So…. My Husband Died

I’m in nursing school.  In just over a year I will have finished a diploma program and will have (almost) earned the title “Practical Nurse.”

It is a … therapeutic process for me. Each new thing I learn, each new skill I learn brings up memories from when he was in the hospital.

And each new instructor I have to have a conversation with them.

“So… my husband died.  And this is bringing up a LOT of memories and triggers.  And if I step back from what I’m doing or what’s being taught, please understand that it’s a matter of trying to get myself under control or minimizing the emotional battering I’m going through.  But I AM learning, I just don’t want to be penalized because I have to do it differently at that moment.”

So yeah.  My husband died. And I get to talk about it over and over.  And maybe as I talk about it, I’ll desensitize more?  I don’t know.  It doesn’t seem to be happening, but I still talk about it.

Sometimes I don’t want to though.

Today I didn’t want to, but I did want my instructor to understand that I am going through things and working on them.

Because my husband died.  And he wouldn’t want me to live life any other way than out loud and as boldly as I am. So I talk.  And I learn.  And I try to make the world around me a bit better and a bit brighter.

And I will take the lessons learned from him and his death and build a life that is beautiful and bright.  And be there for another who is going through the same thing.

It’s part of why I’m becoming a nurse, yanno?

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“I’m Pretty Sure You’re Worth Waiting For”

It’s been a while since I’ve had something hit me out of the blue and devastate me.

It’s been a long while since the grief overflowed, ripped through my chest and left me gasping for air.

It’s been a while since the last ugly cry.

If you are up to date on Grey’s Anatomy, you know Derek is dead, and it’s been 2 years and Meredith is trying to navigate widowhood.  The writers are doing an amazing job of portraying a young widow with children and portraying her realistically.  Ellen Pompeo is beyond amazing at this role.

Meredith has had some moments.  Some good, some bad and some ugly.  It’s to be expected.

In tonight’s episode, she had a moment where she took a step… and realized it was too soon.  And she freaked out.

And the guy she freaked out on simply worried about her.

He showed up at her house later that day and she apologized and explained and his answer was “Ok, you’re not ready, I can back off. But I’ll still call and I’ll be waiting because I’m pretty sure you’re worth waiting for.”

And that moment ripped me apart.

And the ugly cry hit.

I woke the baby. (Grandson visiting)

The crying baby woke the teenager.

And the teenager… OMG I have such an amazing young man.  The teenager came over to me and asked if I was ok and did I need a hug.

I took the hug.  And cried some more.  And explained to him that I just missed dad very much right now.

Because to him, I was worth waiting for.

Mark in Fruitvale

The Flashbacks

Nursing is a profession where you get intimately acquainted with your client’s body.

You learn about the things that most people are too embarrassed to talk about.

Colonostomies. Bowels. Urination. Elimination.  Wastes.

The upside to this is I’ve watched a lot of it while Mark was in the hospital.  The downside is that every new topic that comes up results in yet another trigger.

Today was dialysis.

Sitting in a hospital waiting to find out what ICU he’d be heading to because Lions Gate didn’t have dialysis.

Watching his blood circulate when he was on dialysis.

Off dialysis.  Back on dialysis. Off again.

Wondering if he’d have permanent kidney damage.

So many triggers.

So many flashbacks.

Good thing is I’m going to get all out of the way before I see an actual patient.  Bad thing is… I’m having them.

Memory is fine.  Recall is shot.  Until I step into class and something triggers me.

2015… wait… 2016… and peace…

I didn’t do my usual end of year post.

Reflection on what was, and hopes for what will be.

I am in a different place than I ever have been.  It’s odd, really.

I am practicing “non-attachment” in my life.

I am not attached to the outcome.

I am not attached to a certain path.

I am not attached to a future that only truly exists in my mind.

I am practicing this on a daily basis.

I invite people to share my time… and I am not attached to the answer.  I would be happy if the answer is yes, and understanding if it is no but not attached to the answer.

I refuse to agonize, to dramatize, to create pain for myself.

Do I miss my husband?  yes.  INCREDIBLY.  I miss him with every fibre of my being.

Do I miss my Metalhead Poet?  yes.  I miss him with every fibre of my being.

Do I spend a lot of time agonizing over what was, what could have been, what might be, what might not be?  Fuck NO.  It’s done me NO good over the past 4 years.  (hell, ever)

This hasn’t been an easy place to get to.  It’s easy to say… just let go of the outcome.  Just let go of the attachment.  But it’s fucking HARD.

I am a control freak.  (yep, I said it out loud).  I am that person who can organize the shit out of any situation and have everything “just so” and make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.

If you are moving, I will find you a place, have your utilities hooked up, your stuff packed and all mail/correspondence addresses changed months before you actually move.

I am the person you want in a crisis.  I will be there to hold your hand. I will manage things, I will take notes, I will advocate the hell out of everything.

I plan my life like a master chess player.  I look for every nuance, every possible outcome, every path before choosing one.  And when one path closes, I move to the next path.  When plan A fails, I move to plan B.   There’s 26 letters of the alphabet to work with.   My doctor, 2 1/2 years ago (or more, I don’t remember exactly when) told me that if I’m always living life as if there’s a game going on – then I’m seeing things in terms of winner vs loser.   IT TOOK ME THIS LONG TO UNDERSTAND THAT.

Seriously.

If I’m always looking at things as if they are a chess match, planning my next move, then the people around me?  They will suffer.

I was with someone a few weeks ago… having some fun sexxy time… and he said to me… just relax… enjoy the moment… and for the first time… I did.

I just relaxed.  I enjoyed the moment for what it was.  I wasn’t focussed on the ending, the outcome, the next step.  I was just focused on him and how I was feeling with him at that moment.

It was amazing.

I started to put that into practice in other parts of my life.  This was… 3? weeks ago? ish.  And I have been mostly successful. Focusing on the moment.  Focusing on the now.  Enjoying what IS rather than what I want things to be.

It’s freed me in a lot of ways.

As a side note: there are areas in my life where this is HARD to do… where I am struggling… but most areas, I’m mostly succeeding.  Some days it takes some mental working to get to that point… but when I do get there, it’s a beautiful thing.

I’m discovering peace.  And I like it.

Peace

It Was Meant To Be…

When I was in employment flux, between my first and second seasons at BC Wildfire, I went to a career counsellor, jumped through some hoops and decided on Licensed Practical Nurse as my upgrade/career path.

My reasons:

  1. The amazing nurses who inspired me.
  2. To be of service
  3. To be there for other people going through what I went through (simliar to #2)
  4. Employability.
  5. Mobility OR stability.

What I didn’t remember… was it was something I had thought about a long time ago.

This was part of an update post on April 13, 2012.  Almost 3 months after he initially went into the hospital.

Mark Healing Community Post

I can’t do a point/arrow/highlight on a picture in a wordpress blog, but right in the middle… It says..

“If I could do it over again I would go into nursing or surgery because that was AWESOME to watch.”

 “I would go into nursing”

And yah.  In 2 months, I will be in nursing.

It was meant to be.  It is happening.

I know for a lot of widows/widowers, the phrase “everything happens for a reason” is cause for white hot rage, seriously offended, going to throat punch the speaker reactions.

For me?  It’s the truth.

Everything happened.  For. A. REASON.

I am exactly where I should be in my life.

I am doing what I am supposed to.

All avenues, all options have closed off and the path towards nursing is brightly lit, clear and safe.

Path

I know where I’m supposed to go from here. I can see the way, and without EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED…

I wouldn’t be here.

I’d be in Squamish still (miss my friends!) working with Co-operators, selling life insurance and probably doing an amazing job at it.

I’d have a husband who requires round the clock care with a recovery measured in years not months.

I’d be exhausted.  My kids would come second to my husband’s needs.  My husband would feel guilty about that.  He’d feel helpless and hopeless and lost and a burden.  I would probably spend more time trying to make him understand that he’s not a burden than just loving him, because he’d need that from me, from us.

The reality is, life would have amazing beautiful moments.  I would still be Mrs. Mark Smith.  I wouldn’t resent it for a moment.   But it would be my life, focussed entirely on my husband.

But now, I’m allowed to shine.

A friend of mine blogged a long time ago… he gave me my life back.  I know that he’d be here if he could… but in the end, he loved me, loved his family enough to let us out of the limbo we were in.  He loved us enough that he would have fought if there were any real options left.  But there weren’t.  So he let go, and let us move forward.

And now… where I’m supposed to be is coming to fruition.

I love him so much more for being willing to let go.  For doing what’s best for EVERYONE, instead of holding on and keeping us in that holding pattern.  It shows how amazing of a person he was.   And I wish everyone who reads this could have met him.  Could have known him.

He was so incredible and I was so blessed to have been loved by him.  So blessed to have been his wife for 13 years.  So blessed to be the mother of his children.  So very blessed to have loved him to his last breath.

It’s All Good… but…

A strange thing happens when your spouse dies.

There’s this hole in all your conversations.

Robin Williams died…and I wanted to tell Mark about it.  Mark was such a big fan.

Grandbabies… grandbabies everywhere…and I can’t talk to him about them.

Justin Trudeau getting elected… and Hunter Tootoo being the Ministry for Fisheries and Oceans.  OMG the conversation about that.

Everything the Harper government did to decimate the environment… he would have been talking about that… not just hours, not just days… but I’d never stop hearing about it. Ever.  He was so passionate about it.

And the adorable throatsingers at the swearing in ceremony.  He probably would have shown those to me before I had a chance to show him.

Things are good… but there’s a hole in my conversations.   I miss the indepth, passionate debates we’d have about various topics.

I haven’t found someone else who will talk about those things with me. Who has that same passion for conversation.

There’s just a hole where the conversations used to be…

Christmas 2011

Not a Hummingbird but a Butterfly.

Happy Anniversary to my Love, my forever 49, my sexxy redhead.

I spent a couple hours today at a waterfall.  I have made it my mission to spread some of his ashes at places where he might have wanted to fish.  I want to leave a piece of him in all the spots he would have liked to spend time at.

I feel closer to him beside a river.  I feel his presence more than at any other time, when I’m by the water.

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I stood on the shore of this creek, at the base of the waterfall, talking to him for about an hour.  Yelling at him.  Crying big heaving sobs that threatened to tear my soul out.

Asking, forever the question… WHY?  WHY did he have to die?  WHY did I have to do this on my own?

The only answer I can come up with is… so he didn’t have to suffer anymore.

He was in pain a lot of his last couple years.  Especially with the heart attacks, the ankylosing spondilytis, and then the last 6 months in the hospital due to pancreatitis.

He hurt.  All the time.  Every day.

And I get to be alone, so he doesn’t have to suffer anymore.

I always said I’d take the suffering, take the pain for him.   Well… I have.

I get to deal with, not the physical pain, but the emotional pain of not having him physically here.  And in trade, he’s pain free.  He’s not hurting anymore.

When I thought I was done crying, when I knew I was done yelling, I walked back towards my truck and sat beside the creek in the sun.

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And of course started crying again.   And as I was crying… not a hummingbird, but a butterfly stopped and sat on my bag.  It moved too quickly and flitted off again before I could take a picture.

Usually he comes to me in a hummingbird; today he was a beautiful dark brown and orange butterfly.

I smiled… thanked him for showing me he was with me… and cried some more.

And the butterfly came back.  Flitted around my head.  Slowly enough that I could see the colours, feel his presence, wash over in the love.   And just know that he was there.

I have been asking him for several days now, to come visit me.  Show me that he’s there.  Show me that he’s around.  Begging him before I fall asleep to visit me in my dreams, wake me before he goes so I’ll remember him.  And each day I wake up from a dreamless sleep.

He’s listening though.  He just waited until I needed him the most.

Not a hummingbird, but a butterfly….

Happy Anniversary my Love.  Thank you for the visit, the cleansing tears, and the beautiful afternoon by a waterfall.

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The Anger Surprises Me

After 3 years… the sudden onset (or maybe not so sudden, I just try to ignore it until it spills out) of rage.

The fury.

HE LEFT ME.

HE DIED.

Exacerbated by the other changes in my life… my job ending, career change, the ex moving out, my daughter moving to Edmonton…

And then the anger hits because someone wants something from me…

DON’T THEY GET THAT I’M BARELY HANGING ON?  CAN’T THEY FUCKING SEE I’VE HIT THE EDGE AND THEY’VE JUST PUSHED ME ONE LAST FUCKING TIME???

Of course they can’t.  Why would they?  I’m good at seeming OK.   At times, I genuinely am ok.  Sad about the man moving to his own place.  Angry at him for not fighting for me.  Excited about the change in careers.  Looking forward to a new challenge…

WTF ARE YOU DOING WHY WOULD YOU ASK ONE MORE FUCKING THING OF ME!!!

Yeah.  Just like that… happy… relaxed… slightly on edge… and *BOOM* I’m a fucking lunatic.

Let’s add in just over a week until my wedding anniversary, my period is about to start, I’m exhausted, I’m processing new changes, I’ve got money stressors (it will all work out, it will all work out) and teenagers.

But the anger surprises me… because it’s not their fault.  The fault lies in the situation which I have no control over.

He died.

He left (after I left him – but dammit he wasn’t supposed to LET me).

She’s building a life for herself.

The boys are growing up.

Can things just STAY THE FUCKING SAME long enough for me to catch my breath? Please?  Just for a while?

tired of being a fighter

Time Passes Slowly

11.30pm, June 25.

2012?  I was sitting with the amazing nurse Robert.  Listening to my son play guitar for his Dad one last time.  Sitting with Adriana and… someone… fuck… I hate when my memory fails me.

Crying.  The realization of the last night was overwhelming.  Shortly after, I would go back to his bedside, and ask him… “If I asked you to try harder, to give it one last go, would you?”

And him saying no.

He, who would move mountains for me, said no.

He had used up his last spoon.  He had no more. That was it.

And I cried.

2015?  I am so very awake.  I just want to sleep through the next 2 days.

Is it coincidence?  Or syncronicity that my acceptance letter came in the mail today?

I don’t know.  But today, I am overwhelmed with the memories of the silent passing of time.  The last moments of his life.  The night I got that many others didn’t get.  The night I got to say goodbye.  The night, that amazing, incredible night where, for one last night, I got to say everything I needed to.

Not many get that last night of lucidity.  Not many get those last moments of clarity.

And for that…. for that I am grateful.

Mark's Urn

Anger

I’ve had anger pop up lately.

I’m angry that he died.  That the beautiful life we planned was cut short.  That he’s not here to see the amazing grandbabies.  That I’m raising two young men to adulthood without his influence.  That he’s not HERE for me to lean into.  That he’s missing out on so much.

I’m angry that Father’s Day is coming up and I have NO IDEA what to do to honour him. Or if the boys and Katie WANT to honour him.  I’m angry that they don’t have their father to celebrate.

I’m angry that he left me.  That I’m alone. That I have to date again if I don’t want to be alone.  That all the good things, all the sad things, all the frustrating things go unsaid because he’s NOT HERE.

I’m angry because he’s not here.

(as a side note, I’m reading this and the children’s book “Red Is Best” keeps popping up in my head.  Thanks Mark for the giggle in the midst of the anger)

I’m angry because I’ll never again know what it’s like to kiss him to insensibility.  I’ll never again feel his arms around me, hear his heartbeat, feel his warmth.   I’ll never again have him run his fingertips up my back while I’m trying to read before falling asleep because he’s trying to get my “ahem” attention. (he usually succeeded)

I’m angry because I don’t know if what I’m doing is right.  Because I could always bounce ideas off him.  He was beyond smart.  Tested at 20+ years of education.  Only finished gr. 10.  And he was so freaking smart.  And I don’t have that to bounce my thoughts against anymore.

I’m angry because he died.

And so many other’s get to live.

In 9 days it will be 3 years.  Every year I inch closer and closer to 49, the age he is forever.  And I’m angry that there will come a day when I’ll be older than him.  I was never supposed to be older than him.

I Miss You