Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Widow Card Credit ...

Sorry lady, but your Widow Card has been declined.  That can't be!  I am barely over the first year mark.  How can I have used up my quota of sympathy and understanding?  I am still new at this.

Double checking my account ...

Denial  - in the red; used up my credits, and some, in the first six months.  Noticed that I borrowed against it lately in honour of my self-pity party held on the one year anniversary.

Anger - still credits left here.  There are still moments when I am so angry that he did not do something to prevent this.  "Dang it guy, why did you have to go so soon ... why did you leave me with a mess to clean up ... why are you not here for me to hold?"   Hmmm ... me thinks I will need to keep some credits in here.   Thank goodness my list of forgiving is not long!

First payment ~ "I forgive you Bill for being such a hoarder, I've cleaned most of it.  Do you like what I've done?  I'm not sorry I threw out all of your "girlie" magazines!"

Bargaining - lots of credit left here.  Never was good at bargaining a deal.  Will need to keep some credits here to pay the sandman when I go to sleep requesting a guest appearance by you know who.  No refund available if he decides not to show up!

Depression - in the red.  Society's bankers have a different timetable, a different tolerance; interest is beginning to accrue.

Acceptance - used pennies compared to the large balance placed for this.  Need to keep a healthy account for the finishing touches.  Although I accept that Bill is dead, and that he will never be coming back, I still desperately long to come home one day and find him there and still yearn to "see" him one more time.  Hmmm ... wondering if I am borrowing against denial without realizing it.

According to my records, there is still lots of credit due.

How is it that grief can be measured by others so well, while I, the griever,  seem to be moving back and forth through the stages?  This is such a personal process and just as there are no two identical snowflakes, no two people grieve in the exact same way.

Taking stock of where I am today, I have become more aware of the years ahead than the years behind.  I have also written many times that I don't know who I am now that he is gone; but really I do, I am me!  Just a little older, a little wiser and so much richer for accepting that Bill may be gone physically but he continues to be with me.

Now if I could just convince Society's Bankers on my need for an extension on my Widow Card, my grieving would be made easier.

First year is over, smile everyone!  *groan*

Friday, July 29, 2011

Now what?

"The moon is whole all the time, but we can’t always see it. What we see is an almost moon or not-quite moon. The rest is hiding just out of view, but there’s only one moon, so we follow it in the sky. We plan our lives based on its rhythms and tides." ~ Alice Sebold (The Almost Moon)

Grief is whole all the time, but those who see me can't always see it.  What they see are the moments when I cannot contain it.  Finding balance between grieving and taking my place in life is becoming easier, however, it does have its own rhythm, its own tides.

Living as we do in a culture having no tolerance for pain of any kind, where oftentimes the solution is found in a pill, it is no wonder that this balance is made complicated. I often feel that I am living on someone else's timetable.  These cultural expectations are voiced in subtle comments such as the first year is over, time to move on, or the blank stares that say time to get over it.  Most times, these  leave me frustrated and feeling abnormal when I can't stop this pain.

Our culture seems to be rooted in a deep belief that once a person has died, they are no longer with us and the griever must learn how to "forget" before they can "move on", or "heal".

Like many before me, and many to come, I expected to feel better after the first year of my loss.  After all, I am conditioned to believe that there is a magic switch somewhere.  Although I will not write that I am feeling worst as I embark on the second year, I will admit that I was a little disappointed to not feeling "transformed" - I was the same, yet different. 

Much of this last year has been filled being preoccupied with  "how" ... how can I go on without, how can I deal with everything alone, and how can I survive without his physical presence and all that meant emotionally and financially.

The last few weeks have been made easier by not working so hard to "move on" without.  Instead, I have acknowledged that Bill is, and will always be, with me.  He is along for the ride.  Love endures death.  There is no "closure" to my relationship with Bill; he was, is and will always be significant to my life.

Now what?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The other side of one year ....

Photo by:  G. Walton
The first year can be likened to a dark honeymoon,
Allowances made for absence of the spirit and the many tears.
The other side of the first year begins the real marriage,
Learning to walk, laugh and simply be.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The One Year Anniversary of His Death ...

One small year ago, our family was changed.  We are doing okay and although Bill is no longer with us physically, he is still very much with us.  I see it everywhere now.

I am sharing his eulogy today, for the words are as true today as they were when I wrote the letter and when I wrote his tribute.  Who would have known that he would transform from Earth Angel to Heavenly Angel.

Bill Walton Eulogy - July 30, 2011 - written and delivered by me ...

"While cleaning up my room this week, I came across this letter I wrote to Bill this past Christmas.  He kept it close by on the computer stand.  He often chuckled when I would leave him little love notes but I suspect that he cherished each one because I am still finding old notes.

I read through the letter and thought that I would share for it speaks of who Bill is.

Dear Bill,

Did you know that I tasted Heaven?  It’s true.  I tasted Heaven the day I met you.  And when we married, you sent me flying, dancing on the clouds while the stars cast down loving light to shine upon us.

You’re a good person inside and out.  You have all the kindness, patience and insight of an angel bathed in Heavenly light.

Since day one, we’ve shared something incredible, something that most people only dream of.  I had been searching for you all of my life.  You have made me the happiest I have ever been.  You are a sincere, caring, loving man, and I wouldn’t trade you for the world.  I am so thankful and blessed that you love me as much as I love you, and that you asked me to be your wife.

We have been married for twenty-four years, and I have cherished every moment since the day we met.  I love you more and more every day.  Thinking about growing old with you fills me with anticipation and excitement.  We make the perfect husband and wife team.  We have had an amazing life together raising a family – and still raising;  don’t think that part ever ends!  Sorry my friend.
I just wanted to thank you.  You know I don’t think you realize how much you inspire me.  Though truthfully, I’ve always known from the very first time I met you, that you are a strong person.  You are so full of wisdom about life that when you speak it really makes me think that I could stay there forever just to listen to your open mind, for it is peaceful and inviting.  Thank you for making me feel safe.

Bill, you have become my awakening, you have helped me see things in a brighter way.  In a happier, enlightening way; for I was once drowning in fear, cynical about love, about hope and security.  I used to think that no one understood me and could ever want me.

Our life together is amazing, and together it will only get better and better.   I will forever be grateful that you came into my life.  Together we’re perfect, and I will enjoy spending the rest of my life with you.  I love you more than words can say.

That’s what you are to me – my very own angel and I’ll always own a tiny bit of Heaven as long as you are with me.

Merry Christmas Love! ~ Ginette

I still remember one conversation I had with him recently.  We were talking about our three boys.  About how we wanted to see all of them grow up.  He had lots of dreams for them.  Bill was a proud father.  He was the type of father who would flaunt his children to our friends and our friends loved our children too of course.  Bill dreamt big for them.  He wanted our children to grow up wise, respectful and successful people.  How lucky are we?  I know Bill will flaunt about our children with everyone in Heaven.  In fact, I am sure of that.

Bill is in Heaven now.  He is with his father and other friends.  I am sure he is happy there because in Heaven there is peace.

Bill, I know we will see each other again.  I will once again feel your warm embrace and our souls will unite for eternity, together in Heaven.  In the meantime, please do guide us as we live our life here on earth.  Do watch over Benjamin, Casey and Seth and do protect them from harm. 

Bill, you will always be remembered and you will always live in our hearts for as long as we live.

I love you so much."  (end)

Hope Journal Entry:  July 27, 2011

Dear Bill,

We love you more today than yesterday and less than tomorrow!  

I will raise my Martini glass tonight, in recognition of all that we had, in all that we have and in all that we will have for you are always with us.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Always with me ...

I'm back and as the cliché would have us say ... in more ways than one.  My sister calls it my little summer vacation; I call it my little mental holiday. 

I have been away to witness the beautiful wedding of my niece and my new nephew (in-law).  In 1984, my niece was the catalyst to my return to family after a six year absence only to meet Bill three days later.  At eight months of age, it was her resilience to be part of the living that inspired me to the same.   It only seems fitting that twenty-seven years later, as I gazed into her smiling eyes as she embarks into a new chapter of her life that she continues to stir me.  Back then, my efforts were supported by my lovely sister and her husband as did my newly formed relationship with Bill.  Twenty-seven years later, my sister and her husband continue to play an integral part in my return to life, as does Bill.

When we first got to the resort, I realized that there was no connectivity.  I groaned inwardly because I was no longer able to reach out and text my sons.  I have grown to rely on being able to just grab my cell phone when I need reassurance that they are okay and text a quick message that I am thinking of them.  This weekend, I learned to trust in "what will be, will be" and that this is only a chapter of my book titled Eternity.  I was simply away, and they would be there when I got back.

Instead, I walked the beautiful paths taking pictures, played in the beautiful water and enjoyed the physical connection to my family present.  I grew in being in the "here and now".

Through the weekend, I felt Bill's absence at times; however, to acknowledge his "absence" is to trust that he is away, but not gone.  In that, I no longer feel the need to "live for two" for he is always with me, he is forever with us.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Merry Widow ...

Trying on a new suit today, my own 12 step program of sorts, one day at a time and all that.  Over the last few weeks, I have given myself permission to slacken the laces of my Widow outfit, enough where I don't always have to remind myself to breathe. (see post The Scarlet W)  This new suit is called the Merry Widow. *chuckling*  Bill loves this outfit!  *wink*

I have always claimed that I am a "silver-lining" or "glass half full" kind of gal; that is in my mind, at least.  My reflection in the mirror and my actions do not jive with this perception of myself lately.  First of all, I would not dare insult anyone's eyes by displaying myself in a Merry Widow, no matter how much my mind is thrilled with the physical transformation of late *caught sight of the true me in the full length mirror - groan*  Secondly, I have subconsciously withdrawn myself from my biggest fans, my biggest supports, thus creating a vortex of loneliness.

And this, I think, may be a problem as I try to move forward in this new life of mine.  As I stared at this person in the mirror, I caught sight of not only the physical me but also of the Poor Widow me.  For years, I also had another mirror; let's call it the Bill mirror.  So much of me was in relation to his twitching moustache and sometimes to his clenching jaw!  I either felt sexy or felt his disappointment in my actions.  In this same mirror, I always felt loved.

These past weeks of being on an extended leave from work have offered me plenty of time to not only look after my physical well being, but also time for some good old fashioned soul searching. 

Although I have given myself permission to glimpse into the Bill mirror from time to time, you know the "What do you think of this Bill ... or man you must be smiling at this outfit ... " kind of thinking, I am now looking into a different mirror.  This mirror has me asking, "What do you think of this Ginette ... or, I look great in this outfit ..." kind of thinking.  I like going back to the Bill mirror where I feel loved.

Last night's journal of blessing entry reads, "I am blessed with a creative mind.  So creative in fact, that I need to do a reality check to ensure my perception of how I am doing and what I am actually doing jive."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bill is always with me ...

This past week, I have been offered a great distraction from my grief.  I worked attentively on my niece's wedding video montage.  Pretty pictures inserted here and there, sprinkled with video clips of the two reminiscing when they met and ending on where they see themselves as a couple 25 years from now.  I worked late into the night, sitting at my kitchen counter until the bones in my butt actually ached from sitting all day long.  You would think that the content of the montage alone would be difficult but it was refreshing to have something so distracting to work on.

A couple of times I sat down to write a blog but the words were not there and at first I was feeling a little guilty about not getting down to the business of grieving; someone else's timetable gnawing at me.  Then I gave myself permission to not only breathe but to take a breather from grieving to keep my emotional health intact.

As I burned the first copy of the video yesterday afternoon, I was elated to have a final product.  I scooted off to a ball hockey game - another great distraction and then off to my sister's for a much needed shower!  *groan* bathroom completely ripped out, no shower, no bath.  Driving home from spending a great couple of hours in prenatal preparation with a sweet young couple, something was settling in my heart.  My grief came to tap me on the shoulder, reminding me that I have a journey to follow. Again with the car! 

It is such a balancing act ~ when to take a breather and when to acknowledge the full measure of my loss!  In both circumstances, I take Bill along for the ride.  Bill is always with me.  He is with me when I laugh and when I cry.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Duct Tape Anyone?

I have been reading much about grief recovery these days.  Recovery?  Is my heart really broken?  It sure felt like it on Monday.  As I laid there looking into my sister's worried eyes, I wondered how difficult it is for her to watch me go through this.  I also wondered if she still sees me with Bill.  You know that picture I so often write about, the picture of Bill and Ginette?

When I got up yesterday morning, I was still feeling under the weather.  I plopped myself down on the daybed hoping that this would not be a day like the previous.  Poor widow me ...  *mental note* ... need to buy my shares in the Kleenex company.

I got up a couple of times, wandered over to the keyboard and stared at the blank screen.  Few words go up ... *delete*.  Few more words .... yes, I think I can put words to what I'm feeling ... *delete*.  Shut the lid, wander away.  What would you have me say Bill?  Who wants to read the dark side all the time?  You are about laughter!

What to do?  Bath, yes!  I slip into the tub with the window wide open and listen to the birds chirping away watching the steam rising from the water.  Time to concentrate on my list of things to do.  No ... too long!  What to wear?  "Something pretty," I hear.  Yeah!  I slip into my Capri's and sling T-Shirt, I look around to find the perfect accessories.  Touch of perfume.

What else?  Reach for another grief recovery book, run my fingers through ... nope, nothing there to intellectualize what sits in my heart ... back to the keyboard.  Okay, write what is in your heart.  Post my blog and feel good about my accomplishment.  Bathed, dressed and wrote my blog.  Not a bad day so far. 

Next ... counselling session.  Feeling lighter, looking brighter, reconnecting ... Driving home, I am reminded of a great love, Bill's love for his family.  Put the key in the front door, jiggle it until it finally gives passage and I hear myself grumble ~ not quite like a Christmas story kind of grumbling but pretty close.  *chuckle*  I can't help but wonder if you are laughing.  Oh yes, you are now really laughing as I slip in the dog's pee, almost losing my loot of a supper!

Okay Mr. Fix It ... where did you put all the duct tape? I kind of need some for this heart of mine!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Where's the book?

There are days when it still hurts so much, and other days not so much.  One thing is for sure, the melancholy is always there.  Some days, I wonder why I feel so bad then other days I remember vividly why.  Must be the anniversary thing and all I can do is sit and be still and feel.  I sense my grief is deepening and I wonder am I never going to feel better?

A year later, I sit still with the truth that I love Bill and he loves me.  To heal means to accept his death and to stop being a prisoner of my anger and denial, to accept that which I cannot change.  The challenge now is to find the way.  I'm not so sure that time is all that is needed to heal this wound but also the choices I make.  Dang, where's the recipe book, the instruction manual?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Accepting reality ...

Round and round I go, stepping in and out of this reality that you are no longer physically here.  My head knows that you will not be coming home and my heart still hopes at times that I have been wrong, that indeed, any time now, you will lean over and kiss my cheek or take my hand. 

The last few days have been made difficult by the intrusion of flashbacks of the night you died.  It is almost like watching an old rerun without sound, without feeling, without ... I cannot cry, I cannot call out, I simply watch.  Some details of that night are becoming fuzzy, others continue to stand out.  My head seems to be working overtime to help my heart accept that this is all real, and that I will need to wait a while before I can once again stand with you forever. For the time being, there is a need to return to my life, the life we had started, the life that waits for me.

Remnants of wishing things were different linger in my healing heart.

Journal entry:  July 5, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My own path, same destiny ...

Everyone can master a grief but he that has it. ~ William Shakespeare

I took a different route this morning.  Starting my walk around the lake, I was reminded of Albert Einstein's words, "Insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  So when I came to a fork in the path, I chose to leave my comfortable routine where I knew where I was going and took the path to another set of streets in hopes of changing up the scenery and the physical difficulty of my walk.  It was not comfortable.

Recent events have led to a long break from work and as I tried to make sense of these events, I was brought back to basics.  Why am I doing this?  The first few days off, I thought I needed to do this because others expect it of me.  But this morning, I had an "ah ha" moment.  I am my own best judge of what I need to be doing as a griever!

Along the way I have accepted the gentle nudges from my family and friends when they thought I was becoming too much of a recluse or knowing that my worst fear is to become bitter through this process, have been honest enough with me to say so when they saw it.  More recently recognizing that I am in a bit of a "funk" I have secured counselling that suits me.  I am my own best judge, accepting enlightenment and recognizing where I am going.

So what do I do with this balance between being my best counsellor as it pertains to my grief and the needs of others?  I am frustrated with this feeling that I now have a timetable on my journey to healing. 

As I rounded the corner of the final lap of my walk, the same path that brings me back to my car every morning, I realized that I am back to basics - eat, breathe and pray. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

God's Knot ...

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  ~ Ecclesiastes 4:12

This bible verse was not only stated on our wedding day, but indeed was the basis of our life together.  For in life, we knew that together we could face anything supported by God's love and guidance.

I was reminded of this feeling of completeness this morning.  Nearing the end of my walk, I stood at the top of the hill looking down at the lake.  I intentionally and deliberately took in the beauty of a group of birds performing a ballet over the quiet water and the ducks gently disturbing this stillness as they glided along the shore. I so longed for Bill's presence in the here and now.  But my heart knows that this is but a temporary separation and I will one day be reunited with not only Bill but with all those who have gone before me.

I also trust that this pain will one day be mixed in with happy memories of Bill and I will always keep this hope of reunion in my heart.

As I stood at the top of the hill, I knew that the strands of my grief and memory and hope were braided together.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Joy will come again ...

Phone call to Bill ... "Hey, guess what?  I did the 5 miles in less than an hour this morning!"  "That's great!  Must have been quite the march with those short legs of yours - hup... two, three *chuckle*." ... early July 2010.

This conversation played in my mind this morning, as I "marched" around the lake and wandered up and down the hills of the city. 

It is so hard to remember what it felt like before Bill died.  Although snippets of conversations such as this one come back, the excitement associated with the accomplishment is not there.  This morning, I accomplished the same thing ... 5 miles in 56 minutes, but where was the excitement?  Actually, I did feel; I think I pulled something!  *groan* there is actual physical pain!

In the early days of grief, everything was measured by the first times ... the first time I had to replenish groceries, the first time I mowed the lawn, the first time I .... How is it that I can remember how that felt like?

Then I learned how to breathe ... imagine that.  I certainly remember that night, when I was sharing with another widow online, and she simply said ... "Stop for a moment and tell me, are you breathing?"  How simple it was, yet so transforming!  How is it that I can remember how that felt like?

Nearing our first year anniversary, things seem to be measured by the seasonal milestones ... birthdays, Christmas, New Years, anniversary ...  How is it that I can remember the weeks, days and hours leading up to these milestones and how it felt like?

On my dark days, I wonder if it will always be like this and quickly seek shelter in the moment.  On my gentle days, I refuse to believe that God has taken from our hands and not have something in place to fill our arms.  On those days, I inch out of myself, and give my heart permission to dare to dream.

My heart ... what an interesting place.  It can be the sweetest, most gentle thing I have and yet it can sometimes make me feel miserable, angry and confused all at once.  But as I dare to dream again, I realize that my heart is open, and I and dealing, and I am breathing.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Morning breeze ...

Walking, no running,
  trying to leave my empty heart behind. 

Running hard and fast,
  letting the morning breeze give reason for my tears.

Breathless I can only whisper, my darling Bill,
  I said I would go on, be here for me.

My iPod runs through a playlist,
  distracting my thoughts when the sun finally reaches me
    with a song and a reminder of His promise,
      that He will carry me when I can no longer go on.

In the moment, I don't feel so alone, I can breathe.

My step slows
  my heart heals a little,
    I feel God put me down walking next to me
      all the while holding my hand.

My steps feel lighter,
  the sun brighter
    and my tears gone.

Sometimes my heart leads me to places
  I never thought I would ever want to go.

I trust in God's promise to carry me.  

I trust in God's love
  for I felt but a grain of it
    when I felt Bill's love.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

In the moment ...

The present moment is significant, not as the bridge between past and future, but by reason of its contents, contents which can fill our emptiness and become ours, if we are capable of receiving them.
~ Dag Hammarskjold
Journal Entry:

This past week has been difficult with memories of the past constantly flooding my mind.  Memories of happier, and carefree times.  When I was not busy remembering, I was thinking of tomorrow, or the next day; thinking of an empty future, more days without Bill, more times of missing him.  Looking at the calendar, I am reminded that it is coming up on the one year anniversary. 

My best days have been those days when I stayed in the moment.  I have been trying to live a logical and responsible life, but I must acknowledge that I can't tell my heart what to feel.  But in the moment, this a new day - a day which is different from any other day I have had or will have.  In this moment I can breathe.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Game On!

Great game last night.  We won the championship and the game proved to be quite focused and the running felt good.  I must admit that during the game I forgot that I was actually a donor at the mosquito blood bank!  Actually, I forgot many things during the course of 32 minutes ... I forgot that I was tired from a very full day at work, forgot that my dryer is still on the fritz, forgot that my sink is still clogged, forgot that I  am a widow, forgot that Bill was not physically standing at the sidelines.  What I did feel was the thrill of a game, I felt the rush of adrenaline from the running, bumping and chasing, I felt Bill's presence in my heart and will admit that there were moments when I heard his voice in my head as he coached me through a few good moves.  Game On!

As the medal was slipped over my head, I looked down and chuckled at the fact that Bill played hockey for quite a few seasons before I joined the game and did not once receive a medal.  Last year's trophy was all about him ... playing to forget, this season's win is all about me and putting into practice what I learned from watching him from the sidelines.  Interesting, that was the second time in the day where I asked myself, what would Bill say?  I made some good choices from pausing for a few moments.

I walked back to my car and my thoughts rambled on between the thrill of winning and wondering, what would Bill be saying?  Just in that moment, I heard right behind me, "Ginette, you played a really good game tonight."  What?  I looked back, and was greated by a great big smile from a friend of ours who also plays the game.  I don't think he will ever appreciate just how much his words meant to me.