Friday, May 27, 2011

Another Response to "widow"

My sister, Jayne, sent this to me via email. I got her permission to post it. It's so damn beautiful as is her writing. I share it as I seem to have too many friends right now who have also lost a spouse. This goes out to all of us.

Regarding your blog --I don't think of you as a "widow". It doesn't fit. To think of you as a 'widow', even though it may be your official status, aligns you, immediately, with death..... and that doesn't fit you, Jim, your marriage, your life ........ it isn't a true representation of who you are. Your marriage was vibrant, the memory is .... the photographs.... the long shadow and empty chair... the strength of the struggle to save every last step and breath..... the connection that you two shared in health as well as through sickness .... the shared, sad smile of resignation at the hospice..... the tears that have been shed for love and loss..... the beautiful, light, mystical promise of the bells that the nurse heard when Jim died.

None of it leaves you a 'widow' in my mind. You, and Jim, are much more the power of life lived than life lost. The friends that supported that long walk to the precipice ..... it was all about the precious journey, wherever it leads. I don't think any of it led to you becoming a 'widow' --- I don't think that word defines, at all, who you are.
That's what I think..... lonely, lost, wishful, alone, off-balance ..... yup.....

A friend of mine would never fill in the 'race' status on applications except with 'human being' -- somehow the options you're being forced to choose don't work either -- we need a new catagory..... maybe survivor, soloist, egregious, hopeful, wanderer.......I don't know.... widow is one dimensional and you're not.

Thank you Jayne!

Loving you all back,

Monday, May 23, 2011


Today on my facebook page I changed my status from "married" to "widowed". We all know what it means but how does this label translate?

In an earlier blog I wrote how a young man asked if I was married and I said "no, I'm a widow" and he crumpled and apologized. OK, that's one reaction. What are other reactions to it? And at what point does one become no longer a "widow" but "single"? Is a widow single or is he/she just not married? Since the not being married wasn't by choice they aren't really single?

It took me a year to change this status on my facebook page, though I don't know why. A hard thing to accept? Well, yes of course. Maybe I just don't like labels. Never have. It took me a long time to refer to Jim as my husband after we were legally married. We had lived together for five years before asking my dad to marry us and putting on the rings to make the visual statement. During those five years he was not my husband so there was no label for him. I don't remember if Jim struggled with calling me his wife or not. I always preferred being called Mary anyway.

So I am very curious what is the first reaction to "widow", what is the visceral response when someone says "I'm widowed"? Is it to always apologize? It's hard for me to get objective on it these days since I'm a bit close to the label. So I'm actually putting this question out there.

Loving you all back,

Monday, May 16, 2011

Love - 'tis all

I went to a Cinco de Mayo party that a friend just down the road had invited me to. She assured me that it would be fine if I stayed for only a little while or if I just left without saying goodbye as it was only days before Jim's first year anniversary and I wasn't sure how I'd do in a party situation. I did fine, and I had fun.

At one point in the evening I was talking to my friends husband who said "Mary, you look fantastic tonight!" I gasped and said "really?". "Yes, really, you look really good". And then I started to tear up and had to fight back actually crying. We both got laughing as I know he didn't mean to upset me and I was so surprised that it had upset me!

Later, when I got home I realized what had happened. Jim was my biggest fan and, simply, adored me. He was always telling me I looked really nice ... and if I didn't he would tell me that too so I could change! But that simple, intimate conversation that partners have before going out for an evening is something I really miss.

And then she asks me,
Do I look alright?
and I say yes, you look wonderful tonight
Eric Clapton

And so this is what happened that night. It was so bittersweet to hear these words, spoken honestly, from a friend and I realized it has been a very long time since someone has simply said "Mary, you look wonderful tonight".

See? It's small things that I miss at times.
Oh, I miss the big things too ..... but those are for another blog. Tonight, on this cold, raw, wet May evening I'm remembering how much I miss sitting close with someone on the couch, in front of the t.v., and how I miss being simply and fully loved by someone. But I feel lucky to know that I was ... completely and fully loved .... by a pretty wonderful person.

For those of you who have it, hang on to it and consider yourselves the lucky ones.

Loving you all back,

Monday, May 9, 2011

Behind me

May 7, 2011 - the first year anniversary of losing the love of my life is now behind me. I had no clue what the day might bring but, as I've said in another blog, the 2-3 week lead up was hell.

Saturday morning of the 7th I woke at 3:15 a.m. - which was exactly the time that the Hospice nurse was gently shaking me to tell me Jim had passed. Even though we had all sat in that Hospice room for 5 days knowing and waiting for this moment the sudden reality of it took my breath away. It's so final.

On this first year anniversary I spent the day up in the mountains trail running up the access roads of the local ski slope, Sunday River. My girlfriend, my dog and I found ourselves almost to the top with black storm clouds moving in but the sun was still shining where we were. This sunlight with the clouds as the back drop is always so incredibly stunning, all the colors get so enhanced; the pink tips of the deciduous trees as their buds are just popping, the dark green of the conifers, the gray-black clouds. She and I just stopped, taking a moment to soak up this amazing spectacle with the mountains stretching out before us. And then there was a rumble of thunder so we headed back down a bit faster.

Jim loved light. He taught me about light. His photography was brilliant due to his understanding of light. Thus, the amazing light on this hike had me knowing that Jim was there too ... in some way he knew I would stop and notice the light.

It was a moody day weather wise and seemed to help clear out the darkness that had been hanging over me for almost a month. I felt a little lighter and brighter on the actual anniversary day. Not what I was expecting at all, but then I'm learning not to expect anything anymore ... just take it as it comes.

So, all the "firsts" are now behind me; the first Christmas, New Year, birthday, death day. I've been told it gets easier and I trust this and almost believe it. But I'm not sure I will ever stop looking behind me to see if he's there.

Thank you all for remembering, for holding me either in spirit or physically, for being there in so many different ways; I have been kept afloat in this turbulent sea because of all of you.

Loving you all back,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Spring in Maine is so beautiful and so well deserved for those of us who stick it out here all winter. Several species of trees are about to bust out into leaves that are fluorescent green as they first emerge. Cardinals are paired off and flashing their brightest red-coats. One is sitting amongst that bright green as I type this; startling in the color contrast. It's an overload of sensory detail out there at times.

But the flashbacks are still coming and most nights I seem to have cried myself to sleep. All the memories of these hard two weeks leading up to Jim's death are bubbling to the surface and freezing in single frames. It was two weeks of terror and resignation, deep sadness and grace, amazing love and ultimately letting go.

We were in the hospital for five days before the decision to go to Hospice was made. During this hospital stay my family brought in old Linda Ronstadt cd's that Jim delighted in singing along to (Jim's tumors inhibited his speech but oddly he could sing anything perfectly). He would reach out his good arm to me from his bed so I would grasp his hand and begin to dance with him; he would make the motion to twirl so I would dip under his arm and allow him to twirl me in and out and he and I would dance in this way.

Jim was having absence seizures at this point - where he would just stop and stare into space with vacant eyes for several moments. When those happened I would drop everything in order to be at his side when he came out of them, looking into his eyes I would whisper, "welcome back" and he would smile and mouth the words, "I love you". During one of these seizures I was across the room talking with friends but my sister, Karmo, and my niece, Jennywren, were sitting on the bed with Jim. We all looked up as we heard them singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to Jim as he came out of his seizure. The hospital room was filled with people but you could have heard a pin drop as Jim picked up the chorus and sang along with them. I can never hear that song without crying anymore.

So for me this first anniversary isn't really about one day; there's a full two-weeks leading up to that final hour when he passed with the sound of "tinkling of bells" according to the night nurse at Hospice. But the day certainly is an important and difficult bench-mark. I have no idea what I may do. My best friend has already set the day aside in order to be with me. I am so blessed with such good friends.

And thank you all who have been sending me private messages and reaching out to me as "the day" draws near. That incredible love continues to flow from all of you to me ... and from Jim too.

Loving you all back,