Monday, November 30, 2009


Feeling pretty punky - sleeping, taking zinc, chinese herbs, lots of fluids and more sleeping.  Here is a photo of my beautiful granddaughter, O and my mother.  This picture was snapped at the Frank Family Winery outside St. Helena.  I have more to come but first - I need to get well.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Still in California.  I have lots of photos to post when I get home.  Unfortunately, I have come down with a really rotten cold and feel cruddy.  I am flying home on the red eye tonight.  More to come......

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Going home is always sobering.  I am so fortunate to still have my mother with me and I know this fact well.  Her gradual decline brought on by getting older continues.  This is inevitable and it is my honor to be a helper and companion on my mom's elder journey.  One of the more frightening complications about this journey is her deep denial of things.  For instance, she does not take her medications as prescribed, it is really hit and miss.  "I do NOT have have high blood pressure, I just went to the doc and it was perfect," this is a frequent response if I mention her meds or the high blood pressure.

She does not take care of her feet (when I arrived her feet looked like Howard Hughes').   Even if I arrange it she does not follow through *including if I pay for the pedicure/foot care in advance*.   The condition of her feet is a real health issue.

She has fairly severe osteoporosis and does not take the Fosomax - if she does not want to take it, that's fine but she needs to acknowledge the consequences.  At this point, she absolutely denies she has brittle bones (this time she told me the doc had given her a bone density test and pronounced her bones were perfect and she could stop the med) - OMG, she is so bent over it looks painful.  She has lost about 3 inches in height in the last 3-4 years and now her head is bent forward on her neck and precedes her body.  She is at risk for fractures if she falls and spine compression fractures just from walking upright.

Here is the rub.  Mother hates that she is aging - and she is in denial about it.  She tells folks that she is 70 (she is more than a decade past 70) and really believes that people are fooled.  So of course she cannot have high blood pressure, osteoporosis and a host of other age-related things.  She admonishes me to "never tell anyone how old you are because you look so young!!"  Hmmmmmm, could it be that if I say my age then others can count on their fingers about hers?????  I  bite my tongue a lot of time.

Some of this is endearing, some of it is really frustrating and some of it is downright dangerous.  I am respectful of my mother and I do not say some of the things that should be said, she will not listen anyway and doing so only alienates us.  I worry leaving her here in this two-story house.

We went to the retinal specialist yesterday = she has 20/200 sight in her good eye and 20/2000 or "fingers only" sight in her other.  They now think she may have bleeding in her macula in the good eye and suspect that she may have the beginnings of glaucoma.  I am taking her back to the doc this morning for extensive testing.  There are no corrective lenses that will help her see better at this point.  The eye doctor has given her occular vitamins to take and provided a list of other vitamins and fish oil to be taken twice a day with meals - I am afraid that she will not follow through once I depart.  One blessing - this is a new doctor for mother, he is top notch and most important she likes him! 

There are other things going on besides the health and hygiene situations that are too private to go into.  Suffice to say they are worrisome.  I know that she must make her own adult decisions.  My mother is not incompetent - the problem is - she is not totally competent either.  Time will tell.

Today, I am grateful that I can hug my mom and spend this Thanksgiving surrounded by my family.

ps The Grands are here - there will be photos to come!!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Home for the Holiday......

I arrived at the San Francisco airport at 11:30 pm Friday night and got to the hotel at 1 am.  Here is a photo I snapped yesterday morning right outside the hotel of a plane landing at SFO.  After breakfast yesterday, I hopped the Napa Valley Shuttle bus and headed north.  I am at my mother's home in Yountville - it is a bit drizzly here in the early morning hours - the forecast for the week ahead is for days in high 60's nearly 70 degrees - I'll take it!!

We are off this morning to pedicure/manicure, shop and get out for a bit.  Mother no longer drives although she keeps her car in the garage and ready to go - as she says, "just for you when you come home."

Enjoy these days of preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday.  More to come......

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Getting Ready.....

This is a photo I snapped from my car at my mother's house last November.  That is Stag's Leap behind the trees.

I love Yountville and I love the Napa Valley.  Most of all, I love my mother.

Tomorrow I am leaving for Yountville and my children and grandchildren are arriving on Monday.  We are going to have an amazing family Thanksgiving.

I will walk each day and post some lovely photos.  I am packing and anticipating the trip.  Blessed be.


My friend Amy came through surgery successfully.  She was moved last night from ICU to Oncology.  She is in pain and sleeping most of the time and will do so for the next few days, according to her son who updated us yesterday.   Please continue to keep Amy and her family in your prayers.  She is an amazing woman with the world's biggest heart. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Friend Amy

Please keep my friend Amy in your hearts and prayers.  Amy is one of my widda friends - she was such a wonderful companion to me and to so many others.  Amy and her husband have seven children the youngest is only seven years old.  Amy has been battling lung cancer since June and this weekend they discovered the cancer is now in her brain.  She is only 47 years old.

Amy is about to have brain surgery tonight.  Please, please say a prayer for Amy, her husband and children.  Golden healing light.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


When Something of Great Value is Lost

I awoke this morning with a low grade case of the weepies - like a computer virus running in the background just waiting to make a break for it.

So strange, I was jolted awake at 3 am and instantly remembered 3 am five years ago.

Once all the tubes and machines were removed from Tom - his room got eerily quiet; compared to the preceding days and nights it was almost silent. No more millions of docs, nurses, respiratory therapists, neurologists, etc, etc, running in and out of the room at all times of day and night. The toughest decision I will ever have to make was done and we were waiting for something else now.

That last night the ICU nurses, who had become our little family, fixed everything so I could sleep in the same bed with Tom. There I was cradled against him like so many times before - his arm draped around me, my head on his chest.

I spent most of the night reliving the amazing things we had done together and telling Tom how much I loved him. I must have dozed off and at 3 am, Cheryl our night nurse came in to check on us. As she was leaving she said two things I will never forget - "I don't know what you are saying to him in here but every once in awhile the heart monitor really picks up :-)" and as she was walking out the door she said something that I came to understand so well in the months and years ahead - "enjoy his warmth."

Oh weeping shadows on the wall. Of course there are tears; we cry and feel terrible when something of value is lost.

I saw the Soul Reader yesterday and it was wonderfully amazing. I had a personal training session yesterday and I am having a massage at home this afternoon. I am happy that I have learned to take care of myself and have left the acute days of grief behind.

For those of you who are still in that agony - there is hope. I have been visiting a lot of widow blogs this week and I weep with you and hold you. Your raw pain resonates with me - I do remember and I will always remember those darkest of days. If you are reading this know that the widows' walk gets easier over time and different days are ahead. I wish I could sit quietly beside you and give you a hug, a tea, a glass of wine, a listening ear, a hand to hold. I send my heart across the miles between.

I am grateful for each of you, I am grateful for all my sisters and brothers who have been with me and I with them in these last five years - I am blessed beyond belief. I am grateful for the incredible transformation this grief journey has brought to my life and I am heartbroken that I had to lose the love of my life to get here.

I am sure there is more to come today................

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Guy

April 23, 1935 – November 14, 2004
(Text of the Ramsey County Bar Association Memorial in Tom’s Honor)

We are here today to pay tribute to Thomas W. Murray - a beloved husband, a proud and loving father, a patriot, a consummate professional, and a kind and decent man.

Tom was born in North Dakota, although having lived 64 of his 69 years here in St. Paul, this wonderful city of ours truly was his home. While the circumstance of a North Dakota birth foreclosed him from native St. Paulite status, he approached it far more closely than those of us who claim residency for, say, a mere 30 years or so.

It was here in St. Paul that Tom grew up, attended school (all the way through law school at William Mitchell), returned from four years of service as an Air Force officer, raised his three sons, pursued his career, lived first with the mother of his sons and again with his soul mate and widow, Suzann.

It was here in St. Paul –

• that Tom diligently and lovingly cared for his aging mother;
• that he faithfully and successfully served employers that included two of this city’s great companies: Twin City Barge and First Trust Company of Saint Paul;
• that he concluded a dedicated and distinguished career, confident in his accomplishments, and with then good health and renewed vigor, embraced retirement from the work-a-day world as a long-awaited opportunity to pursue – with his beloved Suzann – new adventures and to resume postponed adventures (including his love of flying).

It also was here, however, that Tom’s dreams were interrupted by the fortuity of ill health – a stroke not many months after his retirement. It was that event – and how both Tom and Suzann responded to it – that told all of us as much about Tom as we had learned about him the many years of prior association.

Mind you, what we already knew about Tom was far from insignificant:
• he was smart and insightful – a fine judge of people who knew how to size up a challenging situation;
• he greatly enjoyed tennis and golf, but like most of us, was very fortunate to have a day job;
• he was a patient and empathetic teacher and mentor . . . someone who always had time to counsel and guide the Trust Company’s newer officers;
• he dressed well – conservative, understated, and proper – but with a certain elegant flair . . . the “right” dress shirt, even once in awhile with a gold collar bar;
• he was a man of great integrity and impeccable commitment to the highest ethics of the legal profession – he treated his colleagues and clients with dignity and respect;
• he was the first (and we believe only) officer of the Trust Company to drive a Porsche – and he loved that Porsche, at one time telling Suzann that he wanted to be buried in it – only to be reminded by Suzann that such an arrangement likely would not be viewed favorably by the authorities at Ft. Snelling;
• he deeply and unconditionally loved his sons, David, Paul, and Mark, and was immeasurably proud of their accomplishments;
• he genuinely liked people – to whom he naturally offered a smile and an encouraging word;
• he was social and reveled in friendships.

Tom was a longstanding member of the “Heart Association,” whose membership included such luminaries as the late, great Judge Edward J. Devitt. The active core of Heart Association was, and remains, lawyers from Briggs and Morgan and officers of the Trust Company. As family and careers have caused paths to diverge, Heart Association nonetheless has remained a significant common thread.

While many of us have drifted from the frequent meetings of younger days, an annual event of ongoing significance is the Christmas holiday gathering at the McNeely residence. It was a poignant event in 2004 – Tom was not in attendance. He was looking forward to it – which he specifically mentioned to Suzann just a couple of days prior to his fatal stroke. We all were looking forward to seeing both Tom and Suzann at McNeely’s again this year because it was at the last few of these events that we learned even more about our friend Tom Murray. It was here that we saw year over year the courage and commitment that both Tom and Suzann brought to his stroke recovery. It was here that we saw confirmation that adversity deepens love for those who accept one another unconditionally. It was here that we deepened our understanding that life is what it is – not merely to be accepted, but to be embraced.

Tom nearly achieved the allotted three score and ten years. During that span of life’s lessons learned – some painfully, most joyfully – the fundamental humanity and goodness of Tom Murray was established, and we all are better for Tom having shared his life with us. We find Tom's spirit - and solace for our loss - in this prayer of an aviator:

Eternal Lord, who makes the winds and clouds obey Your will and who protects the eagle in his flight and the dove seeking safety, uphold me as I soar into the sky and fly above land and sea. Pilot my ship safely through the air, and give me nerves which are steady and relaxed, a mind, calm and composed, as I sail on to my destination. Give me a successful take-off and at journey’s end a safe landing, that no harm come to me and those entrusted to my care.
Hold Your protecting hand over me as I pass through storm and clouds.
Above all, keep me in Your grace and favor . . . and let my last landing bring me safely into Your presence. Amen.

(Presented by John B)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another Day

It is 1825 days since you died. How can that be? Yes, I have walked, stumbled, staggered, whimpered, raged and wept through the agony of the first years of the grief journey to arrive here this morning. Yes, most days I now feel squared away - more balanced - more integrated about your leaving. Today, not so much.

I have been awake since 3 am. My heart is bruised - it is not a superficial wound. It is deep. It is lasting. To make it even more "interesting" - I have that inexorable tape loop running in my head today. You on the floor in the bedroom - the paramedics - the ER - the ICU.....and on and on it goes - until 4 days later - the unthinkable, I kiss your beloved feet after your spirit has passed from the body you no longer need.

The fiery cauldron of grief stripped me bare; burned me beyond recognition and shared its dark truths with me. One thousand eight hundred twenty-five days - I am transformed. Most days I appear perfectly normal - my newly grown skin, while tender to the touch, hides the scars inflicted by the blows suffered during the most intense parts of the grief journey. The pain now is different - it is very deep within - and balanced by the knowledge of what we were privileged to build and share. Unconditional love.

Today, I want to howl and scream and whimper all at once. I laid in bed and wept in the middle of the night and early this morning. My heart is broken and it will always be so. Oh yes, there is life after death and new life after widowhood. But life will never be the same without you.

Always in my heart - never far from mind.........

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On the Eve of November 11

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

The Last Day of My Old Life

On November 10, 2004, I had just returned from Philadelphia after a visit with one of our children and our new grandson. I had a miserable cold. Tom stayed home from Philly - he was recovering from cataract surgery and it just wasn't practical for him to travel right then. We planned on taking another trip east in the next couple of months anyway. (Note to self: if you think you are in control you are delusional).

Today, I am trying my best to remember what that day held. I am sure Tom and I had coffee together and he had his cinnamon roll. I know I went to work that day - I have no idea what I did. We had just moved into our new office space and so I probably organized my desk and files. I was not involved in a leadership transition having just finished the Way to Grow transition the end of October. (another note to self: at times we think our work and activities are so crucial - HA!)

I know I came home in the early afternoon and took Tom to the Ophthalmologist for his final check-up on the cataract surgeries - there had been two in the past three months. When I drove up in front, Tom came out of the house - he looked so handsome. He was wearing black jeans, a black cotton sweater over a beautiful yellow button-down shirt, black loafers and his leather bomber jacket - and of course, a big smile on his face.

The doctor pronounced Tom's eyes healed. In fact, his eyesight was so improved after the new lens implants that he no longer needed glasses. He died with those brand new eyes.

The rest of the day was just like all the rest of our days. We probably had a glass of wine and ate a nice dinner. Tom was coming down with a cold (caught it from me) and so we went to bed early. Take nothing for I said - this was the last day of my old life.

More to come...................

Monday, November 09, 2009


About the past - so many happy memories. The birthday that Tom handed me a beautifully wrapped gift and inside the card he had written, "I love you. P.S. I hope you like the earrings!" I did and I still do = I wear those gold hoops whenever I need a little boost or an angel on my shoulder. But oh, how I laughed and how we hugged.

That was the last birthday (June 25, 2000) I had before Tom suffered his first stroke. On July 11th we were having dinner in a local restaurant and Tom fell over at the dinner table - we were busy planning our wedding anniversary trip - one second he was there and the next he was "gone". Tom had just retired on May 1st - poor guy never had an opportunity to do the things of his dreams.

Life was never the same again but oh it still was sweet.

We worked hard together in recovery - over the years we reinvented ourselves and we reinvented our marriage. We fulfilled those vows about "in sickness and in health" and oh how we loved.

It was not perfect - I do not have Tom on some big old pedestal. We had plenty of challenges. Many days I stopped on my way home from work and paused at the top of Mounds Park to take a breath before going home to care giving.

Tom had plenty of frustration at being cognitively impaired as a result of that stroke. He had spent his career as an air force officer and attorney - now he couldn't keep a check book. Oh yes, there was enough frustration to go around. There also was boundless love - the kind of love that defies the odds - the real stuff. Deep and lasting.

Today as I continue my vigil - I am thinking about all the blessings, about the dancing in the kitchen, about "camping on the floor in the living room" watching the Mississippi roll by outside the big, big window. About falling asleep warm in embrace and awaking in a big pile of quilts - about so many things that were. I am blessed beyond belief to have these memories. The beat goes on.............

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Days of Remembrance

If you have been a reader of this blog for long, you know November is the month my husband died. I found him on the bedroom floor on November 11 and his spirit left his body on November 14. It is nearly five years since this journey of loss and bereavement began. In some ways it seems like forever - in some ways a few heartbeats.

In the early days of widowhood from the depths of misery and desolation, I cried out, "when will this be over?" It was a question I asked so many of the widowed that had walked the path ahead of me. I now know the answer to that question. It is "never". It changes but it is never "over" and I suppose it is not supposed to be.

This journey has left its mark. I see the invisible stigmata of widowhood writ large upon my life. I am not the same person who walked out of Woodwinds Hospital alone that Sunday morning. I am a better, more caring and more present person. I am stronger and more resilient. I have good boundaries and I choose carefully how I spend my time and with whom I do so. I have spent a great deal of solitary time the last 5 years and it has been important. I am not lonely (except for missing you know who) in fact, I relish my time alone.

I have wept more tears than I thought one woman could ever produce. I have been held close by my friends and held them close in return. I have been blessed with sisters and brothers of the heart and soul who have been my stalwart companions on this broken road of loss and grief. We have held each others hands as we traveled towards the light - even in the days of being in the black hole of suffering and mourning - we helped each other steer towards the light. My mantra from the depths of the black hole was, "what I am supposed to learn while I am down here AGAIN."

Today - I feel whole - I feel the loss of Tom has been integrated into my life. I am no longer broken. I will long for this man until the hour of my own death - I will shed tears, I will awake in the middle of the night and suddenly remember what was lost. My memories are sweet. I knew unconditional love. I miss my lover, my friend, my flyboy, my husband. And every year, this will be the time of remembrance. That is just the way it is.

Monday, November 02, 2009


Here's who I want to be when I grow up ------