Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A relationship transformed ...

Entry:  February 3, 2011 - Through these "firsts" I've kept my head up and moved forward even though some days all I wanted to do was stay in bed and wish the world away.  Some days my head and my heart feel much too heavy to lift and continue on but I somehow find a way to walk through it.  I know that the "somehow" is Bill's love.  I really feel it's days like these that he pours down a little extra love for me to quench my thirst and sustains me.  It is with this little extra love that I step forward in trust that I will one day be okay.

Out of my exhaustion comes my gem for the day.  How much energy have I spent trying to find my new world, my new normal when it is my belief that I am the sum of my experiences. I draw from those experiences  as I live my life.   Here is today's gem, why do I need to live my life without?  For 26 years, Bill has offered me love, guidance and support.  For 26 years I trusted that he would be there to share, help navigate and shape our life together.  I also believe that he watches over me from Heaven and supports me when I no longer feel like I can do it by myself ... have I really been by myself?  Monday was June 27th ... 27 years of knowing each other but have I really been 11 months without?  During those months I have often made decisions for myself and my family thinking what would Bill add to this?  For 11 months I have chosen to grieve in the sunlight where he was happiest; was I not choosing to have him still part of our life in doing so? 

Entry:  February 4, 2011 - I had now found a safe place; that safe place was inside me where I had given myself permission to befriend my grief.

My best friend on Earth, the one who loved me, made me feel safe, helped navigate me through difficult times and decision, the one I trusted most and showed me how strong I am ... Bill.  Our friendship did not die on July 27th, it simply changed.  Indeed, I have befriended by grief ... I continue to be sustained by our friendship, by his wisdom, by his love.

I was reminded of a conversation some time ago, where this well-intended person said, "Leave yourself open to finding another".  I remember responding, "Well, whoever it might be, will need to be willing to have Bill part of this relationship. 

Good morning Bill.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My pit of firsts ...

As I lay in bed last night, I had the mental picture of my large pit of firsts.  I counted each boulder of firsts ... first month, first car drive after the funeral in his car, first time I purchased toilet paper on my own ... these were relatively small in comparison to the Wedding Anniversary, his birthday, Christmas, Valentine's Day, my birthday ... these are quite large and still very moist from all of the tears.  Last night, as I heaved the rather large boulder of June 27th - 27 years of knowing Bill, 11 months without him I felt my exhaustion.  The day was long filled with tears and as I watched the stone rolling down to the bottom of the pit; it chipping away at the boulders already there, their fragments breaking loose and falling deeper, out of sight.  I wondered if I will ever see the boulders of firsts finally start filling the hole, leaving only room for the pebbles of sadness to sift down through as I stand at this familiar edge opening my heart to gently release them, for the rest of my life. 

This morning, I mentally plant a tree, I plant his favourite hostas and a garden filled with  red flowers and drag a bench.  If I am to come back to this pit, I might as well make it beautiful and comfortable! 

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?
~ Robert Frost

June 27th, 1984 we met ... 27 years ...
June 27th, 2011 ... 11 months apart ... until we meet again

Not so Silent Sunday!

Eleven months today, life was normal with Bill heading off to work and I was listening to him rustling through the room trying to be quiet and me pretending to be sleeping knowing and trusting that I would see him at lunch.

Everything changed ... 

my world changed ... 

how the everyday thoughtless routines of 26 years now seem overwhelming and lifeless,

how the silence isn't so quiet nor comfortable anymore,

how the drive home after work is no longer just a drive but a small victory. 

All the while, I begin to wonder maybe it isn't the world that has changed, maybe it is just me. 

People still ask, "How are you doing?" in reference to the fact that I will soon be coming up to the one year anniversary.  I'm not sure if I can explain because I am having a hard time explaining it to myself. 

I go through the routines, getting up and ready for work, sometimes mixing it up and picking up a Tim Horton's extra large decaf, three creams one sweetener.  I work through my day and pick up milk and bread on the way home.  Every other day, I get to have some fun playing ball hockey, loving the thrill of the chase and making some great steals playing defence.  I smile as I smell victory!  I smile like a really big toothy grin smile.  I work my niece's video montage thinking with a smile of how thrilled they will be to watch this for the first time at their wedding.

So here goes, the unexplained ... while I am functioning and even sometimes enjoying myself, there is no real joy in my heart, the smile does not reach my eyes.  I don't feel contentment, the kind that comes with sharing a life with a husband that I loved and knew loved me. I am even robbed of the tears that gave reason to the melancholy. 

I am successful most times at staying in the moment and even to start planning for tomorrow trying new things to help me sift through my feelings.  I work, I play and I see to the business of the living.  These are all positive things but none of it seems to bring real joy back to my heart.  Not even in the happiest of moments.  How can I smile a large toothy grin and not feel it in my heart?

As I write this blog, I am reminded of a time when I was a little girl standing in my back yard.  Two rows of houses were separated by a laneway - my early playground - and as I stood on my side of the laneway in full bright sun, I watched the rain falling on the other side.  How can there be rain when the sun shines?

PS ... tomorrow marks 11 months without Bill and it is also the 27th of June ... 27 years ago, we met.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Unanswered questions ...

A couple of years ago, I invested in a good camera and have taken many pictures since my purchase.  Many, thank goodness, are of Bill.  I chuckle as I write this because I also remember Bill's complaints of always having my camera at my side and snapping his picture every chance I got.  I loved taking his picture when he was not looking and many are of his profile.  These were the first pictures I could linger with.  During the first few months, I could not look at any pictures because when I saw his face, it was like looking at a stranger.  What an odd and empty feeling.  A feeling I still have when I look at some pictures of us.  All smiles with not a care in the world, enjoying being close, enjoying the simple pleasure of being in each other's arms or looking into each other's eyes.

In a need to reconnect, I started by looking at his profile pictures; the ones I took at random when he was not looking.  For some reason, they felt more real, more in tune with my heart.  His eyes weren't looking back at me through the photograph saying remember me, remember us, we once were.

There are two pictures in particular that I seem to focus on now.  These two were taken the Saturday evening before his death.  I seem to want to find something there, something that I might have missed.  I seem to want to find the answer to my question ... did he know he was not feeling quite right, or was his death really so sudden - unexpected?  I seem to have locked into the one picture in particular of him walking away from us.  I was busy framing pictures of my sons on the bench when I noticed Bill was walking off on his own and locked into him ... I remember so well feeling a lump in my throat as I watch through my view finder setting up the shot.  Did I miss something? 

The other is of Bill and our two sons on the bench.  I look into my boys' eyes and see pure happiness and content with life.  I look into their eyes today and see the shadows of their loss.  I wonder what they see in mine.  There have been a couple of pictures of me since Bill's death and although I can offer a pretty good toothy smile, the smile does not reach my eyes.  I wonder when and not if, when the shadow of our loss will no longer be captured in our photographs.  After all, these pictures will one day tell our story to our grandchildren and they need to see that although there were sad moments that left a shadow in our eyes, there is healing and life can be renewed.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The end of a chapter ...

This may be the end of a chapter but certainly not the end of my story.  These last two weeks have been interesting.  At the top of my daily "to do" list I carefully print in beautiful curly script ... find that one moment today that is pure and real.  At the bottom of list is ... lay with your moment and smile.  As I lay in bed last night, waiting for sleep to come, I realized with not a smile but with a great big toothy grin ... I had two!  Given the time of this post, I am still waiting for sleep to come but my grin is surely lighting up the room for I remember the days when the highlight of my day was finding the courage to shower and a really great day was when I managed to remember to put toothpaste on my toothbrush before brushing my teeth!  Nowadays, I barely have to check my routine list to remember that toothpaste is required.

The story continues.  The main character is "me" and the first 6 chapters describes the poor widow who struggled with the simple things required to survive - food and personal hygiene; no wonder my circle of supports started to shrink.  Those who really cared never said a word about the smell!  The next couple of chapters were tough enough because the real grieving started but there was hope - I ate and bathed more regularly.

Chapters 9 and 10 are about self-discovery.  No longer the "poor" widow, I took stock of what I had accomplished like pulling lint out of the lint trap, pumping my own tires and planning the renovations of my bathroom to list but a few.  I now am simply a widow.  By the end of the 10th chapter, I found myself planning not for the moment, yes you really do need to put one foot in front of the other to avoid falling flat on your face, but for the next hour and every so often, for the next day.

The story continues.  Coming up on the 11th month anniversary, one month short of the 1 year anniversary I realize that I continue to wear my mask.  Going through the motions, smiling when it seems appropriate and even injecting a chuckle or two in the conversation.  Meanwhile, I sit there thinking - where is my other classy, yummy, warm hearted, solid, safe - other half?  In the last little while, I have forced myself to reflect on these conversations, these social gatherings, and look for that one moment where it was pure and real.  Then I choose to peel away the rest and sit with that one moment in the day, for it is about living.   I want to remember Bill not in grief but in life and to do so, I need to live.  I won't say that I am always successful but every so often, there is a gem of a moment.  Yesterday there were two!  End of a chapter?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

God's plan ...

Life if so fragile, and nothing is forever.  I was reminded of this again yesterday as I learned of the news that yet another dear colleague, mentor and gentle friend died.  After living with ALS, he succumbed to pneumonia.   I say "living with" for he was a man of great faith and all that he did and all that he was, God was at the centre of his life and he accepted God's plan for him.  In this, and in so many other ways, he was an inspiration to me.

Still, all I can say is, this sucks!

'Til we meet again my dear friend.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Anxious over letting go ...

For the past week, I find myself quite tired.  Saturday was spent in my garage unable to motivate myself to complete the most basic of tasks, yet there was something different.  I was becoming excited and anxious about ... about?  I lay blame on a very hectic week at work and the one coming up.

Waking up this morning, that same feeling of anticipation and anxiousness overcame me and I was itching for it to be time to get up.  Looked at the clock and saw that it was only 3:30 a.m.  *groan*  Blaming my new boarder, menopause, I turned over and laid very still willing myself back to sleep.  The day is going to be too busy for me to be tired. 

While laying there I became thankful that Bill was not there for surely, my restlessness would be keeping him up.  I could toss and turn all I wanted or needed to without waking him up.  Dang menopause, I heard about this from other women .... Wait a minute!  Did I really think that?  ... I became thankful that Bill was not there ... a bit of confusion set  in.

Although the thought was with concern over his wellbeing, it was still a thought that he was not there and I was taking stock of where I'm at in my life.  Taking ownership of what I need to do to function at work and at home, without him.  I rearranged my messy bed and sprawled full length in it. I fell asleep

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nobody home - I've gone walking!

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk.  Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being, and walk away from every illness.  I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. ~ Soren Kerkegaard

In the year before Bill's death, I had made a commitment to look after myself.  That included exercise.  I had had some serious health scares and I thought that if I did not make myself a priority, I would not be there to take care of my family.  So I started to walk.  I walked for 10 minutes a day, graduating to 20 minutes and then was walking 5 miles in less than 55 minutes.  By early summer, I was out walking Bill - he being 6'2" and me 5'4" that was quite an accomplishment.

While walking, I remember leaving not only the pounds behind but also my worries.  By the end of the walk, I always felt energized and clear minded, ready to face anything the day offered.

My son came home from work the other day and gave me a big desperate hug and whispered in my ear - don't you ever die!  I felt every new pound I've gained from sitting in my garage, and became very aware of the heaviness in his heart and in his mind.

I will live enough for two ... so yesterday, I started to walk.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What I would say to my father ...

My children no longer have their father and I often wonder what they would say if Bill could be here today.

I no longer have my father and if he were here with me today this is what I would have to say.

When you were not looking I was watching,
I got everything you had to offer
by example you taught me what to say.

When you were not looking I was watching,
and though we are now physically apart
your life's lessons are written on my heart.

When you were not looking I was watching,
knowing I would grow up with your values
a strong foundation, to always be true.

I trust that you are now watching,
through example, a strong foundation I lay
for without you, I would not be who I am today.

In my mind, I sit with you Papa, in a glorious green garden as it was that morning you came to me in a dream.  There is so much I want to say but I trust that you already know what is in my heart.

Thank you for your teachings, thank you for your love and thank you for holding my hand all those years.  Because of your fatherly devotion and our faith in God's promise, I know we will one day sit together again.

Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fatherhood Trilogy ... Seth

Oops?  No way!  Bill and I always said, had we met and married earlier, we would have had a house full of children.  So when I hid in the bathroom to pee on a stick and saw that I was indeed pregnant we rejoiced at yet another child.  Actually, I had not even missed a month but knew I was pregnant.  Something was off and the day that I became nauseated with sour dough pretzels, well, it was nearly confirmed.  On our way back from our annual trip to my brother's place for Easter, I made up a bogus story about needing something at the pharmacy.  No sooner were we settled back into the house, I went upstairs to the bathroom.  After confirming the pregnancy, I came out the door and called Bill, fear and excitement colliding.  I had just miscarried not that long before and there was fear because it was too soon and excitement because after our miscarriage, Bill and I had settled into the fact that our family was not yet done.  There was a deep knowing chuckle and he called up, your pregnant aren't you!  Which is why I don't play poker!  We were back at being pregnant and of course all the jokes about ... Bill, give the poor girl a break!

To be truthful, I really thought that this was it.  It was finally going to happen, we would have our girl.   I had visions of a beautiful little girl with long dark ringlets and big brown eyes.  A beautiful girl who would be "Daddy's" little sidekick.  Then I got sick.  There was something very wrong.  On that very frightening Sunday, Bill took me into the hospital and after an ultrasound, we were given the bad news that I was most likely miscarrying again.  They kept me in the hospital, pumping morphine intravenously and limiting my food intake should they have to perform a surgical procedure.  For a full week we waited.  For a full week, my body was pumped full of morphine and starved.  By Friday, my regular OB came in, yanked the IV out of my hand and wheeled me for another ultrasound.  Looking at the screen, he promptly informs me that I was not miscarrying and that I was ready to go home.  Confused, I asked why the pain?  He said something I rather not repeat and signed my discharge papers.  I called Bill at the office and asked him to come get me.  We were both confused but happy that this little gaffer was holding on.  I had another attack on that same Sunday following my discharge.  I was back into the hospital but this time, a surgeon came to examine me.  I would require surgery but only after I had completed my 28 weeks of pregnancy.  I was losing weight fast.  All the while, I was rubbing my belly, encouraging my "Maggie" to hold on.  Surgery come and gone, I was scheduled for my follow-up ultrasound and we asked if this would be a boy or a girl.  We were told, with a great of certainty, that this would be a boy.  For two weeks, I grieved.  Then one Friday evening, while watching TV, I suddenly became very aware that I had not noticed movement in quite some time.  I became quite anxious all of a sudden and almost on cue, Seth kicked.  He kicked so hard, the remote that had been sitting on my belly fell.  Bill!  We have to give this baby a name!  When we were first pregnant, we had chosen both names, Benjamin and Casey.  We had settled on Benjamin but when we knew we were having another boy, we knew it had to be Casey.  So we were out of names and for some reason, I was desperate to give this child a name.  For the first time, we actually resorted to a baby name book.  We chose two, Seth or Samuel.  I was partial to the name Seth for it is the name of the third son of Adam and Eve and it also meant substitute.  There is nothing "substitute" about Seth.  He is unique!  What a precious gift from God - a blond haired blue eyed gorgeous baby! 

Bill enjoyed Seth's company.  It was made easy by the fact that they are so alike.  I often say that he is the perfect combination of my father and Bill with a unique twist of his own.  Seth and Bill shared much of the same interests and reacted to life much in the same way.  I remember a time when I was preparing supper in the kitchen and looked over to the den where Bill and Seth sat watching a football game.  Seth could not have been much older than four.  They sat side by side, both having crossed their leg over the other in the same way, popping peanuts in their mouths in tandem and commenting on the play.  Bill looked over and winked.  He had noticed that Seth was mimicking his moves.  They both beamed with a great deal of pride when I would call Seth "mini-me" making reference to how they were both so alike.

Seth was Bill's constant and Bill was Seth's constant.  Like father, like son.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fatherhood Trilogy ... Casey

Built a  new house, moved into said house so why not have a new baby?  A few months after settling into our new home, I began to feel queasy.  Bill smiled smugly and said, "Well old girl .. when will this one come?"  Being in total denial, I attributed it to the new home still drying out and the smell of plaster, wood and fresh paint being too much.  I was forced to admit it though, the first time I ran to the bathroom.  I was due sometime in mid February.  Casey fooled us all, and came late January.

After giving birth, I looked over to Bill who was now holding his bran new son.  Smiling down at this beautiful Gerber child, he said, "Hello Casey.  You will certainly break hearts with those beautiful big brown eyes and pouty lips."

What Bill admired most about Casey was his athleticism and ease with people.  Although Casey is often compared to me because of his love of the arts - poetry, crafts and video production, Bill saw much of himself in Casey because sportsmanship and theatre were some of the strengths they shared.

During the summer, some six years ago, Casey worked a lot of little jobs.  He was determined to play ball hockey, as a goalie no less.  With enough money in his pocket, he purchased a beginner set of pads, mitt, blocker, helmet and a stick.  He wanted to play in the fall.  There was the little amount left to pay and Bill suggested that this would be a good thing.  So off we went to get him registered.  He was picked up by a men's team and this was his first experience in organized hockey.  Bill could not wipe the grin off his face.  He had tried in their early years to get them involved with hockey, being a player himself, but the kids were not into it.  Now at the age of 15, Casey was playing net.  We spent the first season out in the cold, braving many snow falls and loved every moment of it.  Casey played rather well and was fearless!  Come the Spring, it was time for registration again.  There was no hesitation.  First night out, we watched Casey play; however, there was some hesitation on his part.  Getting back to the car, his father asked why he seemed to be dodging rather than blocking.  Casey opened his hand and showed the angry bruise in his hand.  It would seem that he was in a different league of players now and the beginner equipment was too thin.  Before the next game, Bill took him out and they upgraded his equipment. 

By the summer season, Casey was joined by his younger brother Seth and by the fall, Casey, Seth and Bill were playing on the same team.  Bill often said, he was so happy that we shared this as a family.  He felt that this was what would create lasting memories.

In one of his before last year of high school, we attended Casey's school play.  A week before provincial completion one of the lead actors decided he was not going to participate.  Rather than cancel all together, Casey stepped up to the plate.  He learned all the lines and the production crew rearrange the scenes to accommodate Casey playing both personalities.  They came back from competition with awards recognizing their performance.  Finally, we attended his last performance and sat in awe of this great actor.  We laughed so hard, our sides hurt.  What a wonderful performance!  Again, I look over and caught the pride in Bill's eyes.  It was  priceless.

Like all father-son relationships, there were many good times, and there were some rough patches, but there was never a moment without love.  In the year before Bill died, Casey and he spent a great deal of time together and came to discover and appreciate so many other things in common.

Fatherhood Trilogy ... Benjamin

A proud moment ... meeting his first born Benjamin.

What Bill appreciated most of his son Ben is his resilience.  Benjamin Canoe Head as he often called him with a great deal of affection.  Benjamin was born with a heart defect that caused his heart to beat so fast for so long, it would tire and stop.  We spent many nights and days, watching over him.  I still remember the night I had spent most of the night up stimulating Ben when he was struggling.  By 5:00 a.m., I knew I needed some sleep and woke Bill up so that he could watch over him so that I could get a couple of hours sleep.  Ben had been placed on a monitor and when his heart would start to accelerate, an alarm would sound.  We had been taught manoeuvres to help the heart come back to a normal rhythm.  Laying in bed, half asleep half awake, I heard the alarm go off and listened for it to stop.  It did not.  Swinging my legs over the side of the bed, I looked up to see Bill rushing into the room saying, "I can't get him back!"  He laid little ashen Ben on the bed next to me and in perfect unison, we began our manoeuvres.  One gentle gasp after another, Ben began to breathe again.  He was three months old.  This started our trips to Sick Kids.  I remember having the discussion with Bill, after Ben was finally diagnosed and prescribe medication.  Bill was devastated that this was a lifetime, or rather a lifestyle for Ben.  He felt the full weight of the responsibility of administering medication, of the need to monitor a balanced lifestyle.  The same conversation later in life, Bill stated that at first, he had found it hard but it soon simply came to be a way of life.

There were many beautiful memories, too many to list.  So I have to decide on which one that seems to be the most memorable ... at least the one that Bill often told the story.

Benjamin learned to speak two languages at a very early age.  As a result, the pronunciation of certain words was a little challenging, one of which was TRUCK... yup you guessed it ... it came out at F  Ben always carried a few cars and trucks in his pockets, everywhere we went.  He was assured of having something to play with.  This was no different on the Sunday morning, Ben was being carried back to our phew after attending Sunday School.  High up in the air, in his little meaty hand, he held a truck.  Loving people, he wanted to communicate with them and share what he had in his hand.  All the way up the isle, this little person with a red truck in his hand was showing people his - -! While I froze with embarrassment, Bill simply smiled, watching people's reaction then went to claim our son.  As I looked up to father with his son in arms, I read a great deal of humour and pride in Bill's eyes and a great deal of love between the two.  Unconditional love.

No more trucks in Benjamin Canoe Heads pockets again while a trip in public was planned.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A father's love for his sons ...

He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it. ~ Clarence Budington Kelland

Bill’s love for his boys was not expressed so much in words, but always in action.  He celebrated their successes, was saddened to have to only watch and be there for them as they struggled through life’s challenges knowing that they needed to learn things on their own and breathed in their essence on the many ordinary days.

Indeed, the boys were fortunate to have such a solid role model.  Always present, wise and very giving; he indeed “lived so that they may watch him do it.”

This is the man who put “magic” into Christmas, who trekked through deep snow so that he could put a stuffed Easter bunny outside looking in, who sat up with them by the toilet when they weren’t feeling so well, who invited me out to the back yard on the night of our first snow fall so that we could build a family of snowmen to surprise the boys in the morning and was so proud to play ball hockey on a team with his sons.  There are so many memories and many were because he wanted his sons to “see” how much he loved them.

Let’s not forget laughter!  There was plenty of that.  Bath time routine at the Walton’s involved the boys stripping down in the bedroom then coming out dancing like little leprechauns in the hall all the way to the bathroom.  There was much laughter and freedom in those moments.  One evening, we were busy in the bedroom stripping down and as usual, the excitement of what was just about to happen was building.  Lots of chatter and giggles.  All three started to run into the hallway for their little dance but silence.  I looked up and saw my beautiful husband, who had taken the time to strip down too!  There was an explosion of laughter and all four started to prance around.  So much laughter!

Father’s Day is around the corner.  It will feel strange not to celebrate with him.  He was proud to be a dad.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Life seems so fragile ...

So young, so carefree and beautiful.  We were celebrating Bill's 52'd birthday. 

Bill took being a father seriously.  I remember asking him if he had an interest in getting involved with something outside the home.  He simply said not yet.  He figured that there was enough of me involved and that one of us needed to be home for the boys.  Interestingly enough, this was not said with any bitterness but simply as a matter of fact.  Bill was proud of my involvement with the community and with my work as a doula.  Besides, he said, your interests tend to bring in money, as mine would cost.  

I often write, I will live enough for two.  What a tall order.  I have noticed lately, how it seems difficult to be away from home.  Sometimes I think, who will be there for them if something happened to me?  Since Bill's death, life seems so fragile.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Silent Sunday

Photo by:  G. Walton 2011

A victim of my grief?

Through my journey, I have lived and continue to live through the tough moments and rejoice in the small grateful moments when grief does not seem to demand my full attention. 

Every morning, I get up to face a new day, shower most days, make my way to my world of work and buy food on the way home after looking into my children's pitiful eyes saying feed me please.  I do this because I feel I have to.  I feel that it is what is needed to pull me through, adopting the "fake it until you make it" attitude.

There were times of wishing things were not what they were, holding my breath until Bill magically came back.  That did not change things.  There were times  when I stomped my foot and said, enough, I will change my attitude until I could almost feel the world was right again but just when I thought things were moving forward, grief came taping me on the shoulder.

Which has me wondering why is this so difficult?   I am doing what is expected, trying new things to change my attitude or filling my days with being busy to avoid grieving.  But where is my heart?  Where is my faith in my ability of rejoining the world of the living?  I do not want to live as a victim of my grief. 

... What the person needs is to make contact with the cohesion of his being. This is not "closure", but "letting go." This is the dynamic of grief. Grief is not the function of a victim but the function of a human being. Grief does not occur only with great disastrous events, but is an everyday ongoing process called living. To stay in the now, where one experiences the liveliness of the process, necessitates being in a state of "letting go" of the past and the future. "Letting go" is an internal process of choice that occurs when a person decides it is time to "let go" and not use the occasion to capitalize upon making contact with the general perception of seeing himself as a victim and use that experience to further his experience of fragmentation around whatever has happened to him.
Fred M. Fariss  Ref:

Is it time to begin to act as though I have an investment in my future?  To accept letting go of the past and the future?  To open the door to my heart and truly rejoice in what I have, family, friends, my gardens, my photography, my writing, my work?  Is this what is meant by letting go?

I see this as very different than "moving on".  Letting go will take courage.  Courage to step back into the my life and to see what happens.

From my journal of grief: June 10, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bawling in the bathroom ...

Oh no ... deep breath, grab a piece of paper and pen.  Walking the distance from my office to the bathroom avoiding eye contact by appearing to be concentrated on my piece of paper; *groan* I picked up a catering menu!  Need to look like I am really busy to avoid engaging with anyone who I might happen upon in the hallway.  Few more steps, enter the bathroom and lean up against the door after safely locking the world out.  The tears are finally free to roll releasing the pressure that has been building in my heart.  I place my hand over my mouth to muffle the sounds so not to disturb others with my cries.  As I stand in the bathroom, I wonder if the IT people would consider wiring the bathroom with connectivity to continue working while shedding my tears.  I can just imagine how confusing that requisition would be; that is until they see who signed the request ... Respectfully submitted, The Grieving Widow.

Indeed, my supports are shrinking.  It is now not only with whom I can openly grieve, but also my safe places.  As time goes on, conversations that once were easy with certain individuals are now filled with pregnant pauses and awkward words. I find myself struggling between the expectation of others and of myself to be at peak performance.  The reality is, tasks that I used to do without a thought now require a great deal of concentration because grief consumes me without consulting my schedule.  It cares not that I have an important meeting, an important task to complete or unlike my grief, someone has actually had the courtesy to schedule time with me.  As a professional, this is rather demoralizing; as a human being the shrinking world of acceptance and understanding is painful.  Recent events now has me reduced to bawling in the bathroom.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Memories ... a bittersweet joy!

Last Sunday, I wrote in an eMail to a dear sweet friend who knows this pain ...

I am so restless.  I hate this in-between feeling.  These last few days, I see Bill everywhere!  I see him standing under our crab apple tree, I see him sitting in the living room, I see him walking up the driveway, I see him everywhere.  He is no longer simply there in essence, I see him in every memory.  These are so real, almost tangible.  I just want to crawl into his embrace, to hear his heart, to feel his breath playing in my hair.  How can I do this without him?  I miss our intimate moments, I miss seeing the twinkle in his eye when he looked at me, I miss coming into our bedroom to find him busy at the computer, I miss waking up during the night and breathing in his presence and feeling safe.  This is so confusing.  I wanted to see him again in the memories of him, and now that I do, I miss him even more than I thought possible.  My heart is breaking all over again!

I came across this yesterday - by John Hall Wheelock ...

Lying awake at dawn, I remember them,
With a love that is almost joy I remember them.
Lost, and all mine, all mine, forever.

This is indeed a bittersweet joy.  My six great losses forever in my heart, forever part of who I am today.

It would seem that to be all that I can be, will require some courage on my part.  Courage to embrace these memories and to feel peace in knowing that they will always be mine.  Courage to know that one day they will be a source of comfort and not pain.  Courage to trust that they will not always be constant to my consciousness and that one day, they will come to me when I summon them being a source of inspiration, a source of regeneration and a source of strength.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The balance of life ...

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wonder'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.
~ Walt Whitman

Through example, Bill taught me to find peace in the simple things.  How many times did I watch him stand under our crab apple tree, face looking up into the blossoms, drinking in its scent while the world around us seemed so busy.  He would stand there quietly appreciating the simplicity of the moment.

Coming home the other day, I looked up at the tree.  It is in full bloom, the most I have ever seen.  The bees were feasting on the nectar and I was drawn to standing under this beautiful canopy.  Lifting my face to the sun breaking through the branches, I drank its fragrance, wrapped myself in its beauty.  In that moment of peace, I was both taken by the beauty and saddened by the feeling of being incomplete.  How many times did Bill invite me to share in this world?  How many times did he take my hand to stand under this wondrous canopy?

I am restless these days.  It seems like nothing holds my attention for very long, nothing seems worth doing for very long.  Life seems flat, without sparkle, without meaning.

While standing in this very intimate moment under the canopy I was reminded of the world's beauty, of life's perfect order.  This tree we planted so many years ago, branches made strong by our pruning, the abundance of blossoms made sweeter by the bees and the fruit it produces for the birds in the fall.  I see it now Bill. 

We have planted something beautiful together, our family.  One of our branches now gone our family will need to heal and be made stronger.  Our grandchildren will be made sweeter by your influence through our sons and with what we must now experience without you physically being here.  Although it is not for us to question why so soon, I trust that there is a perfect balance in how this all unfolds.   

Although I am very lonely without you and full of grief, l must trust that I have a place, and a purpose in this life without you.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My six great losses ... June the power of a mother's love

Although this is my last instalment on my six-part series, I suspect it will be the most difficult one to write.  It is no secret that the relationship was strained at the best of times and by the time we did have a relationship, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer.  So why do I consider June one of my great loses?  That question is both simple and complex. 

The simple answer would be because she was Bill's mother.   Because of her, because of her love, generosity and nurturing, I had a wonderful husband, friend and soul mate.  Because of her "fun" nature while her children were growing up, my children had a father who could offer the "magic" in Christmas, the "fun" in indoor camping, and the "generosity" of his time.  Because of her, our family was made richer with strong values and morals.

The complex part to the question is that while we grew as a couple, things were always made more difficult because of the "Junie" factor.  I often wondered what I was doing so wrong for her to dislike me so much.  At first, we attributed it to the fact that Bill's Dad died on February 14, 1984 and I met Bill on June 27, 1984.  Wrong timing.  She was 54 when she became a widow - I was 51 when I was widowed.  What a loss for not being able to share with her, widow to widow.  As the years went on, her behaviour became even more difficult to deal with and her grandchildren found it more difficult to spend time with her.  What a loss for her grandchildren not to have known the real June, the one her children had known.  Through it all, I always kept it in my heart that she had made Bill possible for me to love.  What a gift!  What a loss not to have had enough of a relationship with her to be able to thank her for this. 

Things became clearer when she was finally diagnosed.  All the years of wondering what was so wrong with me to have this person dislike me so much.  What a loss for not being able to support her in a very different way, had we known what was wrong.  To confirm her diagnosis, there was an assessment done that confirmed that the dementia could be recorded as far back as when she was 54.  There was so much clarity in the diagnosis.

As I write this, I feel Bill and June all around me.  I loved you June for what you made possible for me and my boys, but today I can say I love you for being you.  I saw you in Bill, I see you in your girls, I see the influence the power of a mother's love in your oldest son.  Thank you.  The world has been made brighter because of you.

In the last days of June's life, I was there by her side.  There was healing in these hours and days.  As I lay my head next to hers while she took her final breaths, my heart found peace.

I will honour your memory in being generous with my time and my love with our boys.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My six great losses ... Bill, my everything!

Bill's story you all know.  I offer you this poem by Ron Tranmer, to tell you of the hope that is in my heart.
The Broken Chain
We little knew that morning that God
Was going to call your name.
In life we loved you dearly,
In death we do the same.
It broke our hearts to lose you,
You did not go alone;
For part of us went with you,
The day God called you home.
You left us peaceful memories,
Your love is still our guide;
And though we cannot see you,
You are always at our side.
Our family chain is broken,
And nothing seems the same;
But as God calls us one by one,
The Chain will link again.

I will grieve you in the sunlight and live enough for two, until God calls my name.