Saturday, October 30, 2010

Widowhood in 6 Words

Widowhood isn’t for sissies. Stay strong.

Emulate Tim Gunn. Make it work.

Better the widow than the deceased.

Lost my partner, what’ll I do?

Death snatched my love. I’m lonely

A piece of my heart's missing.

Husband fixed everything. I’m a klutz.

Miss having someone to argue with.

Navigating Widowhood Ocean, I’m seasick.

Wake at night, hug my cat.

Seeking handsome elderly widower. Any takers?

Have a 6-word comment about widowhood? Add it here.
If you're not a widow, add a 6-word life lesson.
I'll add your memoirs to the blog at the end of the week.
I'll draw names after 10 days. Or maybe we'll have a vote. Winner gets a copy of a 6-word memoir book.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday Review: Without by Donald Hall

I ordered "Without," Donald Hall's tribute to his late wife, Jane Kenyon, for two reasons: first, because Jane was a victim of leukemia as my husband was and second, because I love poetry. Poets say so beautifully what I feel but can't express: the beauty of love, the pain of parting, and the tenderness of memory.

These poems begin early in Jane's illness:

Why were they not
contented four months ago because
Jane did not have

I remember thinking that. Why didn't we appreciate every moment he was well? Because we didn't imagine what lay ahead.

Here's another bit from a hospital stay:

Daybreak and nightfall,
he sat by his wife at the hospital
while chemotherapy dripped
through the catheter into her heart.

From her deathbed:

"Dying is simple," she said.
"What's worst is...the separation."

The final poems are letters written to her after her death:

I cannot discard
Your jeans or lotions or T-shirts
I cannot discard your tumbles
Of scarves and floppy hats.
Lost, unfinished things remain
On your desk, in your purse
Or Shaker basket. Under a cushion
I discover your silver thimble.
Today when the telephone rang
I thought it was you.

Buy this book. It will speak to your heart.

Monday, October 25, 2010

2 Quotes for the Week by Helen Keller

"What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Surviving Widowhood with Help from Friends

Are you stressed? Silly question. Aren't we all?

If you're grieving a loss--spouse, parent, child--your stress level may be especially high.

But here's the good news. One of the best ways to lower stress is to connect with friends.

A recent UCLA study found that under stress, women release a higher level of oxytocin, a hormone that helps counter stress. In fact, it buffers the fight-or-flight response to stress and encourages women to "tend and befriend," which causes further hormone release and has an overall calming effect.

A study at Harvard Medical School found that people who have friends live longer. Women who have a close friend are more likely to survive the loss of a spouse without suffering physical impairment or loss of vitality.

In short, friends help us live longer and better.

I know this to be true. When Ralph was ill, friends met me for lunch, bought my groceries, dropped off food, listened to me cry. In these past five years they've brought me comfort and strength and eased my way along my journey through the widowsphere.

So, my dear friends, I can't thank you enough for what you've brought into my life. With some of you, I've sat around a dining room table and we've shared our deepest feelings about death and dying. Some of you have laughed with me, listened to my stories about Ralph. Others of you, like me, are reading junkies and we've spent evernings sharing our opinions on everything from bizarre short stories to literary classics. With some of you, I've indulged in old-fashioned cattiness sessions (I'm not naming names here, but you know who you are). Each of you has guided me, cared for me, cried with me. Because of you, my life has become whole again.


If you're grieving, I challenge you to reach out to a friend this week. New friend, old friend--doesn't matter. Have a cup of coffee together, take a walk, watch the sun rise or set. Face-to-face is best but even if you reach out across phone lines or into cyberspace, that's a start. Then come back and share your story here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thursday Review: Website: Grief's Heart

Thomas Attig, an internationally acclaimed expert in bereavement and grief, is the author of two books on grieving, How We Grieve and The Heart of Grief, He tells us that bereavement and the grief that accompanies it, affect every aspect of our beings--physical, emotional, social, spiritual, behavioral. Our self-concept, our life story, is forever changed by our loss. In grieving, we relearn our world in every area of life. We learn a new self-identity, but we also find ways to relate to the one we've lost. His books are "heavy" reading, but his prfound understanding of what grief means and how we respond to it is eminently practical.

He views each life as a web of relationships--to objects, places, people, God. When one strand of that complex web is broken, the others are affected. Our spouse's tattered robe, the chair he sat in to watch TV, the music he played on the car radio, the restaurant where we celebrated special occasions, the children we raised together, our friendships, our plans, our dreams--all are reminders of what will never be again.

Attig's website, Grief's Heart (unfortunately, I don't have the symbols needed to link to it, but you can Google it)has excerpts from his books and other writing as well as video of his newest work.

Most important, he invites readers to share their grief stories and will post them on his site. Those of us who blog know the value and the emotional release of writing our experiences. Attig respects those experiences and gives us the opportunity to share them with others.

Here is a site that offers something to all of us who inhabit the widowsphere. I highly recommend that you visit it and partake of Attig's wisdom and comfort.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Quote for the Week: Letter from Michael to Ralph

Ralph and I married when our children were small. My children, Lori and Michael, were nine and seven; Bryan, Ralph's son, was five. Our children grew up as a family. On Friday nights we always watched "The Brady Bunch" and remarked how much like them our own family was.

Michael wrote the letter below to Ralph and read it at his funeral.

Dear Ralph,

It is hard to express myself right now with spoken words as I tend to get very emotional when I come to visit. So, I thought I would write you this letter.

Although I have called you by your first name all of my life, I have always seen you as my father. You were there for us from almost the beginning and stayed with us through all our birthdays, special holidays, graduations, and every milestone in our lives. This has continued with Gabriella and Marco. You have taken the role of their one and only grandfather. They will never forget you for that. And neither will Monica and I.

I just wanted to thank you for helping me grow into the man, husband and father I am today. And for being a fine husband to my mom, father to me, Lori and Bryan, and grandfather to Gabriella and Marco. You have had a major impact on all our lives and we will always love you and appreciate everything you have done for us.

You asked if Gabriella would remember you. I don’t see how she could ever forget you. None of us will.

Thanks for everything Dad/Grandpa.



Friday, October 15, 2010

Remembering Ralph: March 1, 1940--October 16, 2005

On a bright October day in 2004 Ralph was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. He fought a valiant battle against the disease but lost. His journey ended on another sunny autumn day, October 16, 2005.

On this fifth anniversary of Ralph’s death, here are some things I remember:

He was an optimist. When the doctor told him bluntly, “You have a 95% chance of being dead in five years," he saad, “Well, somebody has to be in that other 5%. Why not me?”

He loved computers and never went anywhere without his laptop. I often felt we were a menage a trois—Ralph, the laptop, and me.

He saw himself as a problem solver and named his computer business Solution Providers.

In the hospital, he set up an office in the corner of his room and kept working through the chemo.

He was a math whiz but a poor speller. On our first date, on Valentine's weekend, he brought me a card with my name misspelled: T-h-e-m-a. He did learn to spell my name correctly, but he often called Gayle, our office manager, to check on spellings of words in his business proposals.

He adored our granddaughter Gabriella. The last thing he did before starting his hospitalization was to carve a pumpkin for her for Halloween. The last time he left his hospital room before he died a year later was to have a final visit with her. Because children were not allowed on the bone marrow transplant floor, his doctor arranged for a special wheelchair to take him down to the lobby so he could say goodbye to Gabriella.

Although he often said, “They’re just cats,” he loved his pets, especially Hal, the beautiful, striped cat he found in a drawer in our garage.

His favorite pet as a kid was a crow named Blackie, who stole clothespins off the neighbors' lines.

He was a great cook, often inventing recipes (unlike me, who always follows them to the letter.) On Thanksgiving he always cooked the turkey, and each year we were required to say, “Ralph, this is the best turkey you’ve ever made.”

He liked hot food, the hotter the better, and along with the turkey and regular dressing, he always made jalapeno dressing, too.

He was interested in politics, followed every campaign and even on his first full day in isolation in the hospital, which was also the day of the 2004 Presidential election, he badgered me about going to the polls.

He loved to tease, especially his sister Karen. One year at a computer show, he had a picture taken, then had it cut into a jigsaw puzzle and sent the pieces to Karen as a birthday gift.

He liked raising plants and made me promise I would not cut down the Monster, his enormous split-leaf philodendron that gobbled up more than half the space on our patio. I haven’t.

He could repair anything, from computers to cars, which is why I never learned to fix things around the house.

His favorite radio shows were “Car Talk” and “Prairie Home Companion,” his favorite TV show “Monk.” I have never been able to listen to or watch any of them since he died.

He encouraged and supported me in everything I undertook.

He was a good friend, a good husband, a good man, and I miss him. He was the wind beneath my wings.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Interview with Bernice Bright Dickey, Author of My #1 is Still My #1

First and foremost, how are you and Miriam doing now?

Miriam and I are thriving now where we were only surviving the accident before! She is a fourth grader enjoying her friends and playing soccer.

Are you still working in the school system or are you a full-time minister?

I am in ministry full time now, I do educational consulting for districts as opportunity permits as well as traveling doing speaking engagements and book signings for My #1 Is Still My #1!

You wrote this as a journal during that first hard year after the death of your husband and daughter. What prompted you to publish it?

I was prompted by God to share my grief journey and recovery process with others to inspire them to believe that they can (will come) through their own pain victoriously just like I did. They are not alone, there are answers and they will make it through their crisis.

Tell us about the process you went through to publish.

I self published my book because I wanted to control the content and integrity of the book as God directed me to write it.
It took me five months to develop the manuscript and it was published in three days!

What kinds of feedback have you gotten about the book?

Many who have read the book have shared that they have received a breakthrough in their grief journey and they have been released from the stress of being stuck in their grieving process. They are grateful to know that someone else has gone through tragedies, came through them and lived to talk about it to share with others as an encouragement.

Is there another book in your future?

I have many other testimonies to share of God's Transforming Stories in my life and the lives of others. My family wants me to write about their experiences of loss and devastation as Hurricane Katrina survivors. Ministers and Pastors' wives have asked that I write about our role in ministry with our husbands so that others can really understand what we do for effective ministry to go forth.

Since this is a widows’ site, tell us a little more about the rest of your grief journey. How has it gotten easier over the years?

Initially, I really didn't want to be labeled a widow. If I was a widow that meant I was accepting the fact that my husband was dead and had left me alone to raise our daughter. I didn't want the title because I didn't want to be a single parent. As the years have passed, I realized that the job I was avoiding (being a single parent) was the same job that I was doing very well according to observers. I have finally accepted that I am single and raising my daughter alone (for now) and I've been doing it for quite some time. It hasn't gotten any easier because Miriam is growing up and is going through all of the stages that kids go through. I have decided to be fully present mentally as well as physically in order to help her become all that God has called her to be. He saved her out the accident for a reason and He has trusted me with this special parenting assignment and I will do my very best to make Him proud of His trust in me!

Many bereaved people have some sort of ritual to commemorate the loss. Do you?

Miriam and I celebrate my late husband and daughter's birthdays with cake and ice cream. Our loved ones live in our hearts and we cherish their memories and include them as often as treasured moments allow us to. We acknowledge their spirits in every celebration we share stating that if they could be present physically they would be front and center for us.

I don't commemorate the date of the accident because I choose to focus on their lives rather than the date of their deaths. I do recognize how many years have passed when the date comes around but I choose not to dwell on it.

Thank you for sharing your pain and recovery. Best wishes for the future.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Quote for the Week

Life is an echo. What you send out comes back.
Chinese Proverb

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My Ongoing Battle with Technology

I have learned a new word: dystechnia. I don’t know if it’s a real word, but it should be. In fact, it’s a synonym for me.

Technology is beyond me, plus it keeps changing. As soon as I learn something, it’s out of date. My granddaughter said, “Nana, nobody uses e-mail any more; it’s too slow.” Ow, that hurt. “What do they use?” I asked. “Skype.” I didn’t have the courage to ask, “What is Skype?” Anyway, I think I sort of know—something like a telephone connection with pictures. Or maybe not.

I have a confession to make. I use my cell phone…to make phone calls. I don’t text, I don’t take pictures. I don’t have an IPhone with all the neat little apps or an IPad either. I don’t require instant info. I figure I can get the weather by looking out the window, and I can wait for other stats and stuff until I get home. I don’t feel a need for a constant connection to Everywhere.

I don't use Twitter. I can't imagine anyone wanting to know my whereabouts or my random thoughts in 140 characters. Besides, isn't tweeting for birds, not people?

I do have a GPS, which I don’t always trust, and my kids gave me a kindle for my birthday, so I’ve made some strides, but I have a long way to go. I doubt I’ll ever get there, wherever “there” is.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Thursday Book Review: Ten Poems to Change Your Life

Ten Poems to Change Your Life by Roger Housden, Harmony Books, 2001.

I love poetry. I love it for its healing qualities, for its beauty, for its ability to make me think in new ways. When I saw this book on the shelf at the Jung Center of Houston, I was immediately intrigued by the title. I bought it and although I can't say it actually changed my life, it did give me great pleasure. It includes "The Journey" by Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poems; "The Time Before Death" by Kabir; "Ode to My Socks" by Pablo Neruda. For each poem, Housden gives his insights, many based on personal experiences.

Housden has also produced other "ten poems" books: Ten Poems to Open Your Heart, Ten Poems to Last a Lifetime, Ten Poems to Set You Free, and Ten Poems to Change Your Life Again and Again. I own all of them and highly recommend them



Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Quote for the Week

Autumn is a second spring, where every leaf is a flower.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

You Grew Up in Austin, Texas If...

Fall makes me nostalgic. So this is what I think of when I remember growing up in Austin.

You grew up in Austin if...

1.Burnt orange is your favorite color, but you remember when it was just plain orange;

2.You thought "The Eyes of Texas" was the national anthem;

3.Your favorite landmark is the UT Tower, especially when it’s orange after a football game;

4.You inherited a “football fan” gene, and the names Darrell Royal, Earl Campbell, and Vince Young are as familiar to you as Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, and Davy Crockett;

5.“Drag” is a place, not a guy in women’s clothes;

6.Bluebonnets are your favorite flowers;

7.You know the Texas rivers in order because the downtown streets are named for them;

8.You know what artificial moonlight is;

9.You had your first kiss at Mt. Bonnell;

10.You could live on Tex-Mex;

11.Pralines only come from Lamme’s Candies;

12.The Night Hawk (gone now) was your favorite restaurant for Friscoes, top chop’d steak, and ice box pie;

13.Barton Springs was part of every summer you can remember;

14 Your high school team was called the Maroons;

15.You only admit in a whisper that one of your kids attended A&M.


Last two days to post a comment to be included in drawing for the Five Ways We Grieve.

Template by: Bright Sunshine Designs by Mary - Affordable Custom Blog Design © 2011