Tag Archives: grief

Going out on that limb again.

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Okay, I know I said my last weird experience post was the finale but after I blogged them all… I realized it actually wasn’t. The following is what I wrote three months after my mother passed. Her wish was to be cremated but she never told me what to do with her ashes. Being an only child I agonized over the decision, but knew that part of her should rest somewhere in New Jersey where she spent some of the happiest years of her life. It was an emotional trip for many reasons, but what happened on this particular day really hit home.

Rivergirl

October 20, 2014

I knew….

The third day of our trip started much like the first. My husband was up before dawn and went downstairs for the free…. but barely edible… hotel breakfast. Think watery eggs and rubber sausage.

I took a shower and as I was getting dressed, realized I should do what I had been putting off.

The purpose of our trip was to bring my mother home and I’d been stalling with walks down memory lane. I knew I wanted to spread half of her ashes at the Jersey shore where we’d spent many happy summers. She always loved the sea.

I stood there in the hotel room, feeling sad… missing my mom…. and set about the gruesome physical task. There’s something surreal about holding the remains of your loved one in your hands. The weight of a lifetime.

Of course I started crying. Wondering if I was doing the right thing, doing what she would have wanted. The grief flooded over me like a wave…

And then, when the task was done and she was evenly divided, I smiled…. because I realized I had double baggied her and she would have loved that.

Remember her fondness for baggies?

After I wiped my tears, I reached for my purse which held my much needed makeup… and saw something on the table. The table that had been perfectly empty a half hour before when I stepped in the shower.

I gasped. And started crying again….

It was my mother’s white bobby pin.

She was such a pill about them. Would never use any other color and they’re harder to find than you might think. She hoarded them… and started fretting when she was running low. They were in every room of her apartment, in every pocket of every coat and every sweater she owned. She was never without them…

But I didn’t carry them. Ever. And I certainly didn’t pack one to take on the trip with us. Why would I? My husband didn’t put it there, he was downstairs eating breakfast. I suppose a random white haired maid could have snuck in and dropped it while touching up her ‘do while I was showering…. but I’m guessing the odds of that are pretty high.

There’s no reason on earth why a white Bobby pin should have been on that table… except one.

My husband walked in the room a few minutes later, saw me crying and looked lost.

He didn’t believe me when I told him…

But I knew.

I knew she was there with me.

I knew.

To this day I still can’t wrap my mind around what happened. A physical embodiment of spirit? Get the straight jacket ready and tidy up the rubber room, River is on her way.

It’s been 7 years since that crazy bobby pin appeared out of nowhere, and if I think about it too long I begin to doubt it happened at all. But then I walk into our bedroom and look on my bureau under my passel of Alex and Ani bracelets…

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Hello momma

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And I know.

I know it did…..

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Going out on a limb… part 6.

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This will be the last  I never knew River was such a loon unexplained experienced post. Strange things happen, and sometimes you have to blog about them. Which is what I did after my mother passed…. and now again because  Swinged Cat  asked me.

Weird event #6.

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Wow.

Added: Wednesday, July 9th 2014 at 8:54am by rivergirl

I have one more amazing experience to share with you, and for me…this was the most meaningful.

As I’ve said before, the people who work and volunteer at hospices are angels in my eyes. A more compassionate, caring set of individuals you’ll never meet. They were there for me at the worst time of my life…. even when I didn’t think I needed them. They walked me through the process of death and held my hand. Literally and figuratively. They offered a shoulder to cry on and a hug when words weren’t nearly enough. They shared their stories of helping others through difficult times and it ended up helping me.

One woman told me of a patient who had terminal prostate cancer. He was given 3 months to live and was surrounded by his large, loving, Italian family at all times. They came in rotating shifts, cooked meals, read books and played cards. One afternoon while his favorite grand daughter was visiting he told her he was a little tired and wanted to take a nap. She said, “Okay Gramps. But we’ll be right outside when you need us because we’re not leaving you for a minute.” 10 minutes later, forgetting her purse in his room, she snuck back in quietly and found that he was gone.

He needed to spare them the pain of his passing and chose his time.

Make of that what you will.

When you’re sitting in the hospice rooms… there are books, pamphlets and literature on dying scattered everywhere. They’re meant to be helpful, but for days I couldn’t bring myself to read them. Denial is a wonderful thing.

But as time wore on and things got progressively worse, I picked one up.

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It was written by a nurse who has witnessed numerous deaths in her career. And as hard as it was to read…it was also strangely fascinating. Because I learned that it’s a very defined process, death. No matter what your disease or illness….you will die in clearly recognizable steps.

Reading about the months prior to death I realized my mother had been showing the signs. She’d given up reading, which she loved. She’d given up the New York Times crossword puzzle, which she whipped thru in pen. Her appetite had gone from small to non existent. Her sleeping patterns had changed. These are all part of the process….the pulling away from life.

So I sat, I waited, I cried.

And then it happened. It was an afternoon when a social worker had come to talk with me. At this point my mother had been completely out of it for almost a week. You couldn’t wake her and she didn’t speak.

The social worker had gotten up and walked around the room, looking at all the photos I’d brought. We stood on opposite sides of my mother’s bed and spoke of my father and the strange experiences I related here earlier. I had tears rolling down my face when I told her I knew my dad was waiting for my mom. We turned, made our way to the door…. and then? My mother woke up.

Her eyes were as clear as day… and she found me across the room. I rushed to her side, leaned over her bed and held her hand. I told her I loved her. She looked like she was trying to say something…. but couldn’t. Her breathing became labored.  I leaned closer, kissed her and told it her was okay. That it was her time…and that I would be alright. I told her she would be with dad again soon.

I told her he’d been waiting for her a long time and it was okay to go. I told her he was right there with us.

And then the strangest thing happened. She turned her head, reached out an arm and looked right past me….in every sense of the word. Her eyes went completely glassy. Like a curtain had been drawn. Her breathing calmed, she smiled…and I knew. She’d found him.

She closed her eyes and went back to sleep, but I knew the best part of her was already gone. I’m sitting here with a lump in my throat and tears splashing the keyboard, but I tell you at that moment….I felt such an overwhelming sense of peace.

And grace.

I kept a bedside vigil for many more hours. And reread a passage in the book about what happens when death is near…

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Well, I recognized it…. and it was amazing.

She died later that night. A half an hour after I’d left.

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Going out on a limb ….part 5.

I’m just going to keep putting these out here until I run out. If you’re reading them and seeing me differently, so be it. I’m finding it quite cathartic…. and as Bon Jovi says, It’s My Life.

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Weird experience #5, another from my days in the hospice with my  late mother.

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The Crash.

Added: Wednesday, July 9th 2014 at 5:25am by rivergirl

As I said before, I brought a lot of pictures to my mothers hospice room. I hung them on the walls, taped them to the nightstand and tucked them in the tv screen. I wanted to surround her with love and happy memories.

There were many of me and my husband, and our pets and special times we had shared with my mother….

The nurses and staff loved it. They told me it lets them meet their patients in a different way, which considering the never ending sadness they deal with… I thought was very touching.

Most of the pictures were mine, but there were 3 framed photographs that had hung on my mother’s walls for 50 years… so I brought them too.

Here they are:

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Momma & her father

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My mother and her father on Jones Beach.

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My mother and father on their wedding day at the Stork Club.

And this one:

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A very old photo of my mother, in her 20’s, and her first love… Frank.

He was much older and very wealthy. He introduced a young, naive girl born to Austrian immigrant parents who lived in a cold water tenement flat…. to a world of art, culture and high society. They were together for many years, but never married. In 1957 he broke it off and introduced her to a junior partner in his firm….my father. They were married a year later.

I grew up knowing all about Frank. It was no secret she loved him and it in no way diminished the love she felt for my father. First love is first love. It never bothered me.

Now fast forward 50 odd years and her daughter is sitting alone with her in a hospice room waiting for the end. I cried. All day, all night, on and off for days.

During the first afternoon, I was sitting on the rock hard couch thinking about her life, my life and everything in between. I thought about my dad. About how much he loved her and what a good marriage they had.

And then I heard a crash.

The picture of my mom and Frank had fallen off the wall.  It fell face down on the floor and the glass was smashed to bits.

No one had slammed a door, no one had knocked the wall from the next room. There was no seismic shock or tremor that rattled the building. No airplane flew too low and shook the windows. It just crashed.While all the other pictures stayed right where they were.

Apparently while my mother loving Frank didn’t bother me….it clearly bothered my dad. And he told me so in no uncertain terms.

The photo stayed face down on a side table until I brought it home after she passed.

Call it coincidence if you want….

But I know better.

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Going out on a limb…. part 4.

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What is it they say? In for a penny, in for a pound. If you read  this blog I wrote a week or so ago about a strange incident with my father’s antique clock…. and if you didn’t think I was a total nutcase, please continue and blame Swinged Cat .

He asked me to share my weird experiences a while back and that means telling stories from one of the worst times in my life, the death of my mother. So here’s another of the odd moments in my life I can’t explain.

Tick Tock….

Added: Tuesday, July 8th 2014 at 4:40am by rivergirl

As horrible as the passing of my mother was, there were a few moments I will treasure….for very different reasons. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to share them here.

When we moved her from the hospital to hospice, she was in pain…but awake and relatively alert. It was a lovely place and I had visions of spending time with her in the gardens listening to the birds…

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Sadly, that wasn’t to be as the cancer was too far advanced. Her decline was so rapid, strong medication was required.

After the first night of listening to her cry in pain, I gave the okay for maximum morphine. She rested more easily, but was so heavily doped up she was unaware of her surroundings. The gardens and peaceful sculptures turning gently in the breeze were more for me… and this lonely bench near the woods became my salvation when things got too heavy to bear.

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I went to her room the next morning loaded with flowers, framed photographs and personal items to brighten her space. But again…. she was unaware.

I stroked her brow, held her hand, and told her I loved her.

Nothing.

In the 5 days she was there, she only spoke once.

“Whose clock is that? I hear ticking.”

I was confused, as there were no clocks in the room. It meant nothing to me at the time. Just the gibberish of a heavily morphined mind.

Or was it?

Those of you who know me, know I am not a religious person. The hypocrisy of the modern church makes me cringe. And when the hospice staff asked me if I wanted a priest to sit with me, I said no. The thought of the black crow of death hovering over me spilling platitudes did not give me the least bit of solace.

So imagine my surprise when a quiet, unassuming lesbian chaplain became my confident during our stay. She listened, she consoled… she was there. We spoke of many things…least of all religion. I ended up spilling my entire history with my mother to her and felt a giant weight lift from my shoulders. They say that the right people come into your life at the right times…. that statement doesn’t seem so trite to me now.

She told me she believed that everyone has someone who helps them pass over. And it eased my mind to think that my father was waiting for my mother at the end of her journey.

She asked me if my mother had spoken and I related that one meaningless phrase.

Her eyes got wide, she bowed her head and then just stared at me. I couldn’t figure out what I was missing…. until she reminded me of the story I had told her the day before. The one about my father’s broken clock ticking after 29 years of silence.

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Make of it what you will…. but that lovely little woman held my hand and said she knew it was my father’s way of saying he was there. Waiting.

Tick, tock.

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Going out on a limb… Part 2.

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If you’re back this morning it must mean you want to know how my reading with the psychic went back in 2013. Funny, eight years later and I still have to pinch myself when I think about it. Roll your eyes, scoff, write me off as a nutcase… I don’t care. I would have done the same if I hadn’t experienced it myself. You know me…I’m a pragmatic chicka. A realist. There have only been a handful of things in my life I can’t explain…. and this was one of them. So jump aboard the crazy train and thank Swinged Cat  for opening up my archive with his request for sharing weird experiences.

My evening with spirits…. **Friends only**

 January 29th 2013 at 9:47am by rivergirl

I’m not sure I know where to begin.

And if I start rambling, please forgive me…it was a very emotional experience.

The psychic was a lovely woman who made me feel completely at ease. There was no incense, no crystal ball, just a table and the prerequisite box of tissues. She instructed me at the beginning of the session not to volunteer any information. Only to acknowledge or negate what she said. So for all you skeptics, there was no way she was pulling details of my life from me since all I said for an entire hour was yes or no.

I have to say it felt surreal. The moment we started she told me there was a man, who she felt was my father, waiting for me. I won’t go into all the details since none of you knew him….suffice it to say she had him down cold. There was nothing she related that wasn’t completely accurate. She had his personality, his job, his appearance, his love for my mother, his wartime experience, his poor health, his dry sense of humor, his love of the sea. She saw him surrounded by books, artist’s brushes, animals and gardens. She spoke of his grief over the loss of his brother when he was young, of his regrets in not being able to watch me grow up, his sense of duty towards his widowed mother and awful sister.

(And let me tell you…she had her down pat also. My hateful aunt who the psychic called spoiled, entitled and bitter. Fittingly, she is as alone in death as she was in life. Nice to know you really do reap what you sow. 👍)

I think the most amazing thing I came away from this experience with was the knowledge that our loved ones are always with us. My father said he was glad I had found a good man who loved me. That we were secure financially, that we were happy. He knew my husband had been in uniform and was older than I. He spoke of the big building project we had undertaken (the barn!) and how well we worked together as a team. He said he had been worried for me in my early teenage years right after he died because I, how shall we say….ran a little wild. (Which I totally did!) He said he appreciated the fact that I care for my mother… and to please have patience with her… as he had to, for she is not a strong woman.

The psychic told me of my father being there the night of the Marine Corps ball and how lovely he thought I looked in my dress. Of how proud he was of me for finding my own voice after so many years of being a shy wallflower. (Yeah….I know, hard to believe but at one time I was.) He wanted me to know that our beloved beagle Hiram was beside him now as he had been in life….which made the animal lover in me rejoice. He told me to lead the life I wanted to lead…that it is the regrets we take with us. And even though I never felt neglected as a child, his biggest regret was that he worked too hard and too long and didn’t spend enough time with my mother and me. He spoke of many little childhood memories I had all but forgotten. He spoke of the grief he carried over the loss of my brothers and sister. (My mother had multiple miscarriages early in their marriage) As I said…it was surreal.

Though I did choke up a few times….I didn’t babble. Which is surprising because even after all these years, I can’t often speak of my father without crying. I think I might have been too stunned for tears. My jaw was probably hanging open half the time because even though this was exactly what I had hoped for…part of me didn’t believe it could really happen. I’d happily crossed over into the Twilight Zone… and no one could have been more surprised. But aside from the other worldly vibe? The over all feeling of the evening was peace.

And love….above all, love.

For 35 years I have missed my father…. and wished over and over again that he could have shared my life as a teenager, as a young woman, as an adult. And now, the most remarkable thing I realized?

 He has.

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I’m going out on a limb here….

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I’ve been meaning to share this with you for a while now… ever since Swinged Cat  asked me about it in the comments of this blog. 

“It” being strange and/or supernatural events. If that’s not your thing, no problem….  feel free to skip the next few posts.  It wasn’t my thing either. Until it happened to me. Not so easy to ignore then.

As most of you know I lost my father when I was 14.  I was an only child of older parents and a total daddy’s girl.

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Dad and me, baby

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His loss shook my world to it’s core. Heck, I’m 57 years old, and to be honest I still haven’t gotten over it.  Anyway…. back in 2013 my best friend gave me a very odd Christmas gift.  “An Evening with Spirits” which was an hour long private session with a psychic. Now before you roll your eyes (like I did) it should be noted this was her daughter’s old college friend and not some loon on the street corner. She’s traveled world wide, studied numerous religions and spiritual disciplines, worked with the most respected people in the field ( you’re eye rolling again, I know…  because I did it as well). But I assure you, my girlfriend is the most down to earth, no nonsense, grounded New Englander you’re apt to meet so if she said this woman was the real deal and forked out a major amount of money for a reading? I had to go along.

The following is copied from my old blog site, and while I normally don’t do that type of thing…. it was written right after the experience and was a harbinger of things to come. Read on if you’re interested.

A Twilight Zone moment….. For Friends Only

Added: Saturday, January 26th 2013 at 6:38am by rivergirl

Friends only because I really don’t need a larger crowd of people thinking I’m crazy.

As you know, I’m using my unique Christmas present this weekend and will be visiting the psychic I posted about earlier. Me…. seeing a psychic. And they say pigs don’t fly.

So… yesterday I’m sitting on the couch reading an interesting book about Tibet. It was full of legend and lore and spirits and demons…..which got me thinking about my upcoming reading. Basically I was wondering if it would be amazing or a total waste of time.  Contact with my late father would be a dream, but we all know how rarely those come true. Still musing, I put the book down and looked up at our mantle where an antique English clock of my father’s sits.

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It’s a pretty little thing that my mother gave us 29 years ago when my husband and I moved into our first home.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Hasn’t for the entire 29 years we’ve owned it and since it has a rather special pedigree….

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I never wanted to take it to just any clock maker to be fixed. Call me lazy, call me cheap… but there you have it…. it doesn’t work.

Until yesterday when I was sitting on the couch thinking about my father and the damn thing started ticking.

I’m not kidding…. I almost had a heart attack.

My jaw dropped, and I think I was shaking.

I jumped up to make sure I wasn’t hearing things and I swear by all that’s holy the stupid thing was working.  After more than 29 years.

WTH!

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Crazy lady hearing things? I’d be the first to say so if it hadn’t happened to me. The clock ticked for almost half an hour, and naturally stopped right before my husband got home from work.

Other people talk about experiencing weird things like this and I scoff. But I’m here to tell you when it happens to you? All bets are off.

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We celebrated a most remarkable life.

 

On Sunday morning we drove up the coast of Maine to say goodbye to a very special man.

 

 

The kind of man you meet once in a lifetime.

 

 

A humble man so good, so kind hearted and so generous of spirit… his celebration of life had to be held in an airplane hangar.

Was it because he was a pilot?

 

 

Maybe, but more likely it was because he touched so many lives no other space was large enough to hold the mourners.

A lifeline to the Islands

I stood in 90+ temperatures (pressed against a wall and wearing a mask) for over 2 hours. I listened to emotionally wrought eulogies…. and saw grown men openly weep when they tried to speak of what Kevin meant to them.

The outpouring of love and respect was almost physical. You could feel it, in the air and in your heart.

When the service was over and four planes from the airline he started, nurtured and bled for flew over in the missing man formation?

Spontaneous applause and not a dry eye in sight.

 

 

Fair skies and tailwinds Mr. Waters….

The world will be a lesser place without you in it.

For those of us who have lost special fathers…

 

Father’s Day was celebrated this past weekend and for me, it was bittersweet.

I was the quintessential daddy’s girl and lost my father when I was 15 years old. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him, miss him and wish he’d been able to share more of my life.

So when I saw this segment on the evening news the other night?

I wept.

If you’ve lost your father, or your mother, or a loved one period…. watch it.

If you have a heart, I think you’ll be moved.

 

 

Because sometimes favors can make you cry.

 

My SIL called a month or so ago and said she was redecorating a room in her house. Living in Texas makes her homesick, so she asked if I could make copies of some of my father’s Maine paintings and mail them to her.

My late father was the Vice President of a Wall Street brokerage firm who relaxed as a weekend artist. He loved nothing more than sharing his work…. so I happily agreed.

Sadly, my father died a year after he retired and only had a short period of time to paint when we moved from New Jersey to Maine. We were very close, but that particular year was hard for me. It was transitional…. and moving to a rural Island where the only way off was by boat was a huge culture shock for a 15 year old city girl. I was knee deep in silly teenage angst and didn’t spend nearly enough time with him.

Something I will always regret.

So when I started pulling paintings?

 

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I was a wreck.

 

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My father died  41 years ago….

 

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But I cried like it was yesterday.

 

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Grief.

Sometimes it never lets go…..

 

 

 

Cape Cod Day 4 … a special moment in Menemsha, Martha’s Vineyard

 

When we left Edgartown I saw a sign saying Menemsha, and something in the deep dark recesses of my brain sparked.

 

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To be honest, I didn’t even know why until I got there.

 

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The art wasn’t familiar.

 

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Neither were the warnings about jellyfish and nude bathing…. two things that should never be experienced together.

So while the husband made a new friend…

 

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I walked around wondering why this particular place had called to me.

 

 

Wind?

Just a wee bit…

 

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It was a lovely spot.

 

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And as I wandered…

 

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I realized what I was doing.

 

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I was walking in my late father’s footsteps.

 

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He was an artist….. and had painted this very spot.

 

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That’s why we were there.

 

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Because all my life….. I’d seen the word Menemsha on a few of his paintings and never knew what it meant.

 

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I lost my father when I was 15.

Much too young…

 

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We missed so many things.

 

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But for a moment, on this day….

 

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He walked with me.

 

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And my heart was full.