Friday, January 27, 2012

It's Just A Wall

Why would a wall hurt my feelers? It’s just a silly wall made of stucco, wood, drywall, paint and trim. No significant events happened on or near the wall. Actually, if I really, really thought about it, I’m not totally certain the wall was even the topic of more than just a few conversations. It’s just a wall. Yet, as I watched it slowly being rebuilt over the last few weeks from how it’s been since about a year before Maggie’s Angel Day, it has hurt – every single step.

I don’t recall when exactly I decided to tear it down. The reasons why I took down the wall are irrelevant, really. I know she wasn’t there at the time otherwise she would have been in the middle of it, directing and participating, swinging a hammer and going to town. I wish I could recall where she was. It’s likely she was at MD Anderson for one of the many, many visits she made (and one of the very, very few I didn’t attend.) I remember the look on her face when she saw the mess I had made while she was gone. Thankfully, she had accepted early in our relationship that my exploits were my little missions and they made me happy. So she grinned and asked simply “What are you going to now?” Apparently, as time has proven up, I was going let it sit for more than three years.

What’s interesting is that as the wall has been slowly rebuilt over the last week, every step that was completed was a punch to my heart. The more complete the wall, the worse it hurt. Walking into the room after the drywall was attached hit me like a ton of bricks. Adding texture made it all the more real. Right now it sits textured but not painted with no trim yet talking about it drives me to tears almost immediately.

Maybe to my heart the wall represents the incomplete dreams Maggie and I had. We definitely had wonderful plans for that room but that was before the cancer came calling. It was going to be a beautiful room filled with pictures we both took of the flowers from our garden. We even named it, appropriately, The Flower Room. But she never saw that dream completed. Instead, she let it go like she had to let go of so many other things she cared about. And I had to watch that little dream die.

I’m going to finish that wall. It’s almost there and I’ve asked some friends to help me because for some reason I can’t seem to do it myself. I feel silly when I cry every single damn time when I say that Maggie will never get to see that wall finished. It’s just a stupid wall. But for some reason that wall has a very real connection to my heart.

Hurt or not, I’m going to finish that wall. Hurt or not, I’m going to rebuild. Even if I don’t understand why it still hurts.


  1. Chris - thanks for sharing. This post really hit me. You see my husband had a dream too. He loved building, anything out of wood. But he didn't have lots of spare time. We had a business to run. Every Christmas and birthday he asked for tools for his work room. He finished that room and it is something. He built a set of cabinets to store his smaller tools, a huge work table on wheels that could be locked down for working, all of his power tools, table saw, lathe, circular saws, half of them I am not sure what they do. he first thing he did was build a wine cellar from scratch. He stripped the wood and he designed it. He completed it in a month and it is beautiful. He was so proud of it and he loved that he did this all by himself. His dream was when he retired to spend some time there making things for our grandchildren. Then he got cancer. He was only able to get down the stairs a couple of times. The last time he sat in the room and the look of sadness on his face broke my heart. He has been gone 14 months. I finally went into that room this week. There was dust on things. His work shoes sat neatly in a row. Everything was so orderly and perfect. Somehow I thought if I swept the floor I would feel better. I was keeping it neat. Each minute, I looked at his dreams - still waiting for his time. He never got the chance. I cried so hard. As you said I had to watch that dream die. I am so sad for him, that he didn't get this chance to live out this dream. He worked so hard, his whole life. It still hurts - because their lives had so much potential and their dreams died with them.
    Whenever I do something now that I think my husband would enjoy - even if it is watching the sun rise I say in my head "this is all for you" - that is how I share it with him. I feel like I have to live for both of us.
    When I was done my big cry and the room was swept clean, free of dust and cobwebs. I turned to look at it and said "this is for you my love".

    Finish the wall Chris - for Maggie and I hope it heals a small crack in your heart.

    1. So you have no idea how right on target you have just described me and Maggie. I was building my dream workshop. The difference is that she had the cancer. When she got sick, my wood shop work stopped. I've yet to do anything in my dream wood shop since. I just don't have the same drive. It feels like my dream died along with hers. Man, like I said, you have no idea how right on you nailed my.. our life.

      Thanks for writing.

  2. It's not just a stupid wall, it was your plans to build something together that never happened. You are completing those plans alone, which is heart breaking. Go ahead and cry, it's ok, we all do it over things undone and plans we made with our loved ones. Then we pick up the pieces and go on, day after day. You can still make it your flower room with the help of your friends, I'm sure it will be beautiful. It is also something tangible that your friends can do for you, it will help all of you to heal this loss. In rebuilding the wall, you will be rebuilding yourself, bit by bit.

  3. Those big and little dreams that have come (and will come) to fruition AFTER Dave's death have been the hardest.
    It's so hard to let go of sharing these things with him. As the construction that we began on the house came to an end and the final results wowed me, I was crushed. For him to not get to be here for the final product just made no sense. The tears come instantly when I think about it. Every time.
    So I get why it still hurts. It's this emblem of lost dreams and the unfairness of it all.

  4. My "room" was finished before he died, it is a lovely addition, made more so because we built it, sanded the cherry floor, sealed the wood, added our family photos to a wall, it is truly a family room. Only now I hardly want to go in there, way too many memories of planning and creating it, and he is not there sitting in his favorite chair anymore, listening to music as he looked out the spacious windows onto the woods. Yes, it is unfair, coming up on 2 years and not any easier, it seems everyone has moved on but me. Maybe I will try looking at life for both of us, as anon above does, it certainly isn't worth it looking at it for only me.

  5. I'm so sorry, Chris. My husband and I had many plans and he loved to change things in our house, in the garden, everywhere. Projects like this are a thing of the past for me, I can never do them by myself. Your story hurts my heart. Good luck and God Bless. <3

  6. Beautiful! Thank you! Sometimes we don't know why. All we know is that it hurts.

  7. Yeah. I get this.

    My 'wall' is our kitchen. We had discussed renovating our 60 year old kitchen for years, but in the recent months before his diagnosis we were finally getting around to it finalizing details. Then cancer hit. Dave was a high school construction teacher and a few months into his illness, his co-workers approached me with an extremely generous offer to do the kitchen reno for us. I discussed it with Dave and we decided that to deal with a kitchen gutting and reno during his treatment would add too much stress to an already stressful situation. Dave died a few months later in June 2010.

    When I went into his classroom and office to get his belongings shortly before the next school year began, his co-workers told me that the offer still stood. I thanked them, but felt they were under no obligation and dismissed it. Later that year they invited me to their Christmas party, where they reminded me that the offer to redo my kitchen still stood. Almost a year after Dave died, they came and gutted our kitchen down to the studs, took down a wall, changed a window into a door, rewired, re-plumbed, insulated, & dry-walled, & installed flooring - all for free (labour). Dave would have been so thankful to know his friends did this for us/me. I found somebody to build and install the cabinets. I later found somebody else to build the deck off the kitchen that Dave & I had only dreamed about.

    It gave me a temporary diversion - organizing all of that. The kitchen has been done for almost half a year. I still haven't brought myself to finish the painting the trim work and hang some photos - which is normally the most fun part for me. It’s been wonderful to have finally have a usable space but it’s sooo bittersweet and unfair that he never got to see it.

    This post has got me thinking about the empty walls in my kitchen. I have a wonderful fun photo I took of his friends when they were gutting the kitchen. I think I’m going to frame it and hang it in my kitchen as a tribute to them and him!

    Thanks Chris!

  8. I absolutely get this Chris! Stupid reminders bring unwanted tears at the strangest times. My husband was the cook in the family and always kept the freezer stocked. Since the day he died, almost 2 years, opening that freezer is more painful than cutting my hand.

    I think what I am hearing today from everyone is the projects, dreams, plans, etc. that will never be fulfilled with our special and incredible partners. It just plain sucks and is sad.

    Thank you for your honesty!

  9. There are two closets in the master bedroom of my 1940 house. My husband tore both back to the studs, reconfigured them and started putting them back together. One was completed, the other sits with a torn up floor and new sheetrock with only joint tape applied. Buckets of sheetrock mud sit in the corner. There are places for outlets but the wires stick out of the jagged holes with red and yellow caps dangling.

    I thought about having the job completed. There is not a tremendous amount to be done. But I won't. I find a strange comfort in standing in that unfinished room. Like maybe for just a second I can capture the feeling that he will come back to finish the job.

    My heart goes out to you.

  10. Like Val, said- "temporary diversion" I cried throgh lots of projects these past 3 few years. Not having my husband here to share the daily progress with was unbearably painful.Each project completed brought me closer to another ending of plans we had made together.

  11. My "wall" is my wife's still unfinished kitchen, we bought a former "crack house" 6 years ago (3 yrs before Shauna was diagnosed) and dove in head first, we were at the 75% of the house finished stage when the bad news came. Needless to say work pretty much stopped (although I still did putter here and there to keep my head straight)leaving the kitchen the last to finish.

    She died last January and I know 100% how you feel, for us the kitchen was always her domain, we pretty much agreed over the years that she didn't have any business in my shop (she was always welcome) and I didn't have any business in her kitchen and that was really more than fine for both of us (although learning to cook after she was gone made me realize just how spoiled I was)

    Its been just over a year and I am starting to think about getting the less than half finished kitchen together, right now its down to the studs in some spots, there is no insulation in the attic (we took it out as it was rodent infested, but thats another story) and the cabinets are literally falling apart, a couple of them have cargo straps holding them together, so it looks like hell. The floor has been bare plywood for 5 years.

    Anyway it brings me to tears even thinking about getting it done and having her dream kitchen but not having her, some dream! But I know it has to be done if I ever want to sell the house (still undecided) and move on.

    There's also the lack of interest in material things now that she is gone, so not a lot of motivation.

    I know how you feel.

    God Bless

    Mike from Canada

  12. Chris...hello! Your posts always hit my heart the way your smile and your depth of soul hit when I met you at Camp 2011. Your post is very significant to me today because it coincides with a "pay it forward" in my life. My very good friend's husband died on 1/10/12 and just today we spoke about her "wall". She is in the horrendous numb phase that we all may recall, early on when only details run your life...details of life insurance and social security and where is that damn bank book and why can't I THINK...I am sure you can recall. Anyway, we spoke about her "wall" as being the place where she and Joe, her husband used to revel in...the wall of like-mindedness when one would finish the other's sentences and know that tomorrow would come and each of you would push forward in the usual comfort zone of knowing the depth of your beloved's mind and soul. It's a different wall than you described yet it is much the same in that the "Wall" is a shared experience that can no longer be shared and we are left to our memories of what was to be that did not come...but oh, we were so blessed for what we shared in our amazing bond of love for the time we had together.

  13. I just read this a day late, the day after it was written and I can't tell you how much i was thinking about the same thing between Michael and I surrounding all of our house plans. I can take a little of each of the responses and say, "Hey, that's just like us". Our house is over 100 years old and my husband LOVED OUR HOUSE. He researched and built and lovingly restored as much of it as he could for years and years. He had so many more plans for it. He once said that when he retired his dream was to stay put (it's a BIG house) and just work on it until he got it right to where he imagined it to be.
    After his cancer came and in all phases of his horrific treatment he continued to work-albeit more slowly, on his beloved house. It was his mental therapy.
    the month before he died he wanted to paint the exterior with my 2 sons but he was so weak at that point that he allowed me to gently talk him out of it, telling him that i wanted him to rest and regain his strength before he started that mammoth project. We both knew what was coming. Anyway, this past summer my sons did paint that house and completed it on Michael's 2 year anniversary! It was a great day, bittersweet but satisfying. My husband would have been so proud of them and so proud of how beautiful our home looks. I see it as a tribute to him. Thanks for writing this Chris! You build that room as a tribute to Maggie