Last Night I Saw You

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I saw you last night in my dreams. More clear and close than I have in over a year. I felt your hand squeeze mine, for the very briefest of moments. I tried to capture that moment, to hold on longer, to curl up into a ball of warm memories, a puddle of desperate longing. It almost worked.

I saw your eyes. Your big, beautiful, blue-green eyes. They were closed for a blink, but they opened up and looked back at me. For the very briefest of moments. I knew that moment was fleeting. Light and time were already beckoning me to wake. Just a little longer, I beg. But no.

I heard your voice. Your sweet, strong, comforting voice. We had an argument that passed just as quickly as the dream itself. Even in that, the pangs of familiarity pulled at my heart. And we reconciled, and became as one. And it was gone.

You were sitting across from me, listening to me talk about something that was about to happen, as if it already had. You had no words, only your loving and knowing eyes. Are you still with me? Do you keep vigil on these lonesome roads and dark nights? Do you still love me?

I love you. I loved you.

K.
Shine on, my sparkler, shine on.

First Anniversary Without You

Featuredangel of grief statue at Stanford

Today is.. would have been.. our 9th wedding anniversary. That day was a whirlwind! We didn’t spend the night apart like many couples do; we didn’t feel the need to. We forgot to bring our wedding favors — our customized M&M’s. But we distributed them later at a family gathering. Your mom burned her hand on a curling iron. You got so anxious you couldn’t eat. We trekked all over the University of Redlands for pictures. And you in your 5-inch zebra heels. We almost forgot to pay the photographer! I had to borrow a check from your aunt and pay them back later.

Nine years ago, you said ‘I do’ and made me the happiest man in the world. We planned, prepared, and set everything in place as best we could. We celebrated the beginning of a new life, together with our family and friends.

And almost one year ago, minus a week or so, you suddenly and inexplicably left this world. There was no warning, no preparation, no setting, and no goodbye. And we mourned the loss of your life, alone and apart.

i feel so alone without you...

Til death do us part.

When a bride and groom say those words, they don’t actually think that they’ll truly become reality. At least not before they grow old and frail. That’s way far off in the future, not something anybody should worry about anytime soon. Living will? Death folder? Life insurance? PAH! Nonsense. A problem for future selves.

Let alone the emotional, physical, and mental implications. When you do this right, your spouse becomes your WORLD. And don’t get me wrong, you can and should retain some of your independent interests and person-hood; but by and large, you become intertwined together as one new entity, as ‘US’. So then to suddenly lose that half (or at least, large part) of your life, your “new self” that was/is ‘US’, is quite literally devastating. It’s like violently tearing apart a zipper that’s been stuck together for years and years, happily rusted together at nearly every turn — it’s gonna hurt like hell, and you’re gonna lose some pieces.

broken heart with cracks and bandage
Our hearts are strong, but not invincible.

Hold every memory.

We made so many memories in our relatively short time as US. Disneyland, beach days, Halloween parties, Christmas light tours, snow days, County fairs, occasional vacation trips, surprise Valentine scrapbooks, lazy stay-in-bed-all-days, steamy and wonderfully passionate nights… I will never forget any of them. Yet even as I say that, I know some of those memories are fading. Thank god, despite my protests and eye-rolls, you always insisted on taking plenty of pictures. I will always cherish them. And, as you know from my occasional zealous need to organize things, I will probably continue to find some excuse to sort and sift through them every so often.

Those scrapbooks, in particular, will continue to be some of my most beloved possessions. The time and thoughtfulness you dedicated to them was unparalleled. Your creativity was a marvel to me, unmatched in my eyes by anything but your love and devotion. I cannot thank you enough for these treasures, even as I mourn the loss of never seeing any more of them in my future.

I tried to do them justice when I constructed your memorial video and music playlist. I’m sure that I fell far short of potential. Yet who even thinks they’ll ever need to undertake such a task? Surely, again, not until you’re 80. And then it should have been our children’s job. Not mine, nor yours.

a heart in the sand is being washed away by the ocean

Here’s to Us.

As the song goes, from P!nk’s Beautiful Trauma album:

What about us? What about all the times you said you had the answer?
What about us? What about all the broken happy-ever-afters?
What about us? What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
What about love? What about trust? What about us?

We thought we had the answers. We thought we had our happy-ever-after. We had plans. And indeed, it ended in disaster. You were taken from this world, from us, from your family, from me. And we don’t get to be ‘US’, anymore.

But when we were… Oh, it was beautiful. You gave me purpose, life, beauty, laughter, tears, joy, happiness, heartache, inspiration, passion, ecstasy, agony, purity, drive, desire, wholeness, openness, and most of all, love.

I just want to lay on your chest and listen to your heartbeat.
But I can’t. Not anymore.

The greatest of these is Love.

Today, as I have every year since that first time I saw you in that perfect white dress, with your curled blond hair and your ruby lips and your ocean eyes, I say thank you. For all of it. Everything you did for me, everything you made me, everything you gave me. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. Through hard times and happy times. As long as we both shall live lived.

And though you live no longer, in this world, know that you will always live on in my heart. I may or may not find love again; yet even if I do, it will never be the same. You were, are, and always will be, my soulmate. And I will see you again in Paradise.

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Little Moments

Since I forgot to prepare something for Friday, these are few random tidbits from my grief journal about little things that remind me of her, sometimes catching me off-guard. I hope that you may find some solace in knowing that they happen to every griever, in a million unexpected ways.

N.

I found myself talking back to a movie like we used to do. It was Shooter, with your boyfriend Marky-Mark (Wahlberg). Such a fantastic movie. But as I was talking to it, I caught myself in a moment as if you were with me. Then it faded just as quickly. We won’t ever do that together again.

This sunburn spot below my neck is driving me insane. You would have reminded me to put on sunscreen for the snow. I miss your reminders. I love you.

After they leave, I gather my strength for one last clean sweep of the old apartment. I purge a little more, I stow the rest in the pickup, sweep and sweep, and finally say goodbye. There is no emotion nor attachment left to this place. You are gone from it; you are with me, but above me, like the subtle hint of rainbows spilling across the sky yet touching the ground somewhere undefined. I know that no matter how close I come to the source, I will not find it again.

As I’m sifting through our old gadgets, I reminisce about our early days. There was that infamous call from the peak of Mount Lassen when I went camping the summer of 2008, just after we’d started talking – the “smile ten-miles wide”. I can still recall that first ten-mile-wide smile on your warm inviting face, those deep steel-blue eyes, that sunny blond hair and sun-kissed California skin. Life began that day. And ended the day you passed away. Nothing in this world will ever be as beautiful as you.

rare fire rainbow in cloud formaion
Called a “fire rainbow“, rare and beautiful.
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A Grief Observed, part 7

This will likely be the final ‘official’ entry from my grief journal. The number seven has some special significance, so it seems a good place to put the final post. I will of course continue to journal privately, and to work on other forms of writing, such as stories and anecdotes. For those of you who have read this far, thank you. I hope that it has helped you in some small way. Love and light to you.

The Wake

Family gathers at B’s house afterwards. I eat something, a relatively bland sandwich. I wish someone would have brilliantly thought to bring in La Costa, but I supposed that could be expensive. Still, it would have been nice to have some of their chips and salsa at least. Oh well. Someone from my mom’s side of the family snuck in Fireball whiskey. Yeesh.

The flowers are still so pretty; we all brought them over from the funeral. Your mom is going to make some kind of smaller arrangements and things with them, perhaps even something involving dried petals, so I overheard.

My side of the family decides to head out to a local bar, and makes sure that I know they want me to come along. So I stay with yours for a while at B’s, then head over to State Bar in Redlands. It proves a bit difficult to find, mostly due to the parking situation and the fact that today is Thursday, Farmer’s Market day, which I totally forgot. But I find them anyway with K’s help. They shove food and some alcohol at me when I get there. Which is probably a good thing, considering how little I’ve eaten recently. Although I do get pretty bloated later.

I drive myself & Z home. K decides we need more alcohol. So we run to the store to pick up that plus a few snacky things. Then we play Shanghai. I may have won. Time is so strange now. It seems like it should be hours later than it is, but the days get lost or skipped in my brain.

The remembrance cards are so pretty. I love that your mom did those all herself. With D’s help maybe? You were such a graphic designer, I’m sure you could put ours to shame. I know that you’d be highly disappointed with my slideshows just for the lack of collages and variety (and general picture quality, perhaps). What could we do? You were taken away from us without warning.

a million words would not bring you back

 

 

The Days After the Memorial

Now the days get worse. I ache, I feel unrested. Parents try to make a nice breakfast but I can’t eat too much. Still, I try. 

Sleeping, actually doing better now. The dogs still wake us all up at 6 or 7, but at least I can go back to sleep without a second pill. The house gets warmer than I’d like but I still have to have your Unicorn blanket on me. 

Saturday morning I decide to join the parents in their ritual of Starbucks and Great Harvest, with their dogs. We don’t take Keira because of how nervous and stressed she’s been. She stays at the house and just pines for me while I’m away, apparently. It’s okay, she’ll get used to things. The sandwiches are really good. You probably would have liked them. And this odd thing I tried from Starbucks, an “almond protein infused cold brew”. Which is actually blended like a frapp, just without whipped cream and stuff.

Then I head up to Corona after stopping by on the cats. Your dad seems to be hanging in there. We do have to talk about the whole living and moving situation sometime soon. He starts but he knows I have to get going.

My stomach is horribly bloated today, it seems. I just feel icky. Before I left the parents, I took Keira on a little jog through the maintenance road behind the houses. I think she did okay, but I was terribly out of shape. My lungs were the problem, I think, which is what K said; not my legs or feet. Even though I did just wear those Vans, since I don’t have actual exercise shoes. Do you think I should start exercising more? I guess so. You wanted to, a long time ago, before you just kept getting sicker and more hurt.

I’m so sorry my baby. I wish I could have helped you more.

Corona is all happy to see us. Keira does great today, even better than before, and everybody is pretty chill. I think running her beforehand helped. 

Today is almost over. I still don’t feel good. My stomach is still knotty. Your mom gave me ranitidine and some other tummy pill. Hopefully it helps. But then I got so hungry again before bed that I had to have of their homemade coleslaw and pasta salad. And a tiny sliver of cheesecake. I probably shouldn’t have done the cheesecake. We both had this problem sometimes, didn’t we? Our eyes bigger than our stomachs. In your case almost literally.

I love you my angel. I know you don’t sleep anymore, that you don’t dream because Heaven is beyond even our best and most wonderful dreams. But please help us rest tonight and please help my tummy feel better.

no tomorrows (poem)
There are no tomorrows.

 

The Week After the Service

Trying to spend more time with family. We play lots of cards. J&M come over one more time on Sunday and we play a large game of Spicy Farkle. It’s a bit of a loud dice game but it can be kinda entertaining. Keira is still doing well and I take her for a jog again, with K, and we both have trouble making our lungs work the last leg.

Dad helps arrange some trucks and help for “storage emptying day”, which is Monday. B comes with his truck and his fake leg, which he is more than happy to tell not one but three stories about taking it off and waving it at people for one reason or another. You would have loved that. We empty the storage unit in one trip and head back to the condo to stack it all in the living room. It’s a bit overwhelming but I’ll work on it slowly. 

Finally, tonight, your dad comes over for dinner. I’m proud of him. Dad grills some really delicious ribeye steaks. I make Mom make the powdered instant potatoes the way you did for that extra fluffiness. Of course your dad talks about old times and the usual, but it’s good for him. I drive him home and then come back to hang out with the siblings for the last time, with another game of, obviously, Shanghai. Then I actually drive home for good, to try to sleep..

My first night back in our bed.

It’s difficult, to say the least.

Keira is obviously missing you too; she sleeps on your side of the bed all night. I wake up at least 3 times. But we get through it. Then your mom actually arrives early Tuesday morning to start cleaning the room and taking clothes home. We have a calm morning organizing things, and then I head out to meet Z for lunch before he goes home. I wanted to stay longer but Mom says she is feeling more connected with you by doing this stuff all day, so I leave her to it.

I was going to come back before dinner but the parents already have it planned, so I check with her before staying, and she’s happy. We play some Starcraft before dinner. Then we have one last card game. I drive home again to get an early bedtime, since I am going into work tomorrow.

The past few days, there’s been an almost overwhelming sense of moving on. Not that I ever will, but it feels that there’s this pressure. Not from people, specifically, but just the universe I guess. It’s hard to explain. I am starting to feel less discomfort and pain, and more of a willingness to get back to work and try to get back into some normal routines.

For the second day in a row, your mom’s cleanup work at home is absolutely stunning. Clothes are almost all gone; bedroom, bathroom, kitchen are all organized; even the dining table is clear! It’s so amazing of her to do this all. I don’t know how she’s doing it, honestly, but it’s either helping her cope or it’s pure adrenaline fumes.

Bed time again. I get Keira up on the bed with me, which I want to keep doing. She was finally able to eat something after I mixed in some beef broth and canned food with her kibble. Hopefully she can continue to get better. She misses you so much. I miss you.

I need you here with me. I keep watching our honeymoon videos on repeat. I need you with me on my upcoming road trip for the tech conference. I need you with me as I fall asleep, as I wake up and get ready for work. But mostly I need your laugh, your smile, your kiss, your embrace. I love you. I loved you.

as long as i breathe you'll be remembered

Always and forever.

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A Grief Observed, part 6

Apologies for the lack of posting last week. Busy schedule. Appropriately, this entry in the journal also comes after a longer pause than usual. It’s about the memorial service. Of all the posts so far, this was the most difficult to re-read and edit.

Week of the Memorial

I have not journaled since last Sunday. We have all tried to keep ourselves super busy, especially me. Mom and I looked at tons of pictures and she helped me pick out her favorites. I had the apparently good idea to share everything with Google Drive. Which meant she needed to log in to her account, but she got it.

Monday I spent with your family again. We finalized some plans after meeting with the funeral director. His name is Bob; he’s very nice. He explains the whole process. I treat it very business-like for some reason. I guess I still don’t believe you’re gone. There’s a lot of moving parts to this thing. Not too many to handle, but enough. Why do I have to do all of this? You are my helper, my person to makes sure I don’t say too much or too little. Fortunately your mom takes on that role for now.

We are happy that she thought of this idea to go to Redlands. Your main home was here. You were always excited to come back here for Cuca’s or Baker’s or La Costa. Or ‘ghetto pizza’, which we pass several times as we navigate to and from the mortuary. “Mortuary” is a strange word right now. I never say the word “funeral” either, during this time. It’s not that I don’t know or understand, I just subconsciously can’t get past the word.

But we are trying to make you proud. The flower shop remembers you and mom and everybody from Soroptimists. They’re very sweet, and D makes sure they have zebra ribbon for your arrangements. Mom sheds some more tears. I know you want us to be okay but we can’t yet. It’s too soon.

I try spending the night in Corona with Keira. She does pretty well at night now, sleeping by me the whole time. I still need a fan on me to sleep. This time I open the window too, which helps make it cooler. It’s still hard without you. I can’t reach over and snuggle you.

Now it’s time to head home to actually start working on your memorial music and slides and things. For realsies. Mom and D are making the cards fully custom, and going to Costco to get a large portrait of you printed. It’s the same picture that I’ve had on my phone background ever since that night. I still can’t say it. You’re coming back. No, you’re in a better place. But I can’t say the D-word.

Keira is happy to be back at the parent’s. She still doesn’t eat; she didn’t eat at all in Corona. But at least here she knows where to bathroom and doesn’t get stressed. I’m still going to take her back up to Corona too. She needs to get used to them.

I stay up way too late. Aunt H and the two Texas girls are out for you, so we have dinner and cards. B&L bring over this super delicious Hawaiian food. I think you would have liked it; it was flavorful but not at all spicy. But the reason I stay up so late is to work on your video. Mom and I painstakingly picked out these songs and pictures. We want to honor you in the best way possible. I’ve been fighting with the technology aspect for too long. You would have told me to stick with one thing and make it work, rather than trying to bounce around between systems. You were always making sure to help me even when I didn’t admit that I needed it.

I drive up to Redlands with K and we listen to music and talk. Some about you, also about me and how we’re handling things. It’s been difficult to open up to some people depending on the subject. She loved you so much, and you know how her attitude has always been. It’s refreshing. Then we get to the mortuary to pay and test the audio and video stuff. It seems to work well. I want your pictures to show on the screens, and your music to play, while people are arriving. Even while we’re seeing you for the last time.

That part is upsetting. We knew that they would prepare your body and make you look nice with the clothes that Mom & D picked out. They did. But you’re so cold. So stiff and cold. I know you’re not here, but I have to say goodbye still. And how much I loved you. I still love you. I will always love you.

After coming back home, I finish making DVD and CD copies. Then I promise everybody I will get some sleep. I try. It’s a little easier tonight, after being done with tech-y things. But still not solid. Keira is sleeping very well though. You would be proud of here, being able to adjust so well here. I worry about here being in her crate all day for the service itself.

Thursday morning, I get up a little early. It feels ephemeral, as if I’m about to go somewhere and do something that can’t possibly be real. But it is very real. I actually need to finish writing my own memorial speech. I guess that’s not the right word. None of this is right. But I use a real pen and your real notebook. I know you were telling me to do it this way, not by typing into the computer and printing something. You knew it would help solidify the words and the fact that you’re gone.

I have to meet in Corona first to change. They say I look nice, and I remember how to tie my tie. I don’t know if you wanted me to wear one but I felt that I wanted to. I decide to drive myself to Redlands, to listen to your music again and prepare myself. I may get there before them, but I sit in the car and gather things up before going in. It looks like Mom & D arrived before me, or at least before I go in. They warn me that you’re there. No, that your body is there, at the front, in the casket. The chapel is lovely, the flowers are so beautiful. You would have loved them. Roses and lilies with zebra ribbon. A few are not coordinated because some family didn’t know of the florist or weren’t told in time.

You still look so beautiful. But you’re cold. And a little waxy. It’s so strange. I’ve never done this before. Even with grandparents, I may have stepped up and seen them but I don’t remember touching them. I kiss your head and hold your hand for a while. We’re all so upset and distraught. I think it did help to see that you were clearly gone. Can I say it yet? I can’t.

I have to keep busy now. Setting up your penguin light-ups and your coloring page [[She colored a beautiful fairy portrait]]. And we try to get the chapel’s sound system to play the music CD I made for you. Music was such a huge part of your life and personality. I feel that you speak to me through it sometimes. I hope you do. The CD player doesn’t seem to be working right; it just keeps repeating the same track. I try to help them fix it, then wonder if some cousin would be available to work it manually. That would suck. Thankfully, I hear they fix it a few minutes later.

Your dad is extremely upset, as is your brother. They know that you’re gone and that there’s nothing left to do, but they loved you so much. We all did. More family starts arriving and we try to hold onto each other to make sure we can pull through. People laugh and cry at our pictures. Especially J, when you’re with S [[her daughter, our niece]], which is often. There are some silly ones too, but thank God nobody found your infamous clown outfit one from Halloween.

The actual service is nice. I feel like we prepared for it, but that we did so in your honor. I don’t want people to acknowledge my work, I want them to see your beautiful face and know how happy you were. You still are. I know you’re up there and so much happier, filled with joy and light and love. But we’re stuck down here, and it’s not fair. Is that selfish? We need your sparkle back in our lives. Nobody in this room will ever forget you, you know that. You touched so many people for the better.

Most of all, me. If not for you, I would never have started writing, nor been blessed with an amazing career move, nor have known your wonderful family, nor developed any sense of fashion or pop culture or pragmatism or generosity. You brought so much positive things to my life, even if you didn’t remember it all. You were never a burden. You were always my person, my heart, my soulmate, my love. I don’t understand why you’re gone.

People tell me I spoke well and I “did great”. Whatever that means. I didn’t start sobbing during my memorial reading, I guess, is what they’re talking about. I did that before. When I was writing to you. You know that, you saw. I just wanted them to see how wonderful you were, how touching your life was, and how sad we all are that it was cut short. Truly before your time. It does not make sense.

We do get one last goodbye with you, just me and your mom. She gently reclaims that cute little gold wine bottle necklace. It’s now a family heirloom. Perhaps it may even have a little bit of you inside it, if it’s an actual container. If not, well, Mom or Barb will always wear it to think of you. But it’s even more apparent that you’re not here. You’ve told us to go on, to be with family, to remember you and to ease our hurt together, to try shedding less tears. Yet each day we are without you, a little piece of us dies again.

you will plan the funeral while in a haze
Fairly accurate. “Happy” is not a word that belongs here, but we do feel that we honored her.

 

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Where Does Our Love Now Go?

Today’s post, since I have no guests this week and I’m off-kilter due to being in Portland much longer than anticipated, is again on the topic of the loss of a loved one. However, I hope that this will be uplifting and positive in a way, a sort of homage to the sparkle of life that K always brought to those around her.

This is inspired by a Facebook post in one of the grief groups I joined. I’ve noticed that, like the person posting, I too have adopted a more humble, generous, kind, patient attitude toward many things, especially other people, particularly friends and family. But also life in general. “Life is too short”, I will find myself saying. To not love fiercely, to not experience wonder, to not bring joy to those you care for.

How can I do this with such a broken heart? K was my everything. The very purpose of my being who I am. Who I was. I am now someone else. But I am still me. What has changed? Well obviously. I mean, what has changed within me that could make me this way? I have a theory.

My heart still loves, still outpours daily with compassion and longing and the desire to bring her happiness. But she is not here to receive it. She knows and watches, from above, of course. And she surely receives a small measure of that love from her place in Heaven. Yet I am an earthly being; thus, my feelings, and by consequence the object of said feelings, are earth-bound. I am also a spiritual being; thus, as I said, some part of that energy does make its way into that realm. But I think not the majority.

Instead, I find myself trying to give outwardly toward others. To be kind to a stranger. To be patient and encouraging with a service worker when they’re having a horrible day. To be less hurried in traffic, and drive at a more leisurely pace. To make sure our families are well taken-care-of, when I have the means to do so. And I feel that this honors K’s memory and spirit. More than that, though, I feel it helps my heart to heal.

K’s imagination was truly boundless, as embodied by her consistently vivid and wild dreams. She was such a self-critic, she had trouble putting things into words. But I know her spirit had just barely begun to venture out beyond the man-made walls and trappings of this mortal comfort-zone. She wanted so badly to be a force of light and joy, and an embodiment of love, for her family and friends. Many times her body and pain held her back. Yet in certain small ways she has been able to be so. In her nieces, the little girls she could not have herself while on this earth, yet who continue to amaze us and warm our hearts every day.

And, I would like to think, in me. By allowing me to become more humble, kind, generous, patient, and loving, towards others. Because the focus point of all of that effort, from me, is now at peace, and soaring through the stars, beyond our wildest imagination, beyond even the inkling of what our most wondrous dreams can touch. Thus, I am allowed to NOT focus on just one point, one person, but on many.

Does this betray or dishonor my love, my beautiful angel, my soulmate, my everything? Hardly. I still grieve for her every day. And she tells me, “I hear you. I love you too. I want you to be happy again. I want you to be the sparkle in their lives now that I cannot be. I will always be with you. I will see you again; but until I do, you must live. For I did die, but you did not. Your time is not yet come, and you have much to do.”

Being a widow/widower is gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, soul-crushing, and inconsolable. However, our loved ones do not want us to dwell in those states of mind and of being. They want to see us become an EVEN BETTER version of ourselves than the amazing version that THEY helped MAKE us! I’ve said it, and it’s been echoed by our loved ones — K made me into the man that I am. And I am truly forever grateful for that. I was blessed to have her for 10 years. It was not nearly enough.

Even now, she wants me to try and be better. I will fail at times; I will stumble and fall. That’s what being human means. But I will try. And she will see, and she will clap, laugh, dance, cry, and sing, from her wondrous place among God’s glorious hosts. And when my time comes, she will be waiting to welcome me with open arms, to say, “I saw you try. And you have honored me.”

the journey does not end here

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A Grief Observed, part 5

I didn’t have a post for last Friday, since I was prepping for a trip out of state to visit family. So today’s post will simply be another grief journal entry, as it would have been on Friday. Hopefully we’ll have another guest-post coming soon too. Thank you for reading as always. Love & light ❤

PS: I want to share another blog with you that really resonates with me; I hope you enjoy it too, especially if you are a widow/widower like us. http://widowofwonder.blogspot.com/

Fourth Night

Then we get back to the house and sis-in-law trims the hair by my ears and neckline before I head home. I don’t run into much traffic and I get home to have some good dinner with the parents, which someone from our old church made and brought over. I write more of this journal. I look at pictures and pick out songs for hours, making sure I have enough to get started and to make it just right for you.

The slide-show and tribute arrangement. You always told me how funny I was about getting projects like this, how detail-oriented I would get. I know you loved how geeky I was, even though you laughed at me. I miss your laugh. Why can’t you laugh for me again? I know you’re laughing and singing in Heaven. I know. It doesn’t always help us down here. But I will try to remember.

Earlier on the drive I called or messaged your four closest friends. I’m happy that D and C can make it, being so local. B will try, but she’s not sure. They are all devastated to hear the news. I have a hard time saying it out loud, but it’s also helpful to cope. And it’s nice to hear their voices and their fondness and memories of you. Even if you did not talk as much a you may have wanted to, they understood, and they loved you. We all loved you. We still do.

Sleep is difficult again. I do use the meds, but it has to be in two shifts again. Keira is doing much better though, happily sleeping on the cool floor beside me. I wake up and eat an ice cream bar before going back to bed. I stare at your picture again. I try talking to you. It’s hard, but I hope you hear me. I love you.

Fourth Day

I go to church with the parents in the morning, after getting up early with Dad and the dogs. They’re doing well today. I have breakfast early, the oatmeal from home; it’s something that feels routine. But I get nauseous again, so I take another nausea pill. I’m glad that you made me take them when necessary, even though it makes me sad that they’re yours. You won’t be able to get them anymore. I guess I will still be able to refill them for a while.

Mom and I go thru Starbucks and then have to drop something off at S’s house. She comes out to give me hugs for you. I drink my Salted Caramel Mocha Frapp, double blended of course. You made fun of me for swirling in the whipped-cream as soon as I could. I loved how I would always get your leftover drinks. I will miss that. My mom has the refillable Starbucks gift card from us that you customized and wrote on for her. She will cherish it even more now. We miss you.

Church is helpful for me. We hadn’t been there in a long time, but everybody loved you still, and misses you. C lost her husband at around our age, so she is a really understanding soul and will be a good support. Many people express their sympathy. And J&M of course, are without words. The junior pastor is actually an old friend of ours from childhood. He prays with me afterward and makes sure I know that he’s always available, as is the grief counseling group that they hold on Thursdays. I might do that. You would have liked his impromptu pre-sermon prayer this morning. There were a lot of people and families dealing with loss, with illness and death, and he felt the need to make sure those bad spirits and negative energies were chased away by love and support and grace.

Your dad wanted to come over for lunch, picking up El Pollo Loco. But he is sick and had to throw up and stuff. I think he’s really not doing well. Even though you weren’t that close, you were his little girl too. So we have J&M over instead, which is nice to see them. We play cribbage and I win. M helps me with some info and tips about dealing with arrangement-related things. She loved you. They all did.

Then I have to go back to the house and our room to pick up a few things, including your laptop and some blankets for your family. It’s difficult, but I don’t stop this time. I do still keep expecting you to come back to the bed. My mom keeps K company and makes sure he’s doing okay. We bring back the spare car for our visiting relatives to have a spare care just in case while they’re here. So many of them are coming on such short notice. It’s a wonderful showing of love and support. You know that you were family to them, to all of them, and they loved you.

I finally talk to cousin J. She’s been having a hard time too, especially since they just moved away. She can’t make it for the service but she’ll try to come down for the weekend to be with us. Her babies are just too much to make last-minute arrangements for. She’s happy to be living in their own place now, after only having to spend a week in the very crowded house of her friend. She loved playing cards with us before they left, and we all laughed so hysterically at your ridiculous penis drawings on the score pad. You won’t play shanghai [rummy] with us again. Why can’t you play cards with us anymore?

the empty chair (poem)

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A Dream Of You

Last night I dreamt you had come back to me. It was as though the last several months were just a ruse, a strange fiction whose purpose and origin were like gossamer on the wind.

You were sitting in bed with me by your side. We talked about your medications as you put them into your organizers. You spilled some on the blanket and I helped you pick them up. We argued briefly about one of them. Why is that the main thing I remember from this dream? That’s not nice.

Couldn’t I have just seen your face, your beautiful smile and loving eyes? Could we not have simply held each other again, your head upon my chest and our hands interlocked? This is how I need to remember you, in my arms, your golden hair caressing my cheek and neck, your soft lips against mine, your warm loving arms wrapped around me as mine around you. To say “I love you” again, not to the air or the portraits or the keyboard and screen, but to YOU, the real you, the you that is my heart, my soul, my mate. What I wouldn’t give for this.

The dream ends and the reality of another day must be faced. Alone, yet unalone. Sometimes it’s much easier to say that than to feel it. Please remember to remind me when you are near. I love you. I loved you.

two lovers embrace in a stormy yet calm sleeping position
To have and to hold…

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A Grief Observed, part 4

Third Night

I give your mom the leopard blanket, and she wraps it around her immediately. It smells like our room. D gets some of your smell & love from it too before bed. I take out the laptop to find some pictures. I sit by Mom’s bed and show her. Some of my own, but we try to look at yours mostly because of how you loved to touch them up and make them pretty.

You never needed anything extra to look beautiful, but you always knew how to shine.

We look at memories of Christmas, Vegas, Wicked, the fair, our families and our nieces and nephews being born. And you were always so happy, even though we couldn’t have our own. Hadn’t. We didn’t know.. But you knew. Somehow. You had faith that we would find a way. It wouldn’t be easy. Your pictures are all I have right now. Thank you for taking so many, for always insisting that we have them even when I didn’t feel like it.  Thank you for making sure that I backed them up when you changed phones and laptops. We have so many pictures of so many good memories together. Mom and I will never forget how many sweet scrapbook-like projects you made for us, for Valentine’s or Mother’s days. You always found the best pictures of everybody, and added your quotes and designs. We won’t get any more though. It’s not fair. Why can’t you come back and make more?

I try to sleep. This time I have your unicorn blanket and your bathrobe. As well as your pillow from before. I need a fan on me in the warm house. The air mattress is pretty okay. Most of us get up at one time or another in the wee hours, snacking on a cheesecake or something from the dinner package. I use your sleeping meds this time because I know it helps. You always made sure I was taken care of, even though it was my job to take care of you more. I love you. I loved you.

Third Day

Today is hard, but it helps to be with your family. Our family. I have some leftovers for breakfast and C makes coffee. I still don’t feel right. D says I probably don’t know what to do with myself because I’m used to busying-about for you. That’s somewhat true. But mostly I just need you here.

I start this journal today. I sit in your favorite recliner chair with the laptop and just write. I am still tired. We need to start looking at mortuaries but I can’t get myself up and dressed until it’s almost noon. We try one place but they closed. We try another but we don’t like it. Finally your mom just has a wonderful lightbulb moment. We should do it in Redlands. That’s your first home, and where your friend from high school was buried. We all immediately like the idea. Well, as much as you can in this situation.

Brother & his fam came over again. S has oodles of straws and other random bundles of things, we don’t even know what she does with them. You loved her so much. And she loved you. We won’t know how to tell her when she’s old enough. We won’t even know when she’s old enough. Also your aunt B came and brought some more food. She offers to open her home for the family and friends after the service, since we’ve decided on Redlands. That helps ease D’s mind a bit.

Mom, D and I drive over to Redlands to get to the chosen chapel before they close. We definitely like it much better than the other places. We sign the release form for them to get you from the county. We would have wanted it to happen sooner but they can’t do anything on Sundays. We make plans to come back Monday afternoon to finalize all the arrangements.

It is nice to ride in the car with them, we can all reminisce about you. It’s amazing how much effort from your family went into making sure we met for our first date, from your aunts convincing you to take the date in the first place, to your mom making sure you waited for me after I was running so horribly late. I am so lucky, so blessed that they did. That was the beginning of the best, most wonderful ten years of my life.

grief-quote-hardest-let-go-angels-carry

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A Grief Observed, part 3

Second Day

The parents’ dogs wake everybody up at 5am. They must be really restless. My dad gets up for work again. I have some oatmeal to try to feel routine. And some of your poppy seed muffin. It’s all dry to my mouth. I can’t make it the same as I would at home. Our home. You always made our home feel warm and cozy. The dogs finally settle down and I curl up in my spot on the recliner again, this time with your pillow and the blanket that you gave my mom.

I doze. I dream bits and pieces of you. I think I hear your whistle, as you would do when I was working and you needed something. Why didn’t I check on you earlier? I just thought you were asleep. You needed rest, your body was in pain. But I should have felt something was wrong. Why didn’t I know something was wrong? Could I have done something? I don’t understand. Everybody tells me it’s not my fault. Is it my fault? Please tell me. Please forgive me. I was supposed to take care of you.

Is it still morning? Why is time going so slow? But is that what I wanted? It doesn’t make any sense. You should be here. I should be there. Why are we not together. Mom wants us to go to brunch. We decide on Penfolds. You loved that place, with Kristen when she came down to visit. We always had so much leftovers. You know I loved leftovers. We always shared everything. I can’t eat much today, but I try.

We’re heading up to your family’s house. I have to pick up a few more things from our room. I take a few clean blankets, the unicorns and a leopard. And your bathrobe. I kneel down by the bed again. I had to use the bathroom. Your things are all still there, waiting for you to come back. I don’t know what to do with myself for a few minutes. I want you to come in the door and tell me it’s all okay. Where have you gone?

The house is busy. They just had new carpet put in, and repainted stuff. The old couch and loveseat are up for sale. New dressers are here, other things will come later. I arrive just when Mom and D get back from something. Your brother too. We hug. You loved his daughter like your own. We have a moment. But he knows you want us to be okay. We have to try for you. It’s hard.

We get busy moving furniture around. It’s good to keep our hands busy. C is working the hardest, but I can tell he’s over-extended. He takes breaks at least. L arrives to help too. Brother is being the electrician and entertainment tech. Mom’s dresser is way too tall to put her big TV on. They’ll have to figure something else out. S is doing well in her speech therapy class, naming shapes and things. J arrives with her a bit later. S is being “flirty” with me again. You always said that too. [S is our niece, about 3 years old at this point.]

Some of my family arranged a meal delivery. It was sweet of them to do. Dahlia’s Italian. It’s very good. Way more food than we can handle, but we all enjoy some. You would have liked the garlic bread the most. I liked the lasagna. Mon and D got pizza from the place one time. I have a beer. It doesn’t taste like anything, but it helps a little.

I talk with M outside for a little while. She’s been so helpful for your mom. Even though she’s not a very verbal person right now. I know she’s hurting so much for you. And your dad too. He took it the worst that night. But we all have to cope in our ways. It’s still not fair. Why can’t you come back to us? I wish that the doctors had done more. Could they have? Could I? What was it, what happened? We won’t know for weeks. The coroner said it could take even a month or more. I guess they want to be sure. It’s just not fair. I want an answer. But I don’t know if it will help. Would they tell me a time? I didn’t ask yet.

angelic statue mourning over graveyard