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.

 

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?

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“The only thing constant is change.” – Heraclitus of Ephesus

Today is, for the most part a typical Sunday morning, the clouds are abundant and the streets damp with the rain that fell last night.  It’s early at 5:15 a.m. and I didn’t go to sleep until midnight.

What is this energy I feel that isn’t typical?  Ever-evolving I am.

The other day I was looking for something and ran across an ancient pedometer that I believe my husband had brought home from some golf outing he attended.  Like most things fitness, it either went into a corner, was given away or thrown into a drawer.  This is the most basic of pedometers that you can find.  It tracks your calories, kilometers and miles.  Not steps, but that is okay – any step forward is better than back.

I went to that pedometer which seriously has to be no less than eight years old and pulled the small piece of paper attached to it to see what type of battery it would take.  In doing so, I pushed a button and the display came on.  “Some battery” I thought to myself as I began pushing the buttons. 0000 meant I had an awful lot of work to do.  It’s a balmy 60 degrees Fahrenheit, a nice breeze.  I can do this.

Like my husband’s death, we planned for it.  We knew it was coming and it would change my life in ways I had only imagined.  But I could have never imagined how much it would change.  I’ve lifted the covers from my head to the point I can breathe a bit easier.  I no longer need that filter to embrace the daylight.

Last week I took the incredible challenge to change.  I began a weight loss program and this morning, I used that pedometer.  I promised myself when I moved last year that I was going to do this.  I need to get healthy again.  I did try but often met neighbors who walk their dogs and wanted to chat – once that happened, my walks never continued as I need to walk alone at a pace that is comfortable to me.  I need to do this, I want to do this.  I am 4 lbs. down … and today I logged 0.778 miles on that pedometer.  It is baby steps.  I have a long way to go but when I realize my grief began with my husband’s diagnosis, I’ve been living this heavy burden for six and a half years.  Indeed it is time for change – my habits, my health and my life are as important as the man I loved, cared and advocated for.  As I walked this morning, I imagined him telling me “honey, you can do this and I am with you every painful step of the way.”

I don’t care much for change, especially when it is out of my control, but hopefully, the tools of faith, hope and the desire for change, will bring me further into the light of joy.

On Friday evening, I was privileged to return to the site of the Beloved retreat that I attended in January.  This time I was able to carry the luggage of new retreat-ants and light their path in the darkness to knowing they are beloved.  As I came together in community with others I had met on my own retreat, others who had attended at different times and once again my daughter at my side, I was able to share with them just how much I grew from my own experience there and that I did in fact keep my promise to find joy.

We do not always know when we go about our own lives how we sometimes affect others.  Sometimes, out of the blue, you can be called upon and a split second decision to say yes or no can make or break a person or situation.  I used to be a constant yes.  Grief began to change that and that is not the person my husband fell in love with.  Yesterday I said yes again to someone, to help them sort their feelings, their fears and angst and talk them through a situation that otherwise may have ended differently.  We do not know when we will be called – either spiritually or literally, but if we open our hearts to the possibility that carrying the load for others when they are burdened with the weight of the world, we can become the change that another person is seeking.

A step outside of our own comfort zone does not need to be a heavy task.  I can say with a smile in my heart, I am beginning, truly beginning to find joy.

 

An Epiphany

A short but sweet blog entry today…

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This morning I had an epiphany of sorts.

To make an analogy of this grief, so maybe one can understand more clearly, as time passes, it becomes chronic.  I happen to have fibromyalgia and having a small flare right now.  It’s chronic.  It comes and it goes (the flare ups) but mostly the pain is always there and somehow you learn to live with it and work through it and you don’t focus on it like in the beginning.  I also recently had a bad flare up of Achilles tendonitis which required an injection … in the beginning of it; I couldn’t put any weight on my foot and was on crutches for 5 days.  It was all I could think about because the pain was so bad.  Time, rest, ice and the injection made it better but the pain is still there and I can deal with it.  You can see, once the initial pain calms down, it is no longer your primary focus.

I believe very strongly that this is how the loss of my husband will be, for the rest of my life.  There will be flare ups, but it will settle down and I can live like this.  After all, this is all temporary, isn’t it?

Oh yes, grateful as always for the acknowledgement of pain –  it means I am alive and thriving!

My social media hiatus was a good one.  I found some joy.  I returned a few days ago and know how to take it is small doses.

Moments

What I wouldn’t give for another dream of him holding me.  Memories flood my mind constantly.  I think this is a good thing but then I wonder if they wash me like a torrential downpour because I am living again.

My heart has the enormous vacancy that only the memories of my dear Keith can fill, but I’m truly finding joy in special moments.  I mean yes, there are often hours of enjoyment, but the moments are the ones that I treasure.  I cry a lot these days.  These are not tears of sadness (all of the time) but tears because a moment, a story, a song – has moved me.  What I feel so deep in my soul is the ache of those around me.  It’s like I have this intense sense that I am connected more than ever to others, my mind searches for these connections.   Compassion can empower you to dig deeper into yourself to forge a relationship with these connections like you’ve never realized.  What I mean is, yes, most of us feel compassion that another person is going through something, but I am talking about taking time out of your day to think about, talk with, smile at, lend a hand, and pray for them.  What added meaning to my life this is when I hone in on those connections that I just “feel”.  I cannot change what happened to my husband or change what others are going through but I can love others – and I do.

Transformations are obvious to everyone who has their eyes open.  I’m still in that process and with eyes fixated on the mountain that I’m climbing, I still have the ability to feel.  The pain of losing my husband is as deep as some of these cliffs and I often free-fall knowing that, by faith, I will be lifted right back up.  It is not easy to describe faith, but if you feel it, if you trust it, if you grasp it with all that you have, free-falls are not as painful as they might be.  What brings me to this mountain?  Self-discovery is limitless because as the clock rounds the day, tomorrow feelings may be different.  They often say to “sleep” on a decision.  Feelings often change or the intensity of them changes over time.

IMG_0521For those who have experienced this grief so heavy before me, I’ve heard it said that time heals all wounds.  I’m not sure my heart will ever heal, but I can say with certainty that the pain is different than it was 28 months ago when he died.  I don’t cry every day for him, but every day I miss him more.  I don’t feel the need to kiss his photo every night, but some nights I still do.  I don’t sit for hours and wonder if he is watching my every move, but I feel his presence at times.  I don’t feel that I’ve been given a life unbearable to live, but there are those free-fall moments that take my breath away.  I don’t look at his photos and cry anymore, but I look at them often and smile because he was such a gorgeous man (inside especially) and out.  With each rotten thing that happens like expensive plumbing repairs, I don’t break down like I did, but I do get reminded with memories of how he took care of everything.

It is now springtime, and the rain is in great supply reminding me of the new growth I see in the neighborhood.  The trees are budding and day-lilies and daffodils already in bloom – life is renewed.  My life, my love, and my hope for the future are renewed too.  Keith gave me that gift before he left this earth.  I was the very last person he said “I love you” to.  In life and death, it doesn’t get much better than that.  This was his gift to me for sure.

Twenty-Three Years Ago

That old-time feeling comes around again.  It could be the time of year.  We were introduced in March of 1994 at physical therapy.  We fell head over heels at an informal gathering of patients on April 8th a mere two or three weeks later.

I get that prickly sensation and my heart skips a beat when I think of our first evening.  We played darts and imbibed on seemingly endless bottles of beer.  The music blared and he whispered in my ear a few times. The more crowded it became, the closer he had to move toward me – there was electricity in the air.

After a failed attempt at a second marriage and going it alone for the two previous years, a relationship was the last thing on my mind.  What was it about this guy?  What a smile! What a laugh!  What a touch!  It may have been the gentleness of his voice.  It may have been that he asked questions about me, about my life and willingly shared his story.  Reciprocal respect with an eagerness to listen – what a novel approach toward never-ending love!  Above all, he was the kindest person I have ever met.

He was newly divorced with children and a grandchild on the way.  I was struggling to get the funds together for my own court proceedings.  My children were gone for the weekend and this was a Friday night.  It must have been about midnight and I did not want the night to end.  Our PT friends had all gone home and I knew that I needed to leave as well.  I had not felt like this in a long time.  Was he my knight in shining armor come to rescue the woman who only wanted someone to love and to be loved back with the same intensity?  We were married seventy-six days later in the most unceremonious of events at a court-house with our 5 children in tow.

 

April 1994

April 1994 – meeting my parents for the first time

As the goosebumps arrive at the memories of the beginning of our relationship, I smile.  Yes, it was the best time of my life and it continued to be the best love to the end.  Sometimes throwing caution to the wind can reap the most amazing of benefits.  In this case, it was the love of a lifetime.  My life is not over, but his ended too soon by a horrible disease called appendix cancer/pseudomyxoma peritonei.

When I think about the twist of fate, I am forever grateful that he chose to go out that night and that I threw caution to the wind and would not change a thing in our relationship.   Neither of us was perfect but there never a more perfect match for each other!

I am blessed and I will love him forever.