Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Today I decided, since two clients canceled this morning freeing up several hours, that I would clean the house with this extra time. I started upstairs since I haven't done a good job cleaning up there the last few months. It's much easier to clean the kitchen and living room where people entering the house actually can see my mess. Thus I've been good at keeping the downstairs somewhat picked up and vacuumed. Upstairs is another matter.

What is it about grief that makes so many tasks so much harder? I use to be a good house cleaner - keeping our home neat and tidy. Whenever I would go a bit deeper and spend quality time on cleaning Jim always noticed. He would come home and say "wow, you've been busy today!". And it would feel so good to have done the job and also to have the guy I shared the space with take note. Now? Who cares? It's just me and my dog, Ella, who contributes a great deal to the dust and dirt that billows into the corners .... and under the bed. Which is where I realized I hadn't cleaned for too long.

Today I pulled the bed out away from the wall and vacuumed behind, around, under and through this whole area. Who in the world designed base board heaters? Those things are impossible to clean without tearing them completely apart! And as I tore the base board apart and stuck the vacuum down in between those impossibly small slits I turned and picked up an empty, black plastic container that had been sitting in the bedroom since last spring. I knew what it was, I just hadn't dealt with it. I grabbed it, ready to throw it out now, and then I read the white label on it:
Certified remains of
James T. Daniels III
cremated on .........

I lost it. I crumpled onto my knees and just felt that grief beast grab me by the throat and shake me. It was such a reality hit ... again ... once again. Which is how it all happens. One minute I'm fine and ready to deal with the cobwebs and little black boxes and then BAM! Nailed. These hits just take all the wind right out of my sails too. My good intentions of forward motion today went screaming into reverse and I stalled out. Oh, I was able to pick myself up and get the bed put back into place and I even finished vacuuming, but I was done with trying go deeper. I looked at all the stuff that still needs to be dealt with up there and just shut the door. Walked away. Another day, maybe.

Damn, there are so many levels of missing this man. Not wanting to cook for myself seemed to be a given but house cleaning? Good grief ... no, just grief. Neither good nor bad, it just is what it is.

I've left a few cobwebs for another day. The spiders who share this space with me are safe for a bit longer. I remember the book Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. The main character in this book exclaims to never kill the predators; thus the cabin she lived in had spiders that kept all the other bugs in check. It works for me too, for now ... it's just going to have to.

I miss you Jim Daniels. More then I ever thought possible.

Loving you all back,

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Spirit

Christmas Spirit. Something we seem to get into as the 25th approaches. But I'm in a real funk I guess. Everyone says it's to be expected and all seem to understand. As I said in another post, I haven't been expecting anything. I've been taking it day-by-day and wasn't sure if I'd get nailed with the Christmas depression or not ... well, I did, and it hit this week.

I've had the Spirit of Christmas Past visit me more this week.

I'm a PK - also known as Preachers Kid. I grew up in a church. I grew up with my siblings and I sneaking into the church after the sunday service; up behind the pulpit we would turn on dad's microphone, strap on our air guitars and launch into Beatle songs and prance around on that "stage". "I wanna hold your haaannd" ... echoing throughout that high ceiling and empty church. And then we might go and climb up into the bell tower. This was always an adventure as it had a creaky, wooden ladder, hatch door and pigeon droppings everywhere. But what a great view of the small town from up in that belfry. No bats, I can attest to that.

With a dad as a minister Christmas was a command performance; a month of build-up with special services to decorate the church, carols being sung by the choir, midnight service on the eve and a full understanding that Christmas was about baby Jesus in that poor manger visited by Kings. But Santa still came to us, as did a lot of our relatives. The 25th was a really big show at our house.

Jim understood how much I loved Christmas. He would go with me to drive around and look at the light displays in the area with Christmas carols playing on the car radio and me singing along in harmony (the gaudier the lights the better, by the way). He also understood how I could crash after the festivities were over so at some point he began suggesting we go to Montreal for a few days and spend New Year's up there. Northern lights and something to look forward to to help ease me back into the post Christmas let down. It worked and we did that for several years running.

Christmas Spirit. This year I've told my family NO PRESENTS! I can't focus, can't shop, don't want any more stuff for myself and really just can't go there at all. I suggested a book swap of any books we don't want anymore. So I've gathered a few of those together to give to family members. And that's as far as I've gotten. I can't seem to get to the wrapping of them. I even put on Christmas music and sat on the living room floor staring at this pile of books with scissors, tape and paper all laid out. Ugh. I admit to having a bourbon instead.

Christmas funk.

I'm going up to my sister and her family about 2 hours north. Usually I would be baking and making stuff to add to the feeding frenzy. But not this year. The other day I went to buy two things that I said I would be bringing up ... and I couldn't even get them both at the same time. Now I have to go back. Maybe I'm having a hard time with focusing. Ya' think?! I'm very grateful that Sara has said not to worry about it, bring the unwrapped gifts and they will help me, bring whatever I actually end up getting or not getting and just relax.

I thank baby Jesus for siblings who understand.

I may not get into the Christmas Spirit this year at all. But Christmas will still come, and I will gather with friends and family ..... and miss that man's spirit by my side, helping to make Christmas very special and then sweeping me off to other adventures. Perhaps in time my own spirit will be strong enough to head out on solo adventures .... though today, I'd be happy to just be able to wrap a present or two.

Wishing you all, in the true spirit of Christmas, a very merry one.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Just Show Up

I've been working really hard on maintaining all the connections that have been made over the past two years of Jim's illness. I admit, it's hard for me. Jim Daniels was the one who made connections quickly and easily. As Joni Mitchell once sang "He makes friends easy, he's not like me". That was my Jim.

There were many lessons for me living with Jim - and during the course of caring for him with brain cancer. I learned to respect and love that man even more then I thought possible and I learned the power of the love that man offered, not only to me, but to his friends as well. Jim was so incredibly loved by so many people. And as I reflect on this I realize it's because he loved and connected with people on a deep level. Jim wore his heart on his sleeve and, though it made him vulnerable, it also made him available, open, honest and very free with offering his love to you.

I want to keep these connections that he helped me to make. I want to go to the parties I've been invited to even if I don't know many people who will be there. How many times would I try to wiggle my way out of going to such a party with Jim only to have him look at me and say "Mary, you might enjoy yourself", or "Mary, you will really like so-and-so, I know you will." He was always right too. So many of my dearest friends and connections now are from those "you will really like .... " moments.

Did I say it's hard for me? I'm a born-and-raised Mainer. You may know what they say about Mainers ... we might have a tough shell that's hard to crack but once you're taken in as a friend it's deep and lasting. There's some truth to this. And I'm an introvert too. Not an easy combination at times, a pretty tough nut to crack.

But I'm trying. I find myself thinking "what would Jim do?" ... and it always will be to make that effort, to reach out and connect, to just show up. I can hear myself saying to him, "why do you think you are that important to that person?" .... but I realize that it wasn't that Jim felt he was important; it was because that other person was so important to Jim! And he would show up, always. Years ago, long before his own illness, he drove to up state New York when he heard that one of the Maryknoll Priests that he knew was sick with cancer. Even though this man told Jim not to come, Jim got in his car and drove to sit by this man in the hospital. Jim Daniels showed up because that person was important to him ... and it became very evident how important it was that Jim cared enough to be there. People knew that Jim cared about them, and that always feels good.

Jim wanted to get on a plane and get to the wedding of our dear friend in Seattle, but this friend told us of the wedding only a few days before it was to happen. The timing was bad for us, but sure enough, Jim did cartwheels trying to figure out how to make that trip happen so he could be by the side of his friend when he got married. The trip just coudn't get pulled off. I remember being so amazed that Jim actually was going to try to do it though; not because Jim was so important but because Bill was that important to Jim

A woman who I met through Jim asked me to go have a drink with her this week. She hardly knew Jim but was deeply affected by his cancer and had reached out to us over the course of his illness. I agreed to meet her so we organized it. I was nervous about going, worried we might not have much to talk about or that I, in my inabilities to make small talk, would be found boring. "What would Jim do?" ... so I went ..... and we both had a wonderful time and agreed that we wanted to put the effort needed into staying connected and create a deeper friendship.

Just show up. Regardless of the outcome, just show up and remain open to whatever gifts might come. A lesson Jim taught me so well.

I do know that I'm not going to be as good at this as Jim was. I know there are going to be some connections I won't be able to maintain, and I know this is just human and the way of the world. Lives need to intersect somehow, like a spiders web, the glue that binds it all together loses it's strength without the necessary maintenance. But, damn, Jim was able to keep so many webs connected to him. He easily and wonderfully tended those delicate strands. I marvel at this now.

My plan is to just show up, as often as my energy will allow. Just know it's not always easy for me but, what would Jim do?
He'd show up.

Loving you all back .... in my own way,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 2010

"It's coming on Christmas,
They're cutting down trees,
Putting up reindeer singing songs of Joy and Peace"....
Joni Mitchell

Christmas is not proving so easy this year. I had no expectations either way but I'm feeling the blues with it this year. A few folks have asked me if I will put up a tree this Christmas. Nope. I'm not even finding the energy to send out festive cards from my business to all my clients. It's a nice thing to do and folks always appreciate them ... but not this year. Sorry.

Nope, no tree. I still have not put away Christmas decorations from two years ago - they sit in a box in my bedroom. Two years ago ..... Christmas hasn't been a real joyous occasion for two years come to think about it. December 25, 2008, Jim was acting so strange - more then strange really - it was terrifying. Something was horribly wrong but he kept telling me he was feeling so much better. Ah, but he had two tumors growing in his brain and one of them was in his left hemisphere, so his right brain - the loving, 'all is right with the world side' - was more dominant. So, yes, he was feeling euphoric in many ways. But I was a train wreck that Christmas. And then the seizures and the ER room on the 27th; CAT scan showed something in that head of his. Brain surgery on the 29th to find out what kind of tumors they were .... and the rest is history.

Nope, no tree this year. Last year we went out to Colorado with the help of a "brother" who flew back east in order to help me fly Jim out west. Time with the Jalberts and then to Donna's for Christmas with the Grays and the Daniels. It was wonderful to be with these loved ones .... but Jim was not doing real well and it took tremendous effort to assist him with so much. I could go for my early morning run up the creek but I always had to stop and cry. I was so worried and so sad. Then I would just feel the need to get back to the house and see if we couldn't come up with something fun for Jim to do too. That was only a year ago? Really? And to think I believed, hoped, dreamed that he would be here for yet another Christmas with me. But the alien always wins when it comes to this kind of cancer.

Nope, no tree this year. I will be with my family. Santa will come and fill stockings in the wee hours of the 25th. We all still believe in magic and reindeers flying over the world and that there can be peace on earth. We will sing carols and take walks in the woods and drink too much coffee Christmas morning as we eat donuts.

But I'm feeling a little hollow inside and no bright paper packages tied up with string will really help me I'm afraid.

"... I wish I had a river,
I could skate away on ... "

Loving you all back,

Sunday, November 28, 2010


It was a good Thanksgiving. I have a big family; five siblings with all their kids and their spouses and their kids ... we are a force. A good force. A force I needed to knock me out of my loneliness. It's so odd for me as I am one who truly enjoys being alone. But this loneliness isn't about being alone, it's a whole new animal and one I'm not use to wrestling with. This loneliness is complete, absolute and isn't going to go away any time soon.

My family is not only large they are also slightly crazy. Thus, whenever we get together you just never know what is going to happen. This year it was a dunk in the ocean on Thanksgiving day. I admit to being the instigator of this. The clan had walked down to the rocks that over look open ocean in front of my mothers house. We have always taken a walk between the thanksgiving courses. A little walk to the sea and it's time for pie! This year the water was like a mirror; calm and crystal clear. There is a spot where it's possible to dive off the rocks into a deep pool when it's mid-tide or higher. This day the water in this pool was emerald green and incredibly inviting. I told my sister "it's like Niagra Falls, even though you know it will kill you, you still have this urge to jump in!". My niece looked at me and said "if you go I'll go". Oh, no,no,no, you see I was just kidding. But, damn, it was inviting. Then she suggested we just go down and stick our hands in it to see how cold the water was. With wide-eyes of surprise we said, simultaneously, "it's not that bad!".

Now the heat was on. Jenny and I both agreed that it might be worth doing just to say we did it. She suggested we go in our underwear .... I had no suggestions. We shooed all the men of the family away and the women looked on. Jenny and I stripped down, leaving our shoes on since the rocks were covered with barnacles. I decided I really couldn't watch her go in first so I stepped onto the slippery, seaweed covered ledge and dove ... head first ... into that green pool. And came up screaming! The family has said the look on my face was one to remember for a life time! My dog, Ella, jumped in after me and proceeded to get out of the water faster then I could! Jenny was right behind me with a screech and a "holy shit" ... and then we were throwing our clothes back on over all our wetness.

Jenny's husband, Jay, had stayed to watch football but got informed of the insane thing his wife just did. He jumped in the car and drove it down as close as he could to the foot path that leads down to the rocks. Thus, as we made our way through this path of bayberrry bushes and scrub pines to the field there was a warm car waiting to take us the short trek back to the house ... and a hot shower!

Crazy? Yes. But I felt like I had grabbed life a little harder and, as one friend said "dove right in". Jim would not have done this dive into the frigid sea but he would have loved the fact that I did it. Jim grabbed life like this every day. He couldn't sit still for all the things he had to do, or see, or people he needed to visit or places to go. He had the most amazing energy that could exhaust me sometimes .... but I so miss it now. I so miss him now.

I know that time heals, I actually can feel my own healing at this 8 month mark, but I wonder how this loneliness gets healed. I feel this emptiness even when surrounded by my large, loving, crazy family. I walk around this hole in my being when out with friends. And sometimes, when I'm laughing, I wonder if my eyes betray the deeper well of sadness that pools in me.

I'm incredibly grateful for my family and friends. But, you see, there's been a death of a family ... and now it's only me.

Loving you all back,

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Day

I've had many friends reach out to me this week, asking what my plans were for this day. I also had several offers to join different families in their eating frenzy. Jim and I would frequently join friends ... who feel like family ... for Thanksgiving. But this year my mom made it obvious that she wanted to have me and whoever else wanted to join around her table. She doesn't ask for this kind of thing often so it feels right to join the family this year.

Because Thanksgiving isn't one of my favorite holidays I thought I could get by this first without too much problem; I've told people this as well. But, I'm admitting to you now, it's feeling a little tough. Last night, the eve of Thanksgiving, I was watching a movie on T.V. by myself. I was really missing how much I use to enjoy being snuggled next to Jim and watching the "boob tube". We both would find that simple act of curling up and zoning out to a movie to be the best part of the day sometimes. Last night, it just felt way too lonely.

I was watching Disney's animated Beauty and the Beast and started to wonder, Is this where the belief that all will be right with the world comes from? If we are pretty enough and have a 22 inch waist we'll be just fine? Where even the most horrible experience ends up with "happily ever after" ... she always gets her man .... becomes a belief?

I'm a sucker, and wanting a "happily ever after" ending to this most horrible experience. Problem is, I was happily ever after-ing with Jim. I had found my prince and knew it. So now what? Something is definitely wrong with this picture.

Well, I certainly didn't mean to get so morose today. In fact I had planned to write about all the things I could feel thankful for .... but this is what has leaped out of me so there you have it. But for the record, I am incredibly thankful for my amazing family. I'm thankful for all these friends who, though we don't share the same gene pool, are family to me too. I'm pretty blessed to have all that I have and to be sitting down to a feast in a few hours. That alone is far more then so many have on this day.

And I'm very thankful that I had Jim Daniels in my life. I miss him like hell, but would not trade the time we did have together for all the tea in China.

Loving you all back ... and have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Urge for Going

I was listening to Tom Rush sing this song written by Joni Mitchell . The lyrics are beautiful about the ending of summer and rushing in of winter with the "geese in chevron flight ... and I get the urge for going". I may be feeling this urge today.

Sometimes I try to imagine myself as being the most free now then I have ever been. But I feel the most saddled and stuck then I ever have been. Jim gave me wings.

"I get the urge for going, but I never seem to go".

I found yet another camera/travel bag of Jim's this morning. It was pretty much empty except for the few things he always had with him when he traveled: passport, business cards, pens, lip balm, and all kinds of foreign currency not spent in that distant land and worthless here. HIs passport is filled with all the different stamps of all those countries he visited. It's easier to tell people where Jim had never traveled to vs. where he had been, it was that extensive and exotic. He needed extra pages in his passport to make space for all those stamps; declarations of having arrived and departed.

"And I get the urge for going, when the meadow grass is turning brown,
summertime is falling down, and winter's closing in."

Oh, I went with Jim a lot. I'm incredibly lucky to have traveled to so many corners of this world, to have sat with so many wonderful people - shaking our heads and smiling at each other without a shared language to understand each other ... it's amazing how a smile and gentle touch can communicate so much. Eating their food and hoping all would remain well for me since my gut was so tender compared to our hosts. I loved traveling with Jim. I loved how he connected with all the different kinds of people. I loved his ability to make even the most stressful traveling experience into a wonderful adventure.

"I get the urge for going" ...

But lately I feel a bit anchored down by all my responsibilities: the house, the bills, the stuff I keep bumping up against and remembering that I really must take care of that .... too. Finding that travel bag and some of it's contents was hard today. I just threw my head back, gave a big sigh and, once again, shore myself up to take a look at what I might find; knowing it's going to leave me feeling empty and alone. His passport picture ... that beautiful face staring back at me ... yup, empty and alone flooding over me.

"See the geese in chevron flight, flapping and racing before the snow
They've got the urge for going, they've got the wings to go
They get the urge for going ...
Winter's closing in"

Loving you all back,

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Actually, I like rain. It offers new color schemes to the day - all the variations of gray. Henry Beston wrote of the sea and the sky as "pewter gray" in his book The Outermost House. I've always loved that description of gray.

But in November the gray is so complete, so stark with the leaves off the trees and those bare branches clacking together. Todays rain doesn't fall but rather flies sideways in thick sheets with a howling wind. Dressed in my yellow slicker I use to walk down to the beach on days like this. I was a wild child loving the energy of a storm, head bowed to it's fury I'd walk to the ocean to witness the waves crash on the rocks and feel the raw power in my solar plexus.

That wild child chased adventure, she didn't need anyone else, she was strong on her own and capable of walking directly into the northeast gale. Lately I find myself looking for this girl in my woman's being. Too often I feel lost and unable to do this alone. This morning this wind and rain has me feeling caged and trapped, unable to adventure out on my own.

Today I wish for someone to come look for me, who holds me most dear in his heart and notices when I've headed out into the storm. I miss this feeling of being special to someone and knowing they need and want me by their side. But it takes a certain person to allow this wild child her freedom, to honor her adventurous spirit. There were few who were able to keep stride with her in the howling wind and to share a love for it as well.

Today, I'm missing that kindred spirit that I found in Jim Daniels.

Loving you all back,

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bird by Bird

I stole the subject from Anne Lamott, who is one of my favorite writers. This book is a wonderful "how to write" book and basically she is saying, step by step. Well, this is how I'm beginning to tackle all the things that I want to accomplish around the house ... one project at a time. I remind myself I don't even have to actually complete the project, just get it started, make a dent in it and then maybe I can get back to it again at some point.

The other day it was the work bench down cellar. There are a lot of tools and other stuff that I don't even know what half of it is because this was Jim's area, his work space and he knew what everything was and, miraculously, where everything was. Over the last 2 years, as people came to help with projects, they would go down into that space to find the tools needed. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it's organization so it was hard for folks to put things back where they had found it. Thus, it had bloomed into a complete, chaotic, mess.

Did you note the "had" ... that's right, I got down there the other morning and organized, vacuumed (of course!), grouped things according to color and shape (I'm kidding) and basically pulled that work bench back into a space that invites rather then intimidates. And I even have a sense of what is there now. Mission accomplished and it feels purty durn good.

It also felt good to be seeing the things that Jim had collected and had worked with. His cherished Japanese hand saw as well as the wood carving tools. These things brought a smile to my face and not tears, which surprised me. But again, it's easier to work beyond our immediate living space for some reason. But, I have been able to give away quite a few of Jim's clothes and shoes. I'm fortunate there are so many men in my family who happen to be the same fit as Jim when it comes to certain articles of clothing. I know Jim would delight in seeing the leather jacket on Will, the fine Italian leather shoes on Jerry as well as so many of his great shirts, the hiking shoes on Jay and his sisters wearing his T-shirts to bed. I feel fine seeing these things go to loved ones and I don't even mind seeing them again when they are wearing them. It makes me smile. Eventually I will probably get down to stuff that I won't mind carting off to Goodwill ... but not quite yet.

It is, after all, just stuff. But pawing through the closet and seeing his saxophone had me drop into the fetal position one day. So some stuff still carries a lot of weight I guess. Pictures still are painful for me, though this too is getting a wee bit better. Reading his journals is hard; he was a writer and a poet and it's hard to witness that beautiful mind and soul in his scrawling on the page. I can almost ... almost ... hear his voice and this hurts like hell.

Oh, this process. Part of me just wants to be done with it as it is so incredibly painful at times and so flat lined in my feelings at other times. I get sharing stories, and of course all of them are "Jim and I", and the realization of all the history I have with this man, all the moments, all the best times and many bad times too. And now he's gone .... and I have all this stuff.

Bird by Bird, Mary ....

Loving you all back,

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I've never been a big Halloween fan. I don't have the creativity to come up with a costume. Jim was never much into it either. I remember one Halloween, when we lived in R.I. and Jim was a staff photographer with the Providence Journal, a friend from the Pro Jo invited us to his Halloween party. We were on the fence of going or not then heard that it wasn't a costume party so we thought we might go. Another friend called us a half hour before we needed to leave to tell us it WAS a costume party so be sure to dress up. What?!

OK, we were still game. Jim rolled his blue jeans up, wore white sox and an old pair of loafers, slicked his hair back and put on a white t-shirt and rolled up the sleeves. Me? What else do you go as in the '80's? I put on fishnet stockings, an old mini-skirt, low cut top, stuffed my bra with wool socks ... I'm not kidding, rag-wool socks! ... and put my hair into a pony tail. Not great "costumes" but certainly different personas.

When we arrived at the party no one else was in costume! The friend who told us to dress up was thinking of a different party. OK, play with it then, just command the stage and work it. Jim was easily recognized but the hysterical thing was no one knew who I was, not until they talked with me! "Mary? OMG, is that YOU?!" C'mon, I wasn't wearing a mask, maybe too much eyeshadow, it went with my outfit, but I still looked like me, or so I thought. I heard rumors of how it spread through the paper that Roger had invited a real floosie to his party. And then this rumor was squashed when those who had talked to her set the record straight.

Jim and I always loved that story. Best costume and best Halloween party we ever attended ... though my costume was a little bit itchy!

This Halloween my family came here to my 'hood. There is a wonderful kids parade that goes through the neighborhood for the littlest spooks. My two nieces, Hanna and Jenny, brought their young families over for the parade. Yup, I'm a great aunt now to the sweetest little girls. Skyla Mae was the one whose birth I attended, she's 12 (or 13?) weeks old now. Astrid is one and her sister Linnea turns four in March (she's already sending out her party invitations). My sister and bro-in-law (the grandparents, but don't say it too loudly) also came over. It was so much fun. The kids loved being in the parade, they could trick-or-treat and then come back to my cozy kitchen and have hot chocolate, hot cider and pizza. And since the Patriots were playing we all gathered in the t.v. room and watched some of the game while the kids rolled around on the floor.

This party ended by 7:00, I was out of candy and hadn't eaten anything so my good friend, who had joined in this Halloween party with all of us, decided that he and I should go to the local tavern, watch the rest of the game, and thus avoid any more trick-or-treaters. So we did.

This might be my second greatest Halloween party. I wish Jim had been here to share in it .... perhaps he was .... calling the spirits back, "night of the dead" is what Halloween is all about .... maybe he was here with all of us then and loved seeing me laugh.

Loving you all back,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Still Here

I've been a little quiet lately on this blog. Afraid to write the same old, same old I guess. Although, with that said, I do feel things have shifted a little bit; there are fewer tsunami waves crashing me to my knees, there is a bit more acceptance of the fact that he's truly gone. I think the sweat lodge I did in September may have done some bigger healings for me then I could imagine then ... or perhaps even now ... but perhaps it helped to catapult me a little further down this rocky road. I don't know.

Nights are still difficult. Sometimes I'll watch t.v. until I fall asleep in front of it just to prolong the act of going to bed ... because that is when all the demons show up. I take a homeopathic medicine to help calm them down to size and sometimes it helps.

There is so much to do around this house - piles of things that accumulated over the 2 years of Jim's illness that truly need to be gone through, or just tossed. I get overwhelmed so easily still. I attack something believing I have the energy for it and I just burn out too quickly. So I make a new pile from the old pile, or move the old pile to a new location - not accomplishing anything really, and then have to go lie down, or go outside where I get more energy. I can move wood or chop kindling easier then file papers. But I can't seem to get into the garden and do what needs to be done this fall. I use to love it when Jim and I would go out there together and rake leaves, cut down the old plants, get the yard looking right before the snow. Doing it alone just has me realize how fall is the season of things dying.

Yes, I'm still here and sometimes I can't understand why. Sometimes I just have to wonder, why him? Why not me? What is it that I must still accomplish? I can't imagine as I seem to not be able to accomplish much at all these days.

I went to hear Greg Mortenson, the author of the book Three Cups of Tea, speak at USM last night. This man has been building schools for girls in Taliban controlled territory. Inspirational almost comes close to how this man effects others. And as I looked at the pictures and heard the stories all I could think was how this was the kind of work Jim would document, this was the kind of good that Jim was called to do, and did so well.

I can't imagine why Jim is not here doing his work that the world needs right now. So I stop since I never will understand this.

I hear my crows on this gray, wet morning. I know they see me sitting here and I know they wait patiently for me to step outside to feed them. My little family of black birds.

Yes, I'm still here.

Loving you all back

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dance Like No One Is Watching

I was getting some of the pictures off the Lotsa Helping Hands sight as there are some really good ones on there and I don't want to lose them. I was surprised at my ability to look at the images of Jim since I haven't been able to do this for 6 months. The pictures of the last fundraiser when Jim danced all night ... literally ... even brought a smile to my face. I love it when people say "I can't dance", or "I'm the worst dancer on earth". That night while Jim was dancing and doing these amazing deep knee bends for the oddest reason, EVERYONE was able to dance like no one was looking - Jim gave us all permission to do this. To just move, to dance and laugh and throw all our egos out the window and dance with true abandon. Not a bad memory to have.

And now, in this house by myself, I can dance and sing into my hairbrush all I want ... because no one is watching. Well, truth be told, I could do this kind of thing even when Jim was watching since he loved me no matter how ridiculous I could be, but it's different now. What other things do I do, now that there is no one to share this space?

I have found that I don't close the bathroom door these days. It's not a good habit because I was at my office, where the restroom is right off the waiting room, and I went into the restroom and almost forgot to close the door. Luckily there was no one in the waiting room but I thought to myself, "ye-gads girl, you better focus!". I remember when my good friend, NTM, was sharing this office space with me and she told me once how she did the same thing after being divorced for so many years. I laughed with her but thought "really? How could you forget to do that?" .... well, look whose laughing now.

Mornings are very different these days. When I'm not striking out in the pitch black at 6:00 a.m. to meet up with 2 friends who live in my hood to go for a run I find it hugely decadent to get my first cup of coffee, grab the computer and crawl back into bed with Ella lying on my feet, the computer or my book in my lap, the light on and just write or read until the sun comes up, or my crows begin to talk to me, before I crawl out from under the comforter and get on with the day. This is a totally new behavior for me ... and I enjoy this one.

The other thing about these early mornings - I can turn as many lights on as I want in the wee hours and I'm not bothering anyone. This has taken a bit of time for me to get use to. Before Jim's sickness he would ask me to turn off the closet light, or the bathroom light or the ...... and I would. When he became so sick I would tip-toe around to ensure that he got the sleep he needed without my interruptions ... and thus, this is a new kind of freedom for me.

I can also play all my old retro music as loud as I want and whenever I want. Lately I've been listening to a "classic rock" station that plays all the 70's tunes that I grew up with. The thing I love most about this music is that a lot of the tunes have memories from a time before Jim, and these old tunes are tapped into these times. So the memories they conjure up are not always related to Jim ... but to an even more distant past. This feels very healing as this music makes me smile and has me singing along in grand style!

And these tunes get me dancing ... and I will dance with abandon because no one is watching. The best thing that the 60's and 70's era offered was a new style of dancing ... no need to actually have a partner.

And I don't .... have a partner anymore. But I do ... dance with abandon now and remember the twinkle in Jim's eye that always said "let's GO!" be it running the beach in a Nor'easter storm, heading down a steep and rocky trail on his mountain bike ... or dancing with abandon.

I do and will always love you Jim and your wild spirit.

Loving you all back,

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Spirit talk?

There was an interesting phenomena that happened over the weekend on Little Cranberry. While we were waiting for the ferry in Northeast Harbor Donna and Stacie went to check out some of the shops. I didn't know this at the time but Donna's cell phone rang and the caller I.D. said "Jim Daniels", with his old cell phone number. There was no one there when she answered.

That first night I was getting dinner going and the 3 of us were enjoying a cocktail. Donna came into the kitchen and was just about to tell me of this odd phone call in NE Harbor when her phone rang again. She brought it over for me to see the caller I.D. ... "Jim Daniels"! She answered it with a "Hi Jim" ... and then she started to talk to someone! I almost fainted!!! Turns out it was some kid in the popular Old Orchard Beach summer resort in southern Maine looking for Kristen.

"Sorry, wrong number".

But here's the thing, this kid was calling from Jim's canceled cell phone number? AND he had called a Colorado cell phone number ... COLORADO!!! How could this be?

Several folks have tried to explain how this might have happened but Jim's two sisters and I look at each other and laugh and say, "nope, it was Jim."
He never wanted to be left out of a good time and certainly wanting his three most loved women to know that he was with us ... yup, it was Jim.

Loving you all back,

Friday, October 8, 2010


I spent the weekend out on the island of Islesford, also known as Little Cranberry, that sits just off Mount Desert where Acadia National Park is. The first weekend in October, it was beautiful out there, quiet with all the summer folk gone. Donna and Stacie had come back for a long weekend in order to make this trip with me. In September of 2008, while Jim still seemed OK but probably had tumors growing in his beautiful head, we all had gone out to Islesford for five days and stayed in the house owned by our good friends. The cabin sits right on the rocky beach where the surf rolls in and tumbles the granite and feldspar rocks to smooth, round gems. All day and night the rythmic symphony of these rocks rolling against each other with each wave is heard. Such a soothing and wonderful song.

We arrived in the fog and therefore unable to see much beyond the bow of the ferry. A friend of mine recently reminded me that I once told her, while she and I walked on a beach in a dense fog, how much I love being in fog because it forces you to be so present since you can't see much beyond where you are right now, no images of the beach in front of you or what is behind you. No future to contemplate, no past either really. I thought of this as the ferry powered out to the island, tried to get philosophical about life, tried to stay very present and not think or worry about my future ... though I can't let go of my past.

The three of us this year were taking the remainder of Jim's ashes out to that rocky beach and, together, would spread the last of Jim's earthly remains into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of our beloved Maine. I had also spread some of his ashes at almost 13,000 feet when I did the long hike in Telluride, Colorado. It seems right that Jim is now part of the carbon cycle in the rocky mountains and the rocky beach of Maine.

"Ashes to ashes and dust to dust" .... that bag of ashes was odd. I got thinking how all of Jim's molecules were in there, all his bones, his gorgeous muscles, his beautiful blue eyes and "Irish mug" of a nose, even his brain - all carbon compost now. But what of his mind? Ah, his mind is not carbon now. I've been contemplating this concept of the 'mind' and would love to hear ideas any of you may have and would like to share with me. Is the "mind" the soul? Is the "mind" our very essence? Jim's wonderful "mind" is how I remember him; his intelligence, his sensitivity and love of the world and all that is in it. Just a few thoughts this gorgeous October morning.

Bittersweet. It was. The three of us, Donna, Stacie and I, had a very relaxing and wonderful stay out there though we all felt the absence of Jim very deeply and profoundly. Jim was the extrovert and would always be sharing his ideas or be spontaneous and fun and could get us all laughing until tears streamed down our cheeks. There was a lot more silence this trip, a lot more just starring out to sea, a lot more solo walks on the beach. This was all very good for each of us ... it was a sweet time out there this year, laced with the bitterness of our loss.

"I'm looking way out to the ocean
Love to watch that green water in motion ...

I will always love you
Hands alike
Magnet and Iron
The souls."

Joni Mitchell

Loving you all back,

Monday, September 27, 2010


I read how anger is very much a part of the grieving process. Oh, I've had my moments of needing to bite someone, but I haven't really gone into a lot of anger ... yet. Mostly I'm just sad, empty, fearing the future and my financial situation and wondering what possible grand plan there can be with all this ... or if there even is one.

But today I am angry and want to start any conversations with the Creator with "WTF?". A very good friend has been given months to survive. MONTHS! This man, R., walked into our lives back when Jim was undergoing radiation treatments because R. also had a glioblastoma, grade 4 that had been removed. I always said, "R. walked into our lives and just never left". Jim and R. fell in love with each other and when I met his wife, G., I felt that I had found someone who truly understood all that I was going through ... somewhat. R. was doing so much better then Jim; he could drive, he could talk, he could play tennis! But he didn't have a tumor on his brainstem so this made all the difference in terms of some normalcy with life. This man has a huge heart and a lot of compassion which he shared with both Jim and I. We felt we had found some real comrades with these two people, even though their battle seemed so different from ours.

Back in May R had to have another tumor removed. After two years the aliens seemed to be returning. Last week I found out that R. has an additional tumor that has grown back, deeper in his brain this time, not as easy to operate on - though they're going to try this week. It grew really fast .... as the damn things want to do .... and it's very aggressive. This operation may give him a few more months.

A few more months .... of life. WTF?!?!?!?!

Now I'm angry! And asking WHY? Why the best of the best? I know I can scream this at the stars, throw things at the moon and never get an answer to this question. But I may still do it because it feels good and keeps me from biting someone.

But, honest, WTF is going on?


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Web of Life

This morning I got back from an early run in the woods with my dog, Ella. My crows were screaming at me as it was late for their feeding. I took the food out to the lawn by walking across the deck and to one side of my big oak tree. On my way back to the house I went to the other side of the oak and almost walked into a HUGE spider and her web. She's tried a new location. For the past few days she's been on the wood shed door and I've wrecked her web too frequently I guess. So now she has constructed her trap from the oak tree, that grows up through my deck, and the wood shed, directly in my normal path of passage from kitchen to yard.

I stopped just in time so as not to get entangled and therefore did not end up doing the flapping dance of swatting, jumping around and squeeling knowing how big this mama is! Instead I looked real closely at her construction - it's gorgeous. She's actually quite stunning too. There are two very long strands that run from the oak tree and then branch out making a perfect V, one going to the top of the web and the other to the bottom of the web. Nice architecture. The web sits closer to the wood shed wall, not hanging too far out and thus safe from the wind .... but not me if I forget she's there again!

I spent a few minutes talking to this large, bulbous-abdomen lady and did a few gentle twangings of her support strings. She didn't like that so much so I stopped, but I was intrigued by the strength and beauty of her design.

As I walked back into the house I found myself thinking "I'll show her to Jim when he gets up" ... and then stopped in my tracks. I couldn't believe I actually just thought that! But I did, it was real and it was painful. Some of my friends laugh at me because I notice things like spiders ... and enjoy it. But Jim never laughed at me. He loved having me point my observations out to him and he would take the time to stand in awe with me over a spider and her web.

I miss that.

Loving you all back,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Morning sunrise

My crows are arriving, I can hear and see them fly into the Oak trees in my yard. The sunrise is a tequila cocktail of colors on the horizon as the morning star fades. Another day ....

Mornings are far better for me then the nights. Jim use to say that I would fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, and he wasn't far off from that. This is no longer my truth, now I will lay awake in bed with a head full of worries, thoughts of Jim; memories from when he was sick and wondering if I could have done things better for him, memories of before his illness, memories of his laugh, memories of his body. Thoughts of all that I must do now, things that must be taken care of ... and fear seems to lie crouching just under the bed hoping that I'll give completely over to it so it might devour me.

I do not fall asleep when my head hits the pillow anymore.

People tell me how strong I am and I truly do not understand this, I don't know what they mean. I feel anything but strong these days. I feel like I'm trying to set sail without a mast, without a compass. This house is now all mine, and all my responsibility. This life is all mine, and my responsibility. I really liked sharing all this before. There was a feeling of a safety net before, a support system that Jim and I would construct for each other. A feeling that we could weather anything, we could survive anything .... except brain cancer ... and loneliness.

Oh it's all such unchartered territory for me. I'm not one who ever minded being alone. I would love it when Jim needed to travel for a couple weeks, love the feeling of being by myself, watching whatever I wanted to watch on T.V., not needing to tip toe around in the early morning as I would get up to go for a run and he was not going to join me. But now, this solitude is an entirely different beast. What I would give to be asked if we could watch the Red Sox game.

The light is turning white as the sun gets higher. I've got a lot of busy-ness to do today to get ready for a friend arriving from the west coast and a weekend of gathering for the annual reunion of my gal-pals I went to acupuncture school with. I will soak up the feeling of being supported by this group of amazing women. I will push the fear back under my bed and lock the door as I leave for the weekend ... maybe it will shrink down to size while I'm away.

My crows are sitting on the branch directly in front of my vision reminding me that they are there and they are hungry.

Another day.

Loving you all back,

Monday, September 13, 2010


Last night was a really bad one. Couldn't get to sleep, all these memories flooding my head, sobbing into my pillow, tossing and turning to try to shake the fear that grips me because I'm so alone now. I feel stuck in the acceptance stage of the grief process .... because I can't seem to accept this, can't seem to get my head around the fact that my Jim is dead. DEAD. Never coming back, gone where I can't follow. Last night I prayed that my breathing would just stop, my aching heart would stop beating and I would fall asleep and walk towards the light where I would see Jim again. So much easier then trying to do this life now without him.

Home. My hives are back, my lousy sleep patterns are back, all my fears are back. That was a gift the sweat lodge gave me .... my hives calmed down out there and after the sweat I slept better then I had in over two years. Fell right asleep and did not move until morning. I think I actually got two nights of that kind of sleep before all the demons came back.

Tiny sips of air ..... that's what was needed last night ....

Before the third round of the sweat the men brought in more rocks. A lot of them! Even Debbie, Stan's helper, commented on how many rocks there were. Molly started to go into a panic again and needed to lean over behind Deb so that she could put her head out the little door while they brought the rocks in. My claustrophobic friend had to slip out before the doors closed (she did return for the fourth round - two out of four when panic gripped her throat so hard she couldn't breathe at all - was pretty good actually!).

Debbie handed me a small bundle of sage with explicit directions as to what I was to do with this. Another deeply sacred ritual that I was being honored with, or this is how I felt. There was more praying and more singing and the heat was incredibly intense. My comrades shared after the sweat that this third round brought them all too close to the panic line, they all wanted to yell for the doors to be opened but my 12 year old warrior friend, who had come in at the beginning of this round, was the one who relieved everybody. He yelled to his uncle, Stanford, that he couldn't breathe and said the Arapaho word for "OPEN", the doors were opened and this little guy was whisked out into the cool evening very quickly. Everyone was grateful.

Back out into the cool night under the Wyoming stars. It was late so Daniel and his girlfriend had left to take their two year old boy home. I spent the break retrieving my fleece sweater from the dogs that were using it as their bed after stealing it off the bench I had left it on and then getting my water bottle from another group of dogs who were using it as their chew toy!

Before the fourth round Stanford spoke to me "Mary, we are going to smudge you". I know what 'smudging' is and understand it's power and importance. I was instructed to move closer to the fire pit (where it is surprisingly cool ... the heat from the rocks goes up, thus, close to the pit is the coolest spot) and told how to sit while, Marty - one of Stanford's clan - used a small pile of burning sage to smudge me, to bless me, to honor me and cleanse me of my broken heart. I am far too stoic and do not cry easily in front of others - I don't see this as a good thing mind you - but my tears in this lodge in front of those gathered were flowing unchecked.

A few more rituals were performed for all of us and then the heat came again. By now my clothes were drenched, my towels were all soggy and when the doors opened we could see the steam billowing out. Everyone sat a little longer in the sweat after this fourth, and final, round. Just chatting and feeling the cold night air flood into the lodge. When Stanford was lifted off his mat and put into his wheelchair someone said "Stew time!" We all laughed and made our way to the cars so we could change into dry clothes before heading into Stan's kitchen for the dinner that Willo, Terri and Eva had prepared for all of us.

There was one more ritual that I needed to perform before anybody else could eat. Stan had told Molly what I was to do. With my hearing impairment and Stanford's voice timber he and I found it hard to communicate sometimes so I was glad that he had spoken to Molly. She and I went back out to the sweat lodge to perform this last act of gratitude. When we returned to the kitchen everyone started to eat. Stanford asked me how I felt and I stopped for a minute to focus on this. I felt lighter, I felt open and expansive. He nodded his head and smiled at me. And, since I was struggling with a store bought salt shaker I added, "and stupid! I can't figure this salt shaker out!" Stanford laughed and reached for the shaker to tap the top of it and told me to snap that top off. DUH!

One of the amazing things about this sweat was how clean I felt after. I'm an endurance athlete and have done my share of sweating. Always after a long event I can't wait to hit the shower to wash the salt and sticky feeling off my skin, to wash away the human scent that is stronger. But after this sweat lodge I felt so clean, as though I had taken a luxurious bath. I even felt moisturized. Out west the air is so dry your skin literally puckers up if you don't put on lotion, but this night I did not feel this. My skin was clean, soft and needed nothing added to it. What a surprise this was!

My entire two weeks out west was devoted to Jim. He was with me during this sweat lodge, I carried him with me up to almost 13,000 feet when I hiked in Telluride - and cried the last switch back to the top remembering how he was always out ahead of me on these hikes. It was a hugely spiritual journey for me. I guess being home I'm surrounded by all that Jim and I once were and will never be again .... and my heart breaks again, over and over.

Loving you all back,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sweat Lodge -chapter three

At the beginning of the second round of the sweat I leaned over and asked Debbie - Stan's assistant during the sweat who had told us she was from Boulder, came up for a sweat after her mother died and, basically, never left - if there would be more sharing during the second round? She said no, just praying. There is a ritual with water that is done while the doors are still open and someone had brought flashlights so we could see as the sun had completely set at this time .... though I had no clue what time it actually was. After this water ritual Stan asks that doors be closed. I looked over at my good friend who had to slip out just before the first round and she was already in her towel tent ... she was staying!

Several folks have emailed me asking what is worn for clothing as well as what the heat might be compared to. The Addison's are a very modest bunch and this is not a Swedish sweat so clothes are worn and all of us were very conscious about being discreet regarding the length of the shorts we wore and the tightness of any tops. But basically once that water is added to those hot rocks the towels are the most important thing you can have in the sweat with you, and big enough to make a tent to cover your head and face as well as other towels to cover your legs and any other exposed skin. The heat is so incredibly intense that no steam bath comes even close in comparison. I think all of us experienced moments of panic at some point with this wall of heat. I found the advice my friend, Roseanne, had given me about taking small sips of air through the open mouth to be the only thing that kept me from screaming for the doors to be opened. If you breathe too deep it actually feels like your lungs are burning and thus your breathing is so compromised that it can bring on panic. But if you can sit with this and breathe through it there is something beyond this panic .... if you stay with it, sip the air that you can and dig deeper into your own reserves ... there is a hugely spiritual thing on the other side of that panic. This is one of the many layers of power that the sweat lodge seems to offer; to be tested to your breaking point and be able to move beyond it .... there is another level that one can reach.

As this second round began and the doors were closed Stan said a few words of thanks and prayer and then asks that the water be added. Again, the heat slammed into me and the sweat began to pour off me. I have never felt the flood gates to my pours open like this; the sweat poured down my face dripping off my nose and chin, cascading down my spine, soaking the towels and my clothes. I would open my mouth to take my little sips of air and suck in water as it drained off me.

And then the praying started. Stan started to sing in his native language the high careening and flute like trilling of the Native American chanting. He has a beautiful voice and when Daniel joined in the sound hit me in the solar plexus, or heart chakra, and my body began to rock. There was something very ancient and completely familiar to me in this music. My tears of gratitude and grief for Jim were mixing with the waterfall of sweat so that I couldn't tell one from the other. As the young Addison girls joined in there was a higher pitched ensemble added to this miraculous melodious prayer. It is one of the most amazing and gorgeous music I have ever heard. Then it stopped and the doors were opened and we all funneled outside once again.

I went and sat with Daniel on the rug under the canopy of the Milky Way. I pointed out a few constellations that I could recognize to Willo and Molly. Daniel shared with us one of the stories of the Milky Way that he had grown up with that involved horses and buffalos. And then he began to sing another song for us ... and again my body began to just rock and a huge smile grew on my face. I so loved hearing his voice, hearing this language, hearing this music. Sitting out under this brilliant display of stars in the chill of the Wyoming air while being sung to by this Arapaho man in his land was more then I could have ever asked for, more then I ever expected and I am eternally grateful to this family for their acceptance of all of us white women who came to them for healing, who embraced us with their songs, who enveloped us in their ritual sweat lodge and brought us all to an understanding of what equality is, what shared pain is all about.

Loving you all back
(and there is still one more chapter regarding the 4th round of the sweat that was incredibly wonderful)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Chapter 2 - Sweat Lodge

On this sweat lodge night the sunset was magnificent with the mountains of the Wind River Range in the distance turning purple. The few streaks of clouds in the sky turned bright pink to pastel orange and then the first star (a planet really) appeared. A new moon, the stars would be glorious at this altitude tonight.

Molly was beginning to get very nervous so Stanford had talked to her for awhile in the kitchen and loaded her up with a big bed spread and other large beach towels. She was told to sit beside him. I was also to sit close to him (and of course, Molly!) so that I could hear him tell me when to remove my hearing aids. He didn't want me to wear those as the heat would be too much but he didn't want me to miss out on any of the sharing and things that would be said either. So Molly and I were put beside Stanford, who lies on a mattress by one of the two doors.

We already knew to have towels to cover our skin to protect it against the heat. One of the young Arapaho girls doing the sweat educated us on how to get as low as possible and completely cover yourself with the larger towel if the heat got to be too much. This was really good information! Molly practiced this and with her bed spread she was completely covered and therefore protected.

Stanford spoke softly to me while everyone was getting settled and asked if I would be willing to share my story with everyone. I agreed that I would. I knew that this is part of a sweat; participants share the pain in their heart, the purging of emotions that must be purged. He asked that the doors be closed - the "doors" are just heavy blankets that are pulled down over the 2 entrances to the lodge. It is pitch black once the doors close. I moved closer to Molly and she and I grasped hands through our towels.

Stanford thanked everyone for coming and for all the help he got in preparing the sweat tonight. He then said "Mary, would you share your story with everyone please" ... and I did. My voice was very shaky but I was able to get through it without breaking down. I shared my story with the 5 women who already knew it intimately and with a dozen Arapaho people who didn't even know my name. I shared that my husband, Jim, was diagnosed with brain cancer on December 29th, 2008 and how he survived for sixteen months, almost twice as long as all his doctors predicted. I shared how his right side had become paralyzed and he lost his ability to speak, how strong and beautiful his spirit was, how the Eagles had circled Jim and I that morning back in April, so close that we could see their eyes and this prompted me to contact Stanford to have this sweat for Jim ... but Jim died in May and I decided to come anyway and that perhaps this is what the Eagles saw as what was needed all along.

Stanford quietly thanked me for sharing, thanked me for all the work and caring I must have needed to do to take care of Jim. My tears were now flowing silently and freely. Then he asked for the water to be poured on the rocks. I suddenly realized, since on one else was asked to share, this sweat was devoted to Jim and that all those gathered were now going to support me in my healing. And then with a large hiss we were hit with a wall of heat like nothing I have ever experienced before.

There are four rounds to a sweat. Each round lasts only 10-15 minutes and then the doors open and everyone gets to take a break. As I emerged with bare feet I saw my friend, Willo, sitting with Daniel - Stanford's adopted son, the biological son of Stan's dead brother - and Daniel's girlfriend on a rug beside the lodge. They called me over to sit with them. Daniel leaned over and asked "who are you?". I was taken aback by this question as I understood now that this was not really asking me my name. Who am I? For a few seconds I thought of saying I'm the woman who traveled from sea level where the air is salt kissed to 7,000 feet and a sage scented land. I'm the woman who lies down alone at night with a heart so heavy I'm never sure I will be able to get up and carry it again come morning. I'm the woman who, after all these years, must try to navigate a whole new life without an oar anymore ... or an anchor. But I looked at Daniel and said, "I'm Mary".

Willo leaned over and told me that nobody knew who was talking. OH! Yes, I'm Mary. Daniel - who has jet black hair that flows to his waist and the high, strong cheekbones of his people - leaned over, took my hand and looking me in the eye said "I'm sorry for your loss". His girlfriend then did the same thing and told me that her grandmother had died in April from lung cancer and she understood how terrible it is to lose someone to this disease.

I realized that this is what a sweat lodge does, all who share in it are equal, everyone has pain, everyone has some kind of tragedy in their life ... and in the sweat lodge all are embraced because of this pain, because we all share it, because we are all connected. It's truly a wonderful thing to experience.

Stanford had spent the break talking to one of my comrades who, due to a severe jolt of claustrophobia, had to make her escape from the lodge before the second door got closed, thus missing the first round. I don't know what Stanford said to her but she entered the lodge again and sat by the door determined to stay for the entire second round. I was incredibly proud of her and my respect for Stanford rose even higher.

Round two was about to begin .....

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sweat Lodge - chapter one

I'm realizing this whole event needs to be done in chapters, there's just too much to try to put into one blog.

On Wednesday, September 1, all 6 gals rendezvoused outside of Fort Collins, Colorado and in 2 cars we made the journey towards Lander, Wyoming. The sweat lodge was scheduled for Thurs. Sept. 2. We were told to plan on arriving at Stanfords house between 12:00 and 3:00 on the 2nd in order to cook dinner for everyone (this could mean up to 35 people - many will gather for a sweat lodge) that would be consumed after the sweat. In addition we would purchase things that Lisa Jones had told us were favorites; Fanta orange soda, diet and regular soda of any flavor, pesto, Kool light soft packs, to name a few.

The six of us had a wonderful morning of exploring Lander, lunch and then hit the grocery store timing it so we would be at the Addison's by 3:30, which we were. The initial "welcome" was very confusing ... nobody seemed to know we were coming and seemed surprised there was going to be a sweat. Stanford was off in another town running errands. Uh-oh. Luckily a couple of my gal pals weren't intimidated by this, started unloading the car saying "well, we've brought dinner and we're going to get it cooking for y'all now". This was fine, no problem. Stanford would be back around 5:00 or 5:30 and the sweat would, indeed, take place by sunset.

There was a lot of just hanging out, walking to the horse corral, walking to the river, all kinds of people coming and going with kids and dogs appearing and disappering. It's literally a beehive of activity. I was struck by how no one really introduced themselves. They would say hello and give big, warm, welcoming smiles but names did not seem important at all.

Stanford arrived and we helped unload the car that was filled with supplies. Stanford waved hello to everyone, drove his wheel chair up the ramp and disappeared into the house to have a cigarette. We slowly made our way in and all introduced ourselves and were told that it was still too hot for a sweat so it would wait until sundown. Molly (my niece) and I decided to take a walk down a cow path. We were immediately joined by 2 young boys who, they told us, were cousins. They had just returned from town with plastic guns that shot tiny, hard, bright green plastic BB's. Great, I thought! These 2 never asked our names and we didn't ask them theirs. They were our warriors and all set to protect us ... once they understood that we would not be intimidated and taken hostage that is! I never knew so many rattlesnakes could exist just out of sight on this cow path. There seemed to be one every 25 yards .... or so these boys said ... and they had to be shot at to scare them away - of course! And then there were free range bulls behind every bush. We were told to "RUN!" but when we didn't we were told that it was OK, they could protect us. Phew.

By the time we got back to the house with these two young warriors they were asking us our names. Ah, getting to know you and understanding how you are as a person is far more important then a name. I liked this, and felt delighted when our new friends now wanted to know how to call to us.

Stanford was driving his wheel chair out to the corral just as we got back to the house so we followed along. After the horses seemed to accept a few of us there with Stan he turned to me and said "Mary, when did you call me?". I walked over and said "well, Stanford, I called you back in April initially. I am the woman Lisa Jones talked to you about. My husband had brain cancer and we agreed that a sweat for him would be good. Then I called you in June to tell you that he had passed away in May but that I still wanted to do a sweat and we agreed on this date, September 2." As I was talking I saw Stanford start to remember all this and I continued to say "I didn't want to bug you and call you again to remind you as I thought you'd probably remember," and then I added with a laugh "but I guess not huh?". Stanford laughed with me and just said "yeah, I screwed that one up!"

The afternoon wore on and since nobody had watches or cell phones we never really knew the time, just that the sun was getting lower in the sky and it was beginning to cool off quite a bit. We all agreed that just being with this family was very much part of the whole adventure. I was sitting on the small porch just off the kitchen when Stanford wheeled out and parked right beside me and started chatting with everyone who was on the porch at this time.
"So, Mary, how many people did you bring?", he asked.
"Oh, about 2,000." He laughed pretty hard at this. The whole family, including Stan, have a wonderful sense of humor and are very easy going so it was not hard to just hang around for all these hours waiting for the sweat.

The fire to heat the rocks had been started and constantly attended by a couple men for awhile now and these same men were now using shovels to carry these rocks to the pit inside the lodge .... it was almost sweat time. Others told us that usually there is a sweat on Wednesday nights but there had not been one last night - Wednesday the first - so everyone was excited that there would be a sweat after all.

The six of us from Maine had many emotions, all mixed, about this sweat lodge that was getting prepared for all of us.

To be continued ....

Saturday, August 28, 2010


This morning the sunrise was so beautiful. Each cloud was glowing with a golden light that turned pink and then purple as the sun rose higher. This light extended to all the trees so that each branch was rose colored. Always takes my breath away when I can witness this.

Last night the sunset had the bay on fire and each boat out there ignited in a fuschia colored glow. As I looked out over that gorgeous scene I talked to Jim, told him how much I miss him and how he would not have allowed me to just sit here, not wanting to go out or really see anyone. Jim couldn't sit still like that, couldn't have just watched the sun go down ... he needed to be out in it. I told him I don't know why he had to go first, it seems to me he had so much more to offer this world then I do. He was the one that blazed through life and wanted to accomplish so many things. It makes no sense to me - not that I expect it ever will. I worry I needed Jim to keep me lusting for life and interested in it. I can sit and watch it all go by lately.

The waning moon was still pretty big and bright when I turned off my bedside lamp. I usually would go to bed before Jim but whenever the moon was reflecting it's spot light on the water, like it was last night, I would call Jim to come see it. He always would and we would stand in the window with arms around each other just soaking up the moonlight. I felt him here with me last night. Felt that he was looking at this moon with me. It was a brief sensation, but I trust it was what it was.

Many folks are saying to me "you HAVE to tell me about the sweat when you get back!" And I plan to do this. I will have my computer with me knowing that I have internet service while in Denver and with Jim's sister on the western slope, so I will be able to post the before and after thoughts, for those who want to check in.

I'm looking forward to being in the mountains again. I need space that open with that big sky and those jagged peaks. It will be very different being out there without Jim. Very, very different.

Loving you all back,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August 25th

Yup, today is our anniversary. I always would say "legally we've been married for 26 years, but illegally we lived together for 5 years". And Jim would laugh. I was always very proud - and amazed - at how long he and I had been together .... happily .... very much together.

It's raining here today. A much needed soaking for this little state in the Union. Seems appropriate for my mood too - a bit withdrawn, a bit gray and wet. I thought I'd try to just not acknowledge the day today, maybe it would pass silently, slither by like that little garter snake I saw in the garden the other day ... so silent and beautiful and quick to disappear. But, like my birthday, it's another difficult "first" and it's not really going to just slip easily away from me I guess.

Oh, I don't feel any big desire to do some kind of tribute - God no, that might destroy me. But I do feel a need to have a diversion. My niece, Molly, seems to be jumping in with all kinds of ideas of what she and I can do today after work. A movie might just fit the bill; big screen visuals with someone else's life playing out in front of me. She wants to see Eat, Pray, Love. I loved the book so assume I won't love the movie. I also refer to this scenario when I say "when will I get out of my fetal position and pull myself off the bathroom floor, fly off to Italy, buy a villa, pull my life together again and write a memoir that Oprah will scoop up so it becomes a best seller?"

Dream a little dream for me .....

So not only is it a gray day for me, it's actually been a very hard week. I seemed to reach down even deeper into the depths of despair and longing for this best friend of mine. "They" say it will get easier. "They" is actually several widowed friends of mine who are almost convincing me that it does soften, that I can continue in this world and find my way, just have to get through all these damn firsts I guess. Hard to believe the seconds will truly be easier.

In addition, I have to go to the dentist this morning. I'm not kidding. And I think I'll have to schedule having one of my four wisdom teeth pulled since one is beginning to really bother me. I do find this a bit humorous and probably could come up with all kinds of analogies. But I'm not going to.

I do know that Jim would have enjoyed the humor in this.

Loving you all back

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sweat Lodge

One week from tomorrow on August 30th I will be heading west with an entourage of 5 other women. I have mixed feelings about all this, but mostly excited. If you go to the April 2010 posting and scroll down to the post titled What's Bad is Good you will read about Stanford Addison, an Arapahoe medicine man who lives outside of Lander Wyoming on the Arapahoe reservation. I have contacted Stanford and shall be journeying to do a sweat lodge with him. How this came about is pretty amazing.

If you read the post, What's Bad is Good, you will read about the Eagles that circled Jim and I one morning and how I whispered into Jim's ear to send his prayers up with those Eagles. This is a quote of Stanford's that came out of the book Broken written by Lisa Jones. After this breath-stopping experience with these circling birds I wrote to Jones a few days later. She lives not far from the town in Colorado that Jim's sister, Donna, lives in. Somehow this made Lisa more human and approachable to me since, "hey, I know where you live!" To my surprise she responded to my email that inquired whether Stanford was still alive and gave her a little information on the fact that my husband was living with brain cancer. Her response to me was "Due to your circumstance I'm going to cut the normal rigamarole I give to people who write asking about Stanford. Here's Stan's direct number. I'm going to call him and tell him you'll be calling".

WOW!!!! The next morning she emailed me again and said she had spoken to Stanford and he was expecting my call whenever I was ready. I called him that afternoon asking him if a sweat lodge would be appropriate for Jim. He confirmed that it would be very appropriate and he had run sweats for many cancer victims. We agreed that the end of the summer might be good timing and that we would talk more in a couple months.

After Jim died in May I contacted Stanford in June and told him. I added that I was still interested in heading to Lander and doing a traditional sweat with him. I now believe that perhaps this is what the Eagles saw as being needed .... and that perhaps this sweat lodge is now happening for my own healing and purification.

So, I'm going. I have arranged to do this sweat with Stanford on September 2. Jones has been wonderful in sending me lots of information on how to be a "Helpful Honkie on the Rez" as well as maps to get to the reservation from Lander and other information that assists in making this whole trip a little easier .... because so much of this is just unknown! And I am traveling with 5 other amazing, wonderful women - one of them my 21 year old niece who, I believe, is a gift that Jim left me with when he passed. My niece has not been in my life to any great extent until the hospice experience and then she waltzed in and decided she needed to be a bigger presence in my life now. She is so very right about this. And I invited her to come on this huge adventure with me ... to my delight, she accepted. The other women are some of my dear friends who have been here through thick and thin ... mostly thick.

A little history ... I know that there was a lot of press regarding the sweat lodge gone amok recently where the leader of the sweat didn't allow any of the attendee's to leave the lodge and thus ended up killing many people. This is pure stupidity. This is someone who was conducting a sweat lodge who had no business doing so. Working with Stanford Addison is working with a Native American man who has conducted countless sweat lodges for over 25 years ... all safely!! Through Lisa's web site I read where Stanford was in disbelief that someone would run a sweat and not allow anyone to leave the lodge if they felt a desire to get out of it! I may have nervous feelings about how well I can handle the heat of a sweat lodge but I have NO fear that the expertise of this medicine man who will be running this knows what he's doing and will take good care of all of us involved in his sweat.

One more thing. I'm coming up on another big first .... Jim and my anniversary is this week. This might also explain why my weekend was so hard .... surf was up and the waves hitting me were pretty big ones. I think it's good I have this trip coming up to be focused on.

Loving you all back,

Thursday, August 12, 2010


It's been four months, which doesn't sound like a long time but feels like an eternity. I'm surprised at how hard this is to accept. How sometimes it feels like this can't be me? This really can't be what has happened to Jim Daniels .... of all people!? I must be caught in someone else's bad dream. It's not possible that this is mine.

A good friend emailed me recently who understands this kind of loss. He said that he read somewhere that the brain actually becomes "wired" to another human being when we are with them for a long period of time .... like 31 years of marriage. And that when we lose that person then the brain has to actually go through a whole new re-wiring to remove this person from our brains programming.

Grief is a biological process.

This makes a lot of sense to me. This explains why Jim could frequently speak the very thoughts I might be having more often then not. And that I could channel what Jim needed to say when he had lost his ability to talk ... amazing him sometimes. We were totally wired to each other. Totally in sync. Totally in love. And I'm totally lost now.

My friend, Hannah, has been telling me that the brain needs to heal from all this trauma and that this takes time and needs lots of rest to accomplish this task. Ah, the process of re-programming my life without Jim in it. Yes, it's going to take a little time and it may explain why I can just run out of steam so fast and only want to lie down and read or close my eyes. It also explains why I get hit with the tsunami of disbelief still. Perhaps these waves must happen to rattle my brain into creating new pathways of thinking. I certainly have to find new pathways of being.

On my birthday my dearest friends were offering to take me out to dinner. I kept telling them, "I'm not into my birthday this year". They didn't listen. They were all at my house when I got home from work; Todd had the grill going, Matthew was at the stove steaming up muscles, chilled white wine was popped and Alice poured me a glass. And we had a wonderful dinner party. They were right, it was nice to celebrate and I appreciated all that they did for me that night! But when they all left I sat at the kitchen table and opened all my cards that had been mailed and a few of the gifts sent and had a complete break down. I use to think my birthday was all about me. I now know it's not. It was about JIM being with me and how he would celebrate me and adored me so much and made me feel so special. No one else can do that like he could. Rewiring .... next year will be a new program.

I went away over the past weekend up to my sister's camp 3 hours away. She and her family gather with their best friends each summer. This summer I was invited and I had a blast. WIth 5 kids ranging from ages 8-14 and all of them so much fun to be with, so open and funny and able to communicate verses shy away from the adults like we have the plague. We swam, mountain biked, fished, played board games until late into the night and laughed a lot. They completely threw my schedule off as I told them "wow, you all have breakfast at lunch time, lunch at cocktail hour and dinner at bed time!" But it was good to throw me out of my routine. Of course, I would have thoughts of Jim and would miss him horribly, but I didn't get hit by any big wave and have to leave the group in order to go dissolve in a heap somewhere. At least not until the drive home when I felt lonely and wished Jim was driving and we could relive the weekend together. But I didn't need to pull over to the side of the road. Progress, I guess.

As I re-wire my thinking and being I can be a little ADD. If I have failed to respond to an invite, an email, or a phone call then send me another one! I meant to get back to you at some point but may have just spaced it out. My brain is rewiring .... and my heart is trying to mend.

Loving you all back,

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

August 4

Today is my birthday, and I'm really not into it. My older sisters have told me "if you decide not to get any older then it means we don't either". Hmmm .... fair enough!

Don't get me wrong, I use to love my birthday. Jim would always make my birthday something to honor ... but then, we really enjoyed celebrating each other and what better day to do this then on a birthday? Last year Jim was pretty compromised. I chose not to remind him that it was my birthday and actually forgot about the day until a friend showed up with blueberries and a card for me. But Jim didn't forget ... he remembered far more then I ever could have imagined and thus made my birthday last year perhaps the most memorable one of them all.

And, believe it or not, this is not about MY birthday. It's about the birthday of a sweet little girl named Skyla Mae Walker, who was born yesterday, on August 3, 2010 ... and I was there. She is my grand-niece. I am one honored and proud auntie of her mum, Jennywren, who invited me long ago to be part of her very small birthing circle. She asked that I perform acupuncture for her as she was going o'natural and already knew and had experienced the wonderful endorphin high of acupuncture. First off, mum in the birthing pool does not make for great acupuncture access! So I say I did a teeny tiny bit of the Chinese medicine for her .... and she was just incredibly phenomenal and amazing.

This experience of being an active observant of this fundamental, but amazing, process has stirred up all kinds of emotions in me. It has not slipped my awareness that only 4 months ago in May I was intimately involved in the Hospice experience and orchestrating the atmosphere of my husbands death only to now be intimately involved in - though not controlling or orchestrating in any way - a birth. This circle of life is encircling me.

At 4:50 AM little Skya came projecting out ... and I say the midwife had to catch Skyla "on the fly" as this baby went from a bit of a crown to a WHOOSH and a SPLASH and she was in the arms of her midwife! ... but in this incredibly quick "whoosh" Skyla emerging from the water in the pool is now forever held in slow motion for me. In that moment she looked directly at me and the look on this infants face was so astonished, so wide-eyed and simply saying "WOW! WHAT THE HEY?!" before she was put into her mothers awaiting arms. Yes, I was in tears ... of joy this time. Of joy.

So, birth and death. From death springs life. All those cliches. I wish Jim was here to see this newest addition to the family. He loved children and kids flocked to him as he was the kind of adult who loved to play. He could make the most mundane become something fun and exciting. Even a 50-something birthday.

Welcome to this world Skyla Mae.

Loving you all back,

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Old Man

The title of this post is the title of a Joni Mitchell song. I find myself singing these lyrics to myself frequently these days:
"the beds too big, the frying pans too wide". In this song Joni's man is gone singing in the park verses, yeah, well, you know.

There's so many things to try and adjust to besides the obvious; being so alone, lost at times, tsunami waves of pain. There's also learning how to buy food for one. After 31 years of stocking the 'frig for a guy who had a great appetite and loved my cooking I'm now faced with food going bad on me. I buy the smallest little thing of milk and have to remind myself not to grab the biggest bunch of broccoli. I guess the upside is I can now buy black olives and Brussel Sprouts as I like these but Jim didn't so I just wouldn't bother to buy them .... why? when I was the only one who would eat them? Well, yes, I'm the ONLY ONE who will eat them.

"The frying pans too wide" ....

The bed hasn't felt too big, to be honest. I have a dog who likes sleeping up there with me and tends to really stretch out thus taking up more then her share ... Jim would do this too. But the nights, ah .... people ask me "how you sleeping?" and I say "OK". Truth is, I no longer sleep deeply all night long. But I haven't done this for over 2 years while Jim was sick. If I'm not laying awake at 2:00 or 3:00 (or both) just thinking and unable to get back to sleep then I feel I've slept OK. Now, I'm awake often, aware of Jim's absence every time I wake, glad for this little fury beast who is so tactile, but feeling "me and these lonesome blues, collide".

In Mitchell's song she sings how when her old man comes home "and he takes me in his loving arms, and he tells me all his troubles and he tells me all my charms" .... painful reality for me. My old man isn't coming home, is he? I no longer have that one person who, simply, adores me. There is no one I can ask "which shoes should I wear?", or as Clapton sang in his song "she said, 'do I look alright?', and I say yes, you look wonderful tonight". That simple exchange between two people in love is so intimate, honest and trusting .... another tough new norm for me.

I still swear at God sometimes as this new life I am being forced to live just sucks so bad and I don't like the fact that I have to use a smaller frying pan. And maybe I don't really care if I look alright anyway.

Loving you all back -
PS - I do read all your comments. It means a lot to me to know you're out there! Thank you.

Friday, July 23, 2010


I'm noticing some things these days that I want to share. First, if you read my Summer Storms blog then you read how all the boats in the harbor were a shocking white the night of the thunder storm. Today (well actually, yesterday, but let's stay present) I'm noticing that the same boats are still out there on their moorings but one sail cover is red, another one blue and not all the hulls are white .. one is even black! But the other night during that storm ALL the boats and ALL the sail covers were brilliantly white!! How does that happen?

I'm also noticing that my patience is very low these days ... I tend to snap at folks too quickly and too easily. It's quite annoying and I feel so horrible afterwards but can't seem to always stop myself. It's like having turrets syndrome! I hate doing this. Hate how it makes others feel ... how it makes me feel. Today I've been thinking about it and just wonder if it's because for 16 months I had to be incredibly patient with Jim; walking, communicating, bathing, entertaining him and on and on. I admit that I didn't always love doing all these things and there were many times over the course of a year and a half that I truly lost it and would go outside and slam sticks into rocks, or throw logs off the wood pile as far as I could heave them to blow off some rage. Jim and I always knew it was the cancer I was raging at, it was our situation that we both had been thrown into without giving permission to be there that I was raging at and Jim would do great at not enmeshing in my tantrums ... inside that broken body and compromised brain was the same wise and wonderful Jim.

But I'm honestly not sure this is a good enough reason to have this irritable nature now that just rises quickly and bursts out with no warning. It's not my true nature, it's not really who I am or how I usually operate in the world.

So, I just want to say to all my friends and family that I have an awareness of it. I know when I do it, and I hate myself for it. And if you have been in the line of fire when the shot goes across your bow I want you to know that I'm trying to get a handle on this and do better .... and I probably didn't really mean it but I understand this may not help to know when under fire.

Is this also part of grieving? There are so many alleyways to this process and no map!

Loving you all back ... even when I'm not that good at acting like I do ...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer storms

We had an amazing thunderstorm in Portland, ME last night. Torrential rains, tornadoes in some towns and crashing and banging that shook the house. Provided everyone stays safe I am one who loves the energy and drama of a good summer storm. My mother use to sit in the middle of the living room with her sneakers on ... rubber for it's grounding properties ... during a thunderstorm, while my dad would take all us kids out to the front porch. He would sit and look at his watch, timing the the minutes or seconds between the flash of lightening and the boom of it's thunder. He would then yell "GO!" and the four of us would run out onto the lawn in the rain and dance in little bouncy steps or run around with our airplane arms out until he would yell "BACK!" when we would sprint back to the porch just before the next flash and crash would hit. During all this dancing and running my mother would be yelling from inside the house, "Jay, bring those kids back inside!".

Dangerous? Of course. But this was an era when you got a BB gun on your 10th birthday, rode on the tailgate of the pick up truck and all piled into the station wagon without seat belts on.

Last night, when the rains stopped and the black sky moved out towards the open ocean, the light became absolutely incredible. The boats in the harbor took on a surreal, bleached white color that was blinding in their contrast to the asphalt gray of the ocean and the pewter gray sky. As the storm moved out to sea the sky still flashed with lightening and there were periodic streaks of jagged bolts that would almost hover for that split second as though stopping time at that very moment before it all went black again.

Jim was a professional photographer. He taught me about light. He taught me to say "the light is so gorgeous right now". It was always about the light, about capturing that moment, about how quickly that light will change and it will be a different moment.

If Jim had been here last night he would have grabbed his cameras and gone to capture those shocking white boats on the black sea. He would have grabbed my hand and pulled me out to dance on the lawn in the rain. Jim had the unique qualities of seeing beauty in the light of the world through a mans eyes and the ability to live his life with a child's enthusiasm.

I miss him like hell.

Loving you all back,

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Saturdays, sometimes

I spent almost the entire day, Saturday, on the couch. I blamed it on the steamy heat of the day that kept me from wanting to get out into the garden and be in the blaring sun to weed. I blamed it on the hard bike ride I did with a friend that morning (and to my cycling community - I rode up Mountain, Dutton and Long Hill with my brake pad rubbing, thus effectively riding all these hills with my brakes ON! My friend said with a laugh, "you're awesome!", I said "no, I'm a bonehead!"). But mostly I blamed it on my state of mind.

I knew if Jim were here he would never allow me to spend that time not grabbing life by it's tail ... even one day. He would be calling friends, he would be doing projects around the house, he would do the drive by and stop in on friends. So I, timidly, called a few friends, sent out tiny little white flags in emails, but everyone was busy or away ... I was on my own, and unable to get out of my own way. My state of being these days.

Kay Redfield Jamison in her memoir titled "Nothing Was the Same" is very eloquent in her description of her grief stating "my mind was not right, but it was not deranged. I was able to reason and to imagine that the future held better things. I did not lose my sense of how to navigate the basics of life ... "

And this is how I feel. I always thought that when Jim died I would be in the fetal position with the curtains pulled down, opened and half eaten bean cans littering the kitchen, mail and newspapers piling up on the doorstep and friends coming in to force me to shower, force me to move, force me to live. But this is not my grief. I believe I look and act pretty normal most days. My grief hits in tsunami waves. One minute I'm thinking of something unrelated and the next there is a memory of Jim and the reality of his absence is crippling. As Jamison states "I learned to live in expectation of assault".

I haven't really learned this yet ... but certainly understand what she means.

I have a little something planned today, Sunday, which I'm learning is important to get me out and doing. I'll go watch the annual Yarmouth Clam Festival cylcing race put on by our bike shop, Cyclemania. This year the club - whose owner, and many of the club riders, are good friends - is devoting the race to Jim. They are even giving away one of Jim's photographs to the winner of the "preem" .... the sprints set up in the race. Jim would be absolutely proud and so honored by this. I'm hoping I can keep my eyes dry through all this, but perhaps I need to learn this doesn't matter either.

Stoic is no longer a sign of strength.

Loving you all back,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Snow Island

For the last 5-6 years my entire family has gotten together on this island owned by a friend of our family. He, miraculously, lets the entire Lello clan take over his private spot. There's a lot of us too, 28 or more depending. We don't arrive quietly, we fill his converted lobster boat with bags of needed personal items, baby fold-up cribs, food ... so much food ... and all of us. It's quite a big production, but we have so much fun out there from Friday to Sunday.

This past weekend was the island weekend. Last year Jim and I got to stay in one of the guest rooms vs a "bunk house" sleeping arrangement due to Jim's condition. Jim was improving at that time, getting stronger and able to walk with his cane by throwing that right leg ahead of his left, his right arm useless, rigid and held in front of his body. He had lost some of his ability to speak at that time too ... yet, he was such an incredible spirit and always pushing himself harder and farther. Dodge, the owner of the island, had a new double seater kayak last year and with the help of several family members we were able to get Jim into this kayak so that he and I could paddle around. Others joined us in the single seater kayaks, and a small motor boat came out on the pretense of fishing ... but really to stay close in case anything happened. Jim was smiling and kept saying "this is great".

This year it was very different. This year I had the freedom to sit and read rather then tend to Jim, I didn't have to leap up and move when he wanted to move in order to help him over the uneven terrain. I could lay down and nap without asking someone else if they would be with Jim so that I might just close my eyes for an hour. I confess, this isn't the Jim I miss and only a small part of the Jim I remember.

Before the cancer when I was with Jim I was always "home". It didn't matter if we were at 17,000 feet in the Himalayas or meeting villagers of the Kachin state in Burma, I felt at home if Jim was there. And as much as I love my family there are always times when I feel a little lost around them ... it's hard to explain or perhaps it's not that unusual, just a family dynamic. But Jim was always there to find me, to check on me, to just be with me. I got a little lost this weekend at times.

Saturday had been a day of swimming and jumping off the rope swing and running in from the rain showers that hit periodically. But Saturday night the showers had stopped though the sky was still a milky gray. Everyone was sitting around the fire we had blazing waiting for darkness so we could set off a few fire works that I had been gifted with for this weekend. We all got talking about Jim; how he had water skied behind one of the boats one year, how much fun he would have been at the rope swing today, how he was the only one that seemed able to sail the little day sailer without tipping her over. And as we talked about him the thick clouds that had hovered all day opened up and the setting sun blasted through in rose and gold colors, igniting the island in the most amazing light. I said "well, here he is" and Adrian lifted his glass in a toast to Jim. We all got real quiet after that toast and watched this sunset continue to awe us with it's deepening reds, purples and gold as the sun sizzled into the bay.

We all felt Jim's presence with us at that moment.
And I felt very alone and a little lost.

Loving you all back,