Tag Archives: mourning

Teaching lesson of loss

I received a remarkable email message from a reader of this blog who, I hasten to point out, has just endured a tragedy similar to what I have been writing about since February.

The point of this brief blog post is that he has gleaned some knowledge of what I have sought to convey from the messages I have told about my dear bride, Kathy Anne, who I lost to cancer a few months ago.

Here is what he wrote, in part: I have learned since … what you are experiencing is nothing like I suspected the situation you are in and never realizing it would be so very, very difficult.  My wife … has just passed away this last month.  I have discovered I never had enough empathy for others who had lost a spouse.  I always considered it would be similar to losing parents, kinfolks, friends, etc.  I was oh so wrong.  Finding, when you lose someone who you live with and see every day is oh so much harder.  Please know I now understand a bit better what you and others are going thru.  I am there now.”

This message fills me with hope that I have reached others in this manner.

Frankly, I learned something from him as well. I am able to process the intense grief I continue to feel because of all that Kathy Anne and I shared. We were husband and wife for 51 of the 52 years we were together. We went through a lot together. There were many peaks and, yes, a valley or two … or maybe three.

Thus, losing a spouse is, indeed — as my friend tells me — so much more intense than losing a parent.

Kathy Anne and I really liked each other’s company. That affection lasted for the entirety of our marriage. So help me, it just doesn’t get any better than what we had.

I have sought to convey our life together and explain the struggle I am waging to regain my equilibrium.

My friend’s loss saddens me at the most essential level. It also gladdens me to know that he understands our pain. To that end, I will do what I can to continue to convey what I learn on this most difficult journey.


Flaps up … almost!

Today has been a day of preparation for my latest trek away from the North Texas house I once shared with my bride.

This one takes Toby the Puppy and me eastward, to North Carolina and Virginia. My pre-launch prep has been more studied and careful since my previous one that occurred this past spring.

You see, Kathy Anne was the master trip planner. Indeed, she brought many skills to our 51 years of marriage and I learned on my journey out west that I had forgotten to take a few items with me. So … I had to purchase ’em on the run. I am certain KA was laughing out loud at me.

Not this time, folks. My approach to preparing for this journey has been measured, meticulous and so very thorough that I am afraid I might be taking more than I need.

Nahh … whatever.

The aim this time is the same as the previous trip. I just need to get away to clear my noggin. However, this trip will be different in one key regard. When I return home in a couple of weeks, I’ll have someone here to greet me. My son and his two cats — Marlowe and Macy — are living with Toby the Puppy and me for the time being. He is embarking on a drastically different career path from the one he left after nearly 25 years — and I will be anxious to hear how it is going when I get home.

Moreover, I will be glad to return to a house with a bit of noise in it instead of one that is silent … if you know what I mean.

I am happy to report that my journey through the sadness that occasionally overtakes me is getting a little easier each day. As family members and friends have told me repeatedly, all I can do is take each step daily. I am heeding their advice.

Meantime, the open road awaits.


Identity ‘crisis’ arrives

A single sudden, savage and sad event has thrown me into a form of identity crisis I never gave a moment’s thought until that event arrived more than five months ago.

Feb. 3, the worst day of my life, culminated that evening with the passing of my bride, Kathy Anne, from brain cancer.

We got married when I was not quite 22 and she was not quite 20. I am now 73 years of age, which means for almost our entire adult lives we were identified with each other.

We were husband and wife. We were “together” for 52 years, or to put it another way, we became a couple the moment I planted a kiss for the ages on her two days after she first appeared before me, like a vision.

Now she’s gone. I have difficulty thinking of myself as a “single” man. I cannot quite make that leap. It’s weird. Perhaps others who have experienced similar loss know of what I am speaking. I don’t like using the “w” word to define me; you know what it stands for, yes?

Some young man came to my door a few weeks ago to pitch a solar panel program he wanted to sell me. We chatted for a minute, then he asked, “Are you married?” Believe it or not, I took me about 15 seconds to muster up the ability to say, “No. I am not.”

Identity crises occasionally afflict middle-aged men. We hear occasionally of “mid-life crises.” I didn’t go through one of those back when I was in my 50s. Kathy Anne kept me young … if you get my drift.

Now I am embarking on this unknown trek toward some unidentified destination. I am suffering a new sort of crisis as I soldier on.

I am writing about it only to put it out there. It makes me feel somewhat relieved to be able to share it with others who perhaps understand the feelings being expressed.

It’ll pass … eventually.


Another journey looms

Not many days from now, I am going to jump into my Ranger pickup with Toby the Puppy and head east.

The trek will take us to North Carolina and Virginia before we start the return to the house in North Texas. The goal for this journey is the same as it was for the month-long trip I took to the other coast. This one won’t last as long.

I’ve budgeted two weeks for this one, but the aim is the same: to clear my head and seek to mend my heart, which was shattered into a zillion pieces with the passing of my bride on Feb. 3.  Kathy Anne lost a fierce, but brief, fight with cancer.

But … you know about that.

I am not yet sure if I will require any more of these kinds of mind-clearing, heart-mending getaways. I can report some progress in this journey I have taken since I lost the love of my life.

For instance, I can think of Kathy Anne without bawling — although not always. The emotions run amok, though, when I talk about her with friends and family. My sons, my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter are struggling in their own ways with the loss they suffered. I have sought to let them all know that I am here for them if they need special support … except that among all of us, I believe I am the most emotionally tender.

Well, the journey will continue for all of us who loved Kathy Anne.

I have all but declared my heart will be damaged permanently. I am just seeking ways to cope with the pain that I am certain will flare on occasion. Getting behind the wheel of my pickup — with Toby the Puppy riding shotgun — is sure to offer plenty of comfort.


No redeeming quality

AMARILLO, Texas — I ran into a longtime friend this morning at a local coffee shop.

He and I exchanged greetings. He asked, “What brings you back?” I said I wanted to get away for a couple of days. I asked, “You didn’t hear about my wife?” He said no.

I told him Kathy Anne passed away in February as the result of brain cancer. I told him we got the diagnosis the day after Christmas and she was gone … just like that.

“Well,” he said, “I guess there’s something to be said for going quickly.” I stopped him. “No. There is nothing redeeming about this,” I said. “I cannot find anything about the swiftness of this disease that gives me any comfort.”

He nodded. My friend knew of what I was speaking.

I mean not a shred of disrespect for my friend. I merely want him to know that I remain “shattered” from this loss and try as I might, I cannot find anything yet that relieves me of the pain of losing my bride so damn quickly.

As I have noted already on this blog, the reassembling of my life remains a work in progress. It’s coming along, but it will take a while. My friend understands.


Becoming totally independent

The thoughts I will express in this brief blog post might seem odd, but they are what is churning in my gut at the moment … so, here goes.

I have discovered a nagging obstacle to my emotional recovery from the tragedy I suffered in February with the loss of my bride, Kathy Anne, to cancer.

It is making decisions without having to consult with her. Others who have trudged along this path likely know of which I speak.

I am able to go anywhere I damn well without having to clear it with my bride of more than 51 years.

Example: I am going to hit the road next week for a quickie trip up yonder to Amarillo. I want to see friends, people I got to know over more than 20 years living in the Texas Panhandle. Prior to her passing, I would have asked Kathy Anne if she wanted to go. She might say “yes,” or maybe not. If the answer was no, well, I likely would have stayed home, too.

Hey, no sweat. I always enjoyed her company, whether it’s on the road or here at home.

These days I am not encumbered by anyone else’s wishes, not that I viewed her wishes a burden or any sort of barrier to me.

Now, though, I am free to pick up and go. I plan to do so again in a few weeks, heading back east for a two-week jaunt to North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia to see family and dear friends.

It’s all part of that so-called “new normal” I am seeking to discover. It’s there for the taking, I have determined. I just need to accept the reality of this moment.

Weird, man.


Pictures present no obvious pain

My dearest Kathy Anne …

I thought I’d bang out another short note to you, per the advice of our friends. I thought I needed to tell you that I am having little difficulty looking at pictures of you.

You recall when Dad passed away in September 1980. I went to his office to clear out his desk. His colleagues gave me pictures of him to take with me. I couldn’t look at them. That unreasonable fear of looking at pics of Dad lasted a good while. It faded over time.

My loss of you was far worse than what happened that day more than four decades ago. It is no hyperbole, sweetheart, to tell you that Feb. 3, 2023, was the worst day of my life. My heart shattered into a million pieces. I am still trying to assemble it, but I know that’s an impossible task.

However, I am not suffering the kind of fear I felt at looking at pictures of Dad. I can look at your lovely face and I draw some form of comfort in seeing your buoyant smile.

Indeed, I have a lovely portrait of you hanging on a living room wall next to your angel collection. And, yes, I wish you good night when I turn at the end of the day.

I consider this to be a sort of triumph over the grief I continue to feel as I continue my journey through this dark period.

I also thought you needed to hear it from me.

Make no mistake that I think of you practically every waking minute of every day. I am heartened that I can look at your pictures and think of the moments they were taken and recall them with happiness.

I will miss you forever and then some.


Submersible? Umm … no!

OK, I will have to stipulate that I don’t believe I ever gave any thought to whether I would ride to the depths of the ocean in a submersible vehicle.

Then came the tragedy that took the lives of five men this week as they sought to take an up-close look at the wreckage of the RMS Titanic cruise ship that sank in 1912 and is resting 13,000 feet below the ocean’s surface.

For almost my entire life I have maintained a fairly fearless attitude about what I would do … or wouldn’t do. I am 73 years of age and I am taking a much more cautious outlook on those things I never would do. Riding to the floor of the ocean in a submersible is very near the top of the won’t-do list.

The Titan vehicle reportedly imploded shortly after launching toward the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The men on board died instantly, as the Coast Guard and the Navy have indicated.

Just because I have become a scaredy-cat who won’t do certain things doesn’t mean I disparage the fearless among us who are willing to take those risks. It’s part of being a human being, many of them have said in the hours since the revelation that the Titan had been destroyed in a “catastrophic implosion.”

Human beings are wired to explore, to test their limits, to reach perhaps beyond their grasp … or so the thoughts go. I am going to sigh and respond only with this: Not all human beings are hardwired in this manner; I know … because I am one of those who cannot do what those five brave men were able to do.

My heart breaks for the loved one who are mourning their unbelievable loss.


Retirement ain’t for the queasy

Retirement was sure to introduce me to many shifts, twists and turns and occasional bumps along the way. I knew it when I commenced that journey with my bride nearly a decade ago.

She opted to retire “early” not long after I left my career behind in August 2012. I would follow suit about three years later.

My lesson, though, about retirement is that one must be prepared for any eventuality. By “any eventuality,” I refer — to no one’s suprise, I am sure — to tragedy.

It crashed into me on Feb. 3 when my bride passed away. I am continuing on my journey, but I am now forced to find that “new normal.” I haven’t found it just yet, but it’s coming a little more sharply into focus with each day.

My friends and family have advised me to “take it one day at a time.” I am following that advice to the letter. I am putzing around my house each day, doing this and that chore.

I run errands. I mow the lawn. I have a laugh or two each day with my son, who has moved in with me.

But this new era of retirement has a different feel — quite obviously — than what Kathy Anne and I had expected when we embarked on this journey together.

Intellectually, though, I knew that it was entirely possible all of this could occur. Still, when my world changed forever the evening of Feb. 3, I wasn’t ready for it. I’ll be candid: This is the worst event ever to fall on me. The good news is that I have my family. They, too, are hurting but we give each other comfort when we need it.

I want to share this latest update with you just to let you know that I am pushing forward. Kathy Anne insisted on it if fate were to place me in this spot.

It has done so. The rest of it is up to me.


Our world is turned upside down

You all know by now that my world has been turned inside-out, upside-down and is presenting daily challenges as I seek to find my footing along this journey I have been taking.

Part of that footing involves my seeking some understanding to the political climate that is causing such angst, anxiety and apprehension. I don’t know, frankly, how to deal with all of that while trying to navigate my way out of the darkness that befell me with my dear bride’s passing from cancer.

A former president has been indicted for crimes that allege an astonishing, reckless disregard for our national security; they prove beyond a doubt (as if we need more proof) that this ex-POTUS is unfit for public office. He vows revenge against those who are following the law by indicting him.

This individual’s political opponents in the growing field of presidential candidates are oddly reticent in condemning him over the indictment that lays out a most convincing case against him.

A couple of them have spoken out, but they pull their punches just a bit. Other GOP officials point at other political leaders and ask, “Why don’t the feds indict them, too?”

The juxtaposition of this political maelstrom with my personal struggle to regain my emotional equilibrium is intentional. I mean to say out loud that my keen interest in public policy would be tested to its extreme even without my personal struggle. That I am seeking to find some sense to what I am reading and seeing in real time while waging war with my emotions offers to you an illustration of what I am talking about.

I know I am not the only person on Earth who at this moment is struggling with personal tragedy. Others who are going through it know of what I am speaking.

The consequence of this confusion? It now falls on special counsel Jack Smith to explain this to each of us clearly, in bold letters, the impact that this legal crisis will leave on our system of government … and on our own emotional health.