When you lose someone you love, you go through changes that you cannot control. Some part of you goes away for a while, trying to process it. Some other part tries to maintain the status quo, to “be strong”. You hold some of yourself in reserve, just in case, because the world is not the same and you might need those reserves. It doesn’t feel safe to be vulnerable in any way. And while you tiptoe through this dichotomous-quicksand-complex bog of feeling and numbness, all of your people reach out to support you, each in their own way.
Some people say things you will always remember and hold dear. After my brother died a few years ago, my cousin the minister said:Indeed. That was just what I needed to hear that day.
A customer of my Dad’s who had become a friend (because that’s how my Dad did business; he was always a trusted friend and never a salesman), a man who I had never met, sent me a card after we lost my brother that said:
I can’t express how meaningful those words are to me.
And now, after my father’s unexpected death, the people around me, the stars in my sphere of being, are reaching out in their own ways to support me and my family. It is a beautiful and overwhelming humbling experience. So many kind and thoughtful gestures, so many meaningful words and messages of support, so many gifts and acts of kindness and service; too many to name.
But a couple I will highlight; this beautiful gift of wind chimes, personalized with my Dad’s name and dates of life. He was a woodworker by hobby and made me several sets of wind chimes, so it was really special that my colleagues at work gave me this gift. I brought them to Little House in the Rockies, our tiny cabin, and every time I hear them I think of Dad. Click the short video to hear the chimes.
Another “gift” was the sharing of this video made by the son of a colleague. It is a lovely two-minute animation about the stages of grief, and is very comforting and peaceful.
More to come as this processing continues.
Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook (except the Stages of Grief video)
i’m a bee right now, landing on memory-flowers
maybe i can make them into honey
maybe that’s a way to share you
with those to come those you never knew those like me who want more
an endless jar of memory-honey
sitting on the pantry shelf of my heart
halcyon father-daughter days golden and sweet transformed into words
you were the essence of goodness and light
that’s why I want to share you
with those to come those you never knew those like me who want more
~ i’ll be making memory-honey for the rest of my days
This is just another little poem from a grieving and grateful daughter – I’m sure there will be more as I process this new life in the world without him. Thank you for reading it and allowing me to share my remarkable Dad. For more about him and the amazing childhood he and my mom made possible:
Readers of this blog will know that my Dad died unexpectedly less than two weeks ago. Like anyone who loses a loved one, I’ll be processing this for a while. Not in a maudlin or “poor-pitiful-me” way; its just that my world has changed forever. Aside from sadness and nostalgia, my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude for the gift of having a wonderful Dad for so many years, one who loved me (and so many others) with his whole heart. And so, a haiku:
joy-sorrow feelings how long will i love-miss you? ten times forever
The Glover Gardens family suffered a huge loss last week when my father died unexpectedly. He was an amazing man.
Thomas Frank Harvell, 78, climbed the stairway to heaven on June 21, 2017. Mourning him while knowing he waits to be joined, are Lucy Harvell, daughter Kim Glover and her husband Tom, grandsons Thomas Wenglinski and Brandon Glover, granddaughters Melyssa and Joie Harvell and their mother Noemi Edington, stepson Matt Kiely and his wife Dawn, grandsons Everett and Ryan Kiely, and two-time mother-in-law Ruth Holt. He is also survived by his siblings Kenneth Harvell, Lynda Brashears and Connie Donnelly and their beloved families. Preceding Frank in death were his first wife, Nancy Harvell, his son, Steven Harvell, and his father and mother, Thomas Ezra and Memery Harvell.
Many others from all parts of Frank’s life join the immediate family in this complicated mix of sorrow and celebration: the extended Harvell, Smith, Cleckler, Holt and Hiatt tribes, lifelong friends from his childhood in hot and dusty Sweetwater, Texas to his many decades further south in various parts of hot and muggy Southeast Texas, a host of fellow believers from all of the churches where he was a member, and colleagues and customers from his years of technology sales with Motorola and Kay Electronics.
Frank loved without judgment, with his whole heart. With his profound sense of loyalty, honor and integrity, Frank’s rock-solid advice was frequently sought and almost always taken. A believer, his faith sustained him through family crises and illness, and he never lost his hope or sense of humor. Frank’s character and sunny, sturdy, pragmatic attitude drew others to him, and he was a true servant leader. He was active in church leadership and taught Sunday school for almost all of his adult life.
“Family man” is an over-used phrase, and yet it is just right for Frank. His intense devotion to his first wife Nancy never waivered, from their early poor (and extremely happy) years, to their tranquil days at the beach in Gilchrist, and through her later decades of illness. Sometimes he was both father and mother to Kim and Steve while they were growing up, and he embraced this responsibility. After Nancy’s death, Frank was blessed a second time, this time with the sweetness of a late marriage to Lucy.
Not one to sit still, Frank worked as a part-time consultant for Kay Electronics and Motorola well into his 70s. (He didn’t want to retire until his last client did.) After retirement, he had more time for his hobbies, including travel (both with and without grandchildren), woodworking, vegetable gardening, reading, photography and following his grandchildren on Facebook so he could brag about them. Together with Lucy, Frank was a super-volunteer, serving various churches and charitable organizations. Over the past few years and until his illness, when they weren’t organizing food drives, or community repair days for shut-ins and the elderly, or fundraisers, Frank spent nearly 40 hours a week helping to revitalize and re-launch Tomball Emergency Assistance Ministries (TEAM).
In addition to his fundamental goodness and old-fashioned manners, Frank was downright funny. His gap-toothed grin and quirky quips will always be remembered. He loved music, old movies, southern food and grandchildren and was always happy to share a story from his innocent childhood, or a lesson he learned from the parents he revered. His smile and stories will be missed by many.
Frank is now at peace after his yearlong illness and is probably either playing the trumpet with the Angel Gabriel or enjoying a chicken fried steak with St. Peter. On Saturday, June 24, at 3:00 p.m. a memorial service will be held at Tomball United Methodist Church, 1603 Baker Drive in Tomball, Texas to honor his most wonderful life. And then afterwards in the fellowship hall, snacks will be served while we gather to comfort each other, share stories and celebrate this remarkable man. He declared recently, “When I go, hold a party!” Frank’s legacy is for us to laugh often, love without judgment, live with joy, and hold our families close.
More to come on this topic; my Dad was my muse. Did I say he was a remarkable person? Here are some of the posts he inspired, either directly or because I knew he would take pleasure in them:
My brother and I used to joke that if we wrote a book together, its title would be Surviving the Perfect Childhood. Its theme would be dealing with the real world after emerging from the tranquil, untroubled, near-paradise of our early lives. Growing up, Steve and I were as close as any brother and sister I’ve ever known, born 3 years and 3 months apart, each of us earnestly filling our older sibling / younger sibling roles.
I was his guide and teacher and he was my adorable little brother.
We lived on the beach in Gilchrist, Texas from the time I was 10 and Steve was 7, and in the summer, we’d swim almost every day, body-surfing in the Gulf, doing cannonballs and having swimming races with our cousins and neighborhood friends in the canal behind our house.
Steve laughed harder than anyone when a blue crab clamped onto my toe in the canal and wouldn’t let go, but then was angry at everyone else for laughing. We were like that – pushing each other to the limits as siblings will, but intensely protective. We were best friends. In the winters, we played indoor games of Scrabble and Monopoly with our parents, and spent hours playing make-believe in a long-running “city”, a collection of buildings made of Legos populated with tiny glass animals who had fascinating made-up lives. My avatar was a tiny glass squirrel named “Squirrelly”; his was a raccoon named “Racky”. (Not one of our most creative outputs.)
I taught Steve how to dance, gave him advice about girls and dating, and felt my own heart break when his youthful romances didn’t last. Boyfriends in my teen years always befriended Steve, and he joined me on many a date. He was a fun, funny person. We were fun together.
“Kim-n-Steve” was one word, a blended name for us that everyone used.
Steve and I had a nickname for each other: Boj. Pronounced bōj. It was a salutation, a pet name and a word that communicated a variety of emotions depending on how it was uttered, like “dude” is now. If we hadn’t seen each other for a while, “Boj!” was the excited greeting. If there was bad news to share in response to “How are you?”, it started with “Oh, Boj”, all long and drawn out, in a low voice and dripping with meaning.
There are so many stories from those halcyon days – the time Steve put green food coloring in Mom’s toothpaste and the time we had a kangaroo court in response to our stance that we were underpaid for pulling weeds. The kitten named Pretty Kitty who turned out to be a massive tomcat, and our heartbreak when he was run over by a drunk tourist. Our pet baby chicken also grew to be enormous, a vicious gangsta rooster who only loved Steve (and who I had to fend off with a pitchfork). All those times after I left for college when Steve got into normal high-spirited high school scrapes and called me for help: “Boj, something very bad happened.”
Our togetherness extended into summer jobs. Steve and I worked at many of the same places through high school and early college – the lumber yard, where I was a cashier and estimator and he worked in the yard, loading orders into customers’ cars and sometimes driving the forklift;; a fancy, quirky 12-seat restaurant where I was a waitress and he was a dishwasher; a duck-hunting lodge, also a waitress and dishwasher; the Candy Factory on The Strand in Galveston, where I worked the candy side and he was an ice cream server and soda jerk. We car-pooled and money-pooled, and talked and laughed and listened to music during our daily commute. We debated the meaning of life, the meaning of Rush lyrics and the relative merits of each other’s dates. Listening to my complaints about one potential boyfriend, Steve said something so profound with his hilarious, slow and earnest delivery, leaning forward to emphasize his point: “Boj, there’s something wrong with everybody.” That became a mantra for us and still makes me laugh. It was also our joint commitment to give people a chance even though they might on the surface not seem like a good fit.
Steve chose the same college I did and remained in the Austin / San Marcos area, whereas I landed in Houston to lead out my grown-up life. He married a marvelous woman and was the first to have children. Like my son, his two daughters feel like an inseparable part of me. His wife became my sister and I love her with all my heart. Our four children (Steve’s daughters, my son and my “bonus son”/stepson) are very close. Steve and I also remained close for years, although distance, busy-ness and different lifestyles led us to seek and confide in other best friends as we hit our 30s and 40s.
Somewhere along the way, we lost Squirrelly and Racky, both literally and figuratively.
I didn’t receive many gifts from Steve over the years; in our relationship, I was the gifter and he was the teller of funny stories. One of the last times I saw him, we spent a weekend together in Austin, just the two of us. Newly divorced, he was figuring out who he was going to be. I was still the sage older sister; he was still the questioning younger brother. We walked around in trendy So-Co, went to music stores, visited his guitar-playing, Whole Foods-working friend and recalled our wacky childhood. We were grown up, we were different, but we were still somehow Kim-n-Steve. As I left, he put a CD he had recorded for me into the glove compartment in my car: “You’ll really like this, Boj.” But I forgot about it as I drove home, back to my corporate job and my garden and my grocery list and my sons and husband. That CD was a rare gift from Steve, but it wasn’t time for me to open it yet. Back at home, I went online and found tiny squirrel and raccoon figurines, and sent them to Steve in memory of our childhood and our great weekend.
Steve died on October 7, 2013.
I was in Las Vegas on a business trip when I heard the news. I spent the night before my early flight out the next day looking at the strip and remembering our perfect childhood. A part of my heart is permanently broken, and yet I know that it is so much bigger than it ever would have been if we hadn’t been siblings.
I drove to the Austin area for the family gathering, funeral / celebration of Steve’s life and to help with the distribution of his belongings. Looking in my glove compartment for a tire gauge before setting out, I found the CD Steve had given me and popped it into the CD player, so grateful to have this tangible connection to him. The band is Los Lonely Boys, and the first song on the CD is Heaven. One of the main lines in this truly beautiful and moving song is “How far is heaven?” Steve was talking to me through those lyrics as I listened to the song over and over on the drive. And he was laughing with me, too; he knows just how far heaven is, and I don’t.
How far is heaven? Steve now knows, and I’ll have to wait.
One final footnote: the Squirrelly and Racky figurines were displayed in a prominent place in Steve’s apartment, and they were the only things of his that I needed to have. I often feel close to him again now – when I listen to Heaven or any of the other music he shared with me over the years, when I see those figurines, now proudly displayed at my office, when I spend time with his beautiful and smart daughters, when I reminisce with my dad about our wacky times at the beach, when I’m with any of his friends or our family who are sharing their own Me-n-Steve Stories.
Lyrics to “Heaven” follow; at the end of this post is a recording of it on YouTube by Los Lonely Boys. I hope you take a minute to read and watch/listen. The song and lyrics are really inspiring; illustrative of the very human need for solace, and the belief that there is a better place.
Save me from this prison Lord, help me get away ‘Cause only you can save me now from this misery
I’ve been lost in my own place and I’m getting’ weary How far is heaven? And I know that I need to change my ways of livin’ How far is heaven? Lord, can you tell me?
I’ve been locked up way too long in this crazy world. How far is heaven? And I just keep on prayin’, Lord And just keep on livin’. How far is heaven?
Lord, can you tell me? How far is heaven? ‘Cause I just got to know how far, yeah? How far is heaven? Lord, can you tell me?
[Spanish:] Tú que estás en alto cielo, Échame tu bendición [English translation: [You, who are in high heaven, Send me down your blessing]
‘Cause I know there’s a better place than this place I’m livin’. How far is heaven? And I just got to have some faith And just keep on giving. How far is heaven? Yeah, Lord, can you tell me? How far is heaven? ‘Cause I just gotta know how far, yeah? How far is heaven? Yeah, Lord, can you tell me? how far is heaven? ‘Cause I just gotta know how far? I just wanna know how far?
This little memoir is dedicated to everyone who loved Steve, and has the same bigger-but-now-broken heart because of his presence in your life. I didn’t include your names or your pictures, because your stories are your own to tell.
November update: I’ve added a quiet little poem in honor of my brother’s 49th birthday. Click here to read it.