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There is much I need to tell him, so much I want to share. I talk out loud to photos and I know that he’s not there.

There is so much he needs to know, so much he’s missing here. I cannot help the darkness that arrives this time of year.

Memories of the pain he felt, the deep heartache he felt inside, and the sleepless nights and his drug-filled body are all flooding back to me.

I’m haunted by the visions of the things that he endured, things people could never imagine, that were only shared with me, those nights when he fell, crumbled in my arms.

November is now a reminder of what happened in the end, the tears were never-ending and the worry consumed us both, but he never complained about his life or that it soon would end.

November brings such darkness in these forefront memories.  It’s hard to shake the bitter cold that I feel in my bones.  I want to just be grateful, but he left me here alone.

He knew that this would happen, he often told me so.  He knew better than anyone and still he had to go.

I’m trying so hard to remember all the good he gave to me, to help me through these next two months of heartache agony.

The life of a widow no matter how blessed, is a never ending battle of learning how not to drown when the wave of grief engulfs you.

November

Hawaii

…and live our life to the very last sunset we did.

24-years ago today we walked into that court-house confident that our swift romance brought us the most joy either of us had ever known.  Some thought it was way too soon after only seventy-six days.  We’d both been down that road before, but there was never an ounce of doubt for either one of us.   We only had 20 earthly celebrations of this date, but I can assure you that today and every day I celebrate what was, and what always will be ours with the same deep love and gratefulness as if he were still here.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t pause to talk to him in some way, nor is there a day that has gone by that my heart doesn’t ache for his touch.  The hands which were twice the size of mine but gentle and always outstretched.  Still, there is not day that a tear is not shed.  They may be just a stinging of the eyes, but many days they still fill the tide pools of grief.

I don’t know how time has the ability to keep ticking forward without my husband in it, but it has.  My life and its purpose has changed so much.

The photo and quote above from Tiki Joes, pretty much depicts our life together and what we shared in Hawaii several times.  I long for that place often as we shared our hopes for a cure of his appendix cancer, prayed for more time and found acceptance of his terminal disease.  I think in retrospect, it took the removal of our everyday life to see the bigger picture and the reality of what was to come.  Oh how madly, deeply in love we were.  What I wouldn’t give to look into those eyes that loved me so much.   I wonder if someday I might go back to Waikiki and just sit and stare at the ocean on an ocean-front balcony like we did together,  if it would make me more sad or would it fill me with the peace that we both felt together there.  I hope to one day find out.  A trip that I would need to do alone and I do not like traveling alone.  Something in my mind continually draws me there.

Watching the last 10 months of his life dwindle to but a flame that resides in my heart, haunts me.  He fought so damned hard to be alive for our 20th anniversary.  He then fought to make his 59th birthday .. I hurt knowing how much he hurt.  Someone recently wrote that “it’s not over until you are tired of fighting” … no, that was not it at all for him; albeit a nice uplifting message to give I suppose.  That man never, ever got tired of fighting.  He wanted to live.  He wanted to be present.  He wanted so much more.  His body gave up, not him. I am forever grateful for the love, the determination, and the heavenly messages we both received, because I know that my time will come to be as one with him again as we were in our human bodies.

Keith, May your light, my ray of sunshine continue to breathe new life into me as I continue to miss you and endure this life without you.  Happy 24th Anniversary to the love of my life, my absolute soul mate.  I will be in love with you until my last breath.

24 Years Ago Today

Grief Mountain

These words, written and sung by Marty Robbins and made most popular by Elvis Presley are ones that I struggle with every day:

But this time, Lord you gave me a mountain
A mountain you know I may never climb
It isn’t just a hill any longer
You gave me a mountain this time.

I walk along the grassy knoll enjoying the lakes and streams, where the wildflowers brighten even the darkness. I delight in the sunshine glistening and even feel comforted at times by the massive mountain I’ve yet to climb. I try to see the beauty around me because I know it is plentiful.  I see it in the faces of my children and grandchildren.  I see the importance of love and kindness every day.  I just miss my one true love.  This climb; it seems daunting. I wonder if I really have the emotional equipment necessary to take on the task. I’ve not fancied myself weak, by any means; I’ve withstood a lot in my lifetime.

So yes, I now know this mountain to be the Grief Mountain. One cannot just put on their boots and say I am going to conquer you today. I am going to climb and reach the top so that I can shout, I made it. I’m on top of this world – look at me! Rather, I stare at it. I could tether myself but I would more likely feel chained to the emotions that keep me from putting the next foot forward. Isolation in this valley is real. Of course, I know I’m not alone, I see silhouettes in my mind of others climbing too and certainly, I’ve heard the echoes of the ones that have reached the top.

It may be that I’ve already begun the climb and I just don’t recognize it. Maybe, the top is only reached when I too am healed from the earthly pain of grief. What I do know is that the grief mountain is alive and well and it’s a mountain I may never fully climb.

It is Valentine’s Day today.  A “Hallmark Holiday” as I’ve often heard it called.  My husband always bought me the biggest card he could find and sometimes even, he would make his own.  Over the years we learned it wasn’t about Valentine’s Day – it was about every day.  Loving each other deeply and respectfully 365 days a year.

Valentines Day

Today my Facebook memories gave me a reminder of one of our Valentine’s Day from 6 years ago.  A day that I hated and loved but today it hurts more than ever that he had to endure the chemotherapy that poisoned him but did nothing to stop the growth of his aggressive, rare cancer, appendix cancer.  To this day, given his pathology and testing to ensure the drugs he was treated with would benefit him, I will never understand why it did not at least slow down its growth.

Love.  Valentine’s Day. Memories.  These are what remain.

Please love your partner, your soul mate – the one who completes you, every single day.  Life is fleeting.

Today I leave you with a love letter that my dear husband wrote to me as he was dying because This is Love:

Love Letter

Tonight I will be sleeping with my heart wide open.

 

 

Love Remembered

 

 

 

My dear departed husband,

I still get butterflies and my heart beats faster when I think of our life together.  It is 3 years today that you went to heaven, 3 years of soul-searching and 3 years of finding my way without you by my side.  Because of you, because our love was so incredibly strong, I am forever reminded that love does not die.

Many say that the second year is the most difficult with grief.  For me, it has definitely been year 3.  It is possible that this year I have settled down and had more time to reflect than the previous two years.  There were no major life changes for me this year and that in itself is progress.  But the grief often came pouring down like being caught in the rain without an umbrella.  There is nowhere to hide when these thunderous emotions come blazing through.  I have found it startling at times to realize I can go through weeks without feeling any emotion – good ones or bad ones.  And boom, just like that, I feel again.  I don’t find life better in three years – I find it tolerable.  I still laugh a lot and try to find something to make me laugh every day.  You used to make me laugh every day even under the worst of circumstances!  I try to carry that with me, even on those emotionless days.

You know honey; I told you I would be okay.  I am, but I want to be better than okay.  I hope that going into year-four, that I can step up my game.  I can almost hear you sometimes telling me it’s going to work out and that we will get through this together.  It’s how we always dealt with whatever came our way – together.  It’s been a year since I dreamed of you and I wonder if that is because your spirit is always with me in such a strong way.  If I get to choose, I will keep your daily presence with me even if that means you don’t visit me in my dreams.  You always told me that if there was a way for you to visit me, you’d be here in a heartbeat.  I’m listening.

This year your mom joined you and I bet that it was an amazing celebration for you!  And though today I am reminded of what I have lost, what our children have lost, I celebrate that you are in the best place waiting for me.  I miss you more.  3 years my love – I am 3 years closer to being with you again.

 

3-Years

NERDS 1999

NERDS 1999

Before my husband died, he could have told you without looking at a calendar what day and date he received a phone call.  I know these dates because I have them written down and know the day of the week, but the actual dates have become fuzzy except that Halloween is now a reminder.

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7-years ago tomorrow, November 1, 2010 at 8am, my husband received a phone call from our primary doctor that he needed to be seen at 5pm in the gastroenterologist’s office to go over results of his CT scan and follow-up from the colonoscopy that preceded the CT.  It was a Monday and the CT was the previous Friday and the colonoscopy the day before that.  Right after that call, he called me at home.  I could tell immediately that there was something wrong.  He told me he would come home and pick me up to go with for his appointment.  Of course nobody would say what the issue was but we knew it wasn’t good because our test results were always given over the phone.  We were completely blindsided.  The gastroenterologist began by drawing pictures.  First was a piece of carpet with the padding and then carpet and carpet fibers on top.  He explained that 3 years prior when my husband had a polyp removed inside his colon that the polyp removed was in situ, so basically it sat in the top layers of the carpet fibers and did not penetrate to the pad.  He explained the likelihood of cells with the results of the CT scan, that likely cells penetrated through during that time because the CT showed a very large tumor in the very spot that polyp was removed; at the cecum and that it was likely cancer because he also had peritoneal carcinomatosis which meant that it had spread throughout his abdomen.  We were speechless.  I asked everything that I could think of, but my brain was so overcome with fear or more possibly shock, that I didn’t get too many thoughts out.  While in that office, the doctor immediately got on the phone and called an oncologist and made an appointment for us for two days later, first thing in the morning.    7 years of grief, life altering, life distinguishing news that he had cancer.  There’s no need to rehash the details here, they are written in journals for now.  By Friday of that week we had a definitive diagnosis from biopsy – appendix cancer.

I am a changed woman because of what my husband had to endure.  I hold no anger because he was ravaged by a rare disease, but I hold disappointment in my heart and sadness not only for myself and my family, but mostly for him because he embraced life and all it had to offer with such incredible zest.  He was an amazing patient, an incredibly strong human being both physically and emotionally to have lived with his cancer diagnosis for as long as he did, knowing each day that he would die from it.  I so wish this did not happen to him, but it did.  I’m glad God ended his suffering when the miracle of a cure was not possible.  I’m grateful that I was the one to love him and walk him home.

Maybe one day Halloween time won’t be a reminder of our lives being turned upside down.   I will concentrate today on the fun we always had and continue my gratitude for the laughter that was so prevalent in our lives.

Halloween

The tracks are twisted up ahead as I get ready to pull into the station.  I need this to slow down so that I can make a determination on how to fix the complexity of the end route.  That’s the real problem; I don’t know if I can fix it.

Train wheels

Where does time take me when I’m living life?  It takes me to days of care-free living, with an enormous love in my heart that I feel with piercing strength that allows me to smile, to laugh and to enjoy what I have.  Damn – now this.  Not living to my greatest strength yesterday or today.  It gets dark here.  It gets lonely and fills with fear.  This is not where I intended to go and it really is difficult to know how I got here since living has been good.  It has been filled with hope and gratitude and a future that I can live with.

I have so much to say and I am encouraged always to write – a book, even.  When your mind is filled with so much chaos, there are hundreds of titles and subjects from which to choose.  The most obvious would be centered on “All I have learned about appendix cancer: how to survive when you are the caregiver.”  Then there’s “Death Promises – and other lies people say.”  Let’s not forget “I’ll always be there and other nonsensical meaningless sentences.” Or, “Living with death in your bedroom – one woman’s journey through appendix cancer and the disease that killed her husband” But my thoughts and feelings are always best served up when my writings would include “How love carried a rare cancer victim home”.

Today being the sole survivor in a two-person relationship is hard.  I never realized until this past year just how much people’s arrogance and self-importance affects me.  I think it’s because when you’ve been through it all, seen it all, lived it all, you just want to glide along the tracks of life.  You want to right the wrongs of the world because there’s no time like the present to hold steadfast in what you believe in.  You believe in honesty.  You believe in helping others with nothing in return because it comes from your heart, not what you may or may not get out of it.   Everyone loves and cares about people differently and I have always cared so deeply about others.  To hear my husband, “this is why I love you so much.”  You just want to coast for the rest of it because the injury to your heart and soul has been so egregious that one wrong word or words will bring an arsenal of expletives to your mind (and sometimes your mouth) in order to calm your emotions from things you cannot change.   I just want to free myself from it and all who exhibit it.  I think of my dear husbands words, spoken often which included “honey, we can’t change what other people say and do – all that matters is that we know the truth.”  And boy, do I know the truth.  I know more than I care to know, about many subjects.

The priest at my daughter’s church recently completed a silent retreat and encouraged others to do it; at least once.  There is a large part of me that believes this may be the exact thing my soul needs right now.  It may be time to step back from the everyday and focus again on what is important to my soul. I see this as a possibility not in the foreseeable future, but without great delay.

It dawns on me that I am clearly living in the shadow of death and not a place I want to be.  Today, I surrender.  Tomorrow I will no doubt wake up feeling the way I usually feel – I am a woman blessed.

Those tracks ahead at the station must have been a mirage, because I see safe stoppage ahead.  As I started this writing today, I knew how cathartic it would be.  Thanking God for my gift of words and thanking Keith, from wherever you are, yes, I feel you.

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