Sunday, May 31, 2009

May 31, 2009

The problem with death is that I am left looking at myself, naked, under florescent lights, mirrors over and around me.

I see all of my flaws, my attributes are hidden.

My view disgusts me.

My truth is I see unworthiness.

You can't tell me it's not there. I won't believe you.

You can't tell me that it's not true. It is for me.

I have been living with it for a long time, dodging and weaving, ducking and hiding, ignoring, yelling, fighting it.

His death makes me see.

I can't ignore it.

I will have to deal with this.

The little girl in me is in full temper tantrum.

All I can do is hold her, tell her it will be ok.

That is the only truth that matters, I guess.

It's also the one I fully believe.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

May 28, 2009

Day 42

I count the days.

I count to remind myself that I have only begun, that I am a newcomer to this kind of grief.

I count the days to get me to the next one. Each time I count a day I tell myself that some day when there are three or four numbers in the count, it will not hurt so deeply.

I count the days to remind myself not to expect too much.

Sometimes I count down. Only 4 more hours till this day is over. The only comfort it holds is that another day is done.

I cry so deeply that I am used to the sound of it. I never liked the sound of my crying. It was harsh, raw, rough and completely un-feminine, I thought. But the sound has changed. It’s deep, full of such …it’s so hard to explain…full of such distress and shit-will-I-make-it-though-this ness, and loss and distress. The sound makes me cry more. It’s the kind of cry that no one can listen to and not cry themselves. It’s the kind of cry that only time can lessen.

Someone said grieving is like the waves of the ocean. I am treading water. At first the waves are huge, they crash in over my head, pounding me down, slamming me on the bottom of the ocean. I am turned around, tumbled, confused. As I start to feel panicked, the need to draw air, I see the surface and come up.

Each time I come back up, I am exhausted from the effort of just being.

In the beginning, there are many, many big waves.

Then later, the waves will diminish in size. (So those who know have told me) I will still get caught by surprise and I will still go under, but they will not be as strong, not as disorienting.

Then a big wave will come again. There will always be big waves, the kind that surprise me and send me right back to the loss.

But as time goes on, the waves get smaller and less powerful. It is then I can start thinking about what direction I want to go in, instead of trying to just stay afloat.

photo: Langston saying good-bye to Art

Sunday, May 24, 2009

May 23, 2009

We arrived at my cousin’s ranch yesterday.

I drove up with Loretta, a friend from college, after realizing I couldn’t do it myself. I am in no emotional state to drive for 6 ½ hours with the kids.

It’s the first time I have been at the ranch without Art.

It is the first place and time that I actually feel him.


9:30 pm

Nothing can describe the longing.

No words, no actions, no ache.

No words can touch the devastation, the depression or the crushing loneliness.

Nothing can describe it.

So for now I won’t even try.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

May 20, 2009

10:16 am

Today the grief was like a magician's black bag. I reached in and I don’t know what I will pull out, anger, tears, or a smile at a memory.

Two minutes later, it's like the rabbit hole of Alice In Wonderland, only darker, gloomier with no wonder of where it will end. I go deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper. I am sure I will never get out.

And then I hit bottom, exhausted behind the eyes, head pounding for the crying, my body lethargic, I am relieved that I was wrong.

They are right. It doesn’t last forever.

I forget that when I am falling.

Why is it so damn hard to remember?


May 20
11:00 PM

How do you react when someone else is in emotional pain?

Do you want to run away? Fetch water or a tissue? Do you want to do something, anything…take action?

Or are you able to watch the pain. Are you aware that there is nothing to DO but stand in the presence of it? Silence being the only thing that is needed.

I sat on the wall at my kid’s school last night (waiting to pick up Ezra and Pallas from an all school camping trip) and cried with a friend.

She sat next me, talking at first and then sensing I needed silence, asked if I wanted her to talk more. I shook my head.

She watched me with my head on my knees hurting. She heard the sobs. She saw the raw anguish, the holy-fuck-he’s-not-here-anymore realization I felt. She ached for me. And she sat with me and said nothing.

I am not courageous. She is.

To watch and quell every bone in your body that screams MAKE IT BETTER!; to bear witness to someone else’s deep agony; to let them suffer and recognize that the only thing needed in that moment is your presence…not your words, water or a damn tissue. Just you.

That is courage.

Thank you Marda



When you bring food, remember to deliver it in containers that DO NOT need to be returned. Their lives are hectic enough without worrying about getting pots or containers back!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

May 16, 2009

720 hours ago, at 1:16 am, I watched Art take his last breath.

I knew back then that I would make it to this day, Day 30 Without Art.

I didn't know how.

I remembered today that it's not the "how" that matters. It's the


that I will eventually arrive that carries me through.


740 hours ago Steve Odefy gave his childhood friend his last shave. It was the first time he had ever shaved another man. He did it with a kind of grace and tenderness that made all of us in the room silent.


792 hours ago the kids said "Goodbye" to Art.

I have a photo of Langston and Art that I still can't bring myself to look at or post.

Helping Hands Tip
Offer to come to the house and keep them company. No need to talk, clean or be happy. Bringa a book! Sometimes just having another person in the house can make the person who is grieving or caregiving feel stronger.

Monday, May 11, 2009

May 8 - 9, 2009

Day 22
May 8, 2009

Emotional residue from receiving the death certificates was all over me today.

I watched movies, read and suffered with heartburn. I felt like I was swimming through stern fog – muffled, holding me up, my movements like those of a beginner marionette puppeteer.

I am tired of talking to people about how I feel. I am tired of talking. I want to be left alone only not alone. I need people around me, just quietly there. Come to my house and read a book, roll your eyes with me when I get snippy at the kids. But don’t ask me how I’m feeling. Telling you leaves me with little left.


I lost it tonight. Screamed and yelled and got even angrier when Pallas and Ezra screamed and yelled back. Left the house for a walk which, instead of calming me down, made me angrier.

I got home, noted how out of control I was and decided to call for reinforcements. It’s the call that released the pressure. I was not in this alone.

Before she arrived, I called the kids together. I sat on the couch; they on the chairs opposite the couch. Me vs. them, them vs. me.

“I’m sorry.” I said. “And look where we are right now. Before it felt like I wanted to rip my heart out I was so mad. It felt like the anger would overwhelm me, like I was down here (hand went close to the floor). And now look where I am. I’m ok again. Do you feel it? Do you feel ok, again? (nods)

“Yeah, I like Pallas now.” Ezra pipes in.

We smile. “I want to make sure you remember this. Grief is very frightening. I want you to know that you can go really, really low and that it won’t last forever. My job and your job is to remember that. These feelings will not kill you. You will come back up.”

Silence. I’m looking at each of them.

I started sobbing. “I love you three so very much…I’m sorry I’m crying…no, no I’m not. This is part of the stupid process too.”

They all came to the couch.


Day 23 – the night before mother’s day.
May 9, 2009

“Tell me exactly why you want me to come home?” Langston said. Before he had left for the movies, I had told him, don’t call and ask to sleep over. I want you home tonight.

After he said those words, all I remember is wishing I had put my headset on. Raging at your son, while holding a cell phone and trying to drive requires the kind of concentration that I wasn’t showing.

Here I am again, fuming. Here I am again, calling a friend.

I hang up after my call with my life preserver, assured that the emotional damage I had just done will probably only need two sessions with a therapist and not seven.

And then, there is no other way to describe, what came next. No other words than to say this wave came over me. It started at my feet, they got cold, and my knees ached and my heartburn flared and my arms itched and I stopped on Airport Rd, opened the door and vomited. I let out this animalist sounding wail, the kind they do in other countries where true grief is permissible. I sounded in human, the sound that makes either people run toward or away from the person making the sound.

I made it into the driveway.

And I see:

I’ve lost him.

I lost the one person who will love my children as much as I do.

I am fully responsible for all the parenting decisions I make daily, weekly and forever.

I have to raise them alone.

I am a single mother.

I am a widow.

The best parenting partner ever is no longer alive.

I no longer have a husband to ask “What do you think we should do about…?”

The we has become I.

I said no.

I think that’s great.

I think you should tell….call…. who?

With the streets quiet, the kids in the house with the sitter, my head on the steering wheel of my car I let loose the real sorrow. For the first time, I fully grasp the permanence of Art’s death. I view the sorrow, head on and let it hold me my gaze.

I think this is it. This is where I wouldn't ever stop crying. And I don’t for a very long time.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Grieving Tip #1 of the Millennium/May 7th

May 7, 2009

His death certificates arrived today. I slumped against the wall for 17 mintues and cried like the world was ending. In that 17 minutes it was ending.

I hate these physical representations of his death.

Grieving Tip of the Millennium
(cause that’s how long a day can feel to the person who’s grieving)

Run Errands
Call weekly and ask
“What is the one errand you are afraid to ask someone to run?” or “Can I buy you some cold medicine, deodorant, or tampons (if applicable)?”

Remember the person is in grief and may not be able to answer you right then, so call again in a few days. Keep reminding them you’re around. The more specific the “thing” is you are willing to do the more likely you are to get called.

Running errands can be tricky because it involves money. And money is one of those ‘issue” topics. Don’t assume that you will reimbursed. Make sure to clear up how it will be handled before you run an errand. This can be a MAJOR stress point for the griever, exactly what you DON’T want to do.

Statements like “I’m happy to run an errand under $50 dollars for you.” Or “I can’t really afford anything over ___. Could you reimburse me for anything above that?” are really helpful. Your honesty around this issue is CRUCIAL to relieving the griever's stress. It’s not about you, it’s about helping them.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

May 5, 2009

Day 19

6:00 am

I tried to drown my grief in the following items yesterday:

  • FOOD. Ice cream, chocolate and white bread with butter and jam. Not at the same time. I also tried sugared cereal, potato chips and sorbet. RESULT: Feel like throwing up. Grief still present.
  • WINE. I drank ½ bottle from dinner till Pallas and Ezra went to bed. I am a complete light weight. RESULT: Dehydrated and exhausted. I couldn’t take my sleep aid with all the alcohol in my system. Woke up off and on from 2 am – 6 am, at which time I went into a deep sleep and almost made the kids late for their rides! Grief still present.
  • YELLING. An old stand-by that causes instant righteousness and relief. Nit picking is my favorite mommy tool. (This is why we have a therapy fund for each child.) Statements like “For the 65 time… pick up your pjs and put them on or in the hamper! Then pick up the towel from the bathroom floor and what do you mean you haven’t brushed your teeth yet?” and my favorite but not original “You don’t like me when I’m angry. SO just frickin’ do it….NOW!!!!” RESULT: An amazing amount of guilt! Tears from both me and the kids. And an apology for acting all crazy (but still insisting they pick up the towel on the bathroom floor!) Grief still present.


Escaping grief is not an option. Damn the stupid luck.


7:00 am

I dreamt about Art last night. He was there camping with us. We were resting in these chairs under a tree when I looked at him and said “You are not real, are you. You’re just a ghost.” He smiled and nodded in agreement. I was so disappointed because I wanted to hug him but I had forgotten to when we were hiking together and now it was too late.

Only Ezra and I could see him. Langston and Pallas didn’t understand who we were talking to.

I want one more chance to feel his arms around me, one more chance to get on my tippy-toes as he widens his stance so we meet somewhere near 5’11”. I want to feel his breath on the back of my shoulder and the familiar contours of his chest as he wraps his arms completely around me, his fingers on one hand almost meeting the finger of his other hand around my stomach. One more time, just one more time and then I swear, I’ll let go.

I swear that will be enough.


8:30 am

Anger. I am rageful!

Nothing will work.

A friend was supposed to come help me clean the house. She’s got a sick child.

They are banging too much on the house they’re building next door.

I have not taken a shower in 3 days, nor done my hair or make-up. I hate the way I look but hate the idea of getting wet and caring for how I look.

It’s sunny out but the hammock is not in enough shade.

The kids didn’t like breakfast, so I yelled at them and told them to make their own. They did!

Mad at my friend who is only there when he wants to be and only once when I needed him to be.
I have no patience. I don’t give a fuck about patience. I will sit here and stew.

Mad I found a video of Art on my phone. I didn’t know it was there. It was him, healthy and smiling at me. Mad I watched 4 times.

Mad that watching it didn’t make him come back but made me miss him that much more.

Mad at the guilt I feel for being mad!!!

Mad that I have to wait for this to pass, as I know it will.


9:00 am

I took the anger and I opened EVERY single card. I sat in my living room and opened every single damn card and cried.

He was so loved. I am still loved. How fucked up is it that this can be such a horrible event and yet so full of gratitude and love.

No one fucking taught me this shit….and if they did, I wouldn’t have believed it any way. You can’t learn this stuff until you walk it.
Well great...can't wait to see what the rest of this damn day will bring!!!

Monday, May 04, 2009

May 4, 2009 Day 18

I made a mistake today.

On my phone, on the phone that I never use for pictures I found three things. A picture of Art before he lost consciousness when the viral meningitis had him, made on Sunday before he died. It is as disturbing as it was the day I walked into the hospital room.

Two videos of him. Both made while he was healthy. Last fall maybe. He smiles at me. I stopped.

The Art I miss is the one from before the cancer. It's just already, my memory of him fades. His gestures, his smile, his voice. The video bought it all back.

I feel like vomiting.

I want out of my skin.

I want out of this longing that can never be fixed.

Fuck you time. You move to slow, too damn slow.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

May 2, 2009 Day 17

We are all at a standstill. You and me.

You poised to help, not knowing what to do.

Me, on the other side, wanting help, not knowing what to ask for.

Art’s presence has been with me all day.

I just stood in my kitchen crying.

Pallas looking on, hugging me.

"This is so hard." I said

'I miss him too, Mommy." she said.

And I want dinner delivered tonight… food that I would feed them.

And I want my kids fed and washed and put to bed… the way I put them to bed.

And I want the bills paid…the way I pay them

And I want someone to take away his music. I want to hear nothing.

And I want someone to take away his clothes, his everything.

If I can get to the nothing, the longing will go away. The hope that, maybe this time, when I walk into our bedroom, he’ll be there bald and laughing, will disappear.

I want to erase all this.

It won’t hurt if it’s gone.