Saturday, May 7, 2016

#SOL16: Poised Between

Rob and Jack celebrating Devon's 3rd birthday.

I'm still trying to save Rob.

I'm still trying to save his life months after he has died. I realized this as I sat in the car next to Devon as he drove to school this morning. Later today I will take my first class to learn transcendental meditation and I was thinking about this and so I said to Devon, "I wish your father had learned transcendental meditation."

Devon thinks TM is something hippies do and he's convinced his dad would have liked it. I am too. But I realize that I am wondering for reasons that far eclipse mere liking. As he drives, I wonder, Do people who practice TM die from lung cancer? There are about 160,000 deaths from lung cancer annually in the United States so what are the chances that none of the people practicing TM died from lung cancer? Would it have helped Rob to live?

Rob and his Dad. 


What the mind knows is multilayered, complex, interconnected in ways that are often hard to represent with mere words. At the surface of my mind is rapid instant replay. Each day I replay all the ways Rob or I might have saved his life, integrating the new ways into the replay loop. And I realize as I write this that so much of what happens each day gets filtered through this replay urge. For example, I am looking at a photo of Rob taken back in 2012 and I wonder, How long was the lung tumor growing before detection? What follow up was there with that earlier lung x-ray from 2012 that I learned about after Rob's diagnosis? That x-ray indicated there was a smudge in the same place the tumor would be in 2015. Did Rob know about that? Could his cancer have been diagnosed earlier? 

I read in a document about lung cancer:
"It is often hard to find lung cancer early. Most people with early lung cancer do not have any symptoms, so only a small number of lung cancers are found at an early stage. When lung cancer is found early, it is often because of tests that were being done for something
else." (from here)
 In searching for the why, from this site I read:  

"Some people have a genetic predisposition for lung cancer. People with parents, brothers, or sisters with lung cancer could have a higher risk of developing lung cancer themselves."

Rob's father died from lung cancer at 75.
My mother died from lung cancer 16 years ago next week.

Rob with my dad and mom who is holding Devon.  My mom had just been diagnosed with lung cancer.


As the shock wanes, sorrow seems to rise up as if to take its place, to fill a void. It wraps around my heart like a constant companion I can't shake, perhaps don't want to shake. To live alongside this sorrow is in some ways to be close to Rob.

The grief counsellor I see each week says that the love Rob and I made helps me to attend to the complexity of grief and the certainty of the pain. I recognize the rightness of what she says. Having few regrets, save that I could not save him which in my rational state I recognize as being largely impossible, the love we made and shared is unfettered and even after his death this love comforts.

Poised Between (M.A. Reilly, LBI, 2009)


I trust that there will come a time when I will be willing to give up the grief and sadness. I have described Rob's last few weeks as ones where he had a foot in this word and one in the next. I realize now that I do too. I am poised between the life we had and the one I must now make. I was reminded of this and of Linda Pastan when I read a comment to an earlier post that Maureen Barbieri left. There she referenced the poet reminding me of the connection between love and grief that Pastan articulates. Maureen's comment left me thinking about the end of Pastan's poem, "The Five Stages of Grief." There she writes,

...Below, my whole life spreads its surf,
All the landscapes I’ve ever known
Or dreamed of.  Below
A fish jumps: the pulse
In your neck.
Acceptance.  I finally reach it.
But something is wrong.
Grief is a circular staircase.
I have lost you.

Grief is a circular staircase.  To accept means to lose. It is the idea of losing Rob again that finds me with a foot in the past--poised between lingering in what is gone and moving on to what I yet can imagine. 


  1. The Pastan poem reminds me of this one, from Mary Oliver:
    "Everything That Was Broken"

    Everything that was broken has
    Forgotten its brokenness. I live
    Now in a sky-house, through every
    Window the sun. Also your presence.
    Our touching, our stories. Earthy
    and holy both. How can this be, but
    it is. Every day has something in
    it whose name is Forever.

    ~ Mary Oliver

    There is something sacred about grief, isn't there, Mary? I see this with Bonnie, too - that there is a visceral need to hold on to the grief as a connection to the beloved lost.

    1. I, like so many, find Mary Oliver's poetry soulful. It is like her words are read by my heart. The poem you write here is one I will return to read, to memorize. I thank you Tara for bringing me this poem that soothes what aches within. Grief is simply necessary. Right now it feels like skin.

  2. A friend shared Mary Oliver's Wild Geese with me early on in my process and I loved it. Here it is with Mary reading it.

    I am in my 8th month of grief and my sadness continues but it's softer, the acceptance of "gone " is more real but even though Tuvia was almost 92 and didn't suffer long , I can so easily replay watching him leave...
    I understand where you are and I'm hoping you can join me soon...
    Life has never been harder but then my life was never better, more joyous than it was with Tuvia.

    1. On the back of the prayer card for Rob's service was the poem, Wild Geese. My friend Jane read it during the service. It speaks deeply to me and to Rob. He was a poet.

      Acceptance is slippery. I filter many events and situations through the acceptance of Rob's death. Today is mother's day and my husband is not here with us. Each event and many small inconsequential situations pull me head first into the reality that Rb has died. I thought we would have at least another 25 years together. I hope acceptance comes. This is very hard.

    2. I hear you.
      I felt wrapped in a layer of mourning for no the hating the passage of time without Tuvia
      Now I try to wear him, keep him with me to move through this different life.
      I'm not happy often but not living in extremes as much as I had been but there's no race to normalcy... My therapist keeps reminding me to breathe

    3. There's just moving through. Every now and then there's unexpected grace.