Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Rena: Mourning to Missing


Lemon Blueberry Crinkles | recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #cookies

A month and a half. It has been 45 days.

Not that I've been counting. Not in the literal sense, anyway. But when I started this post, that number at the top had been 3. It had been 3 days.

I wasn't ready.

Day after day, I changed the number and moved this draft to a further date on my posting calendar.

Friends sent me messages, asked if I'd be writing something. I told them the truth. I wasn't ready. 

I was starting to think I might never be ready. Maybe I couldn't do her justice, or maybe I just couldn't face it head on, the finality. But it nagged at me, the feeling that I would regret never having acknowledged her loss, paid tribute to who she was, and just how much so many of us have been cheated of experiencing with her in the future. So I set a date. Today. Forty-five days to gather my thoughts and do my best.

I've moved through some of the stages of grief, others linger. I'm not mad at her any more, but I can't get past the regret. The wanting a do-over. For her, of course, but for me too. Because I should have pushed harder.

Rena and I had been friends in the blogging world for about 10 years. She joined in almost all of the challenges I ran, but our bond was about so much more. We bounced ideas off of each other, helped each other with projects, shared our lives and our thoughts and our secrets with each other.

Rena died on March 18th. 

The day after she died, I posted our last conversations in a private FB group full of mutual friends.

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I said:

{{Through the tears, I've given this a lot of thought and decided to share here because I know that in this group, Rena was loved and supported. She was a sharer, I believe she would have approved.}}

Friday morning 3/17:
Me: How are you this morning? Did you sleep?
Rena: Not too good last night, I had to cancel hip doctor, wasn't up to it. Very shaky and weak today.
Me: Low blood pressure?
Rena: Yes 80/68
Me: Did you eat?
Rena: Yes.
Me: Take it slow and easy. Did your doctor assess whether any of your anxiety meds could lower your blood pressure?
Rena: I'm going to doctor at 3 and I'm going to pack a bag for the hospital.
Me: I hope it doesn't come to that. Let me know what happens when you can.

Friday afternoon:
Rena: I'm at home. They pushed my oxygen up. He wants me to go back in the hospital.
Me: If he wants you to go back in, maybe you should. It will take a while to work out the right mix of oxygen and meds, and that is best done in the hospital where you can be closely monitored. I know you don't want to go, but think it through, talk to your husband, make a medically sound decision.
Rena: Probably go in the morning. We will see. That's exactly what he said. We had already packed a bag.
Me: I'm surprised you didn't go, I assumed you packed the bag because you planned to go if the doctor recommended it. I want you to just get this over with. Get the conditions under control, the meds and oxygen at optimal levels, and be able to move on. I don't think, if there are issues, you are better off at home, scaring yourself and scaring and stressing your husband. I think you're better off in the hospital until you are stabilized. Did you just not want to go today because it's Pat's birthday? I kinda get that.

{{it's eating at me, how much I want to take that last part back.}}

Rena: Yes, and it's cold and rainy. I was freezing and just wanted to get under my blankets. It's been pouring all day. Mostly because it's his birthday, and I know he's been waiting on KY to play tonight.
Me: Please take it easy.

Saturday morning 3/18:
Me: How are you this morning? Any decision about the hospital?

{{Rena died way too soon. But she died in her own home, in her own bed, and with the man she adored for over 30 years. That's going to have to be enough. Not today, but some day, for all of us who have loved her, that's going to have to be enough.}}

Fingerprints Decorate our Hearts | graphic designed by, featured on, and property of www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics #blogging

Rena and I talked almost every day. And the day before, we also had a conversation. One I'd like to finish now.

Thursday, March 16:
Rena: I'm concerned, my BP is 90/64 today.
Me: Be careful getting up. Did you call the doctor? Is the nurse coming in today?
Rena: No, I go to the doctor tomorrow. My daughter told me to eat something. I want to take a shower.
Me: I'd eat something, then wait a bit, I'm not sure standing in the shower is a good idea at this point.
Rena: I have a seat. I'm out now, it's up to 97/62.
Me: Better. Maybe you should leave something beside your bed to eat in the morning before you get up.
Rena: That's a good idea. Some club crackers or something.
Me: One of those packets of peanut butter crackers might be a good idea.
Rena: I hate peanut butter. Don't like chocolate, coffee, or cheese.
Me: What? I was thinking peanut butter for a bit of protein. Maybe get a package of individually wrapped protein bars that don't have any pb or chocolate in them. My son has an oats and honey flavor, but there are many other flavors too, just be sure they are the protein ones.
Rene: Ha, ha, don't like oats either.
Me: Who ARE you? 

Alzheimer's Awareness | graphic designed by, featured on, and property of www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics #blogging

She didn't answer, of course. She wasn't meant to. But today I'm going to try to answer for her. 

Rena was a woman of passions, her family was first and foremost. 

Alzheimer's awareness was another. Rena and I both lost a parent to Alzheimer's, but she nurtured, protected, and took care of her mother for years as Alzheimer's progressed inch by inch. Awareness was so important to her that she started the blog The Diary of an Alzheimer's Caregiver

The third was her mission to empower women through helping them spotlight their voice. She started a business supporting people in maximizing and perfecting their vision for their blogs. But more than that, if you weren't a client and had a question, she answered. Period.

Rena often told me I was her closest friend on line, but (to myself) I laughed, betting she said that to many people. Because Rena's superpower was supporting, spreading warmth, sharing her love with everyone in her world.

She had a moral compass that was unwavering, was furious about the division in this country, the state of our politics. But most of all, she was offended by the bigotry, the hatred, the lies, the abuse of power, the moral degradation and manipulation. And she ranted against it. Loudly. Often.

Rena was a genuine person, she worked hard to overcome, but never to hide, a painful childhood and a life altering accident as an adult. Despite physical limitations and emotional trauma, she made the choice to be a person who spoke the truth, grew and changed, helped where she could, railed against injustice. She shared unabashedly, reached out when she knew she was in needed, and returned the favor without question.

Alzheimer's Awareness | graphic designed by, featured on, and property of www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics #blogging

I grappled with whether or not to include a recipe today. But Rena, who confessed to not being a cook (and having inherited that from her mom), had, over the past few years, started to embrace the kitchen. And the garden. She was growing her own fruits and vegetables, more every year, and had started to see the fun in playing with recipes.

So for today I did decide to develop a recipe. Lemon Blueberry Crinkles. They're bold and soft, sweet and tart, complex and simple. My tribute to a friend who was all that and so much more.

Lemon Blueberry Crinkles | recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #cookies
Lemon Blueberry Crinkles

The day Rena's daughter offered me her sympathies, I broke a little. But I also broke through. 

I now accept that I will always miss her, may never stop saying to myself "oh, I can't wait to hear what Rena has to say about this . . ." Like trump's indictment, oh, how she would have loved that! But in order for me to do justice to our time together, to the memories and to the friendship, I need to stop associating those thoughts with pain, and accept them as the results of the gift of her friendship.

So, who was Rena? 

She was an empath. She didn't feel FOR you, she felt WITH you. 

Rena was a woman who loved with all of her heart. 

And I would know, I can feel it still.

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Lemon Blueberry Crinkles         

Printable Recipe

6 TBSP butter
1 box lemon cake mix
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp lemon extract
2 eggs
1/4 cup blueberry jam

1/3 cup powdered sugar

*Melt the butter. Set aside to cool slightly. Mix together the cake mix, lemon zest, lemon extract, and eggs, then mix in the butter.
*Whisk the jam to loosen it a bit. Pour over the batter and, using a knife, cut in, just until barely incorporated into the dough. Don't completely mix in.
*Enclose the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour the powdered sugar into a bowl.
*One by one, using wet hand as the dough will be sticky, form the dough into 30 balls about 3/4 inch in diameter. Roll around in the powdered sugar, and place onto the baking sheets. Leave room, the cookies will spread.
*Bake for 12 - 14 minutes, until the cookies have spread and are set. Allow to sit on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to cool completely.




  1. Beautiful tribute. Rena's sudden death was shocking. Even now, something on my blog will remind me of her and I'll feel that sadness again. An era has ended. We'll all miss her.

    1. Yes, we will all miss her, which is the best tribute.

  2. I am sorry. Rena must have been very a very special person. Love you. Donna

  3. I'm so sorry for your loss and for her family as well. She sounds like a good friend. I've lost some online friends over the years and it's hard.

    1. It really is a difficult situation when you lose a friend, no matter how you came to know them.

  4. I'm so sorry for your loss, and her family's loss, too. She sounds like a woman of substance.

  5. I still can't believe she is gone. Part of me is pissed she didn't go back to the hospital but part of me would like to think she is at peace. But she is missed. Loved reading this. She left a big void. <3

  6. Grief is a bitch that's for sure and it hangs around showing itself when we least expect it

    1. Yes, it can sneak up and smack you when you had no idea it was coming.

  7. You wrote a beautiful tribute. Losing a friend is hard. I know. Grief has its own timeline, especially when someone dies too soon, too young. It was a shock for me and many others. Yes, gone too soon, but Rena touched the lives of so many and she will live on in their memories and yours.

    1. Yes, she was loved and repected by so many people, especially in the blogging community.

  8. Let me get this straight, me, the Swiss girl, am friends with Rena who doesn't like chocolate and cheese. I didn't know that about her. Not that it matters. I know about her that she was a wonderful person with a huge heart who cared deeply about her loved ones. She should have had more time to enjoy her grandkids and to spend with her husband and best friend who only just overcame health trouble himself. It's not fair. Thank you for this tribute and our upcoming project!

    1. I agree and grapple with that regularly, it's just so unfair.

  9. I kick myself for not being able to make time to see her when she was visiting the area. She was such a generous and unique soul. She defended anyone against the injustices this country is experiencing and I loved her so much for that. This was such a beautiful tribute. I remember seeing that she'd passed and I cried for my friend. Then my mind went to you and I thought to myself, "Does Karen know? How is she?". Rena would be proud of this post.

    1. She was truly loved by so many, which is the best tribute to her. But your last sentence, Sarah, thank you for that.

  10. This was absolutely beautiful. And you did her justice in such a big way. You really captured who she was. What a void she left in our lives. I'm waiting for her to show up... I expect her to. But in the meantime i'm bookmarking this and i'm going to read it every day. I'm grateful to have your piece to help me remember all the things she wasto us.

    1. Thank you, Carol, I know how close you two were as well.

  11. I never got to read this when you first posted it. Thank you for giving me the chance to read it now! I'm in tears. You captured Rena's glowing soul perfectly! I've been reading back over past posts where she responded and grieving. She was our angel friend. And an angel, she continues to be.


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