The Temple of Grieving and Loss…

There’s been only one thing on my mind all day today – my extraordinarily spiritual experience yesterday inside the walls of a Smithsonian Museum. I’d wanted to see the Burning Man exhibit since I first learned it was coming to the Renwick Gallery in D.C. I knew that it was an exhibit usually displayed in the dessert, but as soon as I stepped into The Temple, the centerpiece of the exhibit, I realized how much I didn’t know about the exhibit itself.

According to the information posted at the entrances to The Temple, it was “a place created by many hands to honor the universal human experience of grieving and loss”. The sign asked for respect for the solemn place. I remember thinking “uh oh”.

I stepped inside the usually bright and colorful centerpiece room of the Renwick Gallery which had been transformed into an all white Spiritual Mecca. Each piece of the Temple is a small block of wood joined together to make incredible altars, walls and sitting areas.

I immediately noticed that on many of the blocks of wood people had written notes to or about someone they had lost. Right away the tears started to run down my face and I was barely inside the room. As I looked around the room filled with maybe 30 people, I definitely wasn’t the only one crying. There was a small area with stacks of the white blocks and pencils you could use to write a note. At least 10 people were writing. I was stunned at how quiet it was in there.

I sat down on one of the benches and just started to reflect and take in as much of the spirituality as I could that completely filled the room. Before I knew it, I’d been there an hour. It felt like 5 minutes. I was trying to estimate the number of wooden blocks in the room but I could even begin to guess.

I wrote my note to Tim and then walked around for about 10 minutes deciding where I wanted to put it. I was upset that no matter how many photos I took I couldn’t capture the feel of the room, the sense of calmness wrapped around love and peace and stunning beauty. Nor could I capture the grief and loss. But I accepted the fact that that was the way it was supposed to be. It’s something you can’t capture, you can only experience it. I felt like God was there, holding each of us up like the little wooden blocks we wrote our notes on.

While I did get quite a bit of reading done today, after every other page or so in my textbook my mind went right back to yesterday. Tears welled up in my eyes several times. I can’t think of the last time I’ve been as impacted by an exhibit as I was by this one. But I didn’t try to stop my feelings, I just embraced them… and then I got out my own little blocks and tried to build a LEGO version of my favorite part of the Temple, the altar in the front of room.

I’ll be going back to the exhibit before it leaves at the end of the year. I feel like the Temple was made for me and it has given me a sense of calm and peace. The rest of the exhibit was incredible too with lots of color and sound and movement. It’s the perfect compliment to The Temple. Every bit of my emotions were stirred up and it was probably just what I needed as the two year anniversary of Tim’s death approaches in a month. My love for him and my memories of us are still as strong as ever!

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My Cup of Joy Runneth Over!

If you’ve been to my Lifting the Spirit of the Caregiver presentation you’ve seen my Cup of Joy!! Of the many coffee mugs in my collection this one is one of my favorites!! It reminds me of how lucky I am to be living the life I live, as I strive to lift myself and others up as we navigate the sometimes difficult and sometimes delightful role as caregivers!

This past few weeks have been filled with pure joy!! It began with a 7 day Adventure Girls Journey as me, Kim and Kendal fulfilled one of Tim’s wishes to travel to LEGOLAND!! It was an absolute love fest! We enjoyed a stop in Hollywood before venturing LEGOLAND, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo and even a day at the beach in Coronado!! We laughed, cried, ran and jumped, ate incredible food, rode crazy rides, pet dolphins and just flat out experienced Joy I hadn’t felt in a while!

Even when I came back to reality after Memorial Day, there was still Joy!! I love my job and sharing laughs with my work friends brings me so much joy too and I don’t know what I’d do without them!!

So much of my Joy these days revolves around my presentations to caregivers!! They lift me up in a way I can’t really explain. The hugs I receive from fellow caregivers seem to be stronger, and tighter and filled with more love than other hugs and I cherish them!! As soon as the Adventure Girls returned from CA, I was right back on the road carrying out my mission!!

I believe the most hugs I’ve ever received in one day occurred this past Sunday at the Xi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s Pink Hat Tea! There were almost 800 women in attendance and I must have hugged at least a quarter of them!! I was so thrilled to be honored for my Alzheimer’s Awareness, but it was the Joy and hugs I received that will carry me forward for a long time to come!!

As I await the opening of the Hershey Public Library where I’m speaking this morning, I feel FULL of Joy!! I’m excited to meet my hosts and the professional and family caregivers who will gather here. I look forward to hearing their stories and sharing my Joy with them!! I always show and read the words from my Cup of Joy and hope that even on the worst of days as a caregiver we can find at least one moment of Joy!! Some people even order their own Cup of Joy online before my presentation is even over! Reading the words on this Cup has gotten me through some dark days!! I pray that each of you has something in your life that fills you with Joy and lifts you up when you’re feeling down!! I wish us all a Joy-filled day and that all our cups will runneth over!