Monday, February 28, 2011

I Miss Your Blog Posts ....

I received an email today with that subject line. I was surprised at how good that made me feel.

It was from a recent widow who said she found my posts "comforting" and she checks in every day to see if I've posted.  I've been feeling that I'm not really contributing anything with this blog, but her email has given me a renewed drive to share my story. If my writing can help her, then it's worth keeping at this ... and I think it will also help me to heal.

I had every intention of getting out this past weekend (really, I did).  I actually had something planned for each day. But it wasn't until late Sunday afternoon that I finally ventured out (and only because I needed laundry detergent).  I work hard during the work week to act normal and need to lay low at times to re-energize so I can face the next week.  A widow friend reminded me that it's important to "listen to me", so I'm trying to do that for now.

My last post noted that I'm afraid I've been concentrating too much on the date Vern passed.  A friend made the following suggestion; I'm going to give it a try and see if it helps.

I was thinking of you and Vern last night and how the 22nd is such a constant reminder of your life- changing loss. And I thought, what if you thought of the day as Memory Day instead of the anniversary of when he left this world. And every 22nd get out a different picture of when the two of you were young and he was healthy, before the Evil C took over your lives. Even get a funny movie that the two of you shared and watch it knowing that he is beside you laughing again. And just maybe, someday, the 22nd will be a day that is not so painful, it will just be full of nice memories.

Thank you, Lynette, Sue and Gloria.  Your messages made a real difference for me today.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Missing him ....

Yesterday was the 22nd - the 5 month mark since Vern's passing - and yet today was harder for me.  I had worried that I was putting too much emphasis on these 'anniversary' dates, giving the 22nd more power than it deserved.  Perhaps not.

I was surprised at how good I felt yesterday. No tears on the way into work while thinking of my guy. Several unexpected compliments received during the day that put a smile on my face. A nice return to yoga after missing the last two weeks because of that nasty cold.

And then came today. Didn't sleep well. Cried all the way into work. They weren't tears of grief and depression ... more like tears of remembrance, tears as I talked to Vern - out loud - on my drive in. Songs that meant something to us or even songs that weren't special but the words took on a different meaning today brought tears. As always, I did fine at work. Only one little catch in my throat when the song "More" came on the radio in my office (it was sung at our wedding). I attended a restorative yoga class tonight to make up one of the sessions I had missed. My friend, Dorothy, is the instructor and she said this would be a great class for me to relieve some stress - deep relaxation poses, very healing - and she was right. But I was surprised when during one of the poses I was overcome with emotion. I felt comforted by Vern's presence while silent tears poured down my face. Luckily the lights were dimmed and no one noticed - and it was only during that one pose. Maybe today was just a day to release the tears that are held at bay other days.

"Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in awhile, so that we can see Life with a clearer view once again."  Alex Tan

I miss him. I so wish I could talk to him, ask his advice about things I'm facing, hold his hand. I've been reading a book, Encountering Heaven and the Afterlife, that tells personal stories of those who have had near-death experiences or encounters with angels and provides a glimpse of what Heaven is like. Another book, The Barn Dance, describes how "life continues and love persists beyond the grave". These bring me comfort, as does my faith, that I will once again be with Vern. I'm ready for whenever that day arrives.

I'm pushing myself to do some things but it sure isn't easy.  It's far easier to just stay inside our home on the weekends.  It just takes such an effort to socialize sometimes.  I put it all out there during the work week, so when the weekends come it just feels good to stay in. I know that's not healthy and it's not what Vern would want for me, so I'm going to try, try, try to get out more often.

I did have a lovely dinner last Thursday with our special friends, Rich & Bre. Vern loved them both so much and he would not have been happy that I had put off their invitation for so long. And I had a wonderful time catching up with Joe & Luanne during lunch on Friday. Joe was our life-saver during the cancer battle, staying with Vern so I could return to work. He and Vern had such a special friendship ... what a blessing he was to us both.  I'm so glad I did both of these, but it didn't take long for me to revert to my old habits. I drove home right after lunch on Friday and didn't venture out again until returning to work on Tuesday.

I've signed up to walk a couple of 5Ks next month. Shocking for me, really, considering the horrible shape I'm in, but it felt like the right thing to do at the time. I had signed Vern & I up for the Run Away with the Cirque du Soleil at the Springs Preserve a couple of years ago. I thought it would be a fun outing since we both were fascinated with those Cirque characters. I had planned to push him in his wheelchair ... but he wasn't feeling well that morning so we weren't able to go. I thought me doing that race this year would be a nice tribute to my guy. Just after signing up for that race on the 19th, I learned of another on the 13th that I couldn't say no to.  This one benefits pancreatic cancer and we're running/walking for a dear co-worker.  So I'm going to push myself out the door those two weekends for good causes. 

Maybe that's as good as it gets for now. I don't have to do something outside the house every day of the weekend, but I will do my best to get out at least one of the 3 days.  I've started a list of things I might want to do so I'll have no excuses. Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My grief will not define me

The emotions of grieving are so very difficult.  People often say how strong I am ... is that meant as a compliment or a criticism? When I'm feeling the weight of my grief, I feel guilty for wallowing in it. I know that Vern would not want that at all. When I'm feeling somewhat 'normal' I feel guilty for not grieving 24/7. Does that give the impression I'm happy to be a widow and I'm finished with grieving? That couldn't be further from the truth.  I miss Vern every moment of every day.

It will be 5 months on Tuesday. How should I be feeling? I read a lot of other widow blogs and there is a huge variety of grief expressed. Some I can relate to, others I just can't at all. I don't want to become identified by my grief years down the road. Vern's memory deserves better than that.

I am who I am because of our 41 years together. And caring for him for the 4+ years after multiple myeloma entered our lives brought out something in me I didn't know was there. We faced so very many battles together during that time, so many hospitalizatons, surgeries, critical issues. He was definitely not the 'normal' MM patient, and I've been told I wasn't the 'normal' caregiver either. The closeness we always shared was emphasized during the cancer battle. Our life story is unique to us, so I guess it makes sense that my grieving will be unique. And my faith assures me that I will see Vern again and that helps me to move forward.

I see my "new" life as a tribute to Vern.  I talk to him often and I listen for his answers to come in a variety of ways.  They always do.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Can I run away?

Feeling like I want to run away somewhere. I need a change. I'm going through the motions. I say all the right things, I think, but I just feel out of sync. Like I'm acting ... behaving the way I think everyone expects me to behave and I don’t know how to stop. I can’t find my voice … to be honest about everything. And yet I’m afraid if I started saying the things I’m thinking and feeling I would regret it. I’m able to support others who are suffering but feel shut off from anyone supporting me. It’s a weird feeling; very hard to explain. I’m not asking for anyone to intervene. I’m not asking for sympathy. I’ll figure this out eventually.

Perhaps it's just because I've been sick most of this week. Have suffered with the cold/flu crud that everyone seems to be experiencing and it's probably had an impact on my mood. Haven't felt well enough to get outside and enjoy our lovely weather, or even to get some things done inside. Any effort expended results in exhaustion. So many things on my 'to-do' list and I'm just not making any progress. Thought once the weather warmed up it would jump-start me, but now I don't feel well enough to do anything.

And all of this just seems to emphasize how much I miss Vern. I read other widow blogs and think I’m doing better than many who are further along this journey. But then I wonder if I really, truly am or is it all a sham? Will it all come crashing down some day?  I’m tired. I miss Vern, I miss having him here to talk to, to care for … I miss our life and all that we looked forward to. I’m jealous of others who still have their spouse and I get angry when they complain about such little, insignificant things. Don’t they realize what they still have?  And tomorrow ... Valentine's Day ... wish I could just stay home under the covers.

I thought of you with love today,
but that is nothing new.
I thought about you yesterday,
and the days before that, too.

I think of you in silence,
I often speak your name,
But all I have are memories
and your picture in a frame.

Your memory is my keepsake,
with which I'll never part.
God has you in His keeping,
I have you in my heart.

I shed tears for what might have been,
a million times I've cried.
If love alone could have saved you,
you never would have died.

In life I loved you dearly,
in death I love you still,
In my heart you hold a place
no one could ever fill.

It broke my heart to lose you,
but you didn't go alone,
For part of me went with you,
the day God took you home.
Author Unknown

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Vern!

Today would have been Vern's 70th birthday. This photo was taken at his 2007 birthday celebration at the Orleans Arena, his first birthday after the cancer diagnosis in May 2006. He was still in the wheelchair at this point, after having spent 7 of the previous 9 months in the hospital, rehab or acute care facility. Vern had been Guest Services Manager at The Orleans before he became ill and a special gathering was hosted in one of the suites during a Las Vegas Wrangler hockey game. Many of Vern's ushers and friends came by, and the Wrangler GM presented Vern with a personalized jersey. Vern was so honored. 

This photo was taken in 2008, his best year after cancer entered our lives.  He was off chemo, was able to walk again, didn't spend one day in the hospital ... a good year indeed!  At the time, we didn't fully appreciate what a wonderful gift that year was.  Our dear friend, Joe, gathered some friends for a lunch at South Point and surprised Vern with a birthday cake; he was so very touched by this kind gesture. It was a good day. 

This photo is from 2009, when I surprised him with a night at the Palazzo. We had to eat in our beautiful suite because he wasn't feeling too good, but he was able to make it to the showroom to see the Jersey Boys. He loved it - singing along with the rest of us to all of those great old songs.  We had recently learned the myeloma had returned and his strength was waning. This picture is on Sunday when we were checking out and he was exhausted. We had no idea at this point that kidney failure and dialysis was just two months away.

No special celebration in 2010 as he just wasn't up to it. I had put out a request through our CaringBridge site for former students, kids he coached, co-workers and friends to send along special memories. He loved hearing me read these special messages. 

I was going to end this post with the song "Smile" from Uncle Kracker with this picture from May 2009. That song always brings me a smile along with tears.  But I heard Josh Groban's "To Where You Are" on another blog last night and it just says it all for me.  I've added both of these songs to my "Special You Tube Videos" in the sidebar, if you're not familiar with them, and the lyrics are printed below. Happy Birthday my love.

"To Where You Are"

Who can say for certain?
Maybe you're still here
I feel you all around me
Your memory, so clear

Deep in the stillness
I can hear you speak
You're still an inspiration
Can it be?

That you are
my forever love
And you are watching over me
from up above

Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile

If only for awhile
to know you're there
A breath away's not far
To where you are

Are you gently sleeping
Here inside my dream?
And isn't faith believing?
All power can't be seen

As my heart holds you
Just one beat away
I cherish all you gave me

'Cause you are my
Forever love
Watching me
from up above

And I believe
That angels breathe
And that love will live on
and never leave

Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile
To know you're there
A breath away's not far
To where you are

I know you're there
A breath away's not far
To where you are

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Vern would be pleased

I didn't end up going out at all last weekend ... in spite of my vow to stop cocooning ... but this has turned into a really good week. 
  • Had a very, very busy work week, so those 4 days just flew by. Still some tears here and there, but much improvement on that note.
  • I'm continuing with my Tuesday night yoga and so enjoy my time there. The last two sessions were a bit more of a workout (this fat ol' body of mine has difficulty doing the inchworm without fear of smashing my face into the floor), but the instructor says my tree is excellent! 
  • Joined my online bereavement group pals Thursday evening and continue to get so much from those 90 minutes. Such very special people.
  • A co-worker/caregiver/friend invited me to breakfast on Friday and it was a simply marvelous time. We talked non-stop for 2-1/2 hours about husbands, kids, friends, doctors, cancer, chemo, work, change ... and I do believe Vern spoke through her when I shared the big decision I've been battling. She looked me straight in the eyes and said that I need to think about what is best for me and not how everyone else might react and it was a real 'lightbulb' moment for me. That might sound rather simplistic, but it's something I struggle with so hearing her say it out loud helped me make my decision.  Bless you, Linda.
  • And today was my first hike in Red Rock Canyon with a great group of people. It was a lovely morning in a beautiful place and was a really good work-out for me. I had to stop a couple of times in the middle of a climb to catch my breath, but since I've not done any exercising for a long time I'm grateful I didn't keel over! I will be hiking again.
And tomorrow starts a new week. It is my love's birthday ... he would have been 70 ... I miss him.