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

 

 

 

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

 

 

Blanked

And that’s where the details end. I’m not sure if my prior detail comes from having re-lived the sequence daily or twice for 13 years straight, unable to let it go.

Or maybe the lack of it from here forward is the indicator, where my mind blanked – the result of short-circuited overload.

The bits and pieces I recall are likely to be jumbled. So many things happened at once.

I don’t recall answering the door, but I was standing in the right place to maybe have. There was an officer inside, still on the threshold, asking me if there was anyone I could call to come be in the house with me.

“No one near here,” I said. I was thinking of Jeff’s family, my family. No one could be there immediately.

“A neighbor?” he offered. I thought about the couple across the street.

I don’t remember seeing any extra people arrive. I don’t recall them in the house. They must have been there, though, because, by that time, two police cars, a sheriff’s car, an ambulance were lined up.

When the officer returned, he told me that he’d woken my neighbors up and the man of the couple had burst into tears when he heard. He continued saying that my neighbor would be over in a little bit, once he got himself together. I don’t remember him arriving, but I know he was there.

I don’t know when I started making calls. I don’t recall being prompted. I’d been standing in the living room, close to the front door. Someone suggested I might want to sit down.

I can’t tell you which order they were in, but I made two phone calls from my seat on the couch.

I called my brother-in-law, who lived closest. My sister-in-law had answered the phone. He was at church with my niece and nephew. She’d been there to pick-up because she’d stayed home not feeling well.

I explained that Jeff was gone and the police were here and I needed him to know and to come. Immediately.

I suppose it could have waited until church was over. Nothing would have changed by then, but the urgency was real to me.

I phoned my mother to tell her Jeff was gone. I asked her to call my brothers. She offered a stunning excuse for not immediately coming. The call ended with an implied you’re-on-your-own request to just let her know when the funeral was and she would be there.

Quote for the Week: 2019 11 12 reaching the point of blank jakorte

It’s Ok to Step Away

It’s ok to step away.

One foot off the path isn’t usually trouble.

Remember, you know the way back.

Don’t be too hard on yourself, if you’re not ready to return.

Loss is only measurable by the strength of the relationship;

By  breadth of share, by depth of care, and trueness of the heart.

 

Experience hasn’t taught me what to say, but, that’s ok.

I’ve learned other things; to whole-heartedly listen, to laugh along.

To remain steadfast and patient; waiting for the heralding moment.

To acknowledge clear tears of realization; there will be no more memories made.

To stand by and let you know: it’s ok to step away.

 

Quote for the Week: 2019 05 14 It’s ok to step away jakorte