“An Open Letter” Cont.
Update on an “Open Letter Between Two Woman” Scroll down to see the beginning beneath the poem ”All Is Love” if not already following.
It is a beautiful fall day. The sky is bright blue and filled with gorgeous puffs of white. A true Colorado day with everyone outside on their bikes, running the trails, playing ball in the parks and enjoying the blessings of a perfect Indian summer. I find myself at loose ends. I met a friend for brunch and came home and felt lost. I have cried very little, made myself available to see the lovely people in my life, and tried to center my thoughts on gratitude rather than sadness. And then a deafening silence fills the house and I realize what I have lost. I find I can tell you these things better than others. I am busy acting “as if”, needing to reassure everyone that I am doing well. I tell my friends that I am whole despite this tragedy. And yet I know that I have such a long climb ahead of me. Dan’s best friend, Ted, has faithfully read your blog since Dan was diagnosed. That was how I found you. Today he wrote to me and said he wished he had the words you have expressed so beautifully over the years to clear out out the sadness and despair he feels. Once I read his words I knew I had to ask you if your life feels a bit more whole now. I know you have been doing the hard work of grieving and living and wonder whether you still feel that inability to fully breathe. It has only been five weeks but the rest of my life seems very long. I am blessed with friends and family and a home I can afford and endless possibilities (I hope) and then the magnitude of what has happened blindsides me. On my better days I can acknowledge death as the natural outcome of life, we are not to be spared. I tell myself my western attitudes of death are in need of a new interpretation. I am reading as much as I can about grief and yet find little solace.
I have spent seven and a half years being caregiver. Now I must redefine my whole life. And there is the question that nags at my consciousness every day. Where is Dan? He was Buddhist, I was raised Catholic and feel in transit. I am unable to find solace in the church. I am trying to be kind to myself as I count the days but I keep replaying Dan’s last breaths in my mind’s eye and wonder if that picture will be with me always. I do not want to forget a moment but can one move forward and remember the past so vividly? Time heals all wounds my mother used to tell me. Does it? I am really writing this letter to myself I think. I went to the Cancer Center on Friday to bring in the bags of drugs that had accumulated over the years. I wanted to dispose of them properly. I found it profoundly sad to enter a place we visited 3 or 4 times a week for years and know that it was really. We had run out of the possibility of a miracle. The nurses cried, I cried, the schedulers cried, I cried, and I left wondering if one could use up all the tears of a lifetime.
Susie, if you saw my life, even in my private moments, you would be saying Bravo, you are handling this so well. I do believe I am doing better than I expected. But life is so messy and our emotions can often hijack us when we least expect it. So I hope you will accept this wandering missive as it is meant, to talk to someone whose life has mirrored mine in many ways. I know we both we blessed with exceptional life partners. I want to honor that and I want to find the courage to continue and dare I say, thrive.
I still see you in your garden, mowing the lawn, enjoying the moment and I thank you for such a positive image. It gives me hope and makes me smile. I hope you are well and I send you my best regards. Yours Susan
Dear Susan (16th October)
Having just returned from a rather nice late holiday in Southern Spain with my son and friends I am drawn to your email first. My best PC is away having some repairs and so I am ‘limping’ here on an ancient model but wanted to let you know that I am thinking of you and have read with much interest your words written so eloquently. From your description of a bright beautiful fall day there in your home town of Colorado to here much the same. The gardens blown to pieces with the sudden gushes that have brought the red leaves of my Virginia Creeper down and scattered them like sad drops of crimson along the gravel drive and across the lawns of my little home here in the farmlands of the Lincolnshire Wolds. The gardens are untidy and need attention but will soon be bare as the weather in this part of England dictates. I am not a lover of the cold winds and enjoyed so much the warm weather of the past ten days. Winter is long here, the nights darken early and our winters often bring snow. Not the best time of the year for me as I approach two years without my best love…
How alike we seem when I carefully read you words that mirror so much of my early days of grieving and loss, the meeting with a friend for lunch and then the overwhelming sense of sadness on return. Profoundly engulfing with that terrible feeling of loss and aloneness I know it so well! Does it ever change? I have always promised to be completely truthful when writing my blog and will continue here as I know you would expect this of me. Sadness and loss have a habit of sneaking-up on you just when you expect them least. Sometimes joyous occasions can even be worse, the desire to turn around and share it with your best love and to find them missing. Oh that terrible feeling!
Often on holiday I thought how much Hamada would have enjoyed the warm sun of the Mediterranean on his back, the leisurely strolls and him loving this part of the world as he did. These feelings would I believe be impossible to lose. They will stay forever with us but we will learn in time to live alongside them. The days pass, almost two years for me and the pain is less raw now but I can’t say I don’t ever have wishful,thoughtful,needy days because I do. I cannot wish to forget or close my mind to these feelings of loss – I allow them to enter and fill my mind in quiet times. And then to put them aside in this special place in my heart and just get on with life once more.
Mourn now Susan not just for the loss of your precious man, but also for what will never be and then gently let it go…
Make small beginnings towards reshaping your life without the one you loved – easy huh? The books tell us that is what we need to do – but for all of us it is so different – love is different – is it not? I can talk of my love here but never to a counsellor. How would she know how I felt? Did she ever have a love like mine? I know I would be cross and angry, so it would be a futile task and of no help what-so-ever for me. Others may be different, other mourners might glean some comfort from that kind of therapy. For all of us we must take the path that feels the most comfortable in our daily lives and towards anything that will bring a fruitful tomorrow – tiny steps, tiny efforts, no more is needed at this time it is such early days for you dear one.
As to whether you will ever lose the picture of Dan’s last moments from your mind, I cannot say, but do you really want to? They are yours forever – your heart will soon learn to absorb this pain and you will accept this vision as part of Dan’s time with you here on earth, as he is now in heaven-yes I was brought up Catholic too! Think of him there, why not, free from all worldly pain, smiling and happy – that’s how I choose to think of my Hamada, resting quietly and always with his beautiful smile. Many would say that’s silly but it suits me well to believe this. As you know he is buried here in the village – a Muslim in a Christian Churchyard but that was his wish and I feel near to him here. Perhaps he thought in his wisdom that would be the case. He was so perfectly clever.
I still cry privately maybe not with tears but in my heart. An overwhelming sadness that arrives for no reason. It is no longer for others to see, but I am sure my closest friends and I know my family are aware of the sadness I still feel and probably always will. Back to that term I use often, that learning to live alongside this loss is what we have to achieve.
Always celebrate your loved one, even just in your mind and with your own memories, this celebration will keep him with you and part of you. For he lives within you and you are made of all the joy he brought to your life. This significant and enormous loss does change you (how could it not?) But you can choose whether the change is for the better or not. I am far more compassionate now than as a young woman. I don’t doubt my capacity to recover or yours but I believe that to live my life now to the best of my ability and at it’s most fullness is not a betrayal of his memory, remember your loved one would want the very best for you.
It is such early days for you Susan and your email reads of one doing so very well but please don’t expect too much. You will have many days of odd emotions. To and fro, back and forth with such powerful emotions of need. Of course in the first few days there is a certain relief when finally the suffering is over and your best love is at rest. Then a period of adjustment to being and living alone – not easy. Sometimes a feeling of anger of being left alone, Hamada was younger than me – I did not envisage being alone in my old age but this feeling of anger is short lived. I am by nature a very social person but now enjoy my quiet thoughtful times. I make little plans for my days – with silly small things – I often talk to myself or sing away I have a deep love of music which comforts me. I shall soon be that mad old lady who lives at “Hemingway” If I’m not already!!! It may seem as if you’ll never feel truly happy again but your new joy when found, will have a richness, depth and understanding that will have come from knowing profound pain and eventually profound healing.
Expect to go back and forth with your emotions during these first months or so – I still choose to have my sad days – why not – I miss him so… It is our right to grieve and cry out for the good men we lost. But days do get better and you will thrive well, of that I know. Perhaps dare I say, you will go on dates one day again? Perhaps find a companion to travel with – you are still young and why not, but always keep your independence for I do believe this is vitally important. Good men are good listeners too! Life has a habit of going on and we cannot choose to go back, as much as we would wish to do so, nor can we step off and stay with only our memories to sustain us. Believe in your own strengths after all you cared well for someone for all that time without hesitation or weakness – we can do this in loving memory – I know Hamada would be proud of me and I know Dan is of you too. I try to live in the present now, small simple things give me joy – I am sixty five next month but still feel there is more left in life for me. I seemed to drink in the visions of beauty on this recent holiday – noticing things in vivid colours and more detail than for a long time.
Sorry if I have rambled some – it has been a busy morning with interruptions one way and another and this old computer knows I am busy and is giving me a hard time! Still I pray my humble words will help you in some way. Written and sent with love. Blessings dear lady.