Come Monday It Will Be Alright

john-toronto

My husband was a Parrothead and not ashamed to admit it.  Normally he was quite proper, straight laced (he was an accountant after all) but he did love his home in Florida and listening to Jimmy’s music while we were at our favourite restaurants and bars.  He and I attended every concert Jimmy ever performed in Ontario and had made plans to try and go to other venues in our retirement.

Several months ago Jimmy announced a summer tour that included Toronto so I bought tickets for my kids and their spouses.  That was a challenge in itself as it is not easy to get 10 tickets together.  So after much finagling we got 6 tickets in one row and 4 directly behind those ones.

I wanted this night to be very special to the family so that we could begin to heal and move on.  I reserved a limo to drive us so we could party in safety.  But I wanted this night to be super special and I tried to think of an idea that would be the icing on the cake.

One day I emailed Jimmy and told them about John.  Almost immediately I got an email back from his videographer Stan Kellam.  Stan and I decided that a photo of John during a song would be a great idea.  He asked for photos of John which I provided.  Over the course of several emails I told him about what a good man John was.  This man was so considerate, so patient and so nice to me that I had a good feeling that this night would be a success.  This was my biggest secret ever.

The afternoon of the show my daughters Amanda and Laura came over early and we had some frozen concoctions.  I was so pleased that my son Adam and his girlfriend (who never attended a JB concert) really got into the event.  My son had a shark hat and sunglasses and Leesa (Adam’s girlfriend) made herself a mermaid outfit.  For at least a week prior to the concert I played Jimmy’s songs in the car so they’d know them when we got there.

After a few drinks we piled into the limo and traveled to Toronto.  We laughed in the car but I was nervous and high strung.  I really needed this evening to go off without a hitch.

We got to the concert shortly before 7.  I wanted to go thank Stan in person but security wouldn’t allow it and he wasn’t getting my texts.

Once Jimmy came on stage I felt totally relaxed.  I sang, danced, laughed and cried.  I sobbed during Come Monday (more below) but generally I was  having the best time in over a year and a half.  My daughter Amanda and I belted out the chorus of One Particular Harbor as I always felt it was our song since she was a little girl.   As I looked into the faces of my children with their spouses I could see they were having fun too.

Then came the song.  Stan told me it would play during “Back Where I Come From”.  I told the kids to watch the screen.  I never imagined that the moment would be so wonderful when John’s picture appeared on the screen.  I felt like my heart burst out of my chest.  There he was, with us.  Larger than life, larger than death, he was there.

Everyone cried.

At that moment something happened to me.  It was like a crack opened in my heart. Light crept in.

The rest of the concert was wonderful.  I must admit that I drank too much and was rather inebriated on the ride home but I laughed and laughed on the way home.  The kids kept me in stitches.

As usual when I woke up in the morning my first thought was of John but this time I didn’t cry.  I got up, started my day and put music on while I cleaned the house.  There was definitely a shift in me.  Two weeks later I can still feel the change.

I still feel sad and empty but I also feel like there is a light back on inside of me.  I still cry several times a day as my grief comes in waves but I feel like there is a tomorrow.  I notice I have begun to make plans that are for my life and not for when I am dead.

Part of the shift in me was due to my children.  The love they showed for me and for their father was (and always has been) amazing.  But one thing in particular helped wedge that door open.  My daughter posted this the following morning.

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I finally felt that I did something right.  For so long I have felt like a total failure.  I feel like I’ve made mistake after mistake and have been second guessing everything I do.  I was paralyzed in relationships because I felt so insecure and helpless since John died.

There is no way that Stan Kellam or Jimmy Buffett will ever know what they did for me.  I got my life back.  It is my responsibility to steer it forward but I will need help from my family and friends.  I’m not as strong as I used to be but I’m stronger than I was.

So … Come Monday It Will Be Alright.

Headin’ up to San Francisco
For the Labor Day weekend show,
I’ve got my hush-puppies on,
I guess I never was meant for
Glitter rock and roll.    (John was never meant for glitter rock and roll.)
And honey I didn’t know
That I’d be missin’ you so.  (I miss him so much)Come Monday It’ll be all right, (John passed away on a Monday)
Come Monday I’ll be holding you tight. (He told me he would hold me every day)
I spent four lonely days in a brown L.A. haze
And I just want you back by my side.

Yes it’s been quite a summer,
Rent-a-cars and west bound trains.
And now you’re off on vacation,  (While he was dying he told me to think I was on vacation and we would be together soon .. I spent time in Florida alone getting our place ready for retirement)
Somethin’ you tried to explain.
And darlin’ I love you so that’s  (I knew at the end I had to let him go because I couldn’t bear to watch him suffer any longer)
The reason I just let you go.

Come Monday It’ll be all right,
Come Monday I’ll be holding you tight.
I spent four lonely days in a brown L.A. haze
And I just want you back by my side. (I would give anything to have him beside me)

I can’t help it honey,
You’re that much a part of me now.  (John is my soulmate and forever a part of me)
Remember the night in Montana when
We said there’d be no room for doubt.

I hope you’re enjoyin’ the scenery,
I know that it’s pretty up there. (He is watching me from heaven)
We can go hikin on Tuesday,
With you I’d walk anywhere.
California has worn me quite thin,
I just can’t wait to see you again.  (We will be together again someday)

Come Monday It’ll be all right,
Come Monday I’ll be holding you tight. (someday)
I spent four lonely days in a brown L.A. haze
And I just want you back by my side.

Songwriters: BUFFETT, JIMMY

Suicide is Painless

The theme song from MASH often goes through my head these days.  I am so tired of reading people’s posts on social media saying there is always someone out there ready to listen to you if you want to commit suicide.  This always seems to happen whenever a famous person kills themselves.  There have been a few suicides lately and everyone is so surprised that it happened and everyone jumps on the mental illness bandwagon. Apparently all these people are “THERE” for you so you don’t have to kill yourself.   BULLSHIT.  OK .. I said it … it is total BULLSHIT.  If someone wants to kill themselves they will do it and you posting on Facebook that you are always available to talk if someone needs it is crap too.

I will admit that over the past year I’ve thought about suicide many, many times.  After John was diagnosed and when he passed the heart ache was so intense that I would have preferred to die rather than endure it.  The thought still crosses my mind at times but it is becoming less and less and more fleeting now rather than serious contemplation about ending my life.

So why don’t I believe people will be “there” for me if I’m thinking of suicide is because where were they when I was deep in my grief?  After the funeral I found people that were here while John was dying suddenly deserted me.  They were giving me space to grieve, or so they thought.  What they really were doing was leaving me alone to try and deal with everything alone.  Everyone else went on with their lives and really didn’t give me a second thought,

Two woman that I counted among my closest friends turned their backs on me.  The first one was someone that I became friends with about 9 years ago and I spent a great deal of time with.  We were very close and I thought she was my best friend.  Since she lives in Florida and I live in Canada we often texted or messaged each other but that has ended.  Once John’s illness began she basically disappeared from my life.  I didn’t even get a card when John died.  She is super friendly when we run into each other but there is no contact anymore unless I see her in person.    I lost my closest friend at the same time as when I lost my husband.

The other friend I lost was someone I knew since my children were young.  I don’t want to go into it here but she told me she could not be there for me as she had enough going on in her life.  I was gobsmacked because I never shared any of my grief with her as I didn’t see her until about 9 months after John died.  When we met I worked very hard to keep the conversation happy and positive so I was just devastated when this woman told me that she was cutting me out because of my pain.  She stopped following me on Facebook because I was “liking” posts dealing with grief and it depressed her.

So two people that I thought would be there for me made it clear that I was on my own.  Both of those women posted on Facebook that they would be there for someone if they were contemplating suicide.  Hypocrites!!!

Over the past year I rarely have anyone ASK me how I feel.  They TELL me instead.  I’m so tired of being told I’m such a strong woman and it is wonderful to see how I’ve moved on with my life.  You know, John would want it that way.  It is just so uplifting for them to see I’m doing so well.  What they don’t see are the days I’m sobbing and my son has to sit beside me to comfort me.  They don’t see the days that I don’t move from the love seat, looking outside at life going about its business and I just can’t move.  I’m exhausted from crying.  I don’t sleep.  People don’t see the days that I am so numb that I can’t even read or even go outside.  All they see is me smiling, talking and looking like I’m having fun.  Those times probably add up to less than 10% of the hours I have been without John.  Over 90% of the time I’m depressed, lost and struggling to move on.  But I do move on.  I am getting stronger but I am not there yet.  Breathe in, breathe out, move on.

I’m not saying I don’t have a support system.  I have my children, my brother, nephew and a few close friends.  But there is not this massive outpouring of humanity from other people that I considered my friends or family.

I shouldn’t have to post that I’m struggling, I shouldn’t have to put on a brave face all the time, I shouldn’t have to act strong (other than for my children … and boy does my son get the raw end there but that is because he lives with me.  I wouldn’t have survived this year without his help.)  Instead of posting words saying you are always there, how about you actually BE there for someone.  How about you reach out to someone that has suffered a loss, a death, divorce, loss of job, loss of a relationship and you be there for them?  How about you look over your telephone screen and see the hurt in front of you and do something about it?  Posting things about mental illness on social media does nothing for the person, please, actually care enough to reach out and touch someone in person.  If you don’t you’ll be clogging up your feed with another post saying how surprised you were when so and so killed themselves without reaching out.  And those posts depress the shit out of me.

Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see…
That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.
I try to find a way to make
All our little joys relate
Without that ever-present hate
But now I know that it’s too late, and…
The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I’ll someday lay
So this is all I have to say.
The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I’m beat
And to another give my seat
For that’s the only painless feat.
The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn’t hurt when it begins
But as it works it’s way on in
The pain grows stronger… watch it grin, but…
A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
Is it to be or not to be
And I replied ‘oh why ask me?’
‘Cause suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.
… and you can do the same thing if you please.
Songwriters: MANDEL, JOHNNY / ALTMAN, MICHAEL B
Suicide Is Painless lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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.

 

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.

 

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.