Thursday, June 30, 2011

we're doing something right.

i got an email

from an old friend

the other day...

at the end she

mentioned that she

attached a

photo that she'd

found while cleaning

her house.

it was a photo of

liz

and me in college.

(i would attach it here, but it's a pretty awful photo of me).

i showed the photo

to maddy.

"who's that guy with mommy?"

i was blown away.

yes, it's true that

i'm almost unrecognizable

in the photo,

and that

liz

didn't look that different

between the ages of

19 & 30,

but i found it

amazing that madeline

would recognize her

mother in a photo

taken 13 or 14

years ago,

yet not recognize me.

"maddy, that's me."

"no it's not!

"yes, maddy, that's me in the photo."

"no it's not!"

this went on

for a few more minutes

before i gave up.

there was

no way i was

going to convince her.

...

usually when she

talks about her mom

i get sad.

but this time

i was smiling.

i couldn't help but

think that all of

the people

in her life have done

such a great job

of keeping her mother's

memory alive.

and that's pretty amazing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Had a Nightmare ....

                                                                 picture from here

.... last night that Jim came back.

I know.  A nightmare?  It should have been a dream.
A wonderful dream.
But it wasn't.

He just walked in to our house one day.
Three and a half years after his "death" .... he just walked in.
In this dream he had been in the Service and I had evidently been notified that he had been killed.
I guess they never found his body .... you know how dreams are.

Of course I was stunned and thrilled and crying and screaming and all of things that I'd probably do if Jim were to walk into our home right now.
Only .... in real life .... I saw his dead body.
So maybe I'd just faint.
No idea.

Anyway, we had some time alone after all of the excitement and I started telling him how much I had changed in the last 3 1/2 years.  He didn't get it.
Not at all.

I felt like the above picture.
That I was trying and trying to get through to him, but there was something between us, and I couldn't reach him.
I couldn't make him understand.
I kept trying to explain what the news of his death, the life after his death had done to me.
How he had been half of my heart and had been ripped out of me.
How I didn't know if I would survive his loss for the first couple of years.
But that I had.
And he was .... well, he was disappointed.
In me.
And yes, I am crying as I'm typing this.

He was disappointed that I had not been stronger than I was.
He knew me as a strong woman.
A mother of 6 children who managed to keep a tight rein on our household and our children, yet loose t enough that they learned how to be independent.  And they, as well as he, always knew they were loved.
A woman who took care of the kids and the house and also did a lot of volunteer work.
A woman who made time to spend with friends, in spite of the size of her family.
A woman who, at least on the outside, looked like she was in complete control.

He was disappointed that I seemed to be weaker now.  That I would go through such a dark valley.
That I wouldn't keep my head up and my hopes up and keep living in the same strong way.

It.
Was.
A.
Nightmare.

No matter how hard I tried to describe my life, my experiences, my feelings since his death ... he could not, or maybe would not, hear me.
Even when a friend walked in and told him of the good that I had done and the good ways his death changed me.
He remained disappointed.

Right at the point when one of my daughters was getting ready to explain how I was a better mother, and as I was weighing whether to confess to him that I thought I was a worse mother ......
I woke up.

And here's the gut wrenchingly sad part (yes, completely bawling now) ....
I was glad.

That dream was horrific.
I couldn't explain myself to the one person in this whole world who had understood me.
I couldn't make the love of my life understand how very much the love of him had cost me (thought it has given me so much more.  I'd go through it all over again, just to have him again).
It was a nightmare in a dream.
He didn't "get it".
He didn't "get me".

After I woke up I thought about what a nightmare it would be to have no one, not a single solitary person in this world, who "gets it".
Who "gets me".

I cannot imagine what life must've been like for widowed people before the internet.
My heart cries for them.

And makes me so, so glad to have you.
You mean more than I can say (yes, crying again .... sheesh!).
There is so much relief felt when I know that I don't have to say a word .... yet am understood.
When I am with or engaging with, another widow, it's like the 150 lb. weight that resides upon my shoulders .... lifts.
And I feel lighter and happier and a whole lot saner.

So thank you ..... all of you, for being here for me .... for each other.
Thank you for taking the time to be here and "get it".
Thank you for never judging .... for knowing that there is no one right way to grieve.
That is huge.
Thank you .... for just being you.

And on that note, I will end saying that I can not wait to be in a room full of .... you.
I can not wait to be at Camp Widow .... again.
And to have fun and laugh and cry and laugh with all of you .... who get it.
All of you who get the very black widow humor, that we can only share with one another.
I can not wait for the hugs that transfer so much love, understanding and energy into me.

I wish that every one of you would come.
My reality has taught me that wishes don't always come true.
So I will hope that many of you will come.
And if you are coming, and would like to volunteer while you're there, please contact me.
Don't worry .... we don't require any great depths of knowledge for our volunteers.
Heck, we don't even require knowledge.
It's an easy hour or so.
And it feels great to help out.
To give back.

And if you're still on the fence about going ..... please, please, PLEASE hop on over that fence and come!
If you need assistance, we do what we can to help find that assistance.
We can't grant every wish ....
but then, we all know that know one can.

I hope to see you there.
To give .... and get .... a hug.
Or two.
Or two hundred.

janinee@sslf.org
www.campwidow.org

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Empty Beds and Summer Blooms


When we first moved into this big, wonderful house, we toiled and planted together in our many gardens. We were building something long-lasting, rich, sensual and vibrant. The flowers in our garden were breathtaking. Our plants were exotic. Butterflies were abundant. Every clod of dirt became a colony of life. We loved every lizard, flower, hummingbird, bush, spider or tree. And with each plant’s growth, annual or perennial, we rejoiced. As part of our morning ritual we’d walk, hand in hand, around the whole yard to look at what had bloomed or sprouted or spread the previous day. Those communions with nature were deeply entrenched in the fiber of our relationship. We loved our gardens and we loved sharing our gardens with each other. It was simple, pure joy.

Various cancer treatments ate away at our time in the gardens. It’s hard to dig holes when you are nauseated or tethered to a chemo pump. Eventually, it became a rare event when we’d share those tender garden-tending moments. The last gardening pleasures we had were walking around, still hand in hand, observing the changes that nature had orchestrated in our stead. It was still nice (how could it not be?) but it was sad, too, seeing all that we built succumb to nature’s entropy.

Eventually, the garden, like the inhabitants of this big house, fell into complete shambles.

Three weekends ago, for reasons I can’t explain, I spent all Saturday working on the sprinkler system. It was broken in many places. Multiple blown-out heads sprayed like misplaced fountains. Several broken pipes had to be dug out and repaired. Most sprinkler heads were clogged or misaligned. It took all weekend and multiple trips to Lowes but by Sunday night the sprinkler system was back in good working order. I felt accomplished.

Two weekends ago, I bought some plants. I can’t tell you why. I got in the car and ended up in our favorite Austin plant store, Red Barn. I left with $100 worth of plants which were dropped into the ground in their perfect places in three flower beds. Other plants in those beds that had migrated were repositioned back to their correct places. Other plants were trimmed back and reshaped. Those three flower beds were beginning to look like flower beds again. It was nice to see. It was renewal.

Last weekend, Red Barn took another $100 of mine in return for a wonderful set of plants perfect for one more bed. They aren’t planted yet but I’ve prepared the bed. I’m so excited to see how they look in the ground and how they’ll fill in over time. It’s going to be beautiful. I’m excited.

As I look around, though, it’s hard see the world without the tint of what used to be - the garden that we built together and was overflowing with blooms and beauty and love. A friend of mine commented that the garden was the most beautiful she’d seen. I responded that there’s just no comparison to what it once was. The definition of innocence; she had nothing to compare. I can’t avoid the comparison. What Once Was is stinking up my enjoyment of What Is.

It’s amazing to me how the gardens here at our house have reflected the health, both mental and physical, of the occupants. Looking at the gardens now, it’s apparent that growth is beginning where just months ago were just memories. This is good. I’m excited to see what blooms.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Stuck




















I'm feeling indecisive these days. In fact, I wrote a very long post earlier this evening, then decided that it didn't adequately describe what I was feeling. I decided to leave it on my screen for awhile, then came back and hit delete.

There are so many times in my day to day life that I would love to have a do-over. I would love to just hit delete, then just start over fresh.

You know, I waste so much time in my day to day life. At work I'm productive, but then I come home, and often feel like whatever I do, or did, it was all just a waste. It's at that point that I wish I could just hit delete, and once again, start fresh.

I'm sad to report that these days, much of my free time still feels pointless. I often feel lost, or that I am just marking time. It's not that I want to be here, or in this state, it's just that I feel caught in some kind of thick mud. I can see all that life potentially has in store for me, but I don't really know how to get it anymore.

There is a duality in my desire for growth and change. I want desperately to be in a place of happiness. I want to have new people in my life, and I would love to see my home filled with weekend guests. Yet, what am I really doing to make this happen? Am I really ready for it, or am I simply not allowing it?

This weekend for example, I had most of the weekend to myself. My daughter had taken my youngest with her, so I was left to myself. This is something I used to cherish. Time alone. Well, it's something we used to cherish. Time alone, together. Now it seems that time alone is time to remember just how alone I am. It just serves to sadden me further.

And it's not like I am doing nothing about it. I am making a concerted effort to get out there now and then. I'm even going to the occasional restaurant, or club, by myself, in hopes of meeting someone. I'm not exactly sure what I will do if and when I do meet someone, but I know that I can't stay at home alone forever. I'm feeling like I need to meet someone new, who can rekindle those dormant feelings of excitement and passion. I don't necessarily mean sex, although it's not like I would turn that down at this point. What I really want, and need, is a reason to feel passionate about life again.

Last week my son and I were out having dinner. A song came on, and then I was taken away. I was taken to that dark and lonely place. When I was able to refocus I could see that my son recognized something in my face. I said sorry, and that I was having a Michael moment. He looked sad, and said "I know, I could tell." And I'm sorry to report that I'm sure I walk around most of my week with that same look.

Whose going to want to befriend me, or consider me for a date, with that look upon my face?

No big revelation here. Now grand ideas or plan. Just me, checking in about my current, and evolving, reality. I don't want to be stuck here. I don't want to be the sad guy forever. I want to know passion once again. I want to experience joy.

I'm going to keep at it. I hope you will too.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Our Struggle"



“We’ve all had our struggles…”

And that’s when I stop listening. For her to throw the death of my husband, the life that I lead trying (and failing most of the time) to keep my head above water, for her to lump me in with someone’s divorce, or hospital stay or job loss (well….job loss maybe), for her to insinuate that being a young widow raising kids was “just” another life struggle….

Oooooo……I’m so mad I can’t even type!

And on top of that, she called me a single parent. I am an ONLY PARENT (thank you widow who posted that in comments a few months ago!) There is a big huge difference!

And this comment from a person who says that the loss of my husband still affects her!

Wait….I am so pissed! I want to growl!

“We have all had our struggles…” as if mine is like hers. How dare she trivialize my life, my daily fucking battle to keep a roof over my kid’s heads, to feed them, to care for their mental well-being.

How dare she compare her life with her married husband and say “We’ve all had our struggles…”

Does she mean that she gets up weary every fucking day? Does she mean that before her feet hit the ground she has considered where the holes are in her plan and the 3 people she needs to call, that morning to fill those holes?

Does she mean she dreads weekends because she just didn’t have the energy or time during the week to make plans for the kids so now they will be with her, which is exactly where she doesn’t want them to be, arguing, unless she finds the energy to argue them or de-whine them into a bike ride, a trip to a museum or the park? All the while really only wanting to take a good long nap, long enough to skip a damn day.!

Does she mean that she carefully plans her Sundays to make sure that the house is full of food, breakfast, lunches, snacks and dinner and just in case food items so that she doesn’t have to go to the store in the middle of the week because she knows it may mentally push her off the deep end to make “just” one more stop?

Does she mean she got to tell her kids today “we’re moving” and then find the ability, patience and kindness to comfort each one of them, separately, when all she wanted to do was go into her room and scream into her pillow?

By "our struggles," did she mean that she listened to her oldest say “The last 1/3 of my life has been….” and then watch his shoulder’s shake as he cries dealing with yet another loss. Or to have her youngest say “It seems like most of my life has been not very good.” And to realize, it’s true. His dad was diagnosed with cancer when he was 4. He’s 9 now.

Does she mean that she has days upon days upon days where she falls into bed, after trying to raise threes kids ON HER OWN and think, tonight would be a good night for a fucking earthquake because at least I could “rest?”

Does she mean wrapping her small frame around her much larger older child as he again sobs himself to sleep knowing the only thing she can do is listen to his pain, bless it and hope that it will not swallow him.

Is that what she means by “We all have had our struggles?”

Cause there is NO PAST TENSE in my struggle. No “had!” Not today. In fact, it feels harder today than it did in the beginning..

I could try to interpret what she meant by that comment, but well. I’m just too damn tired!

So I didn’t hang up on her, although I was tempted. There was no point in trying to make her see because she can’t, she won’t. She needs to believe that “We all have had our struggles…” It makes her feel better and who am I to take that away from her.

So I take my rage to the only place I can, a computer and then here, to you knowing that I am not alone. And in that one thought, as I thought it, then wrote it...the rage disappears.

Thank you for being a place where I find the healing too.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Friends


“What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it. - C.S. Lewis




I wanted to take some time to just talk about my friends.



These past few months have been some of the most changing and challenging months since Michael was first killed. The difference though, is I now have a unwavering support system.



Michael always urged me to go out and make good girlfriends, but with my best friend being him, I never clicked with anyone, and had no issues with that. Even those that I have known since childhood, I felt I had more superficial level of a relationship with.



In the beginning, many people came in and out of my life. Besides my biological family, my husband's ghost and our dogs were the only consistent thing I could fully rely on.



Through like circumstances (widowhood), I have met the most amazing people. People that I could share my weight of life with to lessen the load, people who listened...and actually cared and remembered. People, that even when I would expect them to, never have left my side.



Just like Michael, I don't think I'll ever feel totally worthy of having such souls in my life, but I shall not argue them being here :)



Thank you. Thank you.



You have added life, love, laughter, growth adventure, a shoulder to cry on, and camaraderie into my life once more.



I could ask for no better gift in my life.




Friday, June 24, 2011

strength

I have read a variety of quotes with a similar message. I think anyone who has dealt with trauma, loss or tragedy has come face-to-face with this choice. I also think that, at times, we have all chosen each one of the three options. I just hope that as we all get further from the moment that provoked this epiphany, we manage to choose to let this event strengthen us. To grow instead of be wilted. To swim, not sink. There is no need for one life to be wasted for the sole reason that one life was lost.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Routine

Today's post is written by Amanda, who shares her  perspective on the love of her life and her widowed journey, with us from her home in Australia. Thank you Amanda for this peek into your heart.





 I’m trying to keep us steady in this new normal…this Clayton’s normal…and there are some moments where I feel like we are OK, we three.

We joke around. We talk about our day. We read and laugh and play. We do chores. We have a routine that ensures we joke and laugh and read and clean and play….….and I am the supreme leader with whom resistance is futile.


Wake UP sleepyhead. Eat your breakfast. Dishes in the sink. Get dressed. Dirty clothes in the hamper. Brush your teeth. Do your hair. Wash your face. Put your lunch in your bag. Make sure you’ve got your homework and your hat. Get in the car. NOW! Walk to class. Say “Goodbye Mummy, I love you”. Do your school work. Eat the lunch I made for you. No you cannot have tuckshop. Meet me at 3pm. Get in the car. Lunch box on the counter when you get home. Do your homework. Play outside. Come in when it’s dark. Have a bath.  Eat your dinner. Tidy up your things. Brush your teeth. Read to me. Go to bed. I love you, goodnight.


That’s it. That’s out typical day: rigid, ordered, routine.


Sometimes I feel so bad about having to keep such a tight rein on the kids, but other times I can see the pay-offs:
We function.
We eat and we sleep well.
We wear clean clothes and eat healthy food from clean plates.

Sometimes we do something interesting and fun….
… like wake up early to watch the planets align.
… like soccer training.
…like fishing and riding scooters and eating ice-creams at the beach.

But it’s all a pale comparison of the life we were supposed to have: the life with a husband and father in it. The life where the burden of being responsible for small people was shared between two. The life where the workload was halved and the love doubled. The life where fun was spontaneous and the routine less rigid.


…and I mourn the loss of that life as an additional loss to the loss of my husband.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"What-Ifs ....

                                          picture from here


.... get us nowhere."

I'll type it again.
"What ifs get us nowhere."
That's a direct quote.
From my sixteen year old son.

He texted that to me the other night, minutes after we'd had a heated exchange of words.
He had said some things that I thought were beyond disrespectful.  And I told him so.
I also told that him that he would never, ever have said things like that if his dad were here.
To which he promptly turned away and went into his room.

And thus, the text.
Only, before he wrote that, he wrote,
"He's dead, that sucks, but it's the past.
What ifs get us no where."

I think I may have sucked all of the air out of the room and into my lungs when I read those words.

But I've been pondering them.

"He's dead, that sucks, ...."
Yes he is.
And yes that does.

".... but it's the past."
Ahhhh, those 4 little words say so much to me .... and hold a lot of powerful emotions.

For my son, it's true.  Mostly.
He did die.  That is the past.  My son has the rest of his hopefully-very-long-life ahead of him ..... two years left of high school and football and pretty much breezing through his classes.
Then college.   Oh how I loved my college years.  I so look forward to seeing how much fun he has in college.
And then ..... who knows?  His future is a blank canvas at the moment, just waiting for him to add some color to it, to dabble in different mediums, to make of it what he chooses.

"but it's the past."
For me, those words felt like a cold knife slicing into my heart.
Because for me, it will never feel like "the past."
It still feels like Jim's death is the past, the future and very much the moment.
Not that I'm grieving him the same way as I did in the past.
Thank God.  I know that neither my body or mind could not have held on to that kind of grief much longer ... and survived.

And I am moving forward in my life.  I am happy.  I am content.
I am finding pieces of the "before Janine".  Good pieces that, when added to the "after Janine" make for a better person.
But .... they are still only pieces.

Jim will always be with me.
As will his death.
For me .... it will never be "the past".
It won't define me, in a negative, "woe is me, the keening widow" way.
But it will define me as to why I am who I am, why I think the way I think and why my heart feels the way it feels .... more tender, more compassionate, more quick to express love.

And I know that, for my son, Jim's death really isn't "the past", either.
It will certainly define him, as it will all of our children .... as to why they are the wonderful people they are.
Part of that is because of Jim's death.
And much of that is because of .... Jim's life.

Though I know that Jim, and his death, aren't really "the past" for my son, and that he used those words in an emotional moment, I know that they also hold a grain of truth.
The deep, painful, gut-wrenching, life-pausing, paralyzing grief ..... is "the past".
But the things we've learned, the compassion we've been shown and now have more of, the time we don't take for granted, the very many "I love you"s ..... those will continue on.

But one thing is definitely certain .... and yet sometimes difficult to get past .....
"What ifs get us nowhere."
Indeed.

I think my sixteen year old is wise beyond his years.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

To be continued.....


This picture was taken in 2006 by me...you can see me in the reflection. The headstone is mine, it sits right next to Daniel's on a hill in Ellinger Texas. It's in the cemetery next to the church we were married in.

I'm sure my family and friends thought I was nuts when I ordered two headstones for our double plot. What did I need a headstone for? I was too young to plan to die. My mother-in-law told me I'd likely remarry and want to be buried somewhere else. I was horrified.I had no idea when I would die or where I would want to be buried, but I knew one thing for certain. If a stranger came to that little cemetery in the country, I didn't want them thinking my husband was alone or unloved. A single headstone with no room for a partner was not good enough. A stranger needed to be able to tell he was loved when he went too soon. He had people. He was loved.


I went to Ellinger this week - G and I wanted to visit for Father's Day. Driving up the road to the cemetery was familiar, we've done this so many times before: stop at Hruska's for colaches and drinks, drive up the hill for our visit. But this time something was different. This time I was engaged. I drove up the hill with the view of that beautiful old church, my left hand on top of the steering wheel. For a moment my engagement ring was superimposed over the church and I was taken aback. This was the place where I thought my life was beginning, and this was also the place where I thought my life was ending. Both things were true in a way. One life began here, and it also sort of ended here. The life I knew and had planned was laid to rest one sunny day in November.


Grayson and I sat by Daniel's grave and ate our lunch. We didn't feel sad. It was a gorgeous day and we were peaceful. Grayson commented that he didn't feel as sad as usual and he wondered if it was because we have Carl now. I told him I thought we'd feel sad sometimes even with Carl in our lives and that it was okay. He agreed. It was surreal, the conversation with G combined with the engagement ring, and my lovely church. It felt like some sort of official start to the next chapter of my life. An appropriate spot for it really. Hard to believe. To be continued....

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Child's Grief.




















I'm writing this on Sunday, Father's Day. I just returned from visiting my folks, about 2 hours away. It seems that whenever the kids and I visit our extended family, especially on holidays, we end up having a debriefing of our thoughts and emotions on the ride home.

Before I start, let me share with you my own reactions to days such as this. I love my family, and enjoy being around them. We always have a really good time, but at the same time, it is always a reminder of what I no longer have. All of them are married, and without thinking, they often begin describing what each spouse did, or bought, for them for whatever holiday we are celebrating. I sit there hoping none of them ask what I received for the holiday, as it is usually nothing. This isn't meant to be a sob story, just the dynamic of how things go down when you are widowed, or a single parent. And, like usual, nobody did ask me. So I sit there, forced to witness my perception of their idealistic life.

Tonight as I was driving, my 13 year old began talking about how he feels very jealous of all of his friends' families. He was explaining how they all seem so happy, and that they all get along so well. I reminded him that what he is witnessing is how those families act when a guest is present, which isn't necessarily how things are during private family time. At the same time, I tried to honor the reality of his perception.

I let him know that yes, our family has probably had more challenges than most. First, each of my children were born from a mother who had a severe substance abuse problem. So even prior to their birth, there were some givens as to the challenges up ahead for them. Next, within a two year period they learned of their birth mother's death, their step father was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and he later died. I also pointed out that up until 21 months ago, we had a full house. He had two loving parents, a big sister and an older brother, all under one roof. Now he finds himself living in a new home, with only his grieving father. His sister and older brother no longer live at home. What was a very noisy and busy home, is now a very quiet home for the most part.

My son then went on to share about how sad he feels at times. An example he shared was that recently his friend's pet rat had died. When he learned of this he began to cry. He said he felt like something was wrong with him, because it wasn't his pet, and it was just a rat. I reminded him of all the loss he has experienced, and how because of that he is always going to have a deeper response to any loss. I explained how a small, insignificant occurrence, can trigger these underlying emotions. He seemed to understand what I was explaining.

Later, after discussing many other things on his mind, I reminded him that given all that we have been through, that we are doing fairly well. I told him that I would try harder to bring joy into our home. I also acknowledged that I, as his father, have changed considerably since losing Michael. Right away he nodded his head, "yes, dad, you have changed." I reminded my son that I, and we as a family, are getting better, but that it will take more time.

How I wish things were different. I too catch myself looking at others around me, and wonder why they got the ideal life, and I got this one. More and more, I remind myself that no one's life is perfect, and everyone has their challenges. Yet even as I say this, I can't help but notice that there is not a single sound in the house, and since my son went to bed, not a soul to speak to.

Not so easy, is it?


***In an ironic twist, I found myself, and my son, reflected on a movie screen tonight. Here is a link to my personal blog, where you can continue to read about a child's grief.

Super 8.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day, Independence Day

July 2008, Malibu

So I was gonna try and ignore Father’s Day.
It’s Father’s Day and my kids don’t have one.

I was gonna just treat it like every other Sunday only….
Well last time I tried to run from one of the “big” days,
like his anniversary death date,
like his birthday,
like random days when his loss seems to be around every corner,
I get slammed,
Emotionally beat up,
eaten and then spewed out.

It took days for me to recover.
My whole body, my mind, just like in the beginning,
unable to focus, skittish,
in a sluggish way.

So this time, instead of running from his loss,
I turn into it.

Not out of bravery.
Not out of “I’ll show it whose boss!”

I turn into it out of the idea that facing the monster diminishes its power.
I’m not afraid anymore (or well just not afraid TODAY )

Cause what I have learned on this 792 day since his death is:

the loss won’t kill me.

Its unpredictability, won’t make my heart stop.
Its depth won’t suffocate me.
Its “holy-shit-this-hurtness” won’t be with me every single moment of every single day.
I have learned that all that pain that often brings me to my knees in random places like the kitchen, outside the car and yes, once in Whole Foods,
washes over me and then goes away.
And while I don’t like it, (I will never like the feeling of being left, abandoned and vulnerability),
every time, every fucking time afterward,
a rainbow appears.
And at the end of that rainbow is the new, better me!

It was a gift to have him even if he did stink up the bathroom (Cannonization of Art)
It was a gift to loose him (Dancing)

I am standing here, not just stronger, but wiser, more open, more sensitive than I have ever been.

I am standing here alive.
And alive means feeling all of it but knowing that “all” passes. The joy all and the yucky all, it passes.

Now as for the kids, cause really, the day is more about them, than about me.

This year I watched the grief and hopelessness catch up with Langston and flip him, and for moments, pin him to the floor. I have watched him look for relief in food, in friends and in video games. I have stood beside him, nodding my head, rubbing his back, curling me 128lb frame around his 251lb one.

He is walking his own journey and it is not for me to dictate it, fix it or say “No, no don’t go that way!” because he has to find his own place of strength. I have to remind myself that it is not one I can create for him.

His blessing through this? It seems that it is dawning on him (slowly) that the outside things bring him only temporary relief. He’s learning to turn into the loss, too. (That’s more awakening most adults 3, 4 and 5 times as old as he is!)

For Pallas, I still worry. I’m not sure where she is. I watch her float around with her friends, and with me seemingly content. I worry but as the saying goes, “Worry is putting a negative spin on the future.

For Ezra, I watch him fear the fear of his loss, hold it in till he turns blue with it and then let it out because he doesn’t have the strength (who does?) to keep it all pent up! And then worry what we will think him less than when it comes tumbling out. I am waiting for him to discover, like his brother, to run from it, gives it more power.

They lost a father, a man that cannot be replaced. I lost a husband who frankly, can be replaced. (I don’t believe there’s only one soul mate per lifetime.)

And the journeys my kids travel are their journeys. Not mine, I have to be careful not to confuse the two.

No doubt Father’s Day will mean different things to them as they grow up, as they discover and acknowledge their own courage and growth as it spills out of them in this life.

This year (cause next year may find me in completely different place!) Father’s Day is a day to give thanks to Art for being a decent dad and for mourning the kind of father he “could have been.” It’s also day for me to marvel at my children as they make their way in the world without a dad, something I didn’t have to do.

The one thing I hope for them for forever is that Father’s Day doesn’t scare them, doesn’t become a day to avoid.

I hope that Father’s Day becomes their independence day.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Our Office


The past few weeks have been good.


I've been getting our AWP offices ready and love all that that consists of.


I'm in love with the space. I'm in love with the area. And I'm in love with the feelings and emotions that have come from making this step in life.


I feel, more than ever, back in touch with me. The me Michael loves. The me I love.


Memories flow freely and welcomed. New ones I know are at the forefront.


In a way, this space has given me a second chance to find love in space the way I did when Michael and I were in our home together. Love in the chair he proposed to me on. Love in decorating each corner with things I know one day will carry some story.


All in all, I'm just happy. And for this week and the rest of my life...it'll be enough.

Friday, June 17, 2011

i need more dreams

Written 6 months after Jeff's death...


A few weeks ago, I had a dream that I was standing on a bridge looking toward the sea where a fishing boat was coming. I started calling out to it. I was calling Jeff's name. As it came closer, I could see Jeff standing on the bow waving to me. He jumped off the boat as it was about to go under the bridge and swam to me on the shore. He was laughing. He held me so close and I cried as he had me in his arms. I felt safe. I felt comfort. I felt protected. Most of all, I felt Jeff's love. I didn't want the dream to end. I was disappointed to wake and find that my life is what it now is. I need another one of those dreams. I need Jeff.

I am so lonely and lost. There are only two times in your life when you will comforted through the night when things are hard and scary. As a child, you have your parents to murmur in your ear through the nightmares. As you grow up, you must learn to comfort yourself. Then you find the person who changes your life. You wake from scary dreams or can't sleep with worry and you can turn to the person who loves you most and be comforted. I would do anything to feel Jeff's giant arm draped over my hip in the night and feel his hot breath on the back of my neck. To have him whisper in the darkness, "It's okay. I'm here, Snuggles." and pull me closer.

Instead, I wake to two little ones who look to me for assurance wrapped over me. I disentangle myself and wander through the dark house to find....nothing but more darkness. It washes over me and I want to scream. I feel like passing out or throwing up. I lay on the floor or sit with my head between my knees so that if I do faint I won't wake the kids with the thud of my body hitting the floor. No one would know. No one would come. No one could take away this pain. No one but Jeff. I want him back. I want him. I need him. I am so very lost.

Would it be weird to ask a friend to sleep in my bed with me? Just to be there when I wake. To reassure me that one day it will be okay? To hold my hand when it gets too much?

I just want some comfort. Some peace. Some sleep. And maybe if I sleep, Jeff will meet me on the other side and laugh while I cry in his arms.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

one more, just like us.

i met another one.

this time, holding

a baby just

a few days past

a month old.

she was pregnant

when her husband died.

she was left in the

place that

so many of us have

found ourselves.

but i didn't know that.

not yet.

...

she smiled when we

met, i smiled back,

talking to her baby.

then she told me.

...

i should be able

to hide my shock,

my outrage,

my sadness,

after all of this

time, but i'm sure that

my face showed

all of those

emotions at once.

...

she asked a lot

of questions,

and quickly my

shock, outrage, sadness

turned into something else.

i had resources for her.

lots of them.

the ones that many of

us have used

to help get us

past those initial

awful moments/feelings/realities.

...

and i think you'll

be meeting her

sometime soon,

through widow match,

through a widow's voice,

at camp widow.

so please welcome her

when the time

is right.

she didn't want

to be here,

but she is,

and it's because of

you that she will

make it through.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

There is a Huge Difference .....

                                                                        picture from here

.... between a battle and a war.
Huge.

But unfortunately, when you're in a war .... there are many, many battles to fight.

I am not sure what your beliefs are ..... I don't think our differing beliefs will matter as I write this.  At least I hope they won't.  I write to speak out .... to share my guts with you.  All of you.  And we all "get IT" .... in spite of what we believe, or what we don't believe.  And that's the bottom line.
You "get" me.
As I "get" you.
And with this post, I am going to share what I believe.
What gets me through.

I  (and when I say "I",  I mean "we") .... am in a war.
A huge freakin' war.
This war most likely started the day I was born.  But at this moment in time, and for this post,  I'm saying that the "war" began on December 18, 2007.  Somewhere around 2:00 in the morning.
That's when Jim's life ended .... and the war for mine ..... began.

I think this war will continue .... until the day I die.
And on that day .... I will have won the war.
Because I'm not giving in.
I'm not waving the white flag.
I'm not surrendering.
I will NOT let the "other side" win.

I have not always felt this way.
I am amazed that I'm still here.
Amazed that I'm stronger than I ever was.
Amazed that I did not wave the white flag.
Because I wanted to.
Very, very much.

The pain of being widowed is too much to explain.
Too much to understand.
Too much to see.
Too much to live through.
It's just too damn much.

And not only have I been shoved into this war for my life, but I've had to fight many battles since the end of 2007.
I am very exhausted from all of the fighting.
From all of the battles.
But I won't give up.

The first battle, was the battle Jim's surgeon told me about ..... only seconds after he told me how sorry he was that Jim had died.  How shocked he was to see that the surgery was a train wreck before it even began.
In one breath he told me how I lost my husband.
In the next, he told me that I'd most likely lose my children.
All 6 of them.
Bedside manner ..... he had not.

He was very concerned that what killed Jim, might also kill our children.
And he made no bones about it.
He said that it was mandatory that I set up CT scans for all of them.
Immediately.
And that they will have to scanned regularly .... for the rest of their lives (which, hopefully, will be long. Much longer than Jim's).

That was the first battle.
We survived the first scans.
It's now time for the second round.

The next battle I entered ..... was only a couple of months after Jim died.
His mother .... our mother .... had heart surgery.
She never really recovered.
She died shortly before what would have been their 50th wedding anniversary.  Shortly before what would have been our 25th.
Less than 5 months after he died.
I was with her when she died.
I told her that I envied her.
And I told her to tell Jim that I loved him .... and that I was doing well.
Yes,  I told her to lie to Jim.
About the "doing well" part .... not about loving him.  :)

The next battle was the on-going, never-ending remodeling of our home.
I had put it off year after year because I knew it would be miserable.  After Jim died I figured I couldn't feel any more miserable, be at any point lower in my entire life, so I decided to have it done.
I'm still not sure if that was a good decision or not.

Then I battled with our 2nd son (5th child).  He was supposed to start military school the January after Jim died.  But I let him stay home .... and told him he had a 2nd chance to improve his grades.  And he did not.  So he went to military school in August.
And spent the next 9 months giving me hell.
I still think that was the right decision.

Then,  barely over a year after Jim's death, I found out that I had a tumor in my hip.  But that it probably wasn't cancerous.  And wouldn't be too difficult to remove.
I went into the hospital thinking I'd have to stay one night .... and went home 5 days later.
And the tumor?  Oh, it was cancer.
But, it was a "good" cancer (?) which would never appear anywhere else in my body and would most likely never reappear in my hip.
After one year of regular MRI's .... I was given the "all clear".
My MD isn't all that comfortable with that so we'll probably continue to monitor it.
But the surgery .... and the aftermath .... was pure hell.
And I remained in hell for a very long time.
All while I tried to grieve the death of my husband.

See, that's the thing ..... I was so busy fighting all of these battles for the first year and a half, that I didn't have time to just grieve .....

There have been other battles since then.  Too many to list.
Last week, I found myself entering another one.
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Really.
After all this time .... and all of these battles, nothing seems to surprise me now.
Sadden me?
Yes.
Scare me?
No.

It's just another battle.  Of course, this one will last the rest of my life, but I intend to win it, too.
Or at least to fight it the best way I can.

I don't write this post to say "poor me".
Not.
At.
All.

We are all in this war.
And we have all had our battles.
Emotional.
Physical.
Financial.
Relational.
You name it.  We've fought it.

But here's the important thing.
We're still here.
Are you paying attention here?
Because, damnit!!! .... That's worth repeating!
Say it with me ....
We're.
STILL.
Here!!!

I know that there's a huge war going on for my life .... for my soul.
But my enemy will NOT win it.
I bet he thought he would.
I would've bet that he would.
I think many of my friends thought he would.

But he has not.
And he won't.

Because I am not alone in this war.
I have you.
You have me.
And I have God.
Even when I didn't feel Him there .... He was there.

We are all soldiers in the same war.
We fight the same enemy.
We have different battles, but the war is the same.

And it's a war that I damn well intend to win.
And I intend to be here to help you win yours.
We will win.
We are stronger than we thought we were.
And we will not be beat.

We might lose a few battles .....
But we WILL win this war.

And I am prouder than I can say .... to fight this war next to you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I'm Failing


I’m failing. No, not with mourning and recovery. That, my psychologist reassures me, I’m doing quite well with. In fact, he tells me that I’m doing extraordinarily well - best he's seen. (Read the next word in your best dripping sarcasm voice:) Yaaaay!

I’m failing at getting back into life. I’m just stuck and I don’t know how to get unstuck. Life isn’t really throwing me any easy lobs over the plate either. My latest biggest challenge is that I spend an unhealthy chunk of time alone and I’m not exactly sure how to fix that. My friends are all married with children (like I should be) so my running buddies are busy chasing kids. Gone are the days of single friends having BBQs or nights on the town. Now those same friends’ evenings are filled with sick kids, wife/husband date nights, or other family crises while my evenings are, well, less engaged. At least with my current set of friends, gone are my easy opportunities to jump back into life and be effortlessly carried away by all the camaraderie that is (or was) being young and single.

I’m failing to find my place in this world. I don’t belong downtown in the Mecca of the barfly; I’m not the right age or temperament or something. Likewise, I don’t belong in the divorce groups; I’m not divorced (and no, being widowed is NOT like your spouse leaving you and no, your divorce is NOT a tragedy.) I also don’t belong to the life-long singles, those who for some reason or another haven’t found true love; Maggie and I had true love in our hands, and it was ripped away from us both. So where do I belong?

I mentioned to a married-with-child friend of mine (and Maggie’s) the other day that I was going to learn to play volleyball. (My logic is charming in its simplicity: People play volley ball. I need to meet people. Therefore, I need to learn to play volleyball.) My friend, in her innocent ignorance, said “Go hang out with some friends at the local volley ball courts and meet new people.” Ah, said like that, it’s so simple.

People remember their single days as easy and filled with single friends (because everyone WAS single back then!) The idea of hanging out at a volley ball court with friends is easy to conceptualize because it was easy to materialize - just call six or seven of your (all single) friends and one or two, at least, would join in the fun. Game on! But what has changed out from under us that isn’t obvious is that all the single folks have been replaced by married folks and, at my age, most with children. Try calling six or seven of those same folks to suggest hanging out at a volley ball court one afternoon and see what responses you get now. But my friend, with her kind suggestion, just didn’t see how her simple plan was doomed or why I wasn’t already doing it. Then she labeled my disagreement a “negative attitude” and as me “not trying hard enough.” Crap.

I don’t have any answers. Likewise, I don’t have any interesting analogies to drive my point home this time around. I’m just frustrated.

But frustration leads to action. Action is movement and movement is good, even when it’s not in the right direction. I feel like I’m stuck out in a blizzard, with the snow waist-deep and the howling wind confusing my senses. My feet are numb and my face stings from the wind. It would be so easy to just sit down in the snow and give up. But I can’t. I will not. I don’t know the right way but I know what I won’t do and that’s quit. So I move on. I will keep my feet moving. Movement is good. (Damn, there goes my no-analogies moment!)

One day I’ll find my path. One day, in hindsight, I’ll be amazed at where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. My new single friends won’t believe the amazing stories I tell them about my travels. One day, I’ll see that what I thought was failing was just a redefinition of what it meant to be me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ouch!

invite too late

"You are cordially invited to attend an exclusive open house at our world-class model. Experience first hand this special event where we will celebrate history in the making - the nations first LGBT Retirement Community with a continuum of care.

Tempt your palate as you savor delectable bites and taste the neighboring Paradise Ridge's award winning wines. Enjoy a site tour of our ten acre, oak-filled campus with stunning view of Sonoma County Valley and Fountaingrove Golf Course."

Damn them. Damn the U.S. Postal Service for being the excellent trackers they are. And, damn life for it's ongoing kick in the stomach.

It has been 11 months since I move away from our San Francisco home, in need of a fresh start with as few reminders as possible. It's been two further moves once settled in San Diego. I didn't want to spend the rest of my surviving days being reminded of what we had, and what we planned to do. There were too many of them. There were so many plans that we had made, and so many that got tossed straight into the trash can when Michael received his diagnosis.

I accept that life gives us what it does. I accept that God moves in mysterious ways. What I don't accept, is why there has too be so many painful reminders of what we don't have. I get that for the majority of people my age, they are looking ahead to their golden years together as a aging couple. I get that they are carefully planning out their retirement, and that for those that are financially fortunate enough, they are looking into the perfect retirement community to live out their lives together.

Do I really need to have this single piece of mail track me down, 500 miles south of San Francisco, then travel up and down the streets of San Diego, making it's way from the initial house I rented, only to find that I quickly moved on and put down permanent roots here in my current home, and then find itself dropped into my simply stated stainless steel mailbox?

"No. Michael doesn't live here!"

"No. There is no happy couple interested in your retirement community."

"No. There are not two happy and loving faces that you can plaster on one of your lovely tri-fold brochures."

Okay. I know I'm being a bit childish. I get it. Where's that thick skin of mine, right? You know, I wear my armour every day that I leave my house. I expect that I can lay it down once I walk through my door. I also expect (foolishly obviously) that I can control that which hurts me, or cuts to my vulnerability within my own safe haven. But you know, this is what really goes on here. When no one is around, and it's just me that picks up the mail, well there is no buffer, and there is no need for it either. So, BANG! Shot to the heart.

"Is this very mature of me?"

"Can't I just get over it, and realize that these things happen?"

Grow up Dan. Be a man.

For the record, I did handle it very maturely. Nobody in, or around, my house are even aware of this small moment, or this insignificant piece of junk mail. The reality is (and all of you live this every day) is that nobody around me would even think to ask if receiving the occasional piece of mail addressed to the two of us is difficult to deal with. And, I'll bet that like me, most of you have those moments where life still knocks the wind right out of you. You probably take a deep breath, or immediately succumb to tears, or maybe still have those moments that drop you to your knees (those were always my favorite).

This is just one of those many moments that illustrate how it's just not so easy to move on.

me, to the world: "Yes, I am doing very well. I am making progress, even though most of you don't understand that there is still progress to be made. Yes, I thank you for telling me for the hundredth time how good I look. Not quite sure why one says that anyway. And no, I am not purposefully getting stuck, or wallowing unnecessarily. This is what I must do. Like it or not, this is who I am, and this is how I experience life."

Ouch! again.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Cannonization of Art


This post was prompted by two comments. One by a widow who confessed to me that her husband beat her. She said that she felt so alone because all these widow's husband's seemed so perfect and her's was far from it. Two. My oldest son's conversation with me about his dad. When I asked him what he remembered about a certain situation, he only remembered the good part of it. There was nothing about his father's unjustified anger (in my opinion). Only about how he (Langston) had done wrong.

---

So I’ve notice something. When I talk about, think about or miss Art
when his image comes to my brain...

He’s perfect.

Just fucking perfect.

The perfect father, the perfect husband, the perfect friend, the perfect son, the perfect co-worker. I’ve notice that in his death,

his shit don’t stink!

And there’s some cultural rule (I feel) that says “Never speak unkindly about the dead.” But what about remembering the dead honestly?

He has become canonized.

Cause honestly now that he’s not here, he looks absolutely spectacular! And he wasn’t. In fact, our marriage was beginning, no was fraying.

So honey, I’m gonna take a moment to list your faults. Cause today, I need to be honest with you with me and hopefully with our kids. Your perfection is not good for any of us.

So here is my list. My list of the things (off the top of my head) that really pissed me off about you.

1. Your shit did stink. And why you could not crack the damn window in the bathroom before you sat is still beyond me! 14 years of asking you to open the damn window was 13.5 years too many!

2. And can we just talk about your stubbornness. I know you married me for my willingness to look at the whole picture and then develop a very strong opinion, but my opinion in most cases could be changed. Many times you wouldn’t even discuss it! For your open-mindedness, you were not open-minded! Stubborn, stubborn, stubborn to infuriation!

3. You were a good disciplinarian. In fact, I think we were just hitting our parenting stride when you died. Sometimes however you were down-right harsh. I mean, remember the time when Langston was 5 and he said “Duh!” to you? You grabbed him by upper arms lifted him up, walked him over, feet dangling, to the chair where you put him down, standing between your legs. I remember reminding you, with my hand on your shoulder, leaning in whispering in your, “Honey, remember he’s only 6. “Duh” will not lead him to a life of crime.”

4. Oh and, how should I put this? My name is Kim! You so rarely called me by my name. “Honey” and “sweetheart” were your favorites. “Baby” was what you called me the last few months before you died. But Kim was what I wanted to hear. Hearing you say Kim would just make me gush. And yes, I told you that again and again and again. What was up with that?!

5. Using your 6’6” frame to block a doorway. Not cool. Using it as intimidation. Not cool... except that one time with that super obnoxious car salesman.

6. And ya know what I was sick and tired of being the one that nursed our relationship along. I hated how you reverted to status quo. We would have a conversation. We would talk. I would feel like I was being heard and sometimes the VERY NEXT DAY it would be as if we never spoke. I felt ignored and not important when you did that.

7. I hate the way you hated to admit you were wrong! What was the big deal anyway? So you were wrong, you misspoke or said or did something unkind. Just apologize, admit the mistake and move one. Sheesh!

8. I hate how you refused to make videos for the kids the first time you got cancer or after. They really could use them now, you know.

9. And honey, I know you loved to cook but improvising was not your talent. You really needed to follow the recipes, word for word, really. We all would have eaten a lot more!

10. AYour desk was a nightmare! The only reason you got the side of the bed farthest from the door is so you could just pile up your clothes there and I wouldn’t have to see it! I hated the way you would be looking for something and say "Oh here it is?" I'd ask "You found it?" and you'd say "Oh no. I found what I was looking for three weeks ago!"

11. And for an English teacher who taught many, many kids to write… where the heck were my letters! I hate the way you rarely wrote to me, even after I said that’s all I wanted. Why the fuck couldn’t you write to me? You could have left a tangible trail of your love, instead of leaving up to my fading memory.

12. The way you never expressed your feelings. I know this is a common complaint for many women about their men. Well, you were no exception.

13. Hello...that is a laundry basket with clean folded clothes in it. You pick it up, carry to the bedroom and then, you-put-them-away!!! I know, I can't believe it would be that easy either! That thing on the floor is called a towel, it gets hung up on at thing called a hook!

14. Yes you were a foot taller then me. Yes you outweighed me by almost 100 times but ya know, you could have asked if I wanted the three Girl Scout cookies, the last piece of pie, or the last carrot before you put them in your mouth!

15. Your inability to deal with our finances. Your ostrich-head-in-the-sand approach to money and responsibility around money. That almost devastated me and the kids. Thank you very nothing!

And since we're here in the you-ain't-so-perfect place, here are just a few of the good things about you being dead!

1 I line your side of the bed with all the books and magazines I want.

2. I make the bed every single morning!

3. The clothes are off of the floor every single night!

4. I go to see chick flicks any time I want and cry at them too!!

4. I no longer feel the pressure to be competitive athlete like you!

6. And I order that salad pizza you hated all the time!

So baby, I miss you I do.

But that salad pizza was so good tonight! It’s the second time this week I’ve had it!





Friday, June 10, 2011

Have I Told you Lately




“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”
-Pablo Neruda


Tonight's just a night that I want to share how grateful I am for the eternal gift that keeps on giving. The one that allows me to be more than my loss and suffering and the ability to rise above and fulfill all my hopes and dreams. The gift that quietly nudges me out of the dark into a bright future. The gift that answers my heart's questions and wraps itself around me when life send a cold front my way.


Tonight, Michael, I want to thank you for choosing me to be the recipient of your love. Never would I had known the true strength and fortitude it held. But you gave it to me, unconditionally, with the knowledge that even when you were gone it would still be securely tucked in my heart, never to leave my side.


When I smile, I am reminded that your love smiles with me.


When I cry, I am reminded that your love will wipe away the tears


When I live, I know that your love is more present than ever.

a choice

Photo from here....

I spend a lot of time loathing what has "become" of my life. Ruminating over the "before" and "after". Taking stock of the injustice of losing my beloved so early in my life. Wishing life now was different.
But when I imagine having a life that was so dramatically different and without the pain of Jeff's death and all the repercussions from his premature expiration date, I realize that I have erased him and all the good things as well. No memories of dancing slowly to Van Morrison in the wheel house of his boat to remember. No birth of our children to hold dear. No ripples of laughter shared when telling the stories of our life together.
And although it is and has been hard and painful, I realize that I would do it again. If I had the choice to go back knowing how soon it would all be over, I would still go back. I would relive every special, annoying, sweet, loving and funny moment if only I could spend it again....with full knowledge that he would be gone too soon.
I would choose him....and this life over and over again.....

Thursday, June 9, 2011

after.

it's pure joy

to see maddy

with her auntie

(liz's sister),

the two of them,

as close as they

would have been

if...

well, you know.

...

sometimes it's the after

that defines

things, and after

everything that's happened,

i'm happy that

this she is

such a big part of

our after.

maddy & auntie debbie.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Two Year Anniversary

We are joined today be guest blogger April Torres. Thanks for sharing your story with us April!
 
 
About April: In January 2009, I found out I was 5 weeks pregnant. A week later my soul mate and the love of my life passed away unexpectedly at 32 years old. I was 29, pregnant and grieving. The darkest, saddest, most miserable days followed. I thought I'd never smile again. But, 2.5 years later, I have a beautiful, healthy son who makes smiling easy. I don't think I will ever be 100% and will never stop missing my love, but I have slowly realized that I can be happy and that life does shift forward, no matter how much you may want it to pause and stand still. 
 
The quickness of time bewilders me. Two years has passed since you were taken away from me. Two years, and yet my heart still wears the imprints from your last touch. Two years, and yet I can still close my eyes and smell you. I can still taste you on my lips. It astonishes me – how well my senses know you. How they remember you so vividly. I still hear your laughter; still see that smile.

Someone asked me a random question the other day without knowing the situation. They asked me how long I had been single. It was a simple question but one I could not answer. I didn’t know how to explain that this question had no simple answer. Should I have provided the technical answer to this simple question and responded with: two years? Or the truth; no matter how complex that answer would be. 

Should I have simply said that I am not? That I am still very much in a relationship. Still very much with someone. That even though it has been two years since I last had physical contact with you or a face to face conversation, that you have been with me, every day. That we have shared conversations, even though they were one-sided. That you have answered random doubts I have had, in some form or another. That you have still been my “date” at many a gathering.
How do I explain that I still wake up to your face smiling down at me? That you are still the first and last thought of each day. So much time has passed and yet, you have never left my side. Or rather, I have never left yours. You are still my sun. How do I explain to someone that even though we’ve been apart physically for two years – we’ve grown closer than the two years + that we were together? 
How do I explain to someone who doesn’t know what it’s like to lose your love, that even though yes, the answer to the question might appear to be: two years, the truth is: I’m still very much in love. That my heart still very much belongs to you. I don’t. I won’t. I can’t.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A.D. - Marking Time After Daniel

I've always found it fascinating that much of the world - Christian and non-Christian alike - mark time in a way that acknowledges the existence of Christ. We are currently in the Year of Our Lord (Anno Domini) 2011.

Using this same sort of starting point, I have marked the time A.D. (after Daniel) and am currently in the year 6 on this calendar. Most things temporal have been measured along this calendar - at first in minutes, then hours, days, weeks, months and finally years. I remember the first time I forgot to mark the number of days in my head...I beat myself up for hours and barely slept. How dare I forget for a single day that another day had passed A.D.? It was horrifying, and for a while I went back to considering it each hour as a way of compensating for my lack of loyalty and my lapse in true grieving. I couldn't be truly grieving if I wasn't doing it all day every day, right?

Eventually, I gave myself a break and allowed the small lapses which would occur and I began to actually enjoy the reprieve from daily grief. It was when I had a gap of more than a week that it began to trouble me. How could I go for an entire week without thinking about it? How was that humanly possible? Technically, I don't think I even went a day. The reality was it was less painful, so random thoughts of Daniel weren't a kick in the stomach anymore - they were more normal and less likely to stress me out or even get a big reaction from me. His absence became part of the day instead of a noted occurrence. It was normal.

As hard as it is to believe, the time did come for me when living A.D. was normal, an expected part of life. I don't know exactly when, but it wasn't noticeable at first. It just became the reality. It doesn't mean that I'm "over it" or that I don't miss him. It just means I'm used to the missing. I'm used to him not being here. Grayson is too. We speak about it in straight forward terms - "Daddy would have liked this" or "Sometimes you are so much like your Daddy...". It's not so painful. It just is what it is.

I remember actively dreading the day when this would be the reality. I remember thinking it would never happen and that I loved him too much. Time passed, it became less painful, and my future began to unfold before me. I look back often, but my focus is forward. and I have resolved to live as happy a life as humanly possible. For myself, and for Grayson. The truth is that I refuse to waste my life in his memory. He'd hate it. He lived his life to the fullest, even when he was sick. He took his last breath struggling to stay alive. I will too. I plan to have many many years A.D., and I know that when I slide into heaven (or not, as the case may be ;-) exhausted from the ride, he'll be there cheering me on and proud of my efforts.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Empty Handed

Their Departure

It's been a rough week. I've been an emotional mess, and have felt more vulnerable than I have in months. I don't really know what brought it on either. I kept looking at the calendar, trying to find some reason, or meaning, behind all the tears I have been shedding this week, but just came up empty handed.

Perhaps that's just it, I feel empty handed. What have I really gained from all of this? This grief journey is so much work, and it's times like this I often wonder if what I have gained is worth my effort. Is it worth my loss? Of course not. Yet, I have no choice but to keep working on it.

For some reason it's been this week that my new coworkers have been stopping to visit in my new office, and asking about the faces in the picture frame that sits on my desk. My response is always the same, and always in counter clockwise order.

This is my daughter, Arianne, my oldest son, Dante, my youngest Remy, (deep breath) and this is my late husband Michael (another deep breath.)

People have been responding quite nicely, taking the moment to offer their condolences. I've been using the short drive between my office, and my son's school, to get a good cry in. Actually, there are times that I take a private moment to cry out whatever I have been holding back during the day, but this week they arrive unplanned, and often without my control. I know that we cannot be expected to hide, or hold back our grief all the time, but the reality of my job is that I can't be emoting while conducting mediation's.

I made a really good friend in my short tenure at my last job. She is quite adept at sensing my needs, even when she hasn’t seen me in awhile. It’s almost scary. This week she sent me text messages most nights, just checking in, and letting me know she was there. One night, late in the week, I had fallen deep into despair, and temporarily lost my ability to reach out to the hand that was offered. When I saw her last night at a friends party, the first thing she asked if I was okay, because she didn't hear back from me. Before I could answer she notice the urn locket was back around my neck.

“Oh, you had a bad night, didn’t you?”

I let her in on how my week had progressed, and let her know how much I appreciated her reaching out to me. In many ways her evening text messages kept things from getting worse than they could have. This conversation was shared amidst a large group of friends who had gathered at a local restaurant for dinner and drinks. With the festive energy of the group, and a couple of margaritas, I was soon able to let go of my grief, and really have a good time. As our time at the restaurant was coming to the end, the group decided that everyone should meet at a local club and go dancing. Right away everyone started encouraging me to join them, yet most probably not expecting that I would say yes. I let them know I needed to go home to check on my son and his friend that was over, and would decide at that point. Once home it would have been really easy to just crawl into bed for the night, as it was getting late, but I decided I would push myself further. I’m so glad that I did.

I ended up dancing the night away with each of the lovely ladies in our group. At one point I was dancing with my close friend, and she asked when the last time I had been out dancing was. I couldn’t even remember.

It’s been a very long time, is all I could say.

“Did Michael like to dance?”

Yes, he did. In fact, that is how we met. (Smile)

Later as I walked my friend and her sister to their car, she let me know how happy she was that I decided to join them. She said that all she could think about was how so many in our group have been dealing with some significant loss, and that it gave her so much joy to see each of us out there laughing, dancing, and having a good time. Those thoughts had also been swirling around in my head as well. At one point I was there dancing next to some new friends of mine who lost their toddler just a few months earlier. There we were, still with that recognizable look of loss in our eyes, yet smiling, moving, and having a good time.

This really has me thinking. We often say that there is a lot of work to be done on this grief journey. I suppose that if we want our work to be as productive as possible, then we need to be sure to take some needed breaks now and then. All work, and no pleasure, can only lead to burn out, which is where I likely found myself this week.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Home

Six parts of your Widow's Voice home at Camp Widow 2010

Home is where you hang your heart, not only your hat. When Phil died, the four walls of my home became both a refuge and a prison. I hated going out; I hated staying in.

The outside world was too bright. I felt blinded by other people's lightness, innocent happiness, and especially by their apparent disregard for the fact that the world had stopped. I kept forgetting that their world didn't necessarily halt because mine did. I remember very clearly (and it has been 1,981 days) that when I was in public I felt see through, as if there was no substance to me.

But when I was home the familiarity was excruciating. Everywhere I looked there was some misleading evidence that Phil would be right back. Shoe in the corner, lunchbox on top of the fridge, toothbrush in the holder...all signs that the owner of these items had just stepped out. Loneliness seeped from my pores and left a miserable residue on every surface. Home wasn't home. There is a line from a Mercy Me song (Homesick) that best described this feeling for me: "If home's where my heart is, then I'm out of place." Oh how I ached to be home.

Then I found you. This community became a safe, homey place. My widowed friends held bits of my heart for me while I picked up the pieces that were scattered by the winds of grief. Each time I found another sliver, I could just hand it to the people who would eventually help me work out how those fractured shards could once again take the shape of something beautiful. 

On the blog this week this comment was addressed anonymously to a new reader who is hoping that finding this community will help him deal with his loss:

"Come back here. To this blog. I can tell you - it saved my life. I almost didn't make it this winter, it was too painful. It was a very dark time. When it was at its worst, I came here. To the place where others understood. Where someone knew what it felt like to not want to carry on. The widows voice community has offered such wisdom and support and hope. That I can say now 7 months from my spouses death. I am doing better than I was. I still have dark days and hard nights but when I do - I know I am not alone. I come here and read the stories and hear the way others have coped and I know I can carry on. I hope you do return."

Thank you anonymous.

This is what I mean by home. You are home to me, and we are home to each other, and as you heal, grow, and make your way through this whole new crazy widowed world...I hope you will always remember that one home is only a click away.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Recap



The past week has been a roller coaster.

Charlie was laid to rest and it was one of the hardest moments of my life. It was also during that time that I was moved by my friends kindness. I was lucky and blessed to have some of my dearest and best friends there...friends that weren't like the friends that were around when Michael died....these are friends that aren't going anywhere and laugh and cry and grieve without questions or answers. TT told me she wasn't used to being so open with her feelings, as we all shared our love and memories with Charlie...the secret is...it's because they were there that I was able to. I love you all so very much. Thank you for helping me, loving me, and allowing me to be called your friend...I'll never feel deserving of such kindness.

The flip side of this major loss is a major gain! My organization, as of today, has it's first official office! I hold the key and smile...it's more than an office...it's a brighter and more beautiful future for myself and the fellow widows of the AWP. I'm so excited and know that this means nothing but good. It's in my dream area. My dream 360 square feet. And will be a place where even more dreams come true for all we serve.

I'm spending this month to absorb all that May has consisted of. A month of growth, pain, survival, and the further assurance that Michael's love is always present.

That's it.

The end .

Friday, June 3, 2011

guilt and acceptance

First posted 7 months post-widowhood on personal blog

I have worried since Jeff's death that he didn't know how much I loved him. The stupid things I did and the things I took for granted have weighed so heavily on my mind. I have felt terribly and guilty for the things that I complained about and the issues I thoughtwere important.
Since Jeff's death I have realized that these 'things' were nothing. Not important. Not worth the words or the breath I used to express them.
I have always known Jeff loved me. I have always felt his comforting presence and his teddy bear gentleness when it came to 'us'. I have never doubted that he loved me and I was his 'Snuggles'.
A friend recently expressed her worry that when she dies, it will be after she has lost her patience, yelled or been in a generally foul mood. She worried that this would be the last thing her kids or husband remembered about her. I assured her that it wouldn't. That they'd remember all of her and those times of stress and anger would be forgiven and almost forgotten.
I told her of the last few minutes I had with Jeff before he died. He had been an ASS. He had told the doctor that he thought I was hoping he was having a heart attack so I could 'be right'. I had replied, "No, Jeff. I am concerned about you. I am worried and I want to find out what is wrong."
Jeff didn't like going to doctors. He didn't like to admit that anything was wrong. He could be combative and angry trying to dissuade me from taking him to a doctor. Years ago, he once told me that he would leave me if I took him to the hospital again after he had passed out on the floor and was turning blue. It became the source of laughter just days later. But it didn't mean he didn't love me. It meant he didn't like going to the doctor. He didn't like being 'told what to do'. As simple as that.
Since telling my friend about these incidents, I have been thinking about it. I am realizing that even though I have had my complete 'ass' moments, Jeff most likely had the same feelings about me. That I am human. I obsess about ridiculousness much to my detriment just as he did. Even though he was angry with me for dragging him to the doctor, I was there. I was trying to save his life. I loved him enough to go up against his defiance and fury to find out what was wrong. Even after he used these angry words, I tried to save him. I would have no matter what he ever said, did or was. I knew he loved me. And I loved him. He died in my arms as I tried to save him. And, now, I am sure he knew I loved him. And it is a relief. I can let go of my guilt. I can realize I am human and like everyone else, I am imperfect. He loved me despite of it all. And I loved him despite any of his faults. And he knew.