A few weeks ago I noticed the photo albums lining our living room shelves. With a sigh, I pulled one down and settled on the couch to browse through it. It was of a trip Neil and I had taken to Italy years ago, just the two of us, our daughters having their own vacation back in the States with my sister.
As I turned the pages I smiled, a few times even laughed out loud, as I remembered the details surrounding each of those pictures. There we were, complaining about climbing the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo in Florence; snooping around in Sienna to find Frances Mayes’ house; playing around in a deserted Tuscan castle we found; pitching pennies into the Trevi fountain and giggling hysterically because it was so crowded we kept missing. Continue reading →
People respond to me in different ways now that Neil has died.
Some people pretend they don’t see me because they don’t know what to say. Others pretend nothing has changed. Some offer advice, and worst of all, some people tell me it’s time to move on.
I know they all mean well and want to help; they just don’t know how to do it. How do you help someone who’s faced a great loss when you don’t know what to say? It’s actually easier than you think. You don’t have to say a thing; you just listen.
Recently, a dear friend brought me dinner. We sat at the table long after the food had grown cold and she invited me to reminisce. Continue reading →
I used to worry myself sick about my children. All those years working in the emergency room left me acutely aware of all the dangers in the world: broken bones, lacerations, concussions, car accidents and all sorts of other harms.
Neil was almost the opposite. He didn’t want our daughters to grow up afraid of anything. He taught them swimming and rock climbing and caving and surfing, and whenever they got hurt he called their wounds a “fun badge.” They came home and told me all about their adventures, proudly showing off their fun badges to prove what they had done. Continue reading →
Have you ever noticed that pain has a way of distracting us from the peace that’s right in front of us? I was reminded of this recently, when my oldest daughter visited for the weekend, and we sat at the kitchen table, sipping coffee and catching up. Something caught my attention, flickering outside the window, and when I stood to investigate I looked right into the tiny face of a hummingbird. He didn’t fly away, but hovered there, watching me just as I watched him. And I smiled, appreciating in that moment a simple, joyful, peace. Continue reading →
Have you ever realized too late that you made a mistake? Maybe blamed your son for a broken vase, only to find out later your daughter broke it? Or criticized your coworker for an error, only to learn that it was actually your fault? I thought about this today as I noticed my jacket hanging on the back of the dining room chair. Continue reading →
Neil had a way of teaching me things. Sometimes I learned from him, other times I learned because of him, but in retrospect he was pretty wise. Here are seven of his life lessons we should all remember. Continue reading →
I was feeling back in control. I had cleaned out closets, washed cabinets, taken a summer’s worth of trash to the dump, and collected three carloads of stuff for my sister-in-law’s yard sale. I hadn’t touched any of Neil’s things yet – his shoes were still right where he left them and his winter coat still hung on the rack – but in-control-me was comforted by those things, not disturbed by them.
I had a schedule all mapped out. This week I would concentrate on getting rid of things I didn’t need. Next week, I would be sure everything in the house was working as it should be and fix or throw away whatever wasn’t. Finally, in the third week I would deep clean everything that was left. I was determined nothing would interfere with the plan. Yes indeed, I was back in control of my world. Continue reading →
A few weeks ago I got to visit my sister, who lives near the ocean in New Jersey. After dinner one evening, we all packed up and went to the beach, her husband and three sons to play in the water and she and I to just relax on the shore. The sky was a beautiful mix of blue and white, and a gentle breeze blew through my hair as we sat. Without even realizing it, I drifted back to another day at the beach years ago………
I’m standing in the ocean, water up to my knees. Neil is calling me to come out farther, where he is only covered to his ankles. I am not a water person, but he is. The sun is beating bright; people are splashing and laughing all around me. I watch a line of pelicans fly overhead, and I’m suddenly brave. As I walk out toward Neil, the water gets oddly shallow and soon I find myself laughing with him on the sandbar. It gets hot out there is the sun beats down, without a cloud in sight. Continue reading →
“It’s not a stroke,” the ER doctor seeing my husband said into the phone lines from 500 miles away. Oh thank heavens, I thought to myself as I sat down on my sister’s couch. “It’s worse,” she said bluntly. “He has a large brain tumor, looks like it’s a metastasis from an equally large lung cancer. We’re transferring him down to Roanoke immediately. I’m so sorry,” she said. Absorbing this news, all I could say was “okay, thanks, I’m on my way.” But after I hung up the phone I screamed – a primordial, deep, gut-wrenching, brutally painful scream like nothing I had ever screamed before, barely aware I was even doing it, and totally oblivious to the fact that it was 1 o’clock in the morning and most of the world was asleep……… Continue reading →