I have been struggling this summer....seven years out and that roller coaster is on it's way down.
Celebrating our 40th anniversary and my 60th birthday this summer was hard without her. ANY holiday is hard because she would be here.
One good thing - we decided to attended our 4th Compassionate Friends Conference. This year it was in Scottsdale, AZ. at the Fairmont Princess Resort (how appropriate for Melissa, huh?). It was amazing - not sure how many acres it covered, but it was at least as big as our neighborhood. Four pools. Several restaurants (that we could barely afford!) and a separate building that was the conference center. It was huge.
First day we had an expensive lunch on the resort - decided to go off the resort for dinner - found a fun restaurant - Carlos Obriens Mexican Pub. Food was good, the company was better.
first night out - Carlos O'Briens Mexican Pub
Mange & Mary and Randi & Carolyn went to the conference too. Great to have friends to share the week with!
Second day, we headed up to Sedona. We'd heard a lot about it and it was worth the trip. Took the Pink Jeep Tour. We all have bad backs, so we took the mildest one. Not too much bouncing, they said. When we got to the outside of town we were off roading-basically. VERY bumpy. But a beautiful view of Sedona!
Took tons of pictures - but these pretty much show what Sedona is all about. Really need at least a week to see everything. Drove by Al Pacino's home - sat not too far off the road. We were surprised!
Had an early dinner on a patio with a beautiful view, then stopped to see the Chapel of the Holy Cross - it closed 5 minutes before we got there. Didn't get to see the inside, but great pictures of the outside. Guess we'll have to go back!
Took a walk every morning around the resort with Randi & Carolyn. Lots to see - including a guy whose job was to bring his Harris Hawk to keep the grackles away. Grackles are very annoying birds. (Similar to crows. Females are brown - the scouts. Males are black. They like to steal food - even right from someones hand!) Whenever Jeff is there with his hawk, the grackles stay away. We learned a lot about hawks and grackles! Very interesting!
Jeff with his Harris Hawk, Ragnar
Found a fake Western Town, had some fun there too...
When we were having lunch in a courtyard one day, a hummingbird landed in the tree above us and sat long enough for me to take a picture...
The sessions were wonderful again. I went to "Am I crazy or is this grief?", Daughterless Mothers - a friend I made at the last conference was back in this session - Karen from Pittsburgh. We exchanged information and I'm sure will connect. She has a surviving son and two grandchildren as well.
me & Karen from Pittsburgh
In between sessions, we got some much needed pool time...
Randi & Carolyn
Curt (Mange) & Mary
me & Donny
After last session - heading out to eat
There were some other good sessions that I missed, one was presented by a Cardiologist who lost his son. His session was about physiological effects of grief. How grief affects our health. Randi said there was so much information he wants to go again. Next year. I'll be there too. Sessions for parents who lost children to Chronic Illness/Disease (I went to that one), Homicide, Suicide, Accidents. Also sessions for men only. TCF has been a lifesaver for us.
On Sunday morning, we did the Walk to Remember, the attended the closing ceremony. Met a lot more bereaved parents and heard a lot more stories. Met a Mom & daughter from Bellbrook. Their son/brother died in a car accident. David. He's buried at David's Cemetery close to Melissa.
His sister actually went to JFK(in Kettering) then they moved to Bellbrook, where she and her brother graduated. Interesting story from them. A few months after he died, his mom got a message on FB from a girl who said she just had a baby and thought it could be his. Turns out it was, and he is 6 years old now. They get him every weekend. Every bereaved mother's (of son's) dream.
Jenna & Karen (from Bellbrook) & me
Donny, me, Bettie-Jeanne & Jim. They stayed with us on their way to the conference. They drove from Connecticut to Arizona. Great stop, great visit. Their daughter April died in a tragic car accident. Holly is Bettie's service dog. Bettie was the presenter of the session - Am I Crazy?
A medal for Melissa. Hanging in her tree already.
We did it for you Fort ... and all the children of friends taken too soon.
And our grandson, JP, and my siblings...Steve & Sue.
On our last day, after the walk & closing ceremonies, we drove to Tempe, AZ to see Sun Devil Stadium. Arizona State (I think). Interesting stadium nestled in between two HUGE rocks. We just drove by and unfortunately didn't get a picture. Then we stopped at ZIPPS Sports Bar. A couple of the items on the menu stated something referencing their "midwest backgrounds". Hmmmm...Donny & I both thought maybe they were from or went to Akron (the Zips)? We'll never know.
When we left the restaurant, the temp went up about 5 degrees - 111 is HOT. As beautiful as it was, we were ready to head home. Flew into Columbus, OH. Got home around 1:30 am....and Donny had to work the next morning!
Not sure if I ever mentioned it here, but besides butterflies and music, Melissa sends me hearts. Started a couple of years ago when I was having a really bad day, and she told me she was going to send me a heart that day....a BIG heart. (yes, I talk to her. Strangely enough, she comes through loud and clear when I walk through Delco Park. Maybe there's some kind of portal there? Who knows.)
Anyway, I got several hearts last week...
Looked out the window on the way to AZ...and whadda ya know...a heart cloud!
We were getting ready to check out of our room at the resort. I went to turn out the light, and right next to the light switch. ANOTHER heart. Can't believe I didn't notice it all week!
Checked the weather when we got home - see the heart in the radar?
Yesterday I took my morning 4 mile walk. Again, I was having a conversation with Melissa. Asked her to talk to me...having a hard time lately. She talks to me through songs. Right away, a song came on that spoke to me (can't remember what it was this time)...after that she said "mom. change the station. So I did. Lightning Striking Again (by Lou Christie) came on. That's a song that Randi gets from Sam. Then Melissa said "Sam is with me mom." I looked up and there was a cloud that looked like an arrow - and it was pointing to another cloud. A heart. Unfortunately I didn't have my phone with me - or I'd have taken a picture. I would have stopped someone with a phone if someone else would have been out! No luck.
Am I Crazy? Nope. Grieving.
She isn't far away. Ever.
Haven't posted pics of the boys in awhile...they are growing like weeds. Took them to COSI
when I had them Wednesday.
Melissa would have so much fun with them...they miss Aunt Fort too.
Ending on a sad note....a classmate (from Carroll High School) and a friend, Barb Gruenzel, died of breast cancer last week. She has been on this journey since before Melissa was diagnosed. She was a teacher in Kettering (Southdale) and was supportive of me when Melissa was on this journey.