A New Normal

I’ve often heard it said that those who lose a spouse don’t sleep at night. While I have many nights that I wake up for a bit, I generally can fall right back to sleep.  By the time I go to bed, I am usually exhausted so falling asleep isn’t really an issue.

It’s the long daytime hours that I’m struggling with. There are plenty of things I could be doing or maybe should be doing but I am not finding the energy.  I did make it out to the store today – had some Kohl’s cash to spend, but even then found the time in the store to just drag on and on. I am so used to having Keith beside me 24/7 – it’s been that way since he retired in March of 2011. I don’t mind being by myself at all and I do enjoy the quiet time, but it’s an eerie silence.  I go in another room and come back and reality hits me once again – there is nobody to share the hours away with.  The good news, so far, is that I haven’t resorted to eating away the hours.

Sometimes when sitting in silence, the thoughts come rushing in like a giant wave washes over the shore. It’s overwhelming when it first happens. With so many emotions flooding me at once I have resorted to saying something that I never thought I would. Why?  It’s more of a feeling rather than a thought – why do I have to hurt?  Why must I do this alone?  I know the why for part – because my husband got cancer and it was aggressive and he could not be cured. Keith and I never did the pity-party stuff with his diagnosis – not because we weren’t sad, but because there was not a thing we could do about it. And just when I want to feel sorry for myself now, I am reminded that I do get to live and breathe; my life was not cut short.  I can imagine Keith telling me that the pain I am feeling now will be washed away with a giant wave pulling me into heaven when it’s my turn.  It is the “why” part of me that would very much like to be at the beach to feel that wave now.

I think about before I met Keith.  I was a single mom. I didn’t feel lonely – ever.  It wasn’t because I had kids to look after; they had time with their father that left me with “alone” time.  What I really think happened is that I was blessed with such an amazing relationship so full of life and love and laughter, that missing him because of this is what creates the deafening silence.  So yes, I’m lonely, but I still feel loved by him and this is what makes it all bearable.  Keith was the most patient person I have ever known – I know he is being patient with me to get through these days so that I can think about him and only smile; not have giant tears stream down my face out of the blue.

Yes, these are early days and I will get used to my new normal. I just need to learn to be patient with myself.

Goodbye 2014.

To be honest, I am not sure how I feel about 2014 coming to a close. In many respects it was a great year filled with memory-making and lots of laughter. On the other hand, it brought me to my knees many times and part of me will forever remain in 2014.

It would be wrong of me to mention people by name who gained their angel wings in 2014 from our support group because I would feel terrible if I missed one that I maybe did not know so well … I was personally at a loss for words with many of the deaths because I came to know and love these people as if they were my own family. We all understand each other and we all “get it” when one of us leaves this earth from those left behind to all of the souls in heaven. My heart-strings never felt as pulled as they were this year because of the connections made and a reminder of what was happening before my very eyes. And you know, December 9, 2014 will forever be burned in my mind – the day I became a widow.

Noun: widow; plural noun: widows
               a woman who has lost her spouse by death and has not remarried.

I HATE THAT WORD. Yet that is exactly what I have become. In a short span of time it seems. I just keep thinking that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad if I were older – I have a long life (God-willing) ahead of me and that’s a long time to be apart from someone I love so completely. Sure, he’s in my heart and all but I want to be with him. Maybe a year from now when things are not so fresh and I’ve found my niche in this world, I won’t feel so desperate. These are early days and I understand I am bound to feel this way. What I can barely imagine is living life without Keith for many, many years. Widow – I’m still Mrs. Surges, folks. Social security asks a question that I find a bit outrageous. “When did the marriage cease” is an actual question. It kind of took my breath away reading that – my marriage didn’t cease to exist anymore than our son ceased being our son when he passed away. I know it’s just a word in the English language and how else to describe a woman whose husband died? Without husband sounds a bit vague, formerly married sounds like a divorce situation and single sounds like I was never married. The big stuff I can manage and I’m functioning very well I think. It’s these little annoyances that drive me crazy.

I am trying to keep our nightly ritual alive by reciting the Lord’s Prayer out loud before I go to sleep. It brings me comfort and it’s something that Keith and I enjoyed prior to closing our eyes at night and saying our prayers. That prayer list seems to continue to grow every day. I so believe in the power of prayer – if for the sole purpose of creating this universal energy that lights up the hearts and minds of others to bring a sense of peace and understanding that only believers in someone or something can understand. Prayer, white light, good thoughts – it’s all the same. And boy, I can sure use them these days as I embark on a journey unknown.

I have no real thoughts or ideas about what I want to do in 2015. I want to help others in some capacity, but it’s too soon to get involved with hospice – you must wait a year after the death of a loved one to actively participate as a volunteer or in any other capacity. The hospital has a new program “Nobody Dies Alone” that I am interested in and may volunteer at – for those patients who are dying who have absolutely nobody. The volunteers read to them, listen to them, and love them into their last days.Of all the sad things in this world, I cannot even imagine having not a single person at your side.  No family, no friends.  The greatest gift any of us can give to another is the gift of time.  There are no riches in the world to replace the love from one human being to another.

I have been invited to visit several places. I am mostly using my American Airlines card to rack up miles and if I can financially afford to escape for a bit next year that is what I would love to do. I have friends and family from east to west and north to south and want to visit them all! For now, I am content. I have a good life. I have a roof over my head and I gladly share it with our youngest daughter and her two (amazing) children. Though it can often be noisy and stressful with an almost 3-year-old and a 5-year-old, I thank God for the blessings that they bring me. It has been heartbreaking to see Abby and Ben feel the loss of their papa. Abby is struggling with separation anxiety and Ben is angry. I did not know a child that young could exhibit such anger. We remind them daily that papa is in our hearts and sometimes that falls on deaf ears. All they know and understand fully is that their papa is no longer here and they want him to come back to life. With Christmas and teaching them of the birth and life of Jesus, it’s hard for Abby to understand that papa will not come back like Jesus did. I want to tell her that I wish that was true too, but I don’t, I just tell her that only Jesus was allowed to do that. On Christmas day, Kim and I took the kids to the cemetery. When we got back into the car, Ben just hung his little head. He looked so totally devastated that it was hard for Kim and me to not just break down. Kim is such a wonderful mom and just kept asking him if he wanted a hug, and Ben just didn’t seem to have the energy to say yes. When I want to feel sorry for myself, these are the images that pop into my head and my thoughts change to keeping papa alive in the hearts of these children who loved him so very much.

I am living for today which is the only way I know how to survive. Keith and I lived one day at a time for an eternity it seems. Gone were the days of planning ahead and that is something we did very well – we were together and that’s all that mattered to either one of us. We didn’t really miss the things we used to do. We were content in holding hands, hugging often and just smiling at each other. I miss that part of us. I miss our coffee in bed. I miss his voice. I miss his touch. I do not miss his disease. I do not miss the feeling that I would get in wondering how much more he could take. I watched this incredible, vibrant, strong man become a shadow of his self and that was very painful for me. I watched him wither away to being literal skin and bones. I watched him struggle to get his thoughts organized and I watched him worry. He worried for me. It’s been really helpful to remind myself how I promised him that I would be ok and that gives me an extra boost of “I can do this”.
When I lay in bed at night, tears dry quickly because I am reminded of God’s love and promise that Keith and I will be together for eternity. I can’t wait until springtime when our headstone is placed at our grave sites. It is chiseled in stone that we are together forever. My final resting place is with this incredible soul.

I don’t know what will unfold in my life tomorrow but I do know that Keith gave me the strength and courage to face whatever comes my way. My son mentioned to me on the day of Keith’s funeral that “dad gave you all of his strength”. I think he’s right. I remain determined and thankful and I have so many who care deeply for me. I was blessed for 20 years and 8 months and there is no reason why that love won’t carry me forward. When at my lowest, I hope that Keith’s wings will pick me up and hold me like he has always done. In the meantime I will pray that God watch over me to keep me healthy and strong so that I can be here for my children and grandchildren. I will admit that I get very strange anxiety feelings several times throughout the day – it just sneaks up on me and I have to consciously change my breathing pattern. It’s the sensation of my heart pounding rapidly and a heaviness of such great sadness. I have been able to overcome these moments so far and I ask for prayers that I be able to control this in the days, weeks and months to come. I don’t mind crying, don’t get me wrong – it’s always been very cleansing to me. I just for some reason will start to cry and then it stops very quickly as if Keith were here telling me that everything is ok. He’s still protecting me like he always did. For this I can only be grateful.

Until next time, I wish a happy and healthy 2015 to all of us.

The first of many thoughts.

"Mine eyes have seen the glory"

“Mine eyes have seen the glory”

I chose to start a blog because writing is very therapeutic for me.  18 days ago my husband, Keith Surges, passed away from a rare appendix cancer.  For 3 1/2 years I kept a Caring Bridge blog to update everyone on his condition.  Since that site was mainly about Keith and my being his caregiver, I need to continue my writing in some fashion to allow the wonderful, happy times of my life to be forefront, rather than the insidious illness and what it took away from me.  My best friend in life, my soul-mate and my forever love lives only in my heart and in my memories.  I wish I could change those circumstances, but I cannot.  Keith died from appendiceal adenocarcinoma and pseudomyxoma peritonei.  Educate yourself by visiting http://www.pmpcure.org

I have a lot of life-lessons that I want to share over time that will encompass the journey that we shared in sickness and health.  For now, I am allowing myself all the time I need to be sad, broken, lonely, empty, and scared.  But I also have so many moments of continued joy, faithfulness and gratitude because I am: a woman blessed.