Monday, December 31, 2012

End of the Year, Demise of the Tree

Dear John,
It's New Years Eve. I always write a review of the old year on this night, but tonight I don't even want to think about 2012, much less write about it. This time last year we were so glad to see the end of 2011. We said that no matter what, we knew 2012 couldn't be as bad as 2011 had been. Our optimism didn't last long, did it? The year has seemed like one long nightmare - the year the worst thing that could ever happen to me, happened. Now, 2011 looks delightful. So I don't think I'll write about this year - if I can, I'll try not to think about it. I don't plan to stay up very late tonight. Why should I want to celebrate a new year without you?
Now, on to more mundane things.
I took Hunter for his first vet exam and vaccines today. June thinks he's about three months old. She approved of getting him for Jethro's sake. I think he's helping both of us. And he and Jethro are progressing. Jethro is less afraid of him today, and they've spent half of the day romping around the house and the other half sleeping together on the couch.
The big news of the day was the coming down of the Christmas tree - with a resounding crash. Was it the kitten that I've had for 36 hours? No, it was the dog. They were chasing each other around, Hunter ran behind the tree, and Jethro made a lunge at the base of the tree. Down came everything, right on top of the dog. I was concerned about the cat being frightened, and found him behind your recliner happily playing with a piece of the detritus. Don't worry - no special ornaments were broken. Now I know why it wasn't right to put the angel on top of the tree this year.
So the tree is down and put away. The lights and ornaments are on the dining room table for me to pack away tomorrow, along with the rest of the decorations. I'd planned to take everything down over the weekend, but the wildlife wouldn't let it wait that long. The Steelers play the Browns tomorrow - I wish we could watch it together. And tomorrow will begin a new year. Sometimes I wonder, rather idly, what it will bring, but I'm finding that I don't particularly care. The days roll along and I trudge through them, but they don't feel very real. I know you haven't guessed this, but I miss you a lot, and I wish you were here or I was there.  
Should I wish you a happy new year? Tomorrow is the feast day of St. Basil the Great, and that's probably more important for you. Wish Dick a happy name day for me! I'll take the furry creatures off to bed and hope the fireworks end soon so that they'll sleep.
Love you so very much,

Sunday, December 30, 2012

On the Virtues of Early Blogging

Dear John,
I tried to write to you earlier but was prevented by the fauna. When Hunter was on my shoulder, Jethro was climbing across my lap. When Jethro went to his end of the couch, Hunter jumped on the keyboard and tried to play with the pretty things on the screen. So it's 10:00, Im in bed, and we're having a bit of a lull here.
They are adjusting well. Hunter is eating, drinking, peeing, and pooping. Jethro is more fascinated than terrified today, so they're both getting their exercise running around the house. They actually touched noses today. And Jethro licked Hunter all over, to which Hunter responded with enthusiastic purring. They're on their way towards friendship.
Last night I fell asleep while they were still bounding around the house. I woke up an hour later, felt Jethro at my chest, and identified the heat on the top of my head as Hunter. Later I got up to go to the bathroom. When I came back to bed, Hunter snuggled up to my chest and Jethro lay down across my knees. It appears that we all will sleep together. It's a good thing that nobody snores.
And just why am I still breathing?
Can somebody remind me?
I don't like to write to you this late at night. When I write in the evening, sitting on the couch, I'm happier-sounding. When I miss you most is at bedtime, and it's hard to write to you in bed like this without feeling like I'm whining at you and feeling sorry for myself. I remember all the years of our marriage, when I'd be gone at night, you wouldn't go to bed - you'd sleep on the couch. When I went to visit Mama and Daddy, or took a few days to go and play with your sister, or was in the hospital, you didn't even try to sleep in the bed. I used to worry about you, but you did okay. You said you couldn't face the bed alone. Well, unless I'm going to turn into Gibbs, I have to go to bed alone for the rest of my life. And it isn't really getting any easier, not that I can tell.
We always got ready for bed together. We even brushed our teeth together, since the first morning of our honeymoon. If we'd had a bathroom with two sinks, we wouldn't have used them. That little thing we did twice a day came to mean so much over the years. We came down the hall together, brushed our teeth, changed clothes, always together. Then you sat in bed and read while I washed my face and got my contacts out. And I came and curled up next to you with my head on your left shoulder and your arms around me, and we said our evening prayers together. And sometimes we talked for another hour or so.
So going to bed is the hardest thing that I do. And I try to write to you before bedtime, so that I'm not too depresing for you to have to read, and I say something other than that I miss you and can't wait to be with you. You know that anyway. I love you so much, Jethro misses you, and - dare I say it? - you'd be enjoying Hunter. I'd be happy to throw the animals out of the bed to make room for you!
Saving the bed for you,

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Meet Hunter

Dear John,
Meet Hunter. When I picked him up this morning, I knew he looked familiar. I figured it out halfway home - he looks just like Jenny Lawson's new kitten (The Bloggess), whose name is Hunter S. Thomcat. So Hunter it is.
He and Jethro have achieved detante. Jethro likes him, but is very enthusistic about it. And since Jethro's head is bigger than all of Hunter, he was terrified of Jethro. So he spit at him, and now Jethro goes in mortal terror of the cat. He follows him around wagging his tail, and staying just out of spitting distance. When Hunter arches his back, Jethro backs up about three feet. You would enjoy watching them together. Right now they are both asleep on the couch, Jethro on the seat in his usual spot, and Hunter just above him on the arm of the couch.
Hunter rode on my shoulder all the way home, then hung out for about three hours on the couch right behind me. After he was certain that Jethro was cowed, he went around and explored the house. He's had food and water, and knows where the litter box is but hasn't used it yet. I'll relax when he uses the litter box.
Jethro has looked so happy all day. He has something to be interested in and try to play with. It's good to see him doing anything but moping - it's been a long time. He misses you so much. He still goes in the closet when I open the door and goes straight to your shoes to sniff them, but now he turns around and sighs and looks sad. I hope Hunter distracts him from his grief.
So, what do you think about all this? Are you going to come back and get me for it, or are you happy for Jethro, or maybe both? Obviously we'd both rather have you than any creature on earth - or all the world put together. But that's not an option for us. Hunter is a good addition to the family. But don't hesitate to come back and get me!
Love you so, so much,

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Lord and Angi Provide

Dear John,
I found a cat. Or rather, the Lord dropped a cat on my head. Angi found him abandoned at a gas station dumpster yesterday. I'm thankful that she found him, since it got down to 14 last night. He came right to her and jumped in the car, then rode on her shoulder all the way home. He's about 9 months old, short-haired, friendly with people, eating solid food with no problems, and he immediately took to the litter box. She can't keep him. She posted on Facebook that she had a kitten that needed a home, just as I was posting that I was looking for a cat. The solution was obvious. I'm picking the little guy up in the morning. I'm not working again until Wednesday, with the New Year's holiday coming, so I'll be home to help all the animals get settled in.
Kathy gave me some of Shadow's hand-me-downs: a bed, a carrier, and some toys. I went to Walmart and got a litter box-scoop-dishes set, some kitty litter, a collar and leash, a scratching board, and a mat for the dishes. Angi will give me the bag of food she bought for him. So I think I'm set. On everything except a name. The only names I can think of are girl's names. Jen says to give myself 24 hours getting to know him, and then pick out name.
It's been a delight to watch the consternation among my friends over the fact that I am getting a cat. Everybody is happy about it except your mother. It was you that really detested them, not me. Of course I'm a dog person, but if I had the money and stayed at home more, I'd have rabbits and lovebirds and parakeets and hamsters and an iguana or two, and goodness knows what else. When I was a child I was on the verge of getting a kitten when I discovered my allergy to cats. I outgrew that about ten years ago. So with Jethro moping and me no longer allergic, it seems like the right thing to do. And then this cat fell out of the sky on me. We'll see how the household interspecies dynamics go.
Oddly, I don't feel like I'm betraying you by getting a cat. I think my mother is ragging you no end about it, since she loved cats so much. And I can almost hear that long, happy laugh of yours. I am certain of your support in this new endeavor. But I still expect you to come back to get me for it, so please don't let me down!
Watching for you,

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Plan to Get You Back

Dear John,
I've got it. I've figured out what I can do that is so outrageous and offensive to you that you'll come back and get me for it.
While we were in Indy and you had "the talk" with me, you gave me your blessing to do all kinds of things if you died: date and re-marry (Heaven forbid!), sell the house, move, all kinds of things. There was one thing you did not give your blessing for me to do. I don't have your blessing to get a cat. And as much as you detested them, I imagine that's the one thing you wouldn't take lying down. If anything would upset you enough to make you come back and get me for it, that would be it.
So I'm going to get a cat.
Seriously, I've been thinking about it for a couple of months. Jethro needs a playmate. You're gone, and Jen and Elyssa are gone, and he's lonely. I can't meet all his needs. I remember the day I first thought about getting a cat for him. I came down the hall one morning when the front door was open and the sun was coming in through the storm door. He was lying on the rug asleep, but not centered on the rug like he usually is. He was up against the storm door as close as he could be. On the other side of the glass was one of the neighborhood cats, also lying up against the door, also asleep. They were sleeping as close to each other as they could get, with just the glass between them. I saw them later that day, sitting nose-to-nose through the glass of the door.
I don't think getting another dog would be the best solution. The house is too small for two dogs, and they'd have to figure out the pack-position issues, and Jethro can be a bit jealous. A cat would live in its own realm, and they could overlap as much as they wanted to. So I'm looking for a cat (not a kitten) that has some experience being around dogs, preferable short-haired, and an indoor cat. This could be a great adventure, but with Jen here I have a cat expert to call on.
So come on - have at me! Come and scold me for bringing a cat into your house! Come after I have a cat, and stay long enough for it to grow on you. Can you tell I'm trying to goad you into visiting me? Joking about it with you does make me feel better. I miss joking with you. Would you feel right praying for me to find the right cat? Please do, if your cat-hating conscience will allow it!
Love from your wife and dog, and maybe even from your future cat,

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Morning After

Dear John,
I want to hug you so bad tonight, so consider yourself hugged! I never knew anybody who could hug like you. (And I'm Southern, so I've known some champion huggers.) Your arms were so long, it seemed that they could wrap around me twice. And my head fit perfectly into the curve of your shoulder. I miss your arms around me.
The rest of Chrismas Day was good. I played with Netflix and Pandora, watched television, and knitted. I talked to Jen, and tried to talk to your family - I called while Jim and Irene were taking your mom back home, and by the time they called back I had company and couldn't talk. Ron came by to check on his Godmom last night, and Tamara sent wonderful homemade baklava.
I was up late again last night, but today's weather rendered it irrelevant. A massive storm is moving across the country. We only got the edge of it, so just a couple of inches of snow, but winds over 30 mph complicated everything. Snow was drifting on the north-south roads and cutting visibility on the east-west roads, which doesn't leave much to drive on, so Kathy told me to stay home.
I went to the Post Office for the first time in a week. It's amazing how much mail accumulates in that length of time. Your mother's caramels arrived, with some for the Post Office people as always. So I got to explain the tradition to the two new people, how your mother has always sent us homemade caramels for Christmas, and you used to give some to the people at the Post Office. When your mother found out, she started making up a bag every year just for them. That was so like you, giving caramels to people. You always worked in service jobs, and you always liked to do special things for other people in those kinds of jobs.
But it was more than that - it was a general thoughtfulness with everybody. Last week when I was in South Bend I drove past the road we went down taking the teenager home after his car broke down on the bypass. I was always so glad that you stopped to help people! We met some nice people stopping for broken-down cars. But I especially remember the teenager, because he was so amazed that we'd take him back to his house. It turned out to only be two blocks out of our way, but that wouldn't have mattered to you. We had plenty of time, and you'd have taken him wherever he needed to go.
Thank you for that - for that day, and all the days you stopped to help people, and for the generous, unselfish heart that made you want to do it. A lot of people love you so much. The Post Office is enjoying the caramels, but what they really want is to have you back. Wanting you back is a community-wide epidemic. It's the only thing I want, but you know that.
Missing your arms tonight,

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Dear John,
Good morning! Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Silly to tell you to do that - that's what you do all the time now, isn't it?
I feel much better this morning. I was up until 2:30 having my customary contemplation of the Incarnation. When I was little, I'd go into the living room, sit on the floor in front of the tree, and ponder the wonder of it all. I've done that for over 50 years now, and I did it last night - not sitting on the floor, because Jethro would have been crawling up my back, which is not conducive to any kind of coherent thought - then went to the piano, and finally felt like it was Christmas. Christ really is born. Glorify Him!
I've been mulling something over. When I was little, we were visiting Uncle Joe and Aunt Kitty once, and I asked Mama why they didn't have any children. She told me that some women can't have children. My first thought was that I was glad I wasn't like that. Then a voice in my head said, "You won't have children, either." And it was true, not because I couldn't, but because you couldn't after chemo and radiation. Years later I was reading Isaiah and came across Chapter 54, and thought that one day that would be true for me, too:
Rejoice, O barren woman who does not bear; break forth and cry out, you who are not in travail, for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman.  .  . For you will forget your former shame and the disgrace of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband. 
This morning I was on Facebook messaging some encouragement to a young friend that lives across the counry, and thinking that the verses in Isaiah are also true for me. I have Jen, and official and unofficial Godchildren, and nieces, and nephews, and all kinds of various and sundry children. They're all adults now so I tend to think of them as friends, but they are also children. They are why I'm on Facebook. And they are also why I get up in the morning. They are some of the people I am closest to. I love them dearly, and they are God's gift to me.
So that's all, and I really should go have breakfast. My tummy is growling and keeping Jethro awake. I love you, and so do all these young friends, the children God has given us.
Merry Christmas,

Monday, December 24, 2012

On Screaming When No One Can Hear

Dear John,
It's Christmas Eve, 9:30, and I'm not at church. I'm sorry if I'm letting you down, but I'm just too raw for it. Pardon the language, but Christmas has been a b****. It's been harder than I expected. And the measure of that is in my dreams - it's been at least six months since I had dreams that you came back and then left again. Now I'm having them every night. And they're leaving their daytime mark on me. It's just another layer, another piece of mourning.
You know I've been working on a Pinterest board called "On Widowhood." The work usually makes me cry, but it's therapeutic. I still need to cry sometimes. The things that make me cry are things I should work through, not avoid. I just have to come up for air when I need to. And I've learned to be gentle with myself while I'm doing that kind of work.
Jen came over tonight for our Christmas together. I told her that I hoped someday I could do half as much for her as she's done for me over the years. She and I are family. (Now I'm seeing Gene Hackman in drag. And giggling.) She gave me a UK tee-shirt (just in time for basketball season!), a Roku (which is wonderful. Besides Netflix, I have Pandora now, and I already have a Delta Blues station created), and she stepped up to fill your shoes - she got me a bag of Raisinettes! For her Christmas, I'm kntting a hat-scarf-gloves set. The gloves are all that are done, and she left wearing them. I couldn't start them until after she moved, so things are running behind. She had picked out the pattern and told me to surprise her with the yarn. Thank goodness, she loved the yarn I picked for her. Christmas Eve with her was warm and wonderful and special.
I'll go to bed soon. Jethro is already curled up at my feel sound asleep. I don't know what tomorrow will be like, but I'm expecting emotional unpleasantness. How could it be otherwise, without you? I love you so much, more than I can ever say, and it's always felt like it's more than I can hold. Now I'm holding love and grief together - it's no wonder if my seams come apart sometimes. Come and hold me in your arms tonight.
All my love,

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Meltdowns & Myocardium

Dear John,
I had a bit of a meltdown this morning - sorry. I woke up, got up, and started crying. I had been dreaming about you again, but I can't remember any of the dream. Besides sticking around until the end of my dreams, you should probably be sure that I remember them. I had to stay home from church, which seems crazy for a dream that I can't even remember. But it did leave it's emotional fallout behind. And I'm learning that there are a lot of things about grief that sound crazy.
I'm so thankful for all the people around me. Do you realize that nobody has pressured me at all, told me that I was nuts or weak, or told me how I should be feeling? The only thing people have told me is that I'm being too hard on myself. (How many years did you spend telling me that?) Either I have very wise friends, or I'm so formidable that nobody has the nerve to pressure me. I'm betting on the wisdom of my friends.
It tuned out to be a very good day in spite of my morning meltdown. Ron and Tamara texted me and asked if they could bring subs and come over after church. As if they needed to ask! It did me a world of good and Jethro had a terrific time. They always know what I need and when I need it. And I was able to explain the autorhythmicity of myocardial cells to Ron, so I even felt useful.
Last night I started a new board on Pinterest called "On Widowhood." Becky and I have commented and shared from it, and I met up with another widow out there who pinned some things from it. The electronic support network is much more important to me now than I would have expected. Just to touch and share pins with other widows means a lot. I'll leave you with something I pinned last night. It's more eloquent than I am, to tell you how I feel.
You may have guessed - love you with all my heart, love you forever,

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Nightgowns, Nightmares, and the News

Dear John,
I'm finally doing winter things. Tonight I pulled down the living room shades to keep it a little warmer on the couch. And I'm wearing my blue brushed nightgown that you bought for me in Holland, Michigan. It feels bittersweet to wear it because you loved to see me in it. But I love it too, and it's really warm! So I'm wearing it and wishing you were here to see it.
I dreamed about you last night - I had a kind of dream that I haven't in a while. I dreamed that you came back to life and were healthy, and we were so happy and having such a good time. Then I lost you in a crowd and never found you again. Jethro woke me up (good dog!) - I think I was crying in my sleep. This was not a good way to start the day. So if you're going to show up in my dreams, please try to stick around until the end! The dog and I both would appreciate you not sneaking out early.
I was watching a slideshow of the year's top news stories today, and was amazed to see how many of them I hadn't heard about. Those happened between February and June, so I shouldn't be surprised. I was a bit preoccupied. But still, I didn't think any really big stories passed me by completely. Maybe I have greater power of concentration than I know, or I only had eyes for you. I do know I was not watching television news the first half of the year because I had more than enough to worry about already. But I thought I was checking NBC often enough on my phone to at least catch the big stories. Wrong again. I was prioitizing, right? dealing with the needs in my own little corner of the world before worrying about something happening on the other side of the planet. My little corner of the world has been a bit chaotic this past year. My little corner will never be the same.
By the way, Jethro has been a bit less mopey today. These days right before Christmas are hard for me, and my mood is probably affecting him. I'm doing okay - sticking it out - but will be glad when the holidays are over. When I relax and cheer up, the dog probably will too. By then he'll have had more time at adapt to living with just me, and that should help. Right now, he's either outside playing in the snow, or he's curled up in my lap, or he's following me step-for-step as I do housework. I really think he's scared I'll go away, too. Poor thing, his humans keep leaving.
This letter has been a bit scattered - I had lots of little things to tell you about. Thanks for your patience. You never minded it when I babbled at you, and some things never change: I'm still babbling at you.
Babbling or not, I love you with all my heart,

Friday, December 21, 2012

I Won't Be Home for Christmas

Dear John,
I had a quiet day today, if you don't count the sound of the wind howling. We did get an inch or two of snow. The roads weren't bad, but the visibility out here wasn't good. Kathy called this morning and said there was nothing to do at work today, so stay home and off the roads. By noon I could have gotten there with no problem. But with no work to do, I stayed here and knitted Christmas presents all day. ALL day - from 10 am to 10 pm, stopping only to eat and let the dog out.
Jethro is still moping. I think the girls have been gone long enough for him realize that it's permanent. He gets excited when they come by, but he knows now that they don't live here anymore, and he's sad about that. For the last three days it's been hard to interest him in anything I need to get creative about this.
His mom isn't really interested in anything either. The song stuck on my mind today was "I'll be Home for Christmas," and of course I won't be home - I'm stuck here for now. I found this on Pinterest, and it said what I want to say, especially over Christmas. Home is where you are - you aren't here - therefore here is not home. And I won't be home for Christmas, since (rats!) the Mayans were wrong. You're home, while I remain here in exile, a stranger in strange land. The holidays are traditionally a time for homesickness, and I'm feeling it some tonight.
The tree is up and it's pretty, but we didn't do it together. There are no presents under it, no stockings hung up. I didn't put the angel on the top of the tree this year - it's been up every Christmas since 1956, right after I got it on my first birthday cake. For some reason I couldn't bear to see it up there. The decorations are quieter - no Santa, no bows or garland. This year it is something to endure, not to celebrate. At church I'll rejoice in the Incarnation. Everything that comes with it can go - I am eager for it to all be done. It seems to me that normal days would be wonderful, but I have no normal now. In my bad moments, life seems like a twisted parody of my life. Most of the time it looks about the same as my life, but the meaning, the heart of it, has been ripped out. Either way, I'm a stranger in a strange land. And I wait eagerly to go home. And home is where you are.
I love you - I want to be with you - leave the light on!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I Love You For the Sump Pump

Dear John,
Winter seems to be arriving with a vengance, and that's appropriate since tomorrow is the winter solstice. We've had pouring rain on and off today, and the wind has howled. Now the backside of the low is coming toward us, bringing snow. We're only supposed to get a couple of inches, but with the wind like it is they're putting out the winter and/or blizzard advisories, talking about white-out conditions tomorrow in the outlying areas. Here we are - outlying. I suspect I may not be able to get to work tomorrow. But I got everything for the weekend done already, so it shouldn't be a problem if I can't. The wind has been high enough to close the toll road all day to some double and triple trucks.
So today I'm grateful to you again for the sump pump. It has worked beautifully today and the basement is dry as a bone. Before it was put in, after a day like today we'd have 3-4 inches of water throughout the basement. I so appreciate you having that pump put in! I always check the basement regularly when we have heavy or long-lasting rain, and every time it's dry. But I remember well the floods we has in the past. And I thank you so much for the sump pump.
Remember the Trane commercial, where the two guys are eating at a diner and one says he's decided to ask his girl to marry him? And no, he didn't buy her a ring, he bought her a Trane AC unit to show he's in this relationship for the long haul. My reaction was to tell the girl to throw a net over this man so he can't get away! That's the kind of man I always wanted. And that's the kind of man I got. I didn't need a Trane, but I did need a sump pump. And you got us one and left me a dry basement. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart! It is one of the most important things you ever did for me.
So we'll see what happens with the weather tomorrow. I have plenty to do around the house and in town, if I can't get out of Topeka. I won't take chances, don't worry. For one thing, Bob hasn't replaced my tires yet and he said they wouldn't be good on snow as they are now. I could do nothing but sleep and knit, and still not be ready for Christmas. So there's enough here to keep me out of trouble.
Oh, I saw Joe today for him to follow up on the migraine diagnosis. He's not sure if it's migraines or not, but he examined my head and I passed. He wants to keep track of what happens with it. He's not surprised that the dizziness from the accident remains, and not surprised that I'm having short-term memory problems after the events of the past two years. Bless him, he doesn't over-treat.
I'm off to bed now, to be sure I get enough sleep to get up for work in the morning and see if the roads are passable. Jen and Elyssa are in the Keys right now, so they're good and warm. I envy them the time with Danica - I really do miss the child. But I found the perfect Christmas present for her - I'll tell you about it after Christmas.
Be warm and dry - no wind, tornadoes, or thundersnow where you are. Give Naomi and Caleb a scratch for me, and I'll give one to Jethro for you. Love you forever and ever,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rambling About Red Scrubs

Dear John,
I've had a good day - reading your texts from last March did wonders for me. Again, thank you so much for those words. Did you know I would keep them? I do know that you wanted to be sure I knew how much you loved me. And I do. Thank you for loving me.
To come down from the sublime to the ridiculous: The new IU scrubs aren't as bad as we had feared. I was at the Cancer Center today taking in some hats I'd made for the patients, and saw them for the first time. It's not a bad red - not orange or maroon, not as intense as it could be, and cheerful-looking. And I saw a pretty good variety in top styles. They're getting mixed reviews at Goshen, mostly because some of us just don't look good in any red.
Remember we first heard about them at Methodist in Indy? All hell was breaking loose about them. The attitude toward the scrubs is a good indicator of the cultural difference between Goshen and Methodist, isn't it? There's a huge difference between a big teaching hospital and a community hospital. So many things are different - the nursing personality, the relationship between physicians and nurses, the chain of command - and, of course, the food is vastly different. I've always been a teaching-hospital nurse, no matter where I've worked. Most of that is because I graduated from UK and Dean McKenna would come take my degree back if I was otherwise, but some of it is just my personality. Almost everybody I've worked with has appreciated that, especially the physicians. Except Dr. Dahdah, and I didn't like him either.
Well, that's enough rambling, and I need to go to bed now. Thank you again and again, for loving me as I am, and for leaving me those wonderful words to be sure I knew it, know it, and always remember it. They mean the world to me.
Love you great bunches,

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reading Electronic Love Letters

Dear John,
I did get to Rome City for heartworm pills. Jethro has been moping so much since he doesn't have his little human to play with, that I took him with me. So he played with Willie the Dog and growled at Athos the Cat, and came home tired and happy.
I'm feeling tired and happy, too. I spent most of the day continuing to transcribe our texts to each other. I'm in late March, three days from the point when you got septic and couldn't text any more. And it was a wonderful read. Do you realize that your texts were the closest you ever came to writing me love letters? It made me so happy to read them again. You never actually wrote me love letters - I don't believe any Hockman man has ever written love letters - and that was fine with me because I've always been distrustful of anything romantic, equating romance with manipulation. You Hockman men are as slow as cold molasses, as romantic as a tax form, and faithful for life. And that's just what I wanted.
But anyway, to undigress, as I read them I got the strong impression that both of us were afraid we didn't have much time left together, and wanted to be sure we said all the loving things we could to each other. We had long text conversations where both of us said "I love you" at the end of every single text. And for being a Hockman man, you did a beautiful job of expressing your love for me. Thank you so much for leaving me those words! I could hear you in every text - not your voice, but your heart and soul. I'm so thankful to have this written record.
There's some humor in it, too - of course there is: we're involved. There were times in the evening that you were texting after taking Benadryl, and I can see it slowly hitting you until you're texting gibberish. I'd ask if you'd had sleep or pain medicine, and you'd pull yourself together just enough to say yes. We always did say that, if we really needed to get to sleep, I took 100 mg of Benadryl, and then held the bottle up across the room for you to look at, and we'd both sleep a solid eight hours. You were funny after sedation.
There was another thing that made me feel good reading the texts. The doctors that wanted to stop treating you were saying that you weren't alert, that I was imagining that you understood things well enough to make your own decisions about care. Well, the texts prove I was right. You were commenting on the basketball tournament, my schedule, the dog, what drugs you were on, and making smart comments and jokes. Some days you were more mentally competent than I was. And seeing that from this distance reassures me that I was right, that I wasn't in denial. Until you got MRSA in your lungs and your blood, you were rehabbing and the vent wean was going well. God bless Dr. Dunnick and Dr. Patel - they saw that you were given every chance. And they had known you long enough to assess your mental state correctly, and to know what a hard fighter you were. I will always be grateful to them.
And tonight I'm grateful for you and to you. Thank you so much for leaving those texted words for me. They stand forever. I love you more than I ever knew a person could love. You love me the same way. A little thing like bodily death is just a bump in the road.
Thank you for loving me as I love you!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cheering on My T-Cells

Dear John,
Jethro did come down the hall last night when I turned the light off, and slept cuddled up with me. I think he was just ready to have the lights off, poor creature.
I feel better emotionally and worse physically - which may have been the reason I was feeling so bad emotionally, since my body was trying to fight this thing off. Jen and Elyssa had a nasty tummy virus over the weekend and were generous enough to share. So far I'm having a lighter case of it than either of them, bless them.
I haven't been able to get warm all day. And since my thermostat is broken, that's unheard-of. Remember the choir at church? If I was hot, Stana was cold, and Mertice was just right, you knew you had the temperature set right. You called the soprano section your Three Bears. I'm just like Mama - she always dressed for weather one season warmer than everybody else, and people always asked: Aren't you cold? She hardly ever wore a winter coat - I haven't had mine on yet this year. And she never owned a sweater in my memory. I have turned into my mother. And I like that - except that I could give up being hot all the time. But I've been this way all my life, and don't expect it to change.
Well, that's the news from here. What I do tomorrow will depend on how I'm feeling. I still have some Christmas cards to get out, I need to run to Rome City for heartworm pills, and the bathrooms could stand a cleaning. I predict I'll either feel much better or much worse, depending on who wins - the virus or my T-cells. Please pray for my T-cells. May they be victorious! (It's a good thing I married another science major, isn't it?) I aways miss you even more when I don't feel good. So I'll go to sleep tonight pretending that the pillow is you.
Adore you,

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Somebody Throw Me a Rope!

Dear John,
Would you mind too much if I just curl up on your shoulder and have a good cry? I don't know exactly what I want to cry about, but you're used to that, aren't you? As much as I hated for you to see me cry, I'd let you right now.
I don't know what's the matter - maybe life, the universe, and everything, like the Hitchhiker's Guide says. Church was fine. I got home and had leftover soup, which was fine. Television was fine. I'm just having one of those days where I want to curl up in a ball and wave the white flag. I want to give up, or resign, or abdicate, or whatever word fits.
Part of the problem - possibly all of the problem - is that I'm just so deadly tired. And most of that is normal fibromyalgia. Friday I was so exhausted that I wondered if I was coming down with mono again. Then I had some energy yesterday. It took all I had today to get to church. I worked short days this week, and I'm still this tired by Friday. So how am I going to be able to work enough to support myself, even if a job comes along that will have me? 
Some of this may be cumulative. Life went off the rails for us a little over two years ago. Since September of 2010, I've had exactly one normal day - April 7, 2011, the day we went to the shelter and got Jethro. Maybe I should expect to do this occasionally until I - until I what? get rested?  get over it all? find a new normal? get younger? somebody finds a cure for fibro?
I think I may be just a little bit discouraged - what do you think? I know I need sleep. And I'll be sleeping alone tonight - Jethro has deserted me for the living room sofa. He misses Jen and Elyssa, and his Daddy too.
Please, please pray for me tonight! My problems don't seem worthy of prayers in light of what Connecticut is dealing with this weekend, but do find a minute for me here and there. And if the group with you at the parapet has time, ask them for me. I've been swimming against the current for two years and I'm getting too tired to keep my head above water. So send somebody for a rope!
Thanks for listening to me whine. I'll feel better in the morning. If I don't, I'll run by Kroger and get a lime and a cocoanut. Love you with all my heart,

Saturday, December 15, 2012

How I Caused Havoc in Cyberspace

Dear John,
After a night full of nightmares, I pulled myself out of inertia, cleaned and straightened the house, and caused trouble in cyberspace. You'd have loved all of it. And I need to blow off some frustration. So let's do this chronologically.
I had nightmares all night about Elyssa being in danger from somebody. The "somebody" included killer clowns, an opera company, some 1920s gangsters, Russian spies - and they're just the ones that I remember. I woke up feeling like I'd been trampled by all those folks. So I got my shower, had breakfast, did laundry, and paid bills. By then I was feeling energetic so I moved the two wall shelves from the bedroom - where the desk was - to the office - where the desk is now - and got all the stuff moved and organized. And I put the family photos and the mirror back up in the bedroom. Things are looking a bit more normal.
I took a lunch break finally at 5 PM, had soup, talked to your sister, and started on Christmas cards. I'm not doing a Christmas letter this year, because most everybody knows way too much detail about our year already. There are a couple of letters I'll need to write to people that we're not in email contact with. But most of the cards just need short notes. I'm about half-way done, and hope to finish tomorrow. That will be a huge task off my mind.
Now about that cyberspace havoc: A post showed up on my Facebook News Feed today that was really good, about a hero - a Sandy Hook teacher who was killed saving her students. For some reason, the story was posted by a site called "Christians Against Obama's Re-election." The site name was in huge bold letters across the top, so you couldn't help read it before reading the story. A bunch of us commented and asked if they thought that only Christians against Obama could honor and pray for her and her family. Then I logged off and did my day's work.
I got on Facebook tonight, and had a note that the site had answered my comment with something that began, "If you are truly so delusional as to . . ." Well, of course I wanted to see the rest of it. I found that my comment, and all the others that had raised the same question, had been expunged. The site's comments expressing anger and condemnation toward us were still there, so I have a feel for how many of us there had been. The post had been removed from my Newsfeed. And all of us were threatened - if we ever mentioned Obama again, we would be banned from the site. Now that's my kind of threat! And while you're at it, please don't throw me in the briar patch.
I don't remember who among my friends shared it so that it ended up on my News Feed. And I can't look it up now, since it has been removed. I didn't intend any offense toward my friend, just to raise a question with the site. There were more oars in the water than I realized at the time, and we created a maelstrom. Interesting and unexpected.
Bless you, you didn't mind me being feisty - you wanted me that way. When you said that you wanted an independent, strong-minded, smart-mouthed woman, you meant just that. Like Harriet Vane said about Lord Peter Wimsey, you wanted me to agree with you intelligently or not at all. And you never minded when I disagreed with you. You were usually right, unless it was a matter involving the color wheel or dinner. You respected my brain, and so, logically, my opinions. Thank you for that. You weren't like the man in the Millay poem, who said, "Such a big book for such a little head." I remember well how angry you were with a man who would say that to the woman he was supposed to love. You treated me, in all ways, as an equal. There is no adequate was to thank you for that.
There's only one thing I can say: I love you, I adore you, and I worship the ground you walk on.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Not Many Words Tonight

Dear John,
I'm short on words tonight. There was another school shooting today, this time in an elementary school. Twenty children, six adults, and the shooter are dead. The shooter's mother, who taught at the school, was found dead at home. It's horrible - the president cried at his press conference, and the CNN people still look and sound stunned.
I've been texting with Jen. She was saying that, because of our different experience, we'd see it from different perspectives. And I realized something important - and probably obvious to you - about me. In any disaster, I always identify ovewhelmingly with the responders. In this case, the first responders were a volunteer fire department.
I've always done that, haven't I? Besides the nursing experience, I've had Red Cross Disaster training and am also certified by the county and Homeland Security for disaster response. I find myself feeling so much for the responders and wishing I could be there to help. The nurses in New Orleans hospitals that were giving each other IV fluids to survive and stacking bodies in stairwells - I wanted to be there. It's what I do, what I've done, and I want to shoulder the load with those responders. Not-there guilt must be akin to survivor's guilt. I sit here, warm and safe, with my dog, while those responders have worked this disaster since 9:30 this morning.
Well, that's a lot of talking for being short on words. You know this part of me and love me anyway. Or maybe, just a little bit, because of it. And you did benefit from my training a time or two, didn't you?
There were other things I was going to talk to you about tonight, but all of that will wait. Please pray for the living and the dead. And pray for the responders - they will carry these images for the rest of their lives.
Love you so much,

P.S. - I just found this on Pinterest and had to show it to you, because it's exactly what I still do, especially when I get a text early in the morning. Except, of course, for the error in grammar. I'm not responsible for that. Love you, love you, love you!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Eight-Month Report Card

Dear John,
I saw a commercial tonight for a Chia Pet. Heaven help us. (That reminds me, for some reason, of that day near the end of September, 2001, when we were in Goshen and saw the sign that said, "Pumpkin Blizzards are back - God Bless America.")
It's been eight months now that you've been gone, and today I've looked back over those months and tried to make some sense of them. I still have no sense of time, so I can't say that it seems longer or shorter than eight months. I continue to have this feeling of time moving along under me but not touching me in any way.
I am amazed at all that has happened here at home. I re-did the house for Jen and Elyssa, they lived here a little short of six months, and now I'm re-doing the house again. Elyssa started school, Jen found a great apartment (half of a house, really), and they're doing well.
The business and financial things are also doing well. The medical bills should be settled by the end of the year - I thought it would take at least until spring. I still need another source of income, but I'm doing all I can and trusting that the Lord is working on it and will provide in His way and His time. And, as Atticus Finch said to Scout, it's not time to worry yet.
I'm surviving the first-year milestones. Jen, Kathy, and Father Matthew are teaching me to be gentle with myself. I'm not a horrible person if I sometimes eat comfort food, or opt out and say that I can't. I've always thought I was lazy and irresponsible, but other people see me as very driven and disciplined. I don't have all that reconciled yet. But I do buy Pop Tarts once in a while.
And that leaves me. What has happened with me these eight months? I'm not sure. I don't cry as much, but I'm not sure that I hurt any less. I'm content, and I don't know how I can be content with this much pain. But I've always had a tremendous capacity for pain. And contentment is what I value - happiness is an invalid category. I've found that I'm being given opportunities to do things for other people, and I welcome them. I'm amazed to be loved so much by so many. And that seems to be the foundation of my survival - I matter more than I ever knew, to more people that I ever dreamed - and in that case, I will survive.
By the way, I was wrong about the Mayan calendar - the world is supposed to end on the 21st, so there's still hope. Yesterday must have been the Aztec date - I never can tell them apart.
So that's my eight-month report. I do hope this is Pass/Fail. Please keep praying for me, as I do for you. I love you with all my heart - that will never change.
Yours forever,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mayan Time Zones & Chunks of the Past

Dear John,
Evidently the Mayans were wrong. The world has not ended. But there's been great excitement about the calendar hitting 12/12/12.
I've been thinking about something.  You know Ron is in EMT training. Last night he was talking about how much he loves it, and wondering if loving some of it wasn't right or healthy or socially appropriate or something. I said that it probably wasn't some of those things, but it told me that he's in the right field. You can't do a job like that unless you love it, and loving it shows up in some forms for which the general public is not prepared. That's why EMTs/Paramedics/Critical Care & ER Nurses/Police/Fire people tend to hang out together. We are disturbing to normal people. As I've said before, you do have to be a bit sick to do those jobs; the jobs need to be done; therefore, the world needs a certain percentage of sick people.

I was talking to Jen about that tonight, and she said that, terrible as it was, if the 9/11 disaster in New York had to happen, she had always been glad that she was a part of it. I said, or course - it's a huge part of the woman she had become and it made her part of a pivotal event in history. It's on a much smaller scale, but if the April 1974 tornadoes had to happen, I'm glad I was there, glad I answered the emergency call and went out that night. It changed me, and I've been able to know that I did and gave what I could during a terrible disaster.

So I told Jen about that day ten or fifteen years ago, when you were saying that all of your health problems happened because of those few days when you were nineteen that you got those 4 rads. You were musing over the question of what life would have been like if you hadn't had that cancer. Remember what I said? I told you I couldn't imagine, because those days and all that they led to were so much a part of our lives, that I couldn't imagine who we'd be without them, and maybe I wouldn't like us at all. Much more has come of that radiation since we had that conversation, so I feel the same way but so much stronger. It made both of us who we are.

Jen and I concluded that, if you like who you are at all, you can't go back into your past and pull out a chunk of it. All of your past is part of you - you can't pick and choose. If you could remove a piece of your past, everything from that point on would change. And it wouldn't change just for you, but for everybody else that was touched by what you want to remove, and who has been touched by  you since. The ripples are endless. And the moral of that is (said the Duchess): If you are happy with yourself or your life, you have to gratefully embrace all of your past, because it is all part of you, your present, and your future.

The corollary is that I must embrace your death and my widowhood, for making me whoever I'm turning into. I already see myself changing in major ways, and most of them are very good. Logically, I am forced to conclude that one day I will look back at these two years and say, "Hard as they were, I wouldn't give them away because this is who they turned me into." Staggering thought.

And since the Mayans were wrong, I do have to deal with that future. Unless the world ends in the next ninety minutes. Wait - what time zone are the Mayans on?

I'm sure I've given you a headache, if such things are possible in Heaven. I'll take my philosophical musings off to bed and give you some peace and quiet. Love you with all my heart, and all my very odd brain!

An Impromptu Corn Soup Party

Dear John,
It's 1 AM - we're up way past our bedtimes here. And we had a good time getting this way.
I woke up to a couple of inches of wet snow on the ground, lots of slide-offs, and a big pile-up on the toll road. Since this was my day off, i just had errands here in Topeka. So I enjoyed the snow, and so did Jethro. Jen said it was amazing how fast a 6-year-old can get out of bed after you tell her it snowed last night. It worked when I was 6, too.
I started laundry, with sheets and towels, before breakfast. I called Anthem about a bill I got that they had paid nothing on - it was the date of death issue again. They should pay within 10 days. I really think I'll be able to reduce my cell phone minutes after the turn of the year.
I did housework, dusted and swept, went to the hardware store and finally got that towel rod back up and very sturdy. I ran errands and got my hair cut, then I came home and fixed a pot of corn soup. We had an impromptu party tonight, with Ron and Lacey coming over. It was a great evening and I'm up way past my bedtime, but it was so worth it. They are good friends to spend an evening with.
I keep falling asleep, so I think I'll go to sleep electively while I still can. I love you so much.
Still hoping the Mayans were right,

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's a One Dog Night

Dear John,
Pardon me if this letter is a bit bumpy. I'm sitting on the bed with the laptop, all ready to go to sleep, and for some reason the dog is crawling around under the bed. There are no toys under there - nothing but some of his fur balls - but he's decided to stay under the bed for a while. It's not quite as dramatic as when Naomi insisted on sleeping under the bed after she had grown to full size. When she was a puppy it was a great place for her. But at full Irish Setter size, it was an adventure. I remember her lying spread-eagle on the floor beside the bed, and slowly dragging herself under it using her claws. Then we were all okay until she decided to turn over in the middle of the night - the whole bed would heave and we'd feel each paw move across the underside of the box springs. I didn't do the box springs any good, but as entertainment is was great.
Caleb was a sensible creature. He had a dog bed and he slept on it. We've never had a dog do that before or since.
Jethro had a dog bed and he slept on the living room sofa. Since you've been gone, he's slept up here with me. He and I both wanted it that way - I wanted the company and he had to be sure that Mommy had someone here for protection. Hence the sitting on my head during thunder, wind, rain, fireworks, dumpsters at Tiffany's, lawn mowing, and any other unusual neighborhood noise. I just want you to know that I am very well protected from rain and dumpsters. He sits on my head and keeps guard over me.
He seems to have gotten tired of being under the bed. Now he's lying next to me and is fast asleep. Last night he slept cuddled up with his back to my chest for most of the night. He's been more cuddly than usual since Jen and Elyssa moved out. I'm his only remaining human and he's determined not to let me out of his sight.
And he's enjoying the Christmas tree - only his second one. He keeps approaching it very slowly and carefully, and gently sniffing at the ornaments on the lowest branches. As usual, I put the heavy unbreakables down there, including the bells. So he keeps startling himself by touching the bells and making them ring. It's pretty funny to watch.
I felt a lot better about Christmas when I got up this morning and the tree was up. It was a good decision to go through with it. It's a beautiful tree, and it gives the house a peaceful feeling that it didn't have before. I tried again today to listen to Christmas music, and did okay with the CD of Liturgical music. That was the first time I had any feeling that Christmas was really coming. Unless the Mayans were right. Which would still be nice, wouldn't it?
I love you so, so much. Can you make reservations for me to catch the next bus that comes to Heaven? I don't care what time it leaves. Hope to come soon,

Sunday, December 9, 2012

How I Put Up the Christmas Tree and Didn't Get on Television

Dear John,
The first of the Dreaded Christmas Tasks is finished - the tree is up and the house is decorated. I did the tree by myself for the first time. Before I got married, Mama and I always did it together. And you and I did it together for all of our 33 Christmases. Earlier today I was seriously considering not doing it this year, but I decided that would just make the whole season harder. And I'd keep having to explain why I hadn't done anything. So it was easier to just do it. And now that it's up, I'm glad.
I knew doing it alone would be hard, but doing it with anybody except you would be even worse. So I did it watching the NCIS Superfan Marathon on television. It kept me company, and it make it bearable. During the marathon they kept asking fans to comment on-line and tell why they were NCIS fans, so I threw them a curve. I got on and told them that my husband had died last spring and I was putting my first tree up without him, and that watching the marathon made a very difficult thing a little easier. Of course that one wasn't going to show up on television with the rest of them - they're running them as a crawler during the shows - but I wanted to say thank you. Maybe it will mean something to somebody.
So that's it for today. The tree is up, the things are out. The only presents to go under it are the ones for Jen and Elyssa. But the tree is pretty, all the ornaments have stories, the grandparental ornaments are on display, the tree skirt I made is under it, Mama's hand-made decorations are up, there are wreaths on the doors. And while I was moving things around, I got the second bookcase out of the living room and the furniture back where it was before I shifted things to make room for the girls.
But without you, it all feels very sad and heavy. I'm trying to feel like celebrating something but I just can't get there. All the home-and-family things this time of year just remind me that you're gone and there's nobody left that remembers my childhood Christmases. It emphasizes the simple fact that I am alone. And that's okay, but for widows and orphans, the next few weeks will rub salt in the wounds.
Well, enough whining for one night! It's up and it's pretty. And I miss you so much.
Loving you with all my heart, and hoping the Mayans were right,

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Generalized Strangeness

Dear John,
I'm disoriented now - and with an excuse for it. Today seems like Friday since I went to work, but it's Saturday. I hope I remember in the morning that it's Sunday. I worked at least every other weekend for twenty years. But that was sixteen years ago. I guess that is long enough to get out of the habit.
We were never much for regular schedules, were we? The only time I worked Monday through Friday day shift was in the Cath Lab. The rest of my years I worked nights, evenings, and everything in between. I even had one year when I rotated all three shifts every week. When I signed up for the BSN I wasn't planning on working bankers' hours.
You never had a day-shift job, either. Pastors certainly don't have regular hours. You'd have office hours in the morning, meetings in the evening, and Sunday was your longest work day. The phone could ring in the middle of the night, and we'd be up and off to the hospital, funeral home, jail, or goodness knows where.  And restaurant management is the same. It's all service jobs - you do what is necessary to take care of the people who need you. 
It was what we did - we never knew anything else. And it worked. We kept both schedules on every calendar, synchronized our requests for time off, and managed just fine. We respected each other's careers and respected each other - maybe that's why it worked so well. Now I don't have anybody to synchronize with, and your mother says that was one of the biggest changes for her. After your father died and you went off to college, she could make plans without checking with anybody else. I can too now, and it does feel strange.
Everything feels strange right now. Two rooms are in flux, the fridge and pantry are half-empty, the basement is nearly empty, there's just one car in the garage, there's a dog sleeping beside me, and there's yarn in your closet. It's all strange. Everything in the world is different than it was before, and nobody except me seems to notice it. What's really different is me - completely, radically, suddenly, totally different. Just how, I'll have to explore another night. Otherwise I'll still be up when Sunday morning comes.
I love you so much. You always knew you would be the one to leave first, and you were right. Everything you did helped prepare me for this. So know that I am making it. I'm doing okay. Thank you for loving me so much, having so much faith in me, trusting and respecting me, and convincing me that I could survive without you. It's your confidence in me that I lean on now. I love you more than everything on earth put together. But I will do what I have to - I will live if that is what's necessary - and I'll be grateful for our years together. And I will hold on to the hope of being with you someday in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Thank you for everything,

Friday, December 7, 2012

Not Logical, Linear, Uniform, or Predictable

Dear John,
I wasn't fine this morning. The nausea was fierce, so I stayed home today and will work tomorrow. I tried not to throw up, knitted Christmas presents, watched an NCIS Christmas Marathon, and took an hour-and-a-half nap. Jen picked up milk and a can of tomato soup for me on her way home.
I've been mulling how some things associated with you make me feel good, and some make me feel bad. I told Father yesterday that I'm a bit ashamed of this, but there have been some Sundays that I stayed home because I wasn't emotionally up to going to church - to being there without you, and with so many people who love you. He said that's alright - he's so gentle with me. Some Sunday's it's comforting to be there, and sometimes I get all dressed and ready, then can't go because it would be unbearable.
But being here at home, where I lived with you for 17 years, always feels good. Being among our things and your things is comforting. I've given away some of your things, and will give away more, but that's because there is someone who needs them, not because it is painful to have them here. And I know it's what you want, too. It hurt to see your umpire gear go, but there was a young new umpire who needed it so there was no question, and I love to think of it being used. I miss seeing your books, but I'm glad they belong to people who will read and treasure them. Your clothes went to Goodwill - it would stealing from the poor to keep them, and this is a way I can give alms in your name. It was a joy to give your cassock to Father, no matter how much I may miss it sometimes. I suppose I love giving your things to people who love you, and will love your things because they were yours.
My memories of you are good and they make me happy. But some places are so concentrated with memories that I can't handle them. Mackinac is one of those - we went there for our anniversary trip for so many years, and it was wonderful, but it was our special place and if I went back there without you I'd just walk around crying - not good for the tourism industry. And church is concentrated memories of you, too. Even before you were Orthodox, you'd come help me run the bulletin during the week and be there for special services. Maybe it's just that theology was such an intense part of our relationship - primary in chronology and importance. And I still deal better with small groups than large crowds - it's easier to let down my guard and be myself when I'm with fewer people. So the weekday Liturgies are easier than Sunday mornings.
I never claimed that grief is logical. Or linear, or uniform, or predictable. From the beginning I gave myself the freedom to feel whatever I felt whenever I felt it. On the way out of the hospital, Jen asked what I would need and I said I had no idea because I'd never done this before. She was wondering a couple of days ago what I'd need for Christmas, and my answer was the same - I have no idea, because I've never spent a widowed Christmas before. Not knowing what I'm going to do emotionally doesn't bother me at all; I'm fine to be learning as I go. I may look back years later and see patterns, but I doubt it. For now, I don't pressure myself to do things I can't do or go places I can't go, I don't hesitate to call on my wonderful support network when I need to, and I try to keep a box of brownie mix in the house for emergencies. In practical terms, that's about all a new widow can do. And I talk to you here every day, which has probably been the most important thing of all.
Now it's bedtime, so go give my love to the crowd at the parapet, and please keep praying for my faith and God's provision financially. And, of course, for my head. Always pray for your wife's head!
Love you with all my head and heart,

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Death & Taxes

Dear John,
You'll love this. I was taking care of some medical bill issues today when I looked down into the file drawer, and I saw all the certainties of life right before my eyes. The first file is labeled "DEATH" and the second is labeled "TAXES." There it is. And the next file should probably be added to the list; it's labeled "CREDIT."
I sat there and laughed. There was my file drawer: death and taxes. After that it's alphabetical - credit, insurance, medical, utilities, veterinary - each folder subdivided alphabetically. But the two in front were put there for easy, frequent access. Death and taxes. Welcome to my year.
I did basic housework today: scrubbed the kitchen, wound yarn for Christmas presents, finished bringing books up from the basement, got the second bookcase in the living room emptied out, spent the morning on financials and medical bills. Father called and I had a good talk with him; I always feel better after talking to him. I was planning to go to the memorial service tonight at Yeager Funeral Home, but I started getting a migraine around 5:00 and decided not to risk the trip, since I have visual changes and I'd be driving after dark. I'm sorry Jen has migraines, but so glad for the help she gives me. Studying about them in school is nothing compared to her experience with them. I have an expert right here in the family. She's my computer and migraine resource person.
I should take my head and put it to bed. I got on top with aspirin when I first started feeling the pain right behind my eyes and nose, so it's stayed a dull ache. What bothers me most is the nausea, which gets a lot worse when I get up and move around. The dizziness hasn't been bad today. My vision is just a bit off, and my depth perception isn't accurate. The houses across the street were a lot closer to ours this afternoon than they were this morning. That's why I decided not to drive to Ligonier tonight. I should be fine in the morning.
If you think about it, please pray for my head. I know - you've been praying for my head for years. And I thank you for it!
Love you great bunches,

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ruthmere and Panera

Dear John, 
People are being nice to me again. Kathy took me out for a birthday adventure this morning - we started with a tour of Ruthmere Mansion in Elkhart and ended up at Panera. Ruthmere was wonderful. What I liked best was the 1938 kitchen; I'd take it in a heartbeat. At Panera, Matt took the time to sit down and talk to us, bless his heart. You are so loved there.

I had the chicken stew for lunch. I remember when it first came out and you brought some home for me to try. I liked being connected to your work, knowing what was going on, knowing the people you worked with. And sometimes it was helpful - I remember years ago talking Tammy through how to fix the pop machine. I loved being involved in everything that was important to you. And you wanted to know what was happening where I worked, too. It was a natural part of loving each other.
And that was one thing that made your death so hard: it was something that I couldn't share. Death is the one thing that we have to do separately. I'd hoped it wouldn't be that way - I wanted to go together. But you've gone ahead of me, and I don't know what the chicken stew tastes like there, and our calling plan doesn't reach, and I can't share any of this with you. The closer two people are, the more it hurts to be apart. And so it's worth it because being with you was wonderful.
The dog is whimpering to go to bed. And it's late and I'm not very coherent tonight. Maybe sleep will help. I love you so much - thank you for sharing things with me.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

You Had Me at "The Trinity"

Dear John,
I've been thinking again. I know - Descartes had it wrong when he said, "I think, therefore I am.". It should be, "I am, therefore I think."
It seems that quite a number of my friends have someone close to them that is fighting cancer or some other disastrous disease. I found myself typing this to someone this morning:

There is no sense to cancer, but the good thing is that there isn’t going to be a quiz. It builds great big faith muscles, and they get sore and you get tired during the process, but you come out with a kind of faith you couldn’t have understood or imagined before. I’ve learned 2 things: God is always at work, and all that He does or allows is for everyone’s good. We have 2 cultural problems with this. First, we expect to understand what it is that God is doing - it’s illogical (there I go again) to think the creature can (or should) understand the workings of the Creator. Second, we assume that we have some idea what is good for us - but we think in terms of immediacy, while God thinks in terms of eternity.
I sat back and re-read it, and yes, I mean every word. I have come out with a kind of faith that I didn't have before. It's simpler, more radical, less cerebral, more child-like. Loss like this, especially with the three months we had before, cuts everything down to the bone. Faith is taken down to what is essential. Any remaining delusions of being in charge of anything are gone. You come face-to-face with your own dependence on God. And you have two choices: to be angry and bitter, or to relinquish autonomy in radical submission. I believe my choice arose less from piety than logic.
I'll need to think about this some more, obviously. But I wanted to talk this over with you. Let me know what you think. You know, I've always loved talking to you about things like this. Our first conversation was rather like this - you had me at "The Trinity."
Adore you,

Monday, December 3, 2012

Things Got Better When the Sun Came Up

Dear John,
You'll be glad to know that I got logical again when the sun came up. What a relief that is, huh? I'm ready to go at the office again and eager to get the changes made. I've learned this year how different the world can look after it gets dark outside.
It's been a long day - I got home from work just before 9:00. Jen came by after work and let the beastie out, bless her. He wouldn't go out this morning. It was foggy, and it seems that he's decided that he's afraid of fog. I'll add that to his list. I know - we made him neurotic. He's been through so much since we brought him home. He is slowly getting accustomed to being alone after dark, though. He seems to have learned that I'll come back.
I'm off tomorrow, and hoping to get the office together enough that I can start getting ready for Christmas. I'd love to get the tree up on Thursday. The Christmas letter will be hard to write this year. There are a few people on our Christmas card list that don't know about your death, and a good number that don't have email and don't know all the details. And in my business Christmas cards, I need to be sure all of my customers know. I'm hoping to get all of that taken care of over the weekend. And, of course, in my spare time I have more calls to make about medical bills. That is the one constant in my life! Slowly but surely, it's all getting worked out.
It's after 10 now, and past our bedtimes. Jethro is curled up beside me on the bed, and I'm getting sleepy. I love you, adore you, and worship the ground you walk on. You may have guessed that.
Sleep well,