Posted in #atozchallenge, #atozchalllenge 2017, Blog Hops and Fests, Blogfest Entries, Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, My Poetry, poetry, slices of life, The 12 Week Year Two, Writing Sample

Y is for “You’ll Always Be a Part of Us”: #atozchallenge Day 25

Accept What’s Ahead

Why do some live while others die

Why is that fact so hard to accept

Accept that death is inevitable

Accept that my beloved is no more

More of him is what I want

More time and more love denied

Denied his touch his kiss his embrace

Denied his laughter and his smiles

Smiles that made my heart beat faster

Smiles bestowed with great generosity

Generosity of heart love freely expressed

Generosity of spirit always with a willing hand

Hand holding my hand in sweet intimate caress

Hand him over unwillingly to whatever’s next

Next year and the next and the next lived without him

Next to me still is where I want him yet to be

Be my lover my companion my friend and husband

Be my children’s devoted silly father forever

Forever is a thing that doesn’t exist in the physical plane

Forever alive is a fantasy no one gets to claim

Claim him as my own forever but death took him away

Claim what I can that I was loved long and sweet and well

Well of tears and sorrow born of a love that sustains me

Well past the time of separation on this mortal coil

Coil my heart and soul around all I hold so precious

Coil his love inside me as protection for the future

Future uncertain and gaping wide before me

Future days and years waiting for me to live through

Through the acceptance and the resistance

Through sorrows and joys and laughter and tears

Tears of grief at his life so soon ended

Tears of future joy as my saddened heart recovers

Recovers from this sudden devastating blow

Recovers the beat and pulse of a single life

Life continues on though he is now gone

Life without him, but he’s still here

Here in hearts and souls that love him

Here within his children’s very selves

Selves that would not exist without him

Selves that carry so much of his nature

Nature sees that we have means to continue

Nature ensures something can carry forward

Forward past the length of time he lived

Forward into a future as yet still unknown

Unknown joys and sorrows yet await us

Unknown peace and turbulence ahead

Ahead as behind he’s there in every step

Ahead whether the trail is level or rough

Rough

Step

A few years ago, long before I knew where our story was going it go, I wrote a poem about our love, titled, It Levels Off Up Ahead. The name came from something Jim and I said to each other repeatedly during a rather grueling 3 mile hike to Montana’s Lava Lake.

The thing is – it never did level off then, or, really, since. Even now, as I adjust to the realities of widowhood and raising our children, it hasn’t quite levelled off, because finances will be an issue at least until we know the status of Jim’s life insurance. I know it’s probably fine, as we certainly aren’t trying to defraud anyone, and that the review is simply a formality – but needing those funds makes a huge difference, as there are bills to be paid, two adult-sized and still growing hungry teens to feed, and a house in need of some rather urgent repairs. I haven’t worked outside our home for more than a decade, so that I could be available for homeschooling. Just at the point where I was considering a return to the workforce, Jim launched his business, and my initial small contributions became a full-blown partnership that left me with little time and energy for my writing or looking for another job.

And now, the kids and I need some adjustment time to settle into our new lives. I want to wait until fall, and stay with part-time work, because my ultimate goal is to be able to support our modest lifestyle from home – with writing and writing-related endeavors that make use of my skills and passions.

If the insurance doesn’t happen soon, though, I will have to re-evaluate.

The trail ahead hasn’t leveled off – and yet, I feel strangely secure, even with the concerns I’m dealing with. Why?

Because, in some sense, Jim is still here with me. When he was alive, we were never rich, but we always found a way through the lean times….and more. We managed to find and create joy even in the times when we were struggling to make those frayed and stretched ends meet.

To Jim, now, I say, “You are always a part of us. For the rest of my life, you will be a part of everything I do. Every breath taken by our son and our daughter is, in a way, also your breath. And you love and laughter still sustain me, still provide a delightful anchor through the many, many changes of life after your death. And I will love you always.”

Rejoin us a little later in the day, when we’ll wrap up our #atozchallenge with the Zen of grief.

You don’t want to miss these Y posts!

Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Blogfest Entries, Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging from A-Z April 2018, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, My Poetry, Parenting, poetry, slices of life, Writing Sample

Z is for The Zen of Grief: #atozchallenge Day 26

 

Being Within Zen

Zen is more than just a word

Zen is a way of life and being

Being a thing of mind and soul

Being a matter of acceptance

Acceptance that what is is

Acceptance without resistance

Resistance wastes energy I need

Resistance intensifies the inner pain

Pain can crush if I fight against it

Pain part of the process of mortality

Mortality brings permanent separation

Mortality is simply a fact of every life

Life and death are the yin and the yang

Life and death are forever intertwined

Intertwined in an endless circling dance

Intertwined and immutably inseparable

Inseparable as our two souls while we lived

Inseparable and each a part of the whole

Whole of the grief I feel at life’s impermanence

Whole of the pain at the loss of my marriage

Marriage of two human souls bound in one love

Marriage of life and death in perfect harmony

Harmony of corporeal reality

Harmony and flow circle and spiral

Spiral through cycles where we live and we die

Spiral of birth and growth and death

Death is the endpoint of each life

Death is the beginning of what’s next

Next breath next heartbeat next meal

Next level of consciousness or energy

Energy that maybe swirls through the air

Energy that might fuel the universe

Universe contains so much life and death

Universe holds more than we can ever know

Know that death is not truly the end of all things

Know that in some way he is still somewhere

Somewhere within this universe we share

Everywhere within the confines of my soul

Soul now bereft of his physical touch

Soul now with my own ever intertwined

Intertwined in life in ways that remain

Intertwined after his death in ways that sustain

Sustain me as I learn to live in new ways

Sustain through grief’s sharp jagged edges

Edges that are less distinct than they seem

Edges that soften when touched with Zen

Zen makes of death not only a sorrow

Zen blends bloom and decay into grief’s garden

Garden

Sorrow

 

I’ve often described myself as religious rather than spiritual. I’m not fond of doctrines or agendas, proscriptions and rituals that others devised, and I’m intended to follow whole, without question.

I need something more than that.

I need something that requires my active participation, my mindfulness, and my awareness that the life I live is more about my own choices than any external divine.

Zen matches my personality, and my approach to life – and death.

I come again to that Welcome to Night Vale quote:

“Death is only the end if you assume the story is about you.”

We were all born, and we will all die. Those are immutable facts – the brackets of a lifetime. But that can’t be the whole of the story, because lives are fueled by energy, and lives touch other lives; changing them, creating memories, adding layers and levels to others’ living.

I am not who I would be if I hadn’t known Jim, and loved him.

If I hadn’t loved him, and agreed to make my life with him, our children would not exist, and all that they’ve brought to me life wouldn’t, either.

I would be a different version of me, living a different version of my life.

Life with Jim wasn’t perfect. He and I were imperfect people living imperfect lives, carrying the scars and wounds of a lifetime into our relationship. There were issues that cropped up again and again, and never truly got resolved in his lifetime.

But that’s not to say that it was a bad life – because it wasn’t.

It was very, very good – often magical. Jim and I didn’t come to each other from a place of need. When we met, we’d both independently decided we’d be happy alone rather than settle for someone who didn’t truly suit us. As a result, we complemented one another very well, and lived our lives together with a general state of harmonic teamwork. We were friends who delighted in one another throughout the two decades of our marriage.

So, while I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of heaven, I know that, as long as I live, as long as the children do, as long as there are people in the world whom Jim’s life touched and changed, he’s still here, in a sense. He lives on in the way he’s affected the world, and the energy he gave in his life.

It’s not the same as having him here, but it allows me to find the Zen of acceptance – most of the time – and to accept the lack of acceptance when I just can’t find it.

And, for me, that’s enough.

Which works out well, since this is the final day of the #atozchallenge. Join me again in May for the wrap-up festivities.

Before you head off for your Zzz’s, check out more zesty Z posts.

 

Brancing out in the last months of his life. Jim as Chef Bluebeard, selling his “flavor enhancement sauces” in July 2017.
Posted in #atozchallenge, April CampNaNoWriMo 2018, Blog Hops and Fests, Blogfest Entries, Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, My Poetry, Parenting, poetry, slices of life, Writing Sample

X is for X’ed Out of Our Future: #atozchallenge Day 24

 

Sign X Away

X marks the spot

X the place to sign

Sign we’re losing him

Sign of a changing future

Future a little darker

Future schism approaches

Approaches with the crazed growth

Approaches with multiplying cells

Cells that mark the spots

Cells that create spots

Spots on his pancreas and liver

Spots on the emergency room screen

Screen the predicts the future dimly

Screen that offered fictional hope

Hope that it was only a fatty liver

Hope it was a minor sign of aging

Aging love growing

Aging love deepening

Deepening understanding of who we are

Deepening ability to communicate

Communicate a love that remains

Coommunicate a love that sustains

Sustains us as we face his illness

Sustains us through devastation

Devastation marked out with an X

Devastation growing near and swift

Swift passage of time flies by

Swift moving cancer ravaging

Ravaging his once-strong body

Ravaging this man I love

Love can’t cure him

Love can be an embrace

Embrace while we have the chance

Embrace what is as best we can

Can this strange nightmare be true

Can we still find pockets of joy

Joy marked out in X’s and O’s

Joy an art form in times like this

This is life wrapped in death

This is death still clothed in life

Life twists and weaves

Life lived at two speeds at once

Once we thought life almost a dream

Once we thought we’d grow old together

Together we face this concrete reality

Together until death came and he slipped away

Away from disease and away from great pain

Away from wife and children and life’s promise

Promise

Pain

It all started to change on August 24, 2017 – although we didn’t recognize it for what it was at the time, and, by then, it was already well in progress in its hidden state.

The what was Stage 4 pancreatic cancer that had made a leap to Jim’s liver. We’ll never know how long it lurked there, unnoticed – but Jim had been feeling less than great more often for a few weeks, maybe even a few months, before that day.

I remember the date so well because it was the day after our twentieth anniversary. We’d gone out to dinner, just the two of us, and eaten rich foods.

The next evening, he told me, rather casually, that his right side had been bothering him all day, but the pain was intensifying, and now he was worried that it might be appendicitis. The pain didn’t go away, and then he had a spell of vomiting and severe chill, and I all but insisted we were going to the emergency room.

That’s where we first heard about the spot.

It came, couched in comforting language, and after the likely diagnosis of a sludgy gall bladder irritated by the rich anniversary meal…”and we found a small spot on your liver. It’s probably fatty liver disease, but you should have it checked out in the next week or so with your primary care physician, to rule out cancer.”

Yup. It was just that casual, the moment that changed our lives.

Jim didn’t check into it with his doctor. Maybe he was already worried it might be true, and didn’t want confirmation. Maybe he thought that, since he had an answer, and he’d struggled with his weight most of his life, so fatty liver made sense. I can’t say, because, when I mentioned it, he basically dismissed it by saying that he hadn’t talked to her yet, but he would.

So it would be mid-November, almost 3 months later, before he received that terminal diagnosis. Would it have been better to have known sooner, to have been able to trace back all his odd health complaints in the intervening weeks to that one deadly source?

It’s hard to say. He was increasingly plagued by belly pain he thought was maybe an ulcer, or the sludgy gall bladder again. He was constipated more often than not. Occasionally, he vomited, but attributed it to the stomach pain. He never said so to me until after he was diagnosed, but he was increasingly exhausted, and his appetite faded.

Looking backward, it seems obvious, but it wasn’t at the time.

We were growing his hot-sauce business – a dream he’d had since before I met him –  and took our first romantic weekend away, to Acadia National Park, which was a dream from early in our marriage.  In truth, we argued rather a lot, but it seemed to clear air that had long been heavy – one of those places in a marriage where we needed to clean house – and things felt better, after that.

He decided to get to the root of not feeling good. He had a colonoscopy, which, to our relief, was negative. But, at the same time, his right leg was swelling painfully, and, eventually, he went to the emergency room, was admitted with deep vein thrombosis that probably would have killed him in days if left untreated, and then the diagnosis of terminal cancer was made – the culprit of all those random, seemingly minor, concerns.

But it was that first X – the spot on the emergency room ultrasound screen, that ultimately X’ed Jim out of the future we’d hoped to share.

Check out our next post, when I say, “You are always a part of us,” to my late husband.

X marks the spot for more extraordinary X posts.

Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Blogfest Entries, Blogfest Entries, Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging from A-Z April 2018, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, My Poetry, poetry, slices of life, Writing Sample

W is for When It Ends, It Begins Again: #atozchallenge Day 23

Life Begins Anew

When the last breath comes life changes

When it ends that’s where it begins

Begins to dawn on me that it’s all new

Begins with that alien word widow

Widow the label that ends a marriage

Widow for the rest of my life I’ll be

Be the only parent they still have

Be the one who survived when he died

Died with so many good years still ahead

Died so that last line can’t be the truth

Truth maybe for me but not for him

Truth is I’d rather not do this alone

Alone with the years stretched far ahead

Alone but yet not because he’s still here

In the children who share his eyes and smile

Here in my broken heart and in my wounded soul

Soul still trying to grasp what’s been lost

Soul to soul we were for so long not long enough

Enough love to fill my life to overflowing

Enough time to intertwine on so many levels

Levels of grief that shift like ocean waves

Levels of solitude now mine to explore

Explore the empty bed and things now unsaid

Explore the emotions that ebb and flow

Flow as the tears that move like the tides

Flow into a new way of life and living

Living my way into each new day’s dawning

Living and growing even though it seems strange

Strange to make so many decisions without him

Strange not to have him here chatting and laughing

Laughing our way through twenty years and more

Laughing even when life was tragic and shattering

Shattering us as he held our dying newborn

Shattering me as I held him on his deathbed

Deathbed that had been our marriage bed

Deathbed he made with his very own hands

Hands that will never again build or cook

Hands that can no longer hold or caress

Caress me with his love and tenderness

Caress me with his passions in his eyes

Eyes that were windows to all that he was

Eyes I adored and will never see light up again

Again I will sleep this night here without him

Again I smile at the shelter dog in his spot

Spot he doesn’t need she happily fills

Spot where my life has become something new

New bed of my own where our marriage bed was

New life new belongings in a strange new reality

Reality

Was

 

For over twenty years, Jim was my reality. It would be a lie to say that every moment of our marriage was wonderful, or that there weren’t problems from time to time. Some were external and beyond our control – like the death of our secondborn at 12 days old.

Others were internal – arguments we never really settled between us. Maybe we would have, if there had been more time.

Or maybe not.

I’ll never know, now. I can guess, from the ways we’d grown in our marriage, and were still growing. From the business we were building together, and the bonding we were doing while we did that. It was his dream, not mine – and it was a dream that died with him.

Other things have changed, too, since his death. I know it’s inevitable – and yet, there’s a little stab of something like guilt when I take apart the bed we shared, and in which he died, and buy a new one he never shared with me. When I adopt a shelter dog to share that bed, because I wasn’t sleeping very well when I was sleeping alone. When I rearrange the bedroom we shared, but which now is mine alone.

In so many ways, in so many choices from the tiny to the enormous, I’m moving beyond a marriage I valued and was committed to – beyond a man I still love with all of me, and whom I talk to about the changes: “Babe, do you SEE what I’m doing here?! I’m COOKING! For ALL of us! And it TASTES good!” “So, what do you think about this new dog in our bed. I know, I told you I probably wouldn’t get another one after you died, but it’s lonely, and she snores, and she loves to snuggle.” “Hey, did you know that Charlotte Rae, who was Mrs. Garrett on The Facts of Life, was Sylvia Schnauzer on Car 54? Or that she did stand-up in the 50’s, and was really, really funny?!”

It helps, this bridge of talking to my dead husband while I remake my life and figure things out I never expected to need to before last fall. It’s not exactly what I wanted – but I know beyond doubt that Jim would want me to enjoy my life, not sit around mourning him for the rest of it.

I know that because we talked about it, when he got sick, and long before that, when it was all theoretical, and not anything to do with our real lives….

But now, he doesn’t have a real life anymore, and I do. My goal now? Finish the raising of our children, and make the most of it, as joyfully as I can manage.

Join us again tomorrow, when we explore the way Jim was Xed out of my present.

Want more wonderful W posts?

Posted in #atozchallenge, Blogfest Entries, Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging from A-Z April 2018, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, My Poetry, Parenting, poetry, slices of life, Writing Sample

Sweetness Softens Bitterness: #SoCS  and #atozchallenge Day 19 (belated)

Death Inside Sweetness

Life is sunlight which causes shadow

Life will always end in death

Death so often takes us unawares but

Death is a lifetime’s natural conclusion

Conclusion of the life of a family of four

Conclusion of that chapter but not the end

End only for the one who has passed on

End brings new beginnings for those who remain

Remain among the living to breath another day

Remain to carry forth the love he spoke and lived

Lived his love with action deed and affection

Lived with a purpose to spread joy and passion

Passion for flavors and for creating delicious dishes

Passion for his wife shown in so much more than kisses

Kisses bestowed generously when our children were small

Kisses shown more widely in the things he did and said

Said Will you marry me and I do and he certainly did

Said I love you often and showed it oftener still

Still hugging the son grown larger than him

Still moments broken by his joyful laughter

Laughter was what first brought us together

Laughter his own particular brand of magic

Magic that made music that lives in my soul

Magic that lingers on and brings sweetness

Sweetness that eases the pain of his loss

Sweetness that softens the bitter truth

Truth that his life is ended forever

Truth that we three must go it alone

Alone but yet not completely bereft

Alone but with a warm spirit within

Within the deepest grief hope exists

Within the coldest sorrow there is a warm glow

Glow of his sweetness and his love freely given

Glow in our lives as we share what he gave

Gave us himself for as long as he was able

Gave us a way to survive this loss with joy

Joy in the years when we were all here together

Joy in finding ways to eat dessert first

First thing our daughter did to remember him

First birthday of his when he wasn’t alive

Alive in a legacy of living life richly

Alive still in the things that matter

Matter to those whose lives his touched

Matter in the way we live life today

Today he is dead but we’re still living

Today a new chance to sprinkle the sweet

Sweet memory to dull the edges of grief

Sweet kindness to soften a hardened world

World

Grief

 

Although I don’t reference it as much now that my kids are teens and prefer much more privacy than they did when they were small, we live a very unconventional life, by modern American standards. We are radical unschoolers – and that fact had proven to be a wonderful asset to us all (including Jim, when he was still alive).

Why?

In part, \homeschooling allowed them a great deal of time with their dad while he was alive, and unschooling meant that both of their parents were aware of what fired the kids’ passions. It’s through their passions that they most readily engage in learning, and through them that they most easily discover other interests, branching outward, and, at the same time, becoming more refined and sophisticated as they grow.

This led to our relating with our kids not primarily through the roles of Mom and Dad, but as people. People older and generally more experienced than them – but not beyond learning from them, or seeing that they, too, are people, and not projects for us to “complete” by the time they reach the age of legal independence.

So, the kids knew Jim well – as a man, not just as their Dad. They knew his history, even the parts he wasn’t so proud of. And he knew them – well enough to bring an eight year old Lise a tool set – in a lavender bag, because she is the kind of girl who likes doing and fixing – and pretty things, too. And it wasn’t a cheap set – she still can use those tools at thirteen.

When I was a teen, I wasn’t at all sure my father loved me. My kids were filled up with Jim’s love, each in a flavor that suited them, and adds sweet memories to the bitterness of going through the rest of their lives without the big laughing man with the even bigger heart whom they called Dad.

Join us again on Monday, when we’ll explore truths….

Stroll over for more sumptuous S posts!

This is also my (belated) entry for Stream of Consciousness Saturday, where this week’s prompt is “spoke” – with bonus points for not using it in the first line of the post.

Take a Swim in the SoCS waters!

Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Blogfest Entries, Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging from A-Z April 2018, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, My Poetry, poetry, slices of life, Writing Sample

V is for Vows, and Living Them: #atozchallenge Day 22

Kept Until Void

Promises must be considered well

Promises made ought to be kept

Kept regardless of effort expended

Kept despite circumstance or desire

Desire for others must be spurned

Desire for this commitment comes first

First we put aside the standard fare

First we searched and thought and talked

Talked about what we wanted to promise

Talked about the love we planned to live

Live together as lovers companions and friends

Live each day to honor the vows we made

Made together and spoken together

Made us stronger in every breath and choice

Choice always there to just walk away

Choice always to simply forswear those vows

Vows made from the deep places of my heart

Vows promised from the deeper home of my soul

Soul that resonated naturally with his

Soul that reveled in the many joyful times

Times when we were accomplices in mischief

Times when we were the fiercest adversaries

Adversaries each battling to be right

Adversaries became allies and partners

Partners striving to partner equally

Partners in parenthood and in marriage

Marriage begins with those spoken vows

Marriage ends when all vows lose meaning

Meaning that can only exist during life

Meaning that becomes potent as death nears

Nears the point where those other vows rule

Nears the endpoint of till death us do part

Part us with the cancer that steps in

Part and parcel now of a married life

Life twists and turns on a dime

Life subsiding and need rising

Rising vows demand to be met

Rising commitment to give honor

Honor in the tending of a dying mate

Honor in seeing to the hard places

Places that scrape heart and soul raw

Places that are the opposites of ease

Ease for him is utmostly important

Ease for me a thing of past and future

Future when he has died and need ended

Future where these vows will be null and void

Void of the life to be lived on without him

Void filled with the memories of a great love

Love

Him

 

A bit of trivia: Jim and I were “married” twice.

Because our families lived on opposite sides of the continent, none of his family or friends were able to make it to our official, licensed wedding on August 23, 1997, on my parents’ deck in upstate New York. We’d decided on the date and orchestrated a very simple ceremony in only six weeks, because we realized we just didn’t want to wait, when we both already knew we wanted to be married (there was some speculation that I was pregnant, but Jeremiah, our eldest, didn’t make his arrival until 2001).

But we didn’t want to exclude his family, either. So, when our season at the Grand Canyon was over, we made a leisurely trip through Arizona and California, then up the Oregon coast and inland to Eugene – and, on Thanksgiving Day, when his whole family could be there, we were unofficially married again by Jim’s uncle, who was a minister.

For our first ceremony, I found non-traditional vows in a wedding book. They fit our love: they began, “I promise to be your lover, companion, and friend. Other lines included being one anothers’ best ally in adversity and fiercest adversary, accomplice in mischief, and partner in parenthood.

We have been all those things to each other – imperfectly.

For the second wedding, Jim requested we use the traditional vows his uncle was comfortable with. There was a slight quibble over the word “obey”, which I would neither promise, nor allow Jim to promise me. Married people shouldn’t be cast in an obedience relationship – not if they’re going to be equal partners.

But I promised to love him and keep him, in sickness and in health, till death us did part – and I meant it.

I didn’t expect that, only 20 years later, I would be living the truth of those vows with a sickness that resulted in death, and which, along the way, rendered the man who stood beside me helpless as a newborn.

But when that time came, I’m proud to say that I gave myself to my vows. I’m a bit less proud that sometimes exhaustion, fear, frustration, and grief at all that was lost and would be lost meant that I did it all imperfectly and with less than a willing spirit – but, even then, I accept that I am, in the end, only a human being, and will err at times.

I would have happily honored those vows another forty years, if I could have – but I am intensely grateful for the years I was able to do so.

Join us again tomorrow, when we explore how when it’s over, that’s where it begins…

View more vibrant V posts!

Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Blogfest Entries, Blogfest Entries, Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging from A-Z April 2018, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, My Poetry, poetry, slices of life, Writing Sample

U is for Unfinished Business: #atozchallenge Day 21

Tangles Beyond Corporeal

Papers from God is what he searched for

Papers strewn about in rampant tangles

Tangles in his mind that blended dreams and tasks

Tangles of unfinished business that he never tended

Tended to us as long and well as he was able

Tended toward chaos in his personal spaces

Spaces grown longer between lucid thoughts

Spaces filled with stacks of papers in jumbles

Jumbles of memories more real than ebbing life

Jumbles of lighters flashlights and pocket knives

Knives of cancer slicing apart his liver

Knives of pain slicing into my heartsick soul

Soul turned inward or outward where I couldn’t go

Soul to soul we once were until his slipped away

Away into dream visions that were his alone

Away to a new reality I couldn’t see or share

Share the business of life for so many years

Share the stuff of living too soon no more

More much more left to be tended to

More letters to finish and policies to find

Find every stack I could lay hands on

Find the inner grasp of growing panic

Panic that wasn’t really about the insurance

Panic and beg him to please help me search

Search through drawers and bins gathered

Search through decades of our shared lives

Lives represented by batches of ephemera

Lives so long intertwined now coming unraveled

Unraveled I yelled and demanded and blamed

Unraveled lucidity and fraying understanding

Understanding nothing now of what I needed

Understanding faded away beyond my reach

Reach for the edge of the drawer now unseeing

Reach desperately for wherever his soul is wandering

Wandering fingers aimless and futilely stretching

Wandering eyes disconnected from here and now

Now I see what I’ve been hiding from in this mission

Now I ask do you know what we’re looking for

For the papers from God he says and he means it

For him that’s all that still remains unfinished

Unfinished business doesn’t include crumpled papers

Unfinished bits and pieces of his unneeded material life

Life and death intertwine as we once we woven together

Life becomes porous and uncertain as death approaches

Approaches slipping and dancing in the tattered shreds

Approaches and swallows up all that is corporeal

Corporeal matters no longer any of his business

Corporeal life ending and yet still unfinished

Unfinished

Business

 

It seemed so very urgent at the time – those life insurance papers I couldn’t seem to find. I’d given them very little thought over the years. They were something that lived far back in my mind – so much so, that when Jim told me he was changing the policy from one carrier to another, and why, I agreed that it made sense to me, too, and didn’t even pay much attention to where the new policy was coming from.

But when he was diagnosed with terminal metastatic pancreatic cancer, they suddenly seemed like the most important thing in the world.

I begged Jim to find them while he was still feeling somewhat well. But he was busy with other things then – making a bucket list and planning trips to Oregon to see his family and his childhood homes one last time, and to Arizona, where he and I met, so we could share the Grand Canyon and Sedona with our children, flying first class, and maybe even renting a houseboat on Lake Powell, which had been a dream of his for decades.

He was also doing things to see to our well-being – filing for SSDI, arranging to begin chemotherapy to give us the most time together, even climbing up on the battered roof to patch it yet again.  He did some tidying of personal spaces, but there were doctor’s appointments to keep and calls to his family to make, and friends to touch base with while he still had the chance…

And then it was the first day of chemo, only a couple of weeks after the initial diagnosis – and Jim reacted badly to two of the infusions, and ended up in the emergency room. The eventual verdict was that he’d had a minor heart attack, because his liver was too compromised by the tumors consuming it, and it was forcing his heart to work harder than it could manage.

Chemo was canceled, and liver stents were placed to attempt to help the bile ducts bypass the tumors and give him a bit more time…

But it wasn’t to be. Ten days in the hospital, and Jim left visibly yellow from growing jaundice, and on hospice care.  He’d grown weaker and less capable in those days, and, though he rebounded a bit once he was home and could do as he pleased when he pleased, he continued to fade – and my efforts to chivvy him into taking care of the things I thought he needed to failed more and more often.

Sometimes, the unfinished business is only exiting life, and nothing else matters.

As it turns out, I still haven’t found the policy, but I did find the charge on our bank statement, and that was enough for me to eventually get the ball rolling. We’re still waiting, but getting closer to resolution.

It wasn’t the big deal I thought it was. Most things weren’t. I’ve learned that I can work through them, a little at a time.

Just the way we live…

Join us tomorrow, when we explore living our vows.

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