drjanpatterson.com

I’ve started a personal website. I needed a place to pull together my academic work, interest in essential oils, grief experience, and writing to communicate with others.  So, I’ve started

www.drjanpatterson.com

Here I’ll have a Calendar of Events that will list training and speaking events, and will post information about infectious diseases, Wellness Aromatherapy educational posts, grief resources, and a link to my blog.

After 30 years of doing academic writing, I’m longing to share information about all the tools that are helping me get through this life, as well as current information about emerging infections.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

 

Sifting through Memories

My sister and I recently had the responsibility of preparing our deceased parents’ house for sale. My dad had moved to long term care after my mother died, but all of their things were still in the house after having lived there for 25+ years. And, everything from their previous households had moved there with them, so there was quite a bit of “stuff.” Boxes in the attic contained dolls from my childhood and my siblings’ childhood, as well as our baby clothes. We even came across an outfit that my dad (born in 1919) had worn as a toddler in some of his early photos.

I never knew my sister Zee Ann because she died in a car accident at 3 years old, before I was born. When going through the boxes from the attic, we found a child’s red train case with the name “Zee” painted on it. Inside were my deceased sister’s baby things—a small pink rattle, baby bracelet from the hospital, a lock of hair, tiny hair curlers. My heart ached, knowing the heartbreak my mother would have felt as she put these things in the case.   All of the baby things associated with hope and promise for the future, and yet she had to close them away in a case and put them in the attic.

Zee Ann's case
Zee Ann’s case

We smiled when we reviewed her Abilene High School annual and found her full page photo labeled “Most Friendly” from the Class of 1936. There were so many kind notes from her friends. “Swell” must have been a word used often back then–maybe kind of like “awesome” is used now.

I had such mixed feelings about letting their things go. It was clearly not practical or helpful to keep too many “things.” Just the fact that we were having to sort through so many items was reason to let go. And yet so many items were tangible reminders of my childhood. I had to tell myself that the memory itself is what matters. I selected a few items to keep, lots of photos to scan, and pulled away from the house.

IMG_4409

My heart ached for the tribulations my parents had to suffer—my brother’s developmental disability, my sister’s death. I wished life had been easier for them. I thought about this on the drive back home from Fort Worth to San Antonio. Unfortunately, the traffic was horrific that 4th of July weekend. I keep my lavender essential oil and Joy essential oil blend handy when I’m driving. I used some in my car diffuser, on my neck and forehead, and just inhaled some from the bottle. After 20 minutes I was less sad, more calm, and breathing easier.

I remembered that am grateful for an upbringing full of love and care from my parents. And we had happy times as a family. I hope they felt love from my sister Lyn and me at even a fraction of the love they gave us.

Jan and Lyn, circa 1959
Jan and Lyn, circa 1959
Lyn and Jan, 2016
Lyn and Jan, 2016

 

Holiday Blues

 

I have loved Joni Mitchell’s hauntingly beautiful “River” since I first heard it in the ‘70’s. Even in my youth, I understood that Christmas was an unhappy time for many people, although I was fortunate to grow up in a loving family with happy and sacred memories of Christmas. I fell in love with a romantic and fun-loving man and one night we lay underneath the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree as he told me “I think Christmas is my favorite time of year.” As an adult and mother of young children, I experienced the happiest Christmases ever—filled with the joy and wonder that we can only see through children’s eyes. Our family worked on putting together an advent calendar for our church every year and sought daily devotionals written by our church members. Our son, Will, drew a picture for it entitled “Yay for Christmas!” when he was a young child. It showed family members around a Christmas tree and the sharing of smiles and gifts. We wrote a devotional that reflected Christmas as seen through his eyes. The highlights were seeing cousins and grandparents, decorating the tree, lights and decorations, sharing gifts, Christmas music, and celebrating Jesus’ birthday. Our children were fortunate to be led in Christmas music and spontaneous Christmas pageants by the exceptionally talented and loving “Ms. Phyllis” who treated every child as her own and shared God’s love with each of them.

We lost our beloved son Will to suicide in 2012 when he was 18 years old. This will be our fourth Christmas without his presence here on earth. Because we have such wonderful memories of Christmas with him, Christmas without him is bittersweet. We have joined other bereaved parents in the struggle to make it through the holiday season. I guess the first year was the toughest; some say the second year is worse because the permanence sinks in. It is hard to say. Each year we learn a little more. We are able to smile a little more when we remember him, instead of cry.

This year I am thinking about what helps me through the season. We are so fortunate to have our son Evan and his fiancée Ivy. We celebrate their lives and the joy they have and give to us. And we have other extended family. There are many Pattersons—my husband’s side of the family. And our new family member, Ivy, has a great family we are getting to know. A few of our extended family members will talk to us about Will during the holidays, however, most do not mention him. This is part of the heartache.

When one experiences the unspeakable grief of losing a child, the heart enlarges and is more capable of compassion and empathy with others. I am certainly more aware of the challenges of the bereaved in getting through the holiday season. In my next post, I will share some things that help me cope.

St. Patrick

To many, Saint Patrick’s Day is simply a day to wear green and drink beer. Traditionally, San Antonio dyes the river green.  There is much more to this Saint, however.shamrock

Saint Patrick lived in the 5th century and is known as the Apostle of Ireland.  He was born in Britain, but captured by Irish pirates at a young age.  During his enslavement in Ireland, he converted to Christianity. He acted on a voice telling him it was time to go home; he escaped and returned to Britain.  A few years later, he had a vision of a man carrying letters, one headed “The Voice of the Irish” and appealing him to come walk among them.  He acted on the vision and returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary, baptizing many people.  Legend says that he used the three-leafed Shamrock to talk about the Holy Trinity.  He is also credited with banishing snakes from Ireland, but naturalists say there were no snakes in Ireland at that time to banish!  March 17 recognizes the date of his death and is a religious and cultural holiday in Ireland.

The day is meaningful to me because it is the birthday of two of my loved ones—my mother and one of my sisters, Zee Ann.  I never knew Zee Ann because she died in a car accident at age 3, before the days of car safety awareness and seat belts.  I am sure my mother was delighted that her first daughter was born on her birthday, and then how tragic and bittersweet each birthday following Zee Ann’s death must have been for her.  Zee Ann was a beautiful and precious child by all accounts.  She was a loving playmate for my brother David, developmentally delayed from asphyxia at birth.zeeann oval feathered

What I remember about my mother is her sense of humor, her faith, her love for children, and her ability to make friends.  Her friends adored her, and she had a nature about her that even made store clerks want to help her in any way possible.  She died in 2011 at 93 years old and it was a release for her because she was in poor health and pain the last few months of her life.  I miss her and wish I could still pick up the phone and talk to her.  I felt her presence after the death of my son and when I was in pain from uterine cancer surgery.   I know I will see her again in heaven, and I look forward to meeting  Zee Ann, too.Mother young

Tools:  Faith, Family

Pi Day ! 3.1415926…..

Today is pi Day, 3/14, and especially monumental since it is 2015, making it 3/14/15. Our friends, Barbara and Michael, have a pi Day party and started it at 9:26am– making it 3.1415926…. There was a long table of pies of all kinds – pecan pie, quiche pie, coconut cream pie, lemon pie, chess pie, cheesecake pie, pumpkin pie,  and spaghetti pie.  There was even a pie in the shape of a pi. Fun

pi partypi

It hasn’t been easy for us to go to parties.  In the 3 years since our son, Will, died, we haven’t much felt like seeing people and many of our friends don’t feel comfortable around us even still, so we have stayed home a lot.  It felt pretty good to just go to a party where we didn’t know many people.

The sprained foot/ankle is much better. The cycle of whirlpool/oils/icing is helping a lot, as is the boot immobilizer (using all the tools!).  Did upper body strength training at the gym today.  Gotta keep moving. Especially if I’m eating PIE at 10am in the morning!

And–it was a beautiful Texas spring day.  One of the best yet.  Short sleeves, sun, light breeze, redbuds blooming, and a gorgeous sunset at the ranch tonight. Peaceful.

sunset

Tools:  Family, Fun, Friends, Oils, Medicine, Fitness