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Love Letter

When you died, you took part of me with you. I had began to think perhaps you had taken with you the very best of me, and for all that you gave me, I would have gladly given it to you, I would have gladly given everything I am or ever will be to have gone with you. I still feel guilty sometimes, that I wasn’t with you that night….. .

Today is the 5th anniversary of the tragic event that changed my life forever, that broke not just my heart, but also broke me. Lack of your presence sent me spiraling into the deepest, darkest, scariest depression I have ever had or even witnessed. If you had not been there with me for that era of my life, your death would not have caused the all encompassing pain, but I would walk through that hell all over again, rather than to have not had the experience, joy, and blessing of knowing you and of spending the entire last year of your life together.

You gave me hope in a hopeless place, you gave me laughter in a somber time, you gave me compassion, during a period of isolation, you gave me comfort, when I was completely unable to find comfort in anyone or anything. You were the only one who could understand what I was going through because you were fighting the same battle. I miss you beating me mercilessly at “Words with Friends” and then sending me sweet messages of love, I miss hearing the phone ring and seeing your name on the screen, I miss hearing your footsteps come up my stairs to bring me homemade Chicken Curry when I was sick, and thereafter, when I was well because it was AMAZING!, I miss leaning back into your body on the couch watching movies. I miss awakening in the morning to your smiling face, and peaceful blue eyes.  I miss “Atta girl” when I made you proud. I miss your amazing hugs!! Your hugs are the very best I have ever had! I would melt into you as we hugged, and your long arms felt as if they had wrapped around me twice, and your chest would soften as it invited me into the safest, most serene place I have ever had the privilege of visiting. I miss your stories, Dear God, do I miss your stories, and, in general, just a glimpse of how the world looked through your eyes. Most of all, I miss all of our late night conversations that started in the crappy, small room I rented on 4th street when I was 16. That was the night you introduced me to the hidden symbols on the dollar bill, the Illuminati, the Freemasons, and your real name, that even after we grew up together, and you showed me your ID, I didn’t believe you because I had an ID that stated my name as “Jenny Harris” of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla,. but eventually it became the sweetest name to cross my lips.loveletter

For months after you were gone, when I would wake in the morning, only the sign on the wall, and my empty bed would occupy the spot where your smiling face, and brilliant peaceful eyes should have been. I would turn around to share a laugh or look with you, only to find your spot empty. I would hear your footsteps on my stairs, fruitless. I would check “Words” to see if you had taken your turn yet. My phone rang, and I would eagerly check to see if it was you, but it never was again. I listened to your last three voice mails from the night you died, begging me to come “play” with you and your brother on Christmas Eve, but I had my nephews at the house doing Christmas projects, in preparation for Christmas day.

The last real conversation we had was when you convinced me, that you really did love me, and that even if you woke up blind tomorrow, you would still love me because you liked my stories too.. You not only listened to my me, but you valued what I had to say!   I miss you, all of you, and I miss how you made me see myself, how you made me feel about myself and the world, like anything was possible. I miss the intensity of your blue eyes and the energy, actual heat, that they exuded; Serenity & Mischief at the same time.

When you died, you took part of me with you. I had began to think perhaps you had taken with you the very best of me, and for all that you gave me, I would have gladly given it to you, I would have gladly given everything I am or ever will be to have gone with you. I still feel guilty sometimes, that I wasn’t with you that night….. .

I hadn’t really grasped how broken I was until I was blessed enough to get a bone tumor this year. Only after having to fight for my life, did I realize that I actually wanted to live it, and that I have been on a self destructive mode of Auto-pilot for 5 years. They say time heals all wounds, but that isn’t true. You do however, develop a tough layer of scar tissue, where an open wound once occupied. Life does eventually become bearable, and you slowly uncurl from the shivering, blubbering fetal position you have taken. The days slowly fill with light again. Eventually, you start to be able to sleep again. And yes, eventually, you even begin to celebrate Christmas again, wrapping presents, and even driving around looking at Christmas lights in all the neighborhoods.

I know I am not the only one who suffered your loss, and I don’t claim to have suffered the most because SO MANY people loved, adored, and cherished you. If it hadn’t been for the unconditional love of your parents being there for me, as if I was there own, and keeping alive the only connection to you that was still available to me, except for in my dreams, I highly doubt I could have made it through this dark tunnel to the beginning of the end, where I can finally see the light! You are so loved by so many, especially me. I miss you Balarama Daniel Ackley. The only thing about us I would ever change, if I could do it all over again would be to find you sooner, and love you longer.

lovetranscends

I know this was a long out pouring, and that I just poured my heart out, but I hope through my pain, suffering, sleepless nights, self destruction, grief, and oh so many tears, you will stop and think this Holiday Season about the choices you make and how they will affect you, the ones you love, those who love you, and others.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and  my loved ones for dealing with me the last 5 years, as I have struggled with this in every wrong, negative way I could have possibly. I am blessed that in the end, these tragedies, have strengthened, nourished, and fortified my relationship with God. Like the fire baptized the clay vessel to hold water, so do our trials and tribulations baptize and vitrify our souls to hold the Holy Spirit!
God bless you all, and I sincerely, wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and New Year full of prosperity and new happy beginnings!

Please please PLEASE Do NOT drink and drive!

My First Taste of Freedom

In my 8 year old mind this would never do, I was part of the “We are the World” generation. I still believed the Earth and all of the animals were my friends. Nature was my sanctuary and still is to this day. Also, at that time, I had become obsessed with this notion of “money making the world go around” and had come to realize my family never seemed to have enough of it.

I’ve been living on my own, for what feels like all my life. I know a lot of children who feel like they have always been on their own, but I mean really on my own. I started working an after school job at 8 years old because I had already grasped that one of the things that made my family different from others was money. I thought that by getting an after school job, I could help my family, my mother. I had always been quite over protective of my mother, but I didn’t even know why yet, at that age.
My first job was cleaning the garbage and litter from a lumber yard down the road, where my, at that time, step dad, mother’s boyfriend, Earl, got some of his supplies. Moore & Garvey Lumber Yard and Building Supply at the end of West Lake Drive. There was no lake on our street, so I have no idea why it was called West Lake Drive. Regardless, this street and few streets connected by paths through the woods, were basically my entire world as an 8 year old. As far as my bike and chubby legs would carry me! So naturally, my first job was at the end of this street.
I was there with Earl one day picking up my mother while she was taking “Lemon Drop Shots” the chosen libation of the era. (Is it strange to name eras of your life by your mother’s correlating addiction?) While I was standing next to Earl as he spoke with Greg, a big round bellied man from “Joysie” (New Jersey), about some supplies or some upcoming job, I began to notice the surrounding yard was littered with scraps of packaging, plastic, and old fast food containers. In my 8 year old mind this would never do, I was part of the “We are the World” generation. I still believed the Earth and all of the animals were my friends. Nature was my sanctuary and still is to this day. Also, at that time, I had become obsessed with this notion of “money making the world go around” and had come to realize my family never seemed to have enough of it.
Without even thinking, I blurted out, “Mr. Greg, this yard is a mess! There is litter everywhere!”
He and Earl exchanged a glance, and thankfully Greg laughed, and Earl un-tensed. Greg said, “You’re right! What should I do bout it?”
“You should pay ME to clean it up”I quickly said.
Both men laughed. To my surprise, Mr. Greg agreed and told me to come down after school the next day, and he would have me some cleaning tools rigged up.
I felt so proud of myself that day. I think even the very easily angered, Earl was kinda proud of me. He was a very hard worker. He often worked from before sun up until well after sun down, and in every spectrum of climate.


I walked in the door to our small flat topped box house beaming with pride. I couldn’t wait to go to work, and see what all of the fuss was about. I wanted to join the very adult club of complaining about work, but also of being able to buy things with money I earned, and was beholden to no one.
At that time, with that “step father” my older sister Danielle, was the favorite. She had figured out at a very young age with a nudge from my mother, that calling them “daddy” was the key to the world. She used it to get rides to her friends houses, have slumber parties, and get treats bought for her. For some odd reason, my stubborn ass, just couldn’t call any of them “Daddy” seamed like it was supposed to mean more than just “the man who lives here for right now”, but if any of them deserved to have been called “Daddy” it would be Earl. He really did try. He really did love us, and he loved our very wild and hard to handle mother.
The next day, after school, I walked through the sand spur and cactus speckled sandy field to the lumber yard, Moore & Garvey, walked into the giant warehouse hesitantly, and found Mr. Greg.
He smiled and half chuckled, “I ain’t think yous was gonna show up t’day”
I smiled, “I told you I would come clean up all this litter if you paid me.”
He put his hand on his thigh, and pushed his enormous torso up to stand. He walked behind the desk of the office and grabbed a broom stick with a 9 inch nail fixed through the end,along with a bucket, and presented them to me.
He said, matter-a-factly, “Yous is gonna stab the trash with the stick and put it in da bucket. Empty the bucket in the dum’ster when it’s full. I’s gonna pay you $2 an hour. Yous come here e’rryday after school ’til yous done. Capeesh?”
I smiled, inspected my new tools, and headed out the door.
It was winter. I could only work about two hours or so after school before it would get dark, but I did work until dark everyday after school that entire week. I meticulously scanned the entire terrain for every scrap of trash that may end up in the mighty ocean at the end of the other street across Highway 158. I cleaned the entire yard of every piece of trash, and I worked until Greg would send me home.
I would go home tired and sore, eat dinner, do my homework, take a shower, and go to bed. Then the next day, I would do it all over again.
At the end of the week, I had worked 16 hours! Greg stayed true to his word, and payed me $2 an hour in the amount of $32! I thought I was rich! He paid me in five dollar bills and one dollar bills, which made it seem like even more money than it actually was, but to an 8 year old, I had enough money to rule the world! I didn’t want to spend the money I had earned because then it would be gone. There was no more trash to pick up at Moore & Garvey, so I quickly realized, I would have to find another source of income, soon, or I would be in the same spot as I was in the beginning.
It wasn’t long after this that I began babysitting for my Aunt Dinah, here and there for a few hours at a time. At first, just tagging along with my sister, and eventually on my own, once I had been deemed mature enough to do it alone. Soon after that, I had a job in a fast food restaurant, Kentucky Fried Chicken, before it was just KFC. That was my first legit job. I still babysat when I had free time, and I worked well over the legal limit of hours for a 14 year old with a worker’s permit. I became obsessed. It was like a game to me, to see how many hours I could work, and how much money I could make. By the time I was 16, I worked at several restaurants because one job alone would never satisfy how many hours I wanted to work, or how much money I wanted to make. I finally had the key to being able to buy the clothes I wanted, the shoes that were in style, and everything else it seemed like “normal” girls from “normal” families came equipped with. I had it down to a science, how many hours I could work, and still get some sleep. At that age my motto had become, “I’ll get enough sleep when I am dead” Something I had often heard my grandparents say when someone suggested they rest.
I should have seen the warning signs of addiction and of being an addict. But I suppose when our addictions are socially acceptable, they are easy to overlook. No one else noticed these warning signs either. To everyone else I was driven, responsible, mature, and a go-getter. No one realized, along with myself, that I was running myself ragged, running away from life. But I am getting ahead of myself, and I will get into all of that at a later time.
So this is the story of how an 8 year old realized the power she had within herself, to change her circumstance, and later, how the power within herself could become dangerous if not unleashed in moderation.

Blessed Enough to Get a Tumor?

The thing about life, is that we only remember being alive, so we can become disillusioned to the fact that we are mortal, and will sometime cease to be alive. We forget or take for granted that we are building a legacy that will one day, be all that is left of us. We take for granted that we may not have another chance to prove that we love, that we have potential, we are a living body of works, and that we may not have the chance to prove who we really are or become who we really want to become. Today, this day, is the only thing we have, and the only thing that matters.

I always try to look for and count my blessings. 2016 gave me the rare opportunity and challenge to find the blessing in a bone tumor.  From May to September, I knew I had a bone tumor, but did not know, if the tumor was benign or malignant. if I had bone cancer. I didn’t know if I would live days, weeks, months or a year or two. I also did not know what the quality of my life would be. I have found myself in, and put myself in some scary situations in my lifetime. However, the scariest of my entire life has been to confront myself, and my own mortality.  The thing about life, is that we only remember being alive, so we can become disillusioned to the fact that we are mortal, and will sometime cease to be alive. We forget or take for granted that we are building a legacy that will one day, be all that is left of us. We take for granted that we may not have another chance to prove that we love, that we have potential, we are a living body of works, and that we may not have the chance to prove who we really are or become who we really want to become. Today, this day, is the only thing we have, and the only thing that matters.

This year from April through November, I was unable to “do” to “become” anything, and I had to come to terms with, who I have been, and what I have accomplished may be all that I am or ever will be. Without being able to “do” I had nothing except time to analyze my entire life and body of works.  This is a scary and enlightening undertaking. In this time, I realized I was not satisfied with my life. I hadn’t been a very good granddaughter, a very good daughter, a very good sister, a very good aunt, a very good friend, or even a very good person, in quite some time. I had not been a very bad person, but I hadn’t been necessarily a very good person, by my standards, in quite some time. I wished, and prayed for just a little more time, to be better. I needed just a little more time to leave behind me a legacy of being good, really good, to the people who loved me, and that I loved dearly, so that long after my physical body leaves this world, they would have enough goodness from me to last them the rest of their lives without me here to remind them that I loved them.

For the last four or maybe even five years, I have been so caught up in myself and my losses, I haven’t been able to see or maintain any of my relationships. Some may call it depression, but I would describe it as not really being awake, but not really being asleep; not really being dead, but not really being alive. I was surviving, but not really living. I was in a perpetual state of autopilot. I decided somewhere along the way that I wasn’t worthy of controlling or guiding my life, and I would just see how it turned out letting the decisions of others guiding my life. The problem with that is that good people aren’t interested in manipulating the lives of others, so you are left with the lowest common denominator of the human genome molding your life.  They aren’t interested in nurturing the relationships of the people you love, your accomplishments, or your commitments, and most of the time, when things aren’t nurtured, they cease to exist, they die. This happened in my life.  In the darkness, I decided everything and everyone good that I loved was gone, so why not pour kerosene on everything left and watch it burn! I wanted nothing and I wanted to be nothing. I wanted to die. The universe heard me. Everything I loved, and everyone I loved, fell away one by one. Things were lost, things were stolen, and things left me. I never died, but I ceased to be alive.

In September, I found out that the tumor was benign. Some of the sweetest words you may ever have the privilege to hear in your life are “You do not have cancer”.  I did have an infection that had liquefied and was eating my tibia. My entire tibia and part of my fibula were infected.  The infection caused my fever to spike often to 104 degrees. I hallucinated, felt like I was freezing and although my teeth would chatter, I was sweating profusely.   Even the extremely strong antibiotics made me sick. I couldn’t tell where the infection stopped, and the side effects began.  I was so sickly that holding my head up was difficult.  It hurt to breathe. It hurt to move. It hurt to be still.  I was in too much pain to think about much else, but much like fire purifies, so do certain types of pain. Much like clay is baptized by the fire of the kiln and comes out vitrified, certain extreme pain can baptize a person’s mind and soul leaving them better, stronger.

It wasn’t until I actually had to fight for my life, that I realized that it had value, and that I wanted it.  That there were still things, ideas, accomplishments, and most of all people that were worth fighting for (people that I had left behind in a world I had deemed unfit to live in myself, I had left the people I loved all alone in that very same world to fend for themselves without my love)! It wasn’t until I had to fight for the privilege to live, that I realized it was in fact a privilege. It wasn’t until I had to fight for the privilege to walk, that I realized the ability to walk is a privilege. It wasn’t until I lost the privilege to call the people I loved, who loved me, that I realized, that the love we share is in fact a privilege. We are granted so many privileges in our life, that we take for granted just how wonderful each of these privileges are to us! In fighting for my life, I realized that I am a wonderful miracle that needs to be shared with the world, and so are you. I realized that my life had lost meaning because I had stopped living it! I realized that food no longer had flavor because I had stopped tasting it! I realized that sunsets no longer looked beautiful, because I had stopped seeing them!  That music no longer moved my soul because I had stopped hearing the beat! That things no longer had value because I had stopped valuing them.  Now, I am proactive in my life, in my recovery, and as proactive in the lives of the people I love  as they will let me be. I know that it time for them to trust me again. I hurt them by just leaving, by just shutting down. It hurt them to watch me hurt, and most of all to hurt myself. It will take time, and lots of love to heal the brokenness I have created in my life, in every compartment of my life there is brokenness.  All I can do now is fill the brokenness with pure gold, thus leaving everything better and more beautiful than it ever was before!  The world needs me, and I need the world! The world is waiting for each and every one of us to leave our mark. Whether we choose to leave it better or worse is up to us! There is no in between, and if you are not sure where you stand, then you are not doing enough to leave it better.

For months, I claimed that 2016 was the worst year of my life. I could see no blessings, and nothing positive about 2016. I read somewhere that the light can only shine through the broken cracks of your soul, so I prayed all year for the light to shine through.  It finally did, but not in the way I thought it would. Life is funny like that.  It wasn’t until I was well that I could really comprehend how sick I had been.  Far before I was blessed enough to develop a bone tumor, I had been very sick, a sickness of the soul. Because I was blessed enough to have a bone tumor, I am well again! So now when people ask me why I am limping (I still limp, as the hole in my tibia is still healing), I tell them because I had the opportunity to have a bone tumor this year! Because I had the opportunity to fight for my life, and I won!!
Be Blessed Friends, and thank you for reading

Sarah Gannon. Survivor!!