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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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…

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….

Darkest Before The Dawn…

astronightIf there is any truth to this old adage, then the faint rays of dawn should be on the horizon. The past few weeks have been terribly dark for me. Even in my dreams, troubling imagines and circumstances are indications that I am not coping with my life.

Several nights ago, I dreamed that my family doctor told me that the results of my tests were not good and that I, too, would be leaving this earthly life. My response was not one of fear or dread, but rather, I asked if the doctor could orchestrate my leaving to be at the same time as Dan’s.

In light of my families’ tendency to have prophetic dreams, at first, I was alarmed. But, on further reflection, I realized that my inner person was telling me that my desire to live this life was not strong and that I needed to be proactive about my physical and mental health.

When I began to contemplate all that was in the dream, I recalled the statistics regarding caregivers and depression. Depression is very common in those who have loved and cared for someone until they died. In fact, I don’t know how you can not become depressed as you watch someone who has become a part of you suffer and loose their battle to live.

The article that I read noted that caregivers and spouses of the terminally ill often develop terminal illnesses or develop chronic conditions frequently after the death of their loved one.

I became aware of this while I was caring for Dan. and I began a routine of  walking regularly. I knew that physical exercise helps to balance anxiety of the mind and it releases helpful hormones to the brain.

After Dan died, I would walk Mozie twice a day. Once before I left for work and then on my arrival home. I kept to this routine until on one of these walks, one of my cats was hit by a passing car.

I  realized that this accidental death could have been me or Mozie. Most times, it was dark when I would walk. Even though I had a flashlight with me, I know that I was not easily seen by the motorist. I decided that it was too risky to continue to walk the dog in the dark and I stopped.

Then the cold weather hit. jack-frost-nipping-at-your-nose1

It seems that I have become quite a wimp when it comes to cold weather. I really didn’t want to walk in the cold. It seemed that it took  hours for me to feel my extremities again, so I talked myself out of walking in the cold. 

Now, I am out of the habit and I find all manner of excuses to not do what I know will help my mental and physical health. Inertia has definitely set in. The longer inertia is allowed to stay, the more resistence there is to any kind of movement.

There is one activity that I have not quit doing. It is somewhat  an unconventional  but I believe that it has helped me both physically and emotionally deal with grief.  I attend Sweat Lodges.

I can’t remember if I posted about this on the blog, but attending sweat lodge was a major part of Dan’s inner healing. It put him  in touch with his Native American roots.

Our family doctor suggested that Dan to this and the first sweat that Dan attended, he was not able to complete all of the rounds. I took his place as  his proxy.

It was not an easy sweat because this was the first sweat of the new season and the round that expressed thanksgiving for the new willow saplings for the lodge was quite intense. sweat-lodgeIt was also very warm outside, so this round was not easy for the seasoned veteran of attendants. But, for Dan’s sake, there was nothing that could have prevented me from enduring the heat. After that experience, I knew that I could endure the sweat and I seemed to find a peace during the ceremony.

Since the time of our first sweat, our family doctor completed his study with an elder and he is now able to hold sweats. The elder under which the doctor studied  has taken the elements of the sweat and modified the ceremony to be less specific to the tribe and more universal. Everyone is accepted. The is no restriction or  requirements to observe. You are asked to pray.

After Dan died, our doctor invited me to one of his sweats. I was thankful for the invitation. As I was thinking about attending a sweat on my own, I remembered what my friend, the hospice chaplain, told me about the physical composition of the tears of grief.

She explained that I tears of grief are of a different chemical composistion. She explained that the tears carry away the residue that grief leaves behind in the body.  She wanted to explain this to me because shecould sense that I was refusing to cry. She wanted me to know that tears of grief were made to be released and should I not do this, I was holding within myself toxins that needed to be cleaned from my body.

As I recalled her explaination for tears, I reasoned that the sweat would further help my body by release the toxins that stress and grief manufactured. I also was needing a place where I could moan, lament and cry without worrying about others trying to “fix” me. I need autonomy.

In the hallowed darkness inside the lodge, I am free to allow my grief and pain flow from me. In the midst of  endless tears and drops of sweat, I can feel the toxins and residue of this kind of living are wash from me. In many respects, I as I did when I was baptized.

When the sweat is completed, I feel refreshed and regenerated. Physically, I feel lighter and emotionally, I feel peace. For the short time afterwards, I feel  happiness return and I also enjoy the feast and fellowship that follows the sweat. I feel clean and restored.

For a time after the sweat, I have increased energy and I feel like doing things that I have recently lost interest. The effects of the sweat can last a few weeks before I feel the strain of bereavement return. Then, I begin counting the days until the next sweat.

I attended a sweat this past weekend. Instead of the effects lasting a few weeks, I was returning to the strain after a few short days. I have a couple of months before I can attend the next one and my dream was telling me that I  didn’t have the luxuary of time. I need to counteract this depression, now. I called and made an appointment with my family doctor.

The dream has become the catalyst for me to face  what this pain is costing me.  For some time, now, I knew that I have several symptoms of depression. The one that has plagued me the most is  lack of sleep.

Each night, I fall asleep on the couch around 8:30 in the evening and wake up around 10:30 PM. I know that I must get back to sleep because my alarm clock is set for 3:30 AM. I have to be at the client’s house by 5:30 AM. If I can’t get back to sleep, I will be awake about 20 hours. After a few days of this, I am totally exhausted.

This cycle of sleep deprivation has caused my immune system to be compromised and I can fall victim to every flu virus that comes along.  I cannot afford to miss work and I cannot afford to become chronically ill.

I also noted that I seem to have an increase for minor accidents. Lately, I have pulled muscles in my ribs and arms. I have sprained my ankle and I have fallen more than I usually do. Normally, I don’t find myself so clumsy. But, I know that this kind of thing goes along with depression. Now that I live alone, falling and spraining things are more of a concern. I know that I can have an accident and no one will know until I am able to get to a phone or have another way of communciation. It becomes more of a concern.

Depression can be well disguised when you keep yourself too busy to think. I think that the dream caused me to acknowledge that I need to be wiser than my pride and accept that I need help so as to not be overtaken by this kind of dark of shadow.

After seeing my doctor on Friday, I am to start on an anti depressant this weekend. As I discussed this with him, I expressed that I do not want medication to become a long term kind of treatment. I told him that I do not want something that will keep me from grieving, but rather, I need this medication to be a tool and I want to take this medicine for 6 months to a year period at most.

I won’t be relying on medication alone for this problem. I will be doing the  things that I know will help combat this disorder. I will return to walking for exercise andI will try to eat better. I will also take supplements to help build my immune system.

I also contacted my hospice chaplain friend about a bereavement group that meets at times when I can attend. If there is no group, then I will go back to meeting with her for counseling. I know that this must be a balanced plan.

One of the other tools that has helped me has been writing this blog. You may have noticed that I do not post as often as I have in the past and that I do not respond to comments like I once did. Writing has been my “saving grace”. Now, it is not as fluid. That was also one of my warning signs. Hopefully, the blog will see more attention.

So, now, I begin the uphill climb, up this rugged face of a mountain called depression, toward an emotional recovery. I am not walking an unknown path. Many have struggled with this pain as they try to find life after the death of someone they loved deeply. glorious-sunriseThere is no reason to stay in this dark moment.

I will meet a New Dawn. To accomplish this,  I will need every tool to be successful in this quest.

If it is true that it is darkest before the dawn, then know that, at this moment,  I cannot see my hand in front of my face. But  know this, I shall see the light of a new day dawning…Dan told me that I cannot leave here as yet. I must stay….

Coincidence or Timely Messages?

12_77_57-red-rose_web1Sometimes, the anticipation of pain is worse than the actual pain in and of itself.

I had a neighbor who suffered from kidney stones. He had terrible pain when one would develop and the doctor allowed him to have a very strong pain medication for relief. His wife was a RN so the doctor allowed the medication to be administered by injection while he was home  . It was given every 4-6 hours “as needed”.

It wasn’t too long before the multiple dose vial was empty. The doctor refused to refill the medication because the neighbor went through it so quickly. The neighbor was upset because he only envisioned that the pain would come and he was without anything to offset the excruciating pain.

As his frustrated wife discussed this with me, she voiced her anger that her husband would become totally unreasonable when she tried to encourage him to try a pain pill before having the injection. She also was upset because she knew that the doctor lost trust in her as a nurse because of the quick consumption of the potent pain killer. Once a doctor believes that someone is abusing this kind of medication, there is nothing that will pursuade him to order the medication again.

I suggested to both the neighbor and his wife that it wasn’t the pain that was causing him to reach for the injection, but rather, it was the fear of the pain. The memory of having that kind of horrific pain caused such a fear of its return that a person will want to be relieved of the possibility as much as the pain.  The medication can become a “security blanket” of sorts and the fear had to be dealt. The doctor was not going to allow the fear to become the first steps toward the chance of addiction.

When I said the words “fear of the pain”, my neighbor chimed in that it was the fear of the pain that caused him to become irrate and unreasonable when his wife tried to get him to delay the injection. The fear became more powerful than the pain.

So it seems to be the same with me. I think that the past few weeks of living mountain-in-the-midst-of-a-stormthrough the first wedding anniversary without Dan, remembering in disbelief that the happiness found in the Renewal Ceremony had come and gone and it was just a year ago. And then the first Valentines Day without Dan; all of this was akin to  my neighbor’s fear of the pain. 

My anticipated fear of Valentines Day was more potent and dreadful than the actually living through the day and being reminded of loosing Dan.

Yes, it did hurt to not have the customary card or gift from Dan. Overhearing of everyone’s plan for the special day also was a hurtful reminder that I was alone without love in this world. For a while, it caused melencholy to sweep over me  as I spent the evenings alone.It was the fear of the approaching day that became more intensely painful. That is until I received something special.

I came home on Friday to find a voice message on my home phone. My neighbor said that he found an envelop with a card in it in the ditch in front of his house. It was addressed to me and that he walked the 50 feet to my mailbox and placed it inside. He made the comment that he thought that it was peculiar that the card was so far from my house. He just couldn’t understand how the mail man had lost it so far from my house.

After hearing the message, I went to the mailbox. Inside was an ink smeared envelope. My name and address was barely legible.  On the return address was a familiar name. It was from a friend of Dan’s and mine who worked in one of the doctor’s office.

I stood next to the mailbox and opened the envelope. On the inside of the card, our friend wrote of how much she enjoyed reading this blog and how she looked forward to each new posting. She added how both she and her husband realized how difficult this holiday would be for me. 

She was already familiar with Dan and my story. img_2036She saw us every week for the past year and half. She knew Dan’s personality well. She watched our life unfold around Dan’s  final days. In the card she wrote …”He was so strong and had that certain edge about him that made him so tough-Yet, he seemed so kind and loving at the same time…”  She and the doctor commented on Dan’s will to live and how he fought a hard fight to survive cancer. Inside the card was $25 with the instructions to “treat” myself with coffee and chocolate.

As I stood by the mailbox reading this wonderful card, I marvelled at the special circumstance of receiving this card and I pondered over if this was just coincidence or was this a timely message that I needed to hear???

Immobilized II

Thanks to you all who commented on the Immobilized post.

I was able to get out on Friday, but it was still “tricky” to get around. The roads out here were finally attended to at 3:30 AM on Friday morning. I was awake when the snow plow raked what it could off of the road. At least, it took the ruts down so that I would not bounce in and out of them and find myself in the ditch.

Sunday afternoon, everything was in a major melt mode and the ruts were as bad as before. Later in the day, the snow plow came back through and the pavement was a welcomed sight.

Today, I only had to deal with the refreeze and that was a little challenging at 5:30 AM, but I got to my client’s without incident. But, tomorrow, the forecast is for 3-6 inches of fresh snow and I need to be at the client’s house 30 minutes earlier than usual because the mother is traveling to a new location…

Oh, how I will welcome spring and it takes more and more of me to daily say, “Thank you Lord for another beautiful morning”…

I know that February is the month that we in the “southern” part of Indiana have the most snow and winter woes…please pray for me.

My biggest battle is not the weather, but it is the fear of what the consequences of poor driving conditions or poor driving skills can heap on my fragil state of existence.

As I tried to explain to my employer, I am the only income in this household. I have no one to find me if I am missing, provide for me if I am injured nor keep me safe and warm if I do not work…so I am evaluating each day as to the risk involved and weighing it against loosing the car or my health…

I doubt if it made a dent in her thinking, but that is the way it is when others haven’t experienced what it is to loose a spouse or a livelihood…so, whatever they want to do to me for not venturing out in a Level II Snow Emergency, it is what it is

This is my reality.

As far as my being grateful, I am truly grateful that my daily needs are met and that I have electricity and warmth. So many in Kentucky are without power and heat. There are some who have been in shelters since the beginning of this mess and they are being told that they may have an additional week or more before power is restored.

Gratitude is never relational, but our awakening to our blessings may be…Gratitude is a way of life and I am striving to learn the lessons that Dan taught me regarding the subject…I am not a fast learning when it comes to things that are against my circumstances, but I am determined to learn. If not for my own benefit, for Dan’s memory…