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  I received a response yesterday to my post “Tears in the Closet”.   My friend reminded me of the “extreme separation”, which are the words...

The Fire

Thursday, December 22, 2011
Today, I feel myself getting frustrated and a little bitter about being alone this holiday season without Michael. I usually snap out of it almost as quickly as it tries to set into my thoughts. Every once in awhile, my flesh tries to rise up more than usual and beat me down in my thoughts. Little things have irritated me today. There are so many little things that I now do around the house that he used to do but  I have had to begin to do them all out of necessity.

The first night I built a fire this season was a frustrating one. I realized that the damper was closed and I could not figure out how to open it. I have built many fires in my life but I had never built the first one of the season, (it was very ceremonial for Michael when we burned our first fire each season), which means I never had to open the damper.

I could not figure it out so I called my brother and he tried to explain it to me over the phone, which did not work because I was already frustrated. I looked out my window to see if any of my male neighbors were home but, since it was not after 5:00, I could not see a sign of any of their cars. I was home alone and getting mad at myself and the world because I am usually very capable but I could not get it to open. I gritted my teeth with more determination and thought to myself, ”This is ridiculous! I can do this.” I practically had to crawl into the fireplace with my flashlight to be able to see the handle that I was suppose to pull. The angle of my body to the handle made it very difficult to open and, as I tried, soot was coming down on me, which only added to my frustrations. I placed myself further into the fireplace, made a grunt in my anger, and finally pulled it open. I was home alone at that moment, so I just continued on as if it was no big deal, got the firewood from the woodpile outside and built the fire.

I looked at the blaze with a mixture of contentment and disdain.

Today, after feeling irritated over many things, I got mad at my fireplace again. I wanted to build a fire because it was finally cool enough to do it again.  When I went to the fireplace, I noticed that the soot had piled up too high and it was time to scoop it out before I could build the fire that I wanted. It had been raining all day, and still was as I grudgingly put my hands to cleaning out the fireplace. I scooped out most of it, leaving some to help with the next fire, tied it up in a double-lined plastic grocery bag, and took it out to the trash. As I went outside in the rain to get my wood, I began to hear a little pity party of voices going on inside my head as I loaded up the wood in my arms. It reminded me of how I felt one day this past April when I went outside to find a flat tire on my car.

So many doubts started to whisper in my head and I knew in my heart they were from the enemy, but in the flesh I wanted to agree and sit down on the wet pavers and kick my legs… What do you think you are doing? You can’t possibly do this alone? Raise 3 children, now 5 children all alone? Run this household all by yourself? Who are you fooling? Nobody cares enough to see that these little things can sometimes be so hard. Then my thoughts switched over to feeling like a martyr…. I certainly can and will do this. Nobody is here to help me and I can do it all by myself if I have to. By the time I got back into my keeping room by the fireplace, my thoughts had been all over the board in as little as 60 seconds.

I was so relieved to get the fire burning. I lit some candles and sat down with a cup of tea to recover from,what felt like, my daylong pity party. I mean, it was just a fire in the fireplace……I am not going to let this get under my skin and start feeling sorry for myself about it. My God is big and He has given me strength up until now to meet each day with a strength from deep down within the well. Sometimes I don’t feel like more than conqueror. I don’t feel like I can do all things through Christ. 

 I have to put down my flesh daily, remember that He is and will supply all of my needs…."all" meaning physical, spiritual, and emotional.....even building a fire and gathering wood in the rain.

This Fairytale

Thursday, December 15, 2011
As soon as I finished writing my last post, Mia came in and plopped on the bed and I told her a little about my song search and talked a bit about the ones I had found. I lean on her for all of my computer questions and I made a last ditch effort stab at trying to find the lyrics to "This Fairytale" on my computer. I had an IT guy come over in the spring to consolidate all of my files from our old computer into one comprehensive folder for my laptop so that I had everything previous to Michael's accident in one location. I had looked in that folder already and could not find them. I was showing it to Mia a few minutes ago to make sure that I had gone through the process correctly to locate the song. I added the word "this" to "fairytale" and it popped right up. As the lyrics came on my screen I was overwhelmed. I covered my face and began to sob tears of relief and thankfulness. I had started looking for these lyrics on February 23. It was in the back of my mind all of this time. I don't know why it was burning in me so heavily to locate these particular lyrics, of all of the lyrics that he wrote, but it is a wonderful encore to the post "A Beautiful Life". I had thought about having it sung at his funeral, but plans had to go into another direction....that is when a song which I had written was put into the service instead of this one. I learned years ago when I first started writing and dabbling in screenwriting, that the best stories are told from what you know and experience. Michael wrote this song from his heart and from experience for a young couple that was getting married. I have not read these lyrics in about 7 years. I found it amazing that he began the song with hearing "the pages turning" and I refer to seeing "the words on the final page of the fairy tale ending along with the closing of the book," in my post.

This Fairytale

I heard the pages turning
And with a pen in His hand
The Author writes a fairytale
Of this Woman and this Man

An unexpected journey
A turn in the road
He reveals to us a story
That has always been known

Chorus: The winds of change they came
And they tried to blow them down
But they would not be moved
For they stood on solid ground

No matter what the cost
They knew their faith would prevail
For they trusted in the Author of…….
This Fairytale

A gentle smile came on His face
As He began to write, He said,
"Memories may never fade
But I ordained this night

A union of my children
To have and to hold
A reminder of the promise
I sent long Ago"

Chorus 2 (you see) The winds of change they came
And they tried to blow him down
But he would not be moved
For he stood on solid ground

No matter what the cost
He knew his faith would prevail
So that we may know the Author of…….
This Fairytale

Bridge: Seasons come and seasons go
But through this course of time
He will be her prince charming
And her his princess bride

So we celebrate the Author
Who has given us this day
A memory to cherish
That will never fade away

Chorus 3:(you see) The winds of change will come
And try to blow you down
But you will not be moved
For you stand on solid ground

No matter what the cost
You know your faith will prevail
Cause we were written by the Author of…….
This Fairytale

This Fairytale

This Fairytale

Written by Michael A. Barranco
In 2003

I See You

After writing my post called, "A Beautiful Life", my mind turned towards all of the songs, finished and unfinished, which Michael had written through the years. I remembered a love song he had written called "Fairy Tale", and I have been desperately trying to locate the lyrics. I have looked in our computer, file cabinets, and all of his music binders, where he kept songs that he sang for church, songs he sang with his R&B group, and songs that he had written. I found the soundtrack, but cannot find the lyrics. I feel very undone. I feel like I have frantically searched everywhere, except for one binder, of which I cannot find. In looking for these particular lyrics, I came across so many that I had never seen. They are written on everything from coffee stained paper towels, to hotel notepads, to letterhead from places of employment 15 years ago. I love it when I find his original lyrics from the first draft. They are usually sloppy because he would write them quickly as they were usually flowing out of his spirit during his quiet times with God. Occasionally, they may have bubbled up while he was listening to a sermon or some other speaker that would send a spark up in his heart, which, in turn, would send his creative juices onto something like a hound dog following a fresh scent.

I may eventually write down some of the other lyrics and poems that I found, but I wanted to write this one first because it struck me like arrow in the heart. Many times he would mention a song that was rising up in him but would not go into detail, or he would say it's not finished yet. This is one that he never mentioned and it is not complete. He had written next to the words where it would be instrumental and where he would even modulate. I had to follow his words around on the page in his hand written scribble to piece it together. It was written in 1996. It made me catch my breath and cry in disbelief. I believe he wrote it for me.....for such a time as this.

I See You

I see you starin’ out the same old clouded window
Uncertain, if what lies beyond is truly real

I see you watching all of the familiar faces
Outside this window, there’s a place within your reach

I see you wondering if its your imagination
Or if it really is, just as it appears

I see you questioning just what it is you’re after
Familiar faces will confirm your desire

Commitments live and then they die….who knows why
Maybe the answers lie in another place and time

I see you thinkin’ about a way to make things happen
Familiar faces….

I see you standing in the shadow of tomorrow
Though its not clear, you know this the place to be
I see you boldly steppin’ out to find your future
You’ll overcome and welcome opportunity

I see you reaching for the purpose of your being
With those around you, who encourage you and who came
I see you living out your dreams of yesterday
With confidence achieved because you chose to dare

I see you looking at, thinking about, wondering if, wanting to, weighing it, …

Written by Michael A. Barranco

Is This Real - Part 2

Monday, December 12, 2011
I have been having new waves of disbelief. I thought that I was actually fully accepting this.... then the Christmas holidays hit.... and the ring is no longer on my finger. I am reminded of what I wrote back in April about the same thing.

"Yesterday, while we were out of town, I was driving home with my children from a shopping day and having lunch, when that sudden thought hit me, "Is he really gone from this world?" How is that possible? He was just here? We have had lunch with him in this place. We ate at "that" table right there. He bought me a purse in this store. We have tried on clothes here every year. We have driven this stretch a hundred times together. Weren't we just here with him? Didn't he just plant those flowers in our garden? How could he really be gone? We just had a family dinner together. We just roasted marshmallows together on the back patio. I just helped him organize his office for this year and we were not even finished. He just bought a bunch of nice work clothes that have not even been worn yet. He just took Michael Anthony camping. We just had a glass of wine together. He just kissed me and said good-bye. We just talked on the phone. He just got a new hair cut. Wasn't our summer vacation just yesterday? Didn't we just order take-out and watch a movie on the couch together? Where did he go? ..... He really isn't coming back.

This is real. He really is in heaven. We really miss him but really are trying to move on each and every moment, but are only able to because of the prayers of so many people and because of God's grace that flows towards us daily. My God is more than enough."

The same thoughts of what we “just” did together have gone through my mind again. Weren’t the kids and I just sitting on the couch together watching him meticulously string the Christmas lights on the tree? Didn’t we just do our evening Christmas shopping spree together after drinking our favorite holiday cocktail? Weren’t we just giggling in the car over our gifts we purchased with excitement? Didn’t we just have our annual Christmas lunch together while going over everything we had purchased for the kids and discuss what else we had to get? (While looking at the spreadsheet that Michael made every year, to organize his thoughts, with all of the gifts on it!) Didn’t I just hear him sing "O,Holy Night" in the Christmas Eve service? Didn’t we just have our first tree trimming party…. in December of 1987? It seems like last year?

I thought I was doing great. Just pull down the decorations and put them up where they always go. How hard is that? I invited my family over for roasted hot dogs and chili last weekend to help me decorate the tree. I thought having them over would help by having lots of activity going on in the house. It did the opposite and I only felt lonelier. I wanted to disappear in a dark closet. I had to go to my room to cry and get in a quiet place and ran into Mia doing the same thing. We hugged and cried together. I told everyone I was ditching the idea of decorating the tree and would wait until it was just the kids and I. Everyone understood, except my two new little boys in the house and my 5-year-old niece. I decided to let them each hang a few ornaments so they would think they had helped. One by one, I pulled out some from the box that held my and Michael’s ornaments. They were running to me for me to hand them ornaments, and unbeknownst to them, I was continually swallowing a huge lump in my throat as every ornament had a memory. I was beginning to disappear into my own grief box. So many of them were from our first tree trimming party and the rest we collected each year from our travels. I kept searching for ornaments that had no sentimental value to them because I could not bring myself to hand to them the ones that held precious personal memories….like the nest with two ceramic lovebirds in it that clips to a branch, or the one that has wooden stockings hanging across a fireplace with all of our names on it, or the wooden ones he painted as a child, or the little red elf that sat on a branch in the tree each year who always held a special gift from him on Christmas morning. I was thinking to myself, “Is this real? Is he really not here? Is he really not in the next room drinking eggnog, laughing, and telling stories? Where did he go? Is he coming back? Am I the sole parent carrying on all of these traditions? Is my wedding ring really in a box now? This is really hard! Why does that lump come up so hard and suddenly in my throat? How can I breathe fine one minute and the next minute feel like I can’t catch my breath?”

It bewilders me, that after 9 and a half months, I still subconsciously fight the feeling and thoughts that this is not real. The feelings are still there, resting right under the surface, ready to push up with any little memory lately. I placed a big evergreen cross with pinecones on his grave last week. He loved Christmas as much or more than the children. What will Christmas Eve be like this year without him reading the Christmas story from the Bible, then drinking a glass of wine with him after the kids go to bed? Christmas morning without him pouring our coffee in our Christmas mugs and bringing it to me before we walk into the den to see what Santa Clause brought the children? I don't know. We will walk through it, and we will overcome, yet another very difficult "first".

One day at a time…one tear at a time….one season at a time

A Beautiful Life

Sunday, December 11, 2011
After nine months and seventeen days of wearing my wedding ring after Michael’s death, God provided the time, the strength, and the solitude for me to remove it from my finger, along with time by myself for reflection and many tears. (With the arrival of colder weather, I was becoming more and more aware of the ring still on my finger because of a habit I have always had of spinning my ring around my finger with my thumb on cold days. I was doing it all of the time and the knowing that it was time to remove it from my finger kept rising up inside of me.) I still feel a bit shell shocked by this seemingly small act, which, in reality, is monumental for me in this process called grief. It is almost as if I have just turned to the last page of a fairy tale book where you see the words, “The End”, written in a lovely script, then in slow motion, the book closes. At this point you usually think, ”What a beautiful story!”, or, “It all came together so nicely!”, or even, “Nice story, but things don’t happen like that in real life.” It is all of those things because fairy tales never tell the real end of the story. A fairy tale ending is really just the beginning of a beautiful journey through life together. A beautiful journey through life together is beautiful, not because everything is perfect, but because of the strength, growth, sacrifices, courage, tenacity, and fierce love that it takes to overcome hardships and still make the journey successful. An overcoming love is the most beautiful love of all. The deeper the love runs because of shared hardships and pain, the lovelier it is. I heard John or Stasi Eldredge say, “A healed heart is more glorious than a heart that has never been wounded.” Our hearts and our marriage were glorious, and my heart will be even more glorious as I walk on in this life with a scarred heart, which at some point will be a healed heart, without him but with the memories of our journey and the heart that I shared with him. When you are allowed to see the whole fairy tale in its entirety, then you can look at it and say, “Wow, that was really beautiful."

I drove to the jewelry store where Michael and I had purchased our rings and met with our jeweler, who was expecting me. I removed the ring and handed it over to him to clean it and inspect the setting. I had brought with me a couple of old watches, which were in need of repair, which was a good distraction while I waited for the ring. I walked around the store looking into the glass cases at all of the fine jewelry while fingering his wedding band on a necklace around my neck and listening to a couple of men picking out engagement rings with the other salesmen (they were at the very beginning of their fairy tale journey). When he was finished, he came out holding the ring and proclaimed that it all looked good and showed me how beautiful it was as it sparkled in the light. We tried to small talk as he was beginning to put it away for me but my strength suddenly receded and I could hardly breathe or hear what was going on in the room. I was fine until I saw him begin to open up a new black velvet ring box, place the ring inside, then place the ring box within another box. He finally pulled out a gift bag and placed it down inside. He made a comment or question, to which I could not respond, and he looked at me knowingly and handed me the bag. I had a quick thought that it was similar to the “evidence bags” that were gathered from his car and his body following the accident. It was evidence and proof of a life well lived. Evidence of priorities and values well placed. Evidence of a beautiful life. Beautiful not because it was perfect, but beautiful because of the tenacity and fierce love that we maintained through every fire and every victory.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, the rush hit me. The tears were gushing as I was trying to hold myself together, to some extent, while I was driving home. I almost immediately began to hyperventilate through the tears. What had just happened? Was this real? Here I was, driving in lunch hour traffic, alongside people rushing to get back to work or to the next place to shop for Christmas presents, while my heart was wrenching with pain and grieving as I pondered the end of my fairy tale….all while navigating my way home.

Once home, I sat on my bed, pulled out the ring box, and flipped the lid up so that I could stare at the ring. I touched the ring on both sides with my two thumbs while holding the black velvet box in my hands. I let my mind go back to the night he proposed to me, on Christmas Eve, in a restaurant that we had all to ourselves, seated at a table next to the fireplace. Michael had sent a limousine to pick me up and take me to the restaurant where he was waiting and standing next to our table as I walked into the room. He first read from the Bible, which was lying opened on the table as I arrived. He read with his quiet voice,
“At the beginning, the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Matthew 19:4-6. With tears in his eyes, he got down on one knee and pulled a grey velvet ring box out of his coat pocket and opened it for me to see. Looking at me for the first time was this perfectly chosen ring, which stayed on my finger for 24 years.

I thought about our life story for a while, I saw the words on the final page of the fairy tale ending along with the closing of the book, and I thought inside of my heart, “Wow, that was really beautiful.” Thank you, Michael Barranco, for a beautiful love and a beautiful life….from beginning to end……I’m still missing you.