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Death And The Widower At 42 Months

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Anne asked me to post this here from Walking with Jane so others could see it without difficulty. I hope you will all find it useful.


Living with death

I've been alive 22,709 days. I've been married to Jane for 9,047 of them. But she's been dead for the last 1,278. Where once I thought about our future life together, now I have trouble getting beyond her death.

I do it because it needs doing, even when it makes me cry.

In less than three months I face what would have been our 25th wedding anniversary. We had plans for that day. Now it is shrouded in pain and death. I thought about having the party we talked about at one point, turning it into a fundraiser to pay for more research into the carcinoid/NETs that killed her. But it seems a crass way to spend the day that should have been so joyous--and been ours.

Does Death permit messages?

I want to tell people I am better now than I was on that cold December night 42 months ago today when I kissed her one last time and closed the eyes she could no longer close. But I can't because it would not be true. I have some days that are better than others, but they all begin and end the same way: The other half of the bed is empty, not because she has gotten up to take a shower or use the bathroom, not because she has stayed up to work on her cross-stitch, but because her body now resides in a grave beneath a head stone in a cemetery at the top of a hill--and her soul...

...I have trouble getting beyond her death.

I like to think she sends me messages sometimes--though they are increasingly rare. This week I left the drapes open in the living room one night. In the morning I came out from the bedroom to find the sunlight bouncing off and through a glass table filled with our houseplants. It painted a rainbow on the floor with one strand. The second struck a photo college that hangs on the opposite wall on precisely the picture we used to create the Walking with Jane logo.

A fine and private person

People who didn't know the Jane I knew tell me she is proud of all I have done to kill this disease--and happy about it. But Jane was a very private person. She did not like being out in front and leading. She hated the thought of being a public figure. She did those things when she had to--and she was good at it. But she hated it.

I want to tell people I am better now...

She might see and understand the necessity of what I have done with her pictures and the story of her life and death--but I have never thought for an instant that she liked it. Then my physics teacher wife splashed some photons on the floor and on the wall--and suddenly I am not so sure.

Death and paralysis for the living

These last few months have been particularly hard for me. Over the last week, there is not one day I have not found myself weeping. I sing songs in the house every morning as a vocal exercise. There are lines that suddenly leap out at me and the tears well up and fall. But I keep singing, my voice broken by the suddenly empty sobs.

...my physics teacher wife splashed some photons on the floor and on the wall...

There are times I think I should make a CD that begins with "Where have all the flowers gone?" travels through "Sugar Mountain" and "Amazing Grace" and ends with the "Hallelujah Chorus" and "Ode to Joy." I'd call it "Songs for the Dead" or "Songs of the Dead for the Living." Then there is the book I'd like to write--a memoir of these years called The Widower's Tale. I work on it in bits and starts. Some of these essays will form its backbone.

The distilled emotions of death

But I can't bring myself to face either task yet. Three-and-a-half years after Jane's death it is still too fresh. I still wake up too many nights in inconsolable grief. I still have too many lost weekends where I sit in a chair and stare off into space remembering and trying to run away from those memories; drunk, not on alcohol but from the pure distilled emotions of that final year.

These last few months have been particularly hard for me.

A friend recently diagnosed with this foul disease asked me not long ago if I couldn't take six months or a year off from this daily confrontation with pain to focus solely on my own grief and healing. Part of me would like nothing more. But the doing of that has a price I can't pay: the knowledge that others have come to the same place I reside when I could have done something to try to prevent that.

Death is hard, especially on the living

So I keep walking, I keep talking, I keep writing, I keep studying, I keep working with patients and doctors and researchers, I keep throwing myself into close proximity with this disease that I hate. I don't do it to make Jane happy with me or proud of me. I don't do it because it will ever ease my grief. I do not do it because it is easy. I do it because it is hard--and I do it because it needs doing, even when it makes me cry.

( A brief post script: I finished this piece at just about the moment of her death. Getting some odds and ends right took a bit longer.)

jane-portrait-21-150x150.jpg Today is the 42 month anniversary of Jane's death. It still hurts more than I can say.

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Thank you, Harry. What a touching, warm tribute you have written. And someone else knows Neil Young ~ Hey Hey, My My. Beethoven's Ode to Joy was one of the songs I learned to play so my seven year old granddaughter and I could play a duet ~ her sweet comment to me was, "You need some more practice, grams."

I hear your pain in this piece and your willingness to share your raw emotion is such a gift to those who suffer a loss.

We are all learning to move with the good/bad days. Thank you for posting this here for not everyone is on FB.

I hope people read this for there is certainly HOPE in what you write. I can't wait for the book you want to write. It will happen one day.

I believe that we blend our grieving into our living. You are living your passion and bringing the grief right along with you.

Our sharing on this forum helps all of us to hold on to the courage that it takes to survive. As you said, "Death is hard, especially on the living."


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I feel for you, HAP; hang in there. (I, too, have my own heartache that I have trouble moving on from. When I'm ready, I'll tell my story.)

Good luck on your journey to fight against this dread disease! The world needs more people like you.


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Dear friends,

Thank you all.

Jan, you are right--I probably have enough individual essays for the book. It's a matter of gathering them together, writing some things to bridge between them, and doing some editing. I'm just not ready to face those tasks yet--especially given what it takes thereafter to find a publisher and do the things that go with putting out a book. I have a former student doing that with her book just now and I don't know that I'm up for that yet. But if it will make a difference in people's lives, then I likely don't have much choice, given what I've written here, without turning into a hypocrite.

Anne, "Sugar Mountain" was the anthem for our newspaper staff virtually from the start. "Ode to Joy" was the exit hymn I chose for Jane's funeral, preceded by the "Hallelujah Chorus." We entered to "Amazing Grace." People said to me afterward that it was the most beautiful selection of music they had ever heard at a funeral--and lifted them up from beginning to end. One of Jane's best fiends--who is a cantor in the Catholic church--and I worked for hours picking each piece within the service. There was a version of the 23rd psalm and "On Eagles Wings" in there as well. My friend was not sure they would let us have the "Hallelujah" because it is not in the Catholic liturgical canon, being written by that horrible Protestant, Handel. In the end, they gave us both it and the "Ode," which I was very thankful for. The combination really sent people out the door with a sense of hope. The funeral was held in the same church Jane was baptized and confirmed in--and the same church we were married in. I am not Catholic, nor even really Christian--and neither was Jane. But the funeral was about bringing comfort to her family and Christian friends. Our faith had only two members. Now it has but one. The service and location was for them--but the music--the music was for us. That it had a good effect on them was a bonus.

Scuppy, welcome to this place of rest and healing. Be patient with yourself. The time when you are comfortable enough to tell your story will come. In the meantime, let the fire here warm you--and the words be as meat and drink for your troubled soul.



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Pete and I have been involved with writing and publishing books for years and some of our books are published through Lulu which is a print on demand publisher. You have to do all the setting out yourself (Pete did this) but they provide templates and then after you are happy with it you just order how ever many you want and pay up front. You can order as few as 10 at a time. I realise you are busy right now but seeing the level of your expertise I thought that this might be your way forward.

When I joined this forum at first I used to copy and paste some people's pieces and yours were always ones I copied. But in the end I couldn't keep up with them because there were so many I wanted to keep and reread. You have everything written already to make a book which would comfort others. One day I do so hope you will.


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I don't know how you have time to do all that you do, let alone add to it the makings of a book...all of which is already written but needs assembled, a very time consuming task that I have no doubt you will one day tackle. Jan mentioned Lulu, I have a friend that used Amazon to publish/sell her book.

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