Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Walking on the Wire

Who knew that this journey would make me a member of the flying Wallenda's? 

Most of the time I have my balance ...I'm holding the stick that helps me walk the wire. Everyday. Carefully. 

And then a phone call, a painful conversation- and I fell, plunging towards the net.

I didn't bounce back very quickly today.  I fell head first into the net. And I stayed there for a long time.

With help from my friends, I climbed back out again.

I'm still working up my nerve to walk the tight wire.

Thought I had it made.

I just don't  need to get pushed off anymore; I can't do it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Stairway To Heaven

If you grew up in the 1960's and 1970's as I did, you would know the group called Led Zeppelin. Most of their music was too "acid rock" for my taste, but everybody pretty much loved the song, "Stairway To Heaven." I'm pretty sure it was the theme for one of my proms in high school.

It's been six weeks today. 42 days.

 And if there really was a stairway to heaven Glennee..this is what I would climb up and tell you.

In the words of Sally Fields, " They liked you, they really liked you!" You gave off a confident air, but I knew that underneath that  air was a person amazed when someone liked you and befriended you. You didn't trust too many people because of past hurts. I have tried to tell those whom you did trust and love, just what they meant to you.   The things that have been shared with me about you? You would be so humbled.  And people really miss you. A lot. You are so not forgotten by family or by our friends.

Thanks for teaching me so much. Most of the times the lessons were due to your physical limitations, but so far I've changed the furnace and fridge filters(I know...you kept meaning to do it), knew who to call to have the septic pumped, and had two bonfires. I have to tell you I got overwhelmed trying to clean up your work benches and shop. That was never my territory.  By the way, did you ever throw anything away out there? I don't think so. And we have another dead tree.

Our van is sitting neglected at the dealership...probably until they figure out what to do with it. I avoid driving past it because it makes me sad.

Dr. Freeman told me when I took Momo in to see him on Friday that he knew for sure  that I couldn't have saved you that night. He also told me that you wouldn't want me to struggle with the thought that I could have done something differently. My head knows that. Hopefully someday my heart will catch up.

I used to tell you that I could have written the words to Celine Dion's Because You Loved Me.  
I used to give you the lyrics on a regular basis. I'm doing okay. Even a little better than that. Because you loved me. How lucky and blessed was I?

Know that I keep trying to live everyday with the joy of life-the joie de vivre- that you so embraced and witnessed. My mom has a picture of you on our old pontoon with your arms spread wide and a big smile; she says that it is how she likes to remember you, because that is who you were. 

So now I'll walk back down the stairway to this life-you stay there.
 I understand where you are in a way limited by my own mortality, but I know it brings me peace to know you are free, happy and loved. And I hear you and feel your presence everyday. Stay with me.

Someday I will ascend the stairway and join you.

Until then, know that you live on in my heart, and in the hearts of so many.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Great Paradox

My life right now continues to amaze me. It still feels far from normal, even after doing things like getting my hair cut today and all of the other usual activities life requires.

Years ago I worked with this awesome woman whose husband was earning his 2nd doctorate at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. She used to joke that he was a paradox (pair-a-docs). At the time I laughed-and then I went to look up what the word meant. :).

I know now. The paradox in my life right now is profound.

I am surrounded by the world's most wonderful people; my children, mother, brother, sister, extended family and my dear, dear friends- the extent of their concern and love humbles me. Today I had coffee with Sandy and discovered that a group of my friends had left me a landscaping certificate hidden on the porch, and I didnt even know about it was there!  I was humbled. Glenn and I always planted things in memory of loved ones.

Another friend who bantered with G about the color of our famous adirondack chairs last summer(probably 25 Facebook exchanges-minimum) painted a chair the fuchsia pink she always vied for, in his honor today. Again, so humbling. He would have laughed so hard and been so happy.

I had a "moment" this afternoon of profound grief, but I knew I didn't have to go home alone. I could go to Sally and Jim's until it passed. Amazing.

Everywhere I turn, people are reaching out. And I am so blessed.

 I had one of my "disbelief" days today; where I played and replayed every moment of that last day, and how I could  have possibly changed the outcome. Logically I know that I couldn't, but I am exhausted by his absence. This new path is freaking hard work.

And at the same time, I felt so loved and so lucky and  so happy. For having had Glenn, and for Boo:), and for ALL of the dear people in my life, both family and friends. Laughing on the outside, crying on the inside.

Such a paradox.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Another step forward.

Glenn Derby LOVED cars and trucks. Really. I was going to list all the vehicles we have owned but it would be too embarrassing. :) His last desire,and the subject of many daydreams, was a Ford F150 pickup truck. He (with help from me:)) could never figure out how to justify that purchase at this stage in our lives.

Every vehicle we bought had size requirements. As you know, Glenn was a huge man with a St. Bernard head. He was 6'5" and his height was all in his torso; in fact his legs were super short. So car size was imperative. In his head, Glenn always wanted to be a 5'10",  180 pound runner. Truly. He wanted so badly to fit in a Prius or something small and economical. Impossible. So when we had a chance to lease a van two years ago, and he was comfortable in it, he was thrilled. It was a "normal" sized car in his mind.  Which probably explains how we got stuck in such a dumb deal. We drive way too much for a lease and indeed, we were way over mileage.

Suddenly I was stuck with a van with a big payment and too many miles, and I realized I needed  to cut my loss. I couldn't get comfortable with the choice of just handing over  the keys and a fat check to the dealer and driving my mom's 10 year old Acura. Her car is a beautiful car, but I realized I don't  have the emotional energy to deal with an older car that is more car than I need,  plus there is no dealer in our town. I am selling it to my son and daughter- in- law.   Psychologically I felt that I needed a new car with lots of warranties. And maybe a new start. 

I did something today that I have never done alone in my whole adult life. I bought a new car.  No "co-signer." About 6 months ago on one of our many journeys to Alexandria, Glenn asked me what car I would buy if I didn't have to consider his size. Since I didn't share his love for cars,  I had no idea what to reply. He told me that he thought a Honda CRV would be a perfect car for me. I never thought about that conversation again until last week. It was a weird fleeting comment. 

Before I walked into the dealership last week, I did my homework, as I'd been taught by Glenn. There is a way to find out what dealers pay for cars. I looked it up. I asked my accountant-a purely objective outside source-if my idea made sense. I asked my friend Jim, and my brother Chris if my idea was sound. I asked Ben, who knows cars for a living....Rav or CRV? I looked at which cars hold their value the best. And I ran the numbers again and again.  Yesterday, Sunday, I went back to the Honda dealer when I knew no one would be there. Last week I was looking at the stripped down version. As I stood there yesterday and looked at what a little more money would buy me, and how battered I felt, and how long I intended to drive this car, I decided to get the upgrade.

And this morning I strapped on my holster and went to Dodge. Okay I went to Honda. I had them write up their best deal without telling them what my financial plan would be. After an hour, I told them that I needed  them to absorb all the negative equity from my van, plus I wanted the manufacturer's discount. They sputtered. They said that couldn't happen. I shrugged and walked out. They called back three hours later with a deal. It took all day. 

At 5:30, I blew a kiss at the white van as I drove  away in my new Honda CRV. Once again, I felt like I was leaving him behind. In my continuing conversation with him, I felt a thumbs up. 

 I sobbed half the way home. 

And then  Helen Reddy started singing her song, "I Am Woman..."

And I smiled. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

And Through the Darkness Came the Light.

Most of my close friends are current or former teaching colleagues. I treasure them deeply,  and so  did Glenn. To them he was my husband, their friend, sports afficiendo, nice guy, "Manny"(man-nanny) etc. Because of his retirement , not many of them saw him in the role that I know he identified himself with the most, and that was a person selected and committed to be a priest in God's church.

The Episcopal church is an anomaly in this part of the country, which is highly populated by Roman Catholics and Lutherans. Our church is derived from the Church of England, which was formed during the English Reformation of the 16th century, when the papacy was challenged and dismissed. Nevertheless, our roots are heavily liturgical, but our message and theology is more protestant, liberal and inclusive. In the United States, it is a very old denomination, found primarily in the East and South.

We believe in the sacrament of ordination; rather than just being a job, thatthrough the laying on of hands during  ordination you are joined to a long and unbroken succession. . He used  to say that being a priest wasn't just what he did, it was who he was. Glenn wore that every day of his life, in his heart and soul. He wasn't one to wear his collar except on church business. He was fairly modest about his calling, believing that his actions would lead people to ask about his vocation, which is mostly what always happened.. (I just have to share an aside: When we were still in Milwaukee, I went with him once to visit someone in a Catholic hospital after church;he still had on his black shirt and collar. I waited for him in the lobby, and when he came out I planted a big old kiss- right on the lips. The shocked look on the greeters was worth it...he didn't find it funny.)

Today, I took a huge breath and drove to our church in Alexandria, MN. The place where our hearts had found a church home. The place where on the morning of the day that he would die, Glenn celebrated one final Eucharist. I went to enjoy a concert from the summer series they are doing to raise money to repair their beautiful pipe organ. I didn't think I was ready for a service yet, but I wanted to see our dear friends, and I thought it would be a safe first step. It was. I was so happy to see everyone, and to walk in their love. At first when we were outside, I thought that it would be a piece of cake. And then we went into the sanctuary for the concert.
There he was.

Glenn's  essence, his aura was everywhere. I could see him on the altar, and where he used to get his big feet stuck in the kneeler.  I could see where he used to preach and how he looked when he sang "Surely the presence of the The Lord  is in this place..." after communion.  I felt his presence so vividly and it hurt. A lot. And I cried.

But just  when I thought I couldn't do it, that the pain was too great, I looked at the sanctuary light. The light that represents Jesus; it burns 24/7/365, over the reserved sacrament. I've seen sanctuary lights above the altar all my life and never thought much about them, but today it brought me such peace. I felt the presence of Jesus. I was surrounded by people I have come to truly love, who knew the part of Glenn that was his heart and his soul. They knew his idiosyncracies and his humanness and they loved him anyway. I always got the impression that they truly believed, as we did, that he was called to be with them. And so when I felt a fresh wave of pain, I stared at the light, and at the giant wooden cross. And once again I felt the peace that passes all understanding. May you rest in peace too, my dear Glennee.

I'll keep looking to the light.

" Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Psalm 119:105

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I Guess It's Really True.

Shortly after Glenn's death, a dear friend sent me Joan Didian's book, A Year of Magical Thinking.  The author's husband suffered an inexplicable and unexpected  cardiac arrest at home, very similar to Glenn's attack. Her book is a touching memoir of her journey through grief.

I read it soon after Glenn's death, and I remember reacting to one part in particular. She was hesitant to give her husband's clothes away because she kept thinking that he would need them when he got back. At the time I scoffed a bit, knowing in my own mind that G wasn't coming back. And yet, as I move forward, each decision to move or change something of his,even when I instigate it, or want to do it, has a little wave of panic wrapped around it. As if I realize a little more each time that he REALLY isn't coming back. I thought I knew it, but five weeks later I think I'm just starting to believe it. And it is weird.

Yesterday I met with our accountant, the man who has done our taxes for a long time, and knew all the clergy benefits available. How odd to be seeing him in July, and alone. He gave me the bad news of how much more I need to withhold (a lot) now that Glenn's meager pension is added onto my modest income. He also gave me the good news that I will be financially okay. He showed me what to pay off, and what to put in a nest egg. He also confirmed as logical my ideas about what to do about the damn lease on our van, (one of those "what were we thinking Glenn" questions...).  It seemed so weird not to pick up the cell phone on the way home and call him to share what I had learned. 

When I returned  Glenn's almost brand new phone (remember he called it his "phablet"?) to Best Buy, they graciously refunded me more than the price of the phone; I wasn't sure why, but I was good with that. Today on a whim, I went there and  used the gift card to buy myself an inexpensive Samsung (I'm loyal because they gave my school 100k)small laptop- much more portable than the old Dell we have. It felt good but weird...electronics were Glenn's gig. Again, so strange not to come through the door and show him what I chose. And weirder still to set it up by myself.

On a lighter note, every time I accomplish something independently I hear myself singing the old Helen Reddie song "I Am Woman Hear Me Roar..." 

And then I look around to see if it is really (still) true. 

And it is. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

57 Shades of Gray. :)

My parents were married in June 1945, immediately after my father graduated from medical school. Very soon thereafter, my father was sent to Okinawa as a captain and physician in the Army. After his stint in the army was over (he was not a happy participant and remained a pacifist most of his life), they went "home" to Cincinnati, Ohio. 
There they joined an Episcopal church  called St. Michael and All Angels and became dear and best friends with the rector and his wife; a young couple who themselves had recently returned from five years as prisoners of war while serving as missionaries in Japan. Their names were Campbell and Jane Gray. I would step out and say that they were probably my parents' dearest friends of all time. There is a reason my middle name is Campbell, after my godfather. 
The years pass, children are born, the Grays return to Florida and my parents settled in Wisconsin. Eventually Cam and Jane's oldest son Frank attended  Episcopal seminary at Nashotah House, which is just outside of Milwaukee. He and his wife Karen were an huge part of my life growing up as a child and teenager, and remain as a sort of older brother and sister to me to this day. I love  them dearly.
The miracle comes in that their daughters, Katy and Libby, both of whose actual birth days I remember well, have over the years become "god sisters" to me. (Our words). I was 13 when Katy was born, which is negligible at this stage in life. Having Katy and 3 of her children here was like sharing 2 days with precious family. We talked (a lot) laughed, snorted, shared secrets,called Libby so she could join in, went to Nisswa (Neeswa...as KGW wanted to say) and contined the joy that our families have had together for almost 70 years. She gave me the courage to do a few firsts- I sat in Glenn's chair on the porch and barbecued for the first time since that fated evening. I was safe.
Glenn and I were blessed to spend time with Frank and Karen, Libby and Sam at Emily's wedding in May. 
For all of my 57 years of life,  I have loved a shade or two of Gray. 
Thank you. 

Monday, July 15, 2013


I am so blessed to have some very wise friends in my life. Very wise. Perhaps my wisest friend is Misty; we often speak in metaphors and analogies, and that is the language of my soul. 

Over a birthday dinner tonight I was telling her that I've reached this place where my emotions aren't so raw- the lead in my stomach has started to dissapate a bit. I don't feel that I need to divulge to everyone  I meet the events of the last month. Maybe it is the beginning of acceptance, and the amazing resiliency of the human spirit.

She likened it to overtime in football. A sport of which I am well acquainted, thanks to being a Derby. :)

Many times a game will end in a tie and the winner is decided in a very emotional overtime. Spirits are on overdrive and everyone is hyperalert. 

That is how it felt in the weeks following Glenn's death. There was an urgency...an energy,.. to cry out in agony, and to frame every piece of the reality of life around that tragic evening. 

 But that is not how life is. We cannot sustain the energy of overtime. And we shouldn't ...as humans we would extinguish emotionally.

And so life is taking on an "abnormal normalness." 

 Four quarters; a few good plays; a good game.
Real life.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Welcome Surprise

In the words of my eighth graders, I thought today would suck. It has been four weeks, 28 days, since that fateful night when my life changed forever. 

It actually turned out to be a day filled with peace. The peace that passes all understanding. God was with me today, and so was Glenn.

I'm beginning to explore the meaning of peace, as not being the absence of pain or suffering, but as living in the light of God's love.

(Frank Gray- I'm taking great liberty with your quote here and I give you all the credit. I changed your statement of God's will, to God's love. We will talk :))

I spent the day looking closely for the first time, assessing the "state of the union." There were boxes, etc. from my mom's move and remnants of the four-day-wake that happened here after Glenn's death. For the first time, I could think and begin to organize.
I sorted papers and threw stuff away. I rearranged some things in my closet. Baby steps toward the big move of discarding his clothes, although I'm not there yet.

But, I did change our sheets. I did it with some ceremony; lying down on his side etc. and weirdly kissing where his body laid that final time. I did not change his pillowcase, because if I bury my nose in it, I can still smell his humanness, and it brings me comfort.
There were no tears today. I haven't even watched the clock as I've done every Sunday since his death.

A visit to some friends' house turned into a dinner invitation.  It still feels weird to be responsible only for myself, but I had a lovely time.
A welcome surprise. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Middle Piece

When serving a cake, I think the best piece is one from the middle of the cake. It is fresh on all sides, with no burned edges.

Yesterday was my birthday and I became 57 years old. I married Glenn when I was 39, just shy of my 40th birthday. I didn't get to celebrate a lifetime of birthdays with him as some are lucky enough to do, but I feel like I got a precious "middle piece."  

When you are young there are so many pressures. Finding a job, buying a house, having babies...it is a wonderful and exhausting juggling act that I witness my own children experiencing in their lives right now. It is special, but it is not easy. Sometimes the edges are burned and crusty.

My parents were married 63 years. I envy that, but the edges got crusty for them  too as their health and mobility declined. 

The part of my life that Glenn and I shared was like the middle piece of a cake. We weren't young, but we weren't old either. When we married, my kids were young but not babies and his children were adults.  We got to share a lot of milestones-marriages, divorces, births and deaths- in our family together. 

Yesterday was strange, as is every day of my life right now. Ironically the only time I teared up was when Henry and Ryan finished watching the movie "Hercules". Michael Bolton sang the the theme song; in the early days, G and I loved his music. He sang a lot of "our" songs.

When I got up yesterday, I envisioned what would have been occurred had he still been with me. I always got up earlier than him,but since it was my birthday he would have made a point to get up soon after he realized I was awake.   He would have come into the living room and in a LOUD falsetto voice said, "Happy Bird-day to YOU!" There would not have been massive presents, cards or flowers (because I controlled the checkbook :), but there would have been a ton of loving gestures. And laughter , as he declared it un-officially my birthday when I went to bed. Which translated that he was off good -deed duty. It was so fun to be married to him.
As it was, it was a wonderful day surrounded by laughter and the love of my children and grandsons.

I am so blessed to still be cutting from the middle of the cake.

The Sounds of Silence.

Glenn had the reputation of being a "talker." And he was, given the right circumstances, but he was also a very quiet contemplative soul. And sometimes he wasn't even contemplating, he was just in "neutral"... or thinking about cars and trucks, and what color he would choose if he could. Not even kidding right there.

I'm discovering that it must have been ME who was doing all the talking. In fact I've known it for a long time. 

Apparently I was in the habit of "thinking out loud", a concept he never mastered or totally understood. I'm smiling because a few years ago as I spouted my every stream of consciousness, he asked me to let him know when he was supposed to reply. I told him he should just grunt or something to let me know he was listening.

For the first few days and weeks after his death,  I continued my monologue. 

I realized as I went to the grocery today that I am still talking to the person pulling out of the spot really slowwwwlllyy, but I am no longer giving my thoughts voice. 

It's really quiet around here. 

It is the sound of silence.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


I try pretty hard to keep up with trending things. I teach eighth graders and so being authentic and relatively in touch matters. I often risk my dignity if it means making a connection with kids. All my colleagues do that too....that is why we are bound so tightly as friends. We are in the trenches together. You see, relationship is the name of the game in eighth grade. As it should be in life. 

 I tell my students from day one that words matter. Words are powerful. Which is probably how the slang term for agreement , "Word" came to be. I've wanted to say it a lot lately.

I've been reflecting on some of the comments I've heard about Glenn since his death. There have been so many.The first was from this weird little online poker community he had formed. One person from Europe told me that she was suicidal but Glenn convinced her to try living another day, and another after that. Just by the power of his words.

Another friend told me of wise words he had shared with her about loving the most unloveable of our children, because they are the ones that need it the most.

A card arrived that told me about a person we know who came to St.Pauls and was feeling "invisible". Glenn's presence and handshake made them feel as if they mattered and were again visible in the world.

I told my mother the other night that Glenn always told me to give voice to my fears, because then the fear loses its power over you. As she transitions to a new chapter as well, she told me she often thinks of that, voices her fears, and it helps her. 

I hope somewhere he knows that he made a difference in the lives of so many people and that they carry his words with them.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pin Pricks of Light

When I was a child, we used to poke a hole in a piece of cardboard so that we didn't burn our retinas when watching an eclipse of the sun. The shadow would pass over the cardboard so that we could see the eclipse without staring directly into it. 
That is how I feel right now. Yesterday afternoon I left for my first trip, with no one waiting for me at home. I came to my daughter and son-in-law's house to babysit and help pack for the move to their first home later in the week. The trip was kicked off by Henry's T-ball game. (I just have to say that you have to be a grandparent to truly enjoy T-ball.:).  Lots of laughs...ice cream...both my children, spouses, grandkids...little specks of joy, although Ducky was noticeably absent. But still...I felt pin pricks of light. The shadow of joy passing across the cardboard.
This morning I took Henry to his weekly daycamp and Ryan to his daycare provider where his dad would retrieve him at the day's end. He had lots of questions for me as we drove along. Some were heartbreaking and impossible to explain to a 3 year old. Such as, " Where is Ducky's "vroom" chair?" When I stuttered that it was in the garage, he commented that it would be all dirty when he got back. OW. Another one was " Why was my daddy at the church when you kissed Ducky's picture?" I'm not sure what I answered, but I know that his next comment had to do with the smell the truck next to us was emitting. What a lesson...ask the hard questions, and then move on.
I have no idea why Glenn(Ducky) died three weeks ago.  He had no indication that it was going to happen. I still fight with the "What  if I had" questions; just as I felt with Ryan's questions.
OW- that hurts.

But for the first time, I went for 24 hours without crying; actually  it is going on 48 hours, I moved on a little. And although Glenn is on my mind  24/7... evening my dreams....I laughed...I joked ...I had fun. I still feel a little guilty over that. That will take time to feel right.
Little pin pricks of light ..one at a time. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

An Orderly Life

I've always considered myself a fairly flexible person. My adult children may disagree, but that is the privilege of motherhood :). I prove my case by pointing out that I spend my days with eighth-graders. Flexibility is the key to survival in my game.

And yet flexible as I see myself, I realized tonight, (after verbally puking my grief and guts out in a friend's  lap ), that I've really had a very orderly life. 
Until now. 

And I'm not coping well with that. Any minor change in plan from what I expect to happen, throws me for a loop. Going with the flow? Pretty hard.

Everything in my life has happened in order. I went to college, graduated, got married, got a job and had two children. And even though that marriage ended sadly in divorce, the order of my life continued. I got remarried at 39 and carried on, building a new career on the way.

My children did things in order too...nobody made me a grandma before I was a mother-in-law. There is nothing wrong with that, but what I am expressing is that there were no surprises along the way. Everybody followed the order rule. College, job, marriage, house, children .


Even my dad's death was orderly. He fell on a Monday, and died peacefully the next Sunday at the age of 87. 


Three weeks ago at about this moment, that order ended. Abruptly. A ninja came in and ripped apart my orderly life with a samurai sword. Glenn was not supposed to die that night, not yet, and not so violently. It wasn't in the order of my life. I was supposed to retire early, we would go somewhere warm for a bit in the winter; we had even been looking at renting an RV for a road trip. Maybe when I was 70 and he was 82... maybe then the order would have been more palatable. 
Not yet. Not now.

It's out of order. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

It's A Dog's Life

There were a few things that Glenn and I discovered that we had in common right off the bat. One was that we both loved ketchup on our scrambled eggs, olives in anything, and all things canine. By the time I met him I think he had had at least a dozen dogs in his life, not including the ones that were strictly his children's. Growing up, I was dog-crazy as some girls are horse-crazy. Unfortunately, my family didn't share my passion. When I met Glenn, I was still on my first dog, a loyal, perfect Golden Retriever named Megan. In1999 she became gravely ill at the age of 13, and was helped out of her pain by a veterinarian who had just opened his own practice here in Brainerd. It was a Saturday night, and he was the only vet I could get to answer an emergency call. He treated her, and us,with dignity and humanity. And through the following years, his practice grew and flourished. And the Derbys  strutted more than a few dogs (and a cat) through his doors on Foley Road.

Here is a list of our pets we've had just since we have lived in Brainerd: Jipp, a neurotic Bernese Mountain Dog, Pal, a blind Springer, Charlie, a dog from the Reservation, Annie and Shelly-(2 labs that Glenn felt sorry for because their owner was never home), Gus, a dog I fell in love with at the pet store, Mr. Toes- a 6-toed cat that we rescued from in front of Christmas Point one year, Boo, steady solid rag-a-muffin Boo, and finally Abi, a dog Glenn found at a rescue site on-line.  And this is her story.

One Friday in October of 2010, I came home from school to find Glenn "smitten" with a Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier on a rescue site. The connection was strong, and although I didn't understand it because life was so easy with our little portable Boo, I honored it. The next day, we were in Maplewood, MN meeting Amy, whose name I changed to Abi as part of her new life. They told us she had "issues." She had already snarled and snapped at someone that morning. He wanted that dog; I had hesitations. We brought her home, got her back to health, and Glenn worked tirelessly with her, socializing her all over town. She made great strides...great strides...but just when you thought she was rehabilitated, she showed some aggression. Unexpectedly. She got obsessively protective of our home, our car, and most especially Glenn. She was intelligent and knew that the grandchildren were "his" , so they were never in danger. But the cable guy, with whom minutes before she was playing was all of a sudden a target because he reached in at G in a way she found threatening. Glenn and I had begun the conversation about Abi; he felt that he had done all he could, but the abuse she suffered early in her life just couldn't be erased or ultimately overcome. We talked about the strangeness of having a dog you couldn't  really trust. All our other dogs found new homes better suited for them, or were ill and died. This was new territory. We kept putting off the decision.

Abi's personality changed for the worse when Glenn died. She reverted back to a lot of old aggressive behavior. I tried- I really did- the vet had her on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. And yet everyday, her behavior got stranger. She wouldn't eat much, or smile in the way dogs do. Yesterday she almost bit my friend who was helping me move some furniture, cried at me in a way I'd never heard from a dog, and last night she aggressively fought with my niece's dog, without provocation. Today she went after the movers.  She was miserable and I truly believe was ultimately turning into a danger to others.

I called my vet today,  now a long-established friend, wondering if he would be on call for the weekend. By grace he was. He assured me that my instincts were correct-he told me that the only thing he didn't want me to feel was guilt. Glenn gave Abi three years where she felt as happy as she could possibly be, considering the damage that had been inflicted on her by other humans. If not for Glenn and his unbending belief that love and forgiveness can cure most things, she would have been put down long before today.

Abi went to heaven  peacefully and without suffering. I believe she is finally free from fear, anxiety and pain.  And probably asking Glenn, " Dude...who are these other dogs? I thought I was your favorite." Yep....answer that one Big Guy. Remember....she bites.
RIP Abi Derby. Loved you tons, because really, aren't we all broken in some way?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Same Book, Different Chapter.

Late this afternoon, one of my guardian angels, my friend Sandy,  called to see how I was doing. She was one of the dear friends who kept me and my house going while the world was crashing down around me 20 days ago.

I told her that Glenn's special chair no longer brought me comfort; in fact it reminded me of his fairly violent passing from this life to the next and that one of my other G.A's (guardian angels), Misty, had come and helped me move it to her truck. She is going to take care of donating it or selling it for me. As we moved it, Glenn's loyal dog Abi started becoming extremely agitated and would yelp as if  in pain when I tried to contain her. That was fuel to the grief fire. I'm sure she could still smell him on the chair and was panicked as to why it was leaving our home.

After Misty left, I decided to move all the furniture around in our great room, so that I could view the world from a different perspective (as if I'm not already). When I told Sandy what I had done, she made this awesome statement that summed up my day today.
"Same book, different chapter."
How profound. Have you ever read a book that is divided into parts? That is how this feels.  As if I've finished with one huge chunk of the epic, and I'm turning the page to start reading the next section. Same book, different chapter.

Everything is so much the same, yet so different. It was weird to go to Costco by myself today; G never turned down a chance to browse there. I bought water and an immersion blender to purée my mom's food. A Costco trip for under $50. That in itself is weird. The free samples held no appeal. I stopped and canceled the appointment at the hearing aid department that he had reluctantly made last month. The words, "My husband died" is getting familiar, yet still sounds so new.
 Same book...different chapter.

My mom came over for the first time since Glenn's death, with my sister and brother-in-law. We had a casserole from the stockpile still in my freezer. So familiar to have them here, yet so different. There was someone dearly missed.
Same book, different chapter.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Going Out On A Limb.

I am a Christian. Not a creepy, in-your-face- judgemental Christian that I believe gives  the faith a bad name these days, but I do believe, and I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe that Glenn has been born again to a new  life, and that I cannot understand exactly what that means.

So what I am going to tell you is going to sound odd. And I ask you not to judge me.

For the first few days and weeks, (although it has only been 18 days), I felt Glenn's presence with me most of the time. Unexplainable things happened. His old cell phone started quacking ( his noise for Henry and Ryan), really it did. Things  I couldn't find were shown to me when I said, "Glenn! Where is your wallet?"and I was inwardly directed to a place I would not have looked. The same happened with some dog collars I was searching for the morning after his death.

A week later, I sold our old green van to a wonderful family in a town near here. I got an email from them a few days later that said that even with intense detailing, almonds kept showing up in the back seat every morning. Their kids fought to go out to see how many were there every morning. Glenn always ate almonds thinking they were a healthy snack. I used to tell him that ten are healthy, but fifty were just fattening. The odd part was that we didn't travel in that car. That was my back and forth to school car. I have no idea where the almonds came from. I do know that this family has an autistic child who got great pleasure out of the almond findings. It would be so like Glenn to provide that joy.

Are you convinced yet that I'm losing it? Wait a bit.

The night before last, I finally dreamed about him. In my dream, he was sitting by our fireplace in a tiny chair that he never would have fit in in this life. He was wearing a shirt I had  long forgotten about . It was just a fleeting image of a  dream, but I thought about it a lot. There was some kind of a goodbye happening, though no words were spoken.

Last night about this time, I had the feeling of a fresh goodbye. I played some of our "private" love songs on You Tube and felt the anguish of fresh grief again. For some reason I felt like he was making the next step in his new journey; one that didn't include contact with this world anymore. It was very painful.

I have no idea why I think this, and I know it has no biblical basis. But it feels very real. I asked him to stay just a little while longer, but I didn't feel an answer. I did have an image of him rubbing my face lovingly, as he did in this life.

I do know that when I woke up today- the fourth of July-something felt different. I packed up some stuff in preparation to turn his office into a room for Henry and Ryan. I called my friend and said that I needed to get rid of his lift chair, the one that I believe he died in. Once again, it represented his limitations, not the heart and soul of the man I loved.

I hope you are not reading this with scorn or condemnation. My beliefs are rooted in Christian theology and not reincarnation. Whether or not my feelings are a by-product of grief or imagination means little. To me they are the truth.

There is a mystery to life... and now I really believe to death.

I'm just going out on a limb.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bionic Man

When I first began teaching, I worked closely with a friend who was from Boston. I saw her at Glenn's funeral and reminded her that she was the first person I ever knew that used the word "wicked" as an intensifier, such as, "That was wicked good."

I had a wicked hard appointment today.

My mother broke her arm in April and the events afterwards led to her new residence in an assisted living home. Today was her final visit with the orthopaedic surgeon who treated her break, and although I almost backed out, I went with her. I knew I had some things to say to him.

If you knew Glenn, you would know that I used to call him my "bionic" man. He had all major joints replaced except for one hip and his ankles. One knee was done twice. I used to joke that when they invented a brain transplant, I would have the perfect man. I'm glad he really did know that I believed I had the man perfect for me.

Fifteen years ago this month we moved into a house in Brainerd, the same week that a young man, fresh out of his residency in orthopaedic surgery, and his wife and  2 year old daughter did. We lived four houses away from each other. As the years passed, they went on to have 3 more children, and he began rebuilding Glenn's joints, the casualities from a lifetime of abuse in sports and ranching. Soon they moved on to a bigger and well-earned home, and we moved on as well.

But the connection stayed, and we were always so thankful for the skills that this man was blessed with, that allowed Glenn to have as high a quality of life as he did, right to the end. He even had taken up snow shoeing last winter.

I knew I would break down when I saw him, and he did too a bit. But I needed to thank him for the gifts of health and the quality of life that he gave back to Glenn.

As the appointment ended, there were no more words. He dismissed my mom with tongue-in-cheek instructions not to fall again. 

Then he gave me one final hug. We both knew it was a goodbye of sorts. 

It was the end of another part of the era that was Glenn Evans Derby. 
Bionic man.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Baby Steps

Baby steps towards the new normal.

After a breakdown of sorts last night at the simple act of switching the calendar page, today was a better day. 

I ate a hard boiled egg for breakfast. That is huge...I haven't wanted to eat in the morning for two weeks. 
Baby steps.

I buckled down and completed the pension paperwork. Called and made an appointment with our tax guy.
Baby steps.

This afternoon I made a deposit at the bank and didn't feel the urge..(okay..maybe just a little) to choke the teller who told me to have a "super" Fourth of July(major smile with braces)...as she deposited a life insurance check into our savings for my dead husband.
Baby steps.

I went to Culver's. Let me repeat that. I went to Culver's, ordered a cone and ate it. It's is a big deal because Glenn LOVED Culvers. A trip up 371 always included noting the flavor of the day, and whether it was worth the calories. When I cleaned out the old green van last week to sell, there was a chocolate shake cup hidden under the seat, like contraband. I smiled and prayed that he had enjoyed it. I always ordered a single, he always ordered a double, and when I gave him the "look", he used to say, " Life is short..I want a double. Get over it." Glad I did. I had a chocolate eclair...single.
Baby steps.

I came home and dyed my roots, since I know I can't make small talk with a stranger for two hours right now, but at least I noticed.
Baby steps.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Smack Dab Reality. Pow.

I've already blogged today.
And then I did it.
I flipped the calendar to July. And I broke down sobbing.

Now your death has occurred-but it was "last month." Your handwriting  records just a few birthdays and commitments on our calendar. Next month there will be 30 more days since you have been gone. Pretty soon I will be saying my husband died six months ago, a year ago, five years ago.

This is just not acceptable.

I was not ready to say goodbye. And neither were you.

I know you are safe and loved...and you will live forever in my heart.

But dammit...I want you back. All of you, not just the memory. Right here. In July.