Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Memories

I was reflecting tonight on the events leading up to a little scruffy dog coming to live with us seven years ago today.

At the time, I was struggling. My children are six years apart in age, and so I spent a long time mothering and nurturing-from1981 to 2006. I love being a mother, and I have loved every stage of their lives, including now when they are successful, independent adults.

But in the fall of 2006, I was having a true case of empty- nest syndrome.  My sweet boy Christopher had left for Hamline University, and he never looked back. And while I was so happy for him, finding his niche, I was missing being a full time mom for the first time in 25 years.

Glenn had just retired, and he was struggling with how to fill his days in a meaningful way too.
He spent lots of time just hanging out.

Which is what brought him to HART that Halloween day in 2006. A friend of mine's dad had recently surrendered a Great Dane to HART ( Heartland Animal Rescue Team). Glenn loved big dogs and went to "visit". He sent me an email that he and Solomon were on their way home.

I came UNGLUED. We were in the process of selling our house to leave  our options open. We weren't sure if we would remain here. We were planning to rent an apartment while we worked it out.
I literally FLEW out of school mad as a hen. I couldn't imagine what he was thinking....we can't have a Great Dane in an apartment!

I pulled in the driveway, and there was my daughter, who was still living in Brainerd at the time, holding a darling little dog that resembled Benji from the movie.

What a trick! He saw this dog and knew that it would help me make the transition to the next stage in life, by giving me something to train and care for. The dog was heaven-sent. He caught on to the schedule of our household and fit in as if he had always lived there. And he always has.

While we pondered what to name him, a trick-or-treater rang the doorbell and yelled, "Boo!" Right then we knew....

Ironically I recently adopted a cat (who thinks he is a dog) and I named him Atticus, after the protagonist in my favorite novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.  If you know the novel, you will chuckle that I now have Atticus and Boo living with me. :)

Throughout this time in my life, I am amazed at how life pieces itself together without realization, until you reflect on it with hindsight. Then the pieces all start to make sense.

Lessons on the journey.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Three wishes

Three wishes is a common motif in many pieces of literature across many cultures.

These are my three wishes tonight.

1. I wish hadn't been sleepy and unalarmed when Glenn felt sick that night. Even if it wouldn't have made a difference, which I know logically it wouldn't have, maybe then I could truly believe it in my heart now. 

2. I wish I could have said goodbye and had a chance to tell him how much I loved him one more time. While I was busy doing CPR and calling 911, he left me forever.

3. More than anything tonight, I wish he was still here with me. I miss him so much.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Waking up

18 weeks. My daughter kindly wondered aloud this weekend when I thought I'd stop counting. I have no idea. It's kind of my nature to put things in chronological order according to major life events.

I do know that I feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle. I'm starting to wake up a bit. Life is getting a little less foggy.

I have been so blessed on this journey to have the support of family and dear friends. Indeed, I truly believe I would not have survived without them. But the reality of human nature is that life moves on. People, even those closest to you,  want to see the person they love moving forward. And at work when aquaintances say, " Hey! How are you?" , most often they are greeting you and really don't want a Debbie Downer answer. I get that. And since school started, I have tried to be emotionally anonymous at work. It's a coping technique.

But I know that those feelings have to have an outlet. So I finally made an appointment with a much recommended therapist here in town. I wasn't disappointed. Her professionalism has given me a safe place to work through my grief.

And what I'm realizing, in reliving some of it with her, is that there were parts of that evening and the weeks after that I either don't remember, or I just now remember. For instance, I must have unlocked the door for the paramedics, but I have no recollection of it, nor do I remember any phone calls made that evening. It is important to recreate it, in order to be complete with it. I'm finally letting go of the fact that I could have changed the outcome, and why I thought I could. Almost. I still want to own it somehow. Mostly what I remember from the summer was not being able to breathe.

I'm starting to awaken. Now, I know what I'm ready to change, and what I'm not ready to change. For example, I spoke with a jeweler about having our rings made into a single piece of jewelry. I'm not ready for that yet. A few changes in the house decor? Ready.
I put away most of his clothes in the back closet this summer and thought  I was done with that task, and then I found  a trunk full of winter clothes etc. I sighed and shut it for a different day. Wasn't ready.

I'm waking up. I'm able to work through my grief in appropriate ways so that I can function in the rest of my world.  I'm compartmentalizing. That's a good thing.

Starting to awaken on the journey. One day at a time.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Phantom limbs

The other day someone posted this on Pinterest and it really spoke to me. 

 "In French, you don't really say " I miss you"... you say, "tu me manques " which means, "you are missing from  me"...."

There is such a distinction in that statement.

I miss Glenn every second of every minute of every hour. But, as Robert Frost so eloquently said, "Life goes on". I no longer feel that desperate grief. 

I have worked hard to keep living life; new routines, furniture arrangements, a new feline family member, and even a new hot tub.

 Although it was hard going back, my days at work are full and mostly happy, spent with dear friends and energetic eighth-graders. 

My auto-response still imagines telling Glenn news from the day, and sometimes I still reach to call or email him during the day, before I remember that he is missing from me.

I feel as I would imagine  people who have lost a limb feel; their conscious mind knows that their arm or leg is missing, and yet, "phantom" pain makes them think their  limb is still present.

Most days I don't spend time in lonely grief anymore. For the most part I've started to believe my truth, and I'm creating a new life. 

But I have a "phantom limb" named Glenn.

He is missing from me, but I still feel him with me.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Radiant love.

It is Sunday today. It has been 16 weeks today. It would be four months if our calendar didn't throw in some five week months. Thanks Julian calendar :).

Normally I would be suffering. Instead,  I have enjoyed a very peaceful, grace-filled day.  I did all my have-to-do errands yesterday.

On reflection, I think I know why. Once again it is the witnessing of grace; the belief that Glenn and I based our marriage upon, that continues to bring me such peace. The beauty of grace is that it is freely given; in our faith it is a gift from God.

Last night, in the midst of some absolutely horrendous weather, I saw grace in action again. I was fortunate enough to witness my friends Chris and Karole become legally married by the state of Minnesota. Let me clarify that six months ago they would not have been allowed to marry. Last night's celebration was not about a "civil union". It was about love and commitment to each other forever. Grace was present.

They lovingly placed a chair in the picture tent, painted fuschia in honor of Glenn. It held a candle, flowers and his picture with that s###t eating grin he always had. If you have been my FB friend for awhile, you would know that Chris and Glenn had an eternally long battle about painting one of our chairs at the fire pit fuschia. It was so touching I had trouble finding words. Grace in action.

Grace. Glenn was a huge football- playing , testosterone filled GUY with just as big of a heart. His heart led him to fully embrace love and marriage for all. It was a journey for him- he worked through it. Fortunately we belong to a loving and inclusive church that supported this journey, and he ended up believing it with all that he was.

He used to tell me that our friends who are gay were  such a gift to him, because they put faces and humanity above the politics.; he loved them for the humans they are, not for whom they chose to love. Besides, Chris Kelly.....he loved your laugh. It was only matched by his own. And Audra? If you are reading this, know that Glenn thought you were the gentlest soul he ever knew and said so every time we saw you.

Yes. I feel radiant love today in the presence of grace.

It's all part of the journey.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The speed of life.

When my daughter Emily was about a month old I remember telling my father that I couldn't wait until she could sit up. He told me not to wish her life away; to which I either literally or figuratively rolled my 25 year old eyes. What did THAT mean?

I so totally understand his sentiments now. Emily is now 32! What? How did that happen? Tonight I read my alumni magazine from St. Olaf -I graduated in 1978...35 did THAT happen?

You know  the years have gone by when you skip marriages and births and career changes,  and skip to deaths, in the alumni magazine. It is morbid, but true. And then when you sigh a breath of relief to realize nobody you know is on the list.

The other shocking thing I read was the obituaries of two profs that were "newbies "when I started college. Huh? do you continue to live your life when you know the inevitable  ending?

Fake it. Live like you have forever. Take the chances. Spend the money. Take the trips. Ride the horses. (Okay. Riding a horse is on my bucket list.)

I've learned there is a fine line between planning for the future and living your life without regret.

Glenn lived his life. He understood the balance very well. I was the worrier ...he just lived life without much worry. He never got his Ford F150 pickup truck, but he had many other cool vehicles. 

I always thought his weakness was his desire to live in the present.

I now think  it was his strength. 
Lessons on the journey.