Love Grows, Life Changes

Toothbrush, photo taken in Sweden

Toothbrush, photo taken in Sweden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It takes but a minute for everything in your life to change your life completely.  It hits you with a tremendous blow, shock, grief but you can get used to that since you have no choice, you are completely unaware. No choice is not a world I want to live in either.

When I travel now, I usually forget to bring my blue toothbrush and white bristles, so too, the tooth paste. I never needed it before, it was a silly tradition, I know, but one that delighted me. Knowing that I could always use your toothbrush when we were away together. That was the type of intimacy that I knew about. Silly things like that.

Now, I can’t. I understand that you didn’t want to leave me, that your heart was very sick,  clogged arteries that were too far along to be saved but I wished for it anyway. I was in the in-between place of hope and reality. “Please, please, please” I would murmur under my breath in a chant as if maybe God would tune in faster or adjust his schedule but nothing changed.

It was your time, my love, and you knew it as well as I did. Imagine, trying to cheer me up when you were about to die and leave me hanging here like a piece of dangling thread blowing softy in the sunshine, back and forth, back and forth.

We came in together, arm in arm, walking slowly through the mushy gray snow and yet when I left there was nobody beside me, nobody to take my hand, nobody to put their arms around my shoulders, to reassure me.

Our children called but they were not here, they had their own families and excuses now. I understood completely how their husbands and wives did not want them to cross to the other side of the country as well, to get soaked up in my misery and the lost of their daddy. Nobody knew that more than I.

Yet, I thought death would come, most certainly, in the middle of the night, my naïve silence and undisturbed sleep, awakened by the shrill of the old yellow phone I still used by the bedside. But now, in reality, it didn’t work that way, I was right by your side, as you took your last breath and calmly closed your eyes.

English: Portrait of old woman sitting by a wi...

English: Portrait of old woman sitting by a window. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“That’s it?” I thought to myself? Death could slip in on soft kitten feet and steal away my husband with no big fanfare at all? Steal his loveliness, the color of his lips and cheeks and joy for life in a matter of seconds, while I stood there watching, watching the blood drain from him?

I put my head on his cold chest and I cried but I knew his hands couldn’t comfort me, or hold me like they had. From now on, I was no longer part of a couple, I was alone. My name was now “Widower.” It stayed that way for a very long time until I too decided it was time enough to join your father, there was nothing useful about me without him. He was my life.

I said goodbye to all the children and grandchildren with a long good-bye and gave each special hug.

It took too many weeks to get my affairs in order but I would know when the time was right. One day they all came in for Christmas, I saw each child and grandchild. After they left, I knew it was my time to go.This has been planned before the death of my husband Harold, he would do the same if I had died first.  It wasn’t hard at all but it was something we needed to do, I was only sorry that I had postponed this day for so many long weeks. Let’s face it, I had no regrets. Ever.

I had no interest in living a life without my other half. It was like living empty, physically here yet without a soul. No, I didn’t want that at all.

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Come what may (Carry on Tuesday)

Old Man Grieving - Vincent van Gogh

Old Man Grieving – Vincent van Gogh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Life can be very scary. In one second your entire world could change, blow up into tiny, little pieces. Destroyed. The world you once knew would become Before and After. Usually, unless this change is winning the 22 million dollar lottery, this does not usually occur in good situations. Am I right? In everyday life there are always tragedies that come unexpectedly,  probably things completely different from what you worried about and it never is good.

It’s called growing up. Realizing that sometimes there is fear hiding around the corner, which eery corner you have no idea but for a time it will be dark. You tend to forget about the dangers in life for brief periods of time when things go along swimmingly until something happens and then you realize “yes, it’s been quiet for too long.” As John Lennon used to sing “Life is what happens, when you are making other plans.” The unexpected, the things you didn’t plan for, the strong red slap stinging and leaving an imprint across your pale, white face.

Hold on to someone tight, a best friend, a spouse, a partner, a sister or a brother, anyone. Because, when bad things happen you will need someone who you trust and love, someone who loves you back. A person who will try to soothe you even though you think it may not help. Let them try, accept their offer to make you a hot cup of cocoa with marshmallows to comfort you A person that will make you lie down and force you to rest no matter if you can’t sleep, a person you can cry in front of alone or just someone to hold your hand and cover you in soft blue blankets.

Life is not easy, though we don’t realize that until we are older, but come what may, having someone, to share it with, makes it just a little easier to breathe because you have them and their support.  While your heart is still literally in pain and skipping beats eventually your own heart starts beating at a similar rhythm you had before. You are still alive. You will grieve your loss in your own way, take your  time and try to let your feelings out.  Mourn YOUR way. There are no steps to follow to make it easier for you.  My sister once told me after our father died, that I was “grieving too much.” I knew I wasn’t, I was just grieving louder, and expressing my grief differently than her. We also had a very different relationship with our dad. There is no right or wrong, no time limit, no book to follow.

Sooner or later, with time, you will see that while the pain never completely goes away, it becomes less potent, it happens less often and with less severity. You might even find that one day, you will talk about the loss of a person you loved with a smile of fondness and love. You might think that you had the opportunity, the blessing to love someone and have them in your life for so many years instead of focusing on them dying and leaving your life.

Just two weeks ago I held up a new pen that I knew my father would love for Father’s Day. I picked it up and smiled broadly with delight. I was on my way to the register when I remembered I had no father to give this to. Life will get better, with time, after loss. Truly, it will, I know that. But don’t let anyone tell you that you will never have any tough moments. I can’t lie to you, once in a great while, you will.

Carry on Tuesday: A ray of hope flickers in the sky, Newtown, CT.

Infrared Background Light from First Stars

Infrared Background Light from First Stars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been said that when a child is born, with all their innocence and sweetness, that a ray of hope flickers in the dark, dark sky. That if you look up at the time of the child’s birth, you too, can see the bright star of illumination descending to earth as all of us above are around him or her. We surround the baby with joy and laughter, we murmur and sing with happiness and grace and a quiet round of applause. We welcome your child, every child to the world so each child born already feels special, like the unique miracle they are.

But, when a child dies, we weep. You may not hear us, or feel us amongst your grief, but we are right beside you, holding your hand, touching you and never leaving your side or your child’s side. We know about the tragedies that happen in your world and don’t think it doesn’t upset us because it hurts us too. We must stay calm because we know how beautiful the other side is and it is our job is to take the physical body of your child and guide it to the other side. The love for your child and the child’s love for you is never taken away, please know that. The spiritual side of your child is with you forever, love never dies; it is always around in different forms. Some of you may need to get used to that, others take to it immediately. If you are open to it, you will receive messages but it may take time.

Of course you will miss the physical body of your child, that IS gone forever and nothing can change that, not even a miracle. But know, with the same joy we have delivered your child to you, we have brought them home to heaven and there they are safe, and happy and know that both us angels and you love them very much. They are watching over you now, and telling you not to be sad, to try to remember their memories with laughter and happiness when you are ready. They don’t want you to be sad anymore than you wanted them to feel pain. This lifetime is over, but a new one is beginning, the children have been laughing since they arrived. Move on from the past, look forward to the future, do this for your child and for your family.

Please know that when a child is taken from his/her family they do go to a better place, they are no longer in pain. But, also know, it does not go unnoticed in our world above; the star that flickered bright when your child was born to you is extinguished in the sky to commemorate your child’s loss. It is how we grieve your loss. We are always at your child’s heavenly side but we will never forget about you either.

The Apple Tree – (It’s Really Not About The Turkey- Part 2)

English: An apple tree loaded with apples in i...

English: An apple tree loaded with apples in its upper crown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Children leave you, like everyone leaves you; you know it is true. Ultimately that’s our biggest fear and the only one that we can’t deny because we know it’s true. We are born alone and we die alone. Children have been leaving us as soon as they take their first step.  Dying is just the last step, in this world at least, but people and pets have gone ahead of us all our lives. It’s the one thing we cannot control, the one thing that causes us the most pain and grief yet we can’t prevent it nor can we heal it. We can’t make it better for others nor can we help ourselves. For me, the only solution I have found is time and letting my pain out like a bursting dam, writing about it helps but it takes a great amount of time to wrap my head around the fact that I will never see that person again. We all grieve differently. Don’t let anyone tell you how to grieve or that you are not grieving the “right ” way. Time does heal, but you can’t expect to forget. Eventually, the memories become sweet reminders of the past.

My children, who have been home for Thanksgiving, for four days, are excited to leave for their other “home” tomorrow morning at ll:00 a.m. They are going back to their respective colleges.  I was surprised to hear how early they were leaving; I know they have a very long drive but deep down I knew that wasn’t the reason. They were ready to go home to their friends, their college family, their parties. I was not surprised at how much they wanted to go back but I was a little disappointed.  I am glad they are their own people now but deep inside my empty womb I felt a pinch of disappointment, of grief. They have left us for good.

Like a sturdy tree, we have stood as a family for twenty years. Now, the tree that once stood so solidly is dropping its apples and the apples are good, they are tasty, juicy and we as parents are proud.  We have made them but they are not our apples anymore, they do not belong to us. They belong to the world, to the men and women who take them home, who love them. Surely, they will remember us, but we will never be their first priority again. It’s a true fact, one you can’t deny and one parents everywhere have to accept. It’s not easy, I know.

So, yes, it was wonderful to watch them grow and to keep watching them, every step of the way. Deep in our hearts, we know, that it will never be the same as it once was. Never. Sure, they will love us in they hearts but they will no longer need us the same way; our goal was to make them independent, remember? I forget too sometimes. They go out into the world to find their own place, to meet their own loves, to start their own families.

We are alone, like when we were born. We will probably die alone, which I know, is a scary thought. Maybe we will be lucky and someone will be there to hold our hand or to whisper “I love you” in our little, paper-thin, shell-like ear, but no one can promise that. We die as we are born. All the steps along the way are lessons to be learned on separation. Be your own person, as much as you can. Love yourself first before you love others.

Haiku Heights – Silence

Cover art for Silence Screams (1988)

Cover art for Silence Screams (1988) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Screams roar from my mouth

words can’t escape the damage

I turn to the wall.

*****

No-one speaks or shouts

Try to talk in measured tones

Words that are silent.

*****

Old wounds, never die

ripped apart with trembling hands

Add blood and lemon.

*****

Deep within my grief

We know that life is cruel, sad

Always more to come.

Haiku Heights – Endurance

Rainbow bridge

Rainbow bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(In Memory of my dog, Callie)

Tears spill from my eyes

Cascading grief, come undone

Spread, advanced cancer.

*************

Pain unfolds anew

Stab wounds in my broken heart

My world is dead black.

************

Old Pain Anew

Pregnancy and blood

Image by ec-jpr via Flickr

Many moons ago

They told me that I probably would never conceive babies.

I was lost inside myself with pain and grief, tears dripped down me like a steady rainfall.

I suffered emotionally and physically, drugs, blood drawn, nightly injections plunged

in to my thigh from my husband.

The pain took over me, possessed me with the sole, solitary routine of sadness and grief.

They told me I couldn’t have babies, that I was barren.

I listened to them every bright sunny day until every dark dismal night for two and a half years.

Those stupid fool nurses and doctors who clucked their heads at my chances were wrong.

When I got pregnant it was the happiest time in my life, I burst with blossoms.

I loved being a glowing pregnant woman sharing a secret with her unborn child

my hand rubbing my tummy lightly in soft circles.

My children were born twenty-one months apart, now 17 and almost 19.

I gave birth to each of them, a blessing, a gift, two presents from G-d.

The years pass too quickly, like a frenzied movie at the wrong speed.

I miss the emotional softness from young children

kisses soft as goose down, sloppy hugs, wet kisses and shiny faces like lit pumpkins.

My son is leaving for college in three weeks

I  realized this pain is very familiar, it is the feeling of loss.

It hurts but I am older now however,

the past, as I know it, is gone forever.

Time moves at a rapid pace robbing us of memories.

They are leaving me, and not turning back to wave good-bye,

I know that they will return but it is a new stage, a turned chapter, a new course.

It is a big change and one that we all may love but tonight, in this instant,

I feel barren, all over again.

Ordinary Days Are Magical

chocolate covered cherry

Image by circulating via Flickr

I woke up this morning, not to the shrill blaring of my radio alarm clock, or to a shaken shoulder but when my eyes opened and turned to the window.  It’s been a long few days and today I have nothing planned. I did a mental body check of all my ailments: Fibromyalgia aches and pains were present, my right leg still hurt  but was manageable. My knee still throbbed from my recent fall on the icy pavement but my mood was good. I had ten hours of sleep and while the sun was not shining it could have been. There was no snow in the forecast, reason enough to celebrate.

I started driving to the supermarket, because food, comfort and love equals nurturing for me.  I didn’t really need much except an idea of what to cook for tonight’s dinner and a destination. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the grocery store and new items celebrated my return. Marshmallow yellow chick peeps out the day after Valentine’s Day? Okay. A discounted box of chocolate covered cherries? I love those and I am not proud. Sugar cookies to make for my children and various treats for my dog, Callie’s, upcoming birthday in March. (shh! it’s a surprise party.)

I felt a little guilty because the simple, routine, “mom” things that I was able to do today, I did with less grief. As many of you know, my friend Dawn died on Friday night  and after the wake and the funeral and some time, today I woke up void of a dark, painful shadow. Then I remembered Dawn’s family, her father and mother, her husband, her siblings and her three children not able to escape the haunting grief. I felt guilty for being relieved and it pains me to write this.  I have been in their place before when my father died so I know, I truly KNOW what they are going through and how much it hurts and for how long.  I grieve for my friend, the twinkling green-eyed Dawn, but not the same way her children, her husband and relatives are grieving. Not even close. I feel bad that I have the luxury of distraction.

Strolling through the market I decided what I would be making for dinner, ravioli with a thick marinara sauce that I add a small can of tomato paste to, a store-bought fresh pizza, mozzarella and tomato salad with basil with drizzled olive oil and a multigrain loaf of Italian bread, still warm to the touch from the bakery. It’s rare that my family  eats at the same time these days but I feel happy with them just being home, together for a little while. Next year, with my son in college, it will all be very different.

That is why today, a simple trip to the supermarket and a walk through Target with a Starbucks gift card felt special. I bought a skinny vanilla latte with a shot of espresso to manage my afternoon weariness.  The simple touching of my dog’s fur, and playing with her outside in the snow felt like a gift.  An ordinary day at the supermarket felt, to me, like a five-day vacation to the Bahamas. It’s true that you don’t appreciate normalcy when you have been overwhelmed with an abnormal amount of grief and sorrow or horrible pain from any disease. A simple day that ends with a hot bath, sleepy eyes and a half-smile, is indeed, a miracle.

Losing Dawn

Farmland near Queniborough. Unploughed stubble...

Image via Wikipedia

I will never look at the afternoon winter light in the same way again. My friend Dawn died today, February 11th, 2011 when the sky was blue, the sun shone through wind-swept trees next to ice and black snow, nudging a path. From inside, it looked too pretty for someone to have died.  The sun was low and beamed on the bare empty branches like gold necklaces or a child‘s long, blond, sun-streaked hair.

I knew for a long time that my friend Dawn was dying. All of us in the neighborhood, walking partners and friends knew how her breast cancer metastasized to brain cancer. Hearing the words from my friend Margaret that Dawn had passed away a couple of hours ago in her house, was still shocking. Shocking in a mute, surreal way. It’s not as if I thought she would make a miraculous recovery, but if we didn’t see or hear about her, she was still okay and that was soothing and comforting. Intellectually, I should have known better; I didn’t. Knowing someone is going to die is so very different from their actual death. I couldn’t feel a thing.

I remember writing: “Praying For Dawn” on my blog and I made a copy for her. She read it and loved it and told me her family read it too. She even left me a message on my answering machine to say “Thank you,” I never erased that message.

Her daughter had just started college in Vermont as a February Freshman a few days earlier yet there was a car from Vermont  parked outside their house. Dawn and her husband John have three children, her daughter, age 18,  the eldest, her middle son, 16 and their youngest a boy age 14. There is no doubt in my mind that Dawn refused to die until her daughter was at school, just like my father lived through Christmas and died five days later, ten years ago.

What do you say when it’s actually over? Sometimes, nothing. The call I got from my friend should have clued me in but it didn’t. When she said “are you sitting down?” you would think that I would known immediately but I didn’t. My first thought was about my friend’s mother who is in her eighties. I, very slowly,  sat down. Thirty seconds later it hit me, “Oh Dear God, not Dawn,” I whispered into the phone. “Yes, she said and paused, Dawn passed away today, two hours ago.”

She died in her house, around the corner from me. Her parents who live on the Cape had come down a lot these past few years.  Margaret and I used to see them walking arm in arm, crying as they tried to walk slowly around the corner, holding on to each other for support. It took every bit of self-control not to run to them and hug them but they didn’t want to see Dawn’s friends, friends who were living when their daughter was dying. Would you?

Before my father died he used to say that “nothing is as important as your health” all the time and I remember it. I too, know grief. Now, I am grieving for my friend and her husband, children and their extended family. I am glad my friend’s pain and suffering are gone but knowing someone is going to die and them actually dying are two very strong and separate emotions. It’s the feeling of in between; it’s too new to comprehend and yet it was about four years in the making. Four years when I first noticed her bald, shiny head and twinkling green eyes standing outside wearing a cap in the pure, naked sunshine.

I laid beneath a sheet, two fraying cotton blankets, one dingy white, one blue, a thick burgundy colored comforter and an old beige puffy down comforter. l huddle beneath these blankets and still my hands are freezing and so too, my toes. I dig deep down inside the blankets and try to cover myself but I still don’t feel warm, I think I will never feel warm again.

In Memory Of Dawn