I Hope You Dance

Our 6th annual Dance for Brain Aneurysm Awareness was held last night. Thankfully, we dodged a bullet with all of the snow storms around us and a cold, but clear night greeted the guests at the legion hall in Westbrook, Maine.

For the first time, we held a “theme” dance and this year the choice was an 80’s theme. Some of the 80’s-inspired outfits were truly fun and brought back a lot of memories for me in my 20’s. Yes, I’m aging myself there.

As people started to filter in, the drinks started to flow, the music started to pick up, and the money jumped out of people’s hands. The numbers haven’t been tallied yet, but we feel there was a great turnout and that a lot of money was raised to go towards education, awareness, and other brain aneurysm events. Granted, we’d still like to get some education and awareness out there, but it’s truly not the perfect event for that kind of interaction. Most of the people are there because they know someone who has been affected by brain aneurysms, and that’s enough for us.

I can only do so much helping to setup and I’m horrible with math and money so I leave that up to the experts.  As a result, I don’t feel very “needed” during this event and the loud music & flashing lights from the DJ doesn’t lend itself to in-depth conversations at the tables. It’s all about the drinking and dancing. I’m just a survivor.

Dancing to a good song is something I love to do and this is basically the only time of the year I do it. The last few years I have only danced to one or two songs throughout the evening. Usually it’s Bruno Mars…I just can’t sit when Uptown Funk is played.

I have taken photographs the last couple of years during the event and try to take photos of people at the tables and on the dance floor. Our committe member LeRay is a 40+ year brain aneurysm survivor and I caught her dancing with fellow committe member, Mira, who lost her daughter Karolina to a ruptured brain aneurysm. It was a poignant  reflection of the evening to see these two dancing hand in hand in the middle of a circle of friends and family.

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Mira & LeRay Dancing

As I was smiling and enjoying watching LeRay dance, a woman I didn’t know came up beside me to indicate she hopes her family drags HER up on the dance floor when she is LeRay’s age. I smiled and said “I hope so to!” And meant it. Then my own story caught up with me.

Perhaps it was the nostalgia of the evening with the music and outfits, but I was hit by a wave of emotion as I thought about my own story and how I loved to dance with my sisters and my mother. Pain ripped through my heart and the tears started to form as I remembered I’d never get to dance with my mom and sisters again…until I meet them again.

Thankfully everyone seemed to be ON the dance floor at that moment so I made my way through the crowd with my camera in hand to get some air. Dave caught sight of me as I was struggling and I tried to tell him what had happened. I’m not sure I did a very good job of explaining and know that there wasn’t much he could say to me at that moment to make me feel better, but he gave me a strong hug and asked if I was going to be okay. I said yes, but knew I just needed to get out of the building for a bit and get some fresh air, which I did.

Breathing in that fresh, Maine winter air was a welcome respite and I was soon joined outside by Rob Kurka, whose mother MIra was just dancing with LeRay. Rob knows the pain of losing a sister (Karolina) to a brain aneurysm as well and he was kind enough to listen and agree with me that it just “sucks”. We also agreed that people who complain about really, really minor things that don’t mean anything in the grand scheme of life, are truly annoying. LOL I almost think Kim and Karolina sent Rob (and perhaps myself) outside for us to have that moment together. Then I went and screwed it all up by asking him a personal/political/military question. I’ll blame the beer.

I went back inside and was then pulled on to the dance floor by a stranger. It was fun dancing with him and I was grateful he insisted. I’m grateful and blessed to be here TO dance. I’m grateful we have our small group here in Maine to bring awareness and educate people about brain aneurysms, and I’m grateful for those who put in so much work gathering silent auction items, selling tickets, setting up chairs & tables, bartending, DJing, and buying food for the dance. I think everyone had a great time!

Even though I suffered an emotional lapse, I know there are many angels watching over me and that they were dancing with me…even when I was dancing all by myself.

”Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance, I hope you dance.”

Lyrics “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack

Dancing at my wedding.
My sisters and I dancing at my wedding.

Too Many “Firsts”

As the holidays descend on me, it’s another group of those dreaded “firsts”:

  • The first Thanksgiving without my mom and my other sister.
  • The first Christmas without my mom and my other sister.
  • My first birthday without my mom and my other sister.

Unfortunately, I’m no stranger to those “firsts” after losing a loved one, but it never gets any easier and it’s always a struggle to know how to behave during festive times when you’re dealing with loss. Each loss has provided me with another new chapter or phase that one must get through. Yes, I’m tired of it. Enough, God! I’m tired. Give me a break.

I’m thankful we drove to NY last year for my 50th birthday and for Christmas. As it turned out, it was the last time I saw both my sister and my mother. I’ll be thinking about that this Christmas. It will make me sad and I’ll probably not look at the photographs we took last year for some time.

My wedding photos have been difficult to look at since the death of my sister Dori in 2012, but now my other sister Rhonda and my mother will be two more “ghosts” that will haunt me when I look at the photos. I know that’s the wrong way to think of it, but they make me sad. I wonder how long it will take me to look at those photos and not be sad. It was such an incredibly fun day and we all had such a fantastic time.

I don’t have a group of friends who come and visit me and check on me and take me out for fun things to do. I don’t have close friends who make me wonderful comfort food when I’m having a hard time. As it has been since we lost Dave’s niece in 2008, it’s just Dave and I here on the stream. We rely on ourselves to be each other’s rocks and it’s a hard burden to bear for both of us. How much can we say to each other after each loss? We do the best we can and we take strength from each day we’re here to spread the word about brain aneurysms. We have to. It’s all we can do to truly honor Kim and Dori’s memory – trying to save another life.

I’m tired of planning services. I’m tired of losing the people I love and I’m tired of grieving…and yet, I have more to do yet. Granted, I haven’t spent every Christmas with my mom since I moved to Maine in 2000, but we have made it back to NY every couple of years to spend the holiday with her. I miss her voice. I miss her laugh and her wacky sense of humor. She’s irreplaceable and I knew the day would come when we’d have to say “good-bye”, but I hadn’t expected it when it happened. Grieving can suck the life out of you, but I have more life to give apparently and God keeps testing me. I wish he’d stop…I’m good! Really! Oh, and by the way, while we’re at it God, my own brain aneurysm angiogram checkup in January needs a clean bill of health, okay?

So, this Christmas I haven’t decided yet if I’ll put up our Christmas tree. I love Christmas. I love Christmas carols. I have listened to carols for a few weeks already, which was a big no-no in our household growing up! Mom refused to let us play Christmas carols on the piano until after Thanksgiving. The only exceptions was music we had to rehearse for band concerts because we usually started rehearsing those earlier in November. Rhonda played clarinet, Dori the saxophone, and I played the clarinet and piano. I supposed I love listening because they’re familiar, comforting tunes and I know all of the words. 🙂

I remember we couldn’t WAIT to get the Christmas books out after Thanksgiving. I found one of those old piano books at mom’s apartment in NY. I may pull out the electric keyboard and see if I’m still able to tickle the fake ivories in honor of my mom. We’ll see. I think I want decorations, I just want to take the time and effort to do it. LOL I need those Martha Stewart elves to come in and beautify my house for Christmas.

One extremely sentimental item I WILL be placing out somewhere, are the old manger pieces from the manger we had growing up. The physical manger is long gone, but the ceramic pieces that went in it have been securely wrapped in newspaper every year since I was born I think. They were even in the original box in my mom’s apartment, which blew me away. Putting out the baby Jesus was something mom always made a big production of. We HAD to put him in the manger last and could not unwrap him from the newspaper until everyone else was in their proper positions.

So, perhaps this year, in honor of mom and Rhonda, I’ll put up the manger, I’ll pause to position the baby Jesus just so in the middle of the manger, and try to be happy and smile. And I should also take a note from the Moms Eulogy FINAL (<–PDF) and read at my mother’s service and “Have Fun!”. I’ll try…I’m trying.