What Matters

There comes a point for everyone of us where we have to decide what matters and what doesn’t, who matters and who doesn’t.  There’s always a why associated with it.  Why does that matter?  Why doesn’t he matter, or she matter?  It is a significant thing when someone or something matters in your life.  Like an honour, a bit of power given to the person or the thing.  So it is a sad moment when you realize that someone or something shouldn’t matter anymore.  It’s about what’s important though, isn’t it?

What is important to you is what makes something matter or not.  For example, my children – they are worth an investment of emotion, love, communication, whatever – it doesn’t mean our relationship is perfect, it means that they matter.  Why?  Because I love them, and they represent the love I shared with Kevin. Likewise my home is also important to me.  It is a safe haven, a controlled space free from drama.  My home therefore matters to me, it is more than a house and it represents something to me, something that I value in many ways.

I have decided that other people’s drama is what shouldn’t matter in my life.  I don’t handle it well, I don’t like what it does to people, I don’t like what it does to me.  I think that drama only sucks you in when you let the people creating the drama, forcing an event or discussion, have power in your life.  Perhaps I am too clinical, and it’s “easier said than done”, but I don’t think so.  I think it is important to take a step back before you go down a path that may be treacherous and full of emotional stress to determine if there is any value to be gained.  Is it important to you?  Does it matter?  Is someone else driving or controlling the drama?  Are they worth the effort, your effort?

One of my biggest self learnings through the grieving process was that I have limited emotional energy and need to ensure I only expend it when absolutely necessary.  It’s the only thing I can control completely –  what’s important and what matters to me.  Those are the things worth caring about.


Round Two

This is about as gruelling as a boxing match.  I went in to finish it off but couldn’t land it.  It’s bloody awful picking through the remnants of a life.  Kevin was somewhat unique in that everything had a name, his clothes, his shoes, his belts, all were codified. He had his ‘playing’ shirts; his school tee-shirts; his favourite black tees; his ‘gigging’ jackets; his regular suspenders and his ‘fancy’ ones; his ‘city’ shoes and his country shoes and the mainstay – his go with anything black jeans.

So going into that closet and getting rid of anything feels like betrayal.  I pick it up, sniff it (if it has even the wisp of ‘his’ smell it stays), remember an occasion when he wore it, and then put it the undecided pile.  The undecided pile is significantly larger than the donate pile.  Then I have the mental anguish of figuring out whether the kids would want anything, and if so, what.

And what do I keep?  Do I keep the darn wedding boots?  That was the point of no return for me tonight, when I hit those boots.  He’d kept them since we married in 1984.  He would take them out every so often and put them on and tell me he hadn’t gained an ounce (on his feet) since the day we wed.  How the heck do I get rid of those? I think that I keep those until the day I die.

It’s exhausting.  And it has to be done.  So the undecided pile will be the focus for tomorrow, followed by the books he stashed away in there.  Some from his university days, some relating to his interest in art and music – books with his scratchy handwriting: critiquing, clarifying or challenging some point of genius he was interested in.  My love.  My loss.

Round three tomorrow and it should just about do me in.

The Near and the Far

One of the most difficult things I continue to experience since Kevin’s death is the sensation of near and far.  We spent 33 years of our lives together and sometimes he feels so very, very near.  There are times when I can hear his voice in my head, so strong and so forceful.  Other times I can almost feel his presence in the room.  I know, rather, I knew him, how he would respond, and on some occasions I still experience a remarkable closeness in this regard.  Occasions like this weekend just passed.

I made the journey to meet my fourth grandchild.  Lovely little boy; perfect in every way.  As I held him I could almost feel Kevin’s touch, so gentle and so loving, there with me, embracing the sweet child I cradled in my arms.  Kevin was all about the kids, all about family.  How he loved the fact that he had become a grandfather.  He’d plan how, after he retired, he would spirit the grandchildren away for weeks so he could teach them what life was really about.  Such a sad, sad thing that he died before he had the opportunity.  And it was a sad journey, making the trip to see my son and his infant son, this time, the first time, without Kevin.

Then there is the far – the times when I find a picture or a letter or hear a song and Kevin seems so very far away.  Or when something goes wrong, and it’s on me to fix it, and I don’t hear Kevin’s voice in my head helping me figure things out.  Times when I need him but he can’t be there.  He’s far, far away.  It is seven months in a couple of days, and sometimes it feels like he’s been gone forever.  I can’t recall what it felt like to come home to him, to wake up with him, to just hear his voice.  This is part of the far.  I remember coming home to him, waking up with him, listening to him, but I don’t recall how it felt because it was comfortable and predictable and everyday.  It’s the intangibles that get me, on some level, within memories; it’s the intangibles that hurt.

The near and the far, we all experience it in some way, at some point, throughout our lives.

Time is a Four Letter Word

clockTime – a word I’ve heard often in the last month or so.  It seems to have some sort of magical connotation to it.  Everyone seems to believe that it is the answer to all my problems.  That time will magically take away the pain, bringing me comfort and joy.   I reject the concept of time as a healer.  Time cannot heal. The body can heal, the mind can heal, and they do as time passes.  Time is a measure; time can exist in a vacuum.  Events and things can and do occur through space and time, but time itself is not a catalyst for these things to occur.

Since Kevin died I have had people say to me variations of the following: ‘don’t worry, things can only get better, give it time’;  ‘time heals all wounds’; ‘it happens to everyone, it gets better over time’; or the feverish out-of-control statement – ‘shows you should live each day like it’s your last.’  There are dozens of trite statements like these.  When someone uses one of these lines in conversation with me, I pretty much shut down.  If you don’t know what to say then don’t say anything.  Friends and family, in my case, are not guilty of using these simplistic superficial expressions.  It’s the coworkers and acquaintances that use these statements to bridge the awkwardness associated with death.

I’m getting quicker at the shock responses now, which is a good indicator that my tolerance levels are low.  When people tell me not to worry I ask – how do you shut off, how do you do that, not worry?  With respect to living each day like it’s your last, actually for the first month after Kevin’s death that’s exactly what I did – because that was what I wanted.  That’s not a response that people expect and the conversation tends to end really quickly. I know that people are just trying to reach out and make a connection.  Sometimes I don’t want the connection; you know you can turn the light switch on as many times as you want, if the bulb’s blown, you won’t get any light. 

Recently I remembered a woman I worked with many years ago. She had been widowed at a fairly young age, mid-30s I believe, and had raised her son on her own.  She would have been in her 50s when I worked with her. We would talk about everything and anything. She told me that she never forgot, that for her, her husband was a part of who she was, and she carried that knowledge with her wherever she went. A hardworking woman, she had a pale tinge of something intangible about her, and in hindsight I recognize that this was her sorrow, the loss that made her who she was. It had been a tough go for her and not how she had thought things would turn out.  I wonder how often things do turn out exactly as they are supposed to?  There do seem to be some families that live under a golden glow; the sun and sky, the earth and the sea nourish and protect them. They do not know how fortunate they are.

“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”  (Rose Kennedy)



The Uniqueness Of Death

For some, death can be a blessed relief.  I’ve seen and known people crippled by terminal disease, where the body continued long after the essence of the being left.  Instances where pain and suffering destroyed the individual and left a remnant of the person that once was.  For these terminal patients the effort of civility, of being social, is inconceivable and they retreat to their own private hell waiting for the inevitable.  For caregivers of these individuals the sense of mourning likely started long before the actual death of the physical body.  Fortunately, for me this was not the case.  Kevin suffered, but he never lost his spirit, interest, sense of humour or devotion to his family.  His death came quickly at the end; far too fast for our family. With respect to mourning and loss, there can be a considerable difference in the reaction and healing process based on  individual experience.  For my family we were dropped into a pit of sorrow before we were ready; for others the sorrow and loss may have commenced long before the death occurs.

One thing that I have learned through this experience is that it is a singular experience.  What I have felt could never be the same as what anyone else has felt.  My loss reflects my relationship, values, family, health, state of mind, even my employment, at the time of my husband’s death.  Based on this uniqueness of being that each and every one of us possess, there is no way that any one experience could be exactly the same as someone else’s.  Likewise, how I present my response, my grief and sense of loss writing this blog reflects an instant in time where I shared my reflections.  My words are not meant to be judgemental, they are solely my impressions and thoughts captured at a fleeting moment in time and based on my own experience.

Only the individual can determine how they will grieve since the experience and the loss was close and personal and unique to them.  They will move forward how and when they are ready.  For me, I believe that I walk this path alone even though I am surrounded by family and friends.  I love them and thank them and need them, (I do need you!), however, it’s on me, and only me, to find my way.