Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It Only Takes ....

.... a moment.
One teeny tiny moment .... to change your world.
To destroy your world as you know it.
To make you feel as if you will drop dead.

Just one moment.

I have been trying and trying to upload a picture for the top of this entry, but I'm in a hotel and the computer won't let me upload pics.  So I will do my best to leave the web site so that you can click on it and then see it.
If that doesn't work ..... here's the description of said picture:
November 22, 1963
Crisp, fall day.
Clear blue sky.
Dallas, Tx
Lots and lots and lots of people in the background.
But the focus of the picture is the face of Jacqueline Kennedy.
The sun is shining, she's in a black convertible, sitting next to her husband .... and she's smiling.
Hugely smiling.

It only takes a moment.

I saw a huge mural of a picture just like it in the museum here in Dallas inside the Book Depository building.
FYI .... not an uplifting tour at all.  But very interesting, and very moving.

I couldn't stop staring at that picture.  I even took a couple of pictures of it.
I stared into her eyes.
I looked at her smile.
She looked, at least on the outside, very happy.

I find that I am so deeply moved by pictures like that ..... pictures taken before "the moment".
Pictures of people who had no idea that their life, as they knew it, was over.
These pictures break my heart.
As did that one.

I have not been able to go back in my blog and read the "before" posts.
The thought of reading the words of the before-Janine is so painful that I can't even think about it for more than a second or two.
So yes, this post is difficult to write.

I'm afraid that if I went back and read those posts ....  I would read them the way I read a novel, hoping against all hope that the end will come out happily.
That the words written on Tuesday, December 18, 2007 will not include anything about my best friend dying.
That maybe, instead .... I will find a post about what a great time we had at the lake that weekend with the boys.  How Jim played football with them and we just hung out and enjoyed our time together.  How, for the first time ever, he didn't make the boys do any chores while we were there.  We just had fun.
And then I'd write about the fun Christmas party we went to Sunday night with our "Bunco" friends.  We, as a group of couples who've known each other for a long time, used to play Bunco once a month.  We stopped  that long ago, but still met for dinner, or games and always for the annual Christmas party with the annoying "Chinese Gift Exchange".
We had a great time that night.
The last thing we did together .... other than drive to and then sit in a hospital.

I don't remember if anyone took any pictures that night.
I don't think so .... and for that, I think I'm glad.
I'm not sure I could stand the pain of looking into my "before" eyes .... knowing they'd look that happy for only a few more hours.
I'd love looking at Jim, of course.  I can look at pictures of him all day long.
But I cannot bear the pain of looking at pictures of me .... and looking into those eyes.
The way I looked into Jackie Kennedy's eyes.

It only takes a moment.

Most people don't realize that.
Most of us don't know when our last breath will come.
Most of us don't know when our world will end when our spouse takes his/her last breath.
Most of have no idea that the moment is lurking out there, waiting to scar our hearts forever.

It seems like something to huge, so monumental, so devastatingly horrifying .... should take more than a moment.
A moment doesn't seem to give the event that forever defines our lives as "before" and "after" enough respect.
Or honor.
Or .... something.

It only takes .... a moment.

It only took .... a moment.

I was able to upload the picture once I got home.  Here it is .... the before moment ....


  1. Janine,

    Thank you for this post. Last night I was working/writing. I came across the picture of my husband and I - last Christmas. He was smiling, I was tucked under his arm, my hand on his heart. I looked at my face - and I could feel what was happening to me in that picture. My heart was being torn in two. I knew it was our last Christmas together. When I look at that picture I see the desperation in my face, I see the monumental grief, I see me trying to hold onto the greatest love of my life.

    When I look at his pictures - I see everything I love.
    When I look at mine, I am reminded I will never be that person again -
    a part of me is gone forever, left me when he took his last breath.

    I can't look at those pictures - because they make me feel damaged.

    I try to remember the light in his eyes - I try to imagine seeing that light again.

    Life changes in a moment.
    All the moments strung together become our lives.
    When I think of the moment everything changed I describe it as the time before and the time after.
    Two different lives.
    The life I live now still holds a promise, I just have to wait to have that promise realized.
    Until then - I carry on, moment by moment.

    Peace to all.

  2. Janine.....great post. I was with my husband for that "moment" and it will forever be etched in my soul. That last breath of his life, and mine too. Thank you for your beautiful words.

  3. amen, my friend. To see the before me, to look in my happy, so loved, eyes and know what is coming. Sh*t. Sometimes it creates such a crushing pain and tenderness for myself, I can't even bear it.


  4. This is so true! When I look at the "before" and "after" pictures of myself, I see the pain and devastation in my eyes, my face, even my posture. I have the last photo of us taken together exactly 1 month prior to his death and we are both beaming...I am glad to have that treasured photo, but it also is a visible reminder of who I have become. When I look at myself now, it shocks me how much I have aged.

  5. Awesome post!

    So many times over the last year, I have heard myself telling people that everything was right in the world for us on the Sunday prior to my husband taking his last breathe. My son was coming home from college for spring break. My daughter was starting a new job. My husband and I were very much looking forward to a fun week with both kids at home for a change.

    Then instantly disaster as I watched ever so helplessly as the life drained from my dear sweet husband.

    In a moment, a very crushing moment....

    And no, like most who read this blog, I will never be the same because of that moment. And yes, it is very painful to look back at what was before .....that moment.

  6. This is an amazing post Janine. We can all relate to that "moment" whether we knew it was coming or not. When they wheeled Jeff into the OR, the bed rail wouldn't come down and I couldn't reach him to kiss him. The orderly said "I can lower it" and I said "don't worry about it, he'll be right back". But he wouldn't be right back and I'll forever be sorry I didn't have that one last kiss.

    Our son was married shortly before and those pictures are tough to look at. I force myself because it was such a happy day, but when I see myself, I don't even look familiar. So sad.

  7. I hate to look at those before pictures of my daughters with their dad! He won't be there for their after pictures-like after High School, after children, etc. But I also try to remember for myself that there will be other sfter moments that will change my life for the better too! I keep hoping that a new love will enter my life in a moment when I am not expecteding it, the same way that my husband did. Although it did not end the way I wished, I would not change those before day for anything! I am happy to rember them- even if it makes me cry sometimes!

  8. I'd like to recommend a book called "The Year of Magical Thinking" by author Joan Dideon. It's her story of the first year, and an excellent work.

  9. Janine, I lost my beloved Pete three months ago today...17th December, 2010....I was at a Christmas Party that I had arranged that afternoon when he collapsed with the ruptured abdominal aortic aneuryism - I have so many photos of my "before". I cannot write anymore right now....but thank you for writing this blog so much....I feel so alone right now.

  10. Pix,
    I am so very sorry. It totally and completely sucks. My husband, Jim, died on December 18, 2007 (the birthday of my sister, my brother and my stepdad). I know that you feel alone, but please know that you can always come here .... and to our personal blogs .... mine is at
    You can ALWAYS email me .... I answer every single email from a widowed person. I want to be here for you, when you feel alone or crazy or desperate. So does everyone else here.
    My email is:
    I'm praying for you.

  11. Janine,
    I've gone back to read my blog enteries from "before" I knew what my life would be. I feel like I was so naive to worry about the things I was worried about. It makes me angry at myself that I was not cherishing the last moments of my "normal" life. I'm glad that I don't have pictures of any time in the weeks before.
    I was watching a recent ABC Special about Amy Kim who had lost her husband after they made a wrong turn in a blizzard and were trapped in the wilderness in their car for 5 days. Her husband had taken a picture of her and her girls from outside the window of the resaurant. It would have been an ordinary moment if it hadn't been the last meal they had had together. It brought tears to my eyes because I thought that only another widow would realize the significance and the power of that picture. It was from when their life was normal and the last time they did a normal thing together....

  12. Tomlin Family,
    I saw that same ABC show and felt the same emotions that you did. I could not handle the "last" picture that he took of his family .... the picture through the diner window. It was so difficult to watch, knowing how the end would turn out. Knowing that this was their last picture together. The last "normal" thing they did as a family.
    It sucks. That's all I can add .... it just completely sucks.
    But we, who are left behind to deal with all of the suckiness (yes, I guess I just made up that word) have to keep moving .... when we can. As far as we can. Sometimes that's just one step forward and 5 steps back. Before long it's 5 steps forward and 1 step back. But there is no time table. It is what it is ..... for each one of us .... for as long as it takes.
    At least we are here .... for each other. For anyone who needs us.
    And that, in itself, says quite a lot.