Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The many paths of grief…

More often than not, for better or worse, when young people lose a spouse it is invariably to some immediate catastrophic event. Something that rips their lover from this world. Quickly and unexpectedly. The long illness is not as common, but happens as well. That path I became intimately familiar with. I have found few widows/er that have experienced a long terminal illness…that tends to be more predominate in the later stages of life. But they do exist and I have had the pleasure to befriend a few of them on this journey.

These paths. They are so different. And yet exactly the same. What I am finding is that the grief is the same. The path to get there different. No matter if you lost your love in one earthshattering moment, or over the course of a month, a year or five. It is the same path. No path is better. No path is easier. Both are a double-edged and filled with regret and loss. Many would always choose their path over another, and I believe rightly so. And it does not matter if you lost your love young or you happily lived a long beautiful life together. Because in reality, we all end up at the same spot. And it sucks no matter which path life led you down...

It is like this damn relentless relay. And we are all on it. There are no winners. No loosers. No one is 'greiving' better than anyone else. We are all just doing it. Everyone is at different legs of the journey. And where we step onto the course of widowhood is different as well. A friend asked me the other day how I could be doing so remarkably well at the 6-month mark, and I did not know what to say. I do not think I am doing extraordinary well. But yet I am doing it. But this was spoken from someone who had lost thier beloved in the blink of an eye. One moment here. The next gone. I may seem to have gotten my shit together and am moving forward....albeit not always steadily and not without many tears and recriminations. But I have found that I spend my days laughing more than I am crying. And that is something. But who is to say how I will feel next week or even tomorrow. Not I. Because I know all too well that this relay continues on and I will continue to stumble, trip and even fall sometimes. I only hope that I will always find the strength to pick myself up once again and brush myself off and continue onwards.

Although I still relive those final months with David. I do not do it as much as I used to. And strangely I am grateful for them. Not to say that any of the pain and indignities that David endured in those final months was fair or even remotely pleasant. But it gave us both time. It gave him time to finish the things he felt important at the time to finish and it gave me time to say goodbye.

It is harsh to say. And it is something I oft never even say out loud. But after the stroke, much of what made David the man he was faded. Yes, he was still acutely and almost inhumanly aware of what was happening and the awful changes occurring in both his body and mind. But there was a disconnect. Things did not always sink in completely. He understood and yet he did not. Yes, he was still my love. But he was dying. And he was the first to admit that he was a shell of his former self. And when everyone went home and there was no one else to ‘keep’ it up for. He would fade. Become disconnected and say and do things that were not always the easiest to experience.

So after that stroke and the inevitable outcome that we both knew was just lurking in the shadows…I think much of David died then. Yes, he kept up the fight. He created moments that would have to last a lifetime. But he was never the same and either was I. It was brutal and horrifying. Because we knew, both of us, that the time had come.

I have tried to explain it. But it sounds cruel and insensitive to those who never had a loved one with a terminal illness who was in the final stages of ‘actively dying.’ But I grieved for him. Because on so many levels, my beautiful husband...My beautiful warrior had already died. His body was still fighting and the remnants of David’s amazingly strong mind was still in there…waging his last battle against that infernal disease. And yes, he was able to do more in those final months than statistically was possible. But so much of what made him David was gone. There would be brief moments of complete connectedness. But sadly, much of that was when people came over. He wanted to appear fine. But once he was safely alone with just Alec and I. All pretenses were gone.

So, I do not know. But sometimes I think that is why maybe I appear further along at the 6-month benchmark in this excruciating journey than some. But I still grieve. I still hurt. Just not as much as before. Because I grieved for David long before he was ever gone.

God, it sounds so horrible and fucked up, but it is true. I grievied heavily in those final months before he even took his last breath. And when that final moment came, it took my breath away. I was numb for a time. But not completely and not for long. I do not know how much numbness I even had to protect myself against the onslaught of grief that came. It was not shocking or surprising. It was the end. And I knew it was coming. Although that knowledge did not make those final moments any easier. It did mean that the whole grief machine was already in overdrive and basically just continued on...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The struggle...

I feel like I am struggling between two people. The woman I was and the woman I am becoming. The woman I am now. Both are very similar and yet worlds apart. I look at pictures of myself from 3 years ago and that woman is barely recognizable. And I am not talking about the curvier figure or the length of my hair. It goes so much deeper than that. To my core. I am still Skye. I still love to read. Crave a good cup of tea. Love to see, touch and make art. I still marvel at the beauty all around me. But I am different. Skye of a few years ago is gone. She died little by little as David was diagnosed, began treatments and than as she slowly watched her beautiful lover die. She died too.

Everything is different now and yet the same? How is that possible?

I am more confident than I have ever been. I feel stronger and yet the future still terrifies me. I know that I too am a warrior. No, I am not a cancer survivor. But I survived cancer. I survived the havoc is wreaked on David’s body and the destruction is wrought on our life and I am still standing…if only barely. And I will continue to fight. I will continue to beat down that fucker and do everything in my power to help make a difference on this damn planet. For those fighting Cancer and those guardians of hope that care for their loved ones fighting the beast. Or any beast for that matter.

I am here…so I might as well do something constructive with my time. I no longer believe that it is about how we die. We are all going to someday. Sounds harsh, but it is true. We may not know how or when. But it is going to happen. So I am trying to worry less about the end and focus on the journey ahead. Because really, it is all about the journey. It does not matter as much how long or short your time is here on this rock. It is all about what you choose to do with that time. Do you choose to live life to the fullest or curl up and die? Do you choose to fight or be the victim? Do you choose to smile or cry?

And I am learning it is ok to do all of these things and more…all at once. Because as David taught me…it is all about the choice. Everything we do. Everything we perceive. Everything in life. I may not have gotten to choose whether I wanted to be a widow or not. But I can choose what the hell I am going to do about it now that I am. Just like David never chose to get Cancer. But he did choose to continue to “live” despite a terminal diagnosis. He chose not to be the victim despite the shitty cards life dealt him. And I am choosing to follow his example.

I fight on…David’s 'Warrior Queen' as he used to call me. Although it is a struggle and there are some days life just seems too much. Too much pain. Too much of everything. And some days what I would not give to just stop and rest. To find peace in someone’s arms and to feel safe and warm if only for a bit. Not that I should or need to depend on another for peace and strength. But it would be nice when I am feeling so damn fragile and alone…to feel strong arms of protection. To give me strength when I feel like I have none left to give. To feel I could sag against someone’s shoulder and just let my walls down. Be enveloped for a spell. To just have someone stroke my hair and take care of me if only for a while. Does that make me any less strong? Does that make my little feminist mentality all bullshit? I have not a clue. But it is what I feel some days...

Monday, February 09, 2009

Precious archives of our past…

We used to hate the clutter. And yet we were surrounded by it. Ironic isn’t it? Both David and I were artists, so we tended to keep everything because you never knew when that wire mesh could come in handy with the next art project! We kept other stuff as well, not just the wacky odds-n-ends. I used to give David hell that he was much worse than I. I blogged about it once http://dreamsofawildflower.blogspot.com/2007_05_01_archive.html. But in reality, I think we were both culprits, but just about different things.

And to add to it...we were also nostalgic romantics. So we kept EVERYTHING! In the last few years we had begun going through stuff. Trying to weed out the crap from the important items. Just trying to rein in the chaos. Pare it down a bit. Mind you, nothing we deemed memorabilia was ever tossed. If I coughed on it, Dave kept it and vice versa. We had a long distance romance for 2 ½ years before I even moved up here and married. So we have a mountain of memories. Precious archives of our past. Hundreds upon hundreds of letters, cards, audio tapes…post it notes. Everything. Our 16-year romance.

We have copious amounts of photos too! David used to prop that camera on any flat surface he could find when we were out and about. So amazingly, we have many pictures of the two of us. Not always fabulous shots. But they captured all those beautiful little moments in time. David was playful and passionate about pretty much everything. A quirky combination but it fit him well. And those candid shots at the wackiest of times resonate now with his vitality and playfulness.

But now...all I have are these archives. A blessing. But they are pale in comparisson to him. I have not begun to even touch the surface of them. Many have not been read in years. I know they are there and I am comforted by them. But I just cannot quite bring myself to look at them yet. I came across the calendar he had the year we met. He circled the day we met and chronicled on that calendar everything we did before I went back home. We were not even dating then. But David knew. Knew the moment he saw me. This was it.

I am eternally grateful for these precious momentos of our life and love. Since we were both nostalgic, both lines of communication were kept. So, I have both the letters I sent and the ones he did as well. We also continued to write an abudant amount of letters and cards to one another throughout our 12-year marriage as well. We did not relegate them to holidays only. Some days one would just be sitting on his car seat awaiting him on his drive to work. Others would find their way into my lunch. I have them all. Beautiful…yes. But they do not hold a flame to his warm smile.

As I look around the house, I see beautiful reminders of him everywhere. They make me smile. They comfort me. And they make me cry. The pencil sketch I did of him in our bedroom. Capturing his beautiful body and peaceful way. The cards. The photos. Everything.

Days like these I try to make sense of it all. I can’t comprehend why he had to die so young. And why him? He was my love. And I miss him so. I am searching for an answer I will never find...

But these and so many other questions haunt me every day. How will I go on? How will I survive this? The pain of loosing him some days feels like it is driving me to insanity. A friend once shared with me a traumatic loss she had experienced and how 'now'…when she thinks back, she realizes how she was "totally nuts for awhile there." I can relate completely. When I think back to those first days and weeks...yeah, I was nuts. Completely driven insane. Functioning marginally…but looks are deceiving. Even now I am sure one day I will look back to this impending 6-month mark and think, "Damn…how was I functioning? And how did everyone think I was ok?" I am not, really. I am alive. I am surviving. I am not crying every day anymore. I do not feel like dying every second of every day anymore. But no. I am not really ok. My heart is torn beyond recognition. I am a shell at the moment. Someday I hope to fill this husk…but right now there is nothing to fill it with.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

This is my reality...

Ever since David died I have worn his wedding band alongside mine...It seemed only appropriate. David was not a big man in stature. He had a small frame and amazingly enough we had the same size hands.

We ended up going with identical bands. I was never one for big diamonds. What would I have done with a big rock on my finger? It would have gotten caught on everything and probably would not have been treated with the delicacy it deserved…seeing as I tend to do so much with my hands. I am always sticking my hands in something. Artwork. Home Renovation. Gardening. A big ring was just not me. And for David…most “male” bands tended to dwarf his fingers and they always looked absurdly large and cumbersome. So we ended up with these bands. And after he died, I put it on. As I had done so many times before. Every time he had been hospitalized and unable to wear it, I would slip it on and keep it close to me until his safe return home. But this time, he would not be returning home. It seemed fitting. Resting side by side on my finger, as we should have been.

But now as I continue to loose weight, they no longer fit. I have tried various contraptions to keep them on, but they are just getting too large for my fingers. Or my fingers are too small? And now every time I wash my hands, they fly off. It is time. I feel it. Before they get lost…which would break my heart. It is time to move them. They now reside on my right hand.

My left hand feels awkward and exposed. I have had a ring on that finger for 14 years. It seems wrong…my finger so bare. But all of this is so wrong! It is so hard to explain, but it feels like I went outside in the dead of winter. And as I stepped onto the snow, I slipped my jacket off. But I am wearing nothing underneath, and now I am standing naked in the snow. Cold and vulnerable.

Those rings. They were symbols of our love. Symbolic of our marriage. Symbolic of so much. But I am no longer married. I am no longer someone’s wife. And I am no longer someone lover.

How is that possible? It never occurred to me that there would be any other life for me. David was always what I thought my future would be. I was happy. We had a great love. We would grow old together. Travel. Have a lifetime of adventures. We always knew we were fortunate to have found each other so young, but we never knew there was a time limit. We thought we had a lifetime. Unfortunately his lifetime was so much shorter than either of us ever anticipated. What the hell happened?

I hate this. I loved being married. I loved being David’s wife. And I loved being his lover. And now I am so damn lost and alone. Looking into a future full of uncertainty. And now my hand reflects this, for the world to see. But this is the reality of it. This hellish nightmare that just keeps going on. So unreal. And yet this is it. This is my reality...