A Five Year Journey…Walking out of the Shadows

It has been 5 years since Dan died. They have been difficult spiritually, emotionally and physically, but they have been lived. I have been walking out of these shadows.I didn’t know if I would at first, but, in my pain, I did make strides, small steps and large leaps.

For the first year, it was pure survival. I didn’t make memories. If I did, I don’t remember much. I do remember loosing my keys at my doctor’s office and he took me home to get my second set. While here, he took out my air conditioner.

I remember crying while I drove between my home health patients. I continued to pray that the “forgetfulness” would not be the cause of making errors….

I learned that this kind of distraction was normal for those who are in the “bowels of grief”. It was such a comfort because I began to think that I was loosing what was left of my mind.

I lost; a lot that first year. I lost a lawn mower. That was difficult because I have over 2 acres that had to be mowed. It took over 2 years for a solution to the grass mowing saga to be remedied.

I lost my computers to a lightening strike to the house. It hurt the new TV that I purchased because the old Sony bit the dust. I didn’t have a way to replace my computers and connectivity until a friend gave me her old laptop and I paid a cousin to get it to boot up. Now, it is in my work office and I use it every day. I  recently purchased this new Toshiba…I am amazed at the advances that were made in these machines and the Net during the years that I wasn’t online.

My greatest lost was this blog. I tried several time to write but the pain of loss seemed to dry the words that were so bountiful as I walked with Dan to his sunset. I missed the people who were my support during this time. When I finally was able to get online with my smartphone, I couldn’t afford to write because of the inconvience of the smaller screen and the cost of usage.

Many times I longed to write, but I didn’t know where to begin to write about the changes or the new losses…my sister’s dementia, my older sister’s MS…the 7 funerals in 4 months…how can you write about what has become a new thread in the fabric of living?

Just like the elephant, you eat it one bite at a time and just like now, if I choose to write, it is one word at a time.

The losses were not the only occurrences. After; the losses of a car, Dan’s truck and many other worn out equipment, new replacements were obtained. Some in the usual manner of purchases, many by extraordinary circumstances. I know that what was done on my behalf was not by chance, but rather by divine providence….

The most astounding providence was in the new people who entered my life. One family in particular actually helped me come out of the natural mourning process and I did choose to live.

I wish I could say that I am pleased with the progress. I know that there is much more to accomplish in this journey out of the Shadows, but now, I am grateful for this new laptop, a new car, a new job and most of all, the knowledge that I did not take one step alone.

My steps are ordered by the Lord…no doubt…

Walking in the Valley of the Shadow…a Dawning…

There were many times over the past 1 1/2 years that I thought of writing about something and lately, I realize that I miss my blog.

When I wrote the last post, I was tired and it seemed that all my heart could do was bleed. Words didn’t come to me. It was a constant moan that permeated my being.

Each day was the same. It was a fog of nothing new. It was the same old thing. Get up. Get dressed. Go to work. Come home. Numb out on TV….

As the next year unfolded and through the battles to get the right care for my sister with Down’s Syndrome and dementia, I began to come out of my self-pity and self-imposed isolation. I realized that my mental depression and fog of existence was self-imposed. My sister’s was totally without choice. I needed to grow up. I needed to grow out of this Valley of Death where I had grown so comfortable.

I realized that the part of me that I shared on this blog was the inner most part of my being. When I stopped posting to this place, I lost communication with that vital part of myself. My isolation was most definitely was self-pity. I needed to come to terms that my life was according to my choosing and not Dan’s dying.

I am choosing to live. Even though I walk through this new and different Vally of Death with my sister, I am seeing so much of me  fears the evil of isolation.  I need to stop being afraid.

Because I am not writing in real-time, it will take some efforts to organize my thoughts.  Every detail doesn’t need telling. What needs sharing are the lessons learned from continued living. Lessons need  to be carried forward. Those are the stepping-stones that lead out of this Valley.

For now, I am not changing the face of the blog or going through the efforts of having a second site. I am going to continue on with this journey. It is all the same really.

 Hopefully, I will be faithful to myself to write on about living and not the process of dying. There is a new dawn. It has to start somewhere. It must start where I stopped. There is no other way out of this Valley but to walk it.

Sunset in the Valley of the Shadowlands

I made a decision. It is one that I have pondered for quite a while.

Now, it is time.

Over the past few months, I noticed that most of my last few blogs have been the same. They are pain, more pain and endless pain. That is the way it is after the death of a loved one. Each day is the same, just different circumstances.

It will be 2 years in July since the sunset of Dan’s death. Counting the months and years doesn’t make it easier. It is a reminder that one life ended and yours goes on and on and on.

I must say that I have a “normalcy” of sorts. It isn’t the life that I enjoy, but it is my life. I have made decisions of my life based on what I learned from Dan’s life and death. I have things that I want to do before it is my time to leave this earth.

I also know that I have no regrets in the choices that Dan and I made. We made wonderful memories instead of waiting until “retirement”. I can say that we lived and we lived in love. Music was our language and we made beautiful music together.

Dan left me with a glimpse into my future. He said that he must leave so that I would fulfil my destiny. As to what that destiny is, I still do not have a clue. But, this I know, I will discover exactly what that destiny is and I will complete it as my life’s work.

As for my blog. It has served its purpose and it has been a part of my destiny. It was the vehicle that carried me over the highest hurdle that I ever had to live.

Each one of you who read and followed the darkest days of my life became pillars that held the sky over my head instead of it crashing all around me. I made many “sight unseen” friends. You are as close to my heart as any who I knew in the flesh.

I owe a great debt to each one who commented and emailed your support and empathy. There are no words to tell you just how much of a blessing you are to my aching heart.

The days ahead will be full of life for me. I shall live and I am hoping that it will be a full life. One of love and purpose.

I have been toying with the idea of going to college and obtaining a degree in social work. I already work with children that bear the emotional wounds of mental and physical abuse. I would like to be a part of prevention rather than just binding the wounds.

The effects of death leave relationships and their destruction in its wake. I have lost friends and blood relatives to the aftermath of loss. It pains me to understand that it a part of death and dying. It is an unnecessary part of it, but it is a part all the same.

Rebuilding a single life after living it as a pair is one of the most challenging part of this life after the sunset of death. It is a life that is built one day at a time. Re entering life after being surrounded by cancer is difficult. Cancer has changed your life as much as it has stolen the life of your loved one.

There is only one choice in all of this whirlwind. You must choose to live in the present or live and die the rest of you life in what was.

I aways chose to live. I didn’t know how to do that, but each day, I find that I continually choose life.

That is the key to climbing out of the shadows of the Valley of Death.

Scripture says that we are to choose life or death every day. I choose life and to have life more abundantly more than it was when Dan was here with me. I don’t know where the path of life will take me, but I will live and I will find purpose in each day.

I have another challenge as I choose to live. My sister with Down’s Syndrome has dementia.

She has had an emotional break down because staff and clients have taunted and teased her. They thought is was funny to do things that made her angry. Two weeks ago, she lost all control and became enraged to the point that she began hitting, kicking and biting staff.

I went to the group home and picked her up and took her home with me. As sunset approached, her anxiety intensified and she became enraged with me. She physically attacked me and I had to physically restrain her so she would stop hurting herself and me.

I searched for medical and psychological help. No one would help us because she was Down’s Syndrome and they said that she was ” INAPPROPRIATE” for their programs. I had no help and no hope until someone in the ER kept on calling until she found someone at the State level who would come to my home and evaluate my sister.

Those were the longest 80 hours of my life. They were as difficult, if not more so, than the final days of Dan’s life. Fortunately, the group home has eliminated the staff that allowed other clients to torment my sister. The group home realized that they were unprepared to handle the situation that my sister’s condition presents and they are willing to educate themselves and the staff as to how to best care for her.

In my desperation, I found organizations for adult Down’s Syndrome people who have dementia and these wonderful people are willing to come and advise all of us as to how to care for the behaviors that my sister is presenting.

Now, my path is to help my sister face her final days walking on this earth. I will help her face her fears and comfort her as the sunset approaches her horizon.

It feels like repeating Dan’s final days with my little sister, but because of Dan, I know better how to help her walk toward the day of sunset.

So, it is my decision to leave my beloved blog behind and begin anew. I will be writing a new blog for those who must walk the Valley of Death with those who are more challenged to understand the spiritual concept of NEW BIRTH through death.

It is my hope that others will not have to repeat my days of darkness when I searched for hope and help with my sister.

So, I am saying a loving, “Fair Thee Well” to all who met me here. I love all of you who gave me strength and courage. I will pay it forward to those as you gave it to me…

I will leave you the words of the song that I sang to Dan as he died:

If You must go….

Then go in Peace

Go in His Strength, where’ re He leads.

Know that you take the Bread that’s been broken

Walk unafraid, humble and free.

Know that you are not alone, Know that you are not alone.

Had it not been for sacrifice

Nothing could quench this thirst for life

Never forsake the One that’s been given

Keep His dear cross ever in sight

He has made you His own. He has made You his own

God be with you, May He shed His Grace

On your darkest hours and your best of days

Nothing below or above can come between you and His love

Remember you Go in the Shadow of the Cross

Valentine’s Day Without a Valentine

Growing up, I don’t remember Valentine’s Day being such a big deal…that is until Dan came along.

My parents didn’t do much for each other. I don’t remember flowers or candy coming home with my dad. There certainly was not anything for my sister or me. The only thing that I remember was picking out those paper Valentine’s cards with Mickey Mouse or Goofy and deciding which one of my classmates was going to get the pretty one and who was going to receive the “Goofy” card.

The most memorable Valentine’s for me was my 16th year. Dan and I had a couple “dates” (if anyone would classify them as one.) I saw him everyday at my father’s company. But, I do remember waiting to see if Dan would ask me out on a “real” date for Valentine’s. I waited at work and then I waited by the phone. Nothing. Nada.

Valentine’s Day was on a Saturday that year. As usual, I was home. There were not many,  but, for a few moments, I wasn’t thinking about Dan or the old boyfriend or the other couple of guys who I knew wanted to ask me out. I can’t remember what had taken my attention away from it being Valentine’s Day.

The door bell rang. My mother went to the door and she returned with something in the green paper that is used at the florist’s.

I was surprised when she said that this was for me. I opened the green tissue paper. There was a single rose in a vase. I took a deep breath to inhale the scent of the beautiful rose. It was lovely. Then I opened the card. It was from my old boyfriend. I put the vase down with the card and went to my bedroom.

My mother came to the door and asked if I was alright. I told her I was just fine. She knew that I was disappointed that it wasn’t from who I wanted it to be.

It was still exciting. That was the first time I ever received dlivered flowers and they were  from a boy.

A couple of hours later, the door bell rang again. I looked out of the window and it was the florist’s van. I ran to the door. This time he had two green wrapped offerings. I thanked him. He looked so tired. I imagined that he was tired of driving so far out-of-town. He combined these two deliveries to save time and gas.

I opened the first one. It held a beautiful bowl and pitcher with a rose with ivy. It was from a fellow that had wanted to date me but he was much older and my father frowned on the idea. I like him, but I liked his GTO better. He was persistent. I sat the bowl and pitcher down on the dining room table. My mother said it began to look like a florist’s work space.

I opened the last one. By this time, I thought that Dan had not been as interested in me as I was in him. I was not expecting this one to be from him. Much to my surprise, it was. There were six red carnations in a vase. I was thrilled. My mother looked at me and said, “This is the one you were waiting on, isn’t it.” She looked at the card. She didn’t smile. She didn’t approve of Dan.

That was the first Valentine’s Day for me. I understood more of why everyone made a big deal of it. I felt wonderful yet, I wondered who Dan sent the roses to. It wasn’t me. And, I didn’t get a phone call or a date. I knew that I was an “honorable mention” in the long line of girls that Dan saw. I didn’t like it much, but I knew that it was the way he was. I still hoped that he would “come to his senses”. Twenty five years later, he did.

Dan always remembered Valentine’s Day. There was always a beautiful card with a hand written note on the inside. At the end of the hand written note, there was a ” P.S.  I love you.”

On our last Valentine’s Day, he couldn’t get to the store and he was worrying about how to get me something. I told him that I didn’t need anything but being with him. I reminded him that I would have much rather had a date with him than 6 carnations on our first Valentine’s Day. He would always sheepishly smile. I knew that he didn’t spend that night alone.

To celebrate Valentine”s Day,  I cooked a special meal and we had candle light. At then end of the dinner, he brought me an envelope. In it he wrote, ” My love for you is a never-ending river. I love you like no other. ” I cried, he cried and we spent the evening holding each other like two frightened children in a terrible storm.  It was the most special Valentine’s Day of my life. It is  THE one that I will hold onto for the rest of my life.

In the years before cancer, Dan would always had a card for me and a present. When it came time for me to buy Dan’s Valentine’s Day present, it was always lingerie for me. Dan appreciated his gift. There is something about the look of gratitude in a man’s eyes when he sees new lingerie by candle light.

Because of those wonderful memories, I have been avoiding everything Valentines. Commercials are ever-present. Stores are full of hearts and red flowers. All of this is too much for me. I am surrounded by things that remind me that I am alone, of Dan, of those wonderful past Valentines…and it hurts. It hurts alot.

It seems to increase my desire to have someone in my life. A special someone or someone who finds me special. Maybe, that is what I truly want. someone who finds me special.

The other day, I sat in the doctor’s office waiting for my named to be called. I sat besides an older lady. She definitely was in her 70’s. She began to chat away. Very early in our conversation, she told me that she was waiting for a gentleman who was being seen by our doctor.

She spoke his name as if I should recognize it. I didn’t and then she went on to tell me that he was in real estate and, with great pride in her voice, she said, “We’re dating”.

The sparkle in her eyes and the enthusiasm in her voice reminded me of  a teen age girl bubbling over her first boyfriend.. It was clear, she was reliving her years when boyfriends were kings and being the girlfriend of the high school quarterback made you somebody.

I smiled. I noticed her hair was perfectly quaffed, she had spent hours for her to put on her eye  and she was very smartly dressed. She had gone all out for this doctor’s appointment. As her boyfriend appeared from his time with the doctor, her eyes lit up and all she saw or heard was him.

She had no illusions that this guy was “The One”. She already lived a life with the love of her life. This man was her special friend, her hero. He had rescued her from endless lonely days. This man had saved her from living the life I am living.

It was sweet. For a brief moment, I was jealous.

She found a different kind of love. She found a love of acceptance. Acceptance of her wrinkles, of her gray hair, of her extra pounds and of her less than firm body. She found magic.

She was showing me that it was possible to find great friendship and companionship no matter what everyone says. In the midst of all of her chatter, she was telling me that it is possible, no matter how unlikely, to have a “Happy Valentine’s Day” again…

It Was Only A Dream

I felt his touch and I could smell the scent of his skin. Then, I saw his face.

He was smiling that warm, filled with mischief smile that he reserved just for me.

Without speaking a word I poured out my heart… In my  heart I heard his voice  echo my words. I didn’t hear words, but I heard an unspoken melody that emanated from his heart to mine.

It seems that our souls are as entwined as deeply as they were before he died. The bond is alive and as strong in death as it was in life.

Then he invited me to nestle by his side, to hold me in his arms.. .. as I slipped into his arms, I felt that I was finally safe.

I felt my mind, soul and body relax for the first time since the day he died. I returned to my place.  I was safely cradled in his embrace. 

Yet, as I felt his warmth, I knew that this wasn’t occurring in the present. I was aware that he and I were in the land of dreams and this fading moment cannot  be measured in time. I knew that it couldn’t last.

The tears began to flow down my face as I whispered my words of love in his ear.  As I gazed into his eye, he was fading before me. As he became transparent, I was willing myself to not wake.

But, I did. As he faded from my dream filled eyes, I woke to my tear drenched pillow. Stardust had evaporated and he was gone.

On my pillow were tears of joy. Tears of relief. Tears of deep longing to stay in those strong arms.

He held me. I touched him.

At this moment, I know that I am awake and alive because I feel the pain of being left behind again.

It was only a dream, a vapor, a wisp of  whimsy…

It was wondrous. It was heart wrenching. It was comfort. It was security…all of these things captured in the state of dreams.

After all of these month of missing him, I was blessed to see  his face one more time and…

Then he was gone.

How ironic!

Today I prayed and told God that I realized that I was open to the idea that I desired to share life’s path with someone and asked God to show me if there was someone that would be a friend and companion, possibly a mate….and then Dan came to me in a dream…

I can’t help but wonder if the dream is the  answer to this prayer or was the dream my way of letting Dan go so someone else can come into my life? Is this dream my final goodbye? Or, is the dream telling me that no one will be in my life but Dan?


My God

You have not forsaken me, but I have lost my way to Your Heart.

My soul has lost its refreshing dew and I thirst for Your Love and how I once knew it.

My body is weary and worn. It cries out daily for renewal and refreshment. My bones ache with the weight of sorrow and my despair only deepens.

My heart is shattered as a pane of glass. It is scattered by the winds of loss. My emptiness consumes like a moonless night.

“How long, oh Lord, how long?” is the echo of my lamentation. Hourly, the losses in my life mount higher. It seems as if they are as tall as the highest peak and as deep as a  fathomless ocean

I seem to labor to keep body and spirit together yet, I find no harvest…no reward. It is an internal battle that has a fierceness that desires to destroy me.

Relief is my physical cry. Refreshment, my soul’s plea.

I know that my heart’s lament is not lost in a sea of deafness. I know that my name is on Your lips. My life is seen by Your all-knowing Eyes.

It is my heart, oh Lord, that is shrivelling within my breast.

I cannot save myself.

It is You, my God, the Lover of my soul, it is to You whom I cry.

I surrender my life, my self , my all to You and Your will.

I shall be restored to Your Master Plan.

I shall look on my life and rejoice for I have seen Your abundant Grace, Your Unmerited Favor on my life in this land called Living.

I shall stand.

I shall stand on Your solid Rock.

It is the Rock called Hope.

Where Have All My Words Gone?

Without Dan and the daily stuggle to survive the darkest moment of my life, my desire and ability to take words and weave them into a tapestry has vanished.

I always said that my writing was an expression of my heart. Now, it causes me to wonder about my heart. The lack of words would indicate that my heart is sterile. It has nothing. It holds nothing.

Maybe, that isn’t totally accurate. The void may be the fact that I am living in a numbness that is ongoing. Love is missing.

It was love that filled my heart and made me feel alive. It was the love from Dan that defined my womanhood. It was Dan’s love that held the magic and now, the magic is missing.

There had to be something that was inherent inside of my heart that was the essence of what Dan loved. My head is trying to convince my heart that this is a truth. My heart is bleak.

Lately, with all of the holidays, anniversaries and Valentines Day, all I can think of is that my heart has died within me. The sparkle has gone from my eyes and the smile has vanished from my face. Yes, I can still smile and my eyes are still open yet, there is something missing.

These days are full of freezing fog, dull gray days and the threat of ice and snow. So it is with my heart. My heart has become a block of ice. It no longer beats with the color of red. It is as gray as the winter skys. It is lost to me and I grieve for the person that I once was.

As David cried out in the Psalms, “How long, oh Lord, how long?” This is my daily cry…”How long???”

How long will I feel this sad? How long will I feel so lost? How long will everyday look like the same gray and empty day that comes to greet me?

No one has answers and my heart and head will continue to battle over this bleak reality of emptiness.

I continue to search and I want to plan my life. But, now more than ever, I realize that it is a falsehood to believe that I plan anything regarding my life.

The quest is to find balance between the hope of life and the lack of hope in it.

Is this the sum total of my years? I lived and I knew love. Now, I live and I can only remember what love was. It isn’t much to build a life around, is it?

New Years Eve…an Outside Looking In Kind of Moment

New Year’s Eve, again. I know that sounds like it occurs often. Maybe, it is because I am becoming older and it seems that this holiday occurs quicker than I remember, but, since Dan’s death, it seems to come before I am ready.  It always feels like I have unfinished business and it is too late to complete it because a new year is beginning.

This New Year’s Eve, I had one of those surreal moments. You know. The kind where you step outside of yourself and see your life from a small distance. It is the kind that is a glimpse of yourself and you wonder just who is that person that is standing there.

The last time I did this was a Christmas Eve when Dan was in ICU in IU Medical Center. He was in 6 ICU due to complication from the massive debulking surgery. They had removed all the tumors and pronounced him cancer free. Then, two days before coming home, he began running a temperature. The next thing we knew, he had a body shudder and the young resident ordered a series of tests in the imagining department.

After 30 minutes, the charge nurse on the post op floor came into Dan’s room and began gathering all of his things and instructed me to do the same. Dan was going directly from the imaging lab to 6 ICU. He had 2 blood clots in his lungs. This was a common but critical complication of abdominal surgery. The primary risk was that the clots would break loose and go to Dan’s brain or heart. Dan was facing death again.

I spent the next sleepless 48 hours in his ICU unit. No sleeping was allowed for the visitors staying with a patient, so, if I wanted to stay with him, I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t. I sat next to his bed, holding his hand as he slept. I had to touch him. I had to know that he wasn’t going to leave without me. As I watched every part of his face and body for a sign that the clots had dislodged, I kept telling myself this wasn’t happening to him or to me. This was just a bad dream and I would wake up soon.

I knew the next 48 hours may hold the moment in which I became a widow or a wife of an incapacitated man who required more care than I could give. No matter, I was not going to leave his side. If it was going to happen, it wasn’t going to take place without me there. Finally, I was ordered by Dan, my son and the doctors to sleep. The only place to do that on the ICU floor was  in a bleak, overcrowded and smelly waiting room just outside double doors which held the gateway to my future.

That Christmas Eve, my son walked me to the waiting room and tried to help me find a recliner that would allow me rest. I was one of the late comers and all the decent recliners and chairs were occupied by the ‘regulars”. These people had loved one in the ICU. Many had been here for weeks and some for months. They already had staked out their territory. There wasn’t much left to choose from for a new comer like me.

I had to take the least damaged recliner. My son tried to help me into a chair that was a little skewed when the foot rest came out. The chair itself was broken on one side so, when the foot rest was extended, the whole chair bent like a pretzel. Regardless of  my son’s help, I still had a very uncomfortable bed. It was all that was left.

After positioning myself into the chair, I closed my eyes. Sleep was the farthest thing away from my overly tired body. My mind wouldn’t shut off. I replayed the events of the past 48 hours and it was in the midst of those reoccurring scenes that I found myself looking at my life as if I was someone  peering through a window on the outside  looking in on what couldn’t possibly be me and life as I knew it.

I remember wondering how this could be. I had seen these scenes many times. Throughout my nursing experience, I watched very critically ill patients and their families. Families trying to find a way to sleep in the ICU waiting area, watching them consume gallons of coffee. I saw worried looks on lined faces and I tried to dry the inconsolable tears that fell from the faces full of fear and grief. Now, it was my turn to not sleep, consume gallons of coffee and cry inconsolable tears. How could this be? On that Christmas Eve, I asked the questions of ” Where had life as I knew it gone? How could this be me? How could it be Dan?”

So, this New Year’s Eve as I sat in my own broken recliner watching the old movie on the TV, again the pondering over my life as it was and as it is came again. The questions began again, ” How could it be the second New Year begun without him? How could it be my life as a single person….again? How can I live without him and most of all, Where is my life without him?”  And, again, I didn’t recognize this existence as mine. But, it is.

It is a life that is consumed with making enough money to afford heat, lights and food. The basics. It is a life that is lived as a peripheral part of others, a caregiver. It is a life that is very small in the terms of being a requirement to  anyone. I no longer am someone who is in the life of my son, my daughter in law or my grandsons’.  I am not an essential part of anyone’s life anymore.  It is such a small life. ( this is not an exaggeration) My present life  is the result of how people change when the process of grief is not understood nor is there a desire to understand the details of grief and its deep scarring on a life and heart.

It is the first time of living a “small life” for me. My circle of friends are made of quality people, but the numbers are few. My working life is limited in the small number of people I care for. The majority of my professional contacts are with people who I have never met  face to face. They are voices on the phone or an address in my inbox. My work interactions are done from 60 miles south of the main office of the company. I work remotely and the distance makes things quite impersonal.

I have stopped going to church. Not because I have lost my love or interest in God, but primarily because I cannot deal with the look of pity in people’s eyes. To be pitied is a little more than I can bear. It grows tiring to be the shadow of the foreshadowing that is in literature. I know and others perceive me as their life that is to come.  I represent loss, the  pain of loneliness and grief. 

I realize that I am pulling within myself more now than the first year since Dan’s death. There are some finds this kind of withdrawal as alarming. I am not. I see this as a time for me to reassess my life and what I choose to do with it. It is a time that I take an inventory of sorts so as to know that I am living my life according to my choices and not according to my circumstances.

I must face and accept that I lost an essential part of myself, but not all of me. I lost  my other self; the person that helped me  feel alive and secure. I know that this thing called grief is a process and it is one that cannot be hurried. I also know that I have come to an understanding about something that has never been before.

For the first time in my life, my life is about me.  No longer is my life about maintaining a marriage, raising children, finding a career or making sure that everyone around me is happy. I realize that I  lived the majority of my life ensuring that others are cared  for and happy.

Now is the time that I rediscover my original self; the average yet unique person that God created me to be. It is about me learning and uncovering what Dan meant when he said that he was in my way and that he had to leave so that I would fulfil my destiny.

Of course, there are those who don’t understand, nor do they want to understand. They want me to be as I have always been. The change in me causes confusion. The by-product of being the one who maintains the emotional balance in relationships causes a dependence of sorts and when this discontinues, people can get quite angry. These changes not only confuses them, but their reaction can and does confuse me.

I was a person before I was married, had a child, divorced and remarried became a step mother, mother in law. I know for a certainity that I am not the same person I was when Dan was a part of my life. Nor, will I ever be that person again…Death changed me.

The most astonishing realization is that I do not choose to be that person any longer.   Life is about me.

My mother would not have tolerated this kind of thinking or behaving. She would have considered it selfish and self-centered. My mother was very clear that, if you loved someone, you placed their wants, wishes and needs above your own. She taught that you loved everyone more than yourself and you loved yourself last.

My mother was wrong.

It is true that you love others by meeting their needs, but it is not at your own expense. That isn’t love. That is co dependence. That is unhealthy. Learning to strike a balance is the hard part. It isn’t all or nothing. But, it is learning that wanting and doing things for yourself isn’t being self-centered. It is finding how to have life and not just existence.

Life is about me. It is about finding a way to love again. It is about finding what is my purpose and design. It is about being happy and doing so without making others miserable. I wonder if there is a book about this? Most likely, but why would I want to read about someone’s journey. I have my own book of life to write and this is the beginning of the first chapter of the last section.

I cannot continue to live as a shattered fragment with the majority of myself missing. Yes, I am in pieces, but isn’t there beauty in a mosaic creation?

I am on the outside of life looking inwards and wondering what it is that I am seeing….What is the meaning of this New Year and will it hold a new kind of happiness or will I be looking from the outside in again next January 1st and wondering just whose life is this?

Christmas Eve 2009

My desire for a new tradition will have to wait until next year. Yesterday afternoon, I began sneezing. I don’t sneeze usually. That is, unless  I am coming down with a cold.

I thought that it could be an allergic reaction…not. I worked 10 hours and had been up 18 hours and I thought that I was just tired. I had so much to do, so I kept pushing myself until I realized I had no energy left in me. I had to lie down.

I laid down on the couch and was awake again at midnight. I was coughing and sneezing I couldn’t breathe very well. It wasn’t an allergic reaction. Instead of a lump of coal, it is a virus…a cold.

At 4:30 am, I knew that I could not expose my sister, my family, friends and a church full of people to whatever this virus. There is too much flu and there is always the H1N1 to consider.  I don’t have the heart to be such a “Grinch” and steal good health from folks just because I want my Christmas celebration.

I texted everyone at 4:30 this morning and cancelled the late night supper and the plans for me to attend church. There were several of my friends that I invited and they were going to go with me. 

I am in no condition to prepare food or be in the same room with anyone. My Christmas isn’t cancelled, but my plans are. My new tradition will have to wait…

My biggest concern was my sister. She lives in a group home and things like this goes through the house like fire. My heart was breaking. She is confused a lot of the time now. But, she knows that everyone is going home to their families and she will not understand, or so I thought.

I called the group home at 7:30 and explained my situation and my older sister’s present-day demands. Her father in law was in the local hospital having surgery at that very moment. I explained to the staff at the house that I needed to talk to the person who was in charge of the house to make the next best arrangements for this holiday.

I also wanted to make sure that my sister would have presents tomorrow. That was bothering me the most.

Lately, my younger sister thinks it is Thanksgiving and I thought that we could slide by the day of Christmas, but I could not stand the thought of her being without presents to open tomorrow. So began the next hour or so of alternative planning for my sister’s Christmas Day, tomorrow and her visit home.

One of the staff members will be taking my sister and another lady to their home for Christmas Day. The person in charge of the home was going to go shopping for a few presents for under the Christmas Tree so my sister will have them to open just like everyone there.

As it stands now, I will try to have my sister here on Saturday through to Monday. I am praying that whatever this is will be more done than not and that I would not be such a “bag of germs”.

That means that sometime tomorrow I will have to disinfect this house and make sure that the surfaces are not contaminated with this virus. I am praying for a Christmas Blessing for a quick end to this “bug”. It isn’t what I wanted for Christmas this year, but, for some reason, it isn’t meant for me to have my new tradition this year. And, somehow, it is OK. Most likely, it is because I physically feel so badly.

I will celebrate Christmas anyway, I will, I will….just not with friends and family.

As one of the first of Christmas Blessings, I received a wonderful Smilebox from my friend, Frank…I love his vintage Christmas Cards and the choise of music.

Thanks, Frank..

And thank all of you in blogsphere who have come to me and I, you over the past couple of years. Thank you for helping me walk this road of loss. Your comments and support mean a lot to this wounded heart. And, because of your kindness, my heart is healing.

My God Bless You and Grant to You a Wonderful Christmas and a Bright and Happy New Year!!!

Another Beginning, A New Tradition…

In light of the missing desire to write, I realized that the lack of writing has retarded my recovery from Dan’s death.

My heart is empty so why am I surprised that the posts are missing? My grief counselor noted that my writing helped me with loosing Dan on a daily basis.  Now, that I do not attempt to write, my recovery from loss is at a stand still.

I don’t know just how much I can squeeze anything out of my emptiness, but I do know that my lack of desire to write doesn’t indicate a lack of issues in my heart.  I need to write more now than ever.  It is the same pain and that seems to tranlate into the same words. I don’t write because I feel that I am redundant.

The Basement experience continues to reveal more things that I hid from myself and it took that event to help me understand that I was content to live my life “underground”. That is definitely not where I want to live nor do I have the luxury of living in a withdrawn state of mind.

The quote from the movie Shawshank Redemption has taken on a daily reminder. “Get busy living or get busy dying.” I believe that I was only wanting to hold still. When I do that, my circumstances always take the initiative and makes choices for me. Realizing my lack of action has left me without any satisfaction, circumstance becomes my decision maker and the frustration within myself builds.

I know better in my head. It is my heart that wants to keep any forward motion at bay. I know that I will not like what inertia brings to me.  My life experience has taught me that  non action  leaves me in a miserable state of mind.

So, what to do now?

I need to make a new tradition regarding the holidays. Recent events will change Thanksgiving. My dad’s family has always gathered on Thanksgiving. It was a feast and a time to see aunts, uncles and cousins that would not be seen until next Thanksgiving or at a wedding or a funeral. I can’t remember a Thanksgiving with my immediate family. It has always been the extended family and, with that, my cousins became  as brothers and sisters to me.

This past Thanksgiving, an aunt and an uncle were diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis for one is better than for the other. One family will be devastated by this time next year. The disease is very advanced and palliative care is the only treatment offered. The other has a brighter prognosis and another family will gratefully give thanks for being spared the heartache.  The health of the dwindling few will chang the  way that Thanksgiving has been celebrated for over 60 years.

My sister is also one that has limited holidays left. Her dementia is advancing at an alarming rate. What to do with her health and insuring a quality of life for her has become a priority for me and my older sister. We will have difficult decisions to make regarding her care as the disease progresses. The holidays will never be the same without her.

For Christmas, my tradition was always on Christmas Eve. It has always been a magical time. As a young girl, I loved being in church at midnight on Christmas Eve. It seemed to make Jesus’ birth the center of everything for me. Christmas in church made the meaning of gift giving more than commercial success. Remembering His Advent made Christmas and the joy of it real to the very depths of my heart.

Unfortunately for me, the church denomination in which I was raised did not have Christmas Eve services. The times when Christmas Eve fell on Sunday evening became my favorite Christmas’. Being in church satisfied my soul hunger. It satisfied my need  for a time of quiet contemplation. It gave expression for the joy that was rising up from my soul. I knew the meaning of the word, “REJOICE!”.

As an adult, I have tried to follow this soul hunger, but I have not been faithful to find a place to worship on that special night. More than ever,  I feel that I must find a place that has services on Christmas Eve so that my Christmas can come back into my heart.

In Christmas Past, when Dan and I were first together, our holidays were dictated by everyone’s schedule. After my divorce from my son’s father, my son usually left on Christmas Eve day and did not return until after New Year’s. That was very hard on me to be divorced and alone for all of the holidays. There was no reason to try to change anything. My son was 15 years old when we divorced. When he began to drive,  did what he wanted. It hurt to know that he didn’t want to be with me.

When Dan came into my life, that empty, lonely time changed. Dan had young children and I filled the void with him, his children and the crazy non custodial parenting routine.

 Dan’s children were not available until Christmas Day. Because he had children with both of his former wives,  Christmas Day consisted of him traveling in one direction and I in the opposite to pick up his children. We would drive back to our house, empty out the vehicles,  reload everything into one vehicle and we continued driving for another 2 hours to his mother’s house.

After years of this and my son’s marriage, I realized that my son and I were deprived of time together. He was in the Marine Corp and his time back home was precious. This crazy exhausting tradition was  unfair to him. I am sorry to say that I have many regrets for not seeing how            lop sided things were in regards to him when I didn’t get to see him on the Christmas holiday. I finally put my foot down and said that I was not going to drive away this holiday any longer.

Dan agreed. He had driven countless miles for visitation and holidays and it was time that we made changes. Of course, it wasn’t a popular decision with his family. We always invited them to come to us. A few times they made the effort, but most times not. Whatever concern I had in keeping the “Peace” with the in-laws faded. Too many years of misuse of Dan’s time with his children helped solidify our resolve. It was time that we protected the boundaries of our home and we made it a safe harbor for all of us by not driving 6 hours on Christmas Day.We began the tradition of picking up the children and having an afternoon dinner. This was much more enjoyable and it was more fair to my child.

As the kids grew up, having driving options and personal commitments outside of family, we again altered our tradition to accomodate everyone’s obligations. Now, they were driving the miles and the court could not dictate how the our holiday was celebrated. We began to have Christmas Eve as our time of celebration. Christmas Eve services was possible again. It was a most special service when we could attend with most all of our children. Those are the most precious memories.

After 9 pm and after having  Christmas’ with their extended families, the kids would begin coming in the door. Usually, my son stayed with Dan and Ime when he would come home from California. Even after eating a late supper, everyone was hungry or just couldn’t keep themselves away from the buffet that I would prepare. Eating and Egg Nog were in order. “Eat, Drink and be Merry…” was celebrated.

Everyone would stay up watching movies, playing cards or just “hanging out”. The house was full of laughter, music and a special memory in the making. Dan and I would finally give up and go to bed around 2 am. In the morning, everyone took their leave with a smile and a kiss. On to the next household where they were obligated. It was such a relief to not have to travel.

Those were the best years. It was a time when Dan (he was a great cook) and I would cook  for days. He helped me with the decorating of  Christmas trees and any other thing I needed done. He made everything easier for me. As in all things, we were a team. Preparing for Christmas or any holiday was great because we did all of these  things together. I miss him so as I try to put up the Christmas tree and bring out all of the things that have so many good and wonderful memories attached to them.

I miss those days when the house was full. Our hearts were full of joy. And, with the grandchildren, the memories would have only become richer. It is in remembering those Christmas’ that the pain of loss deepens.

Dan’s illness and death altered all of the former traditions. After his death last year, my son began his own tradition and he has Christmas Eve dinner at his home. He was weary of all of the “appointed rounds” and this seemed an appropriate time for a change.

His children get to open their presents in the presence of their NanNan. I don’t have to cook and his wife is a much better cook than me. She can do all of the British foods, i.e. sausage rolls, cheese sticks and Christmas trifle better than I ever did.

Yet, for me, it is an empty reminder that Dan is gone and my time of founder of the feast has gone with him.  Christmas Day is so quiet. I have no one to share it with. It is as if life and reality stands still and empty while everyone’s is full and busy.

This year, I am beginning a new tradition. I haven’t a notion as to what and how, but I am not going to continue to feel empty on that magical eve or on the following day.

I may have my own little party after my son’s dinner. Or, I may have others who normally would be alone to join me on Christmas Day. I haven’t decided.  My decision to move on without Dan must include a new tradition or I will spend the whole of the holidays missing him more.

Just another beginning in the process of new beginnings…I will still miss him. He loved Christmas.