Category Archives: death

Getting Through

you-are-here

2016 was a year of getting through things.

Radiation, surgery, death, a memorial and the scattering of ashes

It was a year of new financial responsibilities and for letting go of things.

It was a year filled with loneliness.

 

There has been the first anniversary, birthdays and holidays without Gary.

2016 was a year of disappointments and lost elections, the loss of hopes and fear for the future. This was a year when so many left the planet.

2016 was a year of new things, new babies, weddings, new experiences, new responsibilities, and new goals.

This was a year that started with hope and ended with uncertainty, with many people afraid to look forward.

We must move forward, so for 2017, I will look forward to good health, success, more writing, learning to play the ukulele, growing friendships and savoring my family. I look forward to finding a landing-place, with hopes of creating a life that feels full.

In 2017 I hope for a better world that resonates with peace, with compassion, with humanity.

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Filed under change, death, Life thoughts, New Year's

Hawk Watching & Halos of Light

hawkYesterday, marking 8 months, sent the hawk to watch over me as I sat at my desk, paying bills, checking the emails coming in and contemplating my life as it is now, a long floating journey to an unknown landing. The hawk, who usually lands at the top of a nearby towering pine tree, landed in the tree closest to my window, closer than ever before, and sat contemplating me in between gazing at the landscape. I felt protected somehow.

Each month that goes by brings new challenges and just when I think I’ve gotten a grip on things, a new mess is dumped in my lap. Does it really take a year to get things straight? I’ve been told many times to wait a year, that it takes a year to get used to things, to settle things and to figure out a new place in the world. It feels like forever at eight months.

The hawk stayed watching me for over an hour perched in the tree. I felt his presence and it was somewhat comforting, making my day less lonely. The house was busy last weekend, with a visit from my eldest daughter and my youngest, my little granddaughter. It was family filled, busy, chaotic and reminiscent of the many family gatherings over the years as we all came together to introduce little Margie to friends and family. My daughters surprised me for my birthday with a homemade chocolate raspberry cake (our family birthday tradition) and everyone sang. During the singing, as Nicole videotaped, she noticed a halo of lights moving around me and near the cake. Of course it was a reflection of the candles, but yet, it hovered near me, above me and next to me during the singing of Happy Birthday. It startled Nicole and when we watched the video the next day, we were all a little teary and speechless.

fullsizerender-28Sometimes there are things that can’t be explained. Sometimes the longing for what was is overpowering. Birds appear, Honda Pilots escort me as I drive, lights appear, and yet, as I fall asleep asking for a little help getting through all that I am dealing with, it is harder to feel the connection. I want to believe that I can communicate with my partner of 37 years because how can such a strong connection be gone, even with the separation of time and space? It seems so much stronger than that.

I am dealing with the messes, the stuff, the remnants of odds and ends left undone in the wake of a sudden departure. I am tired of “adulting” as Danielle calls it. I am tired of being the only one to deal with the complications in my life that used to be shared. Divide and conquer. Now I’m left with cleaning up the works in progress that Gary left. My life, without these, seems painfully simple and I suppose one day, it will be.

The holidays are a particularly challenging time when the aloneness is in juxtaposition to the blatantly obvious togetherness and celebrating going on everywhere. It is possible to feel alone even in the middle of a group of people and it is especially hard during this solstice, the darkest days of the year. The cold, dark night sends me to the couch to get under a blanket and zone out watching television.

I am looking forward to the return of the light, the coming warmth and the signs of spring to come. I am hoping that I can have a rebirth too, and enter into a life that feels more like I fit in somewhere, that I can make new, happy memories and land on a solid foundation.

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Dodging Acorns

img_2689If life imitates art, then I guess it can also imitate fables like Chicken Little. My life is a lot like that lately and I find myself dodging acorns. On many days it feels like the sky is falling and I’m looking for someone to tell so that I can be reassured that it isn’t really falling, it is just life. Life with it’s suddenly appearing hurdles and inconvenient inconveniences. As my sister reminded me, there is never a good time for an inconvenience.

These minor annoyances aren’t the real acorns, the real acorns are the larger life hurdles that pop up suddenly when I realize there is yet another new situation to navigate such as negotiating a car repair, or taking the trash out every week. These things aren’t huge, but they are new to me because I always had a partner to share the responsibilities of keeping a home.

Then there are the larger acorns looming ahead, things I will encounter soon, negotiating a car deal, going through every item in my house in an effort to “downsize,” finding a home, packing everything in my home and moving. I thought many of these decisions would be things Gary and I would be deciding together, like where we would go on our next vacation, but in this new life, the one where I am alone, it’s a new, unfamiliar game.

I try to remember to take one day at a time, or sometimes an hour at a time. I navigate running into well-meaning friends and acquaintances that hug me and ask how I am doing when my only answer is a slight smile and tear-filled eyes. I get through each day, but I don’t see a future yet. I get through each day but the days without plans are hard. I get through each day, but I don’t have a lot to look forward to at this point. I’m working on those positive affirmations. I’m making lists.

Things I am grateful for:

A comfortable place to live

Food to eat

My friends and family

A rewarding job

My health.

 

Things I am learning:

To change heater filters

To add washer fluid to my car

To handle car repairs and maintenance

To make a fire and enjoy it alone

To eat dinner alone

 

Things I want:

A home.

A life with purpose.

A life filled with friends and family.

A clear sky, or at least one with very little chance of acorns.

 

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The World has Changed in Seven Months

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                         Looking for light.

Today marks seven months that Gary has been gone and in those seven months everything has changed, in my life, in the country and in the world. Nothing is familiar and nothing is the same, holidays coming and going like mountains to climb and descend. The anticipation is somber and the days are long. Seven months ago the embrace of family and friends provided some security in the foreign world in which I was now forced to live. I gathered courage from their encouraging words: “You’re doing so well” and “You are so strong.” The truth is I am not so strong and much of the time paralyzed with the insurmountable tasks of unraveling my formally entwined life. The truth is there are many lonely days and nights as I learn to live alone and to be alone. The truth is that I cannot see much point (or fun) in cooking for just me and I miss cooking and eating together with Gary. I haven’t figured out how to have purpose and I spend evenings watching mindless television. The best I can do is take myself to yoga to practice breathing.

I have tried, over the past seven months, to focus on moving forward and to feeling gratitude. I have expressed gratitude to my family and close friends. I write about gratitude and make lists of things I am grateful for. I am very grateful that Gary did not suffer for long and that we, his family, did not have long roles as care givers, watching him drift away. I try to remember how much worse it could have been and I know others who did have to suffer much more. I am grateful for my job and to be part of a caring community. I am grateful to live in California for many reasons, but to be honest, the climate in our country, the overwhelming negativity and hatred expressed by so many, has hit me hard and like others I know, has intensified the grief cycle I was already immersed in.

It is hard to believe it has been seven months. It was somehow easier at first when I had so many tasks to take care of. I could lose myself in the busyness of it all. Now, those things have settled down a little and I find myself face to face with the holiday season. Normalcy, with Gary barbecuing turkey and thoughts of him making latkes next month, is gone. I haven’t found a new normal yet. I haven’t figured out how to do more than exist and get through each day and am floating without a landing in sight.

I think that now many people share these feelings. Of course there are many others alone, those who have also lost loved ones and those who are separated from loved ones, but now there are also many who have lost faith and confidence in our future as a country. Families are estranged and friendships are strained. For me, an already sensitive person, it sometimes feels like a very heavy burden. Life can change in a minute and there are no guarantees. Life has changed dramatically and each of these many minutes over the last seven months have felt like a trip into a dark tunnel that I travel hoping to see if there will be any light at the end.

Life certainly isn’t perfect, including relationships. Governments aren’t perfect either, but somehow losing the familiar, the known, someone who honestly cared, is a difficult idea to comprehend. The loss of hope, optimism for the future, the future as we expected it, is a crushing weight and wearing a mask of positivity can be exhausting.

Seven months, from the hope of springtime, to the darkness of winter. The months come and go and I long for the light to return, for some sign of hope and the chance that things can feel normal in a way, a different kind of normal, but one that sits comfortably and allows enough space to breath in and then to exhale.

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Daughters, Deli, Cupcakes and the Beach

img_2832Today, Yom Kippur, the day of forgiveness and the beginning of a new year, we were together.  The traditional fasting ended early in the afternoon.  We have suffered enough this year and were ready for a day of togetherness.  My daughters and I found the familiar and rested in memories at Mort’s Deli where we had gone so many times with my parents and with Gary.  We went to Bea’s Bakery and stocked up on our favorites and then drove the familiar s-curves to the beach.  We sat on the sand reading, the books we had brought and the family Yom Kippur book we have read together since the girls were small.  We found comfort in the stories and sang Oseh Shalom together.  As a treat, we enjoyed cupcakes and cookies.  I looked out at the ocean, across the sand, and realized I was looking for someone who wasn’t there.

Somewhere on this Planet

I look around for you or a trace of you
Somewhere
But there is none
And then I remember that you are gone
Not just gone, but evaporated
And I realize that I have spent most of my life looking for you
Or waiting for you
Or with you
Now,
There is no more time spent together
Or time getting ready for
Or time searching
There is only time.
And never-ending waves
And beaches dotted with tiny bird tracks
Leftover footprints
And smooth, stacked beach rocks
As worn as I feel.

Every holiday is the first without Gary, and though we fill our senses with the familiar, there is nothing the same about these days.

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Five Months In Five Months Out

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Five months in and we were madly in love. Listening to the best music, Springsteen, Zevon, Clapton, Eagles, Ronstadt, Jackson, listening to music you were creating with Ed in the studio that held nighttime adventures. We saw every new movie and ate at Chinese restaurants that no longer exist. We drove the streets of Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice and Woodland Hills and we drove the highways to Yosemite, up the coast exploring, spending late afternoons at the beach watching surfers and sunsets.

Five months in and our families were meeting. Could this be serious? We didn’t let a day go by without spending at least a part of it together because separation was not possible. We became part of a bigger circle of friends and possibilities seemed endless as our futures began to merge, becoming entwined.

Five months out and I miss the love, and the music. The shared dinners at our favorite places no longer exist and sitting in the movies holding hands is a retreating memory. I drive the streets alone with Google Maps for company. Driving highways triggers memories, but also creates new memories with my daughters along. The beach with its salty air, endless waves and pelicans provides familiar solace.

Five months out and our little family grieves, not sure of our new formation, not sure about the approaching holidays and the new traditions we will begin to create. This is serious. A text thread miles long connects us now and if a day goes by without contact my heart aches for the loss of our intact family. I am grateful to be part of a community and an expanding circle of friends but I don’t know what the possibilities are or what my future will look like. The unwinding of two lives, braided together over time is an unfamiliar painful process.

Five months ago my world stopped with your heart and the unrequested resuscitation failed us all. I wake up many nights at 2:59 or 3:30. The time your heart stopped, the time they declared you were officially gone. I look at the clock as I turn out the light at night, 11:11 p.m. and I startle awake from dreams of you at 1:11 a.m. Is it a message? Can you show me a sign that is easy to read, more transparent, less symbolic? Hotel rooms numbered 303, an entourage of Honda Pilots, I am grasping for meaning and trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. I was told the other day, that there is no rhyme or reason and even with our best efforts to live healthy lives the best we can hope for is good luck. Five months in we had it. Five months ago yours ran out. Five months out and luck is a mystery.

 

 

 

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Lingering in Twilight

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               A sign and a reminder.

 

The hours between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. when twilight approaches and the daylight hours are coming to an end bring a shadow of melancholy. The daytime is busy with work, errands, exercise and occasional plans with friends. Then twilight encroaches with stillness and quiet. I am not preparing dinner or readying a welcoming home as I have done for most of my life. There are not children here needing to be driven to lessons or supervise homework for. I come home to the house as it was when I left in the morning, put away my school things, lunch bag, and change into fresh clothes. I take care of “business” answering emails, bringing in the mail, paying bills, washing daytime dishes, and watering plants. The night looms ahead with it’s empty hours and solitary dinner.

I used to look forward to some quiet time after the energy filled day of teaching and being surrounded by so many people. I came home and enjoyed a couple of hours decompressing and finding my voice again. I enjoyed planning meals, surprising Gary with something healthy and delicious when he arrived home or better yet, cooking together, and looked forward to settling in on the couch to unwind together watching TV, or back in the days of Charlie, going for an evening walk. We went to movies frequently (I have seen one movie in the past five months) and loved to go out to our favorite restaurants. That is all in the past now.

I look for new ways to fill the twilight hours, so I can get to the evening, when I can retreat to old habits of reading, writing or my new habit of watching mindless TV. A few times a week I go to yoga class and find comfort on the mat, in the repetition of familiar postures and in the energy of others seeking solace. Occasionally I have an early dinner with a friend and relax in the company of conversation. I attend my grief support group and share with others traveling this uncertain road. Nothing replaces the familiar routines of my life though. Creating a new routine is trial and error with some things bringing relief and others bringing a new onslaught of loneliness and sadness.

The days are bearable, and the evenings a welcome relief, but the twilight is painful with its solitude. I wonder how people adjust to being one, instead of two (or more). I look out at the lights twinkling in the Valley and think about all of the people alone in their homes and wonder about this new phase of my life. I’ve been cheering others on in my role as an encourager for most of my life, providing support and positive affirmations, celebrating successes and reassurance in times of struggle. I have not practiced doing this for myself. My life now can be anything I want it to be, I just never really thought about what I wanted before now.

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