May 12, 2013
Being a Mother isn’t always easy, even under the best of circumstances. I know some pretty amazing Mothers. Many, who have had to be Mothers in ways they never imagined.
Mothers who fight for a better life for their child with special needs or medial conditions.
Mothers who take care of both their child/ren, and a spouse with an illness or disability.
Mothers who have had to face giving birth alone.
Mothers who have faced the death of their child, or dreams of being a Mother seem to have died.
I know some Fathers, who have had to take on the roll of Mother as well, following the death of their spouse.
And, Mothers who have had to take on the roll of Father as well.
* * * * *
My Mother has watched me suffer in ways she never would have wished, and felt helpless. Elias’ Mother, lost her oldest son at far too young an age.
Becoming a Mother was without a doubt, the greatest moment of my life. And, I got to do it twice. My girls, are without a doubt, the greatest joys of my life.
Sitting on the couch, awake all night four years ago, facing the unthinkable task of trying to figure out how exactly I was going to tell my girls that their Daddy had died, was one of the darkest times of my life (the darkest, clearly, having occurred immediately prior). I had no idea how to breathe any more, let alone manage our family – alone.
Since then, I have faced some pretty big challenges as a Mother. There are moments I’m far less than proud of. There are moments that have hurt more than I can even share.
I’ve held my girls as they cried for their Daddy. I’ve witnessed their pain and felt that helplessness. I’ve listened to their dandelion wishes, candle wishes, ‘if I caught a leprechaun’ wishes, all to have their Daddy back.
But, I’ve had some pretty damn proud moments as a Mother too. And, my girls – our girls – are amazing. Beyond amazing. I won’t even try to put it into words at the moment. I love them to bits and never stop telling them so. Never stop making sure they feel it. That they feel enough love, as if from two parents.
* * * * *
I foggily recall my first Mother’s Day after Elias died . . . we had just left for the cruise that he was supposed to be on with us on (his parents, mine, and his grandma, along with the girls and I), and I had to leave dinner early as I thought I was going to be sick.
As I am looking at my 5th without him now, there is more joy in our house, and in our hearts now than there was at that time 4yrs ago. It’s still not always easy. I still miss him every day. We all do. Greatly.
It’s always going to be bittersweet. Big moments and celebrations will always still come with that ache.
And, moments (like what happened in my living room just now that I can’t even explain . . . ) that could be so little and insignificant, or I could read into it a message from him, and it brings me to my knees in instant tears.
* * * * *
I’m incredibly thankful to the Moms I know who support me on my journey. Who encourage me, listen, advise, help, and set an amazing example of Motherhood. I’m forever thankful to my Mom, who does so, so much for the girls and I, every day.
I know plenty of Mom’s whose Mother’s Day wish is to be able to go to the bathroom alone, to have an uninterrupted phone conversation, to sleep in – those are my kind of wishes often too!
To all those amazing Mothers out there (and to those who are missing their Mothers, or never got the chance to be one), this day, and every day, I make a wish for you. I wish that you know your strength. Own it. I see it, every day. Doubt creeps in so easily, and so often . . . I wish it goes away as easily as it comes.
Though I know I can’t wish away the waves of grief or despair any more than my girls’ wishes for their Daddy to come back will be answered, I wish that you will continue to get up faster each time, and they come less frequently.
And, whoever is missing from your life, or whatever struggles you are facing, I wish you peace, comfort, joy, and love.
P.S. I Love You
January 17, 2012
Last year, the theme for Camp Widow was ‘Hope Matters’. I wrote a blog post with my feelings on the subject, and thought the support of friends and family was lucky enough to attend. I hope to make it this summer too – only time will tell.
This last Christmas, there was talk on the ‘internets’ of a fair number of widows finding ornaments with the word ‘Hope’ on them. Around the same time, I entered a contest – last minute – at a local kitchen store that had been one of Elias’ favourites, The Seasoned Kitchen.
A few days later, I was surprised to hear that I had won a gift certificate to the store! I tried to shop before Christmas, but didn’t have much time and it was tough with the girls (we went in once for 5mins when they decided to set off all the egg timers at once . . . ), so I decided I would wait until Elias’ brother was visiting over New Years with his family so we could go together (I know Anthony would like the store too).
As we were shopping around, I spotted a rack of discounted ornaments. Very few left, and they each had a small amount of damage on them (apparently the rack had gotten knocked to the ground at some point over the holidays) – and there was one that read ‘Hope’.
At first I was sad of the fact that there was a small chip off the corner of the star at the bottom (and almost decided against getting it for that reason), but then I realized it was actually kinda perfect that way.
My star is chipped, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have Hope.
There will always be that part of me missing. I can still reflect light and shine.
P.S. I Love You
September 17, 2011
“Love yourself—accept yourself—forgive yourself—and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.” -Leo F. Buscaglia
One of the things I have a hard time with these days, is feeling like so much of our lives, my life, right now, is wasted.
I’d never been one to have much self confidence. Struggled most of my life with fairly low self esteem. It drove Elias crazy. He, of course, wanted me to see myself the way he saw me. Always.
And, there were times when he was here it was easier. I could feel just how much he loved me and what I meant to him. Looking at myself reflected in his eyes made a big difference. But it was still difficult to believe it for myself much of the time.
When I became a mom, there was another shift. I grew in confidence. I loved the experience of pregnancy and childbirth, knowing what my body and mind were capable of, and then raising these tiny little pieces of the two of us. Completely dependent upon me for every aspect of life. Like seeing my heart beating outside of my body. Unconditional love. Of course it’s by no means easy and there were, are, and will be countless times I doubt myself as a mother – but it has brought a new level of care and respect for myself.
When Elias was sick – when caring for him . . . I don’t know that I paid much attention to it at the time, but looking back I do so with a new sense of confidence in myself. And since he died, having survived the last 2+yrs without him, it has grown still. It’s not to say that I enjoyed any of it (I gather that’s understood?), but I take pride in what I dealt with and the way I dealt with it (for the most part).
I can’t even begin to explain how much this messes with my head. To know that it took him getting cancer and dying for me to finally be able to see in me what he saw all along. To finally be able to look inside myself and appreciate what I see.
It’s hard to accept liking what you’ve become in the wake of the the loss of someone you loved more than life itself.
I know it’s not because ‘he’ is gone. I understand that it’s based on now knowing just how capable I am, after having to handle what I’ve been given. I understand that this experience has taught me how to love deeper. To enjoy what I have. To let a lot more of the little stuff slide. I like to think parts of this were with me all along. I believe they were. Why they couldn’t have been fully realized without losing Elias, I don’t know that I’ll ever understand.
Spending time last year in dance class, eating healthy (for the most part), pilates at home – my body has responded well too (though I’ve slacked a fair bit this summer . . . . ). I’m strong. Fit. Regaining my flexibility. I’m in the best physical shape I’ve been in in years. Only now I appreciate that more too. The ability to look into the mirror and like what you see looking back is powerful.
But, it all feels like a waste. He’s not here to see that. To celebrate it with me. No one is.
(I suppose that almost makes my point moot if I’m talking about ‘self’ appreciation and complaining that someone ‘else’ isn’t here . . . but maybe someone will understand my late night rambling. It’s not that I’m trying to rest my value on what someone else thinks of me – it’s about having someone else to appreciate it with me.)
I also have these amazing kids. They are beyond loving, sweet, joyful, funny, smart – you name it. And he’s not here to see that either. No one is. Of course I have my parents, close friends and family – but it’s just not the same as sharing it with another parent. Someone who is as invested in their lives as I am. Someone to celebrate it with day in and day out. I’m glad I’m here for it, but it feels like part of their amazing energy is wasted. I can almost see it floating around. Waiting.
Sure, in all of this – both with the girls and myself – I can see Elias smiling. I can feel his pride. I know he is happy. But it still feels like a waste with no one ‘here’ to appreciate it. I believe that what I have been through, the person I am now, and what I value in life would make me a better partner. A better wife. Yet Elias is gone, and I’m alone.
I try to accept that it is ‘enough’ to appreciate myself and my girls on my own. That is what really matters anyhow. Those moments are there. But I can’t stop thinking, “wouldn’t it be nice”.
I know tomorrow (today) I’ll be proud of myself too. Running my first 5K. Helping raise money towards an amazing cause. Running with Elias in my heart. Hoping that one day the girls will understand some of what I’ve done and how hard I’ve worked to honour them and their dad, and myself. (and if interested, there’s still time to donate! http://www.razoo.com/story/Run-Walk-Hope-Around-The-World-5. I just hope the rain holds off and there are no cougars out (there’ve been a few sightings around here lately)!
* * * * *
What I wouldn’t give . . .
P.S. I Love You
July 24, 2011
(as usual, I started writing this ‘ages’ ago . . . around July 13th. Rather than changing how it’s written, please note that when it says ‘today’ or ‘yesterday’, this is referring to almost two weeks ago – I’ve added the photos and posted it ‘as is’)
I took a deep, deep breath. Exhaled with a quiver as I turned the handle, walked back through the door and hurriedly to the desk, and while unsuccessfully choking back tears muttered out the words, “It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later” as I handed the tiny plastic bag back to her before quickly turning around to rush out. A tiny plastic bag holding more love than you could fit into one lifetime.
She kindly replied, also choking up, something to say that they would be back, just a little ‘different’.
And, it was done.
* * * * *
I guess I should back up a few months – well, actually more like 26 1/2 months . . .
The issue of wedding rings is always a big topic among the widowed. It’s not that we are looking for anyone to tell us what to do with ours, but it helps to hear stories of what other people have done and there is comfort in knowing that others have struggled with the same issues.
I love that, among all my widowed friends, there have been an incredible variety between how long, and how the rings have been worn as well as what has been done with them after they are taken off – ‘if’ they are taken off. Better still, is that I’ve always found so much respect, appreciation and support of each others decisions.
I would have happily died with my rings as they were, right where Elias put them when we committed ourselves to each other years ago – and there’s nothing to say I could do just that – but it got to a point where I felt like I was living a lie. But worse, it was almost more difficult to look at them there, knowing what wasn’t (not like I don’t have a thousand other things each day to face with the same message, but this one was the most prominent). I also, mistakenly, figured that perhaps if I didn’t have a wedding ring on, I would avoid some of the assumptions about having a husband (well, an alive one that is). Of course this makes no difference as even just yesterday the grocery store clerk was joking with me about leaving the girls at home with ‘Dad’ next time I shop. I decided against telling her he would do a fairly lousy job of looking after them from the cardboard box on my dresser, and instead just answered ‘That would be nice’.
I didn’t feel that leaving them in a box or on the dresser (beside Elias?) was the right choice for me. I’m not one much for dusting and hated the thought of the dust piling up on them. I wore Elias’ on my necklace, and eventually mine joined his there, but after a few mysterious chain malfunctions (they just popped off with no apparent break in the clasp or chain), I became worried about losing them entirely. I wanted to wear all three forever, but in a way that was less heart-wrenching.
From very early on after Elias died, I had an idea of what I eventually wanted to do with mine, but as much as I loved the idea, it was terriying. I’ve you’ve read this blog for any length of time, it’s come up on more than one occasion. I’ve considered any number of options, but never really wavered from my original plan – to blend our rings together in order to have one ring made for myself, and one for each of the girls. Blending not just gold, but the symbol of everlasting love that we shared in life, and has not ended even though we are physically parted. Something the girls can wear (when they are older) to remember the love he had for the three of us, and also hopefully to encourage them to work to ensure they find someone who will love them as deeply as their Daddy loved me.
Our rings. Our love, blended into something new that will forever show 13+ yrs of friendship, laughter, 2 children, tears, joy, illness, fights, passion, heart and soul and so much more . . . but most of all, LOVE, throughout eternity – just as we stated when we exchanged them.
* * * * *
It was finally in March when I worked up the courage to meet with a local jeweller to discuss the ‘possibility’. I instantly fell in love with the jeweller, who showed and incredible amount of compassion and care of the situation, and helped to put a little more ease in my heart and mind – no easy task, I assure you.
A few email exchanges and design ideas later, we had it. All three rings would have the design I needed – the right blend of beauty and symbolism.
Seeing as time had become too short to get it done before the 2yr mark, and after that there wouldn’t be enough time to get it done before our wedding anniversary (neither of which I wanted to be without the rings for), I had some time to sit with it and be sure that this was what I wanted. Seeing as turning back never crossed my mind, fast forward to the start of June, and another appointment with the jeweller to start the ball rolling.
This was the appointment where I had to leave my rings behind. They needed to be weighed and measured – though I was promised that nothing would happen to them until I had approved the first rendition they would do in wax, so there was still time to turn back. Just before heading out the door, I crabbed my camera and took a few photos (though I was disappointed in myself for not thinking to clean them up a little first).
It was difficult that first time, letting go of them, but she also let me know I could come back and ‘visit’ them any time I needed to. I mentioned the photos, but they offered to clean them for me and also take photos. I went back the next day and took a few more photos with them all cleaned up, but didn’t get as much of an opportunity for a ‘good-bye’ with them as the cheery housepainter was trying to make conversation.
Last week, the wax rendition was done. I went right away to see it, and though it was ‘almost’ perfect, there were just a few tweaks that needed to be made. I will admit, it made me a ‘little’ nervous that maybe it would never be exactly right, but kind as she is, the jeweller agreed to send it back to the wax carver and make the changes at no charge.
An email yesterday to let me know rendition #2 was ready, and again I rushed over – and had a good feeling about it. This time, it WAS perfect! I had, however, unfortunately forgot my camera and only had my phone to take a few photos with, but wanting to document the process, I took a few.
The other big part of this visit – of course now that the ‘wax’ ring has been approved, it was time to ‘let go’ of my rings, as they were, for good.
As usual, I was doing ‘fine’ while in sitting at her desk. But, as the girls were with me I didn’t want to leave and not get a good chance to have a little time to myself with them before handing them over for the final time. Before I had even finished asking, she of course obliged, and I grabbed the rings to take outside with me. I put the girls into the car with hopes of fewer distractions. E commented on how she knew it was hard for me because the rings were very special. I teared up and told her that they were more than special, they were my heart. And it was hard, but it was ok because now I would have something that I could always wear to show how much I love Daddy, and he loves me, and eventually they would too (I was fortunate to be able to cover the cost of my ring in trade as the jeweller is also a new grandma, but we are waiting a bit for the girls rings to spread the cost out a bit, and because they won’t get them until they are much older anyhow).
My loving, compassionate girls nodded their heads in understanding, and gave me my few minutes of peace as I took a few more final photos, spoke a little to the rings and to Elias, and gave them a final kiss before heading back inside.
(this was where the original post ended…)
* * * * *
Letting go of my rings, our rings, was by no means easy – but it’s not what we own that holds true value.
There seems no end of things in life we are sometimes forced to ‘let go’ of. Losing Elias, among many things, meant letting go of countless dreams, plans, ideas, hopes, etc, etc, etc – but I have found a few new ones along the way, as well as some amazing people who continue to demonstrate the power in letting go. Accepting change.
Of course the rings, as they were, were symbolic. They stood for the love we committed to each other, for life. He held up his end of the bargain – loving me to the end of his life, just as I loved him to the end of his. But I’m still here, so where did this leave me? And my rings?
Our love didn’t change. Our love will NEVER change. I will love Elias to the end of my life as well. But, our ‘situation’ changed. Our ‘status’ changed. To me, it seemed fitting that so would our rings.
I get to keep living (and he would kill me if I didn’t!). I get to keep loving him, though no longer just as his wife. I wanted something to show what we had together, and what we will have forever, regardless of our physical separation. Something I can wear forever, to represent my undying love for an amazing man.
I may have ‘let go’ of our wedding rings, as they were – though I know I will gain something I needed in return.
It’s not ‘good bye’, it’s ‘see you later
The finished ring will find it’s place on my finger (right hand ring finger) very soon. I can’t wait.
* * * * *
The more I think about the ‘new ring’, the more excited I get. I know you would trust my judgement – though I hope you aren’t mad I melted them down!
I have no idea where life will take me – sometimes I’m amazed to have made it this far without you – and I will never be ok with losing you, but I know ‘I’ will be ok, just as I promised you I would be. I am finding my way to let go of some of those dreams, goals, hopes. Again, I don’t ‘like’ it by any means, but it makes room for new ones. Change.
There is no letting go of our love, and I am thrilled to be able to finally wear a symbol of that for the rest of my life, that still makes room for what else may come.
P.S. I Love You
October 24, 2010
(thanks to Taryn for sharing this on Widow’s Voice – it really hit home, in a good way)
P.S. I Love You
October 21, 2010
I’ve been writing and re-writing this tonight some time now. Flip-flopping. Back and forth. I’ve almost given in a number of times, but for some reason I feel like I need to figure this out.
Though I ‘write’ in my head constantly throughout the day, actually committing anything to this space has slowed for many reasons. A main one being that I continue to struggle with the ‘method’ in which I want to write. I know this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this – I want to continue writing ‘letters’, I just don’t know that I can do it each time. I feel guilt for the idea of not doing so, yet somehow it is becoming harder. Not writing letters seems equally as hard, mind you. To say I’m torn is an understatement. Even as my fingers hit the keys now I can feel tears and anxiety creeping up within me.
My plan is to continue to write. I know I still need this outlet. As I wrote my last letter I was in a heap of tears and it had been a particularly tough few days for me. I was feeling terribly alone, overwhelmed and drowning. But getting it ‘out’ made me feel just a bit lighter, and the comments that people take the time to leave, always help me through.
I will still write, and my plan is to still write letters, occasionally. I hate that it feels like just another way of losing Elias. And, cue the tears. Should I post this and not change it – this will be the first time since I started writing here, that I did not write as if a letter to the man I love. A part of me is angry with myself for allowing this to be so hard. For my reluctance to keep typing. It’s words. Just words. He is already gone, and has been so for 18 months. Every tick of the clock takes him farther away. Or, depending on your perspective, brings us closer I suppose. . . .
There is an ongoing battle to quiet the discourse between my head, heart and fingers – but here it is. A departure. Elias is still held tight within my heart, even though these words are not directed towards him. Do not confuse this with ‘moving on’. This is not a step forward, or backward – only to the side.
As I’ve been trying to write, my fingers naturally go to type the word ‘You’ rather than ‘Elias’. The power of that makes this that much harder. Am I not ready for it yet? Who knows. I’ve managed through much worse, and so I’ll continue because what I want to say is a testament to how thankful I am for Elias, my love for him, and how much he gave to me.
* * * * *
I spent a great majority of my life struggling with confidence in myself. Internal beauty, external beauty – I always felt as if I was a pretty ‘good person’, but beautiful??? No. Elias would get extremely frustrated with me for this. It drove him crazy that he felt like he could see something so clearly that I didn’t see at all. Becoming a mother gave me a start in many ways, but I feel like one of the most amazing gifts he finally managed to give me was that confidence. The ability to see that beauty and strength that he always saw. To find a deeper love for myself.
It pains me beyond belief that he died in the process. It tears me up that he’s not here to witness it. It was growing in the last year we spent together -we went through so much hell, and had never been closer. I’ve never worked so hard for anything in my life as I worked to keep him alive. To keep loving him. I lost one, I didn’t lose the other. And I can look back at that time and feel proud of myself.
I’ve continued to fight this past 18 months. Fight to get out of bed. To get back into society. To build a new life for myself and the girls. To maneuver my own grief, as well as theirs, all the while keeping the house running and food on the table. It’s no easy task and there are still many days, a year and a half later, where it knocks me right back. Where I feel like I don’t know how I can continue with this life. It’s exhausting. But I know I’m capable of so much more than I would have ever thought possible years ago. I can stand on my own. From fixing toilets and fireplaces, to holding my children while they experience the worst pain of their lives, and teaching them that love reaches beyond death. I can look back on this and feel proud.
I’m not unique in this. There are far too many others who have experienced the same, and I only hope they too know,
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness,and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”–Elisabeth Kubler Ross
There are parts of me that would happily go back to that insecure girl, in order to have Elias beside me again. To feel my strength within the security of his arms around me. I know this is not to be, so I will embrace my own strength. Love for myself. My beauty. I won’t need to hear it from an outside source, nor will I doubt it when I do. I will be thankful when I do.
I’m not saying I am perfect. I have many, many faults. I won’t ‘always’ see the beauty. There are some days when I will feel like a terrible parent/housekeeper/business owner/friend – but I can love myself, regardless. And I am confident that those who are loved by me will know it with every fibre of their being, and I hope they will feel as lucky for it as I felt sharing our love. It’s the greatest gift I can give back to him.
Thank you Elias. For your love, and for always seeing the beauty in me.
P.S. I Love You, fiercely.
April 21, 2010
This letter has been started and stopped, edited and tweaked, written and re-written in my head a thousand times over in the past days, weeks, months, year. To the day.
I apologize in advance if it comes off as incoherent rambling as it is almost as difficult to say how difficult it is to say what I want to say. There are no words, and yet I try.
I ‘made it’. Day 365. The year of firsts is over. I was told 365 days ago that this year would be the hardest. That time would heal. I’ve read other bloggers who recently passed this day and seemed to do so with a great deal of grace and inspiration. Today, I don’t feel graceful or inspirational in the least.
I know that technically, legally, officially on paper your death occurred on April 22nd, 2009 somewhere around 2am (you can ask the er receptionist who likely has it down to the second as she swooped in like a vulture every time she thought you had taken your last breath so she could be sure to get it documented when all I wanted to do was scream at her to fuck off and leave us alone and that you were going to die and did she really need to keep circling and offering ridiculous platitudes as I screamed, cried and experienced the most painful moment of my life – I should qualify this with the fact that the ambulance attendants and nurses were great . . . and I’m sure she’s a lovely woman herself and it’s not an easy job, but it’s hard to like people very much when watching the person you love most in life die before your eyes), and I will mourn that day as well – but this day. This day was when it all started and really it was only the 22nd because you were so damn stubborn and continued to breathe as long as you could for me. For the girls. For the rest of your family.
This day. This was the last morning we woke up together – all four of us in bed (that is, until I had to try to rush E to the bathroom, only making it to the door as she puked). We cleaned up, had a few other laundry and toilet mishaps, laughed, and packed up eventually, excited to be going home for the first time in 4 weeks. What was supposed to be a much-needed break for a few days.
We laughed more as we drove off for the day. We held hands. A little later, as your naturopath treatment finished you touched your temple with a wince and told me you felt a headache coming on, then you smiled your sly grin at me and told me, “And it’s going to be a good one too. Oh, yeah.” The last time I would see that genuine smile – and one of the last times I really saw ‘you’ before the pain took over. Of course you ‘toughened up’ briefly for the meeting with the oncologist because you would be damned if you were going to seem in such bad shape that he would tell you we couldn’t go on our trip.
But for the rest of the day it was just pain, until finally – just before the girls went to sleep, and just before you did for the last time – you told me you weren’t in pain any more. That you just wanted to ‘get out of here’. To go to sleep, you clarified when I asked what you meant. The words relieved me and worried me at the same time. But you were relaxed finally, and went to sleep. In some ways I wish it was as as simple as ending with you going to sleep and not waking up – but at the same time, through the stress and trauma that followed I was at least aware of what was happening and able to communicate with you right to the end.
I can’t relive the rest here now, though it’s been done countless times in my head. We know how it ends. April 22nd, 2009. I’m not sure which day will hurt more. The day of ‘lasts’, or the actual day. I guess it doesn’t really matter – every day I live without you hurts. This day hurts. I know tomorrow will too – the ‘official’ day. The start of the ‘firsts’. Waiting for the girls to wake up to tell them that their Daddy had died and that they couldn’t see him any longer.
The pain is so acute at times like this. I know for so many people who love you and miss you it’s still hard to believe. That when you didn’t see the person every day, it’s hard to come to terms with. Even with my day to day affected as it has been, it’s still hard for me to believe too. It’s been a blink and an eternity all at once. It’s like you were here yesterday, yet never even existed. A memory. A fantasy.
You were the first thing I saw in the morning and the last thing I laid eyes on as I went to sleep at night. You were my shelter in moments of weakness, my shoulder to cry on. You were the arms to wrap around me tight and the soft voice to whisper in my ear that everything would be ok. My soft place to land. You were my hand to hold, my cohort in parenting, my cheerleader, ‘team mate’, soul mate. The fire that lit the spark in my eyes. We made all our decisions together, no matter how big or small. We celebrated the good times together and survived the tough times together. We shared memories. We fought, we laughed, we cried, we loved together. The list is endless.
365 days without you. 365 days without us. 365 days without me.
Last night I looked back over a few of my last posts on the caringbridge site and a number of the comments people left after you died. So many comments on how we inspired people with how we faced the situation with our heads high and positive attitudes and lessons of living in the moment. It was true. We learned that lesson – and in some ways I feel like I have let you down by being so caught up in the grief of losing you that I let it slip away. Though, perhaps that’s not entirely true. I guess I’m still very much in the moment – the moment just happens to suck a lot of the time. But the spark has faded. I see photos of myself now, smiling and appearing happy – but if you look closely, it’s not the same as before.
Sometimes I long to have not just you back, but me. But, just as you can’t come back, neither can the ‘me’ that left with you. I miss her in many ways. It’s not to say that I don’t like the ‘new me’. There are some great things about her. She’s learned a lot, grudgingly so at times. There are still countless things she needs to figure out. There are still things she needs to change. I often wonder what you would think of her – but I guess if you were here . . . . she wouldn’t be. But, she’s doing ok. She’s standing on her own two feet (most of the time), and though it took a great deal of kicking, screaming and fighting tooth and nail along the way, she’s made it through the first year (something she didn’t think possible that dreadful night). So much of which has been a complete blur. So many things I don’t even remember. Sometimes I’m not even sure how I got here.
Will day 366 magically be better? Doubtful. Will the seconds be easier? Not necessarily – I know other widows who found the seconds were harder because the shock had worn off. Has time ‘healed’? Depends on how you look at it I guess. I don’t know that there is anything to heal. The break of my heart that came with losing you is not something that I can see getting ‘fixed’. It will always be there. I will, and have to a certain extent, learned to live with it. Learned to cope with it. It still brings me to my knees at times. Not as often as before, sure, so there’s something to say for that I suppose.
I tried writing this during the day while the girls were out, but was happily interrupted by a phone call with Anthony, and it was great to get an opportunity to talk with him, mostly about you of course. Now the girls are home calling at me to fill their needs, dinner to give them and I can’t concentrate on the rest and am not even sure exactly what I’ve written thus far, so the rest will wait for tomorrow. For now I need to get this out. The song on the letter below, was sung by Vanessa at your memorial service, by the way. I wish I had the audio of that version because it was amazing and I know you would have loved it so (though Sarah Harmer does a pretty great job too . . . . ).
Tomorrow I will write again. Tomorrow. The ‘official’ day I lost you. It’s starting to sound more painful than today after all…..
P.S. I Love You
April 7, 2010
I feel as though I’m in quite a thick fog these days. It’s shaping up to have been a very wise decision to be off work from the insurance office at this point as my concentration and memory seem to be quite ‘off’. I completely forgot to take E to ballet yesterday. No real excuse. I was thinking about it one moment, then just forgot. Remarkably, things for the store are still moving along ok at this point, though I could still be putting more effort in some areas there as well I’m sure.
Deb wasn’t kidding when she said that much of the time surrounding the first anniversary is like reliving things over again. Everything seems to take so much more energy. I find that my standard answer of ‘fine’ when asked how I’m doing is becoming that much more of a lie again now. My light conversation feels forced. I wonder if people can see through the laughter or if they think that because of it I am ‘ok’. The weight is getting heavier on my heart again (though it’s so often racing) and I feel at the brink of tears more and more often throughout the day (and they come more easily again once I’m alone at night). My sleeping is affected (which can’t be helping the concentration or memory) and my mind seems constantly fixed on the calendar. Constantly.
I feel as though I’m on a spinney ride – like the teacups at Disneyland – and I can’t get off. It’s out of my control. I’m willing it to stop with all my might but the day keeps coming faster and faster and I’m just not ready. It can’t have been a year. It just can’t. Every day that passes, hour, minute, second, brings it closer and I just want it to stop.
A year ago this night, we went to a hockey game. We were given tickets for free and despite your double vision causing some difficulties watching the game and a few other issues, in the end we had a decent time. A very rare ‘date night’ for us – and what would become our last.
(as well as what resulted in the last photos of just the two of us – three lousy attempts at our usual ‘self portraits’ – though you look really good in the last one….with your little crooked smile I love and miss so much)
You were reluctant at first to go, but I dragged you. Almost literally. We parked the car close to the stadium which cost a fortune (and a half) but I didn’t want you to have to walk far. Still, as we went to cross the street to the stadium we were holding hands – in part because we usually did, and in part because you needed to – I stepped off the curb and you hadn’t realized and weren’t ready. You stumbled and hit your knee hard on the street. I felt so awful about it. Your knee was scratched up a bit and I think your jeans even got a slight tear. You trusted me and needed me, and I felt like I failed you. You weren’t badly hurt, but it was the idea that I let you fall. Practically made you fall.
You were, of course, incredibly gracious about it all and continued to reassure me that it wasn’t my fault and it was no big deal, but it was to me. My life had become consumed by doing everything in my power to keep you alive, to keep you safe, to keep you well. And I lost. I couldn’t do it.
That night it was just a fall and scraped knee. Two weeks later, I lost everything.
The pills, the supplements, the appointments, the special diets, magnets, visualizations, sauna, alkaline water, the tea, the milk, the countless hours of on-line research. I know that it’s not my fault. I know we did everything we could. “We need to know that at least we tried.” That’s what we would often say when trying to explain to people why we were spending all the money on the alternative treatments and going through what we did. So that we could ‘rest easy’ knowing that we did all we could. I know it was not in my control, but there is no resting easy. At the time I felt very much like maybe, just maybe I could actually find the one ‘thing’ that would save you. The only thing I know for sure is that if love could have saved you, you would still be here.
It took me some time to get over feeling like there was something I missed, that I had made a mistake somewhere, that I could have done more – and it seems to be returning now and then. It took me a long time to get over my anger at the doctors for not seeing what was happening at your appointment just 12 hrs before you died. For letting me wheel you out of the cancer agency in a state like I had never seen you in before. I know that if they had caught it, perhaps we could have been afforded a little more time with you – but I know that it wouldn’t have been how you wanted. None of what would have followed would have been on your terms compared to how it actually went. You would have been hospitalized right there for an emergency surgery, and perhaps never left the hospital. You made me promise (on more than one occasion) not to let you die in a hospital in Vancouver. You made me promise to get you home. At least I managed that.
Ryan died the other day. Another beautiful man, husband, father lost to this disease. I trust you greeted him with a big smile and hug, but my heart is breaking for Tash and Talyn. Reading about his final weeks in their blogs, I can also see now that even if your tumour hadn’t bled that day and you had instead endured the ‘typical’ death (that you didn’t want) it would not have been far off anyhow.
I get so angry sometimes around ‘cancer talk’. I don’t want this to be taken the wrong way at all, and I’m sure some may – I am SO happy for people who are able to live with cancer when it wasn’t thought possible, and for those who have been cleared of cancer – I wish it was so for everyone – but it hurts to hear people make comments like, ‘I just wasn’t going to let it get me’ or that all you need to do is ‘think positive’ and ‘make up your mind’ to not let it ‘win’. That this is why some people ‘beat it’ and some don’t. It pisses me off.
The ‘battle’ is not won or lost with death. I don’t even like relating it to a battle – but if you must, the battle is in how you face it. How you live with it, and even how you die with it. And not just with cancer.
Today, E asked me how people with no legs walk. It reminded me of a video that Ryan had posted on his blog over a year ago. I remember how much it touched your heart, and we watched it again tonight:
You finished strong. As did Ryan.
I know these next few weeks are only going to get harder. Sian asked me the other day what may help, or what I may need. The problem is I don’t really know. Perhaps more time to myself, perhaps more company. Both? Neither? More likely both. Meals? Reminder calls so I don’t forget things? I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to do on ‘the day’ either. Some have asked, but how exactly do you ‘mark’ something like that? I know I want to put a memorial in the paper. Your parents plan to do the same in Vancouver. But, what else do I do? I’ve been thinking of getting some suggestions from some of my other ‘widow/er friends’, but I haven’t even had as much energy even for writing comments on their blogs these days (though I’m trying to still keep up with at least reading most of them…).
We were talking about having a little gathering at your parent’s place on the following weekend – but, what would that be like? I don’t know. Would I be capable of socializing and sharing happy memories of you or would the emotion of the time be too raw and I would just want to sit and cry? I don’t know. I hate having to think of it at all. I hate that it’s almost here. I hate that I can’t stop it. Tick. Tick. Tick.
P.S. I Love You
February 22, 2010
Such fantastic women! We had a great time. We shared our stories, our fears, our hopes, and a LOT of laughter (and some sort of mocha-bailey’s cheesecake – yum! oh, and the odd glass of wine too . . . ). We asked each other questions and explored the issues of guilt, of dealing with perceptions and expectations. We discussed challenges we will face and the humps we have overcome. And we laughed.
It wasn’t all ‘widow talk’, but it was nice to be able to express those issues and be completely understood. Kindred spirits. It’s hard to articulate this without sounding disrespectful to those around me daily who have helped me get this far, because I would not be here (nor would I have been able to meet with Jackie and Deb) without them – but I felt like I could just be real. There was no need to try and explain. To justify. To pretend. Because of that connection, I was able to share things with them that I haven’t really discussed with anyone. My mom was a little worried that commiserating with other widows wouldn’t be the best way to celebrate my birthday, but it helped take my mind off of it for the most part, and for the rest – they knew what it was like to be in my shoes. There were notably few tears shed between the three of us.
I feel like I learned a bit more about myself in a way too. In seeing them, I had perhaps a glimpse of how others may see me. As I heard Jackie and Deb retell their stories of how their loved ones died – the trauma and heartache they faced then and since – I was in awe. The thought would occur to me, ‘How did they do it? How did they manage to live through that?’ But then I realized, as I looked into Jackie’s face, or Deb’s, that it was like looking into my own. In our eyes, the same sense of knowing.
Our stories are different in many ways, but we all faced that moment. That awful, painful moment when the doctor looks at you and says that there is nothing else they can do. Your husband is going to die. Or, is basically already gone, even though there is still breath coming out of their body. We all experienced that desperation, of wanting to keep trying, despite what the doctors said. We fought. We screamed. We begged and pleaded and cried. And, we each watched the love of our lives take their last breath (yours coming almost exactly 10 months ago as I write this . . . ). And, we are still here. Still moving. Not moving ‘on’. Not getting ‘over’ it. Just, moving.
To some it’s just semantics, but to a widow it can mean a lot. It’s not to say that I begrudge people for saying the ‘wrong thing’ – it’s hard to know what to say. I get that. And unfortunately I think people worry so much about what to/not to say people just end up avoiding, which actually feels worse. Even a lot of widows/ers have different preferences for how they view things. Some look at their life as two separate entities – ‘before’ & ‘after’. Some consider it the same life, just under different circumstances. Sometimes we don’t even know what we want to say/hear. It comes down to the fact that we are in a situation we don’t want to be in, and it’s hard to find a comfortable way to ‘define’ it. Just as it’s hard to define how we are doing.
People often remark about how ‘good’ I seem/look/sound. I sometimes marvel at myself for how I can come across that way, when inside I still feel like I’m screaming – but it’s not all fake either (sometimes, sure, but not always). I think my soul has just begun to expand. I’m better able at balancing the pain of missing you, along side the life I continue to life without you. The pain never leaves. I feel it in every fiber of my being. Every day. All day. And some days it still knocks me right out. It threatens to rip me apart. Sometimes I sit in the sauna as hot as it will go and hope to sweat out the sorrow. I hope it will melt away. But I know that, if it did, there would be nothing left of me. The sorrow will be with me to the end of my life, running deep in my veins. And that is ok, because that is how long I will love you.
Our love knows no boundaries of death. ‘To fill you with laughter, and a Love, unconditional throughout Eternity’. It was in our vows. We didn’t say ‘till death do us part’. Death only parted us physically. I wish will all my heart that wasn’t the case. As the clock ticks closer to the time you left this world 10 months ago, I can feel my heart beating faster. I can feel the tears right behind my eyes, waiting to come out. My chest tightens. My stomach turns. But my heart and soul have also swelled enough to begin to play our symphony. The highs of our love and the wonderful memories we shared that I will carry with me always, the lows of pain we suffered together and the sorrow in losing you, and the crescendo of my life now – trying to pick myself up from the moment I last left your side when life as I knew it came crashing down around me (it’s a long, steep, slippery climb and some days it’s just so fucking hard – sorry, can you tell I’ve been hanging out with Jackie?? =). But the notes all play together. Sometimes simultaneously. Sometimes alternating. I wish I could be the composer and control it all, but I can’t, so I just have to let the music play. The crashes still come and they are just as painful, but I am more equipped to handle them now. I don’t fall quite as far.
It was really beneficial to spend that time with Jackie and Deb, and I hope to see more of them again – but until then we’ll just have to keep ‘meeting’ in cyberspace. The flight home was nice as it was a beautiful day, and it was great to see the girls again. They had a wonderful sleepover with Buz, Sian and the boys, and when we got back to Buz and Sian’s we were outside, and E hopped on a bike, with no training wheels, and started to ride. It was fantastic. At first I was worried that she had been started this in the 24hrs I was gone, but it really was just that moment that she got it. Her sense of self-pride was palpable.
I was so glad I happened to have both my camera and the video camera with me, and documented it all. I knew she was close, so changed the seat height on C’s Skuut bike so she could practice balance, and it apparently did the trick.
The excitement continued as that afternoon we heard that Bridie was in labour. Updates continued until about 10pm or so, then nothing. I woke up, surprised that there was no further word, but after finally calling the hospital and catching them there, I found out that a beautiful baby girl was born at 2:30am on Feb 15th. Another niece! They are pretty sure about the name, but it hasn’t been 100% finalized yet, so you’ll just have to wait for that. The girls have been able to ichat with their cousin and we all can’t wait to meet her. Everyone is happy and healthy though – and there is nothing like the birth of a baby in the family to bring a true sense of joy. There has been a lot of heartache in the time you have been gone. But, at the same time, this beautiful little life was developing. Her body taking shape. Getting ready to join the world. I guess the last 10 months hasn’t been entirely bad after all. I hate that she will never personally know her Uncle Elias. I also know, however, that just as I never really knew my Uncle Art, I know how much he was loved. I know how much he meant to my Mom, and to my family. My Mom kept him alive for me in her stories and memories, just as I know Bridie will do for you – as will your brothers with their daughters. It’s not the same – but it gives me some comfort.
The knots continue to churn in my stomach and I can’t seem to take my eyes off the clock, so I should try and get some sleep. The last week since I’ve been home had it’s share of ups and downs – as usual – though I will share those another day.
10 months. God, how I miss you.
P.S. I Love You
January 25, 2010
Ok – first off, let me apologize in advance for what could be a cheesy analogy by the end here, but I spent close to three hours shredding paper today and it got me thinking . . . and perhaps drove me a little crazy.
A while back I went through our ‘filing container’ in the office. I pulled out a rather large stack of paper – bills/receipts/etc – anything that seemed old enough (some of it was over a decade old) that I didn’t need to keep it any longer. I did a fairly quick sort of it then and as the girls were around I didn’t pay close attention to all of it.
As I had some time on my own today, I took out the paper shredder and finally started to shred away. As I went through everything a little more closely (since the shredder could only handle a few sheets at a time and seemed to need a ‘break’ every few minutes) I realized that all of that paper summed up a great number of events in our life together. Big events.
Purchases of cars. Repairs from car accidents. Receipts for furniture we bought for our first condo together, our first house together. Our last house together.
Ambulance bills from when E was born. Pay stubs from our various jobs. Paperwork from our RRSPs as we planned for our future. It was all there. And so much more.
Because I’m (clearly) such a packrat, part of me didn’t want to shred it. It felt like it was shredding ‘proof’ that we, well, were ‘we’. That we did all of these things ‘together’. I knew that I didn’t really need these papers to tell me that (fortunately) so I started shredding. Still, it was hard at first.
As I was shredding, I had a fair bit of time to think (it takes a LONG time to shred that much paper). In many ways I feel as if I’ve been through a shredder in the past 9 months – or really the last few years when you take in all we went through before you died. I feel like my heart has pretty much been sliced to bits, to a point where it will never be put back together. Never again whole.
I continued along, and as more and more paper had to go through I was struggling with the fact that, after having been shred to bits, the paper had such a greater volume it was tough to get it to fit in the bag I had for it. I would step on it. Sit on it. Jump on it to try and reduce the volume to make more room, but when done, the shredded paper easily took up at least 10x the volume as it had before (probably much more).
I’ve often read other widow’s blogs as they describe feeling that – though obviously they would never have chosen to lose their spouse – they grow to like the person that they have become after having survived such a loss. They realize they are stronger than they ever knew. More capable. Fearless. Passionate about life and all it has to offer, among many other great qualities. It’s difficult to write about, because no one wants to try and sound like this is perhaps the ‘meaning’ behind their spouse’s death, or that they are in any way ok that it happened – trying to express it with the right balance for other people to understand is tough, but I see where they are coming from (and some manage it brilliantly).
Having been through the shredder – though it still hurts like hell, I can see in some places where my ‘volume’ is slowly starting to increase. I’m still in pieces – and like with shredded paper I will never be back to the way I once was – but I have managed through many things in the last 9 months that I wouldn’t have imagined possible before. Still standing here today, without you is no doubt the biggest. The fact that I still have two legs standing beneath me some days seems a miracle. Some days I’m on my knees, and some days, though I get out of bed, I still feel as though I’m in a ball under the covers – but my legs are getting use, and are perhaps even getting a little stronger again too (some days).
I’m getting better at cooking. A little more adventurous. I made my first omelet the other day, and while it paled in comparison to one of yours, it was actually pretty damn good (especially since I don’t think I had even scrambled an egg before you died). I make a pretty yummy couscous dish. Quiche. Many things I’ve never made before. I fixed the toilet. I took apart and put back together C’s bike (with the girls chanting ‘Go Mama Go!’ the whole time). I’ve managed to run the house almost completely on my own – and though it’s tiring and I complain and some days it’s not as smooth as I want it to be – we’re all fed, relatively clean (I’m still not a big fan of bathtime), and under a roof. The girls are happy. Healthy. Nine months ago this all seemed out of the question. And, I’m about to start a new business to boot.
To take the analogy even one step further (pardon me for getting a little too far out there), but some of the big bag of shredded paper will soon be added to the compost and the rest recycled. And it will all eventually turn into something new. Though once shredded, a new life begins. As so it has been for us.
Ok, I’m done. But, finally – some photos from Christmas (and thanks again to Nana & Papa for the fun toys and helping make it a little easier) . . .
P.S. I Love You