how did i get here?

my husband, my beautiful Dragon, died suddenly at 12:03 AM on 9 February 2009. there was a cold, lovely full moon and 3 feet of snow on the ground. i "slept" for the following 10 months and "woke" to the physical and emotional pain and torments of deep grief. i "woke" to find i had moved the day of his funeral and that i am lost. i am looking for me while i figure out the abstract, unanswerable questions that follow behind any death. my art has evolved. his death changed that as well because i am forever changed and will forever bear the mark of losing the only man i can ever love.
there is alive and there is dead and there is a place in between. i am here wholly in my heart for my children, but i feel empty inside at this time. i miss him. i have not gotten very far in my grief journey. i make no apologies for this.
this is my place, my blog, where i write to tell the universe that i am still here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

the art of grief - the making of a shrine

after my husband died, i had a lot to deal with.  suffering through his death has been just that, suffering.  i love him.  deeply.  still.  always.  there are people who care and advise on what to do.  one of the things i was told was moving the day of his funeral was the worst thing i could have done.  didn't have a choice.  the other thing i was told to do was the get rid of all his clothes.  "get them out of the house.  you'll feel better not looking at them."

i was stunned.  how could i do that?  why?  they smell like him.  his sock, his underwear?  all of it?  now?  they were his and i want them.  his jeans.  he was a jeans man and all of them are so beautifully worn out.  how could i get rid of his jeans when almost every picture i have of him, he's in his jeans?  we're out somewhere hiking, bouldering, walking the beach.  i'd know his jeans anywhere, in any pile, no matter how large.

i know that everyone is different.  i know widows (ers) who have their spouses clothes years later.  i know of some who have to give it all away as soon as possible to start their own healing process.  i'm a shrine person.  i build shrines.  if you've ever seen a rock cairn on a beach, i'm one of those people who spend the time to create one.  i pay homage to places i've been with something that will most assuredly fall.  but it was once there.

i build shrines.  i had so many small things of his that i was trying to lay out and getting so upset.  clutter.  that's what it looked like but they were his and ours and i wanted to see them.  there were patches from the Marine Corps, pins, those little poppies you can buy on Memorial Day, trim from our wedding (i made our clothes).  i had just finished sewing a crazy quilt to get rid of scrap fabric when my daughter suggested i make a quilt from my husband's jeans.

and so i am.  it's a mess but it's soothing to work on.  it isn't planned in any way.  there is layout.  it is a stream of consciousness.  i'm having a hard time cutting up his clothes.  i cry.  but each time i cut, i create.  i'm using back pockets and front pockets.  i'm saving the zippers and the button fly.  they aren't squares but i'm piecing them together with parts of the legs of his jeans to square it off.  the legs also are filler squares, will be part of the binding and the backing.  i am going to use his underwear, too.  {his socks i'm making into sock animals but that's another story.}

i'm working from sentiment, sewing on all the loose things onto the denim.  i'm adding quotes as well, what he said to me at our wedding and on a black satin square i've embroidered a quote from Romeo and Juliet:  "when he shall die, take him and cut him out into little stars and he will make the face of Heaven so fine that all the world will worship night and pay no worship to the garish sun."

this quilt is saving me right now.   it's a labor of love.  it's also given me much needed work from outside sources.  a woman in the widow's group i attend has hired me to make three quilts for her out of her husband's clothes.  one for each of her children and one for her mother-in-law who is suffering intense grief.  it has been a journey for her as i talk about what i see in her eyes, what i see in her husband's clothes, and what i plan.  she tells me she is healing in a way she hadn't yet and it has been over two years for her.  for me, i find i can be of use.  i have a purpose for someone.  i'm hoping for others who may want me to do this for them.  her quilt is more straightforward, much more planned for her comfort zone.

mine?  as you can see from the photos, mine is my own vision.  it reflects the life my husband and i shared.  the warrior and bold adventurer that was him.  the reclusive artist who lived life through her dreams.  i reached out and joined hands with a dragon of a man and found what i had never had.

when finished it will not be a museum piece, but an heirloom with things that belong to him, to me, and to us.  our story.  it is a quilt of scattered thoughts that represents a broken heart hanging on to every tangible piece of him that i can.  i can't make sense of why he had to die so i am taking what he left behind to create something as beautiful as he was.

it is a quilt of my heart.  it is how i want it to look, not as anyone says it should.  it is how i need it to look, how i need it to feel.  and isn't that the purpose of a quilt?  to feel good?  to wrap around you for comfort when, if not the weather, but deep inside you, you feel cold, and alone, and deep in sorrow.


Split-Second Single Father said...

Your quilt is coming together beautifully! A friend of my Mom's (back in the Midwest) is making one for my daughter. I think she will get it when we visit this summer. It was very hard for me to get through all of her clothes (the woman lived to shop!) and I am glad that I do not have to do the actual cutting and sewing (I draw the line at scrapbooking!) But I can imagine that there is a lot of healing in this for you, even though I am certain it is not easy.

I wanted to thank you for your kind words earlier. It is hard to know how many people are actually reading, as very few tend to comment (usually it's those of us who have and are living with grief). The longer you blog, the easier you are to find, and the more lives you will touch. It took me two years to be able to write about my grief. I am glad for you that you are able to write during these early months as I can only imagine that is helping ease the pain some. Thanks for your willingness to share, even when it's hard.

womanNshadows said...

i am so glad you have someone who can make your daughter a quilt. she will cherish it all her life.

i'm glad we can speak like this. i also write for and though there are a lot of comments, i have few genuine offers for continued correspondence. i am glad that you have found your 'voice' writing. i am alone 99% of the time so writing is all i have. it's the only way i can talk about my husband and what he meant to me and i find that i need to do that, to talk about him all the time, even if its only to myself.

my poor daughter is 25 and would run herself into the ground to try and cope with her schedule to be there for me. i try very hard not to let her know how badly i'm doing. she is my child and i will always protect her for as long as i can.

i found that i had to write of my grief right away or i'd completely lose it. this is all i have. there is simply no one for me to call on. i have no other family other than my children. comments left is the only way i know i've been heard. you cannot possibly know how grateful i am for your kindness in taking the time to leave these messages.

i am so new to being a widow, so raw. i'm fumbling in the dark and have no business telling anyone what to do, but empathy is a curse of mine, or rather the people i inflict it upon. if you wish it, if it would bring you comfort, something you would want, maybe you could ask your mother's friend to make you a small, quilted throw or a pillow out of one of your wife's garments. you didn't say if you were going to have anything done for yourself and i just didn't want you to forget about yourself. even if you fold it and put it away for now, just something so that you know it's there if you find you ever need to touch. forgive me if i've crossed any lines. my suggestion stems from compassion.

Split-Second Single Father said...

No worries - no lines crossed. Though I've kept many of her things for myself (and some for my daughter as well)I had not thought of having something made out of her clothes for myself. I'll keep that in mind.

I have not shared much with my family either. My mom was widowed at a young age too, so I have shared more with her than anyone. I don't share easily, so the "anonymity" of this blog has been a huge blessing for me. I've told a couple people about it, but mostly it's for me and the other widow/ers who read it. I have found a great deal of comfort in reading the other widow/er blogs I've found as well.

Including yours.

womanNshadows said...

thank you. i don't want to offend anyone or appear i think i know more because i am so much older. being older does give one a different perspective on the hindsight stuff but it doesn't necessarily make one wiser.

your mom...i am so sorry to hear that. my mother died when i was 20. i dropped out of college to go live with her at the hospice - that was how her cancer was treated back then. six months of sleeping in a faux leather recliner in a hospital room, getting out only to walk two blocks to a post office box i took out for us. watching her die so slowly, i don't know who it was worse for. her watching my youthful, fair weather friends fall away or me watching my mom die, or us as a pair trying to crowd a lifetime of advice and thoughts into what she had left, not knowing how long that would be. all still so painful even 31 years later though i don't break down about her like i do about my husband. parents, child, spouse. i've experienced them all and all are different.

those who have had a beloved die and have had to continue....i think there is a comprehension there of that depth of pain that no other can understand. i also love the anonymity of this. i tried a widow(er)'s chat room naively thinking there would be the gratifying instant feedback about our similarly shared experiences. oh, Lord. it was taken up with people who were obviously not bereaved. so i have found these places and leave comments for others living with grief who may respond, and continue to respond. i was hoping for a "pen pal," an "84 Charing Cross Road" of sorts, a faceless, nameless person yet a kindred spirit. you've been the only consistent responder and for that, bless you.

having said that, don't feel obligated. it's the last thing any of us needs at this time, an obligation. i was a loner before my beloved, and i have fallen into that hermetic lifestyle so quickly now that he has died. it's not what he would want for me, but it is how life has played out and i've adapted.

take care of yourself as well. your daughter is very lucky to have a father who has the maturity, the self-awareness to be able to fully grieve. it shows her how much her mother was (is) loved. always talk to her and she will always talk to you. until we talk again, you and your daughter are in my thoughts.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Thanks for sharing your beautiful work and thoughts. I'm so sorry for your loss. My LH was an artist, and I suppose I am as well.

I was saving my LH's chinos for a while, with the grand concept of a quilt for our girl, now 5, but I had neither skills nor energy then. Wish I'd met you three years ago before I tossed it all. Sorry we get to meet at all as part of this club.

I'll keep an eye on you from a distance. Shout anytime.



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