Wednesday, June 30, 2010


My two new fledglings are learning how to talk, and they practice a LOT! This can be very annoying but I'm so into this little family that I don't mind their banter. I witnessed one mature crow sitting high in a tree and would give three caws .... the 'kid' sitting in another tree would mimic almost perfectly the adults call - except for the little break in h/her voice. Then the adult would do a slightly different call with only two caws ... another attempt at a perfect mimic. This went on for at least 10 minutes. Fascinates me.

Crows are known to grieve the loss of a family member and have been witnessed sitting very close to another crow while that crow dies. Elephants will grieve for weeks or even months when they lose a tribe member, the living not leaving the spot that their gentle giant lies for all this time. Someone said that grief is purely a human emotion ... I beg to differ.

Somehow I find it reassuring to know that the loss of a family member can wreak such havoc in a family of crows or elephants. Somehow I feel less alone knowing that the loss of an individual is horribly powerful no matter what our species.

I've been following another blog that a friend of a friend sent me. It is a woman in northern California (and a friend to this acquaintance of mine, also in CA) who lost her husband 4 months ago to cancer. She is mirroring all that I am going through now. In her latest writings she said that she no longer is afraid of her grief. This hit a chord with me. The last few weeks I have been doing really well; very few tears shed, more laughing then crying really and just not letting my mind go too deep into thoughts of Jim. I was thinking there was something wrong with me ... but this week I've hit another wall and it's starting to crumble on me. And I wonder ... am I afraid of my grief? I think maybe I am. I think I worry if I pull this little finger from the damn I will simply drown in the flood that will hit me. There's a leak though, and it all comes spilling out anyway.

I berate myself for not being able to do much around the house. I get so overwhelmed so quickly and lose energy so fast and then I just collapse, unable to move. I think about how an elephant will stand sentry over their dead ... or crows will stand fast beside their dying. I too can just let things go, just sit and stare at his empty chair and stand, sentry, over my aching heart.

Thank you all for being there for and with me. I do know you're there, I do feel you, my tribe, my family, and I do
love you all back!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Independence Day

I was asked recently if I still get blindsided. Yes, I do. I get hit with the fact that Jim Daniels is gone from my life, that he's not just traveling right now, he's gone ... for the rest of my life. This reality is a pretty hard slap.

There are also times when I remember how incredibly difficult the last 16 months were. Brain cancer sucked so much of my mans life out him. I console myself with the understanding that Jim needed to be released from that broken shell he got trapped in. Sometimes it helps, most of the time it doesn't.

I remember how trapped I was too; 24/7 care doesn't leave much space for doing much of anything. In one of my older posting I wrote about how frustrating it was to not be able to go to the grocery store without arranging it with someone else. And lately, when I jump into the car to head into town to meet a friend or to go to said grocery store I find myself stopping for just a minute in order to have some appreciation for this new independence I have.

I saw a bumper sticker that said "Freedom is not Free". I found myself thinking how big a price I had to pay for my new freedom. A huge price. Would I rather have Jim still here and be trapped again? No. Because that would mean Jim would be in all his pain and be horribly trapped too. So I just try to take that minute to appreciate my new independence.

But I still miss him like hell.

Have a safe 4th of July everyone,

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Learning to navigate

I was out on Vinal Haven Island this past weekend visiting a friend from, what feels like, another life. We knew each other when we both lived in Rhode Island, each married to the love of our lives, we were coupled friends. She is widowed now thanks to a grade four cancer that hit John five years ago. She still lives in Rhode Island but they've owned the little cottage on VH since well before John's illness.

It was wonderful being out there with her. We took walks along the shoreline with my dog Ella; I had lots of hammock time curled up in a comforter with my book but spent most of the time starring up into the gigantic Blue Spruce trees that swayed with the strong West wind off the water; lots of good food and wine and conversations. As Jackson Browne once wrote "I'm just a few years and a couple of changes behind you .... ", which is how I feel with Tina.

At one point I stopped in the trail we were walking on and said "Tina, how can this possibly be? How can you and I be widowed when we're still so young and the men we married were so incredibly vibrant, bigger then life kind of guys? How is this possible?" Of course there really is no answer to this. Like so many of my questions posed to the Universe these days. Tina said "it is what it is". An expression I use a lot for myself as well ... it just is ... what it is .... and it sucks.

It was important for me to hear that it is possible to learn how to do things alone, not only to lie in a bed that is too big and still fall asleep but to also navigate so much of the world. Both Tina and I married pretty young in our lives so the roles got defined early. Although they shifted and changed for Jim and I there were definitely things that he took care of ... and they're all mine now. Even driving up there I felt the loss of his presence so strongly ... he loved to drive and I loved to day dream. It sounds so small and so easy but it's the little things that can feel so huge and overwhelming at times.

It was a wonderful mini vacation and I promised her I would try to get out there again later in the summer. I have other adventures planned for many of the up coming weekends and I've got a lot of weekends not planned - allowing for some spontaneity in my summer months. A good balance I hope. Too much time on the couch being unable to move is, well, just too much time unable to move.

It's good to practice ... pointing my compass and navigating my way.


Friday, June 11, 2010


I'm going to the baby shower of my niece Jenny tomorrow. She's due in July and she has honored me by asking that I be in the birth process with her, Jay (her hubby) and her sister Hanna. She wants as few drugs as possible and has asked that I perform acupuncture for her to assist in this miraculous event. My first birth of a human, I did see a colt minutes after he was born back in high school, but missed the actual birth.

The cycle of life continues and I'm in awe of how it all just keeps chugging on.

I went out to the wood shed this morning to open the doors so my semi-green wood would get good, drying air to continue to season for the coming winter. As I pulled open the double doors that Jim had constructed several years ago there was a new hatching of baby spiders. Hundreds of these tiny, little beings floating on what appeared to be magical nothings but were, indeed, teensy, invisible web strings. They were all the size of this period. Of course, for the rest of the morning every little itch had me leaping and smacking myself believing I was covered in baby spiders. But have you ever noticed how every organism will retract from a danger to their life? Just before you step on that ant it goes completely spastic in it's attempt to escape the blow coming that will end it's life.

Jim had a real fear of death. I, for whatever reasons, do not. I, for whatever reasons, bartered with the Gods that I would go first, right? Since I couldn't possibly live without Jim and he would probably do just fine without me the deal was, I go first. OK, this deal wasn't honored! And now, as I've already written in my first post, must go it alone and face all these fears and this Grief Beast. Damn!

What is it we fear? Why isn't this little being who is popping Jenny's belly beyond what seems possible not retracting and trying to hang on inside? Why not fear this birth process? Where was this little being before all those cells divided and so wildly created all those human parts? Is there fear of bursting out of that protective womb? Did those little baby spiders retract and squirm and shy away from the light just before their egg sac exploded them into this world? This is a tough place, why aren't we more afraid of coming here versus leaving here?

This life on earth is not easy. And one of the hardest aspects of living here is this loss of a cherished soul mate or any loved one. Hell, even losing an animal companion is devastating (I've already told Ella, our little 9 year old dog, to not even think about going away for another 4 or 5 years!), never mind all the other trials and hurdles we must summit while trying to squeak out a little life. And I'm middle class .. I have it easy! My incredible husband, who was a world traveling photographer, took me to many different lands and I got to witness just how hard life is for others. It opened my eyes to just how wonderful the life Jim and I built is, even with all it's imperfections.

Ah, I ramble this beautiful evening. I guess I do ask that proverbial question of life tonight. I guess I'm in awe that life continues to bust out all around me. It hasn't just stopped because it feels like my life has. I guess I really do have to continue with mine, without Jim, and find my way.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I've been calling this emotion I'm in and out of (mostly in) the Grief Beast as it has an interesting way of attacking me in various ways. Many days it's not that bad really: I'm busy with work or have a full dance-card, away from my house my mind is on other things so the Beast is small and buzzing in the back of my mind or a slight ripple through my heart. In these times I can talk about Jim and laugh with others about some of his crazy ways (and there were many!) and I'm good. On these days people tell me how strong I am or how good I look .... they sound surprised. Guess on these days the Beast in me doesn't look like "mourning". A friend of ours use to tell us, when wrestling with his kid, "no rules, no ref here!" and this is how I see this emotion of grief - truly no rules and no ref with how it plays out in an individual.

But then the sun sets and I'm home alone and even though I've walked into our closet many times suddenly I see his clothes all hanging there as if I didn't see them before this moment and I find myself trying to find if any of his clothes still hold his smell. This is when the Beast leaps onto me grabbing me by the throat and just when I feel I might be able to catch a breath it will shake me until I'm on my knees gasping with sobs. I'm not sure I look real strong in these moments, probably sound a bit gurgly and far less then "good" too. And then the Beast will recede and this whole melt down lasts for only minutes.

I'm always astounded that I get up and walk away without the marks on my body from the grip this Beast held on me. But it leaves no visible mark. My heart is wounded though and I wonder what the scar tissue will hold for me.

Then there are moments of just sweet memories. My friend, Ted, was visiting from California for a week. I had comp tickets (thank you Rebecca!) to see Duke Robillard at the Landing in Pine Point. Duke played with Room Full of Blues in a great jazz spot in Providence R.I. Jim got to know Duke when he worked with the Providence Journal. When Jim was first diagnosed Duke sent Jim a CD with a wonderful note saying he was thinking about him. In the morning sometimes before I needed to be off to work and Jim's different therapies began I would put this CD of Duke Robillard on and Jim would start to sing. I can see him now, tilting his head just a little, pointing a finger at me and singing along - when he couldn't say a single word he could always sing (an interesting right and left brain thing) - and then he would stand and take my hand and we would dance in our living room even though his right arm was paralyzed and his right leg was stiff and not functioning he would still twirl me in and out and we'd dance.

At this concert I just went to, when Duke began to sing, the tears began to roll down my cheeks as this tender memory flooded over me. At times like this the Beast is simply a few tears through a smile filled with so much love.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Name of the Blog

Well, here we are in the new blog spot. I'm intimidated and unsure of myself. I know some of you are laughing but I really am not good at this computer stuff.

I want to explain the name of the blog "SOLO". I chose this name for two reasons. When I first met my husband of 31 years, Jim, he had an eight year old golden retriever named Chelsea. He got her when he was a 19 year old college kid. When Chelsea was young and came into her first heat Jim bred her. This first litter only produced one little puppy. Jim named her Solo. I always loved that.

The other reason I have chosen this blog name is because I read this book years ago titled SOLO. It is a collection of short essays written by several different women who were challenged to identify an activity that, if they were to do it alone, would throw them in a lot of fear. One woman wrote about taking a backpack trip by herself and all the fears that came up for her in doing this. Another woman wrote about spending a weekend in New York city and the fear of navigating around by herself.

I admit the backpack is NOT a fear of mine. I've done that many times but traveling in a big city by myself is a huge, huge fear for me. I remember after I read this book I thought about other fears I might have if I was alone and the biggest one was if my souls mate, my best friend, my partner in life, Jim Daniels, was to die and I would have to face this life all alone.

Jim died on May 7, 2010 from a glioblastoma, brain cancer, that he fought like a true warrior for 16 months. And I am now solo in this life .... and writing my essays about it and facing my biggest fear.

This blog is the first step in sharing with anyone else who may be going through this now, who must face this same fear. Or for anyone who has thought how they might not be able to live if they lost their loved one .... but live we do. And I find myself with no other option - I have to face this fear of being solo.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

No, how are you really?

posted by Mary Lello, Saturday, June 5, 2010, 6:45 AM

I've asked people not to ask how I am but it's nearly impossible for people not to. As one of my dearest clients said to me "but it's what I most want to know, how you are!"

And it's the most difficult question for me to answer. A lot of days I'm doing OK, and sometimes better then OK. I can still laugh and have a good time and look almost normal I suppose. But this grief monster is a sneaky beast and grabs me at odd times - inconvenient times - while shopping or driving, or sitting in my office between clients. I'll not be thinking of Jim and going along with some mundane task when I'm hit by a tsunami wave that can knock me onto my knees and then sucks me back down into the depth of despair where I resurface with the other detritus, get reoriented, and continue to put one foot in front of the other.

Sometimes when this wave hits I just can't allow the tears to flow too freely, it's not a good time. But at night, when I'm alone, if it hits then it's the fetal position for me. Isn't this where I'm suppose to pull myself off the bathroom floor, take off for Italy, buy a villa and write a book that Oprah scoops up and I live happily ever-after? Is this how the story goes?

But the beast doesn't always drag me into despair, sometimes I feel real cranky and impatient. I'm not so easy to be around when this tendril slithers over me; I don't want to talk, I snap easily at nothing, I want to just bite someone. It's probably best to leave me alone during this phase as it's all that I really want to have happen anyway.

And just this past week I have been unable to look at any pictures of Jim. I can look at the photos he's taken, but I can't look at that gorgeous, open, loving face of his. That rips my heart right out of my chest. So like some witch afraid to see her image in the mirror, I turn all the pictures of my best friend around.

So you see, "how are you?" is a trick question for me. I don't mind that you ask and I understand that's it's asked with real compassion and care. Just know that if I say "OK", I might be lying ... then again it might be one of those moments when I really am, OK.

just be patient with me, like the Maine weather if you just wait a minute the storm can pass that quickly.

Loving you all back,


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Celebrating a Life

posted by Mary Lello, Thursday, June 3, 2010, 6:30 AM

I don't know why I've struggled to get a message up regarding the celebration. I've tried several times but it's just not flowing from me all that well so I just stop. I think I'm trying to say too much, this grief beast is such a new trip for me. But if I just focus on the celebration then maybe I can capture some of it for those who couldn't be there.

The celebration was indeed all that. Nance Trueworthy is a force when it comes to putting on an event and I can't thank her enough (though I keep trying) for her taking this task on for me. There were bright colors, flowers created by amazing, talented friends (Chess and Betsy), there was a continuous slide show (thank you KIm!), great tunes (Steve!!!), children with bubbles outside, dancing, tons of good food and drink and a true feeling of celebration. JIm would have totally approved!

Thank you all for coming. Although it was hard for me to have any kind of real face time with any one person I loved seeing each person there ... and I DID see you even if I didn't get to speak to you!

As corny as it sounds there was an amazing feeling of love in that space while we all occupied it. When my sister told me I had to get up to the mic and talk I wanted to start digging a trench to crawl into. But once I stood up in front of everyone in that room I was amazed at the feeling that was just washing over me; it was a tangible feeling of support, love, caring and 'we're just here for you'. Even as I write this I'm starting to cry because it was one of the most remarkable sensations I've ever had. That's why I got up THREE times to that mic! It was such a safe environment and I had things to share with all of you,

So many of you have emailed me or spoken to me about the quality of all the people gathered together on that day. A true tribute to the person Jim was and the friends he made. This is such an incredible community, it really is. Each one of you has been so amazing and the connections I have been able to make through all this has been, simply, a joy for me.

At this time I'm not so good at reaching out myself but many of you have reached out to me and want to get together .... keep knocking my door down. I'm in here and need and want to get out but I might just need you to set the date, to pull me out, to not wait for me to come to you. Deal?

On another note, I'm planning to move off this site and start an open blog. I haven't done this yet as I'm still trying to come up with a name for my blog (why is this so hard?). Once the blog is established I will post it here for any of you who wish to continue to stay with me. I've been told over and over to "keep writing", so I shall and hope that whatever I have to say during this next incredibly challenging phase of this life might resonate with others.

Thank you all for being at the celebration, for helping me to put it on either physically or financially, for the love and support of all of you who couldn't come but held us in your light on Saturday, for being the most incredible friend to Jim and now to me. Just me, now.