take two on turkey day. be forewarned.

last year I was kind of pissed about having to be grateful. after all, I was reeling from two very significant deaths.

this year I do feel grateful, for many things. for almost everything, actually. I give thanks every morning when I start my day. I give thanks before I go to sleep. I am much more present in every day.

but going into the in-your-face-family-packed holiday season as a widow who lost half her family still fucking sucks. it’s really painful.

make no wishbones about it.

what do I wish?

to fill the void. to make up for what I lost. I have this crazy urgency to cram my life full of turkey, ham, buttery rolls, creamy mashed potatoes loaded with cheese and garlic, pumpkin pie piled sky-high with fresh whipped cream. I want to grab the wine bottle and start guzzling so furiously that it splatters all over my face. choking down life, like a savage. like there’s no tomorrow.

because for me, there is no tomorrow.

yes. I have loose plans. I have hopes. but I’m not counting on tomorrow. I’m also not clinging to yesterday. I guess I’ve kind of “let go”.

but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel pain, or loneliness, or desire happiness. that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish for the stability and security I once had in love, in my family, in life. I want a thanksgiving that feels complete…

but this girl ain’t no turkey. this girl knows that one day, she will experience loss again. and that others around her who can’t even fathom the day, will also, one day experience the raw brutality of it. so in the meantime, I am stockpiling. slowly strengthening, slowly expanding as much as I can, right here, right now, to continue accepting the fullness of life. the whole fucking bird, the delicious fatty parts, and the jabby bones.

you know how it goes. pile up your plate. then take a breather. a nap. digest. watch a little football. let the stomach stretch out, then head back for seconds.

that’s what I’m going in for now. seconds. my second lifeā€¦the one that contains the fullness of having had an amazing dad, the fullness of having had a wonderful husband, and the one that also contains the massive loss of those two people. My second life is more rich because it is more painful. Fuller because it is emptier. But I am living it, here and now.

And there is still room for dessert.

Amen.

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Bloodsucking gratitude

20130814-073205.jpgMan, the bloodsuckers were out tonight…Midwest mosquitoes. Because our spring was so drab, the bugs were delayed in their arrival, but now they are here with a vengeance, making up for lost time. Which is what I am trying to do with my neglected garden as well, spreading mulch after work whilst swatting the bloodsuckers. My garden is out of control this year. I can’t keep up with it because, really, it’s a two-man project, and I’m down one man. But I’m doing the best I can, and some dear friends had extra mulch that they shared with me.

Death, and losing someone, will do the same thing if you allow it, suck the “blood” right out of your life. There’s a strange apathy that hits, coating everything in gray. I won’t deny that there have been times when I have wondered what the purpose is? What am I living for? I could get cancer tomorrow, and I wouldn’t even have a mate to take care of me. So they tell you to try and appreciate the small things. Look closely, there are little breaks in the clouds. Try to be grateful for the things you do have, the things you still enjoy, and eventually the color will come back. I know this to be true. But my gratitude is a work in progress, and it often feels as unruly as my garden. A “thank you” here, a quiet moment there…

…like spreading mulch on this hot summer night. I know my husband would have given anything to be here doing this with me. Despite his hatred of mosquitoes, he loved powering through a gardening project. If he could have made a deal with death, or with the fierce she-leader of the mosquito kingdom, trading his blood for his life (along with some itchy bites), he would have done it. If only that were the choice. Cancer is a much deadlier adversary, the oft victor of life-and-death negotiations, one bad-ass parasite.

I realize my blog tends to focus on the hard parts of loss. It’s a healthy way to work through the tough, honest emotions. A person can’t just go from grieving widow to happy clown in a day. I lost two people, and my life is less without them. I miss them both tremendously. But I’m trying to shift my focus, my attitude, my gratitude.

And I realized tonight that I have turned a corner. I am not out of the woods yet, but on this beautiful summer evening, I can smell the mint and the lavender my husband planted, I am sweating and swatting, and I am grateful. Not for the mosquitoes…(I mean come on, I ain’t the Buddha!), but I am grateful for the life-blood that continues to run though my veins. Some lucky skeeters actually got to enjoy my husband’s sweet blood; I got to enjoy his sweet and funny nature, taste his salty skin. I am still relishing it, here, now, as I tend to our lush garden, full of bugs and blooms, thinking of him, on this night.