Gathering Losses

nicole meredith the art map sweet peas

Original Watercolor by Nicole Meredith

Grief is a strange companion. You go about your days, carrying on with life’s mundane tasks, yet the undercurrent of loss is ever-present.

In late December, Katherine who blogged at Pillows A-La-Mode lost her battle with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Everyone liked Katherine. She blogged about sewing, refashion and paper crafts but it was her warmth and spirit that kept you coming back. I started following her  in my early blogging days and always looked forward to the conversation. In 2012, her daughter-in-law, Shannon, secretly contacted many of us and asked us to take part in a “card shower”. Fellow bloggers sent cards from around the world, unbeknownst to Katherine, and we all held our collective breath till she learned of the surprise. She posted a photo of all of the cards displayed on her mantel with these words:

I can’t thank Shannon enough for this incredibly thoughtful gesture, and I can’t thank YOU enough for being my wonderful friends and encouragers.  As this card that Shannon made for me says, “One kind word can warm three winter months.”  New Year blessings to all of you, with love from Pillows A-La-Mode. ♥

You can read the full post here. Katherine let us know she was ill and that she would be taking a break from the blogging world while she sought treatment for her cancer. My heart skipped a beat when her post appeared in my feed. It was a shock realizing that her husband David authored the post to let us know of her passing. What a brave man.

I didn’t know Katherine in person, but those of you who blog know that it doesn’t matter one wit. She was here and then she wasn’t, and I feel saddened by her loss.

That same week I learned that Nicole Meredith’s rapid decline led her to take her own life. For twenty years Nicole struggled with a complex set of health issues related to her environment. At one point she was so ill that she had to sleep outdoors in a tent, unable to tolerate electricity. Frail and exhausted, she finally found treatment at a clinic in Texas. After months of therapy, she was finally feeling better. She was able to paint once again, though she never ventured far from poetry. Nicole’s work appears in a number of poetry journals, with many gathered together in a chapbook entitled Thanksgiving for a Hungry Ghost.

Within three months of moving to a new home, the illness returned with a vengeance. Jason drove from Washington to Texas seeking treatment from the same clinic, but Nicole continued to decline.  She quietly took her own life, leaving family and friends and all that knew her devastated. She was only 40.

We shared our last correspondence in July. She wrote:

I’m so emotional reading your email that J just forwarded me. Thank you! The lovely supportive words, I have to say, hold as much currency as your amazing gift. Too much. But your heart is felt on many levels and so gratefully received, Alys!

Now what will set life straight once and for all (hoho!) is if you perchance have ANY interest in me blending you up a custom oil based perfume? No pressure, but it would be a most welcome undertaking to get to focus on a project for a fellow “flower person!” Especially now…

I can certainly take no for an answer, but if there’s a scent-shaped desire: boom, I’m here to fill at least that!

Either way, thank you again–so much–for your sincerity and kindness. Nicole

That’s who she was. When her health improved, she continued to shine light on others with her art, her poetry, the essential oils and her gift with words. She made you feel like *you* were the special one.

Following is an excerpt from one of Nicole Meredith’s poems:

Playing the Tin Whistle

You ask me again when I will recover.
Instead I describe
how I taught myself to trill
so the note hooks upward
then drunkenly swoons,
then rights itself and holds steady.
All I can promise is that it is truly a lovely, haunting effect.

Nicole Meredith (Reinart) Legacy.com

Goodby My Friends, by David Scraper at Pillows A-La-Mode

GardeningNirvana: Sweet Peas: Art, Friendship and Second Chances

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52 thoughts on “Gathering Losses

    • Thank you, Cindy. I know that all who followed Cynthia felt her loss deeply. Pauline wrote a lovely post, and a follow up review of her poetry as well. I’m sorry I didn’t get the chance to follow her. She was a remarkable woman. I’m sorry for your loss.

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  1. What a community we have – people rarely seen, but friendships so deeply felt. I am so sorry for the loss of both Katherine and Nicole – bright lights in our little blogging world – and, obviously, much loved by many. Hugs to you, my friend.

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  2. That is so sad, Alys, but a beautiful tribute to these amazing women. It always amazes me how easy it is to make real and strong connections to people you only know through their words and photos. I understand your loss, even though you have never in the real world. Hugs xxx

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    • Thank you, dear Anne. This blogging world of ours brings us kindred spirits from around the world. I know you’ve experienced the wonders of that, too, most especially through the wonderful sisterhood. It’s so good to know you. Thank you for all of your kindnesses. xo

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  3. Heartfelt sympathy and friendship, dear Alys. Sending big hugs to let you know how saddened I am about the loss of both of your special friends in our blogging community. Be kind to yourself during this sad time, Alys. ♡

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  4. Having lost two blogging friends, one suddenly and one after a long illness and bravely fought battle, I have so much sympathy with your sense of loss. It’s wonderful that you feel able to talk about them and pay tribute; so many people skate over the subject, not knowing what to say or how to say it. As someone who’s had her own brush with cancer, I can say that an unflinching willingness to say what is in your heart rather than saying nothing because you don’t want to get it wrong is so much more welcome. We need to acknowledge our sadness and loss when a friend is dying, instead of asking them to reassure us that they are going to get better. Thank you for the lovely words, which so beautifully express your love and sense of loss.

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    • Kate, thank you for your wonderful insights. This especially: “As someone who’s had her own brush with cancer, I can say that an unflinching willingness to say what is in your heart rather than saying nothing because you don’t want to get it wrong is so much more welcome.”

      We so often worry that we’ll get it wrong, but I’ve learned over the years that it’s far better to stumble and even fall then to never put yourself out there in the first place. Thank you for your wonderful validation.

      I’m sorry you’ve had a brush with cancer and I wish you well on the journey to good health. I’m sorry, too, to hear that you’ve also lost a couple of friends met through blogging. My heart goes out to you. xo

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  5. Oh my dear, I’m so sorry. Your tribute is kind and thoughtful and a reflection of you. While I didn’t know Nicole, I’m really sad that her health was so unbareable that she preferred to say goodbye at this very young age. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, both woman are gone too soon. Life seems unfair, precarious at best. As such we must live, be kind, laugh, be generous and love others and ourselves, to our fullest while we are able. xo gentle hugs K

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    • Thank you for your gentle hugs. It’s the work of life, isn’t it that we must not just carry on, but live our lives to the fullest? We carry each loss and hold the memories dear.

      Nicole was terribly ill at the end, and had endured for so long. Perhaps it was her intent to go out on her own terms, rather than continuing to suffer an illness that would never improve. She lived those twenty years with so much grace. xo

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  6. We seem to be experiencing a mass loss of dear friends currently Alys. As you say, not having met and shared a real hug matters not one whit when hearts and minds have interacted so happily via our blogs. You wrote beautifully of your two friends and I am so very sorry for your losses.

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  7. Oh Alys….there isn’t anything I can say to make this sad time easier. What big losses and what interesting and delightful friends they were. Sending you a hug. ..and another one….and love.

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  8. I’m so sorry to hear about both these women and understand that you felt close to them even though you had never met in real life. You have written a lovely tribute to them.

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  9. I too was stunned at the loss of Katherine. I did not know Nicole but now wish I had. How do you explain to others that you lost a friend you have never met. Unless they have experienced this kind of closeness they think we are a bit off. It’s like a hole left behind with no one that can fill it. I am feeling your pain with you. Giant squishy hugs.

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  10. You have my sympathy in your time of grief. I also know how real the relationships we develop online can be even though I am not the wordsmith you and others are. Nicole’s passing hits close to home as I suffer from some of the same circumstances she did. I hope you can find joy and peace in your garden as you remember these friends.

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    • Thank you, Sue. I didn’t realize you suffered from similar environmental issues. Have you found ways to relieve your symptoms? My heart goes out to you. My garden is a wonderful escape. I’m so lucky to have space to grow things. It really floats my boat.

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  11. Perhaps it is always a season of grief. But it’s good to remember people and carry them with you. You write beautifully about your friends, as Pauline wrote about Cynthia. I think we bloggers are like letter writers of previous centuries, getting to know and love each other through the written word and drawings or photos. A while ago, some friends took a trip around the world over the course of a year and blogged every day. I was in better touch with them during that year than I am now that they’re a mile away. Grief has been present for me this season as well, with Cynthia and another friend. It’s good to share the stories and the process (goodness, the husband on the blog). Thanks.

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    • Lisa, I’m sorry to hear you’ve been grieving your own losses this season. My heart goes out to you. I agree with your analogy of bloggers as the 21st century letter-writers. Over time, we bare our souls, and that brings everyone closer. It’s remarkably wonderful in every way, but with all things in life, joys are often balanced with losses. Its life, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

      Both Katherine and Nicole had remarkable men in their lives. I take comfort in that, but know too how much they’re hurting.

      I hope you are otherwise doing okay, Lisa. I had hoped to visit DC for the march next weekend, but I’ll be marching in San Jose instead. Any thoughts on attending, or will you sit it out and offer support from home? I can imagine that crowd will be daunting. xo

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      • Loss is a subject we all need to grapple with, especially as we age and the losses begin to add up. I’ve seen it crush people over time. So, dear Alys, thanks for processing for the rest of us to read and letting us know a little about these souls.
        Re the women’s march, it takes a lot to get me on the streets. I don’t like crowds, their unpredictability, and the lack of message control. I don’t oppose it; just don’t want to be in it. I write and make telephone calls and work with organizations that can exert pressure most of the time. Depending on how the new administration addresses various issues, I might yet take to the streets. But not this weekend.

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  12. Such sad tidings . . . I was shocked about Katherine, too, but didn’t have the close relationship with her that you did. It surprised me, though, how much her husband’s blog post affected me–these blog relationships are stronger than I ever would’ve dreamed. I’m sorry for the loss you feel–you wrote about your friends beautifully.

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    • Thank you, Kerry. I’m grateful for David’s post letting us know of her passing, but it was jarring as well. Our blogs are so much a part of ourselves. It was both sad and disconcerting to see him post. The poor man.

      I don’t think any of us could have known that blogging would lead to such profound relationships. I’m so glad, thought, that it did.

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  13. Pingback: One, One-Thousand – Gardening Nirvana

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