A few months ago I was given several large bins of paperwork that had belonged to my sister who passed away in 2012. This past week I finally started going through these bins. I was surprised to see what was in them.
My sister was very active in managing our family tree. She traveled the country visiting gravesites and obtaining documentation on birth and death records. She had multiple copies of every document. It was a bit overwhelming going through all of this paperwork. Before I throw anything out, I want to make sure I have the information, so one of everything still creates a large stack of paper.
What I found next really surprised me. When my dad died in 2010, this sister obtained a lot of his personal paperwork. I had no idea that my dad saved everything. First I found a “Dear John” letter written to him by a lady he apparently dated after my mom died, and before he met the lady he eventually married. It was a very sweet letter from a lady who apologized for writing the letter. She stated that she previously had a stroke, and speaking was harder for her than writing when she had something important to say. Her letter was very affirming, telling my dad what a kind person he was, but she for the first time in her life, felt she was able to minister without any hindrances of raising a family, or being married, and she felt this was her calling. She affirmed what a nice man my dad was, and that God loved him, and he was not alone. Shortly after this letter was written, my dad met Heidi, the lady he was married to for eleven years before he passed away. I was surprised that my dad had the letter, but as a business person, he had everything neatly filed away.
The next thing I ran across was all the anniversary cards he and my mom received for their 50th anniversary in 1992. Although I saw no reason to keep all these cards, and there was a stack about 6 inches high, I opened each card to see names of my parents’ friends and family that I had not seen in years. So many sweet notes from these folks were written in these cards.
The last surprise in this one particular bin was all the sympathy cards my dad received in 1995 when my mom passed away. Reading notes from these folks who described my mom as a loyal friend with a sweet humble personality, brought a smile to my face, because they describe their friend (my mom) so well.
One card stood out, and so far, I have not had the heart to pitch it. It was sent from a friend of mine who I knew when I was attending the local community college. I met Dee Dee in 1967, and we attended college together for only one year, as she was a year behind me in school. I went off to finish my college career, but she and I remained good friends during this time. We attended each others weddings, and although she moved to Pennsylvania after her marriage in 1972, she and I kept in contact, and when she came back a few years later with her first baby, she came to visit me. I have photos as proof.
What struck me about the sympathy card written in 1995, was she told my dad that she lost total contact with me. It first made me wonder how she knew my mom had died, but I realize another good friend of hers went to my mom and dad’s church, and she probably let Dee Dee know my mom had passed.
How had she and I, who had been such good friends, lose total contact with each other? It didn’t click in my thoughts until I read a blog the other day. This blog, “Beauty Beyond Bones” is one I discovered shortly after I started blogging. It is written by a young lady who has been in recovery from anorexia for over ten years. Her recovery story was so inspiring that I started following her blog. This week she wrote about a Halloween party she hosted. It was significant to her that she had a group of friends to entertain, and the joy of this connection and her newfound boyfriend, all things which she let go of when she was suffering from her eating disorder.
She spoke about how she isolated herself from all her friends during the the depths of her disease. Although I did not suffer from anorexia, after my divorce I was so depressed that I isolated myself from everyone. The only friend I had on earth during this time was my mom.
In her blog, Caralyn, talks about how people were uncomfortable being around her during the depths of her illness. I think people were uncomfortable around me during my depths of my depression.
I isolated in my illness of codependency. Until I got counseling and became part of a 12-step group for codependency, I was self isolated, and sometimes isolated because people were uncomfortable around me.
I realized after reading her blog, that I too, had rebuilt relationships that had been lost over the years. In my youth, I believed I had the gift of hospitality. Then when my life fell apart, I did not entertain at all. My friends slowly disappeared.
When I married Dennis, I commented to him that the home he had, to which I was moving, was very large, and it was a home made to share with others. He was good with that. The eight years we lived in that home, we entertained small groups and large groups of friends and family. That home became my saving grace for bringing back connection.
Sometime ago, I reached out to Dee Dee. I don’t know when that was. It has been over a decade. I realize that reconnecting with old friends (too many to name them all here), brought me back to the girl I used to be—the one who loved entertaining, and building connections with friends and connecting them with each other.
When my mom died 26 years ago, I remember seeing the stack of sympathy cards my dad and my sisters received. If I recall properly, I received about three cards. I attended the funeral and saw the friends of my family come to pay their respect, but I had no friends who attended. It is still so vivid in my mind that back then I wondered if I passed away if anyone would notice or attend my funeral short of my four children. That was a sad place to be in.
I am grateful that over the last couple decades I have worked hard at re-establishing many of my friendships. I have also worked hard at being a good friend, and also at making new friends. You can never have too many friends, in my opinion.
I am no longer isolated. I do feel the pain of those who have self isolated for whatever reason, but there is hope for them.
Seeing the card Dee Dee sent to my dad reminded me of how much my life has changed. I don’t entertain as large of groups as I did in Missouri. As I get older, I find it a bit harder to do, but my home is still open to anyone who wants to come my way. I love meeting up for lunches and dinners with friends and relatives.
My life has changed in so many since the days of my depression and codependency. The following steps is what got me through. It’s not the “magic” of the steps, it is the surrender to God in my life to work through these steps that changed my life. Jesus is a life changer.
Here are the 12 steps of Codependence Anonymous. I highlighted the ones that took a lot of soul searching to do, but have immeasurably changed my life.
- We admitted we were powerless over others – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood God.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other co-dependents, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
I am forever grateful for the abundance of friends I have, and I am forever grateful for being able to restore relationships that were broken.