A friend of mine (and mother of former preschoolers) lost her husband suddenly at a young age.  I went to the funeral and saw those now-grown, former preschoolers of mine.  I was humbled and complimented when they still greeted me by my title, “Miss Jan.”  The hugs were sweet.

Somehow the funeral and seeing old friends got me thinking again about my own losses…which I suddenly realized also led to me to think about losing titles that have helped define who I am and have been all these years.

Specifically, I am no longer a daughter.  I was blindsided by the thought and the ache that filled me.  I was a daughter for 60 years.  It was a title only two people in this world used; my Mom and Dad.  It was some kind of secret code or tenderness I shared with them.  I would call this last year, “Hi Dad”, and he would reply, “hi daughter.”  They were both always glad to hear from me and always thanked me for calling.  I’ll admit the last year was hard.  Every time I called my Dad it was a reminder that my Mom wasn’t there to be in on the call.

It was how I referred to myself when meeting folks at their church, or seeing friends of their’s who were trying to place me.  “I’m Oscar and Marian’s daughter”, I would say and they could immediately place me by that title.

You are given various titles over your life.  In my case, daughter, sister, Miss Jan, Aunt Jan and so on. Those titles speak of love, chosen work and ways that your life has been immeasurably enriched.  But I never considered that you also sometimes lose titles.  Like daughter.  And sometimes the lose hits new as you realize one of those titles is lost forever.  It is strange I will grant you.  It hasn’t hit before now.  It doesn’t impact my daily life.

But people have said to me, from the depths of their own experience, “it’s hard to be an orphan”.  I never considered that either.  I have family, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, Aunts and Uncles who still mean family to me.  But suddenly orphan made ‘sense” to me in the context of no longer being anyone’s daughter.

Grief is not a destination but a journey.  It happens in fits and starts.  It is not a straight path but one that weaves around your heart on any given day in unexpected reminders.  Someone said, “grief is that last gift we give when we lose those we love.”  I am finding that to be true.



I had been dreading the whole holiday season ever since my Dad died in September.  I knew one thing and never changed my mind…I did not want to be in Grand Rapids.  I didn’t want to be in my childhood home, celebrating Christmas as I have for 60 years now that everything feels so starkly different.

After talking to my family, I asked my employers if we could “borrow” their lake house in Wisconsin.  They would already be in St. Maarten.  They graciously agreed.  It would be different and different was just what I wanted.

I packed some decorations, picked up my niece from Philly and we hit the road.  We arrived first and started decorating, (the rest came and left in shifts) and soon this was the view.

 It was 65′ and sunny for the first two days.  No snow, no ice on the lake.  Lots of room to spread out.

A few decorations to set the stage for relaxing and coziness.

The next two days looked like this…

 No problem.  We watched movies in the theater…

We spent an evening at the Kalahari water park which led to pictures on elephants…

 The adults ran out of energy before the kids did.  Leaving for he water park Rhys was still raring to go…

We decided no stockings or gifts except gifts for the kids.But we did a modified Swedish smorgasbord…

 Smorgasbord lite…no Korv.

The kids did their usual fabulous job of entertaining us…


I made it through the week until Facebook popped up with a picture of my Dad and Rhys from the previous Christmas.  My Dad is in a Santa hat, Rhys looks like a little tomte on his lap, leaning back so they were looking right at each other.  My favorite picture.  And then the tears came and came and came.

Christmas morning, the day we were leaving, we woke to this…

 Technically a white Christmas after all.

And those holidays, my Dad’s December 23rd birthday, which felt like a mountain to climb, passed.

We made it.  I made it.  In talking to my brother and sister-in-law, I realized they wanted to be someplace different as much as I did.

We’ll eventually go back to our time honored traditions but “different” was just right for this first season without them.

Life is Good

"It's ironic that we

forget so often how

wonderful life really is...

C'mon, let's be honest.

We have an embarrassment

of riches. Life is good."

-Anne Quindlen

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