Archive for December, 2006

Moving on in 2007
Friday, December 29th, 2006

Dear Eric:

I struggle to find a way to communicate with you in a way that comes close to the connection that we had when you were still living. Whereas we could once look into each other’s eyes and hold an entire conversation without uttering a sound, I now find myself speaking to you in the car, or walking in the park near my apartment, or at your grave. Oftentimes, those one-sided conversations gain me many odd, quizzical stares from the living who happen to be walking near me or idling beside me at a stoplight. And then I retreat, embarrassed that I have demonstrated to the world one more time that yes, the loss of you has made me crazy.

And so I return to the internet to send you a message. I have no idea if you still exist, or if you can read what I am typing on this page, but I know for certain that if there is a heaven you are there, and if heaven exists then it almost certainly has high-speed internet (for how could it be Paradise without a nice broadband connection?)

I should write that these past months have made me a stronger person. I remember telling you many, many times as I dressed your central line, gave you injections, or helped you take the dozens of pills that were a sad daily ritual for you that these trials made you tough-as-nails, and gave us a rock-solid marriage to boot.

I was wrong. I’m sorry.

It turns out that some things just plain suck, and there’s not a lot of personal gain to be achieved from having to endure them. Losing you has been the single biggest challenge that I think I might ever face in my life, and there has been more than one time this year that I’ve felt weaker and more vulnerable than I ever had before. I don’t deal well with stress right now; I take medicine every day to help keep me sane and to control the vague and irrational fears that have rooted into my brain since your early departure. I used to say that I was afraid of nothing, and now I fear my apartment getting broken into, my pets dying, someone jumping out of the bushes to kidnap me when I walk the dog at night…I know that none of this makes sense, but I just felt so much safer when you were with me.

But I’m really trying hard to hang in there, to create a life that you would be proud of. True, some days I am merely clinging to the cliff of sanity by my pinky finger, but I haven’t let go–not yet. I should be hearing any day now about which graduate schools have accepted my application for admission–it was always so important to you that I had the chance to pursue a career where I might find more fulfillment than I do at my present job. I’ve created a pretty little home with your artwork, and have started creating my own images and crafts because it was always something that brought you so much joy. There’s even the dog that we talked about owning–she is a mutt, not the beagle that we had talked about, but I’m sure that if you met her it would be love at first sight. In fact, there are some days that I think you must have sent her for me–how else could I explain the random nature in which she wandered into my life?

And so, Eric, I dedicate the upcoming year to you, and to living in your honor. This whole experience has not made me a more religious person, but it has made me a more spiritual person. I pray that we both heal and grow stronger in our own respective worlds.

But, 2006, I have this to say to you: you took my best friend and partner, the happy little home that we had created together, my health and even my sanity at times–but I *am* clawing my way back.

2006, you kicked me when I was down, but I’m not done yet.

Now, get the hell out of here.

The Perfect Gift
Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

A shopping center. On a bench
I sit in silence
A dark smudge on an otherwise brightly colored canvas.

Families bustle by,
Loudly arguing:
Stress over locating the “perfect” gift.

But little do they know
That perfection
Is the time spent with their loved ones.

My perfect gift is non-existent:
There is nothing
That I want more than to have my partner back.

Holiday cheer?
Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

Val, the author of Dig Your Toes In, recently wrote an excellent post on dealing with loss during the holidays:

It’s been building for a few weeks now, and I didn’t even realize it. I have this intolerance for … a common holiday attitude, and suddenly the intolerance is smacking me in the face and begging to be shouted. And so—well, I’m going to blog it.

The Pet Peeve that I’ve suddenly discovered is the constant obsession—on the radio, in ads, by folks that we talk to—about the “stress” of the holidays. The “hustle-bustle.” The “Millions of things that have to get done.” Rather than a celebration of the holiday season I have encountered again and again a huge collective, “O Poor Me!” factor regarding all that must get done.

Holidays are hard when you’ve lost someone that you love. Remembering all the special things that the person did when preparing for the holidays. Reflecting on the holiday memories. The thoughts that come rushing in, uninvited, about missing that person. It’s all bitter sweet. It’s wonderful, because it keeps your loved one close, but it’s terrible because it causes the ache to swell again and again and again. Yes, I am missing my Mom this Christmas, even as I gleefully gear up for the festivities. Even as we do our holiday projects. And it is this missing, and the experience of the past few years of my world being turned on it’s head that gives me this intolerance. This I know.

I would be lying if I told you that I haven’t felt some anxiety and tension over the “gotta get it done” factor of Christmas. I have. We’ve worried that the humble offerings we’re giving to our friends and extended family won’t seem like enough to them, since we’ve tried to scale back spending by focusing mainly (and as cost-efficiently as possible) on our small family unit. I’ve fussed over recipes, and worried over presents getting here in time. I have. I am not immune, despite the words I am about to write.

But the “stress” of this Christmas is nothing like the “Stress” of the last two. The last two Christmases were the hardest, darkest, scariest that I have known. The last two Christmases the stress that I felt was real—and beyond my control. It was so much more than being exhausted by my choice to take part in “the hustle and bustle.”

Two years ago, my Mother had just been diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer. We were still trying to wrap our brains around the diagnosis. I was scared to death. I wasn’t sure where to be. It was my first Christmas to have my husband home with me, and it was the Christmas sitting in front of a year when my husband would be gone on short detachments the majority of the time before his eventual deployment. We weren’t sure if he would be home for the birth of Little Miss. We also weren’t sure if Mom would be around for the birth of Little Miss, and then if she was how much time they (and we) might have together. There was uncertainty everywhere. And at times the world seemed like a very dark place.

Last Christmas was the first after my Mom died. It was very, very hard. I hurt over the things that we “always did” that we couldn’t do that year. I didn’t know how I would get through Christmas Eve without doing the special things I always did with her. I couldn’t imagine Christmas morning without her at the table of her and Dad’s house. My husband was in Iraq and I missed him so terribly—especially while in the midst of the grief stuff—that I didn’t know what to do with myself. And just when we thought that things couldn’t get any worse, Husband’s grandfather became very, very ill and the words, “They’re going to make him comfortable,” were used. Husband’s family and I quickly mobilized and I found myself visiting again at the deathbed of a family member that we loved very, very much. I put in the Red Cross call to my husband, and while we had decent communication so I was assured he knew what was going on, the official message took nearly a week to reach my husband’s superiors. There was talk of him taking a whirl-wind trip home to hopefully be with his grandpa, but he didn’t have the leave time to cover it. Working through those logistics in the midst of the situation—the grieving, the aching, the hurting. That was stress. Husband wasn’t able to come home, and wouldn’t have been back in time anyway. Grandpa died three days before Christmas. His funeral was on Christmas Eve. My heart was as heavy as a rock. The grief and the pain and the hurt and the missing seemed to consume me. There didn’t seem to be any light anywhere.

But. I knew better. Because you see, that Christmas after Mom got sick I heard the message over and over and over again that Christmas isn’t about hype. It’s about a light in the darkness (faithful blog-readers. you knew it was coming sometime, didn’t you?). And I have to tell you, I grabbed onto the hope of that light with everything in me and didn’t let go and I’m convinced that’s the reason I made it through both years. And I DID find light. I found it in the strength that wasn’t my own that allowed me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I found it in the smile and giggle of my beautiful daughter. I found it in the courage and strength and shared hurt of my husband’s voice on a phone-line connecting us while a world apart. I found it in the comfort and love that I found in being with Husband’s family on that whirlwind trip to be with Grandpa and to attend his services. I found it in my Daddy graciously “pushing back” Christmas so that we could celebrate it together after we’d returned back to his home. And, I found it where it was found 2000 years ago, “in the squatty, dark light of a stable.” In the form of a baby that was born to save the world. including me.

And so. Well. When I hear about the stress. About the hustle and bustle. About how terrible it is that people have to spend time buying presents and writing cards and baking things and visiting people, I just want to SCREAM: “Don’t you get it?!!! This isn’t what this season is about!!! This is about time with our families! This is about taking time to be together! To hold hands! To take joy in the presence of our loved ones. Because not a single one of us is guaranteed another Christmas!

I want to shout, “Get your priorities straight! If the ribbons and bows and cookies and candy recipes that don’t get to ‘soft ball’ stage are going to give you such an ulcer, throw them out the window and find the real joy of the season.” Of being with people that you love, and realizing what the point of the holidays really are: Light in a dark world!

I would take the “stress” of this holiday season—the financial worries, the putting together of our holiday offerings, the worrying over getting everything done—five times over before I would want to relive the past two Christmases. And yet those Christmases contained light too. And I look back to that light and find strength in it.

So that is my holiday diatribe. And the bottom line. The point that I’m trying to make is: Don’t get so caught up in the hustle that you miss the miracles. Don’t get so caught up in the bustle that you forget about people who are suffering through their hardest Christmases ever. And feeling so alone in that.

Remember the light in the darkness. Hold onto it, and offer it to someone who might feel that the darkness is winning this year. And: Look around at the people that you love. Drink them in. Make the memories. Cherish them.

Make the choice to slow down and refuse to become part of the rush. It *IS* a choice. When the world stops because of something awful those things fade into the background and you find out how unnecessary they really can be.

Remember the point of Christmas and the Holidays. Look for the light and love one another.

untitled
Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

my skin,
starved for intimacy.
his hands:
so masculine,
and yet
so careful.
his chest:
burying my nose
in the hirsute warmth.
his lips:
a perfect, soft pink pout.

my soul,
hungry for a connection.
his eyes:
sweetly seductive hazel,
contained a knowledge of me
that i may never see again.
his brain:
an encyclopaedic library
of our memories together.
his heart:
pumping our blood, life and love
throughout his body.

now, decay:
the vessel returns
to dust.
does the soul live on?
my legs, worn.
my feet, tired.
looking and looking
for a sign
that part of him
is still out there
somewhere.