Homeward Bound

Bittersweet yet blessed describes my trip back to my hometown in Rhode Island for my dad’s memorial service earlier this month. I’ve been reading a lot about letting go in order to receive. I finally had to let go of my anxiety about traveling as well as letting go of the vice like grip I had on avoiding my feelings of grief. Grief not only in missing my father, or at realizing I’m an orphan, but also mourning my wishes that the relationship with him went differently after my mom passed away. I needed to let go of the anger that things didn’t go the way I planned/hoped. Once I loosened that grip (I still have a hold on it, just not as tight, but it’s a first step), I could begin to receive the comfort from my memories.

One way I indulged in these memories- visiting special, nostalgic places that my daughter and I associated with my parents. My husband patiently drove us to each one. Thankfully RI is a small state. 😊 I realized two things: 1. That visiting these places, didn’t make me sadder, but actually gave me a sense of contentment by reliving the happiness of being there with my mom and dad, and I could talk about these memories with my husband and daughter. I could allow these feelings associated with the memories of my parents to be forever imprinted in my heart. 2. A lot of these places involved food. Come to whatever conclusion you wish with that. 😊

A must have for me when in RI -NY style wieners(oddly enough never ate one in NYC)

I found joy in visiting the same grocery store (Stop and Shop for you New Englanders out there), that we shopped at many times with my parents. One special purchase there was Social Tea Biscuits (ones that we cannot find down south), which my mom always had in a crystal container on the kitchen table. Somehow physically purchasing them there to bring home, made them taste even better than when someone would be kind enough to send them to us. Now not everywhere we wanted to go involved just food. One place we had to visit was family owned Wrights Farm Dairy and Bakery-okay, it had decadent baked goodies, but there is more. My parents took me there when I was a child and I loved the greeting from the dairy’s mascot at the time, a friendly St Bernard. When Sara came along, they would take her there no matter what season, not just to buy the sweets and fresh chocolate milk, but to visit the cows (her favorite animal as a child) that provided the delicious milk. Going there was always a happy event, that just happen to end with yummy treats!

We also visited Newport, where my husband and I had taken many beach trips while we were dating. We also brought my parents there on day trips, many years ago we found out we were pregnant during a long weekend visit there, and once we had our daughter, we’d drive there, pick up a pizza (you knew food had to be involved somewhere), and sit in back of our station wagon facing the ocean and enjoying the sunset at Breton Point Park.

The family and friends that were with us at the memorial service, made a very difficult day easier because they filled it with love. Everyone at the service had known my parents for a very long time, so they could share special memories of both of them as well. I truly felt my parents being with us every step of our trip. All the anxious and fearful feelings I had about writing a eulogy for my father, how my body would or would not hold up during the trip, were replaced with a sense that I could let healing begin.

Military Honors for my Dad at the funeral home.

Military Honors for my Dad at the funeral home.

Of all the places we visited, there was one I could not even drive by-the house that I grew up in, that Sara spent most of her childhood visiting. Interestingly enough, it was right around the corner from the funeral home where we had the memorial service. Although I found it oddly comforting to know my parents’ home was nearby, I just didn’t think I could have handled seeing different cars in the driveway or different people living there. I just wanted to remember my mom at the front door holding their pet Shih-Tzu, Fuji, while waving goodbye with his paw. And to remember my dad in the driveway waving both hands and smiling at us, but especially at my daughter until our car turned the corner.

So, by letting go and leaning on the Lord, the love of my family, and friends (also now family) in RI, I gained the energy to push through, take in the moments, let the memories come and the inevitable tears fall. By letting the feeling of their love overtake any feeling of anxiety, anger, or guilt, I left RI feeling wrapped in a blanket of peace and contentment.

Last pic on way to airport (stopping for lunch,of course, in Wickford)

Returning home, I realized it will still take a while to heal physically and emotionally from this trip. I’m still on my grief journey, but I have taken more steps down this road and now know that I do not have to travel it alone. It’s okay to talk about the memories, and not hold it inside or worse, push them away.

**Three Extra Items(Most important is Number 3)**

1. While I was in Rhode Island I had the opportunity to be interviewed for a Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation podcast and was very grateful that they posted it on August 6th which is a very important day for me to honor my mom, my family, and all the atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima(and Nagasaki on August 9th).

2. This month of August happens to be the third anniversary of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM being published!!! So, to celebrate I am holding a Rafflecopter Giveaway of a signed copy of TLCB and all this adorable swag pictured here along with a 45-minute Skype visit to a classroom for two winners that will be picked at random on September 1, 2019.

You can enter at this link:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

3 I’m a little behind from traveling, but I do want to thank all of the people who have read my blog, TLCB, interviewed or invited me to speak, blogged about TLCB as well as all the teachers and librarians that have used TLCB. Because without all of you, my mother’s and atomic bomb victims’ stories would not be getting out there to our future voters. Thank you for helping me find and to be proud of my voice. ❤ 

Also sharing this post at Welcome Heart

WHEN YOU CAN’T PHONE HOME

Copyright The Japan News Yomiuri

Copyright The Japan News Yomiuri

As I attempt navigating the grief journey once again with the recent loss of my Dad, I think about a recent BBC podcast, Heart and Soul. The episode discussed a small town in Northern Japan-Iwate prefecture. It wasn’t about the horrible damage sustained from the earthquake and tsunami that took 2,000 lives in 2011. Instead, the podcast focused on the love that their surviving residents have for the loved ones they’ve lost. Even though their loved ones are not here physically, residents have a unique way to connect with them.(There’s also a great NHK program about this topic).

In Iwate, a white telephone booth overlooks the sea in Itaru Sasaki’s yard. Yes, an actual phone booth with a rotary phone (not connected ). In Japanese it’s called “kaze no denwa” meaning phone of the wind. A sign greets you as you enter the phone booth with the words, “Welcome, I’ve been waiting for you.”

Sasaki-san actually began building the booth, when his cousin passed away in November 2010 and finished it shortly after the 2011 tsunami. Since then, over 20,000 people have visited to connect with their lost loved ones. I imagine that in such a digital age, the very act of using the rotary dial gives a calming mindfulness before sharing pieces of their heart.

Listening to the podcast, two memories came to mind. The first, took place when the woman I knew as my Grandmother passed away in Japan. My Mom and I would call my Grandmother’s number and just listen to the familiar ringing across the ocean.We pictured her picking up the phone and saying hello to us. It was our way to let her know we still were thinking of her. We needed a connection. I also remember the somber day when I called that number and heard the message that the phone was no longer in use.

My Grandmother & I, Tokyo. Copyright KathleenBurkinshaw

My second memory is that I saved one of my mom’s voicemails so that I can still hear her voice and ‘speak’ with her whenever I want/need to.

When my Dad passed away 11 days ago, my Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) pain flare prevented me from going up north to see him in the hospital. However, the wonderful nurses kept me updated by phone. More importantly, when hospice services commenced the day before he passed away, I had a God-Nudge(instead of a ‘God Wink’), for lack of a better word, to call him. When I did, the kind nurse held the phone to my father’s ear for a 15-minute conversation. Well, not exactly a conversation, I mostly babbled on about memories of my childhood with him and my Mom. He did respond and it was the last real conversation I had with him lucid. My daughter also had a chance to speak with him.

On the morning of the 31st, I called to check on him. I spoke only a minute or so with him. He was drowsy from medication yet, zealously enjoying an orange Popsicle. His favorite flavor. 😊

Later that day, I experienced another overwhelming God-Nudge to call and check on him. The nurse said all vital signs stable, he was resting comfortably, and nothing may happen until the evening or the weekend. Still, I asked if she would hold the phone to his ear so I could speak to him. She did and also held his hand, giving him the feeling that I was physically at his side. I had a chance to say who he’d be seeing in heaven and some things I didn’t get to say in the past few years we were estranged (his choosing not mine). I told him I forgave him (I meant it), loved him (I loved him, not his choices), and would always be his ‘little girl’. And to the shock of the nurse, he went to heaven right then and there.

copyright KBurkinshaw

As devastating as that moment was, I like to think that he waited for me to show how much I meant to him. To show me that he loved me despite some of his actions in the past. It’s a blessing for me and what I try to remind myself of when guilt for not being there rolls in. I am now dealing with anxiety attacks and the memories of the last few days with my mom have returned with a vengeance. It feels like I am losing her all over again along with my Dad.

However, the most difficult realization for me is that the two people who brought me into this world are no longer here. It can be like a punch in the gut without warning hitting me at any point during the day, or night. I know and cherish that I have my loving husband and daughter, a loving extended family and friends, but it’s not the same connection. There’s a hollowness in my heart right now, that I know, in time will fill with the loving memories instead of breaking from the trauma of losing them. I remind myself and find solace in knowing that Jesus knew me before I was born and is always with me.

 

So, I may not have a “kaze no denwa”, but that doesn’t stop me from talking to them during the day and/or night. I hope my messages of love and how much I miss them swirls upward to my family in heaven. I take comfort that someday in the distant future, I will hear my parents say, “Welcome, I’ve been waiting for you!” ❤

In memory of David Hilliker 12/29/1937 – 5/31/2019- Airman Second Class and Crew Chief of 90th bomb squadron, US Air Force, loving husband, Jet Mechanic/Quality Control,Park Caretaker, and loving Grandpa. But most importantly- my Daddy ❤ ❤

Copyright KathleenBurkinshaw

 

I’m also sharing this post at:  Welcome Heart.