October 16, 2010 – Everyday is a Gift

Rudd RoadGreg and I  just purchased the prettiest piece of land on the Palouse. We closed at 1pm last Friday, and had an appointment lined up with an excavator for 3:30pm on that same day. The short-term plan is excavation for horse structure to go in next spring. The long-term plan is to live there by the following summer. We’ve sketched out plans for barns. We’ve moved dreams around on an iPad. Greg scours the nickel ads and Craigslist for tractors. There is a lot of talk about the near and distant future. We met with the conservation reserve people this morning, posts are in the ground. That ground will be broken next week. It is exciting, fun, and a little anxiety provoking!

I read a lot of information written about how intense grief changes one’s thought processes. I often blamed widow brain for my inability to concentrate. Loss of focus. Emotional lability. Mania and depression. Lack of drive bordering on catatonia.  All this negative stuff to overcome, it is no wonder that I wanted to know how long it would last, if it would ever get better, how to escape it, even for a short while. Then I accepted that the changes were permanent. I would never “get over” it. My brain chemistry has forever been altered. It takes me longer to compose reports for work, and I need to steal time from sleep or morning exercise to stay caught up. Something as simple as the anticipation of hugging my daughter can make me cry.  The death of one of our young early intervention clients makes me inordinately sad, because I really, really feel the pain those parents are immersed in right now. My drive to get everything done is gone, and has been replaced by acceptance of the never-ending to do list. I think differently now than I did “before.”

What isn’t so well covered in the literature is how grief changes one in positive ways. My lack of focus and decreased ability to concentrate has forced me to lose my agenda with work clients and personal interactions. It is easier to see the big picture and has made me a better listener. It has opened me up to the incredible beauty of the full moon on the way into swimming, and frosty clouds hanging over an early morning on the Palouse. Depression forces me to stop and turn inward for a while, and from that pain comes another sliver of wisdom. Because the to do list never ends, it is easier to walk away from it for a time. A clean kitchen floor is not as important as lunch with my mom. Sunny Fall days are meant to be spent outside playing. Tall grass calls to be laid down in. Fun with friends rules over sleep sometimes. I don’t say no to dinner out, whiskey and conversation, middle of the night hugs. Good food feeds more than my body, and naps are delicious. Grief has changed my brain. I am grateful for it.

Greg and I are anticipating a time where we have one home instead of a combined 5 properties. Thinking about our future, I am filled with joy. I know there will be a lot to do. I know there will be stressors. But, I am rock solid that I have chosen the right person to take this new journey with, and I have already discovered that the day-to-day path is fun and filled with life and love. With so much on our to do list, we are taking off this afternoon for a quick weekend in Missoula. We will hike in the Bitterroot, we will eat good food. I will hug my daughter and it will make me cry. I will sleep at night, enveloped in love. I know that life is short. I know that each and every day is precious. I learned that lesson. I got it. I won’t have to repeat it. I won’t forget.

Written Oct 16, 2010 7:41am

For the last couple of weeks, Jim has been obsessed with finding his Pakistan/Nepal slides. Jim did his geology field work in the NW Frontier Province of Pakistan, then hopped a plane to Nepal for a few weeks of trekking. He had the photos on a carousel of slides that he showed to his classroom every year. Jim cleaned out his classroom at the beginning of the school year. The carousel was not among the box of things he brought home.Yesterday we found the slides. They were on a disc. He had them converted to digital format in 2007. This disc was sitting right here on his table. I popped it into the computer and we looked through them. He couldn’t figure out how I did that. Managing electronic devices is becoming very difficult.

Prior to the paki slide obsession, Jim was focused on writing. Writing something for me and both kids to read after his death. Writing is especially hard when one has difficulty finding words. I finally broke down and helped him. It was still hard to write via dictation, but I am the only one who knows his life well enough to help him with it.

Following the locating of the slides, Jim was then obsessing about other pictures and the music he wants played during his memorial service. He had already gone over that with me and a trusted music friend. I helped him organize the pictures into a box for conversion into digital format. I assisted him in placing the songs from itunes into a folder on his desktop. I placed the writings into 3 large envelopes entitled with our names, and left them open in case he wanted to add blurbs of writing or additional pictures to them. 

I understand what Jim is doing. He is reviewing his life. He is putting things in place to make sure he is not forgotten (as if!!!). He cannot do this by himself. I have to help him. This is comforting to him. This is hard for me to do.

Yesterday, I took all the envelopes and the box and I stacked them, obsessively, on his side table. I then took his hands and said, “It is time to put the obsession with your memorial aside. You have to trust me that what you want included will be included. You also have to realize, that though this is about you, it is not for you. This is for me, and Emerald, and Jasper and all the others that will feel loss when you are gone. At that point, you will not care anymore. You will be done. We have to go on. That is when it will get very hard for me. Every time I have to help you with this, it drags me closer to that date when I will be on my own.”

“I need to stop thinking about ‘after’ for a while. We need to focus on living the life you have left. Let’s obsess about sunny Fall days, bike rides or hikes with friends. Supervise trail work days. Take naps. Eat good food. Watch bad movies. Laugh with friends. Read short stories. Snuggle at night. Please, let’s put it aside for now. I cannot die with you, I want to live with you, and each day we have left is a gift.”

I think he got it. I may have to repeat it. 

Kathie

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3 Responses to October 16, 2010 – Everyday is a Gift

  1. abullla says:

    You are so RIGHT ON!!! i feel your thoughts………..If only we could just stop thinking and do more in the being living ion the now is hard for me but yet after i lost both my mother and my husband or should i say when they expired i have realized everyday is a gift we forget it and just take it for granted i so want to teach my son that it is a gift our time together but of course he is on his own journey ..from one heart to another peace be with you

  2. cord4530 says:

    Is that right next to Barb Williams? If so, you’re right…that is some of the most beautiful area on the Palouse. Congratulations to you and Greg!

  3. Flo says:

    Thank you for reminding me that the way grief changes us is to be celebrated. I’ve given myself permission to see my husband’s death as a gift, not because I wished him dead, but because his death led me somewhere deeper. I’m happy you have no guilt for embracing an evolving life plan. I’m impressed that you are allowing the present with Greg to reframe your life. I remember I once read that you post in this blog, because you had found no road map of widowhood. You hoped that in recording your footsteps on widowhood’s road that you could benefit others. You have. I identify with you, because I was 52 years young when I lost my husband. Sure, our stories differ; my romantic life hasn’t resolved like yours has, but my gratitude for the ‘gifts’ death gave me is palpable. So, here’s to cherishing grief’s gifts!

    Good life to you and Greg.

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