Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Grieving...

People have recently come into my life that walk a similar path as mine. It has been good to talk about all the crap that we endure everyday. It makes me feel less alone and not quite so crazy!

And someone told me the other day that I was doing well, so much better than she had at 4+ months. But I reminded her…all our paths our different. And although I believe we all have distinct similarities in grieving. The process is unique to each of us. Also, I think it is different if you lost your loved one unexpectedly or through a long, drawn out illness. Neither way is better. It is just different. The griving is still similar, but the path to that grief is different.

So, although David’s battle with Cancer was hell. For me, some gifts came out of it. We had over 2 years to work through some of this together. That was always when we did our best work. Together. He was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor in June 2006. No…we did not give up the battle then. But I think we both began processing some of this, if only in tiny increments. And as everything progressed…David began to prepare both him and me of the possible and unfortunately inevitable outcome. He talked about the future. My future. And my life without him. A dear friend recently told me that David was so brave facing death because he wanted to come to terms with it quickly. He needed to because he was completely focused on Alec and I…and doing everything in his power to make this loss as bearable as possible. Amazing. He was dying and yet even in his final weeks he was consumed with final preparations for Alec and I.

He went shopping for Alec and bought an insane amount of toys ranging in age appropriateness from 3 to 9. Thus, ensuring that I would have gifts for Alec that daddy had specifically bought for him for many years to come. He did videos as well for both Alec and I and he also wrote little cards for me. This was all post-stroke…so sometimes they are a tad wackier than normal. But they are still David. And they are beautiful. I have been opening the cards slowly. Tending to save them for when I am having a dreadfully dark day. Sometimes they lift my spirits. Sometimes I cry and cry. But they always make me smile, even amongst the tears. Because I know I was loved. So deeply. And love like that transcends everything. He still loves me even now. And I him. Death can not separate us…I think we will forever be connected.

But David left me other gifts as well. At the time I did not realize how special or unique they were. But now I do. David used to talk about once he was gone frequently. Especially in his final months. And he would talk about how I had to live. Live for the both of us. He wanted me to be happy and enjoy life. Enjoy it for both of us since he could not...and he wanted me to move on. Someday. I used to get so upset when he would talk to me about finding someone someday to make me happy. That he did not want me to spend my remaining years alone. I hated it. But now, I realize how amazingly much he loved me. And how selfless he was. He said he knew he would always be my love and soulmate…but that I would be ok.

I remember one night sitting on the couch with him…having a cup of tea. And out of the blue he looked at me and said that someday when I found someone else who could make me smile...to enjoy it. But never to compare another man to him. “They broke the mold with me,” he said…”Just like they broke the mold with you my love. There will never be another me out there and don’t go looking for it. You will never find it. And it would be unfair to any man to compare him to me. It would not be fair to you or him. You will find something different. And that is ok. Be happy.” I wanted to scream. I wanted him to stop talking about when he was gone. I wanted to stop thinking about the fact that he was dying. That soon I would be alone. That albeit death is inevitable, it was coming much earlier for him than I had ever expected. How could he be so calm? I remember how I cried that night. God I cried. How could he talk about me moving on? How could he talk about me enjoying life again someday? With or without someone.

But now, knowing how very much he wanted me to be happy…to live…is one of the main reasons I get up everyday. I keep moving forward and do not let myself get mired down in all the pain and loss because of him.

But I digress; a friend said I was doing so well for only being 4-months out. But really, I began grieving long ago. It is hard to explain, although after speaking to a few widows/ers who lost their loved ones to a prolonged illness…it is not as crazy or uncommon as I thought. I probably began grieving a teeny bit way back in June of 2006. And I know that in April of this year, after the final surgery and subsequent stroke I began grieving heavily. Not to say that I stopped living life and making the most of every precious moment with David. But we knew. We both knew the slippery slope we were on. And once we decided to stop all treatments back in June…it became not an issue of if…but when. And I cried myself to sleep almost every night.

So, maybe I am doing well for being 4+ months out. Although, I do not feel like it. I have been in hell and continue to be. But I began grieving long before David physically died...Strange and fucked up as it may be. It is just how it is. And as I slowly watched David’s body shut down…I grieved because I could physically see him slowly slipping away from me. And there was not a damn thing I could do. Nothing.

God how I hate Cancer. I hate all of it. But I am grateful that we had the precious time to say our good byes. David knew I loved him and he me. We were able to talk about the future and his wishes for Alec and I. I was able to care for him. Love him. And do everything in my power to make many of his wishes a reality during his remaining time on this earth. He was never alone and he knew I loved him. Adored him. And he knew I would be there to the very end and do whatever I had to...to make sure he was comfortable, safe and warm. And I was with him, stroking his arm as he took his last breath. He did not die alone. He died knowing he was loved. It may not bring me comfort…but it has given me some peace…even if it is only brief and fleeting.

I will try to do all the things David wanted me to. Live. Play. Make art. Travel. Much will be for him…and maybe someday I will do it for myself as well. But I will make him proud. And strangely enough, I feel as if he is always with me and in some surreal way experiencing the joy and future with me. He will always be with me and someday when I get off this ride. I won’t have to tell him of all of the adventures I had, because he will have been there with me the whole time…experiencing them with me too.

11 Comments:

At December 31, 2008 10:26 AM, Anonymous Dewdrop said...

Skye,

"But I began grieving long before David physically died..." Likewise I started grieving when I had a fateful phone call from a consultant at the hospital - "I have checked the MRI and your wife has Cancer in her spine". This was two years before she died...

How I hate Cancer as well... after getting my wife it turned round and bit me! Five months after my wife died I was going through all the same sort of tests that my precious one had undergone leading up to surgery to remove the $%^*.

Happy New Year from London UK.

 
At December 31, 2008 11:58 AM, Blogger Satine said...

I was going to copy some parts of the post you just wrote too and comment individually, but it's all too beautiful, sad, and honestly, I've never felt so touched by writing before reading and crying along with yours. You both had something truly very, very rare and unique and special, and I'm so, so glad to know someone in my life who has had it, because what a treasure! Even when lost... what a treasure to have experienced those years. I've _always_ valued experience over material, and will always continue to do so.

I hate cancer too. My sister had it, my friend Will died of it last year. My friend Denise died of it this year. Dave died this year too... my friend David is battling it now. 2 teachers of mine are battling it now. I have lost many and I have seen some amazing recoveries, but I am overall disgusted and pissed to hell at cancer! So, you've got me on your side all-the-way Skye!

...and it made total sense to me to read that you started grieving years ago--when I found out Steph had cancer, I instantaneously believed that I had lost her--and it was as if every day from knowing she had cancer, I was losing her again... every morning... every night I went to sleep it was this DREAD. And so, I'm the lucky one. She's in remission right now. I say remission and "right now" because in all hopes she is cured, but I've had several people in my life get cancer again or another form of it and then not make it too... anyway... my heart's with you, and I think your years with Dave were full of the truest love there is. I'm happy for you even in all your saddness, and hope that you continue to grow on the journey you started with Dave's words & dreams for you, as seeds planted long ago--how to keep going and be ok.

 
At December 31, 2008 8:19 PM, Blogger Farm Girl Cat said...

Skye,

I remember sitting with David and having him tell me that there was only 2 to 3 months left. I started crying and he was just so strong. Your love for each other was/is a wonderful thing to see. David had sight that I don't think most of us have. I love you ((((hugs))))

 
At January 04, 2009 1:24 AM, Blogger Sara said...

I had pondered after my friends Mom died suddenly. Which would you rather have? Know they are going to die or have it happen unexpected? A week and a half later, my Mom was diagnosed with Cancer. Either way is not easy.

I remember when my Mom told me they found a spot in her lung. I knew instantly that it was cancer. I had been on her case for a few months to have her cough looked at. She did, her doc said it was
COPD and gave her meds. 3 days later, she went to the ER for chest pains and indigestion. She called me to pick her up and when I walked in her room was when she told me. My heart sank, I didn't want to lose my Mom, not now. Not like this. I excused myself to make a quick call to work, being as I knew I would not be able to work that day.

After my call, the doctor is looking for me. He takes me into a room and hands me a box of tissues and asks me to sit down. He tells me what he has found in the xrays and I just can't breathe, I just feel like I'm drowning.

But like you, we knew she was sick. We made arrangements for everything that needed to be done and we made sure that when she was gone, it would be smooth sailing.

It was hard. I did not like talking to my Mom either about the eventuality of her being gone. It felt like if I thought/talked in that way that it would seal her fate, even though we knew the inevitable. It just felt that way.

When my Aunt came to visit. She was amazed at how composed I was. I just looked at her like are you nuts? Just because I don't break down every minute does not mean my heart feels like it's being ripped to shreds each time I talk to my Mom and wonder just how much time we have left. And each time a doctor calls me to give me an update on her condition and telling me that we're just doing comfort measures now.

My Mom took comfort is knowing that once her life ends here, she will evolve into the spirit world. She believed 100% in reincarnation and that we all wait for eachother in heaven.

Some of her friends were having a hard time coming to terms with her dying. One friend she told them to read "There Is A River" and that will explain to her everything my Mom firmly believes in.

That is SO amazingly sweet that David was so proactive with his time. Like Jen, I feel so blessed to hear about your relationship with David. Granted, my husband is not that forthcoming with feelings, but he does these type of things on other ways.

David is truly amazing to have thought in advance For Alec. I was thinking of buying my kids presents and saying they are from Grandma, but I thought it would seem morbid. Like I am drawing out their grief, when I know just how much they miss her.

Maybe since Valentine's day is coming up. Grandma will have left them something special for that holiday. :)

Thanks so much for your blogs. I too am going through my own process and sometimes I find it hard to read your blogs, being as your emotions are so real and raw, it sometimes, not often a few days to read them. By no means am I suggesting you scale back, it's such a relief to hear someone else's story and to know I am not alone.

 
At January 04, 2009 1:54 AM, Blogger Tina said...

Skye,

Thank you for being so brutally honest with your story... we are the same age and it makes me reflective on my life, marriage, and how lucky I am. I, too, have lost loved ones to cancer, but can't imagine losing my husband, albeit best friend, let alone as such a young age. It sounds like David lived life to the fullest and was truly a stand-up guy. I am sorry for your pain, but hope his words of love and encouragement lead you down a path of healing and happiness in the future.

 
At January 04, 2009 8:17 AM, Blogger Jess said...

I'm always so impressed by stories of people who accept they are dying and so calmly make preparations for their family. All of David's prep work for you guys is inspirational.

Now for a light story about my Great-Grandpa Milo...

I come from the Deep South. NASCAR South. Bible Belt South. (Yes, I thank my parents daily for moving up North.)

Anyhow, my great grandpa was a gentle farmer. He was very simple and was incredibly henpecked. His wife wore the pants in the family - especially at a time when few women did.

As the story goes, his wife knew she was dying. (I'm not sure what illness.) And her final days were spent making preparations for her husband.

As they were devout fundamentalist Christians, they went to church to pray over their situation. While there, she met a lady named Hazel. She liked Hazel immensely and told my great grandpa that after she passed, he should marry her.

Eventually, she died. After a brief period of mourning, he approached Hazel and told her what his wife had said.

She said, "Okay."

(Yes, a simple 'okay.' CRAZY!)

They got married almost immediately and went on to have scores of kids, grandkids and great-grandkids (including me).

Clearly your situation is different - there are no real parallels to be drawn. I just think it's a cute and quirky story that speaks to how people want to know their loved ones are taken care of after they pass.

David didn't get quite that specific in his planning, did he?

:)

 
At January 05, 2009 2:10 PM, Anonymous Roads said...

Another brilliant post, Skye. I can identify with what you say precisely and you describe the role of the cancer-patient's partner perfectly.

The grief begins long before your parting, and in a way some would argue that's a blessing, since you have some time to get used to the idea. There is a certain realism and pragmatism which you gain from this experience.

But at the same time that's a huge simplification, since you have to go through such a long time knowing all that you know is going to happen, enduring a torture which no one should ever have to go through.

Does it make it more likely that you can move forwards again quickly? Possibly, yes -- and logically it should do.

Yet nothing is all that simply logical, since you will still need space and care to recover from those long hard months of torture behind you.

Wishing you all the best, from London.



But

 
At January 08, 2009 9:54 AM, Blogger Skye said...

Dewdrop,
Thank you for taking a moment to read my story. It is sad that others walk the same path as ours, but at least then we are reminded that we do not walk alone.

I was saddened to hear of your diagnosis…and unfortunately it is not as uncommon as people think. Keep up the fight! I am sure it is hell, but I send you strength to beat down the beast…


Cathie,
Yes, my dear, he did have more sight than many of us will ever possess I think. He was such a wise, old soul. Love you too!


Sara,
I know that feeling of drowning so well. I am glad your mother and you were able to work through some of this as well before she was gone. It helps.

And I am glad that although it is difficult to read, that my posts can help others. Makes the grief feel more productive somehow, helping not only myself but others in the process…


Roads,
Thanks. I don’t know if I would say it is brilliant, but I appreciate the kind words of praise none the less. And as always, your words continue to inspire me…

 
At January 08, 2009 11:10 AM, Blogger Jackie said...

So beautiful, Skye. Heartbreakingly beautiful. Although our journeys are different they meet and cross paths at the same spot and I can identify with much of what you say. I do so wish that I could have said 'goodbye' though. What a wonderful man that he was so thoughtful and conscious of your future without him. It is a beautiful and sad love story.

 
At January 13, 2009 5:58 PM, Blogger Star said...

I just found your blog. I will continue reading to find out more about you but I wanted to comment on this entry that my grief counselor says we never "move on" we just "move forward" and that small change in words helps me. Just wanted to share.

 
At January 19, 2009 9:39 AM, Blogger Live and Learn the Hard Way said...

I know that it foes not even compare, but I experienced a similar sort of grieving during my father's long battle with heart disease. By the time we actually lost him in 2003, my mom and I had already cried so many tears over all of the little ways that e would be gone from us. my heart goes out to you.

 

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