Today the postman brought me two pieces of mail that were my undoing. One was simply a bill from the hydroelectric company. The other an annual pension statement. Both were addressed to me, but both were really about Kevin.
The electricity bill was absolutely enormous. It covered the month of March and was for 31 days. When I looked at the charges I thought that they must have generated the bill before my last payment was applied to the account – but there was no balance forward. I called the Hydro company to discuss what could have contributed to the charges. We had a lot of people through the house for sure, especially the last week of Kevin’s life. He’d been moved into a hospital bed that had the electric lift true, but we’d been using a Craftmatic electric bed for him all along, so I called that a wash. The woman who took my call at the company called up my history and then looked at the computer generated history of my usage. That was when it hit me – the oxygen compressor. It ran day and night. Once I realized this was the major contributing factor I couldn’t get off the phone quick enough. I was shocked at myself for not being able to figure it out before I made the call.
The other piece of mail was my Pension statement. After Kevin’s death I had completed the forms to change my beneficiary from him to our three children. The statement that came out had been generated before the changes were processed and there he was – still identified as my beneficiary. It caught me off guard, the smallest things do. I sat there, like I am now, just weeping at the enormity of my loss. It is the darnedest things that can make you slip and fall emotionally – like a sticky note that has a reminder on it, or the gift card in my wallet (from Big Daddy), a smell, or a song.
I do continue to work my way through the book loaned to me by a friend (The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion). A couple of things that have resonated with me so far, at about the halfway point, are that somewhere in the latter part of the 20th century the perception and treatment of people who were grieving changed (and not in a good way), and that grieving and mourning are two totally different things, one passive the other active. I am still very much grieving and will for some time as is evidenced by my reaction to my pension statement. The book doesn’t normalize anything, but it does lay bare one woman’s experience in a very articulate and consequently comforting manner.
I am about three and half weeks since Kevin’s death. From a physical response – there is definitely an apathy, I don’t care when I get up or when I go to bed. I don’t really care what I look like, or what people think. It is an effort to make a meal, do laundry, clean the house, write this blog. I am just very, very sad and in a self-imposed limbo. I don’t know what is normal to feel or be at this point, how could I? Likewise if I don’t know how I feel, how could other people possibly know? My poor family and friends!
Friendships are defined by the tolerance and resilience of their participants, by give and take throughout the turbulence that life (and death) throws at us. In tribute to Kevin, there is a toast he would use on occasion, apparently an old Irish Proverb, that epitomizes the value of good people in one’s life to help one weather any storm:
“There are good ships, and there are wood ships, The ships that sail the sea. But the best ships, are friendships, and may they always be.”