Gone

My coworker passed away tonight.  News travels fast and, it seems, bad news spreads especially quickly.  It will be a sad group that arrives at the office on Monday.  Fortunately, I am off that day.  This sort of news and how people will mourn can catapult me into darkness.  Tuesday won’t be much better but at least the initial shock will have worn off.  Those first raw conversations will have been replaced by numbness as people reflect on how brutal cancer is.

It is brutal, it is arbitrary, and it is shattering.  Life turns upside down in one fraction of a second.  You hear the words and everything drops away around you.  I vividly recall when Kevin got his diagnosis.  We went to the hospital for a pain in his back.  He left 12 hours later with a death sentence.  But that moment when the doctor came and sat with us to tell us what the pain truly was, I remember so well.  His words,  cancer, advanced cancer, stage 3 at minimum.   That moment in time felt both long and short, the time and place we were in seemed to stand still.  Everything fell away in that one moment of time.  The noise and the chaos of the hospital, we didn’t hear it.  We just looked at each other.  The shock of the moment created a connection through pain.  There is no thought, just pure anguish.

We went home, we were far different people than left that house 12 hours earlier.  Prepared to fight, scared beyond words.  And so it began for us.  It ended, just as it did for my coworker and her family today.  Heartbreak, desolation and despair.  Dark days and darker nights. Here I am two years down the road and I still find that the darkness can press against me.  You never stop loving, you don’t.

A Question or Two

It’s odd how few people feel comfortable asking the things they really want to ask.  It takes a brave person to do so.  I mean, how often have you been in conversation with someone and in the back of your mind you have a question you would so love to ask, but you know it would likely be overstepping the bounds of good taste, privacy, or appropriateness, and so the question goes unspoken.

Interestingly, last week I had a conversation with a woman who dropped the pretence and asked me some of those questions.  It caught me off guard, but nevertheless, I answered her as best I could.  By way of background, she is married, does have children, and whether her marriage is ideal or not, I don’t know – I don’t  know her well enough.  Maybe that’s why she could ask me those questions.

She asked, “What do you miss the most?”  I answered, “A number of things, intimacy will always be high on the list, but there are so many other things.  Having a warm body to snuggle into when I am cold, exchanging a knowing glance about someone or something absurd, the warmth and banter of debate and discussion, silent companionship, having a reason to rush home … so many things.”

She asked, “What do you find the hardest.”  I answered, “Simply adjusting.  Sounds like a cop out but it’s not.  The adjusting never seems to stop.  I had to adjust to living alone, to living on less, to looking after everything – and I still am.  It all takes effort, and it gets tiring having to work at things especially when you don’t have the energy or inclination to do it.  The hardest thing for me has been adjusting: physically, mentally, emotionally.”

She asked, “Don’t you find it less stressful only having to worry about yourself?”  I answered, “It’s not that simple. I still worry about my family and friends.  I especially worry about my family; because I have had such an intense loss, it feels like at any time someone else could be wrenched from my life.  That sense of grief is indescribable, and as close to unbearable as anything I’ve ever faced.  So I do still worry.  Is it less stressful being on my own?  Sure, in some ways.  I don’t have to factor in another person’s views, needs, feelings, calendar.  It’s just about me, so that’s easier for sure, but I don’t consider this a glamorous or desirable state, because I didn’t ever want to be here.”

She asked, “Would you ever join a dating site?”  I answered, “If you are asking –  have I joined one, then the answer is no.  And, for the future, I can’t see me joining one.  Right now I’m not looking for a relationship, and I have plenty to keep me busy.  I’ve heard so many stories, and from people I know, about the predators on those sites, chatting you up and then asking for cash.  It just isn’t worth it for me.  I know that there are some good, strong relationships that can come out of them and so they serve a purpose for some, but just not for me.”

She asked a few more questions but the conversation ended pretty soon after with me gently admonishing her.  “The grass isn’t always greener – just like the saying goes.  I bet your life is a little chaotic right now and by comparison mine looks pretty good.  But trust me, I’d give so very, very much to have that chaos back.  Don’t wish your time and love away.”

And I didn’t cry once through the whole conversation.

I’m Okay You Know

Sometimes after I write a post I figure that people think I am sad, depressed or down.  I’m not really.  I am actually pretty far past that.  I have my days, days where I would have to say I am feeling lost and alone, but overall I feel that I have adjusted to my new world order.  And I think that, in general, everyone has those types of days.  I’m not special.  Life for all of us is complicated.

I believe that for the balance of my life I will feel a foreboding going into the winter months, because so many losses are condensed into that timeframe, because my anniversary and Kevin’s death are just five days apart.  How could I not feel blue about that? But I believe that I am justified in my feelings and I accept them.

I also feel comfortable in being a little withdrawn during this time.  In recognizing the hole in my life that developed when Kevin died.  It exists and it is my reality, and to pretend that everything is the same as ever isn’t honest, because it’s not the same.  I live in an altered state, and that’s okay, because I am living, breathing and moving forward in life.  It’s my choice as to how I will grieve for the things that I have lost, so if I do it quietly, so be it.  It’s a matter of getting by, just getting by. And I am.

 

A New Year

Thats the thing about time – it’s measured in every aspect.  Seconds, minutes, hours, days, years and so on.  That measurability also introduces an element of pressure.  Kevin died in 2015, so to those who didn’t know him, they might think ‘well it’s two years since he died, she should have it together by now.’  But it’s not like that.

Time doesn’t have the same measure for someone who is grieving.  The sorrow doesn’t erode over time, contrary to what I’ve been told over and over again.  Told, not by the counsellors in the grief group, nope, rather told by someone who may have lost a family member that wasn’t an intimate part of their everyday life. Someone they loved perhaps, but not someone they woke up with and to, and went to bed at the end of the day with.

So when you lose the normalcy of your life, especially after 31 years of marriage, it throws you off.  Yes, there is a new way of being but part of that new way is the very grief you carry with you.  I’ve realized that my grief is part of who I am and I accept it. I think most of those close to me know it too.

It may be a new year but my grief hasn’t been tempered or diminished over time.  On March 29th it will be two years since Kev’s death and it will still hurt as deeply as ever.  It doesn’t matter what the calendar says. When he died I lost part of me, a vital part, I suspect the best part.  I will learn to make do but I will never be the same – ever.

 

 

Another sad good-bye

Leonard Cohen died last week.  He had reached a great age and, as the media reports it, he died a peaceful man.  Cohen had released an album just last month, likely I will buy it – Kevin would have. There are some musical artists that are significant in my life because they were so influential on my husband while he lived.  The more notable ones were:  Frank Zappa, Leonard Cohen, Philip Glass and Bob Dylan.  There were many more, but certainly these four were right up there.

I can’t and won’t even try to express what Kevin felt about these artists because, quite simply, I don’t have the musical knowledge or education to accurately explain it.  Kevin got music, and beyond that, he loved art and artistic expression; he was a creative soul that understood the nuances, the passion, the frustration and the genius of composition (in multiple art forms). I was just along for the ride.

It was Leonard Cohen’s Book of Longing that proved inspirational for a whole series of Kevin’s paintings.  In his usual fashion, Kevin had taken Cohen’s poem, My Mother Is Not Dead, and spun it in his own way.  The particular lines from that poem are:

“Don’t worry about any of your relatives.

Do you see the insects?

One of them was once your dog.

But do not try to pat the ant.

It will be destroyed by your awkward affection.”

This segment from the poem became the basis of Kevin’s obsession with the ant on the hotdog.  He replicated the image over and over, in oils and acrylics, his artistic rendering of reincarnation.

So Leonard Cohen dies and it brings a whole fresh wave of grief for me, for Kevin’s death.  Selfish isn’t it?  Another family is suffering and all I can think about is me.  How life shortchanged Kevin, how brutal and cruel it was to him in the end, and what that meant for me.  Kevin should have had another 20 years to laugh, love and live.  I should have had that with him.  Our kids should have had that.  But they don’t, I don’t.  And sometimes the ache in my chest rolls around my heart until it feels like it’s being squeezed tighter and tighter, and there’s not a darn thing that I can do.  It’s my pain to manage, and sometimes not so well.