Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: A beautiful mess |

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: A beautiful mess

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos

All the couches were taken and blankets were strewn throughout the house.

It reminded me of a middle school slumber party except everyone was much taller this time. Country music faintly played in the background from the previous night’s kitchen dancing episode, and little whispers trickled throughout our three-level house as the sun started to rise.

When I participated in slumber parties in middle school, I learned fast that you never wanted to be the first one up or the last one up — you hoped that when you opened your eyes, you were somewhere in between.

I was sure this rule still applied.

One by one, each guest woke up from their slumbers, then came the aroma of roasted coffee beans, the popping sound of crisp bacon on the stove, and a string of continuous jokes that led to endless laughter.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

The guests were all wearing a combination of each member of our family’s closets and it seemed as if all of us together were one big happy family, or maybe more a fraternity.

It was a morning that lasted all afternoon and into the night.

It was a Sunday, my favorite day of the week, and the house wasn’t quiet like it usually is on Sundays without my mom here.

Instead, it was thriving with food, busy bodies and embarrassing stories — too many embarrassing stories.

It was a full house, full of the most important aspects of life: Family and friends, food and drinks, love and happiness.

As breakfast was being prepared, others from neighboring areas joined the pulse of our kitchen. Maybe it was the rich smells that floated onto the sidewalks, or maybe it was because that was just the culture of our home. Even if you didn’t participate in the slumber party, you were still welcome.

Mom instilled this revolving-door mentality in our home since the moment she first laid the welcome mat beside the front door. It is the idea that our door is never closed, but instead continuously welcoming guests and wishing them safe travels as they depart.

I have realized that this whole healing process is just that, a process. And the house has been lonely these past three months because it is a process to return to normality.

It felt like a normal Sunday, her type of Sunday.

But, I have come to understand that it will never be normal. There will always be a void and an incomplete head count that always faults one, three months from now, two birthdays from now, seven Easters from now, 20 anniversaries from now.

No matter how much time passes, the kitchen will still be hers.

The best advice I have gotten so far in dealing with a loss and held on to is this: It will never be same, but it will get better. And, I have realized that while life is not perfect, it is OK and being OK is just fine.

We all seek perfection and greatness and when we fall short we scramble to tidy up the shambles to make it appear that we are nothing short of perfect.

So, when someone asks, How are you guys doing?, I say we are OK and in the process of getting better. For the first time in my life I am content with being OK.

Today was a glimpse of things improving. With everyone crowded around the island spilling coffee, dropping grapes on the floor and gravy on their borrowed shirts, it was familiar and comforting to know that it will never be same but it will get better.

Our lives are changeable, unpredictable and fast. It takes looking beyond the confusion to realize that life is just a beautiful mess, and that, too, is OK.

Mari Katherine can be reached at

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