Until Death Do Us Part

It is funny, I never really thought about the afterlife much until John got ill.  We were both raised Catholics but left the church when we got together since the church didn’t accept people that were divorced.  I think in the back of our minds we both believed in some sort of Heaven but we didn’t talk about it.

John was a very logical, smart man.  He was a Chartered Accountant (before his death they changed the name in Canada to Chartered Professional Accountant “CPA” and he hated that name).  He worked a great deal with lawyers and other professionals that valued his intelligence and his dedication to his career.  It was not a job to John but a way of life.  He was one of those people that never worked a day in his life because he loved what he did.

While John was dying he would comfort while he held me.  He kept telling me just to listen harder and he’d still be talking to me.  He spoke with such calmness, so sure that we would be together again that I would stop crying.

One day he was in the hospital being treated for a massive infection that the hospital gave him and he started looking at the door.  My daughter Amanda and I were with him at the time and I asked him what he was looking at.  He replied, “your dad is here … he’s waiting for me”.  Then a few minutes later he said that my dad had left and would be back later.  He didn’t remember saying this to me later.

Just before John passed away I had changed his clothes, made him comfortable with the PSW that came to help me.  He had been sedated for 10 days.  I went to sit in the other room for a few minutes to talk to my daughter Laura and there was a loud knock.  I went in to check on him, took his hand and he opened his eyes and died looking at me.

It has been over a year since he passed away and I know in my heart he is still with me and he’s waiting for me.  He has shown me this by me finding the Valentine’s day card, or the email that he sent me years ago.  Every once in awhile I catch a glimpse of him in the corner of my eye or I can smell him.  He is doing everything he can to let me know that he is waiting for me.  He also wants me to stop being sad and to live my life with joy and happiness in it.   I know this with every fiber of my being. When my life is over we will be together again.  Forever and all ways.

 

As Donald Trump Says “Sad”

My grief has changed.  I don’t cry as much but I am incredibly sad.  I smile, I laugh with people but inside I’m so sad.  I’ve been trying different meditations for happiness, playing with my kittens and spending time with my family but I’m just sad and tired.  I have no energy to do anything and really can’t think of anything I want to do.  It doesn’t help that it is just dark and gloomy outside all the time and it rains every single day.  I have a few work jobs to complete and I can’t get motivated to do those and I need to spend time on my other business but it is a struggle to even work on it.  I need something to kick me in the ass so I can get on with my life.

Will I Ever Be Happy Again?

I did a “game” on FaceBook today and it told me I will live until I am 109.  No thanks … Right now I’d be quite happy to die as soon as I have everything organized in my life.  I have a list of things that need to be done, I need to document everything financial that I deal with, I need to organize my work so that my clients will be taken care of when I finally die and I need to make sure my children (who are adults now) are able to take care of themselves.  My stepdaughters are fine, both are married with children and are financially secure.  My daughter is married (no children) and is quite independent from me.  My son is just starting out in his career, working in a restaurant on the line.  He makes next to nothing right now but I’m sure with hard work and perseverance he will achieve his dream of being a restaurant manager.

Most likely I should downsize and move out of my house.  Right now my son and his girlfriend are living with me but he can’t afford to live here on his own.  This will probably take me a year to achieve because I need to renovate the house and empty it.  At the rate that I’m moving it will take me years just to finish that project.

I want to be happy again.   I don’t want to wake up crying every day.  I want John to know that he was right and that I can handle everything that needs to be done.  It is difficult because while he was dying he decided I needed to continue the tax practice but I should have told him no.  That put incredible strain and stress on me and I don’t believe he could foresee that.  He always told me I was the smartest person he knew and he believed I could handle it.  Well I did handle it but the stress almost killed me.  I need to make changes going forward.

I have a friend that is also a widow and we have been doing things together.  We have been going out at least once a week but I am an introvert and she needs to contact me instead of me contacting her.  We are making travel plans (going to Bermuda in September, Mexico in October and Florida in November).  Her husband passed away over two years ago from complications from MS.  She is quite happy to spend time with me in Florida too.  Florida seems to be my happy place.  I think about being there all the time.  As I mentioned before my daughter is quite unhappy with me that I sold the condo there.  She looks at it as a place of memories but to me, it was my future with John.  We worked hard to get the condo ready for our retirement which was supposed to start in 2016.  But he died before we were able to see our dream come true.  No one loved that place more than I did but every moment I spent there was like a knife in my heart.  I didn’t think I could survive if I stayed there.  But I love the area and I will go back.  I’ll most likely buy another condo and make it mine.  I can go to “our” favourite places and remember John and smile but try and move forward and get through my life.  If I can’t move forward then I might as well liquidate everything and die.  What is the use of living?

I really do want to be happy.  I want to smile where it actually touches my insides instead of my outside.  I want to wake up feeling happy to be alive instead of getting up every day thinking of what I have lost.  I have been trying different meditations and they are helping and so are my kittens.  They obviously love their mama cat because they are with me so much of my day.  They curl up and sleep beside me while I work.  My boy cat (Obi-Wan) loves to watch me type and he stares at the screen of the computer.

I am trying … we will see how this journey goes.

 

 

 

The Four Musketeers

It was decided that we would combine our offices and move in together in October 1976.  I went into this merger apprehensive.  I had a good relationship with my boss Tim, but didn’t feel comfortable with George and John.  We moved into an older building and had the upper two floors above a law office (my uncle was a lawyer at the firm).  There were three offices, two large (one with a private bathroom) and one smaller office.  The reception area was set apart from offices and was quite private also.  George got the small office, Tim got the bigger office with the view and John got the office with the private closet and bathroom.

Right from the beginning I knew that John would be the leader in the group.  Every Monday morning John would meet with me to go over the weekly plan.  He rarely smiled at me and was very abrupt when dealing with me.  It was hard for me to get a read on him.  When nervous I talk so I must have talked his ear off.  His partners were content to let John run things while they did their work.  Tim was the social partner.  He knew every lawyer, every banker and worked the crowds.  Most of his time was spent doing promotional work, he would land the client and George or John would service them.  George was a workhorse when it came to the client files.  He worked fast and could produce several files a week but tended to make sloppy errors.  His goal was to be home with his beautiful wife and he didn’t want to be at work a moment longer than necessary.

Four over 4 years we worked together, often more than the standard 40 hours a week.  During tax season we would work 70 or so hours a week just to get the work out.  None of us really minded though since we felt that we were a team. As we got busier we hired additional staff.  Over the years together I became the office manager with John as the managing partner.  We expanded and opened an office in Toronto.  While staff came and went the four of us were as close as the four musketeers!

One Year — 365 Days — 8,760 Hours — 525,600 Minutes — 31,536,000 Seconds Later

It has been one year of heartbreak.  It has changed but it is still there.  My heart still searches for John in a crowd, still dreams he is alive and still hopes I will see him again.  I still feel so empty, even when I am with people.  Even when I laugh I am not truly happy.  It is like all happy emotions are played on the surface but not inside of me.

I couldn’t be home on the anniversary date so I went on a cruise with my daughter Amanda.  We headed south and visited the Bahamas, Grand Turk and the Dominican.  It was a perfect holiday.

My daughter is like sunshine to me.  She is beautiful, brilliant, funny, IMG_6510 creative and, in so many ways, just like her father.  This cruise was important to me because I feel like I have failed her.  I know I have disappointed her and I don’t know how to make it up to her.  This time away helped us reconnect.  We had a wonderful time together and I’m hoping we can continue building on that in the future and have a stronger bond again.

The other day I was crying and wanted so much to talk to John.  I heard this little voice in my heart ask “what would you say to him?”.  I thought I would tell him that I loved him … missed him but then realized he already knows that I love him and miss him. He always knew that.  Then I thought … no what it is that I want to hear is him telling me he loves me and misses me.  I needed reassurance that he was still here for me.  I stopped crying and decided to get back to work.  I was switching computers over (I bought a new one at Christmas and still wasn’t using it) and I went into an old email account.  I had lost all my emails from John when we closed our website and was sad about that loss.  But when I opened this old email up (hotmail) there was just one letter in the inbox.  And when I read it I knew John is still here with me.  Here is his email.

This is really weird.

I was just thinking last night about the differences between us. And about how much I love you.
You think you fail at things when, in fact, you are doing great things in life. 

You are the reason our kids have turned out well. You have spent the time with them when they needed it; unlike lots of mothers who do not pay attention and then their kids turn out to have all kinds of problems.

You have always been the one that backed me up. Now we are both getting older and like everyone else, things start to deteriorate, both physical and mental. But, that is just the way it is. It happens to everyone. 
I don’t know what to tell you about work. Maybe I rely on you too much. Everyone seems to do that to you. 

This is a tough time of the year. But we will get through it. 

I know the two of us don’t handle stress the same way. For me it is getting better because I feel that we are now at the stage where I believe we have already made it. 

We have done the right thing by our kids.  Adam still needs to work
things out, but he is certainly not a problem for us.  
Manda, Laura, Julie (and Emily) have all been put on a good path for their lives.

I think 99% of our clients like us. And that is why I feel okay about the relationships in the practice. The clients we like also like us, and understand when we have problems. And we do a damn good job for them.
I feel financially secure. If I died tomorrow, I know you guys would be okay. Not as well off as we will be in a few more years, but okay.

My only concern is you. I would like you to get to the stage that you are feeling okay too. I was hoping that this weekend would give you the break you need.

The thing is … It doesn’t matter. Pretty much any of these things can be fixed. If they can’t be fixed, we can handle the consequences. It will all be okay in the end. There are going to be things that come up all the time. That is life. 
The important thing is to get you to the stage that you feel the same way. 

I don’t know how to express this. The ups and downs happen. I look at them as challenges. But, in the end, that is all they are … We can handle any outcome. So how we get to the outcome doesn’t have to hurt us with the stress.

The one really important thing is that I love you. You are the best thing in my life. When I see you happy, I am happy. 

I wish I knew how to make you feel better. <Smiling> Just looking at you makes me feel better. Oops, there I go reverting to my character again .. This is not supposed to be about me.
One last try … Put this stuff out of your head. Relax. Go swimming. Go shopping with them. Enjoy the hotel. And while you are in Niagara Falls, think about our honeymoon. 

I really, really love you.

I know he is still with me.  I know in my heart he is waiting for me.  And I’m counting down the moments until I can be with him again.

 

And My World Changed

I remember everything about the day I met John. I was 20 years old and was hired to be the secretary for an accountant in a nearby town.  I had been working in Toronto for just over a year in a large office but I was tired of the commute.  In March 1976 I decided I wanted a change in my life and moved out of a large bullpen into a two person office.  I settled into the office and one morning my boss Tim gave me a set of financial statements to type up.  He told me to make sure I stay within one inch margins because the guy I was typing them for was VERY picky.  I very carefully typed up these statements (remember .. these were the days where there were no computers, I had an IBM selectric typewriter).

On Friday these two men return with my boss (Tim) after lunch.  I was surprised at the difference between the new men, one was tall, thin, calm and blonde and the other was shorter with a bushy beard and almost a frantic way about him.  The tall man sat down across from me and asked for the statements.  Tim off handedly said “This is John and George” and I immediately thought of the Beatles.

I passed the statements to John and without even a look at me he took the ruler from my desk and started to measure the margins.  Now, I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m an introvert but I’m not a wall flower.  I’m a strong person and I don’t like being pushed around or insulted.  I immediately got my back up when John started to measure the margins of the statements I typed.

He leaned back, looked at me and said, “They are fine”.

I said, “Fine? Fine? They are perfect.”   I gave him a look that surprised him.  He handed me a package of paper and asked me to photocopy several copies of the statements and bind them.  It was only then that I saw the paper was framed like a picture frame and the statements had to sit inside the frame.  He apologized for his tone to me and I could see the other two men were shocked by this change in John.  John asked me what I thought of the letterhead and I told him it was old fashioned and dated and not something a progressive firm would use.  He never ordered that paper again.

The three men talked in Tim’s office while I copied and bound the statements.  I could hear them laughing and for some reason I could feel the tension in my entire body.  I went in and handed John the statements and could feel his eyes on me.  When John and George left Tim turned to me and told me I better get used to them because he had just agreed to go into partnership with them and I would be joining them.   We were to become the Four Musketeers.

10 Months and Counting

I realize I haven’t posted for some time.  I’ve been struggling, but in a new way.  It seems I have battle after battle to fight, whether they are legal or tax challenges that relate to my husband’s death.  I’m just so tired.  I am doing tax returns this year and all the clients that come to see me want to talk about John.  It is not easy to tell the story over and over again.  I never want to cry in front of them.  Everyone makes a comment like “you are an inspiration to all of us”, or “you are so strong” or the one I hate most “you look great” (because I have lost weight).  I am not an inspiration, not strong and I feel like shit.  They don’t realize that as soon as everyone is gone that I cry.  I wake up crying, go to sleep crying.  I feel like crap.

This week has been one of the worst I’ve had in a long time.  I don’t want to rehash everything but my company is being audited by CRA (this is a non-issue but just frustrating right now), I had to file the estate tax return for my husband for the IRS because we held property in the US and had issues with my new car.  On top of all that it is tax season and I have had so many clients here this week and employee who barely shows up.  There are no excuses during tax season not to be at work! So I’ve had even a rougher go the last little while.  On top of that I’m having heart tests done.  I’m not trying to be a doctor but I know there is a problem.  I’ve always had a weird thing with my heart where it races and sometimes I get light headed and feel faint.  But now I’m getting worried.  It happens more and more lately.  I hope it is just that I need a pacemaker to regulate the heartbeat or medication.  I have always said I don’t want open heart surgery and now … well even more so now.  If my heart is physically broken it can match my emotional heart.

Now I feel like I need to wrap things up.  Get things organized.  Make sure my son can take care of himself (he actually finishes college today).  I need to train him and my daughter on taking over the business or simply close it down.  I have a “to do” list.

If I’m to move forward I need to change that attitude.  Find something to live for.  My kids are all self sufficient so once my list is done I don’t need to “live” for them.

My next blog I will begin telling stories from my past.  How I met John, how we fell in love, how our life was together.  I’ll tell stories from my childhood and leave an online legacy.  Gives me something to do.

Forever and all ways … I will love you John.

Last Perfect Day

Today I hate FaceBook. A memory came up that is hard to deal with.
 
One year ago today I had my last perfect day. I remember as though it was yesterday. John and I were in Florida at our condo. John decided to sleep in a bit because we were going to have a busy day. He was still building his strength up after the corrective surgery he had in January. He was feeling better, eating more, smiling more and we were feeling positive. At this point it never occurred to us that he wouldn’t recover and we were happy. The sky was so blue that day and it was warm and breezy out.
 
John got up, showered, changed and had breakfast. He was in such a good mood. We were meeting friends for lunch at a restaurant about an hour away from our condo. We left around 11 and drove leisurely along Gulf Blvd so we could enjoy the beauty of the day. I was driving and John was enjoying the sunshine. We were laughing, reminiscing about all the places along the route. I could see John was so much stronger and happier.
 
We arrived to the restaurant before our friends so we walked around looking at the water. This restaurant is beautiful (Pier 22 in Bradenton). The building was built in 1928 and had a breathtaking view of the Manatee River. We walked along, mindful that John didn’t want to get overtired early. Our friends arrived and we were seated in the restaurant.
 
John was on fire that day. He was chatty, happy talking about work and happy being in the company of old friends. My friend Lisa mentioned how thin John was but I reassured her that we had heard back from the doctor from the tests were all negative and that John just needed time to recover. The doctor had told us there were no signs of cancer, that it was pancreatitis and he would be fine in time. John had a good lunch, ate sushi and crab. He was laughing and having so much fun.
 
Afterwards we walked hand in hand back to the van feeling better than we had since the whole journey started back in October. John was tired but happy.
 
When we got home he napped and we had a light dinner. Afterwards we went over to our neighbour a couple of doors down and had a glass of wine and chatted. We went to bed happy, tired from the sunshine, wine and long drive.
 
The following week we stayed close to home as John was taking a tax course. Even “semi-retired” John felt it was important to keep taking these courses. He was always looking forward to the future.
 
He didn’t really have another perfect day. He was tired, not eating and quiet. We went to a couple of Spring training games for the Jays but he only lasted 2 or 3 innings. Ten days after our perfect day John flew home to see our family doctor as we felt he was not recovering as planned.
 
Eventually it was our family doctor that diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer. All the specialists and surgeon missed it. I don’t think the end result would have been any different if we had known back in February but at least I had that one last perfect day with him.
 
So if you actually read this … I’m not looking for your pity or sorrow. I just want you to make sure you live each day to the fullest and show the people you love that you love them. Don’t just tell them, you need to show them. You never know when your last perfect day will be.

Another Ending

I no longer own a piece of paradise in Florida.  It sold a few days ago.  I know it was the right thing to do … to sell it … but it still has taken another piece of my heart.

John loved our condo.  He worked so hard making it perfect for us.  He laid the floors, painted the walls, put the trim up, designed the kitchen and built me a beautiful craft area.  It was our dream that beginning October 2016 we would spend our “semi-retirement” there.  I knew he was happy sitting out on the lanai looking out at the golfers and palm trees reading his book and he knew I’d keep busy working on various crafts.  I planned to knit, sew, draw and paint there.  Over the past 9 years we slowly moved all this stuff down there so we’d have lots to do while we were there.  Then life changed everything.

 

(John’s chair and view from his chair)

It just wasn’t the same for me there without John.  My friends Don & Tena took such good care of me, inviting me out almost every day, but it doesn’t fill the void.  I could see John in every corner, I could hear his voice and I could almost feel him there.  But instead of feeling comfort I just felt lonely and empty.  I wanted to be home with my children.

I have been home a week now.  It is been a hard week for me because I need to work on filing an estate return for John in order to get my funds for the sale of the condo. It means I have to go through all the paperwork of his death again.  I spent one day (the day I had to pick up a death certificate from the Purolator office) in tears.  It was almost like I lost John all over again.

I know people think I am strong but I’m not.  John kept telling me I was strong and I could get through this but I think he was wrong.  I go to bed every single night thinking I’m one day closer to when I’ll see John again.  Cross another day off the calendar.  Another one down … how many left? I need to get everything in order first, the house, the business and my estate so that the children are taken care of when I die.

Acceptance Speech

It has been 7 months now.  I’ve noticed that there has been a gradual shift in my emotions this month.  I realized I have accepted John’s death.  Before, in my heart, I was waiting for him to come home.  Now I have accepted he is gone from me.  He can’t talk to me, he can’t advise me, he can’t hold me, he is gone.   I still am overcome with grief throughout the day but it is almost like ripples on the ocean as opposed to large waves.  It is silly little things that trigger it.  I won $13 at bingo the other day and the first person I wanted to tell was John.  Then in the same instant I realized he is no longer with me.  It was a small ripple and not a wave.  I felt my breath catch but then could move forward.  Breathe in, breathe out and move on.