The Twins

This past weekend I paid a visit to my son and his family.  They live around five hours away when travelling by car.  Two weeks ago his wife gave birth to twins –  boy and girl.  How his father would have talked up that!  No history of twins on either side of the family.  A completely unplanned pregnancy – especially since they already had three little boys, 6, 4 and almost two years of age.  Now they have 5 little ones.  Such a crazy chaotic life stretches before them!

It was awesome to meet the two newest babies – and they are perfect in every way.  Hard too, since it was the one thing that Kevin would go on about – how after he retired he planned on taking the grandchildren, the boys, there were no girls at that point, and have them come and stay with us for the summer.  He loved those kids and had great plans for them, plans he would never get to see through- so it was hard.  I have six grandchildren now, three of which never met him, that will only hear stories about their larger-than-life granddad.

When Kevin was close to the end, my son’s wife found out she was pregnant with her third child.  I couldn’t tell Kevin about the pregnancy, it would have broken him even more.  It was a hard thing to do, I know my son wanted his father to know.  But I couldn’t tell his dad, a man that family was everything to.  To know he wouldn’t be there for the birth of a child would have caused him so much pain. Right or wrong, I made the decision, Kevin had suffered so much, and he had anguished over everything, I couldn’t add to his burden.

As he got sicker, Kevin would tell me over and over that I got a bum deal when I married him.  How sorry he was that he got sick, for letting me down. He told me that I had to be there for the kids because he wouldn’t be able to.  His family was everything to him, and I like to believe that it still is.  Somewhere, somehow he carries a light to guide us forward.  That when I cradled those little ones on the weekend their grandfather was right there with me.  I believe his love certainly was.

What a crazy thing emotion is, that so much joy and so much sorrow can be in one’s heart at the same time.  But that’s how it was when I heard about the babies, so happy and so sad at the same time.  I say this often, because it’s true, I miss you so much Kevin.

 

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What Matters

There comes a point for everyone of us where we have to decide what matters and what doesn’t, who matters and who doesn’t.  There’s always a why associated with it.  Why does that matter?  Why doesn’t he matter, or she matter?  It is a significant thing when someone or something matters in your life.  Like an honour, a bit of power given to the person or the thing.  So it is a sad moment when you realize that someone or something shouldn’t matter anymore.  It’s about what’s important though, isn’t it?

What is important to you is what makes something matter or not.  For example, my children – they are worth an investment of emotion, love, communication, whatever – it doesn’t mean our relationship is perfect, it means that they matter.  Why?  Because I love them, and they represent the love I shared with Kevin. Likewise my home is also important to me.  It is a safe haven, a controlled space free from drama.  My home therefore matters to me, it is more than a house and it represents something to me, something that I value in many ways.

I have decided that other people’s drama is what shouldn’t matter in my life.  I don’t handle it well, I don’t like what it does to people, I don’t like what it does to me.  I think that drama only sucks you in when you let the people creating the drama, forcing an event or discussion, have power in your life.  Perhaps I am too clinical, and it’s “easier said than done”, but I don’t think so.  I think it is important to take a step back before you go down a path that may be treacherous and full of emotional stress to determine if there is any value to be gained.  Is it important to you?  Does it matter?  Is someone else driving or controlling the drama?  Are they worth the effort, your effort?

One of my biggest self learnings through the grieving process was that I have limited emotional energy and need to ensure I only expend it when absolutely necessary.  It’s the only thing I can control completely –  what’s important and what matters to me.  Those are the things worth caring about.

 

It’s the little things

It will be 17 months on the 29th of this month.  I’ve had to deal with a lot of the big things that changed after  Kevin died.  Looking after the house on my own, paying the bills, facing everyday without him.  Unavoidable, unrelenting reality.  You can’t not face it and still be considered sane.

Thus, over the course of time, most everyday things go back to a state of routine.  Newly created out of necessity, but still a state of routine.  Sometimes there is a flash of sadness, anger or resentment about it, especially when something isn’t going right, but overall, it becomes just the way it is.

Always, though, there are those things that come out of nowhere.  Unprepared, they are like a sucker punch, you just didn’t see it coming.  It’s okay when you are alone or out of public sight, but when it happens at work, or someplace public, it is just darn awkward.

This week a coworker returned to the workplace after having been off due to the death of an aged parent.  Sorrow is still sorrow and I know that, but the selfish side of me is bitter, and I feel ripped off.  I don’t begrudge the sorrow of my coworker,  I just hate the unfairness of it all, why does one person live to a ripe old age and not another?  The force of my emotion surprised me.  I am embarrassed that I can’t express my sympathy and ashamed that I feel the way I do.

It’s these types of things that make me realize that, although on the outside I may appeared healed and on the path to closure, actually I’m still far, far away from the even keel I so want.  I want my composure back, securely fitted, so that it doesn’t slip off revealing anything raw or weak or ugly.   When things are going along smoothly, without any ripples, I almost believe I am there.  Then, it just takes one little thing, and that little thing can come from just about any direction.

Better or Bitter

A couple of times I have found entries on my Facebook timeline that re-post “inspirational” messages specifically about the individual’s choice of becoming bitter or getting better when faced with challenges in life.  That it was ‘simple’, one could either accept what life dealt them or, if not, “allow it to tear you down.”   Really?  What depth of personal experiences are the life sages that come up with this stuff drawing from that they can write such broad sweeping statements?

Things simply aren’t that clear cut, to say it’s either/or – bitter or better – suggests that life events are all equal in magnitude for all people, and that things will either go one way or another.  With respect to my husband’s death, I don’t believe I’ll ever get “better” from Kevin’s death, I will definitely adjust and have started that process, but I am also not “bitter” about his death.  I suffered a tremendous loss when Kevin died and it will take a long time to normalize after it.  I was emotionally battered, subjected to a wide range of feelings through my grief, all normal, and they will leave a lasting impression.

I think about my grief counselling group.  The facilitators would be aghast if they saw a message like that – ‘you either get better or bitter’  in relation to the death of someone dear.  We never talked in terms of getting better, because grief isn’t an illness – excessive grief can result in some health issues, but grief itself is an emotion with many stages that one needs to work through.  Grief is different for each and every person, and each and every person will work through it at their own pace.

As for the statement that you need to accept the cards that life deals you or if not it will tear you down – I disagree.  I think about the Heath Ledger movie, ‘A Knight’s Tale’, where his father tells him as a young boy to “Change your stars.”  I think about my husband, he changed his stars in his mid-30’s, he wanted more and chose to have aspirations and not ‘accept’ the cards he had been dealt up to that time.

I’ve probably spent far more time on this silly little ‘inspirational’ message then it deserves.  It just bothers me that the authors of these ridiculous messages get any social media attention at all.  I believe that, in general, it’s not about the greater good for these folks, it usually, somehow, boils down to money or advertising.
 

Ah, The Book…

Unfortunately, I have fallen behind in publishing Kevin’s book, Harmony in a Box.  There’s nothing I can do about it.  The book is 13 chapters long.  Thirteen gut-wrenching chapters to edit.  A story he wrote and I transcribed for him in 2001.  His handwriting and notes are all over the pages.  I made it through the first four chapters, but have to take a breather before I can face the next four.  My intentions are good, but my capacity to work through it is not.  So – another week or so and maybe I will be ready then, just not now.

The family is now approaching the six month marker of Kevin’s death from lung cancer.  Oddly enough, the days are getting harder, not easier.  The emptiness and loss seems stronger and more intense.  Not just for me either.  The realization that he’s gone for good seems to be pressing down heavily on all of us.  In the next week or so another grandchild will arrive, and this little baby will not meet his or her grandfather.  This is the new reality for the family.  Granddad will live in stories only.  The stories will be legend, but still only stories to grandchildren who never got to meet him.

All the emotion drains me of any ambition or productivity.  I feel so old and worn out.  If left to my own devices, it would be easy to turn on the television and zone out completely until I fall asleep; the next day get up, go to work and repeat the same mindless cycle.   Fortunately, that’s not my lot, and between family and friends my days are as busy as I can manage.  It’s good to be busy, but it doesn’t stop the inevitable sadness from settling on me when I am left alone with my thoughts.  For now, nothing can stop it.  Sometimes the sadness is a sweet memory that reminds me of all the good things life gifts us with; other times the sadness is full of bitterness of all the things that life has taken.  Most times it’s a sadness tinged with bewilderment as to why someone who loved life so much was taken so early.

In my head, when I think these thoughts I hear Kevin’s voice urging me to ‘let it go, honey, let it go’; ever grounded in reality; recognizing that some things can’t be fixed or changed. I will get there one day. I’m trying, just not doing so well at it right now.