Stepping Stones

stepping-stones

 

There’s a lot of personal information in today’s writing.  It’s a process by which I decompress and share because I know there are others who are experiencing the same feelings.

Ugh.  That pain.  What is that pain in my stomach?  What is that pounding in my chest?  What is this feeling of impending doom?  What have I done?  What will I do?  When will this stop?

How did I get here again?  It’s been nearly 22 months since Keith died.  Why now?  Why is it all hitting me now?  Where have I been?

Over and over and over again, I am experiencing that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that I felt when they closed the funeral chapel doors and closed his casket.  I held it together up until that point.  I felt then like someone had punched me in the stomach.  It took my breath away.  It is taking my breath away again.

How do we get from a safe crevice in this mountainous climb to the rocky ledge that I find myself standing on?  Where does it come from?  It hurts so badly.

I witnessed God in our home, in our lives, in our hearts.  He promised Keith and me that things would be okay.  I promised Keith that I would be okay.  I feel like a failure in that right now.  I am not okay.  No, I do not need counseling.  No I don’t need to give it to God, He already has it.  I need to find a way to feel less like I’m moving backward and more like I am choosing the right next-step and not teetering on the edge when I really am making sound decisions.

Who knew that leaving my old surroundings would invoke such emotional strife?

I am struggling with everything.  I have so many friends who are fighting for their lives with the disease that took my husband.  I have lost too many friends to the disease and it consumes me.  I can’t find my balance anymore and this ledge is a scary place to be.

I’ve never experienced panic attacks before where they came out of nowhere.  Sure, I’ve had anxiety throughout my life (who doesn’t?) but not like this.  You think you’ve got it all together and then BOOM.

I MISS him.  Keith always, always knew what to say when something needed to be said.  He grounded me like nobody else ever could.  He showed me how to live in the moment.  The problem is that right now, every moment feels like an eternity.

Back in 2005 I had encephalitis and meningitis from West Nile (mosquito borne illness) and had a lot of issues post illness.  I was put on Cymbalta (an anti-depressant) to deal with the effects of what it did to my brain.  The dose was increased in 2007 when I had a stroke-like episode which left me in a wheel chair for months … eventually, thank God, with intensive therapy I did heal, but the medication was affecting my liver along with all the other meds I was taking so I went off of it.  Then Keith was diagnosed.  I poured all of my energy into helping him and making sure his every need was taken care of.  I didn’t have time to feel anything but intense love for this man I was taking care of.

Grief is messy.  It’s something nobody can experience through another person.   I am nobody’s hero – I am not an inspiration.  I am a woman who was blessed to be loved by the best.  If I could have traded places with him, I would have, in a heartbeat.   I didn’t ask to be left behind, but I was so I have to figure out a way to keep hanging on, even though some days, it is by my fingertips.

Over the past few weeks, since my move, I’ve experienced more stress than any person should have to have.  I finally took the initiative to see my doctor.  I don’t want to take medication every day to “cope” – but I did agree to take it (Cymbalta) for 3 months.  I was given another medication for the panic attacks and actually slept very well last night.  But, I want to be in control so those will only be used if I can’t find myself able to handle the pounding in my chest.

I depress myself these days and that’s not a good place to stay.  I have been taking breaks from my support group because I’m not much good to anyone if I can’t be good for me. But that doesn’t mean that I am not thinking about them all constantly.  It’s a seesaw life.

I am not the only one struggling and I recognize that.  As much as Keith’s cancer was his journey, being left behind is mine.  Doing it without him is the single hardest thing I have ever had to do.  I made him a promise, yes, I will be okay… and I will be.  I am impatient and I want to know when.

 

Choices, Consequences and Life

 

trust and faithI have started to blog several times because I have a lot to say (surprised, aren’t you?) and then have ended up deleting because it all sounded so whiny.

Choices – as a reasonably responsible adult I knew I would have to make a choice about my living situation.  It was becoming apparent that I was sinking deeper and deeper into a situation financially that was not going to have a good outcome.  Here I was, for the first time in my life, living alone in a big house in which I generally occupy 3 rooms – the kitchen, family room and my bedroom.  The rest of the house was taking up space in my pocketbook and in my head.  I had to move so I made the choice to call a realtor to get “an idea” of what I might sell the house for.  Things moved swiftly with the help of a few wonderful people and the house was put on the market in two weeks from first meeting and then subsequently sold 14-days later.  Okay – now what?  The new buyer wanted to close in a month and I had no clue where I was going to live!  To say that I became a crazed insomniac would be putting it mildly.  Day and night I was searching for the perfect home … somewhere close to where I used to live, about 40 minutes north of where I am now.   I would be closer to the grandkids.  I could find nothing in my price range that didn’t have 15 or more stairs (hey I’m “oldish” now).  For what I could find, my car wouldn’t even fit in the garage.  To know me is to know that my vehicle should always be protected from the environment … to make matters worse; it would cost me what I am currently paying.

Yeah, not all things in life work out the way we want them to work out, but they do work perhaps as they are intended.  In the meantime I needed to get a pre-approval for a new mortgage and submit the necessary documentation.  I have learned that I keep way too much “stuff” but I am organized in most of it.  That financial process, for the most part was easy and approval came two days later.  What I wasn’t expecting was an IRS issue.  Stress … when you open your mailbox and receive a letter from the IRS.  It happened to come on the day of our annual TEAM KEITH fund raising event.  That was a Saturday and I had to wait until Monday to contact both the new loan company and the IRS.  I needed to submit 3-years’ worth of tax returns.  I did that.  But as a normal course of business, the lenders will generally have you sign a document requesting IRS transcripts.  It’s sort of a double check that what you provided is actually what was filed.  This is a public service announcement: If you apply for a loan and you have previous filed a joint return with your spouse and request records and he/she was the primary on said taxes, the file will be flagged.  Dead people should not be applying for mortgages – period.  I learned that in fact, people will try to do that in an identity theft scenario so the IRS began doing this “flagging” upon final tax returns for the deceased.  All is well that ends well, and I was able to have the IRS fax me the 33 pages necessary after giving my crazed, manic-even, sob-story to the agent on the end of the phone line!

Back to the story, I was out with my Realtor looking for a home and becoming very discouraged.  On a whim, I had asked to see a home or homes within a 55 plus community – the opposite direction of where I wanted to go and about 10 minutes south of where I am now, but quite close (maybe too close for him) to my son.  I was not thrilled, but did not rule it out either.  On the last day of looking for a few hours, I sat in my Realtors car, put my hands over my face and cried “what have I done”?  I was second guessing myself … maybe I could have stretched the pennies a bit more and just stayed … now the house has a pending contract, a cash deal and I’m closing in 29 days … I have nowhere to go.  At that moment, the realtor’s phone rang and it was her office assistant.  The seller of the home I had not ruled out just lowered the sales price.  I asked my brother in-law to come and see it with me … and the next morning, he and my sister in law came and gave their blessing.  It’s got “good bones” he told me.  The kitchen though … it needs a major overhaul.  My brother in law said he would do the remodel … As my Realtor and they stood in the kitchen talking, I walked into the main living space which I will call my great room and I swear, I don’t know, out of nowhere, I heard my husband’s voice … “make it our home honey”.  I looked at my brother in law and gave him a dollar figure and said “tell me what you can do” … so things moved quickly – I made an offer and it was accepted.  My daughter and friends came and helped me pack one day I am almost completely done.  I will move on the 9th of September, and fortunately, was able to negotiate with the buyers of my current home a rent-back for these 9 days.  The new home will be painted on the interior this coming weekend.  Yes, I am a woman blessed.

The new home is not the home of my dreams; I am leaving that one behind.  My dreams were fulfilled in this home and it is a bittersweet move.  In reality, Keith and I knew that someday we would downsize and oh how I wish we were doing this move together, but I feel his love and presence every step of the way.  I had the pleasure of meeting the new owners on their final walk through last night and they have two small children.  This home needs life again, and I know they are the perfect buyer.  I told them that I hope they love the home as much as my husband and I did and they were so excited in saying, “we do”.  I am happy for them and I am happy to leave them with a home in pristine condition – a reflection of the best parts of Keith and me together.

Consequences – Everything we do in life provides a consequence, sometimes good and sometimes bad.  I truly believed in my heart I needed to be where Keith and I began further north; after all he is buried there.  There is 15 minutes added to my commute to get there (minus rush hour traffic) … I am not readily available on short notice for the grandkids being further away, but as it turns out, they don’t need me like they used to.  My daughter is happily married to the man of her dreams and they have their family dynamics worked out perfectly.  Being closer to my son is just an added bonus and he need not worry about me “dropping in” because that’s not my style.  The consequences of this move are positive ones so far … it was a very wise financial decision and my insomnia should lessen over this issue once settled in.  I am looking forward to living on one level, with two spare rooms for those grandma sleepovers and my essential office equipment.

Life – It continues to happen whether we want it to or not, so I have decided to be present in it.  I am looking forward to a big conference in Washington, DC in November with the ACPMP Research Foundation and I will be starting some volunteer work at my local hospital in the spiritual care department as well.  I hope to meet new people and engage with others again and not sit at my computer 24/7 like I have the past few years.  I want to be healthy of mind and body and the only way to do that is to make positive changes.  I think I just made my first step.  I am choosing life.  I am grateful for my faith to see me through.

“But It’s Painful,” I Cried.

Are they baby steps or are they giant leaps?  I am such a bag of mixed emotions.  There are huge changes happening around me and here I am, almost paralyzed again.  I miss my life.  I miss my best friend.  I miss being loved.  I miss being “in love”.

I have to make critical decisions about my future and doing it without the guidance of my husband is brutal.  Don’t get me wrong, I am quite capable of making decisions but I second guess myself at every turn.  I’ve talked to some family and a few friends, and everything makes sense, but I can’t seem to move in the direction that I need to.

I read a lot of blogs, many of my friends write them and I generally shake my head and think, yes, thank you for articulating what my heart feels.  Most of them write from the same depth of sorrow as me.  I started this almost 18 months ago as a place of self-healing.  Boy was I wrong.  There is no healing from this.  What I mean to say is that it is survivable, but healing is for illness.  I’m not ill, but I guess you could say I’m heart-sick.  I get so frustrated with myself.  Deep wounds such as the one my husband had from his surgery that became infected, needed to heal from the inside out.  I’m afraid I’ve covered my wound with a Band-Aid and it never healed from the inside first.  Society reminds us that grief is a stage, not a place to stay.  I’d most like to say to society right now, F-CK YOU.  This hurts.  Layer by layer my soul is being eaten away by this grief.

No, I have absolutely NOT lost my faith.  I can’t wait to get to heaven – but I have to.  People move on with their lives and here I am.  What a miserable place to be.  My doctor asked me recently if I thought I was depressed.  I should have said, probably.  I don’t believe I am clinically depressed but my life without him is depressing.  It’s very difficult to look for a future when there really isn’t one that I can envision.  I’m tired.  I am tired of feeling like I am chained to a broken heart.  I’m tired of thinking about what am I going to do?  It’s exhausting.  Right after my husband died, I slept very well.  I surprised myself, even.  But the last year or so have been awful for a full night sleep.

I hope my decisions for the future are ones that he will agree with.  Because already, one of our future plans for me has changed but it’s like his death, out of my control.   I know for sure, I am beyond sad.  Many widowed bloggers talk about the second year being the most difficult.  Today I know what they mean.

I have to say that I have always felt that writing my feelings down on paper was cleansing and since starting my husband’s CaringBridge® and sharing his illness and our thoughts and fears with people, I have continued to do that.  I like reading blogs where there is hope and a realization that everything is going to be okay.  I loved writing those types of updates – they were real, honest, raw feelings filled with hope.  I don’t seem to be there at the moment though.

I want to move at a quicker pace and not stay stuck in these feelings.  Despite our conversations, I know he would want me to be happy – I just don’t know what that looks like right now.  I took a step in letting go.  I deactivated his Facebook.  It’s not like he could respond to anybody.  It hurt.  It was painful and I cried.

Ripples and Circles

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This photo was taken off the shore of Waikiki, two blocks from Diamond Head, in June of 2012 during our first visit to Hawaii.

A slight wind or pebble in the water will make a ripple and spread out to sea.  Keith is a ripple inside of me.  With his love and with my memories, I brave the  often-times tumultuous waters. Life is full of ebb and flow and I am grateful for the ability to ride these waves.

I wrote this on Keith’s CaringBridge site on January 28, 2014 as the decision was made to bring him home from the hospital with Hospice Care:

“Both of us believe today that no matter what transpires, our love will cross the heavens and earth and will hold strong until our souls are entwined again. We believe God mapped this out for us. He brought us together because He knew what each of us would need from beginning to end. I won’t pretend to understand how God knows I am the one who will endure, but I have faith enough in His purpose for me.”

As promised in my last blog update, I have some exciting news to share – I know I am a week delayed, so hopefully nobody has held their breath for my news!

Effective this evening, I am officially a member of the Board of Directors for the PMP Research Foundation.  

This is the full circle that I mentioned before.  What does full circle mean, anyway?  We all start somewhere and we end somewhere; first the womb, and (my belief that) in the end, heaven. But the middle holds a lot!  I met Keith, we fell in love, we created a beautiful life and then he died.  That was a full circle.  Lucky for us, we can link these circles together, and my joining the Board, does this!  It is with Keith’s love and I know, his blessing, that I continue my personal advocacy, awareness and support for those being treated and who will be treated for appendix cancer and pseudomyxoma peritonei.  Forever linked with these memories of Keith, the decision I made a year ago to be a background volunteer for the PMPRF has come full circle!

This is a huge personal gain,  for those who know me.  I am very much a team player, but have always preferred to play in the background.  The time for me is now.  With the support of my family and friends, and especially the other Board Members, I am ready to tackle my very first national public appearance on behalf of the PMPRF.  Arizona here I come!  I can’t think of a better place to be on Valentine’s Day than to be supporting our organization with amazing love in my heart!  One of the best things Keith did for me was to constantly tell me that he was proud of me for helping others all throughout our marriage.  The key for me now is to remember his sweet words and carry them with me.  After all, it is because of him and my love for him, that I am paying his life forward.

A little background of the PMPRF:

The PMP Research Foundation is an IRS-designated 501(c)3 charitable organization. The Foundation was created in 2008 by a community of individuals affected by Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP), Appendix Cancer, and related Peritoneal Surface Malignancies (PSM).”

“Our organization exists to support and fund promising research that moves us toward a cure for pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP), appendix cancer, and related peritoneal surface malignancies (PSM). We also endeavor to support the PMP, appendix cancer and PSM community of patients and their caregivers by providing the latest, most accurate information about the best practices in managing their disease.”

The truth is I am still so very much in love with Keith.  I can’t help but believe he is also in love with me – eternally.

 

 

By His Grace

Psalm 34:18
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.

In our house, in our home, God is present and made His presence known in a big way while Keith made his long transition home.  The God I felt during that time is the God I seek today with the knowledge that I too, saw His work, His grace, and His love.  While I’ve never doubted His leaving my side, it is only through Him that I find the strength to endure the loneliness.  He has kept me from dying a spiritual death and gives me the strength to carry on.  I must say Amen for His promises.

I don’t expect everyone to have the same faith that I do but I hope that God, however He manifests himself to people, that they feel something bigger than themselves.  If we allow for this in our lives, the doors of life and opportunity are everywhere we look.  If we wake every day with the thought that today I promise something good for myself, the heavy weight of disappointment in our lives (whether from illness or accident or mean-spirited people) can be managed and logically put in a place where it needs to be, and not a constant gnawing at us that will eat away every energy cell that we have.  I have allowed that to happen to me from time to time but find that if I listen, if I truly listen to my heart where my God lives, I can manage and enjoy the good things in life.  Like family.  Like friends.  Like nature.  Something good for myself is waking up and saying “Thank you for another day”.  It’s appreciation of one’s self and appreciation of others that I believe make us stronger human beings.

My vacation in Florida was wonderful.  To come face to face with people who I have interacted with for 4-1/2 years through cyber space was and always will be a highlight of my life.  You would not imagine that internet friendship could be built with the same intensity that in-person friendships create.  What is beautiful about these friendships is that there are never any expectations from each other.  We just are.  We just love each other as if we are family.  We totally get each other.  Some are patients, some are caregivers and somehow we overlap each other so well that cancer (even through tragedy) takes a back seat when it comes to being together.  One of my favorite quotes is:

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What? You, too?” I thought I was the only one.”
-C.S. Lewis

I wish I could see myself ten years from now.  It seems I need to continue to grab those energy cells one by one still and live in the moment and today, I am very happy to do that. I want to make measurable (to me) strides that are significant in the hopes that by doing this, I can help others to do that too.

Next week one of my goals will come full circle and I can’t wait to share it with you!

 

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.

Thanksgiving


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One less place setting at the table this year,

One less hand to hold

One less voice among the chatter

One less contribution for my memory-making fold

 

Thanksgiving is the last holiday to endure without my husband – the last of many firsts.  Admittedly last year wasn’t much of a celebration as he was in an active swift decline – but he was still here and would still smile through it all.  I am thankful for his life.

I am thankful for my memories.  I am thankful for those who are a constant presence in my life.  I am thankful for people to call when I need help.  I am thankful that I have food for the table and thankful for a warm bed in my home.  I am thankful to God for giving me the emotional strength that it takes to continue to support others.  I am thankful that I grieve because that means I had someone to love.

I am most thankful for my faith, because even though I am thankful for so many things, I am sad.  I am thankful for the people and things to fill my daily life, but I am still sad.  However, sad does not mean unhappy.  My faith tells me that I will not be sad forever because someday I will be thankful to be in the presence of Him and my one true love.

One glass upside down at the table because he is always near

One hand felt holding mine as we will bow our heads to pray

One voice that is constant in my memories

I will be thankful for Thanksgiving Day

11-Months a Carousel

Keith Eternal FlameI remember through the years always hearing that as you get older, the time passes more quickly.  That could not be more true than it is today.  Where have the last 11 months gone that my love left this earth?

What have I done with this time?  Have I honored the memory of the one that completed me?   Have I made him proud?

As I methodically move through this next month preparing for one year, (which actually seems inconceivable to me) I realize that the 9th of the month holds such a love-hate emotion within me.  Surely there is something important that I am not remembering about all of this; some connection to a date that will forever be burned into my memory.  What hope was there when God said “Come with me”.  For the suffering endured, for the sadness and worry to end, a celebration ensued.  It was over.  That was it.  An Event.  I must get over the date and remember the celebration.  This is what I am going to work on.  I am going to remember the joyful fact that this man, my man, my love and my life is in a place that none of this earthly grief matters.

There is a surface on which I build my future.  One deep layer is sparked by that eternal flame living within me; the love that will never die.  God has promised me that I just need to turn to Him and He will see me through.  Good thing He is there for me because there are times when I feel so very alone.  This is the hard part.  Even still, His presence known, I have never experienced such an emptiness.  I can describe my sadness and grief at the loss of parents and grandparents and siblings, and I can describe the hole left by the death of our son.  I am lost.

I am the child that sits on the carousel, as the music continues to play that is searching quickly with her eyes for the parents who brought her there.  Around and around I go but there is no security when I stop.  Keith brought me to that carousel and I have nobody to hold my hand when I walk down from it.  I am alone.  There is no one or no thing that will ever replace the love and security he gave me.  But if I hold steadfast to my knowledge of all things beautiful will be together in heaven, then I will take this as my hand-holding moving forward and let the music continue to play.

I am really okay, but some days are difficult.  When a grandchild has such tears of sadness and sobs with the pain of missing her grandfather, those moments take my breath away.  They make my heart hurt physically and make me lose myself in the grief.  Today is a difficult day and I don’t mind sharing that, but I am still a woman blessed.  I am most-loved by an Angel in heaven.  I love you and I miss you, Keith.