Saturday, September 29, 2012

"No Cry" Days

The old saying is that a widow should not buy anything or sell anything for a year after her husbands death. No major decisions to made within that 365 day exile. 
So... I tried that for 3 months. It blows!
What? Sit and look at walls? Wear black for months and go to the cemetery? Not smile or chat or laugh?
I did all that too.
It's exhausting and it does nothing more than cement into your skull that your man is gone. It is all a constant reminder of sadness. Don't get me wrong. I am sad. I cry on people.
Oh Lord do I cry on poor unsuspecting people!

I went to see my dentist. I had neglected most everything about myself so it was time. My dentist is also a friend. He entered the exam room with my x-rays in hand, said hello, touched my arm and in 1.3 seconds, I was blubbering all over his scrub-shirt. Not just the pretty tears that fall from your eyes like in movies but the full-on sobbing UGLY cry. 
(I may have to switch dentists now I am so embarrassed)
Same with my Priest. My postman. My Veterinarian.  The cashier at the grocery...
The list goes on, I am sorry to say.
Hey.. I think I we get a pass when we lose a loved one. 
So, back to better news...
I decided to break all of the rules of being a widow.
I always claimed to be a "rule-breaker" so why stop now?
I'm done caring if people in my community judge me for crying too much. 
I hear them whispering... 
"Oh look, she cries too much. Her black dress is so big on her. She looks awful. Her eyes are red.
She's lost weight. She's aged 10 years."

Oh, Bite Me!

If people have so much to say about YOUR life... That says very little about their own, right?

Words to live by.
I haven't got all the answers on how to act or what to do. I never have! We just do what we can. Life is short. I plan on living each and every day in honor of my husband but to the fullest.
I ran away from home!
It's so liberating. I am going back in a week.
Don't want to but have to...
Some of Henry's old football players from the Denver Broncos and basketball buddies from Purdue are honoring him with a benefit memorial. All proceeds will go to the Purdue Athletic Department in his name. It will be a sad and emotional day but I have my Big Girl Panties all picked out and laid out for that day. 
I can DO this and I will. 
Oh and I bought a new car. My dream car. 
I thought it would make me happy. Things don't make you happy. People do. 
I have amazing people in my life.
I am so blessed.
More later.
I Love You.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Is it Ever Okay to Lie?

Every morning, no matter how ill or how much pain, Henry would get up and go to the office. It was his focus. Good for him to keep his mind off what was going on inside his wracked body. Neither of us knew.
He had refused to go to a doctor for a scope or scan or test. He had had it and I don't blame him. Surgery to deform him with no guarantee? No thanks. Maybe buy him 3 more months but no tongue, no voice, no face?
Our friends would ask me daily "How is he? What's going on? Is he ok? Is the cancer gone?"
My classic answer.... "I don't know. I am his nurse and the internet is our doctor."

The internet is a handy tool for quick solutions to simple problems but try diving into it deeply for REAL answers to real health issues. You can be lost in all of it and come away more confused than ever.
Nothing I could say or do would change his mind to see a medical professional. I ranted, raged, pleaded, begged, bargained.
So on we went. Marching forward thru each day. Trudging along. Blissfully ignorant.

I have decided I am over all of the gloom and sadness and putting it out there. That is not who Henry was nor am I. He loved my blogs but I think even he would say to stop being so sad. One thing my husband was... He was FUN and funny. Four days before he died he said something so freaking funny it had me bent over laughing and crying.
God I miss him so.
But... This one thing keeps me awake for hours in the dark of night. It haunts me.
Actually, grieving these days is not at all about me, it's about what Henry went thru at the end. That is what sends me to bed for days to cry and cry. I can't get past what he went thru. The pain, the chemo, the radiation, the feeding tubes and not eating a BITE of food for over a year... Barely able to sip a drop of water. The swelling, the pain... ALL of it.
Those are the things I hurt about. Not about ME but about HIM.

His left arm swelled up to five times the size it normally was. Both legs swelled so huge that I would describe his feet as giant hams stuck to the ends of his legs with little toes stuck on.
Still he refused medical treatment. He wanted this done HIS way.
Everywhere in the house that he went there was this sticky stuff on the floor. Did one of the kids spill Kool-Aid? I would mop and scrub but at the end of the day it was sticky again. I found out later that it was protein leaking from his pores as he walked, he was so swollen. It had no where else to go so it seeped from him as he took each step.

Still he went to work.

I knew things were changing. He seemed to be dizzy and disoriented at times. I worried about him driving the 1.2 miles from our home to the office. I would walk with him to the car in my pajamas and coffee in hand, as the car would reach the end of the drive, I would follow it down the street. "Please God let him get there safely."
I would whisper silently as the car turned the corner out of sight.

About a week later, he came home and each day, each hour and each minute, things grew progressively worse.

He didn't go back to work. I knew things were bad. Henry not going to the office? It was really bad but he never complained or said a word about how he was feeling.
Each hour he was worse by now...

He asked me for paper and pen. He wanted to write. I gave him a stark white pad of paper and a pen with the company logo on it. He was adamant about writing something... What?
"I need to write this but write how do I write it?" he said.
"I'm not sure, write what you know." I told him, totally confused by what he wanted to say.
He began to write....
He wrote the date, his name and my name and wrote that I was amazing.
Oh God, I can't stop crying about this.
"Why am I amazing, darling? What do you mean "amazing?" I asked when I read what he had written.
He looked up at me and with that sweet smile of his, he told me he would save that and tell me someday and then I would know.

His next question...."Am I dying?"

No, no,no, no.

My heart fell clear to the floor and stopped.
Why did he ask me that?

" Why? Why do you ask me that?"

In the quietest voice I had ever heard, he said.."Because I feel like I'm dying."

Oh God! No.

At that exact moment, I think I knew. Tell him yes? Lie?

"Of course you're not dying, silly. You're going to be fine. Everything is fine." I lied.

Was I lying to him and to myself? Should I have told him yes? Should I have lied?
The answer to this question haunts me. Wakes me up at 2:00 a.m. every morning and sticks in head all thru the day. Should I have told him????
If/when my time comes, someone had better damn well be telling me about it!
I want to know.
To this day, I don't know if my lie was the right thing to do or not.
In my defense... I didn't know. Only God did.
Two days later he was gone. I had called the priest that married us to come to our home to give him his "Last Rites"
As the priest blessed him and prayed over him, I crawled into the bed. I held him in my arms. He took three last breaths and gently died in my arms. My heart died that day too.
Will the tears ever stop? I doubt it.

I can't wait to see my husband again. I need to tell him so much.
I want to tell him how proud I was to be his wife. How happy he made me. How very much I love him. I want to tell him that I am sorry I lied to the most important question he has ever asked of me.
And... I want to ask him about that one question he said he'd tell me about later....
Why did you write that I am so amazing?
I look forward to that day.

PS. To the miserable person that wrote the cowardly letter...
I know who you are.
I want to Thank You.
You see, your intention was to hurt but I have had all the hurt I can. Your words didn't hurt me. In fact they helped me and for that I thank you.
You lit a fire under me.
No more sitting looking at the walls. I am going back to work. I am going back to blogging and making videos soon. I learned one very valuable lesson in losing my darling husband and that is this:
Life is VERY short. Enjoy it.
And that is exactly what I intend to do.
Your cruel words mailed to me were intended to crush me. You can not. I am strong.
After all.... My husband thinks I am amazing!

I love you all. Thank you for being here. You, all of you, truly are amazing.

Monday, September 3, 2012

One Last Kiss

The day of the funeral...

To feel so numb but to have so much to do is such a contradiction in terms. All I want to do is go to bed and stay there with the blankets pulled over my head.
Let someone else do this. I can't.

Phone calls from people, food and flowers arriving at the door. God, I hate the smell of roses now. So cloyingly sweet. The smell seems to penetrate the house but mostly my brain.

A friend of mine that I had met at the Radiation clinic... (That seems like it was a 100 years ago)
Her husband had died of the same horrible cancer my husband had, told me that she had put her dog up in the bed with her husband to let him know that he was gone.
Ewwww, so morbid!
After my husband had gone, I did just that.
Both dogs were thrilled to be up on the bed I had denied them access to these last weeks. The little Chihuahua, much older and wiser, sniffed him all over. Looked up at me with such sadness in her soft brown eyes then laid her little apple head on his arm with a small sigh. She bared her teeth at anyone that tried to move her from his side.
Izzy, usually so rambunctious and out of control, sniffed his face once, jumped off the bed like she had been shot from a cannon and hid under the bed in the next room.
They both knew.
I'm glad now I did this. They are both grieving but seem to know why their beloved master is not here. He's not coming home....

Shower, makeup, hair. Like an auto-mon get ready for this day.
Meet the rest of the family, cousins, relatives, life-long friends at the funeral home.
Pall Bearers
Saying good-bye. More tears. More sorrow. More prayers. More sadness.
One last goodbye. More tears fall onto his face. "My Darling, please know that I will always love you. Forever. Unending."

I see the six best friends of my husband, the pall bearers, bring the casket and loads of flowers out to the waiting hearse. Such a sunny pretty day but a black hole in all of our hearts. I feel as if my knees will buckle and I will become one with the parking lot.
I am just led around like a four year old. Totally clueless. I have never done this before.
Not this.

Our limo follows the long black hearse. Others follows us. A long steady stream of cars
winding thru the streets to the church Henry and I attended every Sunday that we could while we were home and together. I see people and recognize their faces but my heart can't acknowledge their presence or why they are there to tell this wonderful man good-bye.
So many people crying.
So much sadness.

People speak at the podium and the priest says the Mass. My husband is lying there beside me in a white draped coffin with a cross of gold embroidered on the delicate cloth.
The priest begins The Lord's Prayer.

Every Sunday, all of our married life and before, as "The Lord's Prayer" was being said, we would recite those familiar words, my husband would reach out and grab my hand as we spoke the words....Hands locked in a grasp, all of the week's issues and problems would seem to melt away....

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be Done

No one to hold my hand now as that beautiful prayer was said, I reached out and laid my hand on the coffin. Never to hold his hand again, sobbing, as the prayer and the people prayed.
I could hear people crying behind me. He was so loved.

Back to the limo again.
Winding thru the streets. We don't go straight to the cemetery. Police escorts leading us past his business. All of his workers out lining the street in a silent salute and good-bye to this amazing man. Gone too Soon. Too Young... Too Good.
Following the hearse to the cemetery. A tent has been set up with chairs under the old oak trees in the spot we had chosen over a year before.
The sun dapples through the trees and glistens on the mirror covered casket. His name and birthdate and the date he left us engraved so beautifully on the top of the glass.
The priest ends the prayers and before they lower my beautiful husband into the ground, I bend to kiss the top. I leave an eternal lipstick print on the glass as I tell him one last good-bye...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How To Be a Widow II

Time passes and memories of the last painful days ebb just the tiniest bit each day but the hurt is still simmering there, right beneath the surface.

You wake up each day and the sun still shines. Days pass and you even laugh. I still have feelings of guilt for being here and alive and Henry is not.
Had it only been me to go and not him. Visiting his grave each day, I want to open it up and crawl inside.
I have begun going to grief counseling and that helps. To be in a group of others...mothers, fathers, husbands, wives. All of them love and lost and it hurts. They say that "Time heals all wounds" but there is one addendum to that old adage and that is that time may heal but a scab forms and the slightest thing such as a song or smell or memory opens it up and the heart bleeds. Again.

I am strong.
I can do this.

Each day I get up. I apply lipstick and put one foot forward and life continues.
Henry would want me to be happy. He loved reading my blog and my watching my videos. The best thing about my husband was that he listened to me. I mean really LISTENED to me. Whether it was about lipstick or kids or the dogs. No subject matter was too small or too slight.
He listened to me. And isn't that what a "best friend" does?
Simply put, we had a marriage that many dream of. My best advice for success in any relationship is so easy and simple.

Be KIND to each other.

That's it.
Be kind.

Kindness is as easy as it is implied.
We all argue or feel our side or point of view is the correct one.
Would you rather always be RIGHT or always be HAPPY?
I choose being happy. Being right all the time is too much work.
I'm no one's doormat but I also don't feel the need to push my opinions, thoughts or ideas down anyone's throat.

I want so bad to go back and watch the videos that my husband was in but that day will be a long way off. We had so much fun making them. We had so much fun EVERY day!
Henry told me how proud of me he was daily. He told others I was "The Love of his Life."
I received sympathy cards from so many friends that wanted to share that Henry would always say that. *sigh*
Being the Love of His Life.
What a GIFT!
Those words help ease the pain. Just a tad.

The day of the showing was exhausting but with the love and support of my family and friends, we all got thru it. Ten hours of people and stories and so much love for my husband. It's funny to feel so close to so many strangers, acquaintances, and those you love all wrapped up into one day. I have found that when people tell me they knew my husband, I feel an instant bond. You knew him? Oh, please tell me more! Just talking about him keeps him alive in my heart and probably theirs as well.

The day of the funeral was to be grueling. To send a loved one off into eternity forever?
How does one do that?

I sat down each day and wrote down everything. Writing is therapy for myself and many others. Henry loved my writing. He made me promise to continue, hoping it would not only help me but others going thru an ordeal like this or something similar. If it helps one wife or sister, parent, brother or child that has lost a love, then all the better.

I love you all so much. Your kindness does indeed honor Henry and my gratefulness to you is more than I can put into words. We were both so blessed.

Be kind. Be kind to those you love and even to those you don't.

More later....

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How to be a Widow


Who would ever want to purposely write about this crap?
Certainly not me.
I am no expert.
I know how to be a wife.
I know how to be a mom.
I know how to be a woman.
I know how to be a friend.
I know how to be a CASA
I know how to be a Flight Attendant.

I am clueless how to be a widow.

When Henry was first diagnosed, I searched the internet like a freak looking for miracles. Plenty of stories of men with this horrible disease but never an ending. Never a wonderful outcome. Henry's cancer was a rare one. I just wanted an ending. Anything that would be good.
Posts were out there written by wives or loved ones going thru this same thing but the postings would just suddenly stop....


My heart somehow seemed to guess the outcome but my brain refused to accept defeat.

The day after Henry died, a friend of the family stopped by with trays and platters of food. Friends had all pitched in to provide food for the people that would be stopping by.

Thick slices of slow cooked tenderloin. Thin slices of fresh salmon with lemon and capers.
Desserts. Meat and cold cut trays. Buns, breads
Fruits, vegetable trays, cheeses, crackers and endless lists of food to feed the masses of people that were to stop by in the days to come.

While everyone else feasted on these foods,
my friend discreetly pulled me aside and gave me some advice.....

"Lana, people are going to be watching you. Judging you. No matter what you say or do, it will be scrutinized and picked apart. What you wear and how your makeup looks each day for the next who knows how long will all be judged. Not because of any other reason than that you are now a widow and people will talk. Be careful."

Holy Crap!
That all sounded horrific.

It also sounded sadly true.

Other friends offered advice of their own. These are actual texts from friends offering their best advice. I think I used each one. Those days were all a giant blur.

Wear low heeled shoes. Don't eat a heavy meal before the showing.
Don't eat fiber or you will have to use the bathroom too often. Don't drink water or you will be running to pee every 5 minutes. Bring mints. Chew gum. Bring lipstick.
Sit whenever possible.
Ask how did you know my husband to people you do not recognize.
Hug those you love. Shake the hands of those who you don't know. Excuse yourself and go to the ladies room any time you need to. Bring Wet-Wipes for your hands. Keep your chin up. Wear waterproof mascara. (L'Oreal Voluminous is amazing! I cried the equivalent of a river but my mascara stood up)

The day of the showing came. I had two black dresses I thought would be appropriate. One a Michael Kors for the showing and the other Alice & Olivia with long black gloves for the burial and funeral mass.
No low cut cleavage showing. No mini lengths. Nothing tight or too sexy. Nothing revealing. No flashy jewelry. No heavy cakey makeup.
I wore my hair straight and not too fancy. Just subtle and sad.
That was me.
Subtle and sad.

I arrived at the funeral parlor with it's old elaborate furnishings, velvet walls and spindely chairs 3 hours before the doors would open. I asked the funeral director to please lock the doors until the family was ready to receive. Ugh. Receive?
My son and daughter-in-law on each side of me, bracing me up. Giving me strength to see him again for the long day and evening to come.
I slowly approached the coffin where my husband was lying in state.
I couldn't wait to see him. He died on a Thursday and it was now Tuesday. I hadn't seen his face since he had died. I made the funeral home wait five hours to take his body from my house.
I didn't want to ever let him go....

I missed him so much. I was excited but scared shitless too.
One on each arm I was shaking. It seemed like a mile to walk the few steps to see him.

He seemed so at peace and looked so handsome. I had brought his wedding ring. His hands had become so swollen those last weeks that he had to remove it. I found it in his bureau in an envelope with the date he had removed it along with these words..... 5/27/2012 "From My Girl. * * * * * "
Those numbers. Those words.
Those words had reduced me to tears and sent me straight to bed for an entire day.
I slipped the ring back where I had placed it so many years ago at our wedding. It looked so right on his finger again. A band of gold with 5 diamonds.

Each diamond a word.
* * * * *
I Love You Very Much.
I* Love* You * Very *Much*
We signed every note we ever left each other with 5 dots.
* * * * *
I Love You Very Much

I bent to kiss his face and whisper how much I love him.
My tears fell like tiny drops of dew onto his face.
Dried up tears.
So many.
I knew he would carry them to eternity and it gave me some dreary kind of comfort. A part of me would forever be with him and since my heart was already there, it seemed right.

I was asked where I wanted to stand.
Near my husband so I could look at his beautiful face and gather strength to get thru this
The family was in place. The doors unlocked.
The people came in droves.
So many people.
So many beautiful stories of the kindness and good deeds or humorous things my husband did to touch so many lives. Each one a treasure. I keep them all in my heart and remember them even now.
The hardest ones to bear were from the young men that worked for him. Some were still working there but many had grown and gone on to bigger and better jobs. Each one came to me with tears and a hug to tell me what my husband did to change their lives for the better. Or a funny story to tell.
To see these grown men crying and missing him so much was very heart-warming yet difficult at the same time.
Hour upon hour the people came.
I knew my husband was wonderful but had no idea so many others did as well.
For nine straight hours they came and line went on and on....

My family and dear friends didn't leave me alone. I finally caught on.
I asked, "Are you all afraid I am a danger to myself or others. Is that why you stay?"
No, they replied, we are just concerned for you to be alone.

Henry had become so much of my life in the last year since his diagnosis that my life was his. I gave up being a CASA, working, YouTube, blogging, shopping, lunches with girlfriends, friends etc. that now that he was gone, I was at a complete loss. No more feeding thru that damn feeding tube every 2 hours. No more helping him shower, no more bandages. No more being caretaker. I would have done it all again for a thousand years if he could have just stayed....

The funeral and burial was to be tomorrow. More of the same.
Sadness and tears.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

He Was All I Have

Hello to all of you that have sent all of the amazing notes and to the ones that left me a Tweet or note here  every day, I owe you big-time.
You have no idea how these notes got me thru these last months. I got where I actually looked forward to them. They were a tiny bright spot in an otherwise very dark time.
A thin thread to a different place.

When I was approached to write a book during my husbands treatments, I told the publisher that I wouldn't write about his passing but instead go back. All the way back to my life as a child. 
It was a compromise. 
I totally dropped the ball on my writings the last 4 - 5 months. My hands were full with caring for the love of my life. Who can write when their heart is being crushed. I stopped everything and devoted every second to my husband.
He is gone.
I cry just thinking of him. 
I miss him so much it hurts like a physical pain. 
I seem to hang at the cemetery.
I rake and clean and preen and decorate his gravesite. 
Somehow it gives me comfort. I had to stop telling family and friends that I go there 3 times a day. Now they look at me funny as if I am loco.
Maybe I am.
It's like going to his place. It's all I have.
Someday soon I will write about it all. The 
last months, the beautiful love we had, and his passing.
Right now, I am so raw inside it would come out as rambling jibberish.
Writing clears my thoughts.  It's all I have.
Henry died the way he lived... His way.
If someone can die beautifully, he did.
I held him in my arms. He was all I have...