Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I am so incredibly grateful for all my blessings.  For the past 22 months I have worked as an interim leader in a battered women's shelter, a family homeless shelter and a food bank.  
The work is very sobering and also a blessing.  To be part of making a difference in the lives of others is a privilege.  That we have so many hungry, homeless, desperate women, men and children in this country is a scandal. 

As Thanksgiving approaches I can only fall to my knees in gratitude for my life.  I have food, shelter, personal safety, friends, family by blood and precious family of choice.  I have walked the widow road and stand here - whole, capable, resourceful, resilient and alive.  I have opened my heart again and have a new man friend that I respect and care for.  My life is filled with laughter and companionship.  

I have an amazing group of friends that I have never met but am connected at the heart right here on these blogs that we lovingly keep.  I am filled with gratitude for the support, the care and concern, the guidance and the love each of you have given to me over the last five years that I have written here.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Blessings abound.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I like not only to be loved, but also to be told that I am loved. 
I am not sure that you are of the same mind, but the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave. 
This is the world of light and speech, and I
shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear. 
                                - George Eliot

Sunday, November 14, 2010



We all are called upon to make decisions - every kind of decision - some very easy (do you want fries with that?) and some more difficult (do you want to remove your unconscious husband's respirator?).

Six years ago I was called upon to make that decision.  To literally have another's life in your hands is frightening beyond words.  What a terrible dilemma  - never mind that we had discussed this and agreed that we would never let the other be incapacitated to that degree.  

Never mind that Tom's right brain was destroyed - it was blank on the MRI.  The neurologist said she didn't think he could wake up because of the extensive new damage coupled with the damage on the other side of his brain from two previous strokes.  Never mind that the Doc felt that even if he awoke he probably would be deaf, blind, have limited, if any, higher functioning.  Never mind that Tom was already frustrated by the deficits caused by earlier CVAs.  Never mind, never mind, never mind.

I looked at those MRI's many times over a day and a half - with my dear sister Lisa and then with my dear sister Joan - guided by the neurologist, a no-nonsense chinese-american woman.   She returned to show the MRI when I needed to see it; each time she patiently described what I was seeing on the image.

Even though I knew what Tom wanted - how gut wrenching to finally say, "do it" - I stood by the bed while they took the breathing tube out of his throat - holding his feet with one hand and clasping Joan's hand with the other. 

It was the right thing to do; the fulfillment of a sacred commitment and promise - I hope that I am never called upon to make that decision again. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Journal

I have been keeping journals since I was 18 years old and before that it was diaries and the like.  I have a journal that I faithfully kept (and wrote in nearly everyday) for the first six months of my widowhood.

Writing in it was one of the only things that kept my sanity - as much sanity as one can have at that point.  I tuck that journal away and bring it out once a year - this is that time of year.  I have only read it four times now,  this year is the fifth time.  There is so much pain on those pages that it sometimes has almost scorched the skin off my face and yet, it is a chronicle of faith and pain and love and life after death. 
Tonight (or to be more exact, this morning - since I cannot sleep - it is now November 11th) I began to read it again.  Here is an entry from that journal - the photo above was taken on the day this was written.  A frigid day at Fort Snelling - I can still hear the sound of my heart pounding as I walked against the wind - uphill to that place for the first time - hand in hand with my dearest sister and friend.....

December 11, 2004 - 4:20 pm

Hello My Darling, 

Today I went to see your grave for the first time - Lisa took me and the beautiful grave blanket that I had made - it is covering your memorial spot right now -------> and now I know for sure, for real:  you are no longer in your body.  
Your headstone says, "Our Strength and Our Guide" - You were just that you know.  The past few years have been ------------>

Oh, I am so fortunate to have had you with me these past few years - they were years of challenge, of love, of laughter, of sorrow, of (stroke-induced) deficits, of joy, of courage, of our marriage.

I know how tired you were sweetheart.  You of the beautiful smile.  

I cooked Latkes last night - it was the fourth night of Hanukkah - Susan and Bonnie came to eat with me. When I opened the cupboard to get the food processor I realized that "my tall guy" just isn't here anymore - I guess I need a kitchen with shorter cupboards.

Today when I stood at your headstone - oh my god - wanted to lie down on that grave blanket and never get up = out there on that cold and lonely field - I wanted to lie there like I could hug you forever - lay down with you for eternity.  
The last few nights I have laid in bed and I memorize your body - your sturdy calves, your tiny butt, your strong chest to lie my head upon, your sensitive fingers, your long, elegant feet.  Those feet that I kissed after you passed.

Remember how frustrated you were that it was difficult to cut your toenails in the aftermath of the stroke and how I would cut them for you?  How I would say - "when we are both old, you will cut mine too - we will cut each others' nails."  And you would smile.

I remember the mole on your forearm that made me nervous.  Your craggy face that showed your character, your life, your compassion, your intellect,  your wit, your love.  Your easy smile - you who were so quick to smile - a genuine smile.  Your 36 inch waist that you were proud of - a 6 foot 3-1/2 inch tall guy who would never have a "gut" - you were adamant on that point.  

You had such a built-in sense of responsibility. You held yourself accountable to those values and those things that were important to you.  We had shared values - we saved and we loved.  You loved me to the bottom of your heart and that is about the only thing that can keep me grounded at all right now.  

Remembering your physical being - your strong thighs - your ears (I cut the little hairs that grew there) - your smile, your great booming laugh, how you laughed.  Oh how I loved having a tall husband.  Remember when I would watch my weight and lose a few pounds - when we would hug you would pick me up, swing me around, hug me tight and say, "wow, I really feel it!"  
Right now, I am sitting on the kitchen stool and right behind me is our "big hug place."  It will forever be a place in this house that I cherish.  It is also our dancing in the kitchen spot - filled with so many memories.  Standing on my tip toes to be engulfed in your arms and say, "it's so nice to have a tall husband" and you would smile that big loving smile. 

I feel your arms around me and surround me - oh if it could only be so.  I miss you so dreadfully, my heart is broken in tiny pieces, my life seems pointless, I love you forever and a day.  Suzann

 Here I am nearly six years later - in a new life that I have hand-forged from sorrow and the desolate wasteland of widowhood.  I am happy.  I have a satisfying life - good work, wonderful friends, family of blood and choice, and dreams for the future.  And yet, tonight I say, I will love you for forever and a day and never as long I am breathing on this planet will November ever come without remembering this man that gave me so much, who taught me so much and who loved me unconditionally until his own last breath.  I am a fortunate woman and I celebrate the life of Tom Murray - Namaste.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The November Vigil Begins.......

Soon it will be six years since you left me here on this earth.

November 11th - I arrive home to find you on the floor mortally wounded from another stroke.

The days in the ICU - the three-day journey with only one inevitable destination.

The music, the flag being given to me,

the gatherings of people who loved you so - everything a swirl of disjointed images.

These are the days of remembrance - now it comes again - the flood of feelings,

tears and laughter - loss and longing. 

Remembering the laughter, the fun, the friendship -  the unconditional love.

Remembering YOU.

The vigil is about to begin. 

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.
I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved

Friday, November 05, 2010

What I Know Tonight

I am grateful for my life  -- deeply grateful.  I am more blessed than words can ever express.  This man who has come galloping into my life is supposed to be here for a bit - right now - in this moment. 

I looked at him asleep just now and I know - I am loving it and learning from it.  Funny how things have a way of happening.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Just a Drive By

Yes, I have been fairly silent these days ---- I am about to complete my current interim leadership gig and then plan to take some well earned time off from the frenetic world of transition leadership.  November, December and January will be much quieter.  Time to reflect, write, work on Dendros projects that are calling my name and time to blog. 

Winter is on its way - what a lovely time for some quiet time.  More to come.....