HAP Posted December 2, 2013 Report Share Posted December 2, 2013 Dear friends, I have learned to hate November and December—two months I once loved. They mark, now, the end of life as I knew it and loved it. I have reclaimed much of the rest of the year. There is a piece of August that is still difficult—and the tsunamis of grief can still hit me at any time just from hearing a particular song or driving by a particular place that contains memories that are still too strong for me. But none of those times are like those first months after Jane’s death—except for November and December. They are, if anything, worse this year than they have ever been. The tears descend without warning. The silence in the house is the silence of that December night three years ago when I came home to sleep alone, knowing she would never be physically present again. At night, I cannot sleep. When I do, there are nightmares. And in the morning, getting up is a struggle. There was one day last week I just didn’t bother. That scared me—it still does. My mind and body both seem entirely out of sync with the world. Periodically, I just scream at the top of my lungs. There are no words in that scream. It is just an inarticulate animal howl that echoes through the house and fills the silence. I feel better afterwards—sometimes better than I do after an hour of crying. Part of this is my own fault this year. I am tired of grief—sick to death of it, truth be told. I want these months back. So I have embraced every grievous thing about them: the silence, the pain, and the death. I have relived each moment, treasured it, embraced it, and said good-bye to it. This life is not the one Jane wanted for me—this endless pain and grief. But moving forward has been so hard—remains so hard—that I despair sometimes of ever getting beyond it. So I will put up the full tree this year and decorate the house—both inside and out. I’m not sure I am truly ready for it, but the time has come to try to reclaim what remains of my life. My insistence on fighting this disease has made this hard as well. Every day I am reading about the cancer that killed Jane—and that she killed with her death because it was—and remains—the only way to kill it. Every day, I am talking to people about it, writing about it, making videos about it, doing interviews about it, writing stories about it, raising money for it, encountering people who have it or are working on it. It is like being in constant contact with the entity that raped you and destroyed everything you liked about yourself—and doing so voluntarily in the hope that you can kill it before it kills again. Throughout the year that work is emotionally difficult. This time of year it feels impossible some days. But at the end of every day I remember that 33 more people died of that form of cancer that day—just as they did yesterday and just as they will do tomorrow. I can’t stop their deaths any more than I could stop Jane’s. Part of me wonders why I try—why I don’t just let it go and let someone else do it. That part does not understand the part of me that will not—cannot—let the effort go. It does not understand the concept of “the good of the many…” It knows only that it hurts and wants the pain to go away. The outside world knows none of this. Even my closest friends have no idea. They see the public me. I smile, I laugh, I say all the right things at all the right times—or try to. I write about what I am experiencing, but it is all in analytical terms and tones that let people believe I am dealing with all of it well. People tell me I am strong and brave—that I am having an impact on their lives and the lives of others. That last bit may be true, but I do not feel very strong or very brave—especially not lately when all I want to do is pull the covers over my head and hide—or better still, sleep and live in a fantasy world where Jane never died and sleeps every night in my arms. I woke up a couple of weeks ago hugging the quilt on her side of the bed as if it were she. I cannot describe my disappointment when I realized it was only the quilt—the quilt I bought more than a year after she died and that was devoid of even the scent of her. I want my life back. I want to see the world through some other lens than grief or my memories of her last days. But the life I had is no longer available; it lies in a narrow vault beneath a headstone where my wife’s body lies. I cannot resurrect it anywhere other than in memory—and to do so is to live in the eternal past—a place I cannot change or influence in any way. So long as I live in that past the only lens available is the lens of grief. Later today I will put up a new Christmas tree—not the one Jane and I put up each year, nor the one I bought after she died so I could keep my promise that I would put up a tree—but a new tree that will hold both the ornaments of our past and the new lights of my own future. This week I will decorate the outside of the house, outlining it in light and color in the hope that while this Christmas may not be entirely merry for me, at least it will be bright. This weekend I went to a play. It was a comedy featuring an old friend. We talked afterward. His last several plays—both as an actor and as a director--have been tragedies. It felt good, he said, to really be able to laugh again—and to hear an audience wholeheartedly laugh again. I’d like to be done with tragedy for a while. But my life is not a play. My father is old and increasingly frail. My father-in-law has increasing trouble with stairs and getting out of chairs. He feels, as he says, “All used up.” I have a friend fighting a serious recurrence of breast cancer and another whose father is in chemo for his second bout with colon cancer. I have another friend who just lost her baby to a serious birth defect and is in that stage in grief that is inconsolable. Someone told me recently being surrounded by these kinds of tragedies has to do with being the age I am—and that may be true. But there is no comfort in that statement—just an acknowledgement of the facts as we know them. Life is a mixture of joy and sorrow. I have been too long focused on the great sorrow of my life. I need to find again the simple joys of baking Christmas cookies and fruitcake and of carolers moving through the streets from house to house on Christmas Eve. I need to reclaim this season of the year—and thereby reclaim my self. Peace, Harry Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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