Sunday, November 13, 2016

#SOL16: Healing

The Uncertainty Principle (M.A. Reilly, Ringwood - Devon, 11/23/2010)


For years, I worried each time Rob went out to clear snow. The first time was at the house we were rebuilding, 60 miles outside of Manhattan. That year record snowfall occurred and by the season's end, more that 100 inches of snow had fallen. We were each in our 30s and years away from potential heart failure. When we moved to our current home, nearly 15 years ago, I worried Rob would die from a heart attack even though he wasn't yet 60. He was in his 40s and 50s here. Rob would laugh and always assure me that the machine did most of the work. I suspect there was some truth to that. Nonetheless, I didn't rest easy until the snow was cleared, we were all back inside, and the tea water was heating.

We all had our parts to play, but only Rob ran the machine. Now, it's been nearly two years since the snowblower was used.  Last year Dev and I cleared the one big snowfall in late January with shovels. Neither of us could figure out how to get the blower started and finally Dev said to me, "Mom, I could have had the driveway done by now." Later that evening we rushed to the hospital as Rob was being admitted.  He had been staying at an acute rehabilitation center.  He started to convulse, was unable to communicate well and was running a fever when a doctor explained that they could not care for him. By the time I would see him, he would be delirious. Staph again--the third time in four months. By now even I knew the signs. The only place Rob did not contract staph was at home.

The trip to the hospital was difficult as a blizzard the day before had dropped nearly 30 inches of snow and though the highway was mostly cleared, that night after the sun had set it was icy and one lane was still not passable. We were nearing the exit for the hospital when we saw the strobe of police lights and then a car upside down. Tragedy happens so quickly, as does grace.

Ten days later, Rob would still be in the hospital--in and out of intensive care. He never was able to come back to himself wholly after that last bout of staph. By mid-February we would learn, early one the morning, that the cancer had progressed and he was surely dying. A few weeks later he would die.


This afternoon, as Dev and I were clearing leaves from the yard I thought about the many times I had worried about Rob and how ironic all that worrying was. Rob didn't live long enough for heart attacks to be a scare. He died so young. So quickly. One moment he had a sharp pain in his chest and the next he was diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer. It seems ironic as I never saw my husband smoke. In the nearly 30 years I knew him he was never a smoker. He had stopped years earlier before I met him. I listened as he told doctor after doctor his history. He began smoking as a teenager and stopped in his mid twenties. Every doctor would stop the recording of notes and sigh and say something like, Well, that was enough time. Just thinking about his absence, our loss leaves that sick hollow feeling to churn in my gut.

Most days, I move through time partially living.  I am waiting even when I move. It's as if there was a huge rubber band attached to my heart and though I venture out each day, there is always something tugging, some inner tension pulling at me until I remember.  It's as if I am caught in an in-between time. I watch life happen--a boat on a river passing by and I am moored to the shore. And though I do what needs to be done each day, I am ever grateful when the day ends.

Healing, I now know is tied up with desire.  It is not only the passing of days--although time does help. It is the want to live that matters. Now that the shock of his death has eased, I realize I no longer scream in the car as I drive. I haven't for months. Most nights, I sleep. Nightmares are rare. I no longer avoid Rob's office. And though the pain of my husband's death feels acute, I know now that the situation is not unusual. Yes, I am a widow in my mid-50s. Yes, I am now a single parent. And none of that is unique.

Beneath all this tumult, what remains more constant than not is how the yearning still hurts,still catches me unaware. And though it happens not as frequently or as prolonged, the intensity has not dulled.


For a moment today as we cleared the leaves, in the late light of mid-November, I looked up at Devon standing so sure and tall. I looked at him standing in the last bit of sunlight and I saw a glimmer of his dad. I stared until I had to look away.

Already, we are moving on, I thought. Already, we are making new memories. To leave this waiting room is to acknowledge life moves on without Rob.

Everything moves, even me. And, friends, I would be lying if I said this healing didn't hurt.


  1. Mary Ann, it is so amazing to me that you can write with such clarity about what you are going through. Healing hurts for sure!

    1. I just write and see what emerges. Almost every post is composed like that. Thank you so much for your frequent comments. Means a lot.

  2. I had two Rob moments yesterday. The first came walking on a local trail behind one of our town's Middle Schools. The trail, covered with leaves, reminded me of Rob's frequent admonitions to take care when walking (or driving) on leaves, as they could slip out from under you and send you sprawling. That memory was bittersweet, but pleasant. The other was a bit less so: a reminder from some random site reminding me that Rob was about to turn 62, and suggesting various cards to send him in celebration....

    1. I keep staring at the date knowing he won't be here. It's a tough month. He never shred his concern about leaves with me. How funny:)

  3. I remember hearing him say it just about any time in the fall when Jo and I would drive home from your house down Breakneck.... Funny what triggers memories....

    1. Yes. For me it is a daily thing. Something, usually inconsequential.