About Me

My wonderful husband died when I was 44 years old. Being widowed this young happens to less than 3% of married people. Writing through this loss one word at time helps me understand what I've lost and helps me continue to grow. It is how I have gradually recovered from such a severe loss. Research shows that you can benefit from taking just 15 minutes a day to write out your deepest feelings as a way of healing. On the right side of this blog, you'll see a tag for Exercises to Try. If you need some help knowing how to use writing to help heal yourself, I suggest you start there.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Visit from a Bird or Bat (and a bear), and....

At 5AM this morning, a fetish fell off my windowsill, awakening me from my sleep. A Zuni carved fetish, that is. The Zuni of the southwest carve animals out of stone, bone, antler and such. Each animal is said to have different powers...Ken and I started collecting these fetishes in the early 90s while visiting Santa Fe and Taos one February before we had children. Over the years, we'd give them to each other for gifts. Let's say it was one of those sweet things between couples, less sugary than giving each other stuffed animals but not as formal as a monogrammed bathrobe.

What was perplexing was that there was no way one of these fetishes could just fall off the windowsill all by itself. They are stable where they rest.

So I got out of bed to find that the fetish that had fallen off the windowsill was a white bear. We have three of them. And what do you suppose are the mystical powers possessed by the white bear? Healing, powerful healing. I had once sent a white bear to my friend Pam, who during the same time Ken was going through treatment for Hodgkins Disease, was fighting her own battle against leukemia. Before Pam died she passed her white bear on to Ken.

Since Pam's bear hadn't possessed enough power to keep her alive, I got Ken another whiter bear. Like many fetishes it carried a little bundle on its back wrapped with string. The bundles add even more power. Ken would carry the bear around in his pocket, take it to work, for his chemo treatments, etc. It got so worn from being carried around that the string became frayed and undone. It went through a lot trying to keep Ken healthy but it just wasn't strong enough, so I bought Ken a third white bear...white as snow, smooth as ice. The last bear. This is the bear that fell off the windowsill last night. (OK, so obviously these bears are impostors since two great people died while the bears sat back and did nothing, however, the story continues....)

I couldn't understand how this bear had fallen off the windowsill. As I lay on my bed pondering this I heard a sound of movement throughout the upstairs of our house...something moving through my room, Natalie's room, and Alec's room, around and around. A bird! Or was it a bat? I'm still not quite sure what it was but it was flying around our upstairs going from one room to another.

Normally, any living intruder in our home would be handled by the man of the house, but since that wasn't possible at 5 am this morning, or at any morning in the last many months, it was up to me and my pounding heart. So I waited until the birdy flew into Alec's room, closed the two doors to his room, trapped the bird in there, took a screen off a window, lay down on his bed, and waited for the bird/bat to fly out. I did it!

Afterwards, I felt kind of proud of myself. Kind of strong and capable. A real match for the winged one.

I felt just a little, just a little tiny bit of healing had taken place. With my two little children fast asleep, with no one to help me, I ushered a living creature out of our upstairs with minimal fuss. And I must admit I wonder...what was that flying through each of our rooms last night? A bird? A bat? Or some other flying wonder that came by to check on us?

My only regret? I wish I had at least said "hello." Just in case, you know?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Update on Life and Grief

1. Last year I couldn't even plant a vegetable garden. This year I planted tons of stuff, but I haven't tended it so crabgrass is taking over. I'd say this indicates progress. Perhaps next year, I will feel lively enough to weed.

2. The second year is harder. General life viewpoint: Uh-oh, now what. This IS my life. Return to therapy.

3. Women have saved me. If it weren't for all the fabulous women in my life, I'd be buried under the crabgrass in the untended vegetable garden. Thank you wonderful friends and family.

4. I can mow my own lawn, but still not comfortable with changing the gas container on the grill...also haven't cleaned the grill. Perhaps grilling will go the way of the fully tended garden.

5. We are all making it, but life without Ken is not as good. Not as good. Not as good. Losing your husband is bad. Recommendation: avoid losing fabulous spouse.

6. Everyday I try to think about the good in my life, but I just can't help noticing that big old hole in the center. I will borrow a line or two that Alec (8) wrote in a poem this year: Black is a hole that only ends in darkness. Then again, he also wrote in the same poem: Water is a growing goodness that sees through anything.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Happy Birthday Natalie!!!!!

Natalie turned 11 yesterday. The day before her birthday we arrived home to find a shopping bag with an incredible gift inside. There was a letter enclosed from a woman we have never met, but hope to sometime soon. "Kathie" knew Ken from SSA, the School of Social Work at the University of Chicago. Like so many others, she was moved by the fact that the day of Ken's death last year coincided with Natalie's 10th birthday.

In her letter, she tells us that around that time last year she was about to begin a new quilt so she decided she would give it to Natalie on her next birthday. Her husband would tease her about finishing it...and they began to refer to it as the "Ken and Natalie Quilt". Every time she chose a new piece of fabric, or added a piece, or tore a piece out, she'd think of Ken and Natalie.

Natalie loves the quilt that covers her entire bed and lights up her room.

"It make me feel really good that someone that I don't even know was thinking about me and Dad. It makes me feel really good when I'm lying in bed under it!"

When I told my friend Cindy the story she said that "it's stories like that that make me feel there's hope for humanity."

THANK YOU KATHIE! You brought a huge sunny patch to a day that's filled with both light and shadow. We are incredibly moved and incredibly grateful.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Swimming for Ken on January 14

This Sunday January 14 is both the anniversary of Ken's death and Natalie's 11th birthday. Natalie's birthday party will be in the late afternoon and we're looking forward to it. Tonight I asked the kids what we should do to honor Ken on that day as well.

We talked about a few ideas and settled on going to Lifetime Fitness that morning where the three of us will share a lap lane in the lap pool and swim laps for Ken. Ken was such a joyful, strong, capable swimmer. So we'll relax, get our bodies moving together, and remember Ken for his good health, athleticism and strength...three qualities he maintained until almost the end of his life. We'll pick up where he left off.

It is painful to remember what was happening a year ago. One year ago today, we flew Ken home to Evanston. The realization had arrived that only through a medical miracle would Ken survive. The fact is that he spent the last six months of his life in a hospital room mostly unable to use his body for much at all, but he did it with immense grace and with great hope that he could overcome the struggle.

I remember the last swims he took in Houston before he entered the hospital. He was still free, and cancer-free as well. His body hadn't yet turned on him as it did after the stem cell transplant. He had a beautiful way of moving through the water.
So, if you can get to a pool on January 14, swim a few laps for Ken and remember how he moved through his life with little resistance, going with the flow, strong and capable, and always available for some excellent instruction if you needed help with your own stroke.