The Only Things I’m Certain About

I’m certain about death and taxes, love and life, rainbow sprinkles and mashed potatoes.

I’m certain about death and taxes, love and life, rainbow sprinkles and mashed potatoes, and that I was handmade and homemade and home-grown to be a mama, writer, photographer. And I’m certain I’m even-tempered, but only as even-tempered as someone who is HIGHLY sensitive to the changes and the shifts, the tastes and the smells, the FEELS… oh, the FEELS – like fingernails lightly down your back, or staring into space for five minutes after an evocative episode of This is Us.

Ok, they’re ALL evocative. For me, it’s the doctor character. And William. Sweet, sweet William.

I’m certain about legacies.

Sometimes I feel it coming – these changing tides – even while they’re still being born and unfolding, and I have to type fast before they implode. Or I have to race to a computer or phone before I explode. Today is a mix, like sun and clouds.

I’m certain about loss and grief, but not about the paths they take. I’m certain we have to rise up to move through paths and waves, and probably not as seamlessly as we’d like. Life’s greatest challenge. I once wrote a piece about grief that has since disappeared, but I think of it every now and then. Since I can’t get it back, I can rewrite it and give it to you right here and now. So let’s ride the waves together. FTSF Topic: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes ..”


I once wrote that grief is like “the princess is in another castle” theme from Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. games.


Just when you have confronted demons, fought valiantly, been sucked through warp zones, and fought on in endless pursuit of fireballs, feathers, mushrooms, and frog suits, you arrive at the castle level to fight the next big bad buy. And you do it, and you do it in style. You fight so hard and so well, only to be rewarded with a simple message printed across the screen.

Super Mario Brothers

So then you leave to enter a brand new world – full of brand new demons, and one brand new big bad guy at the end of the castle at the end of this world. You defeat the brand new bad guy, only to be greeted with the same disappointing message.

When does it end? Where is your reward? Where is your princess?

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Eventually in the game, you get to the real end, you defeat the final bad guy, and you get your princess. For keeps, this time. It doesn’t work that way in real life, although we certainly do have our rewards – like learning to unlock new layers and worlds within your own heart and mind. And finding yourself to be stronger and smarter than you ever thought possible.

The problem is that grief doesn’t have a set endpoint – there is no final big bad guy you can defeat, and then expect to never be challenged again. You will most likely continue to unlock new levels and worlds – through warp zones and not – collecting gold coins and stars, new weapons and new rewards, only to find yourself once again at the doors of a gated fortress.

It’s disorienting, isn’t it?


My life has been full of such fortresses. After my father passed away suddenly from a heart attack when I was just about four-years-old, there was that first night without him. And then there were subsequent nights of resisting but having to let my sister and my mom out of my sight during day to day life. There were the weekdays that I waited for him to come home from work. There was the year following his death which I have mostly blacked out from memory. Therapy. A fear of loud noises.

A new home, a new dad and new siblings. A new school – the start of kindergarten.

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When I thought I was past a lot of my anxiety and grief, there were new challenges in young adulthood – going to college and falling in love. Moving several times. Becoming a mom to a girl who looked like me. And to a boy who reminded me of me.

A challenging time for me was being pregnant with Des – a baby due right around my father’s birthday. It wasn’t until Scarlet approached her fourth birthday that I began a new grieving process. My father had passed away three weeks before my fourth birthday, so I breathed a huge sigh of relief when that day passed, and we sailed through her fourth birthday party happily and whole. I then had a calmness I hadn’t thought possible, until a new trigger revealed itself – signing her up for kindergarten. I showed up on the first day of registration, as the first parent there, and my heart was pounding in my throat and my chest was constricting. How could I be back here – so far and so grown, but still shaking at the thoughts of change?

We defeated that bad guy, and now it’s Des’ turn for kindergarten.

Where is my next castle/challenge/bad guy? I don’t know what it will be and how it will hit me. I know I will probably live my life with challenges, but hopefully with gaining new skills, weapons and tools too. Moving through, as I also move on.

I’ll live my life fully and effectively, until I get the next message – “Great job, but your princess is still in another castle, and probably always will be.” And then I’ll stop, reassess my tool belt, add new weapons, and learn to move through.

This brand new world, until the next one comes along.

This week’s Finish the Sentence Friday topic is “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Come link up with your spin on the matter: HERE.

What are you certain about?

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  1. What can I say, but absolutely beautiful and now I am in a reflecting mood at 7:30 am right before I have to get the kids up and ready for school. At least it is Friday though. Hugs and thanks for always making me think, my friend <3

  2. My baby starts preschool next year. This will be the first time in like 15 years I have no baby, but a big kid, getting bigger every day. I am not sure how I will be for kindergarten.
    I hope the next big thing/ Super Mario battle is a long way away for both of us. Personally, i kind of need a mental and physical break for a bit or Imma gonna crack!
    We filed a postponement on our taxes. Ugh, I do that every year, because I hate doing them.

  3. Your fears have been based on your life experiences but you’ve conquered them all with grace and awesomeness.

  4. This was absolutely beautiful. My mind is on it’s own whirlwind of thoughts… currently. You’ve got me thinking and wanting to sit down and write it all out. I’ll sadly have to put that off for later as it’s almost drop-off time.
    Sending you all the HUGS in this 5 foot-ish body. 🙂

  5. Gah–that part about the first night after your dad died. Grief as a child is something not many of us experience like that. Well, lots of us experience divorce, but not too many know actually losing a parent to death when they are 4. That is so sad to me. That’s how Disney pulls us close at the beginning of every movie. They kill off a parent, and we’re like noooooo this is not supposed to happen! You have overcome much. You are doing a wonderful job. One day we’ll all be in a nursing home and know it’s our last castle. Ha!

    1. It’s sad how many experience divorce! I experienced death and Cassidy experienced divorce and I know we both want our kids to grow up with neither.
      Darn Disney!

  6. I am totally loving and can relate to this post. While my dad died when I was much older and so did my mom, the grief process still has ended. We’re all allowed to grief the way we want to. You’ve done a great job as both a mom, wife, blogger and photographer and this was a great follow the sentence Friday.

  7. I love this, Tamara. There is no end to grief. So true. I can’t imagine the immensity of it as a young child. How can you even begin to process/understand the loss of your daddy? You are an inspiration. I love the pic of the sunrise on the beach. It seems to capture ‘grief’ so well in that amidst the pain there is some enlightenment and hope there.

    1. It’s funny because this was written awhile back and I never remember things I wrote, but I was referencing these feelings just today!

  8. This is beautiful and heartbreaking. Scarlet really does look like you did as a little girt. That’s the first thing I thought of when I saw the photo of you and your dad. I’m so sorry you went through such an intense loss at the baby age of four. <3

  9. Tamara, I don’t even know what to say. Your words – your thoughts, your heart, just so raw here.
    Your band-aid keeps getting peeled away – process your feelings in the way you need to for as long as you need to. You’re doing a wonderful job and you’re raising two beautiful children.

  10. Feeling you on so many levels here. We never really get over those big losses. We just adapt our ways of dealing with them. Tomorrow would be my mom’s birthday. I still don’t have words. Just feelings that I have to find a way to process. So … what am I certain of? The fact that change is inevitable and we are never ever fully up to the task of handling it when it comes in the form of death.

    1. My grandparents lived to age 100 and watched mostly everyone around them eventually pass away. My mom once asked them if it got easier and they said it never did but their way of handling it got better.
      Food for thought for me.

  11. So true that there is no end to grief…I can’t imagine how it was for you to lose your dad at such a young age. I am certain he is smiling down at you and your unwavering love for him, and the amazing woman you are!

  12. Another powerful, beautiful piece, Tamara! Even in sadness, beauty can be found, if only in memories. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was shocked and rocked by a phone call from an old friend telling me that my closest fellow surgery resident from those intense and bonding days had just died unexpected and suddenly from a heart attack. And so a new process began and continues, though easier now.

    May peace be with all of us.

    1. Oh no, I’m so sorry about your friend. Shocked and rocked. That’s perfect. I get that and wish it didn’t happen often, but such is the pattern of life.

  13. Yummmmmmm Rainbow Sprinkles. Change is inevitable but change is can also be scary and intimidating. I enjoyed your metaphor of Grief and the Super Mario Brothers, I totally agree. Finding beauty in in sadness easier said than done Tamar, loved reading this post 🙂

  14. I think the Mario analogy is a brilliant way to explain grief. There’s always another fight, another bad guy, another castle, but we keep going anyway because that’s how you win the game.

  15. I can’t even imagine how it would feel to lose your father at such a young age. My husband lost his father at 19 to a heart attack and it was rough on him.

  16. I’m with Janine… you are making me think. Life can be so difficult. Every day we decide to get up and try again, and it seems to work out better if we approach the world with this perspective. Only 24 hours at a time. We don’t need to see to the end or have it all figured out (or know with certainty what lies ahead), only that we can and will experience both blessings and struggles. Our story will be harder than others’ in some ways and easier in some ways, and everyone is doing the best they can!

    1. I know it’s months later, but I’m with you and Janine!
      Life is complicated. My mother-in-law said that recently and she lost her sister just last night. I keep hearing her words in my mind. So hard.

  17. Hi Tamara, so many reminders and markers that awaken the demons. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like for any child to lose a parent so young. Just the thought that children do, makes my heart ache. One day at a time and you will emerge at the other side knowing that you can rescue the princess from the other castle.


  18. yes this is beautiful. I read yesterday about this thing called a “grief bomb”. How they show up when you least expect it. I never felt any of that until my grandma passed. out of nowhere it just washes over me and it is always so overwhelming. Thank you for sharing this.

  19. How strange that we are talking about Jane the Virgin on FB and then I read this. I just watched yesterday’s episode, and Jane’s grandmother said something that struck me. “You’re in a long-term relationship with grief. But it has to evolve. And it’s O.K. to keep letting go. You have to.”

    Isn’t that powerful? I feel like that ties in beautifully with your words here.

  20. The only possible path is to go through…somebody told me that after my father died. Grief is such a strange thing and it pops up at the strangest time. I keep thinking I’m through it, and then I’m not.

  21. beautiful, haunting writing. it makes me sad and also smile. i’m certain of family and loyalty and memories. one time when i was seeing a therapist and traumatized about something, she helped me out of it by taking me through one of my memories and pretending/believing i was back at that moment and how wondrous it was.

    1. I like that. And I get it. It’s smile and tears-inducing.
      My therapist does something called EMDR which is like what you described but has some sensory components too, like vibrations and headphones.

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