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,