Then and Still

 

The others whom Jeff left behind supported and needed support. Each at the table had at least two dedicated decades of love; some had the full 42.

I was acutely aware I was the one with the least of his lease on life.

In my mind, then and still, the foundations of long-standing years made their loss more severe. I imagined, then and still, the burden of that type of pain surely surpassed mine.

My heart hurt, then and still, for all who had the fortune of Jeff, longer. I only had him for 8 and I was lost.  If I had had him just a moment longer, I would have hurt one more moment worse.

Somehow, some things were already settled. I wasn’t aware of anyone else’s desires, nor did I ask.

My insistence on cremation was the echo of Jeff’s desire. I didn’t want that or not want that. It was what he wanted; therefore, honor worthy.

Surrounded by an invisible buffer, pressurized, cocooned in an observationist air pocket, though not physically isolated, I felt alone. And that was not a reflection of anyone present.

In my seat, I was alone. In my specific type of grief born of my specific role, I was alone. I was just as alone as the other roles represented that morning. None of our grief was the same; couldn’t be, shouldn’t be, would never be.

When we got down to business, the first task was verbally gathering family history and personal information – the sort you need for an obituary.

I was immensely grateful my brother took over proof-reading and corrections. Multiple re-writes and edits later, I felt a bit bad for the funeral planner kid. Which isn’t a derogatory statement. He was young; 20’s-ish.

Whenever asked a decision-required question, Jeff’s father would, in turn, ask it of me. Though deferred to, my choices considered heritage.

Like purposefully choosing the funeral pamphlet featuring a semi-silhouetted blue-hued barn, silo, and field. There couldn’t have been any other choice worth considering.

Quote for the Week: 2020 02 18 Unless we allow others the opportunity to prove jakorte

 

 

 

The Literal Grief of “I”

 

I’m getting tired of saying, “I.”

“I don’t remember…”

“I don’t know…”

“I think…”

You might be, too. I need to drop those I’s. Literally.

*

Don’t know which day it was: Monday, Tuesday?

Know my brother picked me up and took me to the funeral home. Don’t remember the drive.

Do remember arriving, entering and standing in the foyer of Handler’s. Think it might have been raining, or maybe the umbrellas and jackets are snippets from another family funeral.

Think the meeting room was downstairs. If not, it was still in what I thought was an unusual location. Not that I had any experience in usual funerals.

Remember being surprised and touched by the number of people around the table. Sorry, don’t recall everyone there, but I know the family group included one brother, one sister, Jeff’s father, at least one Uncle, my brother and me.

Fuzzy on whether or not there was an Aunt, non-step-brother or exactly how many cousins there were or if I am erroneously conjuring the other end of the table; same side, not in my direct line of vision.

Contemplated this on my walk home this afternoon. How wonderful it was to have the support of so many people to help me through, and how very touched I was.

A stride-stopping, startling thought smacked me – a whip-branch snapped back from those who should have been traveling the grief trail ahead of me. Slapped my mind – after 12+ years – my tunnel-visioned grief-blur ended today, on this revelation.

All of those people weren’t there for just me.

A bit shameful really.  Unfathomable, as well.  Can’t apologize for my thoughts because I’m not even sure what my thoughts were or if I even had any.

Benumbed, appropriately or not, the blinding spotlight on my grief was, singularly, “I.”

Quote for the Week: 2020 02 11 There may not be an I in teamjakorte

 

 

 

to be happy with the memory

 

when the barriers say “don’t go there.”
when the filters don’t make it better.
when cold morning colors hard stop the norm.
when the wind denies still life capture.
when edits are not improvement.
when the shot delays arrival and it doesn’t matter.
this is the thing worth knowing –
time stopped for a reason, true and unknown,
sometime later, sometimes much, a slipped swipe
a thumb-hold too long, a scroll too far, percolates a path
for pictures, dropped from above, gathering thunderous steam
landslides lose landmarks, boulders block intentions,
revisits are hard to resist.
temptation to tamper that
which does not require change, for comfort
is unneeded. it’s just an accidental detour, a temporary stay
to be happy with the memory, only requires
the desire
to be.

Quote for the Week: 2020 02 04 finding formerly forgotten photos is one of life jakorte

 

 

familiar purrs and sleepy snorts

I am thankful I wasn’t there.

I don’t think I could have stood to see the indignities required.

Not that my imagination didn’t go there.

Still, I imagine it is best as an unsupported vision.

The real vision would have surely been far worse.

 

At the end of the day, or at least my end of the day with other people, I politely passed on so many sincere offers.

No, I don’t want to stay somewhere else tonight.

No, I don’t want anyone to stay with me, either.

No, I don’t want Sadie to go home with you.

No, I want Sadie here with me and Miss Fred.

No, thank you, I’m not hungry.

No, please do not order me food, even if you were going to order for yourself, anyway.

No, I don’t think I need anything.

No, no need to call me later.

No, I don’t want to call you later, either.

Ok, yes, I will call you if I need anything, but, no, I won’t need anything tonight.

I’ve lost the time between the fish sandwich and the goodbye questions; and the time between the goodbye questions and turning down the bed covers. I slept in our bed, on my usual side with Sadie and Fred.

Freddie took up her usual awkward spot on my knees. Sadie lay by my side as if she was still happily sandwiched in her regular space between Jeff and me.

“I know you won’t understand this,” I told them, scratching simultaneous circles on their heads. “But, it’s just us girls now.” Fred blinked, said something in her scraggly voice, took a turn and snuggled in. Sadie rolled over closer and uncharacteristically licked my chin.

I fell asleep surrounded by the warmth of beating hearts and the comforting rhythm of familiar purrs and soft sleepy snorts.

Quote for the Week: 2020 01 28 animals are acutely aware jakorte

leaving home

Another snippet, someone asked me what they could do for me – maybe straighten up? “The kitchen is a mess,” I conceded, referring to the shambled breakfast I’d abandoned hours ago. “… and I wasn’t expecting company…” I sheepishly admitted.

Suddenly, there were dishwashers and a floor mopper, a dog walker and then the sound of someone vacuuming. And the suggestion that I should leave.

They were about to take Jeff out. The other ambulance that had arrived was solely for the purpose of extra hands to heft. They debated which door to use.

My feisty Oklahoma friend authoritatively spoke up. “She doesn’t need to be here for this.”

Then, to me, “You don’t need to see them taking him out, hon.”

There was a question about whether or not I had eaten that day. I hadn’t.

Someone herded me out to a car. I can picture myself in the back seat. There were two women in the front seat. I can’t say for certain, who those could have been. The people I knew best were still bustling around my home.

Another remembered oddity, the car I got into had been backed into our driveway. I think maybe the wife of the neighbor across the street was the driver, that would make sense. She’d have just backed across the street. Perhaps the other person was the slight neighbor acquaintance, one house past my next-door neighbor.

That one seems more solid because I remember taking the family cookies as a thank you. I don’t recall exactly what I was thanking them for. I think she was a bit touched and a bit appalled. “You made us cookies?” she asked. “Oh, my goodness, no! I should be making you cookies! But here you are…”

I know that in those few minutes it had taken me to get into the car, they hadn’t actually begun to take him. I also know I didn’t look back. In a way, we were both leaving home, in a similar time frame. Jeff going one way; me, another.

I was supposed to decide where to eat. I didn’t want to be gone too long, so I said McDonald’s. I didn’t want to eat, really, but went along with the insistence that it was the plan to feed me. I requested a Filet o’Fish sandwich. When asked if I wanted fries, I said, “No. I want to go home.”

“I think we still have to wait a bit…” was the reply.

“Ok,” I said, as I felt myself deflating. Of course, we’d all be going back, but I would never be going home, again.

Quote for the Week: 2020 01 21 home is where the heart is jakorte 01 21 2020

 

Arranged Around

 

When my brother and sister-in-law arrived, it was confusing and surreal. They lived an hour and a half away. We hadn’t talked about them coming. They’d just seen Jeff the day before, yet, there they were, and I was grateful.

I don’t know what the inside situation looked like to them. (I’ve never thought to ask.) We went outside to get some air and talk and my brother asked questions I hadn’t even thought about. Did I know which funeral parlor? When was the funeral planning meeting? Who was writing the obituary?

I don’t know how or whom I got that information from, how the arrangements were made or by whom. I don’t even know who told my brother – it might have been me and it might have been the next day or the day after. It must have been Jeff’s dad, Roger, who had to do the arranging. I still vacillate between thankfulness and guilt for the protection.

Everything was arranged more quickly than I expected, which seems silly because I didn’t actually know what to expect. I wasn’t part of the planning for Sally or Nannee’s funerals. My father did not have a funeral – his choice. So, I had no idea how any of that happened, either.

The mandatory autopsy added a day.  Mandatory, because he was under 45 and died at home. Part of that investigative thing.

The medical examiner called me directly with the results. Nothing nefarious was found. The final determination was cardio-myopathy; not unusual in diabetics, and genetically-predisposed persons.

Par for the course of Jeff’s life, the call took an unusually common turn. I listened as the examiner offered personal condolences. He told me, he’d known my husband. As a previous pediatric patient, and fondly described him as a very sweet boy.

I came across this gem on Instagram. For anyone who’s looking, glitterandgrief is a lovely place to land.

Screenshot_20200108-175252_Instagram

I do wish social media had been more advanced than it was in 2006. There are so many grief-related groups out there for encouragement and support.

There were a few, back then. Specialized clusters of military support, specific sites for the loss of children, and for parents who now found themselves single. In straight-up widow groups, the relative ages of me versus them seemed an enormous gap. Of course, there are countless circles for young widows, now. Only, I’ve aged out of that group now, too.

Quote for the Week: 2020 01 14 Protection is always gift, except when it jakorte

 

Bits and Pieces

The first question wasn’t what I expected.

The first question was whether or not I had told Jeff’s dad.

I had not called Jeff’s father. Nor had I called Jeff’s sister.

Partial cowardice, partial propriety. I couldn’t.

I could not do that. Tell him. Tell her. Not on the telephone

I don’t know if my explanation was taken as a request or if it was realized that none of them would be able to make those particular calls, either. The news was delivered to each by the trio, in-person.

I can’t put a time on how long they hovered, statued in their spots. Where the entryway linoleum met the carpet, loomed a gap none of us would breach. I maintained my seat, way more than arm’s length away. As if being in closer proximity might alter the containment each of us were fighting for.

If any conversation of action took place with or without my participation, I have no recall.

In exactly the same way they appeared, the three men were gone.

The next bit, I recall standing outside of our bedroom telling Jeff’s sister, “No.”

“I want to see him,” she’d said.

But he was near-naked and undignified, and I unexplainably felt strongly compelled to stop her. It flashed through my mind so quickly, I’m not sure the thought was my own.  He does not want her to see him that way; to have that final picture stuck in her mind.

Much in the same way, I don’t remember anything else about her being there; her coming or going, who came with her or anything.

The next piece, I see myself sitting on the other end of the couch nearby Jeff’s Aunt on an out-of-place chair and a cousin sitting on the floor. I don’t remember them coming or going, either – just that snapshot.

Sadie was doing her best to make people happy, eagerly seeking out the sad and dropping her ball for distraction.

Quote for the Week: 2020 01 07 bits and pieces can be jakorte