Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Decade of Change

Last night I realized that on New Year's Eve 1999, Tom had not had a stroke, my mother-in-law was aging but was not yet diagnosed with dementia, I was still working as the long-time Executive Director in a statewide child abuse prevention organization, our youngest son J was still in high school.  On that New Year's Eve, Tom and I danced in the kitchen, ate a midnight supper, drank martinis and champagne and waited, laughing, to see if all the 'puters in the world came crashing down.

Never did we think that in a few short months our life, as we knew it, would come crashing down.  Tom retired on May 1 and had his first stroke on July 11, 2000 - he never was the same again.   He was a brilliant attorney and pilot who couldn't keep a checkbook anymore.

We did rehab, we did recovery, working side-by-side -- we reinvented ourselves and our marriage and we did so with purpose, with joy and with love.   March 2004, he suffered another stroke although much lighter than the first but it took away his ability to drive this time and then the third one came along in late 2004 - that was the BIG one.

During this decade, I lost my 18 year old cat in 2003, my mother-in-law in June 2004 and my husband on November 14, 2004.   A decade of grief and loss.  A decade of transition and transformation.

In this decade there also were so many blessings - my darling only grandson, Evan, was born in October 2004.  I met my wonderful business partner J and we established our amazing business that serves so many organizations with capacity building services, all rooted in community and in participation.   The business is so much more than a business for both of us - it is the outward manifestation of our deepest values.  We are beginning our seventh year of working together. 

I have met and made so many new friends and I have been held and supported by an enormous network of friends and sisters across the country and the world.

I remodeled my house and transformed my living space.  I discovered acupuncture and pilates and have incorporated both into my life as disciplines and routine preventative health care.

I was brought to my knees by grief - I was stripped bare and left myself by the side of the road many times over - not really caring if I lived or died.  I doggedly kept moving forward even when I didn't believe the pain would ever abate.  Year One of Widowhood was unbearable - Year Two was a million times worse - it felt as though I walked around looking fine but really the very skin was scorched off my face.

I met other widowed who held me up when I had no legs on which to stand and who laughed and CRIED with me nonstop and sometimes both at the same time.   Then a step at a time a new life began to emerge from loss.  I began to be able to hold others and listen deeply with those ears that grow from hard, real experience.  I began to want to pay it forward to others.  One day I actually laughed out loud with joy and didn't immediately feel guilty for being happy when Tom was dead!

Slowly this new life - the life that will never be the same again - the life that is different but a life that is full and joyful emerged and I am blessed beyond imagining.

Here this afternoon I stand - after a decade of loss, of pain, and of blessings so huge that I am filled with awe and gratitude.  It is so good that we cannot see a day ahead - life is just that - life - and we only have the moment in which we stand.

Here's to a new decade - here's to each of you who have stood by my side and made my time on this earth a blessing.  Namaste. 

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Year End Reflections

Yes, this is the time when many of us reflect on the year that is closing.  On balance it has been a year of learning and growing.  In my work life, it is my "shelter period" as I spent seven months as the Interim Executive Director of the battered women's shelter and now have begun a tenure as the Interim Exec at a family homeless shelter.  Very easy to count one's blessings when you are surrounded by so much need every single day. 

In my grief journey I have moved to a new seat in the auditorium.  I can honestly say that I have integrated so much of the intense pain and suffering - I am not whole - I will never be whole in that way I once was.  But I am here - standing on my feet - knowing that I am able to reach out to others and pay it forward.   Coming to the understanding that IT will NEVER be OVER is a huge milestone. 

As I write this tonight I am feeling a little blue - missing you know who and yet strangely content in the midst of my sadness. 

Each year, I set my Intentions for the year ahead.  I put those intentions on a huge flip chart paper and post it on my studio door where I see it many times every day.   I save those pages from year to year.  In 2005 (just two months after Tom died) the primary Intentions on my sheet were:

- Breathe
- Drink Water
- Get Sleep

My intentions for this year (2009) are:

What a difference.  For the most part I have incorporated those elements into my life this year.  Now, I am thinking about my 2010 Intentions.  That is my task for the next few days - I have written a draft - it is a work in progress.

2009 was a difficult year for so many in our country and around the world.  I hope the year ahead holds greater peace and prosperity.  Reflections............and holding those in pain close in my heart during this time of reflection and sadness. 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Peace & Grace on Christmas Eve


We need to stop.
Just stop.
Stop for a moment.
Before anybody
Says or does anything
That may hurt anyone else.
We need to be silent.
Just silent.
Silent for a moment.
Before we forever lose
The blessing of songs
That grow in our hearts.
We need to notice.
Just notice.
Notice for a moment.
Before the future slips away
Into ashes and dust of humility.
Stop, be silent, and notice.
In so many ways, we are the same.
Our differences are unique treasures.
We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts
To nurture, to offer, to accept.
We need to be.
Just be.
Be for a moment.
Kind and gentle, innocent and trusting,
Like children and lambs,
Never judging or vengeful
Like the judging and vengeful.
And now, let us pray,
Differently, yet together,
Before there is no earth, no life,
No chance for peace.

September 11, 2001
© Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek

Used with permission from Hope Through Heartsongs, Hyperion, 2002

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Shed away your tired old coats my darlings.
Shed the tears
that tear you from within.

Like a snake
who has outgrown her skin,
writhe and scrape
until the dull old scales
fall away.

Slough off the remnants
of your worn-out self.
Peel away the layers
that no longer suit you,
that constrict you,
so a shiny,
lissome you

Glide effortlessly
into the new year

Enter your new beginning
with grace,
warm, bright, glistening,

Stacey Ann Murphy 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Walking Hand in Hand on the Widowed Road

Today I shared a meal and a million tears with my friend who recently began the second year of her grief journey.  Even though we have emailed regularly, this is the first time we have seen each other since just before her husband passed.   She has not wanted to see many people and that is just the way it is.  I get it.

So many people want to tell us how to grieve.  So many want to give us their theories on why our husbands are now in "a better place."  Or why it is not healthy to be so isolated - or to cry so much, or to keep "carrying on so when it has been a year" - or, "you are so strong - your faith will get you through" on and on and on.  GET AWAY!!

We each choose our own path on this hellacious journey - there is no right way - there is no wrong way to grieve - there is only YOUR way.  PERIOD.   The widow road is one of suffering - it is impossible for one who has not experienced the death of their dearest partner to understand the depths of that pain.  We all say - "they mean well."  Well, maybe they do - but it doesn't make it any easier.  This was the first thing J wanted to talk about today. 

We spent three hours in a Perkins Restaurant - eating, talking and crying together. Truly a 40 napkin lunch.   I listened with my ears and I listened with my heart.  J's husband is my dearest brother-friend Michael of whom I have written about in this blog.  We talked and laughed and we cried over and about Michael.

I could feel her searing pain leap across the table.  A couple of times the raw intensity of it stunned me.   And that fact surprised me.   Today I thought - my god, the journey is akin to childbirth!   In labor, you experience so much pain and yet, when that baby is placed in your arms, the pain recedes into the background.   And so, here I am at five years and the pain has receded - I have walked through the fire, I have been transformed.

I read widow blogs and I weep with my widder friends and identify closely with their loss and pain.  And yet today, sitting across the table from J, I realized I had forgotten some of the immediacy, the reality of the raw and bleeding PAIN - how devastating, how crippling it is.  How you really do not care if you are on the planet or not, DEATH, ha - bring it on.  How the pain becomes embedded in one's body, mind and soul and how, without warning, it brings you to your knees.   Sitting with J today was like having the skin singed off my face. And I remembered - how I embraced my pain, how I grieved my loss, and how I walked my path.  Now that PAIN has receded and its remains are forever held deep inside, so deep that is buried in my very DNA.  

I am grateful to be standing here whole and transformed.  I am honored to stand witness, to be a companion to J and to others as they walk the widowed road.  Namaste

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Here We Go...

Just a quick drive-by.  I am finally feeling better.  Hooray!  I baked cookies and made candy this weekend.  I actually did some housework and feel like I have a bit of energy.  Deb came tonight and I had a massage.  Tomorrow I start my new gig actually working in the homeless shelter - the retiring Executive Director's last day was Friday.

I am checking blogs and I will do my best to update here during the week.  We are preparing for snow tonight - stay warm.

Friday, December 11, 2009


I have been doing one of three things.....keeping these items close at hand, initiating the organizational assessment for my new client or napping.  Yes, that is correct - I still have this cold.  Am I better? Yep.  I am well?  Not so much. 

I have about forty things I want to blog about but just have not had the energy to do so.  Every day I think, "this is it - I am well" - oh well.  Here I am - as I have blogged many times, "still on the planet."

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah - I will light the candles but no latkes - as yummy as they may be, I do not need a big bunch of fried food right now. Rats!!!

Winter finally arrived and it is cold in Minnesota - cold and beautiful.  Of course, we need to acclimate again and remember we are tough and resilient in the face of below zero weather.  I pulled out my winter coat yesterday and was so happy, for the first time in years,  I actually remembered to get it cleaned before I needed to wear it.

This weekend I am looking forward to baking cookies and making truffles to give as gifts with my homemade jam and pickled beets.  I may still have this crappy cold but at least I am feeling ready to do some fun stuff besides use tissue and do client work.

Happy Friday --  stay warm.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Trying to heal.......

Sorry I have been offline this week.    I worked in my home office on Monday and Tuesday and then worked in my own office the balance of the week - I have too much work ahead to not catch up after being gone for a week.

I  have really struggled to beat this wretched cold.  Deb came last Sunday and did a massage and lymphatic drainage, I had acupuncture with Julie on Friday and today had a European Facial with Marta - she did more lymphatic drainage and used the full-spectrum lights.  Julie also prescribed a raw chinese herb formula, which I have cooked up and am drinking.   I even saw the western medicine Doc this week and that is unusual for me.

This afternoon I made a yummy chicken soup for dinner. Tonight I feel a bit better - finally!!

I have begun my new leadership transition gig in Minneapolis in a Shelter for Homeless Families and next week I will start going to the shelter - this weekend is one of laying low and getting well. 

I hope you are enjoying your weekend.  Stay warm.