Tuesday, October 4, 2016

#SOL16: Sorrow at 7 Months

from my art journal Sept, 2016 (gesso, ink, acrylic paint, pan pastel, stabilo pencil)
When Rob was first diagnosed and I understood how dire it was, I would calm myself by saying, "It's okay. You can still touch him. He's here." I would repeat those words over and over, soothing myself by holding the fear that surfaced in abeyance. He was still here. I could reach out and touch him. And when the time came, when we were told that his prognosis had changed from at least another year to live to terminal in three weeks, I no longer needed a mantra. His needs consumed me and my fear was subdued by shock and answering that need. My husband was not going to his death without me holding him up as much as humanly possible. I would make the last month of his life whatever he needed. I'm uncertain if there has ever been a time in my life in which I had such clarity.

Tonight I am wishing that I would have memorized each and every encounter, gesture, touch, word we exchanged those last few months of his life. A year ago, Rob was in the hospital having been diagnosed with the first of three staph infections. He would be hospitalized for twelve days--it would mark the longest time we had ever been apart in 28 years. He would be home for less than four weeks before returning to the hospital because an abscess had formed in his chest from the staph that had not been treated correctly.  Then he would be in the hospital for another fourteen days. He wouldn't come home this time until the night before his birthday. He would stay home through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and our 25th wedding anniversary before being rushed to the hospital the morning of December 30 because he could no longer walk. As we waited for the ambulance to arrive he told me he feared he would not be coming home again. Fifty days later he would come home and one day shy of three weeks, he would die.

I know these dates like I know my name. And now it is another fall and I think of all that my husband will not experience. I'm wishing that I could replay, like a film, each moment during the last six months of his life so I might savor what has been lost--substitute the film for the emptiness I know now.

I miss my husband's touch, his voice, the weight of his arm wrapped around my shoulder. I miss the certainty that came when he would lightly grip the back of my neck and pull me closer for a kiss. I miss the smell of him, his feet touching mine in bed, his boisterous laugh, and our late night talks. I miss our shared love for our son, how we knew the other's thoughts, the times he played guitar. I miss getting dinner ready together, dancing together, coming downstairs in the morning and finding him at the kitchen table with The Times spread out before him and his hand wrapped around the Black Dog Cafe mug--the same one we bought when Dev had just turned three and we had spent a week on holiday on Martha's Vineyard. I miss talking shop, commuting together, trying out a new theory, reading aloud the rough draft of an article, and hearing him read a poem aloud. I miss seeing him through the viewfinder of my camera tangled up with Dev or years earlier our dog, Max. I miss our many road trips, our travel around the world. I miss watching him with Devon, how they would lean heads together and talk. I miss our future and how we planned to travel across the country making art and writing. He was always after me to make a photography book about learning at school.

This afternoon Dev and I were at a diner when I looked up at a TV and realized for the first time that it is football season. The only time our television was on was when Rob would try to convince me and Dev how great the Giants were going to be that year. I'd sit next to him during the games and read-watch and he'd shout at the TV and cheer. Usually Sunday dinner would be cooking and I'd time it so that we could eat at halftime or after the first game. When his dad was alive Rob would call down to Florida and they'd rehash the game.

This past weekend, Devon submitted an application to the college he hopes to attend next year. His college essay about a critical incident that helped him to mature brought laughter and tears.  Next week Dev will take his driver's test. This past weekend Dev and friends went to Brooklyn for a gaming tournament--just a few blocks from Brooklyn Tech, Rob's old high school. So many firsts that Rob is not here to see. I mourn not only my loss, but my son's loss and as time moves on, all that my sweet husband is no longer here to experience.

How do I carry on knowing the loss is so immense? An ocean of sorrow that does not end. Where might I tuck such grief?  In whose pocket might sorrow reside? Seven months have past since Rob's death and the world is no less certain than it was when he was alive, it just feels that way.





27 comments:

  1. In the midst of your sorrow, there is Dev - charting his way forward, and taking those steps that will bring his life further purpose and joy: college, the ability to drive and be independent...and so much more. Life can be so bitterly ironic.

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    1. I hadn't thought about the forward steps Dev is taking.Life is ironic, bitterly sometimes too.

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  2. Mary Ann, your writing is so honest and vivid and you have this amazing ability to make the reader feel part of your life with Rob. I'm so glad you share this inner journey with us. I can imagine it would help others so much to know they are not alone.

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    1. I do hope it helps. I write largely because I am compelled to do so. Thanks for taking time to read and respond. Means a lot.

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  3. These 2 comments said everything I wish I could have said. Your writing is amazing; every time I read a post I am floored by your ability to put down in words the raw emotions you are feeling. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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    1. Thanks Deb. I most often don't know where the words come from.

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  4. I have only a small taste of your experience, but I feel I have lived a little inside my own version of the question of how to carry on. Not long ago, I moved to the west coast to care for my daughter, who had been diagnosed with a massive, aggressive form of cancer. Someone asked how I got through those months. I had no answer, because I didn't, and still don't, know. Once, when pressed, I described my daily ritual. Before dawn, I'd be lying in bed saying helpmehelpmehelpme into the air. Then I'd get up. Put one foot in front of the other. That's all I knew. In the face of the loss you describe, I know even less. But I have developed great faith in moving one step at a time. I wish you strength, and peace.

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    1. Oh my Karen. I had no idea. I never slept without a phone next to my head. I too recall those help me mantras i said into the dark. Someone was listening. I pray your daughter is well now. I pray she is living well and healthy.

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  5. My husband died three years ago in September, and all I can tell you about me is that I miss all that you shared, too, but each day I find the good in my life so I can continue sharing his story with others, with our children and grandchildren, with those who never had the pleasure of knowing him. I hear your grief, and I am sorry for your great loss.

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    1. Thank you Linda. I appreciate you sharing your story and I'm so sorry for your loss as I know how cruel and devastating the loss of a husband can be. I do believe in time healing, along with faith and talk, and feeling.

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  6. I thought about you throughout the day, Maryanne. Perhaps Tuesday brought you to my mind, but I suspect it's something else. I was a teenager when my father died, and he's been on my mind a lot recently, too. Your words haunt me and remind me that each moment is precious, that I must embrace each one.

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    1. I suspect it is something else too. Thank you Glenda for sharing your story and I am sorry about your dad. Tonight was a tough one for Dev.

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  7. I don't know that I am up to the challenge of making a proper comment after reading your post. Its beauty and its sorrow will stay with me. I am so sorry for your loss, and so thankful you are able to write about it.

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    1. Thank you Sonja for writing what you did. It soothes me.

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  8. Your loss is great, and as you already know it will be with you always. So much to miss, though, means there is so much to remember.

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    1. Yes. I hadn't thought of it that way. But there is tons and tons to remember.

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  9. I just started an online writing course, and one of the required readings included an excerpt from a journalist who once had to interview a woman who was managing a farm after her husband died. It was a challenge for her, but the journalist ended up being so very humbled by watching her take a deep breath and do what she had to do, every single morning. "I realized," he wrote, "that every ending is really a new beginning." I thought that statement was fascinating, comforting, a little painful, and very true. I hope you might find a little bit of solace in his words. Thinking of you and your son--

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    1. Thank you. Beginning is difficult. No other choice though.

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  10. I grow every time I read your thoughts. You bring me Rob and Dev. And with them, come my father, my husband, my sons and I hold them a little tighter.

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    1. Thank you Julianne. That means a lot. Yes, live well.

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  11. Mary Ann,
    Everything about this post reaches deep into my heart as I read. The writing. The words. Your art. You so perfectly find the words and images to express all that Rob meant to you. The paragraph about all you miss is so descriptive. While it had to be a hard one to write, it will certainly be one to treasure. When you speak of alll of Dev's firsts Rob will miss, you touch on something so many of us fear: missing the people we love the most. There are no words of comfort for this hard journey you walk. I only hope with every memory you capture, every word you write here, every reader that stops by moved by your story, some grief can be carried away.

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    1. Cathy, I hadn't thought about grief being carried away, but I suspect there's truth to that. I write and press publish and I do feel as if a burden has been lifted . Thx

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  12. This takes me back to your list Mary Ann ~ I believe the title was something such as 100 Things I am anger about; similar sentiments, but the tone has grown different; perhaps days/months past, perhaps steps forward - maybe both. While I can not even grasp the weight of grief you and Devon have experienced ~ I do know loss and work with individuals that have experienced loss. Somedays what has helped me is that deep breathe and the mantra that 'Today is another day' - some are good, some are very difficult -- but your journey, your writing, art your art journaling will hold the answers you need I believe. And today, it might give you the answer - and as time passes, the same writing and art journal may hold a different pearl of wisdom.

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    1. I think when I have enough distance, enough healing rereading might well reveal what I simply could not know now.

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  13. Wow- what a beautiful tribute to your husband, the love you shared (and still share) and your hopes for your son. It must feel so hard to go on without him by your side, but as you said, it is a beginning.

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    1. It is a beginning and a loss. Both/and. Thx for reading & commenting.

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  14. Wow- what a beautiful tribute to your husband, the love you shared (and still share) and your hopes for your son. It must feel so hard to go on without him by your side, but as you said, it is a beginning.

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