Goodbye 2015

Hello 2016! 

To_VID8854night will be only be the second New Year’s Eve I’ve spent by myself in 55 years. I don’t mind really; I plan to make myself a halfway decent home cooked meal, and count my blessings for what I have to celebrate.  And I know, though I cannot physically feel him, Keith will be holding my hand.

Gratitude!

To those who read this blog, thanks for always encouraging me to continue.  It’s been a year since I started writing here and it has helped me a lot to deal with the grief of losing my husband and in the process I share these thoughts as honestly and openly as possible.  While sometimes it may prove to be too much information, they are such raw feelings when they make their way to paper for whomever chooses to read.  I’ve always been a writer and that was the one class that I excelled in during school.  It comes easy to me – easier than speaking because I can pause when I want to and just type away and go back and edit my many run-on sentences.  I’m glad the grammar police haven’t found their way here … yet!

I want to thank my on-line friends for being here for me 24/7 and for those of us who have built amazing, life-time friendships, wow – who knew?  I freely admit to being an on-line junkie.  I spend from the wee hours of the morning to late hours at night here.  And you’ve all been there with me throughout the day and night!

Thank you to my friends and family that have checked on me and spent time with me – you will never know how much that has meant to me and I know, because Keith and I talked a lot about that; what would happen after he was gone, would friendships struggle going forward.  I can honestly say that some friendships were actually strengthened and have become more than an occasional acquaintance over this past year.

Some relationships have gone away and Keith and I talked about that happening too, but honestly they weren’t much of a relationship to begin with – for Keith or for me, so I’m working on the forgiveness aspect and moving forward in 2016 with those who care to be a part of my life.  People that make excuses that they are too busy or too whatever, really are not invested and it takes years of tears to overcome that harsh reality.  I have never had a problem with honesty, it’s the only way I know how to be, but one of my goals for 2016 is to be drama free.

So again, thank you friends and family that have been here – for the long haul.

Happy Trails!

When Keith was healthy we took a few road trips and we took a couple of vacations, but it wasn’t until we started living in the moment that our traveling really took off.  I think I got my maternal grandma’s gypsy spirit … of course I wish Keith were sitting next to me on the plane or in the car, but in some capacity I know that he still is.

So an amazing group of on-line “family” have gotten together to bring me to Florida in January!  I am blessed by a pre-paid plane ticket by a wonderful woman who I pray will be well enough to be there and for me to hug in person, and the homes of three beautiful women who have graciously invited me to stay in their homes.  When I was told of this trip, honestly, I was so overwhelmed with emotion that they would think to get me there (which I was working on anyway) but this just worked out so perfectly for all of us that well, again, I am just so blessed and grateful for their friendship.  Florida in January when you live in Chicago, yes please!

In February, I will be attending an International Cancer Symposium which requires travel to Arizona.  Arizona in February when you live in Chicago, yes please!  As a volunteer for the PMP Research Foundation, I will represent this amazing organization with pride.  We are an all-volunteer charity working hard by providing hope for current and future patients..  Funding research for this specific cancer is what we do, by generous donations and benefactors.  Supporting educational seminars is as important to the public as it is to physicians and we are proud to sponsor events like this.  Providing, up to date treatment information, clinical and research information is what we strive for.

And giving support to patients, caregivers and friends of those diagnosed, is important to me.  I was able to do this for Keith and in many ways, I am blessed to continue doing this through him and his never-ending love for me.

Changes

2016 means other changes for me as well.  My youngest daughter and her two children are getting married!  Yes, I did say the kids are getting married because they are a family unit and I cannot be more happy for her and them as this blending becomes an incredible mix of nothing but love.  I am blessed that I will have a son-in-law who is so caring, loving, hard-working and respectful to my daughter.  He reminds me so much of Keith in his attitude and ethics.  God bless their marriage always.

This marriage also means a change for my living situation.  My loving grandson (4 years old in the coming month) likes to remind me daily that “Grandma, you are a very, very old lady” and sometimes, with all the chaos in our house, I think he’s right!  I have never lived alone so once I figure out whether I sell or stay (although this is an awfully big house for one person) I am going to embrace the change.  Talking to a friend recently, she explained how empowering it was for her to live alone.  It’s just going to be different.  And I will finally get to be a grandma for these two kids, instead of another parent – bonus!

2016 means, as I said above, drama free.  I am not big on making resolutions because I usually break them (fairly quickly).  But I am going to try to eat better – I will never be perfect with diet because I love good food and I love bad food too.  I love donuts.  I love greasy french fries.  But to be really drama free, I have to be better at my choices so I don’t create a health drama!

Letting go of hurt and changing my way of thinking will greet me tomorrow.  Forgiveness is something I have worked on this year and I have not been very successful.  Some pain runs so deep that I’ve thought that only God can forgive those transgressions.  I prayed a lot and asked forgiveness from Him in my ability to not be so forgiving.  I have never intentionally hurt someone and if I have unintentionally done that, when made aware, I beg forgiveness.  I am not perfect; I am human but I do know that after the last five years of my life, there is nothing more important than being with those you love and making time for them.  I take nothing for granted in this life because it can change in an instant.  Forgiveness only needs to be in my heart and I think I have that worked out.  It will never change circumstances and will never change the past, but it will allow me to say, with a clear conscience, yes, I am able to move forward – without fan-fare, without drama.  I’ve learned that all I have to do is “walk away” from things that bother me, now that is empowering!

Happiness and Music

I am choosing happy.  One of the last conversations that Keith and I had been about happiness.  No, I will never “get over” his death.  But I am, as I have said several times, happy that he does not have cancer.

I am happy with the person that I am.  I am happy to do good work to honor this man who honored me with his love and with his life.  My love will always be with him, but as he always told me, “honey, you have the biggest heart of anyone I know”.  I believe him now – because I still have this ability to care about others.  I am not angry, really never have been and sadness sometimes creeps in for what may have been, but I am happy to be alive and happy that I have children and grandchildren and some parents still living; I have siblings and in-laws and cousins and aunts and uncles and friends!  I am loved and that makes me happy.

Music is also my happy place.  Some music shakes me to the core and I cry because it is so beautiful and speaks just to me –to my memories of Keith and us and to my memories of our son, my sister and brother and others who have gone before me.  Some music reminds me of friends and good times spent together.  And my favorite music is the music that reminds me of Keith and I where I literally get butterflies in my stomach because they were “our songs” and give me the feeling of I can’t wait to see him again feelings of love!  Those are the absolute best!

Happy New Year!

May yours be healthy and prosperous and full of love and friendship.  For me, I am counting my blessings.  God bless you all.

Christmas Wishes

 

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One of my favorite photos of Miss A. (photo by Jamie Kral) 2010

Dear Santa,

I’ve been pretty good this year.  A few blips here and there and I haven’t eaten as well I know I should, but other than that, I’ve made the mountainous climb to get where I am today.  You see Santa, I am a survivor.  No, I don’t have cancer and I am ever-so-thankful for that.  But I survived an entire year as a widow.  Being single has some major disadvantages when you’ve been a “couple” for so long.  I’ve been to church more this year too and I’m still trying to find the best fit for me in His house.

I haven’t written a letter to Santa in probably 45 or more years so this is tough for me to figure out exactly what I want, but I will give it a try.

  1. Peace for my six year-old granddaughter to not be so sad about her Papa and to not be disappointed when you don’t deliver her Papa to her on Christmas morning.
  1. Just one dream where I can see Keith with his big smile and hear his laugh and hear him say, “not a problem, honey.”

Thanks from your friend,

Therese

The rest of my wishes come to me in prayer:

  1. Peace that passes all understanding for my friends who have lost children and I have many who fit this category. There are no words to console a grieving parent though words are all that we have.  Age is not a factor when you lose a child; it’s just not supposed to happen that way to our human mind.
  1. Health to those who are struggling with illness and better treatment options for those with rare diseases, like appendix cancer, when the tried and true treatments don’t work.  Is a cure too much to pray for?
  1. Friendship for those who are lonely and struggle to face the day and for my friendships to be strengthened in the new year.
  1. Work for those who seek it and helping hands for those who are unable.
  1. I pray for the world to see random acts of kindness, with a focus on peace without hatred and bias, both within the media and in our hearts.

Amen.  Merry Christmas – Happy Birthday, Jesus!  I hope all of your Christmas wishes come true, too.  God bless you.

What a Year

As the title suggests, it has been one year since Keith died.  I am a widow; the very word I hated when he first died is who I am.   I survived!  I did it!  Yay me!  If that sounds a bit sarcastic, I suppose it is.  I don’t find survival enlightening, inspirational or anything more than what is.  Have you ever met a person whose voice has just a flat affect?  Yes, that pretty much sums up my feelings today.  Flat.  The high peak came last week on the actual day Keith closed his eyes; never to have them open again.  Sure he was breathing … but the transition was happening and he definitely was not in the “here and now”.

Yes, today is the first anniversary of my husband’s death. It is a day for me to remember how much he loved me and his family. It is a day for me to say what an amazing person he was and a day to acknowledge the gift his life was – to me and to so many others.

I’ve had emotional outbursts that, so far, have only happened when I’ve been alone.   A very large piece of me died a year ago.  The piece that held me together and made sure that I was always taken care of emotionally – just the look of “we’ve got this, babe” was all it ever took.

You cannot imagine the long days and even longer nights that have existed these 365 days.  And today they are all rolled neatly into a year of ups and downs with  never-ending gratitude for his life .  One day I literally sat in my walk-in closet and cried for what seemed like hours – it was only ten minutes.   Sometimes I cry so hard it’s difficult to know if I am going to cry myself to sleep or cry myself to death.  Something always brings me to the present and I emerge; red-eyed and swollen, maybe a little broken and sometimes, even guilty that I dare have  the audacity to cry – I am not the one who died after all.

I have learned that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be but I often do not feel complete anymore; at least not in the way that I was completed by Keith.  There have been days though, that I feel so weak that I literally have to force myself to stay engaged with life.  Many times I feel like I’m in a time warp.

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Things I miss. 

               His touch: softly on my shoulder just to say “I’m here”.

               His smile: as warm as the sun shining on me.

               His laugh: the one that would generate happiness every time I heard it.

               His voice: as sweet and soothing to me as a lullaby.

               His eyes:  gazing into mine with deep, tender, longing, love.  

              His arms:  wrapped around me tightly.

               His hands:  holding mine every chance he could.

               His breath:  the very breath that could take mine away.

I have lived this nightmare for a year.  I don’t want  this to be  a nightmare anymore.  I want to stomp my feet and shout “F— You Cancer – F— You”.  How unfair that he didn’t get to live into old age.

I suppose I could act out that tantrum anytime I want.  I don’t know why I don’t just do it!   Maybe because I know how blessed I am that he was my husband and I, his wife.  Perhaps because I have the most amazing memories of him and of his love and his devotion. He was never afraid to tell people about that either.  He got cheated out of growing old; that is what is not fair.

Now what?  Wouldn’t it be great if I could just say “okay, move on; step on the gas and just go forward”?  Sigh.  I cry every day.  I don’t dwell there, but holy cow; this pain is deep.  Keith cried so hard and so often toward the end and I was able to hold and console him through it.  Sometimes, when I am crying I almost feel him pushing the hair from my face and saying we will do this together – the very words I spoke to him.  Much like that day in my closet, I believe his hand reached my shoulder to say “I, along with God – we are here”.   When I have these days of doom and gloom, I let them happen and then I move on.  Some days turn into a few days, but they always turn around.  This is God’s promise to me –He will give me the strength to carry on until my work on earth is through.  He did not promise to make this easy for me, or for any of us, He only promises us everlasting life with love.  This is what I cling to.

I am woman blessed.  Keith died loving me.  He loved me for well over 20 years.  He used to say he couldn’t live without me.  I told him the same thing.  I was not wrong in saying that, however what I could have said is that I will be able to exist without you.

There is joy in my life, just not the kind I was lucky enough to have for 20 plus years.    I have love from family and friends.  I continue to be an active support and advocate for those who suffer from the very disease that took Keith from me – appendix cancer.  Early next year I will have some exciting news to share on that front.

One year. 365 days. 8,760 hours. 525,600 minutes and I have missed him for each one.

If heaven is as I believe with universe of souls who find each other after we stop to living in our earthly body, where no sadness exists, no pain , no suffering, no hatred or bias, then the heartache of losing Keith will get better.  If it doesn’t get better in this time continuum, it definitely will, in God’s time.

Oh but he is free now and I have to believe that he is waiting for me – no matter how long it takes.   God gave me an incredible best friend, lover and husband, in one amazing man – I am a woman blessed.

Be grief, but do not dwell there. 

Be well. 

Be love. 

Be hope. 

Be joy.