3-Years

 

 

 

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.

 

Halloween

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.

Chug-a-Lug

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.

Happy Birthday, Keith.

Keith 62nd birthday

 

Dear Keith,

Today would have been your 62nd birthday.  Is it odd to for me to still celebrate?  How could I not?  Your birth date is important to me.  It means you were born, you lived, and most importantly, you loved – me.

Today I remember how we used to celebrate special dates like this.  Of course dinner out and some decadent dessert would have to happen.  Though we did these things often anyway, when we celebrated a special occasion, we spared no expense.  I love you for teaching me that it was okay and even good to go overboard sometimes.  We never worried how that bill would get paid, because it would .. if not sooner, definitely later!

It is hard not to feel sad that you are no longer here to celebrate this day together, but somehow I feel that maybe you are because of the energy you create around me.  This is your day always.  You have no idea (maybe you do) how much I love you.  I get to say without you telling me that I’m wrong, “I love you more.”

Happy birthday my love, until we meet again,

Therese

“That Life”

IMG_0979Things I have thought, learned, or observed since becoming a widow, in no particular order:

It is not unusual to question my sanity and wake up some days and wonder if “that life” really happened.

It is difficult to forget “the end”.

Day-dreaming big dreams can be okay even if they never come to fruition.

I have observed that I love solitude even if it’s not very healthy.

I have become severely arachnophobic (fear of spiders).

I have accepted that no matter how much I care for some people, that their perceived memories cannot be changed.

I have removed people from my life without regret.

I have learned to walk away from people who have hidden agendas.

I have learned that first impressions are generally accurate impressions in the long-term.

I have recognized my own strength as being a good mom, evidenced in how my children behave and treat others.

I have observed that my intentions are always better in the moment – putting them into action is difficult.

I dream about sitting at the beach watching sunsets and sunrises, constantly.

I have learned, recognized and accepted that my basic need to keep moving forward is laughter.

It is ridiculous how difficult it is to make and keep a commitment when you question yourself constantly.

I can have a love/hate relationship with myself from hour to hour when good thoughts flow and dark thoughts creep in.

Memories rush in at inopportune times.

I see things and people differently than when I lived “that life”.

It’s easy to give in to an “I don’t care” attitude.

I believe I have peniaphobia (the fear of being poor).

It’s difficult to go through medical issues without someone holding your hand.

It is sad to realize that some decisions must be made because you no longer live “that life”.

It’s easy to get upset at people who complain about little things.

Sometimes I fall back on what I knew prior to “that life” – good or bad.

It’s all but impossible to imagine my future life because I live day by day.

I have found hope and laughter in places where I never thought I would find them.

I have a greater appreciation for old age and the privilege of getting there.

I still believe I had the best marriage a person could ask for and that love never dies.

 

Full Circle

MarkThis weekend has given me so much love in my heart and tears of joy beyond what I knew I could shed for that emotion.  Love – it lives on.

I listened intently to two of  my grandchildren as they spoke to me of their recent travels and how much they missed me and that next time, they are going to make sure I go with them because I just “need to” in their words.  As usual, the kids talked about their papa and how they miss him and even had questions about what did Papa’s hair look like before cancer?  I was more than happy to oblige with photos.

My husband’s legacy…he lives on through many, but he is so much a part of my son.  Not long after he died, my son came to me and said “mom, I want what you and dad had”.  To me there was no bigger compliment than to hear those words from a self-declared bachelor for all time.  We forget sometimes as our children become adults that what we say and do in relationships really does have a lasting impact.  For my son, my husband was not his biological father, but he was the dad, who taught him, scolded him, respected him and told him how proud  he was of him.  He was the dad that was there for him in troubled times and in times of triumph.  He was the dad who loved him as his own.  And this weekend, I witnessed my husband live on through his son.

My son and his girlfriend came over Saturday afternoon and shared that he had asked her to marry him.  At first, he was so nonchalant I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not, but you see, that’s how his dad was.  No pomp and circumstance, it just is – just love.  One thing that was mentioned was that on the day he asked for her hand in marriage, they both visited his dad at the cemetery.  Was this divine intervention?! So yes, I cried enormous tears of joy in watching him love this woman he will respect, love and protect, just as his dad always treated me.  As they left, I watched from the door as he went around to open her door I cried more tears of joy as I once again saw my husband standing there, helping me into the car.  My heart is full for the joy for my son and his intended.  She is a woman, much like I was as a single mom before meeting my husband.  She is loving and determined and her children are her world.  I love her and I am happy that she loves my son.  Life really does come full circle.

I can only imagine, wherever from the heavens my husband is watching from, that he is grinning from ear to ear and saying “that’s my son” and I so much feel his love for me as I get to witness this love of theirs.

 

 

 

When the unexpected happens

Can grief be put into repose as in laid to rest; the very reason for grief and the messy aftermath of death?
I wish I knew.  Today is 30 months and I’m not crying!
Yesterday I went to our favorite department store to find a few new articles of clothing (yeah for some weight loss) and I was thinking about how excited I was to purchase a couple of items when I looked up and saw a display of “Hawaiian Shirts” … these were Keith’s signature from retirement until death, along with his flannels of course.
So here I was, alone, tears streaming down my face and trying to hide from people.  There was nowhere to go, I needed to check out and stand in line.  I sent a text to my daughter and one of my sisters with this picture IMG_6727 (2)and said, I should not go shopping this time of year.  They knew.  It does help to have others who know the little idiosyncrasies and intimate details of what you’re talking about when you send a text like that.  Both took time to acknowledge my sadness and to make me laugh.  My go to people because Keith was the first to add humor to my life and I miss that so much.  I laughed out loud at something my sister sent me and then realized I really don’t care if someone saw tears – they are an emotion of sadness but can also fall with laughter.  There is something very powerful in owning your own feelings and not having to shelter others from them.  This is my journey and nobody else can feel what I feel!
I think that grief is a word that can’t truly be defined.  In the Oxford Dictionary it is in part described as …”intense sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death”.  But to me, you cannot describe intense sorrow because it is individualistic.  One could summarize my event at the department store as grief but my feelings were not embedded in intense sorrow.  I was momentarily caught off guard at not being able to buy him a new shirt and how much joy it brought him when I would come home to show him my bargains, because only when you have a certain percent off do you go shopping!  So it stung to know I don’t have that particular ability to create his happiness anymore.
Death of a spouse is not only difficult when that person was your world, but it changes the way you perceive yourself and sometimes, it takes a while to get there.  My world collapsed.  My world collapsed many times throughout my life and each time, there was some one or some thing to allow me to build a new foundation.  My husband’s death has given me a different type of foundation to build on.  This time it is me building me with no reason to look beyond myself for anyone or anything to help me build a beautiful future.  Because that man gave me the strength to believe in myself, the impermeable foundation is already there.
It’s actually a good day.  My husband does not have appendix cancer anymore!  He defied all odds in living as long as he did given his status and he did it with such vigor and always with a smile on his face.  What it in the world do I have to complain about?