MARCH 7, 2021: “Seventeen Butterflies” …

Every Christmas, my ex and his mom send a fresh wreath with little butterflies on it to our daughter’s grave. It happens every year faithfully since the very first Christmas without her, and their beautiful wreaths are something I always enjoy seeing as “me and mine” make our own treks to dress her spot with a basket befitting an angel.

Their wreaths show up right after Thanksgiving and stay for the entirety of the month, and thereon into January. Gina Marie gets flowers and baskets many times throughout the year, but January 11th was her “one and only day”, as her duties called her elsewhere, and she left just as swiftly as she came, so of course it is never forgotten! After we split for the last time, her dad made his birthday visit apart from mine, and unbeknownst to me, took that year’s wreath home with him. One day when I was picking up Gia, I noticed it in his garage and asked him why it was there. “Umm, I don’t really know. I just took it for some reason. I didn’t want them just throwing it away.” With that, I asked him if I could have it so that I could perhaps use the beautiful red ribbon and the tiny, “feather butterflies” in her upcoming spring basket, which I did, and there began our family tradition of repurposing her Christmas wreath.

But then … THIS year! As par for the course now, after her birthday, her dad brings the old wreaths for me to do my thing. It’s a labor of love that fills my heart with unspeakable joy, because for all she brought to me in a few short hours, taking them apart and piecing them into my own spring baskets just makes me feel so close to her energy. While I was on the phone with her dad this January, this conversation happened …

Hey, guess what I’m doing … I’m taking apart her wreath and getting ready to make the basket.

Oh, good. There’s seventeen, right?

Seventeen? Seventeen WHAT?

Seventeen butterflies. We add one every year, and this year she’d have been seventeen.

My heart hit the floor in the best kind of way. I had no idea that year after year, one by one, as I’d been carefully cutting those delicate butterflies from their wires and setting them on tissue paper until it was time for their final journey, there was yet another hidden picture waiting to be revealed in keeping with the sweet mosaic rhythm of my life.

JANUARY 17, 2021: “Dear God” …

DEAR GOD, IN ACTUAL HEAVEN:

I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you. Like, as in, from the deepest places of my infinitely grateful heart … THANK YOU! Thank you for all these beautiful memories tucked safely in the most sacred places off my mind, the overwhelming magnitude of which eclipse even the darkest hours I’ve walked through here on Earth.

For instance, THANK YOU for this epic rant from two years ago this day that has now become one of my go-to picker uppers on those rare occasions that I’m feeling down. It makes me smile, AND remember, that I really WAS married to a KING and I truly AM the luckiest woman on this Earth. To know him was to love him, and yes I still do, and I always will, until I see him again with YOU!

So, THANK YOU GOD! THANK YOU FOR HIM, and that he was OURS, and only ever ours, and for the bittersweet consolation in knowing that the foolish “family” that threw him away missed out on knowing one of THE brightest souls in any room and one of THE best men, husbands and fathers this world has ever known. Her “Zack of shit” was one of our truest treasures, and yes I take extremely twisted pleasure in knowing full well that despite the lies they must surely tell themselves as they look inside their empty mirrors, only WE got the privilege and honor of truly knowing the wonder of everything that was “him”.

Likewise, THANK YOU for this equally epic memory from three years ago this day. You know, the one where I found that ever-loving blanket I snuck onto her bed folded neatly on my desk with this ‘lil nugget of sarcastic wit that could only be served by one of my favorite phoenixes of all …

Yes indeed, I’m a truly blessed queen that I should have this abundance of treasure to propel me forward, never backward, and keep this torch I carry into Your eternity burning as bright as bright can be! I love my life. Every single minute of it – the good, the bad, and even the very ugly.

THANK YOU.

With as much love and adoration as could possibly be put into words from one of your favorite brats of all …

ME.

JANUARY 8, 2021: “Leave Out All The Rest” …

One year ago today we took the first bit of his ashes “home” to the Blarney Castle gardens, so when the memory of our trip popped up on Facebook, it prompted a sweet conversation with Christian. Although both the kids are doing much better now than they were a year ago when everything was still so raw, he’s had a really tough time with Zack’s suicide. Not only were the two of them extremely close, but Christian had always said,

You two HAVE to stay together and happy forever … your relationship is the ONLY thing that restores my faith in love.

As you can imagine, August 23, 2019 jaded him even more than our life before Zack did. It was heartbreaking for me to watch their processes at the onset of this nightmare knowing their “hero” let them down in such traumatic and devastating ways. However, watching the miracle of transformation in each of their hearts and how they’ve both been able to forgive him for so much more than any of you will ever know is truly one of my greatest blessings.

Indeed it is true that I have an “uncanny way of taking the best parts of everything and everyone and leaving out all the rest”. I suppose the abundant and seemingly endless amount of grace I have for others is one of my best attributes, and I truly do always look for the best in everyone. But here’s the thing …

IT’S NOT ME.

IT’S HIM!

He’s the one who has “graced me with grace and forgiveness“, and His grace and forgiveness for the endless amounts of bullshit I’ve engaged in over the years is what I owe to others. Now, does that mean I’ll tolerate bad behavior towards me or mine? NOPE! Those days are gone for good! My boundaries are beyond firm at this point and there is absolutely no going backwards. This is how we choose to remember him … by taking only the joy and treasure he brought to all our lives in the decade we got to have him and leaving out all the rest. Likewise, “when my time comes” I hope that my own legacy is none the worse for the wear despite all the wrong that I’ve done!

LEAVE OUT ALL THE REST

I dreamed I was missing. You were so scared. But no one would listen, ’cause no one else cared. After my dreaming, I woke with this fear. What am I leaving when I’m done here? So, if you’re asking me, I want you to know … When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done. Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed. And don’t resent me, and when you’re feeling empty, keep me in your memory. Leave out all the rest. Leave out all the rest. Don’t be afraid. I’ve taken my beating. I’ve shared what I’ve made. I’m strong on the surface, not all the way through. I’ve never been perfect, but neither have you. So, if you’re asking me, I want you to know …When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done. Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed. And don’t resent me, and when you’re feeling empty, keep me in your memory. Leave out all the rest. Leave out all the rest. Forgetting all the hurt inside you’ve learned to hide so well. Pretending someone else can come and save me from myself. I can’t be who you are. {Linkin’ Park}

NOVEMBER 19, 2020: “Carry On” …

If you didn’t already know this by now, my daughter isn’t just any regular kid. She is an actual superhero and I cannot say it enough. No one, and I mean NO ONE, will ever really know exactly what she has been through the last five or six years, or just how bittersweet this night is for us both. It’s the long-awaited series finale of her favorite show EVER … “Supernatural“.

There aren’t really that many words I have to write at this moment, because not only am I literally a raw and open wound after having watched it, I literally just don’t “have” the proper words. What I can tell you is that if you click right here you will be taken back to a post I wrote just over a year ago, “OCTOBER 23, 2019: Supernatural”, wherein you will catch a glimpse of what this show has meant to not just her survival journey, but mine as well … because … if I had lost her too the night Zack ended his own life? Well, I just don’t know where in the actual hell I’d be right now.

This show is the reason she was brave enough to reach out to the ImALIVE crisis helpline on August 22, 2019, when she began to realize that Zack (her “Bobby Singer“), was indeed going to end his own life that night, and THAT’S why we still have her with us. Because of this “silly show”. So, yes, this night is bittersweet for both of us. But, as I’ve told her all along … and as we’ve already “gotten” to learn … sometimes endings really are just beginnings.

Heaven ain’t just re-livin’ your golden oldies anymore … it’s what it always shoulda been – everyone happy, everyone together. It ain’t just Heaven, Dean. It’s the Heaven you deserve.

{Bobby Singer to Dean Winchester}

So, with that, I leave you now with the last two scenes from one of the most impactful eras of our lives. If you know our story? Zack’s story? You’ll understand exactly what these two fictional, yet poignant moments in time mean to me and my girl.

“Carry On” my friends … CARRY ON!

SEPTEMBER 22, 2020: “The Last One Alive” …

… because sometimes all you have to “say” is a song. Make it a good, bright and powerfully POSITIVE day my friends. That’s what I’m gonna do. Eyes on the prize people. EYES ON THE PRIZE!

SEPTEMBER 15, 2020: “The Dark Knight Of LIGHT” …

Today I intersected with another mom who has also buried a child, which turned out to be kinda cool! By now I hope you realize that my intention with this Diary is never to make you sad. “Sad” just isn’t for me, and although I’ve had more than my fair share of it, I choose not to dwell on it for too long. Rather, my intention here is to ever remind you that each and every one of us has the power to EARN an invisible cloak just like the one my favorite “not really a superhero SUPERHERO” dons! You KNOW who I’m talking about, right? Batman. Just Batman.

Always, EVER, BATMAN!

We are ALL SUPERHEROES my friends … some of us just don’t know it! I mean, let’s be honest – no parent should have to bury their child. It’s just not the natural order. None of us should have to bury anyone EVER! But having done so myself way too many times to count by now, then lived, survived, RISEN and THRIVED to tell about it? I’m here to tell you that although I didn’t quite realize it at the time, my tiny angel’s death was the catalyst to all the best and most endearing parts of what my human spirit could truly withstand and become.

I’m a living, breathing “Dark Knight Of LIGHT” who’s found the strength, courage and determination to rise above the demons, conflicts and chaos I’d internalized at different points that tried to take me down, which for the record, is exactly what makes Batman so relatable to me. He’s the only superhero of the historic thousands whose secret identity IS his mask. Whereas, Clark Kent and Peter Parker wear the masks of Superman and Spider-Man, Bruce Wayne is the mask for Batman. He’s a mortal super human hiding in plain site, with a list a mile long of perfectly matched villains that took him to the rails against personal weaknesses that eventually became his strengths. Two-Face challenged the duality of his personality and the two different paths Fate offered. Poison Ivy challenged his struggle with lust and temptation. Scarecrow challenged his struggle with fear. The Riddler challenged the power of his mind. And Joker? Fuhgettabout it! The greatest fictional anarchist of all times held Batman for ransom against his longing for justice and order.

So, with that, I end with this …

How awesome is it that a cosmic collision with another “grieving mom” not only made me smile, but also reminded of how effing proud I am of the cloak I wear that no one sees!

The “Dark Knight Of Light” … That’s me … AND you!

Never forget to remind yourself that YOU’RE a bad ass superhero who has triumphed over SO many things – regardless of whether anyone’s acknowledged it! We gotta keep shining our Lights on our OWN heads … because … it’s the right thing to do and we’re allowed to!

… and besides …

The God I serve doesn’t make anything less than superheroes. But it’s our job to find those super powers hiding within ourselves, lest we become the antithesis of all we truly stand for. THAT’S why He has to let us fall – so we can learn to pick ourselves back up!

AUGUST 24, 2020: “The First Year In Focus” …

I did it people!

I SURVIVED!

Thank you SO much for all of the love and support! I’m gonna keep on keepin’ on!

AUGUST 10, 2020: “A Tree For All Seasons” …

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DEAR CAT:

Let me remind you of the words to that song he would sing to you:

“There’s a light in you that tears me down to nothing. There’s an angel in your eyes. There’s a hope inside that you can make it better. You see right through my disguise. When it rains it pours, and everybody stumbles. I won’t let them bring you down. I won’t let you down when the seasons change. I won’t go down. I’ll fight through the pain. I’ll be there right by your side. I’ll never let them bring you down when the seasons change. There’s a hope in me that I will die for something. Was the fire in my eyes? All this pain inside. Will it be this way forever? I can run but I can’t hide. When it rains it pours, and everybody stumbles. I won’t let them bring you down. When the seasons change and we’re in for colder weather look for me on The Divide. {Five Finger Death Punch}

You see? None of this is about you.

It has NEVER been about you.

IT’S ABOUT THEM!

Not just your babies …

… all the lives you’ll have touched before your time is done … if only for a season.

Your greatest treasure and greatest triumph are in knowing just how insignificant you really are in the bigger scheme of things.

Your “valuelessness” is your greatest value!

Your “powerlessness” is your greatest power!

YOU ARE REACHING NIRVANA!

You are EVERYTHING!

Because you are NOTHING!

You’re NOTHING but a pebble, to be dropped into your ocean, making ripples and waves of outward change for everyone whose path you cross on your journey.

Your purpose is to keep working the roots of this new and healthy family tree you’re now growing — free from the black toxicity that suffocated and broke all the branches of the tree that we came from.

KEEP CHANGING THE STORY!

THE BUCK STOPS WITH YOU!

Your children’s children may never get to meet you, their “Crazy Grandma Cat“, but your legacy will live on through them! HIS legacy will live on through all of you!

Keep working.

Keep sowing.  

You’re doing a good job.

… and (PS) …

I love you! We got this! I WON’T LET YOU DOWN AS THE SEASONS CHANGE!

~ Me

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JUNE 16, 2020: “Day 300, And, Death Is STILL Nothing At All” …

Death Is Nothing At All

MAY 30, 2020: “The Pain Is A Gift” …

THE DANCE

Looking back on the memory of the dance we shared ‘neath the stars above, for a moment, all the world was right. How could I have known that you’d ever say goodbye? And now I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would end – the way it all would go. Our lives are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance. Holding you, I held everything. For a moment, wasn’t I a king? But if I’d only known how the king would fall? Hey who’s to say? You know I might have changed it all. {Garth Brooks}

JANUARY 17, 2020: “When You Walk With Angels” …

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WALK WITH ANGELS

Love is alive – alive like a new born child. Love is a war – broken and running wild. Love is a thief and it’s stealing our hearts tonight. You give it to me. You’ve given me all I need. You’re all I see. You’re all I wanted to be. Can you take me with you where you walk with angels? Where you walk with angels. Love’s around you now. You walk with angels wherever you are. You walk with angels …”  {Aaron Hendra}

Last night I dreamt about Zack for what seemed like hours, one very real scene after another, we finally got in the car to go to school she said it :: “Mom, Dad was in my dream last night.” I could have died a million deaths in that moment and actually had an adrenalin dump after she said those words! You know, that feeling you get when you hear something that knocks you over? Like you’re gonna faint, you just can’t breathe and the blood rushes out of your fingertips? It was the same exact feeling I’d felt on August 22nd at just before midnight – “that moment I felt him leave us”. The incomprehensible juxtaposition of our two dreams was absolutely earth shattering, and let me tell you why …

SHE HASN’T DREAMT OF HIM SINCE “THAT NIGHT“! Zero has she seen his face or heard his voice. He’s just. Been. GONE. So what are the chances that he would avail himself to BOTH of us on the same night in such a magnanimous way? It was no coincidence. It was him, and it was real.

Although she hasn’t told me what she dreamt about or the specifics of his presence I could see she that was even more at peace and relaxed today than her journey thus far has found her. Whatever the nature of his visit to her may have been it was clearly also very real! Eventually she’ll share it with me. She always does “tell me EVERYTHING!” I’m so beyond thankful for the powerful bond that I share with BOTH my kids in this regard. It will just have to be on her time frame and not a second sooner. It may be months or even years before she finally does, but it doesn’t matter, because she will! All I know at this moment is HE WAS HERE to finally answer my questions and let me know that he is very much still with me and NOT going anywhere.

For the record, not only did I get answers to my questions, he also told me:

There’s something coming. Something huge. Something bigger than you can imagine. SOME “ONE”. You’re going to be okay. I love you Catherine. I always did and always will. I’m sorry I hurt you both … I’m sorry that I left you this way … It wasn’t about you, it was ME … but you’re doing so good and I’m SO proud of you. Just keep doing exactly what you’re doing and believe that everything is going to be okay. Better than okay. I promise.

There were other very specific things he said about my future, all of which are now written on a piece of paper in my nightstand drawer that I will share with the small handful of people who are closest to me as a solid point of reference and accountability to their validity down the road if and when they do actually avail themselves in the manner in which he said.

So? What do any of you think? Am I just insane? Maybe I am, but hey, it is what it is. I believe in my heart that he’s still walking with me. They all are. My angels will always walk with me and their love is still very much alive. True love NEVER dies … it just slips into the next room” …

DECEMBER 8, 2019: “Death Is Nothing At All”…

DeathLate last night I stumbled upon the “memory” of a post I’d made on Facebook around the same time four years prior, December 8th, 2015. It was in reference to an annual visit I’d made to my daughter’s grave to deliver her Christmas flowers, and ironically, take a wild guess what I did yesterday afternoon? I made the annual visit to my daughter’s grave to deliver her Christmas flowers. This was what I’d posted:

I held an angel in my arms for 4.25 hours, who left my world as swiftly as she entered it, thus bestowing me the privilege of seeing her very first breath and then her very last. When her heart stopped, so did mine, for what seemed like an eternity, and in that moment I just knew that all the light from my soul had slipped with hers forever. Quite certainly I was wrong though, because I am still right here, with a shining heart filled with joy and peace that has healed where I never knew it was broken. You see, I am a woman who was blessed in the presence of two “dearly departed” at the moment their mortal shackles were released, not the least of which was my precious daughter’s as my hands gave her right back to Heaven. It took me a minute, plus 20 twisted years, but I’ve since found the words “all is well” to be so much more than endearing. For both of them survive with me in every shadow before and behind, as I feel their presences fervently locked in all the deepest chasms of my mind. I never got to hear her voice, yet I recognize it clearly, and his are the chords that fill my heart with memories, joy and laughter. Perhaps the greatest triumph of my bittersweet Earthly existence was that moment I realized I was speaking of, writing about and taking flowers to their graves without a single shed of tear, reveling in the truth that in their crossing my God had not forsaken me, but had all the while been sowing the seeds of my truly blind faith and granting my greatest “freedom”. While of course I do not delight at the thought of our next inevitable relation, no longer do I fear Him, for He is but an Enigma who in one strange paradox both enlightens AND ceases my need to comprehend. For in all my years living both broken and whole at once, I have learned to grieve with hope, and with that, all is truly well. All. Is. Well!”

Meanwhile, here I am, having danced with Death yet again at what seems a lifetime later. Do you know what has changed in my relationship with either God or Death since my husband’s sudden departure?

Not a single thing!

As I was driving to the cemetery yesterday, I was concerned as to how I would handle it, especially in that not a year has passed since Zack came into my life that I’ve go there on my own. He stood beside me through everything and never could I have imagined standing at her grave alone. Yet, as I walked towards her resting place, the most beautiful breeze washed over me. I swear to God I felt so at peace! No tears. No trauma. No aching in my heart or knot in my stomach. Just solace. I knelt down, put the flowers in her vase, took the deepest breath I could, and slowly released it back into an atmosphere that I’m certain they were present in – my first born daughter, my blaze of glory“, and now, THE ONE TRUE LOVE OF MY LIFE!

Their deaths have neither broken, nor stolen from or vanquished me, and everything they were is still every wonderous thing I am! They’ve but “slipped away into the next room” with others I’ve lost along the way, and they’ll all be waiting for me when I get There. They continue to survive with me in every shadow before and behind with their presences forever locked inside what are now the even deeper chasms of my mind. The precious ensemble of their voices perpetually fills my heart with memories, joy and laughter.

As I write this, I still marvel at my triumph. Yes, I am able to speak of them, write about them and take flowers to their graves without a single shed of tear. Yes, I do continue to revel in the truth that in their crossing my God has still not forsaken me. He only continues sowing the seeds of my even stronger blind faith. I truly AM the freest woman I’ve ever known! While I still do not delight at the thought of our next inevitable relation, never will I fear Him … the Enigma who in one strange paradox continues to enlighten and cease my need to comprehend. It’s been a long fifty years living broken and whole at once, but I continue to grieve with hope, with my eyes upon The Cross, and all remains truly well.

THE ANSWER

The lightning flashed as angels rode fiery chargers through the clouds. That answer scared me into tears and all the grownups laughed out loud. Now the years roll on, tired voices have all gone. Now they ride their thunder through the heavens. There’s a world in every drop of rain. Embracing oceans sweep us home again. Come along with me, come along with me. Seek the truth, you shall not find another lie. They say for every living thing there’s a guide up in the sky that helps you pass from world to world so you never really die. Then with scythe and cloak Death comes waltzing to your side. As the visions pass you ask if there was meaning to your life. As you strain to hear the answer, spirits sing and devils fiddle as he bends to whisper in your hear, he leaves you one more riddle. Oh, the answer lies beyond the pain. All the questions in our minds, we surely ask in vain. Come along with me, come along with me. Seek the truth, and you shall find another life. And now my life is like a storm growing stronger every day. Like the unrelenting wind that comes to blow our lives away. So I live each day like I know it’s my last. If there is no future there must be no past. Now I know the answers never meant a thing and with each instant that I breathe I feel the joy that life can bring. Come along with me, come along with me. Seek the truth, you shall not find another lie. Come along with me, come along with me. Seek the truth, you shall not find another lie. {Richie Sambora}