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.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Writing in the Sand

I received a compliment the other day from someone I didn't know. She said something nice about my being nice to deal with and it hit me with such shock that I realized something about myself. I'm very depressed. I also have so few people in my life that I expect to be forgotten unless someone wants something from me.

I hit a very low point one day about two weeks ago. This is actually funny because I'm still at that same very low point only now I'm so used to it that it feels like home, but when I slid into it, it was frighteningly uncomfortable. I broke down and called someone higher up on the deceased spouse food chain. I know I am important to her because it only took her three days to return my call. Her life is very, very busy with a lot of family around, in-laws, her own parents, her children that are younger than mine, and a lot of friends so when she returned my call those few days later it was another compliment in a way, that she would call to see what I needed.

I told her I was very down, very lonely without someone to talk to about my husband and how vitally important he was to me. She commiserated and told me that it would get better and then looked up the phone number of a Presbyterian Church that is within walking distance of me so I might could find a group to join. "You need to find people to be around. Maybe this church has a book group, or a craft group." She knows I'm Catholic and would dearly love to find a bus route to go to Mass somewhere or join a group there but three buses, a 1/4 mile, and needing an hour each way of time is depressing to me and to her this seemed like the lessor of two evils. I thanked her profusely and told her I would check into it. And sadly I did. And more sadly, after I explained my situation, the secretary of that church passed me to the assistant pastor or associate pastor, and when I explained my situation to them that person gave the the phone number of the bereavement group at the Catholic church that I had called 5 months ago to join the widow's group I am currently in.

I thanked this person, hung up the phone, and put my head down on my desk and cried.

I write for an online article database site, trying to earn money for all these words and thoughts I have inside me. I recently got my PIN for my account. A small check ($100) should be issued between November to January. I haven't quit. I still write. That $100 might come at a time when I am completely out of food. I can't afford to give up.

I write this blog here and I read others' sites. So many followers. So many quick and heartfelt comments are left. I've seen one man who has over 500 followers and can leave a quick message about his grief and receive over 70 comments within 5 hours. I saw one widower who has taken his grief to a level of oracle. He is the go-to guy for grief. He has a uploaded web videos of interviews with himself and set up a memorial fund in his wife's name for the benefit of his young daughter. His most recent video interview spoke to his being able to now pay for her college, his up-coming marriage to his editor for the book he hasn't finished writing about his grief and how it affected his life for the better, how he took it and made something wonderful out of it, how if it wasn't for his wife dying, he would never have had these opportunities open up for him. I finally had to stop reading his words and listening to his interviews with himself. I feel to much like a failure with my own grief.

What have I done with my grief? It has been 5 months, 2 weeks, and 5 days 159 days of living without the attention, the love, the notice of my husband. What have I done? I sat helplessly while the man of God at the church that hosted his funeral, out of which he had been head scoutmaster of his son's troop, stepped up to the podium and spoke into the microphone, "His son does not feel comfortable coming to his father funeral because his father's wife would not give him some of his father's ashes before the service." My daughter got her chance to speak at that microphone and said, "My mother received the phone call to pick up my stepfather last night at 6 PM. She wanted him brought to the church whole. She is grieving, devastated. She did not want to drive an hour over to the parking lot of a grocery store, open the bag, and pour some of him out into whatever container his son and mother brought with them. My mother felt his death should be treated with respect. She brought him whole to this house of God, (then casting a disparaging glance at the preacher), she continued, "thought I am now having my doubts."

My husband's son and ex-wife knew the timing of the cremation. They had the phone number of the funeral home. They hung up on me and my son when we tried to explain this timing time and time again. We gave up.

Second thing I've done with my grief. Get up every day. I pretty much do. I have to. I have to earn money. I've stumbled onto the Memory Quilts and it has been a blessing. I can't say anything different about it. I sew 14 - 16 hours a day. I bend over the table or the quilt frame, the boxes of clothes and I think hard, so hard about this one thing: "if these were my husband's clothes, my father's clothes, my son's clothes, my daughter's clothes, how would I want this to look? Are the buttons on this shirt critical to keep together? What tangible thing can I add to this quilt to make it touchable? Zippers to toy with, buttons to unbutton and find a shirt underneath, a waistband with belt loops to leave together and sew on so that a photo can be laminated and hole-punched for a way to tie it or clip it to the belt loop and stick in the pocket."

I listen intently to each story the person bringing me the clothes tells me. I take on their grief in a way so that the quilt stays personal, unique to them and their connection with the deceased. I read their half-smiles, the hollowness in their eyes, and I can hear a little of what they can't speak to. I sometimes sit for minute after I've completed a seam and wait to see if the deceased is around me watching, waiting, to see if there is approval from the one person that this would matter to most. What would he want his son to have? His wife to draw around her shoulders and possible sniff and imagine, and remember? For me, thoughts of the deceased are the most important element of the quilts.

I write this, as I do all my blogs/articles, whatever they are really, and I feel like I am writing in the sand. It will disappear before anyone has a chance to understand the import my words have for me. Or they will see it, casually pass by as we all do on our walks on a beach, and they will see my words in the sand here and it will mean nothing beyond, "ah, nice thought."

My words will disappear from view as they pass on down the page. I'll write something else and there they go, the previous ones slide off into oblivion. New posts become 'older posts.' A different article has a different title. Someone will disagree with me and how I'm doing things, offer up advice. Some will say "I can't understand these feelings of yours but I hope you get better soon. Do something with your life. Get out more."

I'll sigh. I'll log off. My words don't mean anything really to anyone. They will have no affect. I'm not C. S. Lewis with his grief. I have no standing in the literary world. I have written 4 books now and have not taken the time to solicit for a literary agent. I sew. I need the money desperately. In fact, I'm eating lunch as I type this so that my break is fruitful and not really a break at all.

I'm writing in the sand like my husband did for me that day. The photo is above up there. He drew a heart and put our initials in it. He put his arm around me and show me his ephemeral graffiti and said, "I put it above the high water mark. It should stay for a few days, long enough for a few seagulls to see it and know how much I love you."

I woke him up the next day just after sunrise. There was a storm supposed to be coming in and the high tide was coming within that hour. We dressed warmly and went hurrying down to our cove to see if his writing in the sand was still there. It was. We sat on the rocks and watched the rollers come in. Heavy surf. It kept inching closer to his heart in the sand. I got worried about it. I turned to him and said, "Let's put some rocks around it to try and save it." He changed his position, sat behind me with his legs around me and his chin on my shoulder. He spoke in my ear with me tight in his embrace. "Let's stay here and watch the sea take it. So many gulls have already seen it. They mate for life, you know. Most of them do. Like you and me. Gulls have better memories than us humans. They are the ones who will find value in having seen that and in seeing us sit here and knowing that though the ocean washes it away it doesn't make it any less real or true."

He hugged me tightly and said, "I'll always love you, even if the only place I can write it down is in the sand. But the memory of it is here in your heart."

And it is. I'll always remember the moment when that one wave reach up high enough to take it all away. I admit I did gasp. He kissed me then. He turned my face to his and kissed me.

And now he's gone and my heart is so sad. I'm writing in the sand for anyone to see. I don't know if my words impact anyone. People aren't seagulls and there are no gulls to see me now. But I keep writing in the sand and I hope and pray that my Beloved Dragon can see my words before they roll off the bottom of the screen.

Yes, I'm that lonely. Yes, I'm that heartbroken today. Yes, I'm going back to the sewing. I'll write in the sand another day.


Ann said...

My heart truly breaks for you. I am SO sorry you are hurting so much. I can tell you it will get better, but not for a long, long time, and frankly, that’s no help! Your story of the heart your sweetheart drew in the sand for you was wonderful. What a warm, tender, and romantic man he was.

I am honestly not sure of what the beliefs Catholics have of heaven and eternity. I happen to be LDS and we have a belief of eternal marriage. It brings me great comfort to know that I will see and be with my husband again. He still lives and thus, still loves me. I can feel that love so strongly at times it as though he were physically n the room with me. There are times when I have been in the deepest holes of sorrow and grief that I have thought of the pain I am causing him as he watches me suffer. I don’t want to do that! I don’t want to cause him pain and distress – and so I buck up. It is hard, and frankly it doesn’t always work. But knowing that he is still living – though far away from me – keeps me from the despair I hear in your voice.

Absolutely keep writing, keep sewing, keep getting up in the morning. It will always hurt but you are getting through some of the worst of it. I won’t lie to you and say you are over the hard part. No one can determine that for anyone else.

Next time you need to talk, if you don’t mind talking to a stranger, call me. I am not comfortable giving my number out in a post comment, but if you email me – I think you get to see my email – I will send you my number. I promise to call you ASAP! You shouldn’t have to wait three days to share your feelings!

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

You can call me anytime, you know.
I'm so sorry you're having a bad day.
I love hearing about you working on the quilts. You're so thoughtful and empathic. This world is lucky to have you.
And you ARE loved by many, even when you can't hear us talking to you.

Widow in the Middle said...

I cried as I read your post tonight - I find your words true works of art. They reach down into my soul. You conveyed so many issues -

1. The situation with your husband's son and ex-wife is truly awful. I know it is not much to offer, but I have come to find that people can be cruel, mean and thoughtless. They are usually dealing with their own unresolved issues and I do my best to push negative thoughts about them away - I don't need anymore heartache on my plate!

2. The memory of your husband writing in the sand is incredible - so romantic and lovely. It is such a wonderful story, I wish more people could hear it. I wonder if there is some way to incorporate it in a book (yours or another author's?).

3. I am amazed that you are creating memory quilts while you are in the midst of your own grief. I can't sew and admire those who can. I believe the quilts you are making to provide comfort to others, will be even more special because you are paying tribute to their loved ones in your heart as you quilt. Sometimes I think we are led to do certain things to help in our healing.

4. When we are grieving/healing/growing we need to slow down and take the time to nurture ourselves. I hope you will do the same for yourself because you need to rest and have breaks too! Grief is terribly hard work and if ever there was a time we need to care for ourselves this is it.

5. Personally, I sometimes have a hard time understanding C.S. Lewis. You are a talented and very gifted writer. I hope in the future your words will reach more eyes. Don't give up on the publishing ideas. Who knows what will happen in the future or where your blogging will take you?

6. Sometimes I wonder about all the widows out there who have so many followers/readers. Please do not compare yourself to others who seem more advanced in their grief recovery. I admire the photos you publish - I still need to figure out how to do that! We should give ourselves credit for what we've done, not what we haven't!

7. My heart aches for what you went through in waiting for a phone call back to receive some verbal support. The situation you are facing is very isolating and there will be periods of feeling intense loneliness. Blogging has taken away some of that for me because I feel that there are others out there like me who do understand in a larger world where so few don't. I attended a few grief groups but didn't connect well. I ended up going to a private grief counselor/life transition coach. Reading grief books helped me a lot. Maybe you will be connected with another group in the future. They were hard for me to find in those early months - they are sometimes held out of hospitals run by the social work department.

Please know that your words are very meaningful for me and you have given me many insights, as well as support (and I have been widowed almost 6 years now!). Words are sent out into the Universe and they go where they need to go. Like your dear husband said, they have been absorbed into us where they will remain and not wash away. Please do not think that your words are floating out there without a destination to those of us still living. I also believe that your husband knows all of the feelings and thoughts you have for him even before you write them out.

I am holding you in my heart tonight and sending my love and support to you from my suburban Chicago home in the Midwest. I hope my prayers reach you quickly so you can rest a little and catch up on some well deserved peace. I want to know more about you and pray that the next days are lighter for you.

J-in-Wales said...

So much love, so much sadness, so much pain.
I have been away, off the Internet and inside my own head for a few days, and so missed your crying out. I am so sorry.
A few thoughts from the other side of the ocean will never be enough, but I hope you can feel me reaching out to you, wishing and hoping for you to have the strength to get through these awful days.

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