Just a quick note so my Four Faithful Readers don't check in a hundred times today! The boys and I are off to church this morning; then we're going to a birthday party. I probably won't post anything new until this evening. Love you all madly.

There's someplace that I'd rather be


Weekend weather forecast for Morehead, Kentucky:
Today -- Cloudy with a few sprinkles. High 72F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph.
Tonight -- Mostly cloudy skies this evening. A few showers developing late. Low 52F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
Tomorrow -- Cloudy with a few showers. High 64F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
Seems like a good day to wander along Cave Run Lake in the Daniel Boone National Forest.


Instead, I am
  • Weeding my garden
  • Planting hellebores
  • Cleaning the family room
  • Sweeping the dining room
  • Running the laundry
  • Sweeping pulverized styrofoam (Thank you, S -- Grrrrrrrr)
  • Riding herd on the boys
  • Missing My Bear
Updated, 9:50 p.m. -- One year ago today, some widows met in Morehead, Kentucky, for a camping trip in the Daniel Boone National Forest. When Ron and I met each other (after IMing as friends for months), the chemistry was instantaneous. It's been a hell of a year: Two widoweds, still raw in their grief, meeting and suddenly believing that maybe happiness was possible again. It has been a bumpy road, to put it mildly. The tension between the love each of us will always have for our dead spouses and the love that we are building with each other sometimes snaps. We have wept with each other and laughed together; we have held on tightly to each other and pushed each other away. It's amazing, nothing short of a miracle, that we are still together, loving each other, dreaming of continuing to build our love together.

I should be so happy on this anniversary. Instead, I sat sobbing in the shower for 45 minutes, filled with grief and loss. Ron and I should never have met each other; he should be home with his dear wife, and I should be cuddling with Nick. I miss him so much; his boys need him so much; it is just so stinking wrong.

How do you balance the pain of grief with the hope of love? How does that tension get resolved? How does wishing I'd never had to meet the man (Ron, that is) reconcile with pure gratitude that I did?

Does a widow ever regain equilibrium? Or are we forever going to be off-balance, walking a precarious road?

I hate this. I really REALLY REALLY hate this.

Another goodbye

Miss Susan with Rock, when HardPlace was in her class -- May 2003

Miss Susan is a teacher at my sons' preschool; she's retiring today, one year too soon for Rock to be in her class. When HardPlace was in her class, Nick and I fell in love with her: Her grace and warmth, her love for the children filled the space around her. And she loved us; more accurately, she loved Nick (because he was the one who did the daily drop-off and pickup, she and I never saw much of each other). Once a month or so, Nick would go to her classroom and read a Winnie the Pooh story. He would use all the different voices, and the children would sit rapt in attention. At the end-of-the-year parent-teacher conference, she spoke beamingly about what good parents we were, how our love for HardPlace was reflected in his interactions with other children.

After Nick died, Miss Susan told me how much he had meant to her. And still -- more than a year and a half later -- every time she sees me, she greets me with love and the hint of tears in her eyes. It's actually because of Nick's death that she's retiring now; her husband is also retiring, and they want to enjoy each other and their grandchildren. Nick's sudden death made her so utterly aware of how precious life is, how easily it can be shattered. Part of me wants to beg her to teach just one more year, so that S can be in her class; but the larger part of me understands, would give anything to be able to spend one more year enjoying my life with Nick, one more month, one more day.... It's so hard to say goodbye.

Hey, Bozo!


I LOVE YOU!

Busy, busy, busy

Today I have to
  • Get the boys to school
  • Return a DVD (disk 2 of 2; I only returned 1)
  • Go to the grocery store
  • Volunteer in N's class
  • Call S's allergist
  • Call lumber wholesaler
  • Call contractor about repairing deck
  • Call "tree guy"
  • Do 2 loads of laundry
  • Tie up bundles of forsythia for recycling
  • Plant astilbe and liriope
  • Take N to counseling
And more, I'm sure. TTYL.

Updated, 7:19 p.m. -- Wow! I had a productive day!
  • Got the boys to school
  • Returned the DVD
  • Went to the grocery store
  • Volunteered in N's class
  • Called S's allergist (appointment tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.)
  • Called lumber wholesaler
  • Couldn't call contractor about repairing deck, because the wholesaler never got back to me
  • Called "tree guy"
  • Did 2 loads of laundry
  • Tied up bundles of forsythia for recycling
  • Did not plant astilbe and liriope -- well, nobody is perfect!
  • Took N to counseling
The counselor confirms the positive changes I've seen in N the last few weeks, saying that he is much more upbeat and open. He is really TALKING with her a lot, and when we're in there together, he asks me all kinds of questions that take my breath away -- about things I knew he wondered about, but on a level I hadn't been expecting. The big news -- !!! -- is that he approves of MB and thinks it would be a good thing if we got married. ROFLMAO. I laugh because N has been one of my biggest concerns and MB has considered him something of an enigma: "S, I can deal with, but N... I just don't know what to make of him." Now, I'm not going to let N make any decisions for MB and me, but it sure does ease my worries a bit.

N's main concern, what was drilled into me over and over today, is that he needs more information. More information. More information. Given his introspective nature, this does not surprise me. I just have to figure out what to tell him and how. Such an interesting journey parenthood is, even more so when it is interwoven with the WidowRoad.

Alone again

Well, I took Mother to the airport this morning. Boo-hoo. I miss her already. We enjoy each other so much.

Now my life has to go back to "normal," meaning interminable loads of laundry and endless sweeping of floors. Yes, I did all that while she was here, but I didn't mind it then. Adult companionship is such a treasure. In my mom's absence, I'll just have to turn to my Four Faithful Readers to keep me company!

TTYL.

Sunday Morning

S has a slight fever, so we're not going to church today. Which is okay, because I have a huge headache.

The widders had dinner last night, and it was more wonderful than usual. Three widders from New York/New Jersey drove down, and it was so good to see them again. Nobody but another widow would understand the force that makes a person drive four hours JUST TO HAVE DINNER with a bunch of people you know only on the Internet. If I hadn't met 2 of them at a party last fall, they wouldn't have known anybody last night... but they would have still come. At any rate, I went to their hotel with them after the dinner broke up and we lingered in the bar, enjoying the treasure of each other's company.

Mother and I have been very busy the last few days; I hope my Four Faithful Readers haven't missed me too much! But the highlight of those busy days was with my son N...

We'd gone to buy some bushes (nandinas, for those who care) at Costco, because they were incredibly cheap for their size. I had managed to put four big plants in my little car, but only by folding down the back seat, which meant N had to sit up front.

So this is what it's like to be a grown-up, he said.
You mean, sitting up front?
Yeah.
No, sweetie, I said, with a huge smile, This is what it's like to be buddies with Mom, to be my friend.
Oh, Mom, I'll always be your friend!

I can float on that feeling for quite a while...

Art therapy

Mother and I went to the Torpedo Factory yesterday, an art center housing more than 165 artists in studios. It's a wonderful place with all kinds of art to love and to hate, to admire and to ridicule.




Last fall, I bought the painting on top. It spoke to me of resurrection and radiance in the chaos. Yesterday, I bought the painting on the bottom. When I brought it home I realized it has the same color palette -- IDENTICAL color palette -- as the first painting, and I see it as resolution of the chaos.

That's all for now; my mom is champing at the bit to go on today's expedition: Costco!

Dog Tired

Mother decided it was time to clean out my garage yesterday. So we did.

The two of us worked almost nonstop (a 20-minute break for lunch) for 7 hours, but we got it all done. We took everything off all of the shelves, emptied all the boxes that never got unpacked when Nick and I moved in, and sorted everything into mountains. My mother spent more than an hour sweeping the entire garage... mouse droppings, barbeque ash, construction debris, bird seed. She's my hero.

In the end, I have about 30 cubic feet of trash, 10 cubic feet of recyclable paper and boxes, and acres of room in in the garage.

Rainy Monday

I suppose it's the height of egotism for me to watch the counter on this page climb steadily upward, but I truly am amazed that this site has had 1600 visits since early March. Considering that I have only Four Faithful Readers, each of you has visited 400 times in the last 6 weeks to check for new entries. Wow! Thank you for the vote of confidence.

I don't have a whole lot to say... just enjoying my mother's visit (we're in the minority group of Mothers and Daughters who Truly Enjoy Each Other's Company). S goes to school today, but N doesn't, so we want to come up with something fun for him, something we can't do when S is around. Unfortunately, it's a rainy day, so that limits our choices.

I'm also in something of recovery mode from the emotions of Pascha. It was probably harder for me this year than last year, maybe because last year I was still in the mode of simply soldiering along and doing what had to be done.

............

I never got around to posting this morning; the day turned out bright and clear and beautiful. Mother and I took N shopping for new shoes; he declined an outing to the bowling alley. So we went to Target and I bought fun things for outside.

An all-around lovely day with my family.

Great and Glorious Pascha

Christ is risen from the dead!
Trampling down death by death,
and on those in the tombs
bestowing life!


We sang that hymn more times than one can count this evening. It's a joyous affirmation of our faith. But tonight -- as I forced myself to sing it through the tears rolling down my cheeks -- it felt more like an act of will.

Is it faith if I have to make myself do it? They say the Love is a decision, so perhaps my being at church tonight, my singing, my professing was more an act of love than of faith.

Lots of thoughts rumbling around my head, none of them very coherent at this wee hour, and none of them nearly as profound as I would like to think they are. TTYL.

Great Friday


The Lamentations

First stasis:
In a grave they laid Thee,
O my Life and my Christ;
and the armies of the angels were sore amazed,
as they sang the praise of Thy submissive love.


Second stasis:
Right it is indeed,
Life-bestowing Lord, to magnify Thee;
for upon the Cross were Thy most pure hands outspread,
and the strength of our dread foe hast Thou destroyed.


Third stasis:
Every generation
sings hymns of praise at Thy burial,
O Christ our God.

Great Thursday

Today there is hung upon the Tree He who suspended the earth upon the waters.
A crown of thorns is placed upon Him Who is the King of the angels.
With false purple is He wrapped about, He Who wrapped the heavens with clouds.
Buffetings did He receive Who freed Adam in the Jordan.
With nails was He affixed, He Who is the Bridegroom of the church.
With a lance was He pierced, He Who is the Son of the Virgin.

We worship Thy Passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy Passion, O Christ.
Show also unto us Thy glorious Resurrection.
And so the Church enters kairos, that time beyond time, where God's perfect will was from the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Not chronos, the time we humans measure with frustration, precision, and impatience; but kairos, where past, present, and future meet and blend and interweave with one another... when all times meet Eternity, when all events are present, when we enter the Eternal Now.

And in the Eternal Now, I find thanksgiving and sadness, gratitude and loss, fullness and pain. In the Eternal Now I am with my beloved Nicholas and miss him more than words can say. I receive the Holy Embrace and weep tears of longing.

And in the Eternal Now, I rest and find peace.

Rose windows, prayers rise

It's late, and I should head to bed; but I've received a complaint about my not having made an entry in my blog today. Poor MB. The 800 miles makes both of us miserable, but it drives him crazy when someone else is sleeping in HIS bed in the guest room and when I'm too busy to talk with him, chat with him, dote on him. I can't have the florist deliver him roses to compensate for that, but here are some stained glass roses to feast your eyes on.


The West rose window: Creation



The North rose window: The Last Judgement



The South rose window: The Church Triumphant



Mother and I went to the Washington National Cathedral today, with N in tow. It really is a glorious place. N complained at first, but he soon had to poke his head into every nook and cranny. And he had to light candles to offer prayers at two different places. The first time, I asked whom he was going to pray for: "Dad." The second time, I didn't ask him, but as he lit the candle he said, "I'm sorry for all the mean things I've done to Mom."

Dare I hope for a rosy future for this child?

Let my prayers rise as incense before you,
the lifting up of my hands like an evening sacrifice...

Life is good

You don't hear a widow say that very often, but I really do feel that way most of the time. Yes, it stinks to high heaven, but it also very good.

N and I had a beautiful day yesterday. We went on a nice bike ride through the wetlands park by our house. We went to the grief counselor; she said it was the best session she'd ever had with him; we went out to lunch; we went for one last play date with C before his family goes to Bosnia.

Today, C's little brother is here for one last play date with S. We're about to take N to a friend's house for a play date. Then I'll take the little guys to the playground. This afternoon, N and S and I will go to the water park, and we pick my mom up at the airport this evening.

THIS EVENING???? Jeesh, I'd better get busy! My mother cannot see the house in this condition!!!

TTYL.

Spring break

... and I'm really busy with the kiddos and my mom arrives tomorrow for 2 weeks. I may put daily summaries of fun stuff we did, but don't look for much else here for a while.

I love you all madly!

Palm Sunday

O Christ our God,
When Thou didst raise Lazarus from the dead before Thy Passion,
Thou didst confirm the resurrection of the universe.
Wherefore, we like children,
carry the symbols of victory,
and we cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of Death,
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is He that cometh
in the Name of the Lord.

Yesterday was Lazarus Saturday for the Eastern Catholics. The Gospel tells us of the mourning of Lazarus' sisters; of Jesus' own tears; and of the mystery of the resurrection. In today's procession, the children will carry not palm fronds, but candles decorated with an abundance of flowers and ribbons. The palms were used for royalty, a temporal designation that will fade away. The candles are Light Eternal, and the Light will always defeat the Darkness.

This I truly believe.

Busted!

I'm embarrassed to say that I got busted last night.

I posted this to-do list yesterday morning:
A quiet day at home with my little one:
  1. Clean boys' bathroom.
  2. Fold laundry.
  3. Swiffer kitchen floor.
  4. Spend 30 minutes in the back room.
  5. Play lots of castles and dragons and dinosaurs.
I didn't do any of that, and rather than admit it to the world (all right, to the 3 people who read my blog every day), I deleted the entry. And MB busted me for it. He reminded me that I'm a widow; I'm allowed to have days when I do nothing.

At any rate, it's a NEW day, and I have vowed to make up for yesterday's idleness. I'm not sure where my energy will take me; so at the end of the day, I will report back to my Three Faithful Readers what I accomplished. Fair enough?

TTYL.

Updated, 9:30 p.m. -- I know that the Three of you ::rolleyes:: have been checking back repeatedly to find out what Pentha did today. Not! (I gotta get a life, I mean REALLY!)

Well, after the basic daily stuff, I decided to focus on The Back Room. I spent 2-1/2 hours in there, and all I can say is WOW. I'll take a picture tomorrow -- before S gets in there and wreaks havoc -- but I can tell you this:
  1. Goodwill is coming on Monday, and they will get 1 bag of men's clothing; 2 bags of women's clothing; 1 bag of kids' clothing; and 1 bag of toys and books.
  2. I also filled a large lawn recycling bag with papers for the recycling. I went through 2 boxes of papers, most of it Nick's or relating to Nick. It was easier than I thought it would be. I mean, I really don't need his college loan statements dating back to the early 1980s, do I? Of course, some of it was very hard to go through, especially papers from deacon school. But I got rid of most of those as well: They were photocopied articles with no special notations, of no sentimental value at all.
  3. I sorted through the kids' artwork that had been on the family room wall until I had it painted. The best of the best is now on the wall in the playroom. I haven't tossed the rest yet ... I'm waiting to see if N asks about what I didn't display.
  4. I decided to give away/recycle ALL the gift bags I have ever received. I kept a small selection for emergencies, but I have had some of those bags since N was born... I don't think I'm ever going to use them.
  5. I recycled ALL the gift boxes I have ever received. ALL of them, from every baby present, every Christmas present, every birthday present I have ever received. I have been hauling those things around forever, and they simply keep multiplying. I DO NOT NEED THEM.
There's actually a rug in that room, and a desk. Amazing.

I also did two more loads of laundry. Well, I washed it anyway. Never mind the folding!

AND I spent some time adding entries to my other blog. In addition to YWBB posts, I've decided to put some of the emails I wrote after Nick's death into it. They really make that blog a more complete chronology of my grieving. It was weird to read the early emails... so full of the pain that I seen on the Board, echoing much of what you can read in the Newly Widowed section. I actually couldn't read much of what I wrote back then. I started feeling it all over again, and I could only take so much of that. Slowly, I will put them into the blog. Slowly.

Redemption in two parts

I don't usually make two entries in one day. Anything I have to say can fit in with my to-do list. And I never post much about my children, beyond general concern and sorrow for them. But I really REALLY need to tell these stories.

By way of background, I have been more than concerned about my 8YO. He and his dad were so very close, and his world was shattered with Nick's death. I look at his face and wonder if I'll ever see his happy face again. It's been gone for over a year and a half, and the sadness in his eyes breaks my heart. The last few months have been particularly hard. I think he's starting to process his loss more deeply, starting to feel things more deeply. He's been a walking rage machine, angry and negative at every turn.

Anyway...

Redemption: Part 1

N had first confession on this past Sunday, which is a big deal in the Melkite church. It signifies that the child is growing up, has reached the age of responsibility. We talked about it a fair bit beforehand, but he was pretty nervous nonetheless. I should note that confession in the Eastern tradition is less about what you've done wrong and more about how to restore your relationship with God, less about penance (in fact there is none) and more about guidance.

Anyway, I stood in the back of the church, watching him standing in line. I got sort of weepy, feeling sad that Nick wasn't there. It would have meant so much to him. And when N finally got up to the priest, I just started talking to Nick, begging him to be there with N, to help him know what to say, to help him hear the priest. To help N open his heart and share his pain and receive the blessing of our faith.

He seemed really content afterwards... About halfway through liturgy, he leaned over and asked me if he could go out to lunch with his aunt and uncle (Nick's brother and his wife, whom he does NOT like). I was surprised, but said "of course." My SIL came up to me in the hall after the service and said that N had been really polite about "the whole thing" and asked if we'd been working on it and practiced it. I had no idea what she was talking about.

It turns out that N had gone up to them, and apologized for the way he has treated them. "I know I haven't been very nice to you, and I'm really sorry. Maybe we could go to McDonald's or something? Just to spend some time together?"

WOW! I was stunned. And she was amazed as well: It's not hard to tell when an 8YO doesn't like you. She was sure I had insisted he do this.

I have to believe that this was the movement of the Holy Spirit, with Nick's nudging. I have to believe that he was there with N, helping him and guiding him and loving him and and and and...

Redemption: Part 2

Our grief counselor had suggested that N go to a psychiatrist to be screened for depression, with an eye toward treatment with medication. Needless to say, I've been pretty upset about the idea of an 8YO on antidepressants. I told N about the appointment on Monday, explaining that I take medicine to help me manage the stress and grief better and that Miss Sonya thought that a similar medicine might help him too.

"I don't need that medicine, Mom! I'm stronger than any medicine. It won't help me." We'll let the doctor decide that sweetheart.

The appointment was today, and the psychiatrist agreed with N, saying that what we are doing now seems to be appropriate at this point in time. If we don't see an improvement by midsummer, we can revisit it, but he didn't think it was necessary right now.

I was SO relieved. And so was N.

We decided to go out to eat after the appointment, and we passed a panhandler at a stop light. N asked what his sign said: "Homeless Vet -- Need help -- God bless." As we continued driving, he asked what that meant, and I explained it to him in basic terms. When we reached the restaurant -- a Japanese place he's been BEGGING to go to -- he had tears running down his face.
I'm just so sad, Mom. I'm so sad.

About what?

That homeless man.

I know, honey; it's a terrible thing to be in that kind of situation.

I don't feel like going to a restaurant. I just don't want to go. And he is crying, crying. I don't feel well.

Do you want to go home? Do you want to sit on the grass for a few minutes?

No. No.

Do you want me to go back and give the man some money?

YES! We talk about it as we drive back down the road. It's just not right that he doesn't have a place to live --- you should just give him a lift home.

But he has no home for me to take him to.

To OUR house. You've got the guest room, silly. So I give him a quick explanation about drugs, alcohol, mental illness, and how you can't bring a total stranger into your house.

How much money are you going to give him?

$5

That's not enough. Give him at least $10. I scrounge in my purse but don't have a $10 bill.

Do you want to give him some of your snack that you didn't eat?

YES!
So, we put applesauce (with a spoon) and a bag of graham cracker sticks into a small plastic bag, with $7. I give it to the man, and tell him that my son wanted me to turn around and give this to him. N leans across to the window and says Hi... The guy has a gap-toothed smile and says, "May God continue to bless your family."

On the drive home, N and I had a long conversation about charity and poverty, about helping people.

I feel better, Mom. I mean I really feel better.

We talked about how it DOES feel good to help people when you can. I think that this homeless man gave him an outlet for his tears and anxiety about the meds. I think that seeing someone who was in REALLY bad shape, and being able to help him, made N feel better about his own condition.

So we went to our local joint and had milkshakes and french fries, simply enjoying each other's company more than we have in a long time.

"May God continue to bless your family." Tonight, that benediction feels like it came from the lips of an angel.

Back on track

You may (or may not) have noticed that I haven't been very good about putting up a to-do list in the morning. Well, that sure shows in the condition of my house! Messes here; dirt there; disasters downstairs; clutter upstairs. So, I have to get back on track.

Today, I will:
  1. Vacuum the family room.
  2. Put away my clothes (yes, MY clothes).
  3. Wash 2 loads of laundry.
  4. Sweep the dining room.
  5. Take N to the doctor.
  6. Take and post a picture of "The Back Room" -- nothing like a little public humiliation to motivate me!
  7. Spend 20 minutes working on "The Back Room."
But first ... The comics! Good grief.

Photo added at 11:45 --



Updated, 10:10 p.m. -- I got everything on my list done. AND I scrubbed permanent marker off the playroom floor. AND I had a phenomenal day with my #1 son.

"Death sucks."

Those were the words with which one of the deacons in my church greeted me on Sunday. "Of course, you already knew that." Yes, yes I did.

DKB's sister died last week, a peaceful death -- if there is such thing -- after an awful ordeal with cancer. Her funeral is today, and it will be the first funeral I've attended at our parish since Nick's. I don't think it will be too hard for me ... I could be wrong though.

The Melkite funeral rite is profoundly beautiful and healing, with lots of incense and music in the melancholy minor tones. (Actually, they are not minor tones as we understand them in the West: They are tones "between the cracks." Nick always loved that phrase.)

One brief hymn always moves me with its pleading...
O Christ God,
with the saints grant rest
to the soul of your servant
in a place where there is
no pain, no grief, no sighing
-- but everlasting light.
... Back from the funeral; awake from a long nap with S; finished helping N with homework; pulled sprouting weeds from the flower bed; life goes on in the face of death.

The final words of the funeral service focus on the Eternal Now, as do all sacraments. Baptism allows us to enter into the death and resurrection of Jesus; communion is a foretaste of the banquet table of the Lord, where we all will be one day; confession embraces us in the arms of a loving father; marriage is where we live out the Love of God for his creation; and in the funeral rite, we beseech God to remember forever the ones we love:
Memory eternal! Memory eternal! Memory eternal!
The Eternal Now, where our loved ones are with God and we too are with them, a holy mystery of our faith.

Death may suck, but its power has been destroyed. Aleluia, aleluia, aleluia.

Broken Record

I don't feel like I have anything new to write.

My husband is still dead. I still miss him. My boys still hurt. Grief still stinks.
MB is still sweet and wonderful. I still love him. 800 miles is still too far.

The same chores still await me.

ttyl.

Updated, 10:02 p.m. -- I didn't have a very productive day. At least, that's what I thought until I start writing down everything that I DID get done.
  1. Got the boys fed, dressed, and off to school
  2. Cleaned up the weekend's disaster areas... playroom, family room, kitchen
  3. Volunteered in N's classroom -- how he loves that!
  4. Went to the grocery store
  5. Took the garbage to the curb -- and brought back the empty cans
  6. Scrubbed a few dirty toilets
  7. Wrote condolence notes to the family of a parishioner who died last week -- one to her daughter, one to her brother who happens to be S's godfather.
I have to go to the funeral tomorrow; this will be the first funeral in our parish that I've attended since Nick's. I don't think it will be too hard for me. I hope not.

Gee, I guess this list serves a purpose after all. I guess I should keep posting ... thank you, Anonymous, for the encouragement. I really do need it sometimes.