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Posts tagged ‘toni lepeska’

Resilience: Growing Beyond the Barb

I hiked up the hill of the pasture with a destination in mind. Nearly two decades earlier, I had taken the same route after losing the man I loved. He’d abandoned me for another woman.

For as long as I remember, my parents’ pasture has been my go-to place when grieved or troubled. It was a refuge. A place to find peace, even before I became acquainted with God.Barb1

Losing Our Safe Place

What is your go-to space? A city rooftop? A quiet room? A park bench by a lake? Or maybe it is a person. Grandmother. Sister. Or the warm arms of your husband. What if that place is lost? Where do you go to find strength, encouragement and love after that?

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Inheritance: How to Stem Conflicts

No two people could be as different as my brother and me, but even if siblings share a lot of similarities, the death of their parents and dividing of an estate can be a wedge between them.

I’ve heard numerous stories about money and possessions segregating families into warring factions. Accusations fly like nuclear missiles, and the devastation lasts a lifetime.ToniProfilePic

At the end of this post, I’ll provide tips to help others grease the task of dispersing an inheritance, but first allow me to share my story. I learned a little from being the executrix of my parents’ estate, but the two primary reasons it was mostly hassle-free weren’t things I put in place. You could say my brother made it easy for me.

He lacked an attachment to the family and to the household property. And he was a resident in a Florida prison.

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The Biggest Factor to Heal Grief

What is the single biggest component of finding healing within grief, besides expressing it?

Embracing the new.

Inviting what’s next into our lives.

Believing we can love and laugh again.

Today is the first day of spring. I hadn’t noticed until I received a life-changing phone text this afternoon, and then I realized the irony.

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The daffodils outside my parents’ home have bloomed every year since my family bought the property in 1973.

A real estate agent sent me a text about my parents’ home:

“Just sent full price offer in.”

The house where both my parents died, the house I’ve spent eight years cleaning out, has been listed for sale only four days.

It’s a mobile home enclosed by conventional roof and walls, and it sits on a beautiful treed 13-acre lot. The floors sag. The ceiling sag. The cellar fills with water.

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New Life for Old Stuff

What a waste land. A dirty, wet road led past 15-foot-tall piles of car parts, discarded machinery and crushed appliances. I situated the truck bed under a crane that dwarfed the vehicle. And me.

As a menacing claw reached inside and crunched my parents’ old dryer in its grip, I leaned away from the rear window, pressing my body into the steering wheel. I was inches from destruction.RecyclingCenter.jpg

It was probably my sixth trip to the recycling center after harvesting metals from my inheritance, but I’d never before noticed the site’s parallels to our grief journey.

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Looking for Love on Valentine’s

Who was your first Valentine? Maybe that cute boy with the cowlick who sat in the back of the classroom comes to mind. Or maybe you think of your daddy. I do.

Our dads get us ready for all the Valentines that come afterward. If our dads treat us well, we look for a romantic partner to treat us well, too.

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I discovered this Valentine in a drawer of my dad’s. He’d kept it all those years.

I didn’t always get a man who treated me well, however, I never settled for emotionally abusive behavior. My daddy hadn’t been like that. In the end, I found a Valentine who was like my dad. Unfortunately, Dad died before I met Richard.

I realize Valentine’s Day is a made up holiday, but I value its message – that love and relationships are important.

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When Loss Screws With Our Identity

We wear internal labels like name tags on our chest. Mother. Daughter. Wife. Winner. Loser. Lazy. Sick. Wealthy. Poor. Sinner. Saint. Do any of those labels sound familiar?

They often come from external voices, from people we admire, or even people we don’t. But the loudest voice we hear is the one that comes from within. Our internal voice.WhoAmI

I started thinking about identity this week after an editor called me an “accomplished journalist.” I liked the label, but it came as sort of a surprise. That’s because my inner voice often tells me I don’t measure up. I wear the name tag “Inadequate,” despite all the bylines that Google reveals, or all the job offers I get. I’ve struggled with that label all my life.

One of the other name tags I wore for a long time was “Daughter,” and another was “Caregiver.” Even after I became “Wife,” I focused on the other two labels, and then my mother died, and I was lost. I was an identity in search of a cause. I poured myself into the project of taking care of what my parents left behind. Cleaning out their home. “Dutiful Daughter,” I was.

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When We Wished We’d Said More

I found the lists after he died and wished I’d been more attentive to and thankful for who my father was. He’d put check marks beside the names and addresses on the list. They signified thank you notes he’d sent to each of the people who’d given him a gift.

My father was a mail carrier, or postman, and each Christmas Eve he arrived home with a bin of goodies plucked from mailboxes. It’s my understanding that mail carriers aren’t supposed to accept gifts, but apparently his office was lenient because everyone accepted the treats.

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Dad, circa 1989

Dad shared. I tasted shortbread cookies in round tins, homemade fudge wrapped in cellophane and candies in rectangular boxes. But I didn’t grow up enjoying these Christmas treats.

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4 Ways to Deal with Grief Triggers

What does an unfinished life look like? One way is a half-empty container of Coke.

That’s the first encounter I had with an unfinished life. My father had been dead only a few hours. I walked into the kitchen and there was the rest of his Coca-Cola in a sippy cup.

It wasn’t the last evidence I’d find of a life interrupted.DadPaintNumber

The “Crime Scene”

I found Mom’s half-done crossword puzzles. Her hand-drawn plans for a circular driveway that was never poured. Dad’s paint-by-number pictures. A harmonica he’d hoped to learn to play.

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Details Important After Death

All this time, I thought I’d given the funeral home the wrong lipstick color.

I never was much of one to wear makeup, though I’d grown up seeing my mother paste it on before the rare occasions she’d leave the house. So I didn’t pay attention to her lip shade.MomTrainCase1.jpg

Itty bitty nonessential details gain new importance after a death. If you are like me, any morsel of new information is precious. My parents can’t tell me things anymore, but I long to know the things I’ve forgotten and to learn the things I didn’t know.

It’s been 8½ years since I dug in my mother’s train case – boxy luggage that sat on a lady’s lap and contained the makeup she may use on a train. I selected a lipstick. It looked too orange. Too bright. Surely this wasn’t her color.

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Every Ending Is a New Beginning

Beginnings are full of promise, aren’t they? Filled with anticipation and hope, we launch into a new career, a new home, a new relationship or, as now, a new year.

But death and grief are about endings. We mourn what was. We’re sucked into a vortex, unwilling at first to believe we’ll be happy again. But I assure you, there’s hope ahead.toni2017-2

It’s been said that every ending is a new beginning, and I’ve found that to be true. We often focus on the ending, though. On what was lost. On what will never be again. And that is grief.

We must mourn unhappy endings to get past them. Of course, we have the choice not to fully grieve and to distract ourselves instead. But if we hope to achieve joy equal to our sorrow, we must grasp grief’s hand and cry. For as long as it takes.

I got married three months before my mother died. She was terminally ill and unable to come to the wedding. After the reception, my husband and I visited her at her home. I wanted her to see me in my wedding dress. I wish I’d insisted on a photo, but she didn’t like her photograph taken. She’d always made herself up, but now she didn’t have the strength.

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