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Fifty Months

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Dear friends,

I went to visit Jane's grave today. To get there, I had to climb over a three foot high drift the plow left behind when it cleared the narrow road through the cemetery. Then I trudged through the 10-12 inches of powder yesterday's storm dropped, tramping it down so that others can get to the headstones of their loved ones more easily. I should have brought a shovel.

The snow has reached Jane's name on her family's stone. The snow is actually deeper than that but the wind has hollowed out a space around each grave in that section of the cemetery. It looks strange. The cemetery is at the top of a hill and the wind blows through there at a pretty good clip in the winter. I put some Valentine's Day decorations on her grave but I didn't stay too long. It's been colder there on other days, but on the best of winter days my body won't stay there long. I can hear both Jane and her mother chiding me for standing out in the cold.

As these monthly anniversaries go, today was not bad. Last month, I had trouble getting out of bed; every minute of the day was a struggle. I spent yesterday shampooing the rug in the dining room and hall. This morning, I moved the plants and furniture back in place and decided I still don't have the living room set up in a way that works.

Truth be told, the way Jane and I had it set up originally was just about perfect. Unfortunately, I discovered very early on that I couldn't live with it set up that way. In fact, I've redone every room in the house in terms of how the furniture is arranged--and in some cases have changed the purpose of the room as well. What was our study is now my bedroom. The room Jane used for her crafts is now a combination library and home office. The bedroom has become a TV room that doubles as a guest room and a place to keep Walking with Jane items we use for various events.

And I've been gradually repainting all the rooms in the house, changing the colors from the careful neutrals Jane and I chose when we built the house to warmer, darker tones. It's not that I am trying to expunge her presence--I have photographs of Jane scattered throughout the house, as well as her cross-stitch and other craft projects. The houseplants we both loved still dominate the living room and dining room as they always have, though I have rearranged them as they've grown. And though I've replaced the mattress in the bedroom, all the furniture we bought when we first married is still part of my bedroom--and I still sleep in our bed every night, though never on her side of the bed.

I know people whose houses have not changed in any way since their spouse died. I know others who sleep on a couch or in a chair at night because they cannot face sleeping in the bed they once shared with their husband or wife. I know others who gave away every stick of furniture they had purchased together because living with those constant reminders was more than they could handle. I know people who sold their house for much the same reason--and others who were forced to sell because with a single income they could not afford to live there no matter how much they wanted to hold onto those memories.

There is no magic formula to dealing with grief--no right answer. There is only the answer that works for you--and that answer is different for every person who grieves.

There are times I think about moving. This house and it's yard are too big for me to handle by myself sometimes. And it has too many stairs for me to deal with when I get old. But we spread the soil on this land, planted the grass and the shrubs and the trees. We installed the suspended ceiling in the basement and hung the sheetrock on its walls. We spent hours looking at chandeliers and light fixtures and deciding on countertops and cabinets. I am not ready to abandon those memories--and I am not sure I ever will be.

But I can't live in some kind of unchanging shrine either--a place where everything is precisely as Jane left it. I want my memories but I don't want to be overwhelmed by them every day. For fifty months now I've tried to reestablish a sense of balance in all areas of my life. Part of me thinks I haven't been very successful at that. But then I realize that Jane and I spent 23 years together, growing closer and closer every day, until at the end we truly were Aristotle's single soul in two bodies.

And then she was gone--and everything was different. Fifty months is no time at all compared to the years we spent together as a singular entity. We made every decision together, did every chore together--lived our lives as together as two people can be. When Jane died, I suddenly did not know who I was anymore. I'm still trying to figure that out.

But change is the nature of life. The carpet and linoleum are beginning to show their age. I replaced the faucets in the bathroom and the kitchen over the last year. I've expanded the vegetable garden and enlarged a flower bed. I reworked the sitting area under our deck, digging out the sod and replacing it with stone. I'm thinking about setting up a bee hive, planting some fruit trees and creating a large bed of wild flowers.

People talk about moving on after someone dies. The truth is, often we don't move on. The further I get from Jane's death, the more I am convinced I will not "get over it" in the way that most people mean that phrase. But we can move forward--which is very different from "moving on" or "getting over it." In fact, we have very little choice about moving forward. Life forces us to do that by its very nature.

Faucets do wear out. Lawns do have to be mowed. Driveways do have to be resealed. Our bodies do have to be fed and cared for. We have to cook and clean and do the routine little things that in the depth of grief we do not want to do--but that we do anyway.

My muscles ache tonight. I've moved over four feet of snow in the last two weeks. I've moved every plant and piece of furniture in the living room and dining room at least twice in the last two days. I've run the rug machine until my arms hurt and my hands have blistered. There is more snow in the forecast for Thursday and again for Sunday.

But for now, the snow is shoveled and half the living room looks and feels right to me. For 50 months after Jane died, that feels like moving forward.



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I feel you on all this snow over here... Though I've not moved any since the beginning a couple weeks ago since I fell and got this concussion. Rest that achy body my friend.

50 months. Well, I just can't see that ever yet... Last night was one month. But as I read here past and present posts... I see how 50 months or 1 month just really has little difference in grief because nothing will ever be the same as hard as we try to keep it all the same... It's forever changed. Our hearts are forever changed painfully so. Yet somehow we continue breathing and going on.

Peace to your heart. Stay warm. After Thursday's snow the highs will be single digits and the lows will be way below 0.


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Harry, the weather sounds so terrible. You were so good to brave the elements to the cemetery. I would always take advantage of those days to do things around the house. It sounds like you are getting a great deal accomplished. It is four months for me. We had been in Florida when Bob got sick so I have not returned to our home yet. I can only imagine.... I like what you expressed about the difference between moving forward and moving on. I never thought about it that way. That is something very important to remember. I think some could feel guilty to move on. I don't feel on level ground but I will not rush anything. As you say, there is no right of wrong way on this journey

I wish you peace and comfort on this day.


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Dear Harry,

Thank you for your words today, for they touch my heart, and they give me much to consider. You know I cannot tell you that I truly understand what you are feeling, but please know that I care very much. I do believe I can identify with the deep and special love about which you write so beautifully.

You are right in saying that there is no right or wrong about making changes within your home and on your property. Because my mother slept in a recliner for many years after my father's death, I determined long ago that I would not do that. My way is to change some things quickly before I become too emotionally paralyzed to make even needed changes; at least that's the way I've handled loss in the past (my first husband and my mother). I must do the hurtful things fast in order to be able to do them at all. Your sharing your heart today lets me know that my way is all right. I knew, but I needed to hear it again today. Thank you. You are right. Faucets wear out. I was thinking about this very thing this morning while we changed light bulbs to ones more energy-efficient (LED). I was thinking that without Jerry, I wouldn't even want the faucets changed. I think faucets this morning, and you write faucets today. Interesting.

I am extremely protective of Jerry's things, so I might go a bit overboard in protecting them. I want everything that is meaningful to him, and things he's built, or we've built together, to last my lifetime, if possible.

I understand your reasons for not wanting to leave your home, for I feel the same way. As a team, Jerry and I have built and changed this place, inside and out, to make it ours. He and I even built our own first front deck here (what fun and laughter we shared!). I feel that no place will ever be home without Jerry, but so much of him will always be here in this home. All things he's built somehow make me feel like he's protecting me.



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Harry, you speak for all of us, we can all relate. I hope you sleep well tonight and recuperate from dealing with all the snow. May it be over soon!

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Harry, I have been thinking so much about the words you wrote here. I think these changes you speak about, although second nature to some, are life changing for us. I think this would be a wonderful, insightful addition to your book. Really gives pause for thought. It did for me anyway.

Peace and comfort to you


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As usual Harry, you have the words that express feelings we all have. "But we can move forward--which is very different from "moving on" or "getting over it." This quote from your post certainly resonates with me. We will never "get over it", but we do move forward, we must, or we just wither and dry up. I don't want that, for me, or my family. Life is certainly different however. Like you, I have done things to the house, new siding and new windows the year after Mike died. New Azalea flower bed in front of house that he and I had talked about. My spring and early summer are pretty well busy (college play, theatre play, I am stage manager for that, then the play I am directing in May and June. Then in Mid June my brother and SIL, and friend Tom are making a road trip to California to wine country. I am thinking by mid July I will be ready to be doing some painting inside house. I want to repaint all rooms, and also the old paneling. We will see how that goes....I am a great procrastinator. Thank you for the post Harry. Sorry about the snow. We have had pretty much a snow-less winter here in the Harrison area so far.


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