Jilly D.

Archive for the ‘Grief’ Category

Deer vision

In Grief, Off-The-Grid Memoir on May 31, 2014 at 4:52 pm

AFCU Class Swenson & Cooper Work 20100521GHAs Sweet Pea matured into adulthood, I worried about Sam’s attachment to this wild Whitetail deer. Sweet Pea’s hooves grew sharp and her affections toward Sam grew more amorous. From our research we knew the real possibilities of injury and death from domesticated deer that turn on their human caregivers at any moment without warning.

Our dear deer continued to thrive. While somewhat confined, she got exercise, fresh air, sunshine, good nutrition and supplements. She wasn’t going to get run over by a car or shot by a hunter here. She was well protected from the threat of coyotes. Our two goats in the barn still had their horns.

Goats have horns for good reason. A year earlier Sam had walked into the barn in the morning. Blood and guts from floor to ceiling but the nanny goats were content, unscathed and eating. A coyote who ventured into the barn lost a fight with two horned goats.Ithaca NY May 29-June 9 2009 Trip 111

That fall we harvested field corn but Sweet Pea wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic about the crop as she had been the year before. Salt and mineral blocks went untouched in November.  We tried a sweet crunchy 16% protein feed with some molasses and beet pulp that seemed to stimulate her appetite.

Then I noticed she didn’t eat her carrots and apple. We didn’t talk about it, though we had noticed a shift in Sweet Pea’s behavior.

“Sweet Pea is blind in one eye. I think she may be losing sight in her other eye,” Sam said one evening before dinner in early December.

I dashed out to her pen. The iris in her left eye had gone a ghostly blue overnight. She seemed to stumble around. She turned her head so her right eye could see me. It looked cloudy. She sniffed my hand with her nose to make sure it was me.

I got on the internet at the library and started searching for information, if not answers. The University of Georgia-Athens had several experts on deer vision in their vet school with whom we consulted. We found other deer farmers and wildlife experts but no one had heard of such symptoms.

Sweet Pea wouldn’t eat. She paced back and forth, round and round, this way and that. Despite all the wonderful people who offered us advice, research, references and referrals our Sweet Pea went blind in both eyes within a week. She was wasting away.

Our farm vet didn’t know much about wild deer except how to hunt them. She tried her best, but Anne couldn’t save Sweet Pea. She’d run blood tests and examined her, but nothing obvious showed up and she’d called upon her resources at Cornell University and the large animal vet community.

Wild Whitetail deer do not tolerate anesthesia as well as other large mammals. The antibiotics and other drugs given to domesticated species are known to be poorly tolerated by wild Whitetail deer. We had to let Dr. Anne put her down to stop the suffering of our baby deer.

For 18 months Sweet Pea lived with us. Sam told me when he found her that he had heard growing up that a man who could catch and tame a deer would live forever. The day she died, Sam didn’t want to live another day without Sweet Pea looking him in the eye and nuzzling his moustache and beard. Living forever seemed like a curse.

Sam Warren


The skies cry

In Anniversary and memorials, Grief on September 13, 2013 at 8:59 pm

111111-R1-14-15_015Cold wet rainy. A lot like September 2009.

The skies cry. Winds howl.

Two days passed and grief snuck up Buffalo Hill through the Shindagin Hollow Forest. Like the mushrooms and vibrant fungi I see on my walks in the woods, grief manifests itself only under certain circumstances, but the spores stay right under the surface of the soil. When the days are sunny and dry it looks like they’ve disappeared from the woods, but they are simply dormant. When it’s the rainy season, fungi pop up between dark and dawn. When it’s mourning time, sacrificial offerings spring from the heart.

Looking up from my desk, I see outside lush green leaves of the maples and elms standing in the yard against the forest’s edge. The air is still and the drizzling has stopped. A branch on the sweet maple tree waves.  I watch the tree greet me. I take it in as if it were as customary as my dogs wagging their tails while lying still next to my feet. A calm and fleeting moment. I breathe and see wet green.

No breeze. I look out the windows on the east wall and notice no wind at all. When I look back at the maple, it’s still waving at me. I stand up and walk outside to greet the spirit of tree.

Greenway thru maplesThe dogs accompany me toward the backyard and take off down the lane into the woods without stopping or noticing the waving arm. As I approach the maple, I raise my hand to see if I detect a breeze or feel the wind. Tree waves back. By what magic?

The trunk felt solid. The girth of it did not vibrate or offer any explanation for its leaf fingers waving at me.  I looked up and put my hand under the moving branch to see if I could detect an updraft. Nothing. Houdini had me playing his nimble assistant in performing a magic show. Except there was no stage, but the one on which I walk in my interior life with Sam’s ghost.

Shindagin Hollow Forest

Shindagin Hollow Forest

Over my head flew a crow and it called to me. I followed the bird in flight with my lips, pursed into a frown. When I turned to follow the dogs into the darkness of the tall pines, every leaf on the maple tree stood still. And I shook.

Don’t leave me. I can’t say good-bye. I love you always. Come back, Sam. Come back to me.

It’s Friday the 13th and Sunday marks four years since Sam decided to take his own life. Tuesday, September 15, 2009. There isn’t a Tuesday that goes by that I don’t dread the dinner hour. The middle of every month my belly button bleeds.  When I hear a gun blast, every muscle in my body tenses. Sirens send a chill up my spine.  My mind can control most of the physiological responses before the panting begins and tears obscure my vision. I’ve learned to pull back from a full blown meltdown; at least in public. But my heart and body still know my sorrow.

Indian Pipe under rotting Elm tree trunk

Indian Pipe under rotting Elm tree trunk

It’s been so long that no one mentions Sam anymore. As though our life together is separate from my life alone. I know people don’t raise the subject because they assume it will bring up painful memories. For me or for them, I wonder. I live with all of these memories day and night, awake and asleep. I can’t forget. I can’t forget the night he died. I can’t forget the good times that came before. And I can’t forget the joy I felt being loved by Sam Warren.

Tree waves hello. Or goodbye? The crow returns.  Tears drip from the rumbling heavens. Memories reverberate in the thunder of another storm. Toadstools and moss will carpet tomorrow’s forest floor.

No words.

In Grief on February 8, 2013 at 3:46 am

No words.

A silent vigil inside the Methodist church tonight in Trumansburg. Up and down Main Street, cars are parked for blocks on both sides and it’s a school night. Car doors slam and feet shuffle in winter boots, but no one is talking. They walk towards the lit up church steeple. At the main door stands a bicycle with a basket. Quietly people enter and walk up the stairs.

The altar covered in candles, the sanctuary dark and still. Each person picks up a candle and holds the light of Collin’s spirit in their hands.

The pews fill. So many candles. And it grows darker still.

Together and yet so alone with our sadness. I hear others sniffling and sobbing, stifling the wails of grief shouting from the inside. The woman in front of me got down on her knees and silently wept as she bent her head in prayer. Inside I’m screaming: no. This can’t be so.

There are no words. Only tears. Wet, salty tears. A silent faucet of compassion from an entire community. People came, they left, more people came, others left. No words.

Help. Please. Thank you. These pleas to a larger power are nothing but noisy chatter in our monkey minds. Mercy, Grace, and Gratitude went unspoken as the solemn petition in the community of Trumansburg tonight.  And I argued with God again, like that ever makes a difference. God, they tell me, always forgives, but I have a hard time forgiving God sometimes. This was one of those times.

No words.

Torn asunder

In Grief, The Farm on February 7, 2013 at 1:58 am

Collin Anderson loved Rachel F. I know why.

Rachel coordinated a Crop Mob at On Warren Pond Farm the summer after Sam died. She organized a community group of volunteers to help me bring in the last of the summer’s produce. During my year of magical thinking, Rachel appeared like an angel. We’ve remained in touch through social media and because of our mutual interests in Groundswell and Cornell University’s Small Farms Programs.

What sweet coincidence that Collin’s parents became the new stewards of the farm in 2010 and that this year he and Rachel had moved into our home; the cabin Sam built. I adored the Andersons for reclamating our love shack and it seemed fitting to see a young couple dedicated with heart and mind to sustainability in our old haunt.

I had just learned from Violet Stone that she’d fallen in love this past summer along the edge of the pond on the farm. She and Josh are expecting a baby. This land is sacred land. I love it still. Sam loved it even more.

Bitter irony that Rachel and I have become sisters in suffering the sudden loss of the love of our lives. Bitter irony that the rough cut lumber inside her home are the same walls to which I wailed in pain at the breaking of my heart when Sam died. Rachel and Collin mirrored the best of my romance with Sam. What Alonzo Wilder meant to Laura Ingalls, so Sam meant to me. He could do anything he set his heart upon.

Bitter taste when I felt the horror Suzanne and Daryl, Collin’s parents, his sisters and brother, and Rachel went through today in letting Collin go to the other side. My tears won’t subside.

My heart pounds. Death came to my door on Saturday afternoon and I wasn’t home. Someone knocked and my dogsitter, Antonia, afraid of the big bad wolf in the woods, hid upstairs and let Lucy and Scooby bark until he went away. So the Grim Reaper took another?  When I heard the news from my friend Mary about the accident early Monday morning, the scene flashed into my mind. I witnessed it in my subconscious as some sign from Sam.

There was a car full of people partying and they kept slowing down and speeding up in front of Rachel and Collin. I could hear Sam’s voice getting irritated at stupid drivers. He turned the radio down and sat up straight.

Signaling left, Rachel flicked on her turning signal and pulled into the left lane to pass. When she did the car to her right sped up like a high school drag race on an icy highway. They approached Van Dorn Road on the left. The water tower and the old Perry City Poor House appeared on the right.  When the car full of fools kept speeding up, Rachel touched the brake to slow back down and pull in behind them and then the car began to spin out of control.

The partiers sped up and disappeared as they watched the Toyota crash into a truck that had just pulled onto SR 96 from Van Dorn Road. Uninvolved? Who was in that vehicle? I heard the helicopters arrive. The rest of this memory becomes a blur and a physical reaction. That same gut punch I felt at the funeral home to make arrangements for Sam’s funeral have caught me by surprise. Makes me want to vomit.

I wasn’t there. It didn’t happen that way. I can’t shake it loose from inside my memory maker.

The familiarity of how grief slaps you across the face when you least expect it, or deserve it. The recognition of how a slash in time allows no goodbyes. The grotesque reality you can’t take it back. There are no retakes, no rewinds. The what ifs will forever remain an unsolved mystery. The rich, passionate, fulfilling love experienced between two souls meant for one another torn asunder.

Torn asunder.

Peace Collin. Give Sam a kiss from me and Rachel. That will make him squirm. Collin is very much the son Sam wished he’d been a father, friend and mentor. I hope their spirits meet and share the love of music, words, the land, sustainability, family and farming. Sam was a friend to everyone and generous to a fault. While I didn’t know Collin very well, they seem to have shared these qualities too.

We are all connected. My friend who had been in a car accident and broken her wrist wept when I told her I was sad and why. My friend whose son is the same age as Collin and who feels bonded because their boys were involved since childhood and their paths have crossed many times in this community of friends. We are all connected. Friends who have lost children, parents, and friends. We are all connected by grief.

Torn asunder.

Blond, lanky man at the end of the pond

In Grief on February 6, 2013 at 2:38 am

Invited to the Andersons for Sunday brunch with my friends Mary and Sharon, I returned to the farm I knew as “On Warren Pond” on January 27th. As I drove down the lane and the fields opened before me, I saw the pond and its panoramic beauty soothed me. Awakened by my own sobbing in the darkest hours, I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep, felt depressed, and wasn’t sure I even wanted to go back to this place I’d called home for more than a decade. Greeted by compassion, it felt good to be in their company.

Suzanne and Daryl gave us a tour of their stunning new straw bale house that sits where the cabin Sam built had its stone foundation. Then they fed us like royalty. Quiche made with goat milk and goat yoghurt for the fresh fruit; goats in the barn Sam built. We toasted the good life with fresh orange juice mixed with Champagne and fresh ground coffee.

Looking over the land and pond warmed my soul. Sam would have been so proud of their efforts to raise goats, chickens, start a honeybee hive, launch a CSA, and use what he’d built as a foundation to their own sustainability efforts. Even the root cellar was in good repair with a cleared path. The Andersons had moved the cabin on skids to the south end of the pond and their son, Collin, and his girlfriend, Rachel Firak live there now.

Looking out Suzanne’s kitchen windows I saw a blond, lanky man at the far side of the pond walk out onto the dock. He broke a hole into the ice and raised up a bucket of water. I stared. It could have been Sam. It was Collin.


Just a week later on Saturday afternoon Rachel and Collin were in a car accident on Route 96 just outside Ithaca, near Rascal’s tavern on the crossroad of Van Dorn. Both were airlifted to Rochester, Rachel was released and Collin remains in a coma. In less than a minute, the whole world changed irrevocably. Grief wells up inside of me and my heart splits open to let some of their pain inside and hold its unbearableness with mine.


My Grandma’s House

In Grief, New beginnings on October 27, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Diffuse daylight came through the tightly gathered pale sheer curtains on the windows along the porcelain-blue north and west walls of the bedroom in Grandma and Grampa’s cream-colored stucco house. You couldn’t see in the front windows, but you could look out onto the front stoop on North Dupont Avenue. This was where my dad grew up in the Camden neighborhood of north Minneapolis. His parents slept here in this bedroom. Then Grandpa died when I was 5 years old. A heart attack. Grandma became a widow.

Their darkly stained oak four poster bed covered in a white chenille spread stood against the south wall. An oak bureau banked the blue wall across from the end of their double bed. The drawers stuffed with white cotton undershirts, bleached boxer shorts, and white pressed hankies. His sweaters in another drawer; mostly knit by Grandma. Socks and extra tablecloths took up the other two drawers.

The bureau glowed with Guardsman furniture polish. On the top a finely edged piece of linen served as dresser scarf on which lay my grandfather’s pocket watch, his wedding ring, his comb, shoe polish kit, pipe stand, jackknife, and wallet. Small framed sepia-toned wedding portraits stood like dominos. The bedroom closet smelled like Grandpa; his shoes, suits, starched shirts, and ties kept so neatly inside. Between the closet and the bedroom door fit Grandma’s vanity with two porcelain dancing lady lamps atop the side drawers of her cosmetics, costume jewelry, girdles, and bobby pins. Her hand mirror, comb, brush, lipstick, and crystal parfum decanter graced the curved wooden countertop carefully; placed upon a tray before the triptych of mirrors. When Grandpa was still alive, we’d go hurry Grandma and find her putting on lipstick and perfume before the mirrors. Readying herself before we’d all go out on a family excursion. To Forest Lake. Or a leaf-peeping drive along the Mississippi River. White Elephant Sale at the Methodist Church with dish to pass supper.

After Grandpa died the bedroom door remained closed. Grandma’s undergarments, nightgown, robe, and hosiery took up residence in the dresser in Aunt Carol’s old bedroom in the back of the house. This is where Grandma used to hide our Christmas and birthday presents, where she stored the wrapping paper, ribbons, stashed her knitting projects and yarn. I don’t know when I realized she slept in the single bed in the back bedroom and not where she and my grandpa slept together. Their bedroom became our memory chamber for an earlier part of grandma’s life. I’d remind her of the things Grandpa did with us and how much he made me laugh. He’d cut up wooden scraps into blocks of various shapes and sizes and sanded them down by hand. Under the elm in the backyard he’d set up the croquet set for us to play while our dads and moms cranked the handle to make the fresh strawberry ice cream.  He’d grab our noses and show us his thumb between his fingers as though he’d stolen it from our face.

“See you later, alligator…..” he’d tease me.

“After while crocodile,” I’d giggle in response.

When I was a toddler, Grampa rested me on his right foot, with his right leg dangling over his left at the knee. Then he’d lift me up by raising his foot and play horsie. He’d read to me out loud while holding me in his arms as he sat rocking.

When Rick died, Meta kept these memories alive for us. But she closed the door on their bedroom.  Infused with the taste of black cherry soda, the scent of fresh-cut flowers from her garden, the ruckus of her wringer-washer machine in the basement, the scratchy texture of the wool carpet as I laid in front of the hi-fi stereo, and rolling out the hardtack on her kitchen table, she created my memories of remembering Grampa.

Meta kept their bedroom spotless for 25 plus years as though she expected Rick to return home at any moment. It was a sacred place, full of the magic of marriage. I loved when she let us go inside their bedroom and remember together.

There are still some fleeting semi-conscious daydreams I have of sitting in his lap, on the overstuffed plaid cushions in the maple rocking chair with the magazine rack attached. Wrapped up inside his mind and his arms. Grandpa’s maple rocking chair sits next to my window today. Grandma’s kitchen table from their home on Dupont Avenue is here with me.  And I still have the Swenson steam trunk that crossed the Atlantic from Sweden to the US. These solid pieces of family lore remind me their past is here with me now.

From Sunday October 21st until Wednesday the 24th  this week, I enjoyed four of the richest days of my adult life with three of Rick and Meta’s granddaughters: Sandy, Sue, and Julie; my first cousins.

Sandy whose sweetest childhood impression left upon me was playing dress-up in her bedroom in the house on Winchester Circle where Uncle Dick and Aunt Jenny still live.  A canopied four poster bed and French provincial furniture befit for a princess. And in your closet you had princess outfits. Tights, tutus, ballet slippers, dressy dresses, and frilly frills all clean and neat in your two-tiered little girl closet. I learned a lot from you about what it means to be feminine.

Sue who spent so many sleepovers in my bedroom in the basement on Grimes Avenue and would try to stay up all night playing card games of War. Sleep overs at your house on Lamplighter Lane when we would watch the test pattern before the Saturday morning cartoons came on in the den. Fractured Fairytales. Remember going Christmas caroling after dinner before Santa arrives at Iris and Emil’s and the people next door who you could see through Grandma’s dining room and kitchen windows?  I wanted your freckles more than I wanted Christine’s copper gold hair.

Julie. That infectious giggle. The orange and pink bedroom with lots of stuffed animals on your bed and still you wouldn’t go to sleep. Playing Trouble. You loved pushing that bubble button to toss the dice. Your generous spirit; pitching in immediately to make the most beautiful salad my bowl has seen Monday evening. And for asking if you could see where Sam and I had made our home. Thanks so much for asking. It was hard but I so needed you three to go with me as Swenson girls.

And yes, Sam and I lived on a place that can only be described as sacred. I know you felt it there.  For me it’s my spiritual home. Thanks for taking me to “chuch,” Sue.

Next year. Same time. Same place. (Hopefully my sister Barb, too.) And maybe a full week with writing memoir, basketweaving, mosaic, quilting, and knitting components besides the spa and wine trail. October here is the best time of year. It comes after September. Amen.

Simple message: I miss you, Sam

In Grief, Mourning, Time and seasons, Uncategorized on May 14, 2012 at 1:05 am

How could almost three years have passed already since your spirit left your body?

Last night, rather early this morning, grief crept up and knocked me out again. Punched me between the eyes.

You’re gone. Your absence continues to pain me like the sensation of a phantom limb in a patch of nettles.

I knew my meltdown was on its way when I saw the blue heron fly over at dusk yesterday.

I’ve missed you, fisherman. Please come home to stay.

Tears cloud my vision. My throat constricts and my neck and shoulder muscles tense up. Why do I still wish he’d walk through that door, waken me and tell me it was all a bad mistake or a dream?

Please come to me in my dreams. I miss you.

Sleep eludes me. I yank the cord out of the alarm clock at 2 a.m. So I read. The Geography of the Heart is a memoir by Fenton Johnson. His sister, a widow, wrote him a letter when his partner died. He quotes her letter: “Grief is never over. The time will come when you control your grief rather than the other way around. You’ll draw upon those memories when you need and want them, rather than having them show up uninvited. But your grief will never go away, which is the way it should be.”

Your love haunts me. I didn’t leave you. I didn’t get to make a decision. It was decided. So I had to invite the feelings in, even those old enemies, and welcome them to your wake. I awake.

I’m still waiting for more days when grief doesn’t hold its grip on my throat, silence my voice, and flood my eyes with tears. I’m still alive. I can’t stop thinking about Sam. And when I do, I feel those blues.

I’ve got cloudy skies on a sunshine-y day. Spent hours this afternoon soaking up some unharnessed solar power, and planting more seeds — peas, beans, cukes, dill, basil –and transplanting tomato, and butternut squash seedlings; gifts from neighbors. Getting into the dirt, planting, and watering my sprouted lettuce bed made me yearn for the life Sam and I built together. From sunup to sundown we spent every possible moment outside working the land. Now it’s a few hours a week and I spend all my time on my butt in front of a computer screen.

Sam, I know you would not approve of all my choices. But you are not here to bitch about it, though I hear you, and disagree.

I miss Sam.

I miss arguing with you. He’s gone and not coming back to me. So I’ve had to make my own arrangements. For 18 months I’ve rented a cottage and kept up the pretense that people might come visit me with the way I arranged furniture. Now I shoved the table Sam made against the window where I best like the view: horse farm and white fence with pastures, rolling hills, barns, and woods. I put the red velvet box chair in front of the table facing the window. Big new desk space. My sofa is situated for best napping position mid-afternoon. It’s my space now. This ain’t the farm. I miss loving you.

But in the darkest hours alone in bed now I remember how we laid together for so many years in our cubbyhole bed in the cabin. How many nights I put healing lotion on his back, neck, shoulders, arms? Massaging in the creme made of arnica and ivy extract, I imagined adding love and the intoxicating glide of good intentions would heal Sam. If I asked him if he wanted his feet massaged, he’d always say no. If I didn’t ask, he’d involuntarily moan in pleasure with my gentle touches of his sole with silky cream. We’d fall into our synchronized breathing in a mess of pillows, dogs, and comforters, until birds awakened us with first light.

Morning is the hardest. It’s when I feel Sam’s absence the most; that preconscious state of liminality, betwixt and between consciousness and dream state. He is with me there. I’d often awaken as he’d laid his arm over my shoulder and wrapped his forearm under my right wrist and entwined his fingers in mine. His bicep would brush my breast and he’d pull tight into a spooning position.

Grief isn’t something you get over. It gets over you. No matter how long it’s been. Sneaks up on you occasionally. Took me by surprise and took me down again.

I miss you so much, Sam.I loved you truly, madly, deeply.

I live where it’s grey. Ithaca.

In Grief, Mourning on January 28, 2012 at 11:33 am

The Horseflies have a song with this lyric, “I live where it’s grey. Ithaca.”

Without any snow on the ground, the end of January seems more gloomy, dank, and dark. Driving into Ithaca mid-day it could have been 9 a.m. or 4 p.m. for the lack of sunshine. Diffuse light dampened by glum spirits.

Makes me miss Sam. Who would have ever thunk I’d miss his grumbling about the weather? But I do. I want to hear him express what everybody else feels, too, about the crappy conditions of the weather as a metaphor for this world.

Winter keeps me inside working on book projects. Haven’t had a day off since Thanksgiving. So finding time to write myself becomes a time management struggle. Two hours a week come hell or high water. Before my business took off I could spend two hours a day writing. So I do what I can in those two hours to grow.

The new year brought writing spurts of a new sort. I’m trying my hand at fiction. This stretch to my writing repertoire remains under wraps. Kind of like putting on roller skates for the first time, even though you’ve been ice skating since you were knee high, you need to take a few spins and spills to learn.

Surely I will fall down a few times as writing fiction becomes more familiar to me. Nobody needs to watch those embarrassing moments; except my trusted friends in my writing group in Trumansburg. And they extend a hand to help me get back up and try some more new moves.

Story, narrative, fiction, non-fiction. Cross-training in truth-telling.

Someone who knew both Sam and I contacted me today by email with a request to connect through LinkedIn. She and her partner had met me first at the Trumansburg farmer’s market many years and ago and they came out to our farm and visited us once. Her daughter even worked picking beans a few weeks one summer.

A flush came rushing to my face. Someone who remembers. Someone who felt the sun there and swam in the pond. Someone who had a moment of our truth together.

The acknowledgement and affirmation of Sam and I living and loving brought me tears of joy.  Sorrow, too.

Nothing is all black or all white. I live where it’s grey. Ithaca.

And yet my memories are like the painting this friend of ours sent: filled with sunflowers, a little cubbyhole cabin, vines, lush greens, blue waters.

Grey goes with everything. Winter fashion.

Share the Moon with me, Sam

In Grief, The Farm, Time and seasons on November 5, 2011 at 2:56 am

I wish you could be there with me to share the moon tonight, Sam. All the stars are out. But you are not. You made a choice. Certainly wasn’t my decision.

I am at peace, you thought it best. I didn’t agree with your reasons even though I can still hear your thoughts and very few words. Quit while you’re ahead; when others owed you and your debts paid free and clear according to your calculations. No long drawn out downhill. You were done paying your ex-wife for a bastard son. You weren’t going to live to see your parents die. You’d broken both wrists and who knows how many ribs and the skin cancer had come back with vengeance. I thought we had it made on our homestead and it wasn’t going to get any better. The best times stood behind us in our rearview remembrances. But you’d rather die than tell me what was on your mind?

How many times did we watch the movie Titanic together? You fancied yourself my Jack. Love at first sight. Like Rose, I would do anything for you and when the ship finally sank and we were alone in that freezing water, you told me to just hang on and never let go.  But when I woke up you were dead floating in the Atlantic ocean and your fingers frozen in my grip.

“Jack, Jack, Come back!” Rose sobbed on the big screen.

I walked the farm’s hedge rows crying and screaming for weeks two years ago. “Sam, Sam, Come back to me! Please, Sam. Sam, come back to me.”  

You can’t.  You’re not coming back.

Two years later, I am not the same woman you left behind adrift on the open seas and in need of rescue. I’ve grown accustomed to living without you. And it’s okay. Just okay. Okay. Even the new grey hairs and lines in my face show the devastation I’ve experienced since you left me.  But now I’m able to carry on and it will be a long time coming with more changes, and that’s okay too.

I’m doing a lot of things different because I am no longer living in deference to your preferences. I eat Asian food with lots of rice. Work on three projects simultaneously and spread out all over the house. Read books in bed. Knit while watching chick flicks. Take long hot showers. Swing dance lessons. Book clubs. Art trail and community potlucks. Hike the state parks, host friends for brunch, meet at Felicia’s for cocktail hour, volunteer at the library, and participate in local political campaigns. I have new friends found in support groups; I could not endure the loss of your love without help. The grief brought us together, but friendship keeps us together. And I am a better person for it. It’s been a painful process but I learned who my real friends and family are and are not. And I’ve learned about what I need, or don’t, want, or not, and begun to open myself up to opportunities I wouldn’t have considered if we were still together trying to farm sustainably. So I’ve changed. So much so that I don’t know that we would be together if you did come back now and I am who I am today.

And in that awareness, I let you go; slowly loosening my grief grasp on your hand frozen in time inside mine. Like Rose in the movie Titanic, I’ll never forget you. I’ll always love you and cherish our memories of sweet dreams. Sleep.

Labor Day Struggle

In Grief, Holidays, Mourning, Signs from beyond, Time and seasons on September 6, 2011 at 2:06 am

Labor Day. Rained hard all day long. Long face; can’t wipe it off. Feels like the sky weeps. My heart sinks. Another day without Sam; another shitty day. He’s not here to say what everybody’s thinking about this weather. If I had anybody to talk to, it would be his profane voice coming out of my mouth.

Not that the weather matters anymore to my survival. I don’t have to pick beans or corn or spend the days in the fields under the sun and in the heat. I don’t have to worry about the pond overflowing or the lane washing out. The wind can howl all it wants; no windmill tower is going to crash on top of my roof. I can throw my wet washed clothes in the dryer during a storm. I love laundry day and any day can be laundry day.

The weather still sets my mood even if it no longer dictates my daily schedule off-the-grid. The dark grey skies and steady downpour day and night is downright gloomy. No getting around that fact. And the doom descends around me as the day turns again to night. Some holiday.

The grump of grief came out to play. Like this gnome, I felt small and squashed. I shuffled through the simplest housework tasks.

Chit. Another day marked off the calendar. Damn depressing. But today I chalked it up to the weather; sang the blues.

Am I feeling sorry for myself? Yeah. Nobody else is going to. I won’t let them. But I need some sorry. Think I’ll eat some worms. A whole lot of my tears are for what I have had to go through to get to here and now. My wailing releases all that I have had to suffer for so long. The relentless raindrops pounding on the rooftop, I listen and weep with the sky.  

The dripping in syncopation with the rooftop beats makes my home a drum. Its steady tempo gives a heartbeat to my sorrow. Thunder and lightning are the rumblings of emotions and flashpoints of memories replayed in the darkness of day. Oh, let this date roll over.

Melodramatic? Mellow, yes, not yellow. I’m not afraid to admit how I feel in the face of another day without Sam. After two years, it still hurts: every damn waking moment. There is no drama; only a dullness about the drudgery of everydayness. And the point is?

Yes, the existentialist question arises in weather like this. Perhaps this storm is a segue between one scene and the next; a new chapter or a new trail. Or perhaps there really is no point.

Points are sharp and they can be weapons. Rain has no point. It splotches. Snow and ice have points in their crystal formations, but water is not pointed. Water certainly has its purposes, but what is the goal of water? What is water striving for? Water is just water. It is.

Grief is just grief. Morning greets mourning. There is no escaping it.

Working so hard for so long is my way out of my material suffering. Labor Day let me step away from my work and the grief grump grabbed hold of me. Grump took me by the neck. Its fingers tightened around my throat and left me grasping for my breath. Sobbing, I stopped hearing the rain.

When I got cried out, the sound of wetness all around cleansed me and I sensed a peaceful resignation to what is. What is and what will always be and what has always been. Water, earth, wind, sun, stone, fire. These are the elements that endure. Elements of power. What is missing? The power of love; the greatest element to the life force.

I know love’s brutal force and its tender graces; my love for Sam and his love for me. What we had together wasn’t perfect, but it sure was special. The spark, the passion, the deep connection we had is still there even though he is gone. It’s a continuing bond beyond time and space; our love is one of those powerful elements in the universe that endures.

So as day turns to dusk, I imagine us both weeping because we are apart from one another. The whole world and all the skies cry tonight. The fog gives form to Sam’s sorrow; elusive and ephemeral. Walking through the fields with the dogs, I look into the mist hoping to catch a glimpse of his ghost. No luck. Now I sit inside by the light with the dogs at my feet and wait for a sign; for my spirit to find solace. I listen to the quiet rain as night falls. The peace of sleep envelopes me until mourning.