I came across a story about Franz Kafka, a Czech writer who was born in the late 19th century and died in the early 20th century. The story related something that occurred in the last year of his life. He encountered a little girl who had lost her doll. He and the little girl searched for the doll in vain, and she was quite upset over her loss. Kafka invented a story about how the doll had gotten bored and went off in search of the world. Thereafter, on each day, he would meet the little girl and regale her with tales from her doll’s travelogue. Eventually, he bought a new doll for the little girl. Upon giving it to her, telling her that her doll had finally returned home from its journey, she remarked how the new doll didn’t look the same, to which he told her that the doll’s adventures had changed her.

Cute story. But wait: there’s a bit more.

Years later, long after Kafka had died, the now-grown woman found a note Kafka had written and placed inside the doll. It said:

“Everything that you love, you will eventually lose, but in the end, love will return in a different form.”

Snowball fight

Every time Jillian has wanted snow since Kim’s passing, she says a little prayer asking her to ask God for her and, believe it or not: she gets her snow! The first time was Christmas day. Today was another (she wanted a snow day so that she didn’t have to attend her online classes…). True to form, we got a pretty good dose of snow last night – somewhere between six and eight inches, is my guess, but the drifts made it hard to tell precisely.

This was similar to the amount of snow we got 30 years ago, almost to the day, right after Kim and I had moved into this house. It was so much snow back then that Ford did the rare thing and told people to stay home!

I had just adopted Rocky, our first dog, from the shelter the weekend before. I went out to dig the driveway and walk out of the drifting snow and, a little while later, Kim came out with Rocky to throw snowballs at me, and then we played with the dog. He would chase snowballs thrown and then try to find them after they had merged with the snow on the ground. I remember it as having been a very fun, but bitingly cold time.

How young we were then! What a sweet, sweet memory. Both Kim and Rocky are gone, of course. They only romp in the snow in my memory. A happy memory.

Funny how even those happy memories can be tinged with pain.

What goes around comes around, then goes around again

I ‘ve always been a bit reclusive. If given the choice between going to a party or gathering, or doing something with just Kim and I (and later, Kim, the kids, and I…), it would be rare that I would choose the gathering (unless with family).

In our early life together, all of our siblings, cousins, and friends were getting married, and we were constantly at weddings. When she couldn’t find any of her girlfriends, Kim would drag me (quite literally) to the floor for those fast tempo songs, but most often, she would dance with her friends, and I’d sit at the table sipping a beer, watching, waiting for the song to end so I could be with her again.

About four or five years into our marriage, I got a bent for community service – one that sticks with me to this day, and which I’ve imparted to my children. Kim enjoyed these activities, too, but wasn’t able to engage in them to the degree I could because, when working, she worked afternoons or midnights. I am adept at picking up tasks, and I’m usually hell-bent on getting them done quickly and efficiently – which makes you sort of popular with these groups. We’d go to the parties or functions for the various groups I was involved in and, invariably, someone or other would drag me off to meet someone, or discuss something, leaving Kim to fend for herself, waiting until I could break free so we could be together again.

Now, it has come full circle, I guess, and she has left me sitting here on earth, waiting until I can be with her again…

A sleepless night…

Huh! I really don’t know what’s going on, but I could not fall asleep last night. Well, I *did* eventually fall asleep, but the last time I looked at the clock, it was well after 0200 – that’s 4, 4-1/2 hours of laying there awake. This is not “me.” I normally don’t have any issues falling asleep unless I’m anxious about something, but I can’t think of anything I might be anxious about.

Maybe it’s that pendulum thing.

Friday was, for lack of a better term, unremarkable. My mood was good, and we did our “family Friday” as usual. Chris, Kenny, and I went down, cleaned the wine thief, and drew a sample of a wildflower mead Chris and I brewed just around the time he graduated from high school – so about 9 years ago. It smelled great, and the flavor, once balanced with some fresh honey, was very good – we plan to get some cherry extract, and then we’ll bottle it as a cherry melomel. It’s been so long since I’ve brewed anything, I may need to get ahold of my friend Ken Schramm for reminders on the Bill Pfeiffer method.

But, in all, it was a pretty decent day. I cannot conceive of why I had such difficulty drawing it to a close.

One aspect of sleep that has been troubling to me is that, since the day Kim passed, I have not had a dream with her in it that I can recall. Not one. My sleep tracker generally tells me that normally, 60-75% of my sack time is in the “restful” state, which I think implies dreamless, deep sleep. That leaves 25-40% in REM. But no dreams, good or bad, of Kim. I wonder why? What is the subconscious telling me? Oh, well.

Today looks like it will be pretty uneventful. I had planned to visit my mom, but, as the day wears on, it does not look likely as planned tasks that require my presence at home to complete are taking a lot longer than I had thought they would – it’s after 1300, and I’m only about 1/4 of the way through what I had expected to get done today. She has my sister and niece there (likely others, too), so I know she will not be lonely for family. It just feels like the time with her is getting thin, with the recurrence of her latest health issue. Maybe I’ll get this wrapped up in time to stop over later this afternoon.

Early morning ruminations

I awoke earlier than my alarm, and didn’t want to get up – but didn’t feel like going back to sleep, either. So I just lay in bed with early morning thoughts.

Unlike most couples, though I had the expectation that Kim would outlive me (she always believed she’d go first), we put similar whole-life life insurance policies on each of us such that the house, our most-major monthly payment, would be paid off on the expectation that the survivor’s income would be half of what was coming in. The only manner in which we structured things in case we followed statistical norms is that we had MUCH higher levels of term life insurance on me than on her. (No worries: since Kim left the workforce several years ago, I experienced that halving of our income long ago. We had some tight months due to the single income, but we still lived comfortably enough, so I have few concerns there.)

With all that said, what we couldn’t prepare for is the emotional impact losing your spouse has on the survivor. Knowing Kim’s emotional structure, and as harsh as this sounds: I’m actually glad she went first. If losing me impacted her anywhere near how losing her has impacted me, I think losing me would have destroyed her, exacerbating the issues that triggered her alcoholism in the first place.

As hard as it is sometimes to accept and acknowledge, it is clear that God does have a plan, and that what He allows to occur in our lives is never more than we can handle. I think His plan here, though I do not claim to know His mind, was to strengthen Kim’s and my marriage, and to strengthen the bond between each within our family, and, perhaps, provide final relief for Kim from not just her cancer pain, but from all of the other pains she suffered, including alcoholism. And every situation He inserts us into affords us the opportunity to grow and learn – both in faith and in life.

The swing of it all

Driving my granddaughter to school today, my mind locked on the memory of how Kim would always tell me how “amazing” I was when, faced with some esoteric problem, I’d figure out how to resolve it and implement the fix. I don’t know why, but this memory made me cry. I guess it was self-pity – who will find me amazing now?

Then, driving to pick her up from school, the Luke Combs song Forever After All came on the radio. I don’t know if I just hadn’t paid attention to that song in the past, or maybe that was the first time I’d heard it, but it seemed it was modeled after Kim’s and my life. And it, too, made me cry.

The obvious solution is, I guess, that I can’t drop Vanessa off at school or pick her up…

I can’t determine what seemed to make me so emotionally raw today, unless it was the reduced amount of sleep I normally get on the days I have to drop Vanessa to school, or, simply, that I’ve been feeling “up” for so long now, that the pendulum has begun its descent along its repetitious path?

Time and more experience with this will tell.

In other news, I “graduated” from physical therapy today. They provided me with a few more exercises and sent me on my way after telling me how much they’d enjoyed working with me these past few weeks. As a testament to what they have accomplished, I hit a patch of ice on my way off the porch this evening and did the “Fred Flintstone Dance”; the end of which had me still standing, and keeping my record of never having fallen on the ice at home intact. Thanks, Kelly and Eric!

Tears and Triggers

It’s interesting: I can be in a happy mood, going about my day-to-day, and something out of the blue will choke me up. It doesn’t happen as often as it was initially, but it still does. Little things, mostly – they just sneak up on me and hit a button.

Most of the time, it will be when I’m discussing things about Kim with someone, whether by voice, email, or text. I’ll lock onto some memory or other, and that lump in my throat forms, and the eyes start watering and burning…

I’m back to eliminating the 30 years of tax records from the basement shelves. In the early days, I was a bit slipshod in how things went into the folder, so I’ve had to look at things that have fallen out of my grip. Sam’s, our second dog, adoption receipt. Receipts from the Artist’s Club and Home Shopping Network – two of Kim’s favorites, aside from Valley Vet. Receipts from the kid’s checkups, as our family began to grow. Paystubs, mapping her career from Beaumont to Bottsford, to Garden City Hospital, and, finally, Cardinal Health. Different than the last time, more of these things and the memories that come with them are greeted with a smile, but it’s melancholy happiness they bring. I still feel the urge to run up to her craft room to show her – “Hey! Remember this?”

Another odd thing: I can read these blog pages, and reread them without tears – I do it regularly, correcting typoes, or improving the prose for clarity. But I can’t TALK about them with anyone without breaking down.

This goes hand-in-hand with my conviction that you never truly “heal” from your grief. You grow with it. You learn of it and from it until you can manage the pain.


So, I’ve been waxing eloquently on my “technique” to move forward, to get back to a happier state of mind. And then I stumble upon this TEDx talk that has pretty much validated my method: Grief Is Not A Life Sentence, now in the Blogroll and Links menu to the right.

Here are a few others that followed, again: all TEDx talks. These have not been added to the Blogroll, but they are interesting talks for those of us who have lost a spouse – or, frankly, any other loved one.

Frankly, I’m amazed to discover so much “meaty” information on grief, and that it is a frequent subject of TED talks – something I found… shocking. But, at the same time, I found comfort and validation in them. Watching a few of these, YouTube will determine your interest and provide many more. They are all good, and provide you with more ammunition in facing – and, most importantly: growing beyond – your loss.


On seeing other women

So, I took another gargantuan step yesterday: I went out with a young lady who was a couple of years behind me in high school, and whose husband passed a couple of years before Kim. We had planned for coffee, but, due to various reasons, it got later and later in the day before we could meet, so we ended up not really having a plan. We simply went for a drive until we spotted somewhere interesting, which ended up being a brewpub built into an old church in Saline. We ordered a “flight” of beer samples I thought she might enjoy – a Koelsch, a Saison, and several Belgians – and an appetizer, and we talked some more. We talked of people we knew or know; our careers, our families, our marriages, and our losses.

It was easy to use my “happy face” technique in interacting with her because, frankly, I enjoyed talking to her so much, it came naturally. We have a lot in common – some of those things scarily similar – which gave us common ground for conversation. There are a lot of differences, too, though, which is to be expected between two people who came to where we are via very different paths.

This outing was a bit double-edged, emotionally. Though it was thrilling to be interacting in this way with an adult female who was not a member of my family, doing so surfaced a lot of insecurities that I think come from having been singularly committed for so long. Chief among them: “Am I boring her to death?” Oddly, I felt none of the guilt that some widowers speak of when they first venture out of their now-vacant marriage bubble – likely another thing that varies by person.

And, you know what? If our relationship never grows beyond today – basically online “pen pals” – I’m ok with that! I think this is a facet of the maturity that comes from a life such as the one I’ve been living. The need for acceptance is still there, but it is not the overarching demand that it was as a young man. And if it does grow into more? I’m ok with that, too.

I guess, the point I’m trying to make is that it is ok to want to continue living. It is ok to meet other people. It is ok to seek companionship. Your deceased spouse would not want you to be depressed and miserable for your remaining life, locked into a never-ending cycle of grief.

Don’t think of it as “moving on”, because you can no more move on from who you are as you can go back in time and change the events that made you who you are. Your spouse will ALWAYS be a huge component of what makes you who you are today. Instead, consider it continuing the story your life has been writing since the day you were born. And each and every day: a new chapter awaits. Turn the page…