Eddies, ellipses, and deep sea dwellers

When you are in the worst of it…you think it will never end. You feel like someone dunked you into the pool of sadness, your lungs fill with water, and when you come up gasping for air, you get dunked again. Come on. I didn’t even get a chance to breathe! That’s how it can feel for quite a while. Death is a choker. And loss, a deep, deep well.

But slowly, you learn to calm the waters. When you feel the wave of panic coming ’round, instead of fighting it, you roll with it. You ride it out. Or – you plug your nose, close your eyes, and let it pass, fully aware that you can only use escapism so many times…

Sometimes you drop to the bottom, allowing the weight of the water to push you down, and you are able to sit still for a while in that dark cool place, feeling it for what it is. Cold. Lonely. Beautiful and still. That’s what I always loved about diving toward the bottom of a lake. There was anxiety there, too, holding my breath, heading toward the quiet coolness, totally alone, testing my strength, pushing my lungs, pushing at life. And then the warmth…as I’d swim back toward the surface. Feeling like I was bursting back into the world, a place of air, sounds, laughter and sun.

It does get better.

They say that you will always carry your loss with you, and that you learn to live with your grief. I don’t doubt this. And I am aware that the deepest pool, the one that contains the darkest moments, will always be there. It has incredible power. My chest still tightens at the thought of falling back in, it can pull you down so quickly, with such force.

But it has eased a little. It’s like the death-grip loosened, and spread itself out into smaller eddies. Places that are still swirling with the same water, but less deep. Less painful. Less potential for emotional drowning. There are even moments, when I dare to say, I am the ROCK, damn it….around which everything else can just go ahead and swirl.

Thank god. It does get better. I am better.

But definitely not the same…(<—- and if I might say so myself, this ellipsis is probably the most appropriately placed one in this entire blog)

Apparently over 95% of the ocean has yet to be explored. And what of our minds, our psyche? And the mysterious beauty of soul, spirit, and those incredible deep water fish…

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An altered landscape

GovNelPrairieThere are a lot of things you are forced to accept when someone dies.

One of the more confounding things is that other people will mourn differently. Most of them in their own quiet way, not able to share their experience of the loss with you. Perhaps because they are afraid to, or they don’t know how. When we grieve, we learn about ourselves. Though grief is brought on by the loss of someone else, when you are thrust into grief, you spend a lot of time trying to comprehend your own reaction to it.

There is a park that I drive past often, my husband and I used to run there, we’d take the dog to the lake, we’d photograph prairie plants. It’s a vast park with woodland and prairie trails, and it lies along a scenic, but busy country highway.

I remember several years ago noticing a dead tree that stood on its own, near the road. It punctuated the top of the hill as you drove past the park, it was such a lovely silhouette. I told my husband that I wanted to photograph it. It was one of those things you say, but never do. It would have been hard to photograph, it would have to be done from the road, there wasn’t really a good place to stop, it was dangerous, last year a cyclist was hit and killed. And really, I have always thought, not everything has to become a photo, right? Some things should just be experienced.

Well, one day we came over the crest of the hill and the tree was gone. It had crumbled, or fallen, perhaps taken down in a storm. As we zipped past (going at least 55mph, as is the posted speed limit), I could see the remnants, how the tree had fallen, on its natural way to decomposition. On this busy commuter road, probably no other soul even noticed. But I have often wondered, did anyone else notice?

I noticed. Every time I drove past the park, it bothered me! I mourned it, the old landscape. The striking view, that was once worthy of a snapshot, had lost its star performer. This singular element gave the whole scene meaning, tied everything together. Like my life. My marriage, my partnership. The Fred, of Fred and Ginger, gone.

That is one of my greatest anxieties now. The worry, and frustration, that I am the only one who remembers there was once a beautiful and unique tree, completing the hillside, completing the picture of our life. The other commuters continue on, busy with their lives, too consumed with their own comfort to stop and take note of a landscape forever changed. But that is an assumption. And I hope it’s wrong.

I know he wasn’t “everything” to “everyone”. But he was everything to me. And his death has altered me, my view, and viewpoint. And even though I have slowly gotten used to the landscape at the park, I have accepted its softer silhouette, I will never be able to look at it without feeling the absence of the tree, without missing what once was.

And those who knew him, I can only hope that they too will remember him, that he will forever be a part of the landscape of their lives, even in his absence. They probably don’t realize that every time they mention him, or mention their grief, it’s a treasure to me, it helps diffuse the burden, the weight, the worry that I am the only one working on the scrapbook, desperately trying to keep the pieces together, every single story, every memory, like dots of ink on paper, building to create the complete picture, a snapshot of a life once lived.

The nature of it…

DSC00876We all know how nature is. The truth of it. You find a baby bird on the ground, its wobbly head and paper-thin skin, and you debate…and worry…and try to make the “right” decision, a decision that is “of nature”, when our humanity crosses paths with the wild of it.

And this time, perhaps you are able to get the little chirper back in the nest. And then you cross those fingers that mama bird, and mother nature will accept your intervention.

I know I can’t escape my sadness. The truth of it. That I too, am injured, vulnerable, a wounded animal that no one can save. And so we all sit, in different places, hoping, perhaps praying, or back to doing dishes, then down for a good night of sleep, not knowing if that baby bird will survive the night, or ever take a first flight.

It’s the nature of it. Of life and love, and trying to help someone who has suffered a loss.

Sometimes the most comforting thought to me, is being rescued by my husband’s beautiful strong hands, as he gently places me back in the nest. Broken wings, barely breathing, that he loved me, and cared for me, if even for just a short moment, that’s enough to get this little bird through the night.

Float Like a Butterfly

There was a very popular WordPress blog posting a week or two ago, in which the blogger wrote about his dislike for the phrase “I’m spiritual, not religious”. I was intrigued by his post and the discourse that followed. Since the death of my husband, one of the many struggles I have had, has been with “faith” and my beliefs. I did not grow up with religion, but I have always felt spiritually connected to “something”. I remember using the same phrase years ago; it was a good way to describe myself. I am not sure I would use it now, but I was a little taken aback by the many vehement attitudes against it. The last sentence pretty much sums up the blogger’s opinion,

“It is perhaps one of the emptiest phrases ever developed in the English language.”

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