Thursday, July 29, 2010

Loneliness v. Solitude

A good friend today sent me the following quote from the work of Paul Tillich, German-American Theologian and Existentialist Philosopher (1886 - 1965)

Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone, and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.

Roll on the change from pain to glory! Had a final session, before the cruise, with the therapist today. He, himself, will be away next week. But I will see him again when I get back. He has been of some help. When back, I will also link up with the Bereavement Support Group at COR.
The Effexor has taken away most of the anxiety and panic I was experiencing, and I am feeling more rational about the next seven weeks. The house is at the same time my refuge and my torture - a safe shelter, but so many reminders of Di. I miss not sitting down, together, taking a  break from the day's hectic activities, to watch the 5 pm TV news, with a glass of wine, chatting about the day's events. But that will never happen again, and I must simply get used to it. Simply - that's the key. It is not simple.  It is very hard and difficult, and needs considerable time for the adjustment of attitudes.

There is so much clean up work to be done around here.  It has been neglected over the last two years. I just do not have the energy or inspiration at the moment, although I have done some. Perhaps I will come back from the trip inspired to get active and do what is necessary, and be radical. That is to be hoped for.

Peace and love to all. Geoff.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How I miss you!

How I miss Di. And it is already three months. I miss the closeness, the touching, the conversation, the embraces, the lesser intimacies and her insight into situations. Saying hello to you as I pass by the cathedral Memorial Garden is no substitute.

Today I had Molly's company again. Even though we do not talk a lot, she is a bright companion.

The cruise is coming up quickly. Always, before, with Di, it has been exciting, and we could hardly wait to get on board. We had prepared together, researched cities we would visit, got maps etc. This time there is no enthusiasm. I think that if I could cancel it without financial penalty, I would.

Have now been on  the starter dose of Effexor for three days, and there is some improvement. It seems to have taken away a lot of the anxiety and panic I was feeling. But I am not sleeping well, even with a sleeping pill.  I tend to wake about 4:30 am, and cannot get back to sleep. So I get up at 5:00 am and read.  When I double the dose of Effexor, after 7 days, I will look for more improvement. it also seems to have reduced the loneliness a bit, and I am more satisfied with my own company.  tonight Molly and I went  the Cathedral to help with preparation of the meal for Cafe Grazia. She seemed enthusiastic about doing that.

While Molly was here today, Ella seemed very unsettled and would not leave my side. I wonder what she is sensing?

Friends are looking after me, and feeding me. But that has a downside also. After losing a little weight, I am now putting it on again, with all these good meals. Have not ridden my bike for a while because of the heat. If there is a cool time in the morning I like to get Ella out for her mile walk. But I suppose it will not get any better,  weatherwise,  before I leave. Love and peace to all. Geoff

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Three Month Anniversary

All major losses make permanent changes in your life!!

Today marks three months since Dianne died, on Monday April 26th. 2010.   My book, "Life After Loss", describes grieving as an endurance test, and cites two to three years as an average time of grieving. Of course! One year is too short a time.  For years I have told my divorced friends that it seems to take three years to recover from an unwanted divorce. Why would death be any different?

It  says "grief is heavy", and fatigue is one of the most common symptoms.  Agree with that. "Grief fitness" takes time, you have to work up to it. Agree with that too. Don't feel as fit as I did before Di's death, but I'm working at it slowly, and will work on it more on the ship, when I won't have the dog and the house to look after. The book says; "The third month after the death of a loved one, one the most difficult times of all........Enough has happened by this time that denying your loss is impossible. If your spouse died, you have had three full months of filing insurance papers, death certificates and social security forms" How true!  But, so far, at least,  I am not feeling that worse third month pain. I think the first six weeks were worse, when I just felt stunned and woozy and lost all the time. But we will see.

Today I started on Effexor, an anti depressant, low dose to commence, and then double after a week. It seems to be helping already.

Today I was taken out to lunch by Mike S., a cathedral friend. We had a good, vigorous conversation, no blank spaces. He is a bluff personality. But, once during lunch, he lost it briefly saying, "As I look across at you, there used to be two of you." That produced a moist eyed reply. Di and his wife had a special rapport, because she had acute myeloid leukemia, and underwent chemotherapy also, successfully. Mike has five cardiac stents in place. As he says, "They are having a race to see who catches the boat first". In the midst of life we are in death!

I don't fear death. It would be not unwelcome, and would enable me to join Dianne.  But what I DO fear is disability, and astronomic medical expenses, which would take all I have left, and leave nothing for the kids, most of whom need help. I do not want to be in the position Di found herself in, when she said "Everything I prayed would not happen, has happened." But I have little say in that, except to keep myself as fit as possible.

Last night, Mark gave me the CD of Di's memorial service, and  I was able to view it with relatively little tearfulness. Like so many others at the service, I was so impressed by what our sons and daughter said in the way of tributes to their mother.  I have heard that comment repeatedly, and I am so grateful to them all.  They painted a portrait of  their mother in words, and gave that picture as a gift to Di's friends and family.  On that day I could not have done it without sobbing. But I am so grateful that all of them were able to say what they did, with dignity, love and humor. It was a day of celebration.

So, for the present, I just keep on keeping on, treading the path and living the adventure.  Note, I did not say I was looking for another hill to climb. But, in a way, I am climbing a very big hill. But I didn't look for this one, and did not begin the climb voluntarily.  Love to all. and may calmness and peace of mind rest upon us all. Geoff

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wrenching farewells

"Tis the season of wrenching farewells. Said goodbye to Dean Terry White this morning as he moves on to become Bishop of Kentucky. He conducted Dianne's funeral service, and had been a magnificent pastor to us during final Di's illness. He gave so freely of his time to us, and  was a sage counselor.

Unfortunately, some of the same music sung at Di's funeral service were sung this morning. So, it was doubly emotional, but I as able to sing through it, as I could not at the funeral service.

The chaplain from St. Luke's Hospice recently contacted me, and came out to see me. He was ordained at the church Betty and John used to attend in Auroura, in Denver. He left me with a book called "Life After Loss", which has been very validating about the gamut of emotions I have felt, especially forgetfulness in these early months. I was beginning to think I must have had a stroke, but had not recognized it.

I 'm now at the stage where I know I will get through this. My life with Di is over, is gone forever, and I have accepted that. But I have yet to find something to form what the book calls " A New Normal". So, the search goes on for meaning after loss.

Tomorrow, when the pharmacy can fill the Rx, I will start Effexor, an antidepressant, to see if that will help to lift me out of the doldrums, in which I find myself. There were  a lot of side effects from the hypertensive medication, and the cardiologist has halved that dose to see if that will work as well, with fewer side effects.  In the meantime all my flights for my return are booked, and I will be ready to leave, on August 10th, from KC.

I feel so bad for Ella, as she will have to go to the kennel for 7 weeks. But she will have the company of other dogs there, something she does not have at home. She follows me round from room to room, and welcomes me effusively when I return home after being out. She doesn't have to be in close contact with me, just in the same room. She is a sweet little soul.

So, there we are, on the road to somewhere, living the adventure, open to opportunities and experiences. We'll just have to see where life leads. Love to you all, and peace. Terry struggled to say the final blessing this morning. Farewells are hard.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An evening with the grandies

It was a pleasure to see their loving faces when they arrived yesterday afternoon. They were very good, went to bed easily and early, and slept soundly. They were up about 7, and impatient for their father to get here so they could get on to the next venture for today - a visit to the Egyptian exhibit at the Nelson Art Gallery, lunch somewhere, and a play date with a new friend in Gardner, on the way home. I remember how it was always such a loving experience  having them visit when Di was alive. I am determined to keep that welcoming, loving spirit in the house.

 Today I dropped off a letter to my FP about starting anti depressants. I am almost afraid to tempt fate by adding them to the pharmacological "stew" that I am already taking, but feel I have little option, if I am to improve. and enjoy the trip to   OZ. The constancy of Richard's companionship should take away the loneliness that I am currently experiencing.  Two days ago I talked about how difficult it is to rebuild a life. There are some days when I ask myself: "Do I want to? Is it worth it?"

Di and I always have tried to teach the family by example rather than dictates. I could not just give up so quickly, and "chicken out" when things get difficult, even though at times I might think I might want to. But sometimes it feels tempting. I sometimes feel I just don't have the drive or energy to do this. But our kids are all having individual difficulties of one sort or another. What kind of example would that be, were I to chicken out just because it got hard? So, I keep working at it. Will see the psychologist again tomorrow, and talk some more. It is a safe venue in which to talk about grief. Hopefully, with the passage of time, I will feel less need to vent.

I keep looking for that end point: "You will know your grief work is done when all your memories become memories of celebration, rather than loss."Pax vobiscum! Love, Geoff/Dad/ Pop Pop

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Gifts of Friends

Yesterday, from my former EFM colleague, Bob, I received the most beautiful letter I have ever received. Bob is a former minister, and a great "people person".   He was kind enough to give me an evening last week, (and "give" is the active word), to listen, comfort and encourage.

Similarly this morning, I had an extended coffee with Linda Y., with whom I was able to explain how I felt, and ask some challenging questions. I wondered when I would feel "whole" again. Linda's reply was "You will never feel whole again, (in that things will never be like they were), but  you will learn to accept living alone better, as time passes". We talked about how rebuilding a life is really hard work.  But there is no alternative, except passive reclusiveness and misery.

Linda is a fine minister (deacon). It is difficult to talk with most other men, (especially younger men), about such personal grief. They become tongue tied or embarrassed, and move away with a "Gee, I'm sorry". But who am I to criticize? My response would have been just as barren and non comforting until I experienced this. As Bob said in his letter. "The pain and suffering (your tears) represent--- if not chased away, or buried deeply--- will help open your heart to another dimension of yourself".

Since my helpful session with Linda this morning, the day has gone better than expected. I was able to get to the gym this afternoon and have a pretty reasonable workout. It was there that I met my "tongue tied" friend, also named Jeff. He is a younger man with whom I have formed an acquaintanceship. He is pleasant, a self employed builder, and a very pleasant person. How we, as men, insulate ourselves from emotional involvement! It is just too hard for us.

Gloom is less as time passes. But I think I will ask for antidepressant help, after all. Most long term planning will have to await my return from OZ. At the moment, the emphasis is on getting away, and getting the house "dejunked".

AFter a few very jot days we have a big thunderstorm tonight. Fortunately, no tornadic weather, just wind and rain. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to bother Ella too much. She is a faithful companion, May peace and love find you, a and return to me. Love, Geoff

Monday, July 19, 2010

Look outside!

Today was a fair day. I was able to get almost all of the filing done, and now I can see most of the horizontal surfaces in the house.

The heat makes it difficult to get outside much, and one is hunkered down in the house where it is cool. This leads to a certain amount of "stir craziness". But I have made the effort to get out to Starbucks, and will also meet Linda Y, there tomorrow. It is clear that all outgoing initiative is going to have to come from me. Nobody will do it for me, and I will have to learn new ways of relating to people and their interests.

Di was always the one who made  friends easily, in a wide circle of activities, and I went along for the ride.  Now it has to be me who extends the hand of friendship, and welcomes people in. I still feel very dull and stunned, and not exactly outgoing and extroverted.  Perhaps it would be a good idea to go back on antidepressants for 6-12 months. Tomorrow I will talk with my FP doctor about it. While I do not feel that I am slipping back, I also do not feel I am making forward progress as rapidly as I would like.

There is lot of work still to do getting the house in order before I leave. On the Monday before I leave I will have Carrie, the CNA, who worked with us on the day Dianne died, come in and "burn" through the place, so I will leave it as clean and ready for reoccupancy as I can. She worked so hard for us that day. She is also a nice, happy person, and good to have around, as a person, as well as a worker.

Have not heard from my cruise companion in a while, and he has not filled in, on line, the information the cruise line wants and needs. I have sent him a few e-mails without response. Hope he is OK. However, I do know he was going to be doing some other traveling before leaving for LA. Also, his sole remaining elderly sister in Queensland had not been well.  So, he may simply be away somewhere, temporarily.  I will leave it at that for tonight. Love and peace to all, and may it come back to me.  Geoff

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Grief and fear

I continue to be surprised by C, S. Lewis's description of grief as being a lot like fear. Anxiety is a prominent feature. There is nothing specific of which I am afraid, but I am anxious all the time. It is difficult to settle and do things that require much cerebral effort. But I DO have to be doing things. It drives Ella crazy as she follows me from room to room, willing me to settle in one place, so she can also. In any case things are getting done slowly, and, I am reading a little.

Music at the Cathedral this morning was spectacular! A young, visiting Scottish organist played part of the service, and, as John Schaefer said "Hold on to your hats!" A soprano sang Handel's gorgeous "Let the Bright Seraphim", with trumpet obligato. But the Cathedral is still a very emotional place for me, and it is hard not to feel a little teary when I am there. I go to the spot where Di's ashes were interred and I talk to her. You understand that the conversation is very one sided. But the only way I can make sense of things is to believe that she is still with me, at least spiritually,and that her love surrounds me, and indeed the whole family. That, felt throughout our collective lives, will never disappear.

May such love surround any readers who are out there, and, through love, may peace come to you.   Geoff

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The sun will come out tomorrow, You can bet your bottom dollar....

It was good to see Pete, Ruby and Celia in "Annie" last night. It is such an upbeat show with good singable music, and profound optimism in the face of adversity. All three of them did well. Ruby is now a seasoned trooper, and has the theater in her blood. Pete finds a new character in each show, and is never just Pete acting the same way. Now Celia has got the bug also. She was tired and subdued at the end of the show when we visited. But a three hour show makes for a long night for a four year old.

I believe there is incremental improvement for me. Anti depressants do not appeal, and I am trying to avoid taking them, if possible. Over the last week I have talked with a good friend from the Cathedral, a former EFM colleague. On Saturday next I will visit with another EFM colleague who had a difficult time with grief, when her husband died a few years ago. She is a nice person, and very spiritually generous. We will meet over lunch next Saturday. She described herself as being on a nicer path now, but still encountering "land mines".

A few days ago I received a nice note from Di's Hematologist at Mayo's, commenting on her dignity in the face of such a devastating disease, and her courage in refusing active treatment at the last. It was kind of him to write. Of the treatment she was receiving towards the end, he said, "There are no guarantees. Transfusions and Neulasta are simply all we have available." He was right.

Talking with the clinical psychologist last week I realized that I have never lived truly alone before. During Internship and Residency there were always other people about. Even during that first summer in Law School, when I lived singly in an apartment, there were always other students around, and multiple classes each day, where we would meet and talk together. In this aged area, there is very little contact between neighbors. I suppose I could call one or two, and get together over coffee.

Tomorrow night, Mark will come for dinner. and on Monday night, a former choir member will come for dinner. We will grill something. Thank God that our kids are so generous with their time. They must be hurting also.

It has been a hot day, 96 F. Am waiting for dusk, and, hopefully, a little cooling before I take Ella for her walk.  It is still 90 F. at 7:45 pm. No storms expected soon.

Peace and love to you all, Geoff

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Who knows where I'm going?

In the rewritten words of the old song "Who  Knows Where I'm Going?" I don't. It seems  as if I am just  drifting along, no worse, but also  not a lot better;  listless and without drive and energy. Part of it could be side effects from the antihypertensive medication. Have tried twice to get results today, but they take so long to call back, that the second time I was in  a meeting, and had to turn my phone off. Will persist and try again tomorrow.

Had a session with the psychologist today who felt that I was making satisfactory progress. That year figure keeps on cropping up. Roll on one year!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Another "first!"

This first year after Di's death is going to be full of "firsts". The first "first", was Di's birthday on June 19th. Today was my birthday, and, for the first time in 54 years, my love was not part of it. She was always the principal celebrant, the card buyer, the special gift giver, and, most often,  the festive meal producer.  Need I say that I miss her greatly, especially on days like this.

Instead of sitting at home feeling sorry for myself, I volunteered for kitchen duty, along with  several others from the cathedral,  at Mission Paloosa, a gathering of Episcopal youth at St. Paul's Church on Main Street. It was nice to be with others, and then come home and get a very effusive welcome from Ella. One of the ladies drew me out a bit, and it was nice to be able talk a little about grief, (even with a little tearing), instead of feeling I have to bury it all the time. The local grandchildren were all competing in the All City Swim Meet, at Overland Park Pool. so they were all healthily busy. I'm glad I was also.

Still I am without drive, or enthusiasm.  I feel I am just drifting, and that I am the epitomy of procrastination. But I am getting some things done. The Quicken program is up to date, after the visit to Denver. There is still some filing to do, but I hope to have that finished tomorrow.

This morning, I was able to get up early and ride my bike, and I felt better for that. God bless those endorphins! Activity does do some good! With heat and storms though, it is hard to  find a time to do it. Even at 6:00 am this morning it was pretty hot and humid. A visit with the psychologist is planned for tomorrow, when I will lay a lot of this stuff on him, to see if he can give  me any direction. Till tomorrow, peace and love be with you all, and bind your hearts and souls with love. Geoff

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Not a very good day

The day started busily. Had to get my car serviced,  pick up a loaner car, and then go get Ella from the kennels, working towards a midday visit form old SUGUNA friends from Canada. Di and Betty had been great friends, and it brought all the pain back again. In addition, whether it is depression, or side effects of the new anti-hypertensive medication, I feel tired, listless and unmotivated all the time. I may have to go back on  anti-depressants, at east temporarily. I don't want to go off on world trip feeling like this. Fortunately I have a few more weeks in which to get things right before I leave.

It seems that the major part of it may be depression. In a perverted way that might be good as that can be relieved with medication.  Last night, driving home, I could feel the tension and gloom increasing from Salina, onwards, as I  knew the certainty approaching of having to say good bye to my son and grandchildren, and experiencing that awful aloneness again, after a weekend of family conviviality. In a couple of days I have another appointment with my clinical psychologist, and will discuss it with him. Also need to get lab done to make sure it is not simply low serum potassium levels causing the weakness and tiredness.

I am so tired of this bad feeling, and feeling bad, and want this part to be over ASAP. The search for the passion to live again, and enjoy life, goes on. A wet blanket my be good for putting out fires, but it is no substitute for living. Peace and love to all, as I search for answers, and a path out of the gloom.Geoff

Monday, July 12, 2010

A long trip home

Heartfelt gratitude is owed to two of our sons for (!) hosting me in Denver, and (2) driving me to and from this great family weekend. Not to be left out either is grandson, Matt, who helped with the driving. Granddaughter Molly was a happy and effervescent presence. It was a great weekend with at least part of the family. I am too tired to write much tonight, but I wanted to say heartfelt "thank yous" to John and Mark particularly. More later. Love to all, Geoff

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Walking towards the light

John was very persistent in his invitation to vis them in Denver, for which be many thanks. I dragged myself and Ella out of our respective comfort zones, Ella to go, unwillingly to the kennel, and me to drive to Denver,with Mark and family.

John and family are always generous hosts, and this weekend was yet a further example of his generosity. Last night he took all who were available to a Rockies game at  the Rockies' stadium in Downtown Denver. The game itself was exciting, with a come from behind grand slam win for the Rockies, in the eight innings. Going to a baseball game out there is a multimedia extravaganza. The scoreboard alone is a marvel, with so much information loaded on it, that we had to ask nearby folk what some of the symbols meant. It was a joy to see Matt,Kelly and Molly enjoying themselves and each other's company, throwing themselves headlong into participation in the whole game show that is a baseball game, dancing and singing along with the music. I thought how much Di would enjoy seeing them enjoying themselves. If anyone from KC wants to see the benefits of public transit, let them go to Denver, where we could catch the comfortable and efficient train to, and home from the baseball game in a vibrant downtown Denver. The stadium itself is well designed,  with wide concourses. You can walk all the way around the stadium - a full 360 degree tour.

Earlier in the day we had gone to the Red Rocks Amphitheater - one of the works created by Roosevelt's New Deal, and some great architectural design. The architect's guiding principles was to do as little "architecture" as possible, and let the site speak for itself.

Then off to the mountain slide, (which was not working that morning), the off the Casa Bonita for lunch. Casa Bonita is a Mexican Restaurant in Denver, that has made its reputation and (lots of money) as the epitomy of "tacky". It is huge - can hold up to 1,000 people at full capacity. Having sat through a number of  skits based on elementary comedy writing, and watching the flame juggling and "cliff diving",we left with the refried beans sitting heavily on my stomach.

This morning the others have gone on a "white water rafting trip"  I stayed behind to just have a quiet time, and to go out to buy John a Birthday gift. Just because his mother has died, I do not want his birthdays to go unmarked and unnoticed.

This weekend has been a life saver for me. The family fun we have had, has given me permission to go on living in the expectation of finding fulfillment, and even joy again. And the knowledge that the family is there for me with support and love, is so gladdening to the heart. I love them all and their joy in life is joy to me. When tougher times come, I hope that I will be there for them, when they need the very real help they are now giving me. Calmness, peace and love to all, Geoff

Friday, July 9, 2010

A few days of family joys

We are in Denver, CO, with family. John, our eldest, wanted me to come out and visit, but frankly, I just did not feel up to driving all the way by myself.So, generous Mark, arranged to take a few days off, and drive out with me, together with Matt and Molly. Matt got some driving time, preparatory to applying for his license next week He did well. The longer he spent behind the wheel, the smoother his driving got.

While happiness reigned, to be with family again, the trip was tinged with more than a little sadness. The last trip we made out here was for KJ's High School graduation in May of 2009, and Di and I made that last trip together. Almost anything can unleash the tide of memories.

However, I am becoming more resigned. I was given the greatest gift of love over 53 years. I accept the amazing generosity of that gift, and must move on. It will never be repeated and, in my lifetime, I do not expect to receive another gift like it.  I will simply treasure the memories, and enjoy them.

The weekend will be full of family activities, which,  again, I will treasure, and store up memories - brother enjoying brother, (though with a lot of trash talk), cousins enjoying the company of each other. Then, on Monday, it will be a long drive back to Kansas City, to the solitary existence again.

On Tuesday, I will pick Ella up from the kennel, to which she did not go happily, and take her home again, back to her comfort zone. Peace and love to you all. Geoff

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Memories of celebration

A former neighbor, an experienced grief counselor, said to me soon after Dianne died, "You will know your grief work is done when all your memories become memories of celebration, rather than memories of loss". Now there is a man who can speak of grief from personal experience. His first wife died. His second wife was diagnosed with MS a few years ago, and is now wheelchair bound. They have had to move out of Foxborough to a downtown condominium, with elevators.

In any case, I was permitted a glimpse of that Nirvana of celebration at lunch time today. On Wednesdays, during the summer, I get to have the privilege of granddaughter Molly's sunny company. That is a mid week ray of light, and a celebration in itself, during my lonely week. I usually try to do something special with her on Wednesdays. Today, we went to Andre's for lunch. For those not in KC, Ande's is a swiss chocolatier and dessert maker extraordinaire. It was a delight to see her enjoy the selection of the menu, and her special dessert. Andre's was a place where Dianne and I would, on occasion, go for special events or celebrations. For a brief, fleeting moment I celebrated the connection with happiness.

Waves of grief sweep over me at times, like hot flashes do to women. I am learning not to fight those waves, but to embrace them, and the wave disappears more quickly now than it did at the beginning of all this, and I am resigning myself less to tears.

Over the last two days, I have received observations from two respected people. The first is my dentist, in Lawrence, whom I have been seeing professionally for 23 years. He spoke of watching his father deal with the death of his mother, ten years ago. His father used to say that the silence was awful. Joe said it took his father at least a year to process and handle it all. Another friend, in his late forties, mourned the death of an older  male companion, lost to Alzheimer's Disease. Again that magic, rounded one year period of time came up. So, it looks as if I will have to be patient a while yet.

But I do see some improvement and decrease in  the sadness over all. I would like to quote Nicholas Wolterstorff again:

"By His wounds we are healed." In the wounds of Christ is humanity's healing.

Do our wounds also heal? This gaping wound in my chest - does it heal? What before I did not see, I now see; what before I did not feel, I now feel. But this raw bleeding cavity which needs so much healing, does it heal while waiting for healing? We are the body of Christ on earth. Does that mean that some of our wounds are his wounds, and that some of our wounds heal?

Is our suffering ever redemptive? I suppose the blood of the martyrs sometimes was. It was an instrument of God's peace. But my suffering over my son (wife), which I did not choose and would never choose: does that bring peace? How? To whom?

Is there something more to say than that death  is the mortal  enemy of peace? Can suffering over death - not living at peace with death, but suffering in the face of death - bring peace?

I leave you today to wrestle with the issue he raises, while I get ready for the proposed trip to  Denver tomorrow. Peace, love and compassion be with you all.  Geoff

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


My kind friend, who visited last night, left with me, a book, called "Lament for a  Son", by Nicholas Wolterstorff, Pub. William B. Eerdmans Pub.Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1987 ISBN0-8028-0294-X.

Although I did not lose a son, much of what he writes so resonates with me, that  I will quote his words, changed slightly, to reflect my situation.

"She was a gift to us for 53 years. When the gift was finally snatched away, I realized how great it was. Then I could not tell her. An outpouring of letters arrived, many expressing appreciation for Di. They all made me weep again: each word of praise a stab of loss. How can I be thankful, in her gone-ness, for what she was? I find I am. But the pain of the no more outweighs the gratitude of the once was. Will it always be so? I didn't know how much I loved her until she was gone. Is love like that?"

The story is one of incredible poignancy. The author, Nicholas Wolterstorff, was a professor of Philosophical Theology at Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT. One sunny Sunday afternoon, he received a telephone call  to tell him that his 25 year old son had been killed in a climbing accident, while climbing alone, in Austria. He had to fly to Austria, claim his son's broken body, and bring him home for burial in the US. He decided to publish this book containing his very private thoughts " the hope that some of those who sit beside us on the mourning bench for children would find my words giving voice to their own honoring and grieving".

He hits on so many reminders and thoughts that are common to people mourning the loss of a loved one, And, like others, in the same boat, asks "Where is God (and, or Christ) in all this?"

So far, I have found no satisfying answers. But the book is well worth reading by grieving people, particularly those grieving the loss of a child. We find we are not alone in our feeling and doubts.

Tired tonight. Trip to Denver, to see our eldest son, planned in a couple of days. Don 't know whether I will have time to write during the trip. Peace and love be with you all. Geoff

Monday, July 5, 2010

Independence weekend

Today I spent most of the day entering data for the Quicken program. This Di used to do, until she became so ill that she could no longer do it. By that time I was so busy that I couldn't do it either, so we fell behind. I am now caught up. Some of the data entered referred back to our last trip to the Mayo Clinic in November, 2010. What a desperate time that was! And what a desperate trip back that was!

Di was in such terrible pain with her huge mouth ulcers, in turn the result of her low white cell count. We stopped overnight in Des Moines for bladder and diabetic care. Di was in such pain that she couldn't sleep, and, despite the "bladder botox", had to get up frequently to urinate. I wasn't sure I could drive all the way back, with so little sleep, but knew, if I didn't, there was no other way of getting back. She would have to be hospitalized in Des Moines and, perhaps, die without her family around her.  So, I just saddled up, and drove straight back, taking her directly to St. Luke's South Hospital. Neither of us was sure she would make it, but Di sat stoically. till we got there. There in the ER,  she began to receive strong pain relieving medicine, with IV fluids, and began to revive over a few days. Thus began her last three months on this earth.

She must have felt so awful most of this time, but she did not complain - just tried so very hard to do what was asked of her. She got paler and paler, as her hemoglobin level fell so rapidly and continuously necessitating recurrent transfusions, every 2-3 weeks. And there was nothing else I could do to save her. I felt utterly without power, and absolutely helpless in the face of this cruel disease.

We had her presence for three months more, and, during that time Gillian was able to come over, to see her, and spend some very pleasant time with her, doing mother-daughter things. Thank God for that time, though I fretted over its rapid passage.

Often I wish my faith were stronger; how, instead of beginning my prayers with "God if you're out  there......", I could say "See God, there is this mustard seed!"

I seem not to have been able to see what everyone else was seeing, that the treatment was not working, and the end was rapidly approaching.

Bob H.,  a kind and good friend from EFM days come over tonight, to be with me and talk. Loneliness is awful at present, until I can reassemble myself, and develop a bigger circle of friends.  Like the psychologist, Bob emphasized the necessity of tears to deal with grief, in that it opens the depth of the emotions and gives permission for other people to experience it also. Bob, you are a kind and gentle friend.

Good night all, and love. Tomorrow is a busy day including a trip to Lawrence. May God bless all who are reading this blog, and may His peace and love descend upon you. Geoff.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

An emoting place

Service at the cathedral this morning, and singing in the Summer Choir. It is the site of Di's Memorial service and site of the interment of her ashes. We always have a short "chat" when I go down there, and I tell her how much I miss her, but that it is going to be OK, eventually. I am pushing along the trail alone, and I will make it.

Sometimes I ask myself, "What was all this struggle about? What did we leave behind?" For those starting out on the marriage journey, I hope we have left behind an example - an example of love in action, when tough times come.  I hope that does not sound self aggrandizing.

Always, I have been such a control freak that I felt that God would give me a lesson in dependency before I died, making me totally dependent on some else for care.  Instead, it was Dianne who paid my price. One can 't be more dependent than being quadriplegic.  I just hope I was sensitive enough to her needs, to comfort and inspire her. Post operatively, when she had her endotracheal tube removed. she told me she had wanted to die, when she first found herself quadriplegic, lying in that awful Shawnee Mission Hospital. While I could understand those feelings, the statement shocked me at first. I am not sure that she ever decided consciously to live, after that, or rather just decided to go along to see what happened in terms of recovery,reserving the right to die if things didn't go well.  Certainly, at the end, she was very much further along the road to embracing death than I was. Not long before her death, Dianne told a long time friend that she was tired and was ready to go, but she was not sure that I was ready to let her go. For being obtuse in that regard, I am sorry, my love. I was always ready with the next medical strategy, to try to prolong her life. when Di was tired of trying to dig herself out of holes, and ready to give up the struggle. Even her hospitalist told me one day "There is more fight in you than there is in Dianne". Coming from her physician that shocked me, but, in retrospect, I have to admit its truth. In the end, I never should have allowed her to go to that nursing home. That was an awful experience for her, and I am sure that, while there, she decided to give up and await the end, when she found herself making no progress with her PT.   But I am glad, at least. that we brought her home in time to die at home,  surrounded by the family she loved so deeply. A visitor to our home that day said, "I have never witnessed so much love as I did in your home that day!"

Rest in peace and love my dear friend, You have given us all such a towering gift of love over our combined lives. How can we ever repay it, other that to pay it forward? Love to all Dad/Geoff,  and love to you too Di, my spirit.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Journey of a Thousand MIles begins with a Single Step

How true it is that one must embrace one's grief. The instinctive reaction, when feelings of grief arise, is to shun them and push them from you, to try to  suppress those feelings. But that really is avoidance behavior, and does nothing to help ease the problem, or lighten the mood. My experience is that it is better simply to let those feelings of grief wash over one, shed a tear or two if one must,  (tears are still never far away). But then the feeling passes, more and more quickly with ever passing day, as one deals with those feelings by experiencing them.

Perhaps as distressing, or perhaps even more distressing for me, is that feeling of mental dullness, that CS Lewis described as " a blanket between the world and me". There is no drive and alacrity, just dull, uninspired progress, putting one foot mechanically after another. I long for this stage to pass, so I can find some passion again.

However, in contrast to a few weeks ago, I am now looking forward to my cruise  to Australia to see our daughter and family. Back then I felt perhaps I should simply cancel. While we keep in close telephone contact with Gillian and family, it is never quite the same as being there, , and being an intimate part of their ongoing, day to day lives.

There was one amusing incident yesterday. We have a Skye terrier, one of the most wilful of the terriers - Logan's Mistake.  Each morning Ella gets her one mile walk quite early, before it gets too hot. For the last couple of days there has been a cooked T-bone steak by the side of the road, in the grassy verge. each day I have pulled her away from it, fearing it might be a "poison bait". Yesterday morning, during the "pulling away" she slipped her collar, went back and picked up the irresistible steak, and took off. She then headed home, keeping just  far enough ahead of me so that I could not catch her. She knew her way home absolutely, and proceeded to go out on the back deck, and consume her bounty. Now, 24 hours later, she seems healthy, and my concerns about poison seems to have been unjustified. She misses Dianne's presence, and follows me from room to room during the day, as if to say, "Are you going  away also?"

One needs to try and focus more on the present, the here and now, and not ruminate on the past so much.

I was regretting the past and fearing the future. Suddenly God was speaking.
My name is "I AM"

I waited. God continued, "When you live in the past, with its mistakes and regrets, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not "I was".

When you live in the future, with its problems and fears, it is hard. I am not there.
My name is not "I will be".

When you live in his moment, it is not hard. I am here.
My name is "I Am"

Said to have been found on the kitchen wall of the Ranch Guesthouse, St. Benedict's Monastery, Snowmass, Colorado. Published in "One Hundred Graces"  Bell Tower, New York, 1992

Friday, July 2, 2010


Today I began the unbearably sad task of disposing of Di's clothes, starting with the work out clothes that she used during the time of her rehabilitation. She worked so hard and so courageously at rehab, only to have it all snatched away from her. Often I wonder if I could have been so courageous and so optimistic, and work so hard towards an uncertain recovery.

Those clothes I washed,dried, and hung up daily, and helped her to dress, in an effort to keep her looking "spiffy", when her coordination was poor due to weakness and spinal cord damage, and food spilled. She always took pride in looking neat and groomed, and it was my pleasure to try to keep her that way.

The whole house is a memorial to Dianne. We created that house together, design, decoration, gardens.  We spent hours talking and working with our interior decorator, choosing colors for walls and carpets, switches and trim. Everything was discussed and negotiated. The house was built especially for us, and we lived in it longer than we lived in any other house during our 53 years of married life, and had a bountiful family life.

There are needlework hangings, hand worked by Di, sweaters knitted by Di, Australiana collected by Di and me, photos of children and grandchildren, quilts made by our daughter for Di and me, participating in the innumerable happy family times we had in that house. What great memories! The "joys of ferocious family living" is a phrase I heard for the first time last year - and it fits. The house is a living monument to Dianne. At every turn there are heart catching, powerful reminders of her remarkable craft abilities, her humanity, her influence, the love she had for and gave to other people, and the love that other people had for her.

Tomorrow, our daughter in law from Lawrence will come down and help me with the clothes. One problem is that Dianne was such a small person that very few of her clothes fit other family members. So they will mostly go to small strangers, via established charities.

When I reread these posts in the future, I will hope to discern a pattern of walking towards the light of happiness and joy again. But in this transitional stage there is not a lot of joy, though almost imperceptibly, the sadness may be lessening. I am so grateful for friends who will take, or make the time to listen, and empathize. At this stage of grief journey it is all about me, and my perceived loss - very self centered. But I am equally sure that the path to happiness lies in looking outside oneself,  doing something for others. It reminds me  of a short grace, in a little book of graces that we have:

"I slept and dreamt that Life was joy, I awoke and saw that Life was service, I acted and B.E.H.O.L.D, service was joy." Rabindranath Tagore   (1861 - 1941)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The journey through the valley of the shadow of death

The journey into the shadow continues. One feels  that one is in the shadow of a huge mountain that can only be climbed with great effort. And one wonders whether there is enough strength within one to tackle the ascent.

Someone younger reading this might say, "What's all the complaining about? You knew it was coming didn't you. After all you said in your marriage vows ....till death do us part. Now it has actually happened, why are you whining? And you did say, didn't you, in your introduction to the blog that she had a long final illness? So you must have had plenty of warning?"

Unfortunately grief just doesn't seem to work like that. There seems to be no way to prepare. Long tough illnesses, and the privilege of caregiving related to them, serve only to strengthen the relationship, and make it more intimate, making the disruption of it more painful.

The only way I can function at the moment is not by going around like someone who has had a major part of himself ripped way.  I feel that Di's spirit is still with me. We are still a duo. I just can't see her. There is that old poem  that says:

I am standing by the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch
until at last she hangs like a peck of white cloud
just where the sun and the sky come down to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says, "There she goes!
Gone where? Gone from my sight - that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the places of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.  

And just at that moment when someone at my side says,
 "There she goes!",
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:
"Here she comes!"

Parable of Immortality, Henry van Dyke, 1852 -1933