Sep 8 2012

Sometimes it Lasts…But Sometimes it Hurts Instead

“Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead.” -Adele

The photo above was taken at a surprise party for Todd Barr on September 8, 2002–his last birthday on earth. I wonder if the people in attendance that day know what a tremendous gift they gave him–just by being there to say we love you and we’re glad you were born. Todd told me (many times over the following days) that day was one of the happiest of his life. It was just like him to be so appreciative of something as simple as a birthday–something he should have had dozens more of.

Todd died three weeks after this picture was taken. He was 34.

A few days ago I attended a birthday celebration for my brother who just turned 57, and as with most ceremonial events in life (weddings, births, funerals and birthdays) Todd came along with me (in spirit) to the festivities.

It was impossible not to be reminded of my deceased fiance as I watched my brother celebrate his special day, but what brought Todd to mind most powerfully for me that evening was the fact that there were so many married couples in attendance–and all of them had been together for decades–happily–according to them.

My brother and his wife went to prom together in 1974 and they remain in love after nearly 40 years. My daughter and her husband met and fell in love in high school in 1996. My sister-in-law’s aunt met and married her “best friend” 19 years ago and another couple had been “matched” by my brother and his wife over 20 years ago. Of the married couples in the room, all but one (newlyweds) were in relationships that had stood the test of time, and the word “soulmate” came up in conversation over and over that night.

So, of course, I thought of Todd often, though I didn’t speak of him in that context. His name did come up, not in a discussion about love and soul mates (I find that bringing a dead fiance into those discussions tends to bring the level of joy down in a room), but in a discussion about swimming in the Pacific ocean and its danger vs. safety.

One of the women there was saying she would never get on a boat or even go on a cruise because she was afraid of drowning in the ocean. The old (pre-Todd) me would have insisted she was missing out on a beautiful relationship with the sea, and that she should maybe reconsider, don a good life-vest, and partake of the beauty and majesty of the open water.

The new (post-Todd) me doesn’t quite see it that way. The new me now understands and can relate to being afraid.

When I was a child, I swam and body surfed in the Pacific ocean with my brothers and sisters with absolutely no fear of any dire consequences. We would swim out to catch the “big ones” and ride the waves back to shore, sometimes rolling and tumbling in the surf when an especially powerful wave hit us. We often resurfaced tangled in seaweed, gasping for air and laughing with joy at the “fun ride” the Pacific can give.

I would never do that today. Nor would I let my children.

I told the ocean-phobic woman I thought she had good reason to fear the power of the sea, then I explained to her how my fiance Todd (a very strong swimmer) drowned in it.

She stared in my eyes for a long moment and promptly changed the subject. “You are not over him,” she told me.

I know.

One thing survivors of loss know is that you don’t “get over” the loss of a loved one. Ever. What you do is experience the grief, then move forward, slowly at first, until life returns to some semblance of “normalcy.”

Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s grief model, commonly known as The Five Stages of Grief, lists 1) denial, 2) anger, 3) bargaining, 4) depression, and 5) acceptance (not necessarily in that order) as the stages a loss-survivor will experience over time.

I can testify to all five.

But, I would add a sixth (and possibly most potentially debilitating) stage that persists long after those five stages are traversed.

6) fear.

I don’t have anything wise or witty to say about it. I can only say that I remember what it was like to be fearless, and I miss that.

Happy Birthday Todd. I miss you. I wish you didn’t have to leave so soon.

 

(This is a cross-post from WilliamToddBarr.wordpress.com)



Jan 13 2012

Cross-Post from Bionic Beauty: I Am Beautiful…Because I Am by Kathleen Cross

I have been incredibly excited to share this week’s Powerful Beauty guest contributor. Kathleen Cross is the author of two Harper Collins novels, Skin Deep and Schooling Carmen. She has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows, including Oprah, Montel and Dr. Phil. In addition to being an acclaimed author, Kathleen has her own website KathleenCross.com. –Jami at Bionic-Beauty.com

 

There is incredible power in being loved unconditionally.

Love allows us to see ourselves as the beautiful creatures we are, and if we are open to the lesson, it will teach us what we are truly made of.

I learned that from my former fiancé Todd Barr, who knew that at forty-something I had plenty of internal and external flaws, and chose to focus instead on what he found beautiful in me:

In His Eyes
I am sweet marrow
wrapped in angel’s flesh

strength’s elucidation of grace
I am

Stillness in motion
Heaven and earth alloyed
I am the only goddess
and he comes undone when I dance

I am alto now, soprano then
aria in rhythmic breaths

lyric in silence
soloist and symphony abreast


I am the matchless voice
and he lip syncs as I chant


I am sapphire


I speak watercolors


in my lover’s eyes


I shine

 

I penned those words after Todd informed me during an argument,

“Don’t tell me not to put you on a pedestal. It’s my pedestal. I put you up there, and there’s nothing you can do or say to remove yourself, so just shine.”

The trouble with that kind of admiration is what can happen to you and your self-esteem if the admiration is suddenly withdrawn.

Todd taught me that too when he drowned in the ocean trying to save a friend caught in a riptide.

I was beyond devastated by the loss of my best friend, and, lost in the dark fog of mourning I arrived at the irrational conclusion that the only way something so terrible could happen to me is that I deserved it.

I deserved it.

That one ugly thought burrowed itself deep, obliterating my self-esteem and leaving me unable to feel beautiful or worthy of love for many months to come. I retreated to a deep dark cave where I was sure my ugly self belonged, and I stayed there much too long.

A mohawked skater-dude in line with me at the bank has no idea he helped to nudge me out of my cave. Written on his t-shirt were the words, “Welcome to Earth, where ugly things happen to beautiful people.” I found a powerfully beautiful message in it for me.

We come to Earth beautiful. Beauty, like love, is our birthright. We don’t have to do anything to deserve it any more than we can do something to deserve those experiences we interpret as “ugly.” Earth is our pedestal and it is our birthright to shine here. Todd already knew what it took me a while to learn.

I am beautiful, because I am.

Kathleen’s words are absolutely incredible and emotionally moving. I received her contribution by email, read it, and it literally stunned me. I hope all the Bionic Beauties out there love it just as much as I do. ~Jami