Welcome! I posted the following on Facebook today, along with the above photos, and decided it would also be a good starting point for this new blog. Thank you for indulging me on this beautiful May day.
Five years. Feels like a heart beat and a lifetime ago, at the same time. Even today, five years later, some of my thoughts are so fresh and raw and real its like it just happened. I mean like, JUST. HAPPENED. And other days, I think about my life with Bob and wonder if it’s someone else’s life I’m remembering, the memories feel so out of focus and not real. I’m not a big “sharer” on fbook — no reason, just not my thing — but today feels like Show & Tell Day on Facebook for me, so here you go. It’s not a treatise of grief — if I were to write that book, it would be pretty short: “Lose your f’n mind. The end.” No, these are just some random thoughts about a very important person in my life whom I loved and still love deeply today, who also happened to die 5 years ago today.
I marvel at the endless paradoxes of life, to be so immersed—drowning, it feels like some days—in thoughts and feelings that pummel us relentlessly in the wake of a loved one who has died, and the bewildering, disorienting landscape the world becomes without that person, and that we’re somehow expected to navigate our way through this muck and mire and get on with our lives, eventually. Oh, there are plenty of books on grief, but really, when it’s your own, books don’t cut it. At least not for me. We have no choice but to move forward, really — the world will move on, with or without us, Facebook makes that glaringly clear. To think that, somehow, it’s actually possible to end up not just okay, but in a pretty wondrous place on the other side of that muck and mire at some point beyond the loss is tough, especially in the very early days (or months, or years) of loss. It’s not an easy road to navigate, there’s no magic switch to flip, no magic pill (I was stubborn those early days, priding myself on “getting through” this ordeal without any medication. Just don’t ask me how many bottles of wine it’s taken … but, hey. Whatever gets you through the night, ‘s all right, in my book…) and in spite of many well-meaning folks who want so desperately to help you get through this crap a little faster in whatever ways they thing might work, the harsh reality is you gotta do it on your own timeline, in your own way. There is no other way. I could wax unpoetically about all that, but I’ll spare you the gory details and just say that in spite of the shit and maybe it’s because of the shit, it is possible to end up in a place on the other side of the immense chasm of loss that’s almost unbelievable, that’s almost (dare we say?) more beautiful that it was before the loss, but it’s a tough thought how that could ever be possible, when we first start this shaky, tenuous journey …
Since Bob’s death, I have been at the bottom of a loss so deep, there were days I honestly didn’t know if or how it would ever end. (Those are the times that never found their way to Facebook—they’d far outnumber the “life is good!” photos and posts, for sure, at least for a good chunk of the past 5 years.) I witnessed a person I love immensely suffer unspeakably for nearly two years and there’s tremendous trauma involved in that. And then this person I loved so deeply, who had SURVIVED SO MANY GOD-AWFUL THINGS, I THOUGH FOR SURE HE’D LIVE, DAMMIT, went and DIED on me. What a JERK. (it’s okay, y’all. Bob and I have this AMAZING relationship now—I can say WHATEVER I want to him and because he’s in a place of PURE LOVE AND PEACE AND UNDERSTANDING — Prince and David Bowie and all your loved ones say “hey” btw— he doesn’t throw his hands up and walk away saying, “GOD. You’re SO DRAMATIC.” He simply smiles at me with all the peace and love in the universe. It’s SO COOL.) I lost a tremendous number of friends after Bob died (just happens, no one’s fault), I lost a career, I lost our house, I lost our beloved dog, Gaia. My life had literally, not figuratively, become a really bad country song. BUT. Along the way, I also found myself doing things that I’d often dreamed of because I never had the courage or the time or the motivation or the whatever it took to do them. And I met SO MANY people along the way—reconnecting with old friends (many by the MIRACLE of FACEBOOK! … insert angel chorus here…) connecting with new friends, all of whom seemed to appear out of NOWHERE, stunning encounters that left and leave me breathless… It’s humbling and sobering, a drop-me-to-my-knees kind of thing, when I think that so much of what my life is today would not have happened or be happening, if the beautiful man in this photograph hadn’t died. It stops me dead in my tracks, even today, to acknowledge that thought. For a very long time, years, literally, it made me cry for days (I’m still utterly astounded at HOW MUCH and HOW LONG a person can cry…) those thoughts of “all of this is happening because Bob DIED.”
Yet, oddly, at the very same time, when I thought, “All of this is because my husband died,” once in a while, my heart would suddenly become SO HUGE with love and gratitude and even a calming peace — I swear, I could actually FEEL it pressing against the inside of my ribcage—that BECAUSE I met Bob and had a life with him for nearly twenty years and then he died—because of everything that’s entwined in that, I am now doing all of this stuff, and now, all of these amazing people are in my life. Holy shit, Batman… Bob used to sign letters (kids, this was back in the good ol’ days before cell phones, when people used to use these artifacts called PENS and PAPER and ENVELOPES and STAMPS and MAILBOXES to communicate. And IT TOOK FOREVER. but was SO WORTH THE WAIT.) to me with the words, “Always with you.” And I found that if I let go of all my earthly shit and hold those words close, the truth of them envelops me. Tightly. I know that probably doesn’t make much sense and by now y’all are maybe thinking “umm, it’s a little early for the Jameson, don’t you think, Jen?” but I’m telling you, it’s straight black coffee this morning and all of this is true. And besides, not a lot in life does make sense when we really stop to think about it, does it (two words: Donald Trump)?
At first, it came in just little slivers (I’ve always been a stubborn woman, and skeptical on top of that. And a control freak. So we’re dealign with some issues right out of the gate), this sense of love and peace and gratitude for my time with Bob. But I find that the more I let go of my earthly shit (SUCH a hard thing for a control freak to do, ’s all I’m sayin’) and allow myself to believe in things like owls and “Always with you” and such, the more stunning life is. Things happen that blow your hair back. Truly. It’s a mind boggling thing, to experience such beauty in the midst of heart-and-gut-and-mind-wrenching loss, but it happens, and I still don’t know it happens, but it does.
I’m not saying the journey suddenly gets easier. Not at all. Some days, still, in spite of these slivers of beauty, are pretty damned ugly, frankly, but hey. It’s life for all of us. The shimmers of hope that leak through the ugly parts are heart-stopping things to behold, and the more of those I acknowledge, accept and collect, they start adding up to create a breathtaking tapestry of life… Oh, and these flashes aren’t always of the earth-shattering, burning-bush variety. Most are usually a lot less flashy, more subtle in making their presence known. But they’re all around us. I swear.
Today I will think a lot about the beautiful man in this photograph and the impact he had and still has on my life. I will think about how very different my life is today from what it was five and more years ago, and marvel how the hell I even got here, and where will I go from here. And try to remember that ultimately, I have no control over any of it (which is asking A. LOT. from a control freak). I will remember the endless stream of angelic people who swept in and carried me for what felt like a very long time as I stumbled to try and gain a foothold in life again, with a huge part of my landscape missing. And of the people who are in my life today, who make the smile on my face real and the laughter in my voice authentic, and the love in my heart as big as the love I will always have for this man in the photograph. Life can be sofaking awful, and sofaking beautiful. All at the same time.