I've been on the road quite a bit in the last few weeks, visiting my NJ community. Not towing my trailer, because, you know, weather, and I'm on my way west to Arkansas now, for Thanksgiving.
All of which is to say...
I listen to podcasts as I drive. History podcasts, philosophy, widow stuff, life stuff. You name it, and I listen to it.
And I just never know what I might hear that will suddenly click the gears into place that generally turn non-stop, taking in all that is around me. Conversations of strangers, particular terrain, colors of the sky, what the road looks like in front of me...my internal gears are always spinning, picking up bits and pieces of everything and, sometimes, what seems like nothing but ends up being that one missing piece.Read more
Life isn't always a walk through the fucking tulips. Which is not a new concept for me, in widowhood; I learned this hard lesson in 1996 when my younger brother, Kysa, died, followed by my mom 6 months later. Cancer cured me of the walk through the tulips perception. My husband's death only solidified this realization.
The people I appreciate in life are those who are willing to show up as their real selves. Those willing to sit with me in darkness. People who genuinely want to hear the tough stuff. People who will call me and say Let's go for a cup of coffee and talk real talk. People who respond to me in this way free me up to actually be who I am and truly be in the moment. Good, bad, and indifferent.Read more
Did you ever feel so consumed by your own grief that you have forgotten that others grieve too? That they grieve not only for the loss of your spouse, who may have been a friend to them, but possibly they grieve also for other people that you may know absolutely nothing about? Do you find that during this time of all consuming grief, you have forgotten that other people have suffered loss too?
Recently that realization has hit me hard.
For the last 19 months I have been consumed by my own grief and I didn't have room to consider the possibility that anyone else in my life could be carrying around a similar, agonizing grief from their own past. That wasn't on my radar at all. Lately though ... lately my eyes have opened a bit to the world around me as I have slowly started to awaken from my drugged slumber (figuratively drugged, not literally), and I have been surprised to discover that others - not random strangers but actual people who are a part of my life - have suffered their own agonizing losses that I knew nothing about. How could I have not known??Read more
I was scrolling through my personal blog recently, because I like reading what I wrote while Ben was still alive. Re-reading my words allows me to remember certain days with clarity. For a moment I can close my eyes and feel myself back in my real life when Ben was alive. And even though those days were terrible for him (pain, chemo, radiation, more pain), the saddest day with Ben in my life was still better than any one day could ever be without him.
Towards the end of summer in 2015 I was getting desperate. I knew that it was only a matter of time before Ben died, but he made it clear that type of thinking / talking was off limits. That meant we didn't get to discuss anything about what life would look like without him. I didn't get to tell him that we would remember him, and honour him, and talk about him. I didn't get to tell him that he would always be my number 1, and that I would miss him every single second for the rest of my life. I didn't get to tell him that my heart would break and would never fully heal, that scars would remain that would remind me constantly of a life I would no longer have.
So I wrote him this love letter, in a way that we would normally banter back and forth. In a way I hoped wouldn't scare him. In a way I hoped would let him know the depth of my love and how deeply I would miss his presence when he was gone.Read more
This week my daughter and I caught the ferry over to The Sunshine Coast in southern BC and toured Gibsons and Sechelt. Gibsons was home to the filming of the television show “The Beachcombers” from 1972 to 1990. It was also the first hometown to Wendy and Ben from 1993 to 1997. It’s where we lived when we got married, it’s where we built our first home, and it’s where we had our first baby.
Raegan and I played tourist and she humoured me while I drove around and told her a hundred stories that all started with “I remember one time, right in this very spot, Dad and I (insert memory here) …” She was a good sport. We ended up on the beach in Sechelt at the exact spot where Ben proposed to me.
I'm finding it a bit lonely, this whole “being alone” thing. Back in my real life I often craved alone time. Just one hour of peace and quiet was like winning the lottery, because the last time I had such a thing was somewhere around 1992.
The last couple of decades have been filled with career and intermingled with babies, followed by toddlers, followed by teens. Several of those teen years were particularly difficult, even before Ben got sick, so it has been a long, long time since I experienced peace and quiet.
Now it seems that all the hours are quiet. Not much peace, just endless quiet.Read more
Our culture, I think, is filled with contradictions. In general and most certainly when it comes to grief. Here's a few I've encountered.
People love a good love story. The public especially seems to admire and go awww when a couple long married, die within hours of each other, unable, even unconsciously, to face life without one another.
When we're widowed, and speak of not wishing to go on without our loved one, there is an immediate rush of but you must he/she would want you to be happy, you have to live for both of you now you can't give up it isn't healthy to think that way!
I wonder if I'll ever wake up again. Wake up to the point where I feel anything besides numbness or pain or his absence.Read more
Maggie kept the beat in our relationship when it came to social engagements. She injected me into a lively social world that held me captive to weekends packed with activities, most of which were not optional. Now, without her overwhelming influence, I find myself woefully disengaged with what I think most people would consider normal life.
We had no children so I don’t benefit from the continued social pressure that comes with little ones. The lack of children also often filters me from events in which I’d otherwise be included. Well-meaning friends intentionally don’t invite me to birthday parties and other kid-thick events “to protect my sanity,” so they say.
Except for the brave and determined, friends who only knew Chris as half of Maggie and Chris have had difficultly making the transition. Most fell aside quickly after Maggie’s Angel Day. My guess is that they were battle-weary from the 850-day fight. However, for me that was just the climactic end of one major battle in the still on-going war.
So here I am with my solitary habits but now with fewer friends. Fewer friends mean fewer easy opportunities to be social. Gravity has temporarily dragged me into a lonely world.
The other day, a post-Maggie friend asked how I became so well adjusted, having put all the stuff that happened behind me. I was careful not to snort my drink through my nose upon hearing her well-intended question; such a reaction might have been confusing to her. When I asked what she meant, she described how she thought I had such a great perspective. Ah, perspective, my consolation prize.
It’s been more than five years now since the last day I kissed my lovely wife. She’s been physically absent from my life now more than half the total time we were together. That makes me sad. How can it be possible for my heart to hurt still so much? Of course (and thankfully), it hurts now less than it did. And it hurts indescribably way less than it did watching her slowly grow ill and eventually die. That’s perspective, too.