Tag Archives: grief

Is this ‘premature’? Umm, no

A statement from a woman whose acquaintance I made recently kind of caught me off guard … until I took a moment to process it.

She wondered if I was being “premature” in my effort to restart my life after losing my bride, Kathy Anne, to cancer in February. “It hasn’t even been a year,” she said, alluding to those upcoming “firsts” one endures after losing a loved one. You know, first birthday, first Christmas, first New Year’s Eve, first wedding anniversary one should commemorate with the loved one by your side.

I answered her forthrightly. “I believe I am ready” to proceed with my life, I said. Why? Because Kathy Anne would have it no other way. She made her point to me abundantly clear once or twice when we both were in the peak of health. “I want you to find happiness,” she instructed me in a stern voice, in the event she preceded me to her Great Reward.

My marriage succeeded over the course of 51 years largely because I followed the rule most husbands must follow: I did what my wife told me to do.

Do not ever misconstrue this carved-in-stone fact, which is that no woman ever can replace the love of my life. If I am able to find a new partner, she will understand that fact. My sons, my daughter-in-law, my granddaughter all know that about me. They know that Kathy Anne always will be first in my heart.

The task for me emotionally always will be to deal with the pain that is certain to flare on occasion. It will happen without warning. Indeed, I am functioning quite well while performing this or that task.

There can be no doubt that Feb. 3, 2023 was the worst day of my life and the lives of my family members. It happened near the beginning of what has turned out to be the crappiest year of my life.

However, I do possess an eternal wellspring of optimism. The future, as they say, is for the living. I intend to live my life on my own terms, albeit while following the instruction of my darling Kathy Anne.

Happiness is out there for me. I intend to find it.

Journey nearing its end

My journey through the darkness has found sufficient light for me to declare that I believe it is nearing its end.

Does that mean the destination is near, that I have no more distance to travel before I can declare my life has been (more or less) restored since the passing of the only woman I’ve ever loved with all my heart?

It means only that I can see much more clearly these days, that I can profess openly that I am ready for a relationship if the right one were to present itself. I don’t mean to sound coy or cagey. I only mean to tell you the obvious, which is that my heart is likely to remain permanently damaged and that I am learning the complexities of dealing with the pain.

Kathy Anne’s brief but savage fight with glioblastoma at the beginning of this horrible year will remain with me for the rest of my life on Earth. She had six weeks from her diagnosis to the end. The oncologist who was scheduled to treat her called her form of cancer “the most aggressive” he ever has seen.

That was then. The here and now puts me in a position to start to move on, to commence with the rest of my life. My beautiful bride, Kathy Anne, was 71 when she passed. I am almost 74. She was in good health until, well, she wasn’t. I am in reasonably good health … at this moment. The events of this year have taught me the bitterest of lessons. One of them is that at my age, health can turn from blessing to curse in rapid fashion.

I am not going to sit around, awaiting the outcome I know awaits all of us. I intend to live, just as Kathy Anne insisted I do back when we both were young and had a long life ahead of us.

There will be more tales to tell about my journey as it progresses into the blinding light of the living. I’m not there yet.

But, damn … I believe it’s getting closer!

Following bride’s advice

My late bride once informed me — and I don’t recall the precise time or even the context of the conversation — that she didn’t want me to grieve forever if she left this Earth before I did.

“I want you to be happy,” Kathy Anne told me with a note of sternness in her voice. “If you find someone, then you should pursue that relationship,” she added. My response was similar, but not identical. I believe I answered with, “I want the same for you sweetie, but to be honest the thought of you being ‘with’ another man would drive me out of my mind.”

Well, Kathy Anne did leave this world first. I believe I am ready, though, to follow her instruction about finding happiness.

This journey I’ve been on since the worst day of my life likely will never end. The journey has been dark and at times full of sadness. Until just recently. It has brightened a bit largely because my own head has cleared and I am able to actually think about where I want to be in, say, three to five years.

I do not intend to move from Princeton, Texas. This will remain my forever home, as it belonged to Kathy Anne and me and served to be our base of operations while we visited our granddaughter, her parents and while we traveled throughout this great big, gorgeous country of ours. I’m still able to all of that, although the travel plans have changed a bit; but I am making that work, too.

As for future companionship, well, I will let that play out in due course. I have advised my sons — and any young man willing to listen to this advice — against “looking for the girl of your dreams. She will just show up.” It happened to one of my sons, and it damn sure happened to me. My other son will find that individual, I am sure, one day.

So will I. Thus, I am declaring that I won’t resist the tug into a new relationship when it starts to pull. But whoever comes along will need to understand the nature of the huge hole that remains in my permanently damaged heart.

If she has taken steps along a journey of her own, I am certain that she’ll get it.

Flaw appears in emotional armor

Readers of this blog have been informed of the progress I am making as I walk through the darkness of grief and intense pain over the loss of my dear bride, Kathy Anne.

The progress is real and for that I am glad to report I am doing better each day. However …

I have discovered a flaw in the emotional armor I have developed. It presented itself to me while Toby the Puppy and I were taking a quick stroll around our Princeton, Texas, block. It came in the form of having to tell someone who didn’t know about the loss my family and I have suffered.

A couple lives about six houses west of us. Puppy and I approached them as they worked in their driveway. Husband asked, “Where’s your better half? All I have seen is you lately.” I gulped, caught my breath and collected myself before telling him and his wife and daughter, “I lost her in February to cancer.”

I have been able to keep my emotions more or less in check for the past week or so. It’s getting easier … until I have to tell someone who doesn’t know the story. 

I walked through the quick version of the events that started this past autumn, then through the brain cancer diagnosis Kathy Anne received the day after Christmas, her post-surgery rehab stint and then the seizure that ultimately took her from us.

Telling that story — even in its abbreviated form — proved to be a difficult task this evening.

You know what? I got through even that struggle with relative ease compared to what I likely would have experienced, say, a month or two ago.

The journey continues.

Declaring ‘victory’ … of a sort

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — I should not declare victory prematurely, as there are more hurdles to overcome, more significant dates that lie ahead.

That said, I want to issue a cautious note of confidence as my latest mind-clearing, heart-mending sojourn is about to conclude.

I ventured back east to get away from the house I shared with my late bride, Kathy Anne. I had my share of spells visiting family and friends. I have written about them already. Fifty-two years of togetherness with my dream girl aren’t going to be diminished any time soon.

However, I appear to have cleared my head sufficiently to go through a few whole days without welling up. That is a positive development … don’t you think?

My heart? That’s another matter. It remains seriously damaged from the event that occurred on Feb. 3, when I lost my bride to a savage form of brain cancer. I accept that my heart will remain permanently damaged. I hear from friends and acquaintances who have lost the loves of their lives that they, too, sob without warning. I won’t bore you with reports on when that happens to me.

Just know — if you have been following this journey through the dark fog — that I am seeing the light.

I will return to my North Texas house sometime tomorrow. I’ll walk into the living room and will see evidence of Kathy Anne where I left it two weeks ago.

I don’t expect to cry, which — if I am able to finish this journey with dry eyes — might enable me to declare a form of victory.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

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.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Better, but not ‘good’

Four months into this dark journey on which I have embarked has revealed — I believe — a difficult truth about where I am likely going to end up.

My bride passed away on Feb. 3 after a brief, but savage bout with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. I have chronicled already much of what I have been feeling since Kathy Anne’s passing.

We were together for 52 years, 51 of those years as husband and wife. Yes, it’s been tough. It will continue to be a difficult trek for well past the foreseeable future.

The difficult truth?

It is that “good” as I once defined term is likely an unattainable goal for me. Friends and family ask me constantly, “How are you doing?” I cannot say “good,” because that term meant something vastly different from what I am experiencing today. I don’t intend to redefine the term; I prefer to remember what “good” used to mean for my bride and me.

I shrug and say “better.” I am better than I was yesterday — most of the time. Thus, the term “better” remains the description du jour for me as I continue on the path that will lead me eventually to the end of my own time on Earth.

For those who might wonder, though, about my emotional state, please know that I intend to stay as positive as possible. I am able to laugh loudly. My emotions run the full gambit.

I just have learned to understand something about mourning the loss of a beloved life partner, someone with whom I did everything. It is that I will never stop missing Kathy Anne. That I will have to wipe tears from my eyes at seemingly little or no provocation.

I will, though, function as a normal adult human being.

“Good” is beyond my reach. I will strive to get “better” each day … and that is a worthy goal to attain.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Poignancy added to this exhibit

FORT WORTH — I have visited this exhibit many times over the years, dating back to the time before my wife and I relocated to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

You’ll find it across the street from the Fort Worth Convention Center and in front of the hotel where President and Mrs. Kennedy spent the president’s final night on Earth before flying to Love Field in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

We all know what happened next.

My son and I went there this weekend to gander and gawk at downtown Fort Worth, just take in the sights of the place. I saw the pictures behind JFK’s statue and was struck immediately about their poignancy.

They were taken literally hours before a gunman killed the president. The president was smiling, as was his wife. One photo shows JFK standing in front of then-Texas Gov. John Connally, who also would be injured by a gunshot on that horrible day in downtown Dallas.

The poignancy was heightened, strange as it might seem, by the loss I have just suffered in my own life. A little more than three months ago, cancer took my bride, Kathy Anne, from me, robbing my sons of their mother, my daughter-in-law of her good friend and confidante and my granddaughter of Grandma, who loved her beyond measure.

Seeing pictures such as what my son and I saw reminded me as well of how precious life is and how we must treat it as a gift we should treasure.

Just a short time — a few weeks, actually — prior to the terrible diagnosis we got regarding Kathy Anne, we were returning from a lengthy RV trip out west and we were looking forward to spending the rest of our life charting new journeys and adventures.

My life without my beloved bride is taking an entirely different course. I don’t know where it will lead me. I am just intending to be ready to embark when the time comes.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Indeed … all things must pass

The recent tragedy that befell my family and me has forced us to learn some of life’s harshest lessons.

The great singer/songwriter George Harrison once told us that “All things must pass … all things must pass away.”

Indeed, if I have learned anything about myself while I mourn the passing of my beloved bride, Kathy Anne, is that grief and mourning are part of life.

This is my way of reporting to those of you who have been following me along this journey that I am a fairly quick study when it comes to learning that lesson. I am able to go through most days now without welling up, or without weeping openly at the thought that my bride is no longer by my side.

I am able to complete household tasks. I am able to look at Kathy Anne’s pictures without sobbing. I am able to talk about her (most of the time) without stopping to collect myself.

Granted, there remain many more hurdles to clear as I continue this trek through the darkness. They don’t look quite as daunting today as they did soon after cancer took my bride away from us. Do not misunderstand me on this point, which is that those hurdles are formidable, but I am beginning to have faith that I’ll be able to get past them … eventually.

One of the lessons that has been drummed into my noggin is to not “rush anything,” that I am entitled to grieve in my own way and at my own pace. I accept that and I am adhering to that advice.

Thus, my grief will continue, but I damn sure won’t let it burden me. That’s life, man … because all things must pass.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Grief takes different course

Grief is the most unique and perhaps most intimate feeling one can experience, which I believe I am learning as I continue to process the loss of my bride, Kathy Anne.

Forty-three years ago, I received word of my father’s passing in a freak boating accident north of Vancouver, British Columbia. My initial reaction was strange, in that I could seemingly feel the blood drain from my body as I pondered the news that hit me like a punch in the gut.

Then came this notion that I could not look at photos of Dad. It took me some time to be able to look at his face captured forever in those photographs.

Not so with my bride. I find myself wanting to look at her smile, which could light up a room. She had a wide, somewhat toothy smile. She laughed easily.

These days, as I still struggle with my emotions, I find myself gazing at her. I have several photos of my bride scattered around the house. Some were taken at our wedding more than 51 years ago; some were shot at our son’s wedding; there’s a lovely picture of the two of us at our niece’s high school graduation in 1999.

I draw comfort in those photos, unlike the dread I felt when Dad was taken from us in that shocking manner in September 1980. I was just 30 years of age then. Today, well … I obviously am a whole lot older. Maybe my emotional mechanism is more defined than it was when I was a much younger man.

I wanted to share this item with you just to give you a quick update on my progress. I appreciate very much the expressions of thanks I am getting from those who are following this journey.

Truthfully, I am beginning to see glimmers of light as I trudge through this darkness. The pictures of Kathy Anne are helping.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com