Sunday, December 15, 2013

Re-introducing this blog

I'm dusting off this blog to continue the story started on Scott's Caring Bridge site. He left us a week ago. I've been wanting to write something about my experiences, but Caring Bridge is his site, and Facebook feels too frivolous, so here we are... or at least, here I am. Writing here is partly to help me record and organize the thoughts rattling around in my head, partly to connect to the friends and family who have been so supportive over the past 16 months (and beyond), and partly to share a travelogue of my journey through widowhood.

My husband died 8 days ago - 11am, December 7, 2013. He was only 36, and his cancer was cruel, so it feels strange to say this, but his death was beautiful. He was at home, and sunlight was pouring in the windows of his bedroom. I was sitting on the bed beside him, and he was surrounded by his family. He breathed his last breath, and I said "Scott, you've made it." It was very gentle; I felt like I was watching sand run through an hourglass. It's a cliched image, but that day it fit. He died, and we stayed in his room for a bit, absorbing the enormity of it. I told Clark (who is two and a half) what had happened. He was quiet on the couch, with big serious eyes, taking it all in. He didn't cry, even though the rest of us were. I think he understood that something very profound had taken place. Scott's dad removed Scott's oxygen cannula, turned off the machines, lowered the head of the bed, pulled the sheet over Scott's face. I called hospice to report the death. Hospice sent a nurse out to pronounce the death. I called the UCSF Willed Body Program. They sent a transport team. They took his body away at 3 pm. I went for a walk with Clark and my mom and my sister.

I know that I cried a lot that morning. I know that I had to focus on relaxing the knot in my throat in order to call hospice. I know that the apartment felt incredibly quiet without the hum of his oxygen compressor, without his occasional coughs and gasps. I know that I sat in the room with his body and with my sister and that she encouraged me to let it all out, but I couldn't wail or sob. There were just lots of tears. It's hard to remember how I felt before his body left - it's like everything before 3pm is on the opposite side of frosted glass.

My transition into life after Scott's death has been much gentler than I expected. Compared to the sadness I experienced before he died, this past week has been calm, mellow. It feels lilac-colored, different from the shades of blue I felt before. When I went for that walk with my mom and sister after his body left, I felt almost normal. Monday, two days after he died, I spent the entire day napping, lounging and dozing - my body was recovering from a stomach bug I had the night before, and my brain was unwinding, decompressing. On Tuesday morning, my mom and sister helped me go through Scott's clothes. We gave away everything except his wedding suit and a few sentimental t-shirts. It was not hard to do this. Being in Duluth without him has felt... normal.

Somehow this normalcy has been the hardest part of the past week. I expected to be distraught, to be torn apart by grief, to be thinking only of Scott and of future life without him. Instead, it's been this dispassionate calm. Some twinges of sorrow: when our plane landed in Minnesota I wanted to text Scott to let him know we had arrived safely; during Clark's first excursion in the deep snow I wished I could report back to Scott about how much fun he was having. But plenty of moments of joy: connecting with loved ones from church, watching Clark over-decorate Christmas cookies. I know that I'm "allowed" to have whatever feelings come. Still, it's strange not to have sorrow. My therapist assured me that intense grief is yet to come, which is comforting. My friend Kate suggested that many, many other people in my life are holding my grief right now so that I can digest it in manageable chunks when I'm ready. This resonates. I know that grief comes in waves; maybe I did so much grieving before Scott died that I just need a break now. Maybe I feared his absence so much that the actuality is less terrible than I expected. Maybe he was fading away for so long that his diminished presence just dissolved into absolute absence. I know that I already missed him terribly in the months before he died.

Once in a while, Clark asks me what his dad is doing. I tell him the truth: I don't know, because he died and we can't see him anymore, but he still loves you very much. I believe there is a very beautiful and loving life after death, and I believe Scott is there now. I talk to him now and then, and I think I believe that he can hear me, that he is with me.


Anonymous said...

Thinking of you

Anonymous said...

we all are.

Nigel said...

Thank you for sharing Libby. Hoping you can welcome this unexpected calm. You all have created so much love, I hope we out here really can "hold your grief" for a while.

much love

amy said...

we love you libby and clark.

Anonymous said...

I feel your grief. Thanks for sharing. I read this post as tears blurred my vision. My love to you and Clark (who is will continue to ask questions about his dad.)
Hugs and blessings from Uganda

Abby said...

You are such a beautiful writer, Libby. xoxo

Anonymous said...

Hey Libby. I've been thinking about you a lot and sending you love. I am glad to hear you are feeling both relief and normalcy at this time. I have really enjoyed all of the wonderful photos of you and Scott that your friends have shared on FB.

A friend recently wrote the following about her experience with grief and I thought it might be a helpful image for you to hold on to for the future.

"I was in a grief support group for a while with a folklorist who had the most wonderful metaphors. She talked about [the intermittent appearance of feelings of grief, at times when you are reminded of the person you've lost] as the dolphins of grief: most of the time the surface of the sea is calm and unbroken and then all of a sudden a dolphin will leap up out of it ... and then go back under. I really liked the natural imagery -- as well as linking the periodic attacks of grief with something we have more positive associations with."

Holding you in my heart.

Tori said...

Love you guys.

Anonymous said...

Hi from Marshall Libby. Dr. Nygaard shared your blog link with us who work there. I lost a dear friend at 42 from a cruel cancer as well, and I think his wife and girls would appreciate your blog. Thank you for sharing. Much gratitude. Christa