Monday, December 19, 2011

Upon this Winter Night


This is the After. The breathless portion in which I try to assimilate where (who?) I am now. I wish I could say that it really didn't feel all that different despite all the build-up, but honestly it does. I spent my evening playing with Alex on the Wii, getting clobbered and slaughtered and laughing at my ineptitude. It really drives home to me how much it must mean to the boys when I spend time with them, because if they are looking for honest achievement in their games they are not going to get it from me. The entertainment I suspect comes in my comedic methods of technical failure.

I am sad tonight. I can't really describe it other than that, though I have typed and erased and typed and deleted several times now. I don't have anywhere to put it and I need to not just sit in it by myself. I listen to Christmas carols, think about my wedding two years ago tomorrow, think about being here on the other side of my greatest personal achievement to date and just feel all the overwhelming emotions of all these things - graduation. Marriage. Happiness. Goodness in life. Good things happening. Can so many bad things happen that one is uncomfortable being happy? I wonder sometimes. I feel like I need to go somewhere, to leave here and wander. To play in the snow. To walk on the beach. To sit in a forest at dusk and listen. To gaze at the mountain.To make love on the brink of dawn somewhere strange and foreign with Joe's strong arms as my security. I feel odd and weird in my own home. My lack of deadlines and direction is doing nothing for me right now. I am gaining weight at an alarming rate. I have dishes in the sink and laundry on the floor. I don't know how to just be in an ordinary middle class life anymore. I am too used to crisis and urgency or at least some modicum of stress. I am looking around for the next thing and there isn't anything. I am left wondering if subconsciously I am seeking to create it via messes and tight jeans.

Ah yes, I made it so far. So far, so far, so far from that place. And here I am, a mother's broken heart, living on and on, living with the guilt of having reached the quiet river that flows in the soul with gratitude for life and knowing I drink from it greedily, freely and often. I want to live. I want to live with gusto and passion. Missing Joseph is part of that passion. His loss has outlined the glossy blessing of so many aspects that weave through my world - my adoring husband and the depth and breadth of our soul's linkage, that foundation built upon the illness of children, on the survival of crises together. Joseph's handsome, healthy brothers who stumble forward with such courage, seeking to seize their little portion of the world. How they make me smile and ache inside with love for them. My relationship with my mother, my brothers, my nephews, my grandmother and cousins, aunts, uncles, friends. The lovely tree in my foyer and all the magical gifts that swim 'round. The spoiled little ball of undescript, personalitied fluff who prowls on the legs of a lion about our home and loves with a warmth and fervor that moves me to my core. I am surrounded with so much plenty. Joe replies matter-of-factly that I am ruled by different forces, that I am, in fact, The Princess of this little universe. I never wanted an ordinary life, yet somehow I never envisioned all my life has become, not even a hint of this brilliant light with shifting purple shadows. Can princesses be swept away by gratitude for their royalty? People comment on the joy, the radiance of my smile in the pictures they see from my wedding and graduation and all I can do is smile some more and acknowledge what it is they see. I am swept away with joy, yet solemn beneath the sorrow that brought me this deep appreciation. I am jealous of this joy. I know I will not bow gracefully the day even one more component of it is taken from me, and I fear this. I fear these days of fallow faltering are a foreshadowing of the person I shall be were ever my Joe or my children, my mother or my brothers to pass on. I can wish myself blue that I will go first, then succumb to intense guilt to bring that down upon the heads of the very people I just mentioned. And then I go 'round once more with the sense of being uncannily, paradoxically gifted, that I would not only be so loved but, more powerful perhaps, so aware that I am.

So I sit here and think of Joseph and struggle against the emotional draw that pulls me back in time. I struggle now to keep from having flashbacks to his illness and pull hard on my brain to bring forth the happy days - the smiles, the tenor of his voice, the silliness, his quiet inner grace. It can be a struggle. To feel the sorrow easily feels as if he is here with me - the curse of the bereaved parent. The sadness becomes the essence of both the child and the loss and both are easily accessed simply by pulling up memories of the panic and helplessness. A kind of posttraumatic stress from what my doctors have told me. How can I learn better to pull him near, dear and close through the joys of life instead of the loneliness and confused moments? I contemplate meditation, yoga, exercise, laughter and wonder where to find the courage, emotional strength, tenacity to indulge these things, to move past the veil of grief and guilt and go soul-exposed into a place of light. I feel afraid, both knowing I could if I truly try and that a large part of me is moving toward readiness for that. That I reach for it hungrily and drink of it greedily, this drunken joy when I look at my husband and lover, my man-children, my family and my friends. It doesn't take Joseph's place ... That is the amazing thing. It fills the cracks and spaces, protects what I think of as a light-filled space within me where his essence resides, creating brick and mortar out of fragility. A place I can feel the sadness but only reach out my hand to touch somewhere soft and nurturing. My fear comes from knowing one day all this shall go, bits or chunks at a time.

I never used to understand it when scriptures would reference God being a jealous God. I thought that was paradoxical and confusing...that if He were all powerful and omnipotent, what in the universe could he ever have to be jealous of? I think now of how I fear and hate and protect myself from anything that might separate me from this life I've been given. It is a kind of jealousy. Perhaps that is the kind of jealous that God is - feeling the ache from the things that take us away from him. I don't know. I feel foolish for this. I am ignorant and an ill qualified philospher. But I think and I wonder at times. I seek to understand, hopeful that in something intangible and spiritual I can find a way to hold on.

Two years ago on December 19th (it nears midnight and I am not sure if, by the time this posts, it will be tomorrow still or now today) Joe made me his wife. It was the most magical, joy-filled wedding I could have ever imagined, lit with twinkle lights and snowflakes, in my floaty white dress with the handsome object of my desire stating I am the object of his. He laughed so much that night, as did I and we have laughed so much since. He is the friend I have long needed, the impassioned lover my private thoughts fantasized about, the provider of security my weary soul could cling to, the safe harbor my battered ship was pulled into. In the years we have been together, I have known the kind of love women everywhere dream of, despair of ever finding and risk everything in hopes of obtaining. Lucky girl, that Sheri. He is going to be in Los Angeles over our anniversary and sadly I cannot give him so much as a kiss or a Hallmark card. But my mind is on that day, those promises, this life we have made together. As the vows he wrote me stated so sweetly - He shall be my rock. I shall be his light.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Promise Kept

When it became apparent there would be no recovery for our Joseph, that the wisest, most compassion course of action would be to turn off the machines that had sustained him for four weeks and let God reclaim his precious soul, we all had to grapple with exactly how to say goodbye. I found myself focused to an extreme on how much he had suffered and how many dreams and goals he had that would never come to fruition; how much he had been robbed of, how much the world had lost. In the last moments of my final, whispering farewells, I spoke to him softly in words of praise and reassurance; that he would not have to do this anymore. That he had finally, finally become the victor. That I would be there while he crossed over, that his his grandfather, great grandfather, Jesus himself would greet him. I told him that I would always, forever keep him in my heart. And in a last desperate attempt to find some sense of grounding and atonement for what we were about to do, I promised him the most extreme thing I could think of. I told him I would chase the dream I had that seemed far off and impossible for someone like me. I told him I would return to school and that I would become a nurse in the name of all the things that he wanted to do and could not, in the name of all we had experienced and learned together, and in the name of the intense, unending love I felt for him.

Today I passed my last class. I am now a graduate nurse and will be an RN once I pass the licensing exam. I did what I promised to my son in my last words to him, during his last time on this earth. It was as precious and important, as binding, painful and pure as a blood oath to me. And tonight, as I watch the Polar Express, which the two of us loved, which we attempted to watch one last time together but could not due to the extreme fatigue his illness caused him, as the music brings him back to me in wave upon wave of prayer, blessing and hope - I remember my words, my hopes, how extreme that promise seemed to me at the time that I made it....and realize I did it.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Miracle

I sit tonight and try to think about going to sleep, pondering. Tomorrow morning, at 8:30 AM, I will take my last final exam. Hard work over the last few years has paid off and I would have to make a 33% on the exam to flunk the course, an 83% to raise my grade to the next grade level. That leaves a vast area in between and a large, comfortable gap in which my grade, my GPA and my goals will not change.

How do I describe the roiling emotions through me tonight. I sip my little shot of Grand Marnier, listen to my heart and struggle to find the words. It was around this time of year, perhaps to the date (I am not letting myself get sucked into going to my old journal to find out for sure), in which Joseph went into respiratory failure and was moved to ICU, placed on a ventilator, where he spent the last four weeks of his life. This time of year is very bonded to Joseph and likely will be for the rest of my life. I cannot celebrate the season without remembering him, remembering our journey together. That I am going to graduate in the midst of it is fitting. It is, for me, the time of year for goodbyes.

Funny thing about goodbyes that I have come to realize. They are all about the love. If there were not the love, there would not be the hurt, the ache, the yearning, the sense of being torn. One is the flip side of the other. I say goodbye to people all the time, every single day and feel not one iota of mourning. Yet here I am, nearing the five year mark since sweet Joseph's death, and I still feel all those things. I still am finding ways to try to say goodbye. I am certain there are people out there who find my mourning tedious and my desire to speak his name uncomfortable. Undoubtedly they have their own hurts that they have felt stifled from feeling, or perhaps they just have not had to say this kind of a goodbye before. I do not know. I probably would have been one of the impatient ones at one time - in a different world. In a different life. I seem light years away now from who I used to be. I watch Sheri of yesteryear and feel a strange and painful forgiveness. I acted in so much ignorance so much of the time. I probably still do. That is the wonderful thing about ignorance. It is separated from stupidity by the one single truth - that if one knew better, one would DO better (thank you Maya Angelou). I know better now.

So here I am. At the end of my first major road since Joseph's death. Tomorrow I cross over that hillside. Walk off into that sunset. Take off one step at a time down a whole new road. I gasp inwardly at how much I have learned. I struggle beneath the pain of how I have changed in these five years. I marvel at the resiliency I have always had inside myself, but which has now been truly tested and of which I have no doubt. I am grateful - so grateful.

I have learned to pray again, at least if you can call it that. It is more an openness of spirit than actual prayer. A kind of spiritual sign language or telepathy perhaps. I trust God to know my heart. And I listen with it to hear His. I marvel at the clarity of it sometimes. So many doors have opened up to me. So many things have been smooth, easy sailing when it should have been choppy, have been plain and obvious when I expected the opaque and vague. I feel a little exposed as I come to the end of this particular stretch of road and meet up with the cornerstone, the new pathway opened before me and beckoning. I can't see far enough yet to know how much light there might or might not be up ahead, but I smell sweet air and feel God and Joseph in the breath of it, whispering. I open my mind and my heart to what the future may hold, to where I am supposed to go, tearful, grateful, mournful, secure, uncertain, supported, submissive. I can leave behind the barren, burned land of Joseph's illness and death. I have learned he is not there. He left there long ago with swiftness and grace, blessing and strength. I pray I leave there with similar attributes.

The link I posted is to a video of pianist Danny Wright playing his version of Canon in D with child pianist Emily Bear. Canon in D was once described to me as a musical illustration of the passage of life from birth to death. I love the music of Danny Wright. It has helped me to free up tears and give my mourning the physicality I struggle sometimes to find. I found this video of the two of them performing Danny Wright's version of this classic and was very moved. A child and a grown up, together weaving a lyrical vision.... My mind embraces it, hearing perhaps Joseph's life and my own, dancing together, the hands of both creating something hopeful, filled with depth, harmony, balance and beauty. I could not have ever found this pathway had Joseph not been part of my life. I suspect now that I am the child and he the mature, experienced spirit.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Against the Wind

As graduation from nursing school approaches in three weeks, I find myself becoming more and more neurotic. I have thoughts, actions, even physical feelings in my body that make no sense to me, alarm me, frighten me. Having moved past this blog, having slipped the hands of acute grief and gotten pretty good at bearing up under the everyday weight of it, I am finding it is sharp edged, insipid, callous once more. I know the two are linked. I started my path to becoming an RN just four months after Joseph died. It was the one thing I could grab onto that was solid, purposeful and sensible. I like things that are solid, purposeful and sensible. Men. Tasks. Items. Clothing. Furniture. So school took something that was as full of chaos and insensibility and without purpose as anything I had ever known - the death of my oldest child - and turned it into something orderly and filled with clear mile markers. And I think somewhere deep inside me I figured through the path of becoming an RN I would weather this whole painful episode until it got to the bearable part. But it isn't working out that way.

Instead I am finding I have linked this journey almost irrevocably with the timing of Joseph's death. While this is probably the largest accomplishment of my life in terms of a prior set, conscious goal that I did the work for and actually met, I am struggling with it ending. Being a nursing student has become part of my identity. The idealism of it has been an cool salve in the burned crater of my loss. As I transition from student to RN, the idealism fades into the realities of poor staffing and budget constraints that affect quality of care and the cattiness that comes when you get a bunch of stressed out women judging one another for fear of being judged themselves. Nursing is a difficult profession and probably taking care of the patients is the least difficult aspect. As I assimilate these realities, I feel how far I have stepped from the last day Joseph lived. I realize somewhere in me that I never really wanted to graduate; in a vague respect, I could have stayed in nursing school forever, feeding off the energy of the crisis of Joseph's illness and earning the soft nods of approval and respect for taking on something so difficult so soon after he died. I have fed off the accolades that have come to me for being strong, cloaked myself in the mantle of achievement as a kind of armor against the raw reality of his absence. It helped me to have something to do. I am not sorry for that. I see now I had to - that is my personality. If I had not found something like this, my mind (which contrary to popular belief is actually not all that strong) would have crumbled willingly under the weight of tragedy.

I am glad to be graduating. I am going to be a good nurse. I seem to have a natural affinity for certain parts of it - the systematic means of accomplishing tasks comes easily to me and time management does not seem to plague me quite as much as it often does for new graduate RNs. I fear missing things, fear giving medications when I should not, fear my assessment skills falling short in a budding crisis that could be averted if I were swift and smart and skilled. Time management is important but anyone can learn how to make it to a room in time to put the pill in the patient's mouth. The part of learning on the quick whether putting that pill in the patient's mouth is appropriate is a different animal all together.

My fear of hurting someone combines with the shedding of my student identity and all is wrapped within the realisation that whatever mourning I had managed to put off in the name of exams and skills lab is waiting here for me at the end. It has lead this time, which I always pictured to be nearly euphoric with accomplishment when I imagined it, to be more solemn, more tearful, more fearful, more uncertain than seems appropriate from the outside looking in. I don't feel like a nurse yet. In fact, that I can sit for the licensing exam to become one now is a little scary to me. Surely there is someone more qualified. On top of this fear, I am just plain sorrowful.

It has been a journey. I have found redefinition through it. It has been wonderful, full of exciting moments, proud moments, happy times, new friends, self discovery. The sorrow I have been feeling seems paradoxical and definitely seems to confuse many people around me. I am elated to have made it and yet a little bit baffled. I think I have been so engrossed in being a student that the actuality of leaving student status is just weird and scary. There is power in striving for something. People relate to that. There is more quiet and peace demanded in just being something. I am not sure I do quiet and peace very well. I don't feel quiet. I don't feel peaceful. I got all the way through this and lo and behold - Yep. Still sad. Still regretful. Still in pain. Still miss him. He's still gone. I learned to shoulder it as a student. Now I will get to learn how to shoulder it as a nurse. I think the big difference this time is that I am pretty confident I can and will. There is a resignation there. I know how to carry it better now and understand it is a life sentence better than I did when I became a nursing student. I also understand better now that the tears and the depression and the darkness enveloping me just stays. Fortunately or unfortunately it will not kill me nor derail me nor change the seasons or phases of the moon. This world is a world without Joseph. And that, to me, is a much sadder world than it was five years ago. I cry for the world and I cry for myself.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I Think Its Going to Rain Today

If only there were a world like the one in my head. Nobody gains weight. Cookies taste terrible. Appliances work for a lifetime. Vehicles never break down. Carpet releases its stains and never needs replacing. Everyone has warm slipper socks. Christmas never loses its magic. Jobs never go away. Children never get sick. And death comes with poignant dignity fading into a peaceful passage after a long life. When there is always time to say I love you and I'm sorry. When there is always time for goodbye and I'll miss you. Where grief is never shameful and actually fades with time. Where tears don't have to be hidden and maybe then even stop needing to come. All in the world in my head.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Nursing Prayer



Make me an instrument of thy peace, Lord.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, let there be faith.
Where there is despair, let there be hope.
Where there is darkness, let there be light
Where there is sadness, let there be joy.

Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to be understood as to be loved as to love. It is in giving that we recieve and in pardoning that we are pardoned. And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Make me an instrument of thy peace, Lord. Of thy peace.

Love, Sheri

(from the song by John Rutter and the prayer penned by St. Francis of Assisi, both of which inspire me, calm me, give me direction and comfort me)

Mothers Day

Were all of the four Mothers Days since Joseph died hard for me? I can't remember, which is a little disconcerting. I have been awash in sadness the last few days, with tears easy on the edge of my eyelids and emotions running helter skelter through my attempts to study for finals, which happen tomorrow. I cannot begin to communicate how desperately glad I am that the semester is over, which is kind of funny. I loved my instructors this semester and half of our material was so very very interesting to me. The other half just scared me and made me tense (pediatrics). I am pretty sure I am not cut out to be a pediatric nurse.

Summer plans include doing some marketing for a local surgeon's office who I have a wonderful relationship with, working my externship at the hospital and spending as much time as possible with my boys. We have our season passes to Six Flags and I want to yank them out of school to have a day of fun one day late in May, before school is officially out and while the crowds will be low. There are some new roller coasters they are dying to get on and thus far on the weekends we have managed to get out there the lines have been just awful.

Today Stewart and the boys are taking me out to lunch. I am hoping we go play games together afterward and we spend some quality time together. Even though final exams are tomorrow I set this day aside to be with them. I will review some this morning, but my heart is with them and I know I would be more resentful than focused if I missed today due to studying.

My Mom and I generally set a day near Mothers Day aside to spend the whole day together. We go shopping, get lunch, enjoy a cocktail or two, see a chick flick and in general just hang out and enjoy being together. A couple of times we have gone to the spa even, though probably not this year. She is going to take off either Wednesday or Thursday so that we can spend the day together and I am really looking forward to that girl time with her as well. One of the hardest things about school that I did not anticipate very well was how nursing school would affect my relationships. Thankfully I am pretty darn loved. My peeps are waiting for and rooting for me.

I wish all the Moms out there a wonderful Mothers Day. It is a day for our families to appreciate us. Take a moment, though, to think about them and really savor them too, individually and as a whole. Family is a blessing. Happy Mothers Day!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dear Joseph

Tonight is your prom night. I can almost see you in my mind's eye, tall, slim, handsome, that shy smile that never ever left you. But yet I just can't. I can't see you really, because my mind can only conjecture how puberty would have changed your bone structure, your cheekbones, collarbones, the knobs of your knees and elbows, the spread of your shoulders, the taper of your hips. I have no idea what you would look like as a young man other than most likely lean and tall.

I miss tonight. I miss seeing you in your tux. I miss insisting to your dad that I get to accompany you to select it. I miss helping you order the corsage for your date and I miss even the pang of worry and nostalgia that I would feel as we take pictures and see you off on your way.

But as I thought over all of this tonight, I realized to a degree an overwhelming emotion I would be having would be......grief. Anticipatory grief. Because in another six weeks you would be graduating and a few months after I'd be thinking about your childhood, all the things we have been through together, how you have changed my life. I'd be starting to miss you, deeply and painfully.

So in a sense, I already have some of what I would have, should have, could have had tonight. All those last emotions I already have faced, felt and continue to feel. You have moved past where I can see, and the only thing keeping me from dissolving tonight is the absolute, without a doubt certainty that wherever you are, you are most definitely not missing the fact that you would have, could have, should have been going to prom tonight. For some reason that is very clear to me. You aren't grieving it. And it has helped me grieve it less.

So wherever you are tonight, I hope there is glitter and magic and hope for the future. It is what I would have wanted for you tonight no matter what. I love you. I am missing you, every second, every day.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Turning Corners

This semester, for whatever reason, has been hard on my self esteem and psychological well being. It has seemed almost as if the design has been to humble me into knowing exactly how much I do NOT know, and perhaps that is the case. There is a saying that there are few things more dangerous than a brand new healthcare provider who is overly confident and full of themselves. Well, I can assure you, no danger of that going on here.

On top of the mistakes, the mental confusion, the inability to think as fast on my feet as I would like to be able to do is just an overwhelming load of busywork. The paperwork in nursing school is endless, as are the reading assignments, and the exams are designed to be confusing, difficult and distracting. It takes everything you have and frequently requires a degree of mental and physical stamina that you don't have. I have been suffering from a great deal of low self esteem and self doubt through most of this semester. But I feel like I have turned a bit of a corner this week.

My clinicals this past Tuesday assigned me to NICU. This is not an area of nursing I have ever had any real interest in. It is super specialized and not terribly diverse, meaning if I were to go into it, chances are it is all I would ever do. Added to that is the honest self admission that I am not the baby freak that so many people are. There are tons and tons of people who ONLY want to work with babies or children. Now, I like holding a baby as much as the next person. My heart is just as melted by a sweet little face and tiny fingers and toes as the next. I just didn't see that as my population of choice for doing care. Frankly, it is a little bit scary, the teensy tiny dosages given to these kids who weigh so little. The chance for an error being absolutely deadly is huge. In any case, I went into my NICU day curious, ready to learn, a little bit intimidated and kind of with a sense of it being a day of "bonus" learning, as even if I wanted to do NICU, so does everyone else on the planet. New grad opportunities for nurses are few and far between as it is. Add in a high desire position and the chances would be next to nothing. (Yes, you heard me right - new grad nurses cannot find work. There IS no nursing shortage and all of us nurses, new and experienced, wish that myth would die. I'll cover that in another blog entry sometime.)

In any case, to make a long story short, I had a very good day. My patient was very sick, my mentor nurse was an insanely good teacher, and suddenly so many things that have been hammered at me in class and in clinicals clicked. I do not know that it changes my career plans or makes me want to be a NICU nurse per se, but it was pretty amazing that a patient this complicated is what made things suddenly make sense that didn't really before. When doing my care map for my patient, the data clustering suddenly came easily and pointed out my priority problems and actions like a big red flag. I got my paperwork done in record time and felt like I got things "right" that I might have missed before. I could have made that care map ten miles long, there was so much information to use. Fortunately we are limited to three priority problems to solve. But it just has amazed me and filled me with greater inner peace for this experience in which I didn't have a big emotional investment should be the one that made logical sense and took me past that large, growing self doubt and into a new world in which competency was actually visible on the distant horizon. I swear I heard a bell ring. Ding ding ding, she's getting it!

So I have gone to a peaceful place inside. I have one job offer in a cardiac unit, but have identified at least two other floors I would be willing to entertain working on - the Clinical Decision Unit and NICU. I get to go to L&D next week, which has interested me for a long time. It is nice to feel the world wide open with intriguing things to entertain. I may not get what I want directly out of school - few do these days - but I am glad to see I am not limited in my interest level to just one area of nursing. I have a renewed sense of trust inside that I am called to this career for a reason and that I will land where I am supposed to go for the next step in what I am supposed to do. And given all the internal chaos I have been feeling all semester, that feels pretty relieving.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


So I was having a kind of self induced misery kind of day today. The weather outside is about as perfect as it comes - sunny, about 76 degrees, light wind blowing - and because I am the queen of procrastinating (despite the fact that I am doing so much apparently this is a lifelong habit I will have to battle because, you know, that Sheri chick learns almost everything the hard way. Over and over again), I got to spend my day indoors writing a paper that is due on Tuesday, the day after a major exam. So I wasn't happy about having procrastinated and I wasn't happy about writing a paper when I wanted to be outside tending my bushes and flowers and I wasn't happy that everything feels so hard right now. But I got the paper done and ignored my sloppy house and followed Joe's loving orders to get outside and do a little self treatment of my vitamin D deficiency in the hammock. THAT was restoration at its finest. Too bad I could not spend all day doing that.

After my shower, I came inside and noticed a reference to someone declining an invitation I too had recieved because her child is attending prom tonight. Uh oh. I began to go down that seductive pathway and before I knew it, I was on the high school website and there in front of me was not only the date of prom (not tonight), but the date of graduation (June 7th), the date that caps and gowns and announcements were delivered (March 25th) etc. And bang, that familiar pressure in my chest started up. And for whatever reason, the term "reconciliation" came into my head as I looked over pictures of Joseph, aching inside, trying so hard to imagine what he would look like now.

Reconciliation. A term from my childhood referring to a sacrament in the Catholic faith. I always thought of it as meaning "forgiveness" or "to make right again". But something in me took it to the dictionary to find the pure definition. Webster says it means "To restore to harmony". Harmony. What a holistic word that is. It implies resonance, logic, mathematical balance. As a musical person, it says to me there is a place for the disonant note, that there is meaning behind a major and minor pairing and that all things balance one another out to elicit emotion through rhythm and pitch.

In that light, I can find less distress in my tearful moments, my urges to examine and find the days that would be so meaningful if Joseph were still here. Lord, how I miss him. I am such a better person now than I was when he was alive. I wish I had been THIS version of me then, this kind of healthy, this kind of balanced. I would love to know him and parent him as Sheri2011 instead of Sheri version 1.0.

I read a story recently from a hospice nurse from the book I mentioned the other day. In it a dying gentleman who had lost a son and in the story he kept seeing the son sitting in a chair in the corner of the room, telling him "Come on Dad, it is time to go!" What an awesome thought that is.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You Just Haven't Earned It Yet Baby

Yesterday was a good day. Well. For me. My clinical instructor had a family emergency that took her out of town unexpectedly, which made us unable to go to the hospital for clinical rotation. I was disappointed to an extent - it was to be my first day in L&D. Instead, we did virtual patients on a computer program up at school. Not nearly as fulfilling, let me tell you. But the up sides were an extra hour of sleep and about three hours less of clinicals, leaving more time to squeeze in the bajillion other things on my mind right now.

Despite the gift of an easier day though I got pretty melancholy last night. I have this huge mental pile of things that need to be done, not the least of which is clean up the den where I do most of my studying. It looks like a bomb went off, as does, frankly, the rest of my house. It feels right now like everything around me is a partially completed project. Pile of clean laundry waiting to be folded here, floor needing mopped for longer than I care to admit over there, clutter clutter everywhere and pollen making a fine yellow mist-like coating over pretty much everything. It annoys me. I dreamed and dreamed of having a warm, comfortable home and I don't have the time to put into it that I would like to right now. On top of that stuff is all the things the boys have going on and all the end-of-semester projects that are getting wrapped up at school. It feels like a giant weight pressing down on me and, I confess, last night I just kind of sat down underneath it and felt the weight and opened the door to the Poor Me's, who have been knocking and knocking for weeks.

I can't say I feel much better this morning, but Joe was sweet to me last night. I made myself a nice, rich cream of mushroom soup from scratch, bought a book about a hospice nurse's experiences with death and dying and Heaven, bought a cheap bath soak for the jacuzzi tub. I took my bath and read my book and cried a little bit. I wore my most comfy PJs and indulged in the little shot of Grand Marnier that Joe poured for me to sip on and fell asleep in his arms. I didn't wake up until the cat discovered another cat encroaching on the front yard and commenced to communicating her displeasure by hurling herself against the window screen while making the Sounds of Satan that only cats who are threatened can make. So as far as feel-sorry-for-myself evenings go it was a pretty good one. Now the dawn is here and I muse again over the wry knowledge that all my moping about did nothing to resolve the issues that are pressing on me. They just kind of waited patiently in the corner, looking down their collective noses with superiorirty and asking "Are you finished now? Can we get to work?".

So in that vein, I acknowledge that today is a gift. Normally I would spend the day mapping out care of my patients from yesterday, racing to satisfy all the documentation requirements that will maximize my grade and get it up to the nursing office time stamper a few minutes before the 3 o'clock deadline. Without having gone to the hospital yesterday, I don't have to do that. I have today to focus on a major project due next Tuesday and a major exam next Monday. No feeling sorry for myself allowed - no time. I will put away the daydreams of a trip to Cancun or Hawaii, the silent yearning for a dark movie theater and giant bucket of popcorn in front of a feel-good flick that has no hidden moral message other than "Once in a while it all turns out okay". I will put my nose back to the grindstone and remember I just haven't earned it yet, but that I am and I will.

One thing is for sure. Nursing school is not for wimps. Or at least not for those who can't hide their wimpiness most of the time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Awake, Alone, Not Lonely

Once again I am here before the break of dawn, utilizing these free moments to look back over my life and forward to where I am headed. Purpose drives everything right now and sometimes it feels like the only thing I can recall. I am proud of what I have done since Joseph died, proud of what I am doing, where I am going and why. There is a "hurry hurry hurry" mantra lately, as the road has been twisting and difficult and, to be honest, I just don't feel like working as hard as it is requiring of me right now. But that is okay. It is okay to get tired. I rest a little and go forward in spurts. Stopping is not an option, not because I am brow-beaten, soul-whipped or even particularly strong, but more because this is something I want. Working at the hospital is a joy. It seems like no matter how awful my mood when I go in, I leave a better person and spiritually invigorated. They say that is how you know you are doing what you are supposed to be doing - it feeds you. It makes me contemplate doing other things that cause me anxiety, such as mission work of some sort and continuing on to a more advanced degree. The plan for advancing my degree has already been put in motion. I have been offered an internship on my floor at the hospital for after graduation and the tuition benefits for continuing education are quite good. I am in the habit now of being a student and suspect given my age that stopping and trying to start again would be more difficult than simply continuing onward from the start. I put pressure on myself to get it all done by 2015. Not sure that will really happen. Those are the last years I have while the boys are young and living at home. It is all a trade off. Determining where the importance lies requires self reflection and spiritual contemplation - both things I am better at than I used to be but still not good at on the whole. I am practicing.

In the vein of putting the world to rights and having things as they should be, Joe and I have visited a lawyer and gotten our official wills set into place. The signing was yesterday. This fills me with peace and a quiet sense of satisfaction. My life was full of death for a few years there - losing my Grandpa Reichmuth, then Dad, then Joseph, then Grandpa Huettner, then Grandma Huettner, all within a five year time period, has been quite a force in my life, and having seen how careful, legally binding plans for the inevitable affects those left behind has made this a source of anxiety and need inside me. Finally this burning fear has been put to rest. Joe and the boys will be taken care of if I pass away. I will be taken care of if Joe passes away. All those important documents like Power of Attorney and Medical Directive have been signed and notorized and now all that is left to do is to put the letters for little things and instructions in with the legal documents and find a safe, permanent place to store them. To be sure, it is sobering to see the words "Last Will and Testament of Sheri Marie Sellars" on a document, but satisfying. I have done well enough to have things to take care of and people who need me to do that. That means something to me. It is a kind of thanks to them for being so central in my life. A last deed already set in place. Even in my death I will care for you.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It is personal

The night is black and cold, a throwback of winter, reclaiming its fading territory after Spring let it be known she is coming, coming soon. New flower beds grace the front yard, configured from the monstrosities that had been present there, cut down to a managable size. Apparently the builders thought we would do nothing but flower gardening through the hot summer months. The new ones guarantee we can beautify our home every year and season for years to come, a prospect that makes me happy inside. I like flowers a lot. So the semester creeps along, and yet flies - the kind of furtive activity that reminds me of old cartoons, where something looked directly at is motionless to the point of hidden, but then darts far forward when the head is turned. Eight more months and I graduate from this phase of Project Sheri and into another, which looks remarkably like this one. I have two job offers now for after graduation, which is gratifying. That neither is in the field where I swore up and down I was meant to be (oncology and hospice) is borderline seen as a sign by me. I do not know now where I belong in terms of a specialty. I suspect landing in cardiac stepdown, where I am doing my externship, can only serve me well in the future, no matter which way I go. I wish I could say I am handling things better this semester, but I suspect this entire Spring into June will just plain suck. I am prepared for and accepting of it. Joseph would have graduated this June, along with all the usual fluff that comes with that rite of passage, and I feel his absence acutely. But when the heart is open (or just desperate enough, take your pick), life provides. I have been doing some reading, some spiritual exploration and some downright blasphemous thinking (Calling Jesus Jess or Jessie makes it easier for me to talk to Him), and this has helped me. Nick and Alex are growing and part of me is all "hurry hurry hurry!" when they get complicated and "Wait! Wait! Wait!" when they are surging forward. I hear I am not alone in this. I suspect teenagers are the labor part of an 18 year pregnancy that theoretically produces an independent adult. If you didn't go through it you would never be able to say goodbye. I am fortunate to be honest. Neither of my boys have ever (thus far) allowed themselves to be disrespectful or truly over the top in the way I hear from others. Of course, they aren't done yet. The very fact that I put that in writing on the Internet probably guarantees Alex will come home with an eyebrow pierced next week or something. I wish so much I could talk more here about my patients without violating HIPAA regulations. I am learning so much, both as a nurse and as a human being. It is late and I am tired, but I worried if I don't update this blog it will shut itself off or something - and of course the idea of losing my very own private forum is distressing to my ego. I am alive. Pensive. Waiting. Hopeful.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sweet Serenity

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful snow. It is coming down in fat white flakes, blanketing the entire world into ethereal silence, softening roughened edges, soothing the earth from its frantic comings and goings, bringing all these struggles to a soft but definitive halt until there is no choice but to pause, and in pausing, see the glory that is the world snowbound and awestruck. I could watch it fall all day, my soul intrigued by how I can see a single flake touch its landing spot and sit, individual and yet part of the whole. I wish I could take a cozy reading chair and ottoman out into the middle of it and simply be part of it forever. I cannot describe adequately how it quiets me inside and out. It both brings Joseph back and yet calms me that he has gone on, somehow making it all seem infinite and purposeful and wise. When I wonder how Heaven could possibly contain all the souls that have ever lived on earth and find myself doubtful and crazy with the incomprehensibilities of faith, I can find moments like these, when the immediate world around me alone encompasses masses and masses of individual snowflakes that as a whole make something so lovely, so soft, bring a certain serenity about my misgivings and frantic mental wanderings. It will not last all day and may not come again for a year or more, but right now the earth is a frosted cupcake wonderland and my mind is at peace, neither wondering nor worrying where Joseph is now. In view of what is happening outside, I can believe in Eternity for every individual and I can believe in a peace beyond my understanding. I have seen a lot of snow in my life and it still touches me with its simplistic majesty.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Memories of snow

We have the potential for some very nasty winter weather this coming Tuesday, which is to be my first day of clinicals at Childrens Medical Center. I am glued to and any other weather report I can get my hands on. You would think I fly a plane for a living, but no. Just my own unique kind of crazy as I sit and pray and pray and pray not just for an icy snow day, but for one that is ugly enough to make the world stop. I want the world to stop and I want to sit by the window and hold my kitten and watch the world change the way it did that week that Joseph died. I want it so so badly, that time with absolutely nothing going on - no interruptions, no "have to's", no place to go, nothing to be. I want it in the worst possible way. The latest report tonight has us not getting much, if anything at all, and I want to holler in irritation and I want them to be wrong. I am probably the only person over the age of 12 in this city who is praying for days and days of ugly weather.

I have stabilized a bit. I got through a couple of the hiccups that had come my way early in the semester and I am working again on studying hard. I have been chosen to attend with nine other students the NSNA (National Student Nurse Association) conference in Galveston at the end of next month, most expenses paid by the school and I am looking forward to that. I am feeling more settled and more honest inside me and given the internal upheaval I was riding on, the relative calmness feels good. Yesterday was a beautiful day here, up to 80 degrees, and I took a long 4 mile walk and just felt.....happy. Truthfully happy, happy in simplicity. Not ecstatic. Not waves of joy. Just the warmth of the sun and the strength of my body and the music I like to listen to.

I have started doing little things to take better care of myself and it seems to be helping as well. Eating more whole foods. Tracking what I eat for the purpose of trying to balance my nutritional intake better. Joe bought us both a gym membership and we have been doing that together, which is both fun and bonding. We both would like to lose 40 lbs by October. I am going to buy a new evening gown for the Gala if I succeed. So far so good - down 5 lbs this week (I always lose big at first), but that is just getting rid of some that I had regained. Still, I am back in the jeans I like to wear in the smallest size I currently own, so that is progress. Its funny. The need to be thin, perfect and sexy means a lot less right now than just the ability to feel physically balanced day in and day out. It really helps me with the mental work of all of this.

Alex will turn 13 on Valentine's Day. Nick is in ROTC at school and wears a military uniform twice a week. He is a full head and then some taller than me now. I needed something up high in the cabinet this weekend and he didn't even have to stand tiptoe to reach it for me. Hard to believe now I gave birth to the tiny version of him. I have a feeling the next two years are going to fly and soon he will be a college student too. I think he and Alex both would join me in praying for snow.

And I am. Sorry to all my neighbors. If we get hit hard, its my fault. I really, really want..dare I say to be an ugly, winter mess on Tuesday.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Joe and I are strong together, almost eerily in sync sometimes, to the point that we can easily lock out the rest of the world and remain hopelessly, perhaps detrimentally, content to homestead down in our lovely home and writhe around in the joys of just So when we are out of step with one another, it is irritating just in its own right. Its annoying to us both. We are quite used to our harmony. Dissonance doesn't make sense for us. But when I get into the low swing on my cycle of grief, it screws us up, mainly because I am so determined to keep it from affecting him and us.

But this particular trough has just plain kicked my ass six ways of sideways. And something in my spirit is just........tired. So tired. I am tired of fighting these waves and covering them up and suffering through them in the in-betweens of life - in between classes, in-between home and the grocery store, in-between when I go to bed and when Joe does. It makes my reactions to things seem weird in our household because that is what they are. Weird reactions to something more than what is happening in the moment and though I try to put it away and tuck it all up nice and neat (Mine! My grief! Mine mine mine! Don't touch it you'll break it!), apparently I have stored up enough snot to run out and over and across the kitchen floor. Not really. But you get my gist. I have been suffering alone for a very long time, by choice. Joe has never shied away from me in these moments and has never made me fear for the security of us. It just has felt unfair to lay it on him, particularly in the early days when it happened every other half hour. It became a habit and I got rather good at it. But this, it would seem, is the consequence.

We discussed tonight this perfect storm of things that have happened, not the least of which is my guilt and floundering over discovering I might like to go an easier and less emotionally devastating route of nursing than the one I put forward in Joseph's name. I feel selfish for this, particularly because I feel pretty strongly I was one of earth's most selfish mothers while he was alive. Combine that then with what pursuing this dream has been cradling - all these black emotions, the confusion, the horror of what happened to him and the helplessness. All of that has fallen back on my heart as I look at the possibility of being a certain kind of nurse for me as much as for him.

I have discovered I really don't want to be class president. That was a hard decision, filled with a lot of angst and a sense of being ungrateful. I served for a year and did well. But today when given opportunity (via re-elections for a second term) to decline to run again, I took that opportunity and felt mostly a sense of a huge weight coming off my shoulders.

I saw Rabbit Hole, and something about that movie unleashed a deep, deep sense of validation, and I have not been quite the same since. It cracked this careful veneer. I have to hand it to myself. I have put it on for a very long time, letting the dam loose in metered doses carefully orchestrated to keep things at bay rather than let them flow. I don't think I can do that anymore.

And vacation was a bust. And Alex is turning the age Joseph was when he died. And I am one year away from holding a license that lets me hold people's lives in my hands and I feel unbelievably unqualified to do that. And four years have gone by, and some weird part of my soul I think was STILL, STILL hanging on, thinking there might at some point be a different outcome or something. All I know is that it has drifted down on me that he is still gone and four years again and four on top of that will come and go and he will still be gone.

So I am trying something new. I purged great gobs of tears and suffering onto Joe's lap today while he stroked my hair and just let me talk. I let him bear witness to the absolute depths of the sorrow that eclipses me and listened to his quiet wisdom, assuring me this is still and forever a cycle, that it will come 'round again and that my agony is not self created nor misplaced nor self serving...and that I can bring it to him to hold me through and that he wishes I would stop being stubborn and let him do that when I need it. It is HARD to do that for me. I am working hard on not seeing myself as broken. Even when Daughtry songs on the radio set me off, even when nothing at all sets me off. I guess one way or another I am going to learn how to carry this, every part of it, not just the pretty and commendable ones.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I am so off my game. Not a tiny bit off, not a bit left of center, but totally on the wrong court kind of off. Needless to say this semester has not started well. I was tardy on the first day of class, which is so unlike me that I feel like I have not gotten my footing beneath me since that day. I thought classes started at 8:30 like they always did last semester, but instead they started at 8:00. I had it in black and white in front of me and it was just one of those situations where your mind is so sure of itself that it doesn't notice the visible proof that something is wrong. I arrived thinking I had plenty of time to greet my fellow students, play a little catch up with them, pick my seat, get my stuff out, get organized. Instead I am walking in during the middle of a lecture, having to slink to the back of the room to sit (which I hate) and I have just shown all my new instructors that I am Tardy Girl. The depth to which this has knocked me off feel way out of proportion though.

I didn't do well on the first pharmacology exam, which we get three chances to take. I did okay on the math exam except kept putting my decimals in the wrong place, which in the case of medication administration is pretty darn important. I was tardy again due to traffic issues when it came time to retake the pharmacology exam (which is timed) and I rushed through it. I already am pretty certain I will be having to take it a third time due to that issue.

And topping it all off is this heaviness in my chest, this hole inside me that has suddenly come so much more to the surface. It was always there, but for whatever reason, passing this four year mark has just knocked me on my emotional ass. God, can it be that long? I find myself thinking of him almost constantly. I trace the hills around where he is buried in my mind. I hear songs in my head, his voice, his laugh and I just plain suffer the agony of his absence. Yesterday the strangest thing happened. Alex was at a lock-in at church and Nick was puttering around on the computer in his room. Joe and I were enjoying a glass of wine and our books in the living room and I glanced up and caught site of the framed picture I have of all three of them, placed near the fireplace. And I did that funky Mommy thing where I take quick inventory of where my ducklings are. And in that flash millisecond of thought, for one brief moment, my mind scrambled to remember where Joseph was that night. THAT shocked me. It stole my breath away and brought it back in such a fresh kind of way. I was not expecting that. How can my brain still do that trick after this long? It happened a lot the first year or two, but now? It felt cruel, as if I ought to have some insulation from that by now. But it made me realize how much my limbs are aching again, how often I am teary eyed, how low my frustration threshhold and just how unbearably sad I am feeling. And now and then, from moment to moment, it does feel unbearable again.

I keep wondering why. Is it the four year mark? Is it that the cruise out of town was pretty much a bust? Is it fear over starting my final year of nursing school? I really cannot tell. I just know it is here and fresh again for whatever reason. I have not seen Joseph in over four years. My oldest child. I have all these pictures of him as a baby and my arms just....ache. Yearn. Grieve. I got a physical pain tonight looking at a bald-headed picture of him in the hospital. It has been a long time since I have reacted to that at all. He was bald most of his last year and a half of life. Now suddenly it has meaning again and I can still feel frightened about what is going to happen to him, even though it already has.

It feels like I need to do something, and fast, to purge myself of this fresh, fresh wave. But I cannot tell if I really need to do something - or if I just am having trouble sitting in and being present with my sorrow. I don't have room for it. I need it converted into determined energy and inner strength, but instead I feel its fingers pulling my spirit and my soul. It is getting hard to hide it, hard to step outside of it. And I think at this late juncture, would be pretty hard to explain to anyone who is used to me gracefully getting on with gettin' on. I am sighing a lot, as if the forceful exhale will purge the dark cloud hanging over me and disperse it into the night. How I wish that were true.

Why is it suddenly so acute again? I don't understand.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

what i thought i knew

I do not know what is going on with me this week. I am so scattered, distracted, almost as if I am watching my life through a window...but yet I am in it and don't have the luxury of just watching, because there are things I am supposed to do. And it makes me feel stuck. Frozen. I don't know how to make this make sense. I have a few short hours where I am alone in the house, have time to think about things other than the every day....and I just anyway....shocked. I am entering my last year of nursing school, and that shocks me. I am thinking about being something other than an oncology nurse...and that both shocks and shames me. In truth, it scares me. I entered on this journey almost no time at all after he died. Within four months I was back in school, swearing to do this, forging ahead. ("You are so strong..." "I could never...") I put his name on it, stamping it with The Acceptable Stamp of Guilt Absolution by making it part and parcel with my loss of him. With a way to turn this horrifying experience around into something positive.

But now I am learning new things. I have experienced some types of nursing that feel less....heavy. Less loaded. And I weigh out pros and cons and for the first time realize I could absolutely choose to do something other than oncology and hospice care and there is this little whisper in my head that it might be preferable for a number of reasons to do so. And I am stunned into silence in my soul.....a loud, echoing silence.

The new semester has gotten off to a less than stellar start for me. I am scattered and windless. I am not myself these last few days. All I really want to do is be with my husband and with my cat, to be quiet and to be comforted. I am scared to go forward. I thought I had made this decision already.

People keep bringing up God lately and it keeps poking at me. So I feel a need to address it. Those of you with unwavering faith, please respect that this is not your opportunity to step in and save me from myself. I need the questions more than the answers right now.

God, you feel very far away, if you are there at all.
You have for a long time now.
I see people claim you have this big, broad purpose for their lives.
And that you are a bastion of Love, Forgiveness and Hope.
And the child in me yearns for the You I thought I knew.
But I don't feel like I am in your eye.
Or the palm of your hand.
And I don't feel your purpose for me singing through my veins
or even drifting on the wind.
I do not hear you whisper
and I hear nothing but silence with my stunted hands reach out
I confess nothing
I trust nothing
I live in ten different kinds of uncertainty and fear
And I hear people tell me it takes love
I have none.
I feel superfluous
And foolish for the rapture of my teenaged devotion
I want to scream Where Is My Son?
But I do not cry out
I whisper
And it is dry, cracking, barren
on a wind of nothingness
I feel alone
and lost
I miss the You I thought I knew

I just feel stranded, paralyzed, afraid to answer these questions inside me. I feel so small, stumbling forward with so much that I have taken on, wanting the resolution, but seeing now it is just another step away from things. I am lacking in courage.

Bah. No peace inside me today. Surely tomorrow will be better. Surely it will.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rabbit Hole

I am so similar to Becca in the movie Rabbit Hole. Joe and I went to see it last night and it made me thankful for a lot of things, not the least of which was that the Angelika is apparently not very crowded on a regular old Monday night, because I cried and cried and cried through the film. Her grief resembled mine so much - not a perfect portrait, but many of the same emotions, the same needs, similar patterns. Her anger, her doubt, her devastation, her determination to figure out how to do this, her somewhat selfish pushing of others, not knowing if she wants them near, far or what. I saw myself. And what is better I think, is that it made me forgive myself in a sense. There were moments that made me snort with laughter too - when Howie can't stop laughing during the Compassionate Friends meeting, even though it was inappropriate. Weird stuff like that - grief just does that to you. I loved that the movie doesn't pay too too much attention to the way their child died, but more focuses on the different ways in which people grieve and the different ways they cannot reach one another and the different ways in which they manage to after all. This movie is full of humanity and realism. It is a realistic portrait of grieving a child, and the small monologue Becca's mother gives about what it is like to live forever with the loss of a child was so spot on that I just about suffocated from trying not to open up in gut wrenching sobs. It felt good. It felt good to cry. It felt good to see someone SAY it and get it so right, even if it was just an actress. Somewhere, somebody knows or they would not have been able to put it in there like that. And the moment where she sees the kids all dressed up for prom - that hit pretty damn close to home right now. Prom for Joseph would be in four months. Prom. Graduation. All the things that come with that life change. In a way I needed this film. I write and I write and I write here and it helps. It really does. But sometimes I wonder if I am whispering into the wind, if anyone really reads it and if they do, does it really matter anymore. It has been four years. Am I becoming what I feared? Someone who cannot get over it? In all honesty, perhaps yes....and yet....really no. This is just one part of my life. But as she said in the movie - you never get over it. You learn how to carry it, like a brick in your pocket that you never put down. And sometimes you don't even think about it, until something draws your hand there and it comes back to you, the weight of it. Oh yeah. That.

Interestingly, there is a quote on the film's page,, that says "The only way out is through". Suspiciously like what I have been saying since Joseph got sick and put on my blog, purely my own words - The only way to the other side is through.

I can see where the film might be hard for some, maybe even plodding or morose. But it isn't. It is just so very honest. And I love that the ending of it is not this nice, neat 10 minute wrap up meant to make you feel better. It ends on a breath of hope but does not ignore the difficulty and despair that the hope balances is real. It was worth seeing. I might even want to watch it again, simply for the validation and release it offered me.

ETA: I represented the meetings in the movies as being Compassionate Friends meetings. It had been anecdotally told to me that Compassionate Friends played a role consulting in the making of this film. It was never my intent to misrepresent or badly reflect on that organization. Quite the contrary in fact.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Birthing a New Day

I have not done this in a while. Lately, I have been sleeping oh so very well, tucked in next to my husband, feet intertwined and lullingly content. But the last two nights I have gotten horribly hot and tonight it actually made me feel somewhat nauseated. So I got up and now sit at my desk with my cat curled into me and my space heater on because I am cold. And lazy apparently. I would like some coffee, but I don't want to get up to make it.

I am reading through old blog entries and visiting the blogs of some of my friends, particularly mothers in mourning, like me. Sometimes it occurs to me that maybe I am not doing this right. I plow ahead with such determination, bulldozing through the emotions and the sense of "nothing matters" that hits at times, to the point now that I almost don't even feel that anymore. It is a strange thing, the expectations that come with grieving, particularly with grieving a child, some of which are seriously paradoxical. The "I can't imagine's" mix with the "How do you go on's" with a twist of "I could never", then combine with the 'You are so strong's"....and the internal dialogue that runs tickertape-like in my subconscious that reads something like Do It For Joseph and By God Don't You Dare Cry In Public You Ninny and Don't You Dare Cry In Front Of Anyone Who Isn't Joe And Even Then Keep That Crap To A Minimum Girlfriend. But it happened again yesterday, when I thought I was trucking along just fine and being perfectly normal, and Joe stops me and just asks if everything is okay because I am being kind of weird. And that whole Twilight Zone music plays in my imaginary background because the tickertape starts rolling the How Does He Know?! I am Being So Normal! script. And we hug and I admit "I am feeling mournful" and my eyes tear up and, as always, it is all okay, that I said it out loud. But it felt like pulling out my fingernails to actually SAY that. Why is that? Why can I pour out with such accuracy my internal grief on this public blog, but can't look my husband in the face and say "I am feeling it today"? Not just to him, but to anyone? Heck, half the time, I don't realize I am doing it until he tips his head and looks at me and asks. And then Whoosh! I am in the land of grief, which was there all along but somehow I just would not acknowledge it.

Sometimes I guess it just doesn't like to be ignored. It seeps and oozes out through the cracks in my stronghold. I picture a Monty Python skit in which I, with a strong English accent, am busily tending to the house while Joe points out to me the sink is flooding and I stubbornly insist "No its not!" while we are ankle deep in water.

So I am reading blogs of other Moms who have lost and finding all sorts of love, healing and inspiration. Quotes. Poems. Ones that focus on the ability of the human spirit to rise from the rubble of destruction into the life God intended them to have. I like stuff like that.

Yesterday was a good/weird day. It ended with an evening out with my brother and his wife for Indian food at a BYOB restaurant. We laughed a lot, drank good wine, made mock plans for a vacation together to Napa after I graduate (how I wish those plans would be real, not mock!). I left feeling loved, connected and whole. I love my brother's voice. I love his dry sense of humor. I adore my sister-in-law's laugh and the way she converses easily with perfect strangers and even remembers their names years later, even if she never sees them again. Everyone has a name to Stacey. It is never "That one guy with the scruffy beard who smells like cigarettes that owns the tree farm out in Navarro know...the dude with the crooked thumb". It is Jim or John or Harry or whatever his name is, and she gives half his life history while telling about what they bought at his shop. It is a talent I do not possess. I am not good at small talk beyond a few sentences, not unless there is some kind of chemical connection between me and the other person. Not so for Stace. Everyone is a friend. Everyone is a soul, a person, a life. I study how she does it and want to learn from it. Today she and I are getting mani/pedis done, and I am ridiculous in my excitement to pay good money for someone to rub my feet. We get new living room furniture today too. And yesterday my cat let me trim her claws while she purred in my lap. Joe is sleeping upstairs in our new, huge mahogany sleigh bed (Officially dubbed The Love Nest because we are weird that way) and Nick and Alex have transitioned back to school after the holidays without any trouble. School starts back on January 18th, and this time next year, I will be preparing to take my licensing exam.

Life is full and sweet and good. I guess I am doing okay, whatever my internal ticker may or may not be saying.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Nothing Lost

Happy New Year - all the holidays are over and life is moving on. It has actually picked up a little bit of speed since all the hullabaloo has passed. Joe and I have made some major furniture purchases for the house and last minute he decided we should take a little trip before I got back to school for the semester - an idea that grew and expanded until our little trip turned into a road trip to get on a ship and sail away to warmer waters. I think his resolution for this year may have been to become more spontaneous? No matter what, I am loving it. It feels like we are living Carpe Diem and that satisfies so many things in me.

This time of year always turns for me. Were it music, a dissonant note would present itself, moving things from major to minor chords. January 3rd. One week from today it will be four years since we let our Joseph go. On and off now I am becoming tearful and bereft and quiet. Keeping busy helps. Three of those four years now we have had somewhere to go over the anniversary, and that feels right to me. Maybe I am running from it. Maybe the distraction of not being here, where it all actually happened, numbs the pain a little bit. The anesthesia of nature? But that description makes me feel guilty, as if I am not strong, as if I cannot handle the hurt and as if I am taking cowardly strides to lessen Joseph's impact on my life by trying not to remember and relive his last days and all the agonizing sorrow that came with all those life shattering decisions. Maybe. But the truth is, I am no good to anyone when I do that. And Joseph was never one to want to wallow around in things. He was energy, spirit, light. He was serenity, acceptance and trust. So I will once again pursue those things as well and seek solace, healing and answers to my questions in faith the only way I know how; by sinking into my marriage, by savoring Nick and Alex, by studying for classes, by nurturing my soul. It isn't really enough you know. Nothing ever could be. But there are arms to hold me, hearts that understand and a whole beautiful world to remind me that despite what he (and all of us) went through, life is good. I would rather devote myself to remembering that on this anniversary than let myself sink. And when I struggle, I will be held. I don't understand a lot of things in life or about what happened. But I have come to understand this: There are a few kindred souls on this earth who live down deep in the meat of me and see all the broken parts and the hidden bruises and the wandering, the mourning, the fury, the fear. I am grateful for all of them. Because four years is too long.....and yet....only the beginning.