Wednesday, May 27, 2015


I’ve been thinking a lot about my biggest fear and greatest loss through this.  And with so very much loss it seems I have a lot to choose from.  And as hard as it is to believe, the clear winner is the loss of my faith as I knew it. 

Some days are better than others but I have to admit I still struggle and any one of you that choose to judge – I challenge you to walk a mile in my shoes – if you dare - before you say it could never happen to you.

I feel terrible for it – certainly.  And I worry that I won’t be forgiven for the doubts and anger that have plagued my days for nine months now.  The anger has let up some – thank goodness but now I live with the constant guilt left in its wake.  

What has taken the place of that anger is a cavern of emptiness.   I have days when I feel better about things and there are days when I look at the way I used to “know” God and realize that there is no way that could have ever worked.  But what is worrying me is that I seem to have had far more clarity on that months ago.  There are days when I see clearly that God had to destroy the self-centered, worldly image that I had of Him in order for me to know His real, true nature – but I also know that we’re only half-way there.  He destroyed the image that I had – that’s for sure.  But I haven’t found the replacement image as yet to know who He really is because He seems very far away right now.  And I’m a little afraid of rebuilding that “house of cards” as C.S. Lewis put it. Like if you tried handing me another baby and saying “Here fall in love with this child and let’s see how this one works out.” 

Not going to happen.

And I’m not sure I can build another belief system out of the shreds of faith I have left either.   I hope and pray that I can and that though I am not there yet – in time I will be –but at this point, I honestly do not know.

As I look back over the months and I reread here what I’ve written along this horrific journey, it appears that in many ways I seem to be going backwards.
I was in counseling.  I was reading a lot of grief books, self-help books and inspirational books.  I was watching videos.  I was going to Grief Share.  I had my sister to talk to a lot and had daily responsibilities that kept me out of the closet and after nine months you’d assume I’d be on my way up out of the depths of despair. 

When the numbness wore off and I was so devastated and so broken and so fragile I was running 90 MPH trying to “do” everything I could think of, to keep me from wanting to die every minute of every day.  

I lived with the daily fear that I would succumb and wreak more havoc on my already devastated family.  I wrote on the blog the first entry that I was not sure I could live through this but this was my attempt to at least postpone “not living through it” as long as possible.  Even I, thought if I could just postpone it for some reasonable amount of time that I would be kind of past the danger period.  Not over it -- I knew better than that -- but dealing with it enough that I was comfortable that I would not do anything stupid.

So I bombarded myself with every avenue that I thought may help.  Everything anyone suggested – I tried.   I devoured everything anyone sent me – books, articles, videos, inspirational quotes cards and letters.  I was doing what I do -- being obsessive about it and hitting it with everything I had in my arsenal. 

Still I went to bed at night hoping and praying that I would not wake up.  I didn’t want to be the actual cause myself of any more pain to my family but if it happened ---well I’d have been perfectly happy.   And when I woke up every morning I was pissed off.  But human nature is such that I still continued to fight.  If I wasn’t going to die then I was going to have to find whatever it took to give me the will to live. 

So I prepared for the battle.  I have never known this kind of profound grief and despair and I had to literally learn how to survive it.  So I found out what to do and what not to do in order to heal.  I learned grief was messy and had no defined timeline.  I learned that you lean into the grief and you do not hide it or run from it or attempt to cover it up if you want to heal and not get stuck.  I learned you should feel and express your emotions.  I learned the language and what to expect: “melt downs” and “ambushes” and “triggers”.  I learned we all grieve differently and on different timelines.  I learned it was work and that you needed to talk about your loss and acknowledge your loved ones. 

I attacked it like I would any other project.  It was here.  I couldn’t avoid it.  So I would research it, find out all I could about it and just deal with it head on.  I was fighting; fighting to survive it though I didn’t even want to – I was doing it for the rest of my family and my few closest friends.  As it turns out two thirds of the family and friends I was so concerned about “sparing” any additional pain, have chosen to walk away and cut all ties so there was very little need to worry.  I'm kind of thinking they would have been just fine.

My sister has gone to her own home now.  I am back at work fulltime.  I am out of the rental house and back home where all of their memories were (and still are) and where every weekend I had breakdown after breakdown as the triggers here slapped me in the face the minute I arrived and stayed long after I left.

I can no longer attend Grief Share since it is not close and my spare time is now spent in a nearly four hour daily commute. 

All the books began to run together and all the information I'd read was pretty well internalized so I felt I was ready to let go of all of the external efforts and obsessing and put what I learned to practice so I could finally begin to heal. 

I knew the Kubler-Ross  five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, sadness & acceptance)  I was aware of the danger signs of depression and I was prepared so as not to fall off a cliff there.  I knew to steer clear of temporary “feel better” fixes like alcohol, drugs, shopping, over-eating or having an affair.  I knew not to make major changes in my life or make major decisions while still in this state. 

The plan was to fix it in whatever way was in my control – I guess I was going to “Type A” it into submission.  And apparently while I thought I was facing it head-on – it was just another way to throw the focus on my "obsession with dealing with it" and avoid the obvious.  And now here I am nine months down the road...wondering if I am any better or actually worse --again?

In looking back over the previous nine months of posts – which is also what I was supposed to do in order to “realize growth” – I'm not sure that is what I’m seeing...There are no longer sweet baby stories, or amusing anecdotes of our time together, no more inspirational epiphanies about life or love or God; no more accounts of miracles in the face of this tragedy. 

My mind keeps drifting to thoughts of a shipwreck.  Someone stranded in a lifeboat on the high seas.  The first few days they fight with blind determination to make it through.  That is of course when they still have plenty of food and water.  They pray.  They cling to hope.  They look diligently for the rescue boats to come.  But then as days stretch into weeks, the food runs out, the fresh water runs low and they see hope draining out of the bottom of the near-empty water source.  Then come the rains and hope is rekindled.  They have a measure of relief.  They praise God for the gift of the fresh Heaven sent water.  Suddenly the gentle welcome rain takes an evil turn as swirling, menacing darks clouds appear; lightening begins popping all around; thunder roars, gale-force winds whip and the waves become huge and raging.    The little boat is tossed and battered as is the struggling soul on board.  Finally, the storm subsides and hope springs forth - a little slower this time and not quite as high.  The sun comes out - a welcome sight then it begins to beat down relentlessly until the suffering soul on board starts to hallucinate; slipping in and out of consciousness. "Surviving" has lost its momentum.  Then one day without any foresight or fanfare - he just slips quietly under the water…

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Odds and Ends

The house is sold. The mortgage now paid. The bills reimbursed. The profits disbursed. The 1,400 mile road trip behind me.  Relief?  A little.  But only a little.

Now I'm facing the six truckloads of stuff we cleared out of the house.  I have 1,200 square feet of my building full and running over.  More emotional stress ahead as I have to go through and then dispose of the last remaining details that define my children's lives.  All of the personal things that represented who they were; the art and decorations Kara chose to make her house a home; the tools that Brian worked with that made his family a living; the toys Paxton played with in the bathtub every night; stray dishes, small appliances, her workout tapes, his weight bench, the grill that they cooked burgers on when family and friends came over on summer nights, the vases that sat on the fireplace hearth; the dozens of books on history, biblical history, bible prophecy, various versions of the bible and several study bibles that Brian collected; the bottle of wine with the commemorative label marking the day they married, the notebook Kara jotted down the details of her upcoming wedding in as well as Brian's corresponding "crazy" list another treasured find so typical of his sense of humor like:

- who to throw food at during the reception: Mom, Dad, Kara's brother... 
- things for my sister to swing from at the wedding 

There are the pictures that hung on the wall of the family and the camping gear that they used when they camped out with Kara's best friend and her husband for Brian's favorite race at Talladega every spring. 

Nothing of monetary value and yet the essence of who they were; making them the most valuable things they owned --to me.

And yet --what do I do with it all?  I can't keep 1,200 square feet of unorganized random clutter.  But how on earth do I dispose of it either?  These are personal, private pieces of who they were and they are all we now have left.

Makes you think about all the stuff you own that would tell the world about who you are and how you lived your life?

So anyway I now have the gut-wrenching job of going through it all piece by piece and then trying to figure out what to do with it all when getting rid of any of it just seems so wrong.

And my real fear is that I won't.  I'm afraid I will hold on to it - plastic cool whip bowls and all.  It took me three years to go through the remnants of my mother's apartment and I still have the clothes, shoes and purse that she had at the hospital that last night...16 years ago.

We are trying to clean out and clear out and pare down our 38 years of stuff so we can downsize and function on a more manageable scale.  Now instead of paring down we have added 1,200 square feet of personal, painful, stray leftover details of the lives of my children - what do you do with that?  How do you do anything with that?

This is me we're talking about - the person that has a sentimental attachment to everything!

I am the one that loves and cares for and feels an obligation to antique furniture that belonged to total strangers that I never even knew; and the one that keeps orphaned dishes for 42 years because I bought them when I was pregnant with Brian and odd coffee mugs that I always hated simply because they now seem like part of my family!  I have Christmas cards from 20 Christmases ago and every birthday card, anniversary card or mother's day card I've ever received.  I have a collar and rabies tag from a family dog that died 12 years ago!

How am I now going to actually let go of what little that I have left of my children?

I don't know about you but I'm betting our downsizing has just come to a screeching halt.

I am open to suggestions - ?

Monday, May 18, 2015

For Better or For Worse...

Well we actually went on our vacation.  We drove 1,400 miles in six days.  We figured if God could create the world in six days we should at least drive past most of it.  

We did come home a day early but that really was doing pretty good since I was wanting to come home on day two.  It was okay – not great but better than I expected.  I had one minor set back as soon as we arrived on Sunday (Mother’s Day).  Something triggered it – I can’t imagine what -- but it was short-lived because I felt guilty for ruining my husband’s vacation so I stuffed it.  I can sense that he is losing patience with the never-ending snot-fest.  I know men don’t grieve the same and not that this is a bad thing but I feel like his life has resumed and his philosophy is: “Yeah, I’m sad but there is nothing I can do about it.” Huh? I kind of took that to mean since there is nothing he (or I) can “do” about it – all this crying and stuff is a waste of time. 
They really are from Mars.

Don’t get me wrong, he has been kind and supportive and patient but it is getting real clear he is tiring of all this and he feels he has been patient long enough and he wants his life back.  He is blatantly ready for things to get back to normal -- more specifically --his wife.  I definitely feel that and after 38 years I know him well enough to finish his sentences.  What I have prayed would not happen that “this” would come between us --appears to be leaning in that direction.  “This” has just about destroyed every relationship in my life and now I can feel the heat of its evil eye on my marriage. I’ve read the warnings and I knew it was a real threat.  I have tried to shield us from it and prepare for the possibility but it’s aiming for us and when I least expected it – when I thought we were past the danger zone.  It sneaks up and rears its ugly head in the timing factor.  He is tiring of all of the sadness and depression.  It is pulling him down.  He has invested all he has to invest and it still hasn't gone away...he wants his wife --and his life back.  He’s over all the crying and sadness and lethargy and depression and anger and theories and he wants to live normal again.  Oh I don’t blame him –I really don’t but I can’t give him what I don’t have.

I can’t make the sadness go away.  I wish I could and I wish I could tell him “Okay in three more months I will be better.”  But I can’t tell him that and I can’t tell him in fact, that it will ever get better.  And I think he is sensing that too.  I try and cry where he can’t hear me but I don’t want to pretend anymore that I’m not sad.  What he doesn’t understand is that though he has had almost nine months to get past it I have not.  I spent the first five in the Bone Marrow Transplant unit for six to eight hours a day during the first and what should have been the worst of my grief time, in a 3X4 space with a curtain around it; all that separated my sister and I from about forty desperately sick cancer patients along with a small army of physician’s assistants, nurses, nurses aides and doctors. 
There was no privacy and your every whisper was in earshot of at least ten people.  Ten terribly sick people, pale, bloated from steroids, no hair, vomiting, fevered, a tangle of I.V. lines hanging from them like Christmas tree lights and all of them fighting desperately for their lives.  I could certainly not sit “there” and cry.  Besides I was expected to listen to the nurses and the doctors instructions, read and understand treatment plans, listen for the warning signs of viruses, graft vs host disease or any host of other possible issues I needed to watch out for.  I had to carry armloads of stuff from waiting room to treatment room to radiology, to the different medical offices and down two elevators and to the car nine miles away.  But the heaviest thing I carried was my grief.  It was with me night and day but couldn’t be released except in small doses in the bottom of my closet late at night.  How do you sit in that environment with all that everyone there was going through –and cry and feel sorry for yourself?  You don’t.  You just don’t.  That said - had I not been sitting there and had I been allowed to collapse in the bottom of the closet like I wanted to -- I don't think I would be here now. So even though it postponed a lot of my grief-work it was for the best because I am stronger now in many ways.  But still it isn’t nine months to me.  It is fresh, raw and stifling as I am finally able to feel the sadness that was strangling me, grieve what was lost, cry for my baby and my son and my daughter in law; and do what I’ve wanted to do for months.
I can’t help that I am not enthused over a vacation and that all I want to do is curl up in my pajamas and never get out of bed or scream to the top of my lungs or sit in the floor holding toys to me and sob till my eyes swell shut over the injustice, the unfairness – the horror of it all that I still find impossible to believe.  So I feel that it is progress that I don’t – I just cry usually somewhere alone quietly behind closed doors.  I get up every day and I go to my job; I do enough around here to get by maybe not very well but I cook some.  I do laundry.  I pay the bills.  Most days I’m still amazed I can do what little I do.  I planned, made reservations, packed and drove on this stupid vacation and I am really proud of myself when I can function even at half capacity so I really don’t understand why everyone isn’t proud that I am not in the closet floor.  So what if I’m sad some days or don’t want to do things right yet or that I am not the picture of efficiency.  I want to be normal again and I wish I could promise that next week or next month or even next year that it will all get better and I will stop crying and being sad and analyzing this.  I’d love to tell you that –but the truth is I don’t know.  I don’t know that things will ever be normal again.  Truthfully, I can’t imagine it.  And while I am not where you wish I were and not even where I wish I were – I’m not where I was.   So what I want to say is: Cut me some slack.  I’m holding on the best I know how.  Be patient and love me for better or worse – this is “worse” and I’m doing the best I can.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

So Wasted...

Well it has been a while since I have posted.  Sorry. 

We, meaning of course, my husband, my daughter, my son-in-law and my brother – not me - spent four weekends moving the last things out of Brian and Kara’s house.  Kara’s sister retrieved Kara’s things for her family months ago and then the kids took all of the furniture and anything else that they wanted.  So what was left was really only stray stuff – books, exercise equipment, camping gear and the kind of stuff that you have no idea what to do with.  But I did not want to chance anything personal being missed like pictures or letters or anything so it has all been brought back to my home for me to go through and then dispose of.

Then right in the middle of that our lease was up and we had to move out of the rental house.  So we have been in moving hell for more than a month and are living in a disaster area and you seriously could not kick your way through any room in my house for two solid weeks. 

Tuesday was the foreclosure sale of their home - a difficult day to say the least.  That has brought on a lot of renewed anger.  I guess just the pitiful waste of it all.  Wasted efforts of us trying to help them and of course the haunting question – did their being in that house in any way contribute to this? Had we not done that – would we be where we are now?  I realize that in the logical, reasonable world that does not really make any sense – but it haunts me with guilt and fear just the same. 

Then there is the wasted time and effort and the long days and nights that they spent working on the house and what a beautiful job they did and how much love they put into it.  Someone else now will reap the benefits of all that love and hard work without ever knowing how much the home had meant to the family we lost in there.

Then there is the waste of all of their dreams including the dream of Kara having her first child and that house was the only home he ever knew.  He chased Minnie up and down the halls while she barked and he laughed and squealed; he pushed his little “learn to walk” toy that his aunt Michelle had given him up and down the hall a million miles.  That home is where he “Skyped” with his Mema and Pap-Pap that lived out of state, several times a week.  That was where he played in the bathtub --with cars and not boats and that was where I videoed him playing in the tub the last time I babysat with him and laughed while he tried to teach a Lamborghini to swim.  That is where he stood on the sofa and looked out the window every afternoon waiting for his daddy to come home and where I always looked for his little face in that same window as he waved goodbye to me whenever I left.   He jumped on his trampoline in his back yard there and slid on his slide and played with his little special friend next door on the swing set his Mema and Pap-Pap bought for him.  And that was where with tiny hammer in hand, he helped his daddy build the “enormous” woodshed out back.  And where he and his Mama picked the vegetables they had planted together every afternoon from the raised bed garden boxes his daddy built for them.  That is where he used to, in a fit of giggles, shut me in the tiny linen closet I would barely fit in - for a quick game of hide and seek and also where he and I raced  tiny cars around the coffee table hundreds of times.  It was there that I took the last video I have of him singing “Haddy Dirtday” to me just weeks before --he also died in that house.

That was where Kara hosted her first and last Thanksgiving dinner and where she snuggled the newborn baby that she never thought she would have.  That is where she worked and painted and worried over making his nursery just perfect and where she then graduated him from the muted pastels of a “baby nursery” to the toddler “Veggie Tales” theme of bright primary colors and her hand-made people-sized cucumber wall-hanging and then later to the Disney movie “Cars” theme as he developed an obsession to anything with wheels on it.  That is where she hosted a graduation party for my daughter’s son when he graduated high school and where she had her first cookout on the deck and we all gathered for fireworks for the fourth of July.  There was where, with all the patience in the world, she helped Brian’s daughter do her freshly painted conservative neutral beige room in leopard prints and hot pink splatter paint.  And that was where we surprised her with the designer purse that she’d had her eye on for months for the very last birthday she would ever celebrate exactly one year to the day before the day that rocked our world.

Even after all the hard work and talent that Brian put in there, the thing he was most proud of about that house was the fact that it would be paid for in seven years.  He never took that for granted and he was always so grateful to us for helping them out like that.  He could hardly believe that he would be able to provide that kind of security for his family and he thanked us for it repeatedly.

He worked tirelessly on that house from the time he moved in until the week before they died.  In the three months prior he had just put in a new front door, built the woodshed in the back and had the new vanity and tile to begin the remodel on the bathroom – the last of the upstairs to be redone. 

It was the first time he had felt at home since he sold the first home he bought with his first wife 18 years earlier.  And that was where he finally felt like his life was coming back together.  He had started his own business there and much to my dismay had not decided to pursue something that allowed him to use his God-given gifts in wood-working.  He has built some of the most beautiful furniture - bookcases, shelves, chess tables, bathroom vanities, gun cases and even a reproduction of a Victorian “lady’s writing desk” for me.  And of course, he was also so talented at home improvement and carpentry as well and I keep thinking back to when he and I had talked about a joint partnership buying and redoing foreclosed homes since he had outdone himself on the remodel of this house.  Little did I know that the first foreclosure sale I would attend would be the sale of this home under “these” horrific circumstances.  So yeah, there was a lot of emotion surrounding the house sale and a lot of anger at the magnitude of the waste.

But on the other hand, it has caused me so much anguish worrying over what to do about it until now that it is done – I just can’t think about it anymore.