I remember after Patrick died, I pulled into a parking garage, and the very nice lady at the kiosk handed me a ticket, offered her condolences, and shared sadly, “I lost my daughter in a car accident.” I’m so sorry. When did you lose her? “Fourteen years ago,” adding solemnly, “You never forget.”
She’s not the only one to echo that sentiment to me. And six years out from the death of my husband, it’s certainly been true for me.
Sometimes my memories are happy, warm, funny, and uplifting. And sometimes they are…well, they are not so nice. I’ve been going through some of the not-so-nice times lately. It’s been an unfortunate, and terrible blend of depression filled with dark thoughts, agonizing memories of Patrick’s suffering as he battled his illness, the beloved animals that I’ve lost, such hopelessness, and a feeling that I’m just sitting around waiting to die. Charming, huh? And while I don’t like to label things, it has helped to know that I am suffering from PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I always said, “I’ll cry later” when Patrick and I were fighting for his life. I would have done anything to make him better, and knew I was putting wear and tear on my body and soul, but I’d deal with that later. Well . . . it’s later! You know, when giving advice to caregivers, I always mention to try to take care of yourselves. You’re in it for the long haul. Little did I know how important my advice was for myself! It cracks me up that I thought I could recover from this fight by… I don’t know how, I have not had a good plan on this. And the effects of my experience have taken a toll on me far greater than what I had the arrogance to think I could handle.
But I was willing to pay that price. What other choice was there! I loved him. He got sick. We fought. He died. And I was thrown into a world I never wanted to know.
In this grieving, my faith in life’s goodness and purpose has been severely tested. And many times, it’s been difficult to find my way out of the darkness. And it’s not only the loss of my Buddy, but also the loss of blissful ignorance of what life is capable of. When we’re young, or when bad things haven’t happened yet, you think you’re going to live forever. And then the bad things happen, and… well, you learn what can happen. And once that information exists, you can’t erase it.
There have been times (frequently) when I’ve wondered if I’m just “old and cynical” now. You know, it’s the look you see in some people’s eyes, that look that says, “I’ve given up.” I may look like I’m functioning, even having fun sometimes, but I am just going through the motions at this point. It’s like life has nothing more to offer them.
In the book, The Little Prince, it says, “Grownups are given-ups” (Patrick loooved to quote this by the way). It’s like, as we start nearing our expiration date, we get old as we sit on the shelf, lose our flavor. Our gumption. Our bite.
But, let me entertain this thought…
Has life ceased to be a journey to learn from? Grow from? Turned from an adventure to an “Okay, you win,” situation??
Yes, it’s undeniable; we do have an expiration date: I do, my wonderful, (and understanding) new husband, Albert, does. My animals do… And at times I feel like we’re hurtling towards that date way too fast. For me, life use to mean birth, green grass, the sparkle of a new morning. Now life… means loss.
Now, maybe . . . just maybe I need to be as big as life. Challenge it. Embrace it. Maybe I need to be the one that stands in the storm, bracing myself, grinning as the sharp biting wind stings and tickles my cheeks! Maybe I should dare to celebrate who and what I love in spite of the threat of them being taken away. And if they are, celebrate that I had something that Life itself cannot claim.
Maybe this is the storm that I’m in. But I ain’t smiling, or embracing it. Just enduring. I’ve had thoughts – I need to get angry (that was Patrick’s answer), I need to allow myself to not be strong at this time, I need to open myself spiritually. Heck, one thing’s for sure; I need to deal with my grief differently than I have before. And I’m doing my best.
Nevertheless, I’m still here. Still upright, and putting one foot in front of the other. Which means – hope.
And as my friend, Mica, would say – Life ain’t for the faint of heart.