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…

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The Changing Sunsets

It seems that I am surfacing from the overwhelming pain of January, only to realize that the next few months have more pain to bring.

Maybe, it is the anticipation of these things that are more stressful than the time itself.

I am not looking forward to Valentine’s Day. Dan was so good at being romantic. He truly enjoyed the flowers or the gifts he bought  me.

The second time when we began dating, I was seeing a man in Canada. Dan knew about this man and, when the Canadian would call me at work and Dan would answer the phone, Dan would tell the man to stop calling me…what a stinker! He was dating other women, but he didn’t want me to talk or see this guy! Then, there was the time that the Canadian sent me flowers and Dan took the card off of the bouquet and wrote his name…he was so full of it!

I really never needed the candy or flowers on Valentine’s Day. I was content in knowing that he loved me and he never failed to tell me.

In the late afternoon or as we were drifting off to sleep, he would ask, ” Have I told you that I love you today?”. I felt so lucky to have someone who wasn’t afraid to tell me that he loved me. Because I always heard his words of love, these special days were already filled by his love before they got here. He never wanted me to feel that he took me for granted.

I miss hearing those words.

I miss his warm touch and his mischievous grin. I miss his hands. I loved the callousness that hard work placed on those gifted instruments of touch. I loved the way his hands looked when he played the bass. They reminded me of my brother’s hands as he played the guitar.

In those hands were so much talent. He could turn a wrench, pick up a hammer or draw  anything that his mind’s eye could see. I miss watching him draw pictures for my grandsons and their amazement that PapPap could draw dinosaurs and monster trucks.

I miss his arms and the safety that I found within that circle of soft caring.

I miss his eyes. Those beautiful emerald eyes that were the window of his soul.

I remember the family doctor saying that Dan intimidated him the first time they met. I asked the doctor how could that be? Then, I remembered that most fail to look into Dan’s eyes. His eyes told everything. Maybe, that is why he always wore those “Blues Brothers” dark glasses. He was hiding his soul. If you failed to look into his eyes, he could seem intimidating, but once you saw his eyes, you instantly knew that you had nothing to fear.

Each day, I keep looking for the moment when I do not have him constantly on my mind, but, so far, not a day passes when he isn’t the first and the last thing on my mind. 

He said that he had to leave so that I would fulfill my destiny. But, my heart still whispers, “You are my destiny. Now, what am I to do?”

Last evening, the sunset was glorious. The sun pillar sun-pillar-at-sunsetwas so high that it tickled the belly of the highest clouds. And, of course, my thoughts said, “Dan, did you see that one?”

He would have loved it…then, I wonder what glorious sights he sees when he looks from the other side of the sunset. How glorious are things from Heaven’s perspective?

I know that things must change. That is my head talking. My heart is so stubborn. It refuses to see the changing sunsets and accept that they are viewed by just me…

Maybe, the day will come when Dan is just another memory, but I can’t imagine it or hurry my heart…it is still with him.

The Geese

statuesque1

It was a moment that struck me as picturesque. The newly harvested field of corn seem to blend into their gray colored feathers. The only contrast was the black bands around their necks. They were standing perfectly still. This in a field that was a  bounty for the flock standing at attention.

I expected to see them bow their heads and begin feeding on the loose kernels of corn, but instead, they were like soldiers outside Buckingham Palace; erect and still as statues.  What was their focus of vigilance? It was curious.

For me, scenery with geese was nothing out of the ordinary, but I am at a loss as to understand this concrete like behavior. They just stood there facing toward the east.

After 40 minutes or so,  another flock of geese began to circle overhead. Their cries and calls seem to stir the statues in the field. Both the statues and the fliers called back and forth until the arriving band landed on the pond behind the field.  They all began to stir. Those on the pond first and then those in the field began to move and shift into a preflight mode.

In a few minutes, all rose from the earth and circled the pond and field a couple of times. With an unseen signal or a specific cry was sounded and they were off. The lot of them were flying in a predetermined direction. I watched until they were no longer in sight. I was spellbound.

Awestruck by their percision and the timing of the gathering of the flock, I stood amazed by the way they waited on the others to arrive. How did they know that this smaller band was coming?

As an afterthought, I realized, for a moment in time, my thoughts of sadness and loss were suspended to observe one of God’s wonders. sunset-and-geeseI am sure there are those who know much more about the habits and migration of geese than I, but this was so curious to me.

As I contemplated the autumn scene, I wondered as to why they were still here?

 Everyone, even humans, know that the days of ice, snow and unrelenting cold are about to descend upon us, so why are these geese waiting? How did they know to wait for the smaller band of travelers? Why were they not  south  already? Why were they so still and facing east? So many questions about what I witnessed and no answers, but I don’t know if I really want answers. I was lost in wonder.

The first thing to capture my attention was,  while standing in a field filled with food, the total lack of motion by these large birds. I was astounded; not a ruffle of a feather or a bob of their head. How can any living creature stay that still and silent for 45 minutes?

But, the greater mystery is how  were they able to capture my attention and distract me from my constant feeling of loss? For those 45 minutes, I was transported from my loneliness and dread over the approaching holiday season to an attentive observer of that present moment.

After the geese were gone for a while,  i realized that I appreciated those minutes of wonder. I became aware that I found relief from my grief. Because of my curiosity over the behavior of 20-50 geese in a newly harvested field of Indiana, I was mesmerized by the curiosity of the moment.

I think that I saw a glimpse of clearing in the fog of grief in those 45 minutes. I needed the reprieve and comfort while I pondered a mystery that was before me. It gave me hope. Hope that I will begin finding my way out of these continual shadows that live in my heart…

Leave it to God and His creation to fascinate me!  I have always been entranced by the outdoor “Cathedrals” I find in his Creation. I have thrilled to the Majesty of the Red Rocks of Sedona Arizona and I marveled at the wildlife in the wilderness of Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada. These were my heart felt places of worship. 

Just as it was here where my teenage heart called out to God with the intent on knowing Him. Now, I may again, walk pastures and fields in open conversation.  I know that He will meet me here. This is where I first opened my heart and my mouth and walked and talked with my God. It was in His Creation, not a man made building, that my awestruck heart came to know true worship.

Maybe, it will be as it was then.  Maybe it will be in this place of security and familiarity I will be able to call out to my Creator, my Lord and Savior and end this silence between us.  Maybe, it will be in the midst of these woods that I will lift my voice in keening of my mourning and finally give my inner pain back to the One who holds our sorrows?

I know that My God and Creator can do nothing until I am willing to release this pain. It is not His lacking, but my unwillingness to let go.

In a strange way, I may be afraid that I will loselife-mates2 the final part of my husband that I carry inside of me. This pain is one of the few things that exists that is shared by our hearts. Yet, I know that my husband would never want me to keep company with him through sorrow. He loved me too much to have me stay this hurt.

As with geese who mate for life, I too must make a choice as whether to stay with my fallen mate or leave for the life-giving horizons.

new-sunSomehow, I realize that I have stood perfectly still while waiting for him to somehow join me again so that we may continue our flight together. Now, it is the changing of season and I must either stay by his lifeless body and eventually die, or I must join the others who are flying to a new destination…

I suspose I could do a little online research and become more knowledgeable of the habits of geese, but somehow, I don’t want to spoil this learning observation that I received from the Heart of Creation.

Maybe, it is a beginning of a sunrise out of this long sunset and night that I have been living. Maybe, it is a little wind beneath my wings.

The First of “Firsts”

Today is the first anniversary for my blog. In many ways it has been a long year and then in other ways, it has passed so quickly.

Also, it is my husband’s birthday…He would have been 56 years old. I know that when we were in our “30’s”, we thought that 50 was so “over the hill”, but in light of being in that decade and seeing all of my peers who are “young” enough to anticipate their days with their grandchildren, his death seems so premature.

I had hoped to complete my husband’s life story, but with work and finding that writing those posts take so much energy and emotion out of me, I didn’t get it accomplished…that doesn’t mean that I am going to quit, it just means that I can’t write towards a “deadline” as a professional does.

As with my singing, my writing is an outward expression of my innermost being. If my heart isn’t into it, I don’t do either one satisfactory and my husband doesn’t deserve to have his memory recalled without forethought and my best efforts.

To write the next part of his life, I need to talk to his brother. I know what my husband told me about that part of his life. The events that took placed left a terrible prejudice in his heart for many years to come. It is so important that I tell the story correctly and set the stage for one of the amazing miracles in his life.

As I watched the sunrise this morning, (imagine that, I wake up early enough to catch a sunrise and sunset), my thoughts were of him and the tremendous life force he was when he entered into this world.

I smiled to myself and thought of the phrase that he announced when he wondered into the neighbor’s kitchen for some of her donuts, “Here me am!”. That announcement seemed to echo when he was born into this world. Its waves of energy have been silenced in his death, yet there remains, in all of us who loved him so dearly, a part of that lifeforce.

In us, he echos and we are forever better for knowing him and loving him. He will always resonate within me. He is like the last note of a symphony or the last rays of sunset…your soul has been touched and you habor those moments within you senses. They are totally awe inspiring and you are the better for it.

I recall the moonlight that bathed this familiar place on his last birthday. I was so grateful as I listened to him sleep. How I would love to hear those quiet, familiar sounds again..

They are not totally gone. I wrote about it on this blog. I have that moment and I remember the sound…It is a poor substitute, but it is better than having nothing at all.

It is the first of the first. It is the first birthday without him. It is the day that he began this life. What a wonderful miracle of life he was! It still feels so utterly impossible that he is not here, but the wave of reality overwhelms me.

When I began writing this blog, I think that I knew in my head that it was his last birthday, but it is my heart that can’t seem to grasp that he was not going to be here for this one. Now, my heart must latch onto this new reality and process the pain. There are moments that I think that this pain will kill me…but, again, my head knows that this is a state of grief and I must walk through it.

I wonder if they celebrate birthdays in Heaven? If they do, I hope someone tells him “Happy Birthday” for me and that I love him so very much.

In The Present

Time,. We measure it. We manipulate it. We feel it pass and it is either dragging on endlessly or it is flying by.

In an of itself, it is mankind’s concept. Nature doesn’t measure time in minutes, hours and days. It is measured in seasons.

The old adage, “Time heals all wounds” comes to mind. I don’t think that the wounds ever totally heal, rather they are just less visible or we fill the time with other things so that we don’t focus on the cause of our pain.

But, in time, there is the past, the present and the future. While here, we live in one of those dispensations. I have seen so many people who get stuck in the past, or they are always planning for their future. They are afraid of living in their present.

At 26 years old, I learned a valuable lesson about always planning for a “future”. I was a young wife and mother. I worked at the local hospital on second shift. My neighbor was also a nurse at the ER of the same hospital and she and I would watch each others child while we worked. I would bring the kids to work with me and she would take them back home with her until my son’s grandmother got off work and then he would stay with her overnight and I would pick him up in the morning.

This arrangement and the fact that we lived next door fostered a friendship with her and her husband. Their daughter and my son were best friends. My neighbors were in their 30’s and we all had a lot in common.

I remember the day that they returned from vacation.  They had driven all night and arrived home in the early hours of the morning. When their little girl came over to play with my son, my friend came too. She told me about the property in Maine that they purchased while on vacation. She shared all of their future plans and trips that they would be making as they built their retirement home.

At my age, I thought that they were a little strange for thinking about retiring when they were years and years away from it, but that is the viewpoint of youth.

As evening approached, she, her daugher and husband left to go get ice cream at the local Baskins and Robbins. I had no idea that I would be the last person to see her alive.

On their way back from the ice cream place, a car ran a 4 way Stop sign and hit them broadside. The impact threw the little girl out of the back hatch of their small car and, when she landed, she sustained an open skull fracture.

My friend was 5 months pregnant and the impact caused internal bleeding. As her fellow ER workers labored feverishly to replace the fluids that were leaving her body at a faster rate, she looked over toward her daughter. Her child was her main concern. I think that she knew that she wasn’t going to be there for her. All the efforts of her co workers were futile and my friend died.

Her husband was severely injured and he was transported by Lifeline to a large hospital in the city. He was in ICU for a couple of weeks while their daughter fought for her life in another city hospital.

She survived but she was definately brain damaged and she never was the same little girl that was my son’s best friend. Her father was an odd sort prior to the accident and it only caused him to be a bit more pecular.

I remember thinking that the accident changed all of their plans. They had decided to make so many sacrifices for their future dream. At some point, I realized that my neighbors were always living in the future and not enjoying their present.

Maybe, I took the wrong lesson from this event, but in light of my life with my husband, I am very glad I saw the importance of living in the present. If my husband and I did as this couple, we would never experienced the many wonderful places and things that we did. If we had waited for “retirement”, he would not be here with me and our life would have been devoid of some wonderful memories that I hold dear.

I took the correct lesson from that friend’s life and I purposed to live as much in the present as in the future. It is in the present that memories are made. They are the warmth that your heart needs when it is alone.

It is the in present that you are to make sure that tell your loved ones how you feel. There is no magic moment that causes you to think, ” I am going to tell them that I love them, tomorrow”. You do it in the moment that has presented itself. That way, there are no expressions of love left unsaid.

What of my present? Normally, I like to ” get on” with the task at hand. My temptation is to move the unpleasantness and the pain on down the path and into a past state instead of dwelling on it, however, I know that my husband’s death is not something with which I can move. It “IS” and therefore, it is a “milestone” and it set a course for my life.

After 25 years and 2 failed marriages, my husband’s life impacted me when he walked back into an old familiar door and there I stood. He wasn’t expecting me. He was expecting my brother. He was unaware that my brother had been killed in a racing accident 6 months earlier.

I didn’t even recognize him when he walked in the door, but the moment he spoke, I knew him. I was amazed that he was crossing my path, especially, at that particular moment in my life. I was  “thunderstruck”.

Seventeen years later and 7 weeks after his passing, he has “thunderstruck” me again. My present is totally re arranged and I am living in the state of the present with multi-emotions and lost direction. That man could always shake up my world!

In life and now in death, he has caused me to look at myself in a new light. Even though I did not asked for it; it has come all the same.

Through him, I began to write this blog. Through him, I realized that by walking this path, I was gaining while  loosing him. I gained the support and friendship of a community that fails to exist in my physical world. How glad I am to have this blog!

Through him, I gained children and grandchildren that biologically would never be mine, but by his sharing them and by making me their step mother, my life has been enriched.

Through him, I also suffered many things by the circumstances and choices he made before he re entered my life. At the time, some of these sufferings were very bitter, but the joy that his love gave me always out distanced the pain and the disappointments.

Through him, I learned that this thrist for life is never quenched until we  see the face of our Creator. It is in that moment, we release our hold on these temporal things and we grasp the new life that awaits. This metamorphosis is so full of awesomeness that, at the moment of passing, it leaves a wondrous expression on our face.

Now, it is time to face my new definition of “Present”. I have to learn to walk, talk and think as a “whole” person instead of part of a team. I have to look out for myself and my best interest because most everyone has others that need their efforts… No one else is responsible for me.

Today, my present is a sobering place, but at the same time, it is my place. I am defining it. I am living in it. I am not hurrying through it. It is what I can make it.

Many days, I am helpless to make it anything more than something that I must pass through, but I also am aware, that I do not travel it totally alone.

I take every wonderful and sad experience that I had with the love of my life with me. I am forever changed because he lived, he loved me and he died and that has become a part of my fiber.

As with all living things, we adapt. We take our sum total of life experiences and we forge ahead. That is what we were designed to do and so I must do it.

I wrote in one of my posts that I would live for us both. Brave words that are yet to begin. When I wrote those words, that was what was surging through me. Those words existed while he was yet on this earth. Those words are still true. I still must live for us both.

To learn how to do that starts in this present, and to accomplish that, I must find a way to reconcile our lives as they once were and take it forward to what is awaiting ahead of me. I can not leave him behind, but I must allow him, yet not rely on what he would do or be totally directed by those memories.

So, I am trying to walk in this present state of mind and I continue to place each step as carefully as possible. I am trying to find a little progress out of each day. I am aware that there shall be days that I walk backwards instead of forwards, but I will be walking, none the less….

To the present and what it holds for me, Today….

Sunset

                                                                                            

 

This morning July 1, 2008 at 9:30 AM, my husband’s journey ended and he went on into the sunset.

Always strong and valiant, his struggle to live was a courageous fight of the soul and body, but his body could not continue to sustain any longer his love for his family, his friends and for me.

His strong heart kept beating in spite that his other systems failed him. He didn’t want to give up. And for days, longer than the average person’s efforts, he stayed.

But, finally, after so much effort, he could not stay. So surrounded by his children, grandchildren and me, he breathed his last. As we watched in amazement, he preceded to shrug his body. It was as if someone was gathering him in their arms. This hugging happened several times, then he breathed his last with a sweet smile that I will never forget.

During these final few days, there were wondrous moments with him. The semi consciousness and the drug fog kept him from communicating clearly with us. He had moments that he made it clear what he wanted and needed.

When his son lifted his little daughter up so that she could see her “PapPap”, he reached out his arms to take her. His smile was glorious.

There had been conversations between us when he would come back from a place that must have been between the two worlds. He said, “Honey, you have been wanting to check out and you can’t.” I asked him what he meant about “checking out” and he said that I knew. He continued on with saying that without me here that my grandsons would be devastated without me and that I must stay. He also told me that he was in my way of realizing my true destiny. As I tried to tell him that he was my destiny, he closed his eyes as if to say that he could not hear me.

I understood. I understand that the “cry of the heart” is different from our conscious prayers and the place where he went  showed him  that I was wanting to follow him into the sunset. He revealed a truth that I could never see because I wasn’t understanding how wanting to be with him was so much a part of me that I had a death wish…he set me straight, I must stay.

 But, the best and final memory I will cherish for the rest of my life is this one. The next to the last day, his ability to have speech and clear speech had gone. Because he rested so well, I refused to place him in a hospital bed and so, late at night, I slipped into the side that he was leaning toward. As I climbed up and closer, he looked up and saw me. A huge smile spread over his face and he raised his arms as he has done so many time before as to welcome me into his bed. I had a smile that stretched from ear to ear and I laid down and rested myself into those beckoning arms. I kissed that wonderful face and allowed him to enfold me. I was in my safe harbor for the last time. But, I got one last landing in that harbor.

For a moment that could never last long enough, I had to see to his care and so I left his arms knowing that was the last time he would ever hold me. It was the last time that I would find rest and feel safe in his arms. As I lay there, I remembered all of the times that he opened his arms to me or smile a sly smile and open the covers for me to get in his bed. This precious memory much last for my life time. It was not long enough.But, it will have to be. It was the last time that he could do anything like that.

 

So, now, my journey without the love of my life begins…I can’t tell you how heart broken I am, there are no words that express this deep grief and pain.

He was a unique and multifaceted man that I will always love. This bond is never broken, even in death.

It would seem that his dream of walking with the Lord on the Prairie has come to fruition. He is talking and walking with Jesus. They are discussing this great old Buffalo who has battled so many hard winters, escaped capture and been challenged by others. The old Buffalo was searching the Prairie for a safe place to rest. Sensing no danger, the old Buffalo slowly wonders towards the western horizon of this LIfe’s Prairie. The old buffalo is  through the sunset now. Isn’t it strange that my husband has had the nickname “Buffalo” from the time he was a small child. I have no doubt, that the dream was showing my husband the way home to rest and comfort. He fought a hard fight and he won. Now he can walk and talk with the Lord everyday on the Prairie.

To celebrate the life of my husband, there will be a Memorial Service at the church where we renewed our vows. His desire was to have all that he loved come and to have “church” as he called it. There will be many heavy hearts and I only hope that the pastor can find the words that will reach our broken hearts to speak comfort to our wounded souls.

I am alone for the first night in 16 years. I am finding things too quiet and I am at a loss because I physically cared for him for so long…

Now, the sun has set and I can no longer follow where my love has gone. I must turn toward a different course no matter how much I don’t want to leave him at this point in time.

This long journey into the Valley of the Shadow of Death is completed. I have a different journey to walk and it must be alone.

The Long Rays of Sunset

There is a moment when the sun is heading for the horizon. The sun’s rays seem to burst in every direction or the sun looks like a huge ball slowly descending into a vast emptiness. It is clear that in a very short time, the ability to see it will be gone. Moment by moment, the sinking continues and as you stare at this glorious array, it disappears from view.

You are aware that this setting is on the verge of completion, but there is very little to indicate  the length of time that it takes to occur. So, you stand very still and you watch intently and in the process of trying to catch the very moment of “Sunset”, time stands still.

That is how it feels right now. Many things are happening, but it seems that time is standing still and only the losses are signs that the moment is upon us.

In the past 72 hours, my husband has gone from being able to perform the basics of life, i.e. personal hygiene, feed himself, clothe himself and decide what he wants to have for entertainment to loosing control of his legs and this afternoon, he can only stay in bed…

He mentioned on Monday that his ability to balance himself as he walks was becoming a little troubling. Tuesday morning, he was up before I was and was in the kitchen getting ice out of the freezer when I heard a heart sinking thud. He had fallen.

I went running into the kitchen to find him on the kitchen floor. His knees had given way and he was unable to stand so he fell on his knees and pushed himself onto the floor. As I tried to assess his injuries, he said that he was beginning to feel his legs again. I helped him up into a kitchen chair and pushed him to the table so that he could steady himself.

I was trying to stay calm so I fixed the coffee and asked if he thought that he might enjoy a cup. As he sat there drinking the coffee, he began to cry. We embraced each other and cried the tears that we tried so hard to hide from each other…I told him that we were a team and that we would face this new challenge together, just like always…I told him that I would call the hospice nurses and see if we could get a walker. I suggested that this might steady him and give him something to help with his balance. I thought that the walker was the ticket and we waited for the hospice nurse to deliver it to us. 

In the mean time, we walked to the recliner in the living room. In a house this size, it isn’t a great distance from room to room. He managed this walk without difficulty, but he chose to stay in the recliner or to rest in bed most of the day.

About 4:30 P.M., the nurse delivered the walker and I thought that we had a better chance of not repeating the mornings adventure.

My son had come early in the morning and was with us most of the day. Around 5 P.M., my husband wanted to go to the bathroom. He said that it was the perfect time to take the new walker for a “spin”.

As I helped him from the bed to his feet, he grasped the walker like a “pro” and as we were trying to navigate the bedroom doorway, his legs gave away again. This time, I was behind him and laid him down as gently as I could, but this wedged me and my husband between the doorway and the bed. Neither of us could move enough to help ourselves.

Thankfully, my grandson was on the front porch playing on the computer. I began yelling for my grandson to go get his father so as to help us. Seven year olds are great at yelling and he was able to get his dad into the house in short order.

My son literally picked up my husband from off of the floor and placed him in the recliner. This is my son who has the traumatic brain injury. Who fights his own battle for quality of life. This is my Marine, my warrior child who has said, “My misfortune shall be my Fortune.” I am amazed by him.

I watched as he lovingly cared for his step father. From the outset of this journey, both my son and daughter in law have been with us every step of the way.

My son has always been a support. After my husband’s surgery, my son gently performed basic nursing care. (The Marine Corp teaches all of its members basic emergency medicine for battle injuries) He has a wonderful bedside manner because he has a wonderful caring heart.

As my son and I lifted my husband into the bathroom, it was becoming clear that my ability to care for my husband alone was becoming an impossibility.  When my husband goes down on the floor, he has to have some ability to control his extremities or I am unable to manage.

My son and I got my husband back to bed and I immediately called the hospice nurse for a bedside commode. I thought that I could manage my husband the few feet from the bed to the recliner if we didn’t have to walk the length of the house to the bathroom.

The rest of the evening went well. My husband was so very tired from the events of the day that he went to sleep around 9:30 P.M. and I stayed awake until 2:30 AM, Wednesday morning, keeping watch over him.

At around 5:30 A.M, I awoke to find him sitting on the bed. He wanted to use the beside commode. I said that I was coming and to wait for me.

The next few minutes were like a nightmare that seems to never end. As I approached him, he seemed to loose consciousness and he fell forward. He didn’t put his hands up to break his fall and his face scooted along the carpet leaving a rug burn that was bleeding. His neck and body was pushed up against the wall.

I am sorry to say, but I burst into tears. I tried to rearrange him so as to relieve the obvious pressure on his head and neck. He was unresponsive to me. My first thoughts were that he had died. But, I was wrong.

I was able to reach the phone to call for help. My son was here in about 20 minutes. By the time my son was able to get here, my husband had regained consciousness and control of his legs. Together, we were able to get him up to the beside commode. There we waited for my son.

My training told me that this was a neurological kind of episode or a cardiac interruption of blood flow to the brain. No matter, either one is directly tied to the disease process of cancer.

Those in the healthcare field call this the dying phase. It is when the body is deterioating at a rate that the disease controls. There is nothing that can gauge its progress and the goal is to makes everything as comfortable as possible.

The rest of the day Wednesday went well with my son’s help. His strength, in every way, is invaluable to us. His physical strength is so necessary right now. My son has stayed with us at the expense of his wife and children for the past few nights. No matter what I say, he is not willing to leave us.

Somewhere in the memories of my mother’s cancer battle, I knew these days would come. I know that I was frightened of them from the first when the doctor said the word, “Cancer”. It was this part of the journey that I dreaded.

 I knew this part of the journey would be rocky and very difficult in every way. This part of the path challenges the physical stamina, the mind, and it slowly breaks the heart.  But, no matter what I thought I knew about the days that approach this horizon, the reality is that they are so much more difficult than what I remember.

This morning, I went to Road’s site, “The Price of Love”. He has a song posted there that is so true of our present situation and of our walk towards this sunset. Right now, this song has captured the place that we find ourselves on this long journey….It is called, “Everybody Hurts”.

Yes, It hurts right now. It hurts in places that I didn’t know existed.  And I know that this part of the journey requires a dogged determination for putting one step in front of the other. It must be walked no matter the fatigue, the heart ache or the fear.

These is no stopping the advance toward the setting sun. I must echo my son in living my misfortune. And, somehow, it must become my fortune, my treasure of great riches that must sustain me for the rest of my life. These are the last of the precious days to live and to love him.

I have a few more steps to take with him and I will find a way to walk them. And as the song say, “Hold on.” That is what I am doing. I am holding on until that time that there is nothing left to hold…until those last rays of this sunset journey are gone…

It Is What I do…

sunset-with-cross.jpgAs a child, I was quite isolatedsunset-with-cross.jpgsunset-with-cross.jpgsunset-with-cross.jpg and it was up to me and my vivid imaginations to occupy the day. I was easily amused. I would pick out rocks in the gravel driveway and I would admire the colors embedded deep within them. I especially loved quartz…it is such a mystery to me.

Then there was the huge black ant colony that inhabited the heart of the big sycamore tree. It was located in the center of the grassy part of the circular drive. So, when I tired of the rocks, I just moved a few feet to play with the ants.

These  black creatures were carpenter ants and I learned that they devoured wood like termites. I didn’t care. I found it amusing to try and stop their mindless march towards their home. I would disrupt their long caravans and I devised all manner of obstacles attempting to thwart their efforts to bring food back to the tress. In the end, it was I who was defeated. Their determination to overcome prevailed. No matter the size or complications of my contrivances, they would go to any lengths to get through my challenges. In the end, they won and I lost on a daily basis. They helped wile away the empty hours of a typical country day for a very lonely child.

The indoor past time was coloring. I was fascinated by color. I wanted every color that Crayola  ever developed. Coloring and drawing pictures kept me occupied and I wanted so much to be an artist. Alas, I have no talent, so I admire.  I love color and anything that displays its beauty. Flowers, sunsets, paintings, all were tangible representations for color to me…and in the midst of this, my dream was to capture the colors, not in a rainbow, but in the sunsets.sunset-in-pastels.jpg

I can’t remember when I discovered the intrigue of sunset. But, I am sure that it was the burst of colors that originally mystified me. I think that it was the subtle changes of hue as the sun sank farther below the horizon.. All of those iridescence on the clouds reflected and emanated from the last rays were pure eye candy for me. No matter how I tried, I could never find the right shade of the right hue that captured the corals, muted purples and the pinks!…The varied shades of pinks, like cotton candy, were too difficult to match in the 64 quantity box of Crayolas.

184d695fc1.jpgMy childhood home faced westward. Daily, I was treated to the day’s grand finale. It seemed that sunsets were just an extended part of me and I don’t understand how I lost touch with them in my adult years, but I did.

As adulthood traveled at the speed of light, I failed to stop and inhale the sunsets. It wasn’t until I tasted the bitterness of divorce that I recalled the wonderful evening light-shows. I needed to stop and watch the sunsets again. Pain and loss propelled me into the evening display for consolation and I couldn’t say, “No”. My memory highlights three sunsets in particular.

During and after my divorce, I chose to do a lot of business travel. The changing of scenery seemed to help me muddle through those dark and unforgiving days. It was on one of those westward flights that I noticed, as I was flying close to evening, it seemed the plane was chasing the sunset. If we could just fly faster, we could cause the sunset to  stand still, maybe never end. I would look out of the airplane’s window and marvel at the moment by moment subtle color changes .flying-above-the-storm.jpg

It was on business travel to St Louis, MO. that  I decided that I wanted to view a sunset from the Arch. My hotel was a few blocks away and one late afternoon, I cancelled my dinner plans and walked to the Arch.

I thought how this Arch represented new life for all those who passed through St Louis. The brave and ambitious ancestry ventured and wagered on a new start in the unknown. I needed to connect to that kind of spirit. Divorce calls on you to let the past go and only look forward. I, too, needed to be brave and ambitious and venture forth in a new life…

When I got to the Arch, I stopped in mid step when I saw just how small the cubicle was in which you road to the top. I have slight claustrophobia and I am  taller than average so the idea of folding myself into that tiny space was about to cause me to turn on my heels and go back to find my friends in the hotel.304dae27b1.jpg

Then I stopped again, in mid step, and I turned back towards the Arch. I didn’t know the future and this may be my one and only chance to see a sunset from the magnificent wonder. Should anyone around me have the misfortune of reading thoughts, they would have thought that I lost my mind with all the self dialog transpiring within my head.

I decided I could do this. I just had to stop hyperventilating long enough to enfold myself and sit on this chair like contraption. This wasn’t going to be so bad….

It wasn’t so bad until  somehow, I overlooked the architecture of the Arch. I had failed to notice how narrow it became as it got closer to the top. As the space in the cubicle also became even more cramped, my breathing became more shallow…I needed to get to the top and back on the ground quickly.

Just as I was about to pass out from lack of oxygen, the sunset came into view through that tiny window. In the next instant, I forgot about breathing because the sunset was breathtaking. I didn’t have words to discribe this beauty. It seemed to last forever. I thought for a moment that time had stood still. It definitely was worth hyperventilating for…

The next sunset that stands out in my mind is one at Marco Island, FL. My Association held its Annual Meeting on this marvelous island or in Scotsdale AZ….I attended most years. It was held in the middle of February and it was wonderful to leave the cold and bitter days behind. In February, this trip was paradise.

I loved the beach side hotel with its balconies and colorful sails of the sailboats that were pulled onto the white beaches.  I loved the sound of the waves on the shore. I was surrounded by everything my weary soul needed. On this particular trip, I arrived a day before all of the meetings. After the flight. it was an hour’s drive to the island. Even though I like to drive, this was tiring for me, so I always came the day before to set back and relax.

686dae5151.jpg As the valet parked the rental, I entered into the lobby.  I stepped through the doors into a welcoming space, and immediately, I was bathed in the light of a majectic sunset. As I looked up, it seemed that the windows became a frame for one of the most glorious settings of sun…

I hurriedly checked in and had my bags taken to the room. I sat down in one of those overstuffed chairs that faced the windows and watched the sun set into a deep blue sea.  The music was wafting through the lobby and I was oblivious to everyone and everything around me. I was mesmerized by this huge orange ball before me. I felt as if I had stepped into this wonderful picture that was hanging on the wall.

It was a year after the divorce and I was in the healing process. I had adjusted to being alone and I was becoming more confident that I would be alright. This scene from a movie had enveloped me and I basked in the last rays of the day…I was convinced, I would not only survive, I would live and enjoy my life.

My most favorite sunset isn’t a particular one. It is a composite of all of the sunsets that I ever dreamed and of those that I have experienced with my husband. The setting is one in which my husband and I are newly married. Life is good. I am in love and content for the first time in my entire adult life…

I come home from the office in the afternoon, change my clothes so we can take a ride on the motorcycle. (It doesn’t take long for me to go from business woman to biker broad). When my husband walks through the door, I meet him dressed in my leather jacket and chaps. I tell him that I need a ride. I never need to beg him to fire up the Harley….. In an amazingly short amount of time, we are in the wind. There is nothing that compares to a ride on the back of “Black Betty”.

As she rumbles to a start, my husband asks me if I want to learn how to ride and each time, I say, “No”. Finally, he asks me why and I tell him that, in my “queen” seat,  I have the best of all possible worlds. I can leave the cares of the traffic and road to his capable hands.

As the lines on the road quickly whisk by,  I can lean back and feel the wind in my hair, listen to the throaty bass tones of the exhaust and surrender myself to all that surrounds us in the relm of atmosphere. For me, riding on “Betty” is next to personal flight. I am free to escape to “La La Land”. Free to leave the cobwebs that the day collects behind me….those worries and cares are lost, gone, blown away by the wind.wonderous.jpg

As we leave the house, he asks me where I want to go. As usual, I say, ” Just put it in the wind and head west…” For the next few hours of the day, we are free to let the road take us where it will.  It is in the direction of comfort, contentment and peace of mind.

As we head west, he finds a gravel road that leads to the top of one of the hills in the National Forest. Usually, he finds a vista that faces west. When he finds the perfect spot,  he decides that this will be the place to say, “Good bye to the day”.  As we set on the provided bench, he holds my hand. We talk softly as we anticipate the approaching moment of magic.

Here, we speak of our future, our dreams and recount our great fortune of finding the love that we thought once was lost to us. In the softening rays of light, he kisses me and we no longer need to speak. We set quietly accepting our moment in the sun. This is my most favorite scene of setting sun…the one sunset that I wish to capture, to hold and to hope that time will hold still. Just one more ride, one more sunset, one more dream….

gloaming-in-purple.jpgReflecting back over time, it would seem that, for me, life is an array of sunsets; always an ending and a beginning. I dreamed that he and I had more sunsets to watch as we sat in the final rays of our days.

But, I know that his final sunset is approaching. And when that ending of days comes, I will set, hold his hand, kiss his lips and tell him how much I enjoyed each moment, each sunset that we shared. I will watch his final sunset and be in awe of its beauty…because

It is what I do…I relish sunsets….af9c03e371.jpg