Tag Archives: grief

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.


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.


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.


‘Better,’ but not yet ‘good’

I believe I have made a reasonably profound conclusion upon returning from my westward journey to clear my head in the wake of my beloved bride’s passing from cancer.

It rests in an answer I give to those who know me and who are acutely aware of what happened to Kathy Anne on Feb. 3.

They ask: How are you doing? How are you feeling?

My answer: I am better. I am not yet good.

The conclusion I have reached? It is that I might never be “good” the way I used to define the word. Does that mean I am going to wallow in my grief? No. It means — as I perceive it — that I will have to accept that the pain that shattered my heart will remain with me for as long as I live.

My task, therefore, will be to carry on even as I continue to hurt. The two elements are not mutually exclusive, as those who have been through it have told me.

One dear friend — a fellow I have known since we were in high school — counseled me on my trip out west to “not be afraid to move forward, but never forget where you’ve been.” He speaks from his own experience of having lost his wife to cancer just a few years ago. My friend is a wise man and I take his advice seriously.

My trip was a good tonic for me. I returned home to North Texas feeling more peaceful than I did when I departed with Toby the Puppy. I am feeling better today than I did a month ago.

And you know what? I am not going to look for the “good” feeling. I will know if and when it shows up … kinda like the moment I first laid eyes on the girl of my dreams.


How am I doing? Umm … OK

PORTLAND — The question is inevitable as I make my way across the western United States and begin thinking about the return trip to my home in North Texas.

“How are you doing?” my friends and family members ask with the look of those who know the pain I am feeling.

My answer is truthful. “Oh … I’m OK.” They know I’m not really OK, but they understand the reason the shrug I give them and the look in my eyes.

But in truth, I actually am doing a bit better than just OK. It’s not a lot better, but it’s a little bit so.

I embarked on this venture to clear my head after my wife passed away suddenly in early February after getting a cancer diagnosis that knocked me for a loop … but which seemed in the moment to have been something Kathy Anne might have expected.

She was stoic and steadfast in her response to the doctor: “Let’s just get it out of there.”

I had to leave the house. So, I did. I am very close to the halfway point. Soon I’ll be turning my pickup around and heading toward the house.

My sense is that I’ll be able to walk into my Princeton home feeling a bit of emotional relief as a result of the time I have taken away.

To be sure, there are likely to be more of these ventures in my near and medium-term future. This one, though, has been fairly successful in that I have been able to accomplish much of what I intended when Toby the Puppy and I hit the road nearly two weeks ago.

I’ll get more of the “How are you doing?” questions along the way. Those who ask it will get the same answer I’ve been giving. I trust they’ll understand.


A compliment? Yes, by all means!

EUGENE, Ore. — An extraordinary statement of affirmation came my way today from a reader of this blog. I want to share it with you.

Readers of High Plains Blogger know about the trek I have taken out west to get away from my house in North Texas in the wake of my bride’s passing away from cancer in early February. My intention has been to clear my head and to mend my shattered heart.

Frankly, I wasn’t expecting to receive the statement I got today from a gentleman I do not know well; indeed, he and I are only acquainted via social media. He wrote me to say that a friend of his just lost his wife of 45 years to cancer and he will recommend, in due course, that he take the same action I did … which is to get out of the house.

I am going to accept that statement as a compliment for the work I have produced on the road. I didn’t intend for it to be the kind of “therapy” that others might recommend.

However, I am growing ever so slowly away from the intense pain that still flares. It comes unexpectedly. It surprises me, even as I drive my truck while stroking Toby the Puppy as he sits on the passenger seat next to me.

Those fits are becoming a bit more manageable as I wend my way through the Great American West. Thus, my social media friend has recognized it and has indicated a desire to have his good friend follow the course I have blazed on my own journey out of the darkness.

I wish my friend’s friend well as he begins his own recovery.


Journaling? Hmm … gotta ponder it

One of the bits of advice I have received from friends who have endured the loss of a loved one involves something I have resisted doing for as long as I have been writing professionally and publicly.

It deals with writing a journal. I have tried my hand at “journaling” and determined that — to put it simply — it just ain’t my thing.

My bride passed away suddenly of cancer in early February. I have been writing about my feelings concerning that shattering loss regularly through this blog. I hope I am not boring you with this, but it is serving as a balm for the pain that continues to tear at me. Many of you have gone through this already, so you know to what I am referring.

I keep thinking that blogging about it is tantamount to writing a journal. Maybe it is … in my mind and heart.

A dear friend suggested I write a journal and submit the entries in my own handwriting. There’s a “visceral quality” to expressing oneself in that fashion, he said, and it serves as more of a cleansing agent than typing entries onto a Word document.

I am going to ponder that for a little while. I’m on the road at the moment and will be winding my way back to North Texas soon. I have declared my intention for this journey to be to clear my head and start mending my heart.

My noggin is clearing a little each day. My heart still needs plenty of work.

I hope to decide soon whether I want to commence “journaling” as a way to start to mending my shattered heart. I will wait until the end of this journey. If I proceed, I won’t say a word here. I just thought you ought to know about this latest minor emotional tussle I am seeking to overcome.


‘Brothers in grief’

LOS GATOS, Calif. — He was my best man when I got married more than 51 years ago and he is my best man at this very moment.

We met for lunch to talk about the old days and to share the pain we both feel at losing our brides … to cancer. Tim’s wife passed away about three years ago, four months after receiving her cancer diagnosis. My bride, Kathy Anne, passed away this past February, about six weeks after learning she had a tumor in her brain.

We talked to each other about our shared experiences and Tim, being the wise and erudite individual he is, shared with me some wisdom about I will carry with me farther along as I continue to cope with my own recovery.

It was this, boiled down to an essential message: Do not ever forget the life we had over the decades, but do not be fearful of finding a new life moving forward. He told me it will take a long before I cease crying at the thought of losing the love of my life; he says it still grips him hard. Tim and his wife were together for 42 years before they received the chilling news of her illness.

I get it. I intend to take it with me as I move on down the proverbial road of life. I am still sorting through where I want my life to lead me at this juncture. I told my friend that I feel “like the loneliest man on Earth.” He nodded in agreement and understanding. I also reminded him that I am buoyed by the knowledge that others, such as my best man, have gone through it, too.

They came out of it and, by God, so will I.

I needed to talk to my best man because you only have one of these individuals in your life and my “brother in grief” stepped up and delivered the wisdom I needed to hear.


How about this discovery?

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — One of the more remarkable discoveries I have made on this journey I decided to take out west has kinda caught me by surprise.

It is that I do not miss keeping up with those political matters that seem to drive many Americans damn near to the nut house.

Ohhh, no. Most of my conscious thoughts these days involve my bride, who I lost to cancer this past month. Indeed, I think of her practically every waking minute of every day. But … I also seek to fill my days on this westward trek with sights I am seeing, those I have seen and those I will see.

Those of you who read this blog know that I have not forsaken all political commentary of late. I like to weigh in when events merit commentary on this venue. So, I do.

However, I do not look for topics on which to bloviate. If they present themselves, fine. I’ll weigh in.

My time instead is spent looking for joyous sights to see and looking forward to seeing more family and friends along the way.

I’ve only logged about 1,500 or so miles on the truck on this trip. I figure this journey could exceed 6,000 miles by the time I roll into my driveway in Collin County. Almost all of those miles and all that time will be spent enjoying the here and now.

Yes, Kathy Anne never is far from my thoughts and my heart. I am beginning to appreciate better the notion that (a) she would want me to enjoy myself and (b) she’s with me every step of the way.

You know what? I am beginning to draw comfort from it.


She would approve greatly

You know what just occurs to me? Of course you don’t, so I will tell you: It occurs to me that my bride would approve greatly of my desire to get out of the house and hit the road for an extended period of time.

Kathy Anne loved to travel. We embarked on many remarkable adventures pulling three recreational vehicles over the course of several years. We owned two fifth wheels and a smaller travel trailer before we decided this past fall we had enough fun with them.

She’s gone now, but I have decided to hit the road. I believe I will leave with her heartfelt blessing and perhaps a wish she were still here to enjoy the trip with me.

But … she is with me. She’ll always be with me.

I have known all along that whomever of us leaves this Earth first that the other one will carry memories of our life together wherever we go and whatever we do.

And we had a grand and joyous life that encompassed 51 wonderful years. We set foot in 48 of our 50 states. We traveled abroad to about a dozen countries. We walked among antiquities that pre-dated the birth of Jesus Christ; we toured part of the Holy Land; my bride, who couldn’t tolerate Asian food, came with me twice to Taiwan.

We saw about a dozen of our national parks, stood on mountain passes and peered far into the distance and drove many miles along three coasts: Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf.

We cruised on ships through the Caribbean, Alaska and Hawaii.

Yeah … she would approve of this journey I am about to take.

It gives me comfort knowing it.