AWE-gust: Living and Loving

Dara LevanBlog37 Comments

August. I never knew that one word, one month could so intensely impact a person. Since 1999, a pebble-sized bubble in my throat arrives in late July. By August 15, it’s a rapidly expanding water balloon waiting to burst.

I walk. I listen to music. I pause and honor all of those who are living. I am grateful for the souls who are still physically on the planet. I’ve strangely and sadly lost many people I love in August.

But the yearning and loss I feel for one sweet soul still surfaces. There’s a heaviness. There’s a hole. As the years pass, the tear in my heart mends a bit, but it is still there. It opens wider on her birthday. I also feel searing jolts of “I can’t believe she’s not with us” during milestones, life passages and celebrations. When we bought our first home I missed her deeply. When we welcomed our children into the world I longed for her to hold them. I still do.

Who is this larger-than-life, loving woman about whom I speak? Terri. My husband’s mother. I’ve mourned as loved ones age and peacefully exit. I’ve supported friends during their losses when cancer won. Even before I was born, my family lost relatives too young.

But Terri left us suddenly. She was only 52. The shock and grief we felt — it was only six months before our wedding — were indescribable. There was no closure. There was no goodbye. There still isn’t. I had to tell my fiancé that his mother was no longer with us. We both grew up quickly. There was no choice.

I only knew Terri 18 short months, yet it was as if I’d known her my entire life. I could share the details of her passing and the days following. (I will not due to respect for the rest of our family’s privacy and personal healing.) But I must explain the significance of the rainbow. You may have noticed the rainbow on my website. There is magnificent meaning behind this miracle of nature.

On the way to Terri’s funeral, we all rode together. I don’t remember much of that day (other than the over 800 people in front of which we all somehow spoke). We were numb. It literally felt like an out of body experience.

As we headed south on I-95, I looked to the left. The most vibrant, expansive rainbow I have ever seen spread across the sky. At this moment, I told my husband, his brothers, sisters that whenever I saw a rainbow I would think of Terri. She lived to make those around her feel beautiful—in their homes and in their hearts. I truly felt her presence. I sensed that Terri lit up the sky to soothe and embrace us.

Every, single time since that day, when there’s a birthday, a graduation, a death, or a big decision, a rainbow has appeared. I could write an entire entry about each instance; it never ceases to amaze me. I have documented these uplifting moments in photos. (Yes, I’ve actually stopped my car to jump out and snap a quick picture.)

I could continue to write about Terri’s passing—the how, when, where—and I still do not know the why. Instead, I will celebrate her life. This week is 18 years since Terri left us. In the Hebrew language, the number 18 is laden with meaning. It represents “CHAI,” and the translation of this word is “LIFE.” I want you to get to know Terri. I want to honor a woman who has forever impacted how I choose to live on the 18th anniversary of her passing.

Like a firefly flitting in the night, Terri brightened a room with her eager energy and charming smile. She was a successful and talented interior designer—she’s left her mark through her creations in multiple South Florida homes. Her work was often featured in magazines, too. If she were physically with us, she’d also leave marks of red-lipsticked kisses on all of our cheeks. (And there’d also be streaks inside her chic purses and smeared on her car seats.)

With impeccable dark, short curly hair, Terri had a childlike purity that radiated and touched all people she met. Her earnest, inquisitive green eyes (much like my daughter’s) and gracious, giving nature made all feel welcome.

I remember the first time we met. Within minutes, we were giggling and chattering like two school girls. Terri made me feel as if we’d known each other for years. Anyone who knew her will tell you they felt the same.

We talked about our mutual love for antiques and jewelry. Terri asked me about my style—I had no idea. I was 23 years old. (I remember being so nervous about what to wear for my first meeting with this Betty Boop fan who was reportedly a fashionista. I’d settled on black pants and a plain, silk shirt.). The butterflies I’d felt when I first walked in the door settled within minutes.

Terri lived in the moment. Not in the yogi, spiritual sense. Quite the opposite. If she wanted an outfit or a new rug, she’d impulsively purchase it regardless of the cost. Beauty trumped all. But not in a materialistic, self serving way.

Orchids lived lovingly in all corners of her home. We’d frequently gather around a lace cloth covered wood table. Even condiments filled dainty, often pink and white, fine china bowls. (No plastic, dreadful bottles were allowed!)

Terri loved making others happy whether it was a gift of her tight embrace, as if she knew she wouldn’t live until an older age. Or the gift of her time, creativity, cooking, or flowers.

This passionate woman insisted on hosting (what we felt at the time) an extravagant engagement party for us. We repeatedly told Terri we didn’t need or want this but thank you. Stunning, fragrant flowers adorned the tables. The food was plentiful and those closest to us gathered to celebrate. When my husband and I reflect on that unforgettable day, we are profoundly grateful. This was her wedding. She didn’t make it to ours.

Terri was an incredible mother, a loyal friend, sister, wife, and aunt. No matter what her connection was to a person, she loved fiercely and unconditionally. I adored her from the moment we met. Terri taught me how to live.

My goals of becoming a newspaper editor in addition to president of my professional organization changed in an instant. My priorities shifted dramatically. We didn’t have children yet. Years later, I remembered a brief, powerful comment. I told my now husband that “I hope we have a baby in August so it could become a happy month.”

Well. We did. My daughter, who turns 13 this week, brought light to our lives with her arrival. She brightened this formerly dreary, dreadful month. She is our rainbow. My son is named after Terri; he, too, carries her heart within him. I also birthed this blog and the entire website in August. That was intentional. Going forward, August will be for me—for all of us—a month of rebirth and renewal. Rather than Awwwwwwgust, a shift has transpired. It is now AWE-gust.

It’s August 10th. My daughter and I took a brief walk after dinner, which took a bit of coaxing. She said, “Mommy. Let’s turn here and walk in that direction.” It’s a street we rarely visit, but I said, “Ok. Let’s go.” I looked up and saw a tiny rainbow nestled between the clouds. No rain. Not even one drop. This is nearly impossible.

I have been quietly hoping for a visit. I needed confirmation that it’s the time to write and share publicly about Terri. This was a precious, timely gift. My daughter and I paused. I shrieked with glee. I inhaled gratitude and silently thanked Terri for the visit.

Terri would want her grandkids, friends, and others to know about her. She’d love that her story is being told. So L’chaim! To life. I hope to honor how Terri lived by connecting souls and celebrating all lives. She loved unconditionally. Terri taught me that. She was and continues to be my inspiration for love, beauty, and living for today. That is her legacy. She lives on in the rainbow.


37 Comments on “AWE-gust: Living and Loving”

  1. First of all I commend you for this writing. I can now see how hard this week of editing and drafting must have been for you. The meaning behind the rainbow is much more than what it seems. Terri would have been so proud of you and your hard work and persistence.

  2. No words could expand on the feelings and love you conveyed. Thank you for creating a moment to stop and reflect on the gifts of rainbows and the people they can represent in our personal histories.

  3. Dara, this is a most beautiful and meaningful tribute to a special woman. Of course, the rainbow and all it signifies connects you to her and me to you, so I especially love that. May the colors in the rainbows we see along the way brighten your days with much love and wonderful memories.

  4. Dara, this is truly beautiful, and I thank you for sharing the beauty, inside and out, of my sister. We were not only sisters but also best friends all of our lives. We loved, played, danced, smiled and cried together through happy and sad times. We were always there for each other, and always knew we had each other’s back. She was indeed Betty Boop and I was Goldilocks. She is missed each and every day, but the memories of our lives together will always be very special in my heart.

  5. Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to a woman I am grateful to have met.
    Aunt Linda

    1. Aunt Linda,
      I am so beyond grateful for your part in my/our journey. And for being there for me then, now, and always. ???

  6. Simply, wow. You captured an uncapturable personality–fine china and orchids and all. Terri was my second mom through middle and high school. She simply loved and lived beauty, and she gave and gave and gave to her kids and their friends (like me). Your writing is a legacy of that beauty and generosity.

  7. This is sweetness in its prime state!! Thank you for sharing. You may not know it, but my mother-in-law died around the same age. Reading about your relationship and your adoration for your mother-in-law is so affirming. healing. revitalizing. Oh! the powers of words and more importantly – the rainbow.

    1. Thank you for your kind, thoughtful words! I DO remember you telling me about your mother-in-law. Grateful you shared that connection. ???

  8. Wow Dara – this is one of the most beautiful and inspiring stories I have ever read. Period. Your tribute to Terri was so moving that I feel like I knew her. And the awesome connection with rainbows and your family. I’m so glad you shared this story knowing how difficult this time is for you all. The silver lining is my favorite part. Love you ❤️

    1. Awwwww Becky!!! Thank you from my ? For being SUCH an impactful, forever part of my journey. Love you.

  9. My fearless friend – thank you for being the Alchemist who takes memories of love from remnants of loss, extracts the beauty of her light from the darkness of death and creates an amalgam of all this into the bright colors of the pledge from God – the Rainbow. Ever since you and I talked about this, foot me it has been synonymous with you all. As an August born Leo thank you for reclaiming for us our Awesome August

  10. Absolutely beautiful… so heartfelt … as I sat and read this …I was truly touched by your words…so relatable ❤️❤️❤️❤️

    1. Jodi,
      I am truly touched that you took the time to read and connect with the words. Thank you so much. ??

  11. So many similarities between your Terri and my Teri. It’s almost eerie. But it also makes me smile. You know my heart is with you and your family. Today and always.

  12. Your tender feelings for Terri, and your beautifully expressed thoughts and experiences, are a moving joy to read, Dara. I feel very lucky to share your thoughts with you. I also admire you, especially because I am sometimes too guarded about expressing my own!

  13. Wonderful tribute, and beautifully written. I am so glad you allowed yourself to share your amazing words and insight with others. :))

  14. I cried my eyes out reading this magnificent tribute to a woman that was like a sister to me. She was always there for me and I will never forget her love and kindness. As you know our wedding anniversary is on the same day she left all of us. She may physically be gone but her spirit will always be around those that loved her. Terri is immortal the warm memories we have of her will live on in our hearts and minds forever.

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