Sunday, March 31, 2013

Parker Palmer wrote once, "....there is a hard truth to be told: before spring becomes beautiful, it is plug ugly, nothing but mud and muck. I have walked in the early spring through fields that will suck your boots off, a world so wet and woeful it makes you yearn for the return of ice. But in that muddy mess, the conditions for rebirth are being created."

Peggy called early this morning and when I didn't answer the phone she showed up.  She knows when to kick my butt and when to let me be.  She told me to go to church.  What could I do?  I knew I'd have to answer to her later at Easter lunch.  It's hard to say no to Peggy.  So I got myself dressed and showed up at church, late.  I cried through most of it, especially communion; and I left before the socializing.  But I went.  And it was good for me.  I love those people.  My heart aches for who David and I were there, together.  But I will be something new there now.  I have no idea who, but that will come.  The rector said something that gave me hope, I'm not sure I remember what exactly, but it had to do with the resurrection being about becoming something new, unknown, but better than you've been before.  Maybe he didn't say that at all, but it's what I heard. Okay, I can do this.  maybe. 

We had a crazy, child filled dinner and then I came home and realized how quiet the house is.  I find myself either talking to David or keeping the tv on.  I alternate between the two.  The animals take up no more room than they ever did.  I am tempted to get more, but probably ought to wait a bit.  Every time I would talk about another animal David would say, "which two are you getting rid of?" Does it qualify that he is gone now? 

I stumbled on an old old movie, a favorite of my grandmothers, but one I have never seen.  "Easter Parade" with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire.  My grandmother and mother used to make all of our clothes and Easter was a big deal.  We got new clothes from the inside out and often there were matching dresses, purses, and hats.  I hated it as I got older but look back on it fondly now.  My gramma used to sing "In Your Easter Bonnet" every Easter.  I remember Easter dinner was often hamburgers and potato salad made with Easter eggs, eaten at the beach.  We spent most weekends on the water or at the beach.  No real meaning in this memory stuff, just remembering.  David and I didn't celebrate much, keeping things pretty simple.  I am grateful for that now. 

So tonight I am tired.  Physically tired, but mostly emotionally tired.  Tired of crying, tired of feeling sad, tired of coping.  I am ready to remember that the pain and mess of Good Friday does indeed result in the new life of Easter.  I have nothing to do but trust and hope that Parker is right, the conditions of rebirth are being created.  Trust and hope have never been my best skills, or maybe they have, in any case I am learning them in new depth.  Here's to the muck and mud.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

I'm not sure I can handle the whole Easter/resurrection thing this year.  I had a dream this morning right before I woke up.  David appeared, just walked up to me at a campground where I was camping with friends and I fell into his arms.  He was so real.  You would think it would make me feel better, but it put an ache in my morning that would not go away.  I kept thinking of Mary on Easter morning.  I think I know how she felt.  I think I know how they all felt, that desperate loss of someone they loved beyond everyone else, this man who had come into their lives and changed everything.  And I'm not sure I can bear thinking about it tomorrow morning.  I know it should be comforting, but it's just not.  I'm not even willing to go there and think positively about it.  Not this year.  Easter this year is not an Easter in my life right now, but I sure can relate to Good Friday.  To me the seasons of the church year are not literal, but more metaphor for the seasons of our lives.  And right now I am still in my Good Friday season.  I know there will be an Easter morning at some point.  I have to believe that, but I don't know if I will be able to celebrate it in the morning.

I lost myself in working again today.  I weeded all the flower beds, dug up the tomato beds, dug up another bed and planted peas, planted four new rasberry bushes on the side of the hill.  It took most of the day and I am gratefully exhausted.  And overwhelmed.  It took two of us to sort of keep up, how am I going to do it on my own? 

And then I heated up some soup and sat on the deck in the sun and felt at peace.  A book in my hands, a cat on my lap, and a dog at my feet.  The creek sounds in the background.  We built a lovely home and it still brings me great joy. 

What a roller coaster ride this is.  What did I say before?  Riding the waves.  Watching the river run, listening and learning and yearning, run river run.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Today I rediscovered who I was before David.  I found myself thinking of myself differently.  I can't really explain it, but at the end of the day I realized I had been moving in the world in a different way, like I used to when it was just me. 

I dug up three garden beds and planted three rows of potatoes, nine broccoli plants, carrots and more lettuce.  I weeded the garlic and onions that I planted in the fall.  Maybe tomorrow I will plant the peas and dig the tomato bed.  It felt good to be doing hard work, even if I was crying while I did it.  David took such care of me, he always did the hard work of digging while I came behind and planted.  We shared a love of gardening, although I think he tolerated my enthusiasm for self sustainability.  He'd grown up that way and didn't always see the need to go back there.  I remember at the begining I used to tell him, "I don't need you, I'm fine by myself."  He would always smile and say, "I know." I held on to that so carefully for a couple of years and then slowly I came to rely on him, to be part of a team.  That is one of the hardest thing to lose now.  Being part of a team, working together, planning, sharing. 

I spent part of the evening with Peggy and Micheal and their daughter and four grandchildren.  Busy and noisy, but very fun.  Driving home I realized that I had been relating to the kids differently than I did when David was with me.  I was more like I am with my students, somehow different, even though with David I was also still me.  It's so odd, to see myself as someone alone and someone with David.  I never really felt like I got the hang of it, sharing my life with someone else.  I was still working out how to be me and be us.  One of the things that makes me sad is that I was finally, this last year or so, getting into the groove of it. I had made the switch from "me and you" to "us."

So, now I relearn who I am alone.  Like everything else in this process, it is a mixed bag.  Exciting in some ways and so very sad.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Today was not quite so hard.

 I remember talking about the new landscape of our lives when this first started and today I was struck by this new landscape of grief.  It is littered with cliffs.  It seems I turn and go over another one, get my bearings, then turn and go over another.  I catch my breath and then another appears before me.  It is good that no one tells you what it's going to be like.  If we knew ahead of time I don't think we could bear it.  Caught in the middle of this unfamiliar landscape all I can do is keep moving.  But that is a good thing, moving forward.  I know eventually things smooth out, the terrain gets easier to manage and I will be stronger for this current journey. 

I have also noticed that grief has a physical home in my body.  It causes actual physical pain.  I've heard that before, but again, until you are there it's hard to really know what the words mean.  Somtimes it takes my breath away.

I'm getting kind of tired of learning new things.  I could use a spring break at least, maybe even a summer vacation.  I won't hope to graduate, I don't think we get that option in this lifetime. 

I have been given so many gifts, so much love to hold me up.  Really, another truth:  nothing else is real but that. 

Not only is another world possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.
Arundhati Roy
A Blessing for Equilibrium
Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the music of laughter break through your soul.
As the wind wants to make everything dance,
May your gravity be lightened by grace.
Like the freedom of the monastery bell,
May clarity of mind make your eyes smile.
As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.
As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May a sense of irony give you perspective.
As time remains free of all that it frames,
May fear or worry never put you in chains.
May your prayer of listening deepen enough
To hear in the distance the laughter of God.
~ John O'Donohue ~
(Benedictus - A Book of Blessings)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Today was hard, too hard.  I just don't feel like I will ever be happy again.  Loading the dishwasher put me on the floor, sobbing for an hour.  Gathering kindling from the shop...sobbing by the pond.  Everywhere I look is something we dreamed together, something we planned, something we shared.  I went to the store thinking to distract myself and all I could do was remember the last time we were there together.  Trying to watch tv and a commercial comes on with: "our house is a very very very fine house, with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard, now everything is easy 'cause of you...."  I used to sing that to David all the time and now it's not true anymore.  I am scared life will go back to being as hard as it used to be. I need to just cry and feel like this....but, being the one left behind sucks. 

I have been carrying two quotes around in my calendar. 

Anyone can slay a dragon but waking up every morning and loving the world all over again takes a real hero.

Sometimes the only available form of transportation is a leap of faith.

And a Rumi quote:

Very little grows on jagged rock,
Be ground, be crumbled
So wildflowers will come up where you are.
You've been stoney for too many years
Try something different

Ah Rumi.....

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Everyone is gone now.  Life looks different from this perspective.  Nothing else to plan, no more family to think about.  I went to my first Grief Education Group today.  Apparently I am doing everything right...or at least normally.  too bad it feels so crappy.  You would think doing it right would equal feeling good.  Not so much. 

There is a bookshelf in the group room and a title caught my eye, "Gray is the Color of Hope".  I'm not sure what it was about, I didn't have the energy to look at the book.  But I am intrigued by the title.  I sure hope it's true, because the world looks pretty gray today.  Outside it's gray and snowy and inside, well there isn't much color there either. 

I stopped at the grocery and was going up and down the isles when I suddenly looked up and realized that there were all these people bustling around and it struck me that life is going on as normal for all these people. Or maybe not; but it looked like it and I remembered when I was one of them, life going on pretty much normal as I ran through the grocery store, hurrying to get home.  I felt stripped bare, raw.  I realized I am not walking around in the world the way I did when David was alive to come home to.  I felt exposed and insecure.  Not quite sure of my footing in this new landscape. 

I remember writing on caringbridge about the new landscape of our lives and now I've turned a corner and find a newer landscape still.  I can barely keep up and it takes all my energy to keep my footing.  I don't have the ability to look around and find out where I am yet.  One foot in front of another, head down, hope in the background, but muted, muted. 

I didn't know it was possible to hurt this much.  Not in quite this way. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Peggy called and said simply:  "your benediction for the evening." 

Peggy was in Winston-Salem the week David died, helping her daugther with her four children during a family crisis.  She drove back on Thursday and she and her husband left on friday to drive with me on a ten hour drive to Pennsylvania for David's first service. Then they drove me home and Peggy drove back to W/S. She came back here on Thursday to help with the second service and left sunday for W/S again.  I don't know how she is doing it and I am eternally grateful for her loving care. 

So my benediction for the evening was her grandson's prayers.  "God bless".....mommy, daddy, nana, etc.  and then from the youngest; God bless David.  Oh my goodness. 

Then the second asked "David's an angel now right?"  and even better, "Can he fly now?" 

Somehow that gives my heart ease today, on this especially difficult day.  I am finally well and truly sick and there has been exhausted stress all around.  And there is an even bigger hole.  I didn't think that was possible.  All these little steps that make it more real, he is not coming back.  Not ever, no matter how much I want it to be different.  There is nothing I can do about it.  I'm not used to not being able to make something different.  This might be the first thing I have had no choice about.  I've often prided myself on being able to make hard choices, choices where others might not even see choices.  I believed that we always have a choice, even facing death we have a choice about how we die.  But there is no choice here.  He is not coming back.  I don't get to choose not to see him, to decide on which terms I see him.  I simply don't get to see him, sit next to him, see him coming around the corner.  I still don't know how I am going to move forward through that.  One step at a time, in the dark, with a small flashlight to illuminate each step, trusting in the light ahead to open up again.  I guess.  That's the best I can come up with right now.

This same grandson  asked when David died, if he was with Jesus now.  And when Peggy told him yes, David was with Jesus he asked "Why does Jesus want all those people to live with him anyway?"  And he drew me a picture of three very fat goats to help me feel better. 

Children always make my heart happy.  And so many children and young people loved David.  I was so glad to see the young adults who came to his services, he mattered in their lives.  Enough that they gave up their afternoon to come honor his life.  I can think of no better legacy than to have children and young adults love and honor you.

So, yes; God bless David. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I'm starting in the middle, but last night at the Carrie Newcomer concert she sang a song "right out of the notebook" and I was struck by one line in particular:  "the curious gift of limited time"  each word in that phrase has so much meaning and then put together in that particular way creates something rare and beautiful out of something filled with so much potential pain.  I spent the morning with my friends who went to the concert with me and spent the night.  They always, always help me see the curious gifts of my life.  We have so little time and we barely know it, and perhaps there is a gift in that as well.  But if we can glimpse that truth then the world fills with other gifts.  Everywhere, all the time, right in front of us and in our peripheral vision, sometimes only sensed by our souls.  One of the gifts I hope to take from my time with David and his death is that curious gift of limited time.  It opens to such bright and lovely miracles.  another Carrie phrase, the world is full of "miracles and magic" especially in the midst of the ordinary and painful. 

One of those miracles was a gift from my friends and Carrie herself.  One of my friends contacted her via facebook and told her my story and why her song, "A Gathering of Spirits" meant so much to me.  Last night at the concert, she sang it for me as her last song.  Miracles and magic.  Love all around.

Friday afternoon I was driving home, following Lower Flat Creek, the creek that runs along the edge of our property and into the French Broad River, when suddenly the Great Blue Heron flew up to window hight and kept pace with the car.  He flew alongside, both of us following the creek, until I turned to cross it and head up the drive.  At that point he arced higher and continued down to the river.  This heron has lived in and around our property ever since I have been here, and probably long before,  I often see him in the summer standing in the creek watching the deep places.  I have not seen him in months, probably since early last fall. 

I know a gift when I see one.

I looked up the Native American symbolism of the Great Blue Heron and he is the animal that brings communication between the Red Way (life here on earth) and the Blue Way (the life of spirit that comes after).  He speaks to balance, and peace and moving forward, standing on your own two feet.  A gift from David.

Yesterday was what I have been thinking of as "the real" memorial service.  Not because it is any less important or meaningful than the one in Pennsylvania was, but because it was here on the farm, our home. Because many of the people here are the people who knew us as "us".   It was a perfect, beautiful joyfilled, grief filled afternoon.  Grief has a funny landscape.  One moment you are laughing the next sobbing.  There are moments of immense gratitude and joy and then absolute despair and broken heartedness.  How will I live and breathe without this man in my life?  One of my friends quoted the movie "Pretty Woman" at the service.  At the end when he comes and rescues her and she says she rescuses him right back.  Bad quoting there, but you get the idea.  David and I rescued each other.  We gave each other joy, partnership, someone watching our backs.  Life with him was fun and filled with love.  every day. We were living "in the middle of something rare and fine."  I distract myself sometimes, talking about the things I will do now.  New things I will experience and learn, old things I will go back to; and it works for a while.  Then I despair, I would give it all up for more time with him.  I guess this is the landscape of grief, eventually you work your way through to joyful memories and new beginings.  But right now it's just hard to breathe, mostly. 

And, miracles abound even so.  I helped Michael with the cows tonight and as we were bringing out the hay we noticed that another baby had been born today.  A heifer, who oddly, has no tail.  We'd never seen that before.  She was wobbling around nuzzling her mama.  I will hold forever a vivid image of Peggy walking down the isle in the middle of the service yesterday with her three month old grandson alseep in her arms....New life always in the midst of the giving way of the old.  Carrie opened with a song last night with the line "leaves don't drop they just let go and make a space for things to grow.....  to die to live is life's refrain." I know in my deepest heart that loving David in the time we had was a grand and glorious gift and that I have been crafted into someone new and bigger and more wide open than I was.  And someday that miracle and magic will bring me nothing but great joy.  Right now, I put one foot in front of the other trusting that those words are true.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between "green thread"
and "broccoli," you find
that you have penciled "sunlight."

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning—to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing

that also needs accomplishing.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue,

but today you get a telegram
from the heart in exile,
proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,

—to any one among them
who can find the time
to sit out in the sun and listen.

"The Word" by Tony Hoagland, from Sweet Ruin. © University of Wisconsin Press, 1992.

Okay....a blog.  about me.  hmmmm.  well, and David too.  and life on the farm.  and whatever happens next. 

If you happen upon this without having known the previous journey, it is at 

This is my attempt to continue the journey.  But now it is mine, not mine and David's so it seemed to require a new space. 

The farm memorial service is tomorrow.  We are expecting a large gathering and I am beyond exhausted.  holding on, blinders on, and a mantra....two more days two more dasy two more days.  I am holding off getting sick and I recognize in myself what I saw in David as we went into the family reunion.  I have built a container and I keep myself in it.  it is the only way to cope right now.  I am a little afraid of what sunday night or monday will bring.  But whatever it is I know I have no choice but to simply be present in it. 

I hope to have some photos of tomorrow to put on here.  The service has been designed carefully and has a great deal of meaning for me.  I believe it will be something David would have loved.  So many people have given so much, I know he would be surprised at the outpouring of love and caring.  He touched so many lives in so many ways. 

I am in danger of sounding trite.  time to go to bed.  Thank you Alison for setting this up.  let's see where we go from here.