Friday, February 8, 2013

Loving You All Back

I was out early this morning, driving into this "historical Nor'Easter" that was advancing faster than predicted and already making slippery roads with the accumulation of several inches of downy snow.  I needed staples for a fish chowder, coffee and the half and half I can't live without when I have coffee.  A few little errands before hunkering down for a major, Maine snow storm.
Mary, Jim, Nancy T.

Driving home I suddenly thought of my blogs closing sentiment of "loving you all back". As my mind took off in various directions with this thought, I wondered if it comes off as flippant for those who may be joining the blog recently versus those who have followed it from the beginning back in January 2009.  Back when we first learned of Jim's diagnosis and we began the cancer dance.

So, I am wanting to explain just what "loving you all back" means to me and why I'm still using it.

When Jim was diagnosed with the grade 4, glioblastoma, our good friend, David Puelle, set up a Lotsa Helping Hands website.  He told me it could be a place where I could write things and keep Jim's large, caring community abreast of all that was going on, "this may keep you from having to say the same things too many times, Mary."  And thus the blog began.

This caring community of Jim's was huge.  I mean HUGE!  As I've said so many times before, as Jim's brain cancer ate away at all that he was and all that he was capable of doing he needed 24/7 care.  Our healthcare and resources did not allow me to find services that could help as I just couldn't afford them.

Not Dead Yet ride
But friends stepped up.  The amount of love, care and assistance that we received during the 18 months that Jim fought so hard to live was, well, astounding!  For three days per week there were friends who came for either a morning or afternoon shift so that I could continue to work.  There were other shifts on the weekend that friends covered that allowed me to still go out for trail runs or bike rides, to do errands or to simply give me a few hours to stop and breathe.  There were friends who took over all the finances, the insurance quagmire, had dinners brought to us weekly, stopped in to visit and cleaned the house, swept the deck, took Ella for walks.  Neighbors who started to take the garbage out every week, shovel our walk, mow the lawn, bought and stacked cords of wood.  Friends and family who offered acupuncture at home for Jim, offered other alternative healing modalities.  There was "PT Dave" who worked endlessly with Jim and made home visits as well as helped to get Jim on a tandem bike so he could ride for five miles in a cancer fundraising ride called "Not Dead Yet"... and ran the entire time beside Jim's tandem!  Nancy T. who pulled together three ... THREE ... fundraisers for us and the owner of the bike shop, CycleMania, put up a bike for a raffle to help boost the funds.  Jim's professional friends who got a photo show up and running with gorgeous, framed prints.  It was an amazing photographic show of Jim's wonderful work .. and the auction of the framed prints were added to the fundraising.

And then there were all the people who came out for these events in order to see Jim.  All the people who were unable to be here daily but we knew they were there supporting us.  And so I blogged and kept over 300 people informed on Jim's condition.  And the emails, responses to the blogs, the cards, the visits from people across the country coming to help for a long weekend ... all of this was so overwhelming and the love that poured over and through us from this amazing community is, I believe, what allowed Jim to live nine months longer than any of his doctors predicted.

Thus, I would close all my blogs with, "loving you all back" ... because we were.  It was impossible to ever say thank you enough, impossible to ever repay all that was given to us in all these different ways. But at the end, when Jim was so compromised, he would look someone directly in the eye and you could see he was pure love.  People wanted to be with him because the love that flooded out of him was palpable.  And it was this love that I would try to voice through the sentiment of "loving you all back".

Today, when I write this still, I feel my heart fill a little more; expanding with this fullness and the memory of all this.

It's not flippant at all.  It's a full as a harvest moon.

So I am ... loving you all back,

Tuesday, February 5, 2013



I've been reading, The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller.  It's a tough book to recommend, it's a bit depressing about a postapocalyptic world.  It's beautifully written though, with some phrases having me sigh with the poetry of them.  Last night I was reading a segment about the main character, Hig, and his old dog, Jasper.  Jasper warns his owner about any dangers that are around night or day ... and there are many as, like most fiction regarding a world after the apocalypse, humans just don't get along so well.

Hig takes Jasper hiking up into the mountains in order to hunt and fish what little wildlife is still around in the higher elevations.  Jasper is moving very slow, seeks out the sunshine whenever Hig stops to fish, sleeping, but always aware of his owner.  After they've made camp and had dinner Hig gets the bedding ready and Jasper "walks stiff to me almost a hobble, the hike today long.. then he curls against me with his customary collapse and huff."

In the morning Jasper is dead, having passed in his sleep.  It takes a long while for this truth to sink into our main character's reality.  Heller has Higs' grief dawning slowly and I had tears streaming down my face.

This part of the story line is too close to my own story with my old gal, Ella.  Ella is still very much here, but she definitely "hobbles" more than trots, "collapses with a huff" and tends to lick her wounds often;  but the wounds are really her swollen joints aching.  She continues to try and care for this pain the only way she knows how.  When her Lyme disease is in remission she will ask to go for a trail run, and I will take her for a very short one because I've seen how she twirls in delight and takes off with a stiff-legged gate down the path in pure joy.  Even though I know she will be very sore for a couple days, I'll give her aspirin and I will not say "no" to her and keep her from this bit of happiness she and I share.

She's been with me for  twelve years.  Jim and I picked her out when she was eight weeks old.  Jim took her to the office with him where she was a magnet walking through Portland's old port for any dog lover to "aw" over.  She went through Jim's cancer with me, often times refusing to join me to go on errands if Jim was going to be left alone to nap.  She would walk backwards away from the door and just look at me, "OK, you stay and watch over Jim.  I'll be right back."  And she'd turn and go to lie beside Jim  on the couch.

She comes to the office with me everyday now.  My clients love her.  She's not a "licensed therapy dog" but there is much therapy to be had for most people when they walk in and see her tail pounding the floor in recognition.

Reading about the death of that old dog last night nearly ripped me apart.  I don't know how much more time Ella has with me, but I know the days are more numbered now than they were a few years ago.  I've had people ask me if I'm prepared for when she has to go.  Prepared?   I'm not sure how one prepares for this.  Certainly I know it's going to happen and I also know that no matter what I do now or how often I turn and face the inevitable ... when she goes it's going to rip me apart.

But I won't take any action until she tells me it's time and not before.  When she gives me that look, that I've seen in my other dogs, there's no denying when she'll be ready.

  How I would love for her to just pass in her sleep while we lay out under the          

   Loving you all back,