Building a Better Boat…

Hello!

It’s been a bit, but I’m still out here and still moving forward. I just heard Build a Better Boat by Kenny Chesney and it prompted me to take a bit of a breather during these final, frenzied days in Boston and share my heart. I’m moving to Southwestern PA next weekend and while I’m looking forward to it for many reasons, I’m also very nervous. The song made me think about what’s been going on since I made the decision to move and gave me a moment to pause and reflect.

I don’t really want to build a better boat, I have to. Life has an uncanny way of pushing us along even when we absolutely refuse to step on to the platform of the ride. I’m not the type to hide in the corner, even when my flight instinct kicks in. I have, however, become the type to try and work my way through whatever roadblocks are thrown in front of me. I’ve learned that a lot of the roadblocks are of my own making and as I work through whatever the situation is, the situation becomes part of building that better boat. Sometimes I withdraw, and though others may not understand my withdrawal, I have to sort myself out first. I’m tender-hearted. I can’t (and don’t want to) change that. I’ve learned that being so makes me more misunderstood by others. I don’t know how to make someone understand that my silence and lack of interaction isn’t about them, it’s about me… and while that may sound selfish, it’s not. It’s self-care. And that’s a blog idea I’ve written about previously. Self-care is imperative for all of us. If we run on empty all the time, what do we have left to give anyone else? Life is full of moments where self-care can be, and will be, viewed as selfishness. It’s an unintended consequence that happens when I put the brakes on and face the roadblock head-on.

Building a better boat takes patience, something I never wanted to have to learn. The last 4 years of my life have been beyond erratic. Painful. Lonely. Confusing. I’ve been lost and found. I’ve been kicked and slapped by fate so hard, the sting will never fade. I’ve deliberately hurt those I love the most, not because I wanted to, but because I’ve had to. I’ve learned that some things, no matter how much they matter to me, matter to no one else. I can’t begin to let people know how sorry I am that my time frame for working my way through the hurts and grief and misunderstandings is so unpredictable. It takes as long, or as short, as it does. Patience is a virtue we all need more of and I’ll gladly be the first to admit that I lack it at times when it’s needed the most. Other times I possess so much of it, I don’t recognize myself. I left my husband in 2017, I managed to leave him without his knowing what was coming, and three days later, all I wanted to do was turn that car around and drive straight back into his arms. I broke him. I broke me. I broke our family. Three days after I drove out of our driveway, I wanted to go home. He was beyond hurt, and I am sorry. I know he knew that. He was enraged, and hurt, and beyond broken. So was I. He found the strength to say that we needed to see where the separation could take us and that I needed to be patient. He knew me better than anyone. He knew what an impossible task that would be for me. Patience didn’t come easy to me, it still doesn’t. 7 weeks after I left him, I went home. We worked hard to rebuild the marriage that I burned to the ground… The beauty that was painted from the ashes became something we never lost again. Patience played a huge roll in our reuniting, and because we practiced patience, we were able to build a better boat. Together.

Building a better boat is hard. There’s not a single doubt in my mind that it’s an impossible task to complete alone. There are moments I feel like I’m standing on the edge of an abyss so deep, and so dark, that if I lose my balance, I’ll simply disappear. Sometimes I think we may all want to disappear, and seeking a little personal time is okay. The boat I’m building is smaller than the boat that capsized when my beloved husband died. The new boat will have a minimal amount of stuff on board, but the deck, the berthing compartment and the galley will be absolutely full of memories. The memories of a life well lived, and a love so true, will be the wind in the sails. The storms will surely continue to roll in and toss the new boat from side to side, but the strength within the foundation of the new boat will prevail. I’ll proudly and humbly steer this new, smaller boat as steadily as possible, knowing that from time to time I may need a life saving ring tossed into the waves. I don’t have a choice about moving into the open waters on my own in many ways, but I do know that I have many life rafts waiting on shore should I need them.

Building this new boat has been challenging. I don’t necessarily think it’s better, it’s just different. My life is different now, not better. I miss my sailor (he was a US Navy sailor) and I miss the anchor he was in my life. I miss the hugs and the warmth and the adventure. I miss what could have been, and am trying hard to be comfortable in facing what is. The waves and storms and riptides will pull my new boat in a million different directions, but my heart will always be seeking the true north that my beloved was. No compass will ever point me in a direction where he doesn’t exist…

Directions…

“Those we love never leave us. There are some things that death cannot touch.”

~ Jack Thorne, (British Screenwriter) ~

As I sit down to write this morning, the sun is shining in an amazingly clear blue sky, and the sounds of heavy equipment accompany the playlist of music I have open on my phone. I’m sitting at my youngest daughter’s dining table in southwestern PA and find myself at a crossroads in life. Again…

I used to love to write for my blog. It’s beginning to feel like a chore. I’ve seriously considered taking my blog in a different direction, though what that direction is remains to be seen. In the beginning my blog was written as a way for me to live outside the realm of pain caused by our oldest daughter throwing us away. Estrangement and abandonment are not easy to live through, of that I can speak with certainty. When your child decides that your existence is irrelevant and toxic to their well being, there really is nothing you can do. Especially if the child engaging in estrangement is an adult. When that same child makes it clear that your presence is no longer welcome in the life of your grandchild, whom you’ve always had close, the pain and hurt is indescribable. Simply indescribable. My blog gave me an avenue to release a lot of what festered inside of me…

Fast forward 18 months.

The estrangement happened in May 2018 and in August of that same year my husband and I sold our home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC. We moved to the Lowcountry of South Carolina to be closer to our younger daughter and her family since we were still allowed to be grandparents to her children. What our oldest did to us broke us both, but our marriage was solid and we survived, and even thrived for a while. In March of 2019, we received a very threatening letter from an attorney demanding that we stop writing to our grandson or our daughter in NC would have warrants issued against us for stalking. Does anyone remember the song by Chubby Checker called “How Low Can You Go?” We sure do, and I still do. Suffice it to say that that was the day we both knew we had to let go of our daughter, her husband and our grandson in order to find peace. Not an easy thing to do, not at all. We managed to be happy in our little home in SC and were very much looking forward to building our future there. I kept on writing my blog to keep finding the release it gave me. The tenor of my blog began to change, though offering encouragement to others still remained my top priority. It became less about the pain and rage, and more about the journey of healing. My blog was evolving, just as I was. As we were…

Fast forward 7 months.

Life was relatively quiet by October 1, 2019. Little did we know that a darkness we had NEVER known was lurking and swirling around us. All of us. Even the child that had wilfully shunned her parents would be affected. My husband left our home on October 2, 2019, in the late evening to make an almost 1000 mile drive to New Hampshire. He was always a night owl, so driving through the night was basically normal for him. I stood on our front porch after we hugged and said all the “be carefuls, I love yous and I’ll miss yous” and watched him drive away. I stayed behind because I was only 4 months into a new job with UPS. He was going to New England to see his next oldest brother who had had surgery to remove some toes affected by diabetes. My husband went to see his brother to lend encouragement and to mend fences, so to speak. I’m happy to write that the trip produced the results they both needed and they became close before the lurking darkness would change everything. Absolutely everything.

Fast forward 17 days.

On October 20, 2019, my phone rang. Not an unusual occurrence. My husband told me he was experiencing the worst headache he’d ever had, and that his neck hurt. Here comes the aforementioned darkness… I begged him to go to an Urgent Care, an Emergency Room, a VA Hospital, anywhere! Go and get checked out, please!!! What I should have done was get on a flight to Boston or Manchester the next day and dragged his stubborn ass to an ER myself. I didn’t. He kept telling me he was okay. He was a grown man that didn’t “need” babysitting. Um, okay? How the rest of his life would play out might have been so different had I just flown to New England…

I can’t live my life in the quagmire of “What if?…”

I’ve shared through my blog the journey I’ve been on since the estrangement began. The pain and the rage and the feeling lost. I’ve shared about my husband’s stroke and what it feels like to be helpless and have a front row seat to the chaos that became my beloved’s life. I’ve always hoped that through my sharing that someone, somewhere, is finding comfort in knowing that they’re not alone. It feels incredibly lonely when you’re on a path so dark it seems no light will ever get through. It does, the light does shine again, though it seems to take forever. Sometimes the things that happen to us are so painful and so uncalled for that we simply adapt by staying stuck. Sometimes we try to hide, even though we all know that hiding is never a solution when it comes to healing. Healing from traumatic events such as estrangement, catastrophic stroke and death can be beyond challenging, to say the least. Healing from any event that causes our spirit to break is challenging. It’s become my belief, because of my own journey and consequent healing, that the human spirit is much stronger than we human beings give it credit for. I think this is the reason why I’m beginning to think I should take my blog in a different direction. 

I am now, and will always be, so very grateful that people read my blog. I’m now a widow, just seven months into living a life that I have no idea how to live, though I do know this… I know that because of the support of others, I’m healing. I’m becoming someone new, and yet I still remain who I was. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, and it may be a long time before I post again. I am in a transitional phase of life right now, trying to figure out how to move forward without leaving the past behind. I don’t want to carry the baggage of pain forward, just the sweet memories. I know I face more darkness as time passes, life is just dark sometimes. I also know I will make it through, as I’m doing now. The next journey might be messy, or neat and tidy; it may be fiery hot or ice cold, but I know, I simply know, that I will face whatever comes and find my way. I’ll reach out to someone else who may need a hand while walking through their own darkness, and gently squeeze so they may know they’re not alone. The quote at the beginning of this post is absolutely true, there are some things that even death cannot touch. 

Remember to always be kind to one another, kindness matters…

Incoming tide and riptide crashing together. Revere, MA. Photo by Barb Enos

Sunday Thoughts…

Hi,

Yes, it’s been a bit, I’ve been living my life and trying to heal. I’m moving forward with the grief of my husband’s death still holding one hand, but in the other? The other hand has been multi-purpose. It’s been drying my tears, pushing me towards my new life in Pennsylvania, and steering the methods of whatever it takes to get me there.

I’m currently house-sitting for some dear friends while they’re on vacation and just like last year, I am thoroughly enjoying their deck. Their home is a ranch style, very comfortable and in a safe neighborhood about 30 miles southwest of Boston. I’ve been thinking that being here is like having “training wheels.” I’m almost ready to take the training wheels off and move out on my own. I haven’t lived on my own since June of 2020, and am beyond thankful for the support of my family and friends during these dark times in my life. This summer has been hard on me emotionally, I’ve withdrawn from people after being hurt by someone I trusted, and am finally able to see the sunshine again…

When someone hurts us, we can only control our reaction to what’s been done, not the actions done to us. I realized as soon as the words left this person’s mouth that I would never be the same again. Wanna know what else I’ve come to realize? I realize that because of one sentence, I’m okay with not being who I was. I am very different now, and I actually like me more than I did before. Sure, what was said was hurtful. The words piercing my heart and leaving me feeling like I didn’t matter. This event also showed me that I am not without boundaries, self-respect, and value. Maybe I don’t matter to the person who hurt me, that’s okay. I still matter. To me. To my children and grandchildren. To a few select friends that I still trust. I don’t need more than that. I’ve also learned to pull back on how much I share on social media, to stop and REALLY think about what I’m saying, and to listen to my gut more. To value my personal space and privacy. Silver linings for sure…

The heatwave that has gripped Northern New England broke overnight, and today is just freaking glorious!!! I’m doing what I love by writing, listening to music and making plans to spend time with people I love in the coming days. I’m still sad, overwhelmingly so, and am accepting that sadness is my constant companion these days. I’m also happy. Happy that the sun is shining. Happy that I am able to enjoy the gifts that Mother Nature has granted us today. Happy that I got to see 10 turkeys in the backyard and watch them wander off. It may seem silly to notice such simple things, but just think about all the things that demand our attention on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s just nice to sit on the deck, listen to your favorite music and take in the beauty of your small portion of this world. Appreciation is good for the spirit!

With the day being as lovely as it is, I’m thinking that I may not be leaving my little haven of paradise for the madness of the shopping center down the road. I have two shirts I need to return, and am thinking they can wait for another day. As I sit here and revel in the sunshine, I realize I don’t want to trade the peace and quiet of this deck for the chaos and madness of a big box store. I have everything I need to make it through the day without sacrificing my peace of mind. I’d rather stay here, quietly thinking about my husband and just enjoying the ability to be. We all need to treat ourselves from time to time, no matter what that looks like. I’m staying close to home today, not listening to or giving in to the voices in my head that say I need to “go and do.” I am doing by not going and doing, and that’s that!

It’s been a little more than 6 months since my husband died, though it feels like 60 years. I miss him. So much. I’ve come to realize just how much I miss the touch of another human being. The hugs I always gave and received? Gone. The simple touch of his hand on my lower back? Gone. I’d give almost anything to have him back, and while I know that’s an impossibility, the craving that lives within me for the touch of another is not gone. Nor is it impossible. It’s not the same when someone else hugs me, it can’t be. No one loved me like he did. No one knows me like he did. No one could ever take his place in my life, or in my heart. He was my person. I was his. We were an us. When you become a me after being an us for more than half of your life, the transition is fraught with emotion, growing pains and tears. Time is supposed to help, so whenever time decides to get on board and journey with this broken woman, I’m ready! Until then, I will hug my friends and family, wipe my own tears and move forward with as much purpose as I am able. Living a purpose driven life will give me opportunities to honor the memory of my beloved.

I’m hanging on, and am so grateful that I have the opportunity to share my journey with people through this blog. Life isn’t always harsh, though sometimes it feels that way. This summer has been painful for me, but also enlightening. I have to keep my eyes on the roads ahead, while looking back and figuring out which roads to avoid. The curves and bends can seem scary, especially when they come out of nowhere. Keep looking forward, keep unpacking the unnecessary baggage you carry, and stay the course. Life is to be lived. And savored. Take the bitter and at least try to make it into something sweet, you may be surprised at what happens. Embrace the suck as the Navy Seals say, and turn the suck into success!

Until next time remember to be kind always, smile and believe in yourself!

To My Husband…

When you spend the majority of your life in the service of others, how do you let people know what that looks like? I think it looks like this…

You were born the last of 6 children to your loving parents and they raised you all to reflect their beliefs. You valued family. You were raised to believe that manners mattered and maintained your gracious and beautiful manners right up to the end of your life. You had all the traits of being the youngest of a large family, but those traits gave you insight to so much more than most people ever get to see. Being the youngest gave you a fighting spirit, a determination to be seen and the courage to try. You learned what to and not to do. You gave of yourself privately, with much abandon and with a love so steady, a lot of people mistook it for aloofness. 

You were a wonderful Daddy, and I loved being the Mommy to your Daddy. I also loved being the MiMi to your Poppy and the Oma to your Opa. I was the Auntie to your Uncle for so many and I will always be so grateful for that. How is it possible that you loved me so much that the hole in my heart where you lived will never be filled again? I will heal, and I will move forward, but that hole will remain. 

Our daughters are so lucky that you were their Daddy, even when you were vilified and thrown away. Those were the actions of someone else, not you. You stood strong through the pain. You may have been away from home a lot while serving, but the girls knew you loved them. They have always known that, even when our family became broken. You were the first man either of them loved and they are blessed to be a part of you. I am blessed that I got to share parenthood with you, even though you and I had to carry each other. We had to carry one another through the hurt and trials and pain. I would give anything to have you carrying me right now… 

When our grandsons become men, I pray that they become a little of you. Hard working, a wee bit stubborn, smart and loving. If a man is defined by his character, they have big shoes to fill. You gave so much without people ever knowing just what it cost you at times. When I needed you, you were always there. Even in our darkest times, I know you never gave up on us. I regret that I cannot say the same. But when I think about it, maybe I didn’t give up, either. Otherwise we would have never stayed married for as long as we did. I loved you more than my own life, and I only wish I could express that. If our grandsons grow into even a little of the man you were, they’ll be beyond blessed. So will their future families.

Our granddaughters have been so lucky to have been loved by you. You were the best Poppy and Opa ever, and they will miss you. I’ll teach them about how much you loved them, and their moms, so that they know that true love is possible. The pain of abandonment will always be a part of the fabric of our memories, but as time goes on the pain diminishes. I pray that our granddaughters never know that depth of pain. I’ll encourage them to seek a life partner that gives them confidence. encourages independence, and is willing to be a “kitchen song” dancer…

When someone asks me about you 10, 15 or 20 years from now, I’ll say that I was loved by a man that was warm, strong of faith and loyal. You were so loved by so many and we all miss what could have been. I pray that you’ve found the comfort you so richly deserve in the arms of Jesus and that you are reunited with those who went on before you. I will join you someday in the future and we will hold hands, hug one another and pick-up where we left off… in love, in like, and simply happy. 

I miss you. 

I love you more than most and…

You were my end from the beginning.

Pathway at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. Photo by Barb Enos

365 (Plus One)

Hey Everyone,

It’s been a bit, and I’m still hanging in, missing my husband. Nothing new there.

365 plus one? 365 days ago, plus one, my beloved husband was discharged from the Polytrauma Unit of the Richmond, Virginia Veteran’s Hospital. I would sell my soul to the devil himself if it meant I could erase the last 365 days. Erase and start over. As we all know, time is the one thing that we can’t replace. We can’t save it. It doesn’t earn interest, and sadly, it hasn’t yielded a profit.

I’ve begun to look ahead, finally, in a healthy, though sad, way. I’m beginning to make plans for a future that will not include my husband in the physical sense, but it will bring much honor to his memory. I have been seeking and researching resources that will help me navigate my way as a widow and I’ve found a non-profit organization that I seem to fit with. I am hoping to connect with others who have lost someone that served, maybe even become a mentor some where down the road. I am taking it one step at a time, but have a good feeling in my gut that I have finally found a new, but familiar village. I have been so supported by my family and friends and I know they all will continue to hold my hand. The organization I found will give me purpose again, something I haven’t felt since my beloved died. He was my purpose for so long, and now I have to make me, and honoring his memory, my purpose.

365 days ago, plus 2, is when I came back to Boston. The day before my husband. 365 days ago, plus one, I was denied the opportunity to meet my husband at the rehab facility he was admitted to and I’ve been upset by that ever since. 365 days ago, Covid-19 was a blanket excuse for everything, including NOT being allowed to even greet my husband in the parking lot of said facility. I’ve tried for over a year now to be heard by someone that actually gives a crap about the lack of compassionate care shown to my husband, but to no avail. All the countless hours writing to State and Federal officials, the media, the corporation that owns that horror house my husband was in has been for naught. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars and more than a hundred hours making noise, but all I’ve been met with is silence. I had promised myself if the law firm I contacted wouldn’t help me, I would stop. I’ve stopped making noise. To say I am beyond disappointed in my local and federal representatives is an understatement. I am not rich. I am not even close to being so. I vote, but why? Because of the lack of communication, I no longer care about those I’ve voted for. I have approximately 340 days left to find peace. I can’t afford the costs of maintaining my anger and hurt, I have to let go. For me. I fought as hard as I could, I begged. I pleaded. I humiliated myself. I filed a formal complaint with the MA Dept. of Public Health. I’ve followed up on my follow ups to the point that I’ve had to say I’m done.

365 plus days ago I never thought I would become a widow at the age of 58. It’s been just shy of four months since I held my husband’s hand and watched him breathe his last breath. He was 59. 21,629 days. Add a few leap years in and maybe he was 21, 640 days old. Not nearly enough days on this earth. Not nearly enough years spent as a married couple. But… He certainly changed my entire world in those 21K+ days. He loved me. He was my safety net, my lover, my man and my heart. He is still all of those things, and more. He is my guardian angel, he is my Morgan’s (our dog that died in July 2020) constant companion now. He is still the Poppy our grandchildren will always miss, and he’s the Poppy I will help them remember. No one will ever take his place. No one will know me like he did, or kiss me like he did. No one will tease me (thank God!) like he did. No one will ever rage behind the wheel of my Mini like he could have. So many things that he was good at, so many things he made his own. Including me. Of those 21K+ days, he was in my life for about 16,430 of them. More than half his life, and mine. Days…

As I mentioned above, I’m finally beginning to feel like I am able to move forward. One baby step at a time. I’m not really stronger than I was last time I wrote, I think the fog is starting to lift. I see things from a clearer set of eyes. Well… not really. I have to have cataract surgery and will find out when on the 23rd of June. Anyway, I know that grief will never not be a part of my life again, but I also know that how I continue to walk it out and learn from it is key to my survival. I WANT to be happy. I WANT to smile more. I WANT to laugh more. Every time I think I can’t get up, I do. I cry and rage and hide, but I also turn my face to the sun and pray for self peace. I can see a pin-prick of light shining through the darkness.

When I started this blog, I had no idea that it would shift from being an erased grandparent and parent to becoming a widow. I had no idea that any one would care to read the ramblings of a woman the world doesn’t know. I am blessed beyond measure to have the opportunity to keep writing and I thank all of you that take the time to read my prose. Writing frees my heart, it gives me an outlet for my pain, and I hope it helps someone else realize that they are not alone. We all have trials. We all bleed red. We all hurt. I know, because of all of you, I don’t have to hurt alone. Thank you all. I’ve pasted a link to a song that has been helping me lately, I hope it helps you as well. Be kind, always, and know that in Boston is a woman who appreciates you so much!

They Say… ?

Hey all,

Have you ever thought about who “they” are? And what “they say?”

I think there are many of those “they” people out there, with far too much to “say.” Since my beloved husband died back in February, I’ve heard many “they say” pieces of advice and have been both honored and annoyed at receiving said advice. The best piece of advice has been: They say to wait a year before making any major changes to the course of your life.” It’s sound advice, with its roots embedded deep within other’s experiences, advice I have decided to try and adopt. The worst piece of advice I’ve received since February? The very same. “Wait a year … blah, blah, blah.” A year seems like an impossibly long stretch of time under the best of circumstances, how is possible to wait so long? How is possible to not wait? I literally have no idea who they are, but if they would like to reveal themselves to me, I’m willing to meet them. I might even be willing to listen to what they say!

I looked up they in the Merriam Webster dictionary and the definitions were plentiful.

Definition of they:

1— those ones those people, animals, or things

2—used to refer to people in a general way or to a group of people who are not specified.

3 a—used with a singular indefinite pronoun antecedent.

b—used with a singular antecedent to refer to an unknown or unspecified person.

c—used to refer to a single person whose gender is intentionally not revealed.

d—used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is non-binary.

So many different definitions for such a small word. And such a small word that can be used to convey many different types of: People. Animals. Things. I think I’ll stick with using they in reference to people right now. They have a lot to say, and they are who I’ve been thinking of for a few days as the ideas for this particular post have come together.

They mean well. At least I hope they do. Because people know I am more vulnerable right now, they have been kind, supportive and concerned. I have a wonderful family full of people that support me. I have friends that hold me up and let me cry. I am trying to look forward to making my way into my somewhat unknown future. I know they’ll help me when I ask for help, and I know they’ll understand when I don’t. This journey of grief is mine, but knowing I have all of them to help me brings me such comfort. As human beings, I believe we’re not created to be alone, and even though my husband is gone, I know I am not always alone. How many people suffer through the loss of a loved one alone? Do they have to because there is no one to hold their hand? I hope they’re not alone because they feel they’re a burden. I’ve been blessed to not feel burdensome for the most part, though that feeling has come over me a few times since my beloved died.

They say we should all love one another and not judge our fellow man. I believe this to be true as well. No one has the right to tell me they think I made the wrong decisions for my husband while he lived. Yet they have. And they do. And my reaction to that type of they say?” I say, walk in my shoes, sleep alone in my marriage bed, cook for one. Wash only your own clothes, knowing that your mate will never produce dirty laundry again. Drive everywhere you go alone. I am my own personal driver, chef, laundress, and bed-mate. It sucks. For me, it truly sucks. For my husband? They say he is in a better place and I agree. Most days…

They say to feel what you feel and not be guilty, especially when you’re going through the grief process. I’ve actually started disliking that phrase “grief process.” Process makes it seem like there may possibly be a solution waiting somewhere down the long and twisted path of grief. There is no solution. As the partner left behind I get angry, then feel guilty, then get angry. All very “normal” reactions during grief. Normal is nothing more than a cycle on the washing machine… I feel what I feel and I try to work through those feelings, and I fail. I also succeed. Grief isn’t a matter of picking your battles, it’s not a trustworthy foe. They say to fight to move forward, but I don’t want to fight. I’m exhausted and the battle with grief is raging on…

I’m going to end here for now and start considering my next entry. I feel something brewing in my heart that is sad. I don’t want to be sad, but I am. It seems to be my constant companion. I would rather have my dog as my constant companion. Since my dog is now my husband’s beloved constant companion, I guess I have to take my sadness for a walk every now and then.

Until next time, be safe. And 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

Sometimes…

Hi all,

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written, and while I wish I could come up with an amazing reason why, I’ll just tell the truth. Life has been happening and I’ve been going along for the ride. Sometimes willingly, sometimes not. Life has a way of making us stay on the train, even when it runs off the tracks.

Sometimes I wish that I could be exactly what everyone wants me to be, and sometimes I wish I were brave enough to tell the people with those unreasonable wants to just F off. As time continues to pass and my beloved suffers, I find that I care less and less about what people want me to be. Or what they want from me. I lie awake at night and sometimes let my mind just go where it will. Sometimes I take a specific train of thought to its destination and drop it off. To the people that try and steer me in a different direction? Just don’t. I’m making my own way the best way I know how and I’m the only one responsible for the consequences of whatever decision(s) I make. How about this? Sometimes, just sometimes, try steering your own train, on its own track, to its specific destination and stay out of the way of mine. Got it? Thanks! If who I am now, who I have been and who I am becoming is not who you think I should be, it’s okay. I’m learning to be okay with the me I am becoming and I am definitely okay with the me I have been, even when that me was sad and broken. I’m still sad and still broken, but the sunlight that reflects off my broken pieces is warm and beautiful and wholly welcome.

Sometimes you have a day where, when it’s over, you look back and are amazed by what you see. As a person with a deep, planning nature, I sometimes miss the wonderful gifts that spontaneity brings. Not today. Yesterday was an amazingly wonderful day and I went with my gut on decisions being made about my future as a widow. While I am not a widow yet, I know it’s coming. I know I’ll need to be prepared, or at least as prepared as I think I can be. I set out yesterday to have a recall done on my car, had it completed and drove away. The recall was one of the things I had planned on doing to get this car ready to sell. I had planned on selling it in March of this year, but instead let the spontaneous nature of an unexpected phone call guide my decision. The phone call was from the dealership where I’d had the recall done; they were interested in buying my car! Um, OK. I drove back to the dealership and ended up selling them my car. It was easy, the offer sound, and since I can only drive one car at a time, I knew I’d be okay. I bought my dream car last spring, had been renting a parking space for it and using it infrequently. Now I am saving more than 1K a year on insurance, 1200 bucks a year for parking and will spend less on gas, since my 2nd car is small. I’ve been striving to adopt a minimalist life style, and letting go of that car fits in with my quest. It was the last car my husband and I bought together, but it’s a car. My memories of trips taken, of driving it for work, of driving home to him after work don’t disappear because the car is gone. It’s just a car after all. I am at peace with letting it go…

Sometimes I wish I could see into the future, but I fully admit that I believe that there are many reasons why we can’t see what’s ahead in our lives. How many of us would have married our spouses if we knew ahead of time how hard marriage could be at times? How many of us would have taken chances in situations where the outcome had been less than desirable? How many people would decide not to believe in themselves if they could have seen that a decision made could end up crushing the spirit of adventure that lives deep within all of us? There are so many lessons to be learned by accepting what is, and those lessons help us keep striving to move forward. I’ve made decisions since my husband’s stroke that have resulted in second-guessing, regret and self-turmoil, but those same decisions have also made me stronger, more determined and more self-aware. I believe that the lessons we learn the hardest are the ones we learn the best. Has someone hurt you so badly that you were continually blinded by the pain? This has happened to me more than once. More then twice. It’s happened over and over and over again, and the pain is so hot and so shattering that I’ve thought I couldn’t survive. Guess what? I did, and am surviving. I’m doing more than that in many ways. In many ways I am thriving! It takes a lot of self work, self discovery and self determination to pick yourself back up after you’ve been crushed, but you can. I haven’t always been able to pick myself back up without help, and letting someone help isn’t weakness. It takes a great deal of strength to show someone else all your brokenness, to cry out for help, and to actually accept that help. The future still holds many secrets from me. It holds many challenges. I do know that when my husband passes I will need help getting back on my feet emotionally, and I will seek it. I am not afraid of what’s coming, but I am sad. And, as weird as this sounds, I’m ready. I’ve been witness to his recoveries. His declines. What he’s going through now is not living. Pain, endless physical pain. Loneliness that never seems to abate. He can’t walk, he can’t see well, and he can’t even pee on his own anymore. I am ready for his healing to occur, knowing full well that it won’t be in life, but in death. He’s ready, too. Not knowing when in the future this is coming is incredibly hard to face, but none of us knows our last breath will be taken.

Sometimes I could keep on writing, but not today. I’m going to end here for now and will come back soon. I appreciate you reading this and hope that it encourages you in some small way to keep moving forward. We are all part of a world that is noisy, chaotic and seemingly at times, out of control. We are also part of a world that is beautiful, full of adventure and exciting. Remember to be kind, stay safe and love freely…

The Unexpected…

Hi All,

Today started off like any other day has as of late. I got up at 6:30, wandered on in to the kitchen, made my coffee and emptied the dishwasher. Started laundry. Ate cereal with a banana. Tried to solve a daily word puzzle. Headed upstairs and took a shower. All very routine and almost taken for granted. Almost…

The first unexpected thing happened when I was in the shower. I always listen to The Message on Sirius/XM while in the shower and my phone sits on the little stool by the radiator. I knew someone had texted me when I was in the shower by the loss of volume in the music. It irritated me. Three times it irritated me before I was done. Seems excessive, doesn’t it? To get irritated by something I couldn’t control… When I finally got out of the shower and looked at the phone, it was my work that texted me to tell me there was no work for PVD’s with UPS today. Not a big deal, but the first hiccup of the days plan. After drying my hair and brushing my teeth, I came downstairs and got dressed in comfy sweats and my favorite Jim Brickman hoodie. Warm socks completed my ensemble. Not a fashionista by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. Actually, I never am and I’m so okay with that. The older I get the more I realize that I am exactly who I need to be. For me. For my family. And for my friends. Being more is not necessary.

After getting dressed I talked with one of my friend’s for a while and then wandered into the quiet living room to watch Breaking Dawn parts 1 and 2, but didn’t. Another unexpected opportunity presented itself. I switched gears from Vampires, to God. Yes, that God. I watched the movie about Jeremy and Melissa Camp and Jeremy’s song “I Still Believe.” The beginning of the film was easy, but not 30 minutes in, it became very painful to watch. What wasn’t painful? As I watched I began to realize that I have been so stuck inside my own pain that my prayers have become almost remote. Push a button, pray. Blink your eyes, pray. Walk down memory lane, pray. I could feel the pain that both Jeremy and Melissa experienced because of the circumstances of their life, but more than that, I was encouraged by the strength of faith possessed by them. I was reminded in a most personal and powerful way that the struggles and pain I face every day are insurmountable when facing them in the human sense. I am not alone. I know this and I’ve said it many times throughout the past 14+ months. My heartbreak is real, raw and seems to never end. My faith can be weak, scattered and seem not enough, but it is. I am loved.

The movie touched me deep inside, and knowing the story of Jeremy and Melissa Camp going into watching the movie didn’t make it any easier to come to terms with what is happening in my life. Or in the life of my husband. The movie affected me in an unexpected way. The movie brought me introspection. I’ve been thinking since the movie ended about how I can pray differently for my husband. How I can pray in a more meaningful, authentic way. I wish the movie could’ve brought me relief from the never ending streams of tears that seem to seep from my eyes all the time. Today it’s been 48 days since I’ve seen him in person and I think this forced period of isolation is much harder on me than I have been willing to admit. The movie made me see this. No matter how old or young we are, when the person that we love the most is suffering, we suffer, too. I have been trying to “manage” my pain, but it’s been managing me. I have no idea how much longer my husband has here, or if I’ll ever see him again, but I still believe…

I never expected to be where I am at this point in my life. I thought that we would be living in our little 1970’s ranch home in the rural Berkeley county area of SC. I thought we would playing with our grandchildren, having meals as a family unit with their parents. I thought we would be going to church together and raising our hands, and hearts, the the Lord in thanks. I still thank Him, but it doesn’t always make sense to me. I’m human, and selfish, and hurting. I want to hug my husband, I want to see my daughter, I want to have a margarita with my friends. I want… but can’t have. This season of pain and uncertainty has given me pause to examine my life in a very critical and almost too harsh way. Almost being the key word. What’s unexpected about that? The examination has brought me to a place of understanding and surrender. Both extremely difficult things to accept. I understand that my husband had a stroke and that he lived a hard life by choice. I don’t understand the amount of suffering and pain he’s living in right now. I know I never will. So I say welcome, to surrender. I have to surrender him and his pain to a higher power. I have to surrender my heartache and my tears to the God I believe in. I have to believe that the greater plan in all of this will be healing, just not in the sense of earthly healing. I have to believe that there will be unexpected gifts of love, compassion and peace somewhere down the proverbial road. If I lose my belief in what is coming, I may as well just give up. Not. Gonna. Happen.

I am no theologian. I am not, by any means, an expert in prayer, surrender or the ways of God. I do not claim to have any answers, never mind all the answers. What I can tell you… God, as I know Him, loves me. Me. The kid who was abused as a child, the teenager that was defiant, the woman that was treated with disdain and hatred by her own flesh and blood. I am still loved. Me. He loves me. He knows my name and I am worthy of His love. Because God loves me I know I will make it through this and whatever unexpected things happen in the future. As a child I believed the way I was taught, now I believe in the way that has brought me home, much like the Prodigal son in the Bible. I know that there are people out there that believe I am still not a “true” believer, but I don’t worry about all that. My relationship with God is mine, not theirs, and I don’t need their approval. Nor do I need their permission to believe the way I do. God loves me. Me. That has to enough… And it is…

If you need to be prayed for, please reach out to me. We are not meant to do life alone and I would be honored to add you and your prayer needs to my prayer journal. If you don’t believe in God, that’s okay, you still might want to connect with someone in this vast and lonely world. You’re not alone. Whatever unexpected things you’re facing, you are NOT alone…