Moving Forward After Moving Up

"Moving up." Those are the words I choose to use instead of using the word "died." To me, "moving up" represents the next stage where we go, in another form, in another life. I don't believe that love ends and I never say goodbye.

Sept. 24, 2015 | 5 min read
Margarete Cassalina
Margarete Cassalina

My daughter Jena moved up to heaven on Monday, December 4, 2006 at 9:57 a.m.

I will never be ok.

Everything around me now has a different meaning than it did before that exact moment in time.

Ironically, now I am able to see beauty in almost everything. I also have lost the capacity to let mindless, thoughtless and trivial things bother my soul. I will never again underestimate the value of a moment, a breath and the power of love.

I've learned to move forward through moving up.

Mother Nature taught me how.

I can recall looking out my bedroom window in the first few months after Jena moved up. I'd be in bed -- head heavy on my pillow -- vacantly looking outside, staring at the oak branch that hung in my view.

I watched it as it went through the seasons…snow, ice and the sprouting of small buds. Time was a mystery to me as I'd mindlessly watch the buds on the branch grow, bloom into large magnificent green leaves and then slowly turn yellow, orange and burnt red. Eventually they would break free to endure winter once again. 

Mother Nature was teaching me the cycle of life and yet I was immobilized in grief, forced to just watch it go by.

Jena, age 13. Taken two months before she moved up.

It was about five months after Jena moved up that I found myself at the cemetery; lost, searching for her.

It was the first time I had gone to her cemetery. I never had the need and certainly not the desire to “visit” Jena…there. My heart and mind could not and still cannot comprehend that she is alive and well in my heart, yet if I dug down deep enough I could hold her in my arms.

Grieving -- especially a mother's grief -- is so very personal and despicably cruel. Yet, somehow I found myself lost in her cemetery looking for my Jena.

Then I found her.

I had been confused because I was in search of a newly dug rectangular brown mound of dirt with her nameplate. In the impeccable rows of headstones I could see a few fresh mounds of dirt in between the perfectly manicured grass.

What startled me was that Jena was no longer a newly dug mound of dirt; Jena was the manicured grass. She had been there long enough to have life growing above her. In the five months since her burial, the earth had settled and Mother Nature moved forward.

I resentfully questioned how could nature move so effortlessly while my broken heart was still so raw.

Mercifully, seasons change; painfully, life moves forward. Mother Nature taught me that.

She assures us that after winter there is always a spring. We may never see the new life that comes with spring, but we know it comes.

This December it will be nine years since Jena moved up and I've only been to her grave site six times. I still can't get my head and heart to agree, so I just don't go. I've learned not to torment my soul with unanswerable pain.

The same holds true with that oak branch outside my bedroom window.

Over the course of a few years I began to connect depression and grief with that oak branch. I found myself spellbound by that one branch and it wasn't healthy. I mentioned this to Marc and by the next weekend, the branch was cut down.

Mother Nature is a gentle, yet raw teacher.

She seemingly moves with ease as she repeats life's cycle over and over. She is a master at moving forward and I, her eager student.

I've also learned that some unhealthy cycles need to be cut out of your life or they will continue to torment your mind and eventually harden your heart.

can move forward because pain is not a valid reason for stopping, and a broken heart still beats.

I never need to “visit” Jena because she's alive and well, and lives in my heart…always.

Life is beautiful; you just have to know where to look.

If you forget, just take a look at Mother Nature; she'll show you the way.

This I know for sure.

This site contains general information about cystic fibrosis, as well as personal insight from the CF community. Opinions and experiences shared by members of our community, including but not limited to people with CF and their families, belong solely to the blog post author and do not represent those of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, unless explicitly stated. In addition, the site is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.

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Margarete Cassalina

Margarete is a public speaker, a freelance writer, and the author of Beyond Breathing, See You at Sunset, and Embracing the Beauty in the Broken. But, most importantly, she is a mother of two children who were born with cystic fibrosis: Eric, now 31, and Jena, who “moved up” to heaven in 2006 at the age of 13. Margarete has been a dedicated volunteer for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation since 1991. She has served as National Leadership Council Member, National Public Advocacy Co-Chair, and National Volunteer Leadership Co-Chair, as well as chairing local events. Margarete and her husband, Marc, continue to raise funds and awareness for the Foundation by doing annual Xtreme Hikes, Golf events, and galas. For more about Margarete, you can visit her website.

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