To Urn or Not to Urn

We still haven’t been able to put Clayton to rest. His mother’s stroke has resulted in her having to move near relatives and figure out a new life. Until then, Clayton sits in a (beautiful) Urn in our apartment. At first it was unsettling, having to look at a container that holds the dust of the person you want to hold the most. You want to keep it and put them to rest all at the same time for, what feels like, competing selfish reasons but that is another layer of the loss.

I don’t have many friends in the small beach town where I live. When we moved here, my job took a lot of time and Clayton’s job had us with different days off. There wasn’t time to meet people before we lost time. Now that Clayton is gone, I have a lot of empty space and time. This past week I invited 41 people that I knew in the area to come over for wine and some social time. I set up my house and got all the fun drinks and food for a mellow social evening. The house was cleaned and I was ready to go but then Clayton caught my eye. His Urn is in the living room where everyone would be and everyone knows that he is here. I didn’t know what to do. Too urn or not to urn? That was an awful question and a terrible feeling. Do I keep Clayton’s Urn where it is because he was (and is) a huge part of my life or do I put his urn in the bedroom to keep things from being awkward? Either way I felt incredible guilt.

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Being Dead Is Not A Happy Anniversary

Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary. 

It would have been 12 years of lovely marriage. 

Instead, we got 4 years and 9 months. 

But who's counting? 

And does it even really matter anymore? 

I mean, I think that no matter how many years it's been since the last anniversary, this day will always hit me like a bag of bricks across the heart. I just think it will always hurt that my marriage was ended abruptly by death. It will always hurt and be unfair to me that I will never celebrate a decade of marriage with Don Shepherd. Or 2 decades, or 3. Or our first child, first house, vacations, life struggles, career moves, on and on and on. I think that no matter what, I will always feel intense sadness on my wedding anniversary, and I will always have this "lost puppy" feeling, of not knowing where to go or what to do on that day.

Tomorrow just sucks. Tomorrow is hard. Im still uncomfortable with being around humans on that day. I feel awkward and filled with sadness when they cheerily say: "Happy Anniversary!" , or when they tell me to "cherish the love you had!" Yes. Thank you for the advice, but don't you think I already cherish the love I had and still have, every single second of every day? Cherishing something while also being aware that it is forever gone , is a pretty empty feeling. 

So, tomorrow, and probably forever on every October 27th, here is what I miss: 

I miss getting flowers from my husband on our anniversary. 

Now, sometimes on that day, I will buy myself some flowers. If I feel up to it. But usually, I just do nothing, because buying myself flowers feels worse than not having them. 

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A Real Page Turner

I’m 38 today.  Eight years since 30, 2 years until 40.  Is it supposed to be surreal? Am I truly supposed to feel like I’m getting older?  I guess I’m considered middle-aged, or “getting up in the years”.  But, do I feet like I'm anywhere near the end of the story?

I don’t.  I don’t feel old or long in the tooth.  Sure, my back hurts about half the time.  Falling ill tends to floor me a bit more than it ever did, no matter how minor.  I don’t know what the latest craze is among twenty-somethings.

Then again, I was married and bought a house at 24.  I had a child at 26. I was widowed by age 34. Hell, I’m 20 years into my career at this point.  Had I re-enlisted in the Marine Corps and stuck with it, I could have RETIRED last month.

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Undressed

How do I reenter life?  The life I knew and loved has been radically changed.  There is simply no returning to it.  That life is over.  I can not resume where he and I left off.  I need to rebuild.  But, where do I begin? 

 

When he died I felt my foundation shift and collapse. 

I buried Mike, but it was me

who was buried alive by the wreckage of our dilapitdated life. 

 

For a long time I thought that maybe if I stood still he’d come for me.  I thought he would somehow find me and save me from the ruins of our lost life.  Then, after a while, I realized that Mike was not coming back - ever.  I recognized that I was on my own.  I knew that I had to rescue myself.  But, I felt disoriented and far from battle ready. 

Early on, Grief had the upper hand because my confidence and self identity were lost and buried deep in the rubble of our shattered life. Even now, I can barely process all the changes that have occurred in the last 23 months. 

 

 

To soothe my Soul, I catch myself instinctively rocking and clutching my collarbone - as I choke for breathe.  I do this more often than I care to admit.  Daily.  My life is not easy anymore.  In fact, it is often so overwhelming that my breath is chaotic.

I'm tired of being out of breath.   

I have to starting breathing life in, or it will pass me by.  I know this.  Yet, despite what I know, I am still standing on the sidelines waiting to catch my breath.  I feel myself watching life unfold.  And, I know that I need to get back in the game.  I hate that I have benched myself because I am tired.  I hate that I am sitting out rather than breaking a sweat in the game of life.  I am growing impatient with myself and my lack of commitment.  I can't just write about actioning change.  I need to bring my ideas to life.  And, to do this I have to leave the safety and predictability of the sidelines behind.  When I start participating in the game,  I will bring myself back to life.  I know this.  So, it's about time I do this. 

 

But, I suppose,

In fairness, it is hard to remain confident and self assured when your world implodes. 

However, you do learn what you’re made of when your world collapses. 

Everything you are is exposed. 

 

I’ve spent almost two years on my hands and knees collecting the shards of myself that survived his death. 

But, I’m over it now. 

I’ve grown bored.

I’m tired of combing through the litter of my old life. 

Now, I am ready to do something with the tattered pieces I salvaged from the rubble of what was.

 

 

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Moments that Honor Them

There are days when this new life feels so connected to past lives. Days when I swear I can feel the joy of all our loved ones radiating through from some other realm. Usually, it’s the days I let go of trying to make everything go right and perfect and remember to just live and have fun. In those moments I can feel their presence, and I can feel healing happening within the joy.

A few nights ago, we had our first Halloween party at the house. Me, my new partner Mike, and his daughter Shelby, now almost 12. Her mother loved Halloween, so it’s become a connection to their past life that we still celebrate in a huge way.

Shelby still talks about one amazing Halloween party they had when she was 5. Each of the past few years since I’ve met Mike and moved into their lives, I’ve listened to her recall the stories of that party with such fondness. And each year I’ve felt sad that I didn’t plan a party for Halloween.

This year was different though. A few weeks ago, I decided to finally have one... to create new memories that honor the old memories...

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Damned Either Way

So I missed a week. I didn’t have a blog post for last week and I felt bad like I had let a bunch of people down in some way. I mean, I know it is a voluntary thing but I don’t like missing deadlines and I don’t like making an excuse. I create pressure that doesn’t exist. The sink is full of dishes. The carpet hasn’t been vacuumed. I almost ran out of gas in my car because I can’t focus on what “a day in the life of” should be.

UGGGHHHHHH!! I hate that phrase! “Don’t make an excuse”. I have been taught my whole life that I can’t make excuses for things but when is it not an excuse and it’s a legitimate reason? Who gets to decide? It always seems like it is the person that has everything going right in their life. I have this voice inside me that keeps telling me that talking about Tin is now just an excuse to not do things. Meanwhile, I will admit that I am hesitating to look at a bookcase of objects in the next room because it hurts.

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Nature is My Church

People often ask me if I believe in God. 

Yes. 

I do believe in God. 

 

But,

my definition of what God is or what God means 

is probably very different than yours. 

Its certainly not traditional, and it doesn't involve going to Sunday School 

or attending church, or not eating meat on Fridays, or reading a Bible or other book of faith, or taking part in religious rules or mindsets or structures. 

 

I have always found religion to be limiting at best, and dividing at worst. 

It is my opinion that religion has caused more problems in the world than it has done good. Wars have been fought due to religious beliefs. People killed for not sharing beliefs of others. People condemned and judged and beaten or harassed or killed because of who they love, how they live their life, who they are. Some people use their God and their religion as justification to hate or to be prejudice or bigoted toward others. I do not find any comfort or peace inside of a church. For me, it is intimidating and feels suffocating and forced. I think that if you are a religious person and going to church helps you, then you should go. I think that people should be able to do whatever best gets them through the day and whatever makes them happiest, as long as they are not harming others with their actions. 

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A Good Day

There was a day last week where I had a really good day.

I woke up early and walked Tango before work. I was able to leave to get there early and there was not much traffic either. I had so much extra time in the morning that I was to finish my personal work for the course I’m taking before anything else. I made applesauce with the kids at school that day and it all went really well. They loved the process, it tasted great, and we had some great learning. Another teacher had extra time and covered my class to give me extra time to do some other work. After work, I went to my tutoring job and that also went really well and the girl I tutor was successful in what we were learning. I got home to a surprise that David had passed by my house between job sites that day. He left a beautiful bouquet of flowers on my kitchen table with a note. I then had time for a hike with Tango in warm weather with pretty, colourful fall leaves. Then I met up with one of my girlfriends at the gym and had a really good workout and talk with her too.

It was a really good day. I was feeling really good.

That’s when 2 things happen.

First, I wonder if it’s too good to be true and start to be extra cautious in anticipation for the “bad” thing that must be around the corner. Second, I feel slightly guilty that maybe I’m *too* happy.

I hate both of these reactions. They try to take away my happiness. I try to take away my own happiness. I self sabotage. I know logically that both are such unnecessary ways of thinking. It does not stop anything bad from happening. Usually, nothing bad happens anyways. And I didn’t do anything wrong that I should feel guilty over.  The thinking just ruins my fun. I ruin my fun.

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As Long As I Don't Do This

I’ve been a recovered alcoholic for 30+ years.

Chuck was a recovered alcoholic, also. He died 5 days shy of his 25th sober anniversary.  The people who came to his bedside in southern California were some of those he’d sponsored. They presented him with his 25-year coin. Which he didn’t want to take, early, but I persuaded him that he needed to, for their sake, if not for his. He’d earned it. He stayed sober through the worst pain cancer can give a person because “I don’t want to pick up a drink again, and have my alcoholism take over and leave an ugly memory of me behind, for you. I don’t want you to be glad that I’m dead, because of the agony I might have caused”.

So. Sobriety.

There are so many times I could have picked up since Chuck died.  Numbed the grief and the soul slicing pain that comes with it.  Gotten fallen down drunk and slept through the days and nights of anguish.

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Overdrive

For those of you not aware of what “overdrive” is in a car, I’ll try to simply explain it.  Overdrive is a gear in the transmission that is less than a 1:1 ratio with the engine. Effectively, the wheels turn faster than the motor.

It's great for cruising at higher speeds.  The engine doesn’t have to work as hard, so it’s a more efficient use of fuel.  There is so much weight and momentum behind the car that it could happily glide along with barely any input, needing only to overcome wind resistance and the occasional uphill segment of highway with a millimeter more depressing of the accelerator pedal.

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