House rules

photo 5Before I started a blog, I read a lot of other blogs about loss. I noticed that many of them had a “shelf-life”, so to speak. The writer eventually must have felt that expressing their grief in a blog, had run its course. I took it to mean that they had moved on to processing their grief differently, that they were healing, and were finally able to let grief move into the background…no longer hogging center stage. Some people probably also just got sick and tired of writing about grief! I’ve been starting to feel like a broken record, myself.

In fact, just this morning, armed with an extremely ambitious to-do list, I thought, “Hey! I might be done writing about grief”. Not that I am done grieving, but I am starting to feel that perhaps writing about it isn’t helping me move forward any more. And really, I feel like I keep saying the same damn thing, just in a slightly different way. See? Didn’t I already say that? Continue reading

Rebuilding

14558D36B0431A88EE94F9666096_h316_w628_m5_cZjHylszdSometimes it feels like I am completely starting over. From nothing, with nothing.

My rational mind knows this isn’t true, I have a lot to be thankful for, a job, a home, family, friends. But sometimes my loss just filets me! Slices and dices me into pieces that I just don’t even know how to start putting back together. Continue reading

4×6

There are days when I want to burn them all. Every single flat, one-dimensional photo that I have of him. Because I hate that it’s all I have. I hate that I can’t feel the stubble on his face, only run my fingers across the high-gloss sheen of a 4×6 from Walgreens. Is that all you’ve got for me? A shiny fake finish on a life that was so much more? It’s not enough to fill the void. Not. Enough.

Actually, hold on, we can frame it differently if you’d like, we give him 4-6 months. How do those dimensions work for you? 4-6? 4×6? More like getting smacked in the chest with a 2×4.

I never thanked his oncologist. I think it’s because she was the one who said those words. She wasn’t to blame; she tried to help. But it was on that day that I felt the floor give out from under us, and down the rabbit hole we went. It was infuriating and sickening to look up and see them all watching helplessly, with pity in their eyes, knowing there was nothing they could do. But 4 months is more than some people get. And cancer? I guess I can be thankful that I have a convenient enemy to direct my anger at.

And so I continue to flop around, some days thankful, other days resentful. Surrounded by photos, and his folded t-shirts. Memories. A drawer full of socks. His shoes, sitting in the closet, empty, never to be filled again. And the photos, a precious, precious facsimile, but devilish in their trickery. I hate them and love them. The reminder of everything I had, and everything I lost.

Sacred things.

It’s still very hard for me to think about the day he died. While I have visited the hospice grounds several times, I haven’t visited the memories of his last days that often. It’s still too painful. Even thinking over the entire year that is now behind me, I revisit bits and pieces, grief flings certain moments back in my face, but to absorb it all, I’m still not able.

But I would like to share one thing that I really loved about my husband. He had beautiful hands; big, strong, perfectly proportioned, and soft. He loved holding hands. He also liked giving foot massages, and had funny names for the self-taught techniques he’d employ. My feet loved him. All the animals loved him, too, because he’d woo them to sleep with full-body rubs. His touch was magical at taming a beast, at turning a grouch into a slouch, at kneading the hard edges out of a tough day. Man, it was good to be a pet in our house…or a foot. Or a wife. My husband had a lot of love to give, and he wasn’t shy about showing it.

I remember noticing his hands on one of our first dates, we took a picnic to the lake, went swimming. Afterwards, as we dried in the sun, he put his hand on my back. I completely melted. I felt so cared for, protected. Instantly safe in his love.

He also became the designated jar- and bottle-opener in the house. A small thing, but a big trigger of his absence. I’ve actually thrown out several full, unopened jars of spaghetti sauce this past year, in a complete rage. I really wanted to hurl them against the wall, a red messy burst of anger against cancer and death, but at least my rational mind was smart enough to aim for the garbage bin.

* * *

My husband died early in the morning on May 28, 2012. He had been breathing heavily all night. I lay next to him for a while, but then moved to the chair, worried that I was bothering him, worried that he needed room, to breath, to be…to die.

It’s the strangest thing, you go to hospice knowing you are there because someone is going to die. But, truthfully? I didn’t understand that he was going to die there, on that day, on that morning. If I had, I wouldn’t have left his side for a second. But my mind could not make the leap from “before” to “after”.

It has taken an entire year, navigating this stoney path of loss, for my mind to grasp it. No wonder I am tired. My psyche has been working hard, and there’s no one here to massage my feet. I’m the only left walking the dog, a dog that we used to walk together. Every day. We’d walk, talk, hold hands, critique our neighbors’ gardens, discuss what we were going to plant in our own…

So I often think about him when I am walking. I think about his hands, and how I miss them. How I miss him. And sometimes I think back to his last day. How, after he died, I left the room for a while. In shock. I don’t even remember where I went. When I returned, they had folded his hands across his chest. They looked so perfect, as if they’d been carved out of marble. I remember thinking that maybe I should take a photo, so I would never forget.

But some things are sacred. Too sacred to be photographed. Some too sacred even to be to talked, or written about.

And why would I need a photo? The image is etched in my heart. Me, looking at him, touching his hands, one last time, as if captured by the great artist above, the day that my world turned to stone, my husband’s beautiful hands never again to touch my back, my feet, my face, his hands never again to open a jar, or soften one of life’s many blows.

Looking for signs of life…

(Or Movie Mash-up: “Get busy living, or get busy dying, Dude.”)

Shawshank Redemption. Good movie. No, GREAT movie. It was on last week and I watched it for the hundredth time. I was reminded of the quote, “get busy living, or get busy dying.” I also watched the Big Lebowski…the Dude. I had forgotten most of it, and it had me busting out laughing. Every morning now, I hear the soundtrack in my head, asking to “see what condition my condition is in”….

I was in a very dark place recently. And while in this “condition”, many things happened. Mostly, I was mourning the loss of my husband, remembering the months we spent in the hospital, worrying that I will forget his wonderful qualities, wondering if I will ever come out of my grief. Have I made a single step forward? I often feel stagnant, boxed in by a very narrow vision of my self.

When I started this blog, I didn’t know what I was doing, or why. Stuff was just pouring out of me. It had to come out. But not without some trepidation, about sharing publicly. Worried that no one would read it, worried that anyone would read it. When I got my first follower, I had a panic attack. Then, as others started following, I got even more confused. Why are they even reading this dark shit? I haven’t posted anything funny for weeks! And why do I even feel the need to be funny? This is a blog about loss. Again…what am I doing? Why? Continue reading

And then there was quiet.

I know what’s been going on this week. I have been here before. Raging and railing against grief. I recognize the fight. But this go around has been particularly brutal. I felt out of control, like it was controlling me.

Then, finally, as I was shoveling snow last night, crying, there came a quiet voice. Enough, little creature. Enough. Put down the shovel. Stop fighting.

Standing in the cold, surrounded by sparkling snow and a sparkling sky, it became clear. Grief is a gift. In the face of emptiness, the incomprehensible hole left by his death, grief gives me something to fight against. Denial, anger, frustration, pain. Fight it I will, many more times, I am sure. Every round, wildly throwing punches at the shadow of death, until I am tired out, cried out, knocked-out on the floor. Continue reading

The Jekyll and Hyde of it.

Ah, Grief. You fickle, fickle bastard.

You give me a day or two of gentleness and hope. Maybe I can actually take on an extra task. Like grocery shopping, perhaps laundry, or sending a thank you note. And on this day, if a friend were to ask, how are you doing? The answer might even be, I am OK.

But what a joke.

i. am. not. okay.

Continue reading