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Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmastime

This is one of my favorite seasons.  I love the snow (when we have it), the lights, the smells, the music, the spirit of giving.  Christmas is beautiful.

I'm still a little kid when it comes to Christmas.  :P  I get giddy when I hear Christmas music and hide my impatience when it takes longer than I'd like to get to opening my presents.  :P

However, this Christmas is going to be less than normal.  First of all, I haven't been home (compared to previous years), so I've missed a lot of the planning, especially for our big family Christmas party.  I feel like Christmas has snuck up...just suddenly appeared waving it's red and green flag and shouting, "Hello!  Hello!  Are you paying attention to me?!"

Second, is our Christmas tradition.  We always took breakfast to Maamaa on Christmas morning.  We started doing that when I was ten or eleven (I think), back when she lived on the farm.  We continued doing it every year even after she moved next door to my grandmother.  But this year...suddenly that tradition can't be carried on...

Or can it?

Tomorrow morning, we're taking breakfast to Maamaa: bacon, eggs, and biscuits and gravy. We're going to leave her a plate at her grave.  Breakfast with Maamaa will still be happening this year.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 9th, 2012

I don't even know where to begin...I've been putting this blog post off for over a week...I've getting teary-eyed already.  I don't want to write this...but I need to.  I need to get these words out of my mind.  I just feel like...once I "publish" this...it will finalize Maamaa's death...and make it true and real...and I don't want to do that.  So bear with me if things don't make sense as I write, because I'm pretty positive they won't.

Sunday, December 9th, 2012, a day that I will never forget.  It was emotionally exhausting.  I woke up with a slightly stopped-up nose and a weird stomach ache.  Mom came in a little bit before we left to find me lying on my bed.

"Are you okay?" she asked me.

I sat up.  "My stomach hurts..."  I leaned my head on her shoulder and teared up a little.  "I don't want to do this."  I'd been so much more at peace because I knew I was coming home to grieve with my family, but as soon as the day came...all of that peace left me.

Once we got to the funeral home, and I saw my grandmother, I immediately gravitated toward her, gave her a hug and cried into her shoulder.  She seemed so much more together than I was, which didn't make sense in  my emotional mind.  This was her mother!  "She's gone home honey," she told me over and over, rubbing my back and trying to calm me down.  It just made me cry harder. "She's gone home."

She's gone home...that statement still makes me cry.  I know she's in a much better place, better than any of us could ever imagine, but I never thought of heaven as her home...but here, with us...her family.

My cousin Jonny, who's been my after school buddy for the past three years or so, came up behind me and held tight to me.  It was a long time before he let go.

Mom came up and asked if I wanted to go "take the tour"; walk along the row of flowers to view the casket.

"No, not yet," I replied, pulling my hands together and hanging them in front of me, feeling shy.  I wasn't ready.  I could see Maamaa laying there from where I was, but I didn't want to actually go up, for it to be solidified in my mind.  I didn't want it to be real.  Not yet...not ever.

I felt so out of place there in that funeral home.  I didn't know what to do.  I felt as if I was the only emotional one at the moment...but maybe that's because I was one of the only ones there who was extremely emotional.  I think I went through about eight tissues in the first fifteen minutes I was there!

Finally though, my dad came and took my hand and led me toward line of flowers...toward the casket.  At first I considered pulling away...but I knew it would have to happen eventually.  But that didn't stop me from scuffling my feet...taking my own sweet time to get there.  I snagged Mom along the way.  I tried to look at every flower in every arrangement before the casket, putting off one of the moments I was dreading...looking down at my great-grandmother and not seeing her eyes sparkling.  Not seeing her eyes at all.

As I looked down at her, I felt a different person take over me.  I wanted to fling myself onto the casket and give Maamaa the biggest hug ever...apologize for not spending as much time with her at family gatherings.  For not saying goodbye.  Instead, I reached for my mom and sobbed into her shoulder.  I didn't want Maamaa to be gone.  I didn't want her to be lying there.  After we walked away, used another half a dozen tissues, and said hello to the rest of my family members, I felt slightly more calm.  And that continued for another hour as we continued to fellowship and be rocks for each other.

I'll admit, I didn't each much in the "family lounge".  The food I ate amounted to the equivalent of half a grilled cheese sandwich.  When you're grieving...eating feels overrated or useless.  Or just a waste of time.  That's how I felt that day.  Instead, I decided to stay in the main room and wait for people to arrive, and try to smile and be joyful that Maamaa wasn't suffering anymore.

Let me tell you what, that is so hard to do.

And then my best friend got there.  Praise God.

I'd never been more grateful to see her in my entire life!  I took her through the "tour" after a few minutes of small talk.  I managed to stay mostly strong, without really losing it, although a couple tears escaped.  But that was why Jenny came, to be there for me when I couldn't hold it in.

After a little bit, Lizzie came!  Two of my best friends, there with me during my darkest day.  And I can't thank them enough for spending their Sunday afternoon with me, a very sad me.  A very tired me.  A very "not myself" me.

About a half an hour before the actual funeral began, two other dear friends from church arrived, Josh and DJ.  Again, I can't even begin to express the gratitude and appreciation I felt at that moment.  I feel like I owe them so much.  Their presence spoke volumes to my dad.

As the minutes ticked by, it was hard to focus on my friends and the random conversations we were having.  Instead, I would stare at the casket and all else would fade away.  I could feel myself slipping into a less-Angelica state...and more into an emotional wreck.

The clock reached 2pm.  People gravitated to seats in front of the casket.  And the waterworks began.  Not loud and obnoxious sobs (thank goodness!), but fast and steady streams down both my cheeks.  I'm sure that I soaked my mom's shirt with my tears.  I couldn't stop.  I knew this was the end.  I knew that this was the last I was going to see Maamaa in the flesh until I got to heaven.  And I didn't want it to end.

All the girls in the family, save my grandmother and my mom's cousin, stood and sang "In The Garden".  Somehow I managed to sing along without sounding like a frog.  Somehow we all managed...

I don't really remember much else about the service, except that the pastor made everyone laugh from the start by saying Maamaa's first words upon entering heaven were probably "They took my keys" (which is probably true), and Grandma got up and told stories and managed to keep her composure fairly well.

And then suddenly, they shooed everyone else out for the funeral parade, and left the family alone in the room.  Just us and Maamaa...and the funeral director.  We all reluctantly circled the casket, no one wanting to make the first move to say goodbye.  I moved toward my eldest cousin and put my arm around his shoulders, crying silently.  The sound of tissues crumpling and people sniffling was overwhelming.

I don't really remember what in particular triggered this, but I started sobbing harder and louder, like a cross between hiccuping and choking on my own tears.  My cousin put his arm around me and let me cry, or sob, as it was.  My mother moved forward, put her hands on my great grandmothers and kissed her forehead.  One of my younger cousins followed suit.  I stood there, wiping snot on my sweater sleeve, staring at Maamaa.  Everything in me screamed to protest, to demand that the doctors come back and fix her...that someone give her life again.  But I knew how juvenile that was, how ridiculous.  I didn't want to be labeled the mental freak who upset her Maamaa's funeral by charging the casket screaming for her great grandmother to wake up.  Although trust me, it was tempting.

Instead, I let go of my cousin and stiffly shuffled forward, toward Maamaa.  I reached out and touched her folded hands.  I have never felt someone so cold before in my life.  I almost jerked away, but instead leaned forward and gave her one, final kiss on the forehead.  Then I turned around to see my cousin Meg taking a step towards me.  I walked a couple steps and we looked at each other, before practically collapsing onto each other in sobs.

I don't know what happened behind me until the funeral director spoke up, asking if we needed more time or were ready to close the casket.  I had to control myself to keep from glaring at the funeral director.  I wanted to yell at her to shut up and go away, or something.  I just didn't want to leave Maamaa.  I couldn't!  I just couldn't...

Mom finally spoke up, after a couple minutes of verbal silence.  "I think we should close it."

I don't think I've ever felt so heartbroken in my life...no matter what the circumstance was.  I cast a glance I my mother before burrowing my face in my cousin's shoulder again.  We started moving toward the door.  My legs just moved with everyone else; they were no longer a part of me.  I felt numb.  I felt cold.  I felt alone, even among all those people.  I guess that's what grief does to you.

One of my younger cousins latched onto my waist and we awkwardly shuffled out side by side into the cold, cloudy, damp day.  Once we exited the funeral home, my eyes started searching for Josh, DJ, and Jenny.  I looked for them; needing them.  Only a few feet from our car, I saw Jenny's silhouette waving at me in the van next to our car.  I looked at her and then looked back down and squeezed my cousin tighter.  I heard the van door open and saw Jenny jump out and run for me.  I let my cousin go and ran to meet Jenny, burying my face into and sobbing hysterically.  I could feel my whole body shaking uncontrollably.  It took every ounce of energy I had left in my body to keep myself from completely giving out.  I never wanted to let her go.

Once at the cemetery, I didn't want to leave Jenny's side.  I didn't want her to leave.  Ever.  The men in our family stood in two, black lines at the back of the funeral car, waiting for their cue to pull the casket and set it next to my great grandfather, who died before I was born.  The funeral director pull two roses from the giant flower arrangement on top of the casket and handed one to my great uncle and one to my grandmother.

And then, just like that, everything was over.  "You all may come get a flower from the covering," the funeral director told us.  Like a zombie, I followed my family and pulled a single, pink rose.  I clutched it tight and turned to see DJ, Jenny, and Josh standing in a little half circle, waiting for me. I shuffled towards them and embraced them, never wanting to let them go.  It took all my will power to stop myself from giving out and completely collapsing onto them.  I didn't want them to leave; I didn't want to leave.  I didn't want to walk away from Maamaa's grave.  I still wish I didn't.



**Author's note**
This post took me over a week to actually compose.  Lots of tears were shed.  I hope that all my emotional rambling makes sense to you.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Jury

I walked into my level 9 nervousness Monday morning, although I really didn't have that much time to feel nervous.  I was having some minor nervous "spasms" in the practice rooms as I warmed up.  But when I got to my jury, they were running ahead of schedule.  So, I had no time to pace back and forth, freaking out.

I walked into the band room to see Prof. Thompson, Dr. Flanigan, and some lady I didn't know sitting with their laptops, ready to judge me.  Prof. Thompson turned around and smiled.  "Hey!  You want to go ahead and get set up?"

I nodded and scuffled forward, a wave of "oh my gosh this is it" washing over me.  But I tried not to show it by the way I looked or acted.  I started off with playing the first movement of the E Major unaccompanied Bach (a really cool piece!).  I played it pretty well for not having gone through the whole thing in my lessons (I learned the last page of it on my own).  However, I could feel my legs vibrating the entire time...they were seriously shaking!  I don't know how obvious they were though...I didn't really want to risk checking.

But when I finished, I looked over at Prof. Thompson to see what he thought.  And to my surprise, he wasn't smiling.  In fact...it was as close to a frown as I've ever seen him do!  I had to swallow my surprise.  Suddenly I felt much more self conscious about my playing.  Usually when someone doesn't smile, that means I'm doing it wrong.

Scales were pretty good until the last one, requested by the lady I didn't know.  G harmonic minor. Now, that's one of the easiest scales for me to do.  However, for some reason I completely messed it.  As I stop and say "Sorry, I'll re-do that", I see Prof. Thompson shaking his back and forth.  Against popular suggestion, it was NOT a twitch.  It was kinda hard to keep going, thinking that my professor was disappointed in me.

But when I finally finished, Prof. Thompson perked up.  "Alright then, you're done!  See we're not that scary!"

Maybe not...if there were a few smiles going around the judges!

But somehow I got an A...and impressed my professor.  Wow...could have fooled me!  Guess this is something else I'll have to get used to, I got seven more of these to do over the next few years of college! :P

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December 5th, 2012

It's over.

Done.

Finished.

And no, I'm not talking about the semester.

I'm talking about the struggle.

The sleepless nights.

The watching.

She's gone.

Maamaa died around 4am on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012.  It's still sinking in.

It hurts...a lot.  It was almost crippling to not be there with my family while she was in the hospital, and now that she's gone...I want to be home more than ever.

Yesterday was one of the longest days of this last week.  I (thankfully!) got ten hours of sleep the night before.  If I hadn't...I would not have made it through the next day!  Mom called me at 8:30am and said "I have some news for you."

"I'm not gonna like this news am I?" I asked.

"Maamaa had a ticket she decided to cash in last night and went to be with Jesus in heaven."

I was right.  I didn't like it.  At all.   Nuh uh.

So I went and cried in the shower.  Bawled, actually.  Got snot all over my towel.  (Okay, not really.)  I took a long shower...long showers are good...

Then it was 9:30am.  I grabbed my stuff and went to the PPAC (music building).  I didn't want to go to LDR class.  I wasn't presentable.  I wasn't focused.  I wasn't anything really.  I tried to practice some, but was really killing time until my violin professor was free so I could tell him that it was over.

"Hey, what's up?" Prof. Thompson asked me as I entered his office, red-faced with puffy eyes.

I stood there for a moment, trying to collect myself.  Finally, I choked out, "My mom called."

He knew exactly what I meant.  His face softened.  "Oh, I'm so sorry!" He said, standing up.  He moved toward me and gave me a side hug.  (Now this is the awkward but funny part.)  At first I started to give him one back, which is the normal reaction, but then I thought, "Mmm, maybe this isn't okay...he is my professor after all."  So I pulled my arm back and folded it around myself, giving myself the hug.  However, when he pulled away, we realized that in retracting my arm, I had accidentally folded his suit jacket corner into my arms.

It was a very interesting moment.

It was a very interesting day.

It was a very hard day.

I'm ready to go home.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

8 more days...8 more long, arduous, days...

I feel like this last week has gone by so slow!  The concerto competition was only this last Tuesday?  No way!  I feel like it was a month ago....  It's the fourth of December?  How did this happen?

I have no idea.

I am honestly exhausted.  Physically and emotionally.  This has been one of the longest weeks of the school year, at least to me.  Last night I got to "talk" to Maamaa.  I did all the talking and got to listen to her breathing/snoring.  It was hard to do, but I do not regret it.  At all.  When I was done, however, Mom asked if I wanted to say good bye, and I said, very teary-eyed, "That's what I was trying to avoid!"  It was another long night, so today, when I was sitting outside Prof. Thompson's office, waiting for my lesson, I was falling asleep on the pillow I made out of my coat.

However, this lesson was one of the most embarrassing, at least in my opinion.  When playing through my concerto with my accompanist, I completely forgot a segment and it messed me.  I started shaking and I didn't ever get back to normal.  Now, because Prof. Thompson knew what was going on with Maamaa and the strain it had (has) on me, I think he understood why I was messing up.  But it shook me so much that I was getting to the place where I couldn't function.

It got so bad in the next three to five minutes that I thought I was gonna throw up.  Right there.  In his office.  In front of him.  And I was not okay with that thought.  So I left to get a drink of water and step outside of a minute.  Immediately I felt about five times better, even though I still didn't feel totally fine.

When I returned to his office, Prof. Thompson looked at me out of concern.  "Are you okay?"

"No," I answered honestly, putting my cold hand back on my still flushed forehead.  "I suddenly felt really sick..."

"Oh...well do you want to stop?  Do you need to stop?"  He checked his watch.

"No!  I need help with my Kreutzer!"

"Oh, okay...then let's do Kreutzer!"

After that I felt quite a bit better.  My goal tonight is to go to sleep early and sleep for at least eight hours, if not more.  All I need is sleep...that's all I need, because I know that this week is going to be hard to get through.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sometimes you just need to write a song

So...this weekend has been long and emotional.  Monday was easy.  Tuesday was stressful because of the concerto competition.  Wednesday was stressful because I had a big paper due on Thursday morning.  Thursday night I worked at closing shift at Mario's from 8pm to 12am, which was extremely exhausting.  Then Friday...bombshell day.

On Friday after orchestra, at 5pm, Mom called me to tell me that Maamaa, my great grandma, had a stroke in her brain.  She isn't responding.  She isn't coming home.

Not awake...and she won't be again.

It has been several months since my heart has broken like this.  It's been a long time since something has plagued my mind so much and drained my focus in such a way that I couldn't function.

Friday was an emotionally exhausting night...it was hard to get through.  I didn't understand what was happening...Maamaa had been pretty healthy, although she had refractured her hip after falling for the second time a couple days after Thanksgiving.

I don't even remember half of what happened on Friday.  I tried to practice but failed after bursting into tears after every three notes of the G major scale.  But praise the Lord for my violin professor, who was in his office!  I asked him if he would pray for our family and then told him what was going on, partly because I needed to talk to someone and also I knew that it could save lots of awkwardness later if I broke down randomly during my lesson.  (Which, of course, I want to avoid at all costs.  The awkwardness, not the lesson.)  After talking through the situation for a while, Prof. Thompson read Psalm 31 to me and prayed.  Then he tried to get my mind off of everything.  It made things a little better, but I still couldn't focus on anything.

Saturday...long...very very long...I was able to focus on violin and school a little better than Friday, but still would have bouts of tearful explosions.

Sunday.  By now I'm just waiting on a call from my mom to tell me that it's over...I don't want that phone call, but I'm at that stage where I'm just waiting.  To be perfectly honest with you all, I'm dreading every single day.  I'm dreading that phone call that is the hideous truth that my great grandma is in heaven with Jesus.  Not that that last bit is totally horrible, but just the selfish fact that she's gone.  It could be ten minutes from now or ten days.  She's not on life support...we're letting her go naturally.

But I don't want her to go.  Ever.

Today in the practice room, however, instead of actually practicing (which I needed to do), I wrote a song.  This song has actually helped me with my current attitude.  Even though I'm not there, I'm writing as if I am...


I Will Remember You

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking,
To the sound of
Machines beeping, staggered breathing,
The time has come...

Whispered voices, painful choices,
Chilling out hearts...
Greater forces, running horses,
Couldn't pull me away...

For I will not leave you!
I don't want you to leave me!
But I know...your time has come...

So I will remember you for the rest of my days.
I'll remember your smile, your laugh, your words.
I will remember you to all of my family.
I'll make sure that your memory won't die.
No matter what I do, I'll remember you.

Strong embraces, silent places
Surrounding your bed...
We lift our faces with shattered praises
For the days of your life.

For I will not leave you!
I don't want you to leave me!
But I know...your time has come...

So I will remember you for the rest of my days.
I'll remember your smile, your laugh, your words.
I will remember you to all of my family.
I'll make sure that your memory won't die.
No matter what I do, I'll remember you.

My heart can't handle these regrets I hold inside.  
If you could open up your eyes and say it's alright...
If you could see us...
Then this pain would die and not you!

So I will remember you for the rest of my days.
I'll remember your smile, your laugh, your words.
I will remember you to all of my family.
I'll make sure that your memory won't die.
No matter what I do, I'll remember you.
So I will remember you for the rest of my days.
I'll remember your smile, your laugh, your words.
I will remember you to all of my family.
I'll make sure that your memory won't die.
No matter what I do, I'll remember you.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The pool

"First semester freshman!  Yeah!  You're jumping in the pool!"  These are the words of my violin professor, as he's beaming at me during my lesson.  I could protest this, but I don't.  I'm too nervous about the competition, which begins in just a couple hours, to protest his logic.  In fact, I think in my head, "You shoved me into the freakin' pool!"  But technically, he is right.  Even though I have a massive guilt trip, I could have said no.  I could have taken the guilty feeling like a woman and said no.  But I didn't.  So I guess I did kinda jump in the pool, even if he did help me to the edge.

Only half of my lesson is devoted to my actual concerto.  The rest of it is a pep talk.  "Have you ever fantasized about playing a solo with an orchestra before?"  Prof. Thompson asks me.
"Well, yeah..."
"Tell me about it!  Take me into your fantasy!"  He looks at me with anticipation.

I've never been asked this before, to take someone into my fantasy world.  I stare at the wall.  "Well...my family and friends are in the front row...not that I'll look at them because I'll be focused on my violin...or the conductor to make sure I'm staying with him."

Prof. Thompson waves his hands.  "No, no!  You're bringing reality into this.  Stop!  Just focus on your fantasy.  What are you feeling?  What are you doing?"  I was expecting him to keep going with the questions, like asking me what I was wearing or playing.  But he stopped there.  Leaving the question open ended in a way.  Just waiting for me to tell him what is going on in my mind.  So I start talking.

"Well...my family is still in the front row...and I'm not afraid.  I play loud and every note right.  And everyone's jaw drops."  For some reason it's hard for me to explain all of this to him.  There are so many awkward pauses in between words.  I look at Prof. Thompson, hoping he'll be pleased with that answer.

"Does it feel good up there?" he asks me.
"Yeah...it does."  I smile at him.
"Good!  Now hang on to that!  Play it [the concerto] again and this time play with that confidence you have in your fantasy!"

There are so many more parts to my fantasy...which some of you may not really care about, but they are very important to me!  For instance...

My dream dress is a sweetheart top dress that has a sheer fabric covering it, acting as sleeves.  It starts as a light green-blue and slowly "drips" darker to a deep blue-green.  Or it could go the other way.... Over top the relatively full skirt is a peacock feather pattern in a sheer fabric.  It actually looks like feathers over the dress!  This particular dress doesn't look like it would be a twirly dress, but it is!  My hair is long-ish and it styled in a "cascading waterfall" up-do sort, down enough look beautiful but not in my face or eyes.

Now, my concerto...I'm playing the Wieniawski Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp minor...the entire thing!

Fast forward a few hours to right before the competition.  I've been giving myself the "fantasy pep talk" for the past half hour as I've been going through my piece.  Am I nervous?  YES!!

In the hallway behind the stage, I'm waiting for the person ahead of me to finish her concerto so I can get this over with.  I want to do it and I don't want to do it.  I'm completely freaking out mentally!  My mind is focused on one thing: I'm getting judged.  That's what happens in competitions.  And that is my major fear currently.  A close second is the fear of completely messing up my piece in front of the entire "audience" of seven people, including my violin professor who has such high expectations.

Expectations.  That's what it all comes down to.  I'm afraid I won't meet the expectations people have of me.

Prof. Thompson comes out the stage door and beams at me.  "You ready?" He asks me, a little too excited.

"No, but I guess I have to be."

He gives me a skeptical look at my dry tone of voice and laughs a little.  "You don't have much of a choice now."

"Nope, so let's get this over with."  I'm trying to get him to go ahead and let me play so I can get out there, play, and be done.

But no, he starts rambling on about something that's supposed to make me feel better, but it's not working.  He keeps going and finally I stop him.  "You're not helping."  It comes out a little harsher than it probably should have been.

He gives me a funny look.  "You're really nervous aren't you?"

"Yeah!!"  We went over this a hundred times already, I think.  Finally, we went backstage.  Finally.  And the fear starts to take over my body.  Dangit...

"So how should I introduce you?  As AnGELica?"  Prof. Thompson gives me a goofy smile and I lift my music to hit him on the head but stop just in time.  No...he's my professor...better not do that...

And just like that, I'm on stage, playing my piece.  And I'm playing it with a soloists attitude.  I don't play it perfectly, but I know that I am playing and look more confident than I did in studio class just ten days previous.  And suddenly, I'm at the last measures of my cadenza, and by a miracle of God, I play them perfectly in tune and proudly sing out the last notes.

But after bowing, my legs begin to seriously shake.  Once in the safety of the hallway again, I lean against the wall awkwardly, just breathing.  I'm in a state of semi-shock and nervousness withdrawal.  Then Prof. Thompson comes up to me, his mouth open in a smile.  "You did it!" he exclaims, putting an arm around me in a hug.

I just smile weakly and breathe out.  "Yeah..."

He goes on to say other things...but my mind has shut off, only focused on that fact that I survived my first college concerto competition and that I'd played the last measures better than I ever had.  Finally Prof. Thompson stops and looks at me expectantly.  I let the silence linger for a couple seconds before I sigh "Yay" in a very distracted tone.  Prof. Thompson laughs.  He understands that I'm not really here anymore.

I'm still amazed at that night...especially that it was only five days ago!  I'm amazed that I made it through.  I'm amazed that I actually enjoyed it.  I'm amazed that I played like a soloist.

So, I guess I'm going keep swimming in this pool for a while.  :P