Phantom Limb. The name given to that piece of the body that’s been amputated from the rest of its parts — yet its presence is still felt. At times, it feels as if it is still attached and in sync with other body parts. It feels like it’s still moving, still part of you – except it isn’t.
I can’t help but think that’s a pretty apt description of the loss of a spouse, don’t you? Ripping off a vital part of your being without warning is beyond shock; beyond comprehension. Living within that unreality is painful to the max. Like a treasured limb, its absence is unthinkable.
HIS absence is unthinkable. His skin, his body, his voice was as familiar as my own. I knew every hill and valley of his shoulders, chest, back. We moved in sync and shadowed each other in so many ways. I could move my arm and his came to meet it. When my back faced his chest, instinctively his hands massaged my aching shoulders in unspoken need. I knew every nuance of his expressions, some of pure enjoyment, some an expression of inner boredom, some a plastic arrangement of smile to cover hurt or emotional pain. Crossing a city street, his hand came instinctively to meet mine. Continue reading
“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and ask, “Why me?” Then a voice answers, “Nothing personal . . . your name just happened to come up.” Charlie Brown
Life just IS. At times, it can be sweet, surprising (the good kind) and rewarding. Other times, the sucky ones, we get gobsmacked with bitter taste or whopping sick from that 365 variety box of life. Unfortunately, it’s those we remember most. Yet, somehow, we still keep reaching for the next piece — and the next, always hoping for the one with the cherry surprise.
When we get married, we want the whole damn gift-wrapped box of chocolate – every sweet bite we can stuff in our faces. Sometimes, we could nearly eat our way through the whole box before finding the one we THOUGHT was gooey cream actually has the hard, chewy filling. And that one leaves a rotten aftertaste (or a broken crown!)
We got that hard, jaw-breaking piece before the wedding. A cancer diagnosis does that. Optimistic as always, we still decided to go for it, with the unreasonable trust of children. Some would call it naivete or supreme optimism. We just called it love. Continue reading
Where ARE you? I find myself randomly asking this question, knowing of course that ‘Elvis has left the building’. (No my husband’s name wasn’t Elvis) I keep a sharp eye out for anything I can construe as a ‘sign’ that his presence is nearby. I get no answers.
Pennies? We used to find those suckers everywhere. And like homing devices, they were promptly deposited in the grandkid piggy bank. Birds? My husband had a fondness for hawks. (just saying) I never seem to see them when he did, but now they seem to be everywhere. Does it mean he has a hand in that? Who knows. Some people say to keep talking to those who passed over because the dead want to keep the conversation going. Part of me says it’s hard to keep up a one-sided conversation but truth be told, my husband always had a lot to say. He was never at a loss for words.
It’s been said that those who’ve died are masters of energy, prone to fooling around with light and electricity. I haven’t seen much evidence of that except for those Christmas lights. Now that was a party trick! My little white lights were hung on the tree with care (a lot of care) and the night before Christmas, as I waited for my kids to arrive, one single row began blinking. I thought, great, how the heck am I going to find out which string that is? My next thought was – yikes! I saw clearly that it was one single string directly under the little framed picture of my prince charming, flanked by his initial ornament on one side and the little silver knight I had just bought in remembrance on the other.
The next morning, the lights were on – but not blinking. Coincidence? I think not.
But is that enough to convince me? Maybe not. I remember that character on tv a few months ago who said he wouldn’t ‘belabor the point’. I laughed out loud, I mean, who says that? Well, that husband of mine did. In fact, he used those words often — and effectively especially when he wanted to shut down a subject (or me lol).
When we want to connect so badly to the people we love, we’ll grab onto any thread we can and pray it’s a golden ring. Are those hawks a mystic sign or are they merely becoming as common a sight as the damn wild turkeys in my backyard. Maybe the float with Santa that blared “All I want for Christmas is You’ as they passed my daughter and I tearfully leaving a tree-lighting ceremony for those who died last year was a total coincidence. Or was it?
It could be that the impulsive guy who was so perennially frustrated with his computer is now doing a bit of tech support for the heavenly Geek Squad. Or just maybe that kooky man who was my ‘till death do you part’. . . is still talking.
Who is still talking to you?
All the colors of humanity, of love, of loss. We saw each in Orlando in terrifying technicolor this weekend. Sons, daughters, brothers, sisters – lost. Each of us, who’ve lost the person closest to us, know well the journey their families now will take. Those families, those parents, siblings, grandparents had their hearts ripped out in a second of senseless violence. San Bernadino, Newtown, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook. Adults, children all cut down in the business of living.
Plumbing the depth of my own loss, the slicing off of an artery in your heart without warning, I can’t help but think about the people grieving this week. Many years ago, my young brother died at 19 of leukemia. His loss was immeasurable and I saw my parents nearly destroyed by it. A life that never got to be lived. Watching the mother weeping uncontrollably for news of the son she couldn’t find in the melee, I recognized the anguish. And knew the bottomless pain she now will swim through.
Her son did not survive.
I usually write of my own trip through loss that I never packed for, but tonight my words are for Orlando, the latest headline from hell. There is way too much talk of hate, of exclusion, of retribution – and no healing, no coming together, no real answers. I’m angry, frustrated that weapons of war (um, you don’t need an assault rifle for hunting deer – or PEOPLE!) are available at ANY level especially for the unstable, violent or disenfranchised. The time has come to listen for truth within the rhetoric and for more than tears and talk. I can only hope it is now.
We need to remember the trusting children who left for school, those who went to work, or a casual night of celebration — and never returned home. And we need to remember the families whose new normal will be mourning.
I have questions and no answers. Maybe all we can do is think carefully about Mahatma Gandi’s words “The future depends on what we do in the present” because if we do nothing – there will be no future.
The night that changed everything — is still with me. No matter how I wish I could erase it, it’s part of me now. Less immediate, less traumatically intense these days; sometimes even in hiding but never too far away. As much as I want to securely seal every terrible moment behind bulletproof doors, I somehow also call them out.
Why? It certainly seems a bit masochistic not to work harder to erase what’s so devastating, right? Maybe I do it for the same reason we peel back a bandaid from a wound, telling ourselves we’ll just take a peek to see how it’s progressing. Right. We know that each time we peel it, pick at it, irritate it, it hurts all over again until a proper scar is permanent evidence of what happened.
Do I think that if I lose the throbbing pain of that night that I’d actually lose the vibrancy, the essence of the man himself? That I will not pay proper loving tribute to the history, the journey, or the ending of it all? Or could I really imagine that if the pictures in my head of his very last earthly night leave me —that he will too? That certainly sounds more than a little crazy, and I’m thinking a bit bizarre because even I know he gone. Continue reading
I probably have a million predictable jokes I could crack here. In fact, in my head I can almost hear my comedian husband spouting a bunch of them. But, at the end of day, I can’t help thinking about something writer, Jill Smolowe, said in her book, Four Funerals and A Wedding. “No one to share the results with. It just feels so alone. Like who gives a shit?”
I feel ya, Jill!
The fact is, now there is no ‘other’to tell anything to. From having to check a new status box from Married to Widow to jotting down a new emergency contact, it’s all a kick in the gut.
Over the years, I’ve sat in more waiting rooms for more hours than I can count. And though I’ve been the healthy ‘other half’, my husband did his stint in a waiting room a few times, too. We might say we never take our built-in security blanket for granted, but I think most of us do sometimes, don’t you? Knowing someone always, always has your back comes with the marriage territory. We do for each other gladly and that’s just the way it is – until it isn’t.
In any case, today the role of my husband was played by two people – my oldest daughter who brought me and my bestie who picked me up. I had it covered. My rides, my support system, my (new) emergency contacts were in place. And while I’m extremely grateful for my loving back-up system, it comes with renewed sadness that there had to be one.
It’s no newsflash that you’re in a brand new world when your spouse dies. It’s par for the course to change your status on medical records and replace your life partner with a new emergency contact. And it’s just a lousy fact of life that the person who you were connected to in all ways no longer patiently sits in the waiting room. But as I’ve been known to say so often, it is what it is. And honestly — it’s really crappy.