poor bird
you looked at me
with your red side-eye
opened your beak wide
and let out a
soft, plaintive

I wanted to reach out
and stroke your speckled back
touch your head
offer comfort
but I didn’t
because I wasn’t sure
that you wouldn’t lash out
in fear
or pain
with your pointed beak
meant for breaking open
crab shells, or oysters

all I had were words
and prayers
and trust in Mother Nature
even though I didn’t like it

so I left you there
to die (so I thought)
a pile of feathers
growing smaller and smaller
with distance

it wasn’t until much later
that I remembered
there is no death
a thought meant for you
infinitely more comforting to me

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into the deep

from up here
those things look scary
a face
a dragon
a monster
I close my eyes
so they can’t see me
and splash quickly back to shore

diving under
surface sounds muffled, disappear
I look up
light dancing on the ripples
of the current

down here
the light is dim
I feel my way
finding treasures
sand dollars, seashells
an old shipwreck
covered in rust and barnacles
mostly obscured
by the murk

I only see what I need to see
don’t know the rest
don’t need to know

feel the cool water slide through my fingers
deliciously smooth
I’m a fish now
twisting and flexing my sleek body
a flash of silver
at home in the deep

arms open wide
an embrace
stretching out
I dissolve
as it was in the beginning
it is now and ever shall be
life without end

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Dear JJ,

I stepped on a landmine yesterday.

They lurk out there in the normal world – unseen, unknown – always taking me by surprise and triggering a rush of emotion.  There is absolutely no way to prepare for them.  No way to guard against them.  The only thing to do is to know they’re out there.  The only guarantee is that I’ll trip the wire.  And when it happens, all I can do is hang on. Hold on tight while the emotion sweeps through, and know that it will pass without washing me away.

Yesterday I clicked on a video of a young couple expecting their first child.  Seems obvious in hindsight, but in the moment I never once thought it could be trouble.  The image, at the end, of the three of them – mom, dad, baby – crushed me.  The raw pain of loss, the things we never got to do together, all came rushing at me in an instant.

And I wished, with every bit of my body, my heart, my soul…I wished to turn back time.  I ached, head to toe, to just be able to stand there for a moment, as you kissed the top of my baby boy’s head and smiled proudly.  To feel safe, content, wrapped up in a blanket of love.

We never, never, never had that moment.  I never did.  And I never will.  I haven’t yet reconciled this wound and it seems unlikely that I ever will.

Tonight R turned on the radio in his room, and “Last Goodbye” by Jeff Buckley was playing.  I love that song.  The lyrics reminded me of you…

This is our last goodbye 
I hate to feel the love between us die 
But it’s over 
Just hear this and then I’ll go 
You gave me more to live for 
More than you’ll ever know

If I didn’t have these landmines to remind me, from time to time, of how much it hurts – I might forget how much I loved (love) you – and how much you loved (love) me.

And I think you know that you gave me so much to live for.

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I dig my toes into the sand.
The ocean looks like a thousand diamonds
strewn across a blue blanket.
I lean against the wind,
pretend that I am weightless
and in this moment I am happy.

I wish you were here
I wish you were here
I wish you were here
I wish you were here.


I love this picture of you.  I like to imagine this is what Heaven is like – an endless blue horizon – and you are somewhere out there, smiling into eternity.

This picture makes me a little sad too.  You’re smiling at what’s out there in the distance, maybe even eagerly anticipating what’s to come – but I know now that there was a storm brewing.  There was a tidal wave coming our way.

It’s been four years and four months JJ.  To my great surprise, there are moments when I am weightless.  Happy.

And at the same time, I miss you.  I’m afraid to admit just how much I wish you were here.

How can it be that I feel both at once?  That joy and sadness coexist, that they’re actually friends – two peas in a pod, two sides of the same coin.  This is just one of the many mysteries I’ve uncovered on this journey.  I may never know.  Actually, I’m not sure I want to know.  There’s something beautiful in the mystery and I kind of like hanging out here, where things are soft and blurry and it’s a little hard to tell what’s what.

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lessons from overbrook

Yesterday I mowed my lawn for the second time in my life.

I have a big, weedy yard.  For the last few years a neighbor has kindly volunteered to mow it for me and that was a lovely gift.  I didn’t have the physical energy or mental wherewithal to put toward any sort of yard maintenance.  Also, I didn’t have a clue how to start my lawn mower and was too embarrassed to admit it.

But lately I’ve started noticing that there’s a whole lot of work to be done.  The tipping point was when I saw that some crazy Tarzan vines were starting to climb up the side of my house.  The jungle is truly taking over.

Yesterday, though, while the dust and the dirt were flying I started to second guess myself.  If I lived in a condo, I could be sitting by the pool right now, I thought.  This is too much work for one person.  I can’t manage this.  What am I, crazy?  I’m calling my realtor.

When I was young, my family moved to a big, old house in a wonderful, secluded neighborhood that was uniquely situated in the midst of a growing, busy town.  It was a special place and we all knew it.  If my memory serves (which it probably doesn’t) we spent about 8-9 years there – my growing up years.  When we had to move it was a loss that I don’t think any of us have truly ever gotten over.  Sometimes I wonder at the turn all of our lives took at that moment; the paths that were chosen as a result.  I don’t doubt the logic that led us all on those paths – I’m not privy to all of the details and even if I had been, the decision was not mine to make.  But I’m struck by how we (I) can operate when it feels like there is NO OTHER CHOICE.

I got stuck in the no choices rut yesterday.  Also in the frame of mind that this is always how it is going to be.  I will NEVER be able to afford to pay someone to chop down the azaleas that grow a foot a day.  I will ALWAYS be alone, on my own, with a bad back and a wildly prolific weed garden.

And that’s just not the truth.

Everything changes.  All the time.

Steady, steady.  Hold the course.  Breathe.

I don’t have a crystal ball.  I have no idea what the future holds for me.  But I do know that the logic I used to arrive at my decision to stay here in this house was sound.  I spent at least a year thinking about it.  Wondering whether emotionally I would be able to keep eating, sleeping, and breathing within the same walls where my husband took his last breath.  Thinking, and wondering, and actually doing it.  Eating, sleeping and breathing here.  And I found out that I can stay.

So here I am 3 and a half years later, ready to bail out because I have too much yard work.

THAT makes no sense at all.

To leave would be a great loss.  One I probably wouldn’t be able to measure until I looked back, 25 years later.

I’m just not willing to do that.



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choosing to live

I remember it clearly.

The image.  Two pathways.

One, to live.

The other to die.  To quit, lay down, give up.

I knew no one would fault me.

Both were acceptable, given the circumstances.

I thought about dying.  Peaceful.  Painless.

I thought about my family.  My friends.  My son.

And then I got up.  Braced myself for the day,

and took the first step toward living.

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random thoughts

Washing dishes is about as close to meditation as I get these days.  I stare out the window at my backyard and let my mind wander.  I keep this little set of cards with wise, thought provoking statements on them in a little cup on the window sill near the sink, so while I’m washing and staring I can glance at the card that I’ve left at the top of the stack and take some inspiration or comfort from what it says.  Tonight a few of the cards fell onto the counter so when I put them back I reshuffled the deck, and the one that caught my eye said this:  “Every little seed knows that winter is but a moment between the warmth of eternal springs.”  And on the back, it said “Hassles are temporary.  LOVE IS FOREVER.”

We hear the things we need to hear at precisely the right moment, don’t you think?

This rang so true for me because these last few months have been hard, and there was a point where I truly was in a place of hopelessness.  Challenges were relentless, endless, traumatizing, and I ran out of the emotional wherewithal to bounce back.  Before I found that card I was thinking about how I definitely think I’ve been handed more to deal with than the average person, and that inexplicably (if only for this one moment) I somehow have hope for good things to come.  I don’t always feel so zen and sagelike about it.  Sometimes I throw myself a hell of a pity party, sometimes I’m pissed and resentful.  Those feelings are valid too.  But without hope…boy, that is not a good place to be at all.  The message on this little card validated this spark of hope and reminded me that in the grand plan that is my life these difficulties are fleeting.  There is good yet to come.

The promise of a warm spring, in the face of a cold and seemingly never ending winter.

One of the results of having such a hard time has been a rekindling of the anger I feel at JJ for leaving me with all of this.  The pot that has been simmering on the back burner…all but forgotten…suddenly boiled over.  When he first died I was so angry that he didn’t have to experience the consequences of his terrible decision to over medicate himself.  He got to cross over to the happy place, and everyone who loved him was stuck here picking up the pieces.  It wasn’t fair that I had to suffer someone else’s consequences.  But here is the truth that I’ve been aware of for some time:  I chose to love and marry someone who had addiction issues.  And the awful truth is that sometimes people die from their addictions.  I know in my heart that JJ didn’t look to medication for a buzz, but his method and his mindset were that of an addict.  And as terrible as it is, if you love an addict you are risking the heartbreak of loss.

Someone close to me and very similar to JJ in personality and temperament told me of an experience he had not long after JJ died.  His story gave me a lot of insight into why JJ did what he did.  This person said he, too, had debilitating back pain and had become frustrated with not being able to get an appointment with his doctor.  He needed to be able to work so he could support his family, so he started to think about which guy he could call to get what pill that he could take so that he could ease the pain and function.  It was just that natural.  A perfectly logical solution to a problem.  And then he thought about JJ and it stopped him cold.

Incidentally – but not by accident – while he was telling me this story I saw a rainbow on the floor of my living room.  Without question, I felt that JJ was speaking through this person to explain his actions.

I haven’t ever really admitted to myself that I understand that my choices are what led me to this place.  It’s easy to blame JJ – and don’t get me wrong, I still blame him for a LOT of what has happened, and I’m still mad sometimes – but finally today I can accept my part in it too.

Today a friend of mine asked if I had blogged lately and I told her no.  I haven’t felt that I had anything to say…or maybe a more accurate statement is that the things I’ve been writing weren’t really fit to share.  I was churning the notion of putting all of this out there – still doing dishes, mind you – and in the beveled edge of my blender, somehow, a rainbow was reflected.  (I don’t know how these things work, I just know what I see.)  Sometimes I get the answer I seek right away…even when I don’t know I’m asking a question.

Love IS forever.  This above all else is true.

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rescues and rainbows

Today I saw a rescue on the beach.  It scared the shit out of me.  First the woman staggering out of the surf, being lifted and carried, then the lifeguards signaling to someone still out in the water, finally leaping in – first one, then another, and dragging an unconscious man out and laying him onto the sand.  A group of rescue personnel kneeling over him, working on him, slapping him and shouting.  His family behind me, his children shouting and crying, “daddy, daddy!”

It was almost too much.  I started to lose it, started to cry and then hyperventilate.  The only reason I didn’t pass out is because I thought I had to get a handle on myself because I had R there, I could not create another emergency and abandon him.  So I calmed myself the hell down.

Thank God, I think the man is ok.

But for a minute – more than a minute – I thought he was going to die right there and his children would see it happen and they would lose their father right in front of their very eyes and I could not handle it.  Bad enough that what I saw today reminded me too much of when JJ died and EMS and firefighters were all surrounding my bed and he was laid out, not moving.  But the children.  That terror.  No.

I am not really afraid to die.  I look forward to the day when I can see JJ again and I’m so curious about what it’s like on the other side of the veil.  But I was afraid to see that man die, afraid for his family and the trauma and grief it would bring on them.

I’m so grateful to the rescue workers who saved those people today.

Later, after everything was long over and we were getting ready to leave I took R down to the water to wash off the sand he dumped down the front of his swimsuit and in the spray of the waves – as brief as the blink of an eye – I saw a rainbow.

I felt weak and helpless and small and fragile when I didn’t know if that man was going to live.  How quickly life can just be snatched away from us even in the moments when we are happiest – like this family on vacation.  Or like JJ celebrating the birth of his son.  In that tiny moment the rainbow showed me that I was ok.  It felt like a hand on my shoulder, steadying me.  It felt like reassurance.  It reminded me that there are forces greater than me at work.

I am safe.  I am protected.  I am not alone.

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the way to grace

Every midwife knows
that not until a mother’s womb
softens from the pain of labour
will a way unfold
and the infant find that opening to be born.

Oh friend!
There is treasure in your heart,
it is heavy with child.
All the awakened ones,
like trusted midwives are saying,
‘welcome this pain’.
It opens the dark passage of Grace.


Beautiful.  Instead of running away when painful memories surface I will try to remember these words and know that it will lead me to a place I would not see otherwise.  I will try to remember that the pain is something to cherish, like a new baby – new life, birth, rebirth.  And truly, I have been led to a place in my life that is far different than anything I would have had if JJ were still alive.  I would have been happy and content with my mundane, ordinary, uneventful existence.  But events have transpired and my life is far from ordinary – and maybe, already, I have traveled down that dark passage and found Grace.  I know I have.  I’ve felt that spark of hope in my heart.

I am remembering a moment not long after R was born.  I was in the hospital room, and JJ was there with me talking on the phone to someone about this miracle of a baby and I heard him say “after all the stupid shit I’ve done” he just couldn’t believe that he had been given this gift.  What I thought of, and what I wanted to say but couldn’t because I was too out of it was “that’s Grace, JJ.”  At the end of the day that stupid shit didn’t matter.  He was forgiven, and this little baby boy was his dream come true.

May we all find Grace in our lifetimes.

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one step, then the next, then the next…

The brain is such a strange thing.  Thinking back over these last few months and tracing my decline – that’s what comes to mind – how strangely the brain works, and how things are stored there and what prompts them to come up.  It is a mystery.

In the last several days I’ve noticed I continue to feel a sense of anxiety, which bothers me because I thought I had gotten to the root of what was wrong.  I thought that realizing the feelings I was experiencing were due to the loss of security I felt when JJ died so suddenly, leaving me floating in space; unanchored, lost.  I was reminded that I gave my security away to him when we got married.  In exchange for my independence and self sufficiency I expected him to deliver comfort and safety and security.  And I trusted him enough to have a child with him.  Something I was terrified to do, because I knew it would be the hardest thing for me to do.  And then he died.  He took my comfort and safety and security with him and left me alone.

Through some intensive therapy I realized this, and I also remembered that before JJ I was competent and happily independent.  So if I was before, it stands to reason I still am now.  I even have proof – in how far I’ve come, what I’ve managed to live through, and even now finally managing to develop some plans for the future.  It’s actually pretty badass, in all honesty.

So why in the hell am I so nervous?  I have been noticing that my anxiety levels seem strongest in the morning.  Generally after lunch I notice that I calm down and the rest of the day seems ok.  It occurred to me tonight that I felt similarly in the first days/weeks/months after JJ died.  Each day seemed to have an undercurrent of dread, but the timing was the opposite – as the day got longer I became more and more anxious.  The evening hours – sunset – were the worst.  The long, dark, lonely night was approaching and because that was the time when I would normally be looking forward to his return from work.  Sundowner’s Syndrome, my aunt called it.  I don’t know what this revelation means but it seems important.  Maybe I am supposed to be remembering this so that it’s in the forefront of my mind, forcing me to write it and share it.

I fear that there is more to uncover.  If the feelings I’m having are here to tell me something, they’re not done talking because they haven’t gone away.  Either that or there’s a biological reason.  Maybe both.  Whatever it is I am 1.  Bummed that I still am not easy in my own skin; and 2.  Impatient to get through it so I can feel better.

I recently told someone that pain is a great motivator.  Well damned if I’m not living that statement right now.  Awareness is the first step, then on to Acceptance, and finally – Action.  One thing at a time, one moment at a time, and all will be revealed.

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