The Passage of Time

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We tend to mark time by the significant events in our lives. These moments change our view of time as well as our view of life. What life was like before the event and what is life like after the event.

Today is one of those markers in my life. It has been two years since my beloved Raymond made his transition out of my life and back to his true home. On 5/5/2012 at 10:10 am, Raymond took his last struggling breath. Since that moment, the passage of time in my life began to be marked. Life with Raymond and life without Raymond. Time; marked by days, weeks, months and now years. I’ve missed that man every second of every day he has been gone.

Ours was a true love story.   We met on an on-line dating site. We wrote long letters to each other daily for a month before we met in person. I could tell a lot about him from those letters. I knew right away that he was intelligent and passionate. He shared stories of his childhood, his travels, his view on life as well as his hopes and dreams. I think I fell in love with Raymond before I ever met him because of his eloquent and thoughtful letters. He was a true romantic and understood that the simple pleasures in life are far more treasured than material possessions.

I have saved our correspondence and now and then, I read those letters. After meeting Raymond and seeing how slowly he typed, I came to greatly appreciate the effort he put into writing me on a daily basis.   In one of his early letters to me, he stated, “he was looking for his last and greatest love.” I know that I was his last and greatest love.

By the time we met, I felt comfortable enough to invite him to my place. He brought flowers, wine and his guitar. The back of my couch faced the kitchen. I told him to have a seat while I opened the wine. I remember standing in the kitchen, pouring the wine and looking into the living room. He took his baseball cap off and underneath was a balding head with his remaining white hair tied in a pony-tale. That was the moment my heart opened like it never has before, and I knew I loved him.

Our first date lasted the whole weekend and after that, we were together everyday. Raymond’s way of “marking time” when we met was “BL (before Lisa) and AL (after Lisa).” He believed that nothing in his past mattered now that he had met me.

We spent a year and 9 months truly having fun, loving each other, counting our blessings, traveling, and of course singing together. I moved in with Raymond in June of 2011. I remember that he was less active. He took a lot of naps (I would often join him). We didn’t get out and fish as often as we had the previous summer.

Come fall, Raymond began coughing a lot. We’d just purchased a new camper for the back of his truck. We dreamed about a life together on the road traveling in our new camper. I remember it was getting cold, and he was outside lying on the cold ground, for hours securing the camper to the truck.   I begged him to come inside but he was determined to get it done. His cough kept getting worse. I finally convinced him to see my doctor. She took an x-ray and called us right back to her office. She said that he either had pneumonia or lung cancer. And that is when the doctor visits began.

On December 21, 2011, Raymond was diagnosed with stage 4-lung cancer, which had spread into his brain and his liver.   This was another date that marked our life’s events as “before and after”. All through his illness, Raymond remained a “bad ass.” He went through the gamma knife radiation on his brain, the chemo, tried Cantron (an alternative remedy that he had faith in) without ever complaining once. He was brave and he was tough.

Right away in January of 2012, Raymond started taking care of business. These were sad times, yet he was driven get his affairs in order. He put his truck with the camper in my name as well as the mobile home. He told me things he wanted me to do when he was gone, regarding his funeral and his possessions. He wanted to be buried in Algonac. He loved this town. We went to the county clerk and bought his grave together. It was a very teary day for both of us.

Yet, we both remained hopeful. As sick as Raymond was, he’d get out his guitar and sing a bit. He told me stories. We laughed and we cried. He called his family in California. During his last few months, Raymond called every person he thought he had ever wronged and apologized. I had great respect for him as he completed all of his unfinished business.

After his last trip to the hospital, Raymond’s “good lung” started filling up with fluid. They did a procedure that morning. They drained the fluid out of his lung. He felt better right away! As we were waiting for all his release papers, he said to me, “Honey, I can already feel my lung filling up again. I’m sick of hospitals, I want to go home.”

We called in hospice and three days later, he was gone. I had no idea he would pass so quickly. His, was the first death I ever witnessed. My heart still aches for him. We had such wonderful plans of travels together and living a happy simple life. How quickly those dreams were taken away from us.

Two years ago today, he left this world. He left our dreams and he left me. I had the honor of being in love with Raymond for two years and two months. I have been without him almost as long as I knew him. How is it possible that our short love affair has been over as long as it lasted? I know I will love him eternally. I believe we were destined to meet. We both learned (too late in life) what unconditional love truly is. I believe I was destined to be with him during his illness. I was destined to be fully present giving him my love and support in his transition from this world back to his true home. We were “soul mates.” He is part of my soul family and I would like to believe he is guiding me and watching over me, from the other side.

I woke up this morning and pulled 5 angel cards. They are small rectangle shaped cards with one word and a tiny image of an angel on them. Before I picked the cards, I held the little bag in my hand and I asked out loud, “Raymond what angels do you send me today?” These are the cards I pulled: Play, Freedom, Acceptance, Grace and Gratitude.

On this two year anniversary of his death, I believe that he sent me the message to play, to be free, to accept “what is” with grace and gratitude. It is time. Thank you for the guidance Raymond. Until we meet again, I love you and I am a better person for having known you.

Posted in caregiver of cancer, death and loss, growth, memoir | 7 Comments

Beach Bathing

I read this post on Facebook the other day:
Forest bathing
“The Japanese term Shinrin-yoku may literally mean “forest bathing,” but it doesn’t involve soaking in a tub among the trees. Rather it refers to spending time in the woods for its therapeutic (or bathing) effect. Most of us have felt tension slip away in the midst of trees and nature’s beauty. But science now confirms its healing influence on the body. When you spend a few hours on a woodland hike or camping by a lake you breathe in phytoncides, active substances released by plants to protect them against insects and from rotting, which appear to lower blood pressure and stress and boost your immune system.” ~Mother Nature Network

I do love the woods in northern Michigan. Yet the sound of the breeze blowing through palm trees is a sound that I have loved forever. Could it be that there is something very healing about walking barefoot in the sand, feeling the salt air against my skin, feeling the warmth of the sun against my skin, listening to the surf as the waves barrel into the shore? “Beach bathing” is soothing to my soul.

Since my move home from Kauai to Michigan in 2002, I have spent spring breaks visiting my parents at the condo they rented for two months every winter in Florida. My parents and I have always been good “beach buddies.” We all enjoyed morning walks along the seashore, watching dolphin and observing various sea birds. One beach we frequented had gopher turtles in the dunes. One had manatee swimming in a river near by.

The last trip I took to Florida was with Raymond in the spring of 2011. We drove his camper down to visit my parents who were in Bonita Springs. Our plan was to stay one week with my folks (I remember Raymond being a little hesitant about that length of time) and then continue on to the Keys.

When we got to Bonita Beach, Ray and my Dad hit it off so well, we stayed two weeks with them! My dad loved Raymond. Raymond loved my dad. They spoke for hours about each other’s families, their military experience, their mutual employment at Ford Motor Company and of course, ethnicity (Raymond’s favorite subject).

Dad had told me that one of the things he loved about Raymond is that he truly was interested in my Dad’s life, his history, and his experiences. Although Raymond was a talker, he was also a good listener.

Both Raymond and my Dad are gone now. I’ve spent over two years caregiving and helping both of them make their transition home. When I wasn’t caregiving, I was grieving. Most of my free time in the past two years consisted of being paralyzed, unable to get off the couch, unable to eat, clean my house or take care of myself.

I decided, late last summer, that I needed to winter in Florida this year! Due to my frequent anxiety attacks, my brother made the 17-hour drive with my cat and me. After a rocky start (the place I had rented, was unacceptable), Bruce and I found a clean, beautiful 2-bedroom condo on Manasota Key. The key is a narrow strip of land that lies between Lemon Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Bruce flew back home on Jan. 6th. It was a chilly January here, and I had about 5 good beach days. The rest of my time was spent lying out on the lanai getting sun. Although temps were in the 60’s, the sun was shining and it felt like the 70’s to me. Being on the second (top floor) of the condo, my sight line is level with the tops of the palm trees. I spent days on the chaise lounge chair, looking at the breeze rustling the tops of the palm trees.

Slowly, ever so slowly….. Something amazing happened to me! I started to notice that I was happy again. My time in the sun has helped me find my smile again. What a revelation! In my first month here, I remembered that the tropics are good for my spirit. Maybe enough time has gone by, and my grief is lessening. The cloud of sadness that I have been sitting with for two years is lifting. I did feel lonely a couple days in January, but mostly I was happy.

My mom, with a bit of hesitation about leaving home only 8 months after my dad’s death, decided to come stay with me for 2 months. She arrived on Jan 28th. We are both glad that we are in a “new area” of Florida. We aren’t seeing ghosts around every corner. The memories we are sharing together are happy ones. It is sad to be here without my Dad and without Raymond, but I believe they would both be thrilled that we are here together; beach buddies for life, my mommy dear and I.

The death of the two most influential men in my life and the grief surrounding those events literally grounded me. I realize that I needed that time on the couch. I also realize that my time on the couch is over.

At this point, I am filled with hope. Hope that when I return to Michigan, I will bring my smile back home with me. Hope that I will stay off the couch and start to participate in my life again. Hope that I do indeed, have a life and I intend on living it with gratitude, trust, and faith. The cloud has lifted. Life is a series of peaks and valleys. It is what it is. I’m climbing up a peak, “beach bathing” at sea level, healing my spirit. Life is good.

Posted in acceptance, caregiver of cancer, growth, healing, memoir | 6 Comments

Scraps of Paper

Mom and I are working on her side of our family tree. She has a bag which contains folders and photos that she found after my Grandpa died, while she was going through his things. Some of the items in the folder, she hand’t really gone through until today. Weathered, frayed, folded scraps of paper with squiggled writing in the penmanship of my grandparents

There were love letters and poetry written to my Grandma, by my Grandpa. Poems for birthdays, poems about the anticipation of trips together, poems about loving each other eternally. Grandpa was a poet. He wrote a hilarious poem to Timex (the makers of the wrist watch he wore) and kept the writer’s of the Timex commercial’s humorous response to his letter. It was quite amusing.

We found short sweet and silly poems my Grandma wrote to my Grandpa. Mom was an artist. When we were young, she painted a happy clown which hung in the room Bruce and I shared as kids. We found a poem my grandma wrote about that painting. The last line stated, “When I look into the eyes of that clown, I see Reggie” (my mom’s name). We found a poem about Bruce, at age 9, who was too old for kisses from grandma, but loved kisses from his dog. Obviously, Grandma was hurt that he no longer felt the need to kiss her hello and goodbye. She also wrote a poem on Christmas eve about Rudolph’s red nose, in which she said “…it wasn’t Rudolph, but Reg jumping into her bed!”

These scraps of paper made me realize that I come from a family where love was our role model. My grandparents, on both sides of my family, were happy and in love throughout their lives. My parents were happy and in love their whole life. With dysfunctional families, being the norm in our society, it’s comforting to know that my family’s history was loving.

There was a notebook. Inside were notes my Grandpa wrote about his life and his earliest memories. Handwritten memories, from the last generation of people who actually wrote down their memories. An art that has faded as much as the paper it was written on. The computer generation has taken place of writing paper and penmanship. Tucked away in drawers, these brown, tattered, folded scraps of paper were saved with love, only to be found, read with a tear and cherished by us.

Scraps of paper. Weathered, fading, frayed edges, folded and torn.

I think about how my Grandpa’s memories of his life, are now reduced to a collection of papers. We look at his penmanship, his thoughts organized and written down so they wouldn’t be forgotten. He wanted to write his memoirs. He had an outline for his book like I have an outline for my book! Will my memoirs ever be completely written, or will they be scraps of ideas, saved to a file on my computer for someone to find one day?

Posted in death and loss, Life, memoir | 3 Comments

Daddy’s Gone

I’ve had a bit of a setback in my progress since my last post. My dear father passed away on May 23, 2013. Since then, I have been pretty “inward” again. I’m not getting out and I’m spending more days on the couch. Just as I was starting to see the blessing in the teaching of grief, I’m right back in the midst of it.

My daddy. My “fishing buddy” (as he used to call me). The man who loved me, unconditionally. The man I would call for advice. The man who raised me, cuddled me, and taught me all important life lessons. My role model. My rock. Is gone.

Although I have my mummy dear and my family, I feel somewhat lost and alone. I am heartbroken again. I have no regrets or feelings that things weren’t complete between us. My dad and I had a very close bond and were able to talk freely and openly about everything. I was blessed to be part of his caregiving when he was so ill. His emotions were raw and he was teary often. One night when I was there, spending the night to help out, I went in the bedroom and kissed him goodnight. He wrapped his arms around my neck, pulled me in for a hug and a kiss and told me “I love you so much. Never ever forget how much I love you.” He held me for what seemed like at least 5 minutes, repeating those words to me. I told him the same. We both sobbed.

I was there, with my sister Robin and my mom when my dad took his last breath. He passed peacefully. His body could no longer support his spirit. I was relieved that his suffering was over. He tried so hard to get better after his surgery in December. He had good days and bad, but he never recovered.

On June 1st, we had a memorial service at the Presbyterian Church that he and my mom had been members of for years. I wanted to speak at his memorial, and was able to, without falling apart. This is what I said:

Daddy’s Memorial

It’s been a difficult year for me. For those of you that don’t know me,
I have been single since my divorce in 1978. When I’d introduce a “new boyfriend to my dad, and after he got to know him, my dad would ask, “Why don’t you get married?” I told dad that he ruined it for me, no one could compare to him. No one was as good, kind, loving and giving as my father. My dad would always say, “don’t blame it on me!” But it was a fact! No one could compare.

And then I met Raymond. From the moment we met, I knew he was “the one.” My parents loved him. But a year and a half after we met, he was diagnosed with stage 4-lung cancer and he passed on, last May. I was inconsolable. I couldn’t get off the couch for 9 months. But because of my dad’s illness, (and a trip to Colorado last fall to see my niece Lauren, get married) I did get off the couch and I was able to help my mom tend to dad’s needs.

Dad never fully recovered from his surgery on December 7th. In January, I remember my mom telling me that she and my daddy were talking in bed and Dad told her he was worried about me. When she asked why, he told her that “I had so much sorrow in my life, and he was worried that his illness was talking a toll on me”. The interesting thing is, that I found it an honor to take care of both Raymond and my Daddy. I hope I helped to make their transition and homecoming a bit easier.

My dad didn’t sleep well after his surgery. His dreams were fit-full and he talked in his sleep a lot. About three weeks prior to my dad’s death, my mom told me that in the middle of the night, as they lie in bed together, dad raised his hand up and said to her, “The man upstairs wants to know if we want to go for a boat ride?” Mom said “Jeez, we haven’t lived downstairs from anyone since we were first married!”

I knew exactly what he was referring to and I reminded my mom! About 3 days after Raymond passed, Robin had written a beautiful poem called “I Witnessed” on my blog. This was my father’s response to the post: He wrote these words trying to console my grief:

“The following is a pleasant way I like to think about dying: We are walking with our loved one down to the sea where a beautiful ship awaits our loved one. He kisses us goodbye and boards the ship. 
 We wave and watch as it sets sail and sets out to sea. The ship gets smaller and smaller till it is finally a speck on the horizon and then, poof, it is gone from sight.
But wait, there is a crowd on a distant shore looking out to sea, and they spot a little speck on the horizon. The speck grows larger and larger and they can see that it is a beautiful ship coming towards them. The ship docks and there is a glorious and happy reunion. Ray is with his family who preceded him. We will one day join them all, but first we must make the most of each day that we have with our loved ones, here on this side of the sea.”
My dad did exactly that. He made the most of each day he had. Daddy is indeed on the other side of the sea, but for all of us on this side, I hope you will remember his words about death and learn from his example…. live each day to it’s fullest with your loved ones, for you never know when they will be sailing away to their homecoming.
——–

That is what I stood up, in front of 200 mourners to say. I wish that I had said more. I wanted to say what a good man dad was. I have never heard him speak ill of anyone. He was loving, kind, giving and generous. He was a real gentleman. He taught me so many values that I’ve incorporated into who I am… My dad taught me respect, perseverance, compassion, understanding, charity, honesty, humor and above all the importance of family. Our holiday toasts before feasts were always,enthusiastically “To Family!” I wanted to tell stories about Daddy. I wanted to share happy memories of my childhood. I wanted to share stories about my spring breaks to visit mom and dad in Bonita Beach, Florida. I wanted to tell everyone just how much my Daddy meant to me.

Two of the most influential men in my life are gone. In the past year, I’ve witnessed the transition process of Raymond, who I loved for a very brief time, and my Daddy, who I have adored since the day I was born.

I’ve never had much direct experience with death and in one year, I’ve been honored to be part of both of these significant men’s journeys through the last stage of life and I was able to understand the beauty and peace of their souls “homecoming.”

Although I have many painful, anxious, sad, scary, and fearful memories, I was able to see the dignity, the love, the acceptance and their grateful receiving of our tender caregiving.

I’ve been able to grasp the fact that life is indeed a cycle. There are many stages to life and although I mentally knew this, I didn’t quite get it, until I truly experienced the completion of Raymond and Daddy’s lives in this earthy realm.

I feel blessed to have been born into a loving, supportive family. To witness my mom so lovingly and tenderly take care of my dad’s needs was indeed an honor. My mom is an amazingly strong woman. I can’t imagine the depth of her grief, after 61 years of marriage and 64 years of being with her “soul mate.” My siblings all stepped up and helped in different ways. I was able to help with the caregiving of my father because I was Raymond’s caregiver and I totally understood what my mother was going through. My brother Bruce, who lives 5 minutes away from my parents, was there to help my dad physically get up, get dressed, shave him, and tend to any of his needs. He so lovingly took care of him. My sister Debbie was able to do all the organizing and handle all the details of the memorial. My sister Robin has such faith and a vast spiritual knowing, and was able to hold the space and the intention that all is, as it should be.

We were all there for my mother in anyway she needed. Just as they were there for me when Raymond was ill. Family is indeed so important in my life and we are all here, supporting each other in our grief.

My mom and sisters came out to visit me yesterday. We got talking about the holidays and how this years holiday season is going to be so different. No longer are we going to have feasts at mom and dad’s house. That torch is being passed to my brother (for Thanksgiving) and my sister Debbie (for Christmas.)

Life goes on. My daddy is gone. The end of an era. Nothing is ever going to be the same.

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Posted in caregiver of cancer, death and loss, Life, memoir | Tagged | 6 Comments

Golden Years

Today is the one-year anniversary of my beloved Raymond’s death.  For the past couple of months, I have been remembering how sick he was at this time last year.  His spirit wanted to live, but his body was just too tired of fighting.  It is hard to believe that a year has gone by.   People told me ‘time heals,’ and although I never could have believed it, I do understand that as time goes by, memories start to change.  My memories of Raymond are not so much of his illness and my care taking, but of the love and laughter we shared.

The grief process has catapulted me into many unexpected and astonishing “spiritual growth spurts.”  For months after Raymond passed, I had one of Lynn V. Andrews cards from “The Power Deck” on my coffee table.  The card was called Grief.  It states: 

Grief deepens you.  It allows you to explore the perimeters of your soul.  Grief is the only gateway to certain levels of consciousness, and it is a hard task-master.  Through grief you can explore every aspect of your dark side– anger, pain, abandonment, terror, loneliness; and these are aspects of the sacred wound that in our daily life we usually try to ignore.  Grief forces you to look at those parts of yourself that are not yet healed.  If you can look at grief as a teaching, you will grow.  The pain of grief is not the only teacher in this life, but if looked at properly, with awareness and an open heart, it is one of the greatest teachers of all.  The seeds of wisdom and enlightenment are planted within the wounds of grief.  What is lost can only come back to you us again in higher ways.

It has been a year of challenges.   Last May, after the funeral was over, I literally couldn’t get off the couch.  People would try to encourage me to do things, but I just wasn’t interested.  I didn’t care about anything.  What I have come to realize is that my spirit was telling me ‘to take my time.  I needed to be on the couch, that is what I needed!’  I learned that there is nowhere to run from the deep sadness and everyone’s grief process is different.  Mine was what it was, and through that grief, I’ve learned to listen and trust my body to guide me.

At the end of September, my sweet niece, Lauren was getting married in Snow Mass, Colorado.  We had just found out my dad had cancer of the esophagus and he was in the middle of radiation.  He couldn’t attend the wedding.  I didn’t think I could either but my mom really wanted to go and wouldn’t go without me.  I relented and went to the wedding. 

This was a significant spiritual growth spurt for me.  It was such a beautiful and happy occasion.  As I looked around at Michael’s family, his siblings were just starting their families and there were little ones around, living in the ‘moment of youth.’  I looked at Lauren and Michael on their wedding day and I thought to myself, “They are so young, starting out their life and they have unlimited possibilities ahead of them.”  With this thought, my mind seemed to expand and finally see the big picture.  The cycle of life:  the weddings, the births, all the generations in a family, and yes, even the deaths.  I was able to open my eyes to the “non-reality of death, the eternal nature of life, and the endless bonds of love.”  How perfect life is!   I really understood the miracle and gift of life, in all its stages.

Just when I thought I was doing better, getting out more, seeing friends and family, my therapist Peter, had a sudden heart attack and died.  Oh my God!  I lost Raymond and Peter; the two men who knew me better than anyone.  I went into yet another bout of depression and couldn’t get off the couch.  I was feeling lonely and desperate.  I questioned why I should even be here and I was a bit suicidal.  I didn’t want to live I just wanted to die and be with Raymond.  After the holidays, in a desperate attempt to save my life, I searched the Algonac area for a new therapist and found Betty.  What a blessing Betty has been in my life!  Since January, through a lot of tears and hard work, I have gone from being suicidal to being excited about my future. 

This may sound crazy but during the last year, I have been having one sided conversations with Raymond.  I talk out-loud to him on a daily basis.    I tell him what I am doing especially when I am doing housework.  He was rather obsessive compulsive and really liked a tidy house.  It wasn’t just about cleaning with Raymond.  It was about the “detail work.”  Well after months on the couch, you can imagine, that I wasn’t doing the detail work.  Yet, every time I did clean, I’d tell him out-loud “I’m doing detail work, baby!”

Bath time was always special with Raymond.  We would often sit in the bathroom talking to the other while we were bathing.  We used to love to bathe each other.  Raymond equated bath time with a “car wash.”  You know how you pick what type of car wash you are getting?  A number one is just your typical outside car wash.  A number two is outside plus wheels, rims and under carriage.   A number 3 is the wax job added to the above and a number four, is the whole shebang!  Inside, outside, everything!  He’d take a scrubby and lather it up as I sat in the tub, he’d grab my arm and start scrubbing.  He’d say, “I’m giving you a number 4 today!”  There have been so many times, in the past year, when I am in the bath, I say out loud, “I’m giving myself a number 4 baby!”

He used to love it when I would sing for him and he’d often say adoringly, “Sing to me baby.” So some of my communication to Raymond is in the form of singing to him.  I sing him “our songs.”   The songs we sang together when he played the guitar.  I also sing a song we both loved by the Cowboy Junkies called Where are you Tonight?  This one fits exactly with how I feel now that Raymond’s physical presence isn’t with me.  It’s a song about a gal, whom I believe, lost her true love to death.  She finds herself in the bars, questioning her life, which has “turned so peculiar.”  The words I have been singing to him are from the chorus (I love them because they literary speak of what I feel in my life without him.)  They go like this:

 “Where are you tonight?

When I left you in my dreams last night

You promised me, that we would be breaking free.

Where are you tonight? 

Where are you tonight?

I don’t think I can face tomorrow’s light,

Not knowing if you’ll be there to guide me.

Where are you tonight?

I think I can make it through all right,

But I’d love to have you just one more time beside me”

I talk to Raymond.  I ask him for guidance, I tell him when I am doing the “detail work,” I sing to him and, I thank him for setting me up in my little “goddess” home.

Now my father is dying.  I’m going to loose him.  My daddy.  The man that has influenced every part of my life.  The only other man in my life who loves me unconditionally.  We were once talking about the fact that I never remarried after my 1977 divorce.  I told him that he had spoiled if for me.  That ‘there is no one of his character, his goodness and his integrity that I could find.’  He said, “Don’t blame it on me!”  HA!  But it is true.  My dad is a good man; one of a kind.

His cancer is not the problem.  We believe that the radiation took care of the cancer.  He has cirrhosis of the liver.  Since December 7th, when my dad had his surgery and they found the cirrhosis, he has been pretty much bed/lazy-boy ridden.  About a month ago, when his medical benefits didn’t cover physical therapy or nurse visits anymore, we called in hospice.  The amazing thing is, now that I truly understand the ‘cycle of life,’ I am at peace with the fact that he is dying.  I feel a stronger calling to be there to support my mother with her tender, loving caregiving of my father.  I feel that I am the only one in our family that truly understands what she is going through.  I only had two years with Raymond.  She and my father have been married for 61 years.  I cannot possibly understand the depth of her sorrow and fear.  But I can be present for her.  I can be strong for them.  I can help both of them through this transition.

I ask God and Raymond to watch over them both.  Raymond loved my parents so much.  He always said he would be here with me when there time came.  I have to trust that he is right here with me.

So, in a year, I have come full circle. I am beginning to get off the couch and care about doing things like housework, visiting friends, and now that spring is here I am hopeful for new possibilities.  I am thinking about my future and what I want to do with it.  We had a plan to winter in Florida and summer in Michigan.  I have been searching on line, for a home down there.   I refuse to spend another winter, being a hermit, freezing in Michigan, when I could be on the beach, fishing or, in a senior mobile home park, making friends, playing bingo and shuffle-board!  HA! I’m even open to the possibility of another love in my life.  Since I now know what unconditional love truly is, I am open to having that kind of relationship again. 

 And so it is.  Life is what it is.  The seeds of wisdom and enlightenment are planted within the wounds of grief.  I am wiser and more enlightened.  Raymond has been gone one year.  That is half the total time we were together.  He blessed my life in so many ways, and still continues to.  Rest in peace baby and keep an angel or two by my side.  I think I’ll be around for many more years to come.  My “golden years!”

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Posted in acceptance, death and loss, growth, memoir | 7 Comments

Acceptance, Understanding and Trust

Today marks the ten-month anniversary of Raymond’s death. Ten months have gone by, since my beloved Raymond was taken back home. It’s hard to believe. My life is pretty quiet, here in the trailer park. Yesterday, I didn’t have to go outside for anything and I spent the whole day in Raymond’s gray, terry cloth bathrobe. I was snuggly and warm and had a deep sense of connection to him.

The death of Raymond was the first death that I had really experienced. Both my parents are still alive. Raymond always said that he would be here with me, when their time came. Even though he is not here with me to help me when that time does come, I have arrived at a sense of understanding and acceptance around the concept of death, as well as, the gift of life.

Grief is indeed, a hard taskmaster. I am no longer weepy every time I think about Raymond. My grief is lifting and I am coming to a place of peace and acceptance around his death. When my friends and I talk about him, we usually laugh. He was such a funny and interesting man. I have a close friend who shares a couple of Raymond’s “Arizona horse stories” with her friends. She say’s every time she tells those stories, her friends laugh and laugh.

I love to hear that people remember Raymond. How could anyone that knew him, ever forget him? In the two years that we were together, he was my friend, my lover, my teacher, and my mirror. He was a blessing in my life and I am grateful for the enduring lessons I learned while loving him.

He taught me to live simply, with no overhead. What a concept! It is a concept that I really needed to learn. Before we met, I was a single teacher, bringing home an excellent income and when I wanted something, I didn’t think twice, I simply bought it. I was a spender. I usually purchased “big ticket” items, like furniture or expensive trips. Not anymore. He taught me that the best things in life are truly free and that I already have everything I need. Some of my favorite memories of my time with Raymond are the ones in which we took drives in the country, went fishing or just sat around the house talking, snuggling, singing or watching movies. All those memories were free. They were ‘quality time’ together, happily enjoying nature and each other’s company.

Our love, was truly unconditional (something that neither of us had never experienced in all our combined years of dating.) We practiced open, heart to heart, communication. We both listened to, and heard each other. We understood what we were thinking or feeling in any given moment. When we had differences, we discussed them and resolved them quickly. Neither one of us were into drama. We’d both had enough of that in our lives.

I always wanted to marry Raymond. I asked him a number of times to marry me, but he told me that ours was the best “marriage” he had ever had. We were committed to each other and we were both in the relationship, for life, ‘till death do us part. He always said that “ours” was a “Godly union.” He knew that God had brought us together to be each other’s “last and greatest love.” I learned what a delightful feeling it is to be fully and consciously in a relationship. I experienced the immense treasure of feeling totally accepted and loved. Even when he teased me about my beer belly, I knew he loved me, just the way I was. I never felt so free! Free to be silly, free to age beautifully, free to show my love, free to be vulnerable. Together, we learned how to “do” relationship. For that, I will be eternally grateful.

Now, I actually understand, that life goes on. Time passes, wounds heal, season’s come and go. In the past ten months, there is no doubt that I have been through the gammit of every emotion a person could feel. I have come to realize that Raymond will never be forgotten. He lived his life with the same enthusiasm he sang and played his guitar with! He was loud, bold, smart, funny and passionate about everything he did. Those who knew him will tell his stories with a smile, with love and with a deep sense of what a unique human being he was.

I am the type of person that always had ‘a plan.’ I see now, that I need not “plan” my future. My life will unfold, as it should. I trust I am exactly where I am meant to be. I trust that there is love, happiness and grace in my life.

I trust that Raymond is guiding me, watching over me, and gently pushing me forward. I trust that the lessons I’ve learned from Raymond will serve me well in my future, which I also trust, will be a happy one, filled with love.

Posted in acceptance, death and loss, growth, healing, memoir | 5 Comments

The Winter Solstice

It was one year ago, Dec. 21, 2011, which Ray and I sat in Dr. Gadgeel’s office, holding hands and hearing the words, “You have stage 4 lung cancer.”  After the shock wore off, I thought it was rather auspicious, being the Winter Solstice. I somehow knew that was an important date.  Fortunately Raymond didn’t have to suffer much, and he was such a bad ass, that even with everything he went through, he still laughed, played guitar, sang and talked to me all the way through, until his last few days.

He passed on 5/5/12 at exactly 10:10 a.m.  I thought that was rather auspicious as well.  So often I’ll look up at the clock and notice that the time is 10:10.  When that happens, I always say, “I miss you baby.” 

 I also just happen to look at the clock at different times, such as, 1:11, 12:12, or 3:33.  I call these moments “cosmic moments,” and usually take a minute to enjoy the synchronicity of it! 

I can’t believe a year has gone by since his diagnosis.  On January 5th, Raymond will have been gone 8 months.   I am adjusting much better, my life isn’t so sad any more.  I am beginning to remember funny things about Raymond.  To know him, was to truly love him.  Yet, I feel the need to take pause and notice these important days around the solstice.

My father has been sick.  Long story short:  He was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, had radiation, one chemo treatment, which he didn’t tolerate well at all (it took a month to get his blood levels back to normal and he was so weak.)  Then he had a cooling down period, and was scheduled for surgery December 7th.

They stopped the surgery after 3 hours telling us that dad had non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver.  There was a thickening of the wall of the esophagus, but that could just be scar tissue from the radiation.  It was recommended the surgery be stopped, because if anything went wrong, his liver wouldn’t be able to process the meds necessary to combat the problem. 

Since the time of my father’s diagnosis, and especially after the surgery, I have been filled with fear.  I’ve tried to remain strong for my family, but I seem to be hypersensitive.  Seeing him so weak and tired brings back so many memories of Raymond’s scary times.  Thinking that I could loose my two favorite men in the same year, was all too much.

Then today, dad went to the doctor.  While waiting for a phone call about how the appointment went, I happened to watch a 25-minute video that I saw on face book, called “2012 A Message of HOPE.”  It spoke about these auspicious times and how we as a human species are awakening.  Our individual jobs right now are to awaken, to focus on love, the oneness humanity and unity.

I also read this:

“No matter what you believe or do not believe regarding Dec. 21, 2012, there is something that is undeniably extraordinary about this date: and that refers to the absolutely unique and stunning occurrence happening in the sky above us. First, there is what is called the Galactic Alignment, which refers to the alignment of our Earth and Sun with the centre of the Milky Way (the Dark Rift). Then there is the completion of the Precession of the Equinox which occurs once every (approximately) 26,000 years. Then there is the fact that Sirius will have completed its orbit around the central sun (Alcyone) of the galaxy which occurs once every million years or so, and both stars (Sirius and Alcyone) will also be aligned with the centre of the Milky way, forming what is called The Holy Cross. All on the Winter/Summer Solstice……

 If this isn’t incredible, I’m not sure what is….. 🙂

As above, so below……”

After reading this, I received a call from my mother.  My father’s doctor appointment went well. He is just having a slow recovery because his liver is compromised.  He needs to get up and walk more.  They doubled up on his diuretic, which will get rid of the water weight he has gained and get him up more to use the bathroom!

 What I have learned is that my fear gets in my way and in the way of the divine plan.  Since the Solstice is a good time to set intentions, I’ve decided that I am letting go of the fear!  Dad and Raymond are two different people.  Raymond was very sick.  He was dying.  My dad is not dying.  It is not his time. 

I am focusing on trust.  Trust in the divine plan, trust in miracles, trust that loving and peaceful thoughts are much more positive than the fear I was holding on to.  If the heavens are aligning, maybe it is time for me to align with my higher self and let go of all that no longer serves me.  And so it is!  Happy Solstace!

Posted in acceptance, caregiver of cancer, death and loss, healing, memoir | 2 Comments