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?

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Lamentation

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?

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.

“Merry….” “Happy”….Good Grief!!!

” Merry”…”Happy”…. These words will be said to me and I to others  many times in the next few weeks…how I wish I could remember  what it felt like to be merry or happy.

I spent the holidays last year in a state of survival. I was “getting through” each day. When the holidays came, I just went  numb. I tried to not be a “drag” and I put on my best face. Those days have failed to become any kind of holiday memory. I couldn’t tell what I did on any of those “holidays”.  Maybe, I blogged about them. If I did, I need to read those entries  to know where I was and what I did because I truly do not have the faintest clue.

This year, the numbness is off  and I feel the emptiness and the loneliness more acutely than ever. Today was past “hard”. In many ways, it was unbearable.

I spent Thanksgiving with my younger sister who is afflicted with dementia. She has Down’s Syndrome and it isn’t  uncommon for people with Down’s to develop dementia should they live into their middle age years. So it is with my sister.

It seems that Dan’s death uncovered her memory loss. Even though she attended Dan’s Memorial service, she forgot about his death until this past July. When I met her at the doctor’s office, she asked about Dan and how he was. I told her that he died and, from that time to this, she has been in a state of inconsolable grief.

Her grief isn’t just for Dan. It is for all of the losses that has been in her life.  We lost our mother in 1990 and Dad in 2001. She went to live in the group home a few years before Dad died, but she never accepted the group home as her home. Now, it is more clear just how much she never acclimated.

For the past several years,  it seemed that she adjusted to living her own life at the group home rather than live a peripheral one through our parents. Life with Mom and Dad was a secure one. Her disability placed her at the center of my parent’s life. At the group home, everyone there is like her. She isn’t the “princess” and she misses the life where her wants and needs were met without having to share the lime light.

Every visit with our older sister or me, she would always thrill when we passed the sign for the city limits. A huge sigh would escape her and she would say, ” I am home.” Now, when she comes to visit the thrill has become a desperate desire and she says, ” I want to live with you.”

She reasons that Dan’s death opened space for her and  she should live with me on the family farm.  I know that I cannot take care of her and work. I can’t give to her the  dearest desire of her heart and the guilt compounds each time I see her. It makes finding joy in the midst of such unhappiness overwhelming at times.

As she tries to process Dan’s loss, she is reliving the loss of our parents as well as other losses. Our older sister has Multiple Sclerosis and, due to her health, had to sell the “home place” and the family business.

When she visits me, we turn directly in front of the house in which we grew up. Because she forgets that the house was sold, each visit causes her to relive the shock of seeing people living in her house. Each time, my eyes well up as I watch her tears roll down her face. Each time, I am reminded of that ache that comes to a heart after loss and the guilt compounds.

It is the same when she passes the location of the family business. She sees strange cars there and she insists on stopping. As I try to explain that our older sister had to sell the “plant” and that we cannot stop, she asks, “Why not?”. She wants to go inside and sit at the desk that was once hers.

She tries to hide the tears and frustration, but lately, she cannot contain her disappointment or her anger and fear.

Her bewilderment at the changes in her life only exacerbates the cloudiness of mind that dementia brings. Dan’s death, the sale of the home place and the business, each one would be hard for her to process, but now, she must try to work through these great losses as she struggles to remember the most simple things.

Where she once was independent in caring for herself and her personal needs, now she requires supervision and encouragement to stay on the smallest of tasks. As she roams from room to room, she knows that something is wrong. She shakes her head and says, ” my brain…” or she will sit on the couch and blankly stare and say, ” what’s going on?”

I didn’t take her to the family Thanksgiving dinner today. In the last few weeks,  an uncle and an aunt  were diagnosed with cancer. I knew that, during the dinner, my sister would learn of their illnesses and she would become hysterical.

When my sister hears the word cancer, she  immediately starts to cry, then sob, then wail…loudly. To her, cancer and death are synonymous. Our mother died of cancer, Dan died of cancer and so many others in our family have succumbed to this terrible disease. In my sister’s mind, Cancer=Death.

Her display of raw grief is hard to watch. Because the diagnosis for our aunt and uncle is so recent, I didn’t want my sister’s sobs to add more emotional stress on my afflicted uncle and aunt. My sister cries so hard that small capillaries will break in her face.

 All of this takes a great toll on my sister, on me, and on the staff at the group home. After the visits home, my sister’s behavior is becoming more difficult for the staff as she acts out her anger over  the uncontrollable events of her life.

Call me a coward, but I couldn’t emotionally handle the nakedness of my sister’s expression of grief. I am not strong enough to help her process the natural question of “Why?”. The depth of her losses is so much greater than mine…and I wonder how, or even if, my sister’s grief can be managed as her own ending is approaching.

Thankfully, she forgot that today was Thanksgiving and I cowardly chose to avoid the pain instead of walking through it. Instead, we ate at the local Cracker Barrel. While we were eating, I realized that she didn’t remember having dinner at this restaurant the night before with our older sister. Her short-term memory has worsened since her last visit four weeks ago.

As the holiday season descends on us, it feels like a dark cloud that must be endured rather than celebrated. I can redirect my thinking, but my sister can’t. My sister is lost in this fog and I know that her time here on this earth is ending.

I cannot remember how it  feels to be “merry” or “happy” anymore. These days are a continuing reminder that the world as my sister and I knew it has ended….and her ending  is fast approaching .

I suppose I must discover a way to gain through loosing. It is such a confusing concept, yet it is the only way to walk out of these shadows. I just wish I knew where to begin walking through this loss. Maybe, I need to look for A Star to guide me.

Silhouettes

August SunsetNothing signals the change from late summer to fall like the brilliant sunsets. I grew up in a house that faced the west and I became fasinated with the glories that heraled the end of day.

The autumn sunsets were always the announcement that a change was approaching. It was the ending of a season of warmth and bounty. It was the sure signal that colder weather was coming. A new and harder season was fast approaching.

One of the most striking differences from the summer sunsets and the fall was the contrast seen in the silhoutes cast by the fall sunsets. Everything before the sinking sun and its fading rays were sihouetted. The trees with their lost leaves, the barns, the houses were all dark against the intensity of the fading sun.

This has always been a bittersweet, melancholy time in my heart. I truly hated seeing the end of warm summer breezes. I waited in anticipation of the coldness of the winter snows that were sure to add more difficulty to the everyday happenings.

This year has been especially difficult for me. With each new sunset, I see Dan and I riding the motorcycle in our leathers. We would find the highest vista in the Hills of Brown County to observe the freshly harvested fields. We would catch the fading rays in the distance and know that we needed to leave before the ride back home would permiate our bones with the cold air.

I miss looking into his eyes to see my reflection. In his eyes held all unspoken but clearly known feelings reserved from his heart to mine. I miss his eyes.

Many times we would set in a coffee shop and I would just watch him watch people. He was an astute observer of people and he had a discernment into their character. He would watch them and I would watch his eyes.

I could dance in the palm of his hand with just a look from him. To him, I could do no wrong, even when he knew that I was as wrong as I could be. His eyes never betrayed me.

As I watch the fall silhouettes, the words written in his lost letter come to me.
” As I lay on the couch filling up time contemplating what is going to be, I watch you sleep. So soundly is your slumber, I wish and pray that this disease would pass and we could start all over…I miss sleeping with you and holding you in my arms. I miss the soft tender touches that passed between us. And, I miss your kisses, oh, so sweet.

I miss our bike rides in the evening sunsets. Watching your hair blow in the breeze. I miss your laughter and you wonderful smile. I miss watching our grandchildren grow up.

I feel that this disease is driving a wedge between us. I am so sorry. All I can do is pray for healing and the healing of our children’s hearts. I love you so much that my heart feels as broken as does my body.

It seems to early to stop making memories and plans. I miss you more and more…I love you as no other…

Dan

In his words, he seems to capture the silhouette of our life together. He wrote the essense of our life together and he wanted to begin again. He wanted the memories to continue. He wanted to be restored so that we could be husband and wife with all its responsibilities and wonders.

My life is so much less without him here with me and I feel my life become the shadows of the tree that lost its leaves.

His sunset has come and gone. Mine is still above the horizon. It is not as brilliant as it once was. It feels so faded and worn.

Will I ever know what it is to thrill at the changes embedded in the glories of the seasons again? I wish I knew…but where ever I am, so he will be…

Changes….Part I

A Work of ArtAs some may noticed, I haven’t been posting as frequently as I did in the past…there are several reasons.

At first, it seemed that what was in my heart was already written. I have found that grief can be a continuous “loop” of emotions and images in my mind. There have been days when I wished that I could hit the “Stop” button and take a rest from my tumultous feelings and intrusive thoughts of Dan’s death.

But, unfortunately, there is no such button and the continuous play of these ever present memories wear me down both physically and emotionally.

Weariness is a thief to the body, mind and soul.

I didn’t post as much because I felt that writing and re writing thoughts and feelings that I had expressed here was a redundancy that no one should be subjected to, not even me.

Also, in the past few months, this old computer has made quite a few unnerving sounds that only supports my fear that it is about to take a major and expected full stop. It  is getting “old and moldy”. I have spent many hours at this keyboard that  resulted  in loosing all that I wrote. It has become a frequent occurrence.

When this happens, I don’t know whether it is a part of grief or my natural “red head” reaction to frustration because my next thought is to take a hammer to this churning box of circuits and make a permanent “adjustment” in its motherboard. Thank goodness reason returns  and I count the cost…close to a thousand dollars to replace it…and I don’t have the money for that, so I put the hammer down and start over.

Much of my lack of posting  has its base in my “technical difficulties”….there are other reasons….

AmazingAs the months and weeks approached in marking Dan’s death, a restlessness began to “boil” inside of me. I talked with my grief counselor and found that everyone has different reactions when this milestone is reached. Some become more emotional; I, on the other hand, became more anxious which results in a lack of patience and a relentless need to keep moving.

She asked how things were going at work. I replied that I had a few frustrations and I told her about  things that had happened that was leading to my discontent. The majority of my differences are with personalities. I assured her that it was  nothing that I couldn’t handle and I expected some of this kind of frustration as I have employed people when I owned my own companies. I find that I do not enjoy working with an all female staff…I prefer working with men… male clients, male coworker…I am not the sorority sister type.

I also told my counselor that I had a “knowing” that I would not be with this company for much longer. As I explained this intuition, I demonstrated what I was feeling about my job by placing my hand to the outer perimeter of my peripheral vision to show that I knew that a change in employment was coming soon. I also said that I felt that it would be better for me, yet I was relunctant to make any change because of not wanting to leave my clients.

I explained that, in April,  I had been offered a position with an Indianapolis based company who provided home care for children and that, even with the offer of more money, I decided to stay with my present employer. I continued to explain that I believed that my clients gave more to me than I could ever give to them. My loyalties lie with my clinets over any loyalty with the present company.

Yet, in my heart of hearts, I realized that I just could not face changing anything as the first anniversary of Dan’s death loomed before me. I suspected that my decision to stay rather than accept the new position was one that was rooted in grief and anxiety.

Little did I know just how accurate this forknowledge would be.

In late May, I talked with the scheduler and requested that I have Tuesdays  and Thursdays off. I told the her that I knew that they were having trouble replacing the 22 hours that were lost when one of my client’s grandmother became disgruntled with the company and changed agencies as provider for her granddaughter’s care. The issue that prompted the change wasn’t one of quality of care, but rather, an issue over how her hours were administered by this company.

Since April 1st,  the company tried to replace these lost hours, but 22 hours is a lot to replace in a short time. One of my goals was fast becoming unattainable. I wanted benefits i.e. paid vacation time and medical insurance.

I stated that it was clear that I was not going to qualify for these benefits before my anniversary date and that with having only 25.5 hours/ week, I felt that  I didn’t need to go out on a daily basis. I knew that I could work those hours  in three days and that would help with the wear and tear on my car,on me and was more cost efficient for me.

 After some discussion, she agreed to my having one day a week off rather than two that I requested. The schedule was modified for me having Tuesdays off.

I also discussed with the scheduler that even without paid vacation time, I wanted the week of Dan’s death scheduled off. I explained that I needed the time because I didn’t know how I was going to emotionally process this anniversary.

I was concerned about the financial impact of loosing the weeks hours, but emotionally, I really didn’t care. I would find a way to meet my obligations, even if I didn’t eat…it would not be the first time that I had to do without something. Time is what I needed…more than anything.

It is just another example of how so many health care workers are denied health care coverage and benefits because many home health care companies refuse to guarantee hours to the field staff.

Never mind, that is another post….

Two weeks before the unpaid vacation, an opportunity came that would allow me to pick up 20 extra hours. That would pay for my week off and I accepted the extra hours gratefully.

What it would require is for me to work the extra 20 hours as well as my regularly scheduled 25.5 hours. It would require my regular clients to adjust the times that I normally arrived, but it definitely was able to be done.Lost in the Storm

By mid week, there was a problem….

Untill Then, My Love

It has been a year since I heard the sound of your voice, felt the soft caress of your hands or watched your sly smile and that mischievous glint in your green eyes.

It has been a year since I have felt your warm embrace and felt safely encircled by your strength.

It has been a year since I was able to touch your face and to tell you how much I love you. To reassure you and myself  that we were a team and we could face any adventure together.

It has been a year that I have been alone with my thoughts. Thoughts  filled with tortured memories of your last moments, of  the tears that you cried when you knew that you were leaving me for the final time.

It has been a year since I have felt complete and whole.

As I face this anniversary, I understand, for me, that there will be no relief from this terrible loss of you and of myself.   I realize that I may never heal from cancer’s cruel tearing us from one into two. The wound is still so fresh and it has torn my heart so deeply.

You were the best part of me and I feel that I lost my way when you could no longer walk by my side. I am so much less by your leaving…

How many years will I walk in the shadows of this time?  A lifetime of brokeness seems as long as eternity itself….

But, until, I can see your face again, Until that moment when I translate from this form of existence into the next, may God watch between you and me until we meet again..

Dan  Russell 01

Until then, my love, until then….

Release

As I sit here missing Dan, I thought of this song. In many ways, he was a gambler. He took his risks and he placed his bets on those things in which he believed. Many payed him back well; others left him feeling the loss. He may have made different choices, but he would have gambled on living life his way.

As I listen to the lyrics of this song, I relate to the words about the song in the heart of a woman and how her song could only be released by the truest of loves.

I was that woman. Dan’s love set the hidden melody that was inside of my lonely heart free. I was free to love him totally without reserve or fear. That in and of itself is a miracle.

 Without Dan in my life, I would have been bamkrupt of the joy or contentment. I, forever, will know difference betweeen true love and what is produced by expectations or media influence. So, many live a lifetime and never know what true love feels like. I am one of the lucky ones. His love gave me so many wonderful gifts.

Dan loved beautiful things. His eye could always find the fine lines in a classic car. (Sorry to say that he didn’t like the looks of today’s cars very much).

He admired the touch and skill of a sculptor and their finished creation. He was mesmerized by the muse that struck the artist’s hands.

He loved the essence of color in all living things. He never overlooked the colors in a mountain scene or the display of color in a sunset.

Because of his artistry, he loved women and his eyes rested on me and I became the literal definition of the word “Wife”;  the desire of the eyes.

He found beauty in all women. He gave compliments easily and he meant them. He never “flattered”. He stated the obvious. Many believed that he was just saying empty words or that he had an agenda; they misunderstood him. His  security in his manhood allowed him to be sincere. He meant what he said.

Lately, I have pondered all of the gifts he gave me. They are not of the material nature. His love was a key that unlocked so many things that were out of sight, especially my sight. The best gift was my discovery of all that was held within my heart.

He made me understand what it was like to be cherished. I did not know what it was like to be valued like a precious gem. It was in the safety of his love that allowed me to dance in the palm of his hand and I saw him delight in me. I was amazed.  His eyes became my “looking glass”.

Without Dan in my life, I would never have known such joy. I grew up with a father that didn’t value women. He never gave compliments and he insisted that women were  not “made” to do the things that he respected. Sadly, I learned at an early age that women were of less value than men. I learned to discount my worth because I was a female.

Dan taught me  that all of me was of value and he celebrated  my womanhood, my femininity because he had a deep respect for strong woman. I believe his understanding of women was because of his grandmother. His love for her formed his respect for  women, and because of her, he was not threatened by their strength. He admired their strength as well as their beauty.

In his eyes, I had  that strength. He didn’t try to dominate it nor did he try to control it. Instead, he nurtured it and it grew within my heart. He saw my strengths and was not intimidated.

He  delighted in most everything that I did. It didn’t matter if I was singing in church or in a Karaoke bar, Dan was my greatest fan.  He never failed to encourage me after a song and he told me when I needed to use more air to keep the pitch. He had an acute ear for music.

He would tell me how he loved watching my hair blowing in the wind as we rode  the Harley. He said that he loved the shades of brown and red  highlights my hair.

Sometimes, he would sit and stare at me. When this began to unnerve me,  I would ask him what he was looking at so intently. I always expected a critism, but he never gave one. He commented on the petitness of my hands and how he loved to watch me play piano.

But, the comments that I will store lovingly in my heart of hearts will be the ones he gave me for just being who and what I was. I will never forget the evening that we went to the symphony. I finished getting ready and came out of the bedroom. In a hushed voice, he said,  ” You look stunning.”. I had never heard that phrase before in my life. I was speechless. I always felt beautiful with him.

He always told me that how much  he loved my shape and the feel of my skin. He helped me become comfortable with living in my body. Somewhere inside of me, I reasoned that if a man like Dan loved my body, why should I not trust that there was value in it. Without his love, I could not  have  discovered the joy of being a woman.

Everyday, I take the time to make myself look the best that I can.  I want to make him look good. I am proud to be his widow, as much as I was proud to be his wife, the desire of his eyes.

After thinking about the song that Dan’s love  released inside of me, I realized that his love set my heart free to be me. And then a new discovery came forth. For the first time in my life, I am free .

I was no longer in the role of wife or parent.  At first, I felt the emptiness that this kind of  loss brings. For these past few months, I felt the sting of not being someone’s wife and I struggled to understand just who and what I was to do now. As I grieved  over these losses, as well as his death, I felt abandoned and useless.

Then, it came to me. I have no parents to  disappoint nor do I have a husband to please. My children are grown and the responsibilities for their upbringing has past me. I am no longer required.

But, as I processed this feeling of detachment, I came to a new realization. I am free to be just be whomever I am and I am free to go wherever it takes me. I was surprised by my own reaction to this understanding.

I am acutely aware that my time on this earth is running low and I have discoveries to make about myself and the person who has lived and survived so many tragedies.

His gift of love freed me to a new horizon that I did not know existed. I began to feel a new kind of relief. A relief that I do not totally understand.

In someways, it feels like when I was in middle school and I was just learning about the wonders of a world outside of my parents and church.

I suppose it feels like a new birth of sorts. That is the best way I know how  to describe it.

I do know that I have a different appreciation for life than my peers. I know that I want the final 25 years of my life to be more and not less. Because I am widowed and without the responsibilites of parenting, I am not confined by these roles which allows me to be redefined by the present and not the past.

I don’t want to sound as if I begrudged those roles of daughter, wife, mother, step mother and grandmother. That is far from the truth. Rather, it feels like the spark of a new fire that is being kindled inside of me. It borders on excitement…I seem to have forgottem what that felt like.

Yes, Dan’s love set me free and, now,  I am trying to learn how to “soar”. To rely on my own set of wings. I am so very grateful to him and the love he gave to me.

As I watched this video, I was taken by all of the beautifl landscapes and sunsets. I thought of how Dan saw the Rockies for the first time as he drove his Semi truck through the high passes. As I watched further into the video, I saw his life and the many miles that he lived providing for his loved ones.

The lyrics speak of  a light in the depth of the darkness and a calm in the eye of every storm. Maybe, I am beginning to see both the light and calm….

His love was for a very important season of my life. I will always have it and I have one more obligation to him. I believe it would be his desire for me to learn to really live. He would want the effects of his life to shine on past his days here. And the best place to see the beauty of his life’s sunset is in the lives of those he loved.

How is the best way to thank him for everything he was to me? I believe the best thanks to him is for me to live, live well.  And I shall  live a life of  thanksgiving for the man who set my heart free….