Category Archives: death

One Dove

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There he is again, the mourning dove, sitting on the wire outside my window alone, looking in while I work at my desk, as he does just about every morning. You know the sound of the mourning dove, the sad cooing as he calls for his mate. Mourning doves coo and preen each other, hunt seeds on the ground, the female dove builds a nest of pine needles; they are most always seen together.

This dove gives me comfort when he visits each morning, as if he is looking out for me, or checking in on me and I feel like Gary is visiting. These thoughts seem illogical and I feel a little silly as I go out on the balcony to get a closer look, say hello and ask Gary how he is, if he is OK, wishing for a sure sign, so I will know he is alright. I know some would think I am crazy but I don’t know how to shake this feeling that I should be able to communicate with the dove somehow.

I coax myself to sleep with wishes for peace. I wish Gary peace and hope he is finding it somewhere that’s now out of my sight, somewhere I don’t know, a place I am not completely sure exists. I wish him peace from illness, his spirit free from his ailing body. I wish him peace from the struggles of life, the days filled with work. I hope he has reunited with those he loved who went before him and that his spirit is surrounded with music. I wish myself peace and an easy sleep, through the night. I wish for the ability to let some things go, to savor good memories and to forgive those that are painful memories. I wish for a release from the almost constant anxiety I feel and for a place to feel peaceful with the ability to see a future.

The dove waits for me to step outside. I glance up, breathe slowly and make a connection. As he flies off, his wings whine and my heart sinks. Departures are always difficult.

 

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Looking for What I Want

IMG_2108Two years ago I read the book E-Squared: 9 Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality by Pam Grout. I became enthusiastic about conducting the experiments and convinced Gary to join me. I remember the first experiment we tried was to look for a specific color (we choose green), as we went about our day we noticed so many green things, beyond the obvious trees, shrubs and other green in nature, we saw green cars, houses, people’s clothing, street signs and traffic lights. Once we had planted the idea of “green” in our minds it seemed that everything was green. It was a fun game to play and we could substitute other colors, or objects, such as butterflies.

I’ve thought about this a lot since Gary died and I have noticed certain things, considered spiritual signs such as seeing the time on a clock, 11:11 and especially seeing birds.

I live in the hills so seeing birds is not unusual, but what is unusual is the sheer quantity and variety of birds sitting on the telephone wires outside my windows. There are woodpeckers, blue jays, robins, sparrows, finches, hawks, owls, hummingbirds and especially the lone mourning dove that visits daily. Some days I wake up and there is a little bird on the wire looking at me, or I notice a bird sitting on the wire looking in as I walk by the window. The funny thing is that I am compelled to stop what I am doing and go out on the balcony to make “eye contact” with the birds. I feel Gary’s presence.

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Two weeks ago, as I was driving, a blue Honda Pilot pulled up next to me. We had a blue Honda Pilot many years back. It was my favorite car and one I drove for quite a while during one of the happiest periods of my life, of our lives together. It was a time when my daughters were at home, my mom lived with us and we needed a car to seat six so that when we went places together as a family, we could all ride together. I loved that Honda Pilot. Eventually we had to replace it but it remains my favorite car. When the blue Honda Pilot pulled up next to me, I felt Gary’s presence, as if he was riding along with me for just a minute. Now I see Honda Pilots everywhere. Driving up to Monterey two weeks ago they were on the road and this morning as I ran errands between 10:00 and 12:00, I saw 5 Honda Pilots within a 2-mile radius.

Does this mean Gary is watching over me, or trying to communicate through birds and cars? I don’t know, though I feel that he is somehow close. I ask him for signs that he is still near and I ask him to help me move forward, make good choices and be strong enough to deal with this new way of living.

I think the message is “look for what you want to see.” We can travel through life thinking that life is random, and it certainly has random moments and crazy, sucky, horrible things that happen, but we can also start looking for opportunities, opportunities to see beauty, to see people who are kind and leaders who care about creating a positive, hopeful world. We can look for friends who genuinely care about us and for family that wants to stay connected, close and to support each other. We look for what we want to see, and maybe, if we are lucky, we will see our thoughts materialize.

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Surviving with Battle Scars Wrapped in Love

It is not the strongest of the species that survive,

nor the most intelligent,

but the one most responsive to change.

~Charles Darwin

 

I looked at the calendar on July 10th are realized that it had been three-month since I took Gary to the Emergency Room that Sunday night, April 10th. That Sunday was the last day we would spend together, but I didn’t know that then. That evening, though he wasn’t feeling well, we sat together watching TV. While I worried, he tried to reassure me that some days were harder than others during his post cancer-surgery recovery. When we talked to my cousin, who is a doctor, and he talked to Gary, listening to him struggle to get a good breath, we were told to go to the ER, now. He was diagnosed with sepsis. What followed was the last- minute strong fight through surgery (once again), two procedures and the gradual slipping away from this world, to another.

 

It’s been three months, but the days are long and complicated. Complicated by changing moods, a million decisions small and large, new routines, and the empty vast space of departure. I never know if I will wake up sad or mad and tear bursts are unpredictable and often have terrible timing. I don’t want to scare people away with my sadness, which is not always in my control, and I need people. I find myself with a lot of time alone and am reading, looking for answers in the experiences of others brave enough to write about their survival, their journeys and those who share their expertise:

Martha Whitmore Hickman’s Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief

Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking

Brook Noel & Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D.’s I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye

Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.’s Healing A Spouse’s Grieving Heart

Genevieve Davis Ginsburg, M.S.’s Widow to Widow

 

It’s been three months since we last spoke, and as he was wheeled to the OR, morphine comfortable, with scared eyes resigned to fate, I made him promise to fight and stay strong, something I had said often during trying times over the past 37 years we shared. The doctors were amazed by his strength saying most people would not have survived the sepsis surgery, amazed that he had been joking around in the morning, talking about Porsches, describing his on order to arrive in June. After surgery, he was kept sedated awaiting the following procedures to complete closure. We never got closure with each other because we never spoke again. We never even shared another glance.

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I became an expert at signs. Signs on the monitors, signs of pain, signs of fluid levels, breathing, heart rate and the more difficult to read signs in the faces of the nursing staff as they changed shifts and gave updates to the next nurse on duty. I learned to decode the medical jargon during rounds, each morning, listening for encouraging signs. Stable is good. Sitting in the dark room, illuminated only by numbers on machines and blinking horizontal lines, I looked at my husband knowing something had shifted and he was leaving. I didn’t say this, because I hang onto the belief that I have some control and thoughts become things, so why would I jinx it? I didn’t say it, but I felt it. I felt Gary in the room, but not necessarily in his body.

 

I went home at 11:00 p.m. on April 20th. It happened in 14 seconds. His heart stopped at 2:59 a.m. I was called at 3:14 a.m. They performed (mandatory) resuscitation for 30 minutes. I arrived at 3:30 a.m. Time of Death is listed at 3:29 a.m. Since then I have been looking for signs. Signs I missed. Signs the doctors missed. Signs the nurses missed. There are really no answers. It seems this is a common reaction, trying to make sense of that which makes no sense, as if finding the missed sign could trigger a rewind. If only.

 

I am looking for signs now, the common ones of the folklore told to me, when the clock shows 11:11 (a message from one on “the other side”), visiting birds (like those that sit on the wire watching me, air-brushed clouds, a song on the radio or a small paper message found in a file. I am looking for a sign to let me know he is OK somehow, happier maybe, with long-lost friends and family. As time goes on, that day, April 10th gets further away and I struggle to hold on to feelings, his voice, that life before. I look for signs that I will be OK. A restful night’s sleep, a nice, helpful voice on the telephone, figuring out how to take care of this business of moving on, and glimmers of a meaningful future.

 

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Filed under change, death, Life thoughts, reading, signs