Monday, November 28, 2011

Meet Mr. T. Bear ...

It is all in the stories and the sharing of them that we re-member …

Meet Mr. Teddy Bear

1984 Our first Christmas.  The weeks leading up to Christmas were difficult because this would be Bill’s first Christmas without his Dad.  He struggled with grieving, all the while happy that he would be sharing some of the holidays with me.  His family made plans to meet at his grand-parents in another town and I would be going to see my family, the first in a very long time.  I was not too eager on going to my folks because although we were okay with each other, there was a strain between my mother and me.  Bill insisted that it was a great opportunity to go a few days before and have some time to talk this through with my Mom.  He pointed out that it would not be when she had passed that we would be able to chat.  He also pointed out that I was beginning a new life and it would be nice if I could come to an understanding with my Mom about what really went on while growing up – you know the kind of stuff only a mother and daughter can accumulate in a closet!

This was by far the best gift Bill made possible for me.  After much insistence from him, I agreed.  He dropped me off at the bus station, kissed me and promised that we would have a great time when we both got back.  I spent quite a few days before Christmas with my Mom and Dad and boy did we talk!  We talked, we accused, and we cried; we listened, we laughed and our hearts healed!  The look on my father’s face, as his wife and his daughter faced off at breakfast and kept it going all day, all the while getting the home ready for everyone to arrive, was priceless.  I still see his grin!  I gained such a beautiful perspective on my mother’s love for me during these days.  The family arrived, I got teased about too much makeup and Mom was quick to squash the teasing – thanks Mom!

It was finally time to head back to Bill’s place to really begin the festivities *grin*.  My sister and brother-in-law were headed that way and I don’t think I heard a single word they said during that one-hour drive.  I had visions of Bill dancing in my head!

Much of the next few days were a blur ... but the one thing that is solid in my memory is this big old fat Teddy Bear.  I came first to Bill's home and was assailed with so many unwrapped gifts on the couch!  He had taken the time to set this scene up!  On this Teddy Bear's ear was a card that said ... "careful, I can be exchanged for a whiter version of me!"  I found that card the other day.  I fell in love instantly with this big old furry brown Teddy Bear.  In my mind, I saw this grown man, looking up on the shelves and picking out the "perfect Teddy" for me.  It is large, as you can see, large enough for me to hold and cuddle up to!  White?  Bah humbug!  He was perfect!

Coming from my background, I was not sure I was "supposed" to see this!  All gifts in my childhood came "wrapped".  But here sat this big old bear ... unwrapped and waiting for me to pick him up!  I remember sitting by the couch looking up at this silly grin and feeling the magic of Christmas seeping in!  Oh my goodness Bill!  You brought "magic" to everything, you gave the magic of Christmas back to me!

So I laid there last night, holding on to this furry thing ... thinking about the magic brought to my life!  I have suited up the thing with the last piece of clothes that made my heart melt and wondered .... how can I create this "magic" for another?

I miss you more today ... and love you less than tomorrow!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Another BDay!

Today I remember the many birthdays with a smile,
These memories flood back, the ones when I saw your inner-child
I find myself back there with you, enjoying your arms
Enjoying the peacefulness, remembering your charms.

I can almost feel the warmth of your embrace
I close my eyes searching my memory to see your face
I know that you are in Heaven, yet you will always be here
Living in these birthday memories to last the full year.

Happy Birthday Bill

I look forward to celebrating with you again!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

First year ... bah yumbug!

It has been quite the road trip over the last couple of days.  As usual, my career occupies much of my life these days but never a moment goes by without acknowledging Bill's influence on my life.  Still yesterday, as I pulled up into the driveway, I would have given anything to know that he was home waiting for me so that I could share the events of the last two days, and I could share "me".  Home life feels disconnected somehow.  Strangers living under the same roof.  Not alone, yet very lonely.

Bill often called me the glue that kept us all together, yet I must question this assumption.  WE were the glue that kept things together.  As hard as I worked at ensuring communication, physical needs and family gathering was intact, I could only do it knowing he was there to support.  He offered the voice of reason when needed.  I have become very timid in all things "family".  I observe in silence as my little family seems to grow apart, powerless to affect change. 

So where is this magical glue ... the glue that keeps me together and keeps our family intact?  I miss the wholeness of it all!  Parents raise their children the best they can and hope that one day we get to see them take their wings ... this is so not what we had pictured, what I had pictured.

Bill's birthday is coming up and my emotions are raw with anger ... that he should be with us to celebrate, with sadness ... that we can't be the glue together ... with much loneliness!

Who said the first year is the hardest!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Breathe ...

Life in the fast lane is not all that it is cut out to be.  I have been quite busy with my career and community work which has left very little time for my journals, my reflections and my blog.  It is interesting to note that despite all of this, there is always time to grieve.  The difference is, I seldom have the time to anticipate when grief comes calling and when it does it takes me by surprise.  Did I mention I don't much care for surprises?

As was this morning; I was rendered to reminding myself to breathe for grief came to tap me on the shoulder.  I was ready ... had a great long soak in the tub, took extra care with the makeup and then went to the long mirror in the hall and liked what was looking back.  I skipped down the stairs feeling on top of the world and just as I took my last step I realized that Bill was not there. 

Oh heck ... I got angry with myself!  I know ... he will no longer be there ... but these are those moments, moments when you just wished.

I made my cup of coffee, put my shoes in a shoe bag and then stepped out into the cold frosty morning.  As I drove off, I reminded myself to breathe and said ... I love you!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The sun shines again ...

Friday's evening went well with many lovely people attending ~ indeed, a room filled with beautiful people, warm smiles and a contagious "joy de vivre".  As always, the anticipation of something was worse than the actual event.  It was difficult to walk into the room but the festive mood managed to sooth my heart as I realized that I was reinvesting in my life.  I did, however, leave shortly before the dancing started and as I slipped slidded my way back home ~ yes the snow is here ~  I was filled with a great sense of accomplishment.  As I turned the key in the door, I was happy to note that I did not feel overwhelmed with sadness but looked forward to spending the rest of the evening with Bill in our quiet home.

Yesterday was made so very difficult with my decision to finally continue filling my Rubbermaid bin with all things "Bill" found in our room.  All things that continue to be a source of sadness and not a smile.

This of course is a project that started way back in February and I am still not done.  I am bringing it to the bare bones so that I can finally paint and accessorize the room.  Each time I take a stab at it, I inevitably end up sprawled on the floor crying my heart out.  However, I realize that with each new attempt, more progress is made.  As I look around right now, there will be very little left to do before I can pull this off.  I have often thought to ask someone else to finish, but I think it is therapeutic to do it myself ~ hmmm ... can I ask someone else to finish grieving for me?  It has helped to realize that every time I pick myself up, and put away another few things, that I am not kicking Bill out, just adjusting to the change in our relationship.

I have removed the bin from my room and it will be stored in the basement where it will wait for the day that I can find the strength to remove its contents and make decisions.

The sun is shining again today!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rewind please ...

Thank goodness it is Friday.  My life has been so very full, for so very long now.  Tonight is our Christmas Recognition Evening.  Yes you read right ~ Christmas!  As I sit here listening to the Christmas Mix of dinner music I burned, my heart is beating wildly.  How can it be?  Another season ... another year almost over ... another Christmas.

In a recent eMail to a dear friend, I spoke of how Bill and I loved this very special evening.  An opportunity to get all dressed up and drive to the richly decorated hall and I oh so loved taking his arm as we walked in the hall knowing that I was with the best looking dude around.  Once seated, I would rest my hand on his knee, feeling the warmth of his being.  He would always look down to me, smile and wink knowing just how much work I had put into the success of the evening.  I loved the pride showing through.

I managed last year, partly because my two earth angels flanked me, making sure that I felt part of something bigger than me, partly because my boys were there playing the paparazzi for our Academy Awards theme, partly because my niece had graciously accepted to be my date for the night and partly because I was still so very numb. 

Tonight, I wrote to my friend, will surely feel more like walking the "green mile".  A lump is already forming in my throat ... I will need to remember to breathe.  I don't know if I will ever be okay with not being a couple ... not having Bill there to show off just how fortunate I am to be loved.  I have it in my heart, but sometimes it would be nice to rewind, even for just one more evening.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I think that if Bill were here, I would be getting a blast over the many hours spent at work.  Not because of my absence but because he worries over my health.  Actually, on the drive home last night, I could hear his words in my head and I chuckled and responded out loud, "Oh Bill, it will be over soon."  I then marvelled at just how easy this is - talking to Bill.

I laid me down to sleep smiling at the memory of my grandfather, who I never really got to know, pacing in his home calling out to my deceased grandmother.  I was told he did this often and I remembered thinking that this was just too weird, too crazy.  *hmmm ...*  Although I am sharing this with the world, I don't think I will be offering front row seats to my circle of friends and family while I am having a conversation with Bill.

This brings me to the point - am I going crazy?  It is often a topic of my reflections.  I think not.  I am simply responding to the voice in my head, responding to my intuition that I am working too many hours.  Or in other situations, that I need to get the tires checked, or I need to look into ...  Guess I am simply choosing to share these things with Bill, choosing to start looking after the important things in this world of the living. *grinning*  I am not going crazy!

Off to my world of work and today I will seek balance.  Right Bill? *wink*

Saturday, November 12, 2011

In memory of Gwendolyn

Created for my dear friend John.  One year ago today, Gwendolyn took God's hand and followed Him home.  Her love lives on.

Words, however kind,can't mend your heartache:
but those who care and share your loss, wish you comfort and peace of mind.
May you find strength in the love of family,and in the warm embrace,
of friends.
~ Author unknown

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Part of my life's story ...

Sometimes I close my eyes and try to visualize my journey with grief.  I often see winding pathways meeting up with hills so high I can't see the other side, many crossroads, dreary weather and sunshine.  I feel the gravel making my feet unsteady and the peaceful moments when the sand invites me to stop and take off my shoes to sit for a spell.  For the past few months, I see myself only sometimes alone.  The landscape is changing and I often see Bill holding my hand as he steadies me over obstacles or simply sitting next to me as I sink my toes in the warm sand and let the sunshine spread across my face, enjoying the simple pleasure of his company.

Never in my lifetime have I had to notice as much as I do now, how I fit in the world.  Really, who goes through life asking themselves how the world works?  Umm ... guess I do. 

I am developing my own theory on change and in doing so, I believe it has enriched my experience with grief.

These past 15 months are best described as ever changing; constant motion.  At times, my grief has led me places I never imagined going, it has paralyzed me making me desperate for change.  I have wanted to move out of the painful world of grief to relief, from resistance to mindfulness, from fear to peace, and from despair to hoping again.  Just as I think I have mastered moving forward, I return to the world of pain, resistance, fear and despair.  I have picked myself up many times, shaking it off, being mindful and deliberate in moving forward again; finding balance again.  With each time there is an ever growing sense of strength inside.

I continue to trust in my walk with grief, Bill always present, trusting that I will reach a new form of normalcy.  I also trust that my destination will be made clear; a time and a space where I will be whole because I have walked through this journey and have made it part of my life's story.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Re-membering ...

There are moments like this evening, when going through a motion I catch a glimpse of Bill doing the same.  These moments once reduced me to tears but this evening I found myself smiling.  It was a simple motion, pouring more salt into the salt shaker.  In my mind's eye, I remembered watching his beautiful strong lean hands holding the same shaker and pouring the salt into it.  The smile came from not so much remembering him doing it but rather the comment that always came when he had to replenish most things.  It was always about, did he have to always be the one to do it, and did the last person to use something not realize that it was empty ... with a grumble!  That would include changing the milk pouch, toilet paper and reaching into the Kleenex box and finding it empty.

I smile and my heart warms a little more for it is so much easier to re-member than to dis-member. As I continued my journey with grief, and some time had passed, I often felt pushed, and sometimes bullied by the well-meaning people who, fuelled by the concept of the five stages of grief,  wanted me moving towards acceptance.  I often felt like such a failure because I could not seem to move forward letting go of the relationship; moving on.  To dis-member meant for me severing all emotional ties to Bill while adjusting to this new life without him here physically.  This was simply not a fit for me.

My work with Narrative Grief Therapy offered a fit.  Through the sharing of our story, sharing through my blog, Bill is now re-membered and he continues to be a real part of my life.  We are walking together through this journey, much like those days we went exploring the trails, exploring the city or simply sharing at the end of the day.

Armed with this understanding and acceptance of my life with and without him, I have discovered the road to well-being and live a more balanced life.

What if ...

In May of 2010 on a beautiful Sunday morning, Bill and I were playing in the gardens.  Spring had started to spread its wonderful medicine through my husband's body and mind as it always did.  The SADS season was over and he was planning for the summer and the additional work we wanted to finish in the gardens.  We were going to finish the last little bit of wrapping the long garden all the way around the house and ending it in a bed of hostas at the back.

He started to stretch his back and I noticed that his colour was not turning pink in the sunlight but rather a little more ashen.  I asked what's up?  He said that he was starting to feel that pain again, the same pain he once had when a kidney stone had made him ill.  I suggested that we not wait and go straight to the hospital.  He didn't like that idea and suggested that I get some cranberry juice like the last time.  I raced to the grocery store and got the juice and raced back.  By the time I got home, he had turned a whiter shade of pale and was now looking like he was going to throw up.  He could not sit still and when I put the glass of cranberry juice in his hand, he took one sip and threw up.  I suggested again, that we would want to get to the hospital and he refused again.  He tried taking a few more gulps of the juice and threw up again.  I knew in my heart that this would not go away with juice this time and felt helpless not being able to convince him to get to the hospital.  An hour later, after pacing, throwing up and feeling the pain more intensely, he finally said, "Maybe we should go."   I had waited him out.

It did not take long in the ER to be triaged and brought to the back.  It did not take long for the doctor to show up with an ultrasound machine checking on his back and on his belly.  Now I was the one getting worried for the doctor explained the symptoms were also symptoms of a ruptured aneurism.  Being a little more familiar with medical terms, I knew this would not be good if it were.  I put on my poker face because I could see that the meaning of this had not phased on Bill.  I chastised myself for not having "insisted" on getting to the hospital sooner.  When the doctor was done with the ultrasound, he said that he did not see anything and that it was probably a kidney stone.  Relief ~ I started to forgive myself a little.  The doctor had the nurse give Bill some wonderful loopy drugs and off Bill went to have his kidneys scanned.  When he got back, he was a happy guy on drugs!  I smiled at his silly drugged up grin.  I sat by his side and he grabbed my hand.  He said, "I am so not good at being sick!"  I agreed and a sinking feeling hit the pit of my stomach, knowing that cancer had taken his dad ... what if?  I helped him up to the bathroom, wrapping my arms around his waist to hold him steady ... and as I watched his beautiful long hand on the wall, I thought, what if?  We walked back to the bed and he whispered, "This is good sh ...  but I can still see your worry.  I'm okay."  But I kept thinking ... what if?"  The nurse came in and asked about his pain and came back with another injection.  She mentioned that it would be a little bit before the results of the scan were in.  Bill was dozing off, so I mentioned I would go back home to tell the boys he was okay and would be right back.  I got into the car and let the tears flow ... not over this but over the ... what if.

Two months later, after a game, again I could not convince him to go to the hospital and I am left with the ... what if.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

No bravery ...

The tears have dried on my face
I feel no bravery, yet he is always near
I feel only sadness in my soul.

We have laughed, we shared pain
I have lived to see his final breath
I do not know bravery
For I have placed blame on the shoulders of his name.

I want his shoulder to rest my head
To feel bravery run through my veins
To feel bravery living strong in my heart
I want his shoulder to rest my weary soul.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Quality vs. Quantity ...

There are many times I have asked myself and have written about - why? 

Why me? 
Why now? Why Bill and not me?  Why must our sons be without?
Why ....

I know that there will be more to come and most will most certainly remain unanswered. 

However, the answer to "Why does this hurt so much?" is evolving.  The obvious answer to this is because I love Bill so very much.  This obvious, simple answer is evolving.  It is no longer just about love but also about the impact he has on who I have become. 

As I navigate through some difficult challenges, I find myself thinking like him.  All these years when I would say, "I'm not versed on that topic; you make the decision." he would not.  He would take the time to give me all the information and we would make decisions together.  It was not about decision-making, it was about believing in me enough to know that one day I might have to make them on my own.  He shared his thought process on every decision we made together.  So today I honour him by using his thought process when I am called to make decisions; he is still with me.  I hurt a little less.

About the "Why me?", that too is evolving.  Once I moved passed the fact that there will never be a definitive answer, I came to appreciate the valuable lessons I have learned on my journey with grief.  My experience has afforded me the opportunity for personal reflection and growth. 

My life had become quite busy with career, community involvement and family obligations.  I had become too busy to think about the quality of my life.  I had no time to appreciate just how short life is and the true purpose of my existence.  I have since come to appreciate reflecting on real matters such as the focus of my life, the depth of my love for my family and friends and what comes next.

I am coming to the conclusion that my grief is an expression of our love.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Where time past and time present flowed ...

In a recent forum discussion of recently widowed individuals, the topic for the day was about signs.  It was quite the eclectic conversation from everything to my robin in our tree to some seeking a more concrete "sign" having visited a psychic and everything in between. 

It was obvious that we have all had different experiences, however in whatever form these experiences occurred, we all agreed that it was a blessing and we wanted the same, to sense that we are present with them and they with us. 

Then the most amazing thing happened.  A collective sigh occurred, witnessed from the lack of text popping up.  Then the text started to fly ... you could see everyone was busy keyboarding as we started to share with each other, our stories.  Stories of the time Joe came home with ... and the time Cindy flew down the ... and the time I kidnapped Bill.  We laughed, we cried, we (((hugged))) and the messages continued to fly up on screen.

Another pause in writing ... then one message popped up:  Do you think they are up there looking down, laughing with us or appalled at our exchange of intimate stories shared with "strangers"? 

Ah ... we had our very own "communion of saints" gathered with us.

We agreed that future discussions would include more stories, inviting our loved ones in.

We reluctantly left the chat room our hearts warmed and strengthened by our common stories, and our commemoration of life and of love.