One Step Forward…

(Don’t ask how many steps I’ve had to take back…)

Hi All,

It’s been a bit since I’ve shared anything, I’ve been spending time with my family and friends. I’ve been trying to walk, not run, through my grief, but in my heart I wish I could avoid it altogether. One step forward, countless steps back. The tears still come. Every day. Several times a day. I’m tired of crying, but can’t seem to make it through a day without tears. It’s been two months today since my husband died, and time keeps marching on.

One step forward is not enough, but it’s all any of us can manage when our lives have been up-ended the way mine has. So many hurting people. I think there are far more hurting people out in the world than there are happy ones, and just the thought of that makes me sad. I WANT to be happy again, but know in the deepest part of my spirit I have to keep taking that one step forward to get there. I have to keep “embracing the suck.” When suck is all you have, you can let it defeat you, define you or refine you. I choose refine, though today that refining got up and walked away at about 1:30 in the afternoon.

There was a birthday party today for my 6 year old granddaughter. She’s a beautiful girl, full of fire and curiosity, and she’s fearless! She is the image of her mom, my youngest daughter, and I love being able to watch her grow and discover. I don’t love the fact that my husband won’t get to see her become a young woman, or graduate from high school, or fall in love. Poppy should be here, and I’m a poor substitute for the man I loved. I sat on the cooler full of kids drinks in front of my daughter’s house and sobbed before the party. Sobbing is exhausting. Grief is exhausting. One step forward is exhausting.

I’m heading back to New England next week, and I honestly don’t want to. I thought I had a plan. Hahahahaha… Plans? Wanna make God laugh? Tell Him your plans! I’m going to try hard to make peace with living in New England, at least until mid 2022. Plans change, though, and I have to admit that moving away from the bitter cold and snow is very appealing. Leaving my family, not so appealing. I have to be able to stand on my feet and take steps forward. Pray for me, please. I need to be able to find patience in the making of future plans, and all I find right now is chaos, turmoil and sadness.

I really don’t have a lot to say tonight. I had thought about writing all day, and now that I can, the words are taking the steps backwards like I’ve been doing. When the words on my heart begin to elude me, I know better than to try and force them out onto the page. I’m sad. I know it’s okay to be sad. I don’t want to be, I just am. I’m going to take my sad self to bed and pray that tomorrow I’m able to take more than one step forward.

Thanks so much for reading, I wish I could be more encouraging right now. Please stay safe and remember to be kind. Always…

Photo by Barb Enos

How Do I Do This?

Hey Everyone,

I’ve been trying to figure out how to do this life of mine that now comes with more freedom than I have ever had. Ever. I’ve always been fiercely independent, but that independence was always rooted in the secure foundations of my life. Those foundations included my parents. My siblings. My husband. Since my husband’s death I feel like I’ve been tossed to and fro. My parents, though divorced, encouraged me to be independent. My dad died in 2000, my mom in 2005. My siblings are grandparents and have their own lives to manage. Some of the tossing is of my own making, some comes as a result of being pushed too hard to “make” decisions. Some comes from my reaction to the most inappropriate question women are asked after their husbands die; “Will you ever get married again?” WTF!!! Like I have a back-up mate hiding in the closet of my room? Since the closet I have is a modular one I bought through Amazon, perhaps I should send it back and ask for a new one that includes a mature man (60+) with tattoos, broad shoulders, a bit of a Santa belly, a hairy chest? Please, add hands that are rough and calloused by hard work. a goatee and a heart that beats for me and my quirkiness… Every time some casual acquaintance asks me about my future plans, I roll my eyes. I grimace. I have to laugh at the lack of thinking that comes with this question, otherwise I’ll go completely mad and probably live to regret my reaction. So, here’s your answer. No. I am not getting married again, at least not today. My husband has been dead 44 days, and to entertain the idea that I could even consider marriage is both comical and cruel.

I don’t know how to incorporate the feeling that something is constantly missing in my life into my everyday existence. I started grieving when my husband was admitted to the hospital in October 2019 and though he is now gone, I find myself trying to figure it all out. All. There is no more all in many ways, and then there is more. There is also less. Just this week my three year old grandson asked to see “Poppy.” Can you even begin to imagine the pain that question caused? Such an innocent question from a little boy that loves his Poppy. I crave the “magical thinking” that children possess, it would be wonderful to so easily accept the answers to questions such as my grandson asked me. I know I have no choice but to accept the reality of my situation, and I do, but the ease with which my grandson accepted my reply to him is something I wish was part of being an adult. I’ve mentioned before that a wise, retired Navy Master Chief suggested I learn how to “Embrace the Suck” and I actually cling to those three words now. I have to. Sometimes suck is all I have and I choose to let it make me more resilient. I am grateful that my husband no longer suffers, but the crater left in my heart is where it feels like all his suffering lives now. 10X over. Time, patience, grace and love are the band-aids applied to the wounds this suffering brings, and though I feel like I should be able to remove the band-aids, I cannot. I don’t know how. Yet.

I listened to a TED talk this week about moving on from grief and moving forward with grief. I happened upon it while scrolling through Facebook. I’m including the link at the end of this blog post for those who wish to listen. It brought to light many things I’ve been feeling. And fearing. I’ve often said that grieving the way I am is harder. And it is. In some aspects. In other aspects, it’s been much easier. The sudden death of a spouse brings a spirit crushing desperation. Long term illness such as my husband suffered brings desperation for death. After my beloved was admitted to hospice, I prayed for his end to be peaceful, comfortable and soon. Soon was 5 months. Of those 5 months, I got to spend 2 of them with him. At the end, I was there for the last week. As we all know, Covid-19, and the restrictions imposed at all levels of Government, have taken away so much time from patients in long term care facilities. I ached for my husband, he was alone. His brain injury made it so he couldn’t understand why. So many people, all around the world, feeling abandoned. So much grief…

How do I do this? How do I write about my grief? My sadness? My pain? The question shouldn’t be “How do I?” it should be “Why wouldn’t I?” I love to write and have been saddened to be less active in my writing life these past few months. I want my blog to help someone else, even if it’s only one person, realize that they are not alone. The old saying that “it takes a village” is so very true. We humans are not meant to walk through this life alone. Nor are we meant to hide from our life. Life brings chaos, and chaos can be so loud. I don’t like chaos. Or loud. In sharing my chaos, I find that I can turn down the volume of the loudness that usually accompanies it. I’m a neat freak, I like things organized and planned. Grief doesn’t care that I’d like to live a quiet, simple, minimalist life. Grief brings uncertainty, and pain. Anger. Desolation. And though grief brings many unwanted gifts, there is a silver lining. Grief can shape us into someone new. It can deepen our sense of compassion. It can open our eyes to the plight of others. We can take our grief out into the world around us and lend a hand to someone just beginning on their journey. We can help shine light into the darkness of someone else’s grief by being kind By listening. How I wish people would listen more. No one but me can “fix” my grief, and I’m smart enough to know that fixing grief is not possible. Moving forward with grief is possible, and I’m doing that with every step I take. I’m doing that with every word I write. I’m moving forward every time I make my bed, every time I decide to do something and every time I go somewhere new. My life isn’t over, and the spirit of the man I loved more than my own life is with me. Always.

In closing, I’d like to thank all of you that read my musings. May you all be safe, and remember always to be kind…

A Long Goodbye…

Hello all,

Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve written, and if you’ve followed my blog you know that I’ve been caring for my beloved husband since his catastrophic stroke on October 30, 2019. Unfortunately for me and the rest of our family, he passed away on February 10, 2021. For him, he’s finally at peace after a 16+ month struggle. No more pain, no more suffering, no more continuously long separations because of Covid-19 and visitation restrictions. He’s gone on to be re-united with his Heavenly Father, his earthly father, his sister and one of his brothers, playing cribbage somewhere in the heavens, probably laughing and smiling and enjoying the after-life free of pain.

I was called by the hospice unit on February 2nd, after not seeing him for almost three months, and they asked me to come see him. He had been crying without ceasing, and no matter what the staff did for him, he just wouldn’t stop. I drove the 30 minutes to the hospice unit and when I got into my husband’s room, and took his hand, he stopped crying. I asked him if he knew who I was and he said “you’re my beautiful wife.” Hearing that helped my heart heal, but there was more shattering to come. As I got comfortable sitting with him, he asked me “Will you give me permission to die?” Talk about pain… By now I am trying my best not to sob, and of course I told him yes. He also asked me to tell our girls he loved them, and that their husbands take care of them. Lastly he said “don’t let our grand-babies forget me.” I promised him I wouldn’t, and he rested off and on for the remainder of the two hours I was allowed to be with him. He would rouse from time to time and I would tell him I loved him, never letting go of his hand. At the end of our visit, I had to literally pry myself away from him, not knowing at that moment when, or if, I would ever see him alive again.

I drove back home after crying for a while in my car, and was beyond broken. After all that time of not seeing him, I was grateful to see him, but heartbroken by the words spoken. Little did I know that I would come to believe that he knew deep within his spirit that he would be taking a turn for the worse that very night…

On the morning of February 3rd, the Nurse Manager from hospice called me and asked me to come back. My husband had spent most of the night and early morning hours vomiting. He was now lethargic and mostly unresponsive. I packed a few things in a bag and flew down the highway, praying for a safe arrival. When I got to his room, he didn’t even look like the man I had just seen 22 hours before. He was skeletal, and grey. I took his hand again and stayed by his side for the next week, leaving him only when asked by staff or to shower. I told him over and over and over again that he was loved, that he could go and that we would always be together, our bond was beyond the physical. I asked his oldest brother to come that night, and he did. He sat with us for several hours and it was a blessing. When his brother asked him what he was doing, my husband replied “I’m sleeping.” I also heard him say I love you two times to me and the last word he said was “what.”

On Friday evening our youngest daughter flew into Boston. My brother picked her up at the airport and brought her to hospice. She was shattered by what she saw, and so brave. We watched her father’s body begin to be ravaged by fevers, and while Tylenol suppositories helped initially to manage the fevers, it wasn’t long before the beast of fever took hold and never let go. We would sit by his bed, play soft music, read to him, talk to him and hold his hand. We would watch the snow fall outside the windows of his room and talk about how her young children would have to grow up without their “Poppy.” It did then, it does now, and it always will make me incredibly sad that my husband is gone and that our two youngest grandchildren will only know him through memories and pictures. My husband was created to be a grandfather, and he relished the role. Our daughter flew home on February 8th, knowing she would never see her Daddy again. She and I both prayed for God’s mercy, begging Him to take our beloved husband and daddy home.

After our daughter left, I had my bother come and see my husband on Tuesday, February 9th. By now the fevers were not abating, they were raging. He was burning up and each minute he was fading. At this point he was completely unresponsive. He was bathed many times a day as the fevers made him soaked with sweat. I never left his side except to use the restroom, and when asked by staff. Every morning the doctor would look for the “mottling” of his feet and hands, and it began to appear more prominently by Tuesday afternoon. When my brother left, I sat by his side, no noise or music or talking, just holding his hand. Everything we needed to say had been said. Now we were just waiting…

On Wednesday morning, when I looked at my husband’s feet, I knew he would die that day. It was snowing out. Again. I texted my sister-in-love who only lived about 20 minutes away and asked her to bring me hot chocolate from Panera Bread. She did, but I never drank it. By the time she got to his room, he had started to turn yellow, from jaundice. He was beyond emaciated. He reminded me of Skeletor from He-man. We both held a hand, we talked to him and we called our sister-in-love in NH so she could say good-bye. As I was on the phone with her, my other sister-in-love said my name twice, I looked at my husband, hung up the phone and he took his final breath. It was 12:25pm and I felt a part of myself die with him. I sobbed in my sister-in-love’s arms, she sobbed in mine, and we said goodbye. My husband’s oldest brother was on his way to hospice from work, but he arrived after my husband died. It broke my heart to have to meet him at the elevator, knowing when those doors opened, I wouldn’t have to say anything. He would know. He did. We embraced in the hallway and then went back to my husband’s room. His older brother was shocked at the physical changes the last few days had brought his baby brother, and was relieved for my husband that his suffering was now over. My husband’s pain ended, finally, but now our family had to learn to cope with a new and everlasting pain.

I have spent the days since February 10, 2021 learning how to become a different version of the woman married to the man that was my husband. He has been laid to rest in the National Cemetery of Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. He lives on in the blue eyes of our grandchildren. He lives on in the hearts of his three remaining brothers. He lives on in the music I listen to on the radio in the car. He lives on… My life will never be the same, I accept that. What I won’t, and can’t accept is that my life will not be good again. It is good. I have wonderful connections with people that I never would have met had it not been for my husband. I have a confidence and determination that my husband helped encourage over the many years we were together, and I intend to keep being both confident and determined. I will keep his memory alive for our grandchildren. I will carry his name in my heart and share our love story with those willing to listen. I said goodbye to the body that carried the spirit of the man I love, but not to the spirit of the man who loved me. We will always be connected, and knowing this brings comfort. Much comfort…

A long goodbye? Yes. In many ways. A permanent goodbye? Never…

Never Letting Go, photo by Barb Enos

Seven…

Three years ago, in 2017, I was driving the 1000 miles from Boston to Asheville. After a very painful, 7 week spilt from my husband, we comitted to try and put our marriage back together. We. As in two.

I left because I thought if I could just make my husband see how mean he was, maybe he could find a way out of the misery he was in. Without me. By the third day of separation, I started to realize that I was so verbally abused, and abusive, that changes had to happen for both of us. As individuals and as a couple.

I hurt so many people when I left, and some of them will probably never truly forgive me. It’s okay. My husband forgave me. I’ve forgiven myself. After three years time, I no longer seek, nor need forgiveness from those who won’t give it. My husband forgave me, our families forgave me, and most importantly, God forgives me.

Six months after returning to Asheville, our lives were upended again. We were vilified as parents, thrown away, and forbidden to see our oldest grandson. I’ve often wondered if the reasons given for the estrangement weren’t made up, and was the estrangement a form of retaliation? Retaliation for the pain I caused when I left my husband? The reasons for us being thrown away don’t matter anymore, we were able to stand against the pain together. My husband held my hand, I held his. My husband let me cry in his arms, he cried in mine. We stood up for one another, determined to keep moving forward.

Seven weeks later, (seems there might be a commonality going on) I spent a weekend in Charleston, SC, loving on, and being loved by, the daughter and grandkids we were allowed to love. That trip was the application of stitches that started to sew back together my shattered heart. When I got home, my husband was gazing into the backyard and didn’t know I was there. When he realized I was standing behind him, he turned to me and said “I think we should sell the house.” I asked why before considering what he’d said, and he answered with “my Poppy heart is lonely and I want to love our grandkids.” I said yes to selling without hesitation.

After the decision was made, we spent the next seven weeks getting ready to list the house. Cleaning, purging, updating smaller things like doorknobs, hinges, painting, and replaced the roof. Busy times. Very busy times.

We listed our house on August 3rd, had a full price offer within 24 hours and closed on August 30th. We packed up a large POD, a storage unit, and headed north, to Boston. Again… Just for a visit, though. I had found a smaller house on a quick weekend trip back to Charleston, but our close on that property wasn’t until Sept. 28th. We took our time driving to New England, stopping often to enjoy the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley, the Pocono Mountains, and the changing colors of fall in New England.

We had been in New Hampshire about 7 days when my beloved mother-in-love tripped over a threshold and fell. She broke her femur and I am so glad my husband and I were there when it happened. I called 911 and by the time my husband came down to the garage, we could hear the sirens. Off she went to Manchester, later to have surgery and go to rehab. She did well and went home after we left.

I write all this to let you all know that life happens. Sometimes we determine our own course, at other times we are pushed along the road of life, even if we don’t want to make the drive. Since moving into what should have been our last home, we have sold that home, purged again, driven thousands of miles and settled in New England. My husband’s stroke in October of 2019 has been the determining factor in all decisions made since, and we are both exhausted by life now. Yet it seems there is more to do…

Not being able to see my husband in hospice is slowly killing me, and he is incredibly lonely. How could he not be? I’ve been trying to make sense of the non-visitation rules, but I can’t. I’ve been trying to keep myself from falling apart, I fail. What I can do is remember that my husband and I rebuilt the foundation of our marriage on the Rock that is Christ, we put ourselves and our marriage first in a non selfish way and that we choose love.

This part of my life hurts. There are no words out there to describe how hard it is to watch your spouse die. Now I can’t even do that. I call every day to check on him, but not being able to hold his hand, kiss his face or just sit quietly with him is beyond comprehension. He’s dying. Alone. Physically. My husband never walked away from his faith like I did, and the promises we depend on to keep us strong are just that… strong promises. We share an unbreakable bond, and that bond is what will keep me going after he’s gone.

Darkness comes. Often. More often than I would like. I spend my days praying for the man I love more than my own life. I pray that the peace and rest he so richly deserves finds him. And finds him soon. I pray that I will be strong enough to let myself fall apart and just be. I pray that the broken hearts that have already shattered because of my husband’s stroke be healed with love, and time, and grace.

Thank you for reading this, and please know that there is a day, somewhere down the road, that light will shine upon you again. On me. On my family. And friends. The storms don’t last forever… right? They just feel like they do…

Photo by Barb Enos

Again… and Again… and Again…

Hi all…

Today is the first day of a reoccurring nightmare that seems to happen again… and again… and again. I feel like I am caught in a downward spiral that has no bottom. No end. No light. I keep thinking that eventually I will be able to find my way back to my own heart, but I am still lost. Lost. Lost in the pain of again…

Yesterday, November 18, 2020 was the last day I was allowed to hold my husband’s hand, stroke his face, kiss his forehead. It was the last day his oldest brother was allowed to visit him. Visitation at the VA hospice unit where my husband is has been suspended. Again. I was told I would be able to stay with him and not allowed to leave the building if the VA decided to stop visitation, but that information was false. I would stay in his room, not leaving at all until he passes away, therefore not exposing myself to Coronavirus. But no, I can only see him when he’s down to “hours” left to live. Hours. By that point I assume he won’t know who I am, he won’t know I’m there and he will die thinking he was alone. The suspension of visitation defies logic, but then again, I understand it. If I, as the spouse of a dying veteran, am prohibited from visiting because of potential exposure, what about the staff? Don’t they leave the building? Go home? Shop for groceries? Who are they potentially exposed to when not at work? Can’t they carry the virus and not know it? All the same things that happen to the families of the hospice patients can happen to a staff person, right? We’re all human and have to live, but denying hospice patients human contact from their loved ones seems beyond cruel. My husband cries, a lot. When asked what I think about how to help him find a way to keep him from being so sad, I always told them, let him see his family more. He’s lonely. He’s dying from loneliness. Literally.

As I sit here at my computer, the tears don’t stop. I continue to cry without even knowing it now. I am beyond crushed in spirit, my heart completely shattered into nothingness. I know I shouldn’t feel guilt, but I do. I should be there right now, holding his hand, playing music for him, wiping his face to keep his beard and mustache free from being sticky with food, or nasal discharge. I would wash his face every day and then comb out whatever debris was stuck to his facial hair. Seems like something I shouldn’t worry about, right? I do. He deserves to be kept clean, and he is, but this kind of thing is not something the staff of hospice should have to do. Especially when I want to do it for him. Who will sit and pray with him? Who will whisper that it’s okay to go be with his Daddy, or to hug my Daddy around the neck when he seems him again. The staff of hospice don’t know the small intimacies shared between my husband and me on a daily basis. The songs I would play for him have meaning to us both, the playlists are personal. Who will turn the TV off or on? Make sure that channel 64 is on? Who will turn the volume down when it’s too loud?

I just can’t seem to make any sense of the why behind the decisions being made anymore. Why is it okay to make the sick and elderly die alone? Why is it okay that lack of leadership and lack of personal responsibility determine that my husband be dying from loneliness? I have tried for many months to figure out how human kind can care so little for their fellow human beings, and I am no closer to an answer today than I was when I was banned from seeing him back in March. Should I be grateful that I got to see him from August 30 thru yesterday? I am, but not in the way people seem to think I should be. I only got to see him because I pushed for him to be admitted to the hospital from the long term care home he was in. By the time I got to see him, he and the Grim Reaper were dance partners. Had I not insisted he be admitted to the hospital, I never would have known how sick he was. How much the forced isolation took from him. From all of us.

I am grateful that I am part of this group of people I call family. It breaks my heart to know that so many of us will soon lose the husband, father, Poppy, brother, father-in-love, uncle, friend and man that we all love. Some of us have had the chance to say goodbye to him, and some haven’t. I’ve said I love you to him so many times over throughout our lives together, I know he knows I love him. To know that our children have had to say goodbye to their beloved Daddy is beyond painful, but knowing that they have to explain to their children that Poppy is gone, is excruciating. Our three year old grandson is his Poppy’s heart, they all are, but the three year old? How do you tell him his hero is gone? No child should have to know that kind of pain…

I keep telling myself that I will be okay again, but I don’t really believe that anymore. I know we shouldn’t ask the age old question “What else can happen?,” but I do. I ask that because I truly believe there is no end to the suffering I am experiencing. At one point I thought I would be able to salvage some of myself and start over, now I’m so completely broken, there is nothing left to salvage. I am melancholy. I am bereft. I am floundering in a world that holds no joy for me right now. Joy. Something I have firmly believed in. Until yesterday. I believe in God, but do not consider myself a christian, just a believer. Christianity is not kind, I am. Or at least I try to be. Christianity is full of hateful people that think I am not child of the God because I don’t think like they do. I pray. Constantly. I believe that prayer is helpful, but prayer backed up with condemnation is not. I believe that Jesus loves me as I am, and if that’s not enough to make me worthy, it’s okay. My husband believes as well, and I will continue to pray for him. Always.

Again… and again… and again… I just keep thinking that what is happening to us is cruel and unnecessary. I know none of us get out of this life alive, but none of us should have die alone… People need their loved ones and I need to see my husband. Again… and again… and again…

Stay safe, be kind and have a Happy Thanksgiving… Until next time…

Photo by Barb Enos

Getting Lost is Too Easy…

Hi all. I hope this entry finds you all well and staying safe. With the holidays right around the corner and the virus raging out of control, I know times seem dark. They are dark. And it’s easy getting lost in the darkness. At least for me it is…

My husband is still hanging on to life, but declining steadily at the same time. It’s been almost two months since he went to hospice care and I feel like it’s been so much longer. So. Much. Longer. I am lost in the depths of a sinking sadness and it just doesn’t end. There is no way to say this. It just is. I pray constantly for his pain and suffering to end, knowing that mine will be made greater when he passes. It’s okay. I know I will heal as best I can and I hope to get lost in the healing process. I hope that makes sense… I am so lost in the grieving process already, and have been for over a year now, so the healing process will be a welcomed change.

Today my husband asked me not to cry, but I don’t know how to stop. It’s so easy to get lost in the sorrow of the journey we’re on. Finding reasons to be happy still come, just not as frequently as they are welcome. I did have a reason to be happy for a little while today when talking to the other Gma of our oldest grandson… He got a new puppy on Monday of this week and our boy named him Moe. I learned that our grandson has shown great responsibility in caring for Moe already, and that Moe brings healing to his heart. This is the same grandson we lost to the forced estrangement more than 2.5 years ago, so knowing that he is happy means everything to me. I am so grateful for the small things in my life that bring me moments of happiness.

Being lost in the love of my family is easy, and I appreciate them so much. I am so wounded and not fun to be around, and the people of my family are loving me through the pain and the loss to come. I won’t be the only one to lose my husband, and I know that all of us will be left a little emptier after he’s gone. I think sometimes I hurt so much that I close myself off, and they know this. So do my trusted friends. I’d like to believe that the people I love aren’t hurting, but they are and I can’t fix that. I wish I could…

Getting lost to the sadness is one thing, getting lost in the anger that rears its ugly head is another. I have been angry a lot over the past 13 months, but lately that anger seems to sink its teeth deeper and deeper into my soul. I don’t care if people agree me when it comes to the decisions I’ve been making. What other people think of me is none of my business. The climate in which we all live in the U.S. is toxic. It’s also emboldened people to give voice to their opinions about MY decisions. If I want to know what someone thinks about what I’m doing, I’ll ask. The saying about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes… Yeah. I get lost in that anger and I can’t shake it off as easily as I used to. I know I shouldn’t care, and most of the time I don’t, but when closer then most people to me say shit to me about what they “would do differently” I get pissed. When it’s your turn to do things differently, go ahead. I sincerely hope you never have to do things differently… I hope you never have to sit by a loved one’s bedside and watch as the Grim Reaper slowly takes his sweet time torturing them.

I wish I could be more positive and encourage you all like I used to. I hope to get back to that person again someday. I know I’ll never be the same again, but I also know that I will be okay and that my story will be an encouragement to someone else someday. When people tell me how strong I am, I tell them that I’m not strong, I’m broken. Being broken is okay, and so is being strong. I’m not strong enough to be anything but broken right now and it’s as it should be. I am not afraid to ask for help, I am not afraid to cry and I am not afraid of what is coming. There is a strange sense of strength in the brokenness I feel, and someday I will try my best to put the pieces back together again. Until then, I’ll try really hard to not get lost in the pain…

Stay safe, be kind and know that I appreciate you all making this journey with me. Until next time…

First snow of 2020. Photo by Barb Enos

It’s been a while…

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and that extends across all the ways I write. My journal, my blog, letters, my book. I have been so caught up in surviving the visits to hospice every day that I haven’t taken much time for myself lately. I did, however, take time today to walk the Cape Cod Canal this afternoon after visiting with my husband, and it was well worth the drive. I’d almost forgotten about the beauty my home state offers, even with the winter approaching…

It’s been a while since I’ve felt good, both mentally and physically. I’d gotten used to walking the campus of the VA Hospital where my husband is every day after our visit, and then that freak snow storm hit the area on October 30th. A dusting was predicted. We got 6 inches here in the greater Boston area! I drove in the snow for the first time in many years and did fine. Just kept it slow. I also drove to NH to spend the weekend with family and it was nice. Even nicer? I didn’t have to drive to and from hospice for two days as my brother-in-love did all the driving. Such a relief…

It’s been a while since I’ve felt whole. A long while. We passed the one year mark for my husband’s stroke on October 30th. He had his craniotomy on Nov. 2, 2019 and it’s been more than a year since he looked like someone beat the crap out of him the day after the surgery. In the long year since he had fought so hard to recover and he did so well. Until Covid came. The forced isolation took its toll on him physically, mentally and emotionally. Spiritually he has become stronger, and the closer he gets to death, the stronger his faith becomes. I wish I could say the same. I’m broken, not strong, and when I tell people that, they’re usually surprised.

Have you ever watched someone you love more than your own life die a long, slow, agonizing death? I hope not, but if you have, than you know what I feel like. I feel like this: When our daughter estranged herself from the family and forbid us to see our grandson, I was shattered, As time went on, I began to pick up the larger pieces of my life and tried to put them back together. Light would shine through the cracks and while the light refraction’s looked different, there was still beauty. Then came the stroke, 18 months later. I was shattered into smaller pieces, and again learned to put the small pieces back together. Light again shone through the smaller pieces and larger cracks. Then came selling our home. Moving. Being banned from visiting my husband. Discharging and moving. Again. Still no visitation. Almost seven months without being allowed to touch my husband, hug him or even hold his hand. In that 7 months, the pieces of glass kept breaking. They turned to dust. Dust that cannot be put back together again. My spirit became dust. Glass dust is beautiful in its own right, but it’s impossible to keep together. I also feel like a jigsaw puzzle. Every day that I get to see my husband, for two hours, I feel like I leave another piece of the puzzle behind me when I have to leave him. I don’t even bother to look for the missing pieces. I will. Later. I AM determined to be okay. I am determined to face the storms I’m in with every broken piece of me. And, when I get to the other side of the storm on the horizon, when I get my feet under me and my mind clears from the fog of grieving, I will begin to look for the lost pieces of myself. It’s the getting from here to there that is taking a while…

I do want you all to know that I’ll continue to try to do some self-care, hence the walking of the canal today. I dream of the day I can travel to SC to see my beloved daughter and her family. I miss my grands so very much. I dream of going to Northern California to visit family and heal. I long to walk the beaches of Northeastern Florida and spend time with family there. I know that these desires will have to wait until it’s safe to travel again, but these are some of the things I will do when I can. Until then I will see my husband every time I am able and try to remember to be grateful for the time we have. He is declining every day and I pray for him to find relief from the terrible pain he lives with 24/7/365 now. He is heavily medicated for pain and anxiety, but the pain always seems to find a way to break through the morphine and fentanyl.

In closing, please remember to be kind to one another and try not to take your life for granted. Hug someone you love, pay it forward and smile. The trials of this life may seem insurmountable, but with support and love, we can all find moments of joy. Until next time, I am always thankful for you…

Cape Cod Canal Photo by Barb Enos

When I…

Hello all, I hope that this post finds you all well and staying safe. Thanks for checking out today’s post!

When I think about what is happening in my life and the lives of those I love, I frequently become overwhelmed. Writing helps me make sense out of things that seem nonsensical. Most days during this particular time frame are pretty much nonsensical to me, and I literally end up overthinking every thing. It’s been a tough weekend for me, as are most weekends right now, and I would give almost anything to be able to change things. I’d change things not only for myself, but for the people I love that are dealing with losses and trials of their own. While driving home from visiting my husband in hospice today I realized, for the umpteenth time, just how much being an empathetic person takes out of me. Today, for an hour or two, I would’ve traded myself in for a model that couldn’t feel as much. I’m over that now, but those feelings gave way to so much more than myself. It gets exhausting carrying the weight of so much emotion, and if people like me aren’t careful, we lose ourselves to everyone and everything around us.

When I think about this last week I have to say that it was by far one of the hardest of my life. I never thought that saying goodbye to my son-in-love at the airport would open up the flood gates to so much emotion. I spent the week barely existing, barely functioning. I feel a little better today, but the bruises on my heart will take some time to heal. My heart remains broken, but my mind is a little less chaotic than it was 7 days ago. My youngest daughter and her extended family received some devastating news that set all of us reeling in disbelief and grief. I have spent the last few days praying for peace and healing, for comfort. Healing in this situation will be a very long time in coming, and the acceptance of such news as was received will not happen overnight. So much pain…

When I think about the loss I am facing with my husband, I am so conflicted. So very conflicted. I love the man I have been married to for the past 38+ years with my whole being, yet I am agonized by watching him suffer so. The transition to death is not anything like I think it should be, it’s a very personal and trying journey. The ups and downs of the hospice journey have been confusing, I get angry, I hurt beyond belief, and yet when I don’t receive that dreaded phone call, I am grateful. And I am sad for my husband. My suffering pales in comparison to his, there is no way I can put into words how much watching him writhe in pain hurts me. For him. If I could take it all onto myself, I would. Every damn day. The miracle in all of this will be his freedom from pain, no matter what that freedom looks like.

When I think about the future and what it looks like, I would rather run backwards than look forward. I know I have no choice but to look ahead, as we all know we can’t change the past. Looking forward right now is scary, I know the future holds days of unimaginable grief, struggle and pain. Beyond those things is where I need to focus. Beyond the grief will be healing. Beyond the struggle will be an easing. And beyond the pain will be a new journey that I pray will be honoring to my husband, challenging enough to keep me learning and a new found strength. I already know that I will not be traveling alone, I am surrounded by love.

As always, I appreciate any and all who read this and hope that you find something worth holding on to in my words. You are not alone in your struggles, you matter, and you are loved. Stay safe, be kind and remember to turn your face toward the sun and appreciate its light. And warmth…

Photo by Barb Enos

And so…

Hi again,

And so… I’ve been stuck in a never ending cycle of grief and angst on so many levels that I don’t know how to breathe anymore without struggle. Every day is a new challenge in living, and though I rise to the challenge, I’ll be honest and tell you that I would rather not keep on rising. I am broken. I told my therapist today that I’ve been shattered so many times there are no pieces left. All that’s left of me is dust, and dust doesn’t shine. Dust is easy to overlook. Dust is easily scattered. I want to shine again. I want to feel pieced back together. All I feel is shattered.

And so… I try every day to be realistic, and all I find is that the reality is too painful. I manage, and I think that old saying “fake it til you make it” is the way I’m making it through each day. My husband is in hospice and he seems to be rallying at this time. He has spent the last two weeks without eating and barely drank water. The end was on his doorstep. I’ve made peace with his impending death (more than once,) knowing that I would again be crushed, but believed at some point I would be able to heal. Now he’s beginning to eat again, and he’s still dying. The ups and downs of this ride called hospice are so much more intense than I thought they would be. It’s like the Grim Reaper is stalking him… and then backs off. Over and over and over again. How many times can my heart be told he’s on the edge? No matter how “prepared” I am, or even think I am, it’s never enough… I have nothing left inside me but hurt, despair and confusion.

And so… I spend a lot of time up in my own head and need an escape. But, no matter where I go, there I am. I am teetering on the edge of depression and I’m stuck. If I jump in, I know I will have to dig a long time to get out. I’ve been there. I don’t want to go back. I fight like hell, but fighting an invisible force, without strength, doesn’t go well. I can’t let myself go, I have to stay strong for my husband. For myself. I have to fight…

And so… I know that the sun will come up again, it always does. I know that no matter what happens, or when, I am loved. I am supported. I am not alone. I need to stop “shoulding” myself. I “should” be happy he’s rallying. I “should” be grateful for more time. I “should” not beat myself up for being so confused. Or angry. Or sad… What I “should” do and what I actually do are not companions. Not even close.

And so… I realize this post probably makes little sense, but it’s gotta be okay. Making no sense right now is how I roll and it’s how life comes at me. Suffering the stages of grief “should” be easier right now. I’ve been grieving the loss of my husband for almost a year now, but the loss to come is at once unfathomable and impossible to imagine. WTF? Walking out this chapter in my life is more of a crawl. Moving forward has lost its momentum. I’m out of steam…

And so… I am going to bed. I’m gonna put my pajamas on, brush my teeth and pray that sleep comes peacefully upon me. Thank you for sticking with me, I appreciate it so much.

Stay safe, be kind and remember to smile when you can…

Photo by Barb Enos

What if…?

Hi all. I find myself thinking “what if” a lot right now… Let me fill you in.

What if you knew the last time you hugged your spouse was just that, the last time? I’m talking full on front to front hugging, feeling the warmth of your loved one encompassing you and feeling their breath on your neck. Would you hug tighter? Longer? Would you try and commit to memory just how they smelled, like soap and water, or fresh cut grass? I had my last full on hug with my husband on October 3rd of 2019 and I can remember almost everything about that hug. I didn’t know then that it would be the last time those strong arms would wrap fully around me, or that the timbre of his voice was going to be forever altered just 27 days later… We were on our front porch in the early part of dusk and he was getting ready to drive from our home in South Carolina to see his family in New England. I stayed behind because of my job, not knowing that we would never be the same couple that hugged and kissed goodbye that evening. With almost a year between then and now, I wish I had gone with him, but I had only been working at UPS for 4 months, so taking almost a month off wouldn’t have been possible. Hindsight…

What if my husband had gone to the doctor when he called me that day complaining of a headache? Would he have had the same type of catastrophic stroke? Would he have been able to have medications administered that may have broken down the massive clot that formed in his neck and caused so much damage? What if seems like an innocent enough question, but in my reality it’s a fully loaded, assault style weapon. What if I had flown up to New England and dragged him, kicking and screaming, to an emergency room? Or a doctor? What if? What if? What if? I don’t blame myself, nor do I blame him, I just wish I had been able to see the future. I know there’s a reason why we can’t see into our futures, and looking back on the past 11 months has shown me exactly why we don’t get to see ahead.

What if I hadn’t agreed to move back to New England and had stayed in Richmond? What if we went back to South Carolina? Because of Coronavirus and it’s vast reaching destruction, I have no idea what our lives would look like right now. I know that being home in New England, and back in the city of Boston, has been exactly what we’ve needed it to be. I hate that my beloved is dying, I fucking hate it, but I am so glad to not be alone. I have been able to spend time with him this past month and am ever grateful for that. I’m with him every day and will be with him when the end comes. I am not sure when that will be, but it can’t be too much longer for him. He doesn’t eat, he barely drinks anything and is being kept comfortable. He deserves peace. And rest.

What if I knew that I would become a widow before I turned 60? Would I marry him again? I would. I wouldn’t trade my life with him except for the past year. All the turmoil and chaos, all the strife, all the loneliness? I’d do it all again to have my husband in my life. Love is a great feeling, but it’s a decision. A hard one at that. I have messed things up, I’ve been mean and hurtful and cruel to him over the years, as he has to me. But… We have stuck together and decided time after time after time to love one another and I am so glad we have. We don’t have, nor have we had, a storybook romance. Our romance is more like a suspense novel, with some shade thrown in, and the two of us are both aggressively trying to figure things out. We have always said that our relationship is aggresive/aggresive, not give and take. We have always been this. I will miss him so…

What if? A question that begs to be answered by all of us, but very rarely do the answers make any sense…

Photo by Jack Gittoes on Pexels.com