Grief, Finality, Joy, and Gardenias

kristen-macadams-M0jnYTeqTVg-unsplash, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos, grief, letting go and holding on

As an artistic person and a writer that is emotional and often taken by romantic ideals and inspiration in odd places, I used to have this joy that would take hold of me at so many lovely moments in life. It was like this deeply flowing joy that bubbled up to the surface. Life wasn’t always what I expected (that’s for sure), but I could take a hike in the Croatan national forest, along the Neuse river, and be overwhelmed by inexplainable peace and joy. It could be the scent of the pine forest or the way the knobby tree roots were exposed in the sand and water. Or the way my dog would run with such abandon – happy as a clam. I don’t need a lot. I’m a lover of a truly simple life. I absolutely can be happy with the littlest of things in life. I chose joy. I chose joy more often than I didn’t.

The last couple of years have sapped so much of this from me. Yesterday seemed to be the finality I’ve been waiting for. But it was finality without closure if that makes sense. And in that finality, the grief of these two years overwhelmed me. Yesterday and long into the overnight hours, I was overcome. I haven’t recovered today. I woke up feeling hungover – with a headache and swollen eyes. It wasn’t a hangover at all. Except with the losses and finality of it all.

There are two random gardenia bushes in the breezeway near my apartment. It’s random because I’m not sure they’re anywhere else in the apartment complex. They’re in bloom right now. Gardenias are special to me. I adore them for their beauty and scent. But more than that, my grandparents used to grow them. And every time I would leave my grandparent’s house, my Grandpa Avalos would pick gardenias, roses, and other lovely flowers, for a tiny bouquet for me. He often made one for my mom too – though my parents had long been divorced by then. It was one of the things that was so sweet and special about him. This afternoon, as I walked the dog, a gust of wind blew through the breezeway. It filled the air with the scent of the gardenias. It was magical. But I still didn’t fully connect with the joy – with all of the emotion I would have – prior to these past two years. It made me sad. But the more I thought on this, the more convinced I became that it was a sign – straight out of heaven – that I may not be there yet, but I will get back to that place again.

It gave me a little push – a little reminder of what I’m fighting so hard for. I’m fighting hard for the life I’ve prayed for, for so very long. I’m fighting hard to get back to the me that would have been giddy with joy as the gardenia’s rich perfume overwhelmed me. So while I’m not there, even in the pain, I am getting there. Because now I remember what I’m fighting for.

Everything is Changing

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De Luz, California

I’ve been in California since the 27th of August. My grandmother passed away on Saturday the 29th. I will have more to say on my Grandma, later. She was so special to me and the grief is close. But along with losing Grandma, there are other changes coming.

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IMG_6656My Mom, who has lived with Grandma for nearly ten years, and has taken care of her full-time for several years, is facing a transition. The house has a reverse mortgage so it goes back to the bank. Having spent the last few years taking care of Grandma, with me being in NC, and California being ridiculously expensive, it only makes sense for her to head east.

It’s the logical choice. But somehow, the thought of this has really put me in a bad mood. With my Mom moving to NC, I’m basically saying goodbye to “home.” Grandma’s house has been home base. Mom has been here – where I grew up. I come home once or twice a year, I see my family, eat a ton of Mexican food, stop at In N Out, enjoy mountain views and palm trees and then go back to my adopted home.

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Grandma’s yard – love the view of the mountains. Over the mountain is San Juan Capistrano.

We won’t be back for holidays. I won’t get my at least yearly break in So Cal and that leads to . . . when will I see the rest of my family? Granted, I don’t see them often anyway. It’s hard enough to find time to see my brother when I’m here, what happens when my Mom is no longer here? I can’t even imagine when I’ll see him, my aunts, cousins, etc., again.

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Grandma’s 90th birthday in July 20014. Most of my cousins are in this photo.

Everything is changing.

And then . . . as we’ve begun to go through my Mom’s and Grandma’s stuff, getting ready to pack some up, sell the rest, etc., I’ve had to go through some boxes left here, myself. My childhood flashed before my eyes! The things I’d saved, the things that mattered to me as a kid or young teen speak to the dreams that are still mine – still just dreams.

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Long story, longer . . . this has been an emotional trip home. There’s been plenty of tears to go around. And frankly, I’m uneasy about the future, sad to say goodbye to my beloved Grandma, and California. And I’m trying hard to hold on to the dream.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I still cling to hope that though each day is filled with joy, good work accomplished, and meaning, there is more on the horizon. While it doesn’t always feel like that in the moment, I’m going to trust that this is another step in the direction I’m meant to take.

Everything is changing. Challenging yourself to see change as an adventure isn’t easy. But finding the joy, living in the moment and being thankful for the beauty of life as it is, in all of its messy wonder, is worth it.