing more signs of progress and I should "move on with my life." The guilt comes from my inability to do that in the way I imagine most people think I should.

But in my very small circle of truly dear and loving friends, they completely understand my continuing sadness because they share it with me. Warren and I were blessed with these longstanding friends whose friendship goes back for decades. These friends really get it. It's not just me who feels the choking despair, the emptiness and the pain. I am encircled with the love and support of the people who  clearly understand the loss, not only for me but for them as well.

When we talk on the phone (because all, with one exception, don't live near me) we commiserate, we reminisce, we console, we cry and rage at the circumstances, we soothe each other, we laugh at the stories and the jokes and the puns. These are long phone calls and each one elicits a new memory or story.  When we talk, we don't hold back. The emotions flow and I feel safe and comforted that we can be so open with each other. These are the people who really get me and don't expect my "progress" to be any different than what it is.

During this time, though, I've felt a little bit of change but it's coming at the pace of a drunken snail. But however long it takes for the choking despair to subside, if it takes at all, my dearest friends understand.  And it's their understanding that gets me through each day.

Copyright © 2019 Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.













Saturday, July 13, 2019

What's a little pain when it brings some comfort

As I travel through my days, usually at home (it's way too hot to be out and about), surrounded by photos of my beloved Warren, my eyes will rest on one of them and a memory floats through my head. A picture of that memory is brought up and that's when it hits me......the pain. It's a fleeting bittersweet feeling because I'm remembering specific times when we were together. However, when I feel that little ping of pain, I feel closer to Warren at that moment. It's almost as if I could reach out and grab his hand. And even though they are bittersweet moments, I welcome them because, for just a moment, I'm transported back to specific happier times. I can hear the sounds. It's like an instant video.

These moments are different from the sweet memories I have and can bring up at any time because these are unexpected. And though they are accompanied by a bit of actual pain in my heart, the visions feel so real and surprisingly comforting.  The visions are clearer and sharper which surprises me.

I wonder if this is an unusual phenomenon that others experience.  No matter. I'm just glad they happen to me.

Copyright © 2019. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Donating clothes--the fourth trip

This morning I gathered more of Warren's clothes, checked the pockets and then made my fourth trip to a donation center to drop them off.  Each time I've done that it's been a highly charged, emotional event for me. The first three times, I sat in the parking lot after bringing the clothes in and had a complete meltdown.  This fourth time I silently wept all the way home. And the rest of this day seems to be a time of deep reflection and remembrance, notwithstanding the fact that yesterday was his second Yahrzeit and tomorrow would have been our fifty-third anniversary.

I came home and stood in the closet looking at the empty space where those clothes were.  Even though there are a lot more of his clothes left to donate, looking at the empty space jolted me like a flash of lightning. I felt that emptiness. And it hurts.......... a lot.

As I sniffle my way through this task I need to keep in mind what Ethan and Abbott told me: "People will get joy out of wearing his clothes and so Dad continues to do good in the world."

Copyright © 2019. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

June....again!

As the days in June go by, one by one, my anxiety level is rising. I haven't yet learned how to calm my heart. I still wish so many things that can never come to be. My mind floods with pictures, my face floods with more tears, my heart continues to explode with sadness and the crescendo of feelings is rising to a height I can't reign in.

I dread the anniversary. I'm grateful for all the years but I seethe with intense anger and outrage at the circumstances of his final months.

I was doing okay until June rolled around and then the flood of memories of the past few years started to loom over me like some huge tidal wave threatening to drown me with a furiousness I can't control.

It seems to be more difficult this time around because I think last year, on the first anniversary, I was still in shock. Now, I'm just angry, really angry and so this is where I go to get it out. Spilling my guts here helps because as I sit back and look at these words, I am calming down. I don't know how the next few weeks will be for me but I do know I'll be talking to him a lot and his humor, and kind, wise and good counsel will come through, as it always had and always will.  

Copyright © 2019. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.


Saturday, June 1, 2019

I've come undone

When a tragedy hits, the mind tries to protect the heart. There wasn't one moment during the time my beloved Warren was ill that we ever thought he wouldn't survive. And right up until the last minute I held on to that belief.

I recently bought a new computer and migrated all my information from the old to the new. So, I started to review everything on the new one and that included reading old, saved emails. I just about went into shock.

In the almost two years since he passed away, I have pictured him in my mind's eye as looking pretty healthy albeit getting thin, but able to move as he always did up until the last week. And in my mind I saw my thin, fairly healthy-looking, handsome and adorable husband as he'd always been.

In some of the emails, though, my belief faltered and the reality crept into them. I realize now that I was aware of that reality as I emailed various friends who lived in other parts of the country to bring them  up to date.  I don't remember writing them. I have no recollection of anything but the positive outlook we both had throughout the whole ordeal. There were just a few of them but I was frankly shocked to reread them. I was sure that my faith in his recovery was never-ending and so I must have blocked out what deep down I knew! I never gave it credence. Never.

And now I am left with the hole in my heart a little bit bigger than it was before. I've come undone. Now I have to work on not letting that guilt I feel overtake me....because even though I wrote about the reality, I think I truly never believed it. Hope was the emotion and the belief that we both hung onto through all those months and I know we never let that go, not once, not ever.

Copyright © 2019. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Who knew it would be this hard?

I didn't think it would be so excruciatingly difficult.  It has taken me almost two years to get up the courage and emotional strength to start going through my beloved Warren's clothes, preparing them to be donated. So a few weeks ago I began pulling out some shirts, slacks, jackets, and ties, going through pockets and making sure that everything was in good condition. Actually everything in the closet is in impeccable condition: all shirts had been cleaned and covered in plastic, all his pants were neatly hung on pants hangers. Many of his clothes and his suits were custom-made and he took very good care of them.

As I took each piece out, the memories started flooding my mind, remembering the times he had worn each item, picturing him wearing everything, flashes of the photos I have of him wearing each piece. As I laid each item of clothing on the dining room table, it felt a little like pieces of me were being torn away, bit by bit. It took me a few days to actually gather up this first batch of clothes, put them in my SUV and drive to the donation place. Just before I started to drive out of the parking lot, I had a total meltdown. I pulled over, parked and let it all come out. I screamed, I cried, I yelled, I swore and then repeated it all a few more times. My nose was running, my breathing was sporadic and my eyes were filled with so many tears I couldn't see to drive. After several minutes I calmed down sufficiently to drive home.

I really had not expected that kind of a reaction. It was so strong, heart wrenching and painful. And now a second group of clothes has been donated and I had the same reaction. There are a lot of clothes to go through so there will be several more trips. I can't do it all at once nor do I want to. The physical act of going through each piece may ultimately be helpful and healing for me.

And, as our boys have told me, "Dad is continuing to do good in the world."

Copyright © 2019 Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The pitter-patter of the heart

From the moment I came home from our first date, I knew that I was in love with Warren. I felt it emotionally and physically. My whole being was wrapped up in thoughts about him and my heart wouldn't stop thumping.

That feeling in my heart never went away. As the years went by, people commented to us about how happy we seemed to be, how close we were, how attuned we were to each other. We just smiled, knowing how right they were.

In all the many years we were together, each day as we went about our respective jobs away from each other, during our time in the Air Force and in civilian life, arriving back at home was the sweetest time as we fell into each other's arms, hugged and kissed, grateful to be together again. And always, every day, my heart would pitter-patter to the point where I thought it might burst out of my chest.

Long into our marriage, many of our acquaintances seemed to marvel at how happy we were all the time. I found the attitude a bit puzzling until I realized that many of them didn't seem to have quite the same kind of relationship that we had. There was genuine disbelief when I mentioned that even after all these years, whenever Warren came home, my heart would start to pitter-patter and my mouth formed into an endless smile.

Happiness ruled in our house and the proof was in the heart. Every time I laid eyes on him my heart would rev up! And ever since my Beloved Warren has been gone, my heart's pitter-patter continues every time I think of him, every time my eyes fall on a photo of him, at every memory that shoots through my mind, at every video I watch and at every voicemail I listen to. The pitter-patter of the heart continues and I smile amid the tears at the sweet memories.

Copyright © 2019. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Cooking is different now

I have a cousin who is an extraordinary cook and writes a wonderfully funny blog which always includes a fabulous recipe. I eagerly read her blogs and the recipes and drool over them.  Quite often I think I'd like to make one of her recipes but cooking has become a rare activity for me now. I was a pretty good cook, willing to try dishes outside of my comfort zone which included vegan and vegetarian dishes and always kosher. In recent years, the vegan and vegetarian dishes became the major choices and were generally preferred.

I always enjoyed cooking, specially when we had guests over for dinner and during holidays: Passover, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, birthdays, anniversaries... you get the idea.  Cooking always brought together friends and family for good times, happy times, times that made life so sweet, happy and wonderful. And while I did most of the cooking, Warren's help was indispensable with several of the dishes we served.

But now that I am a "single person household," cooking is not high on my list of priorities. It just doesn't seem worth the effort anymore. I've stopped buying certain foods because I just don't want to bother with them anymore. More often than not, I'll grab a veggie burger or veggie 'hot dog' and maybe some vegetables and that's it. ... nothing fancy, nothing complicated. My palate has gone from an anticipated sense of enjoyment to something quite plain.

Last week, though, I was going through some old recipes and came across a favorite that I made for us very often: a tofu/spinach quiche. We just loved it because I kept filling it with different things in addition to the spinach and tofu.  So, I decided to make it. It turned out really well and I now had four portions of this quiche for four meals. Not a bad change. I also whipped up some home-made tabbouleh. I haven't done that in a very long time. I haven't lost my touch. It was incredibly good.

Even though my cooking now is uninspired and almost an afterthought, this sounds like a few baby steps in a different direction.

By the way, you really should go to my cousin Karen's blog. It's called BAKING IN A TORNADO and is extraordinarily funny, heartwarming and delicious.  Here is her website: https://www.bakinginatornado.com

Copyright © 2019 Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.




Monday, April 1, 2019

I wondered about the Sheloshim period.

I get posts on my Facebook page from a website called My Jewish Learning. The latest one that caught my attention was about Sheloshim, the thirty day period after a burial. It infers that that one month period acts as a link between the time a mourner gives vent to her profound grief when one refrains from  normal everyday activities and the time when she transforms into the person she will have to present to the outside world as she tries to move into her new life after a loss. I understand that during those thirty days, the attempt at grasping the reality of a new way of living is supposed to begin. For some, however, it doesn't work that way.

I've often wondered why thirty days. The following quote which came from the article on the website offers a bit of insight:

"Rabbi Chaim Shreiber has explained why this time frame matters: "The Jewish calendar is based on the moon. Just as the moon waxes and wanes in a cyclical period, the 30 days of mourning are an opportunity for the closing of a full emotional circle. The process begins with the funeral and the first days of shiva, when one can't even see a glimmer of light. With the passing of time, the light returns in stages, and waxes more and more. Thirty days is an important period of time, a time for renewal and grasping a new reality."

In looking back at my Sheloshim period, I'm not sure I would characterize it as a time when the light began to return. In truth, at least for me, what did rear its head during that time was all the legal and financial stuff I now had to contend with and the worry about those things that ensued. That worry was my new reality and interfered with my ability to begin adjusting during that Sheloshim period. It was only after I was able to wade through and take care of all that stuff that I was able to concentrate on the enormity of what had happened. That's when the real work of adjusting to reality started for me. I consciously began that adjustment long after that thirty day period. It's a slow process for me as that adjustment continues.

Copyright © 2019 Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Kaddish prayer: what it does and does not do

The Kaddish prayer is a puzzlement for me. I say it because of tradition, nothing more.  It could be interpreted as a prayer praising G-d despite the loss of a loved one. But the recitation provides no relief, no words of comfort, no connection to the actual reason most people give voice to it.

When my beloved Warren died, I said the Kaddish prayer every day for eleven months. I said it by rote, from memory without thinking about the meaning. But each time, when I finished reciting it, as I stood in front of a favorite photo of him, I took the time to reflect on various memories that came flooding into my mind and my heart, smiling amidst the tears and whispering softly to him that our life together was one of wonder, beauty, laughter and so much love. Those precious few minutes of reciting the prayer and remembering helped me to start my day and enabled me to leave my bedroom without collapsing in utter grief.

I am not a Rabbinic scholar. I can read Hebrew but I can't speak it in conversation nor do I understand much of it. So reciting the Kaddish is an exercise in how good my memory is.  But when I participate in the recitation of it while in synagogue, it takes on a whole different meaning for me. I am not the only one who stands for it. I'm surrounded by many who repeat the prayer with me. The key words here are "with me." I am in a community of wonderful people who have experienced deep loss and together we acknowledge our pain, together we remember our loved ones and we recognize each other's loss.

Perhaps that community of mourners standing together all thinking of their loved ones creates a common bond, if only for a few moments. I want to think that such a bond may be the real reason many recite the Kaddish. And when I recited the familiar words, the words I really don't understand, alone, on all those days, it gave me time to prepare to face the day.  So, voicing the words, alone or included in a community of mourners, it affords me some precious time of concentrating completely on my Beloved and those other loved family members and knowing that I am not really alone.

Copyright © 2019 Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Friend? Acquaintance?

The words 'friend' and 'acquaintance' are really not interchangeable. I am casually familiar with a lot of people who are witty, warm and fun to be with, but good friends with only a very few. I am aware that people rarely think of the difference. But the difference was made abundantly clear to me over the past few years.

The friends Warren and I held dear gave us an abundance of support in countless ways, even though almost all of them live on the other side of the country. That kind of support can never be repaid. It is what sustained us and kept us hopeful during his illness. We never quite got that kind of support from others, not all, of those who lived closer. They were kind and concerned....the "thoughts and prayers" kind of concern. But they were emotionally and physically distant for the most part.  Nevertheless, when we did meet up with them, they were genuinely kind and profuse with their good wishes and we were grateful for that kind of affection.

What we were most bewildered and hurt about was how two people we thought were really good friends for so many years just stopped communicating with us completely not long after Warren became ill. We heard nothing............ crickets.......from them. It's as if they just threw us away. And that is what prompted me to think about this subject, again.

This is just an interesting observation I have made, not a judgment about anyone I know. With friends, we were part of their "inner circle." With acquaintances, we were on the perimeter. The thing is, we understood that people have their own lives, activities, obligations and interests. And as newcomers wherever we lived (six different states), we found it hard to break in to established "inner circles." After a while, though, in each place we lived, we made our own inner circle. But in life, it's necessary to have both kinds of relationships. Friends AND acquaintances round out a lifetime of experiences, without which we could not survive.

And so, I hold my friends who continue to provide the support I still need, close to my heart. And I deeply enjoy the relationships we made with others and welcome meeting new people who will enlarge my circle.

So, friend or acquaintance? Does it really matter? Both are necessary for a life well-lived. And a bonus to all of this is that, in our lives and in my life, some acquaintances have become extremely good friends and for that, I am deeply and truly grateful.

Copyright © 2019. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.






Sunday, February 10, 2019

That silent presence

I've mentioned before that I truly miss my beloved Warren's embrace. He took me inside his arms and held me tight. The feel of his arms around me, several times a day, every day made me feel warm, comforted, protected, cozy, secluded and loved. Hugging was a big part of our lives. And the words that we whispered to each other were like love letters. It provided an irreplaceable and ongoing testament to the kind of marriage we shared.

So now I am left without the physical embrace. But I think about those times a lot. And when I do, something magical happens. I can see him, quite clearly, encircling me and damn, I can feel that embrace. My body reacts physically to those memories that I envision and my heart is soothed and consoled by each one.

I have a vivid imagination. That ability of reproducing images allows me to tap into the thousands of memories stored in my subconscious.....in my heart of hearts. What I'm grateful for is that the majority of these memories are so beautiful, so filled with love, so filled with laughter and I can draw on these whenever I need to. But the amazing thing is these memories arrive when I least expect them but when they're most needed. It's as if a silent presence understands my need.

He is that silent presence who resides in my heart and in my mind and gently guides me throughout my days. He has a hand in almost everything I do and his presence and influence makes me feel safe.

Memories are funny things. They form the chapters of our lives and the more you have, the bigger the book. Little did I know that my book would become a series..... so huge because it's filled with so many wonderful recollections.

Copyright © 2019. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved


Thursday, January 17, 2019

From news and commentary to a personal journey

We got the diagnosis on May 20, 2016, the day our wonderful life together did a 180 degree flip. My blog posts became sporadic after that, writing only seven until April of 2017. Two posts, on August 31st and October 29th, alluded to what had befallen us. My mind, my brain, my energy, my thoughts, my attention, and my very being...  all of it was directed elsewhere.  Every breath I took had something to do with overcoming the horribleness that had enveloped our lives.                              

But by April of 2017 I needed an outlet to express what I was feeling and going through. Thus, on April 23, 2017, I changed the direction of the subjects I had been writing about before that fateful day and concentrated on the changes to my life, our lives and everything I had known.

And so, I began my journey of giving voice to the constant see-saw of feelings I was experiencing. There have been 47 posts before this one and each one came from a heart that once was filled with hope and then...... total despair.

I started writing these posts to vent. It gave me a place to lay claim to my emotions, trying to understand them. I poured my heart out here, hoping to find some relief. Many times I did. I was somewhat surprised, though, at how many people read the posts and never commented on them. People seemed, perhaps, not to know what to say. I think a death sometimes makes us incapable of knowing how to react and renders us mute. And that's a shame. If they only knew what a simple acknowledgement would have meant to me.

One of my sons suggested that I find a way to gather the posts and have them published somewhere because the raw emotions and thoughts might help others who are in the same situation and walking the same road. I've thought about it but I have no idea where to begin.

I've re-read all of my posts and marvel at how clearly I was able to get it all out, the sheer rawness of what was swirling in my head, the hope, the desperation, the inevitable, the crashing of dreams, the pain that was all-consuming, and the staggered healing (two steps forward, one step back but sometimes one step forward and two steps back.) The continuing pain that ebbs and flows like an unrelenting tide seems to be the norm now. I truly think it will never go away but since there is no timetable for grief, perhaps it will play out in its own time. And if it doesn't I will carry it, parked deep inside my heart where no one else can see it, until my last breath.

Whether I continue to write in this vein remains to be decided. I write about what moves me but this blog site has become much more personal. Writing these posts has been a way to begin to purge the intense anger, the anguish, and the unbearable sorrow and as time has passed, the intensity of those feelings has lessened. And I hope, in time, that I cry less because he is no longer here and smile more because he lived and loved and left me to cherish his memory.

I have another blog site at Wordpress with the same name: lifeismorethansoundbites.wordpress.com and I've combined the two on occasion. Maybe I'll write on other subjects there and keep this one as it is........... for now,  as long as I feel compelled to document this journey that I'm on.

Copyright © 2019. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.






Saturday, January 5, 2019

Songs in our book of life

I listen to the radio as I drive around town, doing whatever I need to do that gets me into my vehicle. It is sometimes my own personal safe cocoon. The music brings me to places I'd rather be, back in time and those places jump into my mind's eye as clearly as if I was really there.

I listen to the 60's station a lot when it all started and each song is like a chapter of our lives. I wander to the 70's and 80's station with Seriously Sinatra thrown in to "add" to our 'book of life.' The lyrics become the start of conversations I continue to have with him.

It's funny how, when I'm listening to the lyrics of a song, they bring up memories that begin to weave the story of our lives together. Usually it's just one or two lines that get me thinking of where we were, what we were doing when that particular song was popular. Then those memories bring a flood of emotions, many of which make me happy to have had my beloved Warren by my side during those times and for so many years.

Here's a sampling of lines that spark those memories and cradle my heart:

...You made me so very happy. I'm so glad you came into my life.....

...I love you more today than yesterday but not as much as tomorrow.....

...Baby, you're my soul and my inspiration.....

...Another day in paradise.... just you and me....

...God only knows what I'd be without you.....

...I can't see me loving nobody but you for all my life. When you're with me, baby, the skies will be blue, for all my life. So happy together..........

...Imagine all the people living life in peace..........

...We are the champions... and... We will rock you (the anthems for our UCONN Women's basketball teams!).....

...I am a woman in love and I'd do anything to get you into my world and hold you within.  Life is a moment in space. When the dream is gone, it's a lonelier place....

...We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun.....

...God bless you, you make me feel brand new, for God blessed me with you.............

The tears still fall, silently, and the heart continues to hurt. The magnitude of his loss hasn't gone away but I'm learning how to carry it. I smile because he lived and left me with an overabundance of love and cherished sweet memories from which I draw comfort and warmth and laughter.

Copyright © 2019. Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.