I went…

The last few days have been a struggle. I wandered down the rabbit holes of estrangement, regret, self-doubt and a host of other mostly negative places… Let me explain.

I went down the rabbit hole of angst on Monday past. Something happened because I had the audacity to think for myself. Something I’ve gained a good deal of insight into since my beloved died almost 14 months ago. Beware… thinking for yourself and of others should come with warning labels! Actually, I think there is a manual for that, it’s called the Bible. At least in this house that’s what is. If you’re not a believer, you may see the warning manual as light, positive energy, the calm before the storm… I’m sure you get the picture.

Angst. Not a welcome brick in the backpack of life that I carry. Someone reached out to me in the early days of March (the 2nd) and presented a simple proposal. Did I want to be a part of something to honor someone we both love? Yes! Sign me up! I was told that I’d have more information by that weekend, and never received anything else. I try really hard to not push this person in any way, the fights that usually ensue have a tendency to crush my already shattered heart. I waited for almost 3 weeks before taking matters into my own hands and sought the information I needed to make a decision. Not a good thing… This has become a massive issue. I’ve been accused of overshadowing, being overly dramatic and was flat out punched in the gut (metaphorically speaking). I was going to do something kind for the person we both love, and still will, just not as part of the original proposal. Both the proposal initiator and I deserve peace, and I’m not biting my nose off to spite my face, I’m just tossing the brick of angst into my sea of tranquility and moving forward.

I went down the rabbit hole of anger because of the scenario just described and I’m happy to write that I’m not angry anymore. What’s the point? Monday was just a shit day, and I reacted poorly, I admit it. I apologized, though was told that just because I say something doesn’t make it true. That’s correct. This is not one of those times. I’m sorry I engaged in a back and forth and threw stones at someone else, I lost my composure. It happens to ALL of us from time to time. Just because I love this other person I don’t have the right to act out of ill will. I realize that. What I also realize is there are ways to avoid this kind of crazy cycle in the future. I can stop trying to make this person see my heart. I can stop wishing this person would lay down the daggers and swords and knives that seem to be permanently buried in my back. I can look ahead, focus on that which is good, and take steps in a different direction. Check! This morning I woke up refreshed, with a happy demeanor, and with the knowledge that the joy I always seek is just beyond the horizon of forgiveness. I forgive myself for acting poorly, and I forgive the other person as well.

I went down the rabbit hole of self-doubt after this happened, but I don’t live there. I’m human. You’re human. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. Self-doubt stop being my companion a long time ago and that’s one brick I won’t ever knowingly carry in my backpack. I matter. And if I only matter to me, that’s enough. I know that’s not the case, but as long as I keep my eyes and heart focused on Jesus, I know I’ll always matter to Him. That’s more than enough!

I went down the rabbit hole of many more feelings simply because I am me. I’m broken, but there’s so much beauty in the brokenness. I’m tenderhearted, and that tenderheartedness is often mistaken for being overly dramatic or too sensitive. I would rather have my heart crushed 1000 times over by this particular person than to crush someone else’s heart. I’ve learned so many positive things because of the conflicted relationship between us and sharing those things with others through this blog is a healing thing for me. I’ve been told that my blog is inappropriate and not appreciated, that’s okay. I’ve been told that I only tell my own side of the story. You think? It’s MY blog, not a community free for all. I’ve been ridiculed, demeaned, thrown away, burned in effigy, forgotten, hated and scorned because I write this blog. I’ve also been loved, supported, thanked, trusted, hugged and encouraged by people around the world through my blog. The old saying is “You can’t make everyone happy all the time” and I know this to be true. I wish I could, my empathetic self almost demands it. As long as I continue to serve others, apologize when I mess up, (which is frequently) and walk with my hand in the Lord’s, I’ll stay out of the rabbit holes more than I’d be in them.

Thanks for reading. In a world where you can be anything, I hope you choose to be kind.

Photo by Guillaume Meurice on Pexels.com

Chapter One…

Hi All,

Yesterday was the very last day of the “first” year. The first year without my husband physically on earth was the 10th of February, the 23rd of February 2021, was the day he was laid to rest. The 23rd of February 2022 was the last day I would say “it’s the last of the firsts” without him. So many firsts take place in the first year after someone you love dies, and not just for me, but for all of us who loved him. The very first “first” was our youngest daughter’s birthday, just two days after he passed away. For the first 378 days we all marked the first birthday, Valentine’s Day, Easter, his birthday, etc… I’m sure you get the picture.

On my Facebook today I shared a memory that I had written about how to begin Chapter One. It made me cry, of course it made me cry. Then it gave me the idea to share what the first year (chapter) of my life as a widow has looked like. It wasn’t nearly as dark as I expected it to be, though there have been some extremely dark moments. Chapter One hasn’t been as lonely as it could’ve been, though there have been moments of soul-crushing loneliness. Chapter one has almost seamlessly turned into Chapter Two, and while I realize that’s how life works, I find it amazing when I look behind me and see where I am. And to be here from whence I came? How is it even possible?

Chapter One greeted me with pain and grief and confusion. The starkest memory I have of Chapter One started as my husband took his last breath. I couldn’t breathe. I’m forever grateful that my sister-in-love was with me. She held his hand. And she held mine. She held me while I sobbed. Then came the phone call to my son-in-love. He was the first person I called; I made a promise to my husband to call the husbands of our daughters before the girls. Once I got into contact with him, I had to make the phone call that I knew would crush our youngest. No matter how many times I think about that call, I always feel the same white-hot stab of pain. I know I had to call her; I knew I would break her heart. I knew, and I still know, that I shouldn’t feel like I hurt her on purpose, but I can’t seem to find peace when it comes to this one thing. No matter what happens, there is never a good time for bad news. Never. Our family was shattered. Once the formalities were over and the business of grieving could begin in earnest, Chapter One became something I feared.

Fear can destroy even the hardest of hearts, and I was not going to cave into fear. I spent many nights crying myself to sleep, not an unusual thing for anyone to do when their person dies. It’s a natural thing to dwell in despondency, at least for a while. I’ve had a few people tell me how “lucky” we were that we knew he was dying. Lucky? That’s a subject for another day. Whether death is sudden or drawn out as my beloved’s was, the end result is the same. There is nothing “lucky” about the end result. Chapter One started off with despair and angst. Over time, and with some serious soul searching, I have begun to write Chapter Two. Chapter One gave me some wonderful gifts, yet it also took a lot from me. I’ve learned that I’m much more in tune with myself than I’ve ever been. I’ve learned that my boundaries matter. I’ve learned that the tender heart that I’ve always loved having (even when it breaks) still beats within my chest, it just beats a little differently now. I’ve learned that no matter how much you try to help someone else, if they don’t want your help, your efforts are in vain. I’ve learned that forging my own path forward doesn’t look like anyone else’s path and I’m so okay with that. I’ve learned that I’m going to be okay and that I’m going to thrive in whatever life the Lord gives me.

Chapter One has given me the most personal view of love and loss that I’ll ever know. I lost my person, but not his love. Love doesn’t die when the body does, nor does it die when your broken heart feels like you’re bleeding out. I’ve become closer to God than I ever thought I would be. Ever. I know I’ve said in the past that I try not to be “religious” through my blog, and I’m not. My faith has been forged in the fires of death and loss, and my walk with God has become my armor against the darkness that death and loss bring us all. I cry out to Jesus and can feel His presence shine down on me when I can’t look up. I seek His hand to hold when the trials of life become bigger than I can manage on my own. Death is part of life, and pain is part of death. That pain? That pain lets me know that what my husband and I shared was real. That pain? That pain becomes encouragement when I meet someone new that’s on the same journey I am. That pain? That pain started Chapter One and gave me the grit and stamina I needed to start Chapter Two.

I hope this makes sense to those of you reading. I’m beginning to thrive, bypassing the survival stage of grief. I’ve worked my butt off trying to figure out who I am now as a woman. I’m still a MiMi, a mom, a friend and a person who cares about others. I’m also a woman that can appreciate the trials of Chapter One, even the ones that were made bigger because my heart is tender. Chapter One taught me that self-care matters, that boundaries are necessary and that I matter. I miss my husband. How could I not? And… I know that should God decide I’m to live another 30 years on this earth, I’m going to do my best to live as He would have me do. I’ve walked through the valley of the shadow, not around it, and the view from this end is now beginning to show promise. I seek joy again without even realizing it. I share my heart in all its brokenness with others, and I praise God that I am His beloved daughter.

Chapter Two won’t be all sunshine and roses, of this, I am sure. I’ll face demons. I’ll experience more trials. I’ll flounder and stumble and get lost from time to time. When I get lost, I’ll seek my inner compass, point the needle towards Jesus, and step out in faith. I have no doubt that my guardian angel(s) can see me. I absolutely believe that I can defeat the demons that I’ll face because I won’t be fighting alone. In my weakest moments I know God will carry me. I know when I look behind me there will be many times that I’ll see only one set of footprints in the sand. Or snow. It snows a lot here in southwestern PA. In spite of the coming setbacks, trials and tribulations, I say bring on Chapter Two…

Photo by Barb Enos. View from River View Cemetery, Charleston, SC.

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

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

Boxes…

Hi everyone…

I know it’s a weird title, but my life has become full of boxes. Both literally and figuratively. I’ve been put in a box again by the Veterans Administration when it comes to visiting my husband. I can’t. Again. And this visitation ban is much, much harder to navigate. The one in the spring was tough, but he was motivated to keep trying to improve. The fact that Covid-19 made it impossible for him to stay that way is why he’s now dying. He’s been put in a box as well. Boxes of loneliness, isolation, confusion and fear. His mind is a box that he can’t open, nor close, and I can’t help him. I can’t even hold his hand.

I started working for UPS this week as a seasonal helper and talk about boxes? It’s quite surprising how many boxes fit in my small SUV when the seats are folded down. It was a rough start, very chaotic, but the past couple of days have been better. I’ve learned that people love online shopping way more than I do, but the pandemic has a lot to do with that. The amount of boxes and bags that come through just the UPS Center I work out of is staggering. Simply staggering. Holy boxes, Batman!!! My seasonal position will end om 1/15/2021 and I’m pretty sure I’m going to miss it. I like working, but the past year has made it almost impossible. The time frame for me works right now, and maybe by late January I’ll be able to see my husband again. If he’s still alive…

I’ve been known to box myself in from time to time. As a kid, my next oldest sibling and I would make box forts and use boxes as traps for our house cats. We’d use pieces of boxes as sleds in the wintertime and absolutely fly down the hills we’d coast on. Now I box myself in with my thoughts. I start feeling caged by the anguish of our situation, knowing that no matter how hard I fight, I still can’t make a difference. I keep knocking on all sides of the boxes, but nothing works. Maybe I should just get another empty box and turn it into another make-shift sled… I’m back home where it snows. I’m back home where I’ve done this before, and it might be fun…

As I wonder through this life, I can’t help but think about all the ways we all box each other in. We put people in boxes and try and make them stay there. Stop! Boxes are cold, void spaces and people deserve better than to be left alone and in the cold. Think about it. I know I am sometimes guilty of putting others in boxes myself. I try really hard to not be judgmental, but I fail. And when we judge, we’re putting people in boxes that they just can’t see. Maybe you don’t like the way someone looks, that judgement box might be labeled ugly. Maybe you don’t agree with someone’s political beliefs (this is one of my biggest boxes.) What kind of box do I put political beliefs in? I don’t know how to label it… Maybe someone you love doesn’t love you back anymore and they’ve shoved you into a box labeled used. And then they place that box in a closet of darkness. That’s on them, not you. Let your light shine through the box flaps into that darkness and believe that someday your light is enough. This very thing has happened to me, but at this point of my life I don’t fit in that box anymore. I don’t have time, not the inclination to stay put in someone else’s dark spaces. Boxes can be useful, but also harmful. Choose wisely…

I have more boxes to deal with tomorrow. The Christmas season is upon us and no matter what you believe, Christmas is a time for giving. And receiving. I prefer to give, and have asked my family and friends to not give me physical gifts this year. Instead I asked that they make a donation to the Fisher House Foundation in my husband’s honor. I have all I need as far as possessions go, and I am a minimalist at heart. Plus, I don’t have space to store “things.” This year has taught me that we need far less than we think we do, and therefore the boxes are fewer. And what a welcome change that is

In closing, I hope that no matter what you believe, you have a peaceful and safe holiday season. May Covid-19 not be a visitor, may your heart be filled with love and light, and may you know that your are enough. Until later…

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

A Little Heavy…

I don’t normally share about my faith. Today I was reminded why that is, and why I am so guarded.

Shattering hurt comes to all of us, and being able to admit that is one thing, sharing it publicly? A completely different experience altogether. I fully admit that I have hurt people, both with intent and without. Seeking forgiveness for my actions seems elementary, but it’s not. Forgiveness of self is never easy, but it is possible. Asking others to forgive me isn’t easy, but then again, nothing worth having should come easy. I want to be able to appreciate someone else’s forgiveness, not take it for granted.

I started a five day study today on forgiving what we can’t forget, and I see so much of my brokenness in the first day of reading, I don’t think I want to keep going. I will. I know the best things in my life have always been born out of great anguish and tremendous struggle.

Whether you believe in God or not doesn’t mean you can’t forgive. Forgiveness is a human moral, not a religious one. Did your husband cheat on you? Did your adult child throw you away? Did someone steal something from you? No matter the wrong committed, you can find the strength to forgive. Forgiveness of others and of self make the weight of being broken a little lighter. At least for me.

Today is day 7 of not being able to see my husband and the first day I didn’t wake up crying. I know I’ll cry somewhere along the way today, but I’m thankful my eyes stayed dry this morning. Not seeing him makes me angry. And sad. And confused. All things that I need to forgive. Daily.

I’ve been told many times over that I’m “too” forgiving, and all that statement says to me is that the person(s) making it are hurting so much, they’re blind to their own pain. I never want to be so blind to my hurt that I can’t, or won’t, learn from it. Life lessons are just that… life lessons. I may not have been the best student in school, but I fully intend to learn the lessons this life teaches me.

I’m very thankful for all of the support shown to my husband and me throughout this most difficult journey and want you all to know that. I know I draw into myself. A lot. Sometimes the pain shatters me so much, I can’t see past it. Sometimes the pain is so hot, I feel like I am dying in the fires of hell. It’s after the burning I find that I am being forged like iron, the forging gets me ready for the next round of pain.

If you’ve read this far, thank you. I know this post is a little long. It’s more personal than most, but my heart cries out to share this journey from time to time. Today seemed a good day to share. I am still hurting more than ever, but I see a bit of light through the cracks in my heart today and I can only hope that my words encourage someone else to forgive that which can’t be forgotten…

(I do not own this meme)

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

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

Circles…

A group of people with shared professions, interests, or acquaintances. (as defined by Oxford Press)

Do you ever think about the roles that circles play in our everyday lives? Do you ever just sit in the sun and ponder your “circle?” I am not so gently reminded as of late as to just what my circles mean to me and how they influence the forward motion of the paths that are laid out in front of me. I hope I can make sense out of the words bouncing around in my head today, as I am hurting and feeling the width of my circles growing smaller.

I believe as we age that our circles of friends, family and influence grow smaller and smaller as time goes on. In the shrinking of circles we find acceptance, we find happiness, we find peace ,and if we’re lucky, we find love. Unfortunately we also find betrayal, strife and pain that is so deep it becomes impossible to comprehend. The impossibility of such pain is very much on my mind today and I am not only reminded that my circles are getting smaller, they’re getting less welcoming to intrusion. That lies on me, and it’s a decision I fully accept responsibility for.

Circles are round. They have no ending, no beginning, and they’re symbolic in so many ways. Wedding rings, eye color, portholes, etc… Why does a rock thrown in the water leave rings rippling outward of the splash? Why is a tree’s age determined by the amount the rings in its trunk? Why are bubbles round? When I think of the ripples left by a rock tossed in a pond, I think of the trials my family has faced, especially in the past 2.5 years. My husband and I are the rocks thrown in the water, our children, grandchildren, extended family and friends are the outlying ripples. I started things off by throwing a large rock in the water when I left my husband in October 2017. A huge splash with so many ripples. Next came our reunion, after just seven weeks of separation. More ripples were created, as we came to realize just how much we had to lose. In May of 2018 my husband and I were tossed out like a trash bag full of bricks, the splash being so loud and so large that the vast extended family was affected as well. March of 2019 brought a boulder sized splash, and the ripples haven’t stopped. October of 2019 brought the largest splash of all and the ripples caused by the event of my husband’s catastrophic stroke still grow in scope. We sold our home after 15 months of owning it, we battled craniotomy, pneumonia, a move to another state, and we had to begin to rewrite our fairy tale. The circle that is our life is evolving, as are we.

We lost a beloved family member just 11 days ago, and the ripples from the loss will continue to be felt for quite some time to come. The circle of our family has been getting smaller, whether by choice or not, and we are learning to move ahead. Just last night my own personal circle became smaller, though not by my choice. I do choose, however, to not try and enlarge said circle at this time. For me to do so would mean opening myself up to trusting people again, and that trust has been demolished. I find that trust means many things, and that within the circle of my own life, it means everything. I’ve come to recognize that people who I thought I could trust will betray me, hence making it easy to make my circle smaller. Making the circle smaller hurts deeply, but once the crushing pain begins to subside, I am still able to hold my head high and look forward towards MY best future. Looking back does nothing but make you spin in circles of craziness, and I opt out of that. I leave the crazy for someone else to live with, and wait for the next rock to be thrown in the water…

Spinning in circles can cause dizziness, dizziness can cause confusion, and confusion can cause misunderstanding. The circles of confusion had had their circumference clearly defined and coloring outside the circle’s edge has caused ripples of mistrust, hurt and loneliness. Within my heart lived a sense of belonging to a circle that presented itself as safe, but that safeness was false. I’ve closed the door on what happened to make me mistrust, and my intention is to never open it again. I’ve been gravely wounded, as have many others, by someone throwing rocks that they threw without forethought or care for what type of ripples would be left behind. The circles of my life continue to change, as do I, and I know that at the end of the day, my circle is as it should be… smaller, well defined and fiercely protected.

There is a small part of me that wishes I didn’t feel so much. I get tired of feeling so much and so deeply, but would it better to not feel? I don’t think it would be, though at times I’m not so sure. The things I’ve learned over these past 2.5 years have changed me to my core, and the lessons have been hard. Extremely so. Yesterday’s lesson cost me more than people, it cost me another chunk of my heart. The reward? I learned that trying to be heard only matters to the person that is speaking, not the one on the other end of the line. I rise up in spite of such hurt, I become a ripple in the water where the rock was tossed and I tighten up my circle. Protect your circle, keep your rocks close and when you need to, toss them into the water and let the ripples remind you of your circles…

Humbled

October 20, 2019. This was the last time I took time to write and I’ve missed having the time ever since. Ten days later, on October 30, my beloved husband suffered a catastrophic stroke and he’s  been hospitalized since. As I sit and compose this entry, I am saddened by the turn of events in our lives, but ever grateful that the man I have loved all my life is alive. He’s very different, but he’s alive.

My husband left our home on October 5th to drive to New England to visit one of his brothers that had been in the hospital and I stayed behind in South Carolina. I was working and encouraged him to go without me. His mom is still alive, though elderly, and I thought he may see her as well. He had no restrictions as to returning to SC, so being in New England was all about what he needed, and wanted, to do. The last day I blogged was the same day he called me to tell me he had an excruciating headache for no apparent reason. I begged him to go to an emergency room, and I mean no offense by this, but being that he’s a man, he just blew it off. And again the next day, and the next… you get the picture. He left New England around noon on the 28th of October, drove 1000 miles south, and made it home on the 29th around 10am after getting lost in NYC. That’s a post for another time…

As I read back over what I had started 10 days ago, I know that there is a story to tell. I have since closed up our home in South Carolina, moved to Richmond,Virginia and started over. Again. Seems these past two years have been all about starting over. I’m currently sitting on an Amtrak train heading to Washington, DC to spend time with family, and my beloved husband is back in Richmond at the Polytrauma Center of the Ricmond VA Hospital. He will know I am gone, but he won’t be able to discern for how long. I miss him and I desperately miss the man he was. I feel cheated in many ways, robbed of a future that included us being grandparents together in the most simple of ways. We had planned to be the type of grandparents that took our babies to a zoo, to the beach, to the movies. Now I am a MiMi on my own in all the ways that matter. Two of our four grandchildren are very young, they won’t remember their Poppy later on down the road as he was, just as he is now. He’s unable to walk, his personality is altered and he has no filter when it comes to speaking. He can turn mean in the blink of an eye, rage without cause and is prone to aggression. So much has changed…

I have been told over and over and over again to take care of myself, and I try, but I am consumed by guilt, grief and anger. Guilt because I have the ability to keep living a joy filled life, and I feel terrible for leaving him in a hospital bed. Grief, because the man I love is not the same, and anger… Anger over many things. Why didn’t he go to the doctor when the headaches started? Why didn’t he quit smoking? Why was he so freaking stubborn? Why? Why? Why? So many unanswered questions. I am learning to move forward, though the steps I take can’t even be considered baby. I cry, a lot. I pray constantly and I write. Finally, I write again. Though my original intent was to make this blog positive in nature after surviving the loss of our daughter, I don’t feel very positive right now. I know it’s important to look for the silver lining, I am… I just haven’t found it yet.

I hope those of you reading this will know that I appreciate you and taking the time to read. I am hoping to write regularly again as I am settling in to my new life, the writing and sharing is such a release for me. I hope to not only inspire others, but to encourage others through the pains and trials of life, and share the joys and triumphs along my way.

In closing, please accept my most sincere wishes for a happy and safe start to 2020! May you and yours be blessed and all your dreams come true…

Hunter Holmes McGuire VAMC Richmond, VA