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. 


  1. Happy New Decade to you Susan. May it bring peace, happiness and health to you.

    Thank you for walking beside me xxx

  2. Sounds like you have had quite the decade. As someone new to the widowed experience I'm not doing any celebrating today, but look forward to better days, months or years.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.


  3. I'm just beginning my new journey without my husband. I don't know where I will be a decade from now but I'm inspired by your journey.

    Happy New Year and Happy New Decade

  4. So beautifully put, as always Suzann...A "review" of one life, lived through everything---most particylarly loss. It has been very meaningful to stand by your side as you shared this journey with us all....
    May 2010 bring ALL good things, my dear, and The BEST that life has in store....A Very Happy New Year to you, dear Suzann.

  5. so much shared, so much taught. thank you for your wisdom, for the sharing of your broken heart so that we might see that heart become mended and able once again to hold and give love. your healing promises us our own healing.
    may 2010 bring joys beyond imagination, and may good health wrap you in safety and wellness. you are very special, suzann.

  6. Hey Suzann...what a beautiful post. It's been a while...actually a long while since I've looked at your blog...seems you've come along way in your life. I'm very proud of you.

  7. When I began to do my statement for what I hoped in the year ahead, I couldn't find old ones to use as models and went looking. Then on a jump drive I found one from 2000. It reminded me of where I was 10 years ago and one of the things I had asked at the beginning of that year: 'find that person who can help me open myself up to who I truly am inside and when I find them, have the courage to give them what they need as well as take what I need.' That did happen and I am still assessing what happened in those 10 years, the changes, the losses, the way that I did grow in ways I never imagined. I hope for us all that the next 10 years brings more joy and maybe less pain but the important thing is to learn from what happens and make the best of it.

  8. I almost missed this beautiful post Suzann...I'm so glad I didn't. A wonderful way to end this last decade and an equally beautiful way to begin the next. Your words couldn't have touched me more my dear friend... ~Joy xo

  9. Oh Suzann,
    my tears keep falling.
    In spite of two new grandsons during the decade just behind us. Happy Luck.
    Ruben is dead. At the age of only 40.
    Two of our cats as well. And the first week of December I had to bring two 6 days old kittens to the Vet... I was not able to to what was .. you know,

    But one of the really great happenings in the last decade was meeting and talking with you.
    Which have given me strenght.
    To believe in the Future
    To be able to help people that need help.

    On Jan 29 we lit the light on Ruben's grave and then go to his fav Cafe, a cafe where his friends and the poorest in Oslo use to be.
    We, of course pay food and beverages.
    As we would have done if Ruben was still among us.....

    btw. My daughter, Ingelin, will move to Germany in some weeks time.
    It's strange to have only one out of 4 kids living in Norway....


  10. Suzann: This is the first time I've read your blog. It's been four years since my husband died. Some days I feel like I've made wonderful progress. Other days I feel as though I'm walking through tar, trapped, messed up, stuck. This was one of those days. Your words remind me what a long, hard road is grief, and reading them made me feel less alone. Thank you.

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