The name’s Jacob. Jacob Marley…

There is a point to all of this that often gets lost since, when I am specific, I target others who have lost their spouses in my posts. But there’s something here for those who HAVEN’T – and that thing is for people who love ANYONE; not just their spouse.

Like the ghost of Jacob Marley warning Scrooge to mend his ways, I offer the following point:

You do not know when the last time you will see your loved one will be. It could be tomorrow. It could be next year – it could have been a few moments ago.

With this in mind, I implore that you become and remain aware of your relationships. Give your wife, husband, mother, father, child, grandparent… no matter who: give them a hug and a kiss whenever you can. Be patient with the irritations that come with any relationship. Never forget that neither you nor they are permanent. Remember the finite nature of this life, and you will have no regrets if one of your cherished ones should pass out of your life.

I know this is very general. And I am keenly aware of how hard it can be to follow that advice – even now after having experienced the loss of my life partner. But I try and I will continue to try to remember that, at any moment, they could be gone.

I cannot tell you how much pain comes with such a loss – if you haven’t experienced similar, my words cannot possibly convey the width, depth and breadth of the hole that is left behind – not just a figurative hole in your heart, but a gaping maw in EVERYTHING that your life was, is, and will continue to be. Regrets are like razor wire around the periphery of that hole, tearing you further as you try to rise above the edge of that abyss. Don’t let the neglect of your relationship be one of those regrets. If you manage this alone, all of what I put to digital paper here is worth the effort to me.

God bless.

Kafka, pt. 2

Yesterday, I related a story attributed to Franz Kafka. There is another point to the story besides that last, powerful statement. That point is that the journey changed the doll – an allusion to the changes life experiences have on all of us – as has the loss of Kim changed me.

Some of the changes we experience during the journey of our lives are physical and obvious. Others are not obvious to those who do not know us well, and these are the deeper changes; the changes of character that life brings about.

It has been said that those who lose a spouse come out of the experience bettered – more compassionate, patient. More understanding and tolerant. The loss and the grief over it batter the rough edges of our character much as the constant waves will smooth the stones on the beach.

Here’s hoping that part of Kim’s legacy is a better man.


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.”

Happy birthday, Kim.

A bittersweet day. The day my beautiful Kim entered this world 55 years ago. My brothers and sisters and I (and a few nephews and nieces) all participate in a family text group, and it was with dewy eyes I read their birthday wishes for her. One in particular, from my older brother:

“Happy Birthday Kim! I cannot help but think you came into this world on the first day of the month we attribute to Love and were born to eternal life on the first day of the month we celebrate the ultimate love – the birth of Our Lord and Savior! Give Him a big hug for us! Love you!

And as I type this, Siri is telling me to call Kim as it has found her birthday in my contacts.

At 9:00, there will be a mass in her name at St. Thomas a’Becket, our parish for a little more than the past decade.

It’s starting off to be an emotionally hard day.

We think we know

We think we know ourselves. I thought I had learned all there is to know about grief when my dad, with whom I was very close, passed away in 2006. I thought I had learned about recovery from the loss of a spouse, watching my mom all of these years.

I know nothing. Grief at losing Kim teaches me new things every day. Sometimes it’s an overwhelming sense of the ragged, raw hole the living Kim held in my heart; the emptiness there. Sometimes it’s a sense of nostalgic loss as some long-stored memory surfaces; not having Kim to reminisce with. Sometimes it’s a sense of guilt thinking back on something I could have done better; some instance where compassion rather than feeling hurt or angry would have served better for both of us. And sometimes it’s the thought of all that we never did together – shattered plans, dashed on the rocks by a random biological flaw.

Grief has knowledge we cannot conceive of. Grief holds knowledge to which I’d rather not have become privy.

On the loss of intimacy and things related

One thing I noticed in reading about my new role as “widower” is how little the subject of the lost intimacy is treated. It is not THE most prominent facet of my grief, but it is way up there, and I don’t think I’m abnormal. Why so little information regarding how others have dealt with this? Is it taboo to speak of these things?

Kim and I enjoyed a frequent and regular intimate life – as, I would expect, most married couples our age do. We weren’t like foaming-at-the-mouth honeymooners in our intimacy, but we did enjoy each other. And we knew each other and what we responded to, and how we responded to it. We had the consideration that comes with a decades-long relationship to take the care and the time needed to ensure each was satisfied.

And intimacy is more than just sex. Holding each other closely is also intimacy. Coming up behind your partner as they are doing something and giving a warm hug around the waist and a kiss on the neck is a form of intimacy. Knowing what your partner is thinking and responding to it is a form of intimacy. There is so much that is now lost! Over 30 years of learning some (because you can never know all…) of what makes each other “tick”.

But the loss of sexual intimacy is an important aspect of my grief. The urges are still there, but there is nothing to satisfy them – like the phantom pains of an amputated limb that you cannot relieve. For a couple of weeks after Kim passed – and a week or so before she passed – the thought of sex was a constantly recurring, nagging urge that tormented me, particularly at night, but also in the morning.

We had not had relations since before the Folfirinox failed, when she still “felt good,” but Kim was still there – we could talk, hold hands, hug, kiss… The thought of anything more at the time, at least to my mind, was tempered with the nature of Kim’s disease as it evolved: it would be painful for her. The pressure in her abdomen from the tumors and the ascites. Lymphedema, too, causing swelling and pain in her limbs and back. The thought of such contact really did not occur during this period. So, I had a time of conditioning that one would think may have tempered that part of my grief. So why the ferocious “need”? The human mind is a fascinating, but scary thing.

To those treading these same waters, there’s hope: it passes. At least it seems to have for me. It is now just over a month since Kim left, and, about a week ago, I noted that that particular torment seems to have subsided. I still have moments where I can think of little more, but they are just passing thoughts, much as normal males experience under ordinary conditions. I did not have to go out and “find another partner” as some would tell you to do. It just calmed; it passed.

It very well may recur, but now I have the armor of knowing that it does resolve without any form of intervention. Hopefully, this discussion can serve to give you similar armor.