I have a dIMG_1526ream that I wish I could somehow turn into reality. If I had the means, I would show up at every single doorstep of my friends who need a hug or someone to hold their hand, if only for a short amount of time. Sometimes, I believe, people don’t even know that is what they need.  I know that I did not always know.

My heart feels so enormous now and aches for those who I know could use an understanding friend. Words are important in our interactions but feelings of desperation often need a human touch.  To have someone sit beside you and say nothing, but hold your hand, or give a nod and shed a few tears together because you know.  You have done this before.  I feel this push; almost a gravitational pull to get out there and help.  My heart cares so much for those who are experiencing what I have experienced.  It is more than feeling empathy.  It is more than feeling bad for people and their circumstances.  I do not have the words to describe the emotion that is inside of me.  It is something I have not felt for a very long time, almost an excitement.

I have prayed.  I have prayed a lot.  I have asked for guidance.  I believe it is more than missing my husband.  I think it is more than missing the care-giving of him.  I think it is in my soul.  I am feeling the need to reach out beyond myself in a way that is bigger than I can imagine.  I’m not looking for a job or a career now.  I am looking to fill the hearts of others with joy and peace.  I’m looking for a way of being that friend to others. Keith and I often reached out to others in their time of need, together.  We would often hear something and immediately get into our car and go…just go.  Be there.  Be there in person and be there now.

I am mostly a doer, not a planner.  I run from the heart and will be the first to raise my hand.  I’m not a leader, but I belong to something bigger than myself. I am also, a bit shy until I am 100% comfortable in what I am doing.

I do not know where this dream of mine will lead.  What I do know is that I am keeping my heart wide open.  If I show up on your door-step, you know I just felt compelled to do so.

The Thrill of It All

If I wanted to go to an amusement park, I would have bought a ticket. Mind you, I enjoyed the thrill of the ride when I was younger. I never thought much about the mechanics and how one loose bolt could alter your life forever. Well at least not at a younger age. I’m older now and my mind has changed from the carefree, thrill-seeking days of yore.

Truthfully, I am OK. I am okay with the uphill climb sitting in the rail car. I’m good with the twists and the turns at a high rate of speed. It’s the sudden drops that I struggle with. Those drops come with crocodile tears sometimes. You feel them coming but you are able to control it and then whoosh! With the speed of a spiral drop fall the tears.

This happens quite often; those “oh no, here it comes” moments. Recently I’ve had some health issues and had gone to the doctor. This doctor was part of Keith’s care team and actually the one who broke the news to him about the cancer. The nurse asks the usual questions after taking your blood pressure and asks about medications and changes in family history. I said, no just changes in my family dynamics and mention that my husband passed away in December. The usual “I’m sorry” niceties happen and she left the room. The doc came in and we talked about what’s going on with me and he went to check some recent labs and then came back in to discuss them. He walked out and then walked back in and I thought he was going to cry – the nurse must have told him. Nobody internally told him about Keith and he wanted to say how sorry he was. I thanked him and then he started about what a wonderful man he was and how strong he was and he just wanted his part to do whatever he could to keep Keith comfortable. This is the second time I had to explain (including to our primary care doctor) that Keith passed away. So here came the roller coaster, creaking and winding its way to the top and BAM! The tears started flowing as I said yes, I miss him terribly, voice cracking and crocodile tears streaming. I felt like I just want to get the hell out of here and not deal with this. But of course, I wiped the tears and smiled and thanked him for his kindness. I am certainly glad that is over with! In the end, Keith abhorred this doctor … he felt cheated by him and I think because he is the type of doctor that just wants to help, when he couldn’t help, it was hard for Keith (and me at the time) to accept some of the things he said to Keith. He’s just too nice and it’s hard for him to say “it’s not going to end well”. I’m over that because I feel he is a good physician and I have been going to him for many years so he knows my history.

One would think (I wish everyone thought like I do) that it would just be an automatic process – while Keith was a hospice patient, he was still under the care of oncology in our group of physicians.  I personally notified his surgeon because I maintain a professional relationship him. I guess I didn’t realize it was my burden to notify all physicians.

I am finding more confidence in myself as the days go on and thank God for the strength that He has given me to endure. Certainly there are days that I feel like it’s not fair, but it is what it is and I can’t change it. Boy, if anyone knew me 25 or 30 years ago I could have never said that! I remember how irritated I would get at the words “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and I would think (not always to myself) – what the heck does that have to do with anything. It wasn’t until Keith got sick and we wanted immediate results, immediate answers that we realized we had to build foundations, brick by brick, to get a solid plan in place. You can liken phone calls and paperwork to that process. In retrospect, all that building and planning and infrastructure of keeping Keith alive for so long was to help me cope today. It was an on-going blue-print with a completion date known only to God. And definitely not built in a day!

I am now my own building and currently undergoing renovation. I neglected things (myself) during the past year especially, despite Keith begging me not to. Now that things have calmed down, I am listening to his voice in my head and keeping yet another promise.

What is it like to be lonely? I frequently leave the TV and music off to listen to my thoughts because there is so much noise in my head that the competition of the electronics gets annoying! Unfortunately these days my brain is working overtime and not letting me get a good night’s sleep. I must be dreaming a lot and not know it and those dreams must be in a boxing ring somewhere. By the looks of my bed in the morning, I’m fighting off someone or something! Seriously … I think I’m looking for that guy that I slept with for over 20 years.

Doors close. Doors open. Although the roller coaster will continue, I am finding peace. Grief truly does not have a timeline. I despise that my husband died. I despise that I am left to pick up the pieces by myself and live the rest of my life without his companionship. But somehow I just can’t be angry about it. I think that if I was angry it wouldn’t be painful, but how can I be angry when God gave me so much to be thankful for in my life with Keith. As I lessen my hurt, I am able to feel Keith’s presence more and more. I have moments like I did in the beginning where I can just take a deep breath and slowly let it out and feel his embrace. When Keith held me, it was always the only thing to truly ever bring me the most calming peace I have ever experienced. I miss that but my memory is returning as I let go of the hurt. My heart will never fully feel what it did but that doesn’t mean it isn’t open to new ways for me to find joy.

I am looking forward to August 22nd to celebrate Keith’s life with those who truly cared about him. Those folks who are able to physically join us for our annual fundraiser, the pub crawl, probably have no idea how their keeping Keith alive in their hearts makes me even more proud of Keith – is that even possible? I hope that I don’t experience too many of those big roller coaster drops that day, but if I do, they just may be tears of joy.

I am also looking forward to my first experience at a symposium hosted in part by the PMP Research Foundation and Dr. Salti at Edward-Elmhurst Hospital taking place in October.  I am grateful that I will sit at a table representing the Foundation knowing that Keith’s life mattered and all of those facing or who will face this disease have hope for the future.

I am looking forward to the Amusement park after all. I want to ride the Ferris Wheel and watch from the top, to see what heaven sees.  For now, I am just looking forward!