“Lasts”

My Facebook memories have been hitting me right in the feels this week with pictures of our family vacation to Ruttgers on Bay Lake from last year. Those memories have me thinking a lot about “firsts” and “lasts”…sometimes you know they are important while they are happening…sometimes not. Some are milestones that we mark…almost religiously…first and last day of school for example…that are more developmental. Some are more life-altering…some become the moments that we measure our lives by…the ones deeply etched in our memories.

The summer of 2020 after Jason had his first surgery and chemo and radiation we rented a cabin on a lake Up North with Jeremy and Cheryl. I remember feeling so clearly that it might be our last family vacation that I put all sorts of expectations on it and pressure on myself to make it “perfect”. And of course, it wasn’t perfect. It was rainy. The fish wouldn’t bite. The kids were all a little “extra”…understandably so…they were trying to get a handle on reality as much as I was. I had myself so wrapped up in the idea of “last” that one night Jason and I were in the shower and I literally had a break down…ugly crying so hard I coudn’t stop…hyperventilating…sitting naked in the shower with my head between my knees…on the verge of throwing up or passing out or both. And all I could say to Jason was “What if this is the last? I can’t do this by myself” over and over. And Jason did what he always was able to do…talked me down…held me…put me back together.

And that horrible experience stuck with me so much that I vowed not to do that with the “lasts” anymore. Not too hold on so tight to expectations. To just let events unfold organically. Even when I KNEW they would be the lasts….because I did know. Our last anniversary. His last birthday. Last Thanksgiving…Christmas…Easter. And then our last family vacation last year. It was at the place that we had enjoyed as a family for so many years…and it was perfection.

As I have been reminiscing about our last perfect family vacation I have been thinking about other things that make me smile day-to-day…and I tried to write a poem that is maybe a little more uplifting…I’m trying.

Good in Life

When so much of life doesn’t make sense
Trying to get through moment to moment

Reminding myself of the good left in life

The things that make me smile
Laugh
Feel peace for a second
Give hope for a future
Somehow
Without you.

Anna
Seth
Levi
Pieces of you
Pieces of me
Mingled together
Perfectly.

Linc
Emmett
Crazy antics
Kisses on my face
Force me to face
Morning.

Birds in the backyard
Coffee
In hand
A pair of cardinals
Feed each other
Breakfast.

Family
Yours
Mine
Check on me
Don’t let me
Hide.

Friends
Acceptance
Make me laugh
But also
Let me
Cry.

Purple flowers
Blossom
Bring simple beauty
Color
To a gray
Life.

Perfect words
A lyric
A poem
Encapsulate emotion
Build
Community

Ease the unrelenting loneliness

Underneath it all is so much sadness
But, Babe, I’m trying.

Moment by moment.

 

The Spaces

I know I haven’t been writing much. Life is kicking my butt and I’ve been busy constantly taking care of “stuff”. I did manage to cross two things off my list. First and foremost, I fixed my own dishwasher!! Yes…I had some suggestions of what to do from my boss, but I fixed the damn thing! Luckily, the only tools I needed were a screwdriver and a shopvac. Super gross moment when I stuck the hose in the gross dishwasher water and accidentally “blew” it instead of “sucked” it all over myself….who knew the shopvac could even do that?? Second, Seth’s car is all fixed from the hail damage…and now mine is having it’s turn so we are still down a car…but progress is being made.

Other things that happened this week. I got estimates for two types of siding for my house…so now I’m trying to decide which one to go with….ugh…I hate making those types of decisions. The insurance adjuster was out looking at my house. He took a lot of pictures, so hopefully that’s a good sign. I paid the downpayment on my fence, so now I have to get the fence line cleared before Aug 1. Yikes! I also had a weird bug that seemed to really only involve a fever. Woke up Wed morning at 1am with a fever of 101. Fevers make my body and mind do weird things and I hate them. But luckily tylenol and ibuprofen did the trick and now I’m fine. And last, but not least, Levi got All Conference for Tennis. There wasn’t a ceremony…he was just modeling his new dress clothes…lol

Today was kind of a quiet and lonely day. Went to breakfast with the kids this morning and then Anna and I went to Barnes and Noble. I picked up a couple fantasy books and a couple poetry books. Really wanted to find a good fiction book I could lose myself in today, but it hasn’t really worked. Mostly I’ve had this poem writing itself in my head all day. Maybe now that it’s out I can read…ha!

The Spaces

It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
The space to my left
Where you would walk each evening
My hand in your elbow
Pups along at our sides
Tongues hanging out
Happy to be alive.

It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
Beside me in the car
Your hand on my thigh
Mine tracing your thumbnail
That weird flat spot
Didn’t matter where we were going
You and me on a drive.

It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
The smell of tennis balls
The “pop” of a forehand
A fistpump
Look to the sideline
I give a grin
Happy to be your biggest fan.

It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
Sitting together
Cuddled on the couch
Wine in hand
Long day unwinding
Perfection
At peace with my man.

It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
Together watching our kids
The games and the matches
Band concerts
Marching band shows
Graduations
Proudest of parents.
It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
Ree and Jas
Out with friends
Dinner and drinks
The smiles and laughs
Carefree and happy
Cherished moments.

It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
In that drowsy time
Between asleep
And awake
Spooned into your body
Complete contentment
No one else exists.

It’s in the spaces
That I miss you.
Where only you belong
Now I struggle
To make sense of life
Where your light
Was bright
Now darkness.

10 Months

This week has been ROUGH. I told my therapist yesterday that I’ve had this line from a children’s book running through my head. I read it to my kids a million times, but I can’t remember the title….but the line is “sometimes I want to curl up in a ball so no one can see me because I’m so small”.

After a good weekend with my parents…we got my garage cleaned out…yeah! My week went downhill pretty quickly. Woke up Tuesday morning to my downspout hanging off the side of my house and my gutter dented. No idea how that happened. One more thing to take care of. Then my “service engine soon” light came on in my car. I’m sure it just needs an oil change. One more thing to take care of. Wednesday morning my dishwasher stopped draining. One more thing to take care of. Yesterday we dropped Seth’s car off to get the hail damage fixed so we’re down a car for awhile. One more thing to sort out. I cannot handle anymore “one more things”!!!

Wednesday the landscaper came out to meet with me and we walked around the yard and talked about what I’m looking for. I knew that I really needed to work with someone on this project who I can feel a connection with because it is very important to me that it is done right. I told him before we even walked around the house that my husband passed away in August after battling brain cancer for 15 months and that I need my backyard to be a place where I don’t feel stress. A place where the kids and I can hang out…the dogs can play…a special place for me. Thankfully, he completely got where I was coming from. So much so that when I told him Jason bought me the gazebo and that it was my peaceful place for the past 4 years he suggested using parts off it somewhere in the landscape design. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with!

And so it’s been a week of high stress and very high anxiety. Mornings where I’ve woken up…but not wanted to…dragged myself out of bed…somehow got to work…and then had to sit in the parking lot and breathe my way out of a panic attack….get my “work mask” as firmly in place as I can…and then fight my way through one more day…and one more day…and one more day. And when I say “fight” I am not using that word lightly…because I DON’T WANT TO.

So 10 months. I just want to stop going forward. I feel like time is just taking me away from Jason. I know that’s not true in my head….but my heart doesn’t care what makes sense.

I miss my husband so bad. I told my therapist yesterday that I miss the feeling of being so completely and perfectly loved. “Soulmates” is such a cheesy word…but we were that for each other. Two imperfect people that perfectly fit together.

The Knowing

No feeling in the world can beat
Feeling completely loved.

When another soul looks at yours
And sees all the broken messy bits.

The insecurities
The failures
The hurts

And doesn’t accept you despite them
But because of them

Because they are what make you.

And in that person you find your home

Your refuge
Your safety
Your peace

Your souls will form a bond
Unbreakable by time, distance, death

Your hearts will beat together
The rhythm of your love

Your bodies will search for each other
Like polar ends on a magnet

And that’s when you know.

Crazy Widow Ramblings

And everything in my mind is screaming
Retreat! Retreat!

And my soul is pleading
Mercy! Mercy!

And my heart, my poor heart
Bleeding, Bleeding

I add another brick to the wall
Protect, Protect

But the foundation crumbles
Down, Down

And the words keep battering
Bam! Bam!

And the eyes, everywhere the eyes
Watching, Watching

And the fingers pointing all around
Judging, Judging

And the constant buzz of whispers
Criticizing, Criticizing

Or is it all in my messed-up mind?
Paranoid, Paranoid

And caring has ceased
Forgotten, Forgotten

But I cannot forget the love that still burns
Forever, Forever

And I feel so all alone
Lonely, Lonely

My love is not here
Gone, Gone

Only alive in my mind
Memory, Memory

Have a Good Day

Last week a friend of mine asked me how it makes me feel when someone says, “Have a good day” or “Happy Easter”. Her question was very touching because I don’t think many people think of how simple phrases like that affect someone who is grieving. A “good day”…eh…not likely. It might just suck less than other days. And holidays are worse…because no matter what happens, the pain of the missing loved one is overwhelming. Did I have a nice Easter? Absolutely. I think it was as good as it could be under the circumstances. Did I miss Jason the whole entire day so bad it hurt? Absolutely. But do I think you should stop saying “Have a good day”? No, I think of it as you just wishing I have the best day I can under the circumstances and that you are thinking about me.

For me the hurt is a little better when I am among people who are hurting and missing him too. When I was sitting at Jason’s sister’s yesterday I noticed she has a photo cube sitting on her table and on one of the sides is a picture of her and Jason from Jeremy’s wedding. That made me smile…and get teary…but it was a good teary. One of my fears is that Jason will be forgotten. That no one will want to talk about him and reminisce with me about good memories and happier times. So when I am among people that I feel comfortable talking about him with, it eases my fears a little bit.

If you ever see me and wonder if you should bring up Jason, please do! He is always right in the front of my mind. I might get teary, but that’s okay! As a wise woman once told me “you have to feel it, to heal it”.

Landmine

A powder keg
A landmine
Hair-trigger emotion.

You tiptoe around
Don’t say his name
Avoiding a chain reaction.

And are you relieved
As long as my cheeks are dry?
Inside my scream is deafening.

And I yearn to talk to you-
Cry on your shoulder-
You never ask how I’m feeling.

Do you think that I can just move on?
He may be gone,
But I still wear his band.

And maybe someday I’ll be happy
But that day is not today.
Grief doesn’t follow a plan.

Easter Weekend

The piano has been a big hit in our house…with everyone except Seth. He likes to listen to music…play it? Not so much. It is something that Anna and Levi can bond over though…which is a really good thing for the two that spend a lot of time butting heads!

This morning we had breakfast with Levi’s girlfriend, Svea’s family. I have known her parents for years, so it wasn’t too stressful. In fact, Jason and I played doubles against them once…and beat them! It was another one of those times though were I really missed Jason. Another reminder that our family isn’t complete anymore. Just me here…trying to hold it all together.

This afternoon Svea had a tennis match and Levi and I went to watch her. Since Svea’s parents both play tennis and Levi has been in drills and things with them quite a bit he is really comfortable with them. He stood by her Dad and the two of them chatted during the whole match. I can’t imagine there are very many 14 year-olds that would feel that comfortable talking to their girlfriend’s Dad!

This evening my whole Grief Counseling Group gathered IN PERSON together for the first time. One of them lives in Colorado and she is in town for the weekend so we were able to all get together for a meal and to hang out for a little bit. We had some good laughs.

Speaking of counseling I was finally able to get in for an individual session with a therapist yesterday. I was actually supposed to have a virtual session with her on Wednesday, but we had technical difficulties so ended up rescheduling for in-person yesterday. I think the technical difficulties were a blessing in disguise because in-person seems like it will be so much better. It was just the initial intake session…so pretty basic…but I really like the therapist and find her very easy to talk to. I see her again in two weeks.

Tomorrow we are looking forward to going to Jason’s sister Jenny’s house for Easter lunch. It will just be her family and ours, so pretty low-key…which is my preferred vibe these days.

Lots of poetry rambling around in my head lately. Sometimes it makes it’s way out into something that makes some sense.

Rearview

And I yearn to scream
But I stay silent.

The voices in my head are loud
Obliterating the quiet.

Questions circling in my mind
I don’t dare to voice.

So many emotions hold me hostage
Paralyzed in a vise.

I try to find some peace in poetry,
Music, a glass of wine.

But pain and loneliness are constant
Companions for all time.

And time seems to stretch on forever
A solitary road into the future.

Hopes and dreams are nonexistent
Just a shapeless blur.

And I don’t know what to look forward to
With the best days in my rearview.

I keep looking back over my shoulder
Hoping for one more glimpse of you.

The Whys and Hows

Last night I went out to dinner with my friends Terri and Diane. We had a great time…as we always do. Seriously, the tables around us should probably be paying extra for the entertainment. Three widows out for dinner is sometimes not the conversation you would expect…we go from teary-eyed to laughing so hard we’re crying…and back again…so many times. I am so grateful to have these two ladies in my life. I don’t have to pretend with them…sugarcoat things…act like I’m fine when I’m not. I can be real with them.

And then last night I couldn’t sleep…again. There’s just so much running through my head. Whys and Hows mostly. I’m sure you can imagine the questions….Why did God tear Jason away from his family? How is that a plan that in any way makes sense? How could he possibly be in a better place than here on Earth with his family? etc. etc. etc. Honestly, if God has some sort of big plan I think He needs to reevaluate what He’s doing.

God's Plan?

God has a plan
They say.
For every woman
And every man.

Trust Him
They say.
Nothing is a whim
But part of the grand design.

I want to say yes-
It would be easier
Than this doubt I guess.
But I don’t understand.

How is tearing a good man
Away from his wife and kids
In any way a good plan?
It doesn’t make sense.

Have faith
They say.
Happiness is still in your path.
All I see is sadness.

He’s in a better place
They say.
But his favorite space
Was here.

I know he didn’t want to go.
So why?
Why am I left solo?
There must be some mistake.
2016 Family Vacation

End of Spring Break

And It's Now

And it’s now and
Now and
Now and
Now

That I miss you the most.

Between this breath and
Next and
Next and
Next

That my thoughts are full of you.

My grief is overwhelming as tears
Fall and
Fall and 
Fall

I am drowning.

And I look up to the sky and scream
Why and
Why and
Why

Today Anna and I visited Jason’s bench and tied some purple and gray bows on it. Purple because it’s his favorite color…and gray for brain cancer awareness. I was hoping to find some ribbon with tennis balls on it, but they didn’t have any at Michael’s. I’ll have to see if I can find some to order from Amazon….they have everything right?

One of the things that I have been struggling with because Jason was cremated is not having a grave to visit. Somewhere that I can feel close to him and at peace…and maybe actually take a full breath or two. I feel like this bench will help with that need. It is less than a mile away from our house and right on my way to work. Easy to swing in and sit…even if just for a few moments.

Anna and Seth went back to school today. It was so hard to say goodbye to them. I am grateful to my parents and to my sister Emily and brother-in-law Tim for helping to get Seth here. I really enjoyed having all my chicks in the nest for a week, even though I worked and they were busy with their own things…just knowing we were all under the same roof at night brought peace to my heart.

Now to get ready for another week of work. Levi goes back to school and starts tennis tryouts tomorrow. We could use some better weather this week!

2 years ago today. Still in our happy bubble.

A Workout and a Poem

I didn’t sleep well last night…nothing new there. When I did sleep I had a lot of disjointed dreams with Jason in them that were very hard to shake this morning…and are honestly still lingering. Sometimes I have dreams of him where I swear I am awake and can physically feel him next to me…those are awesome and comforting. I don’t know what last night was, but it wasn’t like that…and just left me feeling shaken.

Levi had an all day chess tournament today and a birthday party to go to tonight. It’s the first day that I have had to myself in…ummm…no idea how long. Maybe since the end of September when I went to Alexandria? I was kind of looking forward to it and then realized quite quickly this morning that mentally and emotionally being alone all day today was not going to be good for me. Luckily, I was able to have lunch with my friend Katie today. That kept me on an even keel.

I did work out this morning for the first time in a very long time. It took me awhile to find my Workout playlist on Spotify…it was buried so deep. It felt odd to be listening to Post Malone, P!nk, and Pitbull. Instead of my usual lineup of Keith Urban, Ben Platt, Andy Grammar, etc…that have been more fitting to my mood. The workout felt good…like I had a little bit of my old spark back for a bit.

Otherwise it has been kind of an introspective day today. Yesterday, was the 7 month anniversary of Jason’s death. Do I feel like I’m doing better? I guess it depends what you mean by that. Levi and I have our routines established. I’m able to function…go to work…take care of the house…go out with friends. From the outside I’m sure some would say it looks like I’m doing okay. That’s just the surface. Inside is where the Black Hole lives. The space that used to be filled with Jason and his light. The Black Hole has zero interest in this life. The Black Hole wants me to just get in my car and keep driving and never come back. The Black Hole is disappointed every time I wake up and have to face another fucking day. The Black Hole won’t let me ever be perfectly happy ever again. The Black Hole is so fucking angry and wants to rage and scream about the unfairness of life. I love our kids too much to let the Black Hole win the war…but sometimes it does win the battle. Maybe those battles will start getting easier…doesn’t feel like it yet.

I wrote a poem about my tattoo this morning while I was drinking my coffee…

Love Always, Jason

I tattooed your name on my arm today
Your permanent mark on my body
For everyone to see
But mostly me.

Your handwriting from a Mother’s Day card
I found stashed in my nightstand drawer
From years gone past
Now will always last.

A thousand times a day as I use my arm
Love always, Jason
Your words flash past my eyes
Keeping me grounded while you’re in the skies.

You promised you would stay with me
Grow old and wrinkly together
Now you’re gone and I wish I could follow
But I’m stuck until a far away tomorrow

Love always, Jason
My husband, my love
They call me widow, but I say wife
Our love didn’t end with your life.

Painting

The last few days have been a little better for me. I met a really good friend for dinner on Thursday. We have been friends for over 20 years and she is one of a select handful of people that I can talk to “undiluted”. I cried and felt pretty raw a few times, but just being able to talk openly and feel HEARD was something that I desperately needed…this week especially.

Levi and I decided to tackle the painting of our living room this weekend. We enlisted our friends Erik and Edith to help today. Last night Levi and I worked on prep…getting the room cleaned out…taking off receptacle covers. The painting went really well today and we’re happy with how it turned out. I have never painted before. Painting was always Jason’s realm while I entertained the kids. Sometimes Jeremy would come over and help him. It does feel good to do projects around the house with Levi. I think it gives both of our brains something else to think about and helps us bond.

I still haven’t been sleeping well. Last night I think one of the dogs was snoring and in my sleep it sounded like Jason’s last breaths. Horrible…so horrible…and very hard to calm myself down and go back to sleep after that. I had to get my phone out and scroll through pictures of happier times to get my brain out of it’s “hospice loop”. It’s scary feeling hijacked by my own thoughts and memories at times when I can’t or don’t want to deal with them.

Pain of Memory

Salt flavors my wine
As tears run down my face.
I take a sip anyway
Anything to ease this ache.

I can’t stop replaying
Those days in my head-
Watching you dying
Gasping for breath in that bed.

Those days haunt my dreams-
Asleep and awake-
The memories hurt
How much more can I take?

But do I want to forget?
That scares me too
Because if I forget
What is left of you?

So I try to take the pain
Welcome it in
Until I’m drowning in tears
That won’t stop flowing.
2002