So now begins what I think is the final stage and most important stage of my healing…AND might I add…the longest and perhaps most difficult phase…the spiritual phase. This is not to say that I have all of the other aspects in perfect order, but I think they are well on their way. I know that I will still cry a lot over Mom and over Madeleine, and I will still have dark days. I will still have times when I am enjoying my family or friends and suddenly, without warning, a wave of intense sadness will come over me and envelop me. I will miss them forever. I will miss what I had with Mom and I will miss what I had – and will not have – with Madeleine. But they are treasures in my heart that I will always carry with me, and I know that. It hurts right now thinking about Madeleine not being here, but I am counting on an after life to spend eternity with her.

I didn’t visit the cemetery very often after my Dad died. I didn’t find it comforting…mostly it left me with a great emptiness. It felt like a constant reminder that he wasn’t here. I think that’s because I just couldn’t face the fact that he was gone. It was too hard at that point in my life. I was only 24 years old and had just gone through a divorce. Dad was a rock for me that I depended so much on during that time. For him to be gone left me feeling so alone and so very lost. It was more than I could handle by myself, so it’s very interesting for me to observe the difference in myself now, in dealing with Mom’s death. The cemetery where they are both buried has become a comfort. I am processing her death so differently…so much more honestly and openly with myself, that the cemetery isn’t a place where I will be “reminded” of her death, because her death is always with me. Instead, it’s a place I can go and let the tears flow and let the sobs come. It’s good. It’s healthy. And I can talk to her a little. I’m still not at a place where I can talk to her a lot. I don’t know when that part comes. I’ll wait and see.

But God and I…well…we have some talking to do! THAT is going to be where my spiritual healing begins. I have found it very difficult to talk to him these last months. Very difficult…almost impossible. In fact…it’s hard to believe, but in one month it will be a year ago that we found out Mom was sick and dying. How can that be already? I always pictured myself as one who would cling to God during something like this, but I’m just as human as the next guy I guess, and my emotions extend to God too. I haven’t quite analyzed all of my feelings towards God yet. That will come in time as He and I converse, but one thing I do know is that He is here to help me. No matter how difficult my humanness makes it. (And yes…in case you haven’t notice…I’m way too analytical…and human…I admit it!)

When my Dad was first diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s Disease) I was not shocked. I had been going through a medical book at the time and had already diagnosed him in my mind according to his symptoms (yes…Miss Analytical), so I knew the disease was fatal. However, the other thing I “knew” was that my Dad wasn’t going to die. Why would he? There would be no sense to it. He was young, had 11 children and a wife that needed him. AND he was a good Catholic! So…voila! Fatal disease or not, he was going to live. It was that simple! When he died nine months later…that was when I went into shock. I really, truly, honestly did not think he would die. I had a very difficult time with that, but my relationship with God stayed fairly strong, although I of course went through some anger toward Him. It’s only natural. But this time is different. I feel like I have cut Him off somehow, and I know that in order to heal, I need to rekindle that relationship with God. And besides…I miss Him and I want to feel close to Him again. I am ready.

A friend of mine and I share a little secret that I will now share with you. Years ago, after much honest self-examination, I came to the realization that I have a little “God suit” that I wear. Oh yes!! It fits me pretty darn well too! You see…apparently not only do I “know” God’s plans for me in times of crisis, but I also “know” how He will or won’t “fix” things. Oh yes!!! I am the master planner for Him! I “know” exactly what the best way and the best time for everything is. Ha! This is what I refer to as “wearing my little God suit”. It is not really a good thing to see in oneself…rather humbling actually…but…it’s good to realize that I do this and I can laugh at myself for it. In fact…I am going to write a song about “my little God suit” someday! But…all joking and sarcasm aside…I obviously do not have the ability to know anything about what God’s plans are for me or anyone else. It’s a matter of my wanting to have control over every aspect of my life and the defense mechanism that comes along with having had too much loss. I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have that ability…nor does anyone else. So, I have to learn to find a way to rest in God and let Him handle things, because He’s going to regardless…and my little God suit has to come off or I will look like the emperor… Yikes!!!

Anyway, I have gotten quite long-winded, so I’ll get to the point. I have decided to go on a retreat in early October. I will be going to a very secluded and remote place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (I can say that without fear of stalkers because…well…the UP is very large and vast!). I will be gone for about six or seven days. I have been there before, but not by myself. I will be going completely alone this time. It’s a good place to be alone with God and rekindle that relationship. It’s also a courage builder, because last time I was there I had to run from a bear! Well…I think it was a bear…I didn’t stick around… 😉 I also know there are wolves up there…but…well…like I said…courage builder! I will stay in a tiny little one room cabin (and I mean tiny!) with no running water or electricity. I will be building a fire every day and evening in the wood burner, and I will pump water from a well to use for drinking and bathing (what else do I have to do all day? Ha!). Very cold water!! (Ice bucket challenge all over again!) No cell phone…no Facebook…no posting. Very rustic…very close to God. I think this is what I need. I’m a bit apprehensive because God always seems to have His own plans for things, but it’s all good. There are several trails to hike and it is exquisitely beautiful and peaceful up there.

I’m feeling stronger these days. I’m feeling grateful. I’m starting to feel like myself -it’s been a long time…almost a year. Yes…God and I are going to become very good friends!

Ciao Amici!!