Author’s Note: Thank you, Alison, for your warm welcome last week. You will be greatly missed here and I will join others in following you at http://anodysseyoflove.com/ to keep up with your adventures and new endeavors. Hope we meet up somewhere in the future. Thank you for sharing your love for Chuck so beautifully. xo~Kathie
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. –Lao Tzu
Greetings from a beginner on the journey of widowhood. My name is Kathie Neff and my husband, Dan, died on April 15, 2021. When this piece arrives to the blogosphere it will be exactly two months and two days since his death.
Just 48 hours ago I was driving with my son, David, who held my beloved’s ashes on his lap. We were bringing his father back to our home—the place where shadows linger from a two-month round-the-clock schedule of love and care.
The two-sided coin of endings and beginnings is blurry these days. How long does life take to end? Is it just the physical moment of separation that comes through death? Or does it take weeks, months, and years?
These are things I am pondering lately.
I find I want to slow the process down—to be in my grief fully and thereby honor the life of a man with whom I’ve lived more years together than I have lived apart.
If it is possible to define my own meaning of the word beginning, I would choose:
To build a new beginning on the foundation of love and humanness that we enjoyed, struggled for, and worked on daily.
“If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I’d like to do, is to save everyday ’til eternity passes away, just to spend it with you” —Jim Croce
The passing of time is strange in the dying process and perhaps even stranger in the finality of death and its accompanying grief. Dan filled a room when he was in it and, in mirror image, his absence equally fills the room. Our stories as a couple and a family, collected over a lifetime, are tender and poignant and this past year, knowing he was leaving, made each story increase in value.
Dan filled a room when he was in it and, in mirror image, his absence equally fills the room.
For our family, the process toward death began over thirty years ago when Dan had a heart attack at age 39. Walking the hospital halls and writing his eulogy in my mind began with that first heart attack, continued through a plethora of angiograms and angioplasties, traveled to another heart attack ten years later, showed up as COPD in his fifties, reappeared as Lymphoma and Squamish Cell Cancer in his sixties, and at age 69 he decided “no more cutting.” He entered in-home hospice, seeing it as the best option for managing pain.
Longterm illness was a teacher for our giant family of nine. Debi, the ten-year-old who was frightened by her daddy’s second heart attack ended up being on the late, late shift with him on April 15, 2021. In the unknown time-clock of dying, seeing her exhausted family asleep all around her, she said,
Well, Papa. I guess it’s just you and me.
Somehow, through the struggle of “practicing” letting go, perhaps a part of us learned something that helped us in these last two months in the dying process. Nothing, as you know, makes any of this easy.
In this moment, these suggestions help:
RULE #1 – You only need to do your best.
RULE #2 – Your best will be a moving target. It’s okay.
RULE #3 – Ask for help.
Writing this post helped.
Writing poetry helps me to tune into the sensations in my body and to stay connected to “me”.
It allows me to speak my questions aloud.
It helps me to say “ouch” as in this tiny poem below:
a poem: time
A new chapter is waiting to be written and, as best I can, I will continue to show up here to explore the process. I look forward to hearing about your journeys which will enhance my own learning and expand the experience for others as we explore similarities and differences in the comment section.
As a new widow, there is so much for me to learn. It is my sincere hope that we can find our way to answers together.
In the meantime, I wish you comfort and support that arrives just when you need it.
In respect and solidarity,