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…

Still here… And Still Hurting…

Hi All,

I’m still here and still hurting, but am managing to still look towards a brighter day. It takes so much effort that there are days I simply want to give up, but being as determined as I am to be okay again makes giving up impossible.

My beloved husband is still alive, and alone. Again. I haven’t been allowed to see him since November 18th and the days drag on. Imagine if you can; having a brain that doesn’t work the way it should, not being able to use sound reasoning, and being afraid. All of this and more is how my husband lives. He’s well taken care of by the staff at the Hospice Unit he’s in, but mentally he’s tortured by his own brain. The stroke took away his ability to understand things, it took away his reasoning skills and it made him fearful, childlike and distrusting. To know he lies in a bed 24/7 with no one that loves him like his family does nearby breaks my heart. Every single second that makes up every minute that makes every hour that makes every day, I think of him. Every. Damn. Second… And I’m not the only one. He has a large family and friends around the world praying for him, but because of his injured brain, he can’t comprehend this. It’s not living.

I had hoped to be allowed back into the hospice unit by now to at least visit for 2 hours a day as I was before the current Covid surges, but there is no end in sight to this present ban. I’ve begged with his doctors, and the Veteran’s Administration to explain how I am more of threat to him, or the other patients on his unit, than all the staff members that come in and out on a daily basis and the answer is always the same… “It’s a national mandate.” Well, your national mandate is killing all of your patients via loneliness, and it’s cruel. And nonsensical. And don’t even let me get started on people denying the virus or not wearing masks. Public health is a public responsibility and as a public, we’ve failed. Because people don’t care enough about others, I cannot visit my dying husband. My feelings about irresponsibility would make for another post, but suffice it to say that I no longer feel confident I will see my husband alive again. In fact, if he should pass soon, I would be grateful on one hand, shattered on the other. No one should have to be alone because of all the naysayers and irresponsible choices other people make. No one.

I’ve been working for UPS as a seasonal PVD (private vehicle driver) and have 10 days left until I am no longer employed. I took the job as a way to pass time and not sit home alone and all up in my own head. That’s a scary place to be sometimes. The job is physically demanding on this almost 60 year old, but I’m determined to finish. I almost quit when my BFF advised me to stick it out for earnest money on a new home somewhere down the road. She was right. Every box, bag and tube I deliver is another front door closer to my own again. It’s been hard, but I committed to it and I will see it through to the end. Over the past 14+ months since the stroke changed our lives, I have come to realize that nothing is easy, and that easy is overrated. Working hard has its own rewards and I see exactly where I want to go with what I’ve earned. Patience… Something else I’ve been forced to learn that doesn’t come easy. Ever. Someday when I look back on what we’ve been through since that fateful day in October of 2019, I’m sure I’ll see one set of footprints in the sand, and know that God, my family and my friends carried me, and my husband through the most difficult journey ever. Easy, like I said, is overrated.

The beginning of a New Year usually comes with the hope of something “better.” I’m not looking for better, nor do I expect it. I’m looking for the peace that seems to elude each and every one of us from time to time. I know it’s out there, I’ve experienced it, and I am hopeful that I will again. I don’t make resolutions, I believe they set us up for failure. I set goals, and make a map for myself on how to make it from point A to point B to point C. You get the picture. In 2021 I pray I remain as strong as possible for the dark days that lie ahead. I pray I will feel the warm, southern sun shine on me again. I pray that my husband is granted mercy, peace and healing. I know that with those things I am facing more heartache, but joy comes in the morning, right? I know he wants me to be happy, and I am determined to honor him by finding happiness again. One breath, one step, and one day at a time.

In closing I would like to wish whoever reads this a Happy New Year. May you find happiness along the journey of your life and may you share and experience kindness. We all deserve that…

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

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

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

Wondering…?

Wondering? Why? Wondering why…?

I’m sitting here on the deck of a friend’s house where I am house/dog sitting and enjoying the quiet sounds of nature all around me. On occasion the quiet is interrupted by the aforementioned dog(s) practicing their vocal skills, but it’s still a beautiful evening. A light rain is falling, I’m sitting under the umbrella of the table on the deck and I am appreciating the earth and all it gives us. I think about the darkness that surrounds us all, but am choosing to focus on the light instead. The soft evening light, the soft, gentle rain and the crickets singing are the music of my life at this very moment, and I am not wondering why. Simple things to be appreciated are not always easy to find, but they are out there if we seek them.

Wondering? I do that. A lot. I wonder why did my beloved husband have such a debilitating stroke at such a young age? He was 57. 57. We had a happy, simple life and now all that is gone. It’s different. I am no longer the wife and mom and MiMi I was just 10 months ago. I am broken, battered and bruised, but I go on. I wonder why. Why should I go on and try to salvage what life is left when my husband can’t join me for the adventure? Wondering can lead me to some very somber places, places I don’t need to visit. The human spirit is so resilient, but there are times when resilience is the last thing I want. Or need. Sometimes I want to hide. I want to deny the pain in my heart. I want to stop wondering why.

Wondering is not for the faint of heart. Wandering is not for the faint of heart. I’ve always had a place inside my heart that has both wondered and wandered. It’s the changing of one letter that changes the meaning of both words so profoundly. Is it possible to wander without wondering? I wonder “where does that road lead?” So I wander down that road… Sometimes it leads to a place of breathtaking beauty. Other times it leads to a dead end. The spirit that lives within me has never been afraid of wandering to seek wonders. Nor of wondering to find that the wandering was worth it. Wandering to the edge of the shore is to see my happy place. Wondering what lies across the ocean stirs the urge to wander in the deepest parts of my spirit. I have always had both a wanderlust and wonderment for life. My heart has never been tamed and I pray it never is. It has been shattered because I trusted someone else with it. Or because I put myself out there and broke my own heart. It really doesn’t matter. With every breaking and/or shattering of my heart, beauty is revealed in the ashes. It may take me days, weeks or even years to see the beauty, but it is ALWAYS revealed. ALWAYS.

Wondering… I wonder how it’s possible that I can look back over the past 3 years and see beauty in the ashes. I’ll tell you. Three years ago I was making plans to leave my husband and our marriage. I was halfway through those plans in mid August 2017 and working hard to get out. The why of those plans no longer matter, but they did then. Are you wondering why? Suffice it to say that my husbnad couldn’t “see” me anymore. He couldn’t hear me. Even though I was right there, I was invisible. I’d had enough of being so, so I laid out a plan to leave. It took me twelve weeks to get out, but only seven weeks to go home. I broke him, but in the process of that breaking, I broke myself as well. I had no idea that I needed to broken, I was so hurt about being invisible that I never wondered what would happen if my plan actually worked. I wondered what would happen to my husband, but I had become invisible to myself as well. Let’s just say that in OUR brokenness, the beauty of our long term marriage was revealed. I wandered 1000 miles away from my husband, only to find that he was always wandering with me in my heart. We rebuilt the foundation of our marriage from the ashes of the burning house I’d left behind me and we were happy. And strong. And that strength sustains me still.

Wondering… can take you places in your mind that you probably shouldn’t go. When you start to wander down the dark, recessed roads inside your head, you need to be ready to face whatever is revealed. Revelations that come out of wondering and wandering can have some pretty heavy consequences and those consequences are not going to disappear. Sure, you can shove them down, ignore them, or pretend they don’t exist, but they’ll always find a way back to the forefront of your wondering/wandering mind. My heart and mind are always burdened now with the weight of my husband’s condition, but I am learning new ways to let my wanderlust and wonderment find their way along as well. It’s impossible to be “strong” every damn day. It’s impossible to not feel guilt or despair or defeat on a daily basis. It’s not impossible to pick yourself up and start over. It’s exhausting, not impossible. Wondering how to do that? Wondering why you should even bother? You should wonder why and you should bother because you ARE worth the effort. You. Are. Worth. The. Struggle. I am worth the struggle.

Wondering… What does it take to move forward when the wandering spirit you know so well seems to vacate the space inside your heart that it had so comfortably occupied? Take it from me, I’ve learned over these past 10 months since my husband’s stroke that moving forward is not something you can do alone. Your pride may tell you differently, but don’t put much stock in the voices inside your head. My pride was my constant companion during the plan making process to leave my husband, but I threw it out the window when driving back to him on I-81 in November of 2017. I haven’t reached for it since. I was shattered in May of 2018 when our oldest daughter left our life and took our beloved grandson away from us. I learned that no matter how much you love someone else, it’s never enough. I learned again in October of 2019 that I couldn’t stop the re-shattering of my barely healed heart when my husband had his stroke. I have reached far outside of my pride for help and I have found it. There is strength in numbers, and it has served me well to remember that. Wondering if you have the strength to make it through your darkest moments? Don’t. Save yourself the wondering. Reach out and ask for help. And keep reaching until you find it. Wander the fields of your friendships and familial relationships until you find what you need.

In closing tonight, I hope that the struggles, pain and honest feelings I share here help you in some small way. I don’t have the answers that you are wondering about, I can only offer encouragement. Don’t give up, and know that somewhere in New England there is a broken woman that wonders why. She wanders when she can and she is proof that both wondering and wandering is not as scary as it can seem.

Until next time…

Remember to be kind, know that you matter and know that life is beautiful, even with the pain.

The Eastern Shore of Northeast North Carolina
Photo by Barb Enos

The Man Without Us…

Hi all, I hope this entry finds you all well and staying safe…

I write a lot about how I feel because it makes sense to me to write what I know. I know how “I” feel. I woke up this morning feeling like I usually do. I wake with the light and since the light comes early on the East Coast, I wake early. Not a big deal. This morning I woke and my first thoughts were of my husband as they always are now. This morning I woke thinking how each day passes and how alone he must feel without us. How alone he must feel without his brothers, his mom, his daughter, his sons-in-love and his grandchildren. How alone he must feel without all of the people that love him being allowed to see him everyday.

The man without us is a man of broad shoulder, barrel chested, sports a military buzz cut, and has blue eyes that shine. My husband stood at 5’11” and carried himself with the discipline and pride instilled deep within by the many years of service to our nation. He was a larger man, with a solidness that made his hugs the best ever. A Teddy Bear in private; a fiercely loyal and protective man all around. He served 24.5 years in the military and it was an honor to serve beside him. It wasn’t easy then and it’s not easy now, but we made it through all those years, surprisingly intact, and I am grateful for the opportunity we had to make a life together.

As I sit in the kitchen of my oldest brother-in-law’s kitchen, I find myself feeling way too much to be able to share everything in my head about this subject in one blog post. Can you imagine what any patient in a skilled care facility must feel on a daily basis because of the restrictions of visitation due to Covid-19? Granted, the restrictions are in place to protect the health of patients and employees, but when you’re dealing with compromised patients, they aren’t always able to process rules and regulations. They see limitations as cruel, and hurtful, and beyond their comprehension. My husband was a smart, logical man before his TBI, but now he’s like a little boy that just “doesn’t get it.” He cries, he rages and he aches for the loving touch of a hug, a hand held, and a kiss on the cheek. He deserves that. We all do. Imagine having that taken away from yourself with no warning, no comprehension, and no end in sight? This is the plight of hundreds of thousands of people across the country. We are being told that we can visit our loved ones by appointment only, but that we can’t touch them, we can’t approach them, and we can’t hug them. It’s torturous from no matter how we look at it. People mean well when they say things like “you should be grateful that you can see him.” They tell me to be patient, that “this too shall pass.” Or, “You should…” You need to…” “I want you to…”

The man without us doesn’t care that other people “think” those of us that love him “should.” He doesn’t care that the reasons for the limitations on visiting are in place to try to protect the most vulnerable among us against a silent virus that spreads like wildfire. He cares that he’s lonely, that he feels abandoned and that he thinks no one cares. I love my husband beyond my own life, I would take the TBI onto myself and set him free of all the pain and loss and loneliness. I can’t. What I can do? I can carry my share of his heaviness and do it with as much grace, fortitude and determination as I can muster on a daily basis. Some days it’s easy, some not, and then there are the in-between days. The days that start with tears, but end with smiles. The days that rain without ceasing and you swear that you’ll never see the sun again. The days where the weather is the stuff of dreams… I know the man I married all those years ago is gone, but he’s not at the same time. Until you experience the challenges of an event like the one that changed our lives, and the lives of so many around us, you’ll never quite understand the struggle. I pray you never have to understand the struggle.

The man without us is safe, he’s being well cared for and he is loved. At my darkest times I cry out to God for the strength to make it through another day. I cry out in my pain and beg the universe for peace, and sometimes I find it. I think back on the happiest times we had as a couple and relish the feel of my husband’s arms around me. I can hear his voice saying “baby, take your glasses off, you’ve fallen asleep reading.” I can picture him playing Matchbox cars with our two youngest grandchildren. Or fishing with our oldest grandson. I can see him encouraging our oldest granddaughter to hit the softball. The man without us is not without us, he is always with us. In our hearts, in our minds, in our every day lives.

The man without us would want those of us that love him to continue pressing onward toward that which brings us joy. He wants us to live, and love ,and never forget that he loves us. He is a Poppy, Opa, Daddy and Dad to so many. An uncle, brother, brother-in-love, and friend. He is strong even in his weakness and he is loved beyond measure. He is my person and I am not without him, no matter what happens. I hope that his life and the trials we face together and separately help others know that life after a TBI is possible. It’s very different, but it’s possible. The love shown to me by the man I married in 1982 is pure of heart and simple in nature. That everyone would know that such love exists is possible, and seeking it is worth the effort. When you wake up each day, I pray that you find joy in greeting the new day, even if the struggles you know you will face seem unbearable. If you cry each day, don’t despair. Learn what you can from your pain and sorrow, and give the gift of yourself to someone else.

The man without us is not alone in spirit and for this I am beyond thankful. He prays, he sings and he talks to his Lord in his own way. I am comforted by this. I believe differently than he does, and that’s okay. Knowing that we’re not alone is sometimes all we get, and learning how to be grateful in the small moments makes the larger ones less scary. I miss the man that was, I love the man that is, and I pray for continued safety for us all.

Until next time…

Stay safe, be well, and remember to always be kind…

Photo by alexandre saraiva carniato on Pexels.com

Gratitude…

Gratitude. From the Latin word gratia. Gratia also means grace and graciousness.

As I sit here in my room reading, and now writing, I am moved by the word gratitude and its’ multiple meanings. I have spent the last four and a half days focusing on being more grateful, more positive and more kind. More gracious. Being gracious doesn’t mean you let people take advantage of you, at least it doesn’t to me. It means you show kindness and compassion and understanding. It shows that you see the world around you with a more positive set of eyes. I am very grateful that someone that loves me enough to say the hard things I needed to hear wasn’t afraid to speak up. She showed me the book she was reading and now I am reading the same one. “Attitudes of Gratitude” by M.J. Ryan. A beautifully written missive on the importance of living with a spirit of gratitude, even when things are bleak, hard and seemingly impossible to surmount.

My husband and I have been married 38+ years and have experienced so many highs and lows, like any other couple has. We had our first date in June of 1977. We went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant and then to see Star Wars, the first release, and we had such a good time. By this time we were both in high school, but we met in elementary school. 6th grade. Mrs. Sallen’s art class. I didn’t like him much then, or any other boy for that matter. Our date was sweet, and when we got fortune cookies after dinner, his said, “Stop searching, happiness is just next to you.” Those same words were in the fortune cookie of the author M.J. Ryan when she went to lunch with a friend after completing her book!!! Happiness… Happiness has been next to me for the 44 of the 57+ years I’ve neen alive in the form of my beloved and I am very grateful for him. Gratitude is not difficult to come by if you practice finding it, so practice frequently!

We can get lost in our lives so easily. Sucked down into the depths of stress, grief, angst and a myriad of other vampiric emotions. It seems that these type of emotions are more likely to be present in today’s noisy, fast-paced and tumultuous world. Slowing down in today’s world is pretty much frowned upon, or misunderstood, but it’s necessary. We get one life. One. That’s all. No matter the circumstances of your particular life, isn’t there a little room for an attitude of gratitude? Start small. Restart small. I woke up this morning. I’m grateful. My beloved husband is doing as well as he can since his catastrophic stroke. I am grateful. I am grateful that I saw him in person yesterday, albeit from 6 feet away, with no touching, but I’m still grateful. Looking for the moments that we can be grateful for becomes easier as the time goes on. It takes personal effort to look within and find those moments, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Having an attitude of gratitude doesn’t mean things won’t be difficult, or that you are self-centered, it just means that you choose the positive, no matter how small. You matter. I matter. Human beings matter and when we lose sight of just how much we matter to ourselves, it’s very difficult to believe that we matter to anyone else.

How is it possible that something as simple as having an attitude of gratitude seems so unreachable? What stands in your way? I’ve stood in my own way for much of the past 8 months, and the only person putting up road blocks and barriers to my personal peace is me. Other people have hurt me, sure. But those hurts are on them, not me. I’ve been struggling with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for many months now on my husband’s behalf, and I’ve been damining them at every turn on one hand, and grateful for them on the other. I’ve decided to try and be more patient, though I’m not exactly known for being patient. The federal government of the United States is a behemoth, its far reaching tentacles invade most of the lives of those of us that call America home, but that invasion is no reason for me to be ungrateful. I am beyond grateful for the care my husband has received, and continues to receive. Yes, he earned his benefits, but those benefits come with milies upon miles of red-tape, and that’s where the damning comes into play. The red tape just is… it’s not a reason to be defeated or ugly tempered. I’m tying hard to remember this.

Close your eyes for a minute when you’re done reading this blog entry and just breathe. Breathe deeply and slowly. Be grateful for the ability to do so. Listen to the world around you. What do you hear? Do you smell anything on the air? Are you surrounded by man made noise? Is your environment a pleasant one? What can you do to change your environment if it’s not a pleasant and peaceful place to be? At this precise moment I can close my eyes and hear the floor fan blowing in the background. I hear my dog snoring under the bed, his favorite place to be. I hear my Echo playing music I love. I smell the body lotion I out on after my shower. I feel the softness of my favorite t-shirt against my skin. I can see the light from my desk lamp through my eyelids. All small things to be grateful for. When you seek gratitude, I can guarantee you’ll find it, don’t give up!

I’m going to stop here as I am hoping to get some surprise house work done for my sister today. Something else I am grateful for the chance to do. I live in her home now, and I am hoping to show her that I am grateful for her opening her home to me. People say I love you in a million different ways… I do things to make her life easier because I love her. She loves me, too. I am grateful…

Photo by Barb Enos

Rambles…

Hey All,

It’s been a really tough three days for me, this week has not been at all what I hoped it would be. I did accomplish something on Saturday past by getting my beloved Boston Terrier back from his foster mom after almost 6 months without him. I had been so focused on getting him back for so long that I truly had no idea what it would do to my emotional state. I feel elated and defeated all at once. Elated to have my constant companion with me, but defeated because I have nothing left to look forward to right now. Monday was so hard, I cried my way through the day suffocating in my loneliness and despair over missing my husband. I hate not being allowed in to the hospital to see him and feel so left out of his life every day. I know I am no different than millions of others not allowed to visit their loved one in a hospital, but that knowledge provides little comfort. Logically I understand, emotionally, well, the heart wants what it wants. I know I can’t be with him, but that doesn’t make me feel like I shouldn’t be there to support him. My heart breaks for the thousands upon thousands of people who are having to say a permanent goodbye to their family members who are dying alone. It’s so sad, more sad than anyone should ever have to be. I know that death is not something that any of us escape, but having to die alone because of this damn virus seems unusually cruel. I pray daily for the world to begin healing, and also that we be a kinder, more compassionate and loving society when all of this is over.

Having something to look forward is paramount to maintaining our sanity, no matter what is going on in the world around us. I have decided to take solitary road trips in my car to different areas of Virginia where my husband may possibly be moved to for further rehabilitation. I can’t sit within the 700 sq. feet of space I call home and only take my dog out. Or watch TV. Or cry. I may not be able to go inside the facilities, but I can at least get some idea of the surrounding areas, learn my way to and from, and get out of the apartment that all of a sudden seems too small for me and my dog. It’s not, it’s fine, but I guess I just need to expand my horizons as much as I am able right now. Life is so hard when it’s “normal” (normal is nothing but a cycle on the washing machine) I feel like I am making my own life harder by not only living in this apartment, but by living in my head… A dangerous place for any one of us to dwell too long. It’s time for me to push back against the noise in my own head and do something that needs doing. Get up, get going, and push forward.

Since my husband’s stroke I can’t remember being this down. I’ve cried and raged and prayed and begged for so many things, none of them for myself. I had been so solely focused on him and his needs that I pretty much put myself up on a shelf and shoved me into the shadows. The past three days of self imposed darkness have been the hardest days I’ve experienced in such a long time, especially since they seem to be so self induced. Sure, the circumstances surrounding the separation between my husband and me are completely warranted, totally understandable, and necessary, but even knowing this doesn’t help all the time. People tell me to be strong, I’m trying. Even the strongest among us have breaking points, I think I reached one of those breaking points on Monday. Now I start the daunting climb to reach a place of light, and I know that it won’t be easy, but it is doable. A little determination, a lot of faith and a ton of tenacity is all it should take. I possess all of these traits and more. I decide what determines my course, and I just need to re-focus, re-group and look to the light. Where I am now reminds me of the darkest days after losing my oldest child because she decided I wasn’t to be a part of her life anymore. Those first months were horrible. I survived. Losing my grandson is still so damned painful, but I manage it. Our child’s cruelty does not get to define us, no one does. I miss our grandson, our step granddaughter and our son-in-love, but I’ll be okay. My husband needs me to be okay. I need me to be okay. I’ve survived and carved out a decent life for myself since May of 2018, in spite of all the loss and heartache experienced, and I can’t let a few dark days erase the years of progress. I won’t let that happen.

When you find yourself sliding down that steep slope into the dark pits of your mind, I hope that you can recognize the decline and put the brakes on. I pray that you can stop the fall and find your way back up to a happier place. To peace. It’s hard, and every single one of us does it differently. That doesn’t matter. Do whatever it takes to find peace and happiness. It’s beyond difficult, the struggle can be excruciating. What works for me may not work for anyone else, so keep trying until you find your way. People are not meant to be unhappy all the time, and learning to make yourself happy, without depending on someone else, is really tough. It’s also really rewarding. When I sit and write this blog, I am making myself happy. If what I write makes just one other person happy, or shows someone that they can live through the darkest of times and smile afterwards, that’s more than enough for me. I am not a materialistic person, and the longer I live the more this serves me well. So much has happened in the past 29 months of my life that I look back and see where the lessons learned got me to where I am tonight. Many of those same lessons have helped others. Where would I be if I hadn’t shown myself some grace and given our marriage another chance? Loving my husband is the easy part of this chapter in our life together, but it’s also beyond painful. Not being able to touch his face, hold his hand or laugh with him is troublesome, but I still have the opportunity to do so. I think of my sister-in-love every day and how heartbroken she is since losing the love of her life. She will never get to see her beloved again, or hear his voice, nor feel his touch. I ache for her, and she knows this. Knowing that others feel like this doesn’t take away the sting of death, though I hope knowing does bring her comfort. Life just isn’t fair… We can seek fairness in most any situation, but it’s just not easily found.

In closing, I ask that anyone who has taken the time to read this knows that I appreciate it very much. I don’t claim to be an expert in any area of life, I just share my heart. It’s hard to admit to a world full of so much negativity that I feel defeated by the same world, but it’s also important to me to share what helps me get beyond the negativity and find hope. Without hope we have nothing, and without hope what’s the point of being here? I continue to remind myself to seek joy, and I just wish I had reminded myself of this on Monday instead of letting the noise and darkness take over. Another lesson learned… I hope.

Morgan
photo by Barb Enos

In the Most Unexpected Ways…

Good Evening,

Today was a day of most unexpected joy. In the most unexpected way, my husband said I love you to me without saying the words themselves. It would be considered a small and almost insignificant thing to most, but after 37 years of marriage, the loss of a child and the separation we experienced almost two years ago, I have come to recognize the small gestures I would have let slip by in the past as the most precious of gifts. I was amazed today by the words of affirmation he spoke to me and if I were able to convey through words how I felt at that precise moment, I would. My husband is a man of few words, and today when his heart was wide open for the world to see, I caught a glimpse of just how loved I am by him. If I could grant wishes to the world at large, I would give everyone the feeling I have enjoyed today. I know my husband loves me, I love him, but to have him recognize giftings in me that I don’t recognize in myself? It’s left me almost speechless. Almost…

What makes a perfect marriage? Nothing. Nothing is perfect, but you can seek excellence in your marriage. You can plant the seeds of love and tend to them with care so they grow into a long and happy life. Who am I to even think I can speak about marriage? I am the wife of a man that has struggled his whole life to make me feel loved. I am the product of a broken home. I am a mother who has experienced untenable losses these past 14 months. My husband has also experienced the same losses, though his feelings in relation to the losses seem to be much more manageable than mine are. My husband is a man’s man, and he’s a man of few words, so the words spoken today in the presence of a small group of people were not only surprising, they were appreciated and valued and taken to heart. We are not created to do life alone, and I believe that we love who we love, and I am blessed to love this man. I am ever grateful that we made the effort to rebuild and reconnect, and even more grateful that after almost 4 decades of marriage, that we are living our happily ever after.

Does living that happily ever after mean we don’t have issues? I wish!!! Issues are inherent in a long term relationship, any long term relationship, and inherent when human beings interact. When two people have lived together as long as we have, there are bound to be issues, but the issues hopefully become smaller and less significant over time. Not always how things go, but some days are all blue skies, sunshine, and perfect temperature. Today was such a day for me. I plan to relish this feeling of complete love for as long as I can. We don’t have any kind of magic wand to wave over our lives to make them better, we work hard at it. We hold the hands of each other, we speak positivity to one another and we love each other through the pains, trials and tribulations life throws at us.

Don’t give up on love if you’re struggling to understand the ins and outs of it all. No one will ever understand it all. We learn over time to accept that people will hurt us, that people will abandon us and that people will let us down. Our husbands and wives being particularly prone to do so. Not because they want to, or need to, but because they make mistakes. WE ALL DO! Say you’re sorry. Hug your husband tighter tonight than last night. kiss your wife’s forehead while she sleeps. Write a love note and tape it to your spouse’s steering wheel so they see it on their way to wherever they’re going. Plant the seeds of tenderness, watch them grow. Plant new seeds for each season of life that you’ll go through, watch them grow. Remember that you are together with your mate because you WANTED to be. Hopefully remembering that helps you see the light in the dark times. I could have never made it through these past months without this man beside me, holding my hand. I can only hope that he knows how much he means to me and that no matter what has happened in the past, we are meant to be. He’s my person…

Life’s moments happen in the most unexpected ways, whether they be good, bad, happy or sad moments. The unexpectedness of such moments is a gift to be treasured. Tuck them away in your heart and mind. Take those unexpected moments out of safekeeping when the dark times come. And they will come. If you have a vault of precious unexpected moments to look back on, you’ll be able to move forward. The loss of our child has left us irrevocably broken, the unexpected moments of joy and peace are helping us heal. And helping us move forward. I look back over these past months and realize that the life we had is gone. The one we are building now is different, much different. We are determined to be happy, to seek joy and to grace each other’s life with unexpected moments of joy. And love. Love one another, it’s a gift worth giving.

In closing, I want to say thank you to my husband for all you have done for me. Everything. I appreciate you, I love you and I am honored to be yours.

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