Rituals. Their Power.

Beltane and the Moon of Mourning

Monday gratefuls: Kate with the rotary cutter, at her sewing table. Kate playing cribbage with me. Kate lounging on the deck chair as we passed through the Chilean fjords. The Ancient Ones. Diane and Mary. Seoah, her call. Joe. His sweet nature. Before and After Loss by Lisa Shulman.

Sparks of Joy: The vastness of the Pacific. Seeing Murdoch.

First of the retirement cruise

Reading Before and After Loss by Lisa Shulman. Recommended by my personal trainer, Deb, who lost her husband to glioblastoma last June. It combines memoir with the scientific expertise of a neurologist. Both Lisa and her husband Bill were neurologists in Baltimore.

About half way through it, only now dipping into the neurobiological roots of grieving. Deb was right. This is a well written book from a person experienced with grief and with the brain’s response to trauma. Worth the read.

Shlohshim continues. I’m modifying it a bit by having the thirty days run from Kate’s death. I read the kaddish prayer every day. At the end of shloshim the Jewish mourning period is over. It’s a gentle path for reentry to the normal world. I will finish on May 12, two days before I leave for Hawai’i.

On May 12th I will cease using pictures of Kate in the blog every post. A way to guide myself further along the path of reintegration, renewal, reconstruction of my self.

The rituals I’ve experienced so far have been powerful, meaningful, and healing. I saw her dead body in the hospital. Awful, in its way, but necessary. I did not see the body after that.

Family gathered, each with their own grieving. We supported each other that first week. Ruth stayed with me, then Seoah came. I was not alone until Saturday. Meals began arriving the day of her death and have come on Sunday and Wednesday since then.

The memorial service led by Rabbi Jamie and attended by over 80 people, most on Zoom, took my mourning out of its isolation and made it also communal. Others cared for her. Loved her. Grieved her loss. This was the first major shift in my inner journey. Those first three days were chaotic and numbing and so hard.

That Friday night Seoah and I went to the service at Beth Evergreen where we stood as Kate’s family during the saying of kaddish. On Sunday night we had our Shiva minyan. That finished with Seoah and me walking out to the end of the driveway with Rabbi Jamie, Alan, Marilyn, and Jamie Bernstein, then returning through a line made by the four of them, to the house.

Since that day I’ve been reading the kaddish prayer each day and including pictures and memories of Kate in the blog.

Joe and I picked up her ashes. I created a small shrine that includes items that recall her uniqueness. That shrine contains and limits the terrible power of her remains, makes it possible for them to be in my sight line as I work at the computer.

All of this to remind me that yes, she is dead; no, she’s not gone, but alive still in memory, both mine and so many others.

Another time of memory will occur on August 18th when we scatter some of her ashes on Shadow Mountain near Maxwell Falls and share a meal of dishes that remind us of her. I hope the whole family can attend.

retirement cruise, Montevideo, Uruguay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Bounce

Beltane and the Moon of Mourning

Sunday gratefuls: Kate watching television. Kate sleeping beside me. Kate coming back from the grocery store. Tara. Rides to and from the airport: done. Blue Sky. Sun. Joe and Seoah’s call last night. Their safe arrival back home in Hawai’i.

Sparks of Joy: Rest. First night alone.

She had a wonderful silly side.

Forgot to mention the bounce. I was wrong. The rising PSA does not necessarily mean a recurrence.

Joe and I went into see Dr. Eigner, oncologist, on Friday. Joe and Seoah stayed an extra day so he could go with me. We learned together about the bounce. In radiation therapy cancer cells can be killed outright by exposure to the radiation beam or they can have their DNA damaged.

Six to twenty-four months after the end of radiation, those damaged cells, often put into a state of suspended animation by the trauma, awake. They attempt cell division, but the damaged DNA prevents them and they die. As they try to divide and then die, they send off a wave of prostate specific antigens (PSA), temporarily raising the PSA results.

Could be the bounce. Could be a recurrence. No way to know except to do another PSA in three months. If it’s down again, it might mean a cure. If it’s the same or rising, a recurrence.

Not outright good news though better than I had thought. More waiting. Cancer treatment involves drugs or surgery, then waiting. Even with the side effects of chemo or recovery from surgery, it’s the waiting that’s hardest. I’ve become better at it, but not good.

Bounce or recurrence. Dr. Eigner reassured me, as he has done before, that even if it is a recurrence, there are more things to do. He’s going, he says, to get me to 88 and a death from stroke or heart attack. Recurrence or not. No guarantees of course, but he believes that’s what ahead for me in the worst case with prostate cancer.

Joe felt reassured, too. What I wanted for him.

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Ready

Beltane and the Moon of Mourning

Saturday gratefuls: Kate riding with me after dropping folks off at the airport. Kate being here when I came home. Kate at her Bernini, sewing, sewing, sewing. The Bounce. Eigner. Joe and Seoah, on a jet plane. Kep and Rigel here when I got home.

Sparks of Joy: A Snowy Mt. Evans visible from the airport, Black Mountain, too. Love that surrounds me.

Beltane begins today. The transitional seasons of Imbolc and Ostara have ended, the growing season begins. In the old Celtic Calendar there were only two seasons. Beltane marked the beginning of the growing season and Samain, on October 31st, marked its end. The beginning of the fallow season.

Beltane celebrations could get wild. Bonfires, markets, lots of lovemaking out in the fields, sympathetic magic to increase the fertility of both the land and the village.

Beltane’s focus on fire, on fertility, on growing plants and young animals, seems apposite to my heart. My heart aches with loss. No Kate when I returned from the airport to see Joe and Seoah off for Hawai’i.

Many objects reach out to me. The kit I used when I cleaned her bandages. The lotion I spread on her arms and legs. This house. This loft.

Her remains are up here right now, with me. I’m not hiding from her. Hard, though. I want to switch things up, go back in time, not to when she was sick, but when we had fun together, times of joy. No. A fantasy. What I’m missing most.

It was difficult, coming back from the airport. The first time since Kate’s death that there were no guests. Just us mammals who live here: Kep, Rigel, me, all the critters on our land. The loss of Kate felt undiluted.

We were bound together on this land and on the land in Andover. We were two people of place, it meant a lot to us, means a lot to us. The gardens in Andover, the Woods, the Orchard, the Bees. Here the Lodgepole Pines, the Aspen, the Rocky, mostly Grass free yard. Black Mountain rising above us by another 1,200 feet or so.

We loved the seasons here. The Snows. Rain. Cold. Heat. Well, maybe not the heat so much. But, warmth. Yes.

I love the seasons now for both of us. The 70 degrees today and the 47 degrees on Monday.

Yet, Beltane tells the truth. This period of darkness, of shadows and tears, will lift. Will transform my life in ways I cannot imagine. It is the beginning of the growing season for me. Ready. Almost, anyhow.

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Back Home

Ostara and the Moon of Mourning

Friday gratefuls: Kate smelling coffee in the morning. Kate admiring the canals of Venice. Kate, treating me for pneumonia in Vienna. Those Andean pipe players underneath our balcony while I recovered. Death certificates. Kate’s ashes. Joe. Seoah.

Sparks of Joy: Group hug with Joe and Seoah after I  put Kate’s ashes in the Bresnahan jar.

Grandma and descendants

Joe and I went over to the Evergreen Mortuary around 9 am yesterday. It’s a funky place, Western. Exposed log beams, logging chains hung on the wall. A Goose, stuffed, coming from a rafter. Pictures of Bison on the walls and two poems: Resurrection and Ol’ Mountain Man on scrolls.

We decided to pick up Kate’s ashes whether the death certificates were there or not. They were not. I got a gift-sized paper bag with handles, a plastic box inside. Heavy. White label on the outside with Kate’s name. Joe offered to carry her, but I said no.

Back home I took out the Bresnahan jar, set it on the art cart. Joe and I puzzled a minute over how to open the box. Inside was a plastic bag with a tie and Kate’s “cremains.” An ugly word, but one funeral home folks seem wedded to. I placed the bag, without opening it, into the jar. It fit easily.

Lid back on I took it over to the walnut shelf, placed it there with the ripped shirt from shiva, her 75th year tiara, those signature red glasses, a small wooden hand with fingers in a fig position (as Kate’s commonly were), a notebook of hers, and her passport.

Seoah suggested wine and chocolates. Later on I added a glass of wine. Chocolates will attract mice, but maybe something later.

All of this is within easy sight from my computer in the loft. I got the idea for the shrine from Jimmy Johnson’s that he put together for Micky’s sister. The ritual of creating the shrine and placing Kate’s ashes there drains them of their power to scare me, to cause me anguish. Why? Not fully sure, but it’s about honoring her, about not hiding the ashes, about acknowledging my need to be with her. Still.

May seem macabre, but it doesn’t feel that way. Instead it felt right. Like what I needed to do.

Death certificates. RJ Devick, on a call to set up the transfer of the IRA to my name, said, “In my 28 years of doing this I’ve never seen anything like this.” Well. I shook my head, seems consistent with the last two plus years.

Kate was in hospital hospice for less than twenty-four hours. Her care transferred then from Swedish Hospital to Denver Hospice. When it came time to sign the death certificate, the doctor the Evergreen Mortuary contacted said she had not been caring for Kate at the time of her death and could not testify to cause of death. The Hospice never handles death certificates for deaths that occur in hospital.

Didn’t know this until yesterday when we went to the mortuary. Joe and I got on the phone. I got a call yesterday afternoon that the death certificate would be signed by a New West doc, Jason Nyguen. Should have them soon.

If you’ve not had a death close to you, you won’t be aware of the many, many details, important details, that require a death certificate. Stopping social security. Stopping medication shipments. Changing titles to the house, the car.

And, most immediately important for me, switching the IRA into my name. Right now, with Kate’s death, no money can come out of the IRA to my bank account until the transfer to my name occurs. That can’t happen without the death certificate. It’s now two and a half weeks plus after her death. I have plenty of cash on hand, but if this had been drawn out, it could have been a problem.

Joe and I go to see Dr. Eigner today, my oncologist. We’ll find out what happens next after my up PSA. Really wanted Joe to understand so he won’t worry. And, yes, of course I want to know too, so I won’t worry.

The two of them leave for Hawai’i tomorrow morning at 8 am. Raeone (ex-wife) and James arrive the same day for a week. I’ll have two weeks to adjust to life with the dogs here on Shadow Mountain, clean up as many extraneous details as I can. Hopefully all of them. Then I’m getting on a jet plane. Mary, my sister, will arrive a couple of days before me.

 

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Ripples

Ostara and the Moon of Mourning

Thursday gratefuls: Kate on our wedding day, beautiful. Kate and I on the Panam flight to Rome. Visiting the popeteria with her and discovering tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Evergreen Mortuary. Cremation. Joe teaching me how to deposit checks by photograph. Seoah’s treat last night. Prostate cancer. Dr. Eigner.

Sparks of joy: The Sun. Blue Sky. Kate.

A dress Kate made from Ruth’s sketch

Echocardiogram yesterday. Noah. I remember you did mine a while back. Wow, good memory, that was in 2015. You were kind.

Dr. Emrie called later in the day to say my heart was normal. No sign of post-polio complications. Always good to hear that my heart is doing ok.

Money guy today. Transfer of the IRA into my name, looking at my income needs going forward. I lose my Social Security, but retain Kate’s higher one. I also lose a third of my pension. That surprised me. Total income loss, about $18,000. Working with the numbers right now. Not gonna be poor, not at all, but I’ll have to see how much my current budget can absorb of that hit. Might require some major adjustments. But, not right now.

Oncologist tomorrow. See what we’ll do with that nasty PSA number. I’m pretty sure Lupron will be on the table again. Possibly, other drugs. Hot flashes and fatigue here we come.

This morning Joseph and I drive over to the Evergreen Mortuary and pick up Kate’s ashes, death certificates. Gonna be a hard ride, I imagine. Mine to do, however.

I have a spot on the beautiful walnut shelf Jon made for me, below his print, Beach, that I have on the wall. It holds a large jar, a Richard Bresnahan work, with a lid. Looks a bit like the jars that held the Dead Sea Scrolls, though shorter. On it is a large whoosh of gray and reddish brown, what Bresnahan called its flame narrative. Her ashes will go in there.

On the shelf, too, are her signature red glasses, her tiara from her 75th birthday, and the shirt I wore on our first date, now ripped, never to be worn again. A small shrine in her honor, an idea I got from Jimmy Johnson.

Later in the summer, on August 18th, which would have been her 77th birthday, family and friends will gather. We will dedicate a new iris bed I’m having built. It will take half of her ashes at her request. Purple irises. We’ll also dedicate a new planting of lilacs somewhere on our property. Yet to be determined. Also a last request.

Then, we’ll move to a trail that runs above the Maxwell Falls trail to scatter about half of her remaining ashes at the base of a tree or rock all find appropriate for her. A place to return to. As will be the iris garden and the lilacs.

The other quarter of her ashes? Will await mine.

 

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Simple Gifts

Ostara and the Full Moon of Mourning

Wednesday gratefuls: Changing Kate’s bandages, using lotion on her legs and arms. Kate dressed up for Purim. Kate lighting the Hanukah candles, saying the blessing. Kate and I at mussar. Mountain Waste. More snow. Less fire. Joe. Seoah. Rigel lying over my legs last night as I went to sleep.

Sparks of Joy: Joe, hugging me last night. Seoah, making one of my favorites in her repertoire: breaded shrimp in a sweet sauce.

The first day of retirement, 2011

Each night before I go to sleep I go through the day, looking for gifts I have received. Occasionally, I look for moments when I was a gift to someone else. I usually start at the very end of the day: the dogs clambering up on the bed to sleep with me. Their love. After them yesterday, Joseph hugging me before he went upstairs and saying how much he enjoyed being around. Seoah working in the kitchen frying, twice, battered shrimp. The two of them loving each other, sitting in Kate’s chair together. Laughing. Dan Herman’s offer to bring soup and have conversation. Jackie, hair stylist, “Oh, how are you, honey?” A big hug. Deb Brown, personal trainer, for her body-weight workout for Hawai’i, but even more for the heart-to-heart about our experiences of grief. She lost her husband Dave to glioblastoma last June. Writing Ancientrails. Talking, again, to Mary, sister, and Diane, first cousin, on zoom. Waking up.

Some nights I fall asleep counting my gifts and being grateful for them. One surprise after doing this for several years is that every day, even the day Kate died, has many gifts. I find this practice, which I think I got from Rabbi Rami Shapiro, soothing. Calms any anxieties as I try to sleep. It dovetails nicely with saying my gratefuls each morning when I write ancientrails.

I also take from these practices that after death gifts go on, keep coming. Life and gratitude are constants just as much as life and suffering.

Deb noticed my stride was off when I warmed up before learning my new workout. Balance is the first to go, she said. She recommends walking on the beach, on the soft sand. A workout I can get excited about. Over the last six months my workout routines have suffered and I’ve let sarcopenia advance. I need to get back to the regular, heart beat raising, muscle adding workouts.

There is an element of denial in the fitness movement. It suggests, around the edges, in the irrational moments that if only we run enough, lift weights enough, get enough steps in that we can bypass illness, maybe even death. We humans, most of us, not only teens, can lapse into imagining immortality. Why shouldn’t I be the first?

No. Fitness is about feeling good, about feeling good today. And, after all, today is the only day you have. As to illness, yes it can ameliorate or slow down aging related trouble, fitness can make you stronger, more able to resist disease, so what it’s really about is increasing healthspan. Healthspan is the length of time you can continue doing all the things that make you you. Worth it. Might add years to your life. Might. Not the point.

Right now I’m feeling detrained, slightly wobbly, a bit jittery. Stress, I imagine. And, the long uneven period of workouts.

Look forward to Hawai’i to reclaim my fitness level, get fully rested, and continue grieving from a place of strength, not weakness. Family immersion therapy. Joe, Seoah, Mary, me.

 

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Processing

Ostara and the Moon of Mourning

Tuesday gratefuls: Kate sitting on the bench, doing the crossword. Kate and her feeding tube. Kate writing I love Charlie for Sarah. Brahms. Mozart. Sarah. BJ. Annie. Joe, Seoah. Ruth, Gabe, Jon.

Sparks of Joy: August 18th gathering. Time alone with the dogs.

Off to the lawyer yesterday with Joe. Rich reviewed our trust documents and Kate’s will. Lincoln, Rich’s dog, made sure we were all comfortable. Though bittersweet it was good. Joe taking his place in the generational line. Not many issues. We avoided probate, sorta the point.

How are you doing? A compassionate question that stops me, makes me wonder. How am I doing? Sad. Tired. Relieved. Better rested. Waiting to move beyond grief. Afraid to move beyond grief. Not wanting to move beyond grief because it might mean I’ve forgotten Kate. Not wanting to not want to move beyond because I don’t want to get stuck. Short answer: not sure.

My guess: ok. I feel self-aware, privy to the emotions putting up sails. Not shrinking from them. Not indulging them. Being with them for the time it takes. That’s part of the exhaustion. It’s a lot of work. This is a one-time, forever change to the most intimate aspects of my life. No surprise it’s hard.

But the estate stuff is underway. Kate’s online prescription service notified. Friends and family all notified. Thank yous begun. New budget taking shape. Transfer of the IRA to my name underway. Taxes done. This month’s bills paid. Yahrzeit plaque purchase. In memory donations made to the Rabbi’s discretionary fund, the mitzvah committee, the chevra kadisha. This last is the group who sat with Kate’s body while it awaited cremation. Housesitter/petsitter organized. Tickets for Hawai’i secured. Dogs groomed. Vet appointments made.

There is, I’m told, a certain masking effect in all the busy details after a death. The mind hurries on to the next task, the next errand, skipping over the loss, the starting point. True, to some extent.

The hard part will come when the family is gone, the errands run, the day’s chores complete. When I’m alone, nothing particular to do. When Kate and I would sit and talk, play cribbage. Or, she would do the crossword and I would read the paper. I can feel my way into that space as I write and it doesn’t feel good. Maybe that’s anticipation and won’t be the reality. Better to not overthink, keep moving, find out at the time.

Joe’s getting the Rav4 spruced up. Taking the check to the synagogue. Has helped me put together a budge template. Being a good son. Seoah’s smiling, making the place buzz with her energy. Kep and Rigel lounge around, appreciative, too, I think, of all the extra bodies in the house.

The Sun shines. Black Mountain reaches its 10,000 feet toward the sky. Mule Deer and Elk have begun to follow the grass down. Kep and Rigel run in the yard, chasing critters or for fun. Life and the world continue. As it has always been.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Wild Stallion

Ostara and the Moon of Mourning

Monday gratefuls: Sleep. Kate sleeping in the bed next to me for over 31 years. Kate dancing in her poodle skirt at her 50th birthday. Kate on zoom with her sisters. Kate, always Kate. Finishing taxes. Snow still in the mountains. Our house, Black Mountain ski runs.

Sparks of Joy: Hawai’i. Joe, Ruth.

Two weeks ago today Kate died. Not long at all for an eternity. Up and down. Mostly dull normal. I had one morning where I felt energetic, ready to do things. More than I’ve had in a while, so progress in a sense. I guess.

Lost sleep. Woke up at 3, tough to get back to sleep. Did, finally. Up at 8:15. Rigel was unhappy, wanted to eat, go outside.

Details. Implications. Consequences. Many. At a time when pulling the covers over your head often feels like the best alternative. Glad Joe’s here, helping.

I’ll have two weeks of adjusting to living solo before I head out to mid-ocean. Glad about that. I feel ready and don’t want my first nights without Kate or family after I get back. Not sure how it’ll be. The point. Need to get at it for my own sanity, for my life. The new one. Without Kate’s physical presence.

Sadness colors the background to every thought, every action, every word. Less intense today, maybe more intense tomorrow. I let the feeling come, invite it in. Sit with it. Seeing her cooking. Holding her while she navigated the stairs. Laughing in our stateroom on our round Latin America cruise. Happy. Sad. Up. Down.

Grief is no longer the wild stallion galloping through my canyons, a deafening sound. At least not often. The slightly out of body feeling doesn’t come much.

What happens. A feeling that this time with the grandkids, with Joe and Seoah, includes a not-so-subtle realignment of who we are to each other, to this house. A realization that her voice is missing from the conversation, her wisdom no longer spoken. Though I hear it from her, if I listen with my inner ear. Each encounter, each moment has a slight tilt, doesn’t feel level, somehow out of joint.

When this gets vertiginous, the stallion can come racing through the narrow defiles. Loud. Fast. Raising dust and clouding my vision, pounding my heart.

Realize this seems sorta dismal. Life is a bit dismal right now. It will change, gradually. Over time. As Kate becomes a more comfortable inhabitant in my inner world. As the details get resolved. As life reinvents itself. Yet again.

Hanukkah, 2016

 

 

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Where are you, now?

Ostara and the Moon of Mourning

Sunday gratefuls: Kate cooking in Andover. Canning. Sewing. Quilting. Kate talking at mussar. The flower petals she scattered for my birthday two years ago. Taxes. Rigel against me last night. Watching Mortal Kombat with Joe and Seoah. Death. Cancer.

Sparks of Joy: United Flight 1802 to Honolulu. Emily, the pet-sitter.

Love is Enough counted cross stitch. done. 2016.

 

Death and taxes. As I await Kate’s death certificates and her remains, I’m wrestling with tax preparation for the first time in 30 years. Kate paid the bills, did the taxes. She liked it. Now. Well.

We have an accountant though I’m not sure we need one anymore. When you use an accountant, they send you a tax organizer. Many questions, 5 pages worth. Then boxes for numbers from many forms: W-2’s, W-4s, 1099s, 1098s, so on. Other boxes for other numbers. Boxes, numbers, questions.

I love taxes. No libertarian, moi. We each contribute in subtle and gross ways to each others lives through them. They are a concrete expression of love and justice when applied well. I do not love tax preparation. Big picture guy, me. Details. You. Or somebody else.

Slogging, with Joseph’s help, through the details of my life after Kate’s death. So many. So many unrealized. Like changing the Verizon account into my name. Like changing the titles to house and car. Same. Details, all of them. Important, yes, in a way. But only in a worldly way. All the boxes and numbers on the tax forms.

Oddly they help me. I stay in the present. Where’s that 1099? How do I change the bank account? What thank-yous do I need to write? Will the dog sitters work out like I hope?

“In grief, we are reminded to seek…comfort in this here-and-now place. Fixation in the past or in the future is more likely to exacerbate isolation. When we are present, we are more connected to one another, to our essence in awareness, to the One. Before charting a new course, or racing off to the next thing, ask yourself, “Where am I, now?”” Rabbi Jamie Arnold

Where am I, now? On Shadow Mountain, seeing Black Mountain and the Blue Sky above, the Lodgepoles and Aspen that cover both of them. Eduardo and Holly across the street. Joe and Seoah asleep upstairs. Rigel and Kep, fed, resting in the house.

Where am I, now? At the computer, writing ancientrails. Letting my mind and heart meld as I hit the keys, hunting for the next word, or finding it already there, sometimes even before my fingers hit the keys.

Where am I, now? A survey taker caught me way off guard yesterday. At the end, asking some demographic questions, she said: “Are you married?” “No,” I said, “widowed.” Oh. My. God. Yes, widower. Me. Feels like a black veil thrown over me by society. True, but so very strange.

Today, here and now. Feeding the dogs. Writing ancientrails. Eating breakfast while reading the newspaper. Taking Rigel and Kep in for grooming at Petsmart.

A zoom call this evening with my Johnson sisters and Jon. I told Sarah, Annie, and BJ the last night they were here that they now had a brother. They seem to have taken that to heart. I’m glad. Blended families.

Still much to do before taking off for Oahu. Part of me, the part shaped by the last three years, travels reluctantly. What if someone here needs me? What if the pet sitter turns out other than I expect? What if I spend too much money?

Bah, humbug to all that. That’s from the man who loves to travel, who knows he has to trust in order to live, who knows Kate is dead. She looked forward to my breaking free from her care though neither of us wanted it to happen now. Or, ever, for that matter.

I found this poem from Reform Judaism’s prayer book for mourners, posted it on Facebook a couple of month’s ago, and discovered it today, reposted by a friend who thought of me. Worth reading.

 

*Epitaph – By Merrit Malloy

When I die
Give what’s left of me away
To children
And old men that wait to die.
And if you need to cry,
Cry for your brother
Walking the street beside you.
And when you need me,
Put your arms
Around anyone
And give them
What you need to give to me.
I want to leave you something,
Something better
Than words
Or sounds.
Look for me
In the people I’ve known
Or loved,
And if you cannot give me away,
At least let me live on in your eyes
And not your mind.
You can love me most
By letting
Hands touch hands,
By letting bodies touch bodies,
And by letting go
Of children
That need to be free.
Love doesn’t die,
People do.
So, when all that’s left of me
Is love,
Give me away.

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News I Did Not Need

Ostara and the Moon of Mourning

Saturday gratefuls: Jon. Joe. Seoah. The next generation. The consolation of Deer Creek Canyon. How the Mountains name us. And the Lodgepoles. And the Elk. PSA. Vaccines. Sleep. CBE.

Sparks of Joy: Jamie Bernstein. Joe. Ruth. Emily.

A little stunned? Well, yeah. Why? Reasons. Including my PSA on the rise. Probably means a cancer recurrence. Shit. I guess, sure. Why not? It’s been that kind of run for Kate and me.

Yesterday, when I read the number on my Quest Diagnostics site, I went numb. I read it wrong. Or, they wrote it wrong. Nope. 1.0. Not <0.1 as my last three have been. 1.0. Damn. This cancer is a sturdy, stealthy little bugger, hiding from the radiation administered so carefully, hiding from the lupron, hiding somewhere even after the removal of my prostate.

See my oncologist next Friday. He said there were a lot more things they can do. Guess I’ll find out what they are. I said to somebody I decided I was cured until I have evidence I’m not. OK. I get it.

No Kate. Except my inner Kate. Her death stripped away my most immediate and most trusted and most loving source of medical advice, knowledge. Reality is a bitch sometimes.

She would say to me, don’t obsess. I have a tendency to go down the rabbit hole of papers and treatments and prognosis. Reading. Reading. Reading. Digging myself a deeper hole. Trust your doc, she said. He’s sexist, but he’s a good doc. She did not say things she didn’t mean. I’ll trust him, stay away from the Google search bar.

No death certificates yet. Somebody was late signing whatever the county coroner requires. Monday or Tuesday. I need them to make necessary legal changes to bank accounts, titles, social security. Have to go in my name alone now.

Alone. I have not felt alone so far. Except those first dark minutes after Sarah called. She’s gone. Oh. Oh. Oh. Down into the abyss for a time. Or, the abyss rose up to include me. Not feeling alone. A good thing.

Though. As an introverted griever, I need time by myself. Hard to convey, especially when I need people around, but I want them to let me alone, too. Sending mixed messages, I know. Seoah understands this instinctively since many Koreans are introverts.

Not sure how to say this. I’ve gotten used to bad news. Kate’s daily changes in symptoms. Her hospitalizations. They would identify new problems while not being able to fix the old ones. Has gone on a long time. At least since September 2018, really earlier than that when she started losing weight due to Sjogren’s.

Reacting to the PSA news hit me hard for a morning, yesterday, but I integrated it. Don’t like it, but I know what happens next. Doctor. Drugs. More PSA tests. Likely a better prognosis than if I had another, more aggressive form of cancer.

Besides, one foot in front of another. No other way.

Thanks to the consolation of Deer Creek Canyon I long ago, in 2015, accepted the news that my life might be shortened by cancer. I could accept it because the Mountains were there, stolid, solid, old. My life against theirs a mayfly. Probably briefer. If I can beat it back, slow it down, so I die of something else, that’s good. But, the important thing to notice is that I die in either case. Just like Kate. Just like you, dear reader.

My fate has not changed. I’m not dead yet. Living and writing right this minute. The only minute I can occupy.

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